M&M Mars Candy, Trump and The Estate Tax Giveaway

[Ed Note: This is a guest post by our tax law expert friend Bob Lord. It is a particularized abject story of exactly what kind of interests are pushing the Trump “Tax Cuts” agenda, why, and how ridiculously corrupt and insulting to the 99.5% of America the effort really is.]

The Mars family has made billions selling us M&Ms, Snickers, and countless other Halloween treats for a century now. But when it comes to paying tax, the Mars family seems to be all tricks and no treats.

In fact, the family’s latest tax trick may have cost the U.S. Treasury a whopping $10 billion. What could $10 billion do? That’s the cost of delivering prenatal care to hundreds of thousands of expectant moms under Medicaid, an essential program that President Trump and the GOP Congress plan to cut by up to $1 trillion.

According to the current U.S. tax code, any American worth $25 billion can expect 40 percent of that, or $10 billion, to go to Uncle Sam in estate tax, the federal levy on the personal fortunes of deep pockets who kick the bucket. Forrest Mars Jr. had a $25-billion fortune when he died in July 2016. But the Mars family has apparently been able to avoid estate tax on that entire $25 billion.

How do we know? Researchers at Forbes and Bloomberg, the two business publications that track America’s billionaire wealth, have some fascinating numbers for us.

Forest Jr. and his two siblings started 2016 with personal fortunes in the vicinity of $25 billion. Now if Forrest’s fortune had been subject to a significant estate tax after he passed on, the collective wealth of his four daughters in 2017 would be substantially less than that $25 billion.

The just-released 2017 Forbes list of America’s 400 richest shows otherwise. Forbes puts the wealth of each of Forest’s four daughters at $6.3 billion, for a total of $25.2 billion. That’s almost identical to the 2017 fortunes of their Aunt Jacqueline and their Uncle John, each at $25.5 billion. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index reports similar numbers.

Should any of this surprise us? Not really. We’re seeing Mars family history repeat itself. Eighteen years ago, Forrest Mars Sr., the original Mars family billionaire, died. The Forbes 400 lists from the years surrounding 1999 show that the Mars family lost no wealth to estate tax back then either.

But the Mars family must at least be paying oodles of income tax, right? Nope. How could that be? This particular tax-avoidance story starts over a century ago, when Frank Mars incorporated his candy business.

Back then, the value of the stock in Mars Inc. had only minimal value. But over the years the stock appreciated considerably in value. By 1988, that appreciation had made the Mars family the wealthiest clan in America. The Mars billionaires still rank as one of America’s wealthiest families, in no small part because none of the gains in the value of the family’s Mars stock have ever been subject to income tax.

Is the Mars family content with its current level of tax savings? Apparently not. The family has joined with 17 other billionaire families and collectively spent $500 million lobbying Congress for reduced taxes on billionaires and the companies they run.

These companies face corporate income tax on their profits. Mars, Inc. has had to pay these taxes over the years. Unlike Mars family members as individuals, the Mars company hasn’t been able to sidestep its tax bills. But the Mars and other billionaire families have found a friend in President Trump and the current Republican-led Congress. The pending Trump-GOP tax plan would take a meat axe to corporate tax rates.

The resulting corporate tax savings, if this plan gets adopted, will likely translate into a multi-billion-dollar tax savings for Mars, Inc. — and a corresponding bump in the net worth of Mars family members.

The real prize for the Mars in the Trump tax plan? That may be in the elimination of the estate tax that the Trump White House is now pushing. Wait, what? How would the repeal of the federal estate tax help a family that’s already avoiding the estate tax?

For America’s ultra-wealthy, repealing the estate tax turns out to be more about the federal income than the federal estate tax. As Mars family history makes painfully clear, tax avoidance vehicles available under current law allow even billionaires to zero out their estate tax.

But billionaires, under current law, do pay an appreciable income tax price for their estate tax avoidance. Assets on which estate tax is avoided carry an offsetting income tax disadvantage. That disadvantage would vanish in a simple estate tax repeal.

What does that mean? Let’s say we have a billionaire who paid $10 million for stock now worth $100 million and does nothing to avoid estate tax on that stock The billionaire never has to pay income tax on that gain. Those who inherit that stock from the billionaire’s taxable estate can sell it for $100 million and not pay any income tax on the gain either.

But if that billionaire stashed that stock into a trust to avoid estate tax, he would forfeit that income tax advantage. The untaxed gain associated with the stock would be passed to the trust beneficiaries. These beneficiaries would face an income tax on the previously untaxed gain when they sell the stock.

If the Trump-GOP estate tax repeal takes the same final form as the estate tax repeal bill introduced in the House of Representatives in 2015, wealthy Americans will get to have it both ways: zero estate tax and the elimination of any untaxed gain at death.

And that would allow the next generation of Mars family members to avoid income tax on over a century’s worth of economic gain. Quite a trick, huh?

So enjoy the candy, America. The Mars family will keep the cash.

Happy Halloween!

[Robert J. Lord, a tax lawyer in Phoenix, Arizona and former Congressional candidate, is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.]

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Spaced In Time Trash Talk

Welp, moving from KIller Trash Talk to the things that are this weekend takes a lot. Insanity abounds, and is all around. Your healthcare? Yes, that is getting screwed hard. JCPOA (the Iran anti-nuke deal) yes, that too. If it affects the world in at least semi-positive way, the current President is blowing it all up. The fact that a black man might have even touched on any subject seems to infuriate the dementia ridden sundowning asshole in the West Wing even more.

