• Lois Lerner, infamous IRS exec, wants to keep the public from seeing the testimony that nails her

    3comments Permalink

    Lois Lerner and her #2, Holly Paz, say they fear harm from an “enraged public” and want their own IRS testimony sealed forever (Washington Times)

    The government eventually admitted the IRS had acted illegally and promised not to do it again. The mainstream media essentially ignored the admission. Nothing to see here. Move along.

    That’s what Lerner and Paz want to do now.

    Ms. Lerner and Ms. Paz gave taped depositions in a class-action lawsuit brought by tea party groups demanding answers and compensation for having been subjected to illegal targeting for their political beliefs.

    The government settled the class-action lawsuit in Ohio and another tea party challenge in the District of Columbia in two agreements last month, admitting to the illegal behavior. The Ohio settlement also called for the government to pay $3.5 million to the tea party groups, according to one of the plaintiffs.

    Ms. Lerner came in for particular criticism, with the government admitting she not only didn’t stop the targeting — contradicting the Obama administration’s claims — but also hid it from her superiors in Washington. –Washington Times

    Lots of people are fighting Lerner and Paz’s motion, as is the Cincinnati newspaper.

    Comment: These are public records by public officials. They ought to be available to the public.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, November 3

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Bowe Bergdahl, Army deserter held by Taliban, avoids prison sentence (Washington Post)

    Comment: This outcome is shocking. US soldiers died looking for this creep. Others were injured. Lots of resources devoted to finding a soldier who voluntarily abandoned his post and planned for weeks to do so.

    Pres. Trump immediately weighed in, via Twitter. My guess is that Trump’s position will be very popular on this issue. He’s implicitly daring the Democrats to come out on the other side, as many of them did (to their cost) on the NFL kneeling.

    More good economic news: Unemployment down to 4.1%, the lowest rate since 2000.

    Less good: Wage growth slow (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

    Best news of all: Strong Productivity Growth. (CNBC)

    Comments: Productivity growth is crucial. It is the underlying source of real wage growth.

    The biggest problem for the economy now is the misfit between the skilled jobs available and the unskilled workers who are unemployed.

    Tax Bill, next phase: We will find new details (none good, otherwise they wouldn’t be hidden), and gored oxen will come out to save themselves

    Example of hidden details:

    House Republicans claim the tax plan they introduced Thursday keeps the top individual rate unchanged at 39.6 percent—the level at which it’s been capped for much of the past quarter-century. But a little-noticed provision effectively creates a new band in which income is taxed at over 45 percent.

    Thanks to a quirky proposed surcharge, Americans who earn more than $1 million in taxable income would trigger an extra 6 percent tax on the next $200,000 they earn—a complicated change that effectively creates a new, unannounced tax bracket of 45.6 percent. –Politico

    Example of gored oxen:  Republican Tax Proposal Gets Failing Grade From Higher-Ed Groups (Chronicle of Higher Education)

    The House tax-reform proposal released today would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities,” said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education and under secretary of education in the Obama administration, in a written statement.

    In broad terms, the bill would eliminate or consolidate a number of tax deductions meant to offset the costs of higher education for individuals and companies, including the Lifetime Learning Credit, which provides a tax deduction of up to $2,000 for tuition, a credit for student-loan interest, and a $5,250 corporate deduction for education-assistance plans. –Chronicle of Higher Education

    Comment: There is also tremendous pushback on the limitations on deducting state and local taxes, led by Republicans in high-tax states.

    These issues will be fought out over the next month, first in House committee, then on the floor in both chambers, then in reconciliation.

     Spain issues arrest warrant for Catalonia’s leader, who has fled the country (BBC)

    ◆ Mainstream media ignore bombshell, documented revelation that Hillary and DNC rigged primaries

    All three major TV news networks completely skip the story (Fox News)

    NYT: nothing

    Comment: It’s not surprising that most Democratic politicians are silent. But the story is a significant one, and it’s omission by mainstream outlets is bias, pure and simple.

     Pressure builds on AG Jeff Sessions, accused of false or misleading statements to Congress. The issue: what he knew Trump campaign officials’ contacts with Russia 

    The Atlantic magazine calls it: “Jeff Sessions’ Selective Memory

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Hat Tip to

    ◆ Robert Pahre for the Chronicle of Higher Education story

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Thursday, November 2

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Republicans roll out their tax plan. Here are the key provisions

    I lay out all the key provisions in a separate post at ZipDialog.

