Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Polls: Trump's approval rating makes him the least popular first-year president on record

Mod: Donald Trump is pretty much destroying everything he touches. Including the political fate of many of his inside the beltway swamp buddies. I think it is pretty safe to say that it's going to take the Republican Party at least a decade to recover from this guy. That is, if it ever recovers at all.

Poll: Trump's approval rating makes him the least popular first-year president on record (The Hill link): President Trump's low approval rating has made him the least popular first-year president on record, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll released Saturday. The survey shows the president's approval rating sitting at 32 percent, while 67 percent disapprove. Trump's approval rating has remained steady in the poll from September, but is down 10 points from March.

Another AP-NORC poll conducted this month found strongly pessimistic attitudes among Americans toward the president in his first year in office.

Only three in 10 Americans polled said the U.S. is headed in the right direction, while 52 percent said the country is worse off since Trump entered office in January. Forty-five percent of Americans polled said they did not believe that Trump has kept his campaign promises, compared to 23 percent who said he has.

AP Poll: Most Think Trump Has Illegally Or Unethically Colluded With Russia (Talking Points Memo link): Most Americans think Donald Trump did something illegal or at least unethical regarding ties between his presidential campaign and Russia — and they think he’s trying to obstruct the investigation looking into those possible connections.

The deeply divided country is more concerned about health care and the economy than any collusion with the Kremlin, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. But the survey also shows that Americans are unhappy with the way Trump is dealing with the investigations led by Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller.

Most people believe Trump is trying to obstruct the investigations, which have resulted in charges against four of his campaign advisers and increasingly appear focused on the president’s inner circle.

Four in 10 Americans think the president has done something illegal when it comes to Russia, while an additional 3 in 10 say he’s at least done something unethical. And 68 percent disapprove of his response to the investigations.

The public sides with Mueller (The Washington Post link): The latest Post-ABC poll shows that Robert S. Mueller III, for now, enjoys overwhelming support for his investigation. He also gets high marks for the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and adviser Rick Gates. And in even worse news for President Trump, nearly half (49 percent) of Americans surveyed think he committed a crime.

Mueller receives 58 percent approval and only 28 percent disapproval from Americans. Even among Republicans, nearly 4 in 10 (38 percent approve). A plurality of white men without a college degree (44 percent to 35 percent), a key Trump demographic, approve of Mueller’s performance.

By a margin of 51 percent to 37 percent, Americans do not think Trump is cooperating with the investigation. Even among Republicans (57 percent to 21 percent), voters strongly approve (69 percent to 17 percent) of the indictments for Manafort and Gates. If the two are betting on pardons, they might think again.

Not only would Democrats and quite a few Republicans see that as blatant obstruction (and possible grounds for impeachment), but voters themselves would likely react very negatively. In theory what seemed like a sure bet — “Trump will protect me” — in  practice seems increasingly unlikely. (Trump, of course, could not pardon either of them for state crimes, only federal offenses.)

Ominously for Trump, Papadopoulos’s plea and the two indictments suggest to a big majority (53 percent) wrongdoing that goes beyond these three. Thirty percent of Republicans agree.

Public Policy Poll: Most Americans want Trump to resign over sex crimes ( link): A majority of American voters believe US President Donald Trump should resign due to the allegations of sexual harassment against him, according to several new surveys.

The results of a Public Policy Polling survey released Thursday found that 53 percent of those surveyed said Trump should resign amid accusations from more than a dozen women who claim Trump sexually harassed them before he was elected president.

In contrast, only 42 percent believed Trump should remain president.

Concurrently, 53 percent of those surveyed said they believe the women accusing Trump, while 31 percent did not believe the accusers’ stories.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

California Has The Worst Drivers In America

Mod: I kindly thought we'd take a break today from Trump and that perpetually at risk  Library to discuss something that we deal with on an every day basis. That is driving your car. According to this survey from the insurance website, California has the worst drivers in United States. Somehow I find that not so difficult to believe. Certainly we have the most of them. That probably contributes as well. Here's the dirty lowdown.

Best and Worst Drivers by State 2017 ( link): If you feel like you're constantly surrounded by subpar drivers, you might be onto something. Car-related deaths have risen a staggering 14 percent since 2015. A report from the III shows that car accidents rates are going up, and so too is the average cost of a car accident.

What's behind these disturbing trends? Two major factors:

1) More mileage: Thanks in part to a strong economy, Americans are driving more than ever before. More time spent on the road equals more car accidents.

2) Distracted driving: It seems that drivers can't help but text and tweet while behind the wheel. An estimated 660,000 people per day use an electronic device while driving, and nearly 3,500 people died due to distracted driving in 2015.

The stats are clear: America's got a driving problem. But America is a big country. We wanted to know how each state stacks up against each other. Who's worst, who's best, and who's average when it comes to driving? Find out below.


Based on the methodology detailed at the end of this study, we ranked states from worst to best. In other words, the first ranked state has the worst drivers, and the 50th ranked state has the best drivers. To simplify it, we've added a color code to the rankings and map. States with bad drivers are marked with darker shades of blue, while states with good drivers are marked with lighter shades of green:

The Worst

California: The dubious honor of having the worst drivers in the country goes to California. After jumping from second in our 2016 rankings, California is now firmly the worst. That's not surprising when you consider that, according to our recent study of the best and worst drivers in the US by city, five of the top 10 cities with the worst drivers are located in California. That includes the worst driving city in America – Sacramento. California's less-than-stellar drivers are somewhat notorious – especially in gridlocked Los Angeles. An increase in citations and DUIs helped drive the state to the number one spot in terms of bad drivers. In fact, California also set the worst standard in the US for DUIs on our rankings. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, California. Hopefully your assortment of beautiful beaches and national parks will be enough to provide some comfort from those dangerous roadways.

Study Methodology

We sampled incident data (with more than two million data points) from the users of our website and juxtaposed it to Federal Highway Administration fatality data. To quantify overall driver standards for comparison, we weighted various incident totals for each state with its occurrence percentage. The rankings are a sum of weighted means calculated from these incidents:

Speeding tickets

Mod: So not only are Californians the worst drivers, they're also drunks. Insult added to injury. Just to heap it on a bit, here is another article that reinforces all the bad news.

