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No big surprises in the Lucky 13 Senate healthcare bill, apparently still trying to steer between "mean" and a semblance of legitimacy. It's a warmed-over version of the House's cat puke. Or is there some nicer lipstick you can think of for "this huge tax cut for people who don't need it 'funded' by taking away healthcare insurance for 20 million people who do need it" that I'm missing? The "Live Free and Die If You Can't Afford Healthcare" tranche including the likes of Rand Paul and Richard Viguerie's Conservative HQ are afraid that it might only be "cosmetic surgery." They exhort their readers to call the Capitol Switchboard (1-866-220-0044) and urge your Senators to make it meaner!
Remember, no more than two defectors can be allowed.
Anyone who helped themselves to the massive trove of Deep Root Analytics' work whoopsadaisy exposed on the 'net will need to update that item of mine, among the ten billion (give or take) data points characterizing the hive mind of the electorate.
If your glass is half-full, take heart that "there is no indication that the database had been tapped by any other unauthorized parties while it was unprotected." If your glass is half-infested with waterborne bacteria, ask yourself how the careless data stewards would even know about "indications" they'd been compromised? Let alone honestly report facts to a third-party or the L.A. Times?
DRA apologized "but also suggested the incident had been overblown." The data file “is our proprietary analysis to help inform local-television ad buying,” their statement said. And besides most of this stuff is “readily provided by state government offices.”
Are you feeling better yet? How about if the company tells you they've put security procedures in place to prevent future leaks?
It's not that I've gotten over privacy, I'm still doing what I can to protect my own, even as I divulge voluminous amounts of what passes through my brain on the blog here. (Hey, it'll be old enough to vote next year!)
However many dozens of "data points" they have for me, the GOP keeps sending me (apparently) serious requests to make a donation. Flush with their recent special election victories, the NRCC has reached out to me to point out that my status is merely PENDING, but they're willing to make me a card-carrying Charter Member of NRCC Gold Club, if I "pitch in $25 or more."
After hailing me as a "top conservative" and larding their message with miscolored link gewgawgery (who would even THINK of putting #ff0000 over #20eb88 for godsakes?), they suggest that for me to "remain in the conservative movement," I need to send money today. Yeah, I don't think so.
Well, maybe they're not angry, but we know they're men, and just what the hell are they doing in the secret rooms of the Capitol? Maybe we're about to find out. A little tweeter told me that Senator Corker (who's not among the elect) told Morning Joe that tomorrow, there's supposed to be an "all-GOP-Senator meeting" to discuss what's in the Senate Bill.
Not the whole Senate mind you, unless/until someone in the Republican caucus leaks it to them (and us).
The lead "news" on CBS is their polling, because I guess we're short of news today? Americans say U.S. political debate is increasingly uncivil. (It took a while, but two decades on, we're all Newt Gingrich now. Both parties in Congress draw negative ratings.) Trump's handling of Russia probes weighs on approval ratings. (That poll taken before one of the president's lawyers went on a talk show binge yesterday. HE'S NOT UNDER INVESTIGATION! THIS IS A WITCH HUNT!)
Word is, few feel they have good understanding of GOP health care plan. Not sure whether I would have joined the knowing quarter if they'd asked me. I mean, I feel like I understand well enough what it's about: mining the beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act to provide a whopping tax cut for the wealthy who can afford the best, and don't want to pay for other people to have healthcare.
Either that, or they pop the biggest surprise of all time and go for single-payer. Stay tuned!
Should Senate Republicans discuss their plans publicly? Even a majority of Republicans think so. Democrats think so 4 to 1, independents match the overall hatch at 3:1, the same ratio as "haven't heard enough yet" to "have a good understanding." Gov. Mike Pence thought so 7 years ago, and wanted to tell the world:
It's simply wrong for legislation that'll affect 100% of the American people to be negotiated behind closed doors - http://ow.ly/W9gq #hcr— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) January 13, 2010
The Kaiser Family Foundation's May tracking poll asked people whether they thought the quality of their healthcare would be better, about the same, or worse, "if the president and Congress pass the health care plan currently being discussed." And they asked about your ability to get and keep health insurance, and the cost of healthcare for you and your family. In each case, more than twice as many people thought "worse" more likely than "better." For the cost, almost 3 times as many people thought it would get worse than better (and just over a third "about the same").
4% of the truest believers said the plan passed by the House fulfilled ALL of the president's promises; 10% more said "most." 40% said "some." (Follow-up question: name three. Or, two. Or just one. Hmm?) More than a third who answered said "none" of the promises would be fulfilled. Not one. Bingo.
The devolution of Congress continues apace: Democrats "vowed on Monday to slow work in the Senate to a crawl," as best they can. The "reconciliation" ruse still leaves a few weapons for the minority, while we wait on pins and needles to see if more than two Republican Senators will jump ship.
On the Senate floor on Monday, [Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer asked the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, if senators would have more than 10 hours to review the Senate bill before voting on it. Mr. McConnell said only that there would be “ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.”
But that's just run of the mill conniving we've come to expect from Mitch "Party before Country" McConnell.