    The basics from The Wall Street Journal:

    Business:

    • Rates permanently drop from 35% to 20%, with lots of other changes in deductibility
    • One-time tax of 12% to repatriate overseas profits, returning them to US

    Individuals:

    • Reduces seven individual income tax brackets to four at 12%, 25%, 35% and 39.6%.
    • Top tax bracket set for married couples earning $1,000,000.
    • Bottom tax bracket extends up to $90,000 for couples.
    • No change to top tax rates on capital gains and dividend income.
    • No change to 401(k) rules
    • Nearly doubles individual standard deduction to $24,400 for married couples.
    • New limit on home mortgage-interest deduction at loans up to $500,000, down from $1,000,000, but existing loans would be grandfathered.
    • Keeps estate-tax. Sets exemption at $5.6 million per person and $11.2 million per married couple. Repeals the tax in 2024.
    • Repeals the alternative minimum tax
    • No deduction for state taxes.
    • Keeps deduction for local taxes up to $10,000

    Comment: Now the pushing and shoving begins. The Democrats yell, “Hurts the poor.” The Republicans yell, “Grows the economy for everyone.”

    Democrats will also say it inflates the deficit. They said nothing when Pres. Obama did the same thing.

     Houston Astros win the World Series

    Here’s the wonderful front page of the Houston Chronicle:

    Comment: Great series between two outstanding teams.

    Seven Democratic Senators introduce legislation to slow the revolving door between regulators and Big Pharma (Washington Post)

    No Republicans have signed on, so far.

    Comment: This goes to the essence of the Swamp.

     Rigged Nomination Process: Clinton and DNC, says former Dem. chair Donna Brazile (Politico).

    Brazile, who took over as temporary DNC chair from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, saw documents in which Hillary Clinton’s campaign loaned money to the DNC in exchange for essentially fully control of the party apparatus a year before she was officially nominated.

    Comment: Bernie Sanders and his supporters had claimed the process was rigged. Brazile’s new book say they were right.

    Neither Clinton nor Wasserman Schultz has commented.

    If you are still shocked by this kind of corruption, you haven’t been paying attention.

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • Government Debt and Political Hypocrisy (by both parties)

    I just read the comment of a Democratic friend who is shocked, shocked that Pres. Trump’s tax proposals will increase the US budget deficit.

    Factually, he’s right. So say all the static projections I’ve seen.

    But, as Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story.

    My comment: US debt is a serious issue, but the political sparring is utterly hypocritical. It’s not just my Democratic friend. The Republicans are filling the air with their own false platitudes.

    Under Pres. Obama, US government debt doubled. We were not in a recession, as measured by economists, though we were coming out of a scary one.  During the Obama presidency, the economy was growing, albeit slowly.

    While Pres. Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi were busy blowing up the budget, the Dems had only praise for “government investments” and “the stimulus effect.” As for the spiraling national debt, they were deaf, dumb, and blind. But they sure played a mean pinball.

     

    Here is the data from the (truly) non-partisan Center for a Responsibility Federal Budget, which does not lay all the blame on Pres. Obama.

    Not only were the totals substantially higher, they were substantially higher as a percentage of US GDP.

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    The Sky Is Falling . . . or not

     

    At the time, Republicans strenuously complained, “The sky is falling.”

    Now, the shoe is on the other foot–and it is the other party complaining.

    And the rebuttals are coming from Republicans, not Democrats.

    It is the “party of fiscal responsibility” that is downplaying the impact of the tax cuts on national debt.

    Their main claim: “It’s all about growth.”

    The Democrats, who have never met a deficit they didn’t like, are complaining, “The sky is falling.”

    ♦♦♦♦♦

    Democratic Complaints about Republican Deficits

    The Democrats’ complaints center on two issues.

    • First, the plan is Republican and the government is controlled by Republicans, not their own party. In this Congress, with this President, the Democrats’ attitude echoes Groucho Marx’s song, “Whatever it is, I’m against it.”

    • Second, the deficit will be caused by the government taking less money from citizens rather than the Democrats’ preferred way of running deficits: excess government spending.

    Both sides richly deserve the Claude Rains Medal for hypocrisy.

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, October 22

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Japan’s tough, pro-American prime minister, Shinzo Abe, wins overwhelming reelection (Reuters)

    If he completes his upcoming 3-year term, he would become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister. Economically, he has tried to relaunch the economy with monetary easing. Militarily, he has tried to ease the constraints of Japan’s pacifist constitution.