California Drivers Ranked The Worst in the United States in Annual Study (Times of San link): California drivers are the worst in the United States, thanks to gridlocked freeways, smartphone use and an increase in drunk driving, according to an annual study by an insurance marketplace. QuoteWizard, an online marketplace for auto insurance, said Thursday an overall increase in citations, distracted driving and DUIs helped push the Golden State to the number one spot in terms of bad drivers from second place in 2016.

“The dubious honor of having the worst drivers in the country goes to California,” the study concluded. “California’s less-than-stellar drivers are somewhat notorious — especially in gridlocked Los Angeles.”

In fact, five of the top 10 cities with the worst drivers are located in California. Those cities include Sacramento — ranked the worst nationwide — Riverside, San Diego, Los Angeles and Bakersfield.

Following California in the worst-driver rankings were Minnesota, Utah, South Carolina and Washington. The state with the best drivers was Rhode Island.

“If you’ve ever been cut off by someone with an out-of-state plate and thought, ‘Oh, it figures,’ this study may be for you,” said Adam Johnson of QuoteWizard. “QuoteWizard analyzed millions of data points on drivers from throughout the U.S. and what we found provides a pretty interesting and sometimes surprising snapshot of the best and worst drivers in America.”

The company sampled data on accidents, fatalities, DUIs, speeding tickets and citations, collecting more than 2 million data points from drivers.

Mod: Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go commute to work.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Library: Looking for the Numbers at City Hall

Mod: One commenter to this blog has asked the following question several times. So I thought I'd take it to the City Manager and get his take.

"I get tired of asking but how many bids did the City get to bring the Library up to code? And, what is the amount of those bids. There has to be more than one bid to know anything at all. If it's just one bid how do we really know the truth?"

Here is how this fairly brief exchange went:

Gabe Engeland: We’ve been asked this question a few times, here are the main elements which inform cost: electrical survey, engineering structural analysis, engineering and property condition assessment, ADA analysis and report, Library Facility Master Plan (this includes elements of ADA, accessibility, building condition, and structural analysis). The estimate for bids will be different based on the how many projects we bid at once and which items are urgent and which can be phased in overtime. The estimate from the "Master Plan" report is $1.398 million. Each of these should be available online in easy to access format soon.

The Tattler: Is there a similar "master plan" (or any kind of cost estimate) associated with moving the Library to the YAC and building any additional space? I believe the reason I get asked this is some people are analytical. I think they're uncomfortable with the survey card which is more intuitive. I can see why the city would want to build a consensus before getting into the actual numbers, but I suspect you will get a large number of no move results because some feel that without numbers they're being denied real information.

Gabe Engeland: The estimate(s) for the move will not be as in-depth as the Library Master Plan, but they do provide a good frame of reference for a range of what actual costs will be. In addition to the space and parking analysis we also know what the square footage cost for construction is and can use that to gauge what an addition/retrofit of the community center would cost.  As you stated, we don’t want to put a lot of money into a plan to move if the community desires the library to stay at its current location.

The Tattler: OK. But don't you think there are a lot of people who are not going to be comfortable with the survey if they can't see the numbers first? What should their opinion be based on? Sierra Madre has a lot of residents from the managerial class. That is how many of them think.

That last question went out late and as of this typing I've yet to receive an answer. I will, and I'll be adding the City Manager's reply just as soon as I receive it.

Mod: This is why you might want to consider using PayPal instead.

Man kidnapped, robbed during online transaction meet-up near Arcadia (Pasadena Star News link): Three men armed with a gun and a stun gun kidnapped and robbed a man at his home near Arcadia late Thursday after meeting up to complete a beauty supply sale arranged online, authorities said.

A man in his 40s lost tens of thousands of dollars to the robbers but escaped serious injury in the crime, which was reported about 9:30 p.m., Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Marsha Williams said.

The trio of robbers showed up at his home in the 9600 block of Naomi Avenue, in an unincorporated county area just outside of Arcadia, to complete a transaction arranged online, she said. The victim was planning to sell a box of beauty supplies.

Williams said the robbers brandished at least one handgun and used an electronic stun gun as they assaulted the man and forced him into a dark-colored SUV.

Mod: The rest of the story is available at the link.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't Try This At Work: Roy Moore Refusing To Concede, Blames Loss On ‘Abortion, Sodomy and Materialism’

Mod: We all have things we might blame our personal failings upon. At least every once in a while. Certainly Roy Moore, in this moment of darkness for him, has a few of them. 

Link to video here.

Roy Moore Refusing To Concede, Blames Loss On ‘Abortion, Sodomy and Materialism’ ( link): Roy Moore is refusing to concede the Alabama Senate election to Democrat Doug Jones, saying that he is waiting on the Alabama secretary of state to certify the vote count.

In a bizarre video address posted online, Moore said that the race between him and Jones remained close and that military and provisional ballots had yet to be counted.

“We are indeed in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilization, and our religion and to set free a suffering humanity,” he said. ” And the battle rages on.”

The address touched on themes familiar to the former Alabama Supreme Court justice’s political career. He admonished what he deemed immorality and expanding secularism in American society and warned of impending judgment from God.

“Today, we no longer recognize the universal truth that God is the author of our life and liberty,” he said. “Abortion, sodomy, and materialism have taken the place of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The address came a day after Jones pulled off an upset win over Moore in the race for the Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mod: Just so you are aware, when things aren't working out in my life as well as I'd hoped, I blame 'Oumuamua.

Is This Cigar-Shaped Asteroid Watching Us? ( link): Are intelligent extraterrestrials trying to communicate with or study us? Some scientists think that’s a possibility—and that it’s happening right now.

Starting at 3 p.m. EST on Wednesday, researchers with the Breakthrough Listen initiative began pointing a powerful radio telescope toward a mysterious object visiting the solar system, hopeful they could detect signs that the interstellar interloper is actually of alien origin.

The object in question is ‘Oumuamua, an asteroid from another star system currently zipping past Jupiter at about 196,000 miles per hour, too fast to be trapped by the sun’s gravitational pull. First discovered in mid-October by astronomers at the Pan-STARRS project at the University of Hawaii, the 800-meter-long, 80-meter-wide, cigar-shaped rock is, technically speaking, weird as hell—and that’s precisely why some scientists think it’s not a natural object.

