As the Stomach Churns Open Thread: Budget Drama Update

Politics: the science of who eats… and who gets eaten.

Given what Paul Ryan and his fellow Trump enablers have been shoveling out to the rest of us, they’re all gonna spend their next million or so reincarnations as dung beetles…

[C]ongressional Republicans were jolted Wednesday morning by phone calls from White House officials, who confided that President Trump was unhappy with the party’s nearly finalized spending deal.

Trump had been up since dawn, keeping an eye on cable-television programs and venting to friends and aides as snow blanketed the executive residence…

Allies of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were alarmed, the people said, once again realizing that only Trump speaks for Trump.

They had been hammering out the details of the spending package with the White House’s legislative staff for weeks and were planning to give a brief update to the president in the afternoon, followed by final votes in both chambers later this week. The people familiar with the discussions were not authorized to speak publicly.

But as senior aides tried to sell Trump on the deal all week, he had hesitated to embrace it. In recent days, he has insisted to associates that congressional Republicans “owe” him more money for the wall since he has raised them millions for their reelection bids and signed the GOP-authored tax bill into law, according to one person close to Trump…

A White House official, meanwhile, said Trump loyalists who dislike Ryan and McConnell, such as Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), have only stoked Trump’s gut feeling that the spending deal is lacking. They also have told Trump that he will be criticized for such a large sum of spending…

Ryan arrived at the White House around lunchtime in his caravan of SUVs. Vice President Pence attended the meeting, as did senior aides to the attendees. McConnell joined by speakerphone.

Over the next 45 minutes, gathered together in the residence, they all made their pitch to Trump in support of the spending agreement, the people said. They argued that he was getting money for the border wall at a level the White House had been signaling was acceptable. They told him that he was also getting infrastructure funding — one of his priorities. They told him the significant tick up in funding for the military was included and politically popular. These were all arguments he had heard before, from his own senior aides…

Eventually, Trump sighed and said he’s fine with the bill — and the meeting soon ended, with Ryan ducking out into the snow. A reporter for NBC News snapped a blurry picture of the speaker being whisked off in the snow.

White House officials and congressional Republicans quickly moved to issue statements affirming Trump’s support, almost “wishing it into reality,” as one official said late Wednesday afternoon. In private conversations at the Capitol, aides shook their heads at another dramatic encounter with Trump, another time when he had nearly brought his party to the brink of a shutdown…

“Our” hero, the Zombie-Eyed Granny Starver of Janesville. I’ve been working on this post for a good half-hour — has Donny Dollhands refudiated Pauly Blue Eyes yet?

What Doesn’t Make You Stronger Can Kill You

Bit of self promotion here:  I’ve got a piece in today’s Boston Globe, on one of the hidden consequences of failing to deal with the antibiotic crisis.  In it, I focus on the use of antibiotics as prophylactics in surgery. Nowadays, it’s standard procedure for a wide range of operations to dose the patient with antibiotics shortly before she or he goes under the knife; doing so has been shown to signficantly reduce the risk of post-surgical infections.

I took off from a study that modeled the consequences of increased microbial resistance for ten common procedures, mostly surgeries, along with chemotherapy for a particular set of cancers.

The results of that study were predictable:  more resistance leads to more post-op infections and to more deaths.  If the situation gets really dire, if common causes of infection associated with surgery become increasingly untreatable then the calculation behind all kinds of medical interventions will change:

That’s what scares Dr. James Maguire, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I think some of the worst feelings we have are when we have a problem with a patient and there’s nothing we can do.” Infections following joint replacements are bad enough. They are, Maguire says, “catastrophic in terms of what happens to the patient.” Were the risk of infection to go up enough, he adds, “having seen what an infected joint replacement is all about I would think twice.”

That’s a response to an operation that may be vitally needed to reduce pain and increase mobility — but, as Maguire went on…

…while someone contemplating a joint replacement can choose to forgo the risk, if they need a new heart valve or a ventricular assist device, “that’s potentially life and death.” In such circumstances, “if your life depending on having the device, even with great risk you’d do it. But more would die.”

Behind such specific possible horror stories, this is for me a deeply cautionary tale about the way choices our society — our politics — makes have much deeper effects than our usual debate admits.  Antibiotics are not just responses to disease; their use penetrates medical practice, to the point that basic expectations we may have about what how we can move through the stages of our life can be dashed, without our ever really grasping why.