It is who and what we life forms are now. And it is sickness in every regard, domestically and internationally. Trash Talk was designed to be a refuge from such things. I just cannot anymore. So, if that is a problem, I am sorry. Hopefully we will not stand by, and will not back down, while assclowns like Donald Trump cravenly politicize even common sports entertainment to soothe the 30% base they so cherish.

Nope.

Puerto Rico is dying in their own streets. Northern California is burning. People are trying to ride out the fire in swimming pools as their houses burn around them. While the Trump Administration and GOP sit on their hands, when they are not actively trying to make the entire situation worse. The fuckers are flying on jets, flying flags and making coins in their own image.

But, hey, the NCAA is moving on. Not sure anybody thought anything different would happen in Chapel Hill. Begging the question as to what happens to Louisville, another legacy NCAA basketball program. The NCAA under the terminally lame leadership of Mark Emmert will never change.

In the pros, it is getting hard to figure who is the bigger asshole. Is it Goodell and the NFL, or is it the, at this point, ignorant scorched earth strategy of Jeff Kessler and the NFLPA? The NFLPA is making an ass of itself in trying the everything and the kitchen sink theory as to Zeke Elliot. The NFLPA had a sympathetic plaintiff, Brady, and a supremely tenuous case by the NFL based on simple physics and chemistry. But then the NFL won in the 2nd Circuit. Zeke Elliot is not an all American kid with multiple championships. He is an abusive punk from Ohio State that is lucky the NFL did not find an aggravating act from when he pulled down a woman’s blouse in public during a parade. If you think Elliot has the better case here, you don’t try cases in real courts.

The thing is, whether under federal or state law, and in this case collectively bargained law, the arbitration rules….and the rules ARE “relaxed”….and control. It is about the process, not the facts. I, and a lot of others, tried to argue in the face of this in both Brady and Peterson. Same in Bountygate prior to those two cases. Those arguments were all made in cases with far more appealing clients than a repetitive malefactor like Zeke Elliot. He will serve the suspension, it is only a question of whether he and Jeff Kessler are smart enough to do so soon, or make it later, when it will really hurt a likely playoff team. We shall see whether the NFLPA scorched earth insanity prevails over the inters of Homer Simpson, er Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.

The games go on. The Natinals really ought to still be around, but the Cubs put them to rest. The Yankees somehow overcame Cleveland. Hard to not think the Tribe was the better team, but they didn’t close the deal, and the Yankees did. That said, the conference championships look truly awesome. I think the Astros are not only a better team, but have some juice right now as opposed to the Yanks. Not betting a lot of real money on that, but I think so. The Dodgers are what the Yankees used to be. The best team that all the money in the world can buy. But Chris Hayes made a Trump for Cubs deal with the devil last year, and I hope it still holds, and the Cubs win. If we “have” to have Trump, let the Cubbies win again.

Syracuse obliterated Number 2 Clemson already. Man, that was ugly. So was the job an average Cal did on Pirate Mike Leach and Washington State. Utah at USC should be interesting. Washington at ASU here might be as well, but Chris Peterson is a light years better coach than ASU’s Todd Graham, so ASU likely to get blown out, even at home.

Back to the pros: Philly already topped the Panthers, thanks to a good game by Wentz and a horrible one by Newton. Won’t always be that way, Panthers are dangerous if they get in the playoffs. Skins host the Niners. Will Kirk Cousins be playing on the other team next year? The Pack at Vikings looked really interesting when it looked like Sam Bradford was returning. Less so now, but Case Keenum can produce and they are in Minneapolise with that damn horn they blow. I’ll take Rodgers and the Cheese, but may be a great game.

My game of the week is the Buccos at Cardinals right here in the Big Toaster. Debut of Anthony Peterson at RB for Phoenix. Carson Palmer has quietly played superb QB so far this year for the Cards….when he is not getting murdered from bad, nee atrocious, O-Line play. If Arizona’s constantly remade O-Line can gel and protect the old man, it will be a hell of a game. Not going to bet on that, but just saying. Rams at Jags might actually be interesting. Glad that matchup is, for once, not in London. Other game of the week is unquestionably Scribe’s Steelers at Arrowhead to see the Chefs. I don’t for one second think Big Ben has lost a step, even if he may finally be maturing. But I am not sure that other forces in that locker room are unified the way past Steeler teams are. This will be a HUGE game for Pittsburgh, and less so for KC. I’ll take the upset on this one.

Okay, that is that. Another week. Another dime. Another dollar. Thank you for being here, and send some love to Puerto Rico and Napa.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Killer Trash Talk

Hi there!

This will be a Trash Talk mostly absent the real world intrusions of the last few weeks. Mostly.

But I had dinner a couple of days ago with a couple of people, both students, with a family and home in Puerto Rico. No, nothing there is going the way Trump duplicitously portrays it. It is just not. To argue otherwise is to prove a fool and ignorant. Here is the Washington Post with a reminder of what we all knew. The family we know lives in a part of San Juan that is upscale. It is the “nice” part. They still do not have power. Just barely got running water. Things are very much not good there. And will not be for a very long time. For this White House to have taken the victory laps they did is simply unimaginable. Then there is the Las Vegas shooting. That will await another day.

So, probably we should be concerned about whether or not athletes in America stand of kneel for the national anthem. Even in hockey they may not always, or they may raise a Tommie Smith fist, and idiots will probably be up in arms about that.

