I could hardly bring myself to read news this morning, but I forced myself to see what stories are out there. My offerings:
The biggest one is about Trump ignoring reports of Russians trying to kill American troops in Afghanistan.
American intelligence officials have concluded that a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing coalition forces in Afghanistan — including targeting American troops — amid the peace talks to end the long-running war there, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The United States concluded months ago that the Russian unit, which has been linked to assassination attempts and other covert operations in Europe intended to destabilize the West or take revenge on turncoats, had covertly offered rewards for successful attacks last year.
Islamist militants, or armed criminal elements closely associated with them, are believed to have collected some bounty money, the officials said. Twenty Americans were killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2019, but it was not clear which killings were under suspicion.
The intelligence finding was briefed to President Trump, and the White House’s National Security Council discussed the problem at an interagency meeting in late March, the officials said. Officials developed a menu of potential options — starting with making a diplomatic complaint to Moscow and a demand that it stop, along with an escalating series of sanctions and other possible responses, but the White House has yet to authorize any step, the officials said.
An operation to incentivize the killing of American and other NATO troops would be a significant and provocative escalation of what American and Afghan officials have said is Russian support for the Taliban, and it would be the first time the Russian spy unit was known to have orchestrated attacks on Western troops.
Any involvement with the Taliban that resulted in the deaths of American troops would also be a huge escalation of Russia’s so-called hybrid war against the United States, a strategy of destabilizing adversaries through a combination of such tactics as cyberattacks, the spread of fake news and covert and deniable military operations.
Read more about this at The Washington Post: Russian operation targeted coalition troops in Afghanistan, intelligence finds.
I wonder if GOP senators are going to do anything about this, or will they think it’s just fine for Trump to keep being pals with Putin no matter what he does?
The New York Times has another big story on how the coronavirus pandemic sneaked up on us: How the World Missed Covid-19’s Silent Spread.
Dr. Camilla Rothe was about to leave for dinner when the government laboratory called with the surprising test result. Positive. It was Jan. 27. She had just discovered Germany’s first case of the new coronavirus.
But the diagnosis made no sense. Her patient, a businessman from a nearby auto parts company, could have been infected by only one person: a colleague visiting from China. And that colleague should not have been contagious.
The visitor had seemed perfectly healthy during her stay in Germany. No coughing or sneezing, no signs of fatigue or fever during two days of long meetings. She told colleagues that she had started feeling ill after the flight back to China. Days later, she tested positive for the coronavirus.
Scientists at the time believed that only people with symptoms could spread the coronavirus. They assumed it acted like its genetic cousin, SARS.
“People who know much more about coronaviruses than I do were absolutely sure,” recalled Dr. Rothe, an infectious disease specialist at Munich University Hospital.
But if the experts were wrong, if the virus could spread from seemingly healthy carriers or people who had not yet developed symptoms, the ramifications were potentially catastrophic. Public-awareness campaigns, airport screening and stay-home-if-you’re sick policies might not stop it. More aggressive measures might be required — ordering healthy people to wear masks, for instance, or restricting international travel.
Dr. Rothe and her colleagues were among the first to warn the world. But even as evidence accumulated from other scientists, leading health officials expressed unwavering confidence that symptomless spreading was not important.
In the days and weeks to come, politicians, public health officials and rival academics disparaged or ignored the Munich team. Some actively worked to undermine the warnings at a crucial moment, as the disease was spreading unnoticed in French churches, Italian soccer stadiums and Austrian ski bars. A cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, would become a deadly harbinger of symptomless spreading.
Read the rest at the NYT.
More interesting Covid-19 articles:
The New York Times: New Numbers Showing Coronavirus Spread Intrude on a White House in Denial.
Bloomberg Opinion: A Horrifying U.S. Covid Curve Has a Simple Explanation.
Bloomberg Law: Virus Fatality Picture Is Obscured by Ultimate Lagging Indicator.
The Daily Beast: Here’s What It Looks Like When People Don’t Wear Masks.
Meanwhile, as the virus rages through the South and West, Trump is trying to finally kill Obamacare. The Washington Post: Trump administration’s move to end Obamacare amid pandemic reignites political fight.
