fortboise Home Blog Useful Sporting Sailing Friendly Site map Fine Print
-------
-------
-------

Cover image of 'Time Travel: a history'

Reading; shop Amazon from the book link (or the search widget below) and support this site.

Other fortboise logs
China 2003
Reading list
Patents

Blogroll
Siskind
Spolsky
Stapilus
Suitt
Tomorrow
Tyndall
Weinberger
Weiner
Weiss
Yurman
Zeldman
Zimowsky
Adams
Arnette
Banholzer
Barefoot
Barry
Barsanti
Benen
Bike
Blanchard
Blankenship
Blood
Brown
Caldwell
Ceglowski
Chambers
Chambers
Coates
Cole
Conglomerate
Dansky
Dey
Duffy
Englehardt
Fallows
Fink
Gates
George
Glass
Hidas
Huckleberries
Johnson
Kirby
Kleiman
Le Guin
Lennon
Lessig
Linh
Long
Lyke
Lyons
Mansfield
Marko
Marshall
Merholz
Miller
Monkey Cage
Morales
NCSE
Norstog
McGinnis
Miller
Monkey Cage
Morales
NCSE
Neiwert
O'Brien
Oil Drum
O'Reilly, et al.
Paterson
Paul
Pence-Brown
Peteykins
Pychyl Rainey
Rockower
Rodriquez
Rosen
Russell
Searls
Schneier
Scout
Shuck
 

World News from:
Everywhere:
newseum.org
Arabia:
arab net
Australia:
The Sydney Morning Herald
Axis:
Axis of Logic
Baltic
Baltic Times
Boise
Boise Guardian
Community Radio
Boise Weekly
Idaho Statesman
Britain:
The Telegraph
The Guardian
California:
Information Clearing House
China:
People's Daily
China Daily
Egypt:
Al-Ahram Weekly
Daily.com
Germany:
Der Spiegel
Hong Kong:
Asia Times online
India:
The Times of India,
The Hindustan Times
Israel:
The Jerusalem Post
Ha'aretz
Lebanon:
The Daily Star
New Zealand:
New Zealand Herald
Pakistan:
Dawn
Qatar:
Aljazeera
The Rocky Mountains:
HCN Goat
New West
PaleoMedia
Tunisia
Tunisia Live
Saudi Arabia:
Arab News
Sun Valley:
Idaho Mtn Express
Russia:
The Moscow Times

RSS feed for this blog

Google

Amazon.com logo

Or make my day
Amazon Wish List

28.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The art of the NY real estate deal Permalink to this item

WNYC News describes Paul Manfort's purchases as "puzzling." Homes bought with shell LLCs for all cash, deeds transfered into his own name for $0, then takes out hefty mortgages against them. Millions of dollars. Sometimes well more than they're worth. Huh. 7 minutes of audio, or a short, but action-packed article on their website.

"Nine current and former law enforcement and real estate experts told WNYC that Manafort’s deals merit scrutiny. Some said the purchases follow a pattern used by money launderers: buying properties with all cash through shell companies, then using the properties to obtain “clean” money through bank loans. In addition, given that Manafort is already under investigation for his foreign financial and political ties, his New York property transactions should also be reviewed, multiple experts said."

Manafort calls some of the allegations "innuendo." Definitely got that going. Any fire behind that smoke? We might find out from the FBI one of these days.

Gnats on the elephant’s behind Permalink to this item

To see how this looks in Bizarro World, check in at Conservative HQ for George Rasley's take on the righteous and the damnable. Last Monday's House Intelligence Committee hearing had "some useful exchanges between Republican members and FBI Director Comey on the seriousness of recent leaks," "overshadowed" (good choice of word) "by the Democrats who were much more aggressive in pushing their Trump-Russia conspiracy theories."

"Committee members were taken completely off guard by hyper-partisan behavior of their Democratic colleagues."

ICYMI, "the Democratic Party is so obsessed with destroying President Trump that their Democratic colleagues cannot be trusted to engage in good faith deliberations or hearings on anything that they can use to hurt Trump. Sadly, this includes national security..."

