Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Monday, January 29, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/26/2018

"Shields and Brooks on Trump’s attempt to fire Mueller, ‘America first’ at Davos" PBS NewsHour 1/26/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the news that President Trump had ordered the dismissal of special counsel Robert Mueller but dropped the request when the White House counsel refused, Republican efforts to undermine the FBI, Trump’s speech at Davos, and the latest immigration plan.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  Well, these reports that we have been discussing with Jack Goldsmith brings us to our weekly analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s Mark Shields, syndicated columnist, and David Brooks, columnist for The New York Times.

You heard what Jack Goldsmith had to say.  And I know you have been following this story all week.

Mark, what do we make of it?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  I would like to associate myself with the remarks of the previous speaker.  I thought he spoke very informed and persuasively on the subject, Judy.

Just from a straight political perspective, you wonder why it took seven months.  The idea that several months…

Judy Woodruff:  You mean for this to come out.

Mark Shields:  To come out.  It’s just rather remarkable in Washington.

And so the first question we ask is, why now?  And is it because there was a concern that the President was going to try and do something like this again to head him off at the pass, to try to vertebrae transplant for Republicans on the Hill, who have not stood up to the President or stood up for Robert Mueller as the special counsel?

It’s everything that Jack Goldsmith described it.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you read all this?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes.

First, it should be pointed out that White House staff has repeatedly said there was no effort to fire Mueller, when they clearly have been lying for months about that.

Mark Shields:  That’s right.  Yes.

David Brooks:  And that’s…

Mark Shields:  And the President.

David Brooks:  It’s always kind of shocking when people just straight-up lie.

Mark Shields:  That’s right.

David Brooks:  It happens to us in our profession all the time, but it’s still kind of shocking.

I have to say, I was in Dayton, Ohio, this morning.  And a friend said, in this presidency, I’m just stunned every day.  I’m stunned every hour.  And at some point, you get out of stunned.  There’s no more stun.

And I found this when I saw our story.  If I had seen that story seven or eight months ago, I would have been, oh, I can’t believe this is happening.  Now I’m inured.  I’m used to it.  I have been numbed.

And I came to think, even if he fired Mueller, maybe we’re all just — we’re like, we have been numbed to the things that happen and nobody gets upset anymore.  I think people would get upset if he actually did try to fire Mueller, but we have defined deviancy down and gotten used to a set of behavior that would have been shocking to us a year ago.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, there is a lot of…

Mark Shields:  Just to David’s point, deserved to be underlined, imagine any President, imagine George W. Bush, George H.W. Bush, or Barack Obama, that The Wall Street Journal reported that his lawyer had paid $130,000 to a porn star not to reveal that they’d had an illicit adulterous sexual encounter.

And, you know, that’s The Wall Street Journal.  I mean, that’s not some left-wing publication.  And that would have been — it would have kept FOX going 24/7 if it was alleged of Barack Obama.  And it does.  It’s somewhere on page three.

David Brooks:  Yes.  That passed without a ripple, yes.

Judy Woodruff:  But what we have here, though, David, or — and in addition to that, is an extraordinary situation, where there is just a lot of guessing going on about whether the President has given up on trying to fire Bob Mueller.

Is he going to talk to him or not?  Are we just hanging in suspension while we wait for the Mueller investigation?

David Brooks:  Yes, with Donald Trump, it’s really hard to distinguish sound from signal.  Because he’s so impulsive, things are floating in all directions.

And are things a passing mood, or is it a designed intent to achieve some goal?  What struck me about the story was that he didn’t just say, fire that guy Mueller.  He had actually done some homework, or somebody had done some homework, and he had three 'legal' arguments about why it was the right thing to do.

That suggests it’s more than just a guy waking up in a bad mood and tweeting out something.  It was an actual effort.

But as Jack Goldsmith said, it is striking how the White House staff seems to be getting better at sort of managing around him, and is devising strategies to keep him from self-destructing.

Judy Woodruff:  It is speculation, Mark, but if the President were to fire or ask others in his administration to fire Robert Mueller, what would the reaction be, you think?

Mark Shields:  I think there would be a firestorm at this point.

How long and how intense, I don’t know, because I remain just perplexed at the limit of the finite limits of our outrage, or our sense of outrage, Judy.

And, I mean, the three reasons that David mentioned, one was that Bob Mueller had a quarrel at a Donald Trump country club over the fees charged.  Second was that Bob Mueller’s law firm had represented Jared Kushner, totally disassociated items.

And the third was that Donald Trump, the President, had invited Bob Mueller in to be interviewed for FBI director, and therefore there was a — there’s somebody there serving him up stuff, but it’s this kind of stuff.

But I think it really comes down to, who’s going to stand with him?  And I look at the Republicans on the Hill and, you know, the lack, the tower of Jell-O that is the speaker of the House.  As Jack Goldsmith pointed out, Devin Nunes is out of control.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, that’s what I want to ask you both about.

I asked Jack Goldsmith, could this campaign, this effort by some Republicans in the House and with support from the White House to undermine the FBI, could that have a long-lasting effect on the Justice Department in the end?

David Brooks:  Yes, I think so.

One of the things that people should know is that there are honest brokers in Washington.  There are career people who really do their job, and they try to be good umpires.  And some of those people, by the way, have private political opinions, but they leave that at the door when they go to work.

And the FBI is filled with honest brokers, the Congressional Budget Office.  There are a lot of agencies that are filled with honest brokers, and the idea that everybody in this city is a politician is just not true.  It’s always amazing to me that a lot of people in government, they are not actually that political.  They believe in the public service and they try to do their jobs, but they’re not sort of super political people.

They just believe in public service.  But there’s been a campaign to say, no, those doesn’t exist, it’s all politics, everybody is partisan.

And the people who are partisan have trouble understanding people who are not.  There was an interesting moment on Sean Hannity's show last night.  When it came out that this story came out, he said, oh, it didn’t happen, Sean Hannity said.  He denied it ever happen.

And then some FOX journalists confirmed that it did happen.  And so then he turned around, well, it did happen, but Trump was absolutely right to do it.

So there was one 180.  And then Trump turned around and said, oh, it’s fake news, and then so Hannity did another 180, his third 180 — he’s getting — it’s like figure skating — and he said, it never happened.

And so FOX can do a party-line switch and do — are Republicans willing to stand up to that?  That’s an open question.

Judy Woodruff:  And the question is, what’s the effect on the public servants?

Mark Shields:  It’s corrosive.  And it’s corrosive.

How long has it been since the President has said, public service is a noble calling, that you’re doing the public’s business, that we’re grateful to you, that you’re a patriot for your public service and the contribution you’re making?

The idea, Judy, that the FBI, made up of professional law enforcement people, is a hornet’s nest of bleeding-heart, knee-jerk liberal lefties, which is what Trey Gowdy and these people are selling, is that somehow there is a great cabal, left-wing.

