Friday, August 31, 2018

Profits up, wages down, and big money wields its power against Arizona initiatives

Leading this morning’s inequality watch is this item from the 538 significant digits email.

1.8 million federal workers
President Trump is canceling pay raises for nearly 2 million federal workers, pointing to the U.S.’s “fiscal situation.” Most of these workers were scheduled to receive a 2.1 percent bump in salary next year. The Senate had backed a 1.9 percent raise but House Republicans approved a plan that endorsed the White House’s decision. [Politico]

Just in case you missed that last part, let me flag it for your attention House Republicans approved a plan that endorsed the White House’s decision. It is critical, come November, to flip the House.

Politico reports Trump cancels pay raises for almost 2 million federal workers. ‘In light of our nation’s fiscal situation, federal employee pay must be performance-based,’ the president wrote in a Thursday letter to congressional leaders.

"We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” the president wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.

Under Trump’s policy, roughly 1.8 million people wouldn’t get an automatic pay boost next year, including Border Patrol and ICE agents.

That stance puts vulnerable GOP lawmakers representing northern Virginia — home to tens of thousands of federal workers — in the political crosshairs. And it sets up an all-but-certain funding fight with Congress next month, as party leaders attempt to reach a sweeping agreement to keep the government open before the start of the next fiscal year on Oct. 1.

Sure, Donnie. You have the brass to defend shafting a few more workers after signing off on a tax cut that benefitted corporations and wealthy Americans and increased our national debt?

Not only that …

Considering the larger picture of inequality, Judd Legum at popular.info reveals America’s dysfunctional economy, in one chart.

What was the impact of Trump’s tax cut?

Real wages for workers are declining. But corporate profits, according to new Commerce Department data released Wednesday, are booming.

In the second quarter of 2018, “after-tax profits across the U.S. rose 16.1%” compared to last year. Tax payments, largely as a result of the new tax bill, “were down 33%.”

Here is how corporate profits look compared to wages during the Trump presidency in one chart.

Profits vs wages
Profits up, wages down

Ballooning corporate profits and stagnant wages were cheered by the administration’s economic leadership. “The economy is strong…[inflation] is near our 2% objective, and most people who want a job are finding one,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last week.

Trump, however, did not campaign as a champion of corporations but of the “forgotten man and woman.”

“We’ll get your salaries and your wages up, up, up,” Trump said at a September 2016 rally.

But under his leadership, “[o]nce the impact of inflation is included, ordinary Americans’ hourly earnings are lower than they were a year ago.”

It’s hard to fool Americans, who get a reality check from their paychecks each week. “A majority of voters believes their personal financial situation has remained the same or gotten worse over the past two years,” according to a recent poll from Quinnipiac.

In recent speeches, Trump has “falsely claimed that wages are going up for the first time in 18 years, 19 years, 20 years, 21 years and 22 years."

Consequences of inequality: Wealth = Power

Tim Steller at the Daily Star (tucson.com) reports on how Court rulings show wealth decides which initiatives AZ voters may consider. Snippets follow. (Emphases and subtitles added.)

Let’s hear a long, slow clap for big money interests.

They showed again this week who really runs Arizona.

They do.

That became clear Wednesday as the Arizona Supreme Court handed down rulings on what initiatives will and won’t appear on state ballots this November. The legal challenges to the proposed ballot issues all had their own individual sets of reasons. But the outcomes in every case were that big money won.

Big money hates taxes, dislikes public education

The Invest In Ed initiative would have raised the income tax rates on individuals making more than $250,000 per year or couples making more than $500,000 per year. The authors estimated $690 million in new money would go to the K–12 education system as a result.

But the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which often doubles as a political defense group for the wealthy, opposed the initiative. It noted how the initiative’s language referred to the increases in tax rates as “percent” increases, when they really should have been called “percentage point” increases, or the percentages should have been much bigger. It was a bad mistake by the initiative’s authors, and the upshot was that about 270,000 people who signed petitions lost. The Arizona Chamber, and those who might have paid higher taxes, won.

Big money likes Dirty Money

The Outlaw Dirty Money initiative was especially offensive to wealthy interests because it would have forced them to disclose the political spending they use to maintain control in Arizona politics. Three dark-money groups challenged the initiative. Of course they did — it challenged their reason for being. Their attorneys issued subpoenas to 15 petition circulators who gathered signatures for the initiative. When those circulators didn’t show up, a 2014 law required that the signatures they collected be invalidated.

The Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday affirmed the constitutionality of this law, which was designed to make it harder for citizens to get initiatives on the ballot. So, as a result, the signatures of 285,786 Arizona voters have been thrown aside, and the wealthy get to plow their money in our elections without the inconvenience of having to acknowledge it.

Some big money likes clean energy. Other big money hates clean energy.

In the Clean Energy initiative case, big money would have won no matter which way the court turned, because big money both backed and opposed the initiative. This initiative would require Arizona utilities to get 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. Arizona Public Service used its monopoly power and money to oppose the measure, and California billionaire Tom Steyer used his piles of cash to support it.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The most important vote you ever cast

Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona reminds us that Reality Calls: Kyrsten Sinema May Be the Most Important Vote You Ever Cast. Here it is in full.

I was hoping a miracle would save me from writing this post.

I so wanted Deedra Abboud to pull off a stunning upset, even though I knew it couldn’t happen.

But reality has arrived. Kyrsten Sinema is the nominee for U.S. Senate of the Democratic Party.

And as soon as I receive my ballot in the mail in October, I’ll be connecting that broken bar next to her name. It’ll be painful. I’ll undoubtedly throw up a little in the back of my mouth as I do it. But there will be no hesitation on my part. Sanity demands no less.

And if you want to maximize our chance of avoiding disaster, you’ll be joining me.

I will do this with no delusions about how Sinema will vote. I know each vote she casts will be an exercise in abject cynicism, with the sole consideration being how it impacts her own political future, principle be damned. I know she’ll vote to repeal the estate tax on billionaires and to let Wall Street thieves run wild. I get that.

But it’s not about how she will vote; it’s about who she’ll caucus with and about avoiding the alternative, Martha McSally. Whatever the possibilities are to wrest control of the Senate from Mitch McConnell, we need to maximize them. If that chance is a mere one percent, we need to pull for it. If it’s 99 percent, we need to make certain there is no surprise. And as tragically flawed as Sinema is, McSally, who repeatedly pledges fealty to Trump, is a thousand times worse. Yeah, I know, the lesser of two evils is still evil. But when choosing between a shoplifter and an axe murderer, choose the shoplifter. It’ll be a choice you can live with.

For Arizona progressives who resent the condescension of establishment hacks stupidly blaming you for Hillary Clinton’s loss, when any moron could figure out that the election was lost in the rust belt, I feel your pain. But the election isn’t about those establishment hacks, no matter how much their condescension tempts you to lash out and vote Green or stay home. This is not 2016. This time, Arizona is the epicenter. Sinema’s success in November is crucial. Arizona very well could decide the balance of political power in the U.S. Senate.

And there is nothing remotely as important as constraining the power of Donald Trump. Nothing.

So, when you receive your ballot, get it over with right away, lest you not give in to the temptation to send a message, or forget to vote early, then get whacked with some emergency on Election Day.

And if you wake up feeling a bit cheapened on November 7th, you can find redemption by gearing up for the 2024 primary. It’ll be here before you know it.

Scriber weighs in: If you stay home, you get McSally. If you vote Green or Libertarian, you get McSally. You can continue to be a progressive, but you need to get practical. She “who repeatedly pledges fealty to Trump, is a thousand times worse” than Sinema. Here are some samples of what I’ve posted in the recent past.

From my May 21, ,2018 post: In Election 2018 ‘The Democrats are coming.’ But which ones and how Democratic? I reviewed the reasons for thinking badly of Sinema, concluding:

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?

From my June 13, 2018 post: Research report - Krysten Sinema’s votes reveal progressive values.

For Sinema’s record in the U. S. House, I used 538’s Tracking Congress In The Age Of Trump. An updating tally of how often every member of the House and the Senate votes with or against the president. One measure is “how often a member votes in line with Trump’s position.” Sinema scores 57.3% and is the third highest Democrat in the House in voting with Trump.

However, that percentage is misleading. Here is why. The percentage includes lots of bills that provide stop-gap funding to keep the government running or that deal with other budgetary matters. Votes for these kinds of routine bills will tend to inflate the percentage score - assuming we all want to keep our government running. (Disclosure: I’ve used that percentage score to criticize other candidates before. Now I have to reevaluate that practice.)

Instead of using the overall percentage we need to look at votes on legislation that matter to progressives, for example, denying funding for Planned Parenthood, punishing sanctuary cities, increasing the availability of guns, repeal of Dodd-Frank, and repeal of regulations that provide for clean air and water. I pulled the records for 33 such bills from January 1, 2017 to present. I counted the number of instances in which Sinema voted against legislation supported by Trump. Her score was 85% opposed to Trump’s position.

