Tuesday Reads: After A Quiet Weekend, Back to Non-Stop News

Sofia Loren playing pool, circa 1950s

Good Morning!!

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.

James Dean signing autographs

“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.

NYT: With a Picked Lock and a Threatened Indictment, Mueller’s Inquiry Sets a Tone.

CNN: Exclusive: US government wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman.

Three reactions to these stories:

Lawfare: The Latest Scoops from CNN and the New York Times: A Quick and Dirty Analysis.

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.

Helen Keller meets Charlie Chaplin 1919

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.

Washing day in NYC, 1934

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.

Miles Davis defining cool in 1947.

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.

Pablo Picasso & Brigitte Bardot, 1956

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.


Friday Reads: McCain Does the Right Thing

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.”

 

Retired family physician Jay Brock of Fredericksburg, Va., joins other protesters against the Republican health care bill outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., Monday, July 17, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

McCain released this statement to the press.

“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.

McCain may have put on a show but the closing act was worth it and the wait.

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.

But with all of the McCain show, it was Collins, Murkowski, and a lot of Democrats–including Red Staters–that held firm during the entire ordeal.  Phillip Bump of WAPO has this right.

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.

Protesters on the Hill held their own spontaneous celebration at the news.

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.

Just.Breathe.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Saturday Reads: Focus on the Sausage Making instead of the Ham

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 30: Women Democratic senators (L-R) U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) hold a news conference to announce their support for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 at the U.S. Capitol January 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. Thirteen of the 16 Democratic women senators made appearances during the news conference. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Good Afternoon!

Well, the thing from the Orange Swamp has been sucking all oxygen and energy available to Mother Earth and then some. Women Senators and Representatives have been leading the battle to ensure the entire justice thing is done.  Last week the hearings in the Senate were exciting but the focus there let Mitchie and Paulie find ways to circumvent democracy with very little notice or coverage.

I got hit yesterday with weird ass flu and I’m exhausted after spending the day in bed fighting dizziness and stomach ickiness.  I wanted to talk about some of the absolutely sneaky shit going on in the House and Senate as the Republicans rush to cram absolutely bad, unpopular, self-serving laws through both houses using arcane rules and your basic slight of hand. They’re trying to rush through the absolutely cringe-inducing, people killing, death panel empowering Unafforadble Health care replacement to the ACA.

They’re also rushing to rid the country of financial regulations again by repealing Dodd Frank.  What an economist’s nightmare!  These hearings are shocking and important but look what’s going on behind the show tent.

The Hill is calling all this overnight regulation.  The Dodd Frank repeal passed the House in what almost seemed like a clandestine action.

The House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation Thursday that would strip and replace much of the financial regulations passed under President Obama after the 2008 financial crisis.

Don’t expect the measure to become law, though. It’s not expected to pass in the Senate.

The House passed the Financial CHOICE Act on a party line vote, 233 to 186.

Sponsored by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), the CHOICE Act is the most ambitious Republican effort to roll back the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, passed in 2010.

It has a completely Orwellian name too. It’s called the Financial Creating Hope and Opportunity for Investors, Consumers and Entrepreneurs (CHOICE) Act, 233-186. The bill passed strictly along party lines and is not expected to pass the Senate.

Democrats have fiercely defended Dodd-Frank. They say the bill has held Wall Street accountable for the risky investment practices that caused the crisis and protected Americans from predatory lending and abusive financial firms.

“It’s shameful that Republicans have voted to do the bidding of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street and our economy,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. “They are setting the stage for Wall Street to run amok and cause another financial crisis. I urge my colleagues in the Senate not to move on this deeply harmful bill.”

The CHOICE Act would roll back much of the Dodd-Frank regulations long targeted by Republicans. It would allow banks that reach certain cash thresholds an off-ramp from Dodd-Frank, reduce the frequency of federal stress tests and restrain oversight powers of several federal agencies that the 2010 law expanded.

Hensarling’s bill would also eliminate orderly liquidation authority — the process through which the federal government takes over and dismantles a major bank before it collapses — and place strict limits on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The CHOICE Act would turn the CFPB, which Republicans consider abusive and unaccountable, into the Consumer Law Enforcement Agency. It would no longer control its own budget, its director would be appointed by the president, and it would lose its authority to crack down on “unfair, abusive and deceptive practices.”

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and GOP leaders touted the bill in the weeks before Thursday’s vote. Ryan, a longtime Hensarling ally who served with him on the House Budget Committee, on Wednesday called the CHOICE Act “the crown jewel” of the GOP deregulation agenda.

“This legislation comes to the rescue of Main Street America,” Ryan said Wednesday. “The Financial CHOICE Act makes it possible for small businesses across this country to stop struggling and to start hiring.”

Paul Ryan never seems to get the basic economics lessons that small businesses across the country will not struggle and will hire and expand their business if they have customers that have the basic incomes to afford their products and services.  The smallest contribution to National Income is stuff coming from investments.  The largest source of funds in this country for business is consumption by households.  Turning the national financial services industry back into a gambling establishment with special tax treatment for gamblers who don’t build businesses but speculate on the face value of paper assets isn’t going to help Main Street America.

By the way, their tax program should be a no starter too.  Read up on how red state Kansas is finally getting rid of Koch Brothers/ Grover Norquist economic policies.  It’s killing their state’s education systems and economy.  Voodoo Economics needs the final pin pushed into it whatever vital organ will kill it.  This is from the keyboard of Charles Pierce.