That is:  joint replacements are part of our medical and mental landscape now.  There are over 330,000 hip replacements performed each year in the US.  We know (some of us, venerable as we are, more than others) that our knees, elbows, shoulders and so on won’t always work as well as they do today.  We know, most of us I’m sure, folks who’ve had the op and are now playing tennis again or whatever, and we have in the back of our minds (those of us fortunate enough to believe we’ll still have adequate health care available over time) that if and when that bit falls apart in our own bodies, we can look for the same outcome.

Except, of course, if the risks of surgery shift significantly in the meantime.

The last point I make in the piece, somewhat more gently than here, is that should the way we age, the way we give birth and so on deteriorates because of unchecked microbial resistance, that will be a more-or-less hidden consequence of political failure.

That’s because dealing with the antibiotic crisis boils down to doing two things:  regulating economic activity and funding research.  The GOP doesn’t want to do either.  And, as usual, people will die as a result.

So, on that note of cheer, a link, again, to the piece.

Oh…and open thread too.

Image: Follower of Jan Sanders van Hemessen, An Operation for a Stone in the Head, date unknown (to me).

Open Thread: Good for Nancy Pelosi

She didn’t satisfy the ALL DEMOCRATS MUST CONTINUALLY APOLOGIZE FOR ANY DEM’S CRIMES crew, but nevertheless

Rep. John Conyers said Sunday he was stepping down from his post as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee amid accusations of sexual harassment that have put his party’s leaders in a bind.

The decision by the Michigan lawmaker — who has held his seat since 1965 and who denies the harassment allegations — followed several days of internal deliberation and pressure from Democratic colleagues, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who wanted Conyers to leave the high-profile post but didn’t want to be seen as forcing him out.

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) and assistant Democratic leader Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) reached out to some CBC members over the Thanksgiving recess to take the temperature of the caucus, according to multiple sources. The group is arguably the most powerful bloc within the House Democratic Caucus and is fiercely protective of its members, particularly Conyers, who was a founding member.

In an interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Pelosi seemed to underscore the cautious approach by taking pains to praise Conyers’ record and call for “due process,” even as she said she believed “he will do the right thing.” She also referred to Conyers as an “icon” for his lengthy service and work “to protect women.” …

Privately, Pelosi has been working behind the scenes with leaders of the CBC and Conyers to figure out his next steps. One senior Democratic aide said she was trying “to lay groundwork for him to step aside gracefully.”….

Conyers is an icon, even if he’s twenty years past his glory days, and a frontal attack on him would’ve served nobody but the authoritarian enablers who’ve been hawking the “Either a Black man or a white woman — only one token can win” strategy since the mid-1800s. (Read Ta-Nahesi Coates’ essay on “The Great Schism” for more detail.)


(Also, ten quatloos that Chuck Todd has some sexual-harrassment claims in his newsroom closet.)

REPUBS IN DISARRAY! Open Thread: When Did Mitch McConnell Turn Anti-Child-Molestor?

I don’t remember him having a problem with Denny Hastert, although of course Hastert wasn’t “his” responsiblity…

Trump spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from Asia last week, and the Senate leader made an urgent plea: Please help push Moore out of the contest. On Monday, as a new female accuser emerged, the Republican leader discussed the Alabama situation with White House chief of staff John Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence. The conversation centered on tax reform, but the Senate Republican leader also proposed a dramatic idea: that Sessions run as a write-in candidate or be appointed to the seat he held for two decades.

White House officials plan to convene a meeting to talk through their options soon, and Trump is widely expected to address the predicament publicly when he returns from abroad. In order for the president to get involved, some aides to the president say, he would need an airtight plan that limits his political exposure to any fallout.

It’s a vexing call for Trump. If he tries to pressure Moore out of the race, as some people close to the White House expect him to do, there’s no guarantee that the candidate will oblige. During the GOP nomination battle, Trump aggressively backed Moore’s opponent, appointed Sen. Luther Strange…

Since the allegations surfaced on Thursday, the White House has been quietly examining its options. Counselor Kellyanne Conway has been in touch with Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s office to discuss possible paths forward. And political director Bill Stepien has spoken with Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel.

On Tuesday, the RNC withdrew its support from Moore…

(But not till Tuesday. Keep that in mind, for future use.)

Anyways, ol’ Roy ain’t going without a fight…

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Schadenfreude Open Thread: The McConnell-Trump Marriage of Convenience Has Turned Very, Very Bitter

I, myself, am rooting for painful and potentially disfiguring injuries…

The relationship between President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises.

What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership. Angry phone calls and private badmouthing have devolved into open conflict, with the president threatening to oppose Republican senators who cross him, and Mr. McConnell mobilizing to their defense.

