Sunday, December 31, 2017

Sac Bee: Here’s how California’s House Republicans think they can survive in 2018

Mod: Informative op-ed piece from the Sacramento Bee's Dan Morain on the GOP's decidedly bleak prospects in California this upcoming new year. Apparently a cynical fight against the gas tax is just about all they have left.

Here’s how California’s House Republicans think they can survive in 2018 (Sacramento Bee link): Now that most of California’s House Republicans have voted for a tax overhaul that will raise taxes for many of their constituents, you have to wonder what more good cheer they’ll bring us in the new year.

I’m thinking roads and other infrastructure.

A measure hurtling toward the November 2018 ballot would repeal the 12-cent per gallon gasoline tax increase approved this past legislative session to pay for road repairs, bridge maintenance and some public transit. Granted, no one wants to pay more for gasoline. But potholes don’t fill themselves.

That’s not stopping House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and most of California’s Republican congressional delegation from backing that repeal – with a notable exception, Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock.

McCarthy, a guy who knows politics, dumped $100,000 into the initiative to repeal the gas tax. Rep. Mimi Walters, an Orange County Republican, and Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, chipped in $50,000 each, recent campaign finance reports show.

“This is politics at its worst,” California Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly told me. “They’re trying to make sure Republicans get to the polls in California. It’s not much other than that, in a year that looks pretty shaky for them.”

California Republicans will be facing a bleak reality in 2018. They’re known by the company they keep. A recent poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies shows 66 percent of us disapprove of the Republican Party’s leader, President Donald Trump, and 57 percent strongly disapprove. A mere 30 percent of California voters approve of Trump’s performance.

Any Republican politician who thinks he or she has a future in the Golden State ought to be especially alarmed by this finding: 77 percent of people between ages 18 and 39 disapprove of Trump. An entire generation in the nation’s largest state has turned against the GOP’s standard bearer, roughly the reverse of numbers recorded at the end of Barack Obama’s first year in office.

“I’ve never seen the depth of disapproval so strongly held,” said pollster Mark DiCamillo, who has been polling Californians since 1978.

DiCamillo’s latest polling did give some faint hope to Republicans, at least in the short term. The proposed initiative to repeal the gasoline tax hike led with 52 percent of likely voters. That’s narrow, and a campaign against the measure could derail it. But 81 percent of Republicans support repeal. Therein lies an opportunity for McCarthy and Republican consultants to gin up turnout among GOP voters in a year when they could have few other reasons to show up to the polls.

Politics aside, there’s a matter of policy. Trump may finally be getting around to pushing for the $1 trillion package to improve roads, rail, airports and other public works he promised during the 2016 campaign. Whether California would get a piece of that money is not a certainty. As the tax overhaul showed, Trump and congressional Republicans are willing to punish blue states.

If California were to get money from the feds, we’d surely be expected to put up a match. The gas tax increase, expected to generate $5.2 billion a year, probably would count as California’s share. That money would vanish if the campaign to repeal the initiative were to succeed.

In September, a coalition that includes building trade unions, major road builders, engineering firms and Los Angeles, Orange County and Bay Area business groups – many of them Republican donors – sent letters urging California’s congressional Republicans to stand down and not push to repeal the gas tax hike, embodied in Senate Bill 1 signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in April.

“We appreciate that your primary goal is to protect all incumbent Republicans and increase the number of Republicans in the House as well as other elected bodies,” says one letter sent to House Republicans from California.

“However, a strategy to use an initiative to repeal SB 1 to reach your goal may be counterproductive to your objectives. Fundamentally, any attack on SB 1 amounts to an attack on improving our badly deficient transportation system, endangering our economic growth and competitiveness, and increasing unemployment.”

McCarthy pointedly pushed back: “If Democrats in Sacramento are rewarded with a gas tax bailout now, what is to stop them from looking at the industries represented in your coalition to pay for the next fiscal crisis? These are principles we should stand shoulder-to-shoulder to defend.”

McCarthy and 10 other House Republicans from California signed the letter. Denham was among the absentees. His office offered no explanation for his failure to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with fellow Republicans.

But if Republicans keep control of the House in 2018, the Central Valley Republican would be in line to become chairman of the committee that oversees transportation and infrastructure. Denham would be dealing with construction companies, engineering firms and unions that represent the building trades, the very same ones who will be spending millions to defeat the initiative that McCarthy is funding.

Politics aside, they understand the hard reality that decent roads come at a cost. And, evidently, so does Denham.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Curbed LA: Character-rich 1930s cottage in Sierra Madre asking just under $1M

 241 W Montecito Avenue,  Sierra Madre, CA  
Mod: You have to wonder every time you see a house like this come on the market. What will the new owners do with the place, especially after they've spent such a ridiculous amount of money to buy it? Note the disclaimer.

Character-rich 1930s cottage in Sierra Madre asking just under $1M (Curbed LA link): On the market for the first time in over half a century is this sweet 1931 cottage in Sierra Madre. While the 1,993-square-foot bungalow is undeniably in need of freshening up, it’s not at all difficult to envision it being turned into a Pinterest-worthy pin-up.

Along with hardwood floors, archways, built-ins, French doors, a Batchelder-style fireplace, vintage light fixtures, and handsome woodwork, the three-bedroom, two-bath is blessed with a bounty of beautiful period tile. There’s also a roomy front porch and a one-car garage.

Located on a .3-acre lot, it’s listed with an asking price of $998,900.

Mod: Here is how ReMax pitches it (link). That disclaimer is in the last sentence.

Restore this amazing property with arched doorways, nooks, cranies and coves to its original beauty! Front porch, formal living room with fireplace, formal dining room and more! Front room which was used as an office has a private entrance there is also an inside laundry room.

Three spacious bedrooms, each have walk-in closets with shelves and a window. Bathrooms have beautiful original tiles, lots of built-ins thru out, hardwood under carpet and much much more! Gated driveway with a one car garage has alley access.

Huge lot of over 13,000 sq ft has many possibilities, buyer to investigate zoning with City.

Mod: You don't pay a million dollars for a 1,993 sq. ft. cottage built in 1931 and in need of restoration. You're buying it for that large lot. "Investigate zoning with the city." Yes, of course. Next up is news of a restoration project that has just gone south.

Windmill falls through roof of Denny’s in Arcadia (Pasadena Star News link): The historic windmill atop the Arcadia Denny’s detached and fell into the restaurant Friday morning.

Representatives from Denny’s were not immediately available to comment Friday, but Arcadia police were notified the windmill had fallen at 7:28 a.m., said Sgt. Dan Crowther. Signs around the restaurant at noon said it was closed for maintenance.

