Friday Reads: Living under a Mean Spirit

Good Afternoon!

We live in a country where Mean Spiritedness is now rewarded, held up, elected, and on display.  We’ve all known coarse, crude, uncouth people. Never have so many of them held public office. They are full of pride about what they consider their Christianity, their whiteness. their lack of manners, and their obvious failure to learn anything about the world, culture, and science around them.

One of our major parties is now not only one of greed but of meanness and stupidity. Kremlin Caligula represents that ethos in spades. I’ve always voted independently no matter which party had its name on my voter registration. I cannot imagine ever voting for another Republican in my lifetime because any cog in that wheel is a cog in a wheel that rolls over our humanity.

I’ve chosen to decorate my post today with Hopi Kachina Clowns or Koshare . The Koshare depict unacceptable behavior and teach values in the lore of Pueblo culture.  We could use a few good Koshare wandering around the halls of Congress and the grounds of the White House.

A rich white man who body slammed a Jewish Journalist for asking him a question is now head to the House of Representatives and was placed there by the mean spirits of Montana. He won a mostly narrow victory given the unbearable redness of Montana, but it was a victory nonetheless. This is horrifying. The usual suspects in the right wing press and in congress are blaming the victim and presenting the bully as some kind of hero.  I am appalled. The following words are from from Brian Beutler writing for The Republic.

Republican Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist in a special election Thursday for Montana’s lone congressional seat, a six-point victory that should horrify you because he won with the full support of the GOP after body-slamming and punching an American reporter—and many of our political institutions, especially the media, are too paralyzed to impose a meaningful consequence on him or his enablers.

Gianforte, a true coward, didn’t admit any wrongdoing until his victory speech, at which point the risks of playacting decency pertained to his criminal case—the police have charged him with assault—rather than the election. “When you make a mistake, you have to own up to it,” Gianforte said. “That’s the Montana way.” I suspect some Montanans would object to the notion that you only apologize once it’s politically safe to do so.

For it was already beyond dispute on Wednesday night, thanks to audio of the attackand a witness account from a Fox News reporter, that Gianforte had attacked the Guardian’s Ben Jacobs. That’s when the process of public accountability began. In a healthier political culture, the condemnation would have been nearly unanimous, and the context of the incident would not have been a matter of controversy. What we witnessed instead was a political media—confronted with a one-sided assault on its most basic freedom—rendered by its own constructs largely incapable of identifying the threat with any precision.

Before he became president of the United States, Donald Trump toured the country encouraging violence against protesters and whipping up animosity toward the press. Earlier this month, Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, sicced police on a reporter who was trying to ask him a question in the West Virginia state capitol on account of the fact that he didn’t recognize the reporter as an attendee of a press conference, then praised the police for their diligence. Last week, the FCC’s security detail manhandled a tech reporter at the National Press Club.

Republicans know in theory how to get their hackles up over political violence directed at reporters, because in January 2010, when an aide to Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley pushed a conservative reporter (then helped him up, and apologized for his behavior) Republicans tried to end his career in public service.

Their tacit acceptance of a culture of antagonism and violence directed at the press suggests at least that the party’s values have changed.

The win wasn’t as imposing as it could’ve been.  This is the one bit of goodness.  It also may have been mostly locked in by early and mail in voting.  However, the state of Montana is sending a man who just was charged with assault and the assault was on a reporter doing his job. This is not how it’s supposed to work in a democracy.  This is from Matt Yglesias writing for Vox.

Greg Gianforte’s 7 percentage point win in the Montana special election keeps a seat in Republican hands but fundamentally represents bad news for the GOP. The basic issue, as David Wasserman breaks down for the Cook Political Report, is that for prognostication purposes you don’t only want to know who wins or loses a special election — you want to know the margin.

 Montana is considerably redder than the average congressional district. According to Wasserman’s calculations, in an election where Democrats got 50 percent of the two-party vote nationwide, you’d expect them to get just 39 percent in Montana. Quist scored 44 percent, and with the Libertarian pulling in 6 percent, his share of the two-party vote is more like 46.

Things aren’t as simple as saying that Rob Quist outperformed the 39 percent benchmark and therefore Democrats are on track to win — geography means Republicans can hold their majority with less than 50 percent of the vote. But the GOP underperformed badly in Montana, after a similar underperformance in the special election for Kansas’s Fourth Congressional District.

There are 120 Republican-held House seats that are more GOP-friendly than Montana’s at-large district. If Republicans are winning in places like Montana by just 7 percentage points, then they are in extreme peril of losing their House majority in November 2018.

Republican leaders have taken their party on a risky course, and they ought to strongly consider turning the ship around.

b1342f80e689b237b2b1077e22c72da3The Guardian–home of the assaulted Reporter Ben Jacobs–calls the new Congressman a ‘fresh liability’ for the equally mean spirited Paul Ryan.  I can’t imagine them doing anything given what kids of crooks they’ve got wandering the White House. They only care about delivering tax cuts and ending everything but the military.

As it is, the party will now have to decide whether to embrace, accommodate or ostracise a man who made himself the personification of Trump’s media-baiting, violence-inciting campaign rhetoric. The legal saga will put a dark cloud over him and his movements on Capitol Hill are likely to receive outsized and negative coverage. In short, he is a liability adding to Ryan’s already considerable burden.

“This is going to be another of those moral tests for the Republican party,” said Charlie Sykes, a conservative author and commentator. “It should be an easy one for them to say there is no place for violence against reporters.”

In normal politics, Skyes added, the incident would have been universally condemned. But, since the ascent of Trump, the compass has moved. “It’s hard to overstate the cynicism we’ve seen from Republicans in Washington who will stop at nothing when votes are involved. How far down the road are Republicanswilling to go?”

On Thursday, Ryan said that what occurred was “wrong and should not happen”and Gianforte should apologise. But he stopped short of calling for Gianforte to quit the race. The questions will keep coming, however, when Gianforte takes his seat in the House.

Meanwhile, Kremlin Caligula displayed bad form when pushing his way to the front of the NATO summit. He shoved the Prime Minister of Montenegro to get to the head of the pack like a grade school bully.

Video of the incident spread on social networks in multiple languages.

“It seems Donald Trump did not want that anyone overshadows his presence at the summit,” said the Montenegro newspaper Vijesti.

Other Balkan websites ran headlines such as “America First” and “Where do you think you are going?”

Markovic himself, however, shrugged off the slight.

“It didn’t really register. I just saw reactions about it on social networks. It is simply a harmless situation,” he told reporters after the summit.

Instead of being insulted, he took the opportunity to thank Trump for supporting Montenegro’s membership in NATO. The small former Yugoslav republic is slated to become NATO’s 29th member next month.

His speech elicited laughs, eyerolls, and mumbles.  WAPO labels Trump’s behavior a national embarrassment.  The uncouth idiot from Queens has done us no favors with our friends while spilling beyond top secret information to international Thugs and Bullies.

After Trump called NATO obsolete (then proceeded to walk that back), Europe was looking for public support of Article 5, which affirms that NATO members will come to the mutual defense of any member that is under attack. But alas, Trump could not even bring himself to utter explicitly that the U.S. supports Article 5 in his remarks at Brussels, which every single U.S. president has done since Harry Truman in 1949. If NATO allies were nervous about the United States’ commitment to Europe’s security before, they must be fuming now. The NATO summit comes as reports surface that British police are withholding intelligence from the United States after leaks to U.S. media about the Manchester bombing investigation, and weeks after Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russiansabout operations against the Islamic State. For all of Trump’s fire and fury about the United States getting the raw end of the deal from NATO, from an optics standpoint, it is the United States that is looking like the irresponsible partner.

Perhaps in Trump’s eyes, the Saudis threw a much better shindig — spending $68 million to host Trump. Well, really, it was a $110 billion dollar fete, considering the price tag for the historic weapons deal that the United States signed with Saudi Arabia. Trump appeared to be much more friendly and relaxed among Saudi Arabian and other Gulf leaders than with our European allies. Obviously, Trump was bedazzled by the kingdom’s hospitality, but none of the Saudi opulence and money can whitewash Saudi Arabia’s terrible record of fueling Wahhabi terrorism, carrying out record numbers of public beheadings, contributing to famine in Yemen, and withholding many basic rights for Saudi women and girls. Days after one of the worst terrorist attacks in British history,  Trump is visibly more comfortable praising autocrats and extremist governments who help to fuel violence and conflict. That should be a slap in the face to our liberal allies in Europe.

The US Ambassador to the UN under George W Bush–as were many former ambassadors–were horrified by the speech and behavior.

President Donald Trump‘s first trip to a NATO summit Thursday did not sit well with former ambassadors to the alliance.

“I do think Trump’s visit to NATO was the least effective of any American president since 1949,” Nicholas Burns, who served as ambassador to the 28-member defense alliance under President George W. Bush, tweeted Friday. NATO came into existence in 1949.

In Brussels, Trump admonished members of the alliance for not paying their “fair share” for defense. The president failed to publicly endorse “Article 5,” the NATO mutual assistance clause that he was widely expected to back publicly for the first time.

Donald Rumsfeld thought the entire speech was just terrific which speaks volumes to any one with extensive knowledge of his history and your basic war criminal.  Former Speaker John Boehner called him a “disaster”. But it was today’s  Hillary Clinton who gave good shade to President Swiss Cheese for Brains in ways that only she could do.  She gave her Alma Mater Wellesley’s commencement Address.  You may watch the full address below.

She was talking to the graduates about their future. But she was focused just as much on her own past, and the hardest, fullest case against Trump she’s made since last November.

“In the years to come, there will be trolls galore, online and in person,” she said, urging the graduates not to let themselves get beaten down. “They may even call you ‘a nasty woman.'”

Back when she was getting her diploma in 1969, Clinton said, “we were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice,” pausing to soak up the cheers and applause from a crowd who knew exactly what she was talking about, and approved.

Just in case anyone missed the point, she leaned in a little further, reminding students and attendees of the private women’s liberal arts school in Massachusetts that Richard Nixon had gone down “after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.”

“But here’s what I want you to know. We got through that tumultuous time, and once again we began to thrive as our society changed laws and opened the circle of opportunity and rights wider and wider for more Americans,” Clinton said.

Clinton has been struggling non-stop over the last six months with her loss, but she’s also been struggling with her public role. People close to her, many of whom share her insistence that a race she ran well was stolen out from under her by Russian involvement and by a surprise October letter from that same now-fired FBI director, are frustrated that she hasn’t been more in demand for a central role in the Trump resistance.

 

My most favorite headline today comes from The Dallas News:  ‘Trump’s budget shows his top priority is refusing to deal with reality’ written by Kevin Williamson.

President Donald Trump has produced a very silly budget proposal. Thankfully, presidential budget proposals have all the effect of a mouse passing gas in a hurricane — Congress, not the president, actually appropriates funds and writes the tax code.Presidential budget proposals are not received as actual fiscal blueprints but as statements of priorities, and so we must conclude that Trump’s top priority is refusing to deal with reality.

Here’s the situation: About 80 percent of federal spending is consumed by five things: 1. National defense; 2. Social Security; 3. Medicare; 4. Medicaid and other related health-care benefits; 5. Interest on the debt. Trump wants to increase spending on defense by about 10 percent while shielding Social Security and Medicare from cuts. Short of a default, he doesn’t have any choice but to pay the interest on the debt. So that leaves things pretty tight.

On top of that, he wants to pass what he boasts is one of the largest tax cuts in history. And balance the budget. Naturally, the White House budget monkeys are messing with the numbers a little bit. It’s the return of the Naïve Supply-Sider.

Williamson does a great job explaining what us economists have found out and think about that. This is good because I get very tired of having to give and write that explanation many times a year.  Let me also tell you that this guy writes for The National Review so Republicans don’t have to get their prunes from me or any other person that generally votes democratic.