On to the games. Turns out, the Mean Green of Sparty did the nation a favor by slaying Kaptain Khaki and the Bo Merlots in the large abode. And Mark Dantonio reminded everybody exactly who is the best college coach in Michigan. Don’t sleep on Chris Peterson and Washington, they are coming, and he is one hell of a coach. And hate it all you want, Penn State may be in that rarified picture too.

As to the pros: I cannot say it any better than Gary Myers did, so I won’t, and will let him speak:

The NFL needs to start looking for ways for the Chargers to move back to San Diego. Team owner Dean Spanos should take the $650 million relocation fee he owes the NFL and put it towards a new stadium in San Diego instead. Fans are tired of corporate welfare and don’t want to pay for billionaires to get new stadiums so they can make even more money. Los Angeles was fine without a team for over 20 years and now they have two. The Rams are having a tough time getting re-established in the market. The Chargers are not wanted. They can’t even sell out the 27,000-seat soccer stadium that is their home until the new stadium is ready in 2020. Fans of opposing teams are making it feel like home games are road games for the Chargers… Rivers has not relocated his family to the Los Angeles area. He customized an SUV with video equipment and a driver and rides up from San Diego every day with backup QB Kellen Clemens. Rivers says the commute takes about an hour each way. They must be leaving early and coming back late to beat the usually horrendous traffic. “It’s actually been even better than anticipated. That’s one thing I’m thankful for,” Rivers said. “I’ve had no issues at all and really feel like I’m getting all the work done. It’s been as if, honestly, as if I was right there in San Diego, as far as the way we get to setup. So, it’s been smooth.”
>>>>>
Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky is the third rookie QB now starting as he takes over for free agent bust Mike Glennon. Browns second-round pick DeShone Kizer won the job out of camp and Texans first-round pick Deshaun Watson was made the starter at halftime of the first game. Alex Smith is doing a good job keeping first-round pick Patrick Mahomes on the bench in Kansas City… Watson, by the way, was electric in the Texans’ 57-14 victory over the Titans last week throwing for 283 yards and four TDs and also running for a TD. The Texans traded up from No. 25 in the first round and also gave up their first-round pick in 2018 to move to the Browns spot at No. 12 to get Watson. Of course, Cleveland should have taken Watson. In March, they took Brock Osweiler’s $16 million guaranteed off Houston’s payroll along with adding the Texans’ second-round pick. If the Texans win the Super Bowl, the Browns front office should get Super Bowl rings… The Browns are 2-29 in their last 31 games, the worst 31-game stretch in NFL history.

I saw that this morning, and all of it were thoughts I had to start with. It is time for Trubisky. And Watson for the Texans looks like the truth. With a real franchise QB, the Texans could be scary good for a very long time. As to the Bolts, they really should go back to San Diego. It makes far more sense than LA for them. Thing is, I am not sure San Diego wants them back at this point. The blinding arrogance and lack of sensitivity of the Spanos family and the NFL owners/Goodell is so incredible that I am not sure the Chargers are now welcome anywhere, much less in San Diego. What a total oligarch cockup.

The Pats overcame the Bucs in one of the better and more memorable Thursday Night games to move to 3-2 for the year. Huge win, but Brady is still spending too much time on his ass from poor offensive line play. And, though the defense has been praised for their effort against TB, it really was not that much better. History reflects that Bill Bel defenses start soft and gel when it counts, but this one is nowhere near that yet. We shall see, but, for now, Bill Bel and the boys are 3-2 and on to the Jets Jets Jets, who will undoubtedly enter the game next week also at 3-2 because they play the Brownies today. The better question is whether the Bills circle their wagons enough today against the Bengals in Cinci to keep the lead in the AFC East, or if they fall to 3-2, and leave the Pats right where they always are. In the division lead.

In other games, the Cards at Iggles is interesting. Philly has been in a breakout so far. The Cards have sucked. I think the Eagles win this pretty easy, but Cards are one of those outliers that, if they catch fire, can flat kill you. Don’t think so this week.

Detroit at Carolina ought to be pretty interesting. What kind of routes will Cam the misogynist man run? But I’ll put my dimes on the Kittehs, because they are a better team. Titans at the Fish was going to be great, but Mariotta is hurt, now maybe a tossup. Best game, probably by far, is the Cheesers at the Boys. I’ll call it a tossup. It is not a make or break game for either team. It is, however, one of the more underrated rivalries in the NFL over the last two decades. That is must see TV.

Today’s music is by The Killers. It seems a weird name for the band in light of what just happened a week ago in their home town of Las Vegas. But they have been rocking, and carrying the banner of Nevada and Las Vegas since they broke out with Hot Fuss in 2004. The band is ridiculously good, and have been from the start. If you do not know The Killers, you should, give them a try. So, let us rock on for another week.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

[graphic: Hurricane Maria, 20SEP2017, via NASA GOES]

Three Things: Was Slow Response to Hurricane Maria Deliberate?

NB: First, a call to action at the bottom — come back and read this after you’ve read the call. Don’t let last night’s tragedy swamp effective action; Congress continues its work no matter what tragedies befall the rest of us.

Having worked in both site and systems administration with responsibility for business continuity, I can’t help wonder why the post-hurricane response to Puerto Rico’s devastation was so bad — so bad it looks deliberate.

~ 3 ~

As an administrator, I looked ahead a year or more to mitigate both costs and risks to my employer and stakeholders. Budget roof repairs expenses for this year, budget roof replacement capital next year; replace the analog alarm system with digital system, budgeted last year. It’s pretty dull stuff but all it takes is one break-in, or one bad storm, and the losses from damage and business disruption could easily surpass capital and expense budgets combined.