A couple days late, but whatever, my conservative-leaning email connections brought me an offer for "the historic Gadsen Flag," but lacking the verisimilitude of an asterisk and fine print footnote. From The Heritage Foundation, ostensibly sent by Ed Feulner, a.k.a. Edwin John Feulner, Jr., the tank's founder, former president, and whoops he's president again, after former Sen. Jim DeMint was ousted just last month. What a résumé DeMint built: served one and third of two Senate terms he was elected to, and purged from Heritage after trying to make it an adjunct of the current administration.
But Fuelner. Says there in Wikipedia that Feulner is responsible for a change of direction for the foundation, turning it into a "booming enterprise of conservative ideals, eventually creating the think tank the New York Times calls 'the Parthenon of the conservative metropolis,'" oh my. (The foundation loved that pull quote, and they have it in their own effusion for their founder.) Checking the history of the wiki's editing history, I see vandalism has been a problem, apparently resolved by settling it into hagiography. That man you may not have ever heard of "is a leader," it declares under Awards and Distinctions. Karl Rove ranked him #6 in Washington. And in 2010, "Feulner was mentioned in Downhill magazine's list of "the 100 Americans the Left hates the most."
Who knew there was a "Downhill magazine"? Or Ed Feulner? But anyway. Among the short selection of Quotes from him, when asked to identify Heritage's most important achievement, "I think we've made conservative ideas mainstream and equally credible."
Once upon a time, and no doubt fostered by one of the relatively few color plates in the 1956 World Book Encyclopedia, I was big on flags, and so the teaser for a "free" flag piqued my curiosity well enough. Is this a real flag they're offering, full-size, cloth? Made in... well, maybe best not to look to closely at the gift horse's dental records. Also, if I really wanted a flag that bad, I'm sure I could just buy one, for less than a $50 donation to a booming enterprise of conservative ideals.
What do you know, if you go in through the front door, you can get "a" Gadsen flag (as opposed to "the historic" one) for only $35. You can also contemplate a sales pitch that celebrates "some of the smartest minds in Washington," using a vacuous echo of their self-endorsement, by none other than Rush Limbaugh.
Not far below that, a territorial claim: "Heritage is the largest single land owner on Capitol Hill, with offices just 1000 steps from the House and 500 steps from the Senate." (I would have guessed the American people own most of the Hill, naïf that I am.)
Back in the email pitch for my membership, under the subject Danger Ahead, these words from "Ed Feulner, President," addressed to his "Fellow Conservative":
"Your freedom is in grave danger. The Left is always ready to steal power from individual citizens and blindly hand it over to the government. And our situation is only getting more dire—as conservatives drain the Washington D.C. swamp of cronyism, big government bureaucracy, and unworkable, unaffordable policies—liberals are getting more desperate."
The fear-mongering is more or less standard issue, but given the recent shake-up, the outreach takes on a whiff of desperation. How can a think tank be still relevant when populism fueled by motivated ignorance rules the day?
From Janet Reitman's interview of Rachel Maddow for Rolling Stone:
What about the Republican Party fascinates you?
"I'm like a sociological student of the Republican Party – even absent Trump. There is a robust, well-funded, decades-old, superorganized, focused, competent conservative movement that exists outside the Republican Party that yanks the party's chain whenever they want to. The Republican Party is like an old burned-out husk of a Ford Pinto that blew up 'cause its gas tank was in the wrong place, but it's attached to a giant jet engine. The Democratic Party is like a Honda Civic. It putters through the world in a predictable way, and you like it or not depending on if you find small, unpowerful things cute. But the Republican Party has this incredible propulsion and no way to steer it."
Looks like all the folks along the Boise River on the edge of inundation can now exhale. The "final" forecast bump of 12,000 cfs inflow did not materialize, and the aggregate flow above the Lucky Peak Dam had sidled down to 8,000 as of yesterday, with the 10 day forecast steadily below 10k and flat. From yesterday afternoon's update of the NWS Flood Warning that's been up for months:
"Releases from Lucky Peak have been lowered by 1000 cfs over the course of today, Wednesday June 14, 2017, which will bring flows [at the Glenwood Bridge] down to 7250 cfs this evening. The Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation are scheduled to decrease flow again tomorrow by 500 cfs at 8 AM MST. This will bring flows below minor flood stage Thursday morning."
Little gaps are showing in the teacup rendition of the upper reservoirs, and the fill curve for Lucky Peak turned tail and headed south from the "average for date" trend four days ago. To meet the irrigation and recreation goals, the discharge out of the last dam is going to have to be turned down a good bit further. Still, "tubing season" on the river through town, flows of one or two thousand cfs, is a ways off.
There were a good number of urban explorers in Veterans State Park yesterday, willing to climb over, around and through fencing to get to the water, some with a jolly après swim glow about them. (They went in the lake there, not the river, I'm sure.)
So, our banner, 150%-of-normal snowpack has been managed with about the least amount of damage possible. That's not to say "no damage," and it's going to be a little while before the low spots (and some spots brought low) are patched up. But well done, it would seem.