Celebrating Chairman House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes' handling of things, Rasley says he "proved that he now knows what he’s up against ... by the way he handled new information suggesting that the Obama administration did surveil the Trump campaign."

"Nunes was given intelligence, apparently under the table from U.S. intelligence officers, which indicates the names of Trump campaign aides were “demasked” in intelligence reports that had nothing to do with Russia or any alleged wrongdoing by the Trump campaign."

In other words, somebody leaked information to Nunes, but it's OK, because it's information about the deranged Democrats? Got it.

"Chairman Nunes quite sensibly shared this information with the President before briefing the Committee Democrats..."

Quite sensibly.

It was also before briefing the Committee Republicans, and, not least of all because Nunes was part of the transition team, and not above suspicion himself, a jaw-dropping abrogation of any commitment to "oversight." Nunes went rogue, in service to the man at the top of the group under investigation.

"The Democrats have long had a troubling relationship with the work of the government’s national security and intelligence agencies so it is worth reviewing some history and looking at who among the House Democrats are on HPSCI."

Yes, do please tell us about the committee that Idaho Democratic Senator Frank Church led, and why we have (some) limits on what intelligence agencies can do, and the FISA court. But no, just some ad hominem shots at the ranking member and Minority Leader. That's Rep. Adam Schiff,

"a long time hyper-partisan California politician (known as “Shifty” when he served in the California State Senate) who is a confidant of Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also of California."

Confidante.

Pelosi used to be the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee too, Rasley reminds us, and she tried to use exposure of the CIA’s top secret “enhanced interrogation techniques” during the George W. Bush administration. Also known as torture when we're not speaking in totalitarian euphemism.

It's the Democrats' "purported outrage at the phony allegations" versus the decent, God-fearing, patriotic Republicans working to unmask their deviousness, don't you know.

"Our friend Fred Fleitz, a former CIA officer and HPSCI staff member," "says this means there should be no more open hearings on issues like Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and we agree."

Just in time to not have Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, Sally Yates testify under oath, conveniently, and god no we don't want to see Jim Comey and Mike Rogers on TV again.

No update at CHQ home this morning, they've got other fish to fry. Sean Spicer Comments Show Priebus Is In Trouble. Selective Blindness Or Conspiracy Of Anti-Trump Judges? 100 Days of Trump: In the big picture, Democrats are mere gnats on the elephant’s behind.

Schiff is happy to talk to the press, at any rate. Here is on NPR this morning, about his call for Nunes to recuse himself (you know, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions had to) and you can judge for yourself how obsessed and shifty he sounds. And then read Domenico Montanaro's take on the 5 problems for Nunes and the president's administration, ending with "Double standard," and Nunes' response to the question of whether he's comprised his role as investigator.

"How is that compromised if I'm trying to be transparent with the press? The White House has been very critical of a lot of you, so here you have the White House actually trying to communicate ... and now suddenly that's wrong? There's nothing wrong with that. ... What we're trying to do is have a very good working relationship with the executive branch."

But oversight and good working relationship don't quite match up. With the House committee "descended into a sideshow," as the NYT put it yesterday, we'll have to depend on the FBI, the Senate Intelligence Committee or perhaps a special commission we can't quite imagine this adminstration or Congress agreeing to set up.

For its part, the elephant fired up his double-barreled Twitter machine last night, and declared the "Trump Russia story is a hoax."

We thinks thou doth protest too much.

Update: As breezily suggested above, now reported in the Washington Post:

"The Trump administration sought to block former acting attorney general Sally Yates from testifying to Congress in the House investigation of links between Russian officials and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign."

Unnamed spokesperson, issued statement, and eventually Sean Spicer denies, but we don't really believe unnamed White House spokespeople or Spicer any more. And unlike WaPo, they need take no particular pains to be truthful or accurate. Yates' lawyer wrote this:

"The Department of Justice has advised that it believes there are further constraints on the testimony Ms. Yates may provide at the [Intelligence Committee] hearing. Generally, we understand that the department takes the position that all information Ms. Yates received or actions she took in her capacity as Deputy Attorney General and acting Attorney General are client confidences that she may not disclose absent written consent of the department."