An update on an earlier development: The Kansas state legislature told Governor Sam Brownback to pound sand, overriding his veto and upholding its decision to roll back the radical supply-side tax cuts that were central to Brownback’s demolition of the state’s economy. From those Socialist Agitators at Forbes:

Brownback vetoed the legislature’s first attempt to reverse his tax cuts, but two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate overrode his veto. The measure would boost state taxes by $1.2 billion over two years, in part by raising the top income tax rate from 4.6 percent to 5.7 percent and by once again taxing sole proprietorships, partnerships, and other pass-through businesses. Pressured by Brownback, the legislature had made pass-throughs tax free… Since Kansas enacted tax and spending cuts in 2012 and 2013, Brownback and his allies have argued that this fiscal potion would generate an explosion of economic growth. It didn’t. Overall growth and job creation in Kansas underperformed both the national economy and neighboring states. From January, 2014 (after both tax cuts passed) to April, 2017, Kansas gained only 28,000 net new non-farm jobs. By contrast, Nebraska, an economically similar state with a much smaller labor force, saw a net increase of 35,000 jobs.

Tax cuts balloon deficits and do not lead to growth. Period. This economic theory—to which, it should be noted, the administration and the Republican majorities in the Congress strictly adhere—doesn’t work. It is alchemy. It has no basis in empirical reality. Every argument in its favor has been proven by practical experience to be utter moonshine. It failed under Ronald Reagan and it failed under George W. Bush and, in its purest form, it failed disastrously in Kansas. Its proponents should be drummed out of the respectable national dialogue as thoroughly as Alex Jones has been. Supply-side is the chemtrails of political economies.

Wonkblog thinks that Kansas is going to euthanize its Tea Party.  Are there still any moderate Republicans out there?

Kansas’s moderate ascendance may portend problems for Republicans in Washington, where many in the party, including President Trump, are pushing to adopt federal tax policies similar to the ones Brownback has installed in Kansas. But while Brownback had hoped what he called Kansas’s “real-live experiment” in conservative economic policy would become a national model, it has instead become a cautionary example.

It not only killed Kansas.  Jindal let it kill Louisiana: ‘Louisiana has second-worst economy in U.S.: report’.  Our current lege session was a total clusterfuck as ignorant Republicans continue to swallow the snakeoil that tax cuts pay for themselves.  They do have never and will never do that unless your top marginal tax rate is like way north of like 90 percent.  Even then, it’s not the dampening impact is just not that big of a deal.Just imagine if this shit goes nationwide on that kind of a scale.

Louisiana’s economy ranks second-worst among U.S. states and the District of Columbia when examining a wide range of indicators, including employment, building permits, government spending and growth in science and tech industries, according to an analysis WalletHub released Monday (June 5).

Louisiana ranked only better than West Virginia in the study; the bottom five also included Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Washington, California, Utah, Massachusetts and the District of Colombia ranked the top five.

WalletHub used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the bureaus of Labor Statistics and Economic Analysis, United Health Foundation, American Legislative Exchange Council, CoreLogic, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the National Science Foundation, among others.

Louisiana did shine in one category: the state tied with Texas and Washington for most exports per capita.

Yeah, that’s because that damned President Obama turned us into a net oil exporter. Damn you Obama!!! Thankfully, we have a few Democrats in the District who are fighting like hell.

We ended the session with a complete meltdown and no budget.

“Nobody can pretend this was a good day for the state of Louisiana,” the governor said. “We now know that the majority of legislators came here determined to fix these problems and to work in a bipartisan way. We now know that it was a minority in the House that prevented that from happening.”

At least some rank-and-file Republicans in the House appeared to agree with the governor.

 

Republican Rep. Kenny Havard and Democratic Rep. Major Thibaut, both of whom voted to consider the Senate budget proposal, in unison described the special session as “embarrassing” to the Legislature. Republican Rep. Julie Stokes said she was “disgusted.”

 

“Petty partisan politics have failed the people of the state today, and it’s time that we grow up and work on solving the people’s problems,” said Stokes, who voted to bring up the Senate budget proposal.

 

House Republican leaders want to spend less than the full state income forecast, as a cushion to avoid midyear cuts in case the predictions were wrong. The Senate, backed by Edwards and House Democrats, want to spend all available dollars, saying otherwise they’d have to make unnecessary, harmful cuts.

 

The state’s income forecast has been too optimistic every year for nearly a decade.

Senate President John Alario, a Republican, said he was disappointed at the meltdown.

“My hope is that we complete our work in this special session. It’s too darn important for the people of this state. Education, health care, public safety: there are too many things that would get hurt if we didn’t come to a consensus and make it work,” Alario said.

Senator Claire McCaskill joined the ranks of women in leadership given the misogynist treatment for acting like a leader.  McCaskill called Shenanigans on the way the Republicans plan to cram TrumpCare into law.

Thursday in a Senate hearing, Americans were finally presented definitive evidence of a plot so nefarious and cunning, it threatens to upend any remaining trust in our democratic institutions. I am referring, of course, to an exchange between Sen. Claire McCaskill and Sen. Orrin Hatch in the Senate Finance Committee on the progress of the Republican health care bill. McCaskill asked Hatch, the chairman, whether the committee would hold hearings on the as-yet-unreleased legislation.

Hatch: Will we?

McCaskill: Yes.

Hatch: I … I think we’ve already had one. But…

McCaskill: No. I mean on the proposal that you’re planning to bring to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Will there be a hearing?

Hatch, searching for a less damning answer than “No,” was silent as a much younger aide—perhaps young enough to be barred constitutionally from holding the seat Hatch is evidently simply keeping warm—sidled up to him and whispered, audibly enough for his microphone, words that Hatch began to repeat almost verbatim.