Exactly a year and a half ago, on June 29, 2016, Denny’s officially reactivated the windmill, and it had been spinning all day, every day since then.

The windmill is the last remnant of the Van de Kamp’s Holland Dutch Bakery’s coffee shop franchise, which built 15 locations bearing the same design. The Arcadia location, the first of the 15 built, opened in 1967.

Mod: Trouble every day in this life. The rest of the article is available at the link.

Friday, December 29, 2017

New California Law: This New Year's You Will Be Allowed To Ask The Buccaneer To Pay For Your Cab Ride Home

 Party People - Got to Boogie Down

Mod: Every twelve months or so there are surprising new laws that hit the books in California, and this year apparently is going to be no exception. At the stroke of midnight on January 1st you will be able to ask your favorite bar to pick up the cost of your taxi cab ride home, and now they will finally be legally permitted to oblige.

New California law allows beer sellers to pay for drunken people’s taxi home (The Independent link): California is introducing a new law that allows beer manufacturers and licensed sellers to pay for drunken people’s taxis home.

The bill, which was supported by ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft, passed unanimously in the state senate earlier this month and will come into effect on 1 January.

The rule change will mean manufacturers and sellers will be able to offer free or discounted lifts through taxi companies and services like Uber.

Under current California law, wine and liquor manufacturers can only provide free transportation for consumers at invitation-only events, such as concerts and parties.

The new state law relaxes these rules and is intended to keep drink-drivers off the road and improve public safety.

Mod: Of course, you do realize that this is only if they want to pay for your cab, right? So try and ask nicely. Here is a question for you. Has science now gone too far? The following article comes to us from England, which seems to be a place where some believe that joy should never be had without a commensurate punishment.

If you enjoy drinking, you should be against the development of hangover-free alcohol (The Independent link): Anyone who has shuffled into work on the run-up to Christmas carrying a Pret almond croissant, a cold can of restorative Coca-Cola and a dozen Nurofen Extra might be happy to hear that Professor David Nutt has predicted the end of hangovers.

Within one generation, Nutt, a former government drugs advisor who teaches at Imperial College, envisages the age of the “alcosynth.” This delicious-sounding synthetic concoction will mimic all the popular, boozy, slurry, flirty, “Aren’t I hilarious?” effects of alcohol – but without the sickness and throbbing headaches the following day. Or the eventual liver, heart or brain damage, one supposes.

Don’t sneer at the futuristic flim-flam. We laughed at driverless cars, Amazon drones and a fembot in every home turning our boiler on and off. Now look where we are. And here’s Nutt predicting that as cigarette smokers have taken to vaping, then wine and whisky lovers, seduced previously by clever marketing, pretty labels and notions of a vineyard or distillery’s prestige, will immediately start buying “Alcosynth 234: All-Night Party Flavour.” Or whatever the marketeers come up with.

Personally, I hope we can match the alcosynth to the specific event. “Alcosynth 76: Shouty / Belligerent” for example, for Friday night post-work drinks where things really aren’t better left unsaid. Or an under-the-counter bottle of “Alcosynth 89: Smutty Strumpet” for evenings out with girlfriends where no poor trainee policeman will go off duty feeling anything less than harassed.

If this doesn’t sound disconcerting enough, it’s Nutt’s cheery optimism over Planet Alcosynth that gives me the fear: “Alcohol kills more than malaria, meningitis, tuberculosis and dengue fever put together,” he says. “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could replace alcohol with something that led to almost no deaths?”

No, Nutt, just no. A Britain without hangovers feels like terrifying fear-free, anarchic dystopia.

We are a culture built on drinking to excess, yes, but this is rapidly chased up the following day with regret, pain, self-admonishment and a period of noisy abstinence.

“I am never drinking again, ever,” you will groan, following a long period of trying to locate your car which, it transpires, has been parked for three days outside The Nag’s Head. The hangover period following any night out is vital. We need the fear.

Mod: The rest of this troubling article is available at the link.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Gold Line To Nowhere / The Tax Cut That Isn't

Mod: For years various LA County governmental entities have been proclaiming the great benefits of public transportation. The need to "get people out of their cars" and onto buses and so-called light rail has been celebrated as a panacea for many ills, and in all sorts of ways. Yet few people want to take them up on the offer, despite the billions of dollars spent and many tax increases put into place. And why is this? Here is an editorial that ran in the Pasadena Star News recently that points out a few things.

Metro gives you a slow ride to nowhere (Pasadena Star News link): Billions of your dollars have been spent on Los Angeles County’s transit system and tens of billions more will be spent over the next four decades, yet ridership is going in the wrong direction.

In August, Metro released ridership statistics showing a decline of almost 20 percent systemwide since 2013. There were an estimated 39.8 million boardings in July 2013, and that fell to about 32.3 million boardings in July 2017.

Ridership on the Orange Line in the San Fernando Valley is sinking, too. Metro says average weekday boardings in November were 24,009, down from 25,473 last November, and 26,692 the November before that.

Last spring, Metro did a survey of more than 2,000 of its former riders and discovered one major reason that people don’t use transit: It doesn’t go where they are going.

So the transit agency ordered a study of its bus service, including routes and schedules. Results of the study are expected in April 2019.

That’s right. The transit system in the second-largest city in America needs a survey and a two-year study to figure out a bus schedule. This is why people think government can’t run anything.

Compare Metro’s mystification over bus routes to a new proposal from entrepreneur Elon Musk. His company has released plans for an all-electric, high-speed, underground public transportation system called Loop. It would transport people and possibly cars through tunnels on “skate” platforms at speeds of about 125 mph. A 2-mile test track is already under construction near the Hawthorne headquarters of Musk’s rocket company, SpaceX.

But the technology is not the most interesting part of Musk’s proposal. What’s so revolutionary, in comparison to Metro, is that his plan is built around the idea of getting people to their desired destinations. The map of the system shows stops at LAX, Long Beach Airport, USC, UCLA, Dodger Stadium, the Getty Center, Staples Center and the Convention Center, as well as stops in Sherman Oaks, Santa Monica, Culver City, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Lawndale, Torrance and Carson.

In contrast, Metro doesn’t really care where you want to go. It tells you where to go. One L.A. city councilman and Metro board member enthused that a proposed plan to turn the Orange Line into a rail system would give commuters “a one-seat ride from Chatsworth to Claremont.”

It would probably cost more than $1 billion to meet the fictional demand for a one-seat ride from Chatsworth to Claremont, and it would be no help at all to anyone who wanted to go to the airport.