The rupture between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell comes at a highly perilous moment for Republicans, who face a number of urgent deadlines when they return to Washington next month. Congress must approve new spending measures and raise the statutory limit on government borrowing within weeks of reconvening, and Republicans are hoping to push through an elaborate rewrite of the federal tax code. There is scant room for legislative error on any front…

Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules, and questioned Mr. Trump’s understanding of the presidency in a public speech. Mr. McConnell has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.

In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly…

Others in the party divide blame between Mr. Trump and Mr. McConnell. Al Hoffman, a former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee who has been supportive of Mr. McConnell, said Mr. McConnell was culpable because he has failed to deliver legislative victories. “Ultimately, it’s been Mitch’s responsibility, and I don’t think he’s done much,” Mr. Hoffman said…
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Excellent Read: “Get Off Kamala Harris’s Back”

There’s been some much-deserved pushback to Ryan Cooper’s “only white men like me can be allowed to serve as True Progressives” manifesto — I particularly liked Wonkette‘s “Sure Guys, It Is Awesome That We Are Shitting On Kamala Harris” — but Brittney Cooper’s essay for Cosmopolitan definitely deserves wider distribution among us political types:

The future of the Democratic Party does not rest on the back of Kamala Harris, the junior senator from California. Furthermore, it is unfair for the Democratic Party to keep hanging its hope on black messianic figures, whom it hopes can bring new relevance to a struggling party. To be clear, there is a lot to like about Harris, the first black woman to hold a Senate position since Carol Moseley-Braun in the 1990s. Despite Ryan Cooper’s screed last week about “why leftists don’t trust Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Deval Patrick,” Harris’s policy positions on free college, single payer health care, an increased minimum wage, and criminal justice reform, are solidly to the left. Still. Black women are not Jesus. It’s not right to expect us to fix what white Americans are so committed to breaking. This debate, then, isn’t about Harris, but about the emotional and political labor that black women are expected to do to save America’s soul…

The biggest lie that members of the so-called “Sanders Left” told during the 2016 elections is that there was no appreciable difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. After six months of having Donald J. Trump lead the country, it’s quite clear that the left should have listened to 94 percent of black women voters. We know a disaster when we see one.

Now, to add insult to injury, those on the left are conceding the political narrative of the right. What do I mean? Did Hillary Clinton lose the election with 3 million more popular votes, or did the Trump campaign collude with the Russians while the GOP engaged in massive voter suppression to steal the election? Yes, I get the electoral college system. However, 3 million more popular votes is a win, and not only is there mounting evidence of collusion, but voter suppression was a significant problem, too. As a black “xennial” voter, I was horrified watching the GOP roll back the protection of the Voting Rights Act in locales across the country. So while it is true that if less than 53 percent of white women had voted for Donald Trump, Clinton’s popular victory might have been more resounding, there is something deeply wrong with a Left that thinks the first problem in a stolen democratic election is not theft and voter suppression but a failure to run up the vote totals on the clearly winning side…

In 2016, we were offered two kinds of revolution, one in which the “Sanders Left” tore shit down and one in which the Trump Right tore shit up. Surely you can see why black women, the ones who have been called to take the scraps handed to us by the nation and painstakingly build communities, families, and institutions, would turn down the sledgehammer no matter which white hand was holding it. Revolutionary destruction is still destruction, and black folks are the casualties of these kinds of political visions. Kamala Harris has work to do. But bearing the cross of the Democratic Party and fighting off angry white Sanders voters isn’t her work. So get off her back, and let her soar. In case you missed the memo: Black women are reclaiming our time.

Open Thread: You Come At the Queen…

Cue the Somewhat Soiled Lady, a day late and a hot-take short — “Nancy Pelosi Tells Democratic Critics, ‘I Think I’m Worth the Trouble’”:

The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, strolled before the cameras on Thursday with defeat at her back once more, projecting a well-worn swagger — brash, defiant, more than a little off key — as she insisted that her moment had not passed…

With six words, Ms. Pelosi, 77, demonstrated the self-assurance that has powered her as one of the most successful congressional leaders in the modern era. Yet even as Democrats enjoy a surge of grass-roots energy that could resurrect their House majority, some members of Ms. Pelosi’s own party are impatient for her to give up her 15-year grip on power.

She is the Democrat most crucial to determining whether her party can take back the House and torpedo President Trump’s agenda — an avatar of the kind of coastal excess that Republicans abhor and that some progressives have come to view suspiciously in an age of ascendant populism.

“Everybody wants leaders,” she said in an interview in her office at the Capitol, during which she was often as dismissive of critics in her own party as she was of the Republican opposition. “Not a lot of people want to be led.”
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