Thursday, October 5, 2017

Pence Chief of Staff Urges that Anti-Trump Republicans be Purged from GOP

This story made it under the radar this week.  Politico reports:
Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff railed against congressional leaders in closed-door remarks to wealthy donors and called for a “purge” if GOP lawmakers don’t quickly rally behind President Donald Trump’s agenda.

In remarks at a Republican National Committee event at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington
Nick Ayers
on Tuesday morning, Nick Ayers also warned that Republicans are “on track to get shellacked” in next year’s midterm elections if GOP lawmakers don’t pass Trump’s legislative priorities.
But Ayers reserved his harshest criticism for congressional leaders and members who have not offered full-throated support for the president.
“Just imagine the possibilities of what can happen if our entire party unifies behind him? If — and this sounds crass — we can purge the handful of people who continue to work to defeat him,” Ayers said, according to an audio recording of the remarks obtained by POLITICO.
“I’m not speaking on behalf of the president or vice president when I say this,” Ayers responded. “But if I were you, I would not only stop donating, I would form a coalition of all the other major donors, and just say two things. We’re definitely not giving to you, No. 1. And No. 2, if you don’t have this done by Dec. 31, we’re going out, we’re recruiting opponents, we’re maxing out to their campaigns, and we’re funding super PACs to defeat all of you.”
The comments also offer a stark departure in tone from Pence’s team, with the vice president having often served the role of soothing tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill. The remarks reveal both a deep frustration within the White House with congressional leadership and a political tactic of placing the onus on Congress to advance the agenda on health care, tax reform and other legislative priorities that have failed to gain momentum.

Ayers warned that the Republican Party is on track for a repeat of the massive electoral backlash that came after President Barack Obama was elected and the GOP took control of Congress and statehouses across the country. 
“Not because anything that the president or the vice president has done or hasn’t done, but we’re on track to get shellacked next year,” Ayers said....
Spare me, Nick Ayers.  When it comes to the Trumpers, the President is never at fault.  In fact, we have a President who has been floundering since his inauguration. Trump has not learned the first thing about the job he is supposed to be doing and has spent most of his time tweeting insults to try to settle personal scores than providing real leadership for the country.  On his signature "repeal and replace" of Obamacare, Trump knew nothing about the details of the bill, undercut Republicans at every opportunity, and failed to use his office to advocate for the GOP legislation.

As far as not supporting the Trump agenda, exactly what is that agenda?  After two years of campaigning and being President, Trump's tax plan consists of one page of bullet points.  Like most issues, Trump was all over the map on health care, including at times sounding like Bernie Sanders, promising universal health care paid for by "the government."   After eight months, Trump's agenda seems to be nothing more than a demand for personal loyalty and praise for his being a great leader....while being anything but a great leader.   Fortunately, many Republicans, both in and out of Congress, refuse to part with their integrity and independence to kiss President Trump's ring.

Some prominent Republicans like George Will and Joe Scarborough chose to leave the Republican Party because of President Trump.  While I understand their motivation, I think it is misguided.  My parents were conservative Democrats.  Becoming politically active in the early 1980s, I chose to become a Republican because I believe that party, with its conservative, limited government agenda, more closely matched my political views.  Starting with Reagan in November 1980, my Republican Party over the next 35 years enjoyed a number of successes punctuated by occasional failure.  Did we in the GOP fall show of our policy goals?   Quite often.  But does that mean we Republicans should hand the reigns of power to the Democrats and give up on those goals completely?  Of course not.   And it sure does not mean conceding the GOP brand to redesign by a life-long New York liberal.

Nick Ayers was born in 1981.  I cast my first ever vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.  That vote was also cast more than three decades before Trump began pretending he was a Republican just 6 years ago.

My Republican Party is about lower taxes, limited government, being pro life and supporting traditional values.  It is not about Trump and his ilk hating people because of their skin color, ethnicity or religion.  It is about standing up for the Constitution and the ideals contained in that document.  When our President denounces American traditions and values, things like freedom of press, religion or speech, that is not my Republican Party.

Trumpism is not about a political philosophy, and certainly not about being a conservative.  It is about a cult of personality.   Donald Trump could announce tomorrow that he is going to support the Pelosi-Schumer liberal agenda across the board, and the vast majority of Trumpers would convince themselves that "Mr. Trump" is doing the right thing, indeed something brilliant.  After all, to most Trumpers the particular political agenda the President is pursuing is not important. What is important is blind adoration for all things Trump says or does.  Just praise "Mr. Trump" and drink the Kool-Aid.

Even if it were worthy of support, the Trump GOP brand is doomed to failure.  Trump's success depends on winning the support of a strong majority of white people.   Yet, the collective skin hue of the country is steadily getting darker.  Millennials, who overwhelmingly oppose Trump, will be a much bigger part of the electorate in 2020 than 2016.  Any Republican candidate chaining himself to the Trump brand, will find that the President to be an anchor instead of a sail.

Ayers seems to be calling for a Republican civil war. Great. Bring it on.  I, like many other Republicans, want my party back.  And we will get it back.  Make no mistake about it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

With Plea to Fire NFL Players, Trump and (Some) Conservatives Join Liberals in Attacking Free Speech

One of the most revolting political developments of the past decade or so is the effort by liberals to silence the speech of conservatives.  Many times these efforts involve liberal students exerting tremendous pressure on  college administrators to dis-invite right-wing speakers or, failing that, shouting down those speakers so their conservative views cannot be publicly aired.  This assault by liberals on conservative speech was documented in the excellent book "The Silencing:  How the Left is Killing Free Speech" written by Kirsten Parker, a Democrat who worked in the Clinton administration.