Metro does have a plan to get Valley residents to the airport, as long as the flight departs LAX after 2057. That’s the target date for opening “Phase 3” of the Sepulveda Transit Corridor project. In the interim, the transit agency is planning a “fixed guideway” system on the 405 between the 101 and the 10. Metro is presently in the midst of a 20-month feasibility study. One proposal floated to a local Chamber of Commerce group envisions removing a traffic lane in each direction to make room for a busway.

The evidence continues to accumulate that transit planning in Los Angeles isn’t really about transportation at all.

Consider the effect of SB743, a 2013 state law that eased environmental rules for the Sacramento Kings’ new arena. Under a provision of the law, certain projects within a half-mile of a major transit stop — existing or planned — qualify for exemptions from some environmental-impact study requirements. The developers can skip the studies of their project’s impact on traffic, parking and neighborhood aesthetics.

It’s part of the state’s policy of encouraging “transit-oriented development.”

Now the Los Angeles city planning department has released its proposed Orange Line Transit Neighborhood Plan, which would encourage extra-dense development clustered around the Orange Line stations at Sherman Way, Reseda, Sepulveda, Van Nuys and North Hollywood.

It’s all supposed to be “pedestrian-friendly,” which is planner-speak for “not much parking.” Nearby residential streets are likely to receive the overflow from the businesses and residents of the new commercial, residential and mixed-use multi-story buildings that are imagined in the plan.

Every time Metro draws a line on a map and makes a dot where the stops will be, the real estate within a half-mile radius of the dot becomes more valuable, because “transit-oriented” projects built on that land qualify for expedited approvals and other breaks.

Commuters may have to wait until 2057 for their investment to pay off, but developers are cashing in immediately.

Mod: Remember a few years back when the "transit oriented development" topic was widely discussed here in town? And how the Gold Line was going to bring big changes to our area? Now crowded and overdeveloped Pasadena went for it in the biggest of ways, but Sierra Madre? Not at all. It's great to be right.

Some Tax Cut

Mod: You have been told often that you are about to receive a tax cut courtesy of Washington DC. So why is this happening?

Long lines at tax offices as homeowners try to beat hike (Houston Chronicle link): Homeowners are lining up in droves at local tax collection offices, hoping for one last chance to take advantage of a major tax deduction before it is wiped out in the new year.

In Hempstead, town Tax Receiver Donald Clavin said "thousands" of people packed his office Tuesday trying to pay their 2018 property and school taxes a year in advance.

"This is almost chaotic," Oyster Bay Tax Receiver James Stefanich told Newsday. He said homeowners began lining up in the cold an hour before his office opened. Similar scenes played out at tax collection offices around the country in places with high local taxes.

The tax overhaul signed last week by Republican President Donald Trump puts a new $10,000 limit on the amount of state and local taxes people can deduct from their income when calculating their federal tax liability.

That new cap could translate into a tax hike of hundreds or even thousands of dollars in mostly wealthier, high-tax communities in California, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey and other states.

Mod: The rest of this article is available at the link. Don't look now, but chances are if you are reading this you live in a town where this tax hike is going to hit hard.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Trump Snub Fear: Government pleads with Prince Harry not to invite Barack Obama to his wedding

Mod: Here's a quandary. What if the Obamas are invited to the royal wedding, and Lord Donald and his brood are left panting at the palace gates? Will the world just come to an end? Whatever will Ivanka think?

Trump Snub Fear: Government pleads with Prince Harry not to invite Barack Obama to his wedding (The Sun link): Government mandarins are urging Prince Harry not to invite the Obamas to his wedding for fear of infuriating Donald Trump. Harry and fiancée Meghan Markle have told aides they want the former US president and wife Michelle at their big day on May 19.

The 33-year-old prince has become good friends with the Obamas since bonding with them during the Invictus Games. But Britain’s relations with Trump’s White House have sunk to their lowest ebb since his election last year.

The property billionaire does not hide his loathing of Mr. Obama and is expected to be enraged if his predecessor gets the coveted call up when he won’t. The young Royal couple’s dislike of the new president is well known.

Meghan made disparaging comments about him on social media during his election campaign last year.

There are deep fears among senior Foreign Office and No10 officials that another perceived national snub will make it impossible for Theresa May to meaningfully engage with Trump.

A senior government source said: “Harry has made it clear he wants the Obamas at the wedding, so it’s causing a lot of nervousness. Trump could react very badly if the Obamas get to a Royal wedding before he has had a chance to meet the Queen."

Mod: So is the weirdo in the White House really an agent of Russia? Or, here is a better question, are we the people prepared to deal with the fact that he is? And then what would happen if he, along with those who control him, were to get away with it?

Russia Wants Americans To Doubt Mueller, Experts Warn (Newsweek link): Russian meddling in the 2016 election was apparently just the prequel. Now America’s former Cold War rival is using social media to undermine special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, a former CIA official and a former Republican congressman said Monday night.

Michael Morell, who ran the CIA, and Michael Rogers, former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, wrote in an op-ed in The Washington Post that Russia is still busy using its social media tools to create doubt across the U.S. about Mueller’s integrity.

“There is a perception among the media and general public that Russia ended its social media operations following last year’s election and that we need worry only about future elections,” the pair wrote. “But that perception is wrong. Russia’s information operations in the United States continued after the election, and they continue to this day.”

During one week in early December, for example, roughly 20 percent of the activity from accounts tied to Russian intelligence for propaganda was focused on undermining faith in Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Russia and the successful campaign of Donald Trump, according to research by The Alliance for Securing Democracy.

The most recent social media push mirrors what Russia did during the election, creating social media posts often based on factually inaccurate statements that were designed to shift voters’ views of Trump and Clinton. One post claimed that 69 percent of veterans disapproved of Clinton, a number with no source, saying that Clinton should not gain authority as commander-in-chief even if she won the election.

Russia has also been busy criticizing the plea deal signed by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, with much of that activity focused on undermining Mueller as well.

Others have been warning about the possibility that Russia would attempt to influence the 2018 elections, but Morell and Rogers describe a consistent campaign by Russia to continue to shape U.S. political debate long before the election.

Russian operatives have frequently targeted Republican politicians who have been critical of Trump, including Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.),” they wrote.

Graham has been more vocal in his support for Trump, and Corker and Flake have both announced that they would not be seeking re-election in 2018, facing the prospect of primary fights from Trump loyalists.

Mod: Meanwhile, the beneficiary of this Tea Party/Putin sedition has been concentrating on spending $91 million in your tax dollars screwing off at his tacky golf resorts. 

Trump Sets A Shocking Record For Laziness By Taking 5 Times More Vacation Days Than Obama (PoliticusUSA link): As 2017 draws to a close, Donald Trump has blown the record for presidential first year vacation days out of the water. Trump spent nearly one third (111 days) of his first year in office on vacation. In contrast, Barack Obama took 26 vacation days during the 1st year of his presidency.

