Wednesday Hump Day Cartoons: Nasty Scheme 

 

So, things are happening.

Westminster attack: woman killed and others left with ‘catastrophic’ injuries in ‘terrorist incident’ – live | Politics | The Guardian

U.K. Parliament Attacker Is Shot; Panic on Westminster Bridge – The New York Times

Then there is this…

Key witness in Preet Bharara’s Russian crime probe was just thrown from fourth floor of building – Palmer Report

Former Trump Campaign Head Manafort Was Paid Millions By A Putin Ally, AP Says : The Two-Way : NPR

 

Now for the cartoons.

 

 

Trump Rabbit Hole: 03/22/2017 Cartoon by Adam Zyglis

Cartoon by Adam Zyglis - Trump Rabbit Hole

SECURITY BLANKETS: 03/22/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - SECURITY BLANKETS

Confirmation Hearing: 03/21/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - Confirmation Hearing

TWITTER-RANG: 03/20/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - TWITTER-RANG

ST PAT’S DAY: 03/17/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - ST PAT'S DAY

BUDGET CUTS: 03/16/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - BUDGET CUTS

tRUMPCARE – CBO REPORT: 03/14/2017 Cartoon by Deb Milbrath

Cartoon by Deb Milbrath - tRUMPCARE -  CBO REPORT

03/22/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

03/21/2017 Cartoon by Nick Anderson

Cartoon by Nick Anderson -

03/10/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

03/09/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

03/21/2017 Cartoon by David Horsey

Cartoon by David Horsey -

This is an open thread.


Tuesday Reads

Good Afternoon!!

As usual these days, I don’t know where to begin. We are living through something so strange and unprecedented that I just find myself shaking my head at each new revelation. Once again, I’m going to illustrate this post with baby animal pics, just because.

One crazy-making thing for me is the fact that the Senate is currently grilling a candidate for the Supreme Court who has been nominated by a man who may have committed treason. Neil Gorsuch should not be approved until the investigation of Trump’s involvement with Russia’s interference in the election is complete. I’m actually having difficulty watching the Gorsuch hearing. The word I think of when I look at and listen to him is “oily.” I hope some of you are following the questioning and can share your impressions.

I did watch the entire “Comey hearing” yesterday, and I’m still processing the latest revelations. I expect the press will be on this now and news outlets will compete to give us new information on a daily basis. We may have to function during political chaos for months and years to come. I can only hope the Republicans begin to develop spines as the 2018 election gets closer.

While the House Intelligence Committee testimony by FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Mike Rogers was still going on, White House spokesman Sean Spicer bizarrely continued to defend Trump’s accusation that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower. He also claimed that Michael Flynn was only “volunteer” for the Trump campaign and that Paul Manafort had only a “limited role.”

Vanity Fair on the press briefing yesterday:

During the campaign, Flynn was a top adviser and, at one point, was vetted to become Trump’s running mate. He later accepted a job as national security adviser, one of the most important roles in the West Wing, before resigning 24 days into the new administration, after it was revealed that he had not been entirely forthcoming about his conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“General Flynn was a volunteer of the campaign,” Spicer said on Monday, brushing off concerns that Flynn had been a high-level Trump campaign adviser with any degree of influence while maintaining ties to Russia.

On Manafort, CNN reports:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer incorrectly diminished the role of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, remarks made at the same time as a House Intelligence Committee hearing investigated whether campaign aides colluded with Russia during last year’s presidential race.Spicer, pressed on a number of Trump associates’ connections to Russian operatives, claimed Manafort played a “limited role (in the campaign) for a very limited amount of time.”

Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign in March 2016 to lead the delegate operation on the floor of the Republican National Committee in Cleveland.

Manafort was promoted in May to campaign chairman and chief strategist. And when campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was fired in June, Manafort — who butted heads with Lewandowski — was widely seen as the campaign’s top official.

Manafort is largely credited with securing Trump the Republican nomination, through a mix of deep ties in the Republican establishment and tireless organizing to win the Republican delegate fight which almost derailed Trump one year ago.

I wonder why the White House is so desperate to disown Manafort, who is a close friend of Trump buddy Roger Stone and has lived in Trump Tower since for more than a decade? The Washington Post may have provided a partial answer this morning: New documents show Trump aide laundered payments from party with Moscow ties, lawmaker alleges.

A Ukrainian lawmaker released new financial documents Tuesday allegedly showing that a former campaign chairman for President Trump laundered payments from the party of a disgraced ex-leader of Ukraine using offshore accounts in Belize and Kyrgyzstan.

The new documents, if legitimate, stem from business ties between the Trump aide, Paul Manafort, and the party of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who enjoyed Moscow’s backing while he was in power. He has been in hiding in Russia since being overthrown by pro-Western protesters in 2014, and is wanted in Ukraine on corruption charges.

The latest documents were released just hours after the House Intelligence Committee questioned FBI Director James B. Comey about possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow. The hearing that also touched on Manafort’s work for Yanukovych’s party in Ukraine.

Comey declined to say whether the FBI is coordinating with Ukraine on an investigation of the alleged payments to Manafort.

More details at the link.

Another Russia fan who is still in the Trump administration is good old Rex Tillerson. Have you hear about the recent changes to his travel schedule? This seems odd after what we heard at the Intel Committee hearing yesterday.

NBC News: Rex Tillerson to Skip Key NATO Summit, Plans to Travel to Russia.

America’s smaller European allies have expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s mixed signals on whether he would protect them against Russia.

The uncertainty threatened to deepen late Monday when U.S. officials said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson planned to skip what would have been his first official meeting with NATO in April.

However, Tillerson will travel later in the month to a series of unspecified meetings in Russia, a State Department spokesman confirmed to NBC News.

Whoa! Skipping the NATO meeting and heading to Moscow? I’m speechless.

Here’s an interesting opinion piece by Walter Shapiro at Roll Call: James Comey and the Art of the Shiv.

Before Comey returned to his offstage role, he dropped enough bombshells to solidify his reputation as the most significant FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover. Joined by his crusty sidekick, Adm. Michael Rogers, who heads the National Security Agency, Comey gave an artful lesson in how to stick a shiv into a sitting president without ever raising his voice or making a specific accusation.

Early in the hearing, Comey shredded Trump’s cockamamie Twitter claim that Barack Obama had wiretapped him before the election. As Comey solemnly stated, “I have no information that supports those tweets and we have looked carefully inside the FBI.”