The problem with this simplistic analysis is that it credits 100 percent of economic growth to tax cuts, when in fact economic growth is the result of many factors. The U.S. economy has experienced periods of strong growth with much higher tax rates, as it did in the 1950s and 1960s. The meaningful comparison is not between what tax revenue was before the tax cuts and what it was after the tax cuts, but between what it was after the tax cuts and what it would have been without the cuts. Which, unfortunately, is a counterfactual.

Economists who have looked at the issue have found evidence of growth effects and sometimes evidence of very strong growth effects. What they have not found is evidence of growth effects amounting to 100 percent of forgone revenue, i.e. the holy grail of “self-financing tax cuts.” The Trump budget proposal includes tax cuts that not only are self-financing but doubly self-financing. These tax cuts would, if we are to take him at his word (and that is impossible to do) not only pay for themselves but generate enough new revenue to balance the budget 10 years down the road.

You can bet that free lunch will turn out to be expensive.

Koshare_kachina_19th_centMy big problem is the use of that word ‘free lunch’.  The folks that really need food won’t get it.  The ‘free lunch’ will go to the rest of the Caligulas resident in our country.  So, there’s the greed and the stupidity and the mean rolled up in one huge gesture.  Meanwhile, the FBI is now very out front that it’s going after Jared Kushner.  I’ll give this last bit to Charles Pierce of Esquire infamy.

In their infinite wisdom, enough of the American people got together and decided to put a manifestly unqualified and manifestly unfit New York real estate sub-tycoon in charge of the executive branch of the national government. He has proceeded to do business there in the same shadowy fashion in which he’s done business everywhere else. He’s kept everything within the family, even if the family members are no more qualified to do the work than he is. Either he never knew that you can’t run a democratic republic that way, or he didn’t care. Either everything is a surprise to this crowd, or they think that the institutions of government are just another great, fertile field of grift to be plundered.

In any case, at the end of the day, it’s all going to be about money. Jared Kushner is just the most recent clue in a completely bogus treasure map.

So, follow the money and send in the clowns. The oldies are still the goodies.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: The Wheedle and the Damage Done

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I continue to believe that a huge number of Christians in this country actually make this the least Christian country on the planet.  After all, white evangelicals were the biggest chunk of voters that made way for Russia’s attack on our form of government and brought an insane man into the White House.  What type of people fall for cons? What type of people actually will damage themselves and their neighbors to feel smug and safe in their whiteness?  Better yet, what will the recently installed Pope say to President Swiss Cheese for Brains and the Gingrichs who play the pious game of “maybe for thee but not for me” with all the Jesus teachings.

You can have as many bible studies and prayer breakfasts as you want in this administration and the actions will never overtake the words passed into law.  What we continue to see is the rich and powerful destroying the lives of the weakest among us to provide lavish tax cuts that basically accrue value to no one but the person who receives them.

With that lecture, I give you the Republican and Trump Agenda.  We are seeing the proposals that will send many to their graves.  Paul Ryan is not nicknamed the Granny Starver for nothing.  Please don’t watch the Trumpical Clusterfuck Tour. Read what’s going on with the Budget and with the Department of Re-Education.

President Trump’s first major budget proposal on Tuesday will include massive cuts to Medicaid and call for changes to anti-poverty programs that would give states new power to limit a range of benefits, people familiar with the planning said, despite growing unease in Congress about cutting the safety net.

For Medicaid, the state-federal program that provides health care to low-income Americans, Trump’s budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade.

The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors. Many anti-poverty programs have elements that are run by both the states and federal government, and a federal order allowing states to stiffen work requirements “for able-bodied Americans” could have a broad impact in terms of limiting who can access anti-poverty payments — and for how long.

Numerous social-welfare programs grew after the financial crisis, leading to complaints from many Republicans that more should be done to shift people out of these programs and back into the workforce. Shortly after he was sworn in, Trump said, “We want to get our people off welfare and back to work. . . . It’s out of control.”

Trump’s decision to include the Medicaid cuts is significant because it shows he is rejecting calls from a number of Senate Republicans not to reverse the expansion of Medicaid that President Barack Obama achieved as part of the Affordable Care Act. The House has voted to cut the Medicaid funding, but Senate Republicans have signaled they are likely to start from scratch.

As usual, children and the sick get the worst treatment. I suppose it’s only time that we see an end to child labor laws and poor farms established.  Either that, or we funnel every one to private jails.

But Tuesday’s budget will be more significant, because it will seek changes to entitlements — programs that are essentially on auto­pilot and don’t need annual authorization from Congress. The people describing the proposals spoke on the condition of anonymity because the budget had not been released publicly and the White House is closely guarding details.

The proposed changes include the big cuts to Medicaid. The White House also is expected to propose changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, though precise details couldn’t be learned. SNAP is the modern version of food stamps, and it swelled following the financial crisis as the Obama administration eased policies to make it easier for people to qualify for benefits. As the economy has improved, enrollment in the program hasn’t changed as much as many had forecast.

And they’re still after a the Affordable Health Care Act.  This amounts to a death by a million paper cuts.  You’ll notice most of this isn’t being rolled out with the same gusto as the Saudis welcomed Kremlin Caligula.

The Trump administration Monday plans to ask a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, according to two administration sources, leaving the future of the health care marketplaces in limbo through late August.

The suit, House v. Price, centers on Obamacare’s cost-sharing program, which reimburses health insurers to help low-income people make co-payments at the doctor or hospital. The legal motion in a case that was brought by House Republicans during the Obama administration is expected to be filed later Monday.

President Donald Trump has argued that the markets are fatally flawed and will collapse no matter what his administration does. He also suggested that the ensuing chaos could entice Democrats to come to the bargaining table and help craft a health care overhaul. But administration officials have said the payments would continue while the lawsuit is pending.

While another delay would stop short of imploding the markets, it still undermines the exchanges, by continuing uncertainty as insurers decide where to offer coverage and how to price it.

House Republicans charged the cost-sharing program was never legally funded in Obamacare. A federal district court judge ruled in 2016 that the Obama administration was illegally funding the program. The Obama administration appealed that decision but the issue was unresolved before Trump took office.

September 16, 2016

Meanwhile, Betsy DeVos is already steamrolling along. The plan that has completely failed in Louisiana is about to go National with this nut job in charge of the Department of Re-Education.  School choice is another term for segregated schools and public funding of religious atrocities foisted on innocent children.

Before she was picked by President Trump to head up the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos was the chairwoman of the American Federal for Children, a pro-school choice lobbying group.

When she visits Indianapolis Monday night, Secretary DeVos will address a sea of friendly and familiar faces at the AFC’s National Policy Summit at the Weston Hotel.

It’s expected DeVos will roll out a Trump administration plan to provide tax credits to corporations and individuals who donate money to groups and schools that provide school choice scholarships to students and parents.

“We see that this is a really significant opportunity for her to lay out a vision for what she sees as educational choice going into the future for all fifty states,” said AFC Spokesman Tommy Schultz. “I think Indianapolis and Indiana are great places to do it where Indiana has one of the fastest growing choice programs in the entire country.”

More than 33,000 Hoosier students attend classes in a private or charter school under Indiana’s expanded choice program.

“So a federal tax credit scholarship program would be a really great way to facilitate getting more families educational options for their child. We expect something like that to be potentially rolled out later this year,” said Schultz. “It’s purely folks giving charitable contributions to education scholarship organizations and then therefore they’ll get a credit for that.”

Indiana’s public school teachers fear the DeVos speech will be one more attack on the system that educates a majority of America’s children, many of them in struggling urban school districts.

“We are concerned that her speech is going to be about changes to the proposed federal budget and how that’s going to impact our students,” said Theresa Merideth, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. “What we have is a voucher system now that funds kids who are already going, by and large, to private schools anyway, and there is no data that is showing they are doing any better that public school counterparts.”

Meredith said before- and after-school programs, and services aimed at special education youngsters, will be at risk from proposed Trump administration cuts to the federal education budget.

Make American White, Fascist, and Nutty Religious folks!  I really think their slogan should be Greed and Grifting is Good!  In that vein, the White House is trying to block ethics investigations of ex lobbyists now working in Federal Agencies and the West Wing.

The Trump administration, in a significant escalation of its clash with the government’s top ethics watchdog, has moved to block an effort to disclose any ethics waivers granted to former lobbyists who now work in the White House or federal agencies.

The latest conflict came in recent days when the White House, in a highly unusual move, sent a letter to Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, asking him to withdraw a request he had sent to every federal agency for copies of the waivers. In the letter, the administration challenged his legal authority to demand the information.

Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.

Mr. Shaub, who is in the final year of a five-year term after being appointed by President Barack Obama, said he had no intention of backing down. “It is an extraordinary thing,” Mr. Shaub said of the White House request. “I have never seen anything like it.”

There is some good news.  The Court System appears to be working as a system of checks and balances on all the crazies that have invaded the executive branches and legislative branches throughout the Country and in the District.  SCOTUS just told North Carolina its gerrymandering smacked of racism and rejected its proposed Congressional Districts.  Thomas sided with the majority and Gorsuch sat out so I’m no sure we can divine any future trends from this.

A divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina Republicans relied too heavily on race when they drew two bizarrely shaped congressional voting districts that were used until the 2014 election.

The ruling upholds a lower court decision that rejected the two majority-black districts and ordered a new map for the 2016 election. Even with the new lines, Republicans maintained their hold on 10 of the state’s 13 districts.

Writing for the court, Justice Elena Kagan said a three-judge panel had sufficient grounds for concluding that race, and not politics, was the driving factor in setting out the lines. She also backed the lower court’s conclusion that the district lines weren’t needed to comply with a federal voting-rights law.

“A state may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason,” Kagan wrote.

The case produced an unusual split. Justice Clarence Thomas, perhaps the most conservative justice, joined the court’s four liberals in the majority. Thomas is a staunch opponent of the use of race in drawing district lines, no matter which side benefits.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Anthony Kennedy issued a partial dissent saying they would have upheld one of the districts. Justice Neil Gorsuch didn’t take part in the case, which was argued before he joined the court.

The contested districts were both held by black Democrats. Critics said the goal was to dilute minority voting strength outside of those two districts and preserve the power of neighboring white Republicans.

North Carolina officials said they were trying to preserve black majorities and comply with the Voting Rights Act, the landmark 1965 law designed to protect racial minorities. North Carolina also contended that, with regard to one of its disputed districts, map-drawers were legitimately motivated by politics.

One of the disputed districts — the 12th District, held by Representative Alma Adams — was 120 miles long, snaking from Charlotte to Greensboro and roughly tracking Interstate 85. The other — the 1st District, held by Representative G.K. Butterfield — was in the northeastern part of the state, with tendrils that captured black areas further south and west.

The 12th District has been the subject of repeated court challenges over the years. The latest case represented the fifth time the Supreme Court had examined the district.

Flynn will be evoking the Fifth Amendment.   They probably have enough on him that it won’t mean much.

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination on Monday as he notifies the Senate Intelligence committee that he will not comply with a subpoena seeking documents.

That’s according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private interactions between Flynn and the committee.

Flynn’s decision comes less than two weeks after the committee issued a subpoena for Flynn’s documents as part of the panel’s investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Legal experts have said Flynn was unlikely to turn over the personal documents without immunity because he would be waiving some of his constitutional protections by doing so. Flynn has previously sought immunity from “unfair prosecution” to cooperate with the committee.

Simon Maloy argues that the Trump White House is collapsing in an op ed for The Week.

Just as Air Force One was lifting off to ferry Trump to Riyadh, The New York Times and The Washington Post each published seismically significant pieces on the White House’s ever-expanding Russia scandal. The Timesreported that Trump, during an Oval Office meeting the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey, told high-level Russian officials that Comey was a “nut job” and firing him had relieved the “great pressure” Trump felt “because of Russia.” The Post, meanwhile, reported that the Justice Department’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s links to Russia has identified a senior White House official as “a significant person of interest.”