You might ask how good is that score. To establish bounds on that measure I used the same method to compute the progressive scores for Raul Grijalva (AZ CD 3) and Martha McSally (AZ CD2). Grijalva scored a perfect 100% opposed to Trump’s positions and McSally, voting almost entirely with Trump on everything, scored 3%. (By the way, Trump’s score on the same measure was a perfect 0%.)

At the time of this writing, it appears that a likely match-up for the AZ U. S. Senate seat will be between Sinema and McSally. When it comes to deciding on how to vote, if you want ideological purity, you could point to the difference between Sinema and Grijalva (100% - 85% = 15%) and stay home. But if you want to flip that seat held by Republican Jeff Flake to a Democrat, you should focus on the difference between Sinema’s progressive score vs. that of McSally (85% - 3% = 82%) and Get Out to Vote.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Incitement to violence - Trump leads America on a war against itself

The authoritarian dictator, Donald J. Trump, has a history of threatening violence against those who disagree with him, or even just reporting on his rallies. That history includes his urging members of his audience to take violent action against the press and others in attendance. If you are reluctant to believe that, here are the results of some fact-checking by snopes.com.

Incitement to violence on campaign trail

Trump incites
Incitement to violence?

Did Donald Trump Encourage Violence at His Rallies? asks Snopes.com. The fact-checking reveals that A viral cartoon accurately presents several quotations by the then-presidential candidate, delivered on the campaign trail in 2015 and 2016.

Donald Trump faced criticism during his successful 2016 presidential campaign based on the aggressive atmospheres of many of his rallies, where tension and intimidation repeatedly spilled over into violence.

Some of that violence has resulted in lawsuits. In one ongoing suit, Kentucky protesters who attempted to disrupt a rally in March 2016 are suing the president in federal court for incitement to riot after he urged “Get ’em out of here” from the stage, upon which members of the crowd attacked and forcibly removed the protesters.

As part of these criticisms, a cartoon emerged in June 2017 which appeared to accuse White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders of misinforming the public about Trump’s record on encouraging or condoning violence.

Along with presenting eight purported statements by the president, the cartoon quotes Sanders as saying that “The President in no way, form, or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence”:

The cartoon has been shared numerous times since June and resurfaced in February 2018, when it was posted by the Impeach Trump Facebook page and tweeted out by singer/actress Bette Middler.

The cartoon was rarely credited to its creator, the illustrator Jesse Duquette, who publishes The Daily Don, a series of cartoons about the presidency of Donald Trump. Duquette first posted the cartoon to Facebook on 30 June 2017.

We’ve received many inquiries from readers about the authenticity of the quotations featured in the cartoon, and they are all statements made by Donald Trump. Although each is presented in isolation, they fairly reflect the context in which Trump uttered them.

Snopes goes on to provide the video clips documenting each of the utterances claimed in the cartoon.

Onward Christian Soldiers?

Recall the old psychological adage: The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Sure enough, Trump went on an even worse tirade in a meeting with Christian leaders.

In closed-door meeting, Trump told Christian leaders he got rid of a law. He didn’t.. According to recorded excerpts of private remarks, he said evangelicals were “one election away from losing everything.”

He said a lot more that comports with his history of incitement. Here are snippets from the NBC report.

In a closed-door meeting with evangelical leaders Monday night, President Donald Trump repeated his debunked claim that he had gotten “rid of” a law forbidding churches and charitable organizations from endorsing political candidates, according to recorded excerpts reviewed by NBC News.

In fact, the law remains on the books, after efforts to kill it in Congress last year failed.

But Trump cited this alleged accomplishment as one in a series of gains he has made for his conservative Christian supporters, as he warned, “You’re one election away from losing everything that you’ve got,” and said their opponents were “violent people” who would overturn these gains “violently.”

Trump addressed the law and the upcoming midterms in private remarks Monday during a dinner with evangelical supporters at the White House after the press had left.

At stake in the November midterms, Trump told the audience, are all the gains he has made for conservative Christians.

“The level of hatred, the level of anger is unbelievable,” he said. “Part of it is because of some of the things I’ve done for you and for me and for my family, but I’ve done them. … This Nov. 6 election is very much a referendum on not only me, it’s a referendum on your religion, it’s a referendum on free speech and the First Amendment.”

If the GOP loses, he said, “they will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently, and violently. There’s violence. When you look at Antifa and you look at some of these groups — these are violent people.”

Who is “they”? Does he mean to predict “If the GOP loses, the GOP will overturn …violently?” Or does he mean to predict “If the GOP loses, Democrats will overturn … violently?”

Assuming “they” refers to Democrats, what does he expect that “they” will do? Will “they” undo what Trump has done, like enact laws that harm the health and welfare of working families? Sure. But as Rep. Elijah Cummings said, "One thing I’m not looking for is retribution,” … “I’m just trying to get to regular order, I swear to God.” In other words, we can look forward to a return to our democratic values and practices.

What if Trump loses in 2018 or 2020? Given his impulsivity might he actually shoot someone as he has contemplated, hypothetically?

What if Trump Did Actually Shoot Someone on Fifth Avenue?

The NY Times author Thomas Friedman says Your vote in the midterms matters, because Republicans in Congress won’t restrain the president’s excesses. If Trump actually did shoot someone, what would be the reaction and by whom? Friedman imagines the consequences.

Sept. 3 (AP) — President Trump stopped his motorcade in Manhattan today, jumped out of his limousine and shot a man on Fifth Avenue who was shouting anti-Trump epithets. The shooting was recorded by the White House press pool as well as by dozens of bystanders with cellphones and by security cameras in the area. When asked for his reaction, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “We will need more information than is available at this point.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said through pursed lips that he “was not going to comment on every up and down with this president.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he already had information indicating that the man whom Trump shot “worked for the Clinton Foundation and may have been a relative of former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin.”

Fox News did not cover Trump’s shooting at the top of its broadcast, which focused instead on the killing of an Iowa woman by an undocumented immigrant. Fox’s only reference to the fact that the president shot a man on Fifth Avenue was that “a New York City man died today when he ran right into a bullet fired by the president.”

Senator Lindsey Graham quipped that “Trump shoots as well as he putts” and that this incident would not cause the South Carolina senator to cancel his coming golf round with the president at his Bedminster, N.J., course.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that she was looking the other way when the shooting happened so she had no comment, adding: “I haven’t had a chance to discuss it with the president. I’ll get back to you if I have something. But the president has stated many times that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. So he’s just keeping a campaign promise. He did nothing wrong. There are no charges against him. And even though I have no comment, and he has no comment, we’ve commented on this extensively.”

Hours later, though, the president tweeted: “Actually, some people are saying that a man who looked a lot like Barack Obama did the shooting. I’m not saying that — but some people are. It also could have been somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds who fired that shot. Like Rudy said: Truth is not truth — unless I say so.”

Jerry Falwell Jr., a top evangelical leader, announced that his movement would be holding a vigil this evening, praying that the president had not stressed himself too much by having to shoot a man on Fifth Avenue. Falwell added, “This would never have happened if Jeff Sessions were doing his job.”

The day ended with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos declaring that the fact that the president could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in broad daylight “only proves again why we need to arm all our schoolteachers.”

Friedman yanks us back to reality: “My biggest challenge in writing all of the above? Worrying that readers wouldn’t realize it was made up.”

That’s because we all now know that Trump was right when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his supporters would stick with him. We’ve seen him get away with too much by now. No restraint on Trump will ever come from his party or his base — especially after the passing of John McCain. So save your breath. Trump will be restrained only if his party loses the House or the Senate. That’s what is at stake in the midterm elections — so vote accordingly.

And for those Republican moderates, independents and suburban white women who voted for Trump in 2016 and are considering voting against G.O.P. House and Senate candidates in November to put some limits on the president and show their disapproval at G.O.P. lawmakers’ failure to act as an independent branch of government, let me describe the stakes in another way:

America, we all know, won the Cold War. Our values and economic system proved superior to Russia’s. But what is at stake in the 2018 midterms is who is going to win the post-Cold War.

Yes, that question is back on the table. Because what we are seeing in the behavior of Trump and his toadies in the G.O.P. is the beginnings of the Russification of American politics. Vladimir Putin could still win the post-Cold War.

[In the Cold War,] Because the Soviets claimed to have built a worker’s paradise, it was important that we had strong unions, a strong middle class, less inequality and an adequate social safety net. The Soviets did not have the rule of law. So we had to have it more than ever.

But with the Cold War now far back in our rearview mirror, Trump has not only insisted on bringing America closer to Putin’s Russia geopolitically, but also politically. This, despite the fact that our intelligence agencies and biggest internet companies have confirmed multiple times that Russia interfered in our 2016 election and continues to meddle.

Trump still refuses to show us his tax returns long after his “audit,” which can only mean he is hiding something. His campaign chairman Paul Manafort is a convicted tax cheat who was trying to keep Putin’s stooge in power in Ukraine. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is another confessed tax cheat.