But the Attorney General is an officer of the United States of America, not the President's (nor President-elect's) lawyer. "Attorney-client confidentiality" will not fly. And the not-super-duper-secret communication from the Justice Department to Yates' lawyer is prima facie seeking to block Yates' testimony. Denials will be fake.

27.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Counter-intelligence Permalink to this item

With the Minority Leader of the House, and the ranking member of the committee he's chairing calling on Rep. Devin Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation of the Trump campaign's Russia ties, what does the Chairman have to say? And who is he talking to now? Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, of all people and places, with this:

"I'm sure that the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I am quite effective at getting to the bottom of things."

Nice try.

The plot is thickening and curdling into some strange shapes, swapped Ubers, clandestine meeting with a White House source, and Nunes briefing the president ahead of the rest of his committee (members of both parties)—who days later still don't know what Nunes has up his sleeve. He says he's kept the Speaker of the House up to date though, and supposedly Paul Ryan has “has full confidence that Chairman Nunes is conducting a thorough, fair and credible investigation.”

If only any of the rest of us could have any assurance. Ryan said he was all over that repeal and replace thing too, and see how wrong he was about that.

The man with silver bullets Permalink to this item

Ron Nate with two silver bullets

In his nearly-end-of-session legislative newsletter, right-wing man Rep. Ron Nate is stumping for H206, "still awaiting a hearing in the Senate Local Government and Taxation committee." The idea, as he puts it, is to "exempt capital gains on gold and silver holdings [sic] from income taxes," by which he means exempting the gains from the sale of said silver and gold. Anyway, he's effusive about the "fantastic business" of Money Metals Exchange in Eagle, Idaho, and pictures himself holding a "a large solid silver bullet piece (10 oz.) and a small solid silver bullet (1 oz.)," in front of what I assume are cages for customers' precious holdings.

The bill text would change the state's tax code for inviduals and corporations to allow them to add or subtract the amount of net capital gains or losses that meets the definition of "precious metals bullion" or "monetized bullion" from their taxable income. The statement of purpose:

"The framers of our nation established that gold and silver are money, but federal taxing authorities in recent decades have required taxpayers to report nominal capital 'gains' and 'losses' when exchanging this form of money for Federal Reserve Notes. Idaho already exempts precious metals sales from the sales tax. This bill will exempt the sale of precious metals bullion from being subject to capital gains."

Sorry for the bill's floor sponsor Majority Leader Mike Moyle, Ron Nate, and any other gold-bugs, but "in committee" means dead for the year; the committees are done meeting unless they really, really have to, and the Local Gov and Taxation committee hardly has to get back together for this.

Update: Eye on Boise is replete with stories about legislative committees today; I must have misunderstood the weekend news. Still, this isn't the kind of thing the legislature does at the last minute, I don't think.

Stop me if you've heard this one Permalink to this item

Jeanette works as a volunteer at the Boise Public Library! once a week, handling the considerable weight of donations it receives, and turning them into good things like tens of thousands of dollars to stock branch libraries and such. The library system's Friends "accept donations of materials which are in sellable condition. These materials may include books, records, DVDs, CDs, VHS tapes, software, and magazines. Some of these gifts are incorporated into the Library’s collection, while others are sold by the Friends to benefit the Library."

Some that donors may or may not have truly believed were in "sellable condition" are destined for the chop box, and recycled into their raw materials. A few of those unlucky items are intercepted before they succumb to that massive increase in entropy.

My photo of a salvaged book

One such item is James E. Neal Jr.'s 9th edition of Effective Phrases for Performance Appraisals, a surprisingly hefty handbook that enjoyed two printings as a first edition in 1978, and 54 more printings from 1981 to 2001. With new editions arriving on a 2 to 3 year cycle, we can only hope they kept a good journaled database to capture the historical evolution of management-speak in shaping subordinates to higher and better purposes. "Phrases are continuously added and revised to describe ever changing job responsibilities in today's workspace." Its contents are organized into six component chapters:

and culminate in VII. Guidelines for Successful Evalutions. Neal Publications, Inc. ("since 1978"), a member of the Indie Book Publishers Hall of Fame you never heard of, was also offering "Effective Letters for Business, Professional and Personal Use," "Effective Resume Writing" and "Your Slice of the Melon," a guide to greater job success.

