First, we kill all the facts…

The Congressional Budget Office has been an obstacle to Republicans bent on stripping access to healthcare from tens of millions of Americans. Every time Zombie Trumpcare rises from the grave and totters toward the finish line, the CBO score provides one of the stakes that brings the monster down, albeit temporarily. It would be so much easier to shovel money from working people to plutocrats if Republicans could substitute figures pulled out of a Koch Brother’s ass for CBO estimates. Via The Hill:

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, plans on offering an amendment to spending legislation this week that would cut the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s staff by 89 people.

The proposed cuts come after a series of CBO reports predicted that tens of millions of people would become uninsured under various Republican plans to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Monday that, instead of relying on the CBO’s expertise to assess how much congressional bills would cost, the office should aggregate estimates produced by various think tanks like the Brookings Institution and the Heritage Foundation.

The Republican president and his minions tell bald-faced lies at such an unprecedented clip that statements that would have triggered months-long scandals in a normal presidency pass with barely a ripple. The GOP has its own propaganda network in Fox News (and lesser imps and demons) to lie to the American people about the dangers we face and make rational discussion of political or cultural issues with its brainwashed viewers impossible. And now Republicans want to drown the federal agency that provides budget and economic information to lawmakers. Makes sense.



Chuck Schumer’s “Better Deal” Op-Ed

So, Chuck Schumer wrote a NYT op-ed that’s drawing a lot of fire: “A Better Deal for American Workers.” Here are a few excerpts:

Americans are clamoring for bold changes to our politics and our economy. They feel, rightfully, that both systems are rigged against them, and they made that clear in last year’s election. American families deserve a better deal so that this country works for everyone again, not just the elites and special interests. Today, Democrats will start presenting that better deal to the American people…

And for far too long, government has gone along, tilting the economic playing field in favor of the wealthy and powerful while putting new burdens on the backs of hard-working Americans.

Democrats have too often hesitated from taking on those misguided policies directly and unflinchingly — so much so that many Americans don’t know what we stand for. Not after today. Democrats will show the country that we’re the party on the side of working people — and that we stand for three simple things.

First, we’re going to increase people’s pay. Second, we’re going to reduce their everyday expenses. And third, we’re going to provide workers with the tools they need for the 21st-century economy.

Americans from every corner of this country know that the economy isn’t working for them the way that it should, and they wonder if it ever will again. One party says the answer is that special interests should continue to write the rules and that government ought to make things easier for an already-favored few.

Democrats will offer a better deal.

The reactions I’ve seen fall into two groups: Pissed off Democrats who say Schumer validates Trump talking points and unfairly maligns his own party and, implicitly, Hillary Clinton, by claiming that the Dems didn’t put forth a progressive platform in 2016. I think there’s some truth to that. But there’s also some truth to the notion that certain Democrats seem captured by special interests themselves; until recently, I would have put Schumer into that category.

Left of center Democrats and non-affiliateds are adding to the jeers, criticizing Schumer for proposing yet another business tax cut-funded jobs training band-aid instead of more directly addressing wealth inequality by calling for massive tax hikes on the rich. I think there’s some truth in that too.

I’m trying not to read too much into this op-ed. It’s not necessarily a harbinger of Democratic Party strategy going forward. But I will note that it fails to mention Trump, and only mentions Republicans once. I think that’s a mistake. What say you?



50% of income is a wonderful choice

I was laid off from a program evaluation job in September 2009. I had been working at a grant funded pediatric behavioral and mental health care coordination demonstration project. It was a service that was more expensive up front but usually saved Medicaid money in a few years and social services/criminal justice costs very quickly. We had good results that had been backed up by an external program evaluation.

Our funding when I was on this project was overwhelmingly federal grant pilot funding with a small local match. We needed to transition to regular program funding. That meant we needed a Medicaid waiver for the service that we offered. There was absolutely no discretionary local money in 2009 so we did not receive a waiver. The nerds were let go in order to stretch operational funding. We wanted the kids to be served for as long as possible until a smooth hand-off could be arranged.

