Livin on Phat Pockets on Flat With the Gat

Well, well, well:

Almost two weeks after President Donald Trump’s tweets accusing his predecessor of wiretapping Trump Tower, the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee tried to offer some support by saying that the president’s team was caught up in a U.S. surveillance net.

Representative Devin Nunes said Wednesday that the intelligence community collected multiple conversations involving members of Trump’s transition team during legal surveillance of foreign targets after he won election last year. After Nunes went to the White House to brief Trump, the president told reporters “I somewhat do” feel vindicated by the latest development.

The committee’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, said Nunes’s decision to go to Trump before informing other members of the panel “casts quite a profound cloud” over whether the committee can conduct a proper investigation.

Nunes said he was “alarmed” to discover that the identities of Trump aides were revealed in intelligence community documents. “Details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value were widely disseminated in an intelligence community report,” he said, adding that he didn’t know if Trump’s “own communications were intercepted.”

First off, let’s dispense with the nonsense that Trump should feel vindicated. He claimed he was wiretapped, he wasn’t. This was routine surveillance on known bad actors and his team got caught up in it because… they were consorting with known bad actors. It’s the difference between me having my microwave take pictures of me in my underwear screaming “FASTER” while I nuke a hotpocket and me being accidentally picked up on a recording of drug dealers when I went to buy crack. Instead of being validated that he was in fact being wiretapped, a more clever man would wonder if maybe he should spend so much time hanging out with crack dealers. Donald Trump is not a clever man.

Second, Rep. Adam Schiff is about to fucking explode:

I’d like to know what kind of shit Bannon has on Devin Nunes, because at this point it has to be in the “live boy” territory.

Meanwhile, addled old warmonger Walnuts almost killed a man rushing to the cameras to throw in his two fucking cents, and while it contains a bit of the pox on both houses bullshit, what he is calling for would be HIGHLY entertaining:

Congress no longer has the credibility to independently tackle a probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and President Trump and his associates’ ties to Moscow, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Wednesday.

“It’s a bizarre situation, and what I think, the reason why I’m calling for this select committee or a special committee, is I think that this back-and-forth and what the American people have found out so far that no longer does the Congress have credibility to handle this alone,” McCain told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren. “And I don’t say that lightly.”

McCain’s comments come amid an increasingly bitter feud that erupted between members of the House Intelligence Committee earlier Wednesday, after the panel’s chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) claimed that he had seen evidence that the U.S. intelligence community incidentally surveilled members of Trump’s transition team.

The inadvertent surveillance, Nunes said, was not tied to ongoing Russia investigation.

The committee’s top Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) fired back, blasting Nunes for routing the committee before briefing Trump himself on the apparent findings and saying that the move “casts quite a profound cloud” over the panel’s investigation.

And why the fuck not? We spent ten days investigating Bill Clinton’s Christmas Card list, who knows how many hundreds of millions on other sham investigations into Bill and Hillary, why not spend a couple million to lift up Putin’s kilt and see if we find Trump down there on his knees?

Call Congress

There is a chance that we can win tomorrow.

Let’s work to increase that chance. Call Congress. If you are represented by a Democrat or a Republican who is on the 100% No list as maintained by the New York Times , thank them, or their interns.

If you are represented by an Undecided or Concerned Republican, encourage them to vote No.

If you are represented by a highly probable yes Republican, tell them to have fun losing in November of 2018.

There is no guarantee that we can win tomorrow. There might be a seven hour vote as arms get twisted and bribes concessions are offered to flip votes. But I would rather try and fail then resign myself to learned helplessness. So call.

Here is the House Rep finder:

Update 1 For the waverers, they will vote to be on the winning side. If there are twenty three or more quick GOP NO votes, we will see a cascade of No Votes as there is no upside to be a Yes and Fail. If there is only 10-20 GOP NO votes in the first 12 minutes, we’re in for a long afternoon of arm twisting.

Open Thread: An Unprecedented Drain on the National Coffers

Nearly half of the additional money, $26.8 million, would pay to protect President Trump’s family and private home in New York’s Trump Tower, the documents show, while $33 million would be spent on travel costs incurred by “the president, vice president and other visiting heads of state.”

The documents, part of the Secret Service’s request for the fiscal 2018 budget, reflect the costly surprise facing Secret Service agents tasked with guarding the president’s large and far-flung family, accommodating their ambitious travel schedules and fortifying the three-floor Manhattan penthouse where first lady Melania Trump and her son, Barron, live…

The budget requests reflect a potentially awkward contrast between Trump’s efforts to cut federal spending in many areas and the escalating costs of his freewheeling travel itinerary. Trump jetted to Mar-a-Lago on Friday for his fifth post-inauguration weekend trip, one day after the White House released a federal budget proposing deep cuts to many government programs.