First of all, they’re not political.  And the ones who have run for public office have overwhelmingly runs as conservative Republicans, as sort of law and order candidates.  So it’s just — it’s not only harmful.

Donald Trump, to use the fake news — I mean, he is the boy who called wolf now on this.  He’s calling fake news the charge today.  And I think he’s overusing that term.

NEWSHOUR'S IMHO - Sheila Nevins, Former President of HBO Documentary Films

"Why writing my last will and testament called for an ice cream sundae" PBS NewsHour 1/26/2018


SUMMARY:  There will be some advantages to non-beingness, says Sheila Nevins, namely, avoiding the family squabbles after her death.  The author and former president of HBO Documentary Films offers her humble opinion on preparing for the end of life, and finding the greatest pleasure is still a big ice cream sundae.

ISRAEL - Campaign of Assassination

"The inside story of Israel’s campaign of assassination" PBS NewsHour 1/26/2018


SUMMARY:  The state of Israel has a history of great violence, visited on it by its enemies and in return by Israel's own intelligence services and military.  In "Rise and Kill First," journalist and author Ronen Bergman writes about the nearly century-long campaign of targeted killing.  He joins Nick Schifrin to discuss the secret history of these strikes.

TRUMP AGENDA - Attempt to Fire Mueller?

"The significance of Trump’s reported order to fire Mueller" PBS NewsHour 1/26/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump reportedly ordered the dismissal of special counsel Robert Mueller last June, but backed down after White House counsel Don McGahn said he would quit rather than carry out the order, according to The New York Times and others.  In Davos, the President dismissed the report as "fake news."  John Yang reports and Judy Woodruff talks to Jack Goldsmith of Harvard Law School.

BRIEF BUT SPECTACULAR - Holocaust Survivor Reva Kibort

"‘Whenever you see injustices at all, you have to speak up’" PBS NewsHour 1/25/2018


SUMMARY:  Holocaust survivor Reva Kibort remembers when the German soldiers came to Warsaw, Poland, and at first, she says, "they weren't so bad."  But soon enough she was transported to a concentration camp, escaping the murder the other children suffered by hiding in a pile of dirty laundry.  Kibort gives her Brief but Spectacular take on being a survivor and speaking out about injustice.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - “The Last Republicans”

"Author: Former Bush Presidents concerned GOP has strayed from its principles" PBS NewsHour 1/25/2018


SUMMARY:  They are a living political dynasty, and they rarely weigh in on the politics of the day, but in the new book “The Last Republicans,” former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush reflect on the man currently inhabiting the Oval Office, and much more.  Lisa Desjardins sits down with author and historian Mark Updegrove to discuss their father-son relationship and their shared ethos.

NEW MEXICO - Kickstarting Its Economy

"New Mexico invests in young entrepreneurs to kickstart its sluggish economy" PBS NewsHour 1/25/2018


SUMMARY:  While much of the U.S. economy is on the rebound, New Mexico remains in the dumps since the recession hit a decade ago.  Part of the problem may be a statewide brain drain, educated young people taking their careers -- and expertise -- elsewhere.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports on New Mexico's mission to bring back its young, energetic entrepreneurs.

PUERTO RICO - Power, Why So Long

"Here’s why restoring power in Puerto Rico is taking so long" PBS NewsHour 1/25/2018

Answer, Puerto Rico is not the 'state next door' but its entire infrastructure was wiped out.


SUMMARY:  Four months after Hurricane Maria, about 450,000 of 1.5 million electricity customers in Puerto Rico still have no service.  Blackouts regularly occur for hours at a time, even in San Juan.  Special correspondent Monica Villamizar reports on the emergency efforts to restore power, and how some have taken matters into their own hands as outdated technology, and suspected corruption, stand in the way.


Republicans are just as scared of the Russia Investigation as Trump.  Also, WHY is the memo classified?  Security reasons, I doubt it.

"Nunes’ classified memo ‘raises more questions than it answers,’ says former FBI agent Rep. Fitzpatrick" PBS NewsHour 1/25/2018


SUMMARY:  Congressional Republicans are fanning doubts about the Russia probe.  Without offering direct evidence, one senator spoke of corruption and a "secret society" within the FBI.  Meanwhile, a memo drafted by aides to Rep. Devin Nunes reportedly alleges that the FBI abused its powers to surveil the Trump campaign.  John Yang gets reaction from Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn) a former FBI agent.

TRUMP AGENDA - To Not Protect America

"The biggest federal regulations that have disappeared under Trump" PBS NewsHour 1/24/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump's rollback of dozens of regulations throughout the federal government is a major part of his first-year legacy.  Hundreds of others set to take effect have been frozen or withdrawn.  Hari Sreenivasan talks with Eric Lipton of The New York Times about some of the biggest changes when it comes to energy and the environment, financial regulation, and the Internet.

TRUMP AGENDA - Attack on 'Sanctuary Cities'

Notice how the normally 'states rights' Republicans change their tune when it's Republican laws that states oppose?

"The Justice Department is stepping up pressure on ‘sanctuary cities.’  Here’s how mayors are responding" PBS NewsHour 1/24/2018


SUMMARY:  Two dozen cities that shelter undocumented immigrants have been sent letters by the Justice Department, threatening to subpoena them over proof that they are complying with immigration rules.  The news angered some mayors meeting in Washington for a conference.  John Yang talks to Republican Mayor John Giles of Mesa, Arizona, and Democratic Mayor Kathy Sheehan of Albany, New York.

ABUSE - Larry Nassar, Why So Long

"How was Larry Nassar allowed to abuse athletes for so long?" PBS NewsHour 1/24/2018

Ask Trump.  It's just locker-room behavior.


SUMMARY:  A Michigan courtroom erupted in clapping as former sports doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to as many as 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting scores of women and girls, including three Olympic gold medal gymnasts, under the guise of medical treatment.  Judy Woodruff talks with Robert Andrews of the Institute of Sports Performance about how the abuse continued for so long.

MEMORIAM - Hugh Masekela, Died at 78

"Remembering Hugh Masekela, master musician who fought for South African freedom" PBS NewsHour 1/23/2018


SUMMARY:  Over the course of his six-decade career, Hugh Masekela's jazz and anti-apartheid activism made him a beloved international figure.  In exile, he used his music as a form of activism to call for Nelson Mandela's release from prison and freedom in South Africa.  Masekela died Tuesday in Johannesburg at 78 years old.

TRUMP COUNTRY - Volusia County, Florida

"Meet the pro-gun, pro-immigrant sheriff bringing police reform to Trump country" PBS NewsHour 1/23/2018


SUMMARY:  Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood is both pro-gun and pro-immigrant and he's been endorsed by both the NRA and the NAACP.  Special correspondent John Carlos Frey reports in collaboration with the Marshall Project on why Sheriff Chitwood's appeal often cuts across traditional political lines.