I have also written on the subject:

Monday, August 28, 2017, Berkeley Mayor Wants to Cancel Conservative Free Speech Rally Because of Possible Violence by Left-Wing Groups

Thursday, April 27, 2017, Liberals Show Contempt for Free Speech in Silencing Ann Coulter

The point Parker made so eloquently in her book is that the American tradition of free speech should protect all speech, including those views set forth by conservative speakers, and that liberals need to condemn attempts to silence views on the right.  After all, some day it might be conservatives who are trying to silence the speech of liberals.

That day came on Friday.

At a rally for Alabama Senator Luther Strange facing a special election for the seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, President Donald Trump condemned NFL players who refused to stand for the national anthem and said that the owners should fire them.   He reiterated that view in subsequent tweets.  

I find the players actions at best misguided and at worst deplorable. The protest is supposed to be about raising the issue of racism.  But the protest does not do that at all.  Instead the protesting players are slapping the face of all those who have fought and died so that we can have the freedoms we Americans enjoy, including the freedom those players have to earn millions of dollars playing a game one day a week.  Those players might have as well gone up and spit on the flag and what it represents.  

But it is exactly because of what that flag stands for that we should respect and allow the protests to continue.  The flag stands for the freedom to express one's views, especially those that are political, i.e are about a matter of public concern.

Now I am well aware that the Free Speech Clause does not apply to private businesses, such as the NFL.  And, yes, the team owners can almost certainly legally fire the players for their objectionable speech.  But just because the action would be legal, does not mean it is right.  Free speech is not just part of a constitutional amendment.  It is an essential characteristic of American society and a bedrock principle of our political system.  If people are constantly threatened with their jobs if they dare express their views publicly then robust political debate is silenced and we all suffer as a result.

Sadly, we have a President who has long declared open hostility to the American tradition of free speech.   Candidate Trump attacked American free speech during the campaign., even suggesting that the requirement of "actual malice" for libel actions be done away with.  Trump warmly praised dictators who violently put down public protests and kill journalists who write negative stories about those dictators. He is the first President since John Adams who has argued that Americans actually have too much free speech.   Even before entering the world of politics, Trump was well-known for suing (or threatening to sue) anyone who had the temerity to speak ill of him publicly.

Unfortunately, too many of my Republican friends have tossed aside their conservative principles to back the President's over-the-top assertion that these NFL players should be fired by their employers. In doing so, they are eschewing Constitutional principles and embracing the liberal tactics of suppressing unpopular free speech, i.e. speech liberals do not like  If those tactics are wrong for liberals, they are also wrong when done by conservatives.  

The answer to unpopular speech is not to silence that speech, but to counter it with other speech.  By all means let's roundly condemn those players who insult the grand principles for which our great country stands. But, as one of those principles is the right to speak out on matters of public concern, let's stop short of demanding that speech be silenced by firing the speakers.   For conservatives to do otherwise makes them no better than the liberals.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Trump's Approval Rises Only Slightly Despite Three Weeks of the Most Favorable Media Coverage of His Presidency

Today marks the middle of the month and the end of three weeks of the most positive media coverage of the Trump Presidency. It started with Hurricane Harvey hitting the Texas shore on August 25th.  Trump received positive reviews for his administration's handling of the storm.  Then came Hurricane Irma and Trump's bipartisan legislative deals.  Again, more positive media coverage.

Although I didn't buy that Donald Trump had actually changed his persona from being a self-obsessed, intellectual lightweight who lacked even the most basic qualifications and temperament to be President of the United States, I thought a significant number of other people would have a change of heart and now judge Trump more favorably.  I was wrong.

Gallup's tracking poll had President Trump's approval rating at a dismal 35% on August 25th.  Today it is only 37%.  Real Clear Politics' average of the Trump polls show his favorability rating has only increased from 38.5% to 39.3% during the same period.

Trump's poll numbers appear to be baked in.  They rise only slightly when the news coverage is positive and do not decline significantly when Trump is getting hammered in the media.  People's minds seem to be made up about the President.

Yesterday though introduced a new dynamic.  Trump appears to be in the process of walking away from two of his major promises on immigration, DACA and the Wall.  Immigration is an issue that motivates Trumpers and one the President successfully used to distinguish himself from the other Republican presidential candidates.  Some Trump supporters, people like Rush Limbaugh, Anne Coulter and Breitbart, are treating the Trump immigration retreat as a betrayal to the base.

My guess is that Trump's won't lose his core supporters despite his new-found moderate position on immigration or his willingness to cut legislative deals with "Chuck" and "Nancy."  Trumpers seem willing to sign on to the President's agenda, regardless of whether it is a conservative, liberal or moderate agenda.  They are behind the President, because, well, he is Donald Trump.  The Trump phenomenon is the closest to a cult of personality that I ever want to see this country come.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Draining the Swamp in Florida Has Increased the Impact of Hurricanes