The Trump administration touched off another politically charged battle over the future of Obamacare with its latest maneuver to dismantle the law amid a pandemic — a move that Democrats immediately weaponized for competitive campaigns this fall and few Republicans defended.
The 82-page brief filed late Thursday to the Supreme Court in a high-profile case brought by GOP state attorneys general undercuts President Trump’s repeated pledges to ensure coverage for people with preexisting conditions as his administration and the broader Republican Party seek to wipe away that protection.
Trump vowed as recently as last weekend, at a campaign rally in Tulsa, that he would “always protect patients with preexisting conditions, always, always.” But his own administration’s position in court is that the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, and therefore so is the entire law — even its most popular provisions, such as coverage for those with preexisting conditions….
Republican officials and strategists working on competitive campaigns were privately aghast Friday at the administration’s decision to reignite the issue, particularly as health care is at the forefront of voters’ minds because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The ties between the pandemic and access to Obamacare were underscored this week with a new report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which found that 487,000 Americans used a special enrollment period for the health care law after losing their own coverage, probably due to job losses.
Trump wants to throw protesters in jail if they try to take down Confederate monuments. Politico: Trump issues executive order warning cities, protesters over destruction of monuments.
President Donald Trump on Friday ordered the Justice Department to prioritize prosecution of protesters who damage federal monuments and limit federal funding for local governments that are perceived to not be adequately protecting those monuments.
The executive order also emphasized strict sentencing, with a maximum of 10 years in prison, for those found guilty of such acts, a key plank of Trump’s law and order strategy the president has repeatedly tweeted and talked about in recent weeks.
The order characterizes protesters as actively seeking to undermine the integrity of the United States government — referring to them as “Anarchists and left-wing extremists” — and comes a day after Trump labeled demonstrators as “terrorists” who will face “retribution.”
Judge Amy Berman Jackson said yesterday that Roger Stone won’t get a 2-month delay before heading to jail. The Washington Post: Roger Stone ordered to report to prison July 14, as judge denies request for two-month delay.
A federal judge has ordered Roger Stone to report to prison July 14, granting him a two-week delay because of the coronavirus pandemic, but not the two months that President Trump’s confidant had requested with prosecutors’ assent.
Stone, 67, had been due to surrender June 30 to a federal prison in Jesup, Ga., while he appeals his November conviction on charges of lying and witness tampering in a congressional investigation.
In an order and sealed opinion late Friday, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson granted a two-week delay. Prosecutors had not opposed Stone’s request for a delay until Sept. 3, saying the Justice Department’s policy during the pandemic has been to grant up to a 60-day extension upon defendants’ request “without respect to age, health, or other COVID-19 risk factors.”
More stories to check out, links only:
The Washington Post: Barr forms task force to counter ‘anti-government extremists’
Above the Law: Bill Barr Has Thoughts On ‘Blacks’
The New York Times: U.S. Must Release Children From Family Detention Centers, Judge Rules.
Los Angeles Times: Working-class white women are turning on Trump.
The New York Times: How Trump and the Black Lives Matter Movement Changed White Voters’ Minds.
Harry Enten at CNN: Candidates who recover from Trump-like deficits are rarely incumbents.
Take care of yourselves and have a nice weekend everyone!
The news has been overwhelming since Monday morning dawned. I’m feeling overwhelmed and I was going to go with baby animals, but then I found some great historical photos on Twitter.
Trump just finished his insane speech to the UN. I couldn’t stand to listen to him, but I watched with the sound off and closed captions.
The headline from the speech was that Trump threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and again called Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man.” He also called for complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. That obviously will not happen. So should we prepare for nuclear war?
In addition, Trump ranted about “America first” and said every nation should put itself first–except when he was ranting about Syria, Afghanistan, ISIS, and North Korea. He also threatened to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. According to the talking heads on MSNBC, there were audible gasps from the audience during at some points in the speech.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Maria has already devastated Dominica and is headed for Puerto Rico. The Washington Post: ‘Extremely dangerous’ Hurricane Maria churns toward Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico; Jose to scrape Northeast coast.