And the first two House Republicans to endorse Trump in 2016 — Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins — were both just indicted on corruption charges. They are hardly the first government officials to be arrested; Democrats have not been immune to fittings for handcuffs. But one has a stronger feeling than ever that with a moral vacuum at the heart of the Trump White House — and with the president assaulting the media and the judiciary on a regular basis, not unlike Putin — everything goes, so grab what you can, because no one’s looking. The cat’s away.

Maybe that’s why Trump and Putin understand and appreciate each other — and why so many Russians like Trump. They say, “He is just like us — no better and no worse.”

There are other parallels between Trumpism and Putinism: the glorification of oil, gas and mining over science and technology; the elevation of white, Christian, nationalist values; and the neutering of the legislative branch — today’s G.O.P.-dominated Congress behaves just like the rubber-stamp Russian Duma. Worse, this Russification of politics is also spreading — to the Philippines, Turkey, Hungary, Poland and maybe soon to Brazil.

A few more years of this Russification of America and the rot will be everywhere. Russia will have won the post-Cold War, and the fictional story at the top of this column will become nonfiction — just like that. Remember that when you vote in the midterms.

The Republican party doesn't care - do you?

Michelle Goldberg predicts The End of Impunity. What Democrats can do with subpoena power. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

Donald Trump flouts the Constitution, raking in money from supplicants who curry favor with him by patronizing his gaudy hotels. Congress is silent. The president’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, was accused of effectively stealing more than $120 million in various schemes — Forbes described him as possibly one of the “biggest grifters in American history.” It barely registered in the headlines. ProPublica reported that a trio of random Trump cronies with neither military nor government experience is secretly running the Veterans Affairs Department out of Mar-a-Lago. Republicans have made no plans for hearings. The president’s former lawyer testified that Trump directed him to commit felonies to cover up alleged affairs in advance of the election. The shock lasted about 48 hours.

This culture of impunity is less a result of Trump’s political skill — he’s deeply unpopular — than of one-party rule. The majority of voters want a check on this administration, but the Republican Party doesn’t care; it’s beholden to a minority that delights in the helplessness of fellow citizens. If Democrats take the House in the November midterms — which the model of the statistics website FiveThirtyEight gives them about a 70 percent chance of doing — that helplessness ends. Contrary to Republican claims, there are no Democratic plans for imminent impeachment proceedings. But there will be subpoenas, hearings and investigations. Things that haven’t mattered for the past 19 months suddenly will.

On Sunday, Axios reported that Republicans are circulating a spreadsheet of investigations that House Democrats could undertake should they take control of the chamber. It was compiled by cataloging Democratic requests for documents and interviews that Republicans previously ignored, and it doesn’t necessarily tell Republicans much about Democratic priorities. [Scriber: I posted about this one yesterday. See This Republican list of the corruption they’ve been ignoring under Trump is their November nightmare.]

Still, Republicans are right to be worried.

Democrats who are likely to head key committees say they aren’t planning revenge; it’s important to them to show that they can govern. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wants to make sure Democrats emphasize bread-and-butter issues like the rise in prescription drug prices. “One thing I’m not looking for is retribution,” he told me. “I’m just trying to get to regular order, I swear to God.”

But regular order entails a level of accountability that the Trump administration has never faced. Adam Schiff, who is poised to lead the House Intelligence Committee if Democrats win a majority, plans to renew the committee’s investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election. (He insists that for Democrats, the investigation never stopped.) Schiff said he’ll look at the work being done by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, and by the Senate Intelligence Committee, and figure out where the gaps might be. “One that I would put as very important is the issue of whether the Russians were laundering money through the Trump Organization,” he said.

If Democrats prevail in November, his committee won’t be the only one examining Trump’s finances. Under a rarely used 1924 law passed after the Teapot Dome scandal, leaders of three congressional committees — the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee and the Joint Committee on Taxation — can each demand to see the president’s tax returns. “You’re not going to find out whether this president put the United States in jeopardy because of his financial dealings unless you get his tax returns,” said Bill Pascrell, a New Jersey Democrat who sits on the Ways and Means Committee and has made obtaining Trump’s tax returns a signature issue.

And those are just a few of the House committees that will flip to Democratic control should Dems win the House. Goldberg concludes:

Over the last 19 months, we’ve heard the phrase “This is not normal” a lot. If Democrats lose in November, it will remain an impotent mantra of the resistance. If they win, it becomes an accusation backed by subpoena power.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

President Petulant insults Senator McCain, stonewalls ABC's Jon Karl. Rachel Maddow responds - and, oh boy, does she ever.

petulant
adjective pet·u·lant \ ˈpe-chə-lənt <br> 1 : insolent or rude in speech or behavior
2 : characterized by temporary or capricious ill humor : peevish

ABC News’ Jon Karl is relentlessly following Trump around to ask about John McCain. Trump is stonewalling him.

President Trump Petulant has been uncharacteristically quiet about the late Sen. John McCain, and one White House reporter has been on a mission to change that.

Jon Karl, ABC News’ White House correspondent, spent part of his Monday afternoon documenting just how doggedly he was asking Trump about McCain’s legacy. With similar resolve, Trump seemed determined to face stoically ahead, ignoring every single one of Karl’s questions.

“In the Oval Office just now I asked [Trump] if he had any thoughts on the legacy of John McCain,” tweeted Karl. “He heard me but did not answer.” Later, Karl said he asked again, but that Trump “stared ahead and said nothing.”

CSPAN
@cspan
.@jonkarl: “Mr. President, do you have any thoughts on John McCain? Do you have any thoughts at all about John McCain? Do you believe John McCain was a hero, sir? Nothing at all about John McCain? OK.”
11:28 AM - Aug 27, 2018

One more,“ Karl wrote a few minutes later. ”I asked the president to respond to the American Legion calling for a McCain proclamation and the lowering of the White House flags. No answer." The American Legion, a veterans’ organization, demanded Monday that Trump issue a formal proclamation about McCain’s death, and requested that he order the flags at half-staff until McCain’s burial in keeping with presidential protocol.

Trump, who once called McCain “very foul-mouthed” and frequently criticized the senator, has not commented since his initial tweet, in which he simply offered “deepest sympathies” to McCain’s family.

Here, from Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog), is a headline that says it all: Every living president commemorated McCain’s life, except Trump. Benen concludes:

it would’ve cost Trump nothing if the White House had issued a dignified written statement celebrating McCain’s life. The president wouldn’t have had to write it, read it, or even agree with it. The statement would’ve made Trump appear gracious toward an occasional critic.

But the small, petty man in the Oval Office just couldn’t bring himself to even pretend to be dignified.

Last night, Rachel Maddow had a scathing, on-line rebuke to President Petulant. The video is embedded below but, if that does not play for you, here is the direct link.

House GOPlins face an investigatory nightmare

Here’s a choice selection from the popular.info email newsletter.

The Democrats’ to-do list, as written by Republicans

Axios’ Jonathan Swan obtained a list being circulated by Republicans detailing the investigations that Democrats will likely launch if they recapture the House of Representatives. The clear purpose of the list is to motivate Republican voters to turn out in November.

A small sampling:

  • President Trump’s tax returns
  • Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution’s emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization
  • Trump’s dealings with Russia, including the president’s preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin
  • The payment to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels
  • James Comey’s firing
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s business dealings
  • Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks
  • Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago

(Scriber: follow the Axios link to see the longer list.)

The real news here, however, is not that Democrats would investigate these issues. It’s that Republicans don’t believe any of these issues are worthy of investigation.

And because of the incredible indifference shown by the president to the corruption evidenced in the list, there is no real preparation for the coming onslaught. Here’s the Axios summation.

The spreadsheet — which I’m told originated in a senior House Republican office — catalogs more than 100 formal requests from House Democrats this Congress, spanning nearly every committee.

  • The spreadsheet includes requests for administration officials to be grilled by committee staff, requests for hearings to obtain sworn testimony, efforts to seize communications about controversial policies and personnel decisions, and subpoena threats.

  • These demands would turn the Trump White House into a 24/7 legal defense operation.

The bottom line: Thanks to their control of Congress, Republicans have blocked most of the Democrats’ investigative requests. But if the House flips, the GOP loses its power to stymie. Lawyers close to the White House tell me the Trump administration is nowhere near prepared for the investigatory onslaught that awaits them, and they consider it among the greatest threats to his presidency.

For context, when Republicans were in power, they investigated Socks, Bill Clinton’s cat.

Inequality Watch - CEO pay raise over 15,000 x worker pay raise

Writing at inequality.org, Bob Lord explains The Arithmetic of the CEO-Worker Pay Divide. Sometimes percentages alone don’t do justice to the injustice of corporate compensation. (h/t Bob Lord at Blog for Arizona)

The Economic Policy Institute reported earlier this month that the average CEO of the 350 largest firms in the U.S. pocketed $18.9 million in 2017, a 17.6 percent pay increase over 2016.

At the same time, typical worker compensation remained flat, rising merely 0.3 percent.

If you do some quick math, dividing 17.6 percent by 0.3 percent, you might conclude that CEO pay in 2017 increased about 60 times faster than worker pay.

But if you take a moment and do some more careful calculations, that CEO-worker pay gap will soar incredibly higher — to a CEO pay boost over 15,000 times the pay hike for workers.