If you’ve spent time learning about UFOs, then you might already know that most experts who believe interstellar travel is possible posit that such a ship would probably be shaped like a cigar or needle, because it would be lean and aerodynamic enough to minimize friction and slim the chances of colliding with another object or harmful gas and dust.

Especially given how solid it looks and how fast it’s going, ‘Oumuamua, which means scout or messenger in Hawaiian, is really unlike anything else. With the asteroid making a fast exit from our solar system, scientists are eager to figure out whether the bugger might actually be an alien spacecraft—maybe a vessel for living beings, maybe a robotic probe, maybe something else entirely—however unlikely that might be.

Breakthrough Initiatives, launched by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner to study the galaxy for signs of extraterrestrials, is most famous for its Stephen Hawking–backed Starshot project to send cheap spacecraft to Alpha Centauri at one-fifth the speed of light to find signs of habitability or alien life. Its more conventional SETI sister project, Listen, uses radio telescopes to scan space and listen for complex radio signals that might be signs of an alien civilization.

For 10 hours on Wednesday, Breakthrough Listen will point the Green Bank Telescope, based in West Virginia, at ‘Oumuamua and listen for anything unusual emanating from the object that doesn’t have a conventional explanation. The Green Bank Telescope could detect signals on the scale of a mobile phone coming from ‘Oumuamua, Milner tells Scientific American.

Even if there’s no signal coming from ‘Oumuamua, the Green Bank observations can still collect valuable insight on whether the asteroid possesses water or ice or exhibits any strange chemistry.

There’s no exact timetable for when Breakthrough Listen will announce its findings, but it should be sooner rather than later. It’s highly unlikely ‘Oumuamua is a sign aliens exist, but even skeptics will have to admit there’s rarely been a better object to pin our ET hopes on than this bizarre-looking rock.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Have we ever had a President that would knowingly endorse a Pedophile before?

Mod: Has there ever been an American president that would knowingly endorse a pedophile for a U.S. Senate seat before? Do his supporters even care or, even worse, think it is just a fine and dandy thing for him to do?

All The Republicans At Roy Moore’s Party Had The Same Reaction - Blame everyone. Except the candidate accused of sexual assault (Huffington Post link): MONTGOMERY, Ala. ― “God is always in control.” A visibly shaken, rambling Roy Moore told a venue full of his supporters that he’d “wait on God” for direction, minutes after he and his holier-than-thou Senate campaign collapsed in a devastating loss to a Democrat in Alabama. But if God did take the wheel Tuesday night, she was already on Interstate 65, hightailing it to Birmingham to kick it with election winner Doug Jones.

Jones’ victory party would undoubtedly be more gracious than Moore’s sullen affair, with its tiny white-bread sandwich slivers and where a saxophone cover of Carlos Santana’s “Smooth” served as the night’s only respite.

No sooner had the election map turned blue than the Republicans at this party began to point fingers.

“There’s blood in the water for Mitch McConnell, it leads back to him. This room is gonna be walking out with a vengeance. We know who’s responsible,” said Chanel Rion, the 27-year-old fiancee of Missouri Senate candidate Courtland Sykes.

Sykes himself was even more fire-and-brimstone, worried that establishment Republicans ― not Democrats ― were winning the war against “MAGA candidates,” a shorthand for President Donald Trump’s “make America great again” campaign slogan.

“This is impossible. This is 100-percent an effort by the Washington establishment to keep Roy Moore out of it,” Sykes told HuffPost. “If they can put a Democrat in office in Alabama, in 2017, to replace Jeff Sessions, even after Donald Trump won by a landslide in 2016, that means they can replace anyone they want. We don’t have an honest republic if this can happen. Does that make sense?”

Others pointed to Alabama’s senior senator, Republican Richard Shelby, who on Sunday admitted he didn’t vote for Moore and said the “Republican Party can do better.” One Moore supporter was overheard saying he’d like to find an establishment Republican like Shelby to “punch in the face” for involvement in Moore’s downfall.

Then there was Trump, who leaned on Moore after backing his GOP opponent during the primary. Trump is now 0-for-2 in his Alabama endorsements.

“What didn’t help is Republicans jumping ship during Roy Moore’s greatest time of need,” said Ben Smith, 25, a conservative University of Alabama student. “That destroyed any party unity we had left ... I’m kind of just numb right now.”

Of course, no fingers were pointed in the direction of Moore himself, despite allegations that he sexually assaulted a child and harassed others. Nobody pointed at Moore, who ran for office after being defrocked as a judge ― twice ― for disrespecting federal law in favor of his God-and-country platform. Not one supporter we spoke to cast blame on the ex-judge from Gallant, who used to sign Bibles at his courthouse.

Moore gave a short, stuttering speech before he left on Tuesday ― an uncomfortable bookend to an awkward 24 hours. The night before, his wife Kayla bragged that the couple weren’t anti-Semitic because “one of our attorneys is a Jew.”

Then, one of Moore’s old war buddies said the pals accidentally stumbled into a brothel together that was full of “very young” women. On Tuesday morning in Gallant, Moore and his horse Sassy were effectively chased out of his own polling center by a throng of reporters desperate for quotes about a possible ethics violation should he win.

Nobody at his party had expected a loss like this.

There were rumblings of discontent well before the ex-judge faced allegations of sexual assault. Republicans at his own events had previously said they disliked him; conservative Christians said they didn’t trust him. After women began coming forward to describe how Moore pursued them as teens when he was in his 30s, lawyers and cops said they didn’t have the evidence at the time to throw the book at him.

In any case, Moore is gone for a while, along with the horse he rode in on. It leaves Democrats with a rare opportunity for a one-two punch.

A president who'd all but call a senator a whore is unfit to clean toilets in Obama's presidential library or to shine George W. Bush's shoes (USA Today link): With his latest tweet, clearly implying that a United States senator would trade sexual favors for campaign cash, President Trump has shown he is not fit for office. Rock bottom is no impediment for a president who can always find room for a new low.