The wicked 2017 hurricane season began delivering more punishing blows Tuesday as Hurricane Maria raked across the Caribbean with “potentially catastrophic” winds of 160 mph. To the north, Hurricane Jose churned on a path to brush the Northeast coast with raging surf and potentially damaging gusts.
Maria strengthened to the highest-level Category 5 on Tuesday after making landfall on the island of Dominica. The storm carries the potential to cause widespread destruction along its path from the central Lesser Antilles through Puerto Rico, including some areas battered earlier this month by the huge Hurricane Irma.
“Maria is forecast to remain an extremely dangerous Category 4 or 5 hurricane while it approaches the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday.
Jose is capable of producing coastal flooding and pockets of damaging wind from eastern Long Island to coastal Massachusetts, its effects are most likely to resemble those of a strong nor’easter — rather than a devastating hurricane.
It’s already pouring rain here, and I guess that’s going to continue through tomorrow. We haven’t seem much of the sun here lately, but that’s not a big deal. I just hope Maria slows down before she gets to you all down South.
We got big news in the Russia investigation last night. We learned that Paul Manafort was under surveillance under a FISA warrant beginning in 2014 and again before and after the inauguration while Trump was still talking to him on the phone. If you haven’t read the NYT and CNN stories, be sure to check them out. We also learned that the FBI raid on Manafort’s home was a “no-knock” warrant and agents surprised him in his bedroom.
Three reactions to these stories:
As Jim Comey might put it: Lordy, there appear to be tapes….
The Times’ revelation that Manafort has been informed that he will be indicted involves a pretty spare set of reported facts. In fact, there’s really only one fact: “The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.” The language here is not legally precise. It could mean that Manafort has been formally informed that he is an investigative “target”—a designation that means that prosecutors intend to ask a grand jury to indict him. It could, instead, suggest something less than that—a kind of verbal aggressiveness designed to put pressure on him to cooperate.
The significance of this is that it means that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has reached a critical stage—the point at which he may soon start making allegations in public. Those allegations may involve conduct unrelated to L’Affaire Russe—that is, alleged bad behavior by Manafort and maybe others that does not involve the Trump campaign—but which may nonetheless serve to pressure Manafort to cooperate on matters more central. Or they may involve conduct that involves his behavior with respect to the campaign itself. Note that if Manafort cooperates, we may not see anything public for a long time to come. Delay, that is, may be a sign of success. But in the absence of cooperation, the fireworks may be about to begin.
This is not the first indication in recent weeks that the Mueller investigation is nearing the litigation stage. The fact that Mueller’s staff executed a search warrant against Manafort in July—which was first reported Aug. 9 by the Washington Post—was telling, implying that the special counsel had shown a court probable cause of criminal activity.
That’s just a taste. Head over to Lawfare to read the whole thing. You won’t be sorry.
Natasha Bertrand at Business Insider: Raids, warrants, and wiretaps: The Trump-Russia probe ‘has reached a critical stage.’
Recent revelations about special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and potential collusion with President Donald Trump’s campaign team indicate that the case has reached the point where Mueller may soon start announcing criminal charges.
The Wall Street Journal and CNN reported on Friday that Mueller had obtained a search warrant for records of the “inauthentic” accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election.
Legal experts said the warrant meant Mueller had been able to convince a federal judge that there was good reason to believe a foreign entity had committed a crime by making campaign contributions in the form of ads and the spread of fake news and that evidence of that crime would be found on Facebook.
Three days later, The New York Times reported that Mueller told Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, he was going to be formally charged with a crime following a raid on his Virginia home over the summer.
Mueller has also issued subpoenas to a Manafort spokesman, Jason Maloni, and former attorney, Melissa Laurenza, to testify before a federal grand jury.
Bertrand’s piece is partially a summary of the longer Lawfare article.
The Washington Post: The Daily 202: Mueller tightening the screws on Manafort. This one is useful summary of the stories that broke yesterday.
