Memers and Dreamers

Staff & Wire Reports

First lady Melania Trump walks to her vehicle as she arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, June 21, 2018, after visiting the Upbring New Hope Children Center run by the Lutheran Social Services of the South in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

First lady Melania Trump walks to her vehicle as she arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, June 21, 2018, after visiting the Upbring New Hope Children Center run by the Lutheran Social Services of the South in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)


First lady’s ‘don’t care’ jacket is a gift to memers online


Associated Press

Friday, June 22

NEW YORK (AP) — First lady Melania Trump’s green Zara jacket — the one reading “I really don’t care, do u?” — has opened up a world of memes.

The $39 jacket, which Mrs. Trump donned before and after a visit to migrant children in Texas on Thursday, has become the perfect blank canvas to sound off online.

Detractors and supporters alike are doctoring Mrs. Trump’s jacket with words ranging from the compassionate to the downright raunchy. There’s “I really do care, do you?” and “I voted for Hillary” and “November is coming.”

Celebrities have gotten into the act, including Instagram-happy Busy Philipps in a DIY version with yellow stick-on letters reading, “I care, do you?”

Rep. Dina Titus, a Nevada Democrat, taped a hand-drawn “I care” sign to her own jacket.

Cartoonist who cited politics in firing finds new outlet

PITTSBURGH (AP) — A former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial cartoonist who says he was fired because of his anti-Donald Trump drawings has found a new home for his work in Pittsburgh.

A new alternative weekly, the Pittsburgh Current, said Thursday it had reached an agreement with Rob Rogers’ syndication group to begin running his cartoons.

Rogers had worked for the Post-Gazette for 25 years before he was fired in mid-June after the paper had rejected many of his cartoons or ideas for cartoons in recent months.

The newspaper’s leaders have said the dispute stemmed from a disagreement over the editing process. The paper’s newly appointed editorial director said Rogers wanted to be “sole arbiter” of his work.

Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,

AP-NORC Poll: Americans say no to presidential self-pardons


Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Even in an era of deep political division, Democrats and Republicans agree presidents should not pardon themselves. And if the nation’s chief executive ever does so, majorities of Americans in both parties believe Congress should impeach that president.

Those are the findings of a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which comes as federal authorities continue their months-long criminal investigation into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election and the actions of President Donald Trump’s campaign.

Already, prosecutors have charged four Trump campaign associates — including the one-time campaign chairman, Paul Manafort — with felonies as part of the probe, and special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question the Republican president directly.

Trump raised the possibility of a self-pardon on Twitter earlier in this month, writing: “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong?”

By a wide margin, Americans believe Trump is wrong: 85 percent think it would be unacceptable for presidents to pardon themselves if charged with a crime, and 76 percent think Congress should take steps to remove a president from office if they did so.

The survey did not ask about Trump by name, but several poll respondents in follow-up interviews — including some strong Trump supporters — said their feelings would not change when applied to the current president.

“Pardon himself? You might as well cash in your chips and leave office,” said Bruce Novak, a retiree from Davie, Florida, who otherwise praised Trump’s job performance and vowed to vote for him again in 2020. “It’s not at all acceptable. I don’t care who you are.”

Recent AP-NORC surveys have found strong splits in opinion by party on issues related to Trump and his policies. While eight in 10 Republicans approve of the job he’s doing as president, for example, only one out of every 10 Democrats says the same.

But there’s little such disagreement on the question of pardons. Three-quarters of Republicans say a president should not self-pardon if charged with a crime, while 56 percent say Congress should impeach a president who did so. More than 9 in 10 Democrats agree.

Brynn Alexander, a 34-year-old registered Republican who lives in Fort Mitchell, Alabama, railed against what she called bias among Mueller’s investigators. “They really hate this guy,” Alexander said, referring to Trump. But, she added, “I don’t think he should pardon himself. It looks bad.”

If he did so, Alexander is among the minority of Americans who don’t believe that should lead Congress to take immediate action. “I don’t think they should automatically remove him. He’s doing so much good for the country,” said Alexander, a stay-at-home mother of three whose husband is an active duty soldier in the Army.

“Maybe he did do something wrong, but because there’s so much bias, it’s hard to say,” she said.

One of the most sweeping powers granted to a president, pardons are outlined in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which says the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

Trump has issued several high profile pardons since taking office, including to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was awaiting sentencing for contempt of court, and a U.S. Navy sailor convicted of taking photos of classified portions of a submarine. In May, he issued a rare posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, clearing boxing’s first black heavyweight champion more than 100 years after what many believe was a racist conviction.

In April, Trump also pardoned I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, who Trump said had been “treated unfairly” during an investigation carried out by a special counsel.

Despite Trump’s declaration on social media that he could pardon himself, it’s not clear the Constitution grants him that authority and that question has never been tested in the courts. Trump’s lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has argued that a president “probably does” have the power to pardon himself — but he also insists Trump would never do so.

“Pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment,” Giuliani told NBC’s “Meet the Press” earlier this month.