Aide: …they’re invited to participate in this process and we’re open to their ideas and suggestions.
Hatch: Well, I don’t know that there’s going to be another hearing, but we’ve invited you to participate and give your ideas and…

McCaskill: No! No, that’s not true, Mr. Chairman. Let me just say I watched carefully all of the hearings that went on on the [Affordable Care Act]. I was not a member of this committee at the time, although I would have liked to be. Sen. Grassley was the ranking member. Dozens of Republican amendments were offered and accepted in that hearing process. And when you say that you’re inviting us—and we heard you, Mr. Secretary, just say, “We’d love your support”—for what? We don’t even know. We have no idea what’s being proposed.

McCaskill might not have any idea, but some details have trickled out in recent days on what the bill is shaping up to be. On Tuesday, Jim Newell described the contents of a presentation on the bill-in-progress that had been shown to Senate Republicans:

Like the House bill, the Senate proposal would allow states to waive the Affordable Care Act’s essential health benefit coverage requirements, as well as loosen the ratio of what older people can be charged relative to younger customers. The Senate bill would not, however, allow states to waive community rating by health status, which bars insurers from charging sick people more than healthy ones. The Washington Examiner reported, too, that the Senate was considering allowing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion to linger past the 2020 deadline set forth in the House bill—and that a program to auto-enroll people into coverage against catastrophic losses was still on the table.

The Senate Republicans’ bill thus far, then, includes only modest changes to a set of proposals the Congressional Budget Office has said would lead to 23 million Americans losing their health insurance. That’s the only understanding of the bill we can surmise, since Republicans have taken the process of transforming one-sixth of the American economy—once again—behind closed doors. This secrecy, McCaskill said—in a classic performance of Democratic indignation—was “hard to take.” “You couldn’t have a more partisan exercise than what you’re engaged in right now,” she said, as though Hatch had simply failed to consider this. “Give me an opportunity to work with you.

They will not. The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Andy Slavitt tweeted Tuesday that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing to have the text of the bill available to the public for no more than two days.

Oddly enough, McConnel’s procedural jujitsu may be blocked by the Parliamentarian.  Guess what issues it’s about?

The Senate parliamentarian has warned Republicans that a provision in their healthcare reform bill related to abortion is unlikely to be allowed, raising a serious threat to the legislation.

The parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, has flagged language that would bar people from using new refundable tax credits for private insurance plans that cover abortion, according to Senate sources.

If Republicans are forced to strip the so-called Hyde Amendment language from the legislation, which essentially bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortions except to save the life of a mother or in cases of rape and incest, it may doom the bill.

MacDonough declined to comment for this article.

Unless a workaround can be found, conservative senators and groups that advocate against abortion rights are likely to oppose the legislation.

Republicans control 52 seats in the Senate; they can afford only two defections and still pass the bill, assuming Democrats are united against it. Vice President Pence would break a 50-50 tie.

Normally, controversial legislation requires 60 votes to pass the Senate, but Republicans hope to pass the ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill with a simple majority vote under a special budgetary process known as reconciliation.

The catch is that the legislation must pass a six-part test known as the Byrd Rule, and it’s up to the parliamentarian to advise whether legislative provisions meet its requirements.

The toughest requirement states that a provision cannot produce changes in government outlays or revenues that are merely incidental to the nonbudgetary components of the provision.

In other words, a provision passed under reconciliation cannot be primarily oriented toward making policy change instead of affecting the budget. Arguably, attaching Hyde language to the refundable tax credits is designed more to shape abortion policy than affect how much money is spent to subsidize healthcare coverage.

The abortion language that conservatives want in the healthcare bill may run afoul of a precedent set in 1995, when then-Senate Parliamentarian Robert Dove ruled that an abortion provision affecting a state block grant program failed to meet reconciliation requirements, according to a source briefed on internal Senate discussions.

Any American should be shocked and awed by Mitchie’s attempts to use Senate bureacray and rules to circumvent the usual process of making law.

Not a word of what Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, says here is hyperbolic or inaccurate. The reason Senator Orrin Hatch is acting like he’s been caught here is because he has. What Republicans are attempting to do to the health care system is the legislative equivalent of a mugging.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi gave a briefing yesterday that’s causing all kinds of controversy.   She challenged Trump’s stamina and fitness for office.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said President Trump “needs sleep” and questioned his “fitness for office” at a briefing Friday morning. The former Speaker’s statements were made in reference to Trump’s Twitter habits, after he posted one at 6 a.m. The president broke his unusual silence about former FBI Director James Comey’s Thursday testimony, tweeting: “Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication… and WOW, Comey is a leaker.” Pelosi also said of Trump, “Know your blood type. He will throw you under the bus.” Pelosi added, “I think his statements need some discipline. He needs work.” Comey said Thursday he believes Trump fired him because of the bureau’s investigation into Russia ties to his presidential campaign. On Comey’s testimony, Pelosi said Trump “knew what he was doing and he didn’t want any witnesses” when he asked to speak with Comey alone.

I’ve been absolutely shocked by the attempts at many people in journalism and around the political arena to suggest that either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden are the likely folks to lead the Democratic Party and run for President when so many young women and men are standing up to the current situation.

There are many standouts.

California Congressman Ted Lieu is an outstanding public servant with a keen mind and a prosecutor’s verbal combat skills.

Senator Al Franken is frankly awesome. He’s got an eye for detail, asks damn good questions, and does it with the most wonderful manner that you don’t know you’ve just had your throat cut.  His sense of humor serves him well as he dishes out tough questions that show really insight into the problem at hand.

And one more shout out to Senator Kamala Harris from California. She’s also got that prosecutor thing going.  She’s perfectly aware of what needs to go on the record and that’s a skill we need right now in these committee meetings.  She’s also a damn hard fighter and says what needs to be said.

I’m glad these folks are looking to bring home the bacon because I’m tired of the sausage making and frankly, I loathe the ham.