Thankfully I lived in Pennsylvania so I had a decent unemployment check. I was eligible for about $1,600 a month. My wife was working part time at the time and earning $1,000 a month and my daughter was nine months old and being very silly and adorable. I received an offer to COBRA our health coverage. We had a $2,500 high deductible health plan for $1,275 a month premium as the risk pool at my former employer was sick as hell. Half of our income would have had to go to just the premium. We were lucky, as part of the stimulus, there was a program that paid for 65% of the COBRA premium. That meant our premium was “only” 16% of our income.

We tried to make that work and we did until January when we switched my daughter to CHIP for $25 a month. CHIP was the best insurance I have ever had. My wife and I got a cheap underwritten policy that offered $500,000 in benefits after a $7,500 deductible with severe coverage limitations. We were getting it to give us some protection if the other person got hit by a bus.

Half of our income for a policy with a deductible equal to our entire monthly income is not an actual choice for insurance. We were trying to stay current on the mortgage, keep diapers on our daughter, and not fall too far behind. And we mostly were able to manage. Once we were both working full time, it took us two years to dig out of the hole that my lay-off placed us in. And that was only because we got lucky. We got lucky that we stayed healthy. We got lucky that we both could find decent enough jobs with decent pay and better advancement opportunities. We got lucky in that we were going to be okay if nothing else happened and nothing else actually happened.

Your money or your life is not a choice.



I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’m still mystified

It blows me away that, as Dave points out, McConnell won’t even tell the GOP Senators what the fuck he wants them to vote for this week. This piece by former GOP Senator David Durenberger is very good. He details how little is known about the bill and concludes:

A vote in these circumstances will rightly provoke anger and distrust unlikely to abate. Take it from me: A no vote on the Motion to Proceed this week is the only one that will be defensible in the years to come.

I have had my arm twisted by the best of them — presidents and Senate leaders and party whips alike. I know how uncomfortable it can be. Usually, they were able to attempt a convincing argument about what is good about the bill for the country or my state. But I never would have voted for something so far reaching without knowing the answer to all the questions above.








Call your Senator

Right now the word is that the Senate is voting on something healthcare related tomorrow.

Does anyone know what the bill will be?

Is it the BCRA with a half dozen Byrd droppings?

Is it the BCRA with half a dozen Byrd droppings and the Cruz amendment?

Is it the AHCA?

Is it the 2015 show-me reconcilitaion bill that got vetoed by President Obama?

Is it complete repeal and delay ORRA?

No one knows.

That is not normal.

That is not healthy.

That is not safe.

But it is the reality that we are facing.

So call your Senator and tell them what you think about the wisdom of voting without knowing a goddamn thing about the subject.



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!

Read more



Monday Morning Open Thread: Nope, Can’t Nobody There Play This Game

(John Deering via GoComics.com).

As a lifelong Democrat who grew up reading Finley Peter Dunne, I always assumed the Republican Party was doing its best to destroy our shared community. But I was never cynical enough to guess the GOP itself would end in the hands of a failed real estate developer shoving around a gang of nitwits and nihilists in a pathetic gated-community imitation of a cargo cult, where they build intricate non-working models of ‘legislation’ in the hopes that the kleptocrats will rain money and power down upon their upraised mouths in benevolent response. SAD!

Per the Washington Post:

Six months after seizing complete control of the federal government, the Republican Party stands divided as ever — plunged into a messy war among its factions that has escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels.

Frustrated lawmakers are increasingly sounding off at a White House awash in turmoil and struggling to accomplish its legislative goals. President Trump is scolding Republican senators over health care and even threatening electoral retribution. Congressional leaders are losing the confidence of their rank and file. And some major GOP donors are considering using their wealth to try to force out recalcitrant incumbents…

Winning control of both chambers and the White House has done little to fill in the deep and politically damaging ideological fault lines that plagued the GOP during Barack Obama’s presidency and ripped the party apart during the 2016 presidential primary. Now, Republicans have even more to lose.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans are increasingly concerned that Trump has shown no signs of being able to calm the party. What Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) called the “daily drama” at the White House flared again last week when Trump shook up his communications staff and told the New York Times that he regretted picking Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general.