Shortly after the Times and Post stories hit, CNN came through with another big scoop, reporting that Russian officials had boasted during the 2016 campaign that they could use former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to influence Trump and his associates.

The Times piece in particular is brutal for Trump. At the time the president divulged to the Russians his motivation for firing his FBI director, the administration was still sticking to its ridiculous story that Comey lost his job because he botched the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. That means officials from an adversarial government knew the White House wasn’t being honest about a politically explosive subject.

On top of that, Trump’s comments to the Russians could become the focus of an obstruction of justice inquiry by special counsel Robert Mueller, who was tapped to assume control of the Russia investigation following Comey’s dismissal. Trump had already told NBC’s Lester Holt that the Russia investigation factored into his decision to fire Comey, and the Times report adds significant weight to the idea that Trump’s primary motivation in sacking Comey was to neutralize an issue that was damaging him politically.

The Post report, meanwhile, feels like the first strong indication that the Russia investigation has the potential to cut deeply. The fact that a senior White House official is coming under scrutiny is obviously a problem for Trump, but the Post also reported that the FBI inquiry now “also includes determining whether any financial crimes were committed by people close to the president.”

Financial Crimes is an interesting take given the Russian hacking of the US election and White House.  But, it’s a serious way to take down the Trump Criminal Syndicate.  This is from Josh Marshall writing for TPM.

We know – and this article confirms – that Paul Manafort is a significant focus of the probe. Even apart from his political work in Ukraine, Manafort appears to have a series of real estate deals, loans, etc. that investigators are looking at. So perhaps it’s something as mundane as stumbling across some kind of crooked, small-bore real estate ventures Manafort participated in while examining his business ties to people in Ukraine.

But my hunch is that it’s a bit more than that.

As you’ve seen, what I’ve been focused on in recent months are a series of business ventures over the last couple decades – either involving President Trump or his close associates – which seemed to rely on capital from people from the former Soviet Union or recent emigres from those countries. Trump himself, Felix Sater, Michael Cohen and many others figure into this as well as Manafort, Trump’s children, the Kushners and still others. My interest of course is to understand the roots of Trump’s affinity with the post-Soviet oligarch world and whatever financial ties or dependence he has on it. But even if you take the Russia/former Soviet Union connection with its geopolitical dynamics out of the equation, you simply can’t read over these deals and not see that Trump and his crew just play way out on the outer fringe of legality at best. At best. People who have done or subsequently did time in the US or other countries repeatedly appear in the picture. So do people from organized crime. A lot.

One thing you find looking through Trump’s history is that after his fall from financial grace a quarter century ago this pattern seemed to become part of the business model. Cut off from capital from the big banks and most people interested in not losing their money, he had to do business with people with decidedly sketchier reputations. Those people, often looking for places to park wealth in real estate, had to accept much higher levels of risk than people with clean reputations. That seemed to lead them to Trump.

Then there’s another level of it. Even apart from big bad acts and corrupt deals, look at the stuff David Fahrenthold dug up on the Trump Foundation and his Potemkin charitable giving. Beyond issues of possible illegality, the big takeaway there was that Trump operates with a seemingly almost total disregard for rule-following or even a lot of elementary record keeping. So on top of substantively shady deals things are executed in really slapdash and hazard ways. In other words, the Trump Organization sounds a lot like the Trump White House. Only it’s a private company, surrounded by a moat of NDAs, all examined by little more than the thin scrutiny of the New York tabloids.

Here are just a couple examples of some color from the kinds of associations and business dealings I’m talking about: one and two.

Follow those links.

So, I’ve just filled the page with over 3100 words and counting.  I think I’ll leave the rest to you this morning.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Crazy comes in a Variety of Flavors

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

I have to admit that getting rid of Kremlin Caligula would certainly make the entire world sleep easier. His brand of crazy, affluenza, and narcissism creates nothing but chaos.  I find this appalling on all levels but as both a student and teacher of game theory I can only imagine what the folks are doing that use that tool for diplomatic negotiations, strategic arms control, terrorism scenarios, economic shocks, and all other types of endeavors where strategy, predictability, and the assumption of operating in rational best interest are intrinsic to the models.  President Swiss Cheese for brains emanates black swans like a newborn fills diapers. It’s constant and YUGE and stinky!!! That’s a dangerous situation in a world with nuclear weapons, sophisticated war games, and global trade which all rely heavily on the game theory method of analyzing and containing fucked up situations.

However, what’s waiting in the wings at the moment is a scary predictable monster. Former Indiana Governor and current VPOTUS Mike Pence is a known and frightening quantity. What we know is extremely bad. He’s quiet yet conventionally political and as radical as they come.  This is why I dread reading and hearing about a potential President Mike Pence.  His religious, economic, and record of governance are appalling. He is forming a PAC and undoubtedly finding the finger of gawd up his ass with this Politico Headline and lede: ‘Conservatives begin to whisper: President Pence. With Trump swamped by self-inflicted scandals, Republicans find solace in the man waiting in the wings.’

And conservative New York Times op-ed writer Ross Douthat, argued that abandoning Trump now should be easier because someone competent is waiting in the wings. “Hillary Clinton will not be retroactively elected if Trump is removed, nor will Neil Gorsuch be unseated,” Douthat wrote in Wednesday’s Times.

The pining for Pence is nothing new, however. From Capitol Hill to K Street, the notion that many Republicans prefer Pence to Trump in the Oval Office is perhaps the worst-kept secret in Washington.

Just ask Republican lobbyists who have watched the Trump administration struggle to move tax reform, health care and other top priorities.

“I find it unlikely that Trump is going anywhere,” one GOP lobbyist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wrote in an email. “That being said, Pence is well-liked on the Hill, fairly predictable, and doesn’t stir up much unnecessary drama.”

A number of Republican lobbyists already view Pence as a source of stability in an otherwise tumultuous White House. Many of Pence’s top staffers — including his chief of staff, Josh Pitcock — worked for Pence during his years in the House and are deeply familiar with the legislative process. Other former Pence staffers from his House days are working elsewhere in the administration, including Marc Short, the legislative affairs director, and Russ Vought, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

While Pence may not be as commanding a figure in Trump’s White House as Dick Cheney was in George W. Bush’s, Trump has leaned on him heavily. Lobbyists who set up meetings between Pence and their clients must warn them that the vice president may be an hour and a half late or have to leave after 10 minutes because Trump is constantly calling him into the Oval Office to confer with him, according to one Republican lobbyist.

Ross Douthat is a philistine and throwback to the worst Western Civilization has ever offered. Anything he suggests should be immediately dumped into a nuclear waste dump.  Both Pence and Douthat are likely reincarnations of the worst the Spanish Inquisition ever offered.  You can tell that the Republican machine is closing ranks around him from these kinds of comments. Be very afraid!

Vice President Mike Pence has been kept in the dark about former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s alleged wrongdoing, according to a source close to the administration, who cited a potential “pattern” of not informing the vice president and calling it “malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable.”

A White House spokesman called The Times’ report “flat wrong” on Thursday, but the latest revelations, including a report that Flynn called off a military mission in Raqqa after working as a foreign agent for Turkey, only broadened the scope of questions around Flynn’s time as an adviser to the Trump campaign and the eventual National Security Adviser.

The source called the report of another discretion by Flynn “stunning.”

This would be the second time that Pence claims he was kept in the dark about possible Flynn wrongdoings, despite the White House’s alleged knowledge of them. Earlier this year, Pence said he was not made aware of Flynn’s discussions with Russian officials until 15 days after Trump and the White House were notified.

The source close to the administration, who requested anonymity as the White House denies the story, is now saying that Pence and his team were not made aware of any investigation relating to Flynn’s work as a foreign agent for Turkey.

“It’s also a fact that if he told McGahn that during the transition, it’s also a fact that not only was Pence not made aware of that, no one around Pence was as well,” the source said. “And that’s an egregious error — and it has to be intentional. It’s either malpractice or intentional, and either are unacceptable.”

 I call Shennigans! What did Mike Pence know and when did he know it? He was the head of the transition team.  How on earth could he not know anything about any of this?  Nothing about any answer to this question is uplifting.
Vice President Mike Pence is standing by a March statement that he first learned of now-fired national security adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Turkey from media reports, despite renewed scrutiny and revelations President Donald Trump’s transition team was made aware far earlier.
“The vice president stands by his comments in March upon first hearing the news regarding General Flynn’s ties to Turkey and fully supports the President’s decision to ask for General Flynn’s resignation,” said an aide to Pence, who declined to be named.
But questions about what Pence knew and when are swirling thanks to new media reports about what Flynn revealed to Trump’s transition team, which Pence oversaw.
Flynn informed the Trump transition team more than two weeks before the inauguration that he was under federal investigation for his work as a lobbyist advocating for Turkish government interests, The New York Times reported Wednesday. But Pence didn’t know, according to a senior administration official close to Pence.
Despite reportedly informing the transition’s chief lawyer Donald McGahn, now White House counsel, of the investigation’s existence, Flynn still walked into the West Wing on January 20 as the President’s top adviser on national security issues.

Even young evangelicals question Mike Pence as witnessed by a protest of him by students in a small bible college where he spoke at commencement.  However, they still consider him to be a “good” christian. This is what worries me.

Pence is a radical.  He’s also not very bright.  He is, however, good at passing as a conventional human being. He also looks like the anchor to sanity compared to his unhinged boss. This is dangerous in a time when looking for safe ports is a minute by minute task.

During my travels across the self-proclaimed Crossroads of America, I learned that Mike Pence had once paid his mortgage with campaign funds, dragged his feet during an HIV epidemic and a lead-poisoning outbreak, signed an anti-gay-rights bill that nearly cost Indiana millions of dollars, lost his mind on national TV with George Stephanopoulos, and turned away Syrian refugees in an unconstitutional ploy laughed out of federal court. And he ended his gubernatorial term unpopular enough that his re-election bid in a Republican state seemed dicey at best.

Pence is the nation’s 48th vice president. Nine vice presidents have assumed the presidency as a result of death or resignation. That’s a 19 percent ascendancy rate. Between Trump’s trigger-happy Twitter persona, the ethical nightmare of his business empire, his KFC addiction and possible entanglements with Vladimir Putin, I’d say the chances for Mike Pence are more than 50-50.

So what do we know about Pence? The governor benefited greatly from the wall-to-wall “Trump is a crazy monkey throwing feces” media coverage during the fall campaign, in that his record was undercovered, but it’s out there and suggests that his impact as vice president will screw African-Americans, women, the poor and any other square peg in round America. His concerns for the parts of Indiana outside his comfort zone toggled between disinterest and disdain.

And here’s the frightening thing: Unlike his boss, Mike Pence has an actual ideology. Pence proclaimed at the 2016 GOP convention that “I am a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.” However, his actual record – including turning down up to $80 million in federal pre-K funding – is the antithesis of Jesus’ “whatever you do for one of the least of my brothers, you do for me” theology.

This should worry anyone that is concerned about the rights of women and GLBT.  It should concern those of us that like to live in the modern age. He’s no different from the Taliban except for the name and face on the prophet. We would do well to remember that!

In 2000, Pence made another bid for Congress. He checked the GOP boxes for cutting taxes while increasing military spending, but he also made it clear he was a Christian warrior, stating, “Congress should oppose any effort to recognize homosexuals as a ‘discreet and insular minority’ entitled to the protection of anti-discrimination laws.” He also argued that the AIDS resources bill, commonly known as the Ryan White Care Act, should be renewed only if resources were “directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.” While Pence has argued that providing assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior meant abstinence groups, many gay activists heard code words for “conversion therapy.” In 2006, he spoke in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, arguing that “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.”