Comey had arrived at the hearing with his own smoking gun that he brandished at the beginning of his opening statement — official confirmation that the FBI is investigating “any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russian efforts.”

Comey’s offensive against the White House even extended to refuting a presidential tweet about the ongoing hearing. Connecticut Democratic Rep. Jim Himes asked Comey to respond to a Trump tweet claiming, “The NSA and FBI tell Congress that Russia did not influence the electoral process.” Comey dismissed Trump’s fanciful version of the truth by saying, “It wasn’t certainly our intention to say that today.”

Shapiro thinks Comey’s “role in upending” Hillary Clinton gives him credibility against Trump. I’m not so sure. Still, the piece is worth a read.

This morning Trump went to Capitol Hill in person and tried to convince hostile House Republicans to vote for his disastrous health care bill. If this is how he negotiates deals, it’s surprised he didn’t have more than 6 bankruptcies.

The Washington Post: Trump to GOP critics of health care bill: ‘I’m gonna come after you.’

Assuring Republicans they would gain seats if they passed the bill, the president told Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, to stand up and take some advice.

“I’m gonna come after you, but I know I won’t have to, because I know you’ll vote ‘yes,’” said the president, according to several Republican lawmakers who attended the meeting. “Honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”

But after the meeting, Meadows told reporters that the president had not made the sale, that the call-out was good-natured, and that conservative hold-outs would continue pressing for a tougher bill.

“I’m still a ‘no,’” he said. “I’ve had no indication that any of my Freedom Caucus colleagues have switched their votes.”

House Republicans made some changes to the bill yesterday, but according to Ezra Klein: The new Republican health care bill doesn’t fix the old bill’s problems.

There are three problems you could have imagined the manager’s amendment to the American Health Care Act trying to fix:

  1. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the AHCA will lead 24 million more Americans to go uninsured, push millions more into the kind of super-high-deductible care Republicans criticized in the Affordable Care Act, and all that will happen while the richest Americans get hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. Voters — including the downscale rural whites who propelled Donald Trump into the presidency — aren’t going to like any of that.
  2. Virtually every health policy analyst from every side of the aisle thinks the AHCA is poorly constructed and will lead to consequences even its drafters didn’t intend. Avik Roy argues there are huge implicit tax increases for the poor who get jobs that lift them out of Medicaid’s ranks. Bob Laszewski thinks the plan will drive healthy people out of the insurance markets, creating even worse premium increases than we’re seeing under Obamacare. Implementing this bill, as drafted, would be a disaster.
  3. As written, the AHCA is unlikely to pass the House, and so GOP leadership needs to give House conservatives more reasons to vote for the bill, even if those reasons leave the legislation less likely to succeed in the Senate. For this bill to fail in the House would embarrass Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump.

Of the three problems in the AHCA, the third is by far the least serious — but it’s the only one the manager’s amendment even attempts to solve. These aren’t changes that address the core problems the GOP health care bill will create for voters, insurers, or states; instead, it’s legislation that tries to solve some of the problems the bill creates for conservative legislators. It might yet fall short on even that count.

This is a trap for Republicans. Both the process and the substance of the American Health Care Act have revealed a political party that has lost sight of the fact that the true test of legislation isn’t whether it passes, but whether it works.

One more from Mother Jones on the Trump kleptocracy:

The Trump Organization Says It’s Vetting Deals for Conflicts—But Refuses to Say How.

The week after Donald Trump’s inauguration, as questions swirled about the ethics ramifications of his refusal to divest from his business holdings, the Trump Organization announced that it had created a system for vetting new deals that could benefit the president. The company said it had tapped George Sorial, a Trump Organization executive, to be chief compliance counsel and Bobby Burchfield, a Washington-based corporate lawyer, to serve as an outside ethics adviser who would scrutinize new Trump company transactions for potential conflicts of interest. Trump’s private lawyer, Sheri Dillon, had pledged in early January that Trump would “build in protections” to assure Americans that his actions as president “are for their benefit and not to support his financial interests.” But two months into Trump’s presidency, there are serious questions about the rigor and transparency of the Trump Organization’s vetting process.

The first deal completed after Trump’s swearing-in suggested the vetting procedures are weak. This transaction, as Mother Jones reported, was the sale of a $15.8 million condo to a Chinese American businesswoman who peddles access to Chinese elites and who has ties to a front group established by China’s military intelligence apparatus. Angela Chen’s connections to Chinese officials and military intelligence evidently weren’t a cause for concern to the Trump Organization. The condo sale went through on February 21, with Chen apparently paying the $15.8 million in cash—roughly $2 million more than a unit one floor below. (Chen had lived in the same Trump-owned Park Avenue building in a smaller apartment for years. Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump lived in the same building before their move to Washington.) Contacted by Mother Jones earlier this month, Burchfield, the Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser, declined to comment on the sale or how it was vetted.

Robert Weissman, president of the good-government group Public Citizen, says the Chen deal raises questions about whether any real vetting happened. “Here, where we actually need extreme vetting, it appears to be absent,” he says. “It’s absolutely unclear if Burchfield or anybody else is doing anything pursuant to what they alleged they would do. And if they are, we don’t know what it is. But we should not presume it’s happening.”

On Thursday, Burchfield, a veteran corporate litigator who specializes in political law and largely represents Republican clients, declined to comment regarding the vetting process for new Trump deals. He would not talk about any transactions approved or denied since he began advising the Trump Organization. At Trump’s January 11 press conference, Dillon promised that the outside ethics adviser would provide “written approval” of any new deal, ostensibly explaining why a transaction does not pose a conflict for the president. Burchfield has not publicly disclosed details about the written approval process.

Read more details at Mother Jones.

What stories are you following today?


Monday Reads: The sitting President’s campaign is under FBI Investigation for Colluding with an Enemy

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

The first thing I need to say is this is not a headline out of some conspiracy rag or The Onion.  You can find it on the NYT at this link.

■ The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, publicly confirmed an investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election and whether associates of the president were in contact with Moscow.

■ Mr. Comey also said the F.B.I. had “no information” to support President Trump’s allegation that Barack Obama wiretapped him.

■ The hearing’s featured witnesses: Mr. Comey and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency.

You may find it on Politico here.

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday the FBI is investigating Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

He also shot down President Donald Trump’s explosive claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in the run-up to the presidential election.

Comey told the House Intelligence Committee at a hearing that the bureau normally does not comment on the existence of counterintelligence investigations, but that he was authorized by the Justice Department to do so in this case because of the extraordinary public interest.