I have long said, the reason hurricanes cause so much damage is because of the overdevelopment of tropical areas that used to absorb much of the wind and water that came with hurricanes.   In short, the hurricane buffer is gone.  Writing a lengthy piece in Politico, Michael Grunwald, a Miami resident temporarily displaced to Orlanda due to Hurricane Irma, does a terrific job of telling the history of Southern Florida and how draining the swamp for development has left the state exposed to wrath of hurricanes.
Today, Florida’s southern thumb has been transformed into a subtropical paradise for millions of residents and tourists, a sprawling megalopolis dangling into the Gulf Stream that could sustain hundreds of billions of dollars in damage if Hurricane Irma makes a direct hit. So it’s easy to forget that South Florida was once America’s last frontier, generally dismissed as an uninhabitable and undesirable wasteland, almost completely unsettled well after the West was won. ... Miami wasn’t even incorporated as a city until
In 1896, close to 400 people crowded onto the second floor of the Lobby Pool Room (large building in center of photo)  to vote to incorporate Miami as a city. It then had 90 residents. Today the Miami metro area has over 6.7 million residents.
1896. And even then an early visitor declared that if he owned Miami and hell, he would rent out Miami and live in hell.
There was really just one reason South Florida remained so unpleasant and so empty for so long: water. The region was simply too soggy and swampy for development. Its low-lying flatlands were too vulnerable to storms and floods. As a colorful governor with the colorful name of Napoleon Bonaparte Broward put it: “Water is the common enemy of the people of Florida.” So in the 20th century, Florida declared war on its common enemy, vowing to subdue Mother Nature, eventually making vast swaths of floodplains safe for the president to build golf courses and Vanilla Ice to flip houses and my kids to grow up in the sunshine. Water control—even more than air conditioning or bug spray or Social Security—enabled the spectacular growth of South Florida. It’s a pretty awesome place to live, now that so much of its swamp has been drained, much better than Boston or Brooklyn in the winter, and, for the obvious economic and political reasons, much better than Havana or Caracas all year long.
But Mother Nature still gets her say. Water control has ravaged the globally beloved Everglades and the rest of the South Florida ecosystem in ways that imperil our way of life as well as the local flora and fauna. And sometimes, as we’re about to be reminded, water can’t be controlled. Hurricanes routinely tore through South Florida even before hundreds of gleaming skyscrapers and thousands of red-roof subdivisions sprouted in their path. Our collective willingness not to dwell on that ugly inevitability has also enabled the region’s spectacular growth.
...In 1926, a few weeks after the Miami Herald urged its readers not to worry about hurricanes because “there is more risk to life from venturing across a busy street,” a Category 4 storm flattened Miami, killing 400 and abruptly ending the coastal boom.Then in 1928, another Category 4 storm blasted Lake Okeechobee through its flimsy dike, killing 2,500 and abruptly ending the Everglades boom. It was the second-deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, and afterward Florida’s attorney general testified before Congress that much of the southern half of his state might be unsuited to human habitation: “I’ve heard it advocated that what the people ought to do is build a wall down there and keep the military there to keep people from coming in.”
Needless to say, nobody built a wall. But America finally did get serious about draining the swamp. The Army Corps of Engineers, the shock troops in the nation’s war on Mother Nature, built the most elaborate water management system of its day, 2,000 miles of levees and canals along with pumps so powerful some of the engines would have to be cannibalized from nuclear submarines. The engineers aimed to seize control of just about every drop of water that falls on South Florida, whisking it out to sea to prevent flooding in the flatlands. They made it possible for Americans to farm 400,000 acres of sugar fields in the northern Everglades, to visit Disney World at the headwaters of the Everglades, to drive on the Palmetto and Sawgrass Expressways where palmettos and sawgrass used to be. They made South Florida safe for a long boom that has occasionally paused but has never really stopped, bringing 8 million people to the Everglades watershed, pushing the state’s population from 27th in the nation before World War II to third in the nation today. 
The problem, like most problems in South Florida, is a water problem. Half the Everglades has been drained or paved for agriculture and development, so in the rainy season, water managers have to dump excess water into estuaries and what’s left of the Everglades. Then it’s no longer available in the dry season, which is why South Florida now faces structural droughts that create wildfires in the Everglades and endanger the region’s drinking water, which happens to sit underneath the Everglades. Meanwhile, the Everglades itself—once reviled as a vile backwater, now revered as an ecological treasure—has all kinds of problems of its own, including 69 endangered species. In 2000, Congress approved the largest environmental restoration project in history to try to resuscitate the Everglades, an unprecedented effort to fix South Florida’s water problems for people and farms as well as nature. But 17 years later, virtually no progress has been made. It’s a real mess.
And they keep coming. Twenty-five years ago, Hurricane Andrew ripped through Miami’s southern exurbs, but the homes destroyed were quickly replaced, and most of us who live here now weren’t here then. So we weren’t really ready for Irma, even though at some level we knew it was possible. It’s conceivable that Irma will finally shut down our insatiable growth machine, but I wouldn’t bet on that. Our inclination towards collective amnesia is just too strong.
The thing is, it’s really nice here, except when it isn’t....

Conservative Radio Host Mark Levin Wakes Up, Concludes Trump Supporters Were Sold Out by President

While some Trumpers have somehow managed to twist President Trump's complete capitulation to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi as being the fault of Congressional Republicans (after all nothing is ever the President's fault for those who live in Trumpland), the deal finally caused Trump-loving, conservative radio host Mark Levin to finally awake to the fact the President is selling out his supporters.  Redstate reports on the development:
Mark Levin, seeing the light, went after President Trump for his capitulation to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. To Levin’s credit, he doesn’t turn the blame on Paul Ryan and
Mark Levin
Mitch McConnell the way others pathetically have tried to do. Levin says Trump is the ostensibly the leader of the GOP and the buck stops with him.
Some of the key points he hits on: 
  1. Donald Trump needs to be the leader of the Republican Party and take charge of the leadership. Instead, he’s at war with leadership, and that’s a fault of his, not McConnell and Ryan.
  2. He’s selling out the country by working with Pelosi and Schumer just to get back at Republicans.
  3. Trump broke his promise on DACA. It has nothing to do with the Republican leadership.
  4. He hit Trump on saying he’d shut down the government unless he gets funding for the border wall and he flip-flopped
  5. He said, “He sold us out on DACA. He sold us on this deal with Schumer….this continuing resolution because it doesn’t include the wall.”
  6. He says a leader doesn’t throw in with leftists just because the Congressional leadership isn’t doing what he wants
In the end, Levin says he doesn’t think this is the last time. 
Here is a link to the Levin audio.