Pence fought against the pro-choice movement with vigor rare even by right-wing standards, introducing a bill to de-fund Planned Parenthood year after year he was in the House. The death of a woman after taking an abortion pill led Pence to the House floor, where he spoke favorably of Lex Cornelia, a collection of ancient Roman laws, including one detailing how providers of abortion potions were sentenced to work in the mines.

His agenda was so radical that exactly zero of Pence’s bills became law. But he’d laid down markers that would be appreciated by the hard right who vote in presidential primaries.

These are excerpts from an extremely long but engaging piece in a January issue of Rolling Stone by Stephan Rodrick.  It’s worth your time.

Oh, and speaking of dishrags that hold down VEEP jobs, Biden opened his mouth again and it’s not pretty.  Here’s WAPO: ‘Biden disses Clinton: ‘I never thought she was a great candidate. I thought I was a great candidate.’’ This from the man who could never climb out of the bottom tier of national candidates. This from the man who lead the real witch hunt on Anita Hill.

Former vice president Joe Biden stirred the Democratic pot a little bit on Thursday night.

Appearing at the SALT hedge fund conference in Las Vegas, the possible 2020 presidential candidate weighed in on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 candidacy in a way that Clinton supporters sure won’t like.

“I never thought she was a great candidate,” Biden said, according to reports. “I thought I was a great candidate.”

Biden clarified, according to CNN, that “Hillary would have been a really good president.” But that isn’t likely to make Clinton supporters feel much better.

Biden isn’t the first leading Democratic figure with possible designs on 2020 to apparently slight Clinton. Clinton’s 2016 primary foe, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has repeatedly offered some version of this quote: “It wasn’t that Donald Trump won the election; it was that the Democratic Party that lost the election.”

Those comments have definitely rubbed some Clinton supporters the wrong way, and Biden’s are likely to even more so, given how direct they were.

This is all followed, of course, by the proverbial MSM meme that Hillary was such a bad candidate.   Yeah, you can tell that by the number of votes she’s gotten and the number of times she wins most admired woman in the world and in the US.  WTF is wrong ?  Can’t this nitwit just go peacefully into the night and tilt at a few windmills in the name of cancer research and the memory of his son?

I will never forget what he said about Clarence Thomas and what he did to Anita Hill in those confirmation hearings.  NEVER!

So, as we swiftly continue our realization that white men will never give women a chance to lead,  remember that our current VEEP calls his wife “MOTHER” and will not be left alone in any room with a woman. 

Vice President Mike Pence is known for many things: the homophobic policies he instated while governor of Indiana, his fierce opposition to women’s health care, his tendency to defer to the Bible over the Constitution. Yet another facet of the vice president emerged recently: his desire to never dine alone in the company of a woman other than his wife. This is odd enough — but things get even weirder when you consider that Pence allegedly calls his wife, Karen, “Mother.” If the claims are true, why does he use this seemingly outdated nickname? There’s no clear answer, but I can take an educated guess.

Pence’s supposed penchant for calling Karen “Mother, Mother” (that’s two “mothers” in a row, if you’re keeping track), originally came to light in a January Rolling Stone profile on Mrs. Pence. The piece recounted a dinner Pence held for the Democratic minority while he was governor of Indiana. It was here, reportedly, that multiple members of the dinner party heard Pence refer to Karen as “Mother.”

“Mother, Mother, who prepared our meal this evening?” Pence allegedly asked. He followed this up with another question later in the evening, supposedly asking Karen, “Mother, Mother, whose china are we eating on?”

Flash forward to this week’s profile of Karen in the Washington Post. The publication cited a long-buried 2002 interview with the Hill, in which Pence said he never eats alone with a woman that isn’t his wife, and likewise never drinks alcohol without his wife present.

Could these seemingly outdated guidelines tie in with the alleged “Mother” nickname? I’m going to wager that yes, it’s very possible.

The boundaries he sets in his own marriage are up to him and “Mother” (erm, his wife), of course. But these rules Pence has placed on himself are no great surprise when you consider his socially conservative take on women’s issues at large, as well as his tendency to incorporate his own religious views into his political life. His tie-breaking Senate vote to allow states to withhold Title X funding from clinics that provide abortions, even though abortions are legal in the United States, is only the latest example.

UGH!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Impeachment Edition

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

Does the rule of law matter to Republicans any more?  Is it all about installing a radical theocratic and corporate agenda now and letting who ever will do it run amok through everything we stand?

So, is it about to end and will the Republicans actually do it?

Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor have supposedly found sources that told them that a grand jury returned sealed indictments against Trump, Manaford, Flint and others.   I’d write this off under normal circumstances but these two–from very different political viewpoints–seemed to be scooping the MSM on nearly every thing these days.  They have at least one good source between them.

Separate sources with links to the intelligence and justice communities have stated that a sealed indictment has been granted against Donald Trump.

While it is understood that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution means that, until Mr. Trump is impeached, he cannot be prosecuted, sources say that the indictment is intended by the FBI and prosecutors in the Justice Department to form the basis of Mr. Trump’s impeachment. The indictment is, perhaps uniquely, not intended or expected to be used for prosecution, sources say, because of the constitutional position of the President.

The biggest issue is that none of the MSM has picked up on anything yet or is unable to verify the details or won’t do it yet.  However, today, Morning Joke and Meeka inkled this: Morning Joe says FBI close to exposing the president: ‘It’s a criminal issue — and Trump knows that’.

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough believes President Donald Trump fired FBI director James Comey because he sensed the investigation was getting close to revealing whatever criminal actions he’s trying to hide.

The “Morning Joe” host compared the situation to the Showtime series “Billions,” which depicts a U.S. attorney pursuing a hedge fund billionaire named Bobby Axelrod, and he said the FBI had found strong evidence against Trump and his associates.

“The FBI has started pulling that string, and they are still pulling that string where it leads is not just an election issue, it is a criminal issue — and Trump knows that,” Scarborough said.

John Heilemann, the co-managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and an MSNBC political analyst, agreed that Comey’s firing was not an irrational action or a political miscalculation, but rather an effort to stop or slow the FBI investigation into his ties to Russia.

“The reason he did this is not because he’s out of his mind,” Heilmann said. “He did this is because, as you said Joe, I think he recognizes — he looked over at the FBI and said, this guy James Comey came to the White House, I asked him, if we believe this story, asked him for his loyalty, he wouldn’t give me his loyalty. He’s been investigating since last July, he’s now taking daily briefings on this matter, rather than weekly, he’s now asking for more prosecutors. Donald Trump knows what’s at the heart of this. I don’t know what that is, but he does, and he’s saying this guy knows, too.”

Scarborough said he’s heard from FBI sources that the investigation had gathered steam in recent weeks, and he said Comey was fired in response to that development.

“They have already found the string and they are pulling on it, based on my contacts inside the FBI and they are starting to tug on that string, and they are going to keep tugging, keeping going, and it’s accelerated because of the way he fired Comey, and he knows it,” Scarborough said.

So these two aren’t my favorite sources but we’re getting closer to the end game.  Also, there’s supposedly a RICO investigation dealing with money laundering Russian donations to the RNC that’s heating up.  We’re dealing with major criminal enterprises if all this is true and they can prove it.  Just for side giggles,  Meeka and Joke also mentioned that the White House Mommy hates President Swiss Cheese for Brains.

 

Steve Benson / Creators Syndicate

Former Trump Adviser and Campaign Manager Paul Manfort still appears to be a vital link in investigations second maybe to only General Flynn. Newsweek‘s Graham Lanktree follows the money and the investigation by top NY Lawyers today.  Manafort’s lawyers appear to be on the offense trying to stop leaks.

New York state’s attorney general has begun an investigation into the real estate dealings of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to reports.

Manafort has made millions of dollars worth of real estate investments in the U.S. in recent years, using shell companies to purchase properties in New York, Florida, Virginia, and Los Angeles.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has opened an investigation into Manafort’s real-estate transactions, sources told Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. The outlets confirmed that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has also opened a separate investigation into Manafort’s real-estate dealings.

Sources told the WSJ last week that in an unrelated matter the U.S. Justice Department requested Manafort’s bank records in April as part of its investigation into whether Trump campaign officials colluded with Russia as it worked to influence the 2016 election.

Last month The New York Times revealed Manafort took out $13 million in loans from Trump-tied businesses soon after he resigned from the campaign last August amidst a scandal.

Manafort was forced to step down after he was accused by the Ukrainian government’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau of receiving $12.7 million in off-the-book payments from the country’s former President Viktor Yanukovych—an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Manafort advised the ousted leader’s election campaigns from 2004 to 2010. He has also worked as a political operative for dictators in Asia and Africa.

Manafort told The Times that “there is nothing out of the ordinary about” the loans and that he is “confident anyone who isn’t afflicted with scandal fever will come to the same conclusion.”

Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni hit back at leaks of the latest investigations in a phone call with Bloomberg Saturday, stating that “if someone’s leaking information about an investigation, that’s a crime.”

The disconnect between Republicans and reality continues as Vox reports:  ‘Trump admits he fired Comey over Russia. Republican voters don’t believe him.

President Donald Trump has said the real reason he fired James Comey from the FBI was because of the bureau’s investigation into links between Trump’s 2016 campaign associates and Russia. But that doesn’t seem to have gotten through to the majority of Republican voters.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of Republicans still believe the White House’s first rationale for Comey’s firing — that the FBI director was dismissed for poorly handling the investigation into Hillary Clinton emails — according to a recent public poll from NBC and the Wall Street Journal. Overall, 38 percent of Americans still believe Clinton’s emails were behind the firing, according to the poll conducted from May 11 to 13.

Trump’s decision to fire Comey still isn’t playing well with the American public overall — only 29 percent of Americans approve of the decision, while 38 percent disapprove. And the reactions continue to be partisan; 58 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s decision, while 66 percent of Democrats disapproved. This is a continuation of early public polling on Comey’s firing from multiple outlets that showed Republicans were largely brushing off the Comey story.

One thing has changed however: Overall, 78 percent of surveyed Americans said they prefer a special prosecutor or independent investigation into the possible ties between Trump’s campaign and Russia, including 68 percent of Republican voters. This has been a major call among Democratic lawmakers in Washington, and a demand Republican congressional leaders have been quick to push against. But among American voters, this poll suggests there is more bipartisan support.

The NBC/WSJ poll results suggest Republicans nationally are largely in step with their leaders in Washington on the Russia issue. News of Comey’s firing created some divisions among Republican politicians, who have expressed concern with Trump’s decision to fire a man currently investigating the administration. But overwhelmingly, Republican leadership has toed the White House’s line on Comey’s dismissal.

Chuck Todd is already saying Republicans are in the ‘danger zone’ for midterms.   I’m so completely over these folks and their horse race style political coverage but let’s look at the why, at least.

There are two ways to look at the new national NBC/WSJ poll we released Sunday. The first way: President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey didn’t significantly change the president’s overall standing. Trump’s job-approval rating dipped one point from 40% in April to 39% now, which is well within the poll’s margin of error. And his fav/unfav score is 38% positive/52% negative — again basically unchanged from April.

But here’s the second way to view the poll: Trump’s 39% job rating is a screaming alarm bell for the Republican Party when you think about the midterms, which are still more than 500 days away. To put Trump’s 39% into perspective, George W. Bush didn’t reach that level in the NBC/WSJ poll until October 2005, so after the Social Security debacle, after the Iraq war turned south, and after Hurricane Katrina. And the GOP lost the House and Senate the following year. And Barack Obama NEVER reached 39% in our poll — his lowest approval rating was 40% in September 2014, right before Democrats lost the Senate (after losing the House in 2010).