    [Japan’s] U.S.-drafted constitution’s Article 9, if taken literally, bans the maintenance of armed forces. But Japanese governments have interpreted it to allow a military exclusively for self-defense.

    Backers of Abe’s proposal to clarify the military’s ambiguous status say it would codify the status quo. Critics fear it would allow an expanded role overseas for the military.

    Abe said he would not stick to a target he had floated of making the changes by 2020. –Reuters

    Comment: Abe’s reelection, which infuriates China, helps the US in squeezing North Korea.

    Pres. Trump says he will bring “biggest tax cuts ever in the history of this country” (Fox News, Trump interview with Maria Bartiromo)

    Says he thinks he has the votes, emphasizing the cuts but says there will be reform, also.

    Expresses some optimism on health-care changes, praises Lamar Alexander and emphasizes block grants to states.

     UN’s World Health Organization cancels outrageous appointment of dictator Robert Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador” (Washington Post)

    The outcry rocketed around the world after this week’s announcement and seemed centered around one primary point: Can you be a “goodwill ambassador” if the world widely regards you as a violent, tyrannical despot? –Washington Post

    Comment: Some Twitter responses parodied the appointment, suggesting Kim Jong Un as Mugabe’s replacement.

    Battle among Republicans:  McConnell says Bannon, others gunning to knock off GOP incumbents are ‘specialists at nominating people who lose’ (Washington Post)

    McConnell went on to say that the effort of Bannon and others “isn’t going to help President Trump achieve his agenda. He needs a Republican Senate and a Republican House to confirm judges, to pass legislation that is important to him and to the country.” –Washington Post

    Comment: Bannon and his supporters respond that McConnell’s people have not actually passed the Trump agenda.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Friday, October 20

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Tax Cuts, Tax Reform gaining momentum

    The Senate passed a Budget Resolution, the essential prelude to any effort to pass tax reform. Without the resolution, the tax bill could be stopped unless it had 60 votes. With the resolution, it needs 50 votes.

    Analysis: Whether it can get 50 votes depends on the details, which will affect different states, income groups, and economic sectors differently.

    Ending the deduction for state and local taxes, for example, hurts high-income people in high-tax states. That could cost Republican House votes if they represent such districts. (Most analysis misses the point that the state taxes hit high earners more so Republicans from middle-class districts might not be affected.)

    Giving everyone a large standard deduction sounds great . . . except to the residential real-estate industry, which thinks it will render mortage deductions meaningless for many middle-income buyers.

    Plus, we don’t yet know the breakpoints between tax brackets, so the impact on middle-income families cannot be forecast accurately.

    Politically, the Republicans must pass tax cuts. Whether they must pass larger reforms is less obvious. But even “must pass” legislation is a problem for this bunch.

     Unmasking investigation

    Obama’s UN Ambassador Samantha Power made more unmasking requests than McDonald’s makes hamburgers. Now, Power has told the House Intel Committee that she did not make those unmasking requests. Somebody else did, using her name. (Fox News)

    Since the testimony was behind closed doors, it is unclear if she knew or assented to the requests, if she knows who made the requests, or if “masking” an unmasking request is itself illegal. It is certainly unethical.

    Now, the same committee has called Obama’s last Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, to find out what she knows about these unmaskings and the Russia-Trump investigation. (Fox News)

    Comment #1: This massive unmasking for what seems like political purposes by the Obama Administration is not only a scandal in its own right. It will have real effects on national security if it blocks the renewal of FISA court authority, which must be done soon.

    Comment #2: It has also been reported that the FBI and DOJ knew about Russian bribery to obtain uranium ownership during the Obama years, when Hillary Clinton was Sec. of State. Bill Clinton was paid substantial funds personally for speaking to Russian entities at this time and the family foundation received vast sums (over $100 million) from investors with stakes in the transaction.

    This investigation was not revealed to the heads of Congressional Intelligence Committee, as is required.

    Moreover, this Russian scandal directly involves the FBI when it was head by . . . . Robert Mueller, now in charge of investigating Russian scandals.

    This stinks.

    US-backed forces declare “victory” over ISIS in Raqqa after 4-month battle (CBS)

    Comment: Now that ISIS is circling the drain, the real question is what comes afterwards in Sunni regions of Iraq and Syria.