Mueller is also “turning up the heat on Facebook.” Vanity Fair:
Facebook is facing an unusual degree of scrutiny as Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors makes the social media a central focus of the Justice Department’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, including how the platform was used to disseminate foreign propaganda and misleading news stories. There are lots of attempts these days to get the attention of many people on various social media accounts, so have even started buying YouTube views to gain popularity. Earlier this month, Facebook told congressional investigators that it sold about $100,000 worth of ads to a pro-Kremlin Russian troll farm that targeted U.S. voters. But while some lawmakers appeared frustrated by Facebook’s overly general answers to their inquiries, Mueller isn’t asking nicely.
The latest revelation could mark a turning point in Mueller’s investigation. In order to obtain a search warrant, the former F.B.I. director would have had to prove that he has evidence suggesting a crime occurred and that it occurred on Facebook. “He would have to sort of lay out evidence showing that this crime had occurred, not just merely say so, but records that he had obtained, testimony that had been given, or interviews that people gave to the F.B.I.,” former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti told CBS News on Sunday. “It’s a very serious and significant move forward for the Mueller investigation.” Anyone who was part of that effort could be criminally liable, he added. Because Mueller has been looking at relatively specific, narrow crimes, Mariotti said he believes the special counsel’s office is “closing in on charging foreign individuals.” As Chris Smithwrote for Vanity Fair on Friday, some lawmakers believe that investigation could include a closer look at the election data operation run by Jared Kushner and Trump’s digital campaign chief, Brad Parscale, as well as their work with the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica.
More at the link.
Finally, long-time Trump toady Michael Cohen [was scheduled to appear] before the Senate Intelligence Committee this morning. NBC News:
Cohen, who served as executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization and continues to serve as the president’s personal attorney, is perhaps the closest associate to Trump outside of his immediate family. He will speak with professional staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday weeks after the president’s son and son-in-law spoke with it and other congressional panels looking into Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections.
According to congressional sources, the committee intends to pursue several lines of questioning with Cohen, with the goal of putting him on the record on key topics that have drawn scrutiny during the investigation, including potential direct contacts between Trump associates and people with close ties to the Kremlin.
Cohen had been mentioned by name in a dossier on Trump prepared by former British spy Christopher Steele, alleging he attended a secret meeting in Prague in August 2016 to discuss Russia’s hacking of Democratic targets. Cohen has adamantly denied such a meeting, and his own attorney called the allegations “wholly unsubstantiated” and even “libelous” in a letter to leaders of the House Intelligence Committee in August.
Committee staff will also likely ask Cohen about emails he received in 2015 from Felix Sater, a former Trump associate with a criminal past, about a potential deal to open a Trump Tower in the Russian capital. Some of the emails were published by the New York Times in August.
UPDATE: Cohen’s appearance was cancelled because he violated an agreement not to speak to the media. He will now be subpoenaed.
As you know, the Republicans are making a last ditch effort to take health care away from Americans. Margaret Sanger-Katz at the NYT The Upshot: One Reason to Take the Latest Obamacare Repeal Seriously, and Three Reasons It Could Fail.
How seriously should Americans take the Republicans’ last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act?
The party has until the end of the month to repeal the health law without needing 60 Senate votes. That’s why the latest proposal, by Senators Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is getting so much attention.
Their bill would eliminate the two big coverage programs created by Obamacare, and instead give blocks of money to state governments, with few limitations on how they can distribute them to provide health coverage to their residents. States would be free to eliminate Obamacare rules requiring that insurance cover a minimum package of benefits, and they could charge sick customers more than healthy customers.
It would also make major changes to Medicaid, reducing federal funding even for populations that were covered before Obamacare. The results would most likely be substantial reductions in the number of Americans with health coverage, and new challenges for Americans with pre-existing health conditions in some states.
There are elements of the bill that are likely to attract support from Republican lawmakers, and from some Republican governors. The policy is in line with many Republican lawmakers’ views that states are better able to manage their health programs than the federal government.
But the bill faces substantial challenges, both political and procedural. Here are three reasons the effort may not succeed — and one very important reason it might.
Read the reasons at the NYT link.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.
Good Morning Sky Dancers!
I’m not sure how many of you watched the late night drama on the floor of the US Senate last night on the so-called “skinny repeal” but it was the first thing that’s ended well for some time. This was old time Senate Drama and not the kind cooked up by Kremlin Caligula and Scary Moochie. for reality TV viewers.