Now a president’s job-approval rating isn’t the end all-be all for determining what happens in a midterm environment, although political scientists will tell you that it plays a considerable role. What’s more, there’s more than a year and a half between now and November 2018, so a lot can change. But if you see Trump’s 39% and think, “Hey, all things considered, it doesn’t look THAT bad for the president,” remember that we’re 116 days into Trump’s presidency, and he’s where George W. Bush was in October 2005 and about where Barack Obama was in September 2014. But this is also why the pressure is on Democrats to win at least one of two competitive special congressional elections coming up in the next month — in Montana on May 25, and in Georgia on June 20.

Congressman Al Green is all about impeaching Trump.  The Texas Democrat announced his intentions to see it done.  Green joins Maxine Waters in the effort to impeach Kremlin Caligula.

Texas Representative Al Green has called for impeachment proceedings to begin against President Donald Trump, saying that the president has put the US democratic process at risk.

In calling for Mr Trump’s impeachment, Mr Green specifically referenced the firing last week of former FBI Director James Comey, and remarks made by the president afterward. After firing Mr Comey, Mr Trump said he had considered the Russia investigation when firing the former FBI chief. He later tweeted that Mr Comey better hope that there aren’t recordings of conversations between himself and the president before he begins to speak out about what happened.

“These acts, when combined, amount to intimidation and obstruction,” Mr Green said during a press conference in his southwestern Houston district. “If the president is not above the law he should be charged by way of impeachment by the US House of Representatives.”

However, the key to this atm is in the hands of Congressional Republicans. 

During an appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation, The Washington Post’s David Ignatius relayed the growing fear of Trump among Republicans, “Talking this week to several prominent Republicans, people who have not been sharp critics of Donald Trump, I heard the same thing, which is: This guy scares me. And I think the reason that people were scared this week is that they saw impulsive behavior, they saw a kind of vengeful, brooding about past slights. They saw a willingness to be — to be — just basically to lie to the country, not to tell the truth. And I think — one person said to me, there are no guardrails on this presidency. Another person said, this is Richard Nixon on steroids. In other words, this is kind of a hyperactive — so, I think that’s where we are at the end of the week. A lot of people are scared. And they wonder, how do we get out of this?”

The whispers that Republicans are looking for a way out have been getting louder off the record ever since the President accused Barack Obama of wiretapping him.

Republicans really appear to have believed that they could manage Trump. What they are finding out is that they greatly underestimated Trump’s capacity for misuse of executive power, the Russia scandal, and Trump’s own mental and emotional instability.

I do believe this is the beginning of the end but I have no idea how long–and more important how deeply damaging–this struggle will be. I hate to think that I heard most of this first from Louise Mensch or Jennifer Rubin but it is what it is.

Every single Republican must make a decision: Insist on full-throated, independent investigation of the firing, or be party to a possible cover-up. Every candidate for office in 2018 must be asked a question: If it is determined that Trump fired Comey to interfere with the Russia probe, would that representative vote for impeachment/senator vote to convict? Yes, it really has come to that.

I’ll just say I took it more seriously when I heard it from Lawrence Tribe.

The time has come for Congress to launch an impeachment investigation of President Trump for obstruction of justice.

The remedy of impeachment was designed to create a last-resort mechanism for preserving our constitutional system. It operates by removing executive-branch officials who have so abused power through what the framers called “high crimes and misdemeanors” that they cannot be trusted to continue in office.

No American president has ever been removed for such abuses, although Andrew Johnson was impeached and came within a single vote of being convicted by the Senate and removed, and Richard Nixon resigned to avoid that fate.

Now the country is faced with a president whose conduct strongly suggests that he poses a danger to our system of government.

Well, it’s Tricky Dicky from Yorba Linda
Hip hip hip hurrah.
Tricky Dicky from Yorba Linda
Hip hip hip hurrah.
He walks, he talks, he smiles, he frowns,
He does what a human can,
He’s Tricky Dicky from Yorba Linda,
The genuine plastic man, oh yeah,
He’s the genuine plastic man, oh yeah,
He’s the genuine plastic man.

We need an update for “Don the Con from  Mar-a-Lago. Hip hip hip hurrah.” And read this about Trump and “inconvenient data”.  It’s just another way to fatten us all up for the big grift.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Positively Nixonian

Happy Mother’s Day Weekend Sky Dancers!

As usual, we have no respite from the news and it looks like we get to kick Dick Nixon’s dead body some.  Every where you turn you hear the word “Nixonian”.  BB managed to find a lot of Trump/Nixon mash ups in political cartoons.  I thought it completely symbolic to see a picture of Kremlin Caligula with Kissinger in the White House this week.  I was just wondering if Kissinger was asked once more to pray.  I actually bought and read Woodward and Bernstein’s ‘The Final Days’ just to read that entire scene.  It still sits on my book shelf like a monument to the death of my belief in American Exceptionalism.

I probably could imagine a similar conversation taking place between Bannon and President Swiss Cheese for Brains. (My apologies for the ‘k” word,)  The cut away would probably be to discuss the escalation in Syria/Afghanistan instead.

APRIL 22, 1973: THE PRESIDENT, H.R. “BOB” HALDEMAN, AND HENRY KISSINGER, 9:50–10:50 A.M., OVAL OFFICE.
PRESIDENT NIXON: Where is…where is that kike, Kissinger?

KISSINGER: I’m right here, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT NIXON: Oh…uh, Henry, good, I’m glad you’re here…I want you to get down on your knees, Henry, and pray for me…I’m up shit creek without a paddle. I’ve got the damn Jew press on me like a “kick me” sign taped to my ass.

KISSINGER: Of course, Mr. President.

HALDEMAN: You can kneel over here, Henry.

PRESIDENT NIXON: Never mind that…just get me some support from those sons-of-bitches in the cabinet. Tell them I’ve got stuff on them…pictures.

KISSINGER: But, Mr. President, you have these things?

PRESIDENT NIXON: We’ve got tons of stuff…tons…

KISSINGER: All right, Mr. President, but it would help me if I could…see the pictures.

HALDEMAN: We’ll get some for you, Henry.

KISSINGER: Good. Now, sir, I want to discuss the latest operation in Camb—(cuts off)

Well, some folks just have a lot of nerve and they think we’re such fools. They just want to be on the side that’s winning.

So, it will get worse if the Ryan/Trump economic plan gets passed.  We know this.  It’s nice to hear it from an esteemed Nobel prize winning economist though.  Can we stop pretending the people that voted him found him the source of relief for economic distress? They’re about to get a shitload of it.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s economic policies risk creating growth that mostly benefits the rich and aggravates income inequality in the United States, Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton said.

Trump was swept to power on promises of help for poorer Americans but Deaton said his proposals to roll back regulations on finance and industry and cut healthcare benefits would mostly help corporate groups with political influence.

Trump’s plans to cut taxes and raise trade barriers, if enacted, might give a short-term income boost to some workers but would not deliver the long-term growth that is essential for mitigating the effects of inequality, he said in an interview.

“I don’t think any of it is good” for addressing income inequality, said Deaton, a Princeton University professor, who won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2015 for his work on poverty, welfare and consumption.

He was speaking on Friday after addressing a meeting in Italy of finance ministers and central bankers from rich nations at which inequality topped the official agenda.

The political shocks in 2016 of Trump’s U.S. presidential election victory and Britain’s Brexit vote have been linked to widespread dissatisfaction with stagnant living standards for many workers, forcing policymakers in many countries to grapple with ways to narrow the gap between the rich and poor.

Income inequality has grown sharply in the United States over recent decades and the World Bank says that at a global level the gap has widened too since the 1990s, despite progress recently in some countries.

The Trump administration says it will lift U.S. economic growth to more than 3 percent a year and bring more manufacturing jobs back to U.S. shores, helping workers.

But many economists say growth like that will be hard to achieve with employment already high and the baby boom generation retiring in large numbers too.

Deaton said restoring stronger economic growth, preferably through encouraging more innovation, would help reduce the anger among many people who feel they have been left behind.

“A rising inequality that probably wouldn’t have bothered people before does become really salient and troublesome to them (during periods of low growth). It poisons politics too because when there are no spoils to hand out it becomes a very sharp conflict,” he said.

Deaton said he did not think inequality was inherently bad as long as everyone felt some benefit from growth.

“But I do care about people getting rich at public expense,” he said, referring to political lobbying by business groups.

So onto the the criminal and traitorous group known as the Trump family syndicate and friends connected to all things Russian. The Senate is starting to follow the money and the bodies.

This robust compliance was not happening at the Taj Mahal. The Treasury Department found that the casino didn’t monitor or report suspicious activity. About half the time that Treasury investigators identified suspect behavior, the Taj Mahal had not reported it to authorities. “Like all casinos in this country, Trump Taj Mahal has a duty to help protect our financial system from being exploited by criminals, terrorists, and other bad actors,” Jennifer Shasky Calvery, the FinCEN director, said in a statement at the time of the settlement. “Far from meeting these expectations, poor compliance practices, over many years, left the casino and our financial system unacceptably exposed.”

The Trump Organization is not known for its careful due diligence. As I wrote in the magazine earlier this year, Ivanka Trump oversaw a residence and hotel project in Azerbaijan. The project was run in partnership with the family of one of that country’s leading oligarchs, and while there is no proof that the Trumps were themselves involved in money laundering, the project had many of the hallmarks of such an operation. There was no public accounting of the hundreds of millions of dollars that flowed through the project to countries around the world, millions of dollars were paid in cash, and the Azerbaijani developers were believed to be partners, at the same time, with a company that appears to be a front for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which is known as one of the world’s leading practitioners of money laundering. Trump’s Azerbaijani partners are known to have close ties to Russia, as do his partners in other projects in Georgia, Canada, Panama, and other nations.

A former high-ranking official at the Treasury Department explained to me that FinCEN could have collected what are known as Suspicious Activity Reports from banks, casinos, and other places, about transactions involving any Trump projects. These reports could be used to create a detailed map of relationships and money flows involving the Trump Organization.

The Senate committee headed by Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina, and Warner has been ratcheting up the pressure on Trump’s associates in the course of investigating Russian meddling in the Presidential campaign. On Thursday, the committee sent a subpoena to Michael Flynn, the short-lived national-security adviser, demanding documents that he didn’t turn over voluntarily. By asking the Treasury Department for more details about Trump and his associates, the Senate Intelligence Committee seems to be signalling a widening of its interest from the narrow question of collusion between Russia and members of Trump’s campaign staff. (My calls to Warner’s office about this weren’t answered.) If the committee does begin to seriously consider the Trump Organization’s business practices and any connections those show to figures in Russia and other sensitive countries, it would suggest what prosecutors call a “target rich” environment. Rather than focussing on a handful of recent arrivals to Trump’s inner circle—Mike Flynn and Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser—it could open up his core circle of children and longtime associates.

The WSJ is on the forefront of this story and the Manafort probe.   It’s nice to know that even papers known to be ‘captured’ by an agenda can still do straight up news.

The Justice Department last month requested banking records of Paul Manafort as part of a widening of probes related to President Donald Trump’s former campaign associates and whether they colluded with Russia in interfering with the 2016 election, according to people familiar with the matter.

In mid-April, federal investigators requested Mr. Manafort’s banking records from Citizens Financial Group Inc., the people said.

It isn’t clear whether Citizens is the only bank that received such a request or whether it came in the form of a subpoena. Federal law generally requires that a bank receive a subpoena to turn over customer records, lawyers not connected to the investigation said.

Citizens gave Mr. Manafort a $2.7 million loan last year to refinance debt on a Manhattan condominium and borrow additional cash, New York City real-estate records show. The Wall Street Journal couldn’t ascertain if the Justice Department request is related to that transaction or whether the bank has turned over Mr. Manafort’s records.

I think the WSJ is getting less strict on its paywall practices for these items because you can go read the rest of it.

