More Byrd droppings

Following on on Betty’s post this morning, keep on calling.

Senator Sanders in his role as the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee has had his staff arguing hard to the parliamentarian over the past few weeks. They are arguing over every point in the Senate bill(s) that are still be scrawled on napkins in the Senate dining room on whether or not provisions are directly budget related and therefore only need a 50 vote threshold or are primarily policy and need a 60 vote threshold. They’ve won some big fights. It looks like they won an even bigger one this morning.

What that means is the waiver provisions need 60 votes. This is important from a policy perspective as the current waiver system in the ACA allows states to experiment if they can insure as many people, at the same or better actuarial value while protecting the most vulnerable and costing the federal government no more money. The provision that is now subject to a 60 vote threshold would allow the state to do whatever it wanted just as long as it cost the federal government no more money.

Politically this is important because the Senate leadership, Secretary of Health and Human Services Price and CMS Administrator Verma have been promising Republican senators that they’ll issue magical waivers that will give enough flexibility to states to keep everyone or at least enough people whole despite pulling out $750 billion dollars in Medicaid funding and several hundred billion net dollars from the individual market. That is a fantasy of the least interesting tripe but it waivers of unimaginable power are being pushed behind the scene. Those waivers can’t be part of the bill.

And if they are part of the bill, that means the legislative filibuster is dead which should help when we have to clean up this mess.

Keep calling!

The so-called “skinny repeal” bill (I like valued commenter Oldgold’s “Trojan Hearse” nickname better) is being written on cocktail napkins in the Senate commissary today:

So much has happened already this morning: the West Wing has gone full-metal “Heathers,” Trump is threatening to veto the Russia sanctions bill, etc. But here’s one thing we can actually do: call about that bill.

The smart money is on the craven GOP worms passing some piece of shit legislation that harms millions of Americans, even if it doesn’t contain all the plutocratic goodies that have been dancing like sugar plums in their corrupt heads since November. But imagine the meltdown if they hit a wall again. That’s worth a call right there. We’ve already made a difference.

Open thread!

On The Road and In Your Backyard

Good Morning All,

So far, this feature has been about travel, with the occasional “local” picture or two. I think limiting this to just travel is just that – limiting. So I’m changing this up a bit to include neat, colorful, funny, interesting, poignant, etc. pictures that don’t require travel.

As always, if you’re on a trip or have a story to share, you can just pitch in below.

I’m pleased to announce the release of the new picture submission tool for this feature. Using this tool will ensure I don’t mess things up, will make it much less time-consuming for me, and will make for a much easier process all the way around.  This would not be possible without the efforts of valued commenter Major Major Major Major. His help has been invaluable in this feature, not to mention in the pie filter and rotating quote.

The form is here and has a few simple rules:

  1. You have to have made at least one comment that’s been approved/published.
  2. It’s a picture and not too big (you can include up to 7 pictures in a single submission)
  3. You must include your commenter screenname and email (kept private) to verify you, just like making a comment. Only your nym is published.
  4. No more than 10 form entries per hour.
  5. You can include an overall description, per-picture descriptions, dates, locations, etc.

If you are a lurker and thus not a commenter, or should you wish to submit a video, archive of multiple pictures, links to pictures hosted online, or want to include more text or pictures than the form allows, send an email.

Travel safely everyone, even if it’s just down the hall for that second cup of coffee!


Quick pre-picture note: there are tons of submissions via the form and I’ll take a look at them Thursday or over the weekend. At least one person reported some issues with submitting a set of pics, so if you had any issues, please let me know.

Read more

Thursday Morning Open Thread: Rooting for Injuries (But Not Describing Them)

(Tom Toles via

Since I am not by nature a nice person, I’ll admit that stories like this make me quietly gleeful. From the Washington Post, “Senate Republicans have tolerated Trump’s controversies. His treatment of Sessions is different”:

Cornyn is not alone in rallying to the defense of Sessions, who, despite sometimes having waged lonely battles as one of the chamber’s most staunch conservatives, still has many friends among Senate Republicans. Most have issued statements of support, and several are making private calls to reassure Sessions that they are behind him.

But the tension over Trump’s treatment of Sessions goes beyond the senators defending a friend.

Unlike any other controversial move that Trump has pondered in his six months as president, Senate Republicans are sending preemptive signals that firing the attorney general or pressuring him to resign would be a terrible move.

Some have warned high-level White House officials that it would look as though Trump were making the move solely to shut down an investigation of his campaign and the White House, now overseen by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, while also making clear that they agree with Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from an investigation of the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia.

Replacing Sessions would be difficult, and the idea of Trump making a recess appointment during the planned four-week break in August is foolhardy. Democrats can indefinitely stall a resolution to fully adjourn the Senate, having already forced minute-long periods during even shorter breaks to prevent Trump from having the authority to make temporary appointments while the Senate is away.

Democrats may have vehemently opposed Sessions’s nomination, but they have no intention of allowing Trump to fire him and name a new attorney general with a recess appointment, and frankly, Republicans do not seem to want to give Trump that power either…

What’s on the agenda, as we start another bound-to-be-beleagured day?

Speaking of public schadenfreude: Having grown up in the sort of family where interactions tended to start with a challenge and escalate explosively, I’ve spent the past forty years learning that not every dark thought needs to be described exhaustively. Not only does such gleeful venting disturb those who come from less toughened environments, but it’s really quite stressful to keep up the paranoia level that’s essential when you know at a bone-deep level that talking the talk is liable to lead to walking a very unpleasant walk.

This is John Cole’s blog, and it will never be mistaken for an Oberlin drum circle. But rest assured, no matter how inventive your torture scenarios for those public officials who most absolutely deserve them, there is no membership requirement that those scenarios be shared in the comments.

Venting is important, especially in this Trump era, but not everybody here has the same tolerance for violence porn. Wish all the bad cess on Republicans and other miscreants that they deserve, but try to keep in mind that it’s not a competition to see which of us can produce the most disturbing rant.

This Was Not How I Expected To End My Day

After a very long week away and an even longer 8 hour drive home, this happened. A neighbor spotted these two at the local playground (with pond) and they tried to follow him home. This was yesterday and he was worried. So, since my niece and I had been driving all day, we decided we could use a walk and went to see what we could see.

These two came right up to us. They were hungry, friendly and completely ill-equipped to survive on their own. I had brought cat food along (mine ate cat and dog food along with chicken feed for that well rounded diet, LOL – or just to annoy the four-footers in the family) and they took it right out of my hand.

The only thing I had to capture them with was a cooler a friend had lent me for the trip. Deciding I’d just buy her a new one, I corralled them (one in the grass, the other I had to snag from the water) and brought them home.

Their photo is now on the neighborhood lost and found website page and they are tucked away in the garage, with food, water, cilantro – a duck favorite. Bixby is beside himself with curiosity, but I don’t want to stress them, so he’s banned from the garage.

The good news, the excitement has tempered any disapproval from the dogs about my long absence. The bad news? I’m attached (I love ducks) but am in no position at the moment to add more critters to my menagerie. There may need to be an intervention.

I. am. exhausted.

Open thread!

Clown Shoes Open Thread: THE GLASSES, THEY DO NOTHING!!!

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry optimistically discussed expanding American coal exports to Ukraine and other energy matters during a lengthy phone call this month with a Russian prankster who Perry thought was Ukraine’s prime minister.

Perry actually was talking with comedians known in Russia for targeting celebrities and politicians with audacious stunts, Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in a written statement.

Pranksters Vladimir Krasnov and Alexei Stolyarov are sometimes called the “Jerky Boys of Russia,” after an American duo who put out recordings of their prank phone calls in the 1990s. They have made faux calls to British singer Elton John, who thought he was speaking to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and others…

During the 22-minute call on July 19, Perry, whose department oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons program, discussed a range of topics in a business-like tone, including sanctions against Russia and helping Ukraine develop oil and gas.

Perry said the Trump administration opposes Nord Stream 2, a Russian project to bring natural gas to Europe across the Baltic and that U.S. technology could help Ukraine develop gas.

“Giving Ukraine more options with some of our technology is, I think, in everyone’s best interest with the exception of the Russians, but that’s OK,” he said.

Perry also discussed the Paris climate accord and coal exports on the call…

But Moniz looked like some schlubby geek — not the sorta guy Lord Smallgloves wanted to see on his morning Fox News. Bad attitude, too, what with thinkin’ that as a nookalar scientist he might know more about energy and stuff than a real ‘Murican bidniz guy like our Rick!


When I Was Cultivated By The Chinese

It’s hard for me to believe that Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. couldn’t figure out that the Russians they were meeting with might have had ulterior motives. I had an experience some years back that demonstrates how espionage recruitment works.

I was working on a project that was partly classified. My work was mostly unclassified. It was long enough ago that scientists exchanged reprints of their articles printed (nicely, by the journal publisher) on paper.

I loved getting reprint requests. International stamps on postcards, sometimes letters. One of them was from a Chinese institute, a complimentary letter with a lovely stamp on the envelope. A bit nicer than usual, but not extraordinary. So I sent the reprints.

They sent back another letter and some of their reprints. We should talk about our mutual interests. Perhaps I could even visit their laboratory. At that time, not many Americans were visiting China. It was intriguing and potentially a status point at work.

The project had a fair bit of visibility, and other governments were sending letters of interest in collaboration. One government offered to send two post-docs, all expenses paid. We had a good laugh about that. There wasn’t an institutional training program about recognizing recruitment, though.

An international meeting was coming up that they and I planned to go to. We could meet there. The Chinese interest began to seem more than normal collegiality.

I went to the meeting in Hawaii. They didn’t show up. I was relieved. I’ll never know for sure if they were trying to recruit me. That’s the point – the interest seems to be genuine, and they push a little bit and then a little more until you are giving them more information than you should.

Later it turned out that two people working on that project did give too much information to the Chinese.