According to CBS NewsMark Knoller, Obama took 26 days of vacation during his first year. Trump took nearly three times more vacation days than Ronald Reagan, who took 42 vacation days during his first year in office. George H.W. Bush spent 40 days on vacation. George W. Bush took 69 days of vacation. On the opposite side of spectrum Democrat Jimmy Carter took just 19 days, and Bill Clinton had 21 days of vacation during their respective first years in office.

Trump claimed on the campaign trail that Hillary Clinton did not have the energy to be president, but now that he is in the White House, Trump is setting records for presidential laziness that may never be touched. George W. Bush set off a national firestorm by vacationing so frequently as president, but W. looks like a workaholic next to Trump.

Donald Trump’s biggest first-year accomplishment as president wasn’t the tax cut bill that was such low hanging fruit for a Republican-controlled Congress that even a trained chimp could have gotten it passed.

Trump’s biggest accomplishment in 2017 was reminding America that not everyone can be president. A President needs to show up for work and lead the country. Trump has failed on both of these measures, and when it is time to elect a president again in 2020 voters will not take for granted that they need to choose a president who will not treat the office like a paid vacation.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Los Angeles Department of Mental Health Psychologist takes credit for Steven Mnuchin horse manure gift

Mod: It is always great to hear about a local boy making good. So many people just dream, and never act on what it is they really want to do. This guy is now becoming quite famous, in a worldwide media blitz sort of a way. His life will never be quite the same. You do know what psychologists say about repressing your desires and fears, right? Well, here is a psychologist who practices what he preaches, and he couldn't care less who knows it. After all, he broke this news himself. Can you think of a more appropriate metaphor?

Los Angeles psychologist takes credit for Steven Mnuchin horse manure gift (New York Daily News link): The supposed secret Santa who dropped a hefty pile of Christmas poo near Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s posh Bel Air pad said it represented the Trump administration’s tax plan.

Los Angeles psychologist Robby Strong took credit for the stinker of a prank by sharing a copy of the card left with the special delivery Saturday. He told the Daily News that he used the largest pre-wrapped box he could find and filled it with horse dung from a friend’s ranch.

“It was about as much as I could carry. More than that, it would have been difficult,” Strong said.

The salmon-colored envelope was addressed to “Stevie.”

Mrs. Mnuchin & Trump, We’re returning the ‘gift’ of the Christmas tax bill. It’s bulls--t. Warmest wishes, the American People,” the note read. “PS — Kiss Donald for me,” it continued. Strong was first identified as the fecal benefactor by early Monday.

“I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Anybody could have done it. That was the beauty of it in a way,” he said. “A lot of people are giving up hope these days. Sometimes, in the face of blind absurdity, the only thing you can do is absurd.”

Strong says he wished the poop had been stinkier. “With manure, they always mix it with hay,” he said. “To be perfectly honest, it was a benign pile of poop. Dog poop would have been way stinkier.”

As news of a gift-wrapped box packed with horse manure soiled the Christmas Eve news cycle, Strong shared a cheeky photo of himself posing with a present that appeared to resemble the one Los Angeles police examined Saturday night.

The Kentucky native — who works at the Los Angeles Department of Mental Health — said on Facebook that Secret Service agents interviewed him about the smelly stunt Sunday evening.

He doubts he will face federal repercussions from the agents. He felt bad they had to work Christmas Eve. “This is a glorified frat boy prank,” he said. “How much can you punish someone for dropping box of doody?” He said his two sons, 7 and 4, know about the stunt. “They understand that dad made a funny prank on mean people, who are taking money away from people,” he added.

Mnuchin has claimed that the tax plan will not only “pay for itself but will pay down the (national) debt.” Financial experts say it will substantially add to the debt.

Facts aren’t the only thing Mnuchin’s been accused of being cavalier with. In August, Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, took a taxpayer-funded private jet to Kentucky, where they viewed the solar eclipse. Mnuchin maintains he was there on government business.

It was one of seven such trips he took at taxpayers’ expense. The Treasury Department’s inspector general found no wrongdoing.

Monday, December 25, 2017

How can you be Christian without caring for the poor?

Mod: Here is an LA Times opinion piece written by a Jesuit priest named James Martin that I found quite impressive. This is followed by a thoughtful letter that was written by a Sierra Madre resident. Something to think about this Christmas day. 

How can you be Christian without caring for the poor? (Los Angeles Times link): The minuscule Galilean town in which Joseph and Mary spent their lives and raised their son Jesus, was, quite literally, a joke. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” asked one disciple, when he heard where the Messiah was from. Some scholars posit that this was a popular saying in the 1st century. In any event, Nazareth was on the fringes of the Roman Empire. Roman roads avoided it until the 2nd century. Jesus came from a backwater of a backwater; he and his mother and father, the figures at the heart of the Christmas story, were most likely considered throwaway people.

The Gospels tell us little about Mary other than to say that she was a parthenon, a young woman, a virgin, most likely illiterate. The life of women in 1st century Nazareth was difficult: filled mainly with labor.

But life in Nazareth was difficult for everyone, not just women. Life expectancy was in the 30s. Those who reached 60 were rare. In “Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit,” a fascinating study of daily Jewish life in Nazareth, the scholar Jodi Magness points out that we tend to view the life of the Holy Family through a “highly sanitized lens.” Garbage and sewage were tossed outside into the alleyways, perhaps by Mary herself.

Magness describes conditions in Galilee as “filthy, malodorous and unhealthy.” Joseph is described in the Gospels as a tekton, a word that opens a tantalizing window into Jesus’ early life as well, since he followed his foster father in his profession. Tektons were generally seen as ranking, socially and economically, below the peasantry since most didn’t own a plot of land. It was probably a hardscrabble life, building doors and tables, but also likely digging ditches and building walls. Today many scholars translate tekton not as carpenter, but as handyman or day laborer.

You can detect growing discomfort with this lower-class status in the Gospel narratives. When Jesus reveals his divine identity in Mark, the earliest Gospel, people say, “Is this not the tekton?” Writing a few decades later, Matthew transfers the label onto Jesus’ foster father: “Is this not the son of the tekton?” people ask. Finally, in Luke and John, written even later, all vestiges of Jesus’ former occupation disappear from the question: “Is this not the son of Joseph?”

Jesus worked as a tekton from roughly 12 to 30. Fully 18 years of his life would have been spent at this arduous labor — six times longer than his public ministry as a preacher and healer.

