He’ll Just Have to Remain Elf-Employed

It ain’t Christmas, but this is a nice little gift to the nation:

On Wednesday evening, George T. Conway III — leading litigator, longtime partner at Wachtell Lipton, and husband of Kellyanne Conway, senior adviser to President Donald Trump — sent a letter to the White House withdrawing from consideration to lead the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. Conway, also a finalist for the post of U.S. Solicitor General, emerged as the presumptive pick for assistant attorney general of the Civil Division back in March.

Conway shared news of his withdrawal with friends and colleagues earlier this week.

He’s allegedly not taking the job to spend more time with his family, which is always bullshit, and especially the case considering he is married to Kellyanne Conway (apparently because Laura Ingraham wouldn’t marry him).

At any rate, Conway is one of the miserable fucking impeachment elves who basically played a major role in sending this country down the shitter. Read the whole thing, as they say.

This is a good thing.








The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

While we focus on the various obvious bathetic catastrophes (from blowing secrets to the Russians to the big man’s collapsing in a heap after a mere one day on the road) committed by the shitgibbon and his band of merry (but never gay — oh no! not that) men, it’s important to keep at least some attention on the rolling, very real damage the Trump administration wreaks on a daily basis.

I’m so far behind on a book project that I can’t really keep up, and I certainly can’t blog with anything remotely resembling depth and insight, so I’m going to try instead to throw up quick posts as various bits of policy news cross my magpie’s field of vision.

This morning’s treat comes via a Saturday story in FTFNYT.*  Under Scott Pruitt, it seems, the EPA has become the Captain Renault of environmental regulators: everything has its price, and the Captain is always eager to make a deal:

Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen.

But something changed in February just five days after Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to Devon, was sworn in as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Devon, in a letter dated Feb. 22 and obtained by The New York Times, said it was “re-evaluating its settlement posture.” It no longer intended to move ahead with the extensive emissions-control system, second-guessing the E.P.A.’s estimates on the size of the violation, and it was now willing to pay closer to $25,000 to end the three-year-old federal investigation.

The administration’s response?

The E.P.A. has not yet made a public response to Devon’s new posture, and Mr. Pruitt declined to comment for this article.

Want to bet on how it will turn out?

In just the last three months, with Mr. Pruitt in charge, the E.P.A. postponed a long-planned rule requiring companies like Devon to retrofit drilling equipment to prevent leaks of methane gas — a major contributor to climate change — and to collect more data on how much of the gas is spewing into the air.

The Interior Department, meanwhile, announced this month that it would reconsider a separate rule limiting the burning of unwanted methane gas from wells drilled on federal and Indian lands, a process called flaring. That announcement came the same day the Senate narrowly rejected industry calls to repeal the same rule.

Interior officials have also announced their intention to repeal or revise a contentious rule requiring companies like Devon to take extra steps to prevent groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, a drilling technique in which chemicals and water are forced into rock formations.

You get the idea. Pruitt has a history of working with Devon Energy; the administration has both a pro-extractive industry bias and powerful faction and the always reliable motive of f**king with anything that Obama accomplished.  Some of what the shitgibbon’s people aim to do can, no doubt, be delayed, obstructed, tied up.  Much, perhaps most will go through, at least over the next year or so, up until the pressures of the next election begin to bite.

So:  constant vigilance and trust no Republican. They’ll load up anything they can on anything they can, transferring public goods (clean air, clean water, anything not nailed down) to private hands.

Over to y’all.

*Publication of such stories  is why I continue to subscribe. Their political desk is…dodgy…but they still field more fine reporters than just about anywhere else I can think of. YM, as always, MV.

Image: Elihu Vedder, Corrupt Legislation, mural in the Library of Congress, 1896.



Your 2018 Voting Guide

When you go to the polls in the fall of 2018, if your incumbent is a Republican congressmen, here is what you now know what they do and don’t care about:

1.) They don’t actually care about reading a bill:

Hours before a scheduled vote on a Republican bill that would repeal and replace major parts of Obamacare, a GOP congressman suggested that neither he — nor anyone else — has actually read the entire bill.