Of course it won't be. Trump is not a conservative.  The only principle he stands for is doing what is best for himself under all circumstances.  Donald Trump could not care less about the American people, including those who stand with him at his rallies.  
Levin wasn't the only conservative opinion leader to set down the Kool-Aid and tell the truth about the Trump - Schumer/Pelosi deal.  On Fox News Sunday, conservative commentator Brit Hume hammered the President for getting "rolled by "Chuck" and "Nancy."  The Daily Wire reports:
No doubt Chuck and Nancy were happy. He got rolled; the president got rolled, and his administration, therefore, got rolled because as you pointed out correctly, doing this short-term deal attached to the Hurricane Harvey money, which was a must-pass, and therefore a good vehicle to do a longer debt limit extension and perhaps other things as well, is now a three month deal — and we're right back where we started except without the Hurricane Harvey leverage when December rolls around.  
So it's a terrible deal. And I think the president, he wanted to sign something, so he got something to sign — but he got rolled.

Of course President Trump got rolled.   Donald Trump was never a great negotiator and, in fact, is proving to be spectacularly bad at cutting deals.  As Hume points out during the roundtable, it is not hard to cut deals when you're giving the other side everything they're asking for.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sen. John Danforth Editorial: "The Real Reason Trump is Not a Republican"

Former Missouri Senator John Danforth penned a letter to the editor in the Washington Post a few days ago.  It should be mandatory reading for those conservatives who are willing to throw away everything we fought for over the years to blindly support a President who was only a few years ago was a liberal Democrat and who is currently a RINO who doesn't support traditional Republican values.  

Here is the letter to the editor:

The real reason Trump is not a Republican
Former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO)
Many have said that President Trump isn’t a Republican. They are correct, but for a reason more fundamental than those usually given.... The fundamental reason Trump isn’t a Republican is far bigger than words or policies. He stands in opposition to the founding principle of our party — that of a united country.
The Republican Party has a long history of standing for a united country. Theodore Roosevelt raised up the ordinary people of his day and championed their cause against abusive trusts. Dwight Eisenhower used the army to integrate a Little Rock high school. George H.W. Bush signed the most important civil rights legislation in more than a quarter-century, a bill authored by Republican senators. George W. Bush stood before Congress and the nation and defended Muslims after 9/11. Our record hasn’t been perfect. When we have pushed the agenda of the Christian right, we have seemed to exclude people who don’t share our religious beliefs. We have seemed unfriendly to gay Americans. But our long history has been to uphold the dignity of all of God’s people and to build a country welcoming to all.
Now comes Trump, who is exactly what Republicans are not, who is exactly what we have opposed in our 160-year history. We are the party of the Union, and he is the most divisive president in our history. There hasn’t been a more divisive person in national politics since George Wallace.
It isn’t a matter of occasional asides, or indiscreet slips of the tongue uttered at unguarded moments. Trump is always eager to tell people that they don’t belong here, whether it’s Mexicans, Muslims, transgender people or another group. His message is, “You are not one of us,” the opposite of “e pluribus unum.” And when he has the opportunity to unite Americans, to inspire us, to call out the most hateful among us, the KKK and the neo-Nazis, he refuses.
To my fellow Republicans: We cannot allow Donald Trump to redefine the Republican Party. That is what he is doing, as long as we give the impression by our silence that his words are our words and his actions are our actions. We cannot allow that impression to go unchallenged.
As has been true since our beginning, we Republicans are the party of Lincoln, the party of the Union. We believe in our founding principle. We are proud of our illustrious history. We believe that we are an essential part of present-day American politics. Our country needs a responsibly conservative party. But our party has been corrupted by this hateful man, and it is now in peril.
In honor of our past and in belief in our future, for the sake of our party and our nation, we Republicans must disassociate ourselves from Trump by expressing our opposition to his divisive tactics and by clearly and strongly insisting that he does not represent what it means to be a Republican.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Berkeley Mayor Wants to Cancel Conservative Free Speech Rally Because of Possible Violence by Left-Wing Groups

In 1964, Berkeley, California was home to the free speech movement.  Left-wing college students on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.  

Sunday, some 53 years after the free speech movement, liberals on the UC Berkeley campus are again 
protesting on the issue of free speech, but this time they are on the other side trying to shut down, violently, conservative speech with which they disagree.  

CBS news reports:
Black-clad anarchists on Sunday stormed into what had been a largely peaceful Berkeley protest against hate and attacked at least five people, including the leader of a politically conservative group who canceled an event a day earlier in San Francisco amid fears of violence. 

The group of more than 100 hooded protesters, with shields emblazoned with the words "no hate" and waving a flag identifying themselves as anarchists, busted through police lines, avoiding security checks by officers to take away possible weapons. Then the anarchists blended with a crowd of 2,000 largely peaceful protesters who turned up to demonstrate in a "Rally Against Hate" opposed to a much smaller gathering of right-wing protesters.
Among those assaulted was Joey Gibson, the leader of the Patriot Prayer group, which canceled a Saturday rally and was then prevented from holding a news conference when authorities closed off the public square Gibson planned to use. Gibson has denounced racism and said he launched Patriot Prayer after several supporters of President Donald Trump were beaten at a Trump campaign stop in San Jose, California, last year. Authorities nonetheless feared the group's event could attract white nationalists, as it has in the past. 
After the anarchists spotted Gibson at the Berkeley park, they pepper-sprayed him and chased him out as he backed away with his hands held in the air. Gibson rushed behind a line of police wearing riot gear, who set off a smoke bomb to drive away the anarchists.Separately, groups of hooded, black-clad protesters attacked at least four other men in or near the park, kicking and punching them until the assaults were stopped by police. The assaults were witnessed by an Associated Press reporter.
Now Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is requesting UC Berkeley to stop another conservative free speech rally planned for next month.  The San Francisco Chronicle reports:   
“I don’t want Berkeley being used as a punching bag,” said Arreguin, whose city has been the site of several showdowns this year between, on the one hand, the left and its fringe anarchist wing, and on the other, supporters of President Trump who at times have included white nationalists. 
“I am concerned about these groups using large protests to create mayhem,” Arreguin said. “It’s something we have seen in Oakland and in Berkeley.” 
The mayor wants UC Berkeley to halt plans by a conservative campus group, the Berkeley Patriot, to host right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos during its scheduled Free Speech Week from Sept. 24-27. Berkeley’s right-vs.-left cage matches began with an appearance that Yiannopoulos was to have made in February at a campus hall, an event that was aborted when black-clad anarchists like those who broke up Sunday’s downtown rally stormed into Sproul Plaza, smashed windows and set bonfires.
In short, Mayor Arreguin wants to blame conservatives and silence their speech because some liberals are illegally reacting with violence because they don't agree with that speech.  

Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Contempt for the Constitution and His Abuse of Power Make Him No Conservative Hero

Friday night, as the worst hurricane in 12 years was hitting the coast of the United States, President Donald Trump, issued a highly controversial pardon of former Maricopa (Phoenix) County Sheriff Arpaio.  Arpaio, who liked to bill himself as "America's Toughest Sheriff," had been convicted of willfully violating a federal judge's order to cease his office's practice of racially profiling Latinos. Many on the right celebrate that Sheriff Arpaio was enforcing the immigration law that the feds refused to enforce.  If that were all he were doing then Sheriff Arpaio he would be a much more sympathetic figure.  Instead, in the process of enforcing immigration law, Sheriff Arpaio trampled the U.S. Constitution under his feet, engaging in the worst sort of racial profiling.

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio
But it just wasn't Arpaio's racial profiling of Latinos in Maricopa County.  He also ran jails that fell far short of constitutional standards.  One of those jails was an outdoor facility known as "Tent City" which harbored inmates in temperatures in excess of 130 degrees during the summer and as low as 41 degrees in the winter.  He cut back jail inmates to two meals a day, with one of those meals sometimes being green bologna.  Inmates were often denied healthcare and adequate sanitation facilities.  They were made to wear pink underwear and socks.

A 2015 investigation by the Phoenix New Times showed that of the 157 who died in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's jails, 24% of the deaths were identified as suicides.  The second highest jail suicide rate was 14 percent in Philadelphia jails over a comparable period.    In addition, the cause of 73 deaths was listed as unknown by county authorities. The lawsuits over the deaths in Joe Arpaio's jails cost Maricopa County $140 million.

People, naturally do not have a lot of sympathy for criminals.  But Sheriff Arpaio ran a JAIL not a prison.  Most people in jail are awaiting trial and have not yet been convicted.   Prisons, on the other hand, are occupied by prisoners who have been convicted of crimes, usually felonies.   Sheriff Arpaio was using his jail to punish people for simply being accused of a crime.  The Constitution does not allow for that.

At the same time Sheriff Arpaio was expending enormous resources to target Latinos and settle lawsuits, he was failing to adequately investigate hundreds of sex crimes committed in Maricopa County.   During a three year period ending in 2007, it was alleged that more than 400 sex crimes reported to Arpaio’s office, most from El Mirage, a suburb of Phoenix with a large immigrant population, were inadequately investigated or not investigated at all.  Those cases included 32 reported offenses against children.  In 2015, Maricopa County officials settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit in which it was claimed Sheriff Arpaio had failed to properly investigate the rape of a 13-year-old girl.

When any politician dared cross Sheriff Arpaio they often became a target of a criminal investigation launched by Sheriff Arpaio.  In 2004, Dan Saban announced he would run against Arpaio in the Republican primary. Arpaio responded by opening a criminal investigation into a 30-year-old allegation that Saban, then 17, had raped his adoptive mother. Saban claimed he was the victim and relatives backed him up.  Of course, it didn't matter because the statute of limitations had long since run out and the case was dismissed.  But the slander worked to ensure Arpaio the nomination.

Between 2008 and 2010, Arapaio and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas began a number of government corruption investigations targeting Arpaio's political opponents, including judges, county supervisors and administrators. Several criminal charges ended up being filed against the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors as well as four judges and attorneys who worked with the county.  A grand jury, however, declined to indict any of the defendants.  Over 11 of the individuals targeted by Arpaio and Thomas' criminal investigations filed lawsuits, costing taxpayers millions of dollars to settle.

The episode resulted in Thomas being disbarred by a disciplinary panel of the Arizona Supreme Court which found that he "outrageously exploited power, flagrantly fostered fear, and disgracefully misused the law." The panel found "clear and convincing evidence" that Thomas brought unfounded and malicious criminal and civil charges against political opponents, including four state judges and the Arizona Attorney General.  "Were this a criminal case," the panel concluded, "we are confident that the evidence would establish this conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt."  It takes at least two people for a "conspiracy," and that not-named conspirator in abusing political power was none other that Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

In his over two decades of being Maricopa Sheriff, Arpaio showed himself to be a bully, a two bit thug no better than many of the people his officers were arresting.  Arpaio targeted people because of their skin color, in violation of the Constitution and court orders.   When political opponents government officials crossed him,, Arpaio abused his powers making them a target for criminal investigation.  In short, "America's Toughest Sheriff" thought he was above the law and the Constitution he swore to uphold as Maricopa County Sheriff.  I wish I could say Sheriff Arpaio learned otherwise. Unfortunately, Sheriff Arpaio had a kindred spirit in the White House, another man who fancies himself as being above the law, a man who was more than willing to give him a "Get Out of Jail Free" card, i.e. a pardon.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trump, Not Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Deserves Major Share of Blame for Legislative Failures

Today's bullying target of the President Donald Trump was Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.   In a tweet sent this afternoon, Trump told McConnell he needs to "get back to work" and pass Repeal and Replace, tax reform and an infrastructure bill.
This Trump tweet came at the start of Trump's 17 day vacation at his New Jersey golf resort.   Of
course, rank hypocrisy has never seemed to slow Trump down.