“This will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed,” Comey told the intelligence panel, explaining that the investigation began in late July. He said he could not give a timeline or comment further on the matter, but pledged to “follow the facts wherever they lead.”

Comey also said he had “no information” to support Trump’s claim, made on Twitter, about Trump Tower being wiretapped by his predecessor.

“I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. He added that the Justice Department had also looked for evidence to support the president’s allegation and could not find any.

Or, if you prefer, here’s the link at WAPO.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Comey said no president could order such surveillance. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

 You can read a lot of the responses by both Republicans and Democrats at the WAPO link.  Gowdy is as bad as you would expect.  Schiff is the hero of the day.

It’s hard to put all of this into perspective but I’d have to say this is the single most important political scandal I’ve lived through since Watergate, Arms for Hostages, and all the crazy shit we did in South America during the Reagan/Bush years.  It’s up there with something that’s so hard to believe that I have to pinch myself daily.

There will be impeachment proceedings. We may even see a frog marchs.  Let’s just hope no one ever gets pardoned for any of this.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: The Duck Walk is Over, Long Live the “Curmudgeonly Columnist”


I have to admit, last night when I saw a few post up on social media with images of Chuck Barry… I thought perhaps it was an anniversary of his death. (Yeah, I thought he was already dead. Isn’t that terrible?) After losing so many icons last year, this one true man who brought on the sound we all know as rock and roll, passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

Chuck Berry, wild man of rock who helped define its rebellious spirit, dies at 90 – The Washington Post

Chuck Berry, the perpetual wild man of rock music who helped define its rebellious spirit in the 1950s and was the sly poet laureate of songs about girls, cars, school and even the “any old way you choose it” vitality of the music itself, died March 18 at at his home in St. Charles County, Mo. He was 90.

St. Charles County police announced the death in a Facebook post on its Website, saying officers responded to a medical emergency at Mr. Berry’s home and administered lifesaving techniques but could not revive him. No further information was available.

“While no individual can be said to have invented rock and roll, Chuck Berry comes the closest of any single figure to being the one who put all the essential pieces together,” reads Mr. Berry’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.

A seminal figure in early rock music, he was all the rarer still for writing, singing and playing his own music. His songs and the boisterous performance standards he set directly influenced the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and later Bruce Springsteen and Bob Seger.

Mr. Berry so embodied the American rock tradition that his recording of “Johnny B. Goode” was included on a disc launched into space on the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1977.

Chuck Berry, Rock ’n’ Roll Pioneer, Dies at 90 – The New York Times

Chuck Berry, who with his indelible guitar licks, brash self-confidence and memorable songs about cars, girls and wild dance parties did as much as anyone to define rock ’n’ roll’s potential and attitude in its early years, died on Saturday. He was 90.

This LA Times goes back to a review from a set Chuck Berry did when he was 75 years old…

How Chuck Berry managed to look and sound so good even in his later years – LA Times

Berry, on the other hand, was so full of vitality you wanted to X-ray that old Gibson guitar of his to find the flask he must have filled at the fountain of youth.

The spirit, spontaneity and energy rock’s first poet put into his hourlong set was all the more remarkable in light of decades of half-hearted performances in which he typically battled rather than meshed with unrehearsed musicians hired for him in each town.

[…]

“It must still be fun, because I don’t have to hit a lick anymore,” Berry acknowledged during an interview Thursday in his dressing room at “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” before a joint appearance that night with Richard. The implication was that fans will cheer this first-round Rock and Roll Hall of Famer no matter what he does, or doesn’t do, on stage at this point in his career.

“What keeps me going is the fact that I appreciate that response,” Berry added. “Plus I’m still learning, and that’s a big part of my life–to learn. These guitar strokes I’m learning, still learning–yes, it’s fun. Anybody would understand it’s fun.”

A look at some tributes to Berry:

The Music Community Mourns ‘Rock’s Greatest’ Chuck Berry

The news sadly broke on Saturday night that Chuck Berry — who, let’s be real, invented the idea of rock and roll — died at the age of 90 in St. Charles County, Missouri. His death is an undeniable loss to the music community as a whole, and musicians (of all genres) are letting their grief be known by posting remembrances and tributes all over social media. Crank up the “Johnny B Goode” out of respect and read all of them below.

Go to the link to read them.

The Rolling Stones Pay Tribute To Chuck Berry With Touching Notes On Social Media | The Huffington Post

Following news of Chuck Berry’s death on Saturday, plenty of fellow musicians shared touching tributes to the rock ‘n’ roll legend on social media. Among them being The Rolling Stones, who considered Berry a huge influence on their own music.

“The Rolling Stones are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Chuck Berry,” the band wrote in a statement on Facebook. “He was a true pioneer of rock ‘n’ roll and a massive influence on us. Chuck was not only a brilliant guitarist, singer and performer, but most importantly, he was a master craftsman as a songwriter. His songs will live forever.”

Key dates in the life of rock visionary Chuck Berry | Tampa Bay Times

I wanted to share more articles with you about Chuck Berry, but so many websites are becoming paid subscription only. It is becoming difficult to find items to post on these threads. I’d like to be able to send you to links that you will actually be able to open up and read.

In fact, just a few links on the political front:

White House Admits Trump ‘Insurance For Everybody’ Guarantee Isn’t Going To Happen | The Huffington Post

Tom Cotton: ‘Able-bodied’ Poor People Shouldn’t Qualify For ‘Welfare’ Like Medicaid | Crooks and Liars

Mulvaney: ‘The only way to get truly universal care is to throw people in jail if they don’t have it’ | TheHill

Prosecutor will not charge prison guards who ‘boiled inmate to death’ | theGrio

‘This isn’t freedom’: Chris Wallace grills Paul Ryan for plan to crush seniors with health care costs

 

We lost another icon, this one was a newspaper man…

Jimmy Breslin, Legendary New York City Newspaper Columnist, Dies at 88 – The New York Times

Jimmy Breslin, the New York City newspaper columnist and best-selling author who leveled the powerful and elevated the powerless for more than 50 years with brick-hard words and a jagged-glass wit, died on Sunday at his home in Manhattan. He was 88, and until very recently, was still pushing somebody’s buttons with two-finger jabs at his keyboard.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Ronnie Eldridge, a prominent Democratic politician in Manhattan. Mr. Breslin had been recovering from pneumonia.