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

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

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

Mod: That Donald Trump is just a real class act.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

It Looks Like There Will Be No Library Ballot Initiative

You either love the postcard or you don't. Though there is the "I couldn't care less" option as well, I suppose. But the most likely reaction of all is the card will arrive in the mail, the recipient will look at it for a brief few seconds and, having absolutely no idea of what in the world they're looking at, toss it into the recycling bin with all of the other mysterious and unasked for paper that shows up in their mailbox. That is, if they actually do recycle their stuff.

Not everyone does that, you know. Don't tell me you don't know this. Certainly you must know it's true.

But at least you now have a chance to get yourself a book marker. Which is what the object just to the left is. Somebody snapped a picture of one with their cell phone yesterday and sent it my way. Apparently you can get one at the Library and other popular downtown locations should you feel the burning need to own such a piece of Sierra Madre memorabilia.

What is odd about this book marker, however, is there is no notice of where it came from, or who made it. Was it printed by the city? Produced by the "Friends of the Library?" It is a well done and rather glossy item I've been told. I know I didn't do it. Did you? It is an anonymous book marker, I guess. A helpful reminder from your best unknown friend, who cares.

Yesterday someone left a comment on this blog about the possibility of the deeply nuanced Library Survey Postcard being supplemented by the more decisive option of a ballot question next April. I thought it was a good observation and forwarded it to Sierra Madre's communicative City Manager. Here is how that all went.

The Tattler: Gabe: What do you think?

Gabe Engeland: The City Council discussed the benefits of putting the Library question on the ballot or releasing a survey at an October Council Meeting.  The determination was made that a ballot question, which can only be answered “yes/no” and is limited to 75 words, would not provide as much information as a survey which goes to every household. The survey results will inform Council’s next steps. There are many possible outcomes to this and the question still could end up on a future ballot.

The Tattler: Is there a date set for when the Friends of the Library $100k study (is that the word?) will be made available to the public?

Gabe Engeland: The $100,000 from the Friends was for items associated with a potential move. To date we are only working with one contractor who is doing a space analysis of the Community Center to show what a joint operation with the City (Library and Community Services) and YMCA would look like. The total contract is $9,600. We anticipate getting the results back early next year and will include them in an upcoming Library forum.

The Tattler: What is the deadline for getting a question on April's ballot?

Gabe Engeland: I’m not sure what the deadline is actually. Laura, do you know?

Laura Aguilar: Good afternoon, Mr. Crawford. The deadline to add a ballot measure to the April 10, 2018 General Municipal Election is 5:30 pm on January 12, 2018.

Gabe Engeland: One more item. I do not believe there is any chance for this to be on the upcoming election. I could see scenarios down the road, but not for 2018.

The Tattler: Wouldn't anything later than April be after the fact?

Gabe Engeland: It would depend on the results of the survey. Imagine if the results are 50% move, 50% stay (I know that is oversimplified), but in that scenario Council may seek additional information. I don't think a ballot measure in the future is likely, I just don't want to definitively rule out options, even if they are remote, until the survey is returned. It's hard to speculate on the possible scenarios in the future. 3 months ago I would have said a survey of every household in Sierra Madre was unlikely. Sorry for the confusion.

The Tattler: I think one problem some have with the ballot option is the results aren't open to interpretation.

Gabe Engeland: I don't think that's true. The Council had a good discussion on this topic in October and they were correct, in my opinion, that a ballot measure would not do a good job of answering a question when there are multiple options/preferences if you can only answer yes/no. What option do you answer if you want to sell the back lot to finance repairs at the current location? Or what if you want to sell the library, but not to move it to the community center, but rather because your opinion is services should be reduced? The survey will provide greater data, that is more in-depth, and help Council to understand the direction the community would like to go.

OK. One thing leads to another, as they say.

So here are the two revelatory take aways from this exchange as I see them.

1) Putting the Library move question on the ballot isn't really a possibility at this point. If anything, the survey postcard option was selected to avoid having to do that.

2) You are not going to know what the costs associated with moving the Library are going to be before you answer your survey postcard. Which makes the tax increase remark included in a survey question there associated with keeping the Library where it is even more problematic.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sierra Madre Library: Yet Another Election Where That Damsel In Distress Is Tied To The Railroad Tracks

Who will save the Library this time?
Mod: When was the last time an election was held here where the Sierra Madre Library wasn't made a hostage to something? You may recall from 2016 that unless Measure UUT had been passed the Library was all but doomed, and only the voters could save it from so terrible a fate. People turned out in droves to vote for Measure UUT, and it passed with over 70% of the vote. Meaning the Library had now been saved for all times, and nothing could ever take that away from the generous taxpayers of Sierra Madre, folks who voted themselves the highest utility tax rate in all of California.

Well, OK. Maybe not. The very same individuals who said that Measure UUT was essential to saving the Library are now claiming that unless the property it stands upon is sold to a developer for millions, the building itself razed to make way for a condo project, and all of those books and historical horseshoe nails stashed away over in the YAC, bibliophiles the city over are just going to have to somehow make do without.

Funny how things work out here sometimes. Nothing is ever quite as advertised.

Tomorrow evening the City Council will once again be tying that long suffering damsel in distress to the railroad tracks. It truly is deja vu all over again. Here is how so fell a deed is described in a finely crafted City Staff report that you can access in its entirety by clicking here.

"Saving the Library" has become a biennial election custom in Sierra Madre. The proverbial bloody shirt that gets waved around in the air every time City Hall needs more money or, in this particular case, doesn't want you to take any money away.

Of course, the city could mix it up a little. Just to keep things interesting. Instead of that now tiresome song and dance routine about killing off the Library, how about this year the city threatens to stop paying CalPERS instead? Right? That would at least be interesting.

Unfortunately, City Hall doesn't do interesting much.

I personally would not be in favor of doing away with Sierra Madre's utility user taxes, at least not in their entirety. Sierra Madre is carrying tens of millions of dollars in bond and CalPERS debt, and if utility taxes were taken away entirely the city would likely fall into receivership. With the entire mess likely being placed into the merciless hands of Los Angeles County

Good luck preserving anything from greedy developers then. 

But leveling with the citizens about this would require the City Council to admit that Sierra Madre really does have some serious debt issues. Something that would be tantamount to confessing it actually was City Hall all along that gave everything away to its employee unions, along with those bond holding banks in New York.

So instead of risking that kind of embarrassment, the city would prefer to tell you the same old tired fairy tale about the Library. Which apparently they are going to do again this year.