This morning Trump had another anti-McConnell tweet:
And yesterday, Trump took something McConnell said out of context (ad he does frequently) to tweet:
The New York Times tonight reported on another blast at McConnell:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday sharply amplified his criticism of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, raising the possibility that Mr. McConnell should relinquish his position if he cannot deliver on top legislative priorities.
After venting for days, on Twitter and in private, over the Senate’s failure to pass a health care repeal bill before the August recess, Mr. Trump was asked if Mr. McConnell should consider stepping down.
“I’ll tell you what,” Mr. Trump began, speaking to reporters outside his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., “if he doesn’t get repeal and replace done and if he doesn’t get taxes done, meaning cuts and reform, and if he doesn’t get a very easy one to get done, infrastructure — if he doesn’t get them done, then you can ask me that question.”
I am no fan of Mitch McConnell.  As far as congressional Republicans go, they deserve blame for making a promise to the American public about repealing and replacing Obamcare and then, when it turned out they could actually do just the GOP surprisingly winning the White House in 2016, they backed down.

But the lion's share of the blame for Trump's legislative agenda  belong Donald J. Trump. Take the healthcare bill for example.  Trump has steadfastly refused to get informed about the issues, made petty and pathetically weak attempts to threaten GOP legislators who wouldn't support his position, and then when the Republicans did support in the House, Trump cut them off at their knees declaring the bill he demanded be passed was mean.

When the bill reached the Senate floor, Trump once again refused to get informed about the bill, refused to try to sell the legislation to the public and made yet more petty threats against members of his own party.  Trump provided zero leadership on the issue while instead spending his time tweeting about personal grievances that distracted from the work members of Congress were attempting to do.

Oh, and the rest of Trump's legislative agenda?  Trump's tax reform proposal consists of one page of bullet points and his infrastructure plan doesn't exist. But yet Trump is demanding McConnell act, now!

If Donald Trump wants to know who is responsible for his legislative and his many other failures as President, he needs to only look in a mirror.

Monday, August 7, 2017

IndyGo to Use Eminent Domain Against College Avenue Property Owners

The Indianapolis Business Journal reports on the development:
A court battle is escalating between IndyGo and property owners along the proposed Red Line route fighting to protect their land from becoming part of the rapid-transit bus system.
Proposed Red-Line Station Near Moe & Johnny's.
The first phase of the Red Line would run 13 miles, stretching from East 66th Street in Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis on the south side, and would include infrastructure improvements spilling onto the properties.
IndyGo so far has settled with 11 owners along the route by paying them amounts ranging from $500 to $90,800—moves that will allow it to gain either temporary or permanent use of slivers of no more than one-tenth of an acre of each owner’s land.
But nine property owners are holding out, prompting IndyGo last month to sue each individually. In the suits, IndyGo seeks to exercise its power of eminent domain, with the purchase price for parcels to be determined via independent appraisals. 
IndyGo’s legal maneuvering isn’t sitting well with business owners such as Chuck Mack, longtime operator of Meridian-Kessler staple Moe & Johnny’s at 5380 N. College Ave.
IndyGo sued Mack after he refused an $815 offer for a portion of his parking lot needed to install a sidewalk wheelchair ramp and extend a curb.
“The net effect is way beyond the ludicrous $800 they offered for the inconvenience of losing our easement,” Mack scoffed.
Mack, who has owned Moe & Johnny’s for 23 years, says he’ll lose 20 percent of his parking, in addition to access to his lot from College Avenue, forcing patrons to use 54th Street.
Colleen Fanning, the city-county councilor who represents the area along College, didn’t return phone calls from IBJ seeking comment on the business owners’ concerns.
But on her website, she praises the Red Line project while acknowledging the differences in opinion she has with her longtime friend Mack at Moe & Johnny’s.
“I am a staunch supporter of the Red Line and believe this valuable infrastructure will positively impact the future of our neighborhood and city,” she wrote.
Any one who regularly travels College Avenue from downtown to Broad Ripple knows what a congested mess the route is.   Eliminating travel lanes and parking from the street is just going to make the situation worse.  Keystone Avenue, a much wider street, is a far better location for the line. Unfortunately, in an eminent domain case you can't challenge whether the project is a good idea or if a better option exists. You can only challenge whether the taking is for a public purpose, which issue IndyGo will win easy.  Once that hurdle is clear, the only issue is the amount of compensation.  Moe & Johnny's is probably smart to hold out.  I've done a number of eminent domain cases and I don't think I have ever seen a case where a person settled post-litigation (or received a judgment from a jury) which figure was less than that offered prior to litigation.  

Sadly, the Indianapolis City-County Councilor Colleen Fanning is in the tank for those who will profit off the Red Line at the expense of those who live in the Broad Ripple area.  It is unfortunate that Broad Ripple in recent years hasn't had better representation on the Council.  This is the third Republican councilor in a row who was all about helping developers make a buck instead of doing what is best for local residents and business owners.  Broad Ripple deserves better.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Pete Rose Defamation Suit Demonstrates the Problem With Defamation Suits

On Monday, July 31st, former Cincinnati Reds great filed a defamation suit in a federal court in Pennsylvania.  ESPN reports on the development:
Pete Rose filed a federal defamation lawsuit today against John Dowd, who oversaw the investigation that led to Rose's ban from baseball, for claims Dowd made last summer that Rose had underage girls delivered to him at spring training and that he committed statutory rape.   
The complaint was filed today in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. It cites a radio interview last summer with a station in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in which Dowd said
, "Michael Bertolini, you know, told us that he not only ran bets but ran young girls down at spring training, ages 12 to 14. Isn't that lovely? So that's statutory rape every time you do that."   
Bertolini was a memorabilia merchant whose taped conversations and other information about Rose's gambling were central to Rose receiving a permanent ban in 1989.   
The lawsuit also cites an interview with CBS Radio in which Dowd said, "He has Bertolini running young women down in Florida for his satisfaction, so you know he's just not worthy of consideration or to be part of the game. This is not what we want to be in the game of baseball."
At the time of the interviews last summer, commissioner Rob Manfred was considering Rose's request for reinstatement. Dowd had appeared on the shows to discuss that topic, and to talk about whether Rose should be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Manfred ultimately denied Rose's request. 
According to the suit, "Ever since Dowd investigated Rose in 1989 and Rose was placed on the Ineligible List, Dowd actively sought to prevent Rose from ever being reinstated by MLB or elected to the Hall of Fame, and he ultimately made maliciously false and reckless claims against Rose."
By way of background, there are certain statements that people can make that are considered "defamation per se," i.e. statements that are considered so damaging to one's reputation that damages will be assumed.   Usually a plaintiff proving actual damages in defamation cases is a huge obstacle.  When a statement is considered "defamation per se" that obstacle is removed.