Maybe when more Republicans are shot, something will change? Or if the shootings get close enough to Washington D.C.? It can't be "too soon" to ask the questions because the mass shootings are happening nearly every day. Not exaggerating. Here on day #165, there have been 154 mass shootings in the US this year. The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track, using "four or more people shot" (not counting the shooter) as their benchmark.
"The shooting at the congressional baseball practice is in fact the sixth such incident this week. On Tuesday, eight people were shot in two incidents in Baltimore. On Sunday, nine people were shot during an incident in Chicago, four were shot at a lounge in Tennessee, and four teenagers were shot at an apartment complex in Houston."
If thoughts and prayers can fix anything, we should be all set.
In today's incident, the shooter was put down (good guys with guns!), and we found out that he was a 66 y.o. white guy. So...
As a white man, I just want to say this shooter does not speak for m---— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) June 14, 2017
Oh, WE don't have to do that?
Rep. Mo Brooks, who took care of Rep. Steve Scalise after he was shot this morning was put right on the spot, and asked if this changed "his views on the gun situation." He said that "what we just saw here is one of the bad side effects of someone not exercising those [Second Amendment] rights properly." As Joan McCarter notes, despite having "voted against even bipartisan legislation to expand background checks on gun buyers," he's a bit more curious now.
"With respect to this particular shooter, I'd really like to know more about him—whether he was an ex-felon, by way of example, who should not have had possession of a firearm—I'd like to know other things about his background before I pass judgment."
Meanwhile, between the start of the breaking news, and when the reports of the politics and violent past of the shooter started rolling out (BTW, I used to be a prolific writer of letters to the editor, but having a blog seems to have cured me), there was breaking news from the other coast, another mass shooting without a political angle. Yet.
You know that beautiful old Robbie Burns poem even if you don't remember it all, or the title. The first two lines are the ones most quoted, but the punch is there in the (full) title, and the context.
Anyway, it springs to mind these days, all-purpose.
All blessings upon him, our Gaslighter in Chief. Was that all-hands Cabinet meeting the best moment of his life? Maybe. Combining fantasy superlatives with "things got weird," and a link to the full 11-minute video there if you can handle that. Sometimes a tweet is all you need. Maybe only 40 characters, with the right allusion.
THIS IS ACTUALLY THE START OF KING LEAR. https://t.co/LpUWP54xYo— Tracy Ur (@tracyurq) June 12, 2017
Then there was the appearance of right-hand elf J. Beauregard III before the Senate Intelligence committee, succinctly captured by Andy Borowitz, who I have to believe writes his own headlines: Man Ravaged by Amnesia Somehow Able to Hold Down Demanding Legal Job.
The not-so-funny take from the right by the CHQ staff was that the Attorney General "eloquently defended himself." Eloquence ain't what it used to be, huh. "Scurrilous" was the word of the day, and the staff picked up on that, for Sen. Martin Heinrich's (D-NM) accusation that Session was obstructing a congressional investigation.
If Sessions is correct about the "historic policies of the Department of Justice," which may or may not be written down, he couldn't say, and it's only the out-of-power partisans who get bent out of shape, this is all just a tempest in a teapot, hmm? Given that the Russian meddling in our most recent election has been stipulated by everyone with enough intelligence to have an informed opinion, the gobsmacking moments of Sessions' appearance was that, just like Seargent Schultz of Hogan's Heroes fame, he knows n.n.n.n.nothing! He never received—or asked for—any sort of briefing on the matter.
Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) asked if Sessions believed the Russians did in fact interfere.
“It appears so. The intelligence community seems to be united in that,” Sessions told King. “But I have to tell you, Sen. King, I know nothing but what I’ve read in the paper. I’ve never received any detailed briefing on how hacking occurred or how information was alleged to have influenced the campaign.”
Yes, that's right, the Attorney General of the United States knows nothing but what he's read in the paper. From Politico's transcript of yesterday's committee hearing:
KING: Between the election, there was a memorandum from the intelligence community on October 9th, that detailed what the Russians were doing after the election, before the inauguration. You never sought any information about this rather dramatic attack on our country?
KING: You never asked for a briefing or attended a briefing or ruled are the intelligence reports?
SESSIONS: You might have been very critical if I as an active part of the campaign was seeking intelligence related to something that might be relevant to the campaign. I'm not sure--
KING: I'm not talking about the campaign. I'm talking about what the Russians did. You received no briefing on the Russian active measures in connection with the 2016 election?
SESSIONS: No, I don't believe I ever did.
All two of Idaho's anyway, and shouldn't more of us be calling Republicans who are paid to serve us? It's one thing to set an impossibly low standard for hypocrisy by doing pretty much everything (and more!) that they railed against when the Affordable Care Act was passed, but at least the Democrats' legislation was trying to help someone who needed it.
The Republicans are certainly trying to help someone, mostly themselves, to a heaping helping of a tax cut, at the expense of the politically and economically powerless.
It would be a sight to behold, were it not all happening hidden from the public, in the dark recesses of the Capitol.