They really do think you're kind of clueless, you know.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Mounting evidence that Trump has Alzheimer's Disease

Video - click here.
Mod: Perhaps a lot of what Donald Trump does seems nuts because he actually is nuts? The following article from Raw Story lays out the case.

WATCH: The video that suggests Trump is suffering from Alzheimer’s (Raw Story link): The most egregious parts of Donald Trump’s personality—his racism, his misogyny and his lack of scruples or ethics—have been on display for more than four decades. All of those traits have long been part of Trump’s unapologetic public persona. But in recent years, Trump has become an even more extreme version of himself. The behaviors that accompany that shift could be closely correlated with dementia and a general cognitive decline.

The blogger behind the Neurocritic laid out what he sees as proof of Trump’s mental deterioration. He notes that President Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 83, though he began to manifest symptoms far earlier. Researchers have combed through records of off-the-cuff speeches Reagan delivered and found significant declines in his mastery of language. By his second term, Reagan’s speech showed a deep drop-off in the use of unique words; a marked increase in the use of non-specific nouns (thing, something, anything); an uptick in filler words (well, so, basically, actually, literally, um, ah); and a greater use of low-imageability, high frequency verbs (get, give, go, have, do).

Trump seems to have parallels in all these areas. He has become notorious for his word salads, incomprehensible soliloquies delivered at the speaking level of a fourth-grader. He frequently falls back on words like “tremendous” and often drags on without using specifics. Trump often speaks at length while saying nothing.

Alex Leo of the Daily Beast transcribed one sentence Trump delivered at a campaign stop in South Carolina, a series of dead ends, unfinished thoughts and ramblings:

Look, having nuclear—my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart—you know, if you’re a conservative Republican, if I were a liberal, if, like, OK, if I ran as a liberal Democrat, they would say I’m one of the smartest people anywhere in the world—it’s true!—but when you’re a conservative Republican they try—oh, do they do a number—that’s why I always start off: Went to Wharton, was a good student, went there, went there, did this, built a fortune—you know I have to give my, like, credentials all the time, because we’re a little disadvantaged—but you look at the nuclear deal, the thing that really bothers me—it would have been so easy, and it’s not as important as these lives are (nuclear is powerful; my uncle explained that to me many, many years ago, the power and that was 35 years ago; he would explain the power of what’s going to happen and he was right—who would have thought?), but when you look at what’s going on with the four prisoners—now it used to be three, now it’s four—but when it was three and even now, I would have said it’s all in the messenger, fellas, and it is fellas because, you know, they don’t, they haven’t figured that the women are smarter right now than the men, so you know, it’s gonna take them about another 150 years—but the Persians are great negotiators, the Iranians are great negotiators, so, and they, they just killed, they just killed us. 

At 70 years old, Trump is the oldest person to be elected president. His father Fred was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six years before his death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “age, family history and heredity” are the most important risk factors in developing the disease. Most sufferers start to show signs of the illness at age 65.

Remember when Trump forgot which country he’d just bombed? When it just slipped his mind to sign a pair of executive orders during an event created for that explicit purpose? When he couldn’t locate Rudy Giuliani, who was sitting directly across from him at a media briefing? Those things don’t seem like innocuous senior moments.

Trump also seems to exhibit other signs of Alzheimer’s listed by health organizations. Moodiness, paranoia, belligerence and erratic behavior are all key indicators of the onset of dementia. Trump’s inappropriate tweets, his belief that his phones are tapped and his quickness to anger, as described by his staff, all fit the bill.

“I’m not saying that Donald Trump has dementia,” Joe Scarborough said during a recent segment on Trump’s mental state, “but my mother has dementia. She lives in the moment. She forgets what she said a day ago, a week ago. We can’t have presidents that do that. And I’m not saying that he has dementia. I will leave that to his physician to figure that out.”

Donald Trump's Approval Rating Hits New Record Low, Making Him the Most Unpopular President In Poll History (Newsweek link): Donald Trump's approval rating has reached the lowest point of his 11-month-long presidency, dropping to 32 percent this week as his embattled White House administration has shrugged off allegations of sexual assault, collusion with Russia and ineffective leadership. The president's disapproval rating was 63 percent in the Pew Research Center survey released Thursday, a new high for the survey.

The results mark Trump's lowest approval rating in any poll since he was sworn into office in January in front of a smaller than expected crowd. The Pew poll said Trump's approval rating had decreased from February, when he was at 39 percent. In October, the president saw a 34 percent approval rating. Meanwhile, just 59 percent said they disapproved of the former reality-TV star in Pew’s October survey, the previous high mark for that measurement.

"Since Trump became president, his job approval ratings have been more polarized than past presidents during their first year in office. That remains the case today, but his job ratings are lower today among Republicans than they were in February," Pew said in its report.

Trump watches up to eight hours of TV per day (The Hill link): President Trump spends at least four hours a day watching television, according to a new report. People close to Trump told The New York Times that Trump spends at least that much time in front of a TV each day, and sometimes spends as many as eight hours watching television.

The Times reports that Trump begins each day around 5:30 a.m. by turning on CNN before quickly flipping to Fox News's "Fox & Friends." He occasionally watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because it works him up, Trump’s friends told the Times. Trump’s favorite programs include "Fox & Friends" as well as Fox News primetime shows from Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro. Trump sometimes “hate-watches” CNN host Don Lemon, according to the report.

The Times also reports that the only people allowed to touch the remote control for the White House television are Trump and White House technical support staffers. During his trip to Asia last month, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that he doesn’t watch much television at the White House because he’s busy “reading documents.”

“Believe it or not, even when I’m in Washington or New York, I do not watch much television,” Trump said. "People that don’t know me, they like to say I watch television — people with fake sources. You know, fake reporters, fake sources. But I don’t get to watch much television. Primarily because of documents. I’m reading documents. A lot. I actually read much more — I read you people much more than I watch television.”

The Times reports that Trump told reporters about his TV-watching habits after the newspaper presented the White House with a long list of fact-checking questions, including one about how often he watches television.