ONE YEAR IN - Voters Reflect

"One year in, voters reflect on life in the Trump era" PBS NewsHour 1/23/2018


SUMMARY:  A year into the Trump Presidency, Judy Woodruff checks back in with a group of voters from the swing state of Virginia to get their reactions on a range of issues, from the economy and democracy to immigration and tolerance.

AT THE MOVIES - "The Post" vs Power

Documents an example of opposing power, similar to opposing Trump's media war.

"How ‘The Post’ stood up to the power of the Presidency" PBS NewsHour 1/22/2018


SUMMARY:  In the film "The Post," editor Ben Bradlee and publisher Katharine Graham must obtain the Pentagon Papers and then decide whether to defy a court order by publishing the classified history of the Vietnam War.  A story about a consequential moment in American history, press freedom and national security, it's also about Graham finding her way in a male-dominated world.  Jeffrey Brown reports.

POLITICS - The Immigration Fight

"The key change that convinced Democrats to strike a shutdown deal" PBS NewsHour 1/22/2018

WARNING:  McConnell lies.  Don't believe 'promises.'


SUMMARY:  Hours into the start of the work week, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Democrats would vote for a three-week spending deal to end the government shutdown that began Saturday, while Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised to allow Senate votes on immigration issues like DACA.  Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to talk about the bipartisan short-term deal.

"Trump ‘willing to have a conversation about citizenship’ for DACA recipients, says White House official" PBS NewsHour 1/22/2018


SUMMARY:  Immigration was one of the contentious issues that led Congress to its funding impasse and forced a government shutdown.  Now that the shutdown has been resolved, can lawmakers make progress on other contentious topics?  Judy Woodruff gets reactions to the compromise and each party’s priorities from Marc Short (White House Legislative Affairs Director), and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md).

"Collins confident Senate can reach compromise on immigration" PBS NewsHour 1/23/2018


SUMMARY:  Sen. Susan Collins (R-Ma), one of the lawmakers who helped strike a deal to end the shutdown, says the challenge of overcoming differences doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying to reach an immigration bill.  Collins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss those prospects, as well as news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was interviewed by the special counsel’s office, and the GOP casting doubts about the FBI.

"Trump immigration proposal draws mixed reactions from both parties" PBS NewsHour 1/25/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump’s immigration proposal may offer a path to citizenship for more than 1.8 million DACA recipients, according to the White House.  The plan would also request $25 billion for border security and restrict immigration by eliminating the visa lottery program and limit family-based migration.  Yamiche Alcindor joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the details.

FACT CHECK - Democrats on Republican Tax Plan

"Democrats’ Misleading Tax Line" by Lori Robertson, FactCheck.org 1/26/2018

The Line:  The top 1 percent will get 83 percent of the tax cuts under the new tax law.

The Party:  Democratic

The Republican tax plan was signed into law just last month, and Democrats already have a well-worn, and misleading, talking point about it:  83 percent of the tax cuts go to the wealthiest 1 percent.  That’s true for 2027 but only because most of the individual income tax changes expire by then.

In 2025 — the last year before those tax changes expire — a quarter of the tax cuts go to the top 1 percent.

It’s a classic case of politicians using a technically accurate statistic but without the context or explanation it requires.  Without all the facts, the talking point leaves a misleading impression.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio used a version of the tax line in a Jan. 23 press availability, saying that “more than 80 percent of that tax cut went to the — goes to the wealthiest 1 percent."  But he’s part of a long list of Democrats who favor the phrase.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi repeatedly has said that “83 percent of the benefits go to the top 1 percent."  It’s a line included in Senate press releases and emphasized three times in one Democratic press availability in late December, by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (twice) and Sen. Bernie Sanders, who did note that this was “at the end of 10 years” and that the “middle class” tax breaks “expire at the end of eight years.”

The important missing context is that the final tax legislation, which President Donald Trump signed into law Dec. 22, allows most of its individual income tax provisions to expire by 2027, making the tax benefit distribution more lopsided for the top 1 percent than in earlier years.

In 2018, according to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, the top 1 percent of income earners would glean 20.5 percent of the tax cut benefits — a sizable chunk, but far less than the figure that’s preferred by Democrats.  And in 2025, that percentage would be 25.3 percent, with the top 1 percent (those earning above $837,800) getting an average tax cut of $61,090.

Just two years later, in 2027, the percentage of tax benefits to this income group jumps to 82.8 percent, “because almost all individual income tax provisions would sunset after 2025,” explains TPC.  The top 1 percent still benefits from some of the remaining tax cuts, such as reducing the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent.  But their average tax cut drops by nearly two-thirds to $20,660 in 2027.

So while a lot more of the benefits go to the top 1 percent that year, there are fewer benefits to go around.  Without those individual income tax provisions, all taxpayers see an average $160 tax cut in 2027, while the average tax cut for all taxpayers in 2025 is $1,570.

Why do these individual tax cuts expire in the law?  Republicans say they expect a future Congress will extend those cuts, rather than allowing taxes for many to increase.  But in order to pass their tax bill through budget reconciliation, a process requiring only a majority vote in the Senate, Republican lawmakers could not add more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.  Nor could they have a bill that added to the deficit beyond that 10-year window.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget calls the expiring cuts “gimmicks."  It notes that “the ‘easy’ options” for Republicans to make the final bill meet those requirements were to have some of the tax cuts expire — and that’s what GOP lawmakers did.  While the final bill costs an estimated $1.46 trillion over 10 years, CRFB says the actual cost could end up being $2.2 trillion, when these sunsetting tax cuts are actually extended.

One might argue the Republicans practically wrote this talking point themselves by constructing the legislation this way.  The Tax Policy Center and other groups that analyze such legislation had to provide the relevant figures for 2027.

“The effect of turning off those individual income tax cuts would be dramatic,” TPC senior fellow Howard Gleckman wrote.  “Households making less than $155,000 in 2027 would get no tax cut at all, on average.  And more than half of all households would pay more in taxes than under the pre-TCJA, mostly because the new law permanently shifts to a less generous method for indexing the tax code for inflation.  As a result, nearly 83 percent of all the benefits of the TCJA in 2027 would go to the top 1 percent of households.”

A spokesperson for the Democratic minority on the Senate Finance Committee told us that this statistic is “a key data point to our argument that Republicans’ tax law is an economic double standard.  … The fact is, Republicans chose to make permanent massive tax cuts for multinational corporations while writing tax cuts for middle class families in disappearing ink.”

But Democrats are giving voters a misleading view of the new law’s impact.  The proportion of tax benefits going to the top 1 percent is much lower in earlier years — before the individual tax cuts expire — than this talking point reveals.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

TRUMP AGENDA - Anti-Consumer Protection

Mulvaney, lenders are NOT consumers!  You are running the CONSUMER Protection Agency.

"Newly Defanged, Top Consumer Protection Agency Drops Investigation of High-Cost Lender" by Paul Kiel, ProPublica 1/23/2018

In the latest sign that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is pulling back from aggressive enforcement, it dropped an investigation triggered by a 2013 ProPublica story about a lender that charges triple-digit interest rates.