And no more fucking 70 year old plus white men ruining the world for us. PLEASE!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Sunday Reads: Creature Congress, Chamber of Chills

 

Chamber of the House of Representatives

Today’s theme is a little tongue in cheek. Because I think personally, any of the creatures featured in the post would have more heart than the real monsters in the House of Representatives who voted for the tRumpcare bill.

First let’s get this out of the way….

It called out to me…I guess you can see why.

And they are in the House and Senate…and White House!

Republicans tout GOP healthcare bill on Sunday shows | TheHill

Republicans on Sunday touted the GOP healthcare bill days after it narrowly passed the House, framing the plan as a “rescue mission” for the “collapsing” ObamaCare.

Members of President Trump’s administration and GOP House leaders were out in force praising the plan and commending the president for keeping his promises to the American people. Meanwhile, Republican senators were somewhat more cautious on the House victory, expressing reservations and tempering expectations.

Of course this campaign is full of lies…

An unbelievable thing emerges from the House of Representatives, and refuses to tell the truth about the GOP Healthcare Bill

 

Tom Price says Americans will “absolutely not” lose Medicaid under GOP plan. That’s not true. – Vox

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price gave multiple interviews Sunday morning, defending the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

He repeatedly made false promises about what the American Health Care Act would do. He told CNN that the bill would “absolutely not” result in millions of Americans losing Medicaid. He told NBC that the goal of the Republican plan is to “make certain that every single person has health coverage.”

Non-partisan analysis of the Republican health care bill shows that neither of these claims are true. The Republican plan would result in millions of Americans losing Medicaid coverage. Passing the bill would reduce rather than increase how many people have coverage.

Price’s Sunday interviews were an echo of answers that President Trump has given to defend the Republican bill. He has described it as protecting people with pre-existing conditions and reducing deductibles, while it does neither of those things.

The Trump administration offers an appealing vision of what health care could look like in the United States, a future where everyone has robust insurance coverage at a low price.

But American Health Care Act does not deliver on that vision. And if it passes, and its big cuts to Obamacare’s coverage expansion go into effect, Trump and Price will be forced to confront that reality.

More at the link of course…

The horror of the ages…formula for death.

Premium Increases Under Republican Healthcare Plan

Got Asthma? That’ll Cost You $4,000 Extra Under the Republican Plan
Diabetes? That’s over $5,000.

Using data on how much insurance companies think someone with various conditions will cost them, CAP issued estimates for the premium surcharge—that is, how much more you’d pay—for a 40-year-old with those conditions. They even included the 1.5 percent premium reduction they estimate would result from a high-risk pool. The results still aren’t pretty:

  • Asthma: $4,270
  • Rheumatoid arthritis and specified autoimmune disorders: $26,180
  • Diabetes: $5,510
  • Pregnancy: $17,060
  • Autism: $5,420
  • Seizure disorders: $7,190
  • Colorectal, breast, kidney, and other cancers: $28,230
  • Lung, brain, and other severe cancers: $71,880
  • Metastatic cancer: $140,510

If this seems like a bad idea, or even if you just would like to see the CBO and other organizations give their own evaluations of the bill before Paul Ryan shoves it through the House, today is a good day to call your congressman. Here’s a directory.

This post from an ER doctor seems fitting enough:

For those of you in Georgia, this link will give you the creeps: This Chart Shows How Many People in Your District Will Lose Health Insurance Under Obamacare Repeal

Disgusting.

On the topic of women…

 

Is there no end to the oppression of women? Make sexual assault a pre-existing condition…so women won’t report rape and lose their health insurance coverage.

 

 

 

Why are the women always wearing Handmaid color dresses?

 

 

 

This Boat Sails Women Into International Waters To Give Abortions | HuffPost

Yes, all that just to take a pill…

 

 

 

 

 

Because, they have the nerve to kill you off…by passing tRumpcare.

 

The crawling horror of Paul Ryan and the rest of the monsters…even creatures like the Mummy know how bad they are.

Next up, some world news…

Macron to become next French president after beating back Le Pen and her populist tide – The Washington Post

Chibok schoolgirls were swapped for 5 Boko Haram commanders – NY Daily News

Reporters barred from Kushner Companies’ visa-for-investment event in China | Reuters

 

Here is the original story from The Hill:

Eric Trump in 2014: ‘We have all the funding we need out of Russia’ | TheHill

It came from the bottom of the world, and into the House of Representatives.

 

The obsession with repeal of Obamacare

 

If only…

 

I would not expect it to be the “last” time.

 

This is the real wall we need, the kind to protect us from the GOP!

 

Ending with this video…don’t know the veracity of the facts…but innit nice to think so.

 

Have a good evening…This is an open thread.

Paul Ryan celebrating with a Bud…after passing GOP healthcare bill.


Thursday Reads: The “President” is Mentally Incompetent

Good Morning!!

Breaking stories this morning:’

— First, Rep. Deven Nunes is “temporarily stepping aside” from the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to the AP. Details to come. According to MSNBC, Trump himself wanted this to happen because he’s “concerned about his dropping poll numbers.” We’ll learn more as the day goes on, but it seems more likely that this decision probably comes from Prince Jared.

Nunes released a statement saying that left-wing groups had made baseless charges against him to the ethics committee, and he’s made this decision even though the complaints are politically-motivated. Democratic ranking member gave a brief statement in which he said he appreciates Nunes’ decision and looks forward to working with Rep. Conaway (R-Texas) who will now lead the investigation.

— Second, Paul Ryan held a press conference this morning to pretend that Trump-Ryancare is still alive. Supposedly the House is reaching consensus around a high risk pool–something that would never work to lower premiums for everyone. They’re all going home for Easter break soon, so we’ll see what happens when they come back. IMHO, this is just a face-saving effort by Ryan.