Let’s go through the arithmetic. In 2016, before the latest whopping CEO pay hikes, America’s top executives were already making 270 times worker pay. So for each dollar of worker pay that increased by 0.3 percent between 2016 and 2017, $270 of CEO pay increased by 17.6 percent.

To visualize this a bit more simply, let’s compare a CEO paid $9,000,000 in 2016 with a worker at the same corporation paid 1/270th as much as that CEO, or $33,333.

A 17.6 percent increase for the CEO would translate to a tidy $1,584,000 pay raise. Not bad work if you can get it, huh? On an hourly basis, our lucky CEO saw his pay increase by $792, from $4,500 per hour to $5,292 per hour.

And the worker? A 0.3 percent increase over a $33,333 salary would translate to a whopping $100 raise. That’s right, a little under $2 per week.

The bottom line: Our CEO saw a pay increase 15,840 times the pay boost our worker received. In other words, for every additional dollar our average worker earned in 2017 compared to 2016, our average CEO took home an additional $15,840.

Another perspective on our numbers: After one hour of labor in 2017, our CEO grabbed a pay increase over the previous year nearly eight times as much as the increase our worker received for the entire year.

So to put it another way: The CEO’s raise was $792 per hour while the worker’s raise was a mere $100 per year!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Trump corrupts the GOP. An example, Kelli Ward, Says McCain Died to Harm Her Campaign

A local campaign sign asserts that the candidate is a “principled conservative.” Does that imply that there are UNprincipled conservatives?

Onward …

There are a couple of things covered in this post. First, there is a general charge that, with respect to Trump, “Everyone and everything he touches rots.” Second, there is a story about a Republican candidate for the AZ U. S. Senate Seat now occupied by Jeff Flake, Kelli Ward, a story that might have been penned by New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz - but it is the real deal. The GOP rot does not stop in DC.

(1) The Full-Spectrum Corruption of Donald Trump

Peter Wehner, a Republican columnist at the NY Times, writes about the rot. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

There’s never been any confusion about the character defects of Donald Trump. The question has always been just how far he would go and whether other individuals and institutions would stand up to him or become complicit in his corruption.

When I first took to these pages three summers ago to write about Mr. Trump, I warned my fellow Republicans to just say no both to him and his candidacy. One of my concerns was that if Mr. Trump were to succeed, he would redefine the Republican Party in his image. That’s already happened in areas like free trade, free markets and the size of government; in attitudes toward ethnic nationalism and white identity politics; in America’s commitment to its traditional allies, in how Republicans view Russia and in their willingness to call out leaders of evil governments like North Korea rather than lavish praise on them. But in no area has Mr. Trump more fundamentally changed the Republican Party than in its attitude toward ethics and political leadership.

For decades, Republicans, and especially conservative Republicans, insisted that character counted in public life. They were particularly vocal about this during the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal, arguing against “compartmentalization” — by which they meant overlooking moral turpitude in the Oval Office because you agree with the president’s policy agenda or because the economy is strong.

Senator Lindsey Graham, then in the House, went so far as to argue that “impeachment is not about punishment. Impeachment is about cleansing the office. Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.”

Not any more. Graham is just as submissive as the rest of the cowardly Republican senators.

All that has changed with Mr. Trump as president. For Republicans, honor and integrity are now passé. …

It is a stunning turnabout. A party that once spoke with urgency and apparent conviction about the importance of ethical leadership — fidelity, honesty, honor, decency, good manners, setting a good example — has hitched its wagon to the most thoroughly and comprehensively corrupt individual who has ever been elected president. …

For many Republicans, this reality still hasn’t broken through. But facts that don’t penetrate the walls of an ideological silo are facts nonetheless. And the moral indictment against Mr. Trump is obvious and overwhelming. Corruption has been evident in Mr. Trump’s private and public life, in how he has treated his wives, in his business dealings and scams, in his pathological lying and cruelty, in his bullying and shamelessness, in his conspiracy-mongering and appeals to the darkest impulses of Americans. …

Some of us who have been lifelong Republicans and previously served in Republican administrations held out a faint hope that our party would at some point say “Enough!”; that there would be some line Mr. Trump would cross, some boundary he would transgress, some norm he would shatter, some civic guardrail he would uproot, some action he would take, some scheme or scandal he would be involved in that would cause large numbers of Republicans to break with the president. No such luck. Mr. Trump’s corruptions have therefore become theirs. So far there’s been no bottom, and there may never be. …

The greatest damage is being done to our civic culture and our politics. Mr. Trump and the Republican Party are right now the chief emblem of corruption and cynicism in American political life, of an ethic of might makes right. Dehumanizing others is fashionable and truth is relative. (“Truth isn’t truth,” in the infamous words of Mr. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.) They are stripping politics of its high purpose and nobility.

That’s not all politics is; self-interest is always a factor. But if politics is only about power unbounded by morality — if it’s simply about rulers governing by the law of the jungle, about a prince acting like a beast, in the words of Machiavelli — then the whole enterprise will collapse. We have to distinguish between imperfect leaders and corrupt ones, and we need the vocabulary to do so.

A warning to my Republican friends: The worst is yet to come. Thanks to the work of Robert Mueller — a distinguished public servant, not the leader of a “group of Angry Democrat Thugs” — we are going to discover deeper and deeper layers to Mr. Trump’s corruption. When we do, I expect Mr. Trump will unravel further as he feels more cornered, more desperate, more enraged; his behavior will become ever more erratic, disordered and crazed.

Most Republicans, having thrown their MAGA hats over the Trump wall, will stay with him until the end. Was a tax cut, deregulation and court appointments really worth all this?

Mr. Wehner served in the previous three Republican administrations and is a contributing opinion writer.

Scriber reminds said “Most Republicans”: You do not want to be the last rat on the sinking ship.

(2) AZ GOP Candidate Kelli Ward Says McCain Died to Harm Her Campaign.

“SemDem” reports this one at Daily Kos (h/t Mrs. Scriber)

Every time I think Trump’s GOP couldn’t possibly sink into depravity any further, I get another reminder of just how far they’ve fallen.

An Arizona TV reporter shared a social media post between one of Kelli Ward’s staffers and Kelli Ward herself …

BrahmResnik
@brahmresnik
WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?@kelliwardaz staffer: I wonder if John McCain’s trying to steal attention from Ward’s bus tour by announcing his life is coming to an end. Ward: Yup, it’s all about me. #AZSEN

She sounds delightful.

John McCain announced he was ending treatment and accepting his fate on Friday, August 24. This upset Kelli Ward because this “negative narrative” was clearly planned to interfere with her pointless bus tour. How devious of him. She complained about this on Saturday.

I guess McCain then decided to really turn the screws to her, because he passed away a few hours after she made that idiotic statement.

Rather than apologize for being depraved, selfish, and, well, frankly, stupid, Kelli Ward did the Trumpiest thing she could think of. She blamed the “Fake News” …

That twisted Fake News media and their agenda. They are the ones pushing the narrative that Kelli Ward is a heartless moron by unscrupulously… providing a screen grab of exactly what she said? When did her campaign become a Simpsons parody?

Or, adds Scriber, a parody written by New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz.

On her bus tour, after McCain’s announcement of his impending death, Ward continued to insult and bash him.

Somehow, that wasn’t even the worst thing she did on her bus tour this week:

Before the bus tour, Kelli Ward was openly suggesting that she should be appointed to the Senate seat upon McCain’s vacancy. Even the governor found this tasteless and said no way.

Trump has entirely revamped the GOP in his image. We now have right-wing candidates who follow his lead on degrading people, lying, and refusing to apologize under any circumstance. Here in Florida, just this month, we had a Trump candidate who faked a diploma, another who said his Muslim constituents provided no benefit to society, and a gubernatorial candidate who insulted Puerto Ricans. The common thread with all of them is that they all refused to admit they were wrong. They all doubled-down and/or blamed the “Fake News” for reporting on their behavior.

Even the so-called “moderate” republican candidates have given up and are racing to out-bigot each other. The establishment candidate in the AZ Senate race is Martha McSally, who went from supporting the Dreamers to this raving lunacy …

Since launching her run for Senate, the Tucson Republican has appeared determined to prove that she, too, can go on Fox News and complain about immigrants. Her campaign materials and public statements have been littered with references to MS–13, sharia law, and chain migration, like a racist version of Mad Libs. …

McSally has flipped on just about everything to where she now votes with Trump 97.8% of the time. McSally and Ward are the two leading GOP contenders to represent Arizona as a United States Senator. If you are a principled republican and can’t stomach either of them, there’s always Joe Arpaio.

Or you can join us until your party regains its sanity.

Ilustrated news - themes, memes, and falemes

Mournday Mourning Illustrated Gnus from AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona: Rambling Rudy and other creatures of the swamp.