“This week was supposed to be ‘Made in America Week’ and we were talking about Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” Dent grumbled in a telephone interview Thursday, citing White House messaging campaigns that were overshadowed by the controversies…

It’d be a lot more fun watching them drill holes in the lifeboat, if only the rest of us weren’t sharing it with them.

***********

Apart from staying #EverResistant, what’s on the agenda for the start of a new week?



Late Night Off-Off-Off-Broadway Open Thread: “Trumpism: To Seize the Production of Meaning”

Less David Mamet, more Samuel Beckett

twitter egg noun
(1) The default profile picture on Twitter.
(2) A person who uses the default profile picture on their Twitter account. The poor souls are not taken seriously by other users, and their picture is an easy target in any argument. – Urban Dictionary

WORLD’S BIGGEST MOST FAMOUS CELEBRITY EGG –

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”



Open Thread

The cats have been sticking close since I came back from Yellowstone. Before I left, Zooey gave up some of his rapid-response scratching and biting. I don’t know why he chose this as a position for a nap. He fell off shortly after I took the picture.

Open thread for anything but politics!








How Republicans Can Bring The Country Together

The media and Republicans have been quick to analyze what Democrats are doing wrong and how they can correct it. One of the duties of the party that wins the election is to bring the country back together again. The Trump administration and the party that supports it are doing a terrible job of that: constantly referring back to the election, legislating against the public interest, and breaking norms and possibly the law. In the spirit of all that advice to Democrats, I offer some friendly advice to Republicans.

Our country is in danger. Donald Trump is unsuited to the presidency. He causes damaging crises that prevent us from dealing with real issues. He may be guilty of financial and other crimes. Investigations are in progress, but political actions to unify the country need not wait for the results of those investigations.

Since Trump was elected as a Republican, it is the Republicans who can be most effective in stopping the bleeding and perhaps turning the damage around. Democrats have a part to play, too. Members of Congress are the most important, along with elder statespeople like Mitt Romney.

Republicans need to reaffirm a number of points about our democracy. They can do this at town hall meetings, which might soften the public response to those meetings. The points I offer can be worked into other speeches and public statements. Different Republicans might emphasize different points at different times.

  1. As members of one country, we respect each other’s beliefs and lawful actions. Denigrating others because of who they are is unacceptable. We need to talk respectfully to people we disagree with. This is the only way we can make our country work for all of us.
  2. Nobody is above the law. This includes the President. Republicans should call upon the President to make his tax returns public and to explain his administration’s connections with Russian individuals and organizations.
  3. Republicans should also call upon the President to refrain from attacking individuals and organizations that are part of the law-enforcement apparatus. That includes the Attorney General and others in his office and the special investigation of Robert Mueller. Other attacks on individuals are inappropriate.
  4. We have important issues to face: a responsible budget for the country, renewing infrastructure, the opiod crisis, income inequality, and more. In foreign affairs, the North Korean development of nuclear-tipped missiles, wars in the Middle East, Russia’s attempts to divide the West, and China’s rising power. We cannot afford histrionics and division.
  5. Fox News and rightwing radio have done Americans no favors. They actively deceive their listeners.

Democrats need to resist “gotchas” against the Republicans and cheap points. They should present a vision of a better America. They can use talking points 1, 2, and 4. If both sides use those talking points, they may find ways to come together on other points.

These points are a start. Once civil dialog is resumed, we can begin to talk about specific policies to address the real problems that America faces.



Russiagate Open Thread: About That Russian Lawyer Lady

But according to Russian-born ace reporter Julia Ioffe, from inside the Kremlin kleptocracy, it’s not that simple:

[T]he actual story says something very different about Veselnitskaya and the work she did for the FSB from 2005 to 2013. “The documents show that the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, successfully represented the FSB’s interests in a legal wrangle over ownership of an upscale property in northwest Moscow between 2005 and 2013,” it says. The work, according to the story, concerned a real-estate dispute in which Veselnitskaya helped the FSB wrest ownership of a valuable building from a private company by alleging that the original sale was based on fraudulent documents.

