Today’s Trump-Russia Reveal(s)

The New York Times has the latest scoop:

WASHINGTON — Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, has asked the White House for documents about some of President Trump’s most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and F.B.I. director, according to White House officials.

Mr. Mueller is also interested in an Oval Office meeting Mr. Trump had with Russian officials in which he said the dismissal of the F.B.I. director had relieved “great pressure” on him.

The document requests provide the most details to date about the breadth of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, and show that several aspects of his inquiry are focused squarely on Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House.

I know, I know, Fitzmas, blah blah blah. Still, I hope the ochre ogre is sweating it out.

Also, MAGAts in Florida and elsewhere served as Putin’s pawns, lured to Trump rallies via Facebook pages created by Russian troll farms. Courtesy of valued commenter Rikyrah, here’s a link to a Washington Monthly piece that summarizes the reporting on that.

So, to sum up, Mueller is examining Trump’s obstructive behavior in the White House, and reporters are uncovering incidents where Russian trolls led idiot Americans around by the nose with the intent to install Putin’s preferred candidate. My guess is this Facebook thing is just the beginning and that other shoes will drop in the social media realm.

Do we have the national will to do something about it? That’s really the only question that remains.

Does Trump understand that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory?

It’s hell in Puerto Rico now. Via WaPo:

Hurricane Maria hammers Puerto Rico with force not seen in ‘modern history’

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Hurricane Maria churned across Puerto Rico Wednesday as the most powerful storm to strike the island in more than 80 years, knocking out power and water to nearly the entire population and leaving people huddled in buildings to ride out powerhouse winds that have already left death and devastation across the Caribbean.

“On the forecast track, [Maria] would be the most destructive hurricane in Puerto Rico history,” tweeted Eric Blake, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center.

The storm first slammed the coast near Yabucoa at 6:15 a.m. as a Category 4 hurricane with 155 mph winds — the first Category 4 storm to directly strike the island since 1932. By midmorning, Maria had fully engulfed the 100-mile-long island as winds snapped palm trees, peeled off rooftops, sent debris skidding across beaches and roads, and cut power to nearly the entire island.

Not a word today from Trump, who found time to compliment Fox & Friends, plug Luther Strange, flog Graham-Cassidy, excoriate “Crooked Hillary,” retweet knob-slobbering from MAGAts, etc.

He posted a perfunctory tweet about the imminent hurricane strike last night, similar and in close proximity to the tweet about the Mexico City earthquake. But Trump’s approach to this unfolding disaster is nothing like the multiple tweets he sent out about the hurricanes that hit Florida and Texas and the pains he took to be seen as engaged during those events.

Does he not know Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory? Does he not give a shit because its inhabitants are mostly non-white? Both?

I Just Called My Reps Again- Did You?

I don’t know if it makes a difference, but when I call my reps and talk to their staffers, I try to drag it out a little bit and be as polite as possible. After they answer, I ask them by the name they have just provided how they are doing and hope all is going well. Then I usually start with “My name is John Cole, and I am constituent of Rep. McKinley/Sen. Manchin/Sen. Capito and I live in Bethany, West Virginia. I was calling to ask where Rep./Sen. stood on the current Graham/Cassidy bill.”

Capito and McKinley’s reps would not tell me because they “did not know,” while Manchin’s staff t old me he was against it. With the latter, I said “Well that’s great to hear, and I would like to add my name to the list because I think it is a terrible bill and will hurt West Virginia and West Virginians,” and then give them my address and phone number in case they would like to reach me.

With Capito and McKinley, I said that “I would like to urge them to both reject the bill and vote no, because I think it is bad for West Virginia and West Virginians, and it is unfair and will hurt our people, who already have a tough go of it.” I then chatted with the McKinley rep about how weird it was to have him as my rep because I actually went to undergrad with his daughter and worked on her campaign to get her elected to the student board of governor’s (she won), and with the Capito rep talked about how my dad and I had both met her father Arch Moore on several occasions because my dad had been mayor for 25 years here and we went to Charleston a lot when I was a kid for grants.