Trump has previously insisted he has “very little time for watching TV,” though he often tweets about Fox News and CNN segments just after they air live. Trump also had a 60-inch flat screen TV installed in his private White House dining room, according to Time magazine.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pasadena Star News: D.A. declines to file charges against Altadena man whose leg was broken by Pasadena police during arrest

Chief Junta Hat strikes again?
Mod: Yesterday I cussed out the Pasadena Star News for not having filed anything yet on this story. I guess I should have waited a little bit longer, because they've come up with some pretty big news. The City of Pasadena is now looking at yet another big civil rights lawsuit, and potential national notoriety. 

D.A. declines to file charges against Altadena man whose leg was broken by Pasadena police during arrest (Pasadena Star News link): The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office declined to file charges Thursday against the Altadena man whose leg was broken as Pasadena police officers attempted to arrest him last month.

Spokesman Greg Risling said in an email Friday the D.A. declined to file a charge of assault on a police officer against Christopher Ballew, 21, “due to lack of evidence.” Ballew was arrested in November following a traffic stop that turned into a confrontation with two Pasadena police officers.

Mod: You can read the rest of this important Star News piece by clicking on the link provided above. The on-line news titan Pasadena Now has filed a similar story as well. Here is what they're sharing with the concerned citizenry of The Rotten Rose.

L.A. District Attorney’s Office Will Not Pursue Charges Against Altadena Man Whose Leg Was Broken in Arrest by Pasadena Police (Pasadena Now link): The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office has decided not to pursue felony or misdemeanor charges against Christopher Ballew, 21, of Altadena, who suffered a broken leg during his arrest by two Pasadena police officers on November 9.

L.A. District Attorney spokesperson Greg Risling said the case was declined Thursday “for insufficient evidence.”

Ballew was arrested by two Pasadena police officers during a traffic stop at a Mobil gas station on Woodbury Road and Fair Oaks Avenue. A short video of the arrest emerged on social media which has sparked controversy over the police officers’ use of force.

In the cellphone video, Ballew is seen wrestling with the two as yet unnamed officers for control of a police baton, and then being forced to the ground, punched in the face and struck with the baton, while simultaneously screaming at the officers to stop as they overpower him and begin to handcuff him on the ground.

According to Ballew, his leg was broken by one or both of the baton strikes to his right leg.

City officials have not yet clarified if Ballew was transported to a local hospital for treatment of the broken leg by Pasadena Fire Department paramedics, or by the officers in their patrol car. Ballew will not say, responding that he has hired a lawyer and won’t discuss that issue.

Ballew refused to provide the name of his lawyer.

Mod: Unlike with the PPD Lt. Gourdikian gun smuggling case, a lawsuit will make it much harder for Pasadena City Hall to hide this episode from public and media scrutiny. Though, of course, any internal disciplinary investigations against these PD Sultans of Swat conducted by Chief Junta Hat or any of the other usual annoying city functionaries will be strictly hush-a-hush. That said, there were a number of interesting comments made here on this story yesterday, none more so than these two.

Mod: There was more in that vein, most of it stating that the Pasadena Police Officers' body cameras would tell a richer, more nuanced and comprehensive story. Well, it appears that the District Attorney's office has carefully reviewed all of the available materials, and despite what some have claimed here, the D.A. will not be pressing any charges against Mr. Ballew. Certainly an interesting outcome. Perhaps Mr. Ballew will be heading over to the Rusnak Auto Group soon to select a new luxury automobile for himself. Courtesy of the long suffering taxpayers of Pasadena.

More Rot from The Rotten Rose

Mod: This next story was brought to my attention by a reader. I am always grateful when people do that. Judge Alex Kozinski, a Ronald Reagan appointee dutifully serving in the Pasadena office of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for 35 years, has now been slammed with several sexual misconduct claims.

"Would you like to see some dirty pictures?"
Prominent 9th Circuit judge accused of sexual misconduct (ABC News link): Six women who served as clerks or externs at the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allege to The Washington Post that Judge Alex Kozinski subjected them to inappropriate sexual comments or conduct, including asking them to watch pornography in his chambers, the newspaper reported Friday.

Heidi Bond, who clerked for the Pasadena, California-based judge from 2006 to 2007, told the newspaper she recalled three instances in which he asked her to look at images of naked people. She said one set of images was of college-age students where some were "inexplicably naked while everyone else was clothed." Another set was a type of digital flip book that allowed users to mix and match heads, torsos and legs to create an image of a naked woman.

Bond said the judge asked if she thought the pornography was photo-shopped or if it aroused her sexually.

"I was in a state of emotional shock, and what I really wanted to do was be as small as possible and make as few movements as possible and to say as little as possible to get out," said Bond, now 41.

Kozinski, who is 67 and still serving as a judge on the court, said in a statement to the newspaper that he has had more than 500 employees in his chambers over a 35-year career as judge. "I would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done," he said.

Mod: There is more at the link.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Pasadena Independent: Cell Phone Video Allegedly Shows Pasadena Police Officers Beating Suspect

Mod: Accusations of police brutality have haunted the Pasadena Police Department for years. The following is a disturbing report from the Pasadena Independent, a paper now distributed in Sierra Madre after the demise of the Sierra Madre Weekly. Both the language and visuals in this video are extremely graphic. The following cell phone video is all over social media locally, and this looks to be the next big Pasadena PD scandal. The Pasadena Star News and The Hub have yet to carry the story.

Link to the video here.

Cell Phone Video Allegedly Shows Pasadena Police Officers Beating Suspect (Pasadena Independent link): A social media post of a cell phone video of two Pasadena police officers beating a suspect who was attempting to flee following a traffic stop has gone viral in the local Facebook and Instagram community.

December 3 at 11:19am · Instagram ·.. Pasadena PD… This is what “Assault on a Police Officer with a Non-Firearm” looks like I guess.. All I can say is Glory be to God. I just posted early this morning for anyone to have a video and lo’ and behold I wake up to find this. God is just too good to me honestly, Im not worthy- Please REPOST. I don't have anybody on my side but you all… @worldstar @cnn @abcnetwork @pasadenastarnews #fakejustice #brokenballew #policebrutality #policeassualt #pasadena. #pasadenapolice

Pasadena Independent has yet to verify the authenticity of the cell phone video posted and is conducting an independent review of the alleged beating of Chris BallewThe Independent has requested city officials provide specific details about the incident which took place about a month ago.