Perjury trap
  • What Nixon would think #1: :“I’m not a F’ing moron.”
  • What Nixon would think #2: “Welcome to the unindicted co-conspirator club.”
  • Witchanado: Cohen, Manafort, Flynn, Papadopoulos, Gates, 25 indicted Russians …
  • We can’t get Trump for shooting someone in Times Square, but, like Al Capone, how about crooked finances?
  • Rambling Rudy: Guilt isn’t Guilt.
  • AZ, CA, and FL all offer sand to Trump supporters looking for places to bury their heads.
  • DeVos promises a gun for every teacher, Ed Dept budget insufficient for school supplies.
  • Trump’s environmental policy: Make America Gray Again
  • “Truth isn’t Truth.”
  • So, Rudy, is what Trump supporters believe not what they believe?

Sunday, August 26, 2018

New EPA rules designed to Make America Grey Again

Trump’s EPA (Extreme Profits Always) is about to make “change that could breathe new life into scores of aging coal power plants.” The thing is, that change is also likely to come at a cost of human lives due to increased pollution from burning coal. First, what’s the change?

Trump’s Plan Could Prolong the Lives of Coal Plants and Their Smog writes Jennifer Dlouhy at Bloomberg Quint. (Reprinted by the Daily Star with “Pollution” subbed for “Smog”.)

Tucked inside the Trump administration’s plan to ease carbon dioxide limits is a change that could breathe new life into scores of aging coal power plants.

Experts say the shift could also unleash an additional tens of thousands of tons of nitrogen oxide emissions into the air each year.

The proposal would permit upgrades to old power plants without triggering an existing legal requirement to install costly pollution control systems at the same time. The upgrades could extend the lives of those plants by making them more reliable or cheaper to run.

For coal power plant owners, “this proposal seems to want to let them have their cake and eat it too: to improve their efficiency, run more often and not trigger” the requirements, said Andres Restrepo, a staff attorney with the Sierra Club.

More than a third of American coal-fired units lack modern controls to pare smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions, according to a Bloomberg News review of Environmental Protection Agency data.

Some of those plants went into operation in the 1950s and 1960s, predating advanced catalytic-reduction equipment and regulatory requirements compelling its use.

All told, at least 33 percent of electricity generated by burning coal last year was not subjected to advanced pollution controls, according to EPA data.

For years, owners of those aging facilities have faced a major challenge: The plants might benefit from equipment replacements and upgrades that would make them more reliable and less costly to run – and better able to compete with natural gas-fired units. Yet any change that would bolster nitrogen oxide emissions by 40 tons a year – perhaps just because the plants would run more as a result of the upgrades – would also trigger requirements to install modern controls to keep those pollutants at bay.

President Donald Trump’s EPA is offering a revision as part of its proposal to replace an Obama administration regulation slashing carbon dioxide emissions across the nation’s electric grid with modest requirements for efficiency upgrades at individual power plants.

’Longstanding Dream’

At issue is the federal government’s so-called New Source Review program, which allows power plants, refineries, factories and other industrial facilities to keep running with existing pollution-control equipment – even if it has become outdated – so the systems don’t constantly need upgrades.

Under the New Source Review program, requirements for better pollution-control systems are triggered whenever the sites undergo construction, renovations or some operational changes expected to significantly boost annual emissions.

The Trump administration’s proposed changes would make it harder to trigger the requirement by adding an additional test: insisting that emissions also go up on a short-term, hourly basis – in addition to the annual surge.

“That’s a test designed to never be triggered,” said John Walke, clean air director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This has been the longstanding dream of coal power plant lawyers and lobbyists dating to at least the late ‘70s.”

Emissions from coal plant
The dream includes emissions from
coal plant in Kentucky

What the coal lobby is not telling you, however, is the human cost of their “longstanding dream.” Here is the short version from 538’s significant digits this last week.

1,400 premature deaths annually
The Trump administration revealed its new coal-plant pollution rules yesterday [Aug. 21st]. The document, the so-called Affordable Clean Energy rule, acknowledges that the plan would increase pollution and lead to 1,400 premature deaths a year. [The New York Times]

The cited NY Times article, Cost of New E.P.A. Coal Rules: Up to 1,400 More Deaths a Year, has more. The mortality numbers for the Trump administration plan are calculated using a modeling system reviewed by the National Academy of Sciences.

The Trump administration has hailed its overhaul of federal pollution restrictions on coal-burning power plants as creating new jobs, eliminating burdensome government regulations and ending what President Trump has long described as a “war on coal.”

"We love clean, beautiful West Virginia coal,” Mr. Trump said at a political rally Tuesday evening in West Virginia, the heart of American coal country. “And you know, that’s indestructible stuff. In times of war, in times of conflict, you can blow up those windmills, they fall down real quick. You can blow up pipelines, they go like this,” he said, making a hand gesture. “You can do a lot of things to those solar panels, but you know what you can’t hurt? Coal.”

You know what you can hurt?

The administration’s own analysis, however, revealed on Tuesday that the new rules could also lead to as many as 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 from an increase in the extremely fine particulate matter that is linked to heart and lung disease, up to 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems, a rise in bronchitis, and tens of thousands of missed school days.

Never mind. The trade-off is just what you would expect from Trump. Two other aspects of the new rule are noteworthy. One is that the Trumpians are passing off a global, planetary problem to individual states. California will have cleaner air. West Virginia? Not so much.

At its heart, the administration’s Affordable Clean Energy rule will give individual states vast authority to set more modest goals and to regulate emissions from coal plants as they see fit. Critics assailed it on Tuesday as a shortsighted effort that could set back the effort to tame global warming.

But that is just plain nuts. When it comes to the atmosphere, since when does Mother Earth respect arbitrary borders?

Equally disturbing is the demotion of science in the Trumpian rewrite of the role of data in decision-making.

The agency is considering a separate rule that would restrict the use of any study for which the raw, underlying data cannot be made public for review. The argument for the rule is that the research work isn’t sufficiently transparent if the data behind it isn’t available for analysis.

But scientists overwhelmingly oppose the move, pointing out that participants in long-term health studies typically agree to take part only if their personal health information won’t be made public.

The E.P.A. didn’t respond to questions about its proposal to limit the scientific research used in its assessment.

“The Trump administration sees political value in this rollback, but our health and the economic promise of clean energy is at stake,” former Vice President Al Gore said in a statement.

In addition, Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) is Coming to terms with just how dangerous Trump’s pollution plan is.

The New York Times reports that the “fine print” in the administration’s new plan “includes an acknowledgment that the plan would increase carbon emissions and lead to up to 1,400 premature deaths annually.” The article added:

[T]he hundreds of pages of technical analysis that accompany the new proposal indicate that emissions would grow under the plan.

Compared to the Obama-era plan, the analysis says, “implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health.” […]

[Under the most likely projected scenario], the Trump E.P.A. predicts its plan will see between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030 because of increased rates of microscopic airborne particulates known as PM 2.5, which are dangerous because of their link to heart and lung disease as well as their ability to trigger chronic problems like asthma and bronchitis.

This is the price Donald Trump and his team believe we should collectively pay to help support pollution from a dying industry. Some Trump voters may not have realized this is what they were endorsing in 2016, but it’s what they’re getting now.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Immunity granted to Trump associates - one is central to Trump's finances, corporate and personal

From the second target article below: “It is not uncommon for prosecutors to offer immunity to a person who may have wittingly or unwittingly facilitated a crime if investigators decide that person is more of a witness than a perpetrator, or if prosecutors decide they cannot get necessary testimony without offering some degree of immunity.”

Cases in point: two people important to the investigations of Trump finances have been granted immunity.

First, here’s a “significant digit” from the 538’s morning email.

$1 billion in debt The CEO of American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer and other tabloids, is a longtime friend of President Trump. But that apparently didn’t stop him from offering information in the criminal investigation into six-figure “hush-money” deals that were struck during the 2016 presidential campaign with two women who said they had had affairs with Trump. Sources told The Wall Street Journal that David Pecker was granted immunity in exchange for information about the president and his former lawyer Michael Cohen. American Media itself, meanwhile, is struggling and has been trying to restructure about $1 billion in debt. [The Wall Street Journal]

That was the lead story - until the prosecutors got to the Trump Organization CFO, Allen Weisselberg.

Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg, who allegedly helped arrange hush-money reimbursement to Cohen, receives immunity reported Carol Leonnig and colleagues Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Helderman at the Washington Post.

A federal investigation that led President Trump’s longtime lawyer to implicate Trump in two campaign finance crimes this week also secured the cooperation of one of the top-ranking executives at Trump’s private company.

Allen Weisselberg, chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, was granted immunity by federal prosecutors in New York who were investigating Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, according to people familiar with the probe.

On Tuesday, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight felonies, including two counts related to hush money paid to women who alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen admitted he violated campaign finance law with the payments, which he said he made at Trump’s direction. The president has denied knowing about the payments when they were made.

Weisselberg, who began working with the Trump family in the 1970s, was one of the executives who helped arrange for Cohen to be reimbursed $420,000 for money paid to keep adult-film star Stormy Daniels quiet, according to a person with knowledge of his role.

The decision to grant Weisselberg immunity gave prosecutors access to one of the highest-ranking figures inside the president’s private company, an executive who is considered practically part of Trump’s family.