With prose that was savagely funny, deceptively simple and poorly imitated, Mr. Breslin created his own distinct rhythm in the hurly-burly music of newspapers. Here, for example, is how he described Clifton Pollard, the man who dug President John F. Kennedy’s grave, in a celebrated column from 1963 that sent legions of journalists to find their “gravedigger”:

“Pollard is forty-two. He is a slim man with a mustache who was born in Pittsburgh and served as a private in the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma in World War II. He is an equipment operator, grade 10, which means he gets $3.01 an hour. One of the last to serve John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who was the thirty-fifth President of this country, was a working man who earns $3.01 an hour and said it was an honor to dig the grave.”

Here is how, in one of the columns that won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, he focused on a single man, David Camacho, to humanize the AIDS epidemic, which was widely misunderstood at the time:

“He had two good weeks in July and then the fever returned and he was back in the hospital for half of last August. He got out again and returned to Eighth Street. The date this time doesn’t count. By now, he measured nothing around him. Week, month, day, night, summer heat, fall chill, the color of the sky, the sound of the street, clothes, music, lights, wealth dwindled in meaning.”

And here is how he described what motivated Breslin the writer: “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”

Poetic and profane, softhearted and unforgiving, Mr. Breslin inspired every emotion but indifference; letters from outraged readers gladdened his heart. He often went after his own, from Irish-Americans with “shopping-center faces” who had forgotten their hardscrabble roots to the Roman Catholic Church, whose sex scandals prompted him to write an angry book called “The Church That Forgot Christ,” published in 2004. It ends with a cheeky vow to start a new church that would demand more low-income housing and better posture.

Jimmy Breslin — the cigar-chomping, hard-nosed newspaperman who won the Pulitzer Prize for his Daily News’ columns championing ordinary New Yorkers — died Sunday morning. He was 88.

Not Released (NR)

The cause of death was complications from pneumonia, his personal physician said.

“Jimmy Breslin was a furious, funny, outrageous and caring voice of the people who made newspaper writing into literature,” Daily News Editor-in-Chief Arthur Browne said.

Breslin’s colleagues mourned the loss of a street-smart truth teller who scoured the streets of New York, pen and paper in hand, looking for stories no one else could capture.

Los Angeles Times columnist Jack Smith once described Breslin’s writing style as being “like an Irish wind that has blown through Queens and Harlem and Mutchie’s bar. It is a pound of Hemingway and a pound of Joyce and 240 pounds of Breslin.”

Breslin was part of the wave of practitioners of what came to be known as New Journalism: a group of gifted writers that included Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion and others who reported on the social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s and ’70s in newspaper and magazine journalism that read like good fiction.

“I never thought about how to do a column,” Breslin told Marc Weingarten, author of “The Gang That Wouldn’t Write Straight,” a 2006 book about the New Journalism revolution. “It just came naturally, I guess. It had a point of view and it had to spring right out of the news.”

There is, Breslin added, “an immediacy that makes the column fresh. Like you were covering the eighth race at Belmont. But no one was doing it when I started. That’s why everyone thought it was new.”

Jimmy Breslin, legendary New York City columnist, dies at 88 – LA Times Photo Gallery

For an “unlettered bum,” as Mr. Breslin called himself, he left an estimable legacy of published work, including 16 books, seven of them novels, plus two anthologies of his columns.

What set him apart as a writer was the inimitable style of his journalism across the last great decades of ink-on-paper news, in the 1960s for the old New York Herald Tribune and later for the Daily News and the city pages of Long Island-based Newsday, where his final regular column appeared in 2004.

In that pre-Web era, before desk-bound bloggers saturated the opinion market, Mr. Breslin was a familiar archetype — the quintessential sidewalk-pounding, big-city columnist, loved and loathed all over town, a champion of the put-upon and a thorn to the mighty and the swell.

He and other marquee metropolitan columnists back then, notably Mike Royko, Mr. Breslin’s counterpart in Chicago, were household names in their cities, their faces splashed in ads on the sides of buses and newspaper delivery trucks.

“Built like a Tammany ward heeler of a century ago, all belly and lopsided grin,” as People magazine put it in 1982, Mr. Breslin was a hyperliterate everyman, a barstool bard full of bluster and mirth. He covered nearly every big crisis, outrage and scandal afflicting New York in his newspaper years, from the 1964 Harlem race riot to the tragedy of 9/11, his columns at turns poignant, biting, comical and brash.

On November 26, 1963, The New York Herald Tribune published “It’s an Honor,” one of the most memorable newspaper columns of all time.

Jimmy Breslin tells the story of President John Kennedy’s funeral from the perspective of Clifton Pollard, a gravedigger at Arlington National Cemetery.

This is how Breslin’s story begins:

Please go to those various links and read the stories.

Sorry about the lateness of this post…this is an open thread.


Extremely Lazy Saturday Reads: International Incidents Galore

Good Afternoon!!

Once again, I’ve hit an mental and emotion wall after another depressing, exhausting week of tRump assaults on poor and elderly people, on science and the arts, and on our closest international allies.

Yesterday tRump managed to make an abject fool of himself in public by calling Fox News conspiracy theorist Andrew Napolitano a “very talented legal mind,” in trying to shift the blame for his shameful claim that former President Barack Obama “tapped my wires” in Trump Tower during the transition period.

Napolitano had been quoted by Sean Spicer on Wednesday as claiming that British intelligence had helped Obama wiretap Trump Tower. Napolitano is also a 9/11 truther who has appeared on Alex Jones’ radio show, but tRump thinks he’s brilliant.

The attack on British intelligence was the first international incident of the day. The second was when tRump refused to shake hands with Angela Merkel. tRump also publicly chastised Merkel and other European leaders during their press conference for not spending enough on their own defense.

All of this helped to demonstrate that Angela Merkel is the new leader of the free world and the U.S. “president” is a clear and present danger to America and the rest of the world.

How this brilliant woman could stand to be in the same room, much less try to communicate with this ignorant, repulsive misogynist, I’ll never understand, but she managed to remain dignified while the President of the United State {shudder} humiliated us before the world.

Shortly after the press conference ended, Fox News’ Shep Smith stated on air that “the network does not have any evidence that President Donald Trump was ever placed under surveillance, despite the his repeated insistence that former President Barack Obama’s intelligence agencies wiretapped his phones,” according to Politico.

BTW, Ivanka was seated next to Merkel in the Oval Office meeting!