Comey to Trump:

Go ‘way from my window
Leave at your own chosen speed
I’m not the one you want, babe
I’m not the one you need
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’s never weak but always strong
To protect you an’ defend you
Whether you are right or wrong
Someone to open each and every door
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe

The FBI is not happy with the President and what he did to Director Comey. They’ve evidently not signed on to participate in some twisted version of The Apprentice.  Trump has made quite a few institutional enemies from Park Rangers to the scientists in the EPA and HHS. The weirdish thing about all this is that he’s just made an enemy of the one institution he could ill afford to put off and was most likely to support his thuggish brand of justice.

Clearly, Comey underestimated Trump’s impatience—as well as the president’s pathological inability to allow anyone to question the legitimacy of his election, let alone keep pressing the investigations into the Trump campaign’s possible ties with Russia. Comey is now puttering in his yard in Northern Virginia. But the political and legal whirlwind that his firing has set in motion is just beginning to spin, with the White House and the F.B.I. subject to the greatest damage. Even pro-Trump agents are horrified and furious at how Comey was treated. “It shows us, the career people who care only about justice, that there is no justice at the top,” one agent says.

There were agents who found Comey priggish; within the bureau’s New York office, there was a faction that thought he’d soft-peddled the investigation of the Clinton Foundation. But those complaints have now been dwarfed by shock and revulsion at how Comey was fired—and how it reflects on them. “The statements from the White House that he’d lost the faith of the rank and file—they’re making that up,” says Jeff Ringel, a 21-year F.B.I. veteran who retired in May 2016 and is now director of the Soufan Group. “Agents may not have agreed with everything he did. I was one of the people who thought the director shouldn’t have stepped up and made those public statements about Hillary Clinton. But Director Comey was one of the last honest brokers in D.C. Agents are pissed off at the way he was fired, the total disrespect with which it was handled. It was a slap in the face to the F.B.I., to everybody in the F.B.I. The director being treated terribly, being called incompetent, is a signal that Trump has disdain for the bureau.”

Oops. Yet we still have slutty Republicans bending over backwards for the mad king.

Elected Republican officials are publicly defending Trump but privately are dumbfounded, disgusted and demoralized by this turn of events.

We haven’t had a single conversation with a top Republican that doesn’t reflect this. The worries are manifold

  • This kills momentum on legislating, and unifies Democrats in opposition to everything they want to do.
  • This makes it easier for Democrats to recruit quality candidates and raise money for the off-year elections.
  • It sours swing voters.
  • It puts them on the defensive at home. They want to talk tax reform and deregulation — not secret tapes and Russian intrigue.
  • But mainly it reinforces their greatest fear: Trump will never change. They keep praying he’ll discipline himself enough to get some big things done. Yet they brace for more of this.

And of course, Trump voters could care less. The most immoral of them is the Evangelical base.  At least the NAZIs are upfront about being deplorable.

But just like with the “Access Hollywood” tape, the vast majority of Republicans — and especially the Trump base — seem unfazed. For all the media/Democrat/Twitter histrionics, consider:

  • The Gallup daily tracking poll shows Trump’s approval has held steady (40% the day of the firing, 41% two days later).
  • Polls show two countries: In NBC News/Survey Monkey, 79% of Rs thought Trump acted appropriately, and 13% of Dems.
  • Most elected Republicans are backing Trump or staying silent. AP reports that at the Republican National Committee’s spring meeting out in Coronado, Calif., party leaders defended the president’s actions and insisted that they would have little political impact.
  • The Comey topic is hot in traditional media, but cold on Facebook: Seven other events of the Trump presidency trended harder.

Be smart: Don’t underestimate how much wiggle room Trump bought himself with his voters and conservatives by putting Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, enforcing the red line in Syria, and muscling a partial repeal of Obamacare through the House. He has a long leash with Trump Country.

So, like many folks my age, my head is spinning because we’ve seen this before. The only difference is that Nixon never basically admitted to a journalist that he obstructed justice. But then, Nixon did not have Swiss Cheese for brains.

One of my favorites quotes today comes from Watergate’s John Dean. “President Trump is an ‘authoritarian klutz’ — just like Nixon.”

In an interview with New York Magazine‘s The Daily Intelligencer, John Dean, the former advisor to President Richard Nixon whose call-recording testimony made the Watergate case, told reporter Olivia Nuzzi that both Nixon and President Donald Trump share alarming tendencies.

“I think they’re both authoritarian personalities,” Dean told The Daily Intelligencer. “We only know of Nixon’s full personality because of his taping system. But Trump just doesn’t try to hide anything, he’s just out there.”

Dean also said that both Trump and Nixon are “klutzy” when it comes to electronics, and that Trump’s apparently Luddite approach to technology may have made any recordings he’d made as apparent as Nixon’s were to Dean.

“I’m told he’s not very mechanical. He’s kind of like Nixon in that regard,” Dean said. “In other words, he’d have trouble surreptitiously recording somebody, you know, starting the machine, if it wasn’t going and what have you.”

On comparisons between Trump’s surprise firing of former FBI Director James Comey and Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre”, Dean told Nuzzi that there are some parallels, but they aren’t exact.

“There were some echoes, but not much more. Echoes being the brutal way it was handled, and so unnecessary,” Dean said. “But not quite the same stage, where Comey wasn’t defying Trump, whereas Archibald Cox clearly was, and both of them had the power to do what they did, but it wasn’t very wise to do.”

In the fallout from firing former FBI James Comey, Trump may have implicated himself in his own conversation-recording scheme. Trump also allegedly has a history of recording phone calls.

So, we’re once again about to see how well the checks and balances work. We seem reliant on the Senate and is there a Sam Ervin out there? It’s hard to see that Ervin’s neighboring state of South Carolina’s Lady Lindsey will go for the truth the way Ervin did. I remember coming home from high school with my hippy jeans, my books overflowing in my boy scout back pack, and undoing the tie backs that kept those jeans from getting caught in my 12 speed’s derailleur to my mother with the TV blaring. She never watched daytime TV because it was banal game shows and soaps. But there she was–frequently with our cleaning lady of like 15+ years–watching from the door way. Mildred–the big German woman who my mother called a good ol’ gal–was usually shaking her head like she’d seen the Third Reich all over again.  The networks had interrupted everything once again to show case Sam Ervin and his Watergate hearings. It seems like a galaxy far far away to me but yet every time I turn on the TV news, it comes back to me.

More extraordinary than Ervin’s sense of humor is his uncompromising belief in the Constitution as a basis of government. A “strict constructionist,” presumably after Mr. Nixon’s heart, he has phrased his passionate Constitutionalism in resounding measures that owe much to Shakespeare and the Bible, but surely as much to the great jurists of Anglo-American common law.

“I don’t think we have any such thing as royalty or nobility that exempts them,” says Ervin of the White House, and one realizes how much the issues of the American Revolution are living ones to him and not eighth-grade clichés. He has been a consistent and eloquent enemy of such ominous inspirations as no-knock laws and military surveillance of civilians.

Ervin is a States’ Rights man on Constitutional grounds. Ironically, he is vilified by rightists who just a year ago were complacent “strict constructionists”: Jim Fuller of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reports his newspaper gets calls at all hours of the day and night, some from as far away as Houston, demanding that “that fat, senile old man” lay off the President. “The most common threat,” Fuller says, “is castration.” Ervin doesn’t look worried.

Maybe you’ll remember reading or hearing these words in that ol’ Southern Good Ol’ boy drawl.

We are beginning these hearings today in an atmosphere of utmost gravity. The questions, that have been raised in the wake of the June 17th break-in, strike at the very undergirding of our democracy. If the many allegations made to this date are true, then the burglars who broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate were in effect breaking into the home of every citizen of the United States.

If these allegations prove to be true, what they were seeking to steal was not the jewels, money or other property of American citizens, but something much more valuable—their most precious heritage, the right to vote in a free election. Since that day, a mood of incredulity has prevailed among our populace, and it is the constitutional duty of this committee to allay the fears being expressed by the citizenry, and to establish the factual bases upon which these fears have been founded.

The Founding Fathers, having participated in the struggle against arbitrary power, comprehended some eternal truths respecting men and government. They knew that those who are entrusted with power are susceptible to the disease of tyrants, which George Washington rightly described as “love of power and the proneness to abuse it.” For that reason, they realized that the power of public officers should be defined by laws which they, as well as the people, are obligated to obey.

The Constitution, later adopted amendments and, more specifically, statutory law provide that the electoral processes shall be conducted by the people, outside the confines of the formal branches of government, and through a political process that must operate under the strictures of law and ethical guidelines, but independent of the overwhelming power of the government itself. Only then can we be sure that each electoral process cannot be made to serve as the mere handmaiden of a particular Administration in power.

The accusations that have been leveled and the evidence of wrongdoing that has surfaced has cast a black cloud of distrust over our entire society. Our citizens do not know whom to believe, and many of them have concluded that all the processes of government have become so compromised that honest governance has been rendered impossible. We believe that the health, if not the survival, of our social structure and of our form of government requires the most candid and public investigation of all the evidence…. As the elected representatives of the people, we would be derelict in our duty to them if we failed to pursue our mission expeditiously, fully, and with the utmost fairness. The nation and history itself are watching us. We cannot fail our mission.

Preach it sir!  Here’s to a system that values truth, justice and the rule of law.  May it totally crush this Administration under the heels of history.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: It just keeps getting worse

Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Hi Sky Dancers!

I really am tired of reading the most depressing news I’ve seen since the Nixon years but it seems that we’re stuck with that for awhile. Why is it that each Republican administration since Eisenhower is comprised of exponentially worse policies and people?  It’s called Public Service you dimwits!  Not Public Grifting!

I’ll try not to dwell on it but there are some really awful things happening of which you must be aware.  The Russian Junta in the White House is killing off the EPA and much of the Interior Department.  Science continues to be under attack and replaced by raping and pillaging. The EPA has dismissed half of its Scientific Advisers. The Interior Department has suspended more than 200 advisory panels.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department are overhauling a slew of outside advisory boards that inform how their agencies assess the science underpinning policies, the first step in a broader effort by Republicans to change the way the federal government evaluates the scientific basis for its regulations.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt decided to replace half of the members on one of its key scientific review boards, while Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is “reviewing the charter and charge” of more than 200 advisory boards, committees, and other entities both within and outside of his department. EPA and Interior officials began informing current members of the move on Friday, and notifications continued over the weekend.

Pruitt’s move could significantly change the makeup of the 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors, which advises EPA’s prime scientific arm on whether the research it does has sufficient rigor and integrity. All of the individuals being dismissed were at the end of serving at least one three-year term, although these terms are often renewed instead of terminated.

EPA spokesman J.P. Freire said in an email that “no one has been fired or terminated” and that Pruitt had simply decided to bring in fresh advisers. The agency informed the outside academics on Friday that their terms would not be renewed.

Glacier National Park, Montana

This basically puts industry in charge of the nation’s natural resources. Of course, you know what that means.  Get ready for massive amounts of pollution, depletion of forests and wetlands, and your basic toxic treatment of living things.  One thing about living in Louisiana that I’ve learned is how detrimental it is to everything when you let extraction corporations do what they want.  Then, there’s the chemical companies.  They don’t call that section of the state Cancer Alley for nothing.  We’re sinking into the Gulf because of the Oil Industry.  Our wildlife–including those we depend on for food and industry–is dying off and there are some nasty looking growths on people, animals and plants alike the closer you are to the companies’ operations.

“Today I was Trumped,” Robert Richardson, an environmental economist at Michigan State University, tweeted, after learning of his dismissal.

Richardson says he and the other board members were expecting to serve another term — as their predecessors had. “I’ve never heard of any circumstance where someone didn’t serve two consecutive terms,” he told the Washington Post. It “just came out of nowhere,” he told Science.