Senator John McCain–long time cancer survivor and usually full of empty words–stood up and did the right thing. He stood with Murkowski and Collins and voted a resounding “no”. He did so in a way that will undoubtedly make him the target of the Orange of Wrath. As my youngest used to say, it was Amazeballs.
Ed O’Keefe of WAPO provides the narrative.
It was the most dramatic night in the United States Senate in recent history. Just ask the senators who witnessed it.
A seven-year quest to undo the Affordable Care Act collapsed — at least for now — as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) kept his colleagues and the press corps in suspense over a little more than two hours late Thursday into early Friday.
Not since September 2008, when the House of Representatives rejected the Troubled Asset Relief Program — causing the Dow Jones industrial average to plunge nearly 800 points in a single afternoon — had such an unexpected vote caused such a striking twist.
The bold move by the nation’s most famous senator stunned his colleagues and possibly put the Senate on the verge of protracted bipartisan talks that McCain is unlikely to witness as he begins treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.
“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict party-line basis without a single Republican vote,” he said in a statement explaining his vote. “We should not make the mistakes of the past.”
“From the beginning, I have believed that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced with a solution that increases competition, lowers costs, and improves care for the American people. The so-called ‘skinny repeal’ amendment the Senate voted on today would not accomplish those goals. While the amendment would have repealed some of Obamacare’s most burdensome regulations, it offered no replacement to actually reform our health care system and deliver affordable, quality health care to our citizens. The Speaker’s statement that the House would be ‘willing’ to go to conference does not ease my concern that this shell of a bill could be taken up and passed at any time.
“I’ve stated time and time again that one of the major failures of Obamacare was that it was rammed through Congress by Democrats on a strict-party line basis without a single Republican vote. We should not make the mistakes of the past that has led to Obamacare’s collapse, including in my home state of Arizona where premiums are skyrocketing and health care providers are fleeing the marketplace. We must now return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of aisle, heed the recommendations of nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people. We must do the hard work our citizens expect of us and deserve.”
Paul Krugman tries to make sense of the Republican Cruelty on display during this debacle. The passage of any of these Republican Repeal Bills would have been the definition of winning at any cost. I cannot even believe Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy–a medical doctor–would throw millions of people into suffering and early death. That’s a cost only an army of demons could love.
More than 40 percent of the Senate bill’s tax cuts would go to people with annual incomes over $1 million — but even these lucky few would see their after-tax income rise only by a barely noticeable 2 percent.
So it’s vast suffering — including, according to the best estimates, around 200,000 preventable deaths — imposed on many of our fellow citizens in order to give a handful of wealthy people what amounts to some extra pocket change. And the public hates the idea: Polling shows overwhelming popular opposition, even though many voters don’t realize just how cruel the bill really is. For example, only a minority of voters are aware of the plan to make savage cuts to Medicaid.
In fact, my guess is that the bill has low approval even among those who would get a significant tax cut. Warren Buffett has denounced the Senate bill as the “Relief for the Rich Act,” and he’s surely not the only billionaire who feels that way.
Which brings me back to my question: Why would anyone want to do this?
I won’t pretend to have a full answer, but I think there are two big drivers — actually, two big lies — behind Republican cruelty on health care and beyond.
First, the evils of the G.O.P. plan are the flip side of the virtues of Obamacare. Because Republicans spent almost the entire Obama administration railing against the imaginary horrors of the Affordable Care Act — death panels! — repealing Obamacare was bound to be their first priority.
Once the prospect of repeal became real, however, Republicans had to face the fact that Obamacare, far from being the failure they portrayed, has done what it was supposed to do: It used higher taxes on the rich to pay for a vast expansion of health coverage. Correspondingly, trying to reverse the A.C.A. means taking away health care from people who desperately need it in order to cut taxes on the rich.
So one way to understand this ugly health plan is that Republicans, through their political opportunism and dishonesty, boxed themselves into a position that makes them seem cruel and immoral — because they are.