Accusing someone of crime is defamation per se.  Attorneys know this.   We are generally very careful about accusing people of a crime when that crime has never been charged.  We are taught to use qualifying conditional terms such "alleged," "accused of" when treading into an area of alleging someone, who has never been charged, committed a crime.

John Dowd is an attorney and in fact is currently part of the Trump legal team .  That he would make a statement on a radio show that Rose committed "statutory rape," when Rose has never been charged with any such crime, is reckless.   I can only assume that Dowd's obvious blind hatred of Rose overrode his legal brain when he made such a dumb statement on the radio show.

Unfortunately, for Rose his lawsuit demonstrates the problem with celebrities who file defamation suits...they end up publicizing the very thing they didn't want published in the first place   How did Dowd respond to the Rose lawsuit?  On the same day the Rose lawsuit was filed, Dowd filed a motion (I am not sure what "motion" you'd file at this point of the proceedings), which claims Rose Rose is a womanizer who regularly had sex with teenagers.  In the motion:
Dowd is asking the court to force Rose to answer questions about his sexual relationships, his history of lying and his mental health. Dowd says Rose has, by and large, refused to respond.
"If Rose did not want to answer questions about having sex with teenagers, his well-documented history of lying, or his mental health, he should not have filed this lawsuit," Dowd's motion said.
I am not sure why such a motion would be filed before owd even filed an answer to the complaint mind you. Obviously whether the accusations are true, i.e. that Rose had sex with underage women, is a defense Dowd can assert.  He wouldn't have to file a motion to force Rose to answer questions on that subject.  Undoubtedly Rose's attorney has told him that his sexual history is fair game if he files the lawsuit.  Dowd's filing of the "motion" seems to be nothing more than an attempt to get the media story to be about Rose is a child molester instead of Dowd being a defamer.

Of course now that he's in the middle of a lawsuit, Dowd can make his Rose is a "sexual molester" claims with legal protection. The news media have already picked up on those claims.  Many people on social media are declaring Rose is a pedophile, even though no jurisdiction found the evidence compelling enough to charge Rose with anything and the supposed sexual trysts are some 40 years old.  So much for people being presumed innocent.

And that, folks, is the problem with defamation suits.  You end up publicizing the very thing you didn't want publicized.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Special Counsel's investigation Expands to Target Trump Family's Financial Dealings with Russia

Bloomberg dropped this bombshell just a couple of hours ago:  
The U.S. special counsel investigating possible ties between the Donald Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. 
The president told the New York Times on Wednesday that any digging into
matters beyond Russia would be out of bounds. Trump’s businesses have involved Russians for years, making the boundaries fuzzy so Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be taking a wide-angle approach to his two-month-old probe. 
FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said.
John Dowd, one of Trump’s lawyers, said on Thursday he was unaware of this element of the investigation. "Those transactions are in my view well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel; are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are well beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code," he wrote in an email. 
Agents are also interested in dealings with the Bank of Cyprus, where Wilbur Ross served as vice chairman before he became commerce secretary. They are also examining the efforts of Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and White House aide, to secure financing for some of his family’s real estate properties. The information was provided by someone familiar with the developing inquiry but not authorized to speak publicly.
In a New York Times interview yesterday, President Trump left open the possibility he may attempt to fire Mueller if he strayed too far into the Trump family's finances.  While how he would accomplish such a firing is questionable given how the special counsel law is structured, perhaps a more likely way for Trump to protect his family from such a financial investigation would be to issue pardons to anyone who might be a target of Mueller's probe.   Indeed, Trump could even issue a pardon to himself.   Whether Trump's choice is the firing of Mueller or issuing multiple pardons, either choice takes him one step closer to impeachment.

Monday, July 17, 2017

President Trump Tweets That Collusion With A Foreign Power Is Normal In Politics

Once again, the narrative has changed.  First, President Trump, et al. claimed there was absolutely no meetings between Trump campaign officials and agents of the Russian government.  That turned out to be a lie.  The next story was that there were meetings, but no discussion of election matters, and certainly no "collusion."  When the Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with a Russian attorney finally came to light, the tale spun by Junior was that it was a brief meeting to discuss Russian adoption.  Another lie. An email chanin demonstrated the "adoption" meeting
was instead for the purpose of allowing Trump, Jr. to receive anti-Hillary Clinton info dug up by the Russian government.  If you believe the every increasing list of participants of that meeting, and there is no reason to cloak those individuals with any sort of credibility given their history, the dirt on Hillary Clinton was not forthcoming.

At the very least, the emails and subsequent meetings demonstrate a willingness on the part of Trump campaign members to collude, even if such collusion did not take place.  Even more clearly, it appears that campaign finance laws were violated, laws which prohibit the solicitation of things of value from foreign nationals.  Opposition research is most certainly a thing of value which would have been reported as an in-kind contribution.

However, just hours after confirming the date and time of the Trump, Jr. meeting with the Russians to get anti-Hillary information, Trump publicly announced that he would in a few days give a speech detailing Hillary dirt.   We're supposed to believe that was just a coincidence and that the President knew nothing of the "adoption" meeting?   Given the President's penchant for lying, it's hard to believe this claim is true.