In 2000, he was named chief financial officer of the company. But his role is greater than that: Weisselberg has been at the center of a financial operation that covered all parts of Trump’s life, including his corporation’s finances, his personal accounts and his personal charity.

For example:

Over the decades, Weisselberg rose from serving as an accountant to the keeper of Trump’s personal books. After Trump’s election, he was appointed to help run the trust that controls the president’s assets, along with two of the president’s sons, Donald Trump Jr., a fellow trustee, and Eric Trump, chairman of the trust’s advisory board.

Ten-part series, The Untrumpables, set to air on November 6th

NY Times columnist Gail Collins thinks The White House needs a rewrite in her op-ed Lights, Camera, Trump!. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

In that spirit I suggest a remake of 1987 film The Untouchables, retitled The Untrumpables.

Cast

The original cast starred Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness and Robert De Niro as Al Capone. In the remake:

Robert Mueller as Eliot Ness(br> Rod Rosenstein as Sharpshooter George Stone
Donald Trump as Al Capone
Rudy Giuliani as Capone’s henchman Frank Nitti
Michael Cohen as Capone’s gunman
Allen Weisselberg (Trump Organization CFO) as “The Accountant”

Synopsis

In the original film, in one of the most spellbinding scenes, Ness and Stone learn of the arrival of Capone’s accountant on the midnight train. The original was shot in Chicago’s Union Station. Ness and Stone battle Capone’s gunmen and secure The Accountant whose eventual testimony brings down Capone.

In the remake, the heart pounding scene is set in the lobby of the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building. Ness and Stone, using weapons of the rule of law, confront and successfully defend against Capone’s gunman. Ness then prosecutes and indicts Capone. The Accountant cuts a deal with Ness for immunity and takes the stand at Capone’s trial where he follows the money. Capone is then convicted of lies called “tweets” and is forced to vacate his mansion. Members of Capone’s mafia-like “family” are forced to leave the mansion and are refused press coverage forever. Nitti, Capone’s legal hit-man, is banished from the airwaves and disappears from public view. Capone’s gunman cops a plea but gets jailed anyway. The movie ends with Capone, headed for prison, calling Ness “the worst prosecutor ever”, the trial a “witch hunt”, and his sentence “so unfair.”

For more on the original movie, TheUntouchables, see the denofgeek.com review.

For a listing of the real Untrumpables assembled by Mueller, see this list from cheatsheet.com.

Oh yes, about that 10-part series in November? Just kidding. The drama of this administration might be over by then.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

White House colludes with Senate Republicans in Kavanaugh coverup

After delaying - and eventually preventing - hearings on Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, the Rethuglicans (aka GOPlins) have reversed course and are now rushing through confirmation hearings on Trump’s SCOTUS pick, Brett Kavanaugh. The millions of documents relevant to Kavanaugh’s beliefs and judicial history are being picked over and redacted by Republican lawyers or and even covered up.

AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona has an extensive report on A travesty of justice: GOP stonewalls on Judge Brett Kavanaugh documents while rushing his confirmation hearing. The Blue Meanie cited the NY Times editorial which asked Why Are Republicans Covering Up Brett Kavanaugh’s Past? and observes that For the first time in modern history, Senate leaders are refusing to request a Supreme Court nominee’s relevant papers.

Something stinks. But is usually does when it comes to McConnell’s insidious dictatorial management of the Senate.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on one particularly revealing aspect of this rush to judgment - potentially a huge coverup perpetrated by the Senate GOP leadership and the White House. Benen reports on The meeting that changed Republicans’ minds about Kavanaugh documents.

On July 7, just two days before Donald Trump introduced Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee, the New York Times published an interesting report about the warnings the White House received from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who was well aware of the conservative jurist’s lengthy paper trail.

“Mr. McConnell is concerned,” the article said, “about the volume of the documents that Judge Kavanaugh has created in his 12 years on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as well as in his roles as White House staff secretary under President George W. Bush and assistant to Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton.”

The reference to Kavanaugh’s work as Bush’s White House staff secretary is important because it offers a behind-the-scenes peek: the Senate GOP leader apparently saw this part of Kavanaugh’s background as the sort of thing that would be scrutinized as part of a confirmation process. And yet, soon after, Senate Republicans agreed that this part of Kavanaugh’s professional background would be excluded from the Judiciary Committee’s document request.

So what happened? Evidently, a White House meeting happened.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), on Friday, asked White House Counsel Don McGahn for information on a pivotal July 24, 2018, meeting with Judiciary Committee Republicans that shaped their document request. Prior to the private meeting, Republican leadership seemed poised to request records that Judge Kavanaugh authored, generated, or contributed to as White House Staff Secretary.

In an abrupt change of course after the meeting, Republicans refused to request any of Judge Kavanaugh’s records from his three years as Staff Secretary and Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley omitted all of Kavanagh’s Staff Secretary records from his request to the National Archives.

Senator Leahy believes the American people deserve to know why certain staff secretary records were fair game going into the private meeting and off the table coming out.

In his press release, Leahy is quoted saying, “In the 44 years I have served in the United States Senate, I have seen 19 nominations to the Supreme Court, including the nomination of every current member of the Court. I have never before seen the White House, under either a Republican or Democratic president, usurp or direct the parameters of the Judiciary Committee’s document request regarding a Supreme Court nominee. I find it troubling that the White House and Judiciary Committee Republicans are stifling transparency rather than working together to provide the necessary documents for the Senate to do its work. The American people deserve the unvarnished truth about Judge Kavanaugh.”

If the facts are as Leahy presents them – and as best as I can tell, no Senate Republican has contested them – it paints a rather alarming picture. As the story goes, GOP senators were prepared to consider this relevant period of Kavanaugh’s professional work, then there was a private White House meeting to which Democrats were not invited, and then Republicans decided to limit their areas of interest.

One need not be paranoid to find this suspicious.

I’ve seen some suggestions that Senate Democrats are making a strategic error by focusing on this and related procedural questions – the sort of areas that typical Americans have no interest in – rather than hammering away at the practical effects of Kavanaugh’s far-right legal vision. If Trump’s nominee has any chance of being derailed, the argument goes, it won’t be over procedural issues.

Maybe not. But to make a compelling case against Kavanaugh, his detractors will need to scrutinize relevant elements of his background, and his tenure as Bush’s White House staff secretary is among the most important. For some reason, Senate Republicans and the Trump White House are eager to hide this part of the judge’s background – and only this part – from the public.

To overlook this thread, or to suggest it’s not worth pulling on, would be a mistake.

What, we should be asking, is in those documents covered up by the collusion between the White House and the Senate Republicans. And, yes, I pick my words carefully. Collusion.

Monday, August 20, 2018

What will it take for Trump supporters to give him the boot?

Consider: the Access Hollywood video didn’t come close to putting a dent in Trump’s standing.

Consider: He rails against the First Amendment and his followers prove their adoration with chants against Trump’s claimed enemies like the press.

So, Max Boot asks What will finally turn Trump’s supporters against him? Here, from Boot’s Washington Post column are possibilities along with answers to the question: will this finally bring Trump down?

Let’s review what might have brought Trump down.

President Trump suffered the kind of body blows this week that would have felled any other politician. …Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman revealed she had taped conversations with [Trump and] other senior officials … Trump added to the damage by lashing out on Twitter [calling her “that dog” … hundreds of newspapers published editorials denouncing Trump as a threat to the First Amendment … After Trump vindictively revoked former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance, Brennan hit back in a New York Times op-ed, writing that Trump’s denials of collusion with Russia are “hogwash.” … [and] provoked a powerful backlash from normally apolitical intelligence and military veterans …

Pow! Wham! Ka-pow! Any other president would have been knocked out. But for Trump, it was just another ordinary week. … [so …]

What might prevent Trump’s tried-and-true Don Rickles strategy from succeeding? It won’t be the criticism he gets from retired security officials, which only feeds his crackpot conspiracy theories about the Deep State. It certainly won’t be criticism from the press; in one recent poll, 43 percent of Republicans want Trump to have the power to shut down news outlets “engaged in bad behavior.” I fear that even if an n-word tape is discovered, it won’t do the trick. As Jonathan Last argues in the Weekly Standard, Republicans are more likely to normalize the n-word than they are to turn on Trump.

But at the end of the day, what would make the biggest difference would be an economic downturn. President Richard M. Nixon might never have been impeached were it not for the “oil shock” of 1973 and the resulting recession. While Trump might not care what newspaper editorial boards or even retired CIA directors think of him, he should care that two-thirds of business economists in a recent survey predicted a recession by the end of 2020. A growing economy has been the only thing saving Trump from a knock-out. He will hit the canvas for good if a bear market enters the ring.

Max Boot, a Post columnist, is the Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a global affairs analyst for CNN. He is the author of the forthcoming “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right."

About that “economic downturn”? Another conservative columnist, George F. Will warns that Another epic economic collapse is coming.

… according to the Financial Times’s Robin Wigglesworth and Nicole Bullock, “the U.S. stock market will officially have enjoyed its longest-ever bull run” …

… Sept. 15 will be the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank. History’s largest bankruptcy filing presaged the October 2008 evaporation of almost $10 trillion in global market capitalization.

