Odds and Ends (Open Thread)

GQ sent a reporter to Kentucky to see if he could ferret out the truth about why Rand Paul’s neighbor curb-stomped the Tribble-topped senator. As the reporter noted, the altercation was originally cast as a dispute over lawn care.

More recently, Paul’s staff and conservative outlets have been hinting darkly that the attacking neighbor was motivated by politics. But the GQ report suggests the simplest explanation: a clash of egotistical assholes. Excerpts:

If it is possible for a man, as he’s being hauled in front of a judge for his arraignment, to somehow still project an air of haughty superiority, well, that man would look like Rene Boucher did as he appeared in court just over a week ago.

If Paul is ever arraigned (FSM please!), he’ll project just such an “air of haughty superiority.” It’s his permanent state — possibly a consequence of an action all mothers warn against: “If you keep doing that, your face will freeze that way.” Paul kept doing that. Sounds like Boucher did too.

Jim Skaggs, who lives nearby (and is also the developer of the community), said that he thinks that Boucher charged at Paul from the street. From that direction, Paul’s yard slopes steeply downward, toward the lake at the rear of his property. Barreling downward, about 30 degrees, this imagined path would increase the force of a running tackle, perhaps explaining how a man of Boucher’s diminutive stature—an acquaintance of the two men estimates that they both stand five-foot-six and about 140 pounds—could do so much damage.

There’s also speculation that Boucher kicked the shit out of Paul while he was down. I’d bet money on it.

But across Bowling Green, sympathy for either man appears to be in short supply. [Bowling Green resident Bill] Goodwin described them as ‘two little shits’ who have brought embarrassment upon the town.

This has the ring of truth to my ear.

In other news, Kellyanne Conway jumps on the “Republicans for Child Molester Roy Moore” bandwagon because tax cuts. Transcript from Fox & Friends via MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin on Twitter:

The entire party is hopelessly depraved. But you knew that. Open thread!

The sick among the upper middle class will have more pain in their future

Senator Cassidy (R-LA) likes to talk about one of his constituents when he argues against the ACA. This family has $40,000 of health care costs every year and they don’t get any help to pay for those costs.

This is a real and growing problem.
The question is what policies improve or worsen the outcomes for families in this situation?

The Washington Post’s fact checkers chased down the family and their situation:

conservative talk-radio host named Moon Griffon. Cassidy invoked Griffon when he introduced the bill on Sept. 14….
Griffon used to get group insurance through an employer but then he moved and had to buy insurance on the individual market. He said he and his wife, a nurse, have a six-figure income, though “it’s not high but middle class.” They have two children: a 15-year-old son and a 20-year-old daughter who has seizures and needs to take four kinds of medicine.

There are a couple of ACA related items going on here. First, the family has a modified adjusted gross income of at least $98,000 and therefore they don’t qualify for subsidies. Secondly, they are keeping their daughter on the parent’s insurance. This is guaranteed by the ACA and was questionable pre-ACA. Third, their daughter has an expensive pre-existing condition but is covered.

They are paying too much for their insurance. And none of the policies that Senator Cassidy has voted for would improve their situation.

Read more

Monday Morning Open Thread: Fireball

Meteor entering the Earths Atmosphere over Italy in the Dolomites


From the Astronomy Picture of the Day website (Image Credit & Copyright: Ollie Taylor)… because we all miss Alain’s wonderful morning posts.

Apart from Thanksgiving prep/travel, what’s on the agenda for the start of another week?


Also entertaining, though on a far less elevated plane — from the Washington Post, “‘A long winter’: White House aides divided over scope, risks of Russia probe”:

Six months into a special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, White House aides and others in President Trump’s close orbit are increasingly divided in their assessments of the expanding probe and how worried administration officials and campaign aides should be about their potential legal peril, according to numerous people familiar with the debate…

The investigation reached a critical turning point in recent weeks, with a formal subpoena to the campaign, an expanding list of potential witnesses and the indictments of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. Some within Trump’s circle, including former chief of staff Reince Priebus, have already been interviewed by Mueller’s investigators, while others such as Hope Hicks — the White House communications director and trusted confidant of the president — and White House counsel Donald McGahn are expected in coming weeks.

One Republican operative in frequent contact with the White House described Mueller’s team “working through the staff like Pac-Man.”