The Dallas News has a “developing” story on Conaway taking over: Texas’ Conaway takes over Russia meddling probe, as embattled Intel chairman steps down.

WASHINGTON — Texas Rep. Mike Conaway is taking the helm of the House-led probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, after embattled Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes agreed to step aside Thursday.

Conaway, a Midland Republican, is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and a member of the Intelligence Committee. He chaired the Ethics Committee several years ago — considered one of the more thankless tasks in Congress, given its role in policing and occasionally punishing colleagues.

He’s one of the few CPAs in Congress. Before his election in 2004, one of his clients was the oil firm owned by future president George W. Bush.

Also happening today:

President Xi Jinping of China

NBC News: Trump and China President Xi Jinping to Meet, ‘Set a Framework’ for Relations.

As Donald Trump gets set to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for a tête-à-tête at the Mar-a-Lago club in Florida on Thursday, experts say it’s time for the U.S. leader to let his past hostile comments about the Asian powerhouse fade with the Florida sunset.

Trump must start building a solid personal relationship with his counterpart and open a starter dialogue on a number of sensitive issues between the two nations, analysts add.

“Well, it’s going to be very interesting, nobody really knows, we have not been treated fairly on trade, no presidents taken care of that the way they should have, and we have a big problem on North Korea, so we’re going to see what happens,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday about his upcoming meeting with Xi.

“I’ll tell you we’ll be in there pitching, and I think we’re going to do very well” Trump added.

While the Chinese are strategic and conservative in their policy and diplomacy maneuvers, Trump has earned his reputation as brash and somewhat unpredictable, often venting governing frustrations on Twitter in 140 characters or less.

“[The Chinese] know that you cannot conduct foreign policy by Twitter, by tweeting, and brashness,” former Ambassador to China Max Baucus told NBC News.

I’m sure the Chinese know that all they have to do is say nice things about Trump and he’ll give away the store. He’s going to get played. I just hope it won’t be too damaging.

Mitch McConnell is determined to get Neil Gorsuch through the Senate despite a Democratic filibuster, and it looks like  he will exercise the so-called “nuclear option.” The sad fact that Gorsuch is obviously guilty of plagiarism doesn’t seem to matter to Republicans.

Now I want to move on to what I  believe is the most important story for the U.S. and the world right now.

After yesterday, I’m convinced that nothing that happens in the news is more important than the fact that the man who is pretending to be “president” is not only completely unqualified but also mentally unfit. There is something seriously wrong with Trump’s cognitive processes, and whether it’s dementia, drugs, or simple stupidity, we’re all in deep trouble.

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman

Did you read the transcript of the interview Trump gave to The New York Times yesterday? I want to quote two sections of it here. During a discussion of the Gorsuch nomination, Trump claimed that Democrats have told him privately that they really don’t object that much to the pick, and here is his example:

TRUMP: Elijah Cummings [a Democratic representative from Maryland] was in my office and he said, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.”

HABERMAN: Really.

TRUMP: And then he went out and I watched him on television yesterday and I said, “Was that the same man?”

[Laughter.]

TRUMP: But I said, and I liked him, but I said that was really nice. He said, in a group of people, “You will go down as one of the great presidents in the history of our country.” And then I watched him on television and I said, “Is that the same man that said that to me?”

Did Trump somehow confuse Elijah Cummings with some other black man? WTF is he talking about, why don’t these reporters press him on it? This “interview” could easily pass as an evaluation of a mental patient by two psychiatrists. Here’s another section in which Trump claims that the story of Susan Rice’s unmasking of U.S. persons when she was Obama’s National Security Adviser is “a massive story.”

I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it’s a massive, massive story. All over the world, I mean other than The New York Times.

HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.

TRUMP: Huh?

HABERMAN: We’ve written about it twice.

TRUMP: Yeah, it’s a bigger story than you know. I think —

HABERMAN: You mean there’s more information that we’re not aware of?

TRUMP: I think that it’s going to be the biggest story.

New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush

THRUSH: Why? What do you think —

TRUMP: Take a look at what’s happening. I mean, first of all her performance was horrible yesterday on television even though she was interviewed by Hillary Clinton’s P.R. person, Andrea Mitchell [the NBC News journalist]. Course you’ve been accused of that also.

HABERMAN: Mostly by you, though.

TRUMP: No, no, no. Mostly by a lot of people. So you know, we’ll see what happens, but it looks like it’s breaking into a massive story.

THRUSH: What do you think are — what other shoes are there to drop on this?

HABERMAN: Yeah, what else could we learn on this?

TRUMP: I think you’re going to see a lot. I think you’ll see a lot.

HABERMAN: In terms of what she did and in terms of [unintelligible]?

TRUMP: I think in terms of what other people have done also.

HABERMAN: Really?

TRUMP: I think it’s one of the biggest stories. The Russia story is a total hoax. There has been absolutely nothing coming out of that. But what, you know, what various things led into it was the story that we’re talking about, the Susan Rice. What’s happened is terrible. I’ve never seen people so indignant, including many Democrats who are friends of mine. I’ve never seen them acting this way. Because that’s really an affront on them, you know, they are talking about civil liberties. It’s such an affront, what took place.

THRUSH: What other people do you think will get ensnared in this? Can you give us a sense? How far this might extend

HABERMAN: From the previous administration.

TRUMP: I think from the previous administration.

THRUSH: How far up do you think this goes? Chief of staff?

TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but —

THRUSH: President?

TRUMP: I don’t want to say, but you know who. You know what was going on. You probably know better than anybody. I mean, I frankly think The Times is missing a big thing by not writing it because you’re missing out on the biggest story there is.