I tried to get through to the Health Legislative Assistants for Senators Risch (202 224-2752, Alex Curd) and Crapo (202 224-6142, Kellie McConnell) yesterday, but only left my message with the staffer who answered the phone. In my own words:
"I'm concerned about what's happening with healthcare legislation in the Senate right now. The process seems terrible—creating this in secret and overriding the regular rules of the Senate seems very wrong.
"What the House produced seems to be selling off what protections we have now for a big tax cut. Taking insurance away from tens of millions of people is racing in the wrong direction."
Thanks to Better Idaho for the email (and website) goad to action.
That was some freaky TV last summer when the Republican nominee declared himself to be the Savior. It's one thing to have a genuinely narcissitic imbecile float to the top of the fetid swamp, it's another to have a sizeable tranche of the population go along with the gag. The Art of the Con.
The next step for him alone fixing it might be the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller, if we can believe someone from the unbelievable category of "longtime friend" of Trump. CEO of Newsmax Media Christopher Ruddy, on last night's Newshour said Trump is "weighing that option," citing "what one of his lawyers said on television recently" rather than anything specific from his visit to the White House yesterday.
"I personally think it would be a very significant mistake," he added, "Even Though I don't think there's a justification, and Even Though, I mean here you have a situation where" before Judy Woodruff asked him to elaborate on what he didn't think there was a justification for.
He doesn't think there's a justification for a special counsel in this case. Never mind the Attorney General's perjury and recusal? The firing of the FBI Director to quash the Russia investigation?
Ruddy wanted to point out the "conflicts" that Mueller has. "He comes from a law firm that represents some members of the Trump family." And oh, he was under consideration to be FBI Director (which matters because...?!)
"That has not been published, but it's true. And I think it would be strange that he would have a confidential conversation and then a few days later become the prosecutor of the person he may be investigating."
Being "privy, maybe to some of his thoughts about that investigation or other matters" seems like a problem, does it? Never mind that we're all "privy" to the effluent stream of the president's tweets.
"Look my position is that Mueller is a man of integrity, but we all know in the history of these special investigations that they go far and wide and they go well beyond what the original jurisdiction was, he's bringing some of the top prosecutors that have worked in the Justice Department. This is not going to be rosy for the White House...
So far "there's been no evidence of wrongdoing," what? No allegation of any wrongdoing by the president or any member of his staff?
To call this a charitable interpretation is to beggar charity.
According to the NY Times, Ruddy's comments were a surprise and out of turn, and Ruddy didn't meet with the president, either. So... who did he meet with? Bannon?
Anyway, Ruddy didn't much impugn Mueller, but leave it to Newt of the Swamp to call Republicans "delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair." As compared to... what @calvinstowell pointed out, "But sweetie! You tweeted this last month!"
Robert Mueller is superb choice to be special counsel. His reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity. Media should now calm down— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) May 18, 2017
How quickly the worms turn.
"Conservative writers, radio hosts and cable personalities — emboldened by the president himself, who has called it a witch hunt — have repeatedly sought to discredit the inquiry, its investigators, the mainstream news accounts of it, and the lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are demanding more answers."
It's all been said before I suppose, even here on my blog, but Krugman's latest blog post sums it up eloquently: They Don’t Need No Information. Trading off healthcare for 20 million to cut taxes for people with 7-figure incomes is a thing all by itself, but "think about the process."
"The AHCA was deliberately rushed through before CBO could weigh in; the Senate GOP is working completely in secret, with no hearings, and anything it passes will surely also try to preempt the CBO.
"You might think that this in part reflects conservative analyses that reach a different conclusion. But there aren’t any such analyses. Remember, OMB works for Trump; it has offered nothing. Even the Heritage Foundation, which used to be the go-to source for conservative creative accounting, hasn’t produced some implausible account of how the magic of markets will make it all work.
"This is new. You might say that just as the GOP has decided to shrug off conventional concerns about ethics, it has also decided to shrug off conventional concerns about whether policies actually, you know, work."
It's an even more demented channeling of Ronald Reagan's avuncular monkey-wrenching than the first time around. Government is the problem, so less is more. Compare it to a bank-robber claiming that if only there were more money in circulation rather than collecting dust in a vault, we'd be better off.
Speaking of voodoo delusions, this just in: the Kansas legislature overrode Gov. Brownback's veto and raised taxes after the truly spectacular failure of a near-"perfect experiment in supply-side economics." Hard to see it as a "breakthrough moment" when Congress is barrelling down the wrong track with a madman behind the wheel, but maybe an itty bitty tipping point?
The text on a book jacket is often dubious, and rarely figures in my decision to read something. It might be interesting after the fact? One sentence, just after the jump to the back flap caught my eye just now: "Moving nimbly between ecological science, probing character studies, and masterful storytelling, Jordan Fisher Smith has woven an intricate moral thriller."