The durable market rise that began March 6, 2009, is as intoxicating as the Lehman anniversary should be sobering: Nothing lasts. Those who see no Lehman-like episode on the horizon did not see the last one.

In reaction, “a contraction probably will begin with the annual budget deficit exceeding $1 trillion.”

Another hardy perennial among economic debates concerns the point at which the ratio of debt to GDP suppresses growth. The (sort of) good news — in that it will satisfy intellectual curiosity — is that we are going to find out where that point is: Within a decade, the national debt probably will be 100 percent of GDP and rising. As Irwin M. Stelzer of the Hudson Institute says, “If unlimited borrowing, financed by printing money, were a path to prosperity, then Venezuela and Zimbabwe would be top of the growth tables.”

I admit to being of Keynesian persuasion. Government has a role to play in managing the economy and controlling excesses of an otherwise unrestrained free market. However, there was no need for government borrowing to stimulate an already over-heated economy by a massive tax cut for the already overly wealthy.

Despite today’s shrill discord between the parties, the political class is more united by class interest than it is divided by ideology. From left to right, this class has a permanent incentive to run enormous deficits — to charge, through taxation, current voters significantly less than the cost of the government goods and services they consume, and saddle future voters with the cost of servicing the resulting debt after the current crop of politicians has left the scene.

Please don’t dismiss this analysis as some mere conservative complaint. Remember that starting 40 years after the 1929 crash, economic inequality started an historic rise that persisted regardless of who sat in the White House and who controlled congress. That rise continues today.

The only good thing there, as Boot predicts, is that a crash might be the only thing that will wake up, and wise up, the electorate to the excesses of this administration and it’s wanna-be king.

Themes, memes, and falemes in the illustrated news

GOP preps for wave
GOP prepares for the wave

Welcome to the Mournday Mourning Illustrated Gnus and other denizens of King Donald’s retinue revealed by AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona. Here are some themes, memes, and falemes.

faleme
noun: a combination word, false + meme, attributed to the Sky Island Scriber
Definition: a bit of fake news “copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users”, often with ill intent.
Usage: “Trump fans the falemes by calling the press ”the enemy of the people."

  • Will Trump take over daily press briefings? You are primed to believe that. He’s already doing it. It’s called Twitter.
  • Quote of the day defining truthmp: Truth isn’t truth. -Rudy Giuliani.
  • Interior Department plans to cut down all national forests to prevent forest fires. (Prove me wrong.)
  • Trump administration: consuming more oil is good for you. True (the quote, that is). “Conserving oil is no longer necessary for the economy” (headline from this morning’s Daily Star).
  • Quiz: which is a reality TV show lowlife with zero credibility? (A) Omarosa (B) Donald Trump (C) Both (D) neither. Check Twitter for correct answer.
Trump dines on 1st amendment
Paper trump ate exposed!
  • Citing insecurity needs, Trump cancels all security clearances but one.
  • “I can’t guarantee anything.” - Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She never could.
  • So …
  • Tomorrow: Trump to yank passes for WH press corps, fire press secretary, conduct his own press briefing in empty room. Says “I can’t guarantee anything.”

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Nixon White House Lawyer Advises Trump Staffers

There’s an old (or should be old) saying among scuba divers: You don’t have to swim faster than a great white shark. You just have to swim faster than your dive buddy.

So it is with people leaving a troubled organization: You don’t want to be the last rat to leave the sinking ship.

[John Dean to White House staffers: ‘Get out!’] reports “Aldous J Pennyfarthing” in the Daily Kos.

He should have said “Get out while you can!”

John Dean knows a little something about awful, criminal, paranoid presidents with berserk rage boners for the popular Democratic presidents who preceded them. As White House counsel under President Nixon, he was deeply involved in the Watergate coverup. Eventually he flipped on the president, cooperating with investigators and pleading guilty to a single felony count.

So if things seem a tad Watergate-y to you these days, imagine how Dean feels. He’s seen this movie before. Hell, he’s helped make this movie before. And now he’s saying to White House staffers, “Whatever you do, don’t be me”:

John Dean
@JohnWDean
Memo To Trump’s White House Staff: FYI. Very few people who worked at Nixon’s White House later included that fact on their resumes. It doesn’t do much for a career to be on the wrong side of history, nor to have worked for the worst president in American history.
10:19 PM · Aug 16, 2018

Come on, John. Worst in history? That’s … okay, yeah, you’re right. And unless we discover that James Buchanan nailed Stormy Daniels’ great-great-grandmother after she spanked him with a copy of Old Farmer’s Almanac, he’ll likely hold onto that status for a while.

But this tweet does raise an interesting question. What could be a worse job to list on your résumé than White House staffer during the Trump administration?

McDonald’s pink-slime wrangler?
Steve Bannon’s personal bathtub attendant?
Dick Cheney’s organ-donor clone?
KKK cross-oiler?
Death Star weapons technician?

I’d have to say those are all about on par with working for the Trump White House.

In other words, it’s better to be the first rat off the sinking ship than the last. Think about that, okay?

This week by the numbers - none of them good for Trump

  • 70+ intelligence officers and leaders denounce Trump’s revoking clearances
  • 100 Senators resolve that the press is not “the enemy of the people”
  • 200+ tapes claimed to have been secretly recorded by former WH staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman
  • 350+ newspapers denounce Trump for his calling the press “the enemy of the people”

70+

Over 70 former intel officers and leaders denounce Trump’s threat to revoke clearances reports Axios.com.

In the 48 hours since President Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, over 70 former intelligence officers and leaders have come forward denouncing the president’s decision to revoke or threaten to take away security clearances from former government officials, including a list of 60 former CIA officers who signed a statement today, obtained by Axios.

“All of us believe it is critical to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure. But we believe equally strongly that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.”
— Statement From 60 Former CIA Officials

Among the additional 60 CIA officers named are:

Jeremy Bash, former CIA and DoD chief of staff
Bob Flores, former CIA chief technology officer
Kent Harrington, former national intelligence officer for East Asia and CIA director of public affairs
George Little, former chief spokesman, CIA and DoD
Phillip Mudd, former CIA analyst
John Nixon, former CIA analyst
Greg Vogel, former CIA deputy director for operations

Their statement goes on to explain, “Our signatures below do not necessarily mean that we concur with the opinions expressed by former Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them. What they do represent, however, is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”

Go to the axios.com article for the full list of former CIA officers signing that statement.

Two additional former officials, Admiral Denny Blair, former DNI, and VADM Bert Calland, former Deputy CIA Director also asked that their names be added to the list of former intelligence officials who signed a letter criticizing Trump’s decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance.

The list of former intelligence leaders includes:
DNI - Clapper, Blair
DCI - Webster,Gates, Tenet, Goss
DCIA - Hayden, Panetta, Petraeus

100

Senate adopts resolution backing free press after Trump attacks.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution affirming support for a free press and declaring that “the press is not the enemy of the people.”

You can read the full text of the Senate resolution here.

The non-binding resolution approved by voice vote was a rebuke to President Donald Trump who for more than 18 months has frequently called reporters “the enemy of the people.”

The resolution “reaffirms the vital and indispensable role that the free press serves to inform the electorate, uncover the truth, act as a check on the inherent power of the government, further national discourse and debate, and otherwise advance the most basic and cherished democratic norms and freedoms of the United States.”

The vote comes after more than 300 hundred U.S. newspapers on Thursday launched a coordinated defense of press freedom and a rebuke of President Donald Trump for denouncing some media organizations as enemies of the American people.

“A central pillar of President Trump’s politics is a sustained assault on the free press,” said the editorial by the Boston Globe, which coordinated publication among more than 350 newspapers.

Trump has frequently criticized journalists and described news reports that contradict his opinion or policy positions as fake news.

He lashed out again on Thursday, tweeting “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY. It is very bad for our Great Country….BUT WE ARE WINNING!”

At a Senate hearing, Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai again said he did not agree that the press was “the enemy of the people” but declined to offer a view of Trump’s anti-press rhetoric.

“We swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution, including the First Amendment,” said Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat and an author of the resolution. “Today, every senator upheld that oath by sending a message that we support the First Amendment, and we support the freedom of the press in the face of these attacks.”

The White House did not immediately comment on the Senate action.

200

And then there are the Omarosa tapes: Omarosa Might Have ‘As Many As 200’ Tapes, NY Times Reports reports the Huffington Post. The former aide to President Trump has released several audio recordings while promoting her new book.

Omarosa Manigault Newman may have an archive of up to 200 secretly recorded audio files from her time working in the White House, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The former aide to President Donald Trump has released several such recordings over the past week, which have reportedly left officials in the administration “rattled,” according to the Times. Manigault Newman on Thursday released the latest tape, which she said included a discussion in which the president’s daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, offered her a $15,000-a-month job with the 2020 Trump re-election campaign.

The clip was played on MSNBC, and Manigault Newman later suggested that the offer came after she was fired in December as an effort to buy her silence.