Last night Chris Matthew said it reminded him of something the Saudi royal family would do–including family members in high level meetings. Not bad, Chris!

tRump has gone all in for the disastrous GOP health care bill, which looks to be on it’s last legs–especially after Speaker Paul Ryan made his most revealing remarks yet about his personal motivations in writing and pushing Trump/Ryancare.

Slate: Paul Ryan: I’ve Been Dreaming About Kicking Poors Off Medicaid Since I Was a Drunk Frat Boy.

At the National Review Institute’s Ideas Summit on Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan had an interesting exchange with National Review editor Rich Lowry about the AHCA’s changes to Medicaid:

Lowry: You have been very clear for years—and we’ve seen compelling PowerPoint presentations—about how the entitlements and entitlements growing out of control is driving the country into a ditch on the debt. And we have a president of the United States who basically seems pledged not to touch entitlements. Where does that leave us?

Ryan: So, the health care entitlements are the big, big, big drivers of our debt. There are three. Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare. Two out of three are going through Congress right now. So, Medicaid—sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg.

Lowry: I was thinking about something else, he was thinking about reforming Medicaid.

Ryan: I was, I was! I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. We are on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.

As I wrote the other day, Ryan is either a blithering idiot or a terrible politician. Apparently no one ever explained to him that you’re supposed to at least pretend to be at least a tiny bit compassionate, not blurt out heartless statements that clearly demonstrate your pure enjoyment in causing the poor, elderly, and disabled to sicken and die.

Do you suppose tRump even knows what this bill will do to his own biggest supporters? I doubt it. Ezra Klein thinks he may not be aware.

“I want everyone to know I’m 100 percent behind [the American Health Care Act],” President Trump said today. “The press has not been speaking properly about how great this is going to be. I watch, I say, ‘That’s not the bill we’re passing.’

But does Trump really know what’s in the bill he’s passing, or trying to pass?

With the help of Vox’s Jacob Gardenswartz, I collected and read absolutely everything Donald Trump has said publicly about the AHCA. The transcripts cover speeches, rallies, meetings with congressional leaders, interviews with friendly news outlets, and, of course, tweets.

I learned a few things from the exercise. First, Trump has a very limited set of talking points on health care, and he repeats the same words and sentences constantly — his comfort zone on both the issue and the legislation is very narrow.

Second, Trump seems confused about what the GOP bill does. It is possible, of course, that he knows more than he is saying, and has decided to simply say things that aren’t true. But it’s also possible he’s being spun by more ideologically motivated advisers (that’s certainly the narrative pro-Trump outlets like Breitbart are pushing).

Third, Trump has bought into a caricature of Obamacare’s condition that heavily informs his thinking on both the politics and the policy of the AHCA. This could prove more consequential than people realize.

The AHCA does literally none of the things Trump says it does.

On March 8, Trump laid out his case for the American Health Care Act. Here’s what he said:

It follows the guidelines I laid out in my congressional address: a plan that will lower costs, expand choices, increase competition, and ensure health care access for all Americans. This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor. This will be a plan where you can choose your plan.

These talking points are familiar enough that it’s easy to let them fade into the background. But it’s worth taking them seriously. This is Trump’s case for the bill he’s backing. Does he know that literally every single one of these points is wrong?

I’m sure tRump would never bother to read the bill, and there’s a good chance Paul Ryan has sold him a bill of goods, but I also doubt that tRump cares that his policies will literally kill people. The only thing he cares about his his own personal gratification.

Here’s a new horror from the tRump crowd via The Washington Post: Trump administration rolls back protections for people in default on student loans.

Days after a report on federal student loans revealed a double-digit rise in defaults, President Trump’s administration revoked federal guidance Thursday that barred student debt collectors from charging high fees on past-due loans.

The Education Department is ordering guarantee agencies that collect on defaulted debt to disregard a memo former President Barack Obama’s administration issued on the old bank-based federal lending program, known as the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program. That memo forbid the agencies from charging fees for up to 16 percent of the principal and accrued interest owed on the loans, if the borrower entered the government’s loan rehabilitation program within 60 days of default….

The two-page “Dear colleague” letter from the Trump administration walks back the department’s previous stance on the grounds that there should have been public input on the issue.

“The department will not require compliance with the interpretations set forth” in the previous memo “without providing prior notice and an opportunity for public comment on the issues,” the letter said.

The action does not affect any borrowers whose loans are held by the Education Department, according to the department. It could, however, impact nearly 7 million people with $162 billion in FFEL loans held by guarantee agencies.

Who cares if millions of people go bankrupt because of this tRump decision? Not tRump and his billionaire buddies.

Fortunately, many Americans do care about other people. The Washington Post: Meals on Wheels sees donation surge after Trump proposes funding cuts.

Senior citizens in one suburb could see Meals on Wheels deliveries cut in half if President Trump’s budget cuts become reality, a spokeswoman for the network told CNN, as it anticipated “deep cuts” to a nonprofit that serves 2.4 million Americans.

Donations surged to 50 times their daily rate Thursday, the spokeswoman said, after the White House proposed eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program.

While the block grants fund only a small portion of Meals on Wheels’ operations nationwide, spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette told CNN that some of the group’s 5,000 local branches rely on the money to bring food to people.

A Meals on Wheels branch outside Detroit, she said, would lose one-third of its budget without the grants. The branch in San Jose, Calif., would lose $100,000.

And the organization has speculated that Trump’s vague budget outline could also slash the Older Americans Act, which it says funds more than one-third of its operations across the United States.

A North Korean soldier had more access to Rex Tillerson than the U.S. media.

Another big story yesterday was the announcement by tRump’s secretary of state that he might (not completely clear) be considering the possibility of first strike on North Korea. Since SOS Rex Tillerson is basically refusing to answer questions from the media, we can’t be sure; but what he said sounded scary. The LA Times:

“Certainly we do not want things to get to a military conflict,” Tillerson told reporters in Seoul. But he added that “if North Korea takes actions that threaten the South Korean forces or our own forces, then that will be met with an appropriate response. If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that

There’s nothing new about the idea that the U.S. would defend South Korea against an attack from the North. But Tillerson seemed to be raising the possibility of a preemptive strike. If that was his meaning, the threat was premature, because the U.S. has other ways to deter North Korea. But the ambiguity of his words was itself a problem. Its vagueness recalled former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s warning earlier this year that he was putting Iran “on notice.”