    Iran and its proxies, Syria and Iraq, are determined to keep the Shiites in charge.

    That will fuel more radical Sunni insurgencies like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

    Catalonia’s bid for independence: Spain’s central government is now preparing to strip the region of its local powers (Los Angeles Times)

    The region’s president, Carles Puigdemont, did not renounce independence despite a Thursday deadline imposed by the central government.

    The escalating confrontation between Madrid and Spain’s most prosperous region sent ripples of unease across the continent, where European Union leaders are already wary of fissures within the bloc.

    Spain’s worst political crisis in nearly four decades of democracy could hamper a still fragile economic recovery in the country as a whole and cause particular financial harm to Catalonia, which is already experiencing a flurry of corporate flight. –Los Angeles Times

     Comment on Presidents and Fallen Soldier in separate ZipDialog post (here)

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 27

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Roy Moore wins in Alabama Republican Primary. Trump endorsed the loser, but it is still a victory for Trumpism, right-wing populism 

    Biggest loser outside Alabama: Mitch McConnell, who convinced Trump to get involved on the losing side.

    My guess is that Trump is beside himself with fury at McConnell. The only thing keeping them from all-out war is the need to pass tax reform.

    The main newspaper/website in Alabama has a concise headline on the outcome: Roy Moore rattles GOP in win over Luther Strange. They expect a “donnybrook” in the general election.

    I have a separate post on the politics of Moore’s victory (here)

    Comment on origin of word “donnybrook”: I hadn’t seen the word in a while and wondered where it came from.  I was shocked, shocked to find it is an area of Dublin, known for . . . .

    Tax Cuts and Reforms to be unveiled on Wednesday. More on that later this week when the details are available.

    The goal is to simplify, cut rates, and stimulate growth.

     The Health Care repeal and reform has died for this year. All that talk. No action. 

    The New York Times report is here.

    Comment: The Senate Republicans are in such a knot, they can’t even hold “regular order” hearings on the latest proposal, Graham-Cassidy’s federalist proposal.

    McCain and Susan Collins put the stake in it, but several other Republicans were also “no” votes.

     Bob Corker, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, won’t run for reelection. He is a center-right Republican from Tennessee (Washington Post)

    Two Chicago police officers “take a knee” in the police station. They are reprimanded by the department–but Mayor Rahm Emanuel offers no criticism (Chicago Tribune)

     

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • NASCAR Won’t Take a Knee–that’s predictable but there’s also a touch of irony

    It’s not surprising to find NASCAR fans, owners, and pit crews are all-in for patriotism.

    They won’t be taking a knee like some players in the NFL and NBA.

    They see that as disrespecting the flag, the country, and those who love it.

    Their support for Trump and disgust at athletes who kneel could be predicted by anyone who understood America’s cultural divide and who stood on either side of it.

    Pres. Trump is deliberately driving that cultural divide as a wedge issue, much as Pres. Nixon and Vice President Agnew did during the Vietnam War. (Pres. Obama did, too, when he reflexively sided with Skip Gates against the “stupid” Cambridge police. Obama did not usually try to raise the profile of those divisions, but his policies–and the electoral disappointment of his constituencies–is the backdrop of our current turmoil.)

    Here’s the report in USA Today, headlined NASCAR owners side with Trump, take firm stance against anthem protests

    “Get you a ride on a Greyhound bus when the national anthem is over,” team owner Richard Childress responded when asked what he would do if one of his employees protested during the anthem. “I told them anyone who works for me should respect the country we live in. So many people have gave their lives for it. This is America.”

    Team owner Richard Petty, who won a record-tying seven championships as a driver, said he would fire any employee that didn’t stand for the anthem.

    “Anybody that don’t stand up for that ought to be out of the country. Period,” Petty said. “If they don’t appreciate where they’re at … what got them where they’re at? The United States.” –USA Today

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Where’s the Irony, You Ask?

    The irony lies in NASCAR’s origins–running from the law and making a game of it.

    Just as jousting was a way for knights to show off and have fun while practicing their work-a-day skills, so NASCAR began with moonshine runners–drivers who sped across the back roads of Appalachia with a car full of homemade whiskey.

    Who was chasing them? “Revenuers.” The federal government imposes a tax on whiskey, and the folks who distilled white lightning had no intention of paying it.

    They hid their stills deep in the woods, in back hollers where outsiders were not welcome.

    A

    h, but they still had to get the hooch from the still to the customers in town. That’s where the fast drivers came in.