Former agents said the requests indicate that the agency had to adapt to offer full protection for a president and first family who appear to have placed few limits on their personal travel and living arrangements….

Some of the public funding could potentially become revenue for Trump’s private company, the Trump Organization, which owns the Trump Tower that agents must now protect. The Defense Department and Secret Service have sought to rent space in Trump Tower but have not said how much space they’re interested in, or at what cost. Neither the Secret Service nor the Trump Organization have disclosed how much public money, if any, is being spent toward Trump Tower space or other costs…

The Secret Service’s protection costs are only a fraction of the total public spending devoted to safeguarding Trump properties. New York police spent roughly $24 million toward security costs at Trump Tower between the election and inauguration, according to police figures provided to The Post.

At Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach County officials say their sheriff’s office has spent more than $1.5 million toward overtime for deputies guarding the exclusive resort Trump has taken to calling “the southern White House” and “winter White House.”

County officials have proposed levying a special fee on the resort, saying they would have to otherwise raise taxes on local residents to help cover its high security costs. The Coast Guard has also paid to provide round-the-clock patrols of the resort’s two coastlines, including through the use of a gun-mounted response boat that, according to agency budget documents, costs $1,500 an hour…


Boizhe Moi…

I got nothing.

Here’s the clip from C-SPAN.

From Time (autoplay clip at the link):

“Great president. Most people don’t even know he was a Republican,” Trump said while addressing attendees at the National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner. “Does anyone know? Lot of people don’t know that.”

Trump then said Republicans need to spread the word that Lincoln was a Republican, appearing to be unaware of the fact that the GOP is commonly referred to as the “party of Lincoln.”

“Let’s take an ad, let’s use one of those PACs,” he said.

3:25 to 3:29 mark sums it up nicely:

Mid-Morning Open Thread – Mars Video and Parliament Shooting

This is just stunning:

A FICTIVE FLIGHT ABOVE REAL MARS from Jan Fröjdman on Vimeo.

More on the project here.

In other news, I just had fiber optics installed (1 GBps) yesterday – it’s a city owned project 6 years in the making. $50 a month (for life, supposedly). Comcast is running scared and dropping their prices, but still couldn’t get rid of them fast enough.

ETA: While I was typing this, looks like there was a shooting in London at the Parliament.

Follow here (for some reason it won’t allow me to embed twitter live feed anymore – Alain?)

Reuters twitter feed

Found live feed:

Health Policy notes

Just a few points as everyone should be calling their House representatives right now.

First, Kaiser Family Foundation is looking at the implied deductibles of the AHCA compared to the ACA:

Secondly, this is under-reported this week, we need to be aware that attempts to lower the cost of care in Medicare will be made much more difficult under this administration.

The CMS has delayed the expansion of a major bundled payment pilot, Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement, and the implementation of its bundled payment initiatives for cardiac care from July 1 to Oct. 1, 2017, according to an interim final rule posted to the Federal Register. It also delayed, for a second time, the effective date of a final rule laying out the implementation of CJR and other bundled payment programs, from March 21 to May 20, 2017.

The agency also delayed its Cardiac Rehabilitation Incentive Payment Model and is also weighing whether to push back implementation of all bundled payment initiatives even further, until 2018. These programs are mandatory, and different from the voluntary Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative, which is not affected by the interim rule.

So get off of this blog, and start calling Congress.

Watch me whip, now watch me nay nay

It’s hard for me to imagine that Trumpcare will fail in the House. It seems more likely that it will squeak through, that we’ll be told it’s “the big win that Trump needs”, that it solidifies the unlikely friendship between Trump and Ryan, and so on. But, so far, despite all the whipping, there’s too many nays and not enough yeas:

Trump’s dire warning didn’t appear to immediately change many minds. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), whom Trump singled out during the meeting, emerged from a private meeting with Vice President Pence Tuesday afternoon, insisting that he was still opposed and that he had at least 22 votes from conservative hard-liners to defeat the bill. Following the meeting, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) also said they remain opposed.

According to The Hill’s Whip List at press time, 22 House Republicans were firm “no” votes, with six more leaning no or likely no. Many other Republicans have not said how they will vote. Should all members vote and all Democrats — as expected — vote no, 22 defections would kill the legislation. The bill is scheduled to hit the floor at some point on Thursday.

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: “Just Not FUN Anymore, Paulie Boy!”

Okay, I’m a little obsessed right now. Because I’m hoping for the political equivalent of a Trump-Ryan murder-suicide pact, and I don’t even care which partner goes first.

Apart from keeping one eye on the perpetrators at all times, what’s on the agenda for the day?