Tillerson finally agreed to an interview with the Independent Journal Review, a right wing website. Business Insider provides a summary.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in his first sit-down interview since assuming his role as the nation’s top diplomat, addressed a number of pressing issues regarding the US’ role in the global order, the Korean peninsula, the precarious situation with North Korea, the US-China alliance, and his relationship with the press.

Tillerson said the US’ main objective with regard to the east is a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
He also believes that based on recent actions taken by North Korea, the nation is “an imminent threat” that China needs to work with the US to combat.

The secretary of state articulated a the need for a “higher level of dialogue” between Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping.

Tillerson said that his relationship with the press would be “trip dependent” and that he is not a “big media press access person.”

Regarding the revelation that he allegedly used an email alias to communicate with Exxon officials about the risks of climate change, Tillerson said he could not comment on it and that questions should be directed at Exxon Mobil.

That’s all I have for you today. Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great weekend.


Friday Reads: “The Leader of the Free World Meets Donald Trump”

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

This is what happens when all the cracked eggs in the cartoon get to vote in gerrymandered elections that were the subject of Russian interference and laws specifically designed to suppress minority votes.

Yes. Please read that again because it’s a headline from Politico.   I think we can all agree that the current executive branch is a force for evil and chaos in the world so it’s taken less than 2 months for us to lose whatever standing we ever had left after the entire Iraq invasion debacle.   Angela Merkel is the leader of the Free World and Kremlin Caligula refused to shake hands with her.

The subhead line to this? “Angela Merkel, whether she wants the job or not, is the West’s last, best hope.”  Yes. She is because every day the news on the Russian entanglements become more and more evident.  We’ve basically had a bloodless coup.

The German chancellor is the only leader in Europe who even has a plausible claim to moral leadership. As a victim of Soviet communism, Merkel was always going to be listened to carefully on the question of morality. And given her longevity she was always going to be respected. But it was her unexpected decision to accept some 1 million refugees that established her moral credentials, especially since no other political leader has taken such a political risk.

The cruel irony of Trump’s election is that for many decades it was the United States that was seen as a moral leader. During the Cold War, Soviet dissidents looked to the United States. And after communism fell, it was the United States that led international actions to protect victims of repression or hardship. Whether it was the Kurds in northern Iraq, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, or the spending on medicine to treat millions suffering from HIV in Africa, the United States was the country expected to act.

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Yes, every day we find out more about that Russian interference. Rachel’s been on top of it probably more than any other mainstream TV media outlet.  WAPO has not let it go either. Writer and friend Tim Shorrock explains how privatization has played a role in helping Wikileaks hack our systems.  This is something of particular interest because if Trump and friends have their way, their billionaire friends and business interests will be the total overlords of a pay to play privatization scheme.  The Cheney buddies were the beneficiaries are the clarion call of handing over public trusts, money and interests to old employers.

When WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programsthis month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”

Intelligence insiders were dismayed. Agencies “take a chance with contractors” because “they may not have the same loyalty” as officers employed by the government, former CIA director Leon Panetta lamented to NBC.

But this is a liability built into our system that intelligence officials have long known about and done nothing to correct. As I first reported in 2007, some 70 cents of every intelligence dollar is allocated to the private sector. And the relentless pace of mergers and acquisitions in the spies-for-hire business has left five corporations in control of about 80 percent of the 45,000 contractors employed in U.S. intelligence. The threat from unreliable employees in this multibillion-dollar industry is only getting worse.

Tim is a superb investigator and researcher.  He’s been on this story for some time. Please go read it.

Trump has surrounded himself with “blow it up Billionaires”. His cabinet is filled with them.  A large number of them are either trust fund babies with maybe one generation of wealth behind them or folks that made money the new-fashioned way.  They gambled on Wall Street on items that are merely paper.  These are not the Carnegies that built a steel industry or even the Rockefellers and their oil empire.  These are folks that basically got wealthy via tax loopholes, get rich schemes, and betting against actual companies through the derivatives markets.  The Mercers are a shining example of this new model and their politics are poisonous.

Mercer is a youthful-looking 70. As a boy growing up in New Mexico, he carried around a notebook filled with computer programs he had written. “It’s very unlikely that any of them actually worked,” he has said. “I didn’t get to use a real computer until after high school.” Robert went on to work for decades at IBM, where he had a reputation as a brilliant computer scientist. He made his vast fortune in his 50s, after his work on predicting financial markets led to his becoming co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s most successful quantitative hedge funds. A longtime colleague, David Magerman, recalls that when Robert began working at Renaissance in 1993, he and his wife, Diana, were “grounded, sweet people.” (Magerman was suspended from Renaissance in February after making critical comments about Robert in The Wall Street Journal.) But “money changed all that,” he says. “Diana started jetting off to Europe and flying to their yacht on weekends. The girls were used to getting what they wanted.”

At Renaissance, Robert was an eccentric among eccentrics. The firm is legendary for shunning people with Wall Street or even conventional finance backgrounds, instead favoring scientists and original thinkers. Robert himself, by all accounts, is extremely introverted. Rarely seen in public, he likes to spend his free time with his wife and three daughters. When, in 2014, Robert accepted an award from the Association for Computational Linguistics, he recalled, in a soft voice and with quiet humor, his consternation at being informed that he was expected to give “an oration on some topic or another for an hour, which, by the way, is more than I typically talk in a month.” Sebastian Mallaby’s account of the hedge-fund elite, More Money Than God, describes him as an “icy cold” poker player who doesn’t remember having a nightmare. He likes model trains, having once purchased a set for $2.7 million, and has acquired one of the country’s largest collections of machine guns.

For years, Robert has embraced a supercharged libertarianism with idiosyncratic variations. He is reportedly pro-death penalty, pro-life and pro-gold standard. He has contributed to an ad campaign opposing the construction of the ground zero mosque; Doctors for Disaster Preparedness, a group that is associated with fringe scientific claims; and Black Americans for a Better Future—a vehicle, the Intercept discovered, for an African-American political consultant who has accused Barack Obama of “relentless pandering to homosexuals.” Magerman, Robert’s former colleague at Renaissance, recalls him saying, in front of coworkers, words to the effect that “your value as a human being is equivalent to what you are paid. … He said that, by definition, teachers are not worth much because they aren’t paid much.” His beliefs were well-known at the firm, according to Magerman. But since Robert was so averse to publicity, his ideology wasn’t seen as a cause for concern. “None of us ever thought he would get his views out, because he only talked to his cats,” Magerman told me.