And then at the end, to all of them, I tell them “I am sure you have had an awful couple of weeks, with a lot of angry people calling, so I hope you have a nice day and I really hope that your boss comes out opposed to the bill.”

I don’t know if it works, but I use my calm adult voice (the one that doesn’t say fuck every other word) and just try to be nice and to make it personal. I also insist that they take my address and phone number, so I can’t just be written off as a random but as an actual person who votes in their district. I know not everyone feels comfortable doing that, but I do, so I do it.

I’m going to try to figure out how to fax them all from my printer, because for some reason I have it in my head that those matter more. Also, I recommend writing down the staffer name and keeping it in a file so when you call back and get someone else, you can namedrop the staffer you spoke to and it will let them know you are concerned about the issue, have called before, and aren’t going away.

I also wore my fuck trump t-shirt while calling, but they don’t need to know that.

How do you all do it?

Smiling faces sometimes tell lies

Senator Bill Cassidy is a lying piece of shit and Jimmy Kimmel just called him out on national television.

Making it easy for the clean up woman

I’m not much for “heightening the contradictions”. There’s an old saying, that when someone says “minor surgery” means someone else is getting operated on. Well, I think when someone says “heighten the contradictions”, it means someone else’s life is being destroyed by awful government policy.

So I think we should fight like hell to save ACA. That said, how on earth can the Republicans not think that their latest shitcare proposal is a one-way ticket to single payer within ten years? If 30 million people lose their health care by 2020 because of a shitty Republican bill, it’s not going to be that hard for President Gillibrand or President Harris (or maybe President Brown) to get a single payer bill through Congress in 2021.

Four Cassidy-Graham State Funds Flow Analyses

Cassidy-Graham-Heller is a real threat. The post below is an inventory of four separate analysis of the flow of funds between states under C-G-H in 2026 compared to current law as projected by the Congressional Budget Office. I am just collating and collecting the information.

Center for Budget Policy and Priorities is a liberal think tank. They use the 2016 budget baseline and attempt to approximate eligibility through the Current Population Survey. They analyse state funding swings in millions of dollars.
The New York Times uses Census, Kaiser Family Foundation, CBPP and CMS data to estimate per capita changes in expenditure by state in 2026.
Manatt is a program design and evaluation consulting firm. They are using 2017 as their cost baseline year with 2015 Medicare spending variations to simulate state level risk adjustment.  I am using Table 1-A.

UPDATE #1 (1045) MY ERROR — Manatt’s initial data displayed was for 2021 not 2026. Will be making a few changes to the data and post.
UPDATE #2 (1105) I updated the column that pulled the Manatt data from 2021 to 2026. That was me not lining up my column headers correctly when I ripped the data from the PDF and put it into a text editor. The second issue is a point that was raised over e-mail. They are evaluating just the change of federal flows to the state due to the block grants and not Medicaid. CBPP looks at both so it is an apples to kiwi fruit comparison.

Avalere is another consulting and analysis firm with their own estimates.  They are looking at total cumulative swing with billions of dollars as their unit of account.  Data is extracted from figure 1.  I will just show direction as I can not merge that data consistently.  If there is a figure of under $1 billion dollars, I am using $500 million as a placeholder.

Update #3 (11:35)  AARP has come out with some limited state specific analysis.  I am not including it at this time.

My data is here. I show direction and size for CBPP, Manat, Avalere and direction only for the New York Times .

More analysis below the fold:

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Keep on calling

Keep on calling.

Call the Senate.

Call your governor.

And if you live in the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, North Dakota, Montana, Louisiana, Arkansas, call your Representative in the House. The Senate plan is to jam it through with 50 votes and present the House with a take it or leave proposition.