In 2013, ProPublica published an investigation of the subprime lender World FinanceWorld was charging annual interest rates that could exceed 200 percent, often trapping customers in cycles of debt by enticing them to renew the loans over and over.  In states where laws barred such high rates, the installment lender loaded many loans with nearly useless insurance products that bloated the cost.  The company boasted over 800,000 customers, part of an installment loan industry that claimed to loan to millions.

The following year, World disclosed that it was under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The CFPB, the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and under the leadership of Richard Cordray, the agency took action against credit card lenders, mortgage servicers, payday lenders and others for unfair practices against consumers.

But after Cordray left last November, President Donald Trump installed Office of Management and Budget head Mick Mulvaney as acting director.  To say that Mulvaney has been a critic of the CFPB is a vast understatement.  In a 2014 interview given when he was still a Republican congressman, Mulvaney said of the CFPB, “some of us would like to get rid of it” and called it “a joke ... in a sick, sad kind of way.”

In the past month, Mulvaney's influence has become increasingly apparent.  The CFPB announced it will “reconsider” its landmark rule on payday loans, which was issued last year and aimed to prevent borrowers from getting stuck just paying the interest again and again on such loans because they could not afford to pay them off.  The next day, the bureau announced it would be inviting comment on all aspects of the CFPB's business “to suggest ways to improve outcomes for both consumers and covered entities."  It has also begun to drop enforcement actions.

Last week, it dropped a lawsuit against a group of payday lenders that charged interest rates that touched 950 percent.  The companies were associated with a Native American tribe, a common dodge the industry has used because it allows lenders to evade state interest-rate caps.

And around the same time, it turns out, the CFPB also sent a letter notifying World Finance that it was dropping its investigation into the installment lender.  The company disclosed the letter in a press release yesterday.  Although the CFPB had not actually sued the company, it did notify World in 2015 that an enforcement action was likely, according to a company disclosure.

Warren, in an email responding to questions about the CFPB's decision, said the action showed Mulvaney was making good on his earlier vows.

“CFPB should protect consumers, not giant companies that use sky high interest rates to trap hundreds of thousands working Americans in debt,” she wrote.  “Dropping this case is more evidence that Mick Mulvaney is just using his time at CFPB to pay back the donors who funded his political career.”

As the International Business Times reported today, World contributed a total of $4,500 to Mulvaney when he was a congressman from South Carolina, where World is headquartered.

The CFPB declined to comment.  But in an email to CFPB staff today, Mulvaney laid out what the bureau's new approach should be.  He had “no intent in shutting down the Bureau,” he wrote, but said that his leadership would contrast sharply with Cordray's approach of aggressive enforcement.  The CFPB worked for all taxpayers, he wrote, and that includes “those who take loans, and those who make them” and “bringing the full weight of the federal government down on the necks of the people we serve should be something that we do only reluctantly."  Going forward, he wrote, there would be “more formal rulemaking on which financial institutions can rely, and less regulation by enforcement.”

No area of Americans' financial lives will be quite so affected by the CFPB's recent turnaround as high-cost lending.  Prior to the CFPB's existence, there was virtually no federal regulation of these types of loans, which are spottily regulated at the state level.  Although public opinion generally runs against allowing interest rates in the triple digits, the industry is adept at evading state rules and gaining sway with state lawmakers.

The CFPB rule would have dramatically curtailed payday and other high-cost short-term loans, but notably would have left longer-term loans like those offered by World Finance untouched.  That made the possibility of an enforcement action against World particularly noteworthy.  But the industry can apparently now rest easy.  Any near-term threats to its ways of doing business are likely to emerge from the states, where past fights over interest-rate caps have been contentious and sometimes ugly.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

HUMOR TIMES - Faux News Archive

"Strange Man Shoots Innocent Bystander in the Middle of 5th Avenue and Gets Away with It" by Roger Freed, Humor Times 12/27/2017

The tiny-handed man had bragged he could do it in public on 5th Avenue over a year ago – turns out he was right.

A man stood brazenly in the middle of 5th Avenue yesterday and shot someone dead.

And got away with it.

To most eyes, it was just another homicide in a city inured to violence.  It, however, had a few different twists than your usual murder.

First of all is that the suspect, an older man with an orange complexion and an oddly colored mop passing for hair on his crown, was earlier in the year heard chanting to a crowd in the Midwest about “shooting somebody on 5th Avenue and getting away with it.”

The man, apparently well known for making inflammatory statements and gestures, appears to be well known in certain business circles and to have a high degree of political influence.  Despite his having brazenly shot dead a pedestrian in broad daylight, the police have strangely not even brought him in for questioning.

The shooter, oddly dressed in very expensive suit and shoes, was at the same time conversely wearing a cheap, loudly colored red baseball hat.  Bystanders report seeing him calmly walking away from the scene to a higher end Mercedes driven by a chauffeur, and not even speeding away, as though he owned the place.  The attack was so bold that some are whispering that it was a Mafia hit by one of the big bosses himself.  Some said that the man seemed like a character off the TV series The Sopranos.

The victim, 43 year old Estavez Marcea, a recent legal immigrant from Honduras, was taking in the sights of the Big Apple on foot and had just stopped to take a few selfies of himself at in the famous entertainment district.

According to reports, the attacker, who had just gotten out of his limousine, glanced around for a few seconds, then apparently chose Marcea at random from the crowd that was ambling about the area on this sunny winter day in Manhattan.  He walked up to Marcea, very openly pulled out an illegally concealed gun, and blasted the immigrant in the chest, head and privates, then, taking his time, packed the gun away and unhurriedly paced back to his waiting car and drove away.

Some who saw the incident said that the gunman seemed to single out Marcea because he was wearing an old “I Love Hillary” button on his coat.

Despite this incident having occurred in broad daylight on one of the most famous tourists intersections in world, and despite it having been witnessed by numerous witnesses who made positive identification of the suspect, no arrests have been made.  The police and even the FBI seem to have little interest in catching the criminal.  Both agencies have refused to answer any questions on the subject.  For reasons unknown, the CIA was brought into the matter, but also refuse to publicly comment or show any progress on the matter.

“It seems we have a situation where this obviously wealthy and powerful individual was able to stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody in cold blood and get away with it!” said reporter Maswa ibn Hardei, a Muslim immigrant and reporter for Al Jazeera News.

Hardei himself disappeared mysteriously shortly after making this comment.  Unconfirmed reports say he was spontaneously deported back to this native land of Iraq.

More will be reported as we receive it.

If we receive it…

Monday, January 22, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 1/19/2018

"Shields and Brooks on government shutdown blame, Trump’s first year" PBS NewsHour 1/19/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week's news, including the government shutdown showdown and the battle over an immigration deal, and how it will stick with voters on Election Day, plus what voters are thinking at the first anniversary of President Trump taking office.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  Now, on the eve of the anniversary of his first year in office, the President faces the possibility of a domestic crisis, a midnight deadline to keep the federal government open.  And with fears of a shutdown growing, both parties are pointing fingers at the other.

That brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen, on this deadline [shutdown] night.

So, David, where is your finger pointing?

David Brooks, New York Times:  I really don’t know.  I’m embarrassed for my country.

We have gotten used to these shutdowns, but we really shouldn’t ever.  It’s all so stupid.  If we had like a Dwight Eisenhower or Franklin Roosevelt, they would just say, OK, let’s get in a room, we will figure it out, and they would act like grownups.

They would feel so demeaned to go through the rituals of condemnation.  And so we shouldn’t forget that elemental fact, it shouldn’t be like this.

The second thing, though — and the way I think this is actually a significant moment is that it does represent the parties defining themselves in the base, in the middle of a big demographic shift in the country.

This is all funneling down to a debate about immigration.  We used to have debates about the size of government or debates about war and peace, but immigration is now one of the central issues in American life, and it’s really at the core of this thing.  And the Republicans clearly feel, especially in red states, they can go to red states and say, you know, we wanted to keep government open for Americans, we wanted to keep health care for Americans, we wanted to keep the Army for Americans, and they wanted to hold it up for a bunch of illegal Americans.

So which party do you support?  And that’s what the Republicans are going to hang their hat on in a country that’s rapidly diversifying.

Judy Woodruff:  How do you size all this up?

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Well, the only place I disagree with David is, the Republicans don’t say illegal Americans.  They say illegals.

[sarcasm] And like everybody else, like David and I, and I’m sure you, we made a decision at the age of 6 or 8 where we were going to live, where we were going to go to school, and what country we were going to — whose flag we were going to honor.

And, overwhelmingly, this is an issue on which Republicans are on the short side.  Americans of both parties, independents believe that people who have been brought here, had no decision in illegal entry, who’ve grown up here, worked, and contributed to the country are entitled to legal status.

The problem is, quite frankly, the Democrats have chosen this as the one issue to make a fight on, and which does echo not simply the cause itself, but the politics of 2016, and identity politics.

And of all the targets of opportunity that Donald Trump and these Republicans have given them, from knocking people off of health care, to attacking widows and orphans, they have chosen this one.

It is one, quite frankly, this issue, that the Democrats prevail on overwhelmingly across the country.  What Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate are playing right now is state-by-state politics.  It puts Democrats in red states, they think, on the defensive, whether it’s Joe Manchin in West Virginia, Joe Donnelly in Indiana.

Judy Woodruff:  So, it sounds like, David, Mark is saying the Democrats are making the wrong call by hanging this argument, hanging their argument on whether to keep the government open on immigration.

David Brooks:  Yes, well, I would say it depends on your time frame.

In the short term, it probably redounds to both parties’ ill will.  Nobody is going to be persuaded here.  The polls say who’s to blame.  Democrats say the Republicans are.  Republicans say the Democrats are.

This is not the sort of issue on which people are persuaded by evidence.  They just go back to their partisan camp.

In the medium term, 2018, if it matters in 2018 — and I think the parties’ basic posture on immigration will matter– I agree with Mark.  It’s bad — if you’re a red state senator trying to hold onto your seat, this is a bad posture for you.  It’s just not good.

In the longer term, of course, if the Republicans maintain the party, not only of Donald Trump, but they turn into the party of Tom Cotton, who wants to cut legal immigration by 50 percent, then that to me is ruinous for the party.

And one of the things that’s fascinating, I think one of the reasons there is so much confusion here, is this was a party that had a very strong Lindsey Graham, John McCain, George W. Bush wing.  And, suddenly, that’s shifted.  And how far has it shifted?  Has it shifted all the way over to Tom Cotton?  A lot further than a lot of us thought.

And so people are trying to catch up to where the party has shifted.  And Donald Trump has muddied the waters by being here, being there, being there, but mostly pretty restrictionist.

Judy Woodruff:  Mark, you’re saying the Democrats had a choice.  They didn’t have to make this about DACA, about immigration, but they chose to do that, and they are taking a risk, you’re saying.

Mark Shields:  Well, yes.

Let me be very clear.  I think Democrats are on the right side of history.  I think they are on the right side morally.  I’m talking about the political judgment and the political assessment that is made.  And will it work for Democrats in House races across the country generically?  Yes, it will give — put the Democrats on the advantage, Republicans at a disadvantage.

But when you’re Mitch McConnell and you’re trying to hold on to the Senate, you’re trying to figure out how I can put Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota on the defensive.  The Republicans can’t find anybody to run against her.  Everybody’s passed on it.

And how do they take on Claire McCaskill in Missouri or Joe Donnelly in Indiana, both of whom have proved themselves to be formidable in red states and in winning elections?

So I think that’s really where it is.  I just think that there are more opportunities for the Democrats who, in 2016, were, and I think rightly, rightly, targeted as a party of identity politics, of reaching out to constituency by constituency.


David Brooks:  I would say the one thing that — the tide has been swinging, it looks like, in the Democratic direction in 2018.  And the only way they can mess it up that I can imagine (so far), is if they have a base election, if they go — if they make their voters in New York, and San Francisco and L.A. super happy but make the voters in Indiana and Tennessee and Missouri super unhappy.

And they risk that sort of fissure with this.

Judy Woodruff:  So that’s the state-by-state or district-by-district political calculus.

But, David, is there a price to pay from standing back and looking at this from the way Washington runs standpoint, from the fact it just looks, again, like it’s a place where they can’t get the job done?

David Brooks:  Well, I think the big story there is a lot of people around the country look at Washington and say, why would I ever want to go there?  Why would I ever want to pay attention to that stuff?  Why would I ever believe in that system?

And that’s a problem for the country as a whole.  It’s just, government is obsolescence.  If we’re going to fix problems, we have got to do it some other way, because that thing ain’t working.

It’s a more specific — and Mark has made this point in the past — it’s a more specific problem for Democrats, because the party of government has to live with the discrediting of government.

And in the long term, as people become more disgusted and distrustful of government, it served the Republican Party, at least politically, reasonably well.

Judy Woodruff:  And this coincides, Mark, as we have been saying, with the one-year anniversary of President Trump’s year in office, time in office.

How does he come through this?  I mean, how is he looking right now?  Does he come out of this looking stronger?  What?

Mark Shields:  Well, I wanted to take a step back, so I talked today to Peter Hart, who conducts with Bill McInturff, the Republican, Peter being a Democratic pollster, the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll.  And they did a year assessment.

And Peter said the most common word that was used to describe voters’ feeling a year ago about Donald Trump after the election was hopeful.  The most common word used now is disgust.  And he called it the year of alienation, that Donald Trump — and why is this important, Judy, how people — because a President needs a reservoir of good feeling and goodwill and confidence.