Why are these NYT reporters (Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush) patronizing Trump like this? I guess they are drawing him out to demonstrate that he’s a simpleton, but shouldn’t this be treated as a national emergency? The “president” is not well. No wonder there are always multiple “minders” in the room when he’s speaks publicly. Why are so many people pretending that this is somehow normal? We are facing multiple foreign crises right now and we have an incompetent “president” whose 36-year-old son-in-law appears to be running the government.

Yesterday’s Trump press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan was just as embarrassing. Trump spouted a lot of stream-of-conscientious nonsense about how disturbed he was by the chemical attack in Syria and that he had changed his point of view, and reporters pretended he had actually said something meaningful. Here’s the NYT story, for example. Yet Trump said nothing to explain what his policy was previously or what he had changed it to. He even went through that song-and-dance about how he won’t tell anyone ahead of time about what he’ll do “militarily.” This man is nuts, and the press should start saying so.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last night, Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is every bit as incompetent as the “president.” Tillerson made a statement a couple of days ago that basically gave Asad permission to do whatever he wanted to the Syrian people. Business Insider reports:

Tillerson told reporters while he was in Turkey last week that the “longer-term status of President [Bashar] Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”

The remark signaled a shift in the US’s official position toward the Syrian strongman. Though they were criticized for failing to act against Assad, President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry had long called for Assad to step down in a monitored transition of power.

The US’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, took an even stronger position than Tillerson, telling reporters that the administration’s “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”

Haley’s comments stood in stark contrast to those of the previous UN ambassador, Samantha Power, who directly confronted Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies during a UN Security Council meeting in December with a fierce address.

“Three member states of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead, by all appearances, it is emboldening you,” Power said at the time. “You are plotting your next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame?”

And of course there’s the growing threat from North Korea, which Tillerson also likely aggravated. The Week: Rex Tillerson says the U.S. has ‘spoken enough about North Korea,’ won’t comment on latest missile launch.

Not long after the news broke that North Korea launched a missile into the Sea of Japan, Tillerson released a brief statement Tuesday night confirming the launch of “yet another intermediate-range ballistic missile,” adding two very terse sentences: “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.” If you seek words of comfort in these uncertain times or angry declarations and threats of retaliation, Tillerson made it clear you had better look elsewhere.

If this is the secretary of state’s way of hinting he wants out of the job, Tillerson should know by now that all he needs to do is tag Jared Kushner, say, “You’re it,” and call it a day. Catherine Garcia

Here’s Charles M. Blow: Creeping Toward Crisis.

I am racked with anxiety that our buffoonish “president” — who sounds so internationally unsophisticated and who is still operating under a cloud of illegitimacy — is beginning to face his first real foreign crises.

What worries me most is that he seems to have no coherent plan, at least not one that he is willing or able to communicate. “I don’t show my hand” isn’t a strategy to conceal a plan as much as one to conceal the absence of a plan.

His statements are all bluster and bungling and bosh. Our commander in chief is not in full command of his emotions or facts or geopolitics.

We may sometimes think that the absurdity of Trump’s endless stream of contradictions and lies ends at the nation’s borders, but it doesn’t. The world is watching, and the world is full of dangerous men who see killing as a means of maintaining and exerting power. They see in Trump a novice and know-nothing, and they will surely test his resolve.

Trump has exposed himself to the world as an imbecile and burned through American credibility with his incessant lying. Even many of our allies seem confused and worried about where we stand and how we plan to proceed.

Trump is full of pride, obsessed with strongman personas, and absent of historical and geopolitical perspective. This is the worst possible situation. The man who could bring us into military engagement is woefully deficient in intellectual engagement.

Please go read the rest at the NYT.

It will clearly be another busy and chaotic day in politics. What stories are you following?

More information here: https://www.mddwi.com/


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trumpcare’s Ignominious Defeat and Spy News

Good Afternoon!!

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:

The Washington Post: ‘The closer’? The inside story of how Trump tried — and failed — to make a deal on health care.

Politico: Trump gets tamed by Washington (click on this one if only to view the absolute worst photo of tRump’s hair so far).

Politico Magazine: Inside the GOP’s Health Care Debacle. Eighteen days that shook the Republican Party—and humbled a president.

The Atlantic: The Republicans Fold on Health Care. The House abandoned its legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, handing President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan a major defeat.

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.

Mike Allen at Axios: 

When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon’s opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building:

Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.

  • Bannon’s point was: This is the Republican platform. You’re the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.
  • One of the members replied: “You know, the last time someone ordered me to something, I was 18 years old. And it was my daddy. And I didn’t listen to him, either.”\\ [….]It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the Day 64 defeat. President Trump, who made repeal-and-replace a central theme of his campaign, and House Republicans, who made it the central theme of every campaign since 2010, lost in a publicly humiliating way despite controlling every branch of government and enjoying margins in the House rarely seen in the past century.

More on Bannon’s role at The Daily Beast: Bannon Tells Trump: ‘Keep a Shit List’ of Republicans Who Opposed You. (This one was published before the bill was pulled.)

According to multiple Trump administration officials speaking to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity to talk freely, the president is angry that his first big legislative push is crumbling before his eyes—and his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon is advising him to take names and keep a hit list of Republicans who worked for Trumpcare’s defeat.

“[Bannon] has told the president to keep a shit list on this,” one official told The Daily Beast. “He wants a running tally of [the Republicans] who want to sink this…Not sure if I’d call it an ‘enemies list,’ per se, but I wouldn’t want to be on it.”

One aide described it as a proposed “hit list” for Republicans not sufficiently loyal. Courses of action stemming from any related tally is yet to be determined, but the idea and message is that “we’ll remember you.”

Two senior Trump administration officials with direct knowledge of the process told The Daily Beast that Bannon and Trump have taken a “you’re either with us or against us” approach at this point, and that Bannon wants the tally of “against” versus “with us” mounted in his so-called West Wing “war room.”