This is a classic technique used in Russia to raid businesses and extort property owners, and it is a tactic at which both Veselnitskaya and the FSB excel. Veselnitskaya is currently going after IKEA in Russia, on behalf of a private client, using the same legal tactic—the land it sits on is extremely valuable—and the FSB has built an empire in the same way, making minigarchs out of rank-and-file FSB officers whose salaries don’t square with the posh lifestyles they lead.

Under Putin’s leadership, first as FSB head in the 1990s, and then as president of Russia, the FSB has become not just a seat of political and geopolitical power, but also a powerful economic empire. With the specter of state violence and the courts at their backs, officers of the FSB, as well as other security services agencies, have expropriated thousands of small and medium businesses, seized land, run protection rackets, embezzled state funds, and employed every trick under the sun to enrich themselves…

In other words, the Reuters story is not about espionage but about corruption. It fills in a portrait of Veselnitskaya as well as her connections to the organs of the Russian state, and the methods by which she operated. But it is yet another example of how American readers, frenzied by the drip-drip of Trump-Russia revelations, can take a bit of information, tear it out of its context, strip it of its real meaning, and run with it toward all kinds of political conclusions about the administration’s dealings with Russia. There is plenty of damning information out there, but this particular story isn’t damning quite in the way some people want it to be.

And yet it’s understandable that Donald Trump would be enchanted by the idea recreating such a kleptocracy here in America… and how the leaders of the GOP would be only too glad to assist him.



Hoochie Smoochy

I took a look at the entire Russia portion of Jake Tapper’s interview with Scaramucci today, and it’s even more alarming than the excepts I’d seen earlier. To his credit, Tapper gets to the heart of the matter. He notes that Trump is virtually the only U.S. government official who refuses to acknowledge that the Russians interfered in the U.S. election. He points out that congressional Republicans and loyalists appointed by Trump to lead the intelligence agencies all agree with the consensus view that Russia meddled in the election.

Tapper made it clear that Trump’s refusal to acknowledge this and take action poses a huge, ongoing danger since Russia will continue to interfere in our elections. Scaramucci’s response was somehow both lame and enraging. Check it out — the relevant portion starts around the five minute mark:

To summarize, Scaramucci says Trump views the focus on Russian interference as an attempt to delegitimize his glorious victory. He basically acknowledges that this is why Trump refuses to take Russian meddling seriously. That’s a pretty stunning admission.

Scaramucci assured Tapper that once he, Scaramucci, obtains security clearance, he’ll review the intelligence himself, and if it convinces him that Russia interfered, he’ll say so to Trump. Uh, okay. I’m not sure how that’s supposed to make a difference when Trump’s own IC appointees haven’t been able to convince Trump to get off his ass and do something to address this urgent issue.

But in the meantime, Scaramucci claims “there’s no harm in letting him [Trump] do it [his fucking job, which is to protect and defend the United States against a foreign foe] at his own time and pace,” and that “he’s not hurting anybody” by pouting and refusing to take action six months and counting into his presidency.

It’s just fucking surreal that this is the argument. Even if you buy the theory that Trump was the unwitting beneficiary of Russian interference (and I don’t, not for a fucking second), it’s amazing that his new spokes-rat would go on TV and so blithely downplay an unprecedented assault on our national sovereignty.

Last thought: It’s easy to see from that clip why Trump pulled Scaramucci into the White House. He (Scaramucci) turns virtually any remark into an opportunity to kiss Trump’s ass. If there were an Obsequious Olympics, he’d have more gold medals than Michael Phelps.



That time President Obama politely pantsed Scaramucci at a town hall…

In 2010, then-hedge fund manager and future Trump communications director Anthony Scaramucci asked President Obama a couple of a questions at a town hall. It’s a fascinating exchange. First Scaramucci tries to butter Obama up by pointing out common school ties. Then he gets down to the business of whining about the Obama administration beating Wall Street fat cats like a “piñata” and taxing the poor job creators into oblivion. Obama is having none of that bullshit:

Sorry about the crap quality video, but it’s worth watching to recall how a real president talks policy — and pantses an unctuous bullshit artist. Now the bullshit artist is purveying towering piles of shit in service of King Turd of Bullshit Mountain. Here’s how Scaramucci redefined “transparency” yesterday:

Christ on a pony.