But what of states and territories? State/territory, local and federal governments do what they can within the plodding framework of legislation, regulation, and budgetary requirements and restraints. Sometimes things just can’t be addressed preemptively, like major storms. Fortunately, there’s adequate monitoring to help predict when they will hit and what the likely impact will be, and there’s the awesome power of the largest military in the world to deploy as needed.

We have monitoring like NASA’s GOES satellite imaging, which visually tracked Hurricane Maria from birth to death as a weakened tropical storm.

And NOAA’s Hurricane Center, which makes accurate assessments of timing and strength of a storm’s impact.

Not to mention whatever additional monitoring and reporting the Defense Department had to offer.

We know with certainty the U.S. government was aware from NASA and NOAA reporting that Maria was a Category 5 storm as it approached Puerto Rico. The National Hurricane Center issued 17 reports over four days warning of the storm’s size, strength, and timing of landfall. I can’t imagine government agencies offering any less now than they did under the last administration.

And yet the Trump White House did virtually nothing to prepare for storm response.

You’d think that a guy with experience managing real estate and businesses for continuity would have utilized these best-on-earth notifications to mitigate and recover injury and damage to Puerto Rican Americans and their property. But for some reason this same guy now occupying the White House spent his time harping about NFL players and golfing instead.

~ 2 ~

This tweet thread crossed my timeline last week; I wondered who leaked and why there was so little followup, because the claim it makes is quite serious. (Click to expand the thread in Twitter.)

If this claim is accurate, the Trump White House sat on its tiny mittens and did absolutely nothing to approve a response to a major catastrophe which was expected with a very high degree of certainty to devastate an American territory home to ~3.5 million citizens.

If this happened five days AFTER landfall, was nothing done by the White House BEFORE Maria made landfall?

It’s not as if taking proactive action was difficult, either. I am certain government agencies and the Defense Department were ready to move with plans they’ve had prepared for some time, tweaked for this particular event. All it would take is a simple verbal Yes to proceed.

Or an executive order which we all know this White House can produce like so much facial tissue.

~ 1-a ~

All the monitoring and reporting provided to the White House, from NOAA and NASA to Defense Department, was budgeted and authorized by Congress for the purposes of serving American citizens. The public expects a level of performance for the taxes they pay; monitoring and reporting on weather and risks from weather are but part of their expectations.

American citizens expect and pay for their government to deliver effective and timely response when their domestic tranquility and general welfare are disrupted, whether nation-state or weather- and climate-based threats. They do not expect to be left without clean water, no minimum shelter, no emergency health care, let alone an empty wallet depleted by taxation which paid for common defense they didn’t receive.

Why have Puerto Rican Americans not received the same level of government responsiveness and services their fellow citizens have received post-hurricane Harvey and Irma?

Why can’t we get a straight answer about the White House’s planning in response to Hurricane Maria two to three days after landfall? Is it because the lack of any response is as bad as the lack of preparation — utterly missing, perhaps deliberately so?

At some point this isn’t about the White House and its executive function. It’s about Congress which has failed to ensure the executive knows exactly what is expected of it and what action should be nearly automatic from the executive office.

Oh, but that’s too much legislation, conservatives will say. No — it’s inadequate existing legislation which has incorrectly assumed for too long a competent manager will execute U.S. laws. It’s too many sick, injured, dying, dead Americans in the wake of ineffective governance.

And it’s inadequate action on the part of Congress to tolerate an incompetent executive.

To be concise, more than one branch of government failed Americans.

And those branches now have blood on their hands.

Do something about this before more Americans die. Do more than hold a hearing.

~ 1-b ~

By the way, FEMA’s Brock Long has proven himself an idiot. He should be given the boot.

An under-funded agency could land two rovers successfully on Mars and operate them for years to conduct research, but humanitarian response to a predicted hurricane utilizing the largest standing military on earth is too complicated? Fuck that.

And fuck this guy — I don’t even know who this pasty slack-handed suit is, but he can take his lies and shove them sideways. The storm did NOT cause you and your co-workers to be idiots and liars, boy.

~ 0 ~

Call to Action: Congress continues to work on bills regardless of the tragedy in Las Vegas or the growing catastophic death toll in Puerto Rico. Your efforts helped kill the last ACA repeal attempt formerly known as Graham-Cassidy. These are our next challenges.

CHIP expired at midnight Saturday night. Congress left for the weekend allowing health care funding for 9 million American children to expire. Not much better than President Cheeto going golfing while ignoring Puerto Rico. Call your representatives and demand CHIP funding be addressed immediately. Script for the Wyden-Hatch bipartisan CHIP bill here — note also you may need to call your state officials as well.

Net Neutrality is back on the bubble. FCC chair Ajit Pai has consistently attacked it throughout his brief tenure, sucking up to the telecom industry while ignoring the public’s best interests. Call your representatives and demand net neutrality be assured by voting NO on another five-year term for Pai as chair. Script for your call here. VOTE IS SCHEDULED TODAY — HURRY. Get a leg on this before AT&T persuades the Supreme Court to wade in.

Guns on schedule this week: a bill to approve the sale of gun silencers. Las Vegas’s mass shooting last night should be proof enough that “hearing protection” for shooters is the last thing Congress should worry about. The bill also allows the sale of armor-piercing ammunition. Hell, no. Script for your House rep, and script for your Senators.

A vote to make abortion illegal at 20 weeks on tap tomorrow. No. No freaking way. You may not like abortion, but read this piece — imagine the emotional and physical horror for a woman and her family as she is forced by law to carry a non-viable fetus to term. This decision should be between her, her partner, and her doctor. Make the call.