“Burn the boats,” Bannon (in his typical, pugnacious style) advised Trump, according to one official involved. Burning one’s boats is a reference to when military commanders in hostile territories order his or her troops to destroy their own ships, so that they have to win or die trying.

Now let’s get to the really interesting stuff–the spy news.

Is Mike Flynn already talking to the FBI? I would be if I were in his shoes, and he has been awfully quiet since he belatedly registered as a foreign agent for his work in support of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And yesterday we learned that Flynn proposed kidnapping Erdogan’s sworn enemy Fethullah Gulen, a former Turkish cleric whom Turkey has been trying to get extradited from the U.S.

The Washington Post: Pentagon weighs response to Flynn working on behalf of Turkish interests without U.S. permission.

President Trump’s ousted national security adviser did not seek permission from the U.S. government to work as a paid foreign agent for Turkish interests, U.S. defense officials said, raising the possibility that the Pentagon could dock the retirement pay of Michael T. Flynn.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the Defense Department is reviewing the issue. It arose after Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, registered retroactively this month with the Justice Department as a foreign agent for work that his company, Flynn Intel Group, carried out on behalf of Inovo BV, a Netherlands-based company. It is owned by Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman who is not a part of the Turkish government, but has links to it.

The Inovo assignment centered on researching Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric whom Ankara blames for fomenting a coup attempt last summer and wants extradited from the United States, where he has lived in exile for years. That led Flynn’s company to conclude that the work “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey,” according to a letter sent by Flynn’s attorney, Robert K. Kelner, to the Justice Department, along with the filing.

Flynn Intel Group received a total of $530,000 in three payments between September and November from Inovo BV before discontinuing the arrangement after Trump was elected president, according to Flynn’s filings. It is unclear from the paperwork how much Flynn personally profited from the deal, but he is the majority owner and chief executive officer of the firm. Kelner, reached by phone Wednesday night, declined to comment on the deal.

Flynn is in deep trouble, and now that tRump has thrown him under the bus in The National Enquirer, Flynn has plenty of motivation to start telling what he knows about the tRump campaign’s coordination with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton.

In addition, we learned yesterday that the three other tRump guys who are under investigation, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, and Carter Page, have offered to testify before the House Intelligence Committee.

Next, we have the very strange behavior of Rep. Devin Nunes, the chairman of the Intel Committe, who appears to be working as a double agent for tRump. Nunes has given three bizarre press conferences about supposed secret information he got access to that may or may not show that members of the tRump transition team were caught up in surveillance of foreign actors. It’s obvious that Nunes is way over his head and doesn’t really understand whatever it is he saw. So far he hasn’t shared anything with the members of his committee. But where did he get this mysterious information? He isn’t saying, but here’s some background from Tim Mak at The Daily Beast: Devin Nunes Vanished the Night Before He Made Trump Surveillance Claims.

Rep. Devin Nunes was traveling with a senior committee staffer in an Uber on Tuesday evening when he received a communication on his phone, three committee officials and a former national security official with ties to the committee told The Daily Beast. After the message, Nunes left the car abruptly, leaving his own staffer in the dark about his whereabouts.

By the next morning, Nunes hastily announced a press conference. His own aides, up to the most senior level, did not know what their boss planned to say next. Nunes’ choice to keep senior staff out of the loop was highly unusual.

The Republican chairman had a bombshell to drop.

“The intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes told reporters Wednesday morning.

Nunes reviewed “dozens of reports” produced by the U.S. intelligence community that showed this, he added….

Where Nunes went and who his source was for this information—which he said was still incomplete—is now a mystery with serious repercussions for the independence of his investigation into Russian interference with U.S. elections.

“This information was legally brought to me by sources who thought that we should know it,” Nunes added.

Suspicions have been raised that Nunes may have gotten his information from the White House, and so far he has refused to deny it. So who could have been incidentally picked up on wiretaps? Yesterday, Dakinikat posted some links that suggest that person could have been Mike Pence. I’m reposting them here.

DailyKos, 3/22/17: Manafort made Pence the VP, they talked regularly during the transition.

The Daily Beast: 11/30/16: Paul Manafort Is Back and Advising Donald Trump on Cabinet Picks.

Finally, Bill Palmer pull the conspiracy theory together: Mike Pence appears to be the “Donald Trump transition team” member caught on wiretap.

This week House Intelligence Committee chair Devin Nunes got his hands on some kind of classified intelligence through unofficial channels, and it spooked him to the point that he broke every protocol – and may have broken his career in the process. Nunes insists someone on the Donald Trump transition team was legally picked up on a wiretap that was targeted at someone else. And it appears the person incidentally surveilled was Vice President Mike Pence.

Based on Nunes’ description, someone on the Trump transition team was picked up while speaking on the phone with someone who was the subject of a FISA warrant. Widespread media reports have long pegged four people in the Trump campaign’s orbit as being under FBI investigation: Michael Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone, and Paul Manafort. These are the four who could realistically have been the subject of a judge-issued FISA surveillance warrant.

Of the four men, the only one who is known to have had phone conversations with anyone on the Trump transition team during the transition was Manafort. And the one person Manafort kept calling? Mike Pence (source: Daily Kos. The two have long been aligned; Manafort went to great lengths to ensure Pence was Trump’s running mate. So it appears that Devin Nunes learned this week that Pence had been caught saying something disconcerting on Manafort’s wiretap. And that may explain why Nunes did what he did from there.

More at the link.

And we can’t forget James Comey’s surprise appearance at the White House yesterday. Will more shoes drop over the weekend? I sure hope so!

What stories are you following?


Friday Reads: Just another Manic Newsday

Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!