    Their whiskey-runner occasionally staged informal races to see who was best. Those evolved into track races and eventually NASCAR.

    They probably didn’t see any contraction between saluting the flag and telling the lawman to go to hell.

    But lots of us taste a swig of irony.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Monday, September 25

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    ◆ Germany’s Merkel wins, but she is significantly weaker. Far-right party (AfD) will have third most seats in parliament.

    The BBC calls it a “hollow victory.”

    The chancellor knew she would most likely win this election. But it is not the victory she or her party had hoped for. It is the conservatives’ worst election result under her leadership. A verdict, perhaps, on her decision to open Germany’s doors to one million refugees.

    Addressing her party, Mrs Merkel acknowledged the past four years had been hard. Nevertheless the party had still achieved its aim – to finish first.

    The cheers rang a little hollow. Because the real success story of this election belongs to AfD.–BBC

    Comment: Germany has been the most stably governed country in Europe for several decades, so this is a blow to the whole European project.

    The AfD includes real neo-Nazis, but it won votes from a lot of Germans who opposed the mainstream parties on gut issues such as immigration. Merkel’s open-immigration policy has saddled her country with real problems, and she is paying the price.

    Travel ban 3.0: This is a longer-term policy and will be phased in over several weeks.

    President Trump issued the order on Sunday. (Story here in the New York Times)

    The new order adds Venezuela, North Korea, and Chad to the list, which now covers eight countries. Most citizens these countries will be banned from entering the US, though the specifics differ for each country.

    Comment: Attorneys General from Democratic states will inevitably sue. They may win in some liberal courts but will lose at SCOTUS, if it makes it that far.

     Lots of NFL players kneel, supported (at least publicly) by coaches and owners. Trump keeps tweeting, driving the issue

    The Washington Post headline is typical: In showings of protest and solidarity, NFL teams respond to Trump’s criticisms

    The Chicago Tribune, which has a midwestern-conservative editorial page, ran an editorial ripping the President for adding to the nation’s divisions, adding that he did the same thing after Charlottesville.

    Going forward, how about he leaves discussions of free speech, race relations and religious protection to leaders who still have credibility?” –Chicago Tribune editorial

    Although national polls have no appeared on the issue, I see three positions emerging.

    • The players are right, or at least they have every right to do it. People on this side emphasize racial inequities, income inequalities, police brutality, and other progressive agenda items.
    • Trump is right. These players ought to show some respect for the country that made their success possible. People on this side emphasize patriotism and other conservative agenda items (some traditional conservative, some more nationalist).
    • Each side has a point, and each has a problem. The players have a right to protest, if they wish, but they have imposed a political agenda on an escapist entertainment for most fans. Do it somewhere else. They add that Trump may be right to defend patriotism but it is un-Presidential to call the players SOB’s and to urge consumer boycotts.

    Comment: Whether this dispute is good for Trump or for the players (I think it is smart politics for Trump), it is not good for the country. It highlights and deepens serious divisions among Americans.

    I’m sure Roger Goodell would love to get back to his main job: explaining why 300 lb people smashing into each other repeatedly has no effect on the brain “that we have really proven, etc.” It’s the Marlboro Man redux.

    London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan compares Trump to ISIS (Fox News)

    He has also said Britain should not host Trump on a visit and certainly not consider it a “state visit.”

    Comment: Khan has time on his hands until the next terrorist attack on his city.

    He has taunted Trump and flaunted the safe, multicultural environment of London before. After that tweet in May 2016, he watched as his city was lethally attacked by terrorists several times.

    GOP will roll out its tax plan later this week with cuts and maybe reform.

    The Washington Post is already stirred up, saying it will help the rich

    Comment: Here’s the problem: the top 1% pay about 40% of the country’s income taxes. If you cut taxes, even if you tilt the cuts toward the middle class, you are bound to help a lot of rich people.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

     

  • ZipDialog Roundup for Wednesday, September 20

    Articles chosen with care. Your comments welcomed.
    Linked articles in bold purple

    Pres. Trump’s speech to the UN was blunt and aimed squarely at North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela 

    It combined two main elements:

    1. A traditional Republican assertion of US military strength and global engagements
    2. Trump’s own nationalist, anti-globalist agenda, praising “strong sovereign nations” (not international institutions) as the basis of global order

    The blunt language attracted a lot of attention. Conservatives (including many who don’t support Trump) were positive. Liberals cringed, longing for Obama’s soft tone, soft policies, and strategic patient.