Truth in advertising. They didn't include anything about "meticulous, in-depth research" but that fits, too. Engineering Eden: The True Story of a Violent Death, a Trial, and the Fight over Controlling Nature is a hell of a read. The subtitle undersells it, too. The book includes a lot more than one violent death on the way to covering the trial and error of managing wildlife and wildlands in and around the most prominent of our national parks. With a lot of territory to ramble over, and a big cast of characters, I struggled to keep up with all of them at times.
But the connections to my own life and times kept me engaged. Our family's most epic summer vacation of 1965 (a road trip from Wisconsin, to Vancouver B.C., via Banff and Jasper on the way over and Yellowstone on the way back) featured ample bear sightings and photos. Harry Walker's one and only vacation from his parents' Alabama dairy farm that ended up on a book cover happened the year before I hitchhiked out west from Wisconsin for the first time. Bear danger was reasonably well impressed upon me when I visited Glacier N.P. for the first time in 1978, and my only other bear encounter was a short walk up a forest trail from one of the main campgrounds. (No animals were harmed; we went our separate ways peacefully.)
By then I'd been immersed in a natural sciences education at the University of Idaho, studied Models for Resource Decisions, Human and General Ecology, and Forest Land Resource Planning, read Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac, joined the Sierra Club, and was about to spend two weeks in the Selway-Bitterroot for a Wilderness Ecology class.
Fast forward a couple decades, and by the time we made it to Yosemite in 2001, there was absolutely no shortage of warnings that we were visiting bear country, and David Graber's impressively bearproof food storage had been in service for 20+ years, with salutary results.
From Kit Stolz' review in High Country News last month: "Jordan Fisher Smith brilliantly excavates an underlying debate that still plays out among wildlife managers: Should agencies manipulate wildlife and vegetation, choosing between species in wilderness — or should they do their best not to intervene, and let nature decide?" The author's answer from his Afterword:
"What Starker Leopold told David Graber and his colleagues at their last meeting before his death in 1983 is still true. Only fools are comfortable operating with less than complete knowledge in a contingent world, but we have to get used to it. Things will have to be done, and we must learn from our mistakes as we go. There should always be a certain reticence, a deep and worrisome doubt. It is when we do away with it that we are most in danger."
J. Mario Molina, former CEO of a health insurance company: You've Been Duped. Précis in the subtitle: "The Affordable Care Act isn't raising your premiums. Republicans are."
"When confronted with the dire projections about how their bill will make insurance unaffordable for their constituents, most of the representatives who voted for the bill often echo a line that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and Trump have used repeatedly: that the Affordable Care Act is in a so-called 'death spiral' that will inevitably 'explode,' so they need to pass a bill, no matter how terrible, before it does. That narrative is patently false. In fact, most of the instability driving up premiums in the marketplace can be directly traced to Republicans' efforts to undermine the health care law for their own political purposes."
That came out after the CBO score on the latest House bill was published, but before we had much of an idea what the Senate would do. This week, while Jim Comey's testimony and another wave of foreign policy blunders distracted us... we still had no idea. Democrats in the Senate had no idea. Maybe a hearing in the Finance Committee, what with trillions of dollars in healthcare spending at issue? "[Chairman Orrin] Hatch, after conferring with an aide, did not commit to a hearing but said Democrats were welcome to give ideas on the bill."
After all the whining about the way the Affordable Care Act was developed, and passed, the Republicans don't know how to do something other than a fully partisan process, or else they don't want to. Not that partisan hypocrisy has ever been an endangered species, but the infestation seems to be ever more extreme. Mitch McConnell's sulfurous manipulation of the legislative branch knows no bounds.
The illegitimate constraint of the budget reconciliation process for such fundamentally important legislation is bad enough. The Majority Leader's promise for "regular order" was as meaningless as he's shown his oath to uphold the Constitution to be. This week he implemented "Rule 14" to skip committee discussion and go full-on backroom, closed door deal, to be cooked up by the 13 apostles, no women need apply.
There's still time for a rightward shift from what some of the Senators are thinking will be too moderate. And this statement of the blindingly obvious from someone with an inside view:
"The outline leadership has presented isn’t Obamacare repeal, in fact it isn’t even reform. It’s a tax cut and a corporate bailout masquerading as health legislation," said a conservative Senate aide.
Oh, and when it's all said and done—if it's said and done—are we going to get beyond the structure of the ACA? It doesn't sound like it. Perhaps a tiny bit of awareness seeping in:
"[M]uch of the GOP, including the right flank, eventually came to the realization that scrapping the coverage gains of Obamacare with nothing to replace those safety nets would be a political disaster."
But with the political calculus focused solely on how to accommodate both the most conservative and the most moderate of the GOP caucus to limit defections to the point that Pence can break a tie (that's two by the way), there seems zero chance that we're going to improve the prospects for providing more affordable healthcare beyond having those words in the title of the bill.
"Friends of the president will reply that the Comey hearing did not produce a smoking gun. That’s true. But the floor is littered with cartridge casings, there’s a smell of gunpowder in the air, bullet holes in the wall, and a warm weapon on the table."
Idaho's junior Senator, Jim Risch gets his questions starting at 55:00 on the NPR video stream, and works a little oily line about "how much he hated the class of legal writing when I was in law school," and after reading Comey's opening statement—twice—he could see Comey was the curve-breaking sort.