The clerk read the Arizona senator’s surname in the microphone of the tense Senate chamber. The two words were met with silence — McCain had stepped out of the room minutes before.
But moments later, he reappeared. By then, the alphabetical roll call had reached Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan. McCain walked over to the front of the chamber, raising his right arm. He held it up in the air until he had the attention of the clerk.
“No,” he said, with a swift thumbs-down.
It was a “no” that could barely be heard on C-SPAN, and a thumbs-down that viewers would not have been able to easily make out. But the moment was crystal clear for the dozens of reporters watching from the gallery above, who let out a collective gasp and made a stampede exit for the wooden double doors behind them to report the news.
In hindsight, it seems clear: McCain had made up his mind to vote “no” well before he walked into that chamber.
There were hints in his body language, the demeanor of the colleagues who approached him and the way the senator navigated the room. As he huddled with members in a series of hushed conversations while Thursday night turned into Friday morning, there were words that could almost be heard from above and even discerned through lip-reading. The clues were all there.
In other words, those 50 people helped McCain be the political winner. Here are seven people in particular who he can thank for his victory lap this morning.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). It’s sort of amazing that Collins hasn’t gotten more attention for her role in opposing the health-care bill this week. She was one of two Republican senators who opposed the motion-to-proceed, the procedural vote that allowed the climactic vote on Friday morning to happen at all. She was one of the three votes against the Republican bill.
She also made headlines for bashing President Trump after a hearing when a live microphone caught her conversation with a colleague. The administration’s handling of the budget was just “incredibly irresponsible,” and she was “worried” about what might happen. She delivered bad headlines for Trump on three different days — yet somehow has escaped his Twitter wrath.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). Murkowski did not escape that wrath.
She also didn’t escape a phone call from the secretary of the interior in which projects important to her state were tacitly threatened. (That’s according to her colleague from Alaska, who received a similar call. She told reporters on Thursday that she preferred not to use the word “threat.”)
Murkowski’s opposition was driven, among other things, by a desire to protect funding for Planned Parenthood, a commitment she made publicly in the state earlier this year. When McCain’s “no” became known on the floor of the Senate as voting loomed, Murkowski was swarmed by her colleagues, hoping to cajole her into flipping. As on the motion-to-proceed, which she also opposed, Murkowski didn’t budge.
I admit to running the gamut of emotions from anxiety, fear, and depression over the thought of losing my access to health care again. I’ve been on Louisiana’s Medicaid Expansion now for a year. I’m getting preventative care again. It’s something that I will likely need for three more years until I can get on Medicare given it will be there for me as it has been for all other over 65 Americans.
I hugged the soundly sleeping cat on my chest and startled her when I yelped and sprung up from bed to dance. I have a reprieve from unnecessary suffering. My long-gone cancer still haunts my life.
A viral video overnight Thursday night showed protesters outside the Capitol break out into massive cheers the moment they learned the Senate GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill would fail.
The video, shared by Splinter News reporter Emma Roller, captured protesters chanting “yes we did” after news the repeal bill failed.
So, I’m just going to enjoy #FridayFeeling and hope that the usual ugly Friday night Trump news Dumps can be held at bay for awhile.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Last night, for the first time since November 8, 2016, I went to bed happy. Thanks in large part to the millions of Americans who marched in the streets, went to town halls or their representatives’ offices to defend Obamacare, the attempt by tRump and Ryan to destroy the health care system has been thwarted–at least for the time being.
Trump is being roasted in the media. Here are a few stories to check out, links only because there are so many:
Politico: Trump gets tamed by Washington (click on this one if only to view the absolute worst photo of tRump’s hair so far).
The New York Times: How the Health Care Vote Fell Apart, Step by Step.
Jonathan Chait: Why Obamacare Defeated Trumpcare.
I want to highlight one aspect of the tRump strategy. He let Steve Bannon talk to the Freedom Caucus, and it did not go well.
It’s another busy day in tRumpville–not for him, of course, just for us peons. King Donald is so bored that he went out to meet a White House tour group this morning.