    He called the nuclear deal with Iran “an embarrassment” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the US has ever entered into.”  He spoke of Iran’s aggressive support of terror and expansion in the Middle East. He specifically spoke about the threat from “Radical Islamic Terror,” words his predecessor never used (and that Trump himself has used less often in recent months).

    He said nothing about “democracy promotion,” a centerpiece of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

    His comment on Venezuela was equally blunt, saying they had turned a rich country into an impoverished failure and done so not because it misapplied socialist policies but because it applied them exactly as they were intended.

    Without using the term “axis of evil,” his speech clearly echoed those themes from Pres. Bush’s War on Terror.

    As CNN put it, “No American President has ever spoken to the world like this,” calling terrorists and some nations “evil.”

    The best comment about the speech came from

     

    Rich Lowery in the National Review Online:

    As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages.

     Two natural disasters: 

    1. Cat 5 Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico with 175 mph winds, the second major hurricane within a month
    2. Mexico suffers a 7.1 magnitude quake.

    Numerous casualties and fatalities from both, unfortunately.

    Comment: The best way to keep up with news about each is with your favorite breaking-news site online. The cable channels will show you the gritty aftermath but take hours to give you the hard news you can get in a few minutes reading.

    Republicans on the hill embrace big tax cuts, even if they increase the deficit (New York Times)

    Senate Republicans, abandoning a key fiscal doctrine, agreed on Tuesday to move forward on a budget that would add to the federal deficit in order to pave the way for a $1.5 trillion tax cut over the next 10 years.

    The Republican lawmakers, under mounting pressure to score a legislative win on taxes, say a tax cut of this magnitude will stimulate economic growth enough to offset any deficit impact.

    Yet critics say a deficit-financed tax cut is at odds with longstanding Republican calls for fiscal discipline, including that tax cuts not add to the ballooning federal deficit.

    Comment: Tax bills must originate in the House, which is dribbling out some information but not the key details. Those should come in the next week or so.

    Former Chicago cop, wanted for shaking down drug dealers, has been arrested in Detroit after 15 years on the run (Chicago Tribune)

    He and his gang of corrupt officers were tripped up in 2001 when they tried one ripoff while the dealer happened to be on the phone with his girlfriend. She mistakenly thought another drug dealer was the robber and called the cops. Honest cops showed up, saw what was happening, and that was the beginning of the end.

    Turkey increasingly uses its thuggish, dictatorial tactics in Western democracies. It did it again this week

    They did it in May, 2017, when Turkish security officers assaulted peaceful demonstrators in Washington, DC. (New York Times report here.)

    This week, they tried to stop a speaker at a conference in Philadelphia. The event was hosted by the Middle East Forum (MEF) for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, known as NATO-PA.

    NATO PA organizers asked that MEF remove a speaker, Emre Çelik, from the program in response to a demand issued by the office of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. MEF removed the speaker from the program, but invited him to address the gathering anyway.

    When Çelik rose to speak, the Turkish delegation grew visibly agitated and acted quickly to shut down the event. –Middle East Forum

    Daniel Pipes, who heads the Middle East Forum, spoke plainly about the incident, which was captured on video:

    President Erdoğan’s attempt to stifle free speech at a Middle East Forum event today was despicable. We did not accept it. –Daniel Pipes

    The MEF report on the incident is here.

    Paul Manafort wants investigations of leaks, which may have come from Special Counsel Mueller’s office, which is trying to rachet up the pressure on Manafort (Reuters)

    “If true, it is a felony to reveal the existence of a FISA warrant, regardless of the fact that no charges ever emerged,” [Manafort’s spokesman said].

    “The U.S. Department of Justice’s Inspector General should immediately conduct an investigation into these leaks and to examine the motivations behind a previous administration’s effort to surveil a political opponent,” he said.

    The special counsel’s office and the FBI both declined to comment on Maloni’s statement. They also did not comment on CNN’s original report about surveillance of Manafort. –Reuters

    Comment: There are several disturbing aspects of this story, all requiring serious investigation. Manafort’s role is obviously one. So is the apparent release of secret information, the presence of a government wiretap on the manager of a political campaign, the possibility President Trump was picked up on the surveillance, and the statements by several Obama administration intelligence officials that they knew of no such surveillance. It is unclear if those officials made false statements under oath.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