Risch really liked the Intro to Suck-up and Brow-beating 101 coursework. Nevertheless, let the record show that Risch proclaimed that Comey's statement "is as good as it gets." And let's get straight to the point that it's "a fact that we can rely on" that "the president of the United States was not under investigation."
Yeah, that's technically correct, for the moment. Just his Attorney General, his former National Security Advisor, a former campaign chairman, his son-in-law, the chairman of the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence from when he was on the transition team, that Carter Page fellow, Roger Stone, the odd lawyer here and there and a dozen or so others. That we've heard about.
But Risch has a line of questioning to pursue, and didn't ask about any of that. Wasn't there... a New York Times story that wasn't 100% accurate? You know, that fake news we hear so much about? Yeah, sure.
Mostly, Risch's purpose is to use Comey's careful, honest, scrupulous, written testimony to make that case that technically, the president did not, in that February 14 meeting, after he had everyone else leave the room, explicitly direct the FBI Director to drop the investigation. It was just the obvious wink and a plausibly deniable nudge. It wasn't an order, right? The president just said I hope.
RISCH: He did not order you to let it go?
COMEY: Again, those words are not an order.
RISCH: He said, I hope. Now, like me, you probably did hundreds of cases, maybe thousands of cases, charging people with criminal offenses and, of course, you have knowledge of the thousands of cases out there where people have been charged. Do you know of any case where a person has been charged for obstruction of justice or, for that matter, any other criminal offense, where they said or thought they hoped for an outcome?
COMEY: I don't know well enough to answer. The reason I keep saying his words is I took it as a direction.
COMEY: I mean, this is a president of the United States with me alone saying I hope this. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do. I didn't obey that, but that's the way I took it.
RISCH: You may have taken it as a direction but that's not what he said.
RISCH: He said, I hope.
COMEY: Those are his exact words, correct.
RISCH: You don't know of anyone ever being charged for hoping something, is that a fair statement?
COMEY: I don't as I sit here.
So just in case the Republicans lose the House in 2018, and the President is impeached for his high crimes and misdemeanors, including obstruction of Justice, Senator Risch can recycle this pettifogging exchange to introduce his "No" vote for conviction at the trial in the Senate.
NPR has the video of the committee hearing, untrimmed 2h 50 min. Comey's posing for the photog mob, stone-faced, at 11:00 in the video, reporters furiously alternating between phone thumbing and laptop tapping.
Gavel at 11:50.
They're having a closed session this afternoon. Chairman's intro addresses Comey as "Jim," as he says "this is your opportunity to set the record straight." "We must keep these questions above politics and partisanship," the Chairman says. The ranking member, Sen. Mark Warner gets his opening remarks to set the scene, assisted in large measure by Comey's opening statement at 17:25. And Comey's first utterance is... some time after Warner quotes the President's alleged "nut job" remark. Comey is nothing if not serious. Not even a hint of expression crosses his face for that. "This is not a witch hunt. This is not 'fake news.' It is an effort to protect our country from a new threat that quite honestly will not go away any time soon."
Comey's first words are his oath, "I do," at 26:07, and he's given the floor "for as long as you might need" at 26:35. He knew he served at the pleasure of the president, never mind the Congressionally-created "10 year term" he began in 2013. So, he was fired, and "immediately came home as a private citizen."
"But then the explanations, the shifting explanations confused me, and increasingly concerned me. ... [A]lthough he required no reason at all to fire an FBI Director, the administration then chose to defame me, and more importantly, the FBI by saying that the organization was in 'disarray.' That it was poorly led. That the workforce had lost confidence in its leader. Those were lies, plain and simple."
Politico has the transcript of today's public hearing posted.
With Comey's opening statement in hand, the staff of Conservative HQ had time to prepare what they imagine is a preemptive takedown of "the central figure in the investigation of alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians." Yeah, that's right, it's the "OVER-HYPED" James Comey. Psyche!
They think "one line" of Comey's 7-page statement is enough to damn him, the one about "the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch." Read this and see if it doesn't give you a little chill:
"The last time we checked, according to the Constitution there is only one head of the Executive Branch—the President of the United States—and every Executive Branch official and agency is inferior to him and controlled by him."
It had to be on the Sean Hannity Show, didn't it?
"I've never seen hatred like this. To me, they're not even people. It's so, so sad, I mean, morality is just gone."
Morality. I think we need a lecture delivered by a member of the clan, don't you?
"The lack of morals in society is awful," Eric Trump said. "I blame most of these politicians and I blame the media because it's out of control. And honestly, it's because the Democratic Party is sinking."
Heard on the radio this morning that the president had tweeted out his pick for new FBI director, but we're all more a-twitter about the previous director, who thoughtfully put out his statement for the record for his appearance before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence tomorrow, and the committee posted it for all of us to read in advance.
It's a remarkable document, with details of Comey's January 6 briefing with the president-elect, and his January 27 dinner at the White House, for which he "assumed there would be others," but "It turned out to be just the two of us..." He didn't mention what was on the menu, but this:
A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence...."