Just moments ago, Scaramucci wrapped up an interview with Jake Tapper. It didn’t go particularly well:

Then this happened:

It’s not surprising that Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ boss would casually say something degrading like that on TV. The presence of Pussy Grabboor and crew in the White House is a daily degradation for every woman in the country, even the fucking idiots who voted for him.

Anyhoo, open thread!

[H/T: @tizzywoman on Twitter for the Obama clip]



Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Fighting Back

From commentor LaPassionara:

The Sunday morning garden posts have been a welcomed diversion from the horrible news and unrelenting heat here in the St. Louis area, 108 today, per our thermostat. I am sending these in case you don’t get others. I always prefer to look at gardens other than my own.

Someone last Sunday remarked that his/her yard was a jungle. Well, this shows my jungly shrubbery beds, which I am in the long slow process of reclaiming. The beds were supposed to be winter creeper euonymus, but there is also honeysuckle (both vine and shrub), wild grape vine, blackberry, some poison ivy, nutsedge, violet, crab grass, Johnson grass, and morning glory vining weed, just to name the ones I know. Each requires a method of control, mainly digging a shovel-full at a time.

If the weeds involved have no woody stems, I have been known to simply lay down opened corrugated cardboard boxes on top, weigh the edges down with bricks or stones, and add mulch. The first photo at the top of the post shows one bed treated this way, which became the happy home of some hydrangeas several months later. I did sprinkle a pre-emergent on top of the mulch, to keep away the expected crab grass, etc. and every few days I have to pull out the beginning of a morning glory weed vine, as there is no barrier I have found that will prevent them from popping up from time to time.

The third and fourth photos show the better parts of my yard, where the reclaimed beds get put to use. The half barrel planter was in the front yard. I was finally able to get it turned on its side and rolled into the backyard, where it is serving as the focal point of what I hope to be a nice little pot cemetery some day. I am hoping my oak leaf hydrangeas and Virginia Sweetspire survive this heat.

***********

It hasn’t, praise all the gods, been quite as hot here in New England… but it’s been so humid I’ve done an even worse upkeep job than usual on my poor garden. On the other hand, we’ve just harvested the first few ripe cherry tomatoes, and most of the plants have lovely green fruit swelling, so that’s something to Keep Hope Alive for me!
.

What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?








Late Night Farewell to Sean Open Thread (aka, ‘Piss Off A Pack of Journalists At Your Own Risk’)

Jeb Lund:

Maybe White House press secretary Sean Spicer cast his eyes toward the horizon and saw that the sky looked like it was going to rain indictments. Maybe the word “dignity” came up recently in his word of the day calendar. Either way, he’s gone…

Spicer’s planned demotion would be enough to make you feel pity for him — if you ignored everything else about Spicer and his job. After Spicer’s foully contemptuous and bullying introduction to the nation’s press, nothing was more appealing in some quarters than flirting with pity for the man whose boss undercut him repeatedly. That sort of light comedy is always entertaining for people — like the White House press corps — who would never truly be imperiled by what Spicer promoted and defended. Games are fun when you aren’t going to die…

The story he probably won’t tell his kids is this: Before taking the White House press secretary position, their dad was the Republican Party’s communications director for six years. His entire professional utility was and is his ability to tell lies to people, and his goal was telling more, better lies for progressively more important people until he could retire at 55 with a multimillion-dollar nest egg…

Their dad was vicious, lying scum, and the fact that his old boss and his new boss are worse doesn’t obviate his complicity in trying to destroy the very baseline idea of shared reality in service of a vain and cancerous meringue sowing fear and uncertainty among the citizenry, when his policies don’t merely immiserate or kill them. Their dad carried water for the worst president in American history, and now that the investigations are drawing further into the White House, Spicer can bail out and blame his new boss for wrecking the plane. Let it never be said that, when times got tough, their dad was just a liar: He was also a chickenshit…

In other words, it wasn’t Spicer (or Trump) trying to punish the press; it was about Spicer trying to avoid being punished by his babyman boss. SAD!


Read more