But Rep. Thomas Garrett of Virginia said his “staff” had read all of the parts of the bill — which he plans to vote for.

“Oh, gosh,” Garrett said on MSNBC on Thursday morning when asked if he has read the entire text of the GOP’s American Health Care Act.

“Let’s put it this way: People in my office have read all parts of the bill.”

“I don’t think any individual has read the whole bill,” Garrett said. “That’s why we have staff.”

That “read the bill” bullshit is for when there is a blah President and a Democratic majority.

2.) They don’t care about what is actually IN the bill or what it will do. Quite simply, they don’t know what is in the bill they just voted for:

In March 2010, in the hours before the final vote to pass Obamacare, John Boehner, then the top Republican in the House, gave a fiery speech denouncing not only the soon-to-be-law, but the process that had led to the vote.

“Look at how this bill was written,” he said. “Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals struck behind closed doors hidden from the people? Hell no you can’t.”

All of these questions could now be asked of the GOP’s bill to rewrite Obamacare. And the answer to every one of them would be the same as the one Boehner gave seven years ago: Hell no.

Republicans are preparing to vote on a health care bill today that is even less transparent and accountable than Obamacare, on a rushed vote that was negotiated almost entirely via backroom deals.

The House is expected to vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), sometime today. But Republicans, by their own accounts, have no idea what it will do.

The bill itself was only finalized last night, with the addition of an amendment by Fred Upton that would provide an additional $8 billion to fund state high risk pools.

THAT’S GLIBERTARIAN PARADISE REASON MAGAZINE POINTING THAT OUT.

3.) They don’t care about people with pre-existing conditions or the elderly.

4.) They don’t care about the opiod crisis.

5.) They sure as fuck do not care about the budget or the deficit, since the last version of the bill was a budget buster and this one doesn’t even have a CBO score.

On the other hand, they do care about their donors, and they do care about themselves. Their health care will remain gold plated.

You should plan to vote accordingly.








The Republican Health Care Plan: ER’s For The Poor

In their ongoing effort to make America sicker and to ensure that more Americans die before their time, Trump and his Republican party have decided to spend more money to cover fewer people less well in Florida:

The shift involves funding that the federal government provides to help hospitals defray the cost of caring for low-income people who are uninsured. Under a deal with the State of Florida, the federal government has tentatively agreed to provide additional money for the state’s “low-income pool,” in a reversal of the previous administration’s policy.

The Obama administration balked at providing more money to help hospitals cope with the costs of “uncompensated care” for people who could be covered by Medicaid. If Florida expanded Medicaid eligibility, the Obama administration said, fewer people would be uninsured, and hospitals would have less uncompensated care.

This is, of course, not a health care policy. It’s simply the latest accomplishment in the fundamental goal of Republican politics since 2009:  anything the Black guy did must be undone.

“Florida is just being paid by taxpayers not to expand Medicaid,” said Andrew M. Slavitt, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from March 2015 to January of this year. “The low-income pool is essentially a slush fund,” Mr. Slavitt said, “and it’s a really inefficient way to pay for medical care.”

But hey, maybe it could it work, right?

Come on! This is the Florida Republican establishment we’re talking here.  If it ain’t nailed down, it’s getting stolen:

Two House Democrats from Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kathy Castor, said that after receiving the commitment of federal funds, the Florida Legislature was now moving to adopt a budget that includes cuts in state Medicaid spending. “It’s outrageously irresponsible,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said.

Ms. Castor said that “it would be more efficient to expand Medicaid so people would have coverage, rather than running up huge bills at hospitals that need to seek reimbursement from the low-income pool.”

Ladles and Jellyspoons:  your modern Republican party.  It’s better to pay more money to achieve less than it is just to make government work with the tools it has.  There is no compromise with these folks.

Ni shagu nazad!

Image: Sebastian Vrancz, Soldiers plundering a farm during the Thirty Years’ War, 1620

ETA:  Sorry, David, for poaching on your patch!



Who Thinks Like This?