Ronald Reagan had it at Iran-Contra.  And it sustained him.  John Kennedy had it at the Bay of Pigs, where people had a personal relationship.  Lyndon Johnson didn’t have it.  Richard Nixon didn’t have it.  So when they hit rough patches politically, they didn’t have that core of affection, feeling, confidence that voters just extended to them and gave them the benefit of the doubt.

And Donald Trump doesn’t have it.  He lacks it.  Voters don’t think he has temperament, maturity, judgment or selflessness.

Judy Woodruff:  But he does have that core of voters who say they’re still with him, the 35, 40 percent.

Mark Shields:  He does.  No, no question about it.

But, Judy, think about it.  We now have the best economic times probably since the late 1990s, tech boom, really just phenomenal times economically.  The stock market is going through the ceiling.  And he’s still, you know, mid-30s?  I mean, ordinarily, any President, President — would be 60 percent favorable in this kind of an economic…

David Brooks:  And that base, it’s a slow erosion.  It’s a lot slower than I thought, but it’s an erosion.

I cited on the show several weeks ago the FOX News voters are less pro-Trump than they were.  I saw a poll today.  Among white evangelicals dropped — support — favorability for Trump has dropped 17 percent, from 83 percent, down 17 percent.

So that’s an erosion.  And all of this — this porn star stuff, this stuff he says about the countries, that has this slow erosion.  It doesn’t mean they’re fleeing, because what we have in this country is negative polarization.  Nobody likes their own party very much, but they really hate the other party.  So that inhibits it.  But we’re seeing just a steady, slow drip, drip, drip.

SYRIA - U.S. Troops, Indefinitely

"U.S. troops could be in Syria indefinitely.  Here’s why" PBS NewsHour 1/19/2018


SUMMARY:  Turkey's military appeared ready on Friday to invade a Kurdish area of Syria and attack a force who, backed by the U.S., helped liberate Raqqa from the Islamic State.  While the U.S. wants to convert them into a stabilization force, Turkey's president says they are a grave threat.  Nick Schifrin talks with former Pentagon official Andrew Exum and Mona Yacoubian of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

POLITICS - Shutdown, Democrats vs Republicans

"Why Democrats want a very short-term funding solution to hold GOP ‘feet to the fire’" PBS NewsHour 1/19/2018

In short, Democrats cannot trust Republicans to keep their word.  And Trump lies.


SUMMARY:  Lawmakers are making an 11th-hour push to fund the government and avoid a shutdown.  Judy Woodruff gets two takes from Senate Democrats about the way forward.  Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley says the shutdown showdown shows how unprepared Republicans are for dialogue on basic issues of governance, while Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto says it’s time to stand up for everyone.

"How the looming shutdown would affect federal workers" PBS NewsHour 1/19/2018


SUMMARY:  The hours are ticking down to a possible government shutdown.  Early in the day there were rumors of a possible five-day deal.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was summoned to the White House, but returned to the Capitol without a deal.  Is there any glimmer of hope?  Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor, join Judy Woodruff to recap a day of dealing and blaming and explain what’s next.


"How my son with autism made sense of the world by watching Disney movies" PBS NewsHour 1/18/2018


SUMMARY:  When Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ron Suskind and his wife found out their son had autism, they were crushed by the fear that they couldn’t communicate.  But they began to realize that he was learning to tell stories through Disney movies.  The realization made Suskind ask, who decides what makes life truly meaningful?  Suskind offers his Brief but Spectacular take on finding everyone's story.

TRUMP EGO - Trumponomics

"Trump takes credit for the good economy.  Here’s what economists say" PBS NewsHour 1/18/2018

IMO:  "Does he deserve the credit?"  Hell NO!


SUMMARY:  Unemployment is down, the GDP is growing at over 3 percent, the stock market hits record highs nearly every day and President Trump says it's a function of his policies.  Does he deserve the credit?  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports.

CIA - The Mole

From the pages of a spy novel......

"How a crippling intelligence loss led the CIA on a mole hunt" PBS NewsHour 1/18/2018


SUMMARY:  Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a former CIA officer, was arrested this week on charges of mishandling classified information.  A massive mole hunt inside the agency has been on for years for the person who may have helped the Chinese government roll up a significant piece of the U.S. spying network in that country.  John Yang learns more from Adam Goldman of The New York Times.

OLYMPICS - The Dark Secret

"Gymnasts’ wrenching testimonies detail doctor’s sexual abuse, cast light on dark Olympic secret" PBS NewsHour 1/18/2018


SUMMARY:  At a remarkable sentencing hearing in Michigan, more than 100 girls and women have confronted the man who abused them sexually for years about the lasting psychological scars.  Larry Nassar worked for USA Gymnastics for 29 years, including as a team doctor for four Olympic Games, and at Michigan State University.  Judy Woodruff talks with Christine Brennan of USA Today.

NEWSHOUR SHARES - Stranded Dolphins

"This graveyard gives scientists insight into lives of stranded dolphins" PBS NewsHour 1/17/2018


SUMMARY:  In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, a group of citizen scientists use a dolphin graveyard to uncover how the majestic mammals live.  The NewsHour's Teresa Carey reports.

POACHING - Hatching a Plan

"Cracking down on poaching with 3D-printed fake turtle eggs" PBS NewsHour 1/17/2018


SUMMARY:  One of the world’s most endangered species, the sea turtle, is under threat from human encroachment and poaching.  But a conservation biologist has developed a strategy that could help save them.  By placing 3D-printed eggs with GPS trackers in nesting grounds, poachers who scoop up decoys unwittingly provide information for conservationists and law enforcement.  John Yang reports.

Paso Pacifico


IMO:  This is another crime that my gut response is to have the perpetrators slow-roasted over hot coals.

"Sex abuse against people with disabilities is widespread — and hard to uncover" PBS NewsHour 1/17/2018


SUMMARY:  People with developmental disabilities become victims of sexual assault at a rate seven times higher than those without disabilities, according to a Justice Department figured uncovered by a year-long NPR investigation.  Judy Woodruff sits down with NPR’s Joseph Shapiro and Nancy Thaler from the Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs, to discuss why the problem has received little attention.

U.S. NAVY - Collisions and the Tough Message

NOTE:  During my 22yr carrier in the Navy (now retired) I served on a Court Martial Trial board.  The charges in these cases are appropriate.

"Harsh legal charges for U.S. Navy ship collisions send tough message" PBS NewsHour 1/17/2018


SUMMARY:  Last year, two naval destroyers were involved in two separate deadly collisions in the Pacific.  Now the former commanders of both vessels face a battery of offenses, including negligent homicide.  John Yang talks to retired Lt. Col. Gary Solis of Georgetown University about the unusual nature of the charges and the larger message they send.