This is a harder vote for non-Southern Republican representatives than the AHCA for a couple of reasons. First, there has not been an external shock to the system that has improved the bill’s popularity nor improved Trump’s popularity compared to March or May. Secondly, the AHCA was a general cut with local implications but the money that got cut from a district or a state just disappeared. Now the money that is cut goes to Texas or Mississippi.

It takes very little imagination for a challenger to come up with an ad that goes like this:

“Representative Poppins was the decisive vote to send a billion dollars a year from our community health center and hospital and send it to Texas. I’ll fight for our town hospital and for health insurance for the good people of this district while Rep. Poppins cares for Texas. I’m Johanna Hometowner and I approve this message”

Specific sweetners like the Buffalo Bribe can’t be added in the House; general sweetners like the low density carve-out or perhaps a median age modifier might be added in the Senate bill but each sweetner means another argument in front of the Parliamentarian and that takes time. If the Senate passes anything, that is what the House will vote on.

On a bill like this we can divide the universe into the Vote/Hope axis as 2×2 table. The Vote Yes/Hope Yes and Vote No/Hope No are sincere votes. There is an unknown number of Republicans in May who were Vote No/Hope Yes who function as a reserve of votes for Speaker Ryan. There are also probably a number of Northeastern and California Republicans whose preferred positions would be No Vote then Vote Yes/Hope no then Vote no/hope No. Putting pressure on these types of representatives may stop the bill in the Senate as there are some Republicans who would strongly prefer to avoid the outcome of Vote Yes and Fail.

So keep on calling today.

On the Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

This weekday feature is for Juicers who are are on the road, traveling, or just want to share a little bit of their world via stories and pictures. So many of us rise each morning, eager for something beautiful, inspiring, amazing, subtle, of note, and our community delivers – a view into their world, whether they’re far away or close to home – pictures with a story, with context, with meaning, sometimes just beauty. By concentrating travel updates and tips here, it’s easier for all of us to keep up or find them later.

So please, speak up and share some of your adventures and travel news here, and submit your pictures using our speedy, secure form. You can submit up to 7 pictures at a time, with an overall description and one for each picture.

You can, of course, send an email with pictures if the form gives you trouble, or if you are trying to submit something special, like a zipped archive or a movie. If your pictures are already hosted online, then please email the links with your descriptions.

For each picture, it’s best to provide your commenter screenname, description, where it was taken, and date. It’s tough to keep everyone’s email address and screenname straight, so don’t assume that I remember it “from last time”. More and more, the first photo before the fold will be from a commenter, so making it easy to locate the screenname when I’ve found a compelling photo is crucial.

Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!

Have you seen Aida?

I saw it (for the second time) Sunday, with the Washington National Opera, at Kennedy Center, here in D.C. (we have season tickets to the Washington National Opera and great seats).

This production was different, but let me assure you that the fabrics, staging, singing, and orchestra/conductor were fantastic! I wasn’t a big fan of the quasi-1940’s uniforms and related accoutremants, but for the most part, the costumes were of wonderful fabrics and patterns, and I dig that, big-time! For me, opera is as much about the rest of the show as the voices and music. Without them, a production fails, but it’s the mastery of the rest that truly make L’Opera – “the big show”.

Production-wise, the mothers-and-children scene was a great example of making a story of old work with some relevant-to-modern-audience references: it played to a nicer self-story of the relationship between captor and prisoner, mistress and slave. And it was new – this scene and all it conveyed were not original to the opera. In place of the opera’s traditional elephantine and equine visuals, we saw mothers (and, I’m sure, nannies) encouraging and being challenged by their sons/charges. “It was neat” seems trite – this was a really amazing, coherent re-interpretation. And the music and signing were just amazing. I still cannot believe what I heard, that humans can create such magic with their voices, even if it was a Sunday matinee performance.

This was right before the show began, and the curtain rose….