"It sounds a little like, obviously, that there are some things you’ve got in the back pocket to pull out,” Lara Trump says in the recording. “Clearly, if you come on board the campaign, like, we can’t have, we got to…” She later says that things would need to stay “positive.”

Manigault Newman, in the midst of a press tour to promote her book, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, says she did not accept the offer, which included a provision that she sign a nondisclosure agreement.

Other tapes released in recent days include audio of her being fired by White House chief of staff John Kelly and one of the president speaking to her after her dismissal. The Trump campaign has taken legal action against Manigault Newman over her release of the clips.

But it’s in his jeans (or genes): Trump sues people almost as often as he lies about them.

The president has lobbed several attacks at his former aide during her media tour, including a widely criticized Twitter message in which he calling her “that dog.”

Lara Trump said in a statement Thursday that she was “shocked and saddened” by what she called a “betrayal.”

“I hope it’s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can’t put a price on,” she wrote.

Things like “that dog” perhaps? Priceless.

350+

These are the newspapers telling Trump that journalists are not the enemy reports CNN.com.

About 350 newspapers in the United States had editorials Thursday decrying President Donald Trump’s description of the media as the “enemy of the people.”

Here are some of the newspapers blasting Trump’s anti-press rhetoric.

For example,
ARIZONA
The Arizona Daily Star
The free press is not the ‘enemy of the people’
The Arizona Republic
Journalists, don’t let Trump’s attacks on media keep us from doing our job

Like I said, this has not been a good week for Trump.

The military parade cancelled and a dog writes a letter to Trump

The New York Times reported that Trump Cancels Military Parade, Blaming Washington Officials for Inflating Costs. Once again, the loud sounds emanating from the Scriber household, like combinations of hysterical laughter and gagging, were triggered by the last part of that headline.

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday canceled plans for a military parade this fall in Washington, blaming local officials for inflating the costs and saying they “know a windfall when they see it.”

Washington’s mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, pushed back on Twitter, saying that she had “finally got thru” to the president to convey the “realities” of what it costs to stage events like military parades in the city.

Ms. Bowser put the number at $21.6 million, though the city’s costs are just a fraction of the total, with federal agencies also kicking in millions of dollars. A day earlier, the Pentagon said Mr. Trump’s parade to celebrate the military could be postponed to 2019, as officials acknowledged that the event could cost more than $90 million.

The Huffington Post reports that “The Pentagon said Thursday that it would postpone Trump’s parade indefinitely because of ballooning costs. The Defense Department estimated the cost at $92 million, including $50 million for the Pentagon and $42 million for other government agencies, a Pentagon official told CNBC.”

And what do vets think about this? The parade, originally planned for Veterans Day weekend (Nov. 10), never got a lot of support. From a VoteVets.org email (h/t Mrs. Scriber):

Moments ago we got the news: Donald Trump’s military parade has been canceled.

We’ll learn more in the coming days about what the final straw was, but we know this: our pressure worked. We pushed tens of thousands of petitions, calls and letters to Congress from veterans and military families urging them to stop this international embarrassment.

And they felt your pressure. We stopped it! We did it! What a collective effort!

But here is the catch: the Pentagon is saying that this parade is only “postponed,” and our pledge to you is that we will not let up. We will only amp up the pressure. Because they felt it. We will continue to oppose this parade if and when it arises again. …

So will your Scriber (a Vietnam era vet, 3 1/2 years Army Security Agency - bone-spur free).

The Times winds up: “Mr. Trump’s dream of a military parade with tanks barreling down the streets and fighter jets flying above him has faced resistance. Critics have said these parades typically mark a victory in a war. Others have said it may not be the best use of the Defense Department’s money.”

But perhaps there is another way to sate Trump’s appetite for self aggrandizement.

Andy Borowitz, New Yorker satirist, reports that Military Refuses to Participate in Trump’s Parade, Citing Bone Spurs

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The Pentagon has turned down Donald J. Trump’s request for a grand military parade in Washington, D.C., citing a sudden outbreak of bone spurs that would prevent men and women in uniform from participating.

Harland Dorrinson, a Pentagon spokesman, said that, within an hour of Trump’s request, more than a hundred thousand military personnel complained that they were suffering from acute cases of bone spurs that would make marching in such a parade a painful ordeal.

“In the history of the U.S. military, we have never experienced a bone-spur epidemic of this magnitude,” the spokesman said. “Regrettably, however, we have no choice but to issue thousands of deferments.”

A statement from the bone-spur sufferers said that they would continue to valiantly serve their country around the world in a non-marching capacity, and offered an alternative to their participation in Trump’s proposed pageant.

“President Trump is welcome to march in the parade all by himself if he would finally like to enlist,” the statement read.

Oops. I guess the military will not rescue Trump’s big, beautiful parade. But that last quote does suggest an alternative: a one-man parade dedicated to the proposition that Trump is the smartest and most lovable president ever. (More on that after this next report from Borowitz.)

Pence Stages One-Man Parade in Honor of Trump.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Hours after the Pentagon announced that it would postpone a military parade that Donald J. Trump had requested, Vice-President Mike Pence staged a one-man parade in Trump’s honor.

Explaining his decision to mount the solitary parade, Pence told reporters, “It is the least I can do to pay tribute to the greatness and majesty of Donald Trump, a true American hero.”

Pence acknowledged, however, that marching alone “was a neat way to keep the budget down.”

“Obviously, if money were no object, I would have gone for a little more spectacle,” he said. “Maybe a flyover by Space Force.”

Marching proudly with his chest thrust forward and breaking out into a near-strut, Pence’s parade route took him down Pennsylvania Avenue, where he waved occasionally to confused-looking passersby.

“It was weird seeing him walking all by himself,” Carol Foyler, a tourist who witnessed the Pence parade, said. “I waved back because it was just so sad.”

Pence’s one-man march drew high praise from Trump, who took to Twitter to declare it the largest parade in history.

Now about Trump being the smartest and most lovable president in history. Gail Collins, columnist for the NY Times, considers Trump and the Politics of Arf. The president: still neurotically insecure after all these years … (h/t Sherry Moreau)

One thing that’s for sure is that the tweets tell us a lot about the president’s own miserable insecurities. He’s been shooting off insults about people’s intellect for years, from Robert De Niro to Arianna Huffington to Lindsey Graham, who not only got called “a total lightweight” and an “idiot” but also, in the cruelest cut of all “not as bright as Rick Perry.” We could go on and on. It’s pretty clearly all coming from a deep, deep fear that everybody else has a better mind than he does. “Trust me, I’m like a smart person,” he pathetically told the country shortly after his inauguration, when the country was already getting a pretty good idea that this wasn’t the case.

During the campaign Trump continually pointed out that he went to the Wharton School of Business. (“It’s like super genius stuff.”) That gave many people the impression he’d gotten the high-prestige Wharton M.B.A., but he was really just a transfer student into the undergraduate program. Skeptics suggested he only edged his way in because of family connections. He graduated without any honors or distinction, and went on to publish a best-selling memoir that was written by somebody else.

No reason to say he’s stupid. Maybe just a little dim by presidential standards.

And about him calling people a “dog.” This all goes back to the fact that Trump hates animals. Particularly friendly animals. (You don’t see him constantly saying an enemy is a “coyote” or “hyena” or “python.”) Trump has never even owned a goldfish, as far as anybody knows. No pets at all, except a poodle named Chappy that belonged to his first wife, and which he tried to evict. (Ivana Trump said in her recent autobiography that Chappy “had an equal dislike of Donald.”)

When he calls someone a “dog,” he’s just reacting to a pathological fear that he’s unlovable. Just as when he calls someone “dumb,” he’s trying to get past the fact that he’s not all that bright.

So, you see, Trump needs that parade even if it is only Mike Pence groveling his way down Pennsylvania Avenue.

And about that dog business? I commend to you this essay on dogs by Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Huppke (reprinted this morning, 8/17, in the Daily Star: A dog’s letter to President Trump: Stop calling humans ‘dogs’. Here is a little bit of it from Zoe, smart and full of love, to a president who is neither.

A quick note of protest to President Donald Trump, from my large and very good dog. (She dictated, I typed, as the size of keyboard keys are discriminatory against large-pawed animals. More on that issue in another column.)

Dear Large Human President:

I do not usually pay attention to human politics. I prefer more pleasant things like sniffing my friends’ butts or rolling on a dead bird in the backyard or eating things that will make me throw up.

Anyway, I am writing because I have noticed that you keep comparing human beings to dogs.

… dogs are wonderful and intelligent and filled with love, and I do not think you were trying to call Omarosa or Mitt Romney or Ted Cruz or any of those other humans wonderful or intelligent or loving.

I think you were trying to be mean and insulting to them. And that makes me want to growl at you.

Bad large human president! Bad!

I understand you are the first president since William McKinley to not have a dog. That’s weird. You don’t have any animal friends, and that makes me suspicious.

In conclusion, and on behalf of all good dogs out there, I request that you stop referring to humans as dogs and start realizing that humans and dogs are both great and deserve respect …