So the Muslim ban is back with a vengeance. Plus the GOP “health care” plan is out and it’s even worse than anyone imagined. Dakinikat wrote about tRump’s immigration policies yesterday, but we’re getting more details this morning. As for Ryancare or trumpcare or whatever the f$ck you want to call the health insurance plan from hell, it looks like it will be dead on arrival.
On top of all that Russia and Wikileaks released a bunch of CIA files to try to distract everyone from the antics circus clown they put in charge of what used to be the USA. I don’t have room to write about everything, but here are a few reads to get you started.
The Trump administration wants to gut the Coast Guard and make deep cuts in airport and rail security to help pay for its crackdown on illegal immigration, according to internal budget documents reviewed by POLITICO — a move that lawmakers and security experts say defies logic if the White House is serious about defending against terrorism and keeping out undocumented foreigners.
The Office of Management and Budget is seeking a 14 percent cut to the Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget, the draft documents show, even as it proposes major increases to other Department of Homeland Security agencies to hire more border agents and immigration officers and construct a physical barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The budget numbers mark the most detailed breakdown yet about how President Donald Trump envisions restructuring DHS to meet his pledge to halt illegal immigration and deport some of the millions already here.
Overall, DHS would get a 6 percent boost to its budget, to $43.8 billion. But to help pay for that, the administration would slice the budget of the Coast Guard and cut 11 percent in spending from the TSA — reductions that critics say would weaken safeguards against threats arriving by sea or air.
OMB also wants to cut 11 percent from the budget of FEMA, which oversees the national response to disasters such as floods and hurricanes.
The stupid is strong in this one. Obviously the mass deportation agenda has absolutely nothing to do with national security.
Speaking of national security, tRup appears to be mostly ignoring the international crisis being fomented by North Korea–at least he has said nothing publicly about how he plans to handle it. Rex Tillerson hasn’t said anything about this situation either. Has anyone seen or heard from him? The Washington Post reports: North Korea says it was practicing to hit U.S. military bases in Japan with missiles.
North Korea was practicing to strike United States military bases in Japan with its latest barrage of missiles, state media in Pyongyang reported Tuesday, and it appeared to be trying to outsmart a new American antimissile battery being deployed to South Korea by firing multiple rockets at once.
Kim Jong Un presided over Monday’s launch of the four missiles, “feasting his eyes on the trails of ballistic rockets,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported in a statement that analysts called a “brazen declaration” of the country’s intent to strike enemies with a nuclear weapon if it came under attack.
“If the United States or South Korea fires even a single flame inside North Korean territory, we will demolish the origin of the invasion and provocation with a nuclear tipped missile,” the KCNA statement said.
The four ballistic missiles fired Monday morning were launched by the elite Hwasong ballistic missile division “tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan,” KCNA said. The United States has numerous military bases and about 54,000 military personnel stationed in Japan, the legacy of its postwar security alliance with the country.
Three of the four missiles flew about 600 miles over North Korea and landed in the sea, within Japan’s exclusive economic zone off the Oga Peninsula in Akita prefecture, home to a Japanese self-defense forces base. The fourth fell just outside the zone.
One thing that’s happening is that the US is sending an anti-missle defense system to South Korea, according to NBC News:
The United States has begun shipping a controversial anti-missile system to South Korea after North Korea test-launched four medium-range missiles on Monday, U.S. officials told NBC News.
The system, called THAAD, which stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, is an anti-missile system designed to counter a threat like that from North Korea.
Other THAAD systems are already active in Hawaii and Guam to defend against North Korea, but the shield hadn’t yet been deployed to South Korea — a scenario that Beijing has denounced as a “clear, present and substantive threat to China’s security interests.”
I wonder if tRump will give us a heads-up if he decides to start a war with China and North Korea? Huffington Post: North Korea Warns Of ‘Actual War’ Over Military Exercises.
North Korea said on Tuesday it would pursue its nuclear deterrent and weapons program as huge U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises it says model a “pre-emptive nuclear attack” against Pyongyang continued.
South Korea and the United States, which led condemnation of North Korea’s latest missile tests at the Conference on Disarmament, said their military drills were to test defensive readiness against possible aggression from the North.