Congress’ switchboard number is (202) 224-3121. Don’t be like the guy in the White House when you can see action is needed.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

The Trump Trash Talking of Puerto Rico

This spot in our week here at Emptywheel is supposed to be a set aside for light hearted banter on sports, especially football and Formula One. That is what we have done since our beginning over a decade ago.

But I just cannot summon the enthusiasm for that right now any more than I could last weekend when the Trump racism and narcissism were already raging.

There are 3.5 million American citizens in the lurch in Puerto Rico, suffering from dehydration, starvation and death. Because of a fundamental lack of fuel to move, and communications to know, the full extent of the damage is still not really known.

So, what is the most powerful leader in the world doing? Tweeting a bunch of racially bigoted trash at the people and leaders of Puerto Rico. Here is what our disgrace of a President blasted off this morning:

That graphic was posted on Twitter by Josh Marshall of TPM, and his annotations are perfect.

Trump’s conduct is disgusting and unconscionable. From a man fiddling golfing while Rome burns Puerto Rico dies. What did the Mayor of San Juan, the largest population center and capitol hub of Puerto Rican government say? She begged for her people via a tearful plea to all of the federal government:

“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy,”

That would be Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. She also had the temerity to call out Acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke who made the horribly insensitive and asinine comment that Puerto Rico is a “good news story”. For seeking to keep her constituents from dying and calling bullshit on the actual bullshit of Elaine Duke, Trump now thinks Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz is the functional equivalent of Kim Jong-Un. Even insanity has rarely run this far amok.

Where will you find Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz? Perhaps there is a photo somewhere in an office, but since the Puerto Rican crisis began, I have never seen her portrayed by the press, or anybody else, as being anything other than tirelessly out in the streets and flooded destroyed neighborhoods with her devastated constituents. Like a real leader would be. This photo is indicative:

Remember General Russell Honore, who brought some long past due seriousness and reality to Katrina in NOLA? He is in San Juan now. Here is what he had to say when questioned on Trump’s attack on the Mayor:

“The mayor’s living on a cot and I hope the President has a good day at golf.”

Can’t argue with that. Maybe Trump can secretly meet with the Puerto Rican bondholders he so cherishes that put their craven investments ahead of the lives of American citizens, while he is relaxing at his fucking golf resort this weekend. It is simply who he, and they, are. It should NOT be who we are though. This country is better than that.

I would also like to, again, point out that the much ballyhooed by Sarah Sanders and Trump Administration “Jones Act Waiver was a complete fraud and sham on the press, public and, most of all, people of Puerto Rico. There are effectively little more than SEVEN days left on Trump’s bogus waiver and gift to craven bondholders and rapacious shippers. Trump insured he got good press for a news cycle and completely stiffed Puerto Rico of any meaningful assistance via relief from the hideously oppressive Jones Act. Heckuva job Trumpie.

If you want a couple of fantastic pieces of reportage on Puerto Rico today, go see the Washington Post piece “Lost weekend: How Trump’s time at his golf club hurt the response to Maria” as well as the superb interactive overview from the New York Times, “One Day in the Life of Battered Puerto Rico”. You will be better for having seen both.

As to the games. Eh, Pirate Mike Leach and Washington State pulled off a serious upset of USC last night. Leach had his usual awesome take. As to the NFL, the focus seems to be more on the pre-game than the real games. I will note that Tom Brady’s first start was 16 years ago today. The Patriots have since won 5 Super Bowls, 14 AFC East titles and 185 of his 238 starts. Kid can play ball. Also, this weekend is the Malaysian Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit. Hamilton takes pole and Vettel starts at back of the grid due to a bad engine. That likely ends the Drivers’ Championship battle for yet another year.

That is it for today. Rock on, and put the thoughts of our fellow citizens of Puerto Rico in your hearts.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Did President Trump Violate Federal Law With His Alabama Rant?

I wrote yesterday about the racial, social and football implications of Trump’s rant in the history and home of George Wallace.

But a new, and by all appearances excellent, commenter on that post noted this:

“It occurs to me that his tweets are at least arguably in violation of 18 U.S. Code § 227. That section prohibits the POTUS (among others), from “attempting to influence or interfere” in a private company’s labor matter, to urge a “political” firing. This is especially true where the basis for the POTUS’s urging of the firing of such a private company employee (union covered, collective bargaining agreement governed) — is (as here) centered on protected political first amendment expression.”

So, is that right? Well, it is a LOT closer call than most would dismissively think. Let’s look at the language of the relevant statute, 18 USC §277:

18 U.S. Code § 227 – Wrongfully influencing a private entity’s employment decisions by a Member of Congress or an officer or employee of the legislative or executive branch:

(a) Whoever, being a covered government person, with the intent to influence, solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation, an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity—
(1) takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act, or
(2) influences, or offers or threatens to influence, the official act of another,
shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than 15 years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States.
(b) In this section, the term “covered government person” means—
(1) a Senator or Representative in, or a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, the Congress;
(2) an employee of either House of Congress; or
(3) the President, Vice President, an employee of the United States Postal Service or the Postal Regulatory Commission, or any other executive branch employee (as such term is defined under section 2105 of title 5, United States Code).

Read the statute. It is a lot closer call than you think. Will Trump’s own Department of Justice pursue this? No, no chance, nor probably should it be. Is it a viable question, and one that ought be discussed in the public and media, yes, absolutely.