“Of course they are worried,” said the Republican, who insisted on anonymity to offer a candid assessment. “Anybody that ever had the words ‘Russia’ come out of their lips or in an email, they’re going to get talked to. These things are thorough and deep. It’s going to be a long winter.” …

The president himself, however, has warmed to Cobb’s optimistic message on Mueller’s probe. Cobb had initially said he hoped the focus on the White House would conclude by Thanksgiving, but adjusted the timeline slightly in an interview last week, saying he remains optimistic that it will wrap up by the end of the year, if not shortly thereafter…

But the reassurances from Cobb and others — which seem at least partially aimed at keeping the president calm and focused on governing — are viewed by others as naive.

“The president says, ‘This is all just an annoyance. I did nothing,’ ” said one person close to the administration. “He is somewhat arrogant about it. But this investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up. You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration.”…

In fact, legal experts and private defense lawyers monitoring the case believe that Mueller’s investigation — which officially began in May and resulted in its first charges against three former campaign aides last month — is still in its early stages.

They expect that the prosecutors have considerable investigative work still to do, and they predict more campaign officials, among others, will face charges. They expect the probe to extend deep into 2018 and possibly longer…

This sounds promising…

Via ABC News:

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team investigating whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct a federal inquiry into connections between his presidential campaign and Russian operatives has now directed the Justice Department to turn over a broad array of documents, ABC News has learned.

In particular, Mueller’s investigators are keen to obtain emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter, according to a source who has not seen the specific request but was told about it.

Issued within the past month, the directive marks the special counsel’s first records request to the Justice Department, and it means Mueller is now demanding documents from the department overseeing his investigation.

Trump confessed obstruction to Lester Holt, FFS. But this report is encouraging because, if true, it indicates the investigators are going hard after the clown mob boss himself, not just the sideshow lackeys.

The whole fucking bunch needs to go down, and I hope they’re sweating so hard over Thanksgiving that the brigade of imported custodial staff at Disgraceland in Palm Beach has to stand by with mops and buckets.

Late Night Thanksgiving Food Atrocities Open Thread

Since even a skilled cook can find it difficult to make a modern pre-frozen Butterball bird corpse taste like anything other than poultry-flavored styrofoam, it’s not surprising that every few years there’s a new fad — brining! deep-frying! — intended to add novelty to the “essential centerpiece” of our national celebratory Bloat.

The NY Daily News blames this year’s novelty, courtesy the Reynolds Corporation, on “Instagram chefs — who cook things just for their photo value”. (Of course Kids These Days is another time-honored perennial.)

It also predicts worse for the future, difficult as that might be to imagine…

One Hundred and Fifty-Four Years Ago: The Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

(Lincoln Address Memorial, US National Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA)

One hundred and fifty-four years ago today Abraham Lincoln gave an address to dedicate the national cemetery. He did so about 300 yards from where the memorial in the picture above stands, hence the explanatory marker in the lower left. Lincoln’s address, now known as the Gettysburg Address, was written in DC and revised upon his arrival in Gettysburg.

As is often the case with historic documents before the advent of carbon paper, let alone photocopying, word processors, and computers, there are multiple surviving versions of Lincoln’s dedicatory remarks. This includes two copies written before the speech, including the actual reading copy, and three others prepared for specific individuals after the speech. You can read all five versions here. The Nicolay copy, which was written on White House stationery also includes Lincoln’s revisions and additions after his arrival in Gettysburg on a second page of foolscap, is the reading copy he delivered at Gettysburg on 19 November 1863.

The Nicolay Copy (2nd and Reading Draft) of the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that “all men are created equal.”

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow, this ground—The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us —that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

(Nicolay Copy of the Gettysburg Address)

And here is what I always think of as the definitive documentation of how President Lincoln drafted his remarks.

A Tern for the Worse

Bad bird puns open thread?

Or we could discuss what an utterly graceless, classless, clueless, embarrassing clown the president is:

Foul or fowl — your choice.

There’s a gun in your hand and it’s pointed at your head

The GOP tax bill is incredibly unpopular

If you read carefully, you’ll see that no other major legislation of the past 25 years has polled below 40%, except for the ACA repeal bill.