On that point, James Baker agrees. The 76-year-old Republican from the northern Chicago suburbs has been pleasantly surprised by Trump’s job performance. But he says the Constitution doesn’t go so far as to allow a president to use the power of the pardon as a get out of jail free card.

“If it ever did get to that point and he’s convicted of crimes — it has to be pretty serious to get to that point — then that should stand,” said Baker, a self-described history buff. “I don’t think anybody should ever have the power to pardon himself.

“No one’s above the law,” Baker added. “Not even the president.”

AP Polling Editor Emily Swanson reported from Washington.

The AP-NORC poll of 1,109 adults was conducted June 13-18 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods, and later interviewed online or by phone.


AP-NORC Center:


Inside Sources

Kerry Kennedy Keeps RFK’s Memory Alive With ‘Ripples of Hope’

June 27, 2018 by Gregory Clay

Kerry Kennedy was three months shy of her ninth birthday when her father was shot on June 5, 1968, while on the presidential campaign trail. In remembering her father, she focused on a splintering United States. Her assessment was personal, beginning with the first word of her sentence.

“Daddy said his whole presidential campaign was about healing divisions because he saw our country was being cleaved apart again,” Kerry Kennedy told us the other night.

“Daddy” was Robert F. Kennedy. He was an idealistic, Democratic candidate whose bid for the White House was abruptly halted when Sirhan Sirhan — a Jordanian-Palestinian immigrant — assassinated him in Los Angeles 50 years ago this month.

Sirhan, in an exclusive interview with television host David Frost in 1989, said he felt betrayed by then-senator Kennedy because RFK supported Israel during the 1967 six-day Arab-Israeli war and said he killed Kennedy out of concern for the Palestinians.

Now, fast-forward to today. To reflect and honor her father, Kerry Kennedy wrote a book that’s part biography, part memoir, part manual for civic activism and part family portrait. The book is titled “Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope.”

She recently spent about 90 minutes discussing her literary work with Barbara A. Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, before approximately 350 eager listeners at the Newseum in Washington.

In a must-witness moment, Perry asked Kerry Kennedy what effect would RFK have on the world if he had survived to be elected president. What would have happened if he had defeated formidable Republican candidate Richard Nixon in November 1968?

Said Kerry Kennedy, “Tens of thousands of Vietnamese and Americans wouldn’t have lost their lives because he would have stopped the Vietnam War years earlier and that would have appealed to a lot of the divisions in our country that continued to fester and grow over the next four years. That’s for sure.

“We wouldn’t have had Richard Nixon, which would have meant that we wouldn’t have had Watergate, which so divided and harmed our country and harmed our institutions as well. And then we wouldn’t have had the southern strategy, which was the exploitation of racism for political gain. And so, instead you would have had a president who spent his time, his four years and then in all likelihood, the next eight years, trying to figure out how we bring our country together.”

All of which brings us to the Trump Factor.

Kerry continued, “I don’t think we would’ve had the destructive force of somebody like Donald Trump. I mean, that’s in a nutshell, but I also think we would have had an enormous focus on areas that still haunt us to this day.”

Kennedy, who turns 59 in September, is president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a non-profit organization based in New York that advocates global equality. Her organization uses strategic litigation methods against countries and corporations in an effort to secure human rights to those afflicted. In other words, they file lawsuits to effect change.

Kennedy, former wife of Andrew Cuomo, the current governor of New York, completed her undergraduate studies at Brown University before earning her law degree at Boston College.

In her book, Kerry writes, “The NBC commentator David Brinkley had called Kennedy ‘the only white politician who could talk to both races,’ and compared his assassination to Lincoln’s.”

That scenario was on full display April 4, 1968, that tumultuous night when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. RFK had arrived in Indianapolis for a campaign stop, one that ended with RFK standing on a flatbed truck, speaking in an angry, predominantly black ghetto area.

Kerry Kennedy told us, “Try and imagine a politician, a presidential candidate today, standing up in front of a mob about to riot and saying, ‘I understand your feelings.’ Just try to imagine that. And then he went on to say, ‘What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness but a sense of compassion towards those who suffer, who still suffer in our country, whether they’re white or they’re black.’ And that’s why Indianapolis was peaceful that night when 125 other cities across our country started to burn.”

Kerry’s book is unique. She weaves her own recollections of her father around insightful question-and-answer sessions with an eclectic mix of luminaries who recalled their own memories of RFK.

First up in the book is Mr. B, who serves on the board of RFK Human Rights. That’s Harry Belafonte, the first black actor to win a television Emmy Award and a human rights activist.

Legendary nonagenarian singer Tony Bennett is featured; so is Apple CEO Tim Cook, and President Barack Obama.

The chapter on Bennett is particularly poignant, mainly because he campaigned for Robert F. Kennedy in 1968, fought as a soldier in Europe during World War II, participated in Dr. Martin Luther King’s marches in the 1960s and won the RFK Ripples of Hope Award in 2014.