As sports law “experts” would say, let’s break it down. There are elements to a crime. Trump is unequivocally a “covered person” within the ambit of the statute. Also unequivocal is the fact that his words in Alabama were meant to influence “an employment decision or employment practice of any private entity”, in this case, the National Football League.

The problem lies in section (a)(1) of the relevant statute, which requires:

takes or withholds, or offers or threatens to take or withhold, an official act

It is easy to see and admit that Trump would do just that in a heartbeat. But Trump did not do that per se in his Alabama speech.

No. That element cannot be met by Donald J. Trump’s Alabama Song of hate. So, no, there is no exposure to 18 USC §227.

It is a great thought and question though.

And it is a perfect example of the precipice of racism, bigotry and ignorance on which the political discussion in the United States, and our Article II Executive Branch, courtesy of President Trump, nows perilously treads nearly every day.

The events and actions in and from the NFL today, tomorrow, and in the next few weeks pale in comparison. They are a symbol and a voice. But it is so much more and bigger than that.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

When The President Hates A Race And Talks Racist Trash

President Donald J. Trump is a racist bigot. Jemele Hill was right on that one, not that sane people had not already realized it long ago, and well before his election. Take his ignorant position on the Central Park Five case, just as a for instance. Then add on how he was sued decades ago for discriminating against blacks in housing. Throw in a thousand other tell tale points and you have a picture of a self entitled candy assed rich New York racist. That is just who he is. It has always been there for inquiring minds to see if they so desired.

Now the latest pure and unadulterated racism from the now President of the United States. Last night in Alabama, Trump let loose a rambling self centered screed of a speech that would make George Wallace cringe. Here is a sample:

“Wouldn’t you like to see one of these owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!”

He then went on to state that any player so exercising free speech should be “fired” and unemployable at their career job. From Michael David Smith at PFT:

Trump said an NFL owner who releases a player would instantly gain broad support across America.

“Some owner’s gonna do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag? He’s fired. And that owner . . . they’ll be the most popular person in this country. Because that’s total disrespect of our heritage. That’s total disrespect of everything we stand for,” Trump said.

Trump added that he believes fans should walk out if players don’t stand for the anthem. “If you see it, even if it’s one player,” Trump said, “Leave the stadium.”

Trump also argued that if they do this to boycott the NFL and personal free speech, they would be supporting him and his position.

Clearly aiming at Colin Kaepernick, Michael Bennett and Malcolm Jenkins, prominent NFL players who have had the audacity to be free thinking humans and exercise the protected free speech our Bill of Rights is led by and that generations of American patriots fought and died to preserve. Donald Trump shits on every ounce of that every time he goes on one of his little pointed and racist rants. And boy did he shit on it last night in Alabama. You’d almost think Trump is aligned with the neo-Nazi white supremacists with torches in Charlottesville that he praised as “fine people” instead of the full diversity of American citizens. Including, you know, black people.

Was Trump done? Of course not. He then cravenly went on to scold the NFL for being soft because of their (still lame and ineffective) concern about CTE degenerative brain disease:

“When the ratings are down massively, massively. The NFL ratings are down massively. Now the number one reason happens to be that they like watching what’s happening….with yours truly. They like what’s happening.

Because you know if they hit too hard…Fifteen yards! Throw him out of the game! they hd that last week. I watched for a couple of minutes. Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom, fifteen yards!

The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him. They’re ruining the game! That’s what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game!”

An outrageous thing to say about, again, American citizens and their workplace safety issues. Especially when the most recent studies found CTE degeneration in 99% of the brains from NFL players they have examined. And when the NFL was just slapped with a complaint on Aaron Hernandez that exhibited that even a relative young player displayed “a raisin-like brain of a 70-year-old even though he was 27″. Simply craven, bigoted and outrageous.

It is the the stuff of a narcissistic self entitled bigot plantation slave owner. Trump literally thinks he is not only the the better, but genetically superior to other humans, including the constituents he works for. Including people he thinks are owned as slaves by the NFL and other terrorized employees.

When Trump instructs NFL owners to fire people that disagree with his own petty world view, he thinks they are plantation owners such as he sees himself with the rest of humanity. Trump makes “the best deals” but cannot see, nor appreciate, the NFL collective bargaining agreement (CBA), nor does he respect that deal for squat if employees thereunder happen to annoy the fat ass boy king and god.

Apparently Trump thinks the illustrious group of NFL owner oligarchs are his bitches too. As Don Van Natta noted, “Bob Kraft, Jerry Jones, Stan Kroenke, Daniel Snyder, Shahid Khan, Woody Johnson & Bob McNair each gave $1M to Trump”. That is nearly one quarter of the NFL owners. What are they rewarded with by their benefactor Trump? A call for boycott of their business interests unless they enforce an unconscionable suppression of political free speech he disagrees with.

This may “only be sports”, but this is one of the more stunningly outrageous and un-American symbols of the cancer the Trump Presidency really is. And what a demented, sick and small man Trump really is.

Did Trump stop with that stunning pettiness and bigotry? No, of course not. He woke up and decided to be the charlatan of humanity he really is, and decided to lash out at another icon of sports. Steph Curry. And more:

Well that is brilliant Art of the Squeal Like a Pig Don.

So, lets see, who has Donald Trump lashed out at exclusively in the last 24 hours? Ryan Lizza hit it on the head:

Trump has now attacked Jemele Hill, Colin Kaepernick, & Stephen Curry. All have something in common but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Ryan was being sarcastic about the putting a finger on it. And, again, he was completely correct in his observation. I wonder what Trump would say about a golden white boy who turned down a White House invitation”? Oh, wait….