It's probably only a matter of time before it is revealed that President Trump was well aware of his campaign staff's interactions with the Russian officials to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.  While collusion was never the only thing that mattered in the investigation (I always thought that related financial crimes were likely the bigger story), it appears that collusion really did take place, or at the very least an attempt to collude.

Now that collusion is a strong possibility,, what is the Trump response? Well, of course, to say that even if there was collusion, collusion is perfectly okay because everyone in politics does it!  Late this morning, Donald Trump tweeted:

Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That's politics!

Of course, that's a ridiculous claim.  But even if it were true, it's not a defense.  If you run a stop sign, it is not a defense that other people run that same stop sign too.

The word "impeachment" is increasingly being mentioned by more and more Democrats, an idea dismissed out of hand by most Republicans. They shouldn't.  Democrats are likely to run on impeachment in 2018 and, if history is any guide, they almost certainly will win a majority of seats. When that happens, impeachment proceedings are almost certain to happen.

Even if impeachment is successful, the President's case would still have to be tried in the Senate. Given the seats up in 2018, it is virtually impossible for the Democrats to do much better than draw even with the Republicans who have a 52-48 majority.  While that would seemingly close the door on Trump's removal, I don't buy it.  Given the likely bad 2018 election results, I think 17 Republicans could be found to vote to rid the country of the incompetent, ethically-challenged administration that would likely be an albatross as they go into the 2020 election.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

President Trump Tweets that He Discussed Forming a Cyber Security Unit with Russia

Friday's meeting between American President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimar Putin only featured six people in the room, the two Presidents, U.S. Secretary of State and Russian Order of Friendship Winner Rex Tillerson, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and two interpreters. Everyone else was shut out, including the American National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, who would normally rank ahead of the Secretary of State when it comes to attending such a meeting.

The purpose of the small attendee list was undoubtedly to prevent leaks. The Trump administration did not want a repeat of the damaging information that came out during his last meeting with the Russians, a lighthearted event in the oval office in which Trump bragged about his access to top rate intelligence followed by his then giving out highly classified information to the Lavrov and other Russian attendees.
Russian officials meeting with President Trump in Oval Office this May
 It was at that meeting that Trump also told the Russians he had fired "nutjob" FBI Director James Comey to ease pressure on him due to Comey's Russian investigation, a maneuver that has failed miserably.

Unfortunately, for the Trump administration, there was one person in the room who could not remain silent when it came to releasing damaging information about what happened in Friday's meeting - Donald Trump.  This morning President Trump tweeted out:
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said involving the Russians in a cyber security unit is "not the dumbest idea I've ever heard but it's pretty close."  Meanwhile Florida Senator Marco tweeted out that "partnering with Putin on a "Cuber Security Unit" is akin to partnering with Assad on a "Chemical Weapons Unit."

And those were Republicans. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who is a member on the House Intelligence Committee, who said on CNN's State of the Union that "if that's our best election defense, we might as well just mail our ballot boxes to Moscow."

It is now clear how Russian participation on such a cyber security unit would work.  Would we share with the Russians our intelligence on how we track down hackers and how systems can be designed to avoid such hacking in the future? Doesn't President Trump understand that such information would be enormously helpful to the Russians in continuing their cyber hacking program?

Trump has now tweeted several times about Friday's meeting and it is clear from those tweets that the President did not "press" his man crush Russian President Vladimar Putin on election meddling.  Even Secretary of State Tillerson said Trump raised meddling not on his own behalf but on behalf of the "American people" and then simply moved on when Putin denied it. President Trump now admits that he didn't raise the possibility of sanctions for Russia's election interference, despite the fact such a bill passed the Senate 97-2 and is pending in the House.  According to Lavrov's version of the meeting, Trump accepted Putin's denials of involvement and even offered the observation that some media outlets in the United States are exaggerating the election hacking story.    While Lavrov has a reputation for being less than honest, sadly President Trump does as well.   Bottom line is that Lavrov's claims about what transpired during the meeting seem perfectly consistent with the things President Trump has said about Russian interference in the 2016 election, including how Trump responded when asked by a reporter about the issue just two days early.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

President Trump Continues Assault on Free Press as New Tweet Condones Violence on Reporters

One would think that President Trump's attacks on a free press had gone as low as he possible could have this week with his twitter attack MSNBC's Morning Joe Hosts, Mika Brzezinski, and Joe Scarborough, which included not only his sexist mocking of Brzezinski's appearance but also lies about their trip over New Year's to the President's Maralago resort.  But on the heels of that tweet came Brzezinski and Scarborough's claim that President Trump used a threatened National Enquirer expose of Brzezinski and Scarborough's relationship (they are divorced and now are engaged to one another) to try to extort better coverage of the President on their show  Calls from the White House, including apparently from Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, indicated that if they were willing to apologize to President Trump for their past criticism of the President and provide more favorable coverage in the future, the President would have the publisher of the National Enquirer, with whom the President is close friends, pull the story.  The Morning Joe hosts refused and the story ran.

It should be noted that this is not the first time President Trump threatened to expose the Morning Joe hosts' relationship because he did not like how they talked about him on the program.  He tweeted such a threat earlier this year, though it seems in discussing the President's more recent tweets about the program the reporters have forgotten about the earlier threat President Trump made.

So we're at the bottom, right?  Think again.  Never bet against President Trump finding a way to lower the dignity of his office and lowering political civility yet further.  As the network morning news shows were taking place, President Trump posted this spoof of his physically assaulting a CNN reporter:

In an environment in which a Republican congressional candidate assaulted a reporter because he didn't like the question he was asking and a Democratic nutjob began shooting at Republicans members of Congress at a baseball practice, the last thing we need is the President using his position to undermine civility and condone violence.  While many may simply laugh off the President's professional wrestling spoof, the fact is there are people on the margins of society who are going to take such a video as the President himself condoning violence on reporters.  Of course, Donald Trump has condoned violence at his rallies before so this isn't new.

Okay, we've finally reached the bottom, right?