Who blinked first? Comey promised honesty. Trump tried to negotiate a deal for "honest loyalty." Comey:
As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further.
Ever so slightly possible. Then the counterterrorism briefing in the Oval Office on February 14, for which Trump tagged on a little private 1-on-1 to tell the director of the FBI, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Comey, with my emphasis:
"Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply."
The March 30 phone call, and then "the last time I spoke with President Trump," by phone on April 11. Trump repeated his desire to have Comey “get out” that the president wasn't personally under investigation. By Comey's report,
"He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel.
"He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended."
Four weeks later, Comey would learn that Trump's being "very loyal" included firing him, and letting him find out by having it broadcast on TV while Comey was talking to bureau employees in LA.
Update: There's so much happening these days, it's easy to be distracted from context. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence committee reminds us that timing is everything.
Jan 26-Yates warns WH re Flynn. Next day, Trump demands loyalty from Comey.— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) June 7, 2017
Feb 13-Flynn is fired. Next day, Trump asks Comey to drop case.
Is it legal for the president (whether in an official account, or his personal "real" account) to block other Twitter users? Maybe not. Maybe the Supreme Court will have to weigh in on the brave new world of social media.
True to his word, our Tweeter in Chief has affirmed his belief that he knows more than the Generals, including the one he put in charge of Defense and his National Security Advisor. McMaster and Mattis (and Petrogeneral Rex Tillerson) supported NATO's essential "Article 5" and thought it was in the speech. It wasn't until he "started talking at an opening ceremony for NATO’s new Brussels headquarters, that the president’s national security team realized their boss had made a decision with major consequences—without consulting or even informing them in advance of the change."
Did the president delete in a fit of pique? Or did his whispering Steves talk him into a rewrite? Or just slip it in his hand without him knowing about the change? Politico's chief international affairs columnist, Susan B. Glasser:
"All of which further confirms a level of White House dysfunction that veterans of both parties I’ve talked with in recent months say is beyond anything they can recall. "
In other news you might have missed, the U.S. agreed to take less than 3 cents on the dollar for the "money-laundering lawsuit tied to a $230 million Russian tax fraud" that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara had going before he was fired in March. But maybe we get lots more than what was traced to U.S. accounts and real estate? There are a lot of questions that won't be answered, with no trial to "shed light on an intricate web of shell companies and middlemen that were allegedly used to spirit dirty money out of Russia in violation of international financial regulations."
It was hardly suspicious when a 44-year-old whistle blower collapsed while jogging and then died. Or that a Russian lawyer fell from a window of his apartment in Moscow, coincidentally the day before he was scheduled to appear in court.
That's old news eh? Newer news is Vnesheconombank (VEB), wholly owned by the Russian state, and with the prime minister, by law, the chairman of its supervisory board. No doubt the president-elect's son-in-law had some good reason to meet with the bank's chief and talk about unpleasant sanctions, maybe on that secure Russian comm channel he wanted to set up.
It's more than 30m above sea level and well inland, as compared to Mar-a-Lago, on a low spit of West Palm Beach, or Foggy Bottom, ever at risk of returning to its swampy origins.
First word from Marc Johnson, posted to Facebook: "The decision to take the U.S. out of the international climate agreement is important on many levels not least because it signals a retreat of American leadership in the world—something Republicans regularly condemned during the previous administration. If you want to sort through the implications of the Trump Administration's action I recommend this piece written by a climate scientist." How bad could Trump’s Paris Agreement withdrawal be? A scientist’s perspective, from Robert Kopp, Professor, Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences, and Director, Coastal Climate Risk & Resilience Initiative, Rutgers University.
The optimistic case is that China and Europe will take over the leadership that the Trump administration is abdicating. And we have home-grown leadership as well: the Governor of California, for example, the state with a GDP that would stand alone as the 6th largest of the nations of the world (just ahead of France's, FWTW):
Judy Woodruff: "Your office put out a statement a short time ago saying, this is an insane course of action. Do you mean that?"
Gov. Jerry Brown: I certainly do mean that. If anything, it’s understated. ... He’s wrong on the science. He’s wrong on the facts.
(For balance, the Newshour offered the current class clown of the Senate, Mike Lee, who wanted to let us know that he has a book that came out this week. One Utah voter commented that she was "deeply embarrassed" at what was "little short of an adolescent temper tantrum. You came across as arrogant, petulant, and patronizing. ... [Y]ou look out of touch and pathetic. Calm down and put on your big boy pants. Utah voters deserve better representation.")
Top of the Tweet deck this morning, Megan Collins:
Could reporters stop asking if political leaders "believe" in climate change and start asking if they understand it instead— Megan Collins (@megan_styleGF) June 2, 2017
As luck would have it, I was out in the car yesterday, and NPR brought me the nut of the Rose Garden delivery before I parked to walk around in the rain and take pictures of poison hemlock and baby ducks. He did not mention "climate change."