The face of the New England Patriots, Tom Brady, did not attend Wednesday’s White House ceremony with his teammates due to “personal family matters” — but the show went on without the star quarterback.

Brady’s decision not to visit the White House comes on the same day former teammate and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez was found dead after an apparent suicide in his prison cell.

Yes, a pure as white can be Tom Brady gets no bad mouth at all from our racist bigot President, but be a black person in sports, whether athletes like Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett, or sports journalist like Jemele Hill, and he will try to deprive you and your family of the essential income your professional career provides.

This is where we are in America in the Age of Trumpism. If you are a white nationalist fat ass racist bigot, your President thinks you are “fine folk”. If you are an intelligent black, brown, gay or other, even trying to serve your country’s military, your President, Trump The Genetically Magnificent, will attack you and your family’s very source of income, and well being, mercilessly.

It is the shame of modern America.

I’m sorry, I’ve no stomach for the actual games this weekend at this point. We can all discuss that in comments, but not here. Not now. Not after this.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Jemele Hill Is Right, Trump Is A Racist Bigot, Trash Talk

The biggest sports story of the week, unless you are a legal freak in the Zeke Elliot weeds, is more politics than sports. The classy and wonderful Jemele Hill of ESPN let fly some hard truth about Trump on his favorite medium, Twitter. And of course the vacuous suits at Fox News got bent out of shape over the fact a smart woman, especially one of color, had the temerity to point out that their boy Trump was indeed a racist bigot.

I usually tailor videos and images, but had a hard time with this one from USA Today, so you get the full screen scene this time. It is short and lays everything out that you need:

Did Jemele take to a soapbox and do this on air with her partner, Michael Smith on their absolutely excellent Sportscenter 6 platform? Nope, she did it in her private time, on her own personal Twitter account. Now, ESPN is a business, a House of Mouse one at that, so first amendment protections are inapplicable. But that does not mean ESPN ought be censoring or punishing her private thoughts and political speech. Especially on a platform that the snowflake President takes to daily to issue outright lies, bigotry, racism and generally ignorant screed. To ESPN’s credit, while they stepped back from Hill slightly, they did not step away from her. That is good, because Jemele Hill is not only a better and smarter person than Trump, she is quite likely far more popular too. I will stand with her any day and every day.

Okay, back to the games! Hell of a tilt between USC and Texas last night. Don’t know how in the world the Trojans let the Horns back in it, but it was thrilling. In the NFL, it is getting to where who “isn’t” playing is as important as who is. The Cardinals looked horrible last week against Detroit when they had David Johnson, now they don’t, and may not the rest of the year. Luckily, they are playing the Colts, who do not have Andrew Luck. Think Homer Simpson is scheduled to start for the Colts. He probably will beat the hapless Cards.

The Eagles at Chiefs looks to be a great game. Vikings at Steelers looked like it would be too…..but this morning it was announced that Sam Bradford is out for the game. Bradford looked like a world beater last week in collecting up offensive player of the week accolades. But apparently tweaked a knee in the process that we didn’t really see. So, the Vikes will go with Case Keenum today. Not the worst substitute, he is capable.

Cowboys at Broncos looks pretty interesting too. Trevor Siemian did not look that good in the second half last week, and the Broncs were lucky to emerge with a win. He will have to play much better this week, even with the aid of Mile High. The Sunday Night feature of Packers at Falcons should also be great. First NFL game for the Dirty Birds in their new gazillion dollar nest.

Who knows what you will get out of the MNF game between the Lions and Giants? Last week was the return of Really Bad Eli. I am not sure this week will be the return of Good Eli. That is the beauty of it though, like Forrest Gump’s stupid box of chocolates, you just never know what you will get! Matt Stafford has been playing consistently solid ball for quite a while though.

Last, but not least, two future Hall of Famers duel down in Nawlins. Brady and Brees. Deflategate versus Bountygate. Two weeks ago, I would have said this is a laugher. Nut, man, the Patriots looked awfully non-Belichickian last week. So maybe worth a watch.

That is it for this week, rock on.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

Can’t Stop/Won’t Stop: CNN Has A New Racist Bigot Apologist

You may remember that CNN recently terminated their go to racist bigot Trumpian apologist asshole, Jeffrey Lord.

As Politico succinctly put it:

CNN on Thursday fired contributor and staunch Trump supporter Jeffrey Lord after he tweeted a Nazi salute.

Well, yes. That is literally the least you could say about Jeff Lord’s “contributions” to CNN. He was, from the start, an unnecessary, and in the face of competent journalism and reportage, complete plant by Jeff Zucker into the CNN family and reportage to do NOTHING but assuage the idiot extremist right wing racist assholes who were watching FoxNews to start with. In short it was insane and counterproductive programming to cater to ignorant racist people that hated, and were not watching, CNN to start with.

The presence of Jeff Lord on CNN was an affront on common intelligence, good journalism and root morality. But there he was. Until Lord actually displayed his inner Trumpian Nazism that was clear under the veneer from moment one, and was the exact reason Zucker and CNN hired and paid the jerk to start with. Jeff Lord was exactly who Zucker and CNN bought and paid for from moment one. He was exactly what they cravenly wanted.

So, did Jeff Zucker, and the worthy geniuses at CNN, learn any lessons by having promoted a clear cut immoral asshole racist Nazi like Lord?

Nope. They have simply found and cultivated a new one.