The Board of Scientific Counselors is an 18-member board whose mission is to “evaluate science and engineering research, programs and plans, laboratories, and research-management practices of ORD [EPA’s office of research and development] and recommend actions to improve their quality and or strengthen their relevance to EPA’s mission.” (It’s not clear why six members of the board were allowed to stay.)
 When asked by reporters to explain the dismissal, EPA spokesperson J.P. Freire said the EPA wanted to make “a clean break with the last administration’s approach” and “expand the pool of applicants.” These advisers “were appointed for three-year terms,” he toldGreenwire. “They’re not guaranteed a second three-year term.”

By expanding the applicant pool, Freire likely means opening up the advisory board to more members of industry (it’s mostly been filled with people from academia).

 If this sounds familiar, it’s because in March, Republicans in Congress were calling to “reform” another EPA scientific board — the EPA Science Advisory Board.

That board is a larger, 47-person committee that provides analysis on EPA research programs and plans. The Board of Scientific Counselors, whose members were dismissed over the weekend, evaluates the rigors of the research conducted at the EPA. (Yes, there is overlap in the missions.)

Bison bison: Bison walking slowly through snow. Yellowstone National Park, WY.

A list of judicial nominees was dropped on the unsuspecting US population today.  I can only hope that Senators will pocket a good deal of them and they will never see the light of day let alone the inside of a courtroom.

Two of the nominees who will be unveiled Monday were on the list of Trump’s potential Supreme Court justices and will likely come under scrutiny by Democrats because of that inclusion: Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, who will be nominated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and Justice David Stras, who sits on the Minnesota Supreme Court and is Trump’s pick to sit on the 8th Circuit.

Trump will name three other nominees to the appellate courts: Amy Coney Barrett to the 7th Circuit, John Bush to the Sixth Circuit and Kevin Newsom to the 11th Circuit. The president also plans to name four federal District Court nominees: Dabney Friedrich in the District of Columbia, Terry Moorer in Alabama, David Nye in Idaho and Scott Palk in Oklahoma, as well as Damien Schiff to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The list of judicial nominees was first reported by the New York Times, and confirmed to POLITICO by a Trump adviser.

Conservative allies of the Trump administration say White House officials have worked diligently since Trump’s inauguration in January to comb through suggested nominees, vet them and prepare them for nomination.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

You can read the NYT coverage by Adam Liptak here.

But liberal groups expressed alarm at the prospect of a federal bench filled with Mr. Trump’s appointees. “The Trump administration has made clear its intention to benefit from Republican obstructionism and to pack the federal courts with ultraconservatives given a stamp of approval by the Federalist Society,” said Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, referring to the conservative legal group. “We’ll be scrutinizing the records of these nominees very carefully.”

Sally Yates is testifying today before a Senate committee which could be a good thing.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is expected to deliver long-awaited testimony Monday afternoon before a Senate subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Yates was thrust into the national spotlight after she broke with President Donald Trump over the enforcement of his travel ban, an action which led to her firing in January. But since then, her profile has only risen following revelations that she said she forcefully warned the administration about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s communications with a Russian diplomat weeks before Flynn was fired.

Just hours before Yates was scheduled to testify, former Obama officials confirmed to CNN that then-President Barack Obama warned Trump about hiring Flynn as his national security adviser in their Oval Office meeting November 10. The news was first reported by NBC.

And CNN also reported Monday morning that former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page told Senate investigators that he had “brief interactions” several years ago with a Russian official he said was a “junior attaché,” even though US officials had suspected the official of spying on behalf of the Kremlin.

Big Bend National Park, Texas

So, here’s the disturbing thing about this.  Trump is tweeting actual threats against Yates.  This is really quite horrifying given he commands a white nationalist army of crackpots and malcontents that basically hate women.

President Donald Trump has drawn a lot of criticism for his decision to lash out at former acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday, just hours before she was scheduled to testify about former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Appearing on CNN to talk about the president’s tweet — in which he said that someone should “ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Council (sic)” — legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that Trump’s behavior crosses the line of what we consider to be normal behavior for a politician in the United States.

“It just shows how much the norms of behavior have changed,” Toobin said. “The idea of the President of the United States essentially threatening a witness, he’s basically accusing her of leaking, we have never had that before. We’ve never had presidents who did this kind of thing. The idea that the president — the guy who’s in charge of the Justice Department — is threatening a witness is really kind of disturbing.”

Yates was fired from her role as acting attorney general earlier this year after she refused to enforce the administration’s proposed travel ban. She will reportedly testify on Monday afternoon that she gave the Trump administration warnings about Flynn possibly being compromised by the Russian government.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Senator John McCain has taken the case for Human Rights to the NYT’s editorial page.  He actually attacks SOS Tillerson in the op ed.

Sen. John McCain slammed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in a New York Times op-ed published Monday morning, accusing the nation’s chief diplomat of adopting a foreign policy that abandons both U.S. values and victims of oppression around the world.

McCain’s op-ed came in response to remarks Tillerson delivered last week to State Department employees, in which he said that “in some circumstances if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can’t achieve our national security goals.” Tillerson’s boss, President Donald Trump, has made a habit of offering warm words for dictators and political strongmen from around the world, including Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

“With those words, Secretary Tillerson sent a message to oppressed people everywhere: Don’t look to the United States for hope. Our values make us sympathetic to your plight, and, when it’s convenient, we might officially express that sympathy,” McCain (R-Ariz.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote. “But we make policy to serve our interests, which are not related to our values. So, if you happen to be in the way of our forging relationships with your oppressors that could serve our security and economic interests, good luck to you. You’re on your own.”

McCain needs to do more than write Op Eds and do the gamut of Sunday Talk Shows.  He needs to actually stop some of this shit from getting into law and some of the bigger shit piles do not need to be approved to be Cabinet Members or part of the Federal Government.

Well, hopefully, the pictures of our pristine National Parks from around the Country has put you in the mood to both visit them and defend them.  Just remember, the first shot in the Resistance was fired by a Friend of Smokey The Bear!!!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Republicans Raise a Nasty Tasting Beer in a Toast to my Early Death

Good Morning Sky Dancers!

Be prepared to call your Senators! Mitch McConnell is a sneaky twisted bastard and we need to kill the abomination that just got passed in the House yesterday. The best thing I can say about this atm is that it has gone from so fast track that the CBO hasn’t even scored the law to the Senate Slow Lane.  It also puts a very large sign on the back of some Congress Critters that says ‘Kick my ass out of Congress voters!’

Can you imagine having a nasty can of Bud with anything let alone in celebration of the likelihood that over 24 million people will die much more quickly–and likely painfully–so you can bestow unnecessary tax cuts to billionaires and millionaires?  I am a basket of pre-existing conditions.  This bill will be the death of me and millions of others on medicaid and it’s likely to crash the Medicare system too.  It’s a bill that kills sick people, old people, and poor people so the rich can line their pockets more with the spoils of gambling. Plus, it shows us that very shortly they will be coming for our Social Security.

Passage of the House’s health-care bill gives the Obamacare repeal effort new life after months of wrangling, but key Republican senators are already pushing it aside to write their own bill with no clear timetable to act.

The narrowly passed House measure can’t get anywhere near the 51 votes needed as is, even though Republican senators insist they’re united on delivering on their seven-year vow to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Instead, they want to write their own bill.

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the Senate health committee, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Roy Blunt of Missouri, a member of GOP leadership, described the plan even as the House was celebrating passing its repeal after weeks of back-and-forth.

“We’ll write our own bill,” Alexander said in an interview, although he said senators would consider pieces of the House bill. “Where they’ve solved problems we agree with, that makes it a lot easier for us.”

The decision will delay the prospect of any repeal bill reaching President Donald Trump’s desk. Before the failure of the House bill in March, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had talked of taking it up and passing it in a week.

A senior White House official said the administration is ready for a slower, more deliberative debate in the Senate, where the main sticking point is expected to be how to address Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid.

The House bill, which squeaked through the House on a 217-213 vote Thursday, became an even tougher proposition for the Senate with changes made in recent weeks to win over conservatives. Those revisions raised potential procedural hurdles, and also sparked new Republican concerns over how the measure would affect coverage of people with pre-existing conditions.

President Swiss Cheese for Brains stood in front of the press in the Rose Garden and lied his ass off–or was totally ignorant of the bill–saying it would make premiums cheaper, insure every one, and preserve the right of those of us with pre-existing conditions to get health care.  It does none of these things.  Among the things it just might do is actually ruin employer-based healthcare too because with its ability to exempt coverage of all kinds of things it’s likely to gut every one’s plan.  So, no one is safe except those that can afford to outlay millions of dollars for what might happen to them during their lifetime.  This is utterly barbaric!

You knew that the American Health Care Act would turn the individual insurance market back into a bombed-out hellscape for the sick and old. But did you realize it could also ruin employer-based health insurance, at least for people whose companies worry more about cutting costs than attracting top-notch talent?

So reports the Wall Street Journal. The House GOP’s legislation—which seems likely to pass Wednesday (Update, 2:25 p.m.:The bill passed on a 217–213 vote)—would allow states to opt out from many of Obamacare’s insurance market regulations, such as those requiring carriers to cover a set of essential services or banning lifetime and annual caps on coverage. But even if states like New York and California don’t waive those rules, businesses operating in them effectively could for their own workers. That’s because the Obama administration released guidance in 2011 saying that employers could choose which state’s law they wanted to operate under when it came to required benefits packages. At the time, it didn’t matter much, since the Affordable Care Act created a single set of national standards. But now, per the WSJ:

Under the House bill, large employers could choose the benefit requirements from any state—including those that are allowed to lower their benchmarks under a waiver, health analysts said. By choosing a waiver state, employers looking to lower their costs could impose lifetime limits and eliminate the out-of-pocket cost cap from their plans under the GOP legislation.

The Journal cautions that some companies may be hesitant to slash their employees’ benefits, since they use them to recruit talent, and notes that most big employers didn’t impose coverage caps prior to Obamacare. “Even if self-insured health plans are no longer banned from imposing annual or lifetime limits, they’re unlikely to attempt to squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube,” one industry expert told the paper. “The benefits of reimposing limits are questionable.”

But back to Kremlin Caligula’s lies. This bill does everything he everything that he promised his voters that he would never do to our health care. It’s all in preparation to ram gigantic tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires through Congress to by pass laws that stop those kinds of actions because they explode the deficit.

Having run a campaign during which he promised to cover everyone, protect Medicaid from cuts, and replace Affordable Care Act plans with “terrific” coverage, Donald Trump is now behind a bill that cuts Medicaid, covers fewer people, and allows states to replace ACA plans with stingier coverage. Having promised repeatedly to protect patients with preexisting health conditions from insurance market price discrimination, Paul Ryan is pushing a plan that removes existing protections and replaces them with hand-wavy and inadequately funded high-risk pools. Having leveraged public discontent with high deductibles and rising premiums, Republicans are pushing a bill that will leave most patients with higher out-of-pocket costs for equivalent plans and bring back skimpy plans with even higher deductibles.

That’s all happening because the GOP is committed to rolling back the taxes that pay for the Affordable Care Act, delivering a financial windfall to high-income families even though Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin swore at his confirmation hearings that the Trump administration would not pursue tax cuts for the rich.

The bill is currently being rushed through the House at breathtaking speed with no time for a Congressional Budget Office score or for members to hear from constituents back home. Republicans are acting like their plan cannot survive even cursory scrutiny by experts or the public for the good reason that their own rhetoric strongly suggests that they do not believe the public would find this legislation acceptable if they knew what it did.

And for the pleasure of knowing they were likely killing millions of people with their policy, THEY THREW A PARTY.  I can imagine they iced their beer with what is running through their veins.

When the House Republican Conference gathered in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning, it was greeted by a couple of motivational songs: “Eye of the Tiger” and “Taking Care of Business.” On Twitter, the A.P.’s Erica Werner also relayed the message that the Party’s leadership sent to the rank and file, which was equally lacking in subtlety: “It’s time to live or die by this day.”