Robert’s middle daughter Rebekah shares similar political beliefs, but she is also very articulate and, therefore, able to act as her father’s mouthpiece. (Neither Rebekah nor Robert responded to detailed lists of questions for this article.) Under Rebekah’s leadership, the family foundation pouredsome $70 million into conservative causes between 2009 and 2014.[1]

Trump, the short fingered vulgarian, can find no solace among the truly wealthy of Manhattan.  He’s done what he has to do to feed his need for endless attention, power, and money.  He’s thrown in with International Thieves and local thugs.  There is nothing these folks love more than to suppress the votes of minorities along with promoting the xenophobia of the White Nationalists that serve this White House and the Tea Party.

Few people in the Republican Party have done more to limit voting rights than Hans von Spakovsky. He’s been instrumental in spreading the myth of widespread voter fraud and backing new restrictions to make it harder to vote.

But it appears that von Spakovsky had an admirer in Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, according to e-mails released to the Senate Judiciary Committee covering Gorsuch’s time working in the George W. Bush Administration.

When President Bush nominated von Spakovksy to the Federal Election Commission in late 2005, Gorsuch wrote, “Good for Hans!”

Read that article at The Nation.  These are not nice people by any traditional or untraditional sense of the word.  Here’s a nice little Georgia Cracker defending a bill designed to stop black people from voting at the same link.

Georgia’s voter-ID law was submitted to the Justice Department in 2005 under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required states like Georgia with a long history of voting discrimination to approve their voting changes with the federal government. The sponsor of the law, Republican Representative Sue Burmeister, told department lawyers, “If there are fewer black voters because of the bill, it will only be because there is less opportunity for fraud. She said when black voters in her precinct are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls.”

Her racially inflammatory assertions set off alarm bells among the team reviewing the submission, indicating that the law may have been enacted with a discriminatory purpose. Department lawyers feared the bill would disenfranchise thousands of voters.

188920_600Here’s another dozy appointment for you. White House Advisor Sebastian Gorka supposedly held membership in a Nazi-Allied Far-Right Hungarian Group, Historical Vitézi Rend.   New York Congressman Jerry Nadler has opened a query.  Gorka is a Deputy Assistant to T-Rump and has been out spoken about the travel ban.    He’s among those in the government spreading blatant disinformation.  You can read more about the Travel Ban, etc. on BB’ post yesterday.

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, falsely claimed Thursday that Trump’s travel ban was never linked to a particular religious group during the campaign.

In a press release from December 2015 titled “DONALD J. TRUMP STATEMENT ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION,” Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

Nevertheless, Gorka told Breitbart News Daily radio, “There is not one instance on the campaign trail or after the President took office in which the travel suspension was mentioned without reference to national security — it was never mentioned, ‘we’re doing this because of a certain religious group.'”

“In every single instance, every campaign speech, every statement out of the White House after January 20th this measure was linked to the security of the United States,” Gorka continued. “National security is the prerogative of the commander in chief and immigration, including immigration standards and the issuance of visas is not a local, is not a federal, is not a judicial function. It is a function of the White House and the executive arm.”

On Wednesday, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide halt on Trump’s revised travel ban order, citing statements Trump made during the presidential campaign about Muslims.

 So, the first thing that happened in the Trump-Merkel meeting today is that T-Rump did not shake hands with Germany’s Chancellor during a photo op.

 Trump sat next to Merkel in front of a fireplace for the brief photo-op.“Very good,” Trump said to assembled reporters when asked about what the two leaders discussed. “Lots of things.”

“Very good, thanks,” Merkel said in German.

But Trump hardly looked at Merkel and, when the photo op ended, didn’t move in for a handshake.

We’re in for an ongoing nightmare and series of national embarrassments for some time.  I’m just hoping the terrorists groups don’t have a chance to get their acts together before we get rid of him.  Every thing in the executive branch is extremely nonfunctional.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Thursday Reads: Muslim Ban 2.0, Trump-Ryan Don’tCare, and a Federal Budget from Hell

Good Afternoon!!

Donald tRump’s campaign against American values is heating up. With his latest Muslim ban, he seeks to destroy the separation of church and state that was enshrined in the Constitution. With Trumpcare, he hopes to kill or sicken millions of poor and elderly people by taking away their health insurance. With his new budget, he hopes to kill off any of the poor and elderly who survive his “health care” plan.

The Muslim ban was supposed to go into effect late last night,

but two federal judges (so far) have stopped it in its tracks. The New York Times:

A federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide order Wednesday evening blocking President Trump’s ban on travel from parts of the Muslim world, dealing a stinging blow to the White House and signaling that Mr. Trump will have to account in court for his heated rhetoric about Islam.

A second federal judge in Maryland ruled against Mr. Trump overnight, with a separate order forbidding the core provision of the travel ban from going into effect.

The rulings were a second major setback for Mr. Trump in his pursuit of a policy that he has trumpeted as critical for national security. His first attempt to sharply limit travel from a handful of predominantly Muslim countries ended in a courtroom fiasco last month, when a federal court in Seattle halted it.

Mr. Trump issued a new and narrower travel ban, affecting six countries, on March 6, trying to satisfy the courts by removing some of the most contentious elements of the original version.

But in a pointed decision that repeatedly invoked Mr. Trump’s public comments, Judge Derrick K. Watson, of Federal District Court in Honolulu, wrote that a “reasonable, objective observer” would view even the new order as “issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion, in spite of its stated, religiously neutral purpose.”

In Maryland, Judge Theodore D. Chuang echoed that conclusion hours later, ruling in a case brought by nonprofit groups that work with refugees and immigrants, that the likely purpose of the executive order was “the effectuation of the proposed Muslim ban” that Mr. Trump pledged to enact as a presidential candidate.

Trump threw a tantrum about the decision in Hawaii last night during his “campaign rally” in Nashville in which he publicly state that the new ban is a “watered down version” of the old one and that he’d like to have the original ban back. That’s not going to help his lawyers defend it in court. Neither did Stephen Miller’s comments.

Huffington Post: Thank Stephen Miller’s Big Mouth For Trump Travel Ban’s Latest Court Woes.

Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser to the president, was one of Trump’s most vocal mouthpieces following the fraught rollout of the administration’s first travel ban that sparked massive protests at airports around the country. Shortly after federal judges struck down that order, Miller appeared on television to stump a watered-down version, assuring Fox News it would include only “minor technical differences.”

The ruling notes:

On February 21, Senior Advisor to the President, Stephen Miller, told Fox News that the new travel ban would have the same effect as the old one. He said: “Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court and those will be addressed. But in terms of protecting the country, those basic policies are still going to be in effect.”