I happen to think that the tax bill is *more* politically damaging for Republicans than ACA repeal. Here’s why: unlike working class people who vote Republican, upper middle-class people who vote Republican pay attention to how government actions affect their finances. They’re probably still mostly motivated by racism/tribalism, but they don’t want their tax deductions to go away. If they do go away, they may stop voting Republican.

Democrats are *already* +11 in the generic ballot. No one has won the House by 11 points since 1982.

I hope to God this piece of shit doesn’t pass. I wish Republicans in Congress cared about the country. They don’t. Some do care about getting re-elected. If they do, they should vote against this thing.

SNL Speaks for All of Us


Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Moulding the Future (Veggie)


This actually makes sense in a culture, like Japan, where individual perfect fruits are considered an essential gift for business clients or social visits — the way Americans treat wine or flowers. I suspect it would be difficult or impossible to make them profitably here, since we’ve been so conditioned to treat ‘unprocessed’ food as something that should be cheap. Although, given the upswing in “artisanal” every-damn-edibles, maybe that’s changing?

There are cheaper, no doubt much less durable versions of some of the simpler moulds available from American companies. I remember seeing an ad for an “ugly old man potato” mould from a Midwestern company some years ago. Which reminded me of the ending of a particularly unpleasant villain in Terry Pratchett’s novel The Truth

So I checked out the website referenced in the video. Sure enough, an American contacted them about producing pumpkins in the likeness of a certain American politician, but the kickstarter to fund wider production failed rather spectacularly. I still like the idea of growing little ugly-dude potatoes, though: “That’s not the right type for boiling, it’s a fryer!”

Apart from gearing up for the Thanksgiving Experience, what’s going on in your garden(s) planning, this week?

Late Night Russiagate Open Thread: Sometimes It’s What Doesn’t Get Said…

The RNC discovers the sunk cost fallacy, will stop throwing good money after bad:

Trump defense lawyer John Dowd said that following payments by the Republican National Committee, the president began paying the bills and now wants to make the party “even.” The RNC confirmed it is no longer paying the bills…

Also, they’re not tearing up the IOUs until Trump’s check clears — assuming it ever arrives. Do newspaper classified columns still include those post-divorce announcements that Mr./Ms. X “will no longer be held responsible for any bills charged to [his/her] former spouse Y”?

The expenses cover personal lawyers representing Trump in special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in last year’s election…

Special White House counsel Ty Cobb said the administration was working with others to establish a legal fund for current and former staffers. Dowd said White House counsel Don McGahn and campaign lawyer Ben Ginsberg of Jones Day are working to structure that fund, which would be subject to rules that prohibit staff from receiving gifts or pro bono legal service.

The president is exempt from those rules, Dowd said.

“The geniuses are working on it,” Dowd said. “If it passes muster with the tax lawyers and accountants, then it has to pass muster with the Office of Government Ethics.”

During former President Bill Clinton’s administration, private funds were raised to cover Clinton’s legal expenses related to the Whitewater investigation

I think we may have uncovered the spark behind last week’s BUT WHAT ABOUT TEH CLENIS!!! noisy public kabuki. It’s not as though Donald “I Am So A Billionaire” Trump could count on his base to chip in for his legal bills… and his usual donors don’t want to draw further attention to themselves.

… In August, Reuters first reported that the RNC was paying Trump’s legal bills, which amounted to more than $230,000 that month. The payments were made to Trump’s outside legal team, which includes Dowd.

Additionally, Trump’s re-election campaign paid more than $300,000 this year in bills to lawyers representing his son, Donald Trump Jr., according to public disclosures. The campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whether it will continue to pay for Trump Jr’s legal expenses…

While previous presidential campaigns have used these funds to pay for routine legal matters such as ballot access disputes and compliance requirements, Trump is the first president in the modern campaign finance era to use such funds on the costs of responding to a criminal probe, said election law experts.

Upcoming Trump tweet: Once Again I have acheived UNPRESIDENTED accomplishment!!! — not like Crooked Hillary who had to Pay for Her own … (1/x)

A Brief Interlude

I’m sitting here, belly full, in a nice, warm, clean house, with three animals on top of me and one on the floor, watching the Punisher, and I just thought I would acknowledge how good I have it and stop bitching for ten seconds.

Ok, that ten seconds is over. Fuck motherfucking Donald Trump and everyone who voted for him.