BROADWAY - “Stories by Heart”

"John Lithgow brings the magic of the bedtime story to Broadway" PBS NewsHour 1/16/2018


SUMMARY:  When John Lithgow was a child, his father would act out his bedtime stories, a tradition he carried on when his father grew ill later in life.  Now Lithgow brings his own tradition of storytelling to a one-man show on Broadway, called “Stories by Heart.”  Jeffrey Brown talks to the actor about our human need to tell tales, and his career in theater and film.

NORTH KOREA - Is America Prepared?

"Is the U.S. prepared to defend against a North Korean missile?" PBS NewsHour 1/16/2018


SUMMARY:  Fear around the North’s missile and nuclear programs have spiked with false alarms in Hawaii over the weekend and Japan on Tuesday.  At a Vancouver summit, U.S. officials hope to unite the West to target North Korea economically.  Meanwhile, the two Koreas continue their first direct talks in two years.  Nick Schifrin talks to retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.

DEMOCRACY - In Retreat Worldwide

"Democracy is in retreat in the U.S. and around the world, report finds.  What happened?" PBS NewsHour 1/16/2018

Answer, Donald Trump.

DEMOCRACY: The United States is "Presidential Republic"


SUMMARY:  The United States is becoming less engaged in the world in order to focus on fixing problems at home, but that shift is creating a power vacuum that will be filled by countries that don’t share U.S. values, according to Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and Madeleine Albright former Secretary of State under President Bill Clinton.

Kasich and Albright talked to the PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff about a report released Tuesday by democracy advocacy group Freedom House, which says democracy worldwide today “finds itself battered and weakened,” a trend it has reported for the past 12 years.  It noted this year a “striking” withdrawal by the United States due to the Trump administration’s “America First” stance.


IMHO:  NOT fixing DACA is punishing people who where children at the time, for what their parents did.  The same unethical behavior of punishing 'bastard' children for the mistake of a parent.

"How Trump’s reported s***hole comments put DACA talks in jeopardy" PBS NewsHour 1/15/2018


SUMMARY:  What’s the political fallout from President Trump's reported incendiary comments about some immigrants?  Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Margaret Talev of Bloomberg News join John Yang to discuss whether it has derailed immigration talks about DACA protections and how Republicans are responding in different ways.

"What’s dividing lawmakers on DACA and threatening a shutdown" PBS NewsHour 1/16/2018

Answer, the Republicans blaming immigrants (in this case those who were children) for all the 'ills' in America.  It is race-bating for political gain.


SUMMARY:  President Trump's reported remarks at a White House meeting last week continue to dominate in the days before a looming government funding deadline.  As senators grilled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on a specific profanity and President Trump was pressed on a different detail, Congress and the White House try to reassemble talks over DACA.  Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff.

"[Senate] Republicans say there won’t be a DACA vote this week.  How will Democrats respond?" PBS NewsHour 1/17/2018


SUMMARY:  The clock is ticking as lawmakers labor to find a way to keep the federal government running, hitting up against demands for more defense spending and a fix for the expiring DACA program.  Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff to discuss where negotiations stand and what the White House wants.

TRUMP TALK - The Racist

IMHO:  It is likely Trump actually believes that he's not racist, but his offhand remarks throughout his life says different. Trump IS a racist.

"On MLK Day, U.S. grapples with furor over Trump’s words" PBS NewsHour 1/15/2018


SUMMARY:  This year's memorials honoring Martin Luther King Jr. came amid the ongoing furor over President Trump's alleged comments and his views on race.  While the President released a video commemorating the civil rights hero, his derogatory words reported last week about African and Haitian immigrants hang in the air, as partisan acrimony threatens hope of a DACA deal.  Judy Woodruff reports.

"Jelani Cobb: ‘It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that Donald Trump is racist’" PBS NewsHour 1/15/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump's recent reported use of vulgar language to describe some immigrants has prompted backlash from both the right and left.  It also raises questions about his own personal history on issues of race, and how his perspective affects the nation.  Judy Woodruff gets reaction and analysis from Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker.

Peter Wehner, lifelong Republican: Yes, I do believe that he used these words.  I don’t think there is much question about it.

Republicans like Lindsey Graham have confirmed that he used it.  And this is all part of a piece with him.  This is the latest link in a long, malicious chain for Donald Trump, a chain that’s connected by racist sentiments toward Mexicans, toward Muslims, and toward African-Americans.

In terms of what it says about him and how I interpret it as a lifelong Republican, it’s extremely painful, it’s revealing.  And what it says about Donald Trump and about Trump supporters is that they are racist or that they find great appeal in racist sentiments and expressions of racial division.

You know, Donald Trump is appealing to the worst instincts of America and, unfortunately, his supporters are responding to it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

TEACHERS - Love of a Child

A reminder of what being a child is before growing old enough for divisive politics to poison them.

Students Sing For Their Teacher After Finding Out She Has Cancer

Friday, January 19, 2018

FACT CHECK - Watching the Watchdog

"'Independent' Watchdog's Secret Funder: Conservative Small-Government Group" by Mick Dumke (ProPublica) and Dan Mihalopoulos (Chicago Sun-Times), ProPublica 1/18/2018

Project Six, led by the former City Council inspector general, got 98 percent of its startup money from the right-leaning Illinois Policy Institute.

When former Chicago City Council inspector general Faisal Khan launched his not-for-profit anti-corruption group close to two years ago, he insisted that it was independent and nonpartisan.

At the same time, Khan refused to disclose who was funding the organization, which he called Project Six — a reference to the group of civic leaders who led the fight against Al Capone during Prohibition.

Now, records obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times and ProPublica Illinois show almost all the money to launch Khan's Chicago-based watchdog organization came from a right-leaning group that is leading a crusade against government regulations, state spending and labor unions in Illinois.

The most recent federal tax filing for the Illinois Policy Institute shows it gave $623,789 to Project Six in 2016 — accounting for 98 percent of the group's first-year budget.  The records don't reveal — and Project Six officials haven't said — where the rest of its money comes from.

The Illinois Policy Institute, in turn, has received extensive support from foundations tied to some of the country's biggest Republican contributors, including the Koch, Mercer and Uihlein families, as well as Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and first lady Diana Rauner's charitable foundation.

The tax records offer a glimpse of how money often moves among nonprofit groups focused on politics and public policy.  Under federal and state laws, most charitable organizations — unlike political campaigns — are not required to publicly disclose all of their donors.

The Illinois Policy Institute, which identifies itself as an independent entity committed to free-market reforms, has close ties to conservative lawmakers and worked with Rauner for much of his first term.  It has also attacked the politics and policies of Michael Madigan, the longtime Illinois House speaker and Democratic Party chairman.

Since Project Six launched, promising to investigate cases of government waste and fraud across Illinois, its leaders have said it's necessary to hide the identities of the group's funding sources.  They cite the state's long history of entrenched corruption and the potential for retaliation.

Khan, meanwhile, said Project Six had “no political or ideological bent,” and he pledged to keep publishing reports of wrongdoing no matter the origin.  Reports appear on the Project Six website.

Tax records for Project Six and the Illinois Policy Institute are not yet available for 2017.  But in interviews last week, Khan said the Illinois Policy Institute continued to provide support for Project Six.

Khan said he wasn't certain how much the institute gave Project Six in 2017 because it hasn't completed its tax returns, but he estimated it was “significant” and in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.

In the interviews, Khan offered shifting accounts of Project Six's financial support.  He initially denied the Illinois Policy Institute was among his group's primary funding sources.

“We're not getting the money from IPI,” he said.  “We get money from all sorts of donors but we don't release their names because they fear reprisal from the city of Chicago.”

Later, though, he acknowledged the support of the institute, and said he was “overzealous” in trying to protect its identity as a financial backer.  In helping Project Six get started, the Illinois Policy Institute also provided the group with office space and helped Khan assemble his board of directors, according to Khan and the board members.

Khan said Project Six's connections to the institute do not affect its investigations, which have primarily focused on Chicago aldermen and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  The mayor and all but one member of the City Council are Democrats; the other alderman has described himself as an independent conservative.

Four of the 12 reports Project Six has posted on its site targeted Chicago aldermen with ties to Madigan.  One investigation focused on spending by 13th Ward Ald.  Marty Quinn, who shares a ward office with Madigan.  Another centered on a lobbyist who was also a former staffer and consultant for 42nd Ward Ald.  Brendan Reilly, a former Madigan aide.

The institute reported the Project Six findings on its own website and Facebook page without noting that it funds the watchdog organization.

Two other Project Six reports zeroed in on city regulations for Airbnb and ridesharing companies.  The institute has fought to loosen rules for both industries.

Khan said Project Six staffers initiated the investigations and were not influenced by the institute.

“Absolutely not,” he said, arguing that most Chicago elected officials have some link to Madigan.

The real point, Khan said, is what his team has found.

“Where are we wrong in our work?” he asked.  “Every investigation we have done has been accurate and vetted.”

Some of Khan's targets dispute that.  Reilly said Project Six “mischaracterized” the role of the consultant who was working for his office.  Her lobbying work had nothing to do with issues in his ward, he said.

Reilly criticized Project Six for not revealing all its donors.

“It's a bit hypocritical for a group dedicated to transparency,” he said.

Last March, Project Six accused Ald. Proco Joe Moreno of abusing his influence over zoning in his First Ward.  Moreno says Khan's group selectively used facts to push a conservative agenda.

“Project Six is coming off as an independent investigative body that gets press,” Moreno says.  “But it's a right-wing, agenda-driven organization with dark money that is anything but independent.”

Project Six has also issued a report on questionable spending by the mayor of south suburban Markham, also a Democrat-led municipality.  The organization has not released any investigations into Republican officials or conservative strongholds.

“Regardless of who our contributors are, it doesn't affect our integrity, our work, or our investigations,” Khan said.  “We've only gone after people we've received credible information about.”

Khan was the Chicago City Council's first and last legislative inspector general, serving four years.  The office was dissolved in 2015, and Khan lost his position with the city.  The inspector general's office that oversees the executive branch at City Hall took over responsibility for investigating wrongdoing by aldermen or their aides.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Policy Institute said her group's leaders “do not have any influence” over what investigations are pursued by Khan and his organization.

The spokeswoman, Hilary Gowins, said the institute would not provide funding for Project Six in 2018.

“We are very proud to have supported Faisal in his efforts to bring transparency to Chicago and the state of Illinois in an effort to end public corruption,” said John Tillman, the Illinois Policy Institute's chief executive.  “Faisal and Project Six remain an independent organization.”

But the tax return revealing the contributions from the Illinois Policy Institute “clearly shows that Project Six is far from the independent government watchdog that it claims to be and seriously calls into question Khan's motivation for establishing the group,” said David Armiak, a researcher with the Madison, Wisconsin-based Center for Media and Democracy, which has tracked funding to the institute and similar conservative organizations.

Major contributors to the Illinois Policy Institute have included:
  • Foundations funded by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire, industrialist brothers who long have been among the largest supporters of conservative causes in the country.
  • The Mercer family, which made its money in hedge funds, is a significant political contributor to President Donald Trump and has invested in the right-wing Breitbart news website once led by Steve Bannon — although the family recently broke with Bannon over his criticism of Trump in a new book.
  • Richard Uihlein, the Lake Forest businessman who has been a big financial backer of Rauner.  Uihlein, who has donated to many other Republicans as well as to conservative causes, gave $100,000 last year to a super PAC backing Roy Moore's losing Republican campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama.
The Rauner Family Foundation contributed to the Illinois Policy Institute before Rauner became governor in 2014, and former institute officials briefly moved into high-level roles in Rauner's administration last year, including as chief of staff and communications director.  But Rauner had a falling-out with the institute.

The institute was instrumental in launching Project Six, according to Khan and his group's early board members.  After leaving City Hall, Khan said, he talked with “a lot of people” about what to do next and wondered if he should continue the work he started as legislative inspector general.  One of the people he met with was Tillman.

Tillman, according to Khan, encouraged him to continue investigating fraud and waste in local government.  The institute offered Khan space in its office as Khan was setting up his new organization.

“Project Six is still my idea, my organization, but people like John Tillman and other business leaders helped me put it together and create a working model,” Khan said in last week's interviews.

Khan hired Illinois Policy Institute staffer Nate Hamilton as Project Six's director of marketing and communications.  And three of the organization's initial board members also had connections to the institute.

Businessman and former state GOP chairman Gary MacDougal, a contributor to the institute, said Tillman recruited him to the Project Six board.

“I got a call one day from John Tillman, who said 'I've got a really good guy who cares a lot about shining light in the dark corners and I'd like you to meet him,'” MacDougal said in an interview.  “I had a few strategy sessions with Faisal and, in fact, I'm still having strategy sessions with Faisal.”

After Project Six got up and running, MacDougal left the board because of other commitments, but he said he continues to talk with Khan and just donated to Project Six.  “I believe his heart and his focus are in the right place,” MacDougal said.

He said he's not worried about the new organization's independence.

Tillman, MacDougal said, “very much wants Faisal to be independent, and he is nudging Faisal in that direction.”

Project Six Board chair Randy Nornes, an executive with Aon, has donated to the Illinois Policy Institute as well as the Illinois Liberty political action committee, which was founded by Tillman and is currently led by Pat Hughes, external relations adviser for the institute.

Nornes said MacDougal and an official at the Illinois Policy Institute approached him about Project Six.  As a Chicago resident interested in good government, Nornes said, “I thought it would be a way to contribute back.”

He noted that he has donated to Democrats as well as Republicans and conservative groups, and said he has worked to recruit a diverse group of board members and donors for Project Six.  New board members include an expert in accounting fraud and a public-policy consultant.

“Our funding base now includes small donors,” Nornes said.  “We're doing a lot of the investigative work that in the old days journalists had the time to do.”