Those “plainly worded statements,” it seems, helped lead U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson to issue a temporary restraining order against the ban on Wednesday. There is nothing “’secret’ about the executive’s motive specific to the issuance of the executive order,” Watson’s ruling reads.

The judge also cited Rudy Giuliani’s comments about how Trump asked him to find a legal way to do a Muslim ban.

On Paul Ryan’s wet dream “health care” plan,

tRump may be beginning to have doubts as he gradually learns from media sources what it actually involves. Heaven forbid he actually try to read the monstrosity himself. He’s much too busy worrying that Obama “wiretapped” his phone calls and is now encouraging federal employees to undercut tRump and his cronies. Since we already know what’s in the Ryancare or Trumpcare/Ryancare, here are a couple of not-so-serious articles about the GOP’s latest clusterf**k.

T.A. Frank at The Atlantic: Inside the Trump-Ryan Murder-Suicide Pact.

When the Congressional Budget Office released the numbers on Trumpcare—or Ryancare, or whatever you want to call the two-headed boar unveiled by Paul Ryan as a replacement to Obamacare—showing that more than 20 million Americans would join the ranks of the uninsured in a few years, what came to mind was Buck Turgidson making the case for a nuclear first strike in Dr. Strangelove. “Mr. President, I’m not saying we wouldn’t get our hair mussed,” he promises. “But I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops.” Yes, some of the people losing their coverage would be dropping it by choice, freed up by the end of individual mandates. But many others would be pushed out by a massive increase in premiums. It takes a zealot like Ryan to be “encouraged” by that kind of analysis.

This has been an amazingly speedy descent into Republican self-sabotage. Ryan’s bill is almost universally disliked. Liberals and Democrats hate it for hurting lower-income Americans. Conservatives and Republicans hate it for either hurting lower-income Americans or for not hurting them enough. (Ohio governor John Kasich condemns the bill for reducing Medicaid coverage for the poor, while small-government Republicans like Rand Paulcall it “Obamacare Lite.”) Americans who currently subsidize Obamacare would be re-united with their money, while Americans who depend on the subsidies would be out of luck. The Ryan bill seems to promise a replay of hits from the George W. Bush years, when Republicans who preferred zero spending on the poor clashed with Republicans who preferred medium spending on the poor, but found common ground through their shared interest in big spending on the rich.

Much of this was to be expected, because Ryan is Ryan, and the G.O.P. is the G.O.P. What was up for grabs was the stance of Donald Trump. Was he going to insist on doing more to protect the little guy? Or was he going to throw his lot in with Ryan? We now see that, despite some concerns from his friends in the media, he chose the latter. (Or perhaps he chose it after Ryan incorporated some of Trump’s requests to protect the little guy—in which case Trump didn’t get very far.) Trump has been lobbying aggressively to get Ryan’s bill passed, inviting skeptics to meetings at the White House, promising rallies, and generally spending a lot of scarce political capital.

If the bill passes, many of Trump’s voters will get hurt, leaving Trump damaged. If it fails, the White House will have suffered a big defeat, leaving Trump damaged and his agenda weakened. It’s not a favorable set of choices. If nothing else, though, it will be the first big test of Trumpism. Its contradictions could be hidden during a campaign season. Now, they are coming into sharp relief.

 Read the rest at the link.

And from The Onion: Mitch McConnell Sees Infinite Healthcare Plans After Dropping Acid To Inspire Ideas For Obamacare Replacement.

WASHINGTON—Seeking to open his mind to new possibilities for overhauling the U.S. healthcare system, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reportedly witnessed an infinite number of replacement plans Wednesday after dropping acid to inspire ideas for an Obamacare alternative.

Shortly after the 75-year-old Republican senator ingested two 100-microgram tabs of LSD in his Congressional office, sources said countless substitutes for the Affordable Care Act began to explode before his eyes in luminescent, hyper-vivid colors and patterns.

“Oh my God—I can see the CHIP provisions spreading out in every direction forever and ever and ever,” said a reeling McConnell, gazing wide-eyed as infinite, interlocking fractal combinations of health savings plans, employer-provided coverage, and government subsidies enveloped him in an accelerating stream, eventually passing over him with such velocity that they appeared to be an entire galaxy of stars swirling around him. “Now I can see…I can see the outpatient hospital visits covered for every child in the country! No, every child who’s ever been born, and will ever be born! Even the ones who haven’t yet been conceived!”

“The scope of coverage is so beautiful,” added the senator quietly. “Whoa.”

According to sources, McConnell’s hallucinations came on slowly, first appearing as a geodesic block grant spiraling gently in the center of the senator’s desk before morphing into a gigantic, prismatic spiderweb of plans whose out-of-pocket prescription expenses expanded and contracted with McConnell’s every breath.

And now for the federal budget from Hell.

tRump wants to spend more than a trillion dollars of taxpayer money on his godforsaken border wall and pay for it by cutting funding for science, the arts and of course the social safety net. As you read the next headline, keep in mind that we also pay for millions for tRump to travel to Florida to play golf and schmooze with Russian mobsters and spies and to keep Melania happy in Trump Tower in NYC.

Occupy Democrats: Trump Just Announced Plan To End ‘Meals On Wheels’ For Seniors.

One popular program facing elimination is “Meals On Wheels,” which uses federal funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to mobilize volunteers, businesses and donors to provide nutrition to thousands of senior citizens on a daily basis. It supports over 5,000 community-based organizations across America, reaching people in both urban and rural areas.

The money for Meals On Wheels is part of the Older American Act, first passed in 1965 as part of LBJ’s Great Society, and endorsed by every president until Trump. The total cost, which includes other programs, is about $2 billion a year, which is less than the government hands out in fossil fuel subsidies every year.

Meals On Wheels alone costs about $3 million a year, which is the cost of just one trip to Trump’s “winter White House.”

The Washington Post: Trump federal budget 2018: Massive cuts to the arts, science and the poor.

Trump’s first budget proposal, which he named “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

The cuts could represent the widest swath of reductions in federal programs since the drawdown after World War II, probably leading to a sizable cutback in the federal non-military workforce, something White House officials said was one of their goals.

“You can’t drain the swamp and leave all the people in it,” White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters.

You can read the entire mess at Vox if you want to: Read President Trump’s proposed federal budget. I think I’ll just stick with The Onion.

So . . . what else is happening? Post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday.