Wednesday Reads: Grabbing Justice by the Pussy …Hump Day Cartoons 


This cartoon by Marian Kamensky  says it all!

See all those people in the riot behind tRump? That is what I see everyday here in Banjoville. 

 At least one reporter spoke up yesterday during the White House Press Conference, in what has become the tRump regime’s latest attempt to grab democracy by the pussy. 

And would you believe in the same conference that thing behind the podium went on to suggest….

….a video by James O’Keefe. 

It really begs this question:

And all I can say is, take a look at one of the responses to that tweet:

What does that mean? Are other news outlets forcing their colleagues to “follow” these outrageous rules being set against the press and by extension the people? Authoritarian rule.  I suggest a new set going forward for the WH press room:


I think the beams of light give it a nice historical feel…Bannon will like that, and so will the crowd of hateful moronic shitheads that don’t have a problem with the fall of our democracy and freedom. 

I realize that I keep harping on this GOP healthcare bill being the tRump Administration’s “final solution” ….but think about it. 

Do you see it?

Tell me if I am not drawing conclusions that are not too far fetched?

Next up… a few quick hits:

 
 

Alright enough.  More cartoons, because:

End this on a funny or die note:

This is an open thread. 

(I hope the format isn’t too bad, I had to do this post on my phone. )


Tuesday Reads: The Death Bill May be Dying.

Vern Hopkinson, 1953-2017.

Good Morning!!

I’m going to begin today’s post with the obituary of Vern Hopkinson from the Salt Lake City Tribune. It was posted on Twitter yesterday by cartoonist Pat Bagley. Bagley tweeted that it reads like a “curse.” Here’s the beginning:

My unbelievably good almost 64 year run of life has now come to an end. I awoke most every morning being thankful for my existence. Born here in the Promised Valley on the Summer Solstice in 1953 (delivered by my grandfather) and then immediately moved to Las Vegas. I escaped Vegas to get both a bachelor’s and a law degree (1978) at the “U”. Go Utes. Died near the 2017 Summer Solstice after a short illness with a rare cancer.
I’m survived by my fiance Liza Rose Loveridge and her great children, Tommy and Josie, and by my extraordinary children Aaron, Jacqueline, and Kelsey (Mike). The love and devotion of my siblings, Rodney and Melanie, also must be heralded. Life has been so enjoyable because of the quality of my family and friends. Hopefully I will be able to rejoin in the hereafter with my quasi-adopted brother, John.
Been lucky enough to have traveled all over the World. From Antarctica to near the North Pole; from Tierra del Fuego to Machu Picchu; from the Great Barrier Reef to Tahiti; from Dell (NBNBC) to Montello; from the DMZ to Istanbul.

And here’s the “curse.”

As for that political climate, please remember the words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Please resist the current forms of hate and totalitarianism now threatening to sweep across this Country.
As for you filthy rich people living in your mansions looking literally down your noses at the middle, working and poor classes toiling below, know that everyone, by your own choosing, knows exactly where you live. Your Faustian deal with your shameless shills, the Republican Party, to make yourselves even yet richer on the backs of the middle and working classes by cutting their healthcare, benefits, education, and your embarrassing regressive taxation system, is about to be finally understood by the voters.
The metaphoric pitchforks and torches are being located. Your fate, both here on Earth and hopefully also in the hereafter (remember the camel and eye of a needle), has been sealed. Marley’s chains, once forged, cannot be easily undone.

Read the whole thing at the above link. Vern sounds like a great guy.

Now for the death bill news.

The CBO score evaluating the GOP “Death Bill” came out yesterday, and it is ghastly. The New York Times reports: Senate Health Bill Reels as C.B.O. Predicts 22 Million More Uninsured.

The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act was edging toward collapse on Monday after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026.

Two Republicans, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Kentucky, said Monday that they would vote against even debating the health care bill, joining Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, who made the same pledge on Friday. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin hinted that he, too, would probably oppose taking up the bill on a procedural vote expected as early as Tuesday, meaning a collapse could be imminent.

“It’s worse to pass a bad bill than pass no bill,” Mr. Paul told reporters.

Ms. Collins wrote on Twitter on Monday evening that she wanted to work with her colleagues from both parties to fix flaws in the Affordable Care Act, but that the budget office’s report showed that the “Senate bill won’t do it.”

The report left Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, with the unenviable choices of changing senators’ stated positions, withdrawing the bill from consideration while he renegotiates, or letting it go down to defeat — a remarkable conclusion to the Republicans’ seven-year push to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

The conservative AMA came out against the bill yesterday. Huffington Post: American Medical Association Slams Senate GOP Health Care Bill.

The American Medical Association, the nation’s largest doctors’ group, opposes the Senate health care bill, the organization announced in a letter to Senate leaders Monday.

“Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or ‘first, do no harm.’ The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels,” American Medical Association CEO James Madara wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)….

The physicians’ lobbying organization cites numerous problems with the Senate GOP bill, starting with its likely effect of causing many millions of currently insured Americans to lose their health coverage and be unable to afford medical treatments.

“It seems highly likely that a combination of smaller subsidies resulting from lower benchmarks and the increased likelihood of waivers of important protections such as required benefits, actuarial value standards, and out of pocket spending limits will expose low and middle income patients to higher costs and greater difficulty in affording care,” the AMA’s letter says.

The group also takes issue with the legislation’s deep cuts to federal Medicaid spending.

“The Senate proposal to artificially limit the growth of Medicaid expenditures below even the rate of medical inflation threatens to limit states’ ability to address the health care needs of their most vulnerable citizens,” the letter says.

At Vox, Ezra Klein explains that most low income people would be unable to afford any coverage under the Death Bill: The most devastating passage in the CBO’s report on the Senate health bill. Here’s the paragraph:

Under this legislation, starting in 2020, the premium for a silver plan would typically be a relatively high percentage of income for low-income people. The deductible for a plan with an actuarial value of 58 percent would be a significantly higher percentage of income — also making such a plan unattractive, but for a different reason. As a result, despite being eligible for premium tax credits, few low-income people would purchase any plan, CBO and JCT estimate.

Klein writes:

A bit of background is helpful. A “silver plan” is an insurance plan that covers 70 percent of a person’s expected health care costs. Obamacare’s subsidies were designed to make silver plans affordable and to limit out-of-pocket costs. The BCRA cuts Obamacare’s subsidies and designs its own subsidies around plans that cover 58 percent of expected health care costs. Those plans, the CBO estimates, will come with deductibles of around $6,000 — which means they would bankrupt many poor people before they ever got through the deductible.

Michael Ramirez / The Daily Signal

On page 27 of the report, CBO offers an illustrative example. Imagine, they say, a person who makes 75 percent of the poverty line and is currently on Medicaid. The deductible would be more than half their annual income. They would be paying for health insurance that they would destroy them financially if they tried to use it.

So here is what the CBO is saying: The BCRA’s subsidies are too small to make the silver plans affordable for low-income people, and the plans it is trying to make affordable — the ones that cover 58 percent of expected costs — carry such high deductibles that low-income Americans won’t buy them because they won’t be able to afford to use them.

This, then, is what the BRCA actually does: It makes health insurance unaffordable for poor people in order to finance a massive tax cut for rich people.

It doesn’t look good for a vote this week. I guess we’ll learn more as the day goes on. Meanwhile, yesterday Sean Spicer suggested that Trump would withhold Obamacare subsidies if the bill doesn’t pass.

Think Progress: White House threatens to sabotage insurance of low-income people if Trumpcare isn’t passed.

Spicer detailed the administration’s position in response to a question about whether the Trump administration will cover next month’s cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments for low-income people who purchase health insurance on the Obamacare exchanges. As ThinkProgress has previously detailed, the payments “partially subsidize deductibles and co-payments for more than 7 million low-income Americans, making it possible for many of them to afford their insurance. Cutting off the payments could potentially kick millions of people off the state exchanges, pushing some private insurers to withdraw as well. Premiums could shoot up across the board.”

Spicer made clear that the administration will do what it can to continue to destabilize Obamacare exchanges by only committing to the CSR payments one month at a time.

“We committed to making them last month, and that’s as far as we will go at this time,” Spicer said. “We’re not committing to them this month.”

But Spicer then signaled that the “dynamic” will change if the Senate passes a health care bill.

Did you see the piece by Masha Gessen in yesterday’s New York Times? It’s a devastating takedown of Oliver Stone’s fawning interview with Vladimir Putin: How Putin Seduced Oliver Stone — and Trump.

Watching four hours of Oliver Stone interviewing President Vladimir Putin of Russia is not a lesson in journalism. Mr. Stone is an inept interviewer, and he does not get Mr. Putin to say anything the world hasn’t heard from him before. Watching the interviews for entertainment is a questionable proposition, too: The four-part series contains many dull exchanges and even more filler, like footage of the two men watching “Dr. Strangelove” together.

Still, “The Putin Interviews,” which were released this month by Showtime, may be worth watching for the view they provide of a particular kind of relationship.

Many Americans have been looking for an explanation for Mr. Trump’s apparent adoration of Mr. Putin. How can a powerful, wealthy American man hold affection for the tyrannical, corrupt leader of a hostile power?

Oddly, “The Putin Interviews” provide psychological and intellectual answers to that question. For Mr. Stone appears to have the same sort of breathless admiration for Mr. Putin as Mr. Trump does. In filming their interaction, he has broadcast the conditions on which this kind of admiration rests. Should you ever wish to experience affection for a dictator, you too should make sure that these conditions are in place.

Read about those conditions at the NYT.

A couple more Russia-related reads:

John Schindler at the Observer: Why Is Donald Trump Enabling Russian Espionage in America?

After months of protesting that the issue of Russian interference in last year’s election was wholly fake, conjured by liberals and journalists, the president at last conceded (or at least strongly seemed to) that Moscow had, in fact, done something nefarious in 2016. Trump subsequently opined that the real collusion with the Kremlin had been done by Obama—without adding any details—and that the current White House resident is therefore owed an apology by the media!

It’s difficult to know what to make of all this. All that can be stated for certain at present is that widely reported efforts by the president’s lawyers to get their client to stop sending inflammatory tweets (which might be used against Trump by investigators and prosecutors) have failed.

 But what is the Trump administration as a whole doing to protect our country from Russian cyberattacks?

…the Trump administration has been slow-rolling efforts to push back against Kremlin lies and propaganda. Last December, Congress passed and the president signed into law a State Department effort to finally start debunking propaganda emanating from Russia of the noxious kind which played an insidious role in our 2016 election. Contrary to the law, nothing of consequence has been done over the past half-year, and the State Department still has no functioning effort to counter Kremlin lies.

That said, Foggy Bottom’s decisions regarding the Russians now appear worse than merely ignoring the will of Congress. According to a new report from Politico, State is derelict in its duty to monitor the activities of Russian diplomats in our country. Keep in mind that not less than one-third of those diplomats are actually spies, and they are supposed to report to the State Department when they plan to travel more than 25 miles from their duty station, customarily with 48 hours’ notice.

That gives the FBI and other American counterspies time to prepare to monitor illegal Russian espionage activities in our country. Yet, to the frustration of our Intelligence Community, State is failing to force compliance from Russian “diplomats,” despite the fact that Congress in May ordered the department to get serious about its counterintelligence responsibilities here.

Read the whole thing at the link. Schindler is also critical of Obama’s responses to Russian spying.

Jay Seculow

Finally, a story from The Guardian on Trump’s new lawyer Jay Seculow: Trump lawyer’s firm steered millions in donations to family members, files show.

More than 15,000 Americans were losing their jobs each day in June 2009, as the US struggled to climb out of a painful recession following its worst financial crisis in decades.

But Jay Sekulow, who is now an attorney to Donald Trump, had a private jet to finance. His law firm was expecting a $3m payday. And six-figure contracts for members of his family needed to be taken care of.

Documents obtained by the Guardian show Sekulow that month approved plans to push poor and jobless people to donate money to his Christian nonprofit, which since 2000 has steered more than $60m to Sekulow, his family and their businesses.

Telemarketers for the nonprofit, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism (Case), were instructed in contracts signed by Sekulow to urge people who pleaded poverty or said they were out of work to dig deep for a “sacrificial gift”.

“I can certainly understand how that would make it difficult for you to share a gift like that right now,” they told retirees who said they were on fixed incomes and had “no extra money” – before asking if they could spare “even $20 within the next three weeks”.

In addition to using tens of millions of dollars in donations to pay Sekulow, his wife, his sons, his brother, his sister-in-law, his niece and nephew, and their firms, Case has also been used to provide a series of unusual loans and property deals to the Sekulow family.

Read the rest at the link.

What else is happening? What stories are you following today?


Supreme Monday Reads

It’s Monday!!

So, the good news is that the rumors of Justice Kennedy’s looming retirement are just rumors. But, the Supremes are taking up a few worrisome cases including the Malignant Mango Mussolini’s travel ban on Muslims.  They’re also reviewing a few of those cases where people hide behind religion to prop up their bigotry.

Okay, one at a time now.  Kennedy is most likely staying put on the bench.

Look, I love legal gossip as much as — actually, way more than — the next guy. I entered the world of legal media through the back door of judicial gossip, writing a blog called Underneath Their Robes under the pseudonym of “Article III Groupie” (because gossiping about judges by night while appearing before them by day, as a federal prosecutor, is not a good look).

But to be a good gossip, you can’t just spread random rumors. You need to exercise discretion and discernment in what you disseminate — which brings me to the rampant rumors about Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s supposedly imminent retirement, to be announced possibly as early as tomorrow.

I won’t bury the lede, so here it is: based on reports I’ve received from former AMK clerks who attended his law clerk reunion dinner last night, it is highly unlikely that Justice Kennedy will announce his retirement tomorrow.

The Travel Ban is getting a bit of life. Some of it can go into effect. It will officially be reviewed come fall.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to allow a limited version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect and will consider in the fall the president’s broad powers in immigration matters in a case that raises fundamental issues of national security and religious discrimination.

The court made an important exception: nt.It said the ban “may not be enforced against foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

In the unsigned opinion, the court said that a foreign national who wants to visit or live with a family member would have such a relationship, and so would students from the designated countries — Libya, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — who were admitted to a U.S. university.

So, what about the case of the baker that refused to bake a cake for gay grooms? Is it religious freedom from the conservative side to  enable bigots?

The Supreme Court on Monday said it will consider next term whether a Denver baker unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake.

Lower courts had ruled that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, had violated Colorado’s public accommodations law, which prohibits refusing service to customers based on factors such as race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

There are similar lawsuits from florists, calligraphers and others who say their religious beliefs won’t allow them to provide services for same-sex weddings. But they have found little success in the courts, which have ruled that public businesses must comply with state anti-discrimination laws.

The court granted the case after weeks of considering it. In 2014, the justices declined to revisit a New Mexico Supreme Court decision that found that a photographer violated a state civil rights law when she declined to photograph a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony.

Since then, the high court has found that marriage is a fundamental right that states may not prohibit to gay couples.

The justices also reversed the Arkansas Supreme Court and said the state must list same-sex parents on birth certificates in the state. To refuse, the court said, is to deny married same-sex couples the full “constellation of benefits” that government has linked to marriage.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined Justice Neil M. Gorsuch’s dissent, which said the law regarding such issues is not yet settled and stable.

However, there was also this:

They rejected a challenge to a California Gun regulation about carrying guns.  The usual suspects clutched pearls while dissenting.

The Supreme Court declined to review a case about the right to carry firearms outside the home, but two justices publicly dissented from their colleagues’ decision not to take up the issue.

The high court said Monday it would not hear a National Rifle Association-supported legal challenge by California resident Edward Peruta, who challenged a state law limiting gun-carrying permits to those showing “good cause” and a San Diego County policy that says concern about personal safety is not sufficient to fulfill the requirement.

Gun rights advocates say the limits violate the constitutional right to bear arms.

However, the case could not muster the votes of four justices, which is the threshold to add it to the court’s docket.

The most notable aspect of the action announced Monday was that President Donald Trump’s newest appointee to the court — Justice Neil Gorsuch — joined conservative stalwart Justice Clarence Thomas in lamenting the court’s decision to dodge the issue for now. Gorsuch’s views on gun-rights issues were not well established by his writing or his earlier decisions as a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, on Monday, Gorsuch joined Thomas’s opinion calling “indefensible” the 9th Circuit’s rationale in ruling against Peruta.

“The Second Amendment’s core purpose further supports the conclusion that the right to bear arms extends to public carry,” Thomas wrote. “Even if other Members of the Court do not agree that the Second Amendment likely protects a right to public carry, the time has come for the Court to answer this important question definitively. ”

“For those of us who work in marbled halls, guarded constantly by a vigilant and dedicated police force, the guarantees of the Second Amendment might seem antiquated and superfluous. But the Framers made a clear choice: They reserved to all Americans the right to bear arms for self-defense. I do not think we should stand by idly while a State denies its citizens that right, particularly when their very lives may depend on it,” Thomas added.

This one was disappointing.

Well, busybody christofascists are thrilled.  Yeah!  We get to fund religious indoctrination!

The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the state of Missouri cannot deny public funds to a church simply because it is a religious organization.

Seven justices affirmed the judgment in Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, albeit with some disagreement about the reasoning behind it. The major church-state case could potentially expand the legal understanding of the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is also the first time the Supreme Court has ruled that governments must provide money directly to a house of worship, which could have implications for future policy fights—including funding for private, religious charter schools.

Trinity Lutheran is a big case that hinges on mundane facts. In 2012, when Trinity Lutheran Church in Missouri applied for a state grant to resurface its playground, it was ranked as a strong potential candidate for the program. Ultimately, though, Missouri denied the funding under a state constitutional provision that prohibits public money from going to religious organizations and houses of worship. “There is no question that Trinity Lutheran was denied a grant simply because of what it is,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in his decision for the majority. “A church.”

The case focused on whether this decision conflicts with the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and specifically issouri was violating the free-exercise clause by preventing Trinity Lutheran from participating in a secular, neutral aid program. On Monday, the court overwhelmingly agreed that the answer was “yes.”

No good news on the environmental side of things.  This is a weird case that hinged more on state  v state fighting.

The Supreme Court will not hear arguments in a legal dispute between two states stemming from the 2015 Gold King Mine waste spill, the court announced on Monday.

New Mexico had sued Colorado for its role in the mine spill, which released 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into the Animas River. That river feeds into the San Juan River, which flows through New Mexico.

The state was seeking unspecified damages in its lawsuit, which went directly to the Supreme Court, as is typical for legal disputes between states. In May, the federal government urged the court to dismiss the suit.

The court declined Monday to hear arguments in the case and did not issue an opinion explaining the decision, though Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito said they would let the suit move forward.

The August 2015 Gold King Mine spill kicked off a flurry of lawsuits over environmental damage and government incompetence.

In New Mexico’s lawsuit against Colorado, New Mexico officials alleged Colorado was “reckless” leading up to the spill, calling it “the coup de grâce of two decades of disastrous environmental decision-making by Colorado, for which New Mexico and its citizens are now paying the price.”

Well, I think that’s about enough for the moment. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Sunday Reads: GOP’s Final Solution 

 

The GOP anti-healthcare bill, is truly the “Final Solution.”

At least it will be for folks like my mom.

If you are very sick…say with stage three ovarian cancer, and on Medicare…when this death bill passes, if you don’t get thrown off Medicare at first, the lifetime caps will get you anyway. Yeah, so as my mom is going through this hell, if she survives her surgery, she still must continue with the chemotherapy. That treatment (which will more than likely reach the lifetime cap) can be cut off by the states in mid-treatment.

Republicans’ Senate Health-Care Bill Would Devastate Those With Preexisting Conditions – The Atlantic

…the Senate bill will open the door to states forcing people with pre-existing conditions into segregated markets that will lead them to pay far, far higher costs than everyone else. People with pre-existing conditions could run into new annual or lifetime limits on how much insurance coverage they can get. That means those with the most serious chronic health conditions (and their families) will be at increased risk of financial devastation and even bankruptcy. The bottom line is that the backdoor discrimination the Senate plan allows against those with pre-existing conditions is as cruel as the discrimination in the House bill which the Senate claimed to fix.

These are exactly the reasons why the American Cancer Society urged concern about waiving these critical protections: “If a state decides that prescription drugs are no longer an essential health benefit, a plan could cap the amount it covers for cancer drugs—or decide to not cover cancer drugs at all—leaving patients to pay the entire bill.” And it is why they urged the Senate to “return to the drawing board” when they saw the bill’s text.

For more on this specific language in the bill: How the MacArthur Amendment Impacts Cancer Patient Protections | American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

On April 25, 2017, the text of an amendment to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to be offered by Representative MacArthur (R-NJ) was released.  The amendment could undo several key protections that are critical for cancer patients and survivors – including the prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions.

The MacArthur Amendment Could Make Pre-Existing Condition Exclusion Prohibition Meaningless for Some Cancer Patients

The amendment would enable states to apply for a waiver that would allow insurers to rate individuals based on their health status in some instances.  States that have established a high-risk pool, use state stability funds (provided in the AHCA) or have adopted a state reinsurance program could allow insurers to impose health status underwriting for individuals who have a gap in coverage of at least 63 days.

While health insurers would be required to sell a plan to an individual with pre-existing condition like cancer, the premium charged could be so high that it would be unaffordable.  Compounding this is the fact that the tax credits offered under the AHCA would be significantly lower than those provided under current law and the AHCA would allow plans to increase premiums for older Americans.

Higher Age Ratios Could Also Price Older Cancer Patients Out of the Market

Current law allows an age rating of 3:1 and the AHCA proposes to expand this to 5:1 – this means older Americans could be charged five times as much as younger Americans in premiums.  The MacArthur amendment would allow a state to specify an even higher age ratio in a waiver.

No Guarantee of Consistent Coverage

Current law requires insurance plans to offer ten categories of essential health benefits – including hospitalizations, physician care, prescription drug coverage, and other services.  Under the MacArthur amendment, beginning on or after January 1, 2020, states could apply for a waiver to create their own state version of essential health benefits.  This could mean that a state could choose not to cover specific kinds of benefits, including certain cancer drugs.  A state could also decide that an insurance plan no longer has to cover preventive services, leaving patients in one state with access, but patients in a different (even neighboring) state without access to prevention.

Another serious problem is the potential loss of key patient protections.  The cap on out-of-pocket costs, and the prohibition on lifetime and annual limits – are applied only to essential health benefits.  That means if a state decides that prescription drugs are no longer an essential health benefit, a plan could cap the amount it covers for cancer drugs – or decide to not cover cancer drugs at all – leaving patients to pay the entire bill.  Finally, depending on the state law, a plan may not have to cover services that a cancer patient may need, which is another way to discourage individuals who need those services from enrolling in the plan.

 

 

 

 

For some real life outlooks on how this death bill will effect real people, take a look at the following thread:

 

 

 

Or…take a look at this:

It is all too upsetting, every day I send letters to my representatives in Congress. I realize many feel this bill will not pass, but I do not see the failure of this monstrosity in so clear a light. Nothing as horrible as this bill seems possible now.

 

But hey…what the hell, at least we have this:

That does it, I am too disgusted to go on…

This is an open thread.


Lazy Saturday Reads: Obama’s “Mysterious Reluctance” Helped Give Us Trump.

Saturday Morning, by Susette Gertsch

Good Morning!!

I think I’m finally past the stage of dreading what I’ll learn every morning when I go on the internet or turn on the TV. After 5 months of Trump, I’ve begun to accept that every day there’ll be new and horrifying revelations; but I’m also beginning to understand how quickly everything is spinning out of control while we wait for this monster to be brought down somehow.

After the blockbuster Washington Post story yesterday, we now know for sure what many of have suspected: President Obama’s cautiousness helped the Russians get Trump elected. In August of 2016, the CIA informed Obama that Russia was actively working to damage Hillary Clinton and, if possible, get Trump elected. Furthermore, they knew for a fact that the election meddling was happening under the direct orders of Vladimir Putin.

And what did Obama do? As always, he dithered endlessly and tried to reach a “bipartisan” solution with Republicans. When Mitch McConnell actually questioned the validity of the Intelligence community findings, Obama hesitated to take strong action against Russia and inform the American people of what he knew was happening because he feared being called “partisan.” From the article:

At that point, the outlines of the Russian assault on the U.S. election were increasingly apparent. Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year. In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks….

It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Putin was working to elect Trump.

Rainy Saturday, by Kristin Grevich

Over that five-month interval, the Obama administration secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin and sanctions that officials said could “crater” the Russian economy.

But in the end, in late December, Obama approved a modest package combining measures that had been drawn up to punish Russia for other issues — expulsions of 35 diplomats and the closure of two Russian compounds — with economic sanctions so narrowly targeted that even those who helped design them describe their impact as largely symbolic.

Obama also approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia’s infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project, which Obama approved in a covert-action finding, was still in its planning stages when Obama left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability.

In political terms, Russia’s interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy. It was a case that took almost no time to solve, traced to the Kremlin through cyber-forensics and intelligence on Putin’s involvement. And yet, because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences.

Saturday Afternoon, by Joan Becker

We’re stuck in this place because Obama let Mitch McConnell veto his chosen response.

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.

Key Democrats were stunned by the GOP response and exasperated that the White House seemed willing to let Republican opposition block any pre-election move.

On Sept. 22, two California Democrats — Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam B. Schiff — did what they couldn’t get the White House to do. They issued a statement making clear that they had learned from intelligence briefings that Russia was directing a campaign to undermine the election, but they stopped short of saying to what end.

A week later, McConnell and other congressional leaders issued a cautious statement that encouraged state election officials to ensure their networks were “secure from attack.” The release made no mention of Russia and emphasized that the lawmakers “would oppose any effort by the federal government” to encroach on the states’ authorities.

Obama was President of the United States. He had the entire Intelligence community behind him. He didn’t need Republican approval. But he hesitated and now we have the Trump autocracy in charge of our country.

Saturday Afternoon 1875, by Jervis McEntee

All of this because everyone assumed that Hillary Clinton would magically overcome Trump’s vicious lies about her at the same time she was fighting back against a Russian attack on our country with no support from the media and very little backup from the Democratic President who supposedly wanted her to succeed him.

Here’s Julia Ioffe at The Atlantic: It Took Two to Make Russian Meddling Effective.

If there is one thing TheWashington Post’sstory on the Obama administration’s anemic response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election makes clear, it’s that it took two to make the meddling effective.

There is a reason the tactics Russia used on the American elections—which are similar to things they’ve done in former Soviet republics and in Europe—are referred to as “asymmetric warfare”: They embody the art of leverage, of doing a lot with a little. As former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress in May, the Russians “succeeded beyond their wildest dreams and at minimal cost.” The whole operation, according to Clapper, cost a mere $200 million—a pittance in military spending terms. But the Russians used that money not the way a conventional army would, but the way a band of guerrillas would, feeling around for pressure points, and pressing—or not. Though, as Bloombergreported this month, the Russians were clearly exploring ways to attack voting infrastructure in parts of the country, it still appears they ultimately decided not to pull the trigger, sticking instead with the hack-and-dump and the manufacturing of fake news. “It was ad hoc,” an Obama administration official told me shortly after the inauguration. “They were kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what would stick.”

Saturday Afternoon, by Stanley Spencer

And then there was Obama’s mysterious reluctance, as described by many of his advisers, “to put his thumb on the scale” and influence the election, even as he and Michelle Obama were campaigning for Hillary Clinton all over the country and coining anti-Trump memes like “Come on, man.” What difference would a thumb on the scale have made when he already had his other nine fingers on it?

Obama’s “mysterious reluctance” is part of his essential personality. We watched this throughout his first term and he repeatedly came very close to giving away the store to the GOP just to demonstrate his willingness to be “bipartisan.”

Now what do we do? We have an illegitimate president who is never going to lift a finger to prevent Russia from continuing to basically take over our government, and we have midterm elections coming up very soon.

NBC News: Trump White House Has Taken Little Action To Stop Next Election Hack.

The Trump administration has taken little meaningful action to prevent Russian hacking, leaking and disruption in the next national election in 2018, despite warnings from intelligence officials that it will happen again, officials and experts told NBC News.

“This attack is really the political equivalent of 9/11 — it is deadly, deadly serious,” said Michael Vickers, a career intelligence official who was the Pentagon’s top intelligence official in the Obama administration. “The Russians will definitely be back, given the success they had…I don’t see much evidence of a response.”

According to recent Congressional testimony, Trump has shown no interest in the question of how to prevent future election interference by Russia or another foreign power. Former FBI Director James Comey told senators that Trump never asked him about how to stop a future Russian election cyber attack, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who sits on the National Security Council, testified that he has not received a classified briefing on Russian election interference.

Dozens of state officials told NBC News they have received little direction from Washington about election security.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said this week he had never addressed the matter with Trump.

That apparent top-level indifference, coupled with a failure to fill key jobs at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, has resulted in a government paralyzed by inaction when it comes to protecting the next election, experts and government officials told NBC News.

Saturday Morning, by Terry Matassoni

“The Trump administration is woefully missing in action,” said Gregory Miller, co-founder of the Silicon Valley based Open Source Election Technology Institute, a non-profit research group.

“It isn’t happening,” said David Jefferson, a voter security expert and computer scientist in the Center for Applied Scientific Computing, when asked whether he saw a U.S. government effort to address the problem.

I’ll end with two thoughtful articles by conservatives on the Trump problem.

David Frum at The Atlantic: What Happens When a Presidency Loses Its Legitimacy?

Day by day, revelation after revelation, the legitimacy of the Trump presidency is seeping away. The question of what to do about this loss is becoming ever more urgent and frightening.

The already thick cloud of discredit over the Trump presidency thickened deeper Friday, June 23. The Washington Post reported that the CIA told President Obama last year that Vladimir Putin had personally and specifically instructed his intelligence agencies to intervene in the U.S. presidential election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.

Whether the Trump campaign knowingly coordinated its activities with the Russians remains uncertain. The Trump campaign may have been a wholly passive and unwitting beneficiary. Yes, it’s curious that the Russians allegedly directed their resources to the Rust Belt states also targeted by the Trump campaign. But it’s conceivable they were all just reading the same polls on FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics.

Frum points out that others in the government are working around Trump’s insanity as best they can, but how long can the government function when it’s so crippled from the top and from foreign cyber- and propaganda attacks?

Saturday Afternoon on the Coast of Normandy, by Jules Trayer

The U.S. government is already osmotically working around the presidency, a process enabled by the president’s visible distaste for the work of governance. The National Security Council staff is increasingly a double-headed institution, a zone of struggle between Kushner-Flynn-Bannon types on one side, and a growing staff of capable, experienced, and Russia-skeptical functionaries on the other. The Senate has voted 97-2 to restrict the president’s authority to relax Russia sanctions. It seems the president has been persuaded to take himself out of the chain of command in the escalating military operations in Afghanistan. National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster recently assured the nation that Trump could not have done much harm when he blabbed a vital secret to the Russian foreign minister in the Oval Office, precisely because the president was not briefed on crucial “sources and methods” information.

In their way, these workarounds are almost as dangerous to the American system of government as the Trump presidency itself. They tend to reduce the president to the status of an absentee emperor while promoting his subordinates into shoguns who exercise power in his name. Maybe that is the least-bad practicable solution to the unprecedented threat of a presidency-under-suspicion. But what a terrible price for the failure of so many American institutions—not least the voters!—to protect the country in 2016 from Russia’s attack on its election and its democracy.

Bruce Bartlett at Politico: ‘Trump Is What Happens When a Political Party Abandons Ideas.’

Bartlett was among those of us–including Obama–who assumed Hillary would win in the end and then we could deal with the Russia situation. Like the rest of us, he was shocked and horrified by the outcome of the election.

Orford Orange on a Saturday Afternoon, by Meg McLean

Almost everything that has happened since November 8 has been the inverse of what I’d imagined. Trump didn’t lose; he won. The Republican Party isn’t undergoing some sort of reckoning over what it believes; his branch of the Republican Party has taken control. Most troubling, perhaps, is that rather than reassert themselves, the moderate Republicans have almost all rolled over entirely.

Trump has turned out to be far, far worse than I imagined. He has instituted policies so right wing they make Ronald Reagan, for whom I worked, look like a liberal Democrat. He has appointed staff people far to the right of the Republican mainstream in many positions, and they are instituting policies that are frighteningly extreme. Environmental Protection Administration Administrator Scott Pruitt proudly denies the existence of climate change, and is doing his best to implement every item Big Oil has had on its wish list since the agency was established by Richard Nixon. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is actively hostile to the very concept of public education and is doing her best to abolish it. Every day, Attorney General Jeff Sessions institutes some new policy to take incarceration and law enforcement back to the Dark Ages. Trump’s proposed budget would eviscerate the social safety net for the sole purpose of giving huge tax cuts to the ultrawealthy.

And if those policies weren’t enough, conservatives—who, after all, believe in liberty and a system of checks and balances to restrain the government to its proper role—have plenty of reason to be upset by those actions Trump has taken that transcend our traditional right-left ideological divide. He’s voiced not only skepticism of NATO, but outright hostility to it. He’s pulled America back from its role as an international advocate for human rights. He’s attacked the notion of an independent judiciary. He personally intervened to request the FBI to ease up on its investigation of a former adviser of his, then fired FBI Director James Comey and freely admitted he did so to alleviate the pressure he felt from Comey’s investigation. For those conservatives who were tempted to embrace a “wait-and-see” approach to Trump, what they’ve seen, time and again, is almost unimaginable.

And yet as surprising as this all has been, it’s also the natural outgrowth of 30 years of Republican pandering to the lowest common denominator in American politics. Trump is what happens when a political party abandons ideas, demonizes intellectuals, degrades politics and simply pursues power for the sake of power.n

Please go read the rest at Politico.

Sorry this got so long . . . What stories are you following today?


Longest Friday Reads: So this old world must be still spinning around

Happy Longest Friday!

Summer solstice was two days ago so this makes today the longest Friday of the year!  The link over there goes to some pretty interesting photos of the Stonehenge Solstice Celebration!  Solstice images festoon our post today.  It’s nice to know that the sun is still rising, the moon is still rising, and the earth still spins on her axis even when everything else seems so upside down.

Today we have 16 hours of daylight unless you’re under a storm cloud or hiding from the T-Rumposaurus.

Information on Dan Coates’ testimony to House investigators has come out.  It appears the President is completely obsessed with the Russian probe.  Sure sounds like obstruction of justice to me.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told House investigators Thursday that President Trump seemed obsessed with the Russia probe and repeatedly asked him to say publicly there was no evidence of collusion, a U.S. official familiar with the conversation told NBC News.

Coats’ account is not new — it largely tracked with his story as previously reported by NBC News and other media outlets, the official said.

Admiral Mike Rogers, director of the NSA, has also told associates that Trump asked him to say publicly there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian election interference effort.

Both Rogers and Coats declined to do that, saying it would have been inappropriate, a former senior intelligence official familiar with the matter told NBC News. Rogers had his deputy write a memo about the conversation

Money laundering still appears to be the center of every one’s thoughts.  Here’s more on the connections between Felix Sater and a project he developed with T-Rump. Sounds like the Mango Mussolini has something to worry about.

  • Felix Sater was born in Russia and moved to the United States with his family when he was 8. His father Mikhail has connections to Russian organized crime and was once convicted of extortion. The younger Sater ended up working at a company called Bayrock, which had offices in Trump Tower and, beginning in 2002, partnered with Donald Trump on several development projects. Bayrock’s role in the projects involved soliciting outside investors.
  • Felix Sater also has a colorful criminal record. In 1991, he stabbed a man in the face with the stem of a broken margarita glass and went to jail for assault. In 2007, the New York Times reported that he had been accused in 1998 of securities fraud in a massive stock-scam case involving a number of New York mob families. It was later revealed that Sater pleaded guilty in that 1998 case, but that his involvement in it was kept secret, because he became a witness for the government and reportedly continued as such until 2008. Sater is known to have helped build cases against individuals involved in the stock scam and reportedly also cooperated in a case that involved attempting to secure missiles that were being sold on the black market in Afghanistan. (!)
  • Sater disassociated himself from Bayrock and the Trump projects after the 2007 Times story but popped back up in 2010, working for the Trump Organization as a “senior adviser.”
  • A former Bayrock associate of Sater’s filed a lawsuit against Sater which alleges, in the words of a new Bloomberg story by longtime Trump reporter Timothy O’Brien, that “Bayrock was actually a front for money laundering” and took money from Russian sources. At this point, the associate making the accusation does not appear to have any direct evidence to support his claim, but the lawsuit is ongoing.

 And here’s one more background fact:

  • Andrew Weissmann is a longtime federal prosecutor who has joined Robert Mueller’s Trump–Russia special counsel investigation. News stories have described Weissmann as an expert in “flipping” witnesses, i.e. getting them to testify against their co-conspirators.

Want to read more?  Follow this:

Now, go check the conclusion.  The White House is on eggshells with Trumpertantrums and his guilty conscious.

President Trump has a new morning ritual. Around 6:30 a.m. on many days — before all the network news shows have come on the air — he gets on the phone with a member of his outside legal team to chew over all things Russia.

The calls — detailed by three senior White House officials — are part strategy consultation and part presidential venting session, during which Trump’s lawyers and public-relations gurus take turns reviewing the latest headlines with him. They also devise their plan for battling his avowed enemies: the special counsel leading the Russia investigation; the “fake news” media chronicling it; and, in some instances, the president’s own Justice Department overseeing the probe.

His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud.

It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.

Trump’s grievances and moods often bleed into one another. Frustration with the investigation stews inside him until it bubbles up in the form of rants to aides about unfair cable television commentary or as slights aimed at Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod J. Rosenstein.

Who’d want to be one of his lawyers anyway?

White House counsel Don McGahn has largely stepped back from managing Donald Trump’s response to the expanding Russia investigation, but that hasn’t stopped the president from lashing out at him about it anyway.

Trump started the week by giving McGahn, a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to quash the Russia probe early on.

The episode — recounted by four people familiar with the conversation — came as part of a broader discussion on Monday about the president’s frustrations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which now includes the question of whether Trump himself tried to obstruct the investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey.

The Russia portfolio has been handed off to Trump’s longtime personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, leaving McGahn to focus on the standard duties of the top White House lawyer: vetting political appointees, selecting judges for vacancies in lower courts, and giving legal advice on potential legislation and other White House policy decisions.

Trump’s willingness to lay into him for the escalation of the probe — largely the result of Trump’s own decision to dismiss Comey — illustrates McGahn’s falling stock in the West Wing, as well as Trump’s desire to find someone to blame for his legal predicament.

So, Kremlin Caligula thought he’d get away with firing Comey and he wants to blame every one else.  What a nitwit!

Regardless of the legal outcome, it’ll go down as one of the dumbest political mistakes in the modern era. One of the president’s outside advisers calls it the gravest political mistake since Richard Nixon decided not to apologize to the American people for Watergate, and instead proceeded with the cover-up.

 “The Russia investigation is now the central narrative of the Trump administration, no matter what he does,” the adviser said. “He wanted to be a disruptive force for change, and now he’s stuck in the quicksand of the swamp.”

Trump himself has suggested to friends that he understands the bind he created: By taunting Comey about tapes that the president admitted yesterday don’t exist, he hastened the chain of events that led to the appointment of special counsel Bob Mueller, who’s expected to delve into the business affairs of the president and his family.

In retrospect, if Trump had kept Comey and stopped obsessing about his investigation, his legal troubles might have blown over: No evidence of collusion has emerged. As David Brooks pointed out in one of the better columns of the month, it’s striking how little has surfaced on the collusion front, given the gush of anti-Trump leaks.

S0, what happy camper would tweet #FML? (“As in F*ck my life”)

But then, unprompted, he floated another possibility: U.S. intelligence or law enforcement officials might have his office bugged. “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” Trump wrote.

It was a bizarre suggestion that took some in the White House off guard. “No clue what the thinking was,” a White House staffer said of the tweets. “He could’ve just said there are no tapes. It’s baffling, frankly.”

Instead of putting the “tape” issue to rest and leave it at that, Trump’s statements threaten to embroil the White House in yet another round of politically inconvenient questioning about issues—Comey’s firing, the FBI’s probe into Russian election-meddling, and Trump’s reported efforts to hobble it—that the White House has tried, with little success, to move past.

Informed of the president’s denial that he had recorded his conversations with Comey, a senior administration official replied, “At least that’s behind us.” When alerted to his apparent suspicions of Oval Office surveillance, the official replied in a text message, “fml.”

That’s shorthand for “fuck my life.”

Trump’s tweets came just minutes before White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders was scheduled to brief reporters. Asked about Trump’s vague allegations of a potential wiretap, Sanders suggested that law enforcement authorities would have to answer whether they have the President of the United States under surveillance.

 

Well, at least life’s not boring and complacent and calm and well, #FML, make him go away please!!  There’s a monster under our national bed!

So, Spicey is looking for a replacement for the podium of shame and lies.  Guess how that’s going?

The result is a toxic relationship between the White House, which thinks the press should be less adversarial, and the media, which believes its job is to be adversarial. Both sides believe the other side is acting in bad faith, and both are losing respect for one another. And the frayed relationship is occupying more and more of everyone’s time, creating a distraction from issues of greater concern to the general public.

This article is based on extensive conversations with three senior White House officials who requested anonymity, as well as several White House reporters who requested the same.

In a statement, White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House’s goal was “to be accessible every day and answer questions from the media through a variety of formats, including the briefings, the gaggles and meetings in the press office.”

“Our goal is to communicate the president’s message to the American people as well,” she added, “and we do that through the President’s vast reach on social media on a daily basis.”

For the time being, White House-media relations are likely to get worse before they get better. With the approval of the president, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has been looking for a replacement press secretary so he can focus on broader strategy. But good replacements are hard to come by.

The White House has a shortlist of candidates it would like to bring on board, including, most notably, the popular conservative pundit Laura Ingraham. But so far, no one on this shortlist has accepted the invitation. Ingraham, who declined to comment, has given no public indication that she wants the job. She is already highly paid for her work as a right-wing radio host and Fox News contributor, and has said she might run for Senate from Virginia next year.

Meanwhile, there are people who might like to have the job but don’t have enough support from Trump’s inner circle.

At least we know that Melanoma Mussolini isn’t the meanest tweeter in the Administration.  Get a load of these.

Oy to the fucking vey!

A trove of deleted tweets written by senior Energy Department official William C. Bradford surfaced this week ― and it’s not pretty.

Bradford, whom President Donald Trump recently appointed to lead the department’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, was forced to issue an apology after The Washington Post revealed his disparaging remarks about women and various ethnic and religious groups on Thursday.

His tweets, written last year, attacked high-profile figures on the basis of their ethnic and religious heritage and defended the wartime incarceration of Japanese-Americans, among other things.

In a December 2016 tweet, Bradford referred to former President Barack Obama as a “Kenyan creampuff.” In another tweet, he dubiously claimed Obama might refuse to leave The White House at the end of his presidential term and suggested a “military coup” could be necessary to remove him.

In February 2016, responding to an article that claimed Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg had urged Iowans not to vote for Trump, Bradford called the tech leader an “arrogant self-hating Jew.”

They actually get worse … he’s like a full time hater and no one goes left unhated. Native Americans, women, Japanese Americans in internment camps … just about every one makes his list.

So, anyway, enjoy the day, the summer, and the brain clouds overtaking Trumperina’s little world.   Meanwhile, if you want to see his fat ass in tennis shorts looking like he’s busting out of his depends go here.   It cannot be unseen. I’m warning you now.  I promised you that the moon is still rising.  This one is YUGGGGEEEE.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Thursday Reads

Good Morning!!

This is going to be a quickie post, because I had an air conditioning emergency this morning and I have a dentist appointment this afternoon. Here’s what’s happening.

Mitch McConnell has revealed the secret Trumpcare bill.

The LA Times: Senate unveils secretive GOP Obamacare repeal plan, with a vote likely next week.

SenateRepublicans on Thursday unveiled a sweeping plan to roll back the Affordable Care Act, including a drastic reduction in federal healthcare spending that threatens to leave millions more Americans uninsured.

The legislative outline, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s team wrote largely behind closed doors, hews closely to the Obamacare repeal bill passed last month by House Republicans, but includes important differences. The House version was first celebrated by President Trump in a White House Rose Garden ceremony, though he later criticized the bill as “mean.”

The Senate measure offers more generous premium subsidies for some low-income buyers of insurance compared with the House version, but it also dramatically cuts federal funding to Medicaid, a move that will likely force states to make deep cuts in their healthcare programs for the poor….

Like the House effort, the Senate bill appears likely to produce major losses in insurance coverage as hundreds of billions of dollars in federal healthcare assistance to low- and moderate-income Americans are cut over the next decade….

The centerpiece of the Senate bill is a series of major reductions in federal aid for poor Americans who rely on the government Medicaid program and consumers who currently qualify for federal subsidies to help them buy private health insurance through the Obamacare marketplace.

An expansion of Medicaid benefits currently offered under Obamacare would be phased out beginning in 2020 and shut down completely by 2023, senators said.

The CBO score will come out in a few days. The Washington Post obtained a draft of the bill yesterday: Senate health-care draft repeals Obamacare taxes, provides bigger subsidies for low-income Americans than House bill.

A discussion draft circulating Wednesday afternoon among aides and lobbyists would roll back the Affordable Care Act’s taxes, phase down its Medicaid expansion, rejigger its subsidies, give states wider latitude in opting out of its regulations and eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The bill largely mirrors the House measure that narrowly passed last month but with some significant changes aimed at pleasing moderates. While the House legislation tied federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income, as the ACA does. The Senate proposal cuts off Medicaid expansion more gradually than the House bill,\ but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also removes language restricting federally subsidized health plans from covering abortions, which may have run afoul of complex budget rules.

Many more details at the link. You can also check out this Washington Post summary published this morning: The Health 202: Here’s what’s in the Senate health-care bill.

Right now there are protesters outside Mitch McConnell’s office. Police are “removing” them one at a time. The cops are actually picking people up carrying them out.

Last night the dash-cam video of the murder by cop of Philando Castile was released. NBC News: Girl Pleads With Mother After Castile Killing: ‘I Don’t Want You to Get Shooted!’

The terrified four-year-old witness to the killing of Philando Castile by a Minnesota cop pleaded with her mother to cooperate with police moments after his death telling her “I don’t want you to get shooted,” a newly released police video shows.

The video, which came out with a bundle of evidence from the Castile trial, captures the interaction between Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, and her daughter as they were held in the back of a squad car shortly after the shooting.

In the heart-wrenching video, a handcuffed Reynolds yells “F—!” — and immediately her young daughter begins to cry begging her mother to “please stop cussing and screaming because I don’t want you to get shooted.”

The weeping girl then embraces her mother, who tells her to give her a kiss.

“I can keep you safe,” says the girl, while wiping away tears from her face.

“I can’t believe they just did that,” Reynolds whispers to herself — to which the girl begins to cry uncontrollably.

Reynolds then attempts to get out of her handcuffs, and the girl again desperately yells for her to be calm, out of fear for her mother’s safety.

“No! Please no! I don’t want you to get shooted!” she said.

“They’re not going to shoot me, I’m already in handcuffs,” Reynolds responds in an attempt to pacify the frazzled girl.

I’m in tears just reading that. I saw the video on TV last night and it was horrifying. The cop who murdered this innocent man had no business being a police officer.

Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, during Officer Jeronimo Yanez’s trial (David Joles, Star Tribune via AP

The Washington Post: What the police officer who shot Philando Castile said about the shooting.

This new video showed how quickly the encounter escalated, how fast it shifted when Castile told the officer about the gun he was legally carrying. Along with the footage of the shooting itself, officials also released another account of the shooting: a transcript of Yanez’s interview with two special agents from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the state agency investigating the shooting.

Like the dash-cam footage, Yanez’s comments during his interview were previously revealed in court documents and during his trial, but not widely seen. (According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, an audio recording of Yanez’s full interview with investigators was never played during the trial, and the judge denied a request from jurors to review a transcript during deliberations.) They capture a young officer who says he saw a gun and apparently connected his decision to open fire with the smell of marijuana in the car.

This story reproduces the officer’s interview with investigators approximately 16 hours after the shooting. Read it and watch the video at the link.

Breaking news on the Russia investigation from CNN: Intel chiefs tell investigators Trump suggested they refute collusion with Russians.

Two of the nation’s top intelligence officials told Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team and Senate investigators, in separate meetings last week, that President Donald Trump suggested they say publicly there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russians, according to multiple sources.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers described their interactions with the President about the Russia investigation as odd and uncomfortable, but said they did not believe the President gave them orders to interfere, according to multiple sources familiar with their accounts.

Sources say both men went further than they did in June 7 public hearings, when they provided little detail about the interactions.

The sources gave CNN the first glimpse of what the intelligence chiefs said to Mueller’s investigators when they did separate interviews last week. Both men told Mueller’s team they were surprised the President would suggest that they publicly declare he was not involved in collusion, sources said. Mueller’s team, which is in the early stages of its investigation, will ultimately decide whether the interactions are relevant to the inquiry.

Head over to CNN to read the rest.

Last night Trump held a “campaign rally” in Iowa. I didn’t watch it, but I guess it was horrifying.

The New York Times: Trump Turns an Iowa Rally Into a Venting Session.

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — President Trump said on Wednesday that he was crafting legislation to bar new immigrants from receiving welfare for at least five years. He announced the proposal in a conquering-hero-returns speech in Iowa, his first trip back to the political battleground state since he won it in the 2016 general election.

His mood buoyant after twin Republican wins in congressional special elections the night before, the president also revealed his anticipated plan for putting solar panels on a proposed wall on the Mexican border — an idea he boasted he had come up with himself.

And he — mostly — managed to avoid raising the topic he struggles to stop talking about: the investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion with his campaign.

“They have phony witch hunts going against me,” Mr. Trump said nearly an hour into a speech that veered off script repeatedly. “All we do is win, win, win. We won last night.”

The rally, Mr. Trump’s first since the end of April, served as a venting session for a pent-up president who has stewed and brooded from inside the gilded cage of the White House over attacks from investigators, Democrats and the news media, his interview schedule drastically pared down and his aides imploring him to stay off Twitter.

Style-heavy and substance-light, the speech went over an hour: an epic version of the fact-challenged, meandering and, even for his detractors, mesmerizing speeches he gave during his upstart presidential campaign.

Raw Story: WATCH: Morning Joe panel slams ‘dear leader’ Trump with horrifying 2-minute mashup of his Iowa lies.

A “Morning Joe” panel examined President Donald Trump’s lie-filled rally in Iowa, where his supporters cheered each falsehood and jeered when he attacked the media.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham compared the display to former President Richard Nixon’s lies during the Watergate scandal, but he said Trump’s rally was even more like something seen in a totalitarian regime like Nazi Germany or fascist Italy.

“Even now, in regimes like North Korea, where the dear leader speaks and we’re all supposed to salute, that what the dear leader says has to be followed, whether it’s associated with reality or not, whether it’s grounded in reality or not,” Meacham said.

The segment opened with a video montage of Trump’s falsehoods, which the panel fact-checked against previous reporting, and Meacham said the president’s lies undermined some of America’s founding principles.

“It’s a cult of the state,” Meacham said. “It’s a cult not of religion and neighborhoods and civic life and an obligation to facts as we perceive them and through common sense, which was a huge part of, really, the American experiment in the beginning. We weren’t supposed to just listen to kings and clerics who for 1,000 years had had a monopoly on dictating the terms of reality. The point of the United States was that we all had the ability to look at reality, make our own decisions and participate in a collective enterprise to govern ourselves.”

Watch the video at Raw Story.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and enjoy your Thursday!