I don’t know about you, but I can barely keep up with the breaking news this week.  I feel like I’m caught in a whirlpool of unbelievable events and emotions. I’m going to be like BB yesterday and just try to list them.  I’m not sure I have to time to truly analyze or elucidate anything.  Maybe the chaos is working in their favor on that account.  At least news reporters are assigned desks and topics.  Some of them must be very busy.  Here are the three top stories:  T-Russia, T-RumpCare, and T-Rump Syndicate shenanigans.

First, up is that notorious Foreign Agent, obsequious Trump neighbor, and former Campaign Director Paul Manafort has volunteered to testify to Congressional Intelligence Committees.  Congressional Clown Car Chauffeur Devon Nunes announced it today.  It will likely be a closed session.

Manafort has also offered to be interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a Senate source.

Both Intelligence committees are investigating Russian interference in the US election.

The White House this week rushed to distance itself from Manafort after the revelation that he signed a multimillion-dollar contract with a Russian oligarch in 2006 to help advance Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests around the world.

The story fueled the growing controversy over the Trump team’s ties to Russia, which was rekindled Monday when FBI Director James Comey publicly confirmed the bureau is investigating whether Trump associates coordinated with Moscow during the 2016 presidential race.

Nunes also said Friday he has asked Comey and National Security Agency (NSA) Director Michael Rogers to brief the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session.
Nunes cautioned that he does not expect to receive documentation from the NSA regarding his claims that Trump campaign associates were possibly monitored by the intelligence community on Friday.

Nunes said he expects to have more information from the NSA by “early next week.”

But he categorically denied that his decision to make public the information on the issue that he does have was coordinated by the White House.

Nunes continues to be underfire for what appears to be collusion with the White House to cover up the Russian Involvement with the Trump Campaign which is so obvious now that a grade school kid would call “shenanigans!!”

So you can read more about this unfolding story at CNN too as well as the recent announcement that Republicans are using closed meeting formats which is not making Democrats happy.  Nunes is really in over his head on all of this.

The House Intelligence Committee chairman and the panel’s top Democrat publicly disagreed Friday over the handling of their investigation into Russian meddling into the US election, coming after the announcement that President Donald Trump’s campaign chairman agreed to testify before the committee.

“Yesterday, the counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client,” committee chairman Devin Nunes announced during a news conference. “We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee.”

Nunes also announced that the committee is bringing in FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers for a second briefing, this time behind closed doors so that they can provide more information. The committee is also delaying its March 28 hearing, a decision infuriating Democrats on the committee.

“Chairman just cancelled open Intelligence Committee hearing with (former Director of National Intelligence James) Clapper, (former CIA Director John) Brennan and (former deputy Attorney General Sally) Yates in attempt to choke off public info,” Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the committee tweeted moment before going to speak to the press Friday morning.

Schiff refused to say whether he thought Nunes should step down from his position, telling reporters, “What’s really involved here is the cancellation of this open hearing and the rest is designed to distract.”

You can view the Nunes presser at that link also.

GOP leaders have done the WHIP count on Trumpcare and it appears that they do not have the votes they need to pass it.  This may be a very big test of both Paul Ryan and Kremlin Caligula’s ability to whip a vote.

House GOP leaders aren’t confident they have enough votes to pass their embattled health-care bill, according to a senior congressional aide, and are already considering what to do if the measure is blocked before a do-or-die vote hours away.

House Speaker Paul Ryan went to the White House Friday to brief President Donald Trump ahead of the vote. Vice President Mike Pence canceled a trip to Arkansas to be in Washington for the vote, a White House official said.

The Trump administration is doubling down on its demand that House Republican leaders hold a vote Friday on their embattled health-care bill without any changes. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the vote will proceed as scheduled Friday afternoon.

“It’s not a question of negotiating any more, it’s understanding the greater good,” Spicer said at a news conference. “This is it.” The president, he added, has “made it clear this is our moment.”

But an influential GOP member said he’s not sure they have the votes.

“I’m not sure we’ve landed it,” Mark Walker of North Carolina, chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee of House members, said Friday morning. “I’m hopeful that we can get there today but at this point I don’t know how many we’re short.”

Tensions among House Republicans were high, said Chris Collins of New York, the first House member to endorse Trump last year.

“There’s some divisiveness within our conference now that’s not healthy,” Collins said. “I’ve never seen this before. People are just refusing to talk to each other. They’re storming past each other. This is not good.”

Paul Ryan is CYA mode this afternoon.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. President Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

The House opened debate Friday on what would have been one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in years, a bill that would have rolled back a major, established social welfare program, a feat that is almost unheard of.

Meanwhile, more Trump ethics violations are on the horizon: “After Promising Not To Talk Business With Father, Eric Trump Says He’ll Give Him Financial Reports”.

Eric Trump sits behind a desk on the 25th floor of Trump Tower in New York City, dressed in a slightly less formal version of his father’s go-to power uniform—blue suit, white buttoned-down shirt, no tie. There are reminders of Donald Trump everywhere in this office, including the TV in the corner that beams out wall-to-wall news about the president any time his son turns it on. Amidst it all, Eric Trump, who now manages the Trump Organization with his brother Don Jr., wants to emphasize that the Trump business is separate from the Trump presidency.

“There is kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain, and I am deadly serious about that exercise,” he says, echoing previous statements from his father. “I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”

But less than two minutes later, he concedes that he will continue to update his father on the business while he is in the presidency. “Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it.” How often will those reports be, every quarter? “Depending, yeah, depending.” Could be more, could be less? “Yeah, probably quarterly.” One thing is clear: “My father and I are very close,” Eric Trump says. “I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.”

So, this is what it’s like to live in a Banana Republic.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?