So, I bet you don’t know what’s coming Thursday or Friday. Let me assure you, you know NOTHING! about what’s to come – bats and mines, memories and travels. It will be glorious!

Did I mention the (long-awaited!) return of otmar? You know I did!

And to begin that climb to Mt Awesome, more from…

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Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Disingenuity

Lots of Repubs deliberately not getting the point…

Random Thoughts about the Vietnam War Documentary

One of the things that I have been wondering about our involvement in the Vietnam War is how arrogant we were- at one point late in episode 2, Neil Sheehan mentions that “We thought we were the exceptions to history, the Americans. History didn’t apply to us.”

It makes me wonder- how did we get so arrogant so fast? We weren’t a global power until recently in the post WWII era. Or am I wrong about that? I never thought of the United States as a real global power until the 1950’s. I sort of thought of us as bit players throughout WW1 and up until the very end of WWII and our development of nukes. And we were damned near really humbled in Korea. How did we get the mentality that we can’t lose?

Or, again, am I just wrong about this?

Thoughts on the President’s Remarks to the UN General Assembly

I originally did this as a comment to BettyC’s post, but decided I wanted to elevate it to the front page, make a tweak or two, and add a couple of additional points.

The President’s remarks today are clearly a Stephen Miller authored speech. With the exception of the Rocket Man quip. It is Miller channeling all of his own naive, arrested development sense of entitlement, paranoia, pettiness, grievances, anger, rage, and woeful ignorance of foreign and national security policy and strategy, the global system and how it works, and any state and society other than the US. It is also Miller channeling the President’s naive sense of entitlement, paranoia, pettiness, grievances, anger, rage, and woeful ignorance of foreign and national security policy and strategy, the global system and how it works, and any state and society other than the US. The ego fluffing bits about how great things are in the US under the President are Miller making sure his boss’s ego is stroked.

This would have been bad enough and inappropriate at a campaign rally, it is even worse at the UN General Assembly. Threatening to abrogate the P5+1 agreement with Iran is only going to make dealing with the DPRK worse. What Kim really wants is an assurance that the US will 1) not remove him and 2) will negotiate with him in good faith over whatever it is that Kim wants other than reassurance he won’t be removed. The threat to abrogate the agreement with Iran makes that virtually impossible. Moreover, it makes it almost virtually impossible to negotiate anything with any other state or supranational entity as no one will now believe that the US will live up to its commitments under the current administration and president. The President holds a mistaken belief that every agreement the US has entered into that he has not negotiated are bad for the US; should never have been entered into; and as a result should be abrogated. This just happens to be every single one as he and his administration haven’t negotiated any agreements since taking office in January. It demonstrates how little he and Miller understand how any of this works. If I was the governors of Alaska, Louisiana, and Arkansas I would be very worried that their states are going to be handed back to Russia and France respectively. Governor Abbot should also begin learning how to ask President Nieto for things once we give Texas back to Mexico as well. As should Governor Ducey of Arizona and Governor Martinez of New Mexico.

Kori Schake, who has held appointments at the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, and the Department of State, and is currently at the Hoover Institution at Stanford has written an excellent essay explaining just what total destruction means in light of the President’s remarks regarding the DPRK.

President Trump took the exact opposite course in his speech today. Moreover, before the entire world, he threatened the destruction of an entire country. Not only does that draw a red line that will be difficult to walk back from; it is also a much less credible and ethical threat than a pledge to more narrowly target the Kim regime. Waging war against people already enslaved by an authoritarian government punishes them unjustly—that would have been an easy point score in front of a UN audience.

While I highly recommend the whole essay, I want to focus on this portion. When campaign plans are developed there are a list of action words that the planners and those pulled into the operational planning teams (OPTs) use. Total destruction is not one of them. What the President is potentially calling for here is the complete reduction of the DPRK. Reduction of an enemy is a tactical term (Chapter 6, paragraph 18):

The reduction of an encircled enemy force continues without interruption, using the maximum concentration of forces and fires, until the encircled enemy force’s complete destruction or surrender.