We must keep in mind that our Christmas cards are miles away from the reality of the Holy Family’s existence. We must remember that the three of them looked more like the poor Syrian refugees on the news than the well-fed (and usually white) actors who play them in films. We must remember that it is into a life of simplicity, hiddenness and poverty that Jesus came. We must remember that he was, most likely, poor.

God could have entered the world in any place or family that God chose. God could have become human in a great ruling family in Judea. God could have entered into humanity in a wealthy Galilean family, perhaps as the child of a well-traveled and well-read merchant or scholar. More to the point, God could have chosen to be born into the Roman dynasty, in line to become emperor, to exercise and demonstrate maximum power.

Instead, God chose to enter a family headed by a man with a simple profession, married to a woman who, from outward appearances, was no different than the other poor women in their joke of a town.

Is it any surprise, then, that Jesus felt such intense compassion for the poor and marginalized? That he constantly asked his disciples to care for the poor, the sick, the forgotten, the stranger? He was one of these throwaway people, and he lived among them for 30 years before his public ministry began. Christians tend to see Jesus’ commands to care for the poor as divine. And they were — Jesus was fully divine.

But they also came from his human experience. He was fully human as well. I’m always amazed by people who feel they can be Christian without caring for the poor. Not only did Jesus command us to do this, Jesus himself was from this class. When God chose to join us, he joined us in Nazareth, to make sure that we wouldn’t forget.

Mod: The following letter to The Times regarding the above essay comes from a Korie Beth Brown of Sierra Madre.

In the alt-right universe, Jesus the carpenter would have been branded a loser (Los Angeles Times link): To the editor: Although Jesuit priest James Martin and I do not share the same faith, we apparently share the same respect for historical research. It’s refreshing to read an un-sanitized version of Jesus’ birth and early life, and it’s especially intriguing to learn about the origins of the word “tekton,” normally translated as carpenter but in reality more closely akin to day laborer.

Martin apparently shares my passion for social justice, a word strangely tarnished by the alt-right.

When I was 9, I was expected to donate money for charity every time I went to Hebrew school. I was told that everyone, no matter what, could do something to help others. My research into comparative religion teaches me that this precept is shared by all men and women of good will, no matter their faith.

Is it possible for all of us to look at immigrants — or, more locally, the day laborers we see on the streetcorners of our city — and notice a divine spark in each individual? The God I believe in loves everyone regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or geography. Who are we to do any less? And how can people who profess to follow a “Jewish carpenter” look down on anyone else?

Martin’s piece reinforces my belief that the alt-right is at permanent odds with true Christianity, and indeed with all people of deep spiritual belief. I commend him for such a fine article.

Mod: Have a great Christmas.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

When a lump of coal won't do: Gift-wrapped horse poop sends bomb squad to Steven Mnuchin's Bel Air mansion

Mod: The man who had once foreclosed on the homes of many thousands of his fellow Americans has now received a most unwelcome Christmas gift. Yes, we truly are living in the most worrisome of times. 

Gift-wrapped horse poop sends bomb squad to Steven Mnuchin's Bel Air mansion (New York Daily News link): Los Angeles police got a whiff of horse manure intended for Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin at his Bel-Air home Saturday night.

A neighbor discovered the Christmas-themed package on the driveway of the Trump cabinet member around 5:30 p.m. local time and called police, a Los Angeles Police Department official said.

The bomb squad opened the gift-wrapped surprise and found a “pretty good quantity” of horse manure inside, LAPD Sgt. Briggs said.

Local authorities wrapped up their investigation at the Bel-Air home a short time later and Briggs said the Secret Service would be picking up the box of feces on Sunday.

A news helicopter hovering above the home captured footage of police appearing to sneak a peek inside the unwrapped box.

Mod: Here's hoping you will do much better than Steve did this year.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Sierra Madre City Councilman John Harabedian Appointed By Governor Brown

John, I choose you.
Mod: Needless to say, the entire city of Sierra Madre was on pins and needles over this unexpected honor. Even though it might strike a nerve with some, I'm sure you will get the point.

Governor Brown Announces Appointments (Imperial Valley News link): Sacramento, California - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the following appointments. (I skipped over more than a few appointees before getting to this one):

John Harabedian, 36, of Sierra Madre, has been appointed to the California Acupuncture Board. Harabedian has been a member of the Sierra Madre City Council since 2012, serving as mayor of Sierra Madre from 2014 to 2015. He has been legal counsel at Bentham IMF since 2016. Harabedian served as a deputy district attorney at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office from 2015 to 2016. He was an associate at Latham and Watkins LLP from 2011 to 2015 and a law clerk for the Honorable Josephine Staton at the U.S. District Court, Central District of California from 2010 to 2011.

Harabedian was a policy analyst in the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office in 2007, a Coro Foundation fellow from 2006 to 2007 and an analyst at Barrington Associates from 2004 to 2005. He earned a Juris Doctor degree from Stanford Law School and a Master of Science degree in comparative social policy from the University of Oxford. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Harabedian is a Democrat.

It's always good to be noticed. Speaking of important and prestigious honors that can only be achieved through hard work and noteworthy achievement, we have now received the following news from Encinitas

The winter home of Mr. Ed
Joe Mosca appointed to deputy mayor position (Del Mar Times link): In a swift unanimous vote, Encinitas Council member Joe Mosca was appointed to the deputy mayor seat on Dec. 20.

Mayor Catherine Blakespear, after thanking outgoing Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz for his past year of service, nominated Mosca without further immediate comment. The other council members quickly agreed.

The deputy mayor also traditionally serves as the president of the San Dieguito Water District.

Mosca, a three-year Olivenhain resident, was appointed to the Encinitas City Council in January 2017, filling a seat that was left vacant when Blakespear was elected to the mayor's position. Previously, he had served on the Encinitas Parks & Recreation Commission and on the Sierra Madre City Council for four years from 2006 to 2011, including one year as mayor.

“I am very excited to have an opportunity to serve Encinitas in an even greater role as deputy mayor,” Mosca said. “I’m very humbled and honored to have the full support of my colleagues.”

Blakespear said the deputy mayor's position is rotated annually, and she thought placing Mosca in the seat made the most sense, given the other council members’ busy schedules in 2018.

Mod: I think that is what is known as a backhanded compliment.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Pasadena Star News: Man whose leg was broken by police files claim against Pasadena

Mod: You know how it really works, right? This guy was beaten to a pulp by the Pasadena Police Department, and for whatever the reason. In the end it matters, but not the way you think.

Stick with me and I'll show you.

A disturbing citizen cellphone video emerges of the beating, and some people are upset. The PPD officers' many defenders claim it was justified, and that a police body camera video would show it. That video also emerges, and it is equally inconclusive and open to interpretation. The officers responsible remain on duty, and dubious cop union negotiated city administrative procedures guarantee that the officers continue to will slide by. Any actual consequences are negligible, and entirely hush-hush.

Meanwhile, the victim of this beating files suit, it goes to a local franchise of the Superior Court, and he will eventually win a large settlement. Right?

The officers get off and keep their jobs, the victim wins a lucrative civil suit, and the only people who are actually punished are the taxpayers. They're the ones who will have to pay. They always do. That's how it goes in the Rotten Rose.

Maybe that's what you get for not voting. Here are some news clips and reader comments that will show you how this rolls.

Cell phone video of violent arrest raises concerns about police use of force (Pasadena Weekly link): Civil rights advocates, police reform proponents and city leaders expressed shock and concern over a video that recently surfaced on Facebook showing a man trying to take away an officer’s baton before being punched, thrown to the ground and then beaten with that same baton.

At an emergency meeting of the NAACP Pasadena Branch Monday afternoon, members demanded to see video footage of the incident captured on body-worn cameras recorded by the two officers involved, the names of those officers, a copy of the police report on the incident, and an explanation of the department’s use-of-force policy.

The organization’s demands were turned over to the City Council during its regular Monday night meeting.

NAACP President Delano Yarbrough said he and other members found the officers’ actions to be “reprehensible” and “inhumane.”

“We are concerned that such treatment continues against people of color, especially black males,” said Yarbrough.

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. 

Chief Junta Hat saying as little as possible.
Man Who Broke Leg During Arrest By Pasadena Police Speaks Out, Says ‘I Complied With Everything They Asked Me’ (KTLA link): The 21-year-old man who broke his leg during an altercation with Pasadena police in November spoke out Wednesday, saying he was compliant with the officers who were arresting him. Christopher Ballew appeared at a news conference about the incident that happened at a parking lot on Nov. 9, which the Pasadena Police Department said is under investigation  for possible "use of force."

The officers stopped Ballew because of a missing front license plate and tinted windows, according to a city spokesperson. Ballew's lawyer,  John Burton, named Jerry Esparza and Zachary Lujan as the officers involved.

"As far as I know, these officers are still patrolling, when really they should be facing criminal charges," Burton said at Wednesday's news conference.

Police said Ballew was resisting arrest and later booked him on suspicion of assault. But the Los Angeles County District's Attorney's Office has said it would not prosecute Ballew on any charges stemming from the incident due to lack of evidence.

After a  graphic cellphone video that captured the ordeal sparked public outcry, authorities released dashcam and bodycam videos that showed the moment Ballew's leg was broken.

"I was confused," Ballew said in the news conference. "I didn’t know what was going on." Ballew denied resisting and running away from the officers, saying, " I complied with everything they asked me."

 Show time in the Double R.
Man whose leg was broken by police files claim against Pasadena (Pasadena Star News link): An Altadena man filed a claim for damages against the Pasadena Police Department on Tuesday following a November traffic stop in which officers broke his leg.

The claim states Chris Ballew, 21, sustained injuries to his left eye, cuts on his shin and a broken right leg. The filing, a precursor to a lawsuit, does not specify a dollar amount for the damages.

Ballew alleges officers Lerry Esparza and Zachary Lujan violated his civil rights by escalating a traffic stop into what he called a beating. Police have said Ballew resisted arrest and initially attempted to get him charged with assault on an officer.

“This was unprovoked, nearly deadly violence,” said John Burton, Ballew’s attorney.

A bystander’s video of the incident on social media sparked outrage and led to the release of additional footage from the officers’ body and dash cameras. At the time, City Manager Steve Mermell said he would reach out to the family, but family members now say they never heard from him. William Boyer, Pasadena spokesman, said Mermell left a message and never heard back.

Both Esparza and Lujan remain on duty, according to Boyer. An internal use-of-force investigation is ongoing and began immediately after the incident occurred, Boyer said.

Claim filed against Pasadena Police Officers Esparza, Lujan and Chief Sanchez (Arcadia Weekly link): John Burton, an attorney retained by Ballew’s family, told Pasadena Independent he was stunned by the video; “ I’ve never seen an officer go out of control so quickly, he’s a sick sociopath,” Burton said in a telephone interview Monday morning. Burton poised the question…“Esparza was going to shoot (Chris) …over a tinted window?”

"That's how it goes
In the Rotten Rose."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Two Republican Congressmen Who Voted Against Trump's California Tax Increase Speak Out

Mod: Since there was such a lively conversation here yesterday on this topic, I figured I should continue for another day with some additional pertinent information for you. The two GOP Congressmen who stood up for their constituents and called this for what it is, a tax increase on millions of Californians, have now issued official statements on why they did what they did. We will start with a brief overview from Capitol Public Radio in Sacramento, and then go to the statements themselves. Oh, and we never did hear back from John and Ken. I am not at all surprised. 

12 of 14 California Republicans In House Vote For GOP Tax Bill (Capitol Public Radio link): Twelve of California's 14 Republican congressmen voted in favor of the GOP tax bill Tuesday. Members of the House will have to vote again Wednesday to fix some language that doesn't agree with Senate rules.

Foothills Representative Tom McClintock voted against an early version of the legislation, but voted in favor this time. He says concerns he had with tax rates for his middle-class constituents were addressed and fixed.

During an address on the House floor Tuesday he said while he supports the bill he does realize it could increase the deficit. "Concerns over the deficit are legitimate and must be addressed by spending reforms in the coming year," McClintock said. "We must always remember that taxes and debt are driven by just one thing, spending."

McClintock's district stretches between Placer and Fresno counties, mostly in the rural foothills and Sierra Nevada regions.

Congressmen Darrell Issa of San Diego and Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County were the only California Republicans to vote against the tax plan. Issa says the changes to the bill didn't go far enough to guarantee tax relief for his constituents.

Mod: By "spending reforms" tax flip-flopper Slippery Tom is talking about Social Security and Medicare cuts. Showing once again that the Koch Brothers' tax cuts are going to come out of Granny's hide. Here is Dana Rohrabacher's statement.

Why I voted ‘no’ on the Republican tax plan: Dana Rohrabacher (Orange County Register link): John Marshall, America’s fourth chief justice, proclaimed in an early case before the court, “[T]he power to tax involves the power to destroy.” When the tax bill came to a vote, I was aware that taking away more hard-earned income from families living in the neighborhoods throughout our district would destroy their hopes and dreams — or at least cause them great hardship. I was not elected to allow that to happen.

If enacted, the current version of the bill would raise taxes for many of my constituents. It would do that in part by eliminating the deductibility of property taxes, income taxes and paid sales taxes.

The effect will be to raise tax rates at the margin, reducing incentives to work and to save. That will not only leave taxpayers with less take-home pay, but hurt our entire economy.

The income tax is meant to take from people according to their ability to pay. “Income” for this purpose is not the same as gross receipts. For example: When California or the county of Orange takes your money in taxes, you no longer have it. The government does. Under what right, then, does the federal government pretend that money is still in your pocket and available for it to tax away, too?

Yes, California state government is guilty of profligate spending and imposing oppressive taxation. This tax bill will make a permanent change in law. Future state leadership that is more fiscally prudent will still need to collect taxes from us.

The same goes for other states that aren’t currently as wasteful as California, but whose citizens will forever be taxed by Washington at higher effective rates on money they don’t have. One local family calculated for me that their tax bill will jump by several thousand dollars. They will no longer be able to afford their child’s school tuition.

Why would Congress, in the name of “tax reform,” want to hurt this family and others like it? Taxes are too high. Not just taxes on business, but taxes on individuals, too.

When Democrats controlled the House of Representatives and Ronald Reagan was president, we reduced the top rate of income tax to 20 percent. Today, even though Bernie Sanders lost his race for the presidency, a Republican president and Congress have produced a bill that will make the rate structure more steeply progressive.

Their handiwork would raise the effective top rate of 43.4 percent even higher through backdoor maneuvers like taxing you again on the property taxes you’ve paid. How could this have happened in a Republican Congress?

I deeply admire the House GOP leaders, including Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady and Speaker Paul Ryan. Their motives are good, and their objective of increased economic growth is sound. But the bills that both the House and Senate are now considering, while reducing business taxes, don’t reduce the tax burden on individuals so much as shift it.

That creates winners and losers. Californians will be among the losers. Across-the-board cuts in marginal tax rates for individuals will increase incentives to work, save and invest. That’s what we need more of, and it will stimulate growth that history shows is the best way to reduce budget deficits.

With taxes as high as they are today, no one should get a tax increase, no matter what state that person lives in. When Congress first enacted an income tax in 1913, the idea was to make people pay on their net income. The Democratic senator in charge of the bill explained why gross income was the wrong measure: Otherwise, “you are going to count the man as having money which he has not got.”

The current tax bill, by purporting to count in our “income” the money we are forced to pay to governments for state and local taxes, is double taxation. It is anti-growth. And it is unfair to already over-taxed families living on the edge.

California’s hardworking people, already overburdened by Sacramento, cannot absorb another $5,000 or $10,000 harvested from money they don’t even have.

In the days ahead, I’ll continue to work to make this a pro-growth, deficit-reducing tax bill that does not punish Californians. If the bill improves, I will be thrilled to vote for it. In the end, however, I will use my vote for my constituents and against any bill that will raise their taxes unfairly.

Issa Says Final Republican Tax Bill Doesn’t Help California, Vows ‘No’ Vote (Times of San Diego link): Rep. Darrell Issa said Friday he will break ranks again with the Republican Party and vote “no” on the final tax reform bill because it doesn’t help California.

“While the bill agreed to in conference today makes some improvements, unfortunately, the changes do not go far enough to guarantee tax relief for constituents in my district,” Issa said in a statement. “Californians need tax relief now more than ever.” The final version of the bill caps deductions for state, local and property taxes as $10,000, well below what many Californians pay. Issa has sought to retain full deductibility.

He voted against the first version of the bill, saying at the time, “I didn’t come to Washington to raise taxes on my constituents and I do not plan to start today.”

Issa represents the 49th District, which covers north coastal San Diego and south Orange counties.

Mod: There is the point of view that California (along with New York and New Jersey) has been singled out for tax punishment for having the nerve to not vote for Trump. There might be something to that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Is It "Heads On A Stick" Time For Faithless California Republican Congressmembers?

Mod: You might recall that not too long ago KFI AM Radio talk show hosts John and Ken had come up with a radical solution for the problem of sitting Republican politicians who vote to raise your taxes. Especially when those pols had run for office as opponents of doing just that very thing. What John and Ken proposed to their vast mob of angry listeners is that they should place the freshly severed heads of these faithless pols "on a stick." It was a ratings hit and brought KFI lots of listeners.

Here is how all of this was explained in a 2011 article titled "John and Ken spread fear and loathing in Capitol" that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle (link):

Niceties and nuance are nowhere to be found in John and Ken's four-hour cauldron of drive-time rage. The kings of Los Angeles talk radio have an unapologetically binary view of the world.

Taxes = bad. Illegal immigration = bad.

Anyone who disagrees with them, especially a politician within their sphere of Southern California influence, is spared no mercy. They name names, and they call names. "Whoremasters," "teacher goons, "union thugs," "bastards," "business slobs," "morons," "crafty, stinky politicians," "bozos," "rapacious prison guards" and "greasy journalists" were just a few of the names KFI's John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou used in the past week to describe those who have drawn their ire.

The worst offenders, the Republican "weenies" who have dared to even talk with Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown about a budget solution that might include an extension of temporary tax increases beyond July, are featured with their severed heads on a stick (along with phone numbers) on John and Ken's KFI website.

That's AM Talk Radio for you. You either love it or you hate it.

How is this whole "heads in a stick" shtick working now? Especially when you consider that practically every sitting California Republican Congress creature cast a vote yesterday to raise middle class taxes in California? You know they did that, right? Here is how New York Magazine describes all this rhythm (link):

As the details of the House version of the long-awaited Trump tax bill roll out, all sorts of putative “winners” and “losers” are being identified. Without question, some of the biggest losers will be the New Yorkers and Californians who would no longer be able to deduct interest on high-end mortgages, or deduct their state and local sales and income taxes.

The draft bill halves the cap on the mortgage interest deduction. Now the deduction will be limited to interest on the first $500,000 of a mortgage, as opposed to the current $1 million cap. And it entirely eliminates all but the property-tax portion of the state and local tax deduction.

So who are these unhappy Republican Congresscritters who voted yesterday to raise the taxes of their own constituents, people who this tax legislation singled out for such unkind treatment?

The roll call of shame reads as follows:

Doug LaMalfa - Yes
Tom McClintock - Yes (switched his vote at the last minute)
Paul Cook - Yes
Jeffrey Denham - Yes (R-Turlock)
David Valadao - Yes (R-Hanford)
Devin Nunes - Yes
Kevin McCarthy - Yes
Steve Knight - Yes (R-Palmdale)
Edward Royce - Yes (R-Fullerton)
Ken Calvert - Yes
Mimi Walters - Yes (R-Irvine)
Dana Rohrabacher - No (R-Costa Mesa)
Darrell Issa - No (R-Vista)
Duncan Hunter - Yes

As you can see, only 2 out of the 14 California House Republicans went against Trump on this unfair tax bill, with the rest slavishly voting yes.

Recent polls showed that only 20% of Californians said they thought this $1.5-trillion tax cut plan would have a positive effect on their lives. And getting their taxes raised while Trump's billionaire golf buddies will get to save millions? Not what I'd care to call a positive effect.

So is it "heads on a stick" time for these 12 faithless Republican Congressional tax betrayers? Those who stuck it to their very own people so that others living elsewhere can pocket millions?

I vote yes.

Here is one more article to check out.

How The GOP Tax Plan Scrooges Middle Class, Retired And Poor (Forbes link).

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Scared Should Trump Be Of Mueller? Ask John Gotti Or Sammy “The Bull”

Mod: Interesting article from Vanity Fair that sheds some light on Special Prosecutor Robt. Mueller's interesting past. As far as organized crime figures go, apparently Mueller really is someone who has "locked them up."

How Scared Should Trump Be Of Mueller? Ask John Gotti Or Sammy “The Bull” (Vanity Fair link): Ten South, the high-security wing of the Metropolitan Correctional Center, in Lower Manhattan, is, by design, as grim as any corner of hell. A half dozen narrow cells are lined one after the other, the overhead lights glow day and night, and the tiny window in each cell is frosted, allowing only an opaque hint of the world beyond the prison. There’s a slot in the solid cell door, but it’s kept shut most of the time, and so the prisoner’s unvarying horizon stretches as far as the four cinderblock walls. Only small noises intrude: the chatter of guards, the slamming of cell doors, the high-pitched moan of an inmate.

For over a year, stretching from 1990 to 1991, 10 South was the forbidding home of the triumvirate that still ruled the Gambino crime family as they awaited trial—John Gotti, Frank Locascio, and Sammy Gravano. But in the first days of October 1991, a cunning plan began to take shape to covertly transfer Sammy the Bull, in the pre-dawn hours, from his inhospitable cell.

Today, nearly three eventful decades later, what makes this Great Escape more than just a faded episode from yesteryear’s gangland chronicles, but rather relevant and even instructive, is the identity of the man who ultimately had to sign off on the operation: then U.S. Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Robert Mueller. This is, of course, the same hard-driving crime fighter who, as special counsel, is presently leading the federal investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

For months, Mueller has been working his way up the Trump food chain, beginning with a guilty plea by campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, and, more recently, a 12-count indictment against former campaign manager Paul Manafort. (Manafort has pleaded not guilty.) On Friday, after meetings to discuss a deal, the president’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, walked into a federal courtroom in Washington, D.C., and pleaded guilty in an arrangement that reportedly includes his testimony against more campaign officials, possibly including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the president himself.

It is, one person close the administration recently observed, a “classic Gambino-style roll-up.” To understand how Mueller might now proceed, to get a sense of the compromises he’d be willing to make to bag the larger prosecutorial targets in his sights, it’s eye-opening to go back to the deal he cut with Sammy the Bull.

Mod: The rest of this fascinating article is available at the link above. Here is some more interesting stuff on the Trump Family crime investigation.

Robert Mueller just pulled an ace from his sleeve, and Donald Trump's team just flinched ( link): What, you thought Special Counsel Robert Mueller was just going to sit back and risk the possibility that Donald Trump might try to fire him? Mueller dropped a bomb on Trump’s entire team on Saturday night, and he did it in public. It came largely in the form of a warning: back off or you’re all immediately going down, because I have far more dirt on all of you than you know. Less than an hour later, the Trump team indeed predictably flinched in equally public fashion.

It all began around around 5pm on Saturday when Axios reported that Mueller has been sitting on fifty thousand emails from the Trump transition team all along. Mueller had kept this a secret, and had tricked Trump’s people into a false sense of security by requesting copies of the emails that he already had. Trump’s people only turned over the non-incriminating emails, and thought they were covered. This means he has a whole lot of people nailed for various crimes. If Trump tries to make a move, Mueller can begin arresting them all before Trump can complete the complicated process of trying to fire him.

Mueller was sending a message that if Trump tried to get him fired, he would immediately make a move on everyone involved in those emails. In the process, Mueller was also hinting that he’s been sitting on incriminating evidence against pretty much everyone involved, likely including Trump’s current White House advisers. It was a tacit demand that Trump’s people find a way to make sure he doesn’t fire Mueller. As The Palmer Report explained at the time, this move left Trump’s team with only one option: back down, and quickly.

Sure enough, less than an hour later, Donald Trump’s team made an announcement that Trump has no intention of firing Robert Mueller, according to a CNN report. This reads like a clear attempt on the part of Trump’s team to signal to Mueller that they can indeed keep Trump under control, and that there’s no need for Mueller to release the proverbial kraken on them. If Trump and his people do end up making any further threatening gestures in Mueller’s direction, look for even more leaks about the other aces Mueller has up his sleeve. He’ll keep taking increasingly damaging warning shots until they back down and let him do his job.

Disgruntled conservative imagines how GOP would react if Hillary did half the things Trump has done (Raw Story link): If Hillary Clinton had been elected president and it was revealed that Chelsea Clinton and former campaign manager Robby Mook had met with a Russian operative who promised them dirt on Donald Trump, would Republicans sweep it under the rug as a “nothingburger?” Naval War College professor Tom Nichols, a disgruntled conservative who has regularly lambasted President Donald Trump, wrote on Twitter about how inexplicably Republicans have behaved to cover up for Trump’s assorted scandals.

To drive his point home, Nichols imagined an alternate universe in which a President Hillary Clinton had been revealed to have done even half of the things we already know about Trump’s actions over the past two years.

“It’s 2017, and President Hillary Clinton is facing charges that Chelsea met with Russians who offered oppo on Trump,” Nichols writes at the start of his hypothetical. “Chelsea didn’t call the FBI; and Clinton national security adviser Jake Sullivan lied to the FBI about talking to the Russians.”

Nichols goes on to imagine how conservatives would have reacted if she had told FBI Director James Comey to “let go” of his agency’s investigation into Sullivan, and if three other Clinton campaign officials were subsequently charged with Russia-related crimes.

“At least three other Clinton campaign officials end up indicted,” he muses. “All of them are tied in some way to a hostile foreign power. Robby Mook is confined to his home with an ankle monitor… Let’s cut the nonsense. The GOP would be in full impeachment mode, even without the completion of the special counsel investigation. This is not a partisan point; it’s a common-sense point.”

Mod: Things really are getting interesting.