Today’s version (and seen on CNN!) is Trumpalo Michael Caputo, who had these gems to say on CNN’s The State of the Union show today:

“Our Department of Justice under Obama was the most political Department of Justice in modern times”

Well Mike, that is not quite right. In fact, that would have been the DOJ under George Bush, who your boy Trump is making look good at warp speed. Here is thanks to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse back in 2007, is a graph of political appointee communication of the Clinton White House with the Department of Justice:

Here is, again from Senator Whitehouse, an identical chart of the contacts of the contacts from the Bush/Cheney White House:

Ooof, if you want to talk about root politicization of the DOJ, that is pretty telling, even without going into the Monica Goodling/Karl Rove nonsense.

Caputo goes on to belligerently defend Trump

“…against all this talk of racism”

So, eh, no. For Caputo, in the face of what Trump is doing vis a vis the DOJ, whether firing the Director of the FBI for not covering his ass or asking his Attorney General to kill an investigation of his largest racist supporter Arpaio, is just another hired liar.

But having such an immoral liar to balance actual truth and fair reportage with absolute flat earth level racism horse manure from Trumpland, is what Jeff Zucker and CNN demands. They simply cannot fathom presenting the former without salting it with the latter.

Ted Turner must be beside himself somewhere in Montana. The demand of media, in this case CNN, to “both sides” even in the face of grossly immoral and unconscionable racism and bigotry, is insane. It needs to stop. There is no need to put on an apologist like Michael Caputo just to say you did so. It added nothing, but support for rank ignorance and bigotry. That is not what America’s media should be about.

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.

The Arpaio Pardon — Don’t Obsess about the Russian Investigation

It seems there are two likely responses to the Arpaio pardon: to use it as a teaching opportunity about race, or to use it to panic about the Russian investigation.

I’m seeing far too many people choosing the latter option, focusing on what Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio might do for the Russian investigation. That, in spite of the fact that Trump has already spoken openly of pardoning Mike Flynn, just like he did of Arpaio, to say nothing of his spawn or the father of his grandchildren.

The targets of the Russian investigation already know Trump can and is considering pardoning them.

But a pardon of them — at least some of them — is a very different thing than an Arpaio pardon. That’s because, for some of the crimes in question, in case of a pardon, Robert Mueller could just share the evidence with a state (usually NY) or NYC prosecutor for prosecution. It’s possible that accepting a pardon for Trump or Kushner business related crimes could expose those businesses to lawsuit, and both family’s businesses are pretty heavily in debt now.

Most importantly, a Paul Manafort or Mike Flynn pardon would deprive them of their ability to invoke the Fifth Amendment, meaning they could more easily be forced to testify against Trump, including to Congress.

Presidents implicated in crimes have used a variety of means to silence witnesses who could implicate them, but Poppy Bush’s Cap Weinberger pardon — the most recent example of a President pardoning a witness who could incriminate him — was not the primary thing that protected Poppy and Reagan, Congress’ immunization of witnesses was. Thus far, most Republicans in Congress seem determined to avoid such assistance, and Trump’s attacks on Mitch McConnell and Thom Tillis for not sufficiently protecting him probably have only exacerbated the problem.

I wrote a piece explaining why (in my opinion) George W Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s sentence, but never pardoned him: it kept Libby silent without adding any personal risk. If Trump were competent, he’d be making similar calculations about how to keep witnesses out of prison without making it easier to incriminate him. But he’s usually not competent, and so may fuck this up royally.

In any case, given that some Republicans (including both Arizona’s Senators) have made lukewarm objections to the Arpaio pardon, I’d imagine any pardons of Russian witnesses would meet more opposition, particularly if those pardons came before the 2018 elections. Add in the fact that sleazeball Manafort has no purported service to point to to justify a pardon, as Trump cited with Arpaio (and would to justify a Flynn pardon). The backlash against Trump pardoning witnesses against him will likely be far worse than the already existing backlash here.

Pardoning Arpaio was easy. Pardoning Manafort and Flynn and Don Jr and Kushner and everyone else who can implicate the President will not be easy, neither legally nor politically. So don’t confuse the two.

Meanwhile, Trump has just pardoned a man whose quarter century of abuse targeting people of color has made him the poster child of abuse, not just from a moral perspective, but (given the huge fines Maricopa has had to pay) from a governance perspective.

Like it or not, a lot of white people have a hard time seeing unjustified killings of people of color as the gross civil rights abuse it is, because when cops cite fear or danger in individual cases, fearful white people — who themselves might shoot a black kid in haste in the name of self-defense — side when them. Those white people might easily treat Black Lives Matter as an annoyance blocking their commute on the freeway.

The same white people might find Joe Arpaio’s tortuous camps for people of color objectionable, because those camps make the systemic aspect far more apparent. They’re far more likely to do so, though, if this pardon is primarily seen as Trump’s endorsement of systematic white supremacy rather than a test run to protect himself.

Moreover, white supremacy is something that will remain and must be fought even if Robert Mueller indicts Trump tomorrow. It was a key, if not the key, factor in Trump’s win. We won’t beat the next demagogue following in Trump’s model if we don’t make progress against white supremacy.

You can’t do anything, personally, to help the Robert Mueller investigation. You can do something to fight white supremacy. And if that doesn’t happen, then we’ll face another Trump down the road, just as surely as Sarah Palin paved the way for Trump.

The Arpaio pardon is an abuse, horrifying, yet more evidence of how outrageous Trump is.

But it’s also a teaching opportunity about white supremacy. Better to use it as such rather than cause for panic about the Russia investigation.

Related posts

emptywheel, You’re not the audience for the Arpaio pardon, cops are

bmaz, Some thoughts on the Arpaio pardon

 

 

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.