A number of House Republicans, especially those from competitive districts, weren’t overly enthusiastic about fulfilling the health-care suicide pact that Paul Ryan, the House Speaker, was forcing on them. Ultimately, though, a number of countervailing factors won out: loyalty to the Party, eagerness to score a legislative win, hostility toward Barack Obama, free-market ideology, and a reluctance to antagonize wealthy G.O.P. donors. On Thursday afternoon, when it came time to vote on the American Health Care Act of 2017, only twenty Republicans broke ranks, allowing the bill to pass by the slightest of margins.

In the most immediate of terms—congressional whip counts—that was a victory for Ryan and his ally in the White House, Donald Trump. On their third attempt at passing an Obamacare-repeal measure, and after much drama and humiliation, the House Republicans had assembled a majority. But at what cost? The vote represented a moral travesty, a betrayal of millions of vulnerable Americans, and a political gift to the Democrats. And if it ultimately costs the House G.O.P. its majority in next year’s midterms, that would be a richly deserved outcome.

Ryan and his sidekick, the House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, pushed through a bill that, if it ever goes into effect, could upend one-sixth of the American economy and result in tens of millions of Americans losing their health coverage. Since the Republicans failed to give the Congressional Budget Office time to “score” the bill before voting on it, we don’t have any official estimates of its likely effects. But the bill that was passed on Thursday was an amended version of a bill that the C.B.O. had previously determined would raise the number of uninsured people by twenty-four million over ten years, and increase premiums for many others, particularly the old and the sick, as well.

I thought the gridlock in Washington DC was a sign that the system was broken.  Well, the system is more broken than ever before.  We have a new SCOTUS  judge that couldn’t get acceptance from the usual majority of the Senate that was the result of a virtual shut down of the approval process by the slim majority of Republicans in the Senate.  Now, we have bills shoved through that are worse than the one that just sent hundreds of thousands of Americans into the streets, on to the phones, and into town hall meetings.  It is time for more of that.  It is also time to prepare for the Mid Term elections.  These stinkers need to go!

Donald Trump had had it.

The Obamacare repeal bill that the president had just boasted was on the cusp of passage was suddenly in trouble again, and the president demanded to talk to the influential congressman who dropped a bombshell hours earlier with an announcement he’d be voting “no”: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton.

Sitting in the Oval Office Tuesday evening, Trump dialed Upton in his congressional office. The president raised his voice and swore at Upton several times during a 10-minute conversation, sources familiar with the call said. But Upton stood his ground. He explained that he, like Trump, wanted to ensure people with pre-existing conditions were protected, even quoting the president verbatim talking about the need to do so.

“I am not supporting this bill without a legislative fix,” Upton said, according to a source familiar with the conversation.

Trump did not want to talk about the merits of the legislation — he didn’t care much about those specifics, senior officials said. What mattered to him was how a failed vote would hobble his presidency and the ability to get other legislation through Congress.

He wanted a win.

There you go folks.  “He wanted a win.”  Kremlin Caligula had to have a win and no one around him would be spared his wrath if he didn’t get it.  So, 24 million plus people will lose their access to health care, rural hospitals will likely go under, and Medicaid and Medicare as we know it will die a painful slow death.  But the sociopath in the white house gets a win.

Oh, and the very rich would get a BIG WIN. This bill is likely to cost $800 billion dollars over 10 years and do nothing remotely about health care other than to fuck it up worse that it’s ever been fucked up before.  But the rich and President Swiss Cheese for Brains get richer and get a win. At what point does the Republican party either remove the skin suits and just be the demons that they are or do we get buckets of tar, lots of feathers,  thousands of pitchforks and a few sharpened guillotines and drive them back to the realms of hell?

The health care bill passed by the House on Thursday is a win for the wealthy, in terms of taxes.

While the Affordable Care Act raised taxes on the rich to subsidize health insurance for the poor, the repeal-and-replace bill passed by House Republicans would redistribute hundreds of billions of dollars in the opposite direction. It would deliver a sizable tax cut to the rich, while reducing government subsidies for Medicaid recipients and those buying coverage on the individual market.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is funded in part through higher taxes on the rich, including a 3.8 percent tax on investment income and a 0.9 percent payroll tax. Both of these taxes apply only to people earning more than $200,000 (or couples making more than $250,000). The GOP replacement bill would eliminate these taxes, although the latest version leaves the payroll tax in place through 2023.

The House bill would also repeal the tax penalty for those who fail to buy insurance as well as various taxes on insurance companies, drug companies and medical device makers. The GOP bill also delays the so-called “Cadillac tax” on high-end insurance policies from 2020 to 2025.

All told, the bill would cut taxes by about $765 billion over the next decade.

The lion’s share of the tax savings would go to the wealthy and very wealthy. According to the Tax Policy Center, the top 20 percent of earners would receive 64 percent of the savings and the top 1 percent of earners (those making more than $772,000 in 2022) would receive 40 percent of the savings.

Fuck you you ungawdly poor people!  And women!  And children once you get past the viability point in the womb we don’t care about you either! And any one unfortunate to ever have been sick before or born sickly!!!

Being a woman means you’re basically a pre-existing condition from the get go!  The Republican Party just called us all survivors of a deadly disease!

Obamacare contains many provisions to help poor and lower-income Americans.

Primarily, it expanded Medicaid to cover adults who earn up to $16,400 a year. The American Health Care Act would end the enhanced federal Medicaid funding for new enrollees starting in 2020. And it would curtail federal support for the entire program by sending a fixed amount of money per enrollee or by providing a block grant. States would likely have to either reduce eligibility, curtail benefits or cut provider payments.

All this could hurt not only poor adults, but also low-income children, women, senior citizens and the disabled.

Also, Obamacare provides those with incomes just under $30,000 with generous subsidies to lower their deductibles and out-of-pocket costs in individual market policies. The legislation would eliminate the subsidies.

Finally, the premium tax credits the legislation would provide would not go as far Obamacare’s subsidies for lower-income consumers

Folks making $20,000 a year would take the biggest hit at any age under the GOP plan, a Kaiser study found. A 27-year-old earning this amount would only get $2,000, instead of $3,225 under Obamacare, on average. Meanwhile, a 40-year-old would get $3,000 versus nearly $4,150. However, the biggest loser would be a 60-year-old, who would receive only $4,000, instead of nearly $9,900 under Obamacare.

In its review of an early version of the bill, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 24 million fewer people would have coverage by 2026 as compared to current law. The majority of those would have qualified for Medicaid under Obamacare.

Major health insurance lobbying groups are concerned about the bill’s impact on all these folks, many of whom are their customers.

“The American Health Care Act needs important improvements to better protect low- and moderate-income families who rely on Medicaid or buy their own coverage,” Marilyn Tavenner, CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said after the bill passed the House Thursday.

Not any organization having to do with Health Care supports any of this. This what they had to say about the last abomination of a plan.  Just wait until they finally get to read what just passed in all of its unread, unscored, and completely unready-for-prime time format.

The House GOP’s newly-released (and already widely maligned) Obamacare replacement plan has now made a trio of powerful medical interest group enemies: the AARP, the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The AMA, the nation’s largest physicians’ group representing more than 220,000 doctors, residents, and medical students, was the latest to pile on against the so-called American Health Care Act (AHCA) on Wednesday morning.

“While we agree that there are problems with [Obamacare] that must be addressed, we cannot support the AHCA as drafted because of the expected decline in health insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations,” wrote AMA CEO Dr. James Madara in a letter to Congressional leaders. Madara also cited the bill’s cuts to major public health and preventative health funds as unacceptable to doctors.

The AMA opposition follows action from both the 38 million-member strong AARP, which lobbies on issues affecting older Americans, and the AHA on Tuesday. “This bill would weaken Medicare’s fiscal sustainability, dramatically increase health care costs for Americans aged 50-64, and put at risk the health care of millions of children and adults with disabilities, and poor seniors who depend on the Medicaid program for long term services and supports and other benefits,” wrote AARP senior vice president Joyce Rogers in a stark, and surprisingly detailed, letter to Congress.

Oh, they did already:‘In Rare Unity, Hospitals, Doctors and Insurers Criticize Health Bill’.

It is a rare unifying moment. Hospitals, doctors, health insurers and some consumer groups, with few exceptions, are speaking with one voice and urging significant changes to the Republican health care legislation that passed the House on Thursday.

The bill’s impact is wide-ranging, potentially affecting not only the millions who could lose coverage through deep cuts in Medicaid or no longer be able to afford to buy coverage in the state marketplaces. With states allowed to seek waivers from providing certain benefits, employers big and small could scale back what they pay for each year or reimpose lifetime limits on coverage. In particular, small businesses, some of which were strongly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, could be free to drop coverage with no penalty.

The prospect of millions of people unable to afford coverage led to an outcry from the health care industry as well as consumer groups. They found an uncommon ally in some insurers, who rely heavily on Medicaidand Medicare as mainstays of their business and hope the Senate will be more receptive to their concerns.

“The American Health Care Act needs important improvements to better protect low- and moderate-income families who rely on Medicaid or buy their own coverage,” Marilyn B. Tavenner, the chief executive of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the industry’s trade group, said in a strongly worded statement.

Now is the time to be overly friendly with your two US Senators.  I have the Congressional Black Caucus Chairman as my Rep so I am not worried about him, but I will be bothering Steve Scalise and writing checks to any on that takes the Sleazeball on in this upcoming election.  I will be making phone calls like a banshee screaming also.  Adopt a RepubiKlan Congress Critter to remove for the 2018 elections.

Daryl Cagle / darylcagle.com

So, I think over 3200 words is enough for you to sense that I am outraged and appalled and take all of this beyond personally. I am the face of a pre-existing conditions. I did not ask to get Cancer while I was carrying my extremely high risk second pregnancy to term.  I did not ask to get Hep C from the resultant 30+ blood transfusions that I got when the Red Cross did not check its donors for the issue.  I did not ask to be born a woman.  I did not ask or do anything to deserve any of this.  I have anxiety and I have depression. That runs in my family. I’ve done nothing to bring any of this on.  I am the face of a walking basket of pre-existing conditions.  I am 61.  I am not sure that Purdue will provide me with insurance when they buy my current university which threw me on to the ACA the minute it was passed.  I’m on the Medicaid expansion now thankfully because I do not need anymore tax deductions and was not able to meet the premiums for private coverate.  It’s allowed me to get complete health care for the first time in over 5 years including medications without killer co-pays. I take an antidepressant to stop any recurrence of what happened during my divorce over 20 years ago.

The Republicans in Congress want me to die or kill myself. I’ve worked since I was 15. I am well educated and I paid more than my share of taxes. I am now an old, tired woman who chose to teach which isn’t a prestigious high paying job at all. I like urban universities and helping first generation college students get degrees.  That’s been my calling for decades. That career choice shouldn’t be an immediate death sentence in such a wealthy country.

I should mention that I’m doing something I’m doing because of my faith. You know that my city is having trouble with housing because we’ve been inundated with short term rentals (e.g. illegal hotels).  I have three people living with me. One is a 50 year old woman who has severe right brain damage from being hit by a vehicle as a pedestrian. One is a 36 year old black woman in 5th stage renal failure that needs a kidney and dialysis every other day.  The other is a young vet who is also a schizophrenic and is extremely sweet-natured. He gets rolled for his monthly check when he’s on the street.  I don’t know if you know how much medicare disability pays or what’s paid to disabled vets but it’s not enough to provide a home here in this city to people any more.  I am trying to move to Washington state but I feel as a Buddhist that I need to live my faith while I can.

There are basically 4 people right now in my house–including me–that will likely die or have a life that ends badly in quick order without the little they get right now from our system.  The Republican party wants us all dead and they raised a cold beer in salute to that yesterday.  We are all the face of pre-existing conditions.  I’m sharing this with you because I’d like you to put faces to what they just did to a huge number of Americans. They need to know there are faces like mine in the numbers.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?