A while later, I got back in to drive on, and what the? He was still talking, reading his script, ponderously, after there was nothing more to say, really.
There was certainly no scientific justification for his move. The one vague hint of citation was quickly repudiated by MIT officials.
Checking the WH record of the statement, we can parse the wandering minutiae and self-congratulation. ("It was a very, very successful trip, believe me. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you.") He likes "very," bigly. It was only a few paragraphs in that he jumped to the punchline (applause) and the part I heard. Don't you worry 'bout a thing. (As he assured the leaders of the free world by phone, also.)
"We'll be the cleanest. We're going to have the cleanest air. We're going to have the cleanest water. We will be environmentally friendly, but we're not going to put our businesses out of work and we're not going to lose our jobs. We're going to grow; we're going to grow rapidly. (Applause.)"
He went on. And the capper was the Environmental Protection Agency's chief mole, Scott Pruitt, toadying for the boss. Unflinching commitment. Your fortitude, your courage, and your steadfastness, champion! (He was nearly Pencian.)
But the early withdrawal's not the actual punchline, any more than the president's vaporous affirmations were. It's really about this:
"At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We want fair treatment for its citizens, and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won’t be. They won’t be."
They're not laughing at America, you pathetic little man. It's just you.
Update: The states of Washington, and New York are joining California in a United States Climate Alliance.
Update #2: Michael Bloomberg pledges to pay US share of Paris climate funding. $15 million that the UN's Climate Secretariat stands to lose from Washington is kind of just walking around money for a genuine billionaire, but it's more than Trump has given to charity in his whole life.
Update #3: Yes, I did hear that sentence with "non-binding" and "draconian" in it, and wondered at the lack of awareness of the man reading it. That item is at the top of David Robert's list of the 5 biggest deceptions.
I'd saved the slide deck from Jay Rosen's presentation in April and just got around to fishing it out of the pile, and after flipping through the 31 slides, I tracked down his presentation, on the NYU site. As he says in his introduction, he violates all the supposed "rules" of presentation visuals, and "just share with you the best sentences that I can write, and I hope to imprint them on your mind."
This teaser on his PressThink blog has all you need to know to find the motivation, the slides, and the archived video of Winter is Coming: The Trump Regime and the American Press. (Although, should you wish to share anything he imprints upon your mind, it seems you'll have to retype those sentences, or find an unsecured version of his slides; that's ok—the sentences aren't long, and they're worth retyping.) It was delivered 90 days into the new adminstration, but hasn't gone out of style.
The predicament: an economic crisis in the news business; a low trust environment for all institutions; trust in the news media in particular at historically low levels, especially (but not only) among Republicans. And this:
On the political right, there is an organized campaign to discredit the maintstream press—and it's working.
From the Tweeter-in-chief at the top, to the army of activists, trolls, and bots at the bottom, with Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Drudge, Breitbart in the middle. "It's having an effect." As shown in Gallup's long-term polling, asking the same question for 20 years:
That's a zero-based graph, mind you. The bottom line is approaching zero. The core of Trump support comes from the one-fifth to one-third of voters (in Rosen's estimate) that are "lost" to the national press; those with an "information sphere distinct from mainstream journalism."
And this powerful concept mentioned behind the slide stating that "reality seems to have become a weaker constraint in the politcal sphere of Western democracies," for which he says we don't know exactly why.
"Why is Putin-style propaganda, which aims not to convince you of a lie, but to make the search for truth exhausting and almost impossible, on the rise in the West?"
We hear a lot about the supply of fake news, but where is the demand coming from? The tech industry platforms that have inherited the power to inform "look with indifference" upon the function that journalism used to provide. Fake news works just fine for targeting ads to people, "based on their taste in propaganda."
And on the "Trump is different" and without precedent side the post-predicament whirlwind that the press hasn't caught up with, and may never catch up with, on the other side of the looking glass:
"Hate speech against journalists has become a routine by which Trump keeps faith with supporters and eludes accountability."
"The leader of the free world observes no distinction between true and false and cannot be successfully fact checked."
"The President does not care whether what he says is true or false."
It seems there is no more important issue than how to respond to the attack on evidence, science, and expertise. That's in the realm of "what the press has not done well."
With the sky a brooding gray, some rain in the forecast, poison hemlock hitting its 10 foot stride around the valley, the annual contest between irrigation water management and flood control at the top of a lot of people's attention, and yesterday's detailed post updated with the Corps of Engineer's midday course correction, I had occasion to revisit one of the oldest pages on this site to see that my essay, The River was dated exactly 19 years ago today. It was originally published on my "work" web server, behind a corporate firewall, but one of those g-jobs that was not quite work-for-hire and that I took with me when I cleared out the cube. No pictures, seems a shame now, but bandwidth was precious way back then, and we were still exposing film, making for an awkward path to sharing images.
1998's flood control challenge was a very wet May, on top of an average winter's snowpack, and reservoirs reported 101% (!), 100% and 98% full, but as the postscripts show, everything turned out fine. Maybe this year will too. But one thing you can count on: the irrigators will all get what's coming to them.
Tom von Alten