President Trump is feeling pretty invulnerable right now. Between the lack of indictments coming from the Mueller Report, the House’s reticence to initiate impeachment proceedings, the lack of GOP blow back from his comments about taking opposition research from foreign governments, etc. Why would he take advice from the Office of Special Counsel i.e. Kellyanne Conway and the Hatch Act.

Well I don’t expect that he will. And I don’t expect that the GOP leadership on the Hill will hold him responsible if he doesn’t. Yet Ms. Conway has clearly violated the Hatch Act on any number of occasions. And not firing her would normally be an impeachable offense.

Here’s an interesting comment from the White House:

Among other things, he ( Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel) argued that the special counsel was applying an overreaching interpretation of the law to target the president’s aide, particularly by applying unjustified standards to social media.


“OSC’s overbroad and unsupported interpretation of the Hatch Act risks violating Ms. Conway’s First Amendment rights and chills the free speech of all government employees,” Mr. Cipollone wrote. The call for Ms. Conway’s firing, he added, “is as outrageous as it is unprecedented.”

emphasis mine

If you read the first paragraph above, once again there is a question about official vs. personal use of social media. As I have called for in the past, there needs to be legislation around what is and what is not official business on social media. When is a government official using social media in an official capacity and when are they acting as a private citizen.

The second paragraph gets into the First Amendment. Anyone going into government service is aware of the Hatch Act and knows what it entails and how it would affect them…it should come as no surprise and if they think that it will inhibit their rights…they shouldn’t take on a role in government.

But to think that laws can’t restrict free speech…I suggest that there are all manners of laws around privacy, secrecy and security that control what government employees can say or reveal in public already…laws that no one finds fault with…and I think the Hatch Act is similar.

So in short, Kellyanne Conway should go and take her rightful spot on Fox News…and if not the president should be impeached for refusing to remove her.

One last thing…that unprecedented thing? It is in fact unprecedented. The Office of Special Counsel has never had to issue a report quite like this before.

AND: What is the Hatch Act??

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activities while they are on the job. Named for former Senator Carl A. Hatch, Democrat of New Mexico, the law has been on the books for 80 years.

Earlier this week two petroleum tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman. President Donald Trump is placing the blame on Iran…while naturally Iran is denying any involvement. Unfortunately neither administration can be trusted to tell the truth so it is very hard to determine who is actually responsible.

And the US has released a portion of a video that purportedly shows members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards removing unexploded mines from the side of one of the tankers. But as we know, with 21st Century technology, video is no longer a proponent of truth.

And the world isn’t helping one whit. Great Britain is siding with the US, Germany doesn’t believe the video proves anything. The explosions were supposedly caused by torpedoes and mines yet the damage is above the waterline and neither ship sank. The owners of the Japanese vessel claim their crew saw objects flying toward them before the explosions started. China says no one wants war over the issue. Europe urges restraint. The United Emirate Republics say that they have proof that the attacks were state sponsored.

So where do we go from here?

Well the president says he is willing to open talks with Iran over the issue. So lets do that. They say they didn’t do it…so let’s suspend disbelief for a time and join them in determining exactly what did happen. Include the governments of Japan and Norway whose vessels were attacked.

Continued antagonism will continue to push Iran into the Russian sphere of influence. A friendliness initiated during the Syrian civil war.

Pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Treaty has caused the European Union to develop new banking relationships and networks so they can continue to trade with Iran and circumvent Trump’s sanctions. Those two actions have weakened America’s diplomatic and economic strength in the region and may change our economic strength worldwide eventually. The Euro continues to replace the US Dollar as the currency held by foreign governments as a safe haven currency.

Opening talks with Iran is a good thing. Getting them involved in determining who attacked the tankers is a good thing. Getting the other gulf countries involved would be a good thing.

The biggest draw back (other than Trump not following through on the things he says) would be: why should Iran trust Donald Trump?

the only politician currently sending me more emails than the president…is Senator Elizabeth Warren.

A number of media outlets have reported that President Trump tweeted that his press secretary Sarah Sanders is leaving her post at the end of June.

Although some recent reports had stated she was upset because of accusations that she is often lying to protect the president…the timing is rather surprising. I mean, she hasn’t held a press briefing in 94 days and lets the president handle press relations via tweets and drive by interviews as he leaves or returns to the White House. What a cushy job!

Who will want the job now?

I missed this one originally because it arrived while I was on vacation. But from the Blogging Blue email box, I offer you this (edited to remove the fundraising links):

Ed,

Nancy never fails to prove us wrong.

Just when we thought she couldn’t get any more insane, she says something so absurd, SO RIDICULOUS, that it’s almost comical:
  “I don’t want to see him impeached, I want to see him in prison.”

She’s finally realized that you can’t IMPEACH a REPUBLICAN President for crimes the DEMOCRATS committed, and now she’s trying to threaten PRISON!
 
We won’t stand for this. We need YOU to help us fight back and defend President Trump.

President Trump did NOTHING WRONG.

Let’s show the Democrats just how mad they’ve gone wanting to send OUR President to prison because of their failed WITCH HUNT.

Thank you,

Team Trump 2020

Contributions to the Trump Make America Great Again Committee are not deductible for federal income tax purposes.


Paid for by Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee.

emphasis in the original

Another day another devalued dollar…

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Instead of trying to restrain census participation by asking if those taking the census are American citizens, maybe we should be helping to collect data on gender identity in America?

Just in the last few years, nonbinary identity has been slowly seeping into societal consciousness.