There is no way to totally destroy (reduce) the DPRK as a state without destroying the DPRK as a society. This means destroying the North Koreans who make up the DPRK as both state and society. Total destruction doesn’t refer to a strategic strike to decapitate the leadership of the government and the military. Nor was it qualified as a strategic strike to solely and specifically reduce the DPRK’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, as well as its offensive military capabilities that could be directed at its neighbors. It was a warning that the President of the United States has considered and is willing to authorize the DPRK’s “complete destruction or surrender”. Given that it is unlikely that Kim would surrender… And none of this seems to account for the damage and destruction to the Republic of Korea, Japan, Guam, and the tremendous loss of life that war on the Korean peninsula would engender.

This speech is a good example of the limits of the abilities of the reasonable advisors and staffers to constrain and contain the President, his worst impulses, and the worst impulses of his advisors such as Miller. I think it is highly likely that there was originally a draft speech prepared and vetted through the Interagency with inputs from Secretaries Mattis and Tillerson, LTG McMaster, Ambassador Haley, Gary Cohn, and others which was then handed to Stephen Miller by the President with instructions to MAGA it up. And MAGA it up he did. Eventually the bad reviews will filter up to the President’s attention, whether tonight when he’s back in the residence this evening on his own watching cable TV or tomorrow morning when he’s watching Morning Joe. At that point expect the usual tweetstorm.

Look at the Birdy (Open Thread)

This mockingbird rested briefly on my wrecked banana trees earlier:

She looks weary but determined, which is why I assume she’s a “she.”

Horrible news out of Mexico City. I hope, unlike last time, Twitler is able to scare up a satellite phone to communicate with Mexico’s president before several days elapse. Or not. Mexico’s president has enough on his plate without adding an unnatural disaster.

Anyhoo, open thread.

So, Trump’s fucking U.N. speech…

I couldn’t bear to watch the speech live. Trump could read MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech and ruin it with his horrible snuffling and fake-tough-guy patois. Saw a couple of clips on Twitter. This one seems to be getting the most attention:

God, how embarrassing. Resorting to the transcript is just as cringe-inducing, but at least you’re spared the quivering jowls, rigid hair-helmet and bully-boy voice. Here are some morsels I found notable for one reason or another:

It is a profound honor to stand here in my home city, as a representative of the American people, to address the people of the world.

Standard boilerplate, but I will never recover from the deep sense of shame that washes over me every time I confront anew the fact that this buffoon represents my country. I’ll always feel it, even if President Gillibrand is followed by Presidents Kamala Harris, Ted Lieu, Joaquin Castro, et al, and the Republican Party atrophies like a vestigial tail, drops off and is forgotten by history. This shame is eternal.

Of course, the speech had elements of a campaign rally:

Fortunately, the United States has done very well since Election Day last November 8th. The stock market is at an all-time high — a record. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 16 years, and because of our regulatory and other reforms, we have more people working in the United States today than ever before. Companies are moving back, creating job growth the likes of which our country has not seen in a very long time. And it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defense.

Mostly lies and distortions, except the last sentence. The crowing about the $700B in military spending stands in sharp contrast to the spectacle now playing out in Congress, where the GOP is attempting to gut healthcare for millions of people so they can funnel that money to the rich in the form of tax cuts.

There’s your healthcare and infrastructure, folks. If it’s not streaming into a fat cat’s pockets via tax cuts, it is being poured into the insatiable maw of a military machine that already consumes more than what the next eight top militarized nations spend combined. And guess who gets fat off those defense contracts?

But, moving on, Trump reminds us that America is great because it developed an indeterminate number of pillars:

It was in the same period, exactly 70 years ago, that the United States developed the Marshall Plan to help restore Europe. Those three beautiful pillars — they’re pillars of peace, sovereignty, security, and prosperity.