This, according to a James Farr, posted on Facebook:

“I spoke with vice mayor John Kennedy this morning about the recent video that has surface involving Pasadena Police and an unarmed motorist.

“… I do not have all of the facts on the matter involving Chris Ballew and the Pasadena Police Department. Additionally, I do not know when the City will release Body Worn Camera video of the incident, assuming that it exist.

The Public Safety Committee meeting is scheduled for today, Monday, December 4, 2017, at 4:15 p.m., Council Chambers. The public is welcome to attend the meeting and speak for up to 2, possibly 3, minutes on matters not on the agenda.” - Vice Mayor John J. Kennedy

Pasadena Independent has attempted to contact councilmembers, the Mayor and Chief of Police regarding this incident but have yet to get any reply.

Two independent news sources also reported on this disturbing video: Pasadena Now and Pasadena Weekly posted the video on their respective websites.

William Boyer, Pasadena Public Information Officer, said the city will be issuing a statement soon. As soon as we get their side of the story we’ll bring it to you.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Foreclosures On Seniors Increased Before Steve Mnuchin Joined Trump Administration

Mod: This is our second in a series of articles that detail how certain especially embarrassing examples of humanity within the GOP are conducting what I call a "War on Seniors." The Tattler posted an article about a year ago that discussed the one-time regional financial golem Steve Mnuchin titled "Trump's Secretary of the Treasury Nominee has an Unfortunate Pasadena Connection." You can link to it here. It details how Mnuchin made a considerable fortune foreclosing on the homes of many thousands of people during the Bush financial crisis. According to the website Reveal, it has now been discovered that he also went after seniors living in homes with reverse mortgages, evicting them by the thousands as well. Often for obscure reasons. 

Foreclosures on seniors increased before Mnuchin joined administration ( link): Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s bank dramatically ramped up its foreclosures of homes owned by senior citizens in the months before he joined President Donald Trump’s administration, according to government data newly released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The revelations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development come as the agency’s auditors released a new report showing the insurance fund for taxpayer-backed mortgages has been hemorrhaging thanks to foreclosures on reverse mortgages to the elderly. The losses, the report found, were about $14.2 billion.

“It’s absolutely outrageous and completely wrong,” said Julia Weick, an 87-year-old retired secretary who took out an adjustable rate, reverse mortgage on her Maui home. The government-backed loans allow Americans 62 and older to take equity out of their homes.

Weick is suing Financial Freedom Senior Funding over a foreclosure that started with a dispute over which hurricane insurance Weick needed to buy – and an unpaid bill for it. The dispute began in 2015, when Mnuchin headed Financial Freedom’s parent company. The foreclosure followed last May, when he had stepped down but was still a board member and major shareholder. Weick continues to fight the bank in court.

The data was requested by two nonprofit groups, the California Reinvestment Coalition and Jacksonville Area Legal Aid. It showed Financial Freedom Senior Funding foreclosed on 6,990 homes between April and December 2016, an average of 777 per month. That compared to an average of 193 foreclosures per month over the previous seven years.

Financial Freedom was a division of the Mnuchin-run OneWest Bank, which merged with the CIT Group in 2015. Mnuchin stayed on, serving on the company’s board of directors until Trump appointed him to head the U.S. Department of the Treasury last December.

In May, the company paid $89 million to settle claims brought by the Department of Justice that it had bilked taxpayers out of mortgage insurance through fraudulent foreclosures.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting attempted to contact Mnuchin through the Treasury Department’s press office but received no response by publication time.

Asked to comment on its escalating number of foreclosures and the weakened state of the government insurance fund, CIT spokeswoman Gina Proia provided this statement via email: “We service reverse mortgage loans in accordance with HUD guidelines and when there are changes to those guidelines, we adapt our process to align with the requirements.”

After being sworn in as treasury secretary, Mnuchin sold his stock in the company, taking in at least $38 million – and perhaps as much as $162 million – according to documents on file with the Office of Government Ethics. He also received $11 million in severance.

HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said the auditor’s report showed the number of reverse-mortgage foreclosures was putting financial pressure on the Federal Housing Administration’s insurance fund. That trend was in turn leading to higher insurance fees on all FHA mortgages, including the agency’s flagship program that helps working-class, first-time homebuyers.

“This smaller reverse-mortgage program is putting an economic drain on the entire fund,” he said. Mortgages for the elderly, Sullivan said, are essentially “being subsidized by younger borrowers just starting out in homeownership. There are fairness questions and risk questions.”

Nevertheless, Sullivan said he doubted that there had actually been a spike in foreclosures last year and accused the community groups who obtained the data of “mixing apples and oranges” in their analysis. CIT, however, did not dispute the figures.

The groups compared data they received through FOIA last year, which showed 16,220 foreclosures by Financial Freedom between April 2009 and April 2016, with newly released data that covered April 2009 to December 2016. It showed 23,210 foreclosures. The difference between the two was 6,990 in nine months, or an average of 777 a month.

“It doesn’t seem like they know what is behind the huge increase in foreclosures,” Kevin Stein, deputy director of the California Reinvestment Coalition said of HUD. “This is concerning as they are the regulator.”

Sullivan also argued that there were few cases like Weick’s – where a foreclosure occurred because of a dispute over insurance or property tax. In nearly all cases, he said, reverse-mortgage foreclosures took place because the borrower died.

But Stein, of the California Reinvestment Coalition, doesn’t buy that explanation.

“This flies in the face of attorneys and advocates who see people being foreclosed on,” he said, “and it runs counter to HUD’s own data showing 90,000 borrowers were behind on taxes or insurance this year.”

And, Stein added, HUD’s pushback failed to consider cases where a surviving spouse or family member sought to purchase the home after the borrower died, a right that is protected by the law that governs reverse mortgages.

Meanwhile, the investment firm that bought Financial Freedom as part of its merger with Mnuchin’s OneWest Bank is moving on from the reverse-mortgage business.

In October, CIT announced it was selling Financial Freedom for an undisclosed sum to an undisclosed buyer.  Contacted for this story, Proia, the CIT spokeswoman, declined to elaborate. According to a company press release, the deal is likely to be completed in the second quarter of 2018.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

AARP: 5.2 million seniors could see taxes increased by GOP bill

Mod: Potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare, with a tax increase to go along with it? Can we start calling it the war on seniors yet?