It’s impossible to say … how many nonbinary people, there are across the United States. Surveys have yet to deal with this reliably. And any researcher who takes on the question will run into a problem with terminology. An abundance of labels, with subtle distinctions, are in play. Neutrois and gender nonconforming and demiboy and demigirl and pangender and genderqueer are among the array of closely related identities that could confound any demographer. Another complication is that many nonbinary people also call themselves transgender or trans … as an umbrella term, encompassing all kinds of self-definition, all sorts of physical transformation and transgression of the norms of F and M.

“Data are scarce, and the research gaps are vast,” Jody Herman, a public-policy scholar at the U.C.L.A. School of Law’s Williams Institute, a think tank devoted to issues of gender and sexual orientation, … cautioning against any estimate of the country’s nonbinary population. That said, she pointed to an analysis of two federal public-health surveys, conducted by phone in 2014 and 2015, on which 19 states included a brief optional section about gender identity. The results suggest — tenuously — that the total of all transgender-identified adults in the United States is in the neighborhood of 1.4 million.

from The Struggles of Rejecting the Gender Binary

So if the US Census is meant to go beyond just counting heads and determining who Americans truly are…it maybe time to ask us…who are you?

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Regular readers know that I have written any number of similar posts over the years…often as former Governor Scott Walker and the GOP legislative leadership struggled with funding Wisconsin’s transportation needs (i.e. highways).

And the problem hasn’t gone away but the players have changed. In his 2019 – 2021 budget proposal, Governor Tony Evers proposes an 8 to 10 cent per gallon (depending on the media outlet) gasoline tax hike. But GOP leadership immediately said no without even taking a breath.

Now at least they have taken a step to address the issue and raise revenues. But boy have they taken a long circuitous path. They want to raise fees instead…big time.

Now I don’t quite understand their reluctance to raise the gas tax. Is it the word tax? Although I’ll argue that a fee is still a tax, it still has a thorn despite smelling like a rose to no taxers. Or is it the fact that a Democrat is proposing the change and they need to be against all things Democratic.

Well, here is what they are proposing instead:

Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee voted Thursday night to increase vehicle title fees by $95 and registration fees by $10 to generate hundreds of millions for Wisconsin road projects in the next state budget.


Altogether, the moves would generate $393 million in new revenue for transportation, a total about $200 million less than Gov. Tony Evers wanted, but more than in any budget signed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Republicans would also use another $90 million from the state’s general fund to pay for road projects, bringing the total new funding to $484 million.

Evers also called for increasing fees on heavy trucks, which do the most damage to Wisconsin roads, which would have generated about $72 million.


Republicans rejected the gas tax increase and the fee on heavy trucks.

Instead, they voted to raise the current vehicle registration fee from $75 to $85 per year and increase the vehicle title fee from $69.50 to $164.50 — an increase of 137 percent.

emphasis mine

I stated my reasons for increasing the gas tax a number of times…but it won’t hurt to refresh the points here.

First, it is a usage tax. Those who drive the most generally buy the most gas and would pay the most to build and maintain the state’s roads and highways.

Second, nearly every user would pay the gas tax including out of state visitors and travelers who are simply traversing the state to go elsewhere. They contribute to the wear and tear on the highways and should shoulder some of the burden.

Third, although the GOP will tell you that the gas tax is regressive…and it is…at some point the base belief is those able to travel more are more likely those most able to afford the taxes.

Fourth, I thought the GOP loved pay as you go kinda stuff.

One thing missing from a gas tax…is how do you handle hybrids and pure electric cars that use little or no gasoline. That supposedly is one of the reasons the GOP went down their road. (see footnote below)

Now a 137% increase in the title fee and an increase in the licensing fees is truly regressive. Every car would pay the same fees. No matter their age or their value or how much they are driven. And someone buying a 1998 Toyota Corolla is less likely able to pay $164.50 for their title than the purchaser of a 2019 Honda Accord. And they are probably not putting up the same mileage numbers either. I think the gas tax is the more affordable way to go for many.

Here’s one thing coming out of the GOP bill that I don’t quite understand

Annual fees for light trucks would be set at $100 — a $25 increase for trucks weighing 4,500 pounds, and a $55 cut for trucks weighing 10,000 pounds.

emphasis mine

Why would we cut fees on the vehicles who do the most damage to Wisconsin highways? Whose pocket is getting lined here? Which business group is filling campaign coffers? Is the GOP once again adding to the burden of the average citizen to the advantage of a special interest group? It certainly isn’t to support sales of larger vehicles which are already at record levels. I think that fee should be left where it is.

There would appear to be a lot of room for compromise here. A small increase in fees plus a gas tax increase somewhere between zero and ten cents…or gas tax increases implemented in parcels over the two year budget. But that’s not likely to happen in the Madison legislature’s policy of scorched earth responses to all thing Democratic.

“This is the most significant investment of new revenues into our transportation system in more than a generation,” said GOP Rep. John Nygren of Marinette, co-chairman of the committee.

Let me remind Rep. Nygren, that his party was in complete control of state government in Wisconsin for nearly half of that period. Any shortcomings in support of Wisconsin infrastructure falls heavily on their hands.

btw: Here’s a sadly humorous aside from one of ‘prominent’ state senators:

“In general we’re listening to our constituents who all over this state said, ‘Fix these damn roads,’” said Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills. “They feel like their roads are deteriorating, and they want us to address rehab.”

They feel like their roads are deteriorating? How does she get from River Hills to Madison without noticing the condition of Wisconsin’s roads and highways? Man oh man, you can’t make this stuff up.

FOOTNOTE on Hybrids:

Hybrid vehicles. Lawmakers two years ago established surcharges of $100 for electric vehicles and $75 for hybrid vehicles, but the Department of Transportation wasn’t able to impose them on hybrid vehicles because legislators wrote the measure in a way that made it difficult to identify which vehicles owed them.


Republicans went along with a plan by Evers to tweak the phrasing of the measure so the department can start collecting those fees. 

am I right?

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