What are you all up to tonight?

Uncivil Liberties Open Thread: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Feeling Pretty Good About His Chances

I piously hope that Mr. Mueller’s investigators are taking notes at the Federalist Society, because the Malevolent Leprechaun spelled out why he’s going to all that trouble playing Blanche DuBois in front of unsympathetic Democrats…

Sessions had a bounce in his step Friday as he took aim at “judicial activism” of judges legislating from the bench and took a moment to tick through the changes he’s made to return Justice Department to the “rule of law” in a wide-ranging speech at Federalist Society’s national convention.

“Elections really do have consequences,” Sessions said with a smile…

Despite the fact that four of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees have received a rare “not-qualified” rating by the American Bar Association and come under fire for controversial blog postings, Sessions said Trump has been appointing “extremely well-qualified” lawyers who will be “neutral umpires, calling balls and strikes.”…

“I get frustrated, too,” Sessions said, but vowed his “department will not make decisions based on politics” and will not confirm investigations to get a few “cheap headlines.”…

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)

Per the Washington Post:

Sessions has been under fire in recent weeks for his shifting account of his and other Trump campaign aides’ dealings with Russia. On Tuesday, he spent more than five hours before the House Judiciary Committee answering questions about the matter.

Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s former ambassador to the United States, is a key figure because Sessions had long ago denied having any communications with Russians, only to have The Washington Post reveal he had twice met with Kislyak during the campaign.
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I wake up screaming

Jake Tapper used to show up here and I always respected his attitude. I didn’t always agree with his positions, but it seemed like he gave a fuck. And giving a fuck is the most important thing. I like this a lot:

Jake Tapper sometimes wakes up angry. This may be a good thing for America.

Amid the chaos of the Donald Trump presidency, and the deep partisanship that filters through seemingly all aspects of American life in 2017, Tapper is motivated by the same forces that have animated much of his career in journalism. He can’t stand hypocrisy. He can’t stand unfairness. He can’t stop talking about it.

“I recognize that it’s probably a pain in the ass for a lot of people now,” he told The Atlantic. “But it is just who I am.”

“I’m just like, I don’t want any of this to be happening,” he added. “There are so many lies and so much indecency, and I’m not only talking about President Trump. There is just a world of it exploding—and we are, I fear, as a nation, becoming conditioned and accepting of it. And it’s horrific.”

For the good times

Many of you seem like good, virtuous people. You live responsibly, making economical dishes in your slow cookers. You volunteer, you probably canvas for candidates you support, you may already be in local government in some capacity. You do all of these things even when they seem like a grind.

I’m not like that at all, unfortunately, but I spent a ton of time working with local candidates for the House and State legislature from 2006 through 2008. It was a lot of fun! It was fun because we had the winds at our back and because that was when blogging was new and exciting. I got into huge fights with other local activists, felt betrayed by a charismatic candidate who turned out to be a sex harasser (Eric Massa), and burned out on the whole experience.

The next few years are going to be like 2006-08 on steroids, though maybe “on crack” would more accurate. The generic polls have Dems up by 10 and on average Dems are outperforming Hillary 2016 by 10 points in special elections. Democrats in Virginia gained 15+ seats out of 100 in State House elections. That’s the equivalent of 65+ seats in the US House.

Things are likely to get worse for Republicans. They’re either going to fail at all attempts at major legislation or, much worse, pass wildly unpopular legislation. There will mostly likely be more indictments. Trump will probably pardon several people and/or fire Mueller. The economy is unlikely to keep going like this for another year.

The potential for Democratic gains is immense. It’s also going to be nuts, completely fucking nuts. Breitbart will be throwing crazy shit against the wall to try to tar Democratic candidates. There may be bogus DOJ investigations of Democrats. Russians will be trying to hack our elections to help Republicans, and in some cases Republicans officials will be working hand in hand with them.

It’s so exciting that I wish I could throw myself into it, but this is the busiest time of my life professionally plus we are having a baby next month. So I can’t. But you should. It’s going to be a blast. You don’t have to be the kind of person who is naturally good. You can just go into to it to have a good time. You will. Start a local blog. Have a ton of coffee or a different beverage of your choice and knock on doors. Whatever you do, it’ll make a difference. And this is probably a once in a lifetime cycle. It will make for a lifetime of good stories.