The White House speech team can’t count.

But enough about peace, prosperity, blah blah blah — who threatens us? “Radical Islamic terrorism,” Iran and North Korea. Not Russia! Though Trump does eventually mention the 1,600 lb. bear in the room:

I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council.

There was no mention of Russia’s flagrant interference in our democracy, of course. In light of that, this bit toward the end was unintentionally ironic:

The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures?

Apparently not, if you’re a Republican, and you’ve grafted your husk of a party onto the weak, vain, unprincipled, incoherent and erratic clown who addressed the United Nations today. The rest of us will have to be the patriots.

I Like Peas

Rather than think about the fact that our President is a god damned lunatic and national embarrassment who just disgraced us all with a bellicose stream of bullshit at the UN, I’d like to follow Betty’s lead and offer my hot take on peas.

I like them. A good bit. I really like them fresh when you just crack open the pod and shuck them into your mouth. The people who want to put them in guacamole can fuck right off, but peas are good. I like them in a vegetable or chicken/turkey soup, I like them steamed with a little butter.

I don’t like canned peas other than those really expensive ones from Le Sueur. But over all, I am going to have to give a thumbs up to peas. They always come in one of my favorite chinese dishes, too.

You know what I really don’t care for? Asparagus. I can only eat the tips of those- the rest of it is just bitter and has a gross stringy mouth feel. Plus it makes my urine stink. You know what else makes my urine stink? Coffee. My first bathroom break after a cup of coffee smells like coffee. It’s really weird.

And now this thread has come full circle, as we started with talking about a piece of shit and ended talking about piss.

Visualize Whirled Peas

I know there’s a series of acute global and national crises brewing. There’s climate change, which may have flung hurricanes and typhoons across the oceans like so many martial arts stars targeting our vulnerable coastlines. And the quickening investigation into the role a foreign power played in installing a racist, sexist, xenophobic demagogue in the Oval Office. And federal agencies repackaged as force-multipliers for rogue police departments and out-of-control border protection units. And smarmy liars trying to gut healthcare and social services to further enrich obscenely wealthy plutocrats. And our escalating showdown with the planet’s other nuclear-armed narcissist with a fondness for nepotism, military parades, sycophancy and preposterous hairdos.

To all that, I say, “Blaarrrgh!” Not because it’s not important. Not because I don’t care. But rather because, like the sole remaining team member in a dodge-ball match, I don’t know how to avoid the blows, so I’m curling up in the fetal position. This post is a pixelated manifestation of that phenomenon.

Instead of worrying about these grave crises, I want to know who is trying to shove green peas down our throats. Is there a Pea Council? A Green Pea Growers Association? Because some cabal is pushing peas, and they’ve infiltrated the highest levels of our media organizations and social media platforms.

The first salvo was The New York Times’ unconscionable suggestion that we put green peas in guacamole a couple of years ago, but that was just the beginning:

“Trust us?” How about “fuck no!” Suddenly the food section had become as unreliable as the political coverage. Thankfully, we still had President Obama to protect us back then:

And after that high-profile beat-down, the pea pushers kept a lower profile, but they haven’t stopped. For years now, I’ve stood by helplessly as peas crop up in the most unlikely recipes. I was just looking up ingredients for green goddess salad dressing, and damned if there wasn’t a video ad adjacent suggesting that green peas should be pureed and used to make a sauce for seared sea scallops. As fucking if.

I’ve got nothing against green peas. They have their place, which is alongside carrots, in soups, in a monoculture side dish and even smushed up with mint and served with fish and chips by the more tradition-minded purveyors.

But this business of adding peas to anything green or pretending that they are on the same culinary plane as butter, olive oil, scallions or garlic has to fucking stop.

Please feel free to discuss weightier matters, such as Trump’s wack U.N. speech. I’ll be over here trying not to visualize whirled peas.

Open thread!