In one especially compelling passage in Kerry Kennedy’s book, Bennett says, “I’ve always been a pacifist, my whole life. What I’ve seen, in the war and in the South for civil rights, has only made me stronger in my beliefs about this. You know, they asked me to sing the national anthem on many occasions, but I prefer ‘America the Beautiful.’ It celebrates the natural beauty and promise of this great country.”

Kerry Kennedy during the Q-and-A part of her book asks Bennett: “So you’ve never sung “The Star-Spangled Banner”?

Tony Bennett: “I like to sing “America the Beautiful” or “God Bless America.”

KK: “You know, my father said if he became president, he’d make ‘This Land Is Your Land’ our national anthem.

TB: “That’s a good song, too!”

That’s the Kennedy ripples of hope — from father and daughter.

About the Author

Gregory Clay is a Washington columnist and former assistant sports editor for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

Taking on Income Inequality — Almost

June 24, 2018 by Josh Hoxie

The last time Massachusetts voters had the opportunity to strike down the commonwealth’s regressive and antiquated flat income tax was in 1994. That year, a ballot initiative to add a second tax bracket was voted down by a 2-1 margin.

This time was supposed to be different. Occupy Wall Street, the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, and two decades of hard data on our growing economic divide had all laid down a foundation for why income inequality needed to be addressed.

Voters were on board, with early polling showing significant support for a 2018 ballot initiative to pass a state constitutional amendment to tax millionaires. It passed the state legislature, a requirement in Massachusetts for constitutional amendments, with overwhelming support.

Who wasn’t on board? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The state’s highest court struck down the initiative. The recent 5-2 opinion by the court declared the amendment unconstitutional on a technicality, claiming a single initiative could not both raise and spend tax revenue.

The decision to include language to both raise revenue and direct how that revenue is spent was informed by the 1994 effort, when voters complained that they couldn’t trust politicians not to waste the money. In response, organizers picked the two most popular spending initiatives voters could get excited about — transportation infrastructure and education, both of which are sorely underfunded.

The so-called Fair Share amendment would have imposed a 4 percent surtax on income of more than $1 million. For households with income under $1 million, the tax wouldn’t affect them at all. The campaign had support from more than two-thirds of voters and was projected to raise $2 billion in annual revenue.

Massachusetts would have joined California, New York and Connecticut, each of which has a dedicated tax on super-high-income households.

The decision comes as taxes on the wealthy have been in steep decline at the national level. The Trump tax cuts passed in December represented a massive wealth grab by the wealthy, with nearly all of the benefits going explicitly to the very rich. Despite the flowery promises about widespread prosperity in the wake of the Trump tax cuts, workers have seen wages go down, and most of the public continues to struggle financially.

Congressional Republicans are now doubling down on this effort with Trump tax cuts 2.0, an effort to further cut taxes for the very rich.

The Massachusetts campaign could have been a bulwark for tax fairness in an age of extreme income inequality. Instead, because of an archaic interpretation of rules governing state taxes, organizers in the state will have to wait several years to try again.

Efforts to address inequality by capping executive pay or raising taxes on the very wealthy are incredibly popular among the public. For decades, an annual Gallup poll has asked whether the richest households or more profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes. Every year the results come back the same: with more than 60 percent giving a resounding “no.”

Yet the idea is a lot less popular among elected officials. It’s a nice campaign soundbite, but only rarely makes it into law.

Meanwhile, the call for action from the streets is growing ever louder. The new Poor People’s Campaign has tried to push for both “bringing down the top” as well as “raising up the bottom” to address rising inequality.

This effort, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign for economic justice 50 years ago, acknowledges that a fair economy requires checks on the excesses of the rich as much as it needs checks on the exploitation of the poor. Like King, these organizers are willing to put their bodies on the line for what they believe: Acts of civil disobedience in support of the Poor People’s Campaign have broken out from coast to coast.

The Raise Up MA coalition that backed the Massachusetts amendment acknowledges this too. It is not licking its wounds in the face of this setback.

Instead, it is gearing up to pass guaranteed paid family medical leave and a $15 minimum wage. Both initiatives have significant public support and could pass through the ballot in November. No rest for the weary.

Courageous and dedicated organizers spent countless hours pushing the Fair Share campaign forward. Despite this setback, their efforts are far from fruitless. The movement for economic justice may have lost in court, but it’s winning in the streets.

About the Author

Josh Hoxie directs the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the Institute for Policy Studies. He’s a co-author of the new report “The Ever-Growing Gap: Failing to Address the Status Quo Will Drive the Racial Wealth Divide for Centuries to Come.”

First lady Melania Trump walks to her vehicle as she arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, June 21, 2018, after visiting the Upbring New Hope Children Center run by the Lutheran Social Services of the South in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) lady Melania Trump walks to her vehicle as she arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Thursday, June 21, 2018, after visiting the Upbring New Hope Children Center run by the Lutheran Social Services of the South in McAllen, Texas. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Staff & Wire Reports