Something this great couldn't go out of style, could it? Of course not. They have a website, they have boostrap, they have jQuery, they have hero images in a slider, they have a shiny trademark (APPRAISALPRO®), and they have commented out the "Where to Buy" links to Barnes and Noble, even though the URLs still work.

Sadly, Your Slice of the Melon has not stood the test of time, and it appears that after the 1989 2nd Edition, it fell by the wayside, and is no longer in the Books menu. (You might, however find a used copy, available used for $500 or $2,343. Or $10.95 and free shipping, or $6.97 and $4 shipping.)

Impact: High

Mr. Neal is up to the 13th edition of EPFPA, gold-lettered, cut-corner boxed "OVER 1.5 MILLION COPIES SOLD." This ancient 9th ed. before me is a mere waypoint in the evolution of managerial elocution. The Foreword explains that the phrases "are extremely positive and reflect superior performance," and thus provide a template for "areas in need of improvement," if you're not making the grade. Do you "demonstrate sound cost effectiveness," or not? Are you "aware of longer-term goals and larger framework of concepts," or are you somewhat more narrow-minded?

He does not say, but you could also use them for personal affirmation and/or exhortation. Effectively develop objectives! Set realistic goals! Set worthy goals! Establish specific and measureable goals! And so on.

Show empathy. Genuine respect. Be fair and firm. Handle problems professionally. Encourage constructive feedback. Know when to ignore. To confront. To reprimand. Be extremely versatile. Receptive to change.

Many two word phrases are built on competence, creativity, effectiveness, fresh, high, innovation, maximum, professional, strong. (None are built with incompetence, pedantry, stale, low, minimum, weak.) "User friendly" has appeared. "Team spirit" is a durable mainstay.

Adjectives from A(bsolute) to Z(estful), and the verbs! From "accelerates" and "accentuates" to "works" and "writes," all actions are encompassed.

What minimum molecule can qualify for copyright protection, one wonders. The implication of the book is that you will freely employ its wisdom, to good effect, in spite of the boilerplate admonition, that "No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photo-copying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher," a rather familiar phrase that has been ubitquitously reproduced, stored and transmitted in many forms and by many means.

We pause to consider the paradox.

There is a genre, after all, including the inevitable (and unfortunately titled) Performance Appraisals and Phrases For Dummies, for which GRACE wins the tepid meta-appraisal award with this "Okay" 1-star:

"The book was not as good as expected but there were some areas in the book that I thought were quite interesting"

With no period, we can appreciate the whiff of suspense. And the brightest 5-star, Mdnoname is "So glad I came across this helpful manual on Amazon":

"Having been a manager for so many years, you sometimes just run out of ways to tell long-time employees the same thing each year..."

26.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

We're all in this together Permalink to this item

The NYT front page was gentler on the debacular week than it might have been, but "Trump ensnared in Fiery GOP Civil War," "Paul Ryan emerges bruised" and "Health Defeat Leaves Backers in Political Jam" all above the fold. For his part, the big man tweeted that people should watch them some Faux News, "coincidentally" teeing up Jeanine Pirro Calls for Paul Ryan to Step Down After Health Bill Failure.

That's "Judge" as in Westchester County (NY) Court once upon a time, and a freelance Judy-wannabe for The CW, and now Fox News, "longtime friend" of the POTUS, and recipient of his campaign contributions for a variety of failed tries to get elected.

From Judge Jeanine's Opening Statement on Fox News

With her latest show, even if they haven't "discussed" anything, she's a presidential advisor on his most-watched network. The 7½ minute clip YouTubed into the NYT piece starts with a bite of VP Mike Pence blaming "100% of the House Democrats, every single one," oh and "a handful of Republicans actually standing in the way" (whoosh swipe) "we're back to the drawing board" and that thin-lipped, frustrated resting bitch face. Swoop on to her "visiting Washington" and getting a boy-on-the-street take of who to blame ("Obama," said the urchin, aww, so cute), the epic