North Korean diplomat Ju Yong Choi told the United Nations-backed forum that the allies’ annual exercises were “a major cause of escalation of tension that might turn into actual war”.
“The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is firm in its determination to further bolster its defense capabilities with a nuclear deterrent as a pivot so as to put an end to danger of nuclear war caused by the United States,” Ju said.
During the 90-minute session, envoys from more than 20 countries, including North Korea’s main ally China, as well as Britain, France, Russia and the United States, condemned North Korea’s test-firing of four ballistic missiles on Monday.
On the health insurance (definitely not health care) bill, here’s Sarah Kliff at Vox: The American Health Care Act: the Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare, explained. Also at Vox, Ezra Klein: The GOP health bill doesn’t know what problem it’s trying to solve. You’ll need to go read both of those–there’s much too much to excerpt.
But here’s a little news from the ridiculous Jason Chaffetz. Think Progress: GOP congressman says Trumpcare will force people to choose between new iPhone and health insurance.
During a Tuesday morning appearance on CNN, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) suggested that under Trumpcare, Americans will face some tough choices — like buying an iPhone or making sure they can see a doctor.
Pressed by CNN’s Alisyn Camerota about whether he’s concerned Trumpcare’s reduced tax incentives and lack of individual mandate will result in less people having insurance, Chaffetz said, “Well, we’re getting rid of the individual mandate. We’re getting rid of those things that people said that they don’t want.” ….
The cost of a new iPhone 7 without a contract is roughly $700. By comparison, the per-capita cost of health care in the U.S. last year was $10,345. Even when insurance coverage that defrays some of that cost is factored in, Americans still spend way less on phones than they do on health care….
If too many healthy people decide to forego health care they don’t think they’ll need in favor of new phones under Trumpcare, prices will go up for those remaining in the health insurance market, creating a “death spiral.”
Chaffetz is such a nasty man, to paraphrase tRump on Hillary.
The New York Times on the Wikileaks story, which sounds very serious: WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged C.I.A. Hacking Documents.
WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.
If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review, the release would be the latest coup for the anti-secrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which maintains its own hacking capabilities to be used for espionage.
The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first part of the document collection, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, the group said. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, it said.
Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, would rock the technology world, the WikiLeaks release said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
The source of the documents was not named. WikiLeaks said the documents, which it called Vault 7, had been “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”
WikiLeaks said the source, in a statement, set out policy questions that “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.” The source, the group said, “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
The documents, from the C.I.A’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, are dated from 2013 to 2016, and WikiLeaks described them as “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.” One former intelligence officer who briefly reviewed the documents on Tuesday morning said some of the code names for C.I.A. programs, an organization chart and the description of a C.I.A. hacking base appeared to be genuine.
It will be very interesting to see how tRump responds to this disastrous situation, which obviously is the work of his buddy Vladimir Putin.
Here’s an interesting article by Noah Feldman at Bloomberg on tRump’s accusation that former President Barack Obama “wiretapped” phones in tRump Tower: Trump’s Wiretap Tweets Raise Risk of Impeachment.
The sitting president has accused his predecessor of an act that could have gotten the past president impeached. That’s not your ordinary exercise of free speech. If the accusation were true, and President Barack Obama ordered a warrantless wiretap of Donald Trump during the campaign, the scandal would be of Watergate-level proportions.
But if the allegation is not true and is unsupported by evidence, that too should be a scandal on a major scale. This is the kind of accusation that, taken as part of a broader course of conduct, could get the current president impeached. We shouldn’t care that the allegation was made early on a Saturday morning on Twitter.
The basic premise of the First Amendment is that truth should defeat her opposite number. “Let her and Falsehood grapple,” wrote the poet and politician John Milton, “who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”
But this rather optimistic adage only accounts for speech and debate between citizens. It doesn’t apply to accusations made by the government. Those are something altogether different.
In a rule of law society, government allegations of criminal activity must be followed by proof and prosecution. If not, the government is ruling by innuendo.
Shadowy dictatorships can do that because there is no need for proof. Democracies can’t.
Thus, an accusation by a president isn’t like an accusation leveled by one private citizen against another. It’s about more than factual truth or carelessness.
Read the rest at the link.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!