The director of the OMB, Mike Mulvaney, legitimately said this out loud and in public:

I wasn’t sure at first and thought I was hearing things while watching, but sure enough, he said it:

WHo thinks like this? And then who says this. Out loud. In public. As part of an actual planned argument?

Not to mention, how would you like to pitch that fucking study to your IRB? “Yeah, um, we’d like to do a study with schoolkids, and test whether a control group of students who are adequately fed has higher achievement than students below the poverty line who are malnourished. KTHXBAI.”

Jesus fucking christ.








Unlimber That Gas Mask

Amidst all the attention grabbing stuff — you know, just a president accusing his predecessor of high crimes — the Trump administration proceeds with impressive consistency with moves designed to make the world worse, Americans sicker/poorer, and their inner circle enriched.

Next week, it’ll be the air-we-breathe’s turn:

The Trump administration is expected to begin rolling back stringent federal regulations on vehicle pollution that contributes to global warming, according to people familiar with the matter, essentially marking a U-turn to efforts to force the American auto industry to produce more electric cars.

The announcement — which is expected as soon as Tuesday and will be made jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Scott Pruitt, and the transportation secretary, Elaine L. Chao — will immediately start to undo one of former President Barack Obama’s most significant environmental legacies.

During the same week, and possibly on the same day, Mr. Trump is expected to direct Mr. Pruitt to begin the more lengthy and legally complex process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan, Mr. Obama’s rules to cut planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants.

The regulatory rollback on vehicle pollution will relax restrictions on tailpipe emissions of carbon dioxide and will not require action by Congress. It will also have a major effect on the United States auto industry.

I don’t want to go all-apocalyptic on this news, in part because I want to sleep more than four hours tonight, and more because there are some secular processes underway that reduce the impact of Trump’s and Republican willingness to destroy the climate and give Americans respiratory diseases — think the long-term losing market battle coal is waging against everything else, and the advances in transportation tech that will help mitigate the license to ill being granted the domestic auto industry. (I’d note that those car companies based in countries that do impose efficiency rules will now get an advantage over the big three that could very likely hit the domestic industry hard in a decade or less…rather like the way Japanese car companies were poised to take advantage of the oil shocks of the 70s, to great wailing and gnashing of teeth in Detroit.)

But even with that rather meagre reed of hope, there’s no way to spin this as anything but craptastic news for both the global and every local environment.

Every act this administration takes; every law this congress takes is the fruit of a poisoned tree: an election manipulated by foreigners, and undermined by domestic law enforcement.  There’s no room for negotiation here.  Step one: 2018.

Image: Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Gas masks for man and horse demonstrated by American soldierc. 1917-18



Janitorial Duties

A member of the European press asks why leaders in the EU should believe Pence’s conciliatory remarks over Trump’s inflammatory ones:

Shorter Pence: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis had to do clean-up duty while visiting Iraq today:

As a part of his global tour to clean up after President Trump, Defense Secretary James Mattis stopped in Baghdad Monday where he sought to reassure Iraqi’s feeling skittish about Trump’s continued insistence that the U.S. should have already taken Iraq’s oil and his suggestion that “we’ll have another chance.”

“We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” Mattis flatly told reporters. The secretary said his visit to Baghdad was to “get current on the situation there, the political situation, the enemy situation and the friendly situation.” But as with several of his recent stops in Europe, Mattis had to spend some of his time in the country smoothing over some of Trump’s more controversial remarks.

As noted in this space many times, everything Trump touches turns to shit, very much including the reputations of people who willingly associate with him, not that Dense Pence had much of a reputation to preserve. Interestingly, Pence seems to be defying gravity better than other Trump admin lackeys thus far, possibly because he started from such a low place — awaiting his firing by the state of Indiana — and because establishment Repubs have a vested interest in keeping Pence relatively unsullied in case Trump’s presidency implodes in scandal.

Speaking of scandal, Josh Marshall and others seem to believe this Felix Sater business is a BFD. I hope so, but it’s certainly looking like Congressional Republicans will countenance any malfeasance to secure tax cuts for billionaires and an opportunity to slash the social safety net.

Still, drip, drip, drip. The mop buckets are a’slosh, and we’re only a month in.