AARP: 5.2 million seniors could see taxes increased by GOP bill (The Hill link): Millions of senior citizens could see tax increases under the Senate version of the GOP's tax-reform plan, according to an analysis from the AARP. In an article published Wednesday on the group's website, the AARP's vice president and policy director argue that 1 in 5 seniors, about 6.3 million taxpayers, will see either no change or a tax increase in 2019 under the plan passed by the Senate Budget Committee. Of those individuals, 1.2 million people would get a tax hike.

The authors argue that number will jump "more than four times" by 2027 to 5.2 million seniors "as a result of sunsetting the middle-class tax cuts."

Another issue of concern for older Americans, the AARP says, is the automatic cuts to Medicare and other services under the GOP plan.

"The bottom line is that even today’s 65+ as well as those who turn 65 by 2027 who benefit initially may end up paying higher and ever increasing taxes soon thereafter," the authors write. "Further, as the result of growing deficits, they may receive reduced value from Medicare or other programs that are central to older Americans’ wellbeing."

The Senate Finance Committee approved the chamber's tax bill earlier this month, and on Tuesday, the Senate Budget Committee advanced the bill on a party-line vote. It will now head to the full Senate floor for a vote.

Protesters repeatedly interrupted Tuesday's Budget Committee meeting, chanting phrases such as "stop the tax scam" and "kill the bill." Thirty-six demonstrators were arrested by Capitol Police.

A similar bill passed the House earlier this month by a margin of 227-205, with no Democratic support. More than a dozen Republicans broke ranks to oppose it.

Here’s how bad the Santa Ana winds and fire risk are going to get this week (Pasadena Star News link): Dry and windy conditions will continue through the week, with the most extreme Santa Ana wind conditions peaking for Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura counties on Thursday, Dec. 7.  Northeast winds of 20-35 mph can be expected with gusts exceeding 60 mph over the higher terrain and in the more wind prone areas. Winds will diminish in the afternoon. Humidity will be in the 5-15% range.

The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag alert, warning of wildfire dangers across Southern California through at least Friday. By Saturday, the region will see temperatures in the high-70s to mid-80s.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

What is Trump so desperate to cover up?

Mod: The following opinion piece, written by the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, asks all the right questions. Including this one:

What is Trump so desperate to cover up? (Washington Post link): We know that President Trump and his campaign either colluded with the Russian effort to undermine U.S. democracy or tried mightily to do so. We know that Trump has apparently obstructed justice to try to halt investigation into what happened. What we don’t know is whether Congress, in the end, will do its sworn duty to protect the Constitution.

We also don’t know what else special counsel Robert S. Mueller III might have discovered, especially about the Trump family’s international financial dealings. Or what Mueller might be learning from Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI and is cooperating with investigators. Or how far Trump, who is increasingly frantic, might yet go to squash the Mueller probe.

It is true that there is no federal statute against “collusion.” But a specific law is not necessary for citizens and their representatives in Congress to make a judgment: Is it acceptable for a presidential candidate and officials of his campaign to encourage an adversarial foreign power’s efforts to meddle in the U.S. election process — and then seek to reward that foreign power by easing sanctions? Yes or no?

I’m no fan of conspiracy theories, which usually fall apart under scrutiny; and I’m not interested in carrying water for the Democratic Party, which should have been able to beat Trump, who was manifestly unqualified and unfit, no matter what the Russians did. But what we have learned thus far is truly shocking.

In July 2016, Trump issued a public plea: “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” He was referring to deleted material from the private email server Hillary Clinton used when she was secretary of state. Previously, according to U.S. intelligence officials, state-sponsored Russian hackers had obtained thousands of private emails from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and the material was being released in a manner clearly intended to damage the Clinton campaign.

We now know that in June 2016, three of the most important figures in the Trump campaign — Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr.; his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — had eagerly met with a Kremlin-tied lawyer who promised to share damaging information the Russian government had on Clinton. We also know that in April, another go-between had promised Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos “thousands of emails” containing “dirt” on Clinton.

Did anyone report these shady approaches to the FBI? No.

We know that in the last days of the campaign, Russian cyberwarriors targeted the social media accounts of potential Trump voters in key states. We don’t yet know how they aimed their propaganda so accurately.

We have learned, however, that after the election, the Trump transition team actively undermined sanctions that President Barack Obama had imposed on Russia for its election interference. Flynn discussed relaxing the sanctions with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak — then lied about it to the FBI. Transition adviser K.T. McFarland wrote in an email that the sanctions would make it harder for Trump to improve relations with Russia, “which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him.” The White House says McFarland meant only that Democrats would claim Russia had thrown the election to Trump.

And we know that members of the Trump campaign’s inner circle consistently failed to disclose their meetings with Russian officials and emissaries. There is a pattern of behavior here. It may or may not be illegal, but it is certainly shocking and unacceptable.

As for obstruction of justice, Trump tweeted Saturday that “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.” This indicates the president knew Flynn had committed a crime before meeting with FBI director James B. Comey and, according to Comey, instructing him to drop the Flynn investigation. Trump later fired Comey, telling NBC’s Lester Holt that the reason was the Russia probe. Trump has reportedly hectored other administration officials and members of Congress to stop investigating the Russia connection.

One of Trump’s lawyers, John Dowd, said that he, not Trump, authored that incriminating tweet. He later argued to Axios’s Mike Allen that the president “cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution.

With Flynn now cooperating, Mueller’s investigation enters a new phase. But let’s not lose sight of the big picture. Ask yourself a common-sense question: If nothing wrong happened with Russia during the campaign, why is Trump so desperate to cover it up?

Trump's personal banking information handed over to Robert Mueller (The Guardian link): Donald Trump’s personal banking information has formally been turned over to Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating whether the president’s campaign conspired with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election.

Bloomberg reported early on Tuesday that Deutsche Bank, the German bank that serves as Trump’s biggest lender, had been forced to submit documents about its client relationship with the president after Mueller issued the bank with a subpoena for information.

The new revelation makes it clear that Mueller and his team are investigating the president’s financial transactions. It is not clear whether Mueller is interested in the bank accounts because they are connected to the Russia probe or if he is investigating another matter.