On The Road

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Balloon Juicers who are on the road, travelling, etc. and wish to share notes, links, pictures, stories, etc. from their escapades. As the US mainland begins the end of the Earth day as we measure it, many of us rise to read about our friends and their transient locales.

So, please, speak up and share some of your adventures, observations, and sights as you explore, no matter where you are. By concentrating travel updates here, it’s easier for all to keep up-to-date on the adventures of our fellow Commentariat. And it makes finding some travel tips or ideas from 6 months ago so much easier to find…

Have at ’em, and have a safe day of travels!

Should you have any pictures (tasteful, relevant, etc….) you can email them to or just use this nifty link to start an email: Start an Email to send a Picture to Post on Balloon Juice

Please note that Tuesday, I added a new plugin that removes all EXIF data from images that get posted on the site. It did not clean up old pictures, but from now on, all metadata stored in the image file header for new picture submissions should be scrubbed clean to protect your privacy.

Pictures after the fold

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Late Night Open Thread: Pathologically Small Man in A Big, Big Job

Mike Luckovich via

Politico, “Trump’s penchant for vengeance casts shadow on health care vote”:

Donald Trump didn’t have to issue his threat seriously — “I’m gonna come after you,” he said jokingly Tuesday to a ringleader of House GOP hard-liners opposing his health care bill — to be taken seriously by the 200 Republicans gathered in the Capitol basement.

For a president with a penchant for vengeance — who named “an eye for an eye” as his favorite biblical passage, who banned media outlets from campaign events when he didn’t approve of their coverage, who after the election ousted a GOP state chairman whom he viewed as disloyal, who just last week reminded a GOP governor who hadn’t endorsed him that “I never forget” — the roll-call vote on the Republican health care plan, expected Thursday, will be the first accounting of who’s with him and who’s against him on Capitol Hill…

Greg Sargent, at the Washington Post — “Trump’s lies are failing him, and it is making him deeply frustrated”:

The events of this week are revealing with a new level of clarity that President Trump and the White House have ventured far beyond unconventional levels of dishonesty. Instead, they are revealing on their part something more remarkable and challenging to our system: a kind of deep rot of bad faith — a profound contempt for democratic process and the possibility of agreement on shared reality — that is wildly beyond anything in recent memory and strains the limits of our political vocabulary.
Read more

Jimmy Breslin: RIP, Happy Warrior

Jimmy Breslin was one of my NYC role models, when I was growing up. (The others that I remember were Bella Abzug and Shirley Chisholm.) The man was a storyteller, and a fighter. He knew that every businessman and most politicians were pathological liars (at least to themselves). He knew that even the worst tragedies were threaded with a vein of humor, and that even the funniest story had an undertone of tragedy. Most of all, he never truckled.

Kevin Cullen, in the Boston Globe, remembers “the greatest newspaper columnist ever”:

Seven years ago, they had a big thing for Breslin at NYU in Greenwich Village. It was a cross between an Irish wake and “This Is Your Life” and we were all shocked that Breslin would actually venture out at night and go downtown and listen to people tell him how wonderful he is.

But Ronnie got him to go and he sat in a big puffy easy chair on a stage at NYU and rolled his eyes as everybody got up and told stories and suggested he was a nice person.

Gail Collins, the New York Times columnist, recalled the day that Breslin and his Daily News editor Sharon Rosenhause were screaming at each other in the newsroom. When Breslin won the Pulitzer Prize in 1986, he stood up in the newsroom and announced, “This award actually belongs to Sharon Rosenhause, but I’m not speaking to her.”

Michael Daly, a columnist at the Daily News, remembered how Breslin took a taxi to cover the riots in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in 1991. Breslin never learned to drive. “Why would I?” he used to say. “I can get a taxi anywhere.” The taxi got torched, Breslin got beat up, and he wrote columns sympathetic to the people of Crown Heights, because he knew what it was like to be poor and ignored.

Dan Barry, a columnist at The Times who grew up reading and admiring Breslin, told of how when he was diagnosed with cancer, Breslin, who barely knew him, showed up at his side and walked with him across Manhattan and into Sloan-Kettering.

“He gave me the gift of distraction,” Dan Barry said.

And that was Breslin, to his core. He distracted us, from apathy. He made us care…

From the Washington Post:

Jimmy Breslin, long the gruff and rumpled king of streetwise New York newspaper columnists, a Pulitzer Prize winner whose muscular, unadorned prose pummeled the venal, deflated the pompous and gave voice to ordinary city-dwellers for decades, died March 19 at his home in Manhattan. He was 88…

For an “unlettered bum,” as Mr. Breslin called himself, he left an estimable legacy of published work, including 16 books, seven of them novels, plus two anthologies of his columns. What set him apart as a writer was the inimitable style of his journalism across the last great decades of ink-on-paper news, in the 1960s for the old New York Herald Tribune and later for the Daily News and the city pages of Long Island-based Newsday, where his final regular column appeared in 2004…
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In Barkest Night!

In canine day, in barkest night.

No squirrel shall escape my sight.

Let those who worship feline might,

Beware my power — Dog Lantern’s light!

I give you the Dog Lanterns of Space Sector 2814.

Open Thread!

Open Thread: That’s Not A Whip, It’s A Doormat

At the Washington Post, “The GOP’s new Obamacare repeal bill is a big defeat for conservatives”:

Republicans announced a set of changes to their proposed health-care overhaul Monday night, and while the revisions make symbolic nods to hard-line GOP conservatives, the most significant changes are social spending boosts aimed at wooing the party’s most moderate members.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan conceded last week that the original bill needed changes to rally enough Republicans to move it through the House. But as members of Ryan’s party were pulling him in opposite directions, he had a choice: He could work to draw in more centrist GOP lawmakers concerned about the projections that the initial proposal would force millions of Americans to go uninsured, or he could try to win over more of the party’s conservative members who said the bill still spent too much — especially on social programs aimed at helping Americans buy health insurance…

…[T]he real concessions went to moderate lawmakers. Between Medicaid and a system of tax breaks for working- and middle-class households purchasing private insurance, the bill includes some $150 billion in new federal spending to help make sure that Americans can buy insurance. It is a tangible expansion of federal power in the health-care sector, compared with the first draft, that indicates an appetite among moderate Republicans for a more robust social safety net.

The House Freedom Caucus, a crucial conservative bloc, will allow its members to vote as they please on the legislation.

Still, the group’s leader — Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) ripped the proposed changes Monday night. “After investing hours and hours and hours of trying to find common ground between our moderate members and conservative members, and believing, because of the White House’s engagement in the process, that we could find common ground; I’ve now reached a conclusion that our leadership is going to put forth a bill that does not address any of the concerns in a meaningful way and will dare us to vote against it,” he told Axios

(Details of the proposed changes at the link.)

Like a Reince/Stone cowboy

I’ve had the suspicion for some time that even though the FBI may not be able to prove that Trump colluded with Russia himself, there’s an awful lot of evidence piling up that Page, Manafort, and Stone did. For example, Roger Stone has admitted to talking with Guccifer 2.0 (I know that I’m a McCarthyite red-baiter for stating these facts, of course). So I guess the plan will be to say that the people currently running Trump’s White House — Preibus, Bannon, Kushner etc. — had nothing do with it, and it was all the fault of a few marginal bad apple rogues:

“You had Sam Clovis, God bless him, who tried to put together an advisory group of people,” the official said. “Then you have the whole Manafort-Ukraine thing and Roger Stone running around doing whatever Roger Stone is doing.” He added, “This campaign, early on, had a lot of marginalia associated with it. Guys like Carter Page, Roger Stone. I have no earthly idea what those guys have been up to, right?”


The White House official’s attempt to separate Trump from the “marginal” figures who once ran Trump’s campaign isn’t likely to work. Later in the day, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, echoed this spin publicly when he claimed that Manafort played a “limited role for a very limited amount of time” in the campaign. In fact, Manafort worked for Trump for six months last year, from March to August, the crucial period in which Trump secured the Republican nomination and fended off potential challenges at the G.O.P. Convention.

But the larger takeaway from the White House’s spin is that the top people around Trump may have no idea how much exposure the President has on the issue of Russian collusion.

I have no idea how much it will hurt Trump if it can be proved that Stone or Manafort or Page had some quid pro quo with the Ruskies. Chris Christie isn’t in jail for Bridgegate. But his approval rating sure is low.

Turning Americanese

Posted without comment:

During a panel discussion on “Anderson Cooper 360” Monday evening, Lord and seven other commentators discussed the president’s baseless claims that President Barack Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. When the conversation turned to Trump’s credibility, Lord appeared to be the lone guest unwilling to call the president a liar.

On an average day, that might have been par for the course for Lord, who has established himself as a reliable Trump booster since joining CNN as a paid analyst in the summer of 2015.

But Lord’s interlocutors weren’t having it. Hours earlier, FBI Director James B. Comey had snuffed out Trump’s wiretapping allegations, testifying under oath that there was “no information” indicating Obama had spied on his campaign. Even Comey was calling Trump a liar, they argued.

Lord saw it differently, repeating the claim by some Trump backers that he didn’t mean what he said about wiretapping and therefore couldn’t be lying.

Trump, he said, was speaking “Americanese” when he tweeted that Obama had orchestrated a “Nixon/Watergate” plot against him. The president’s supporters knew what he meant, but Washington insiders didn’t and blew it out of proportion.

Cooper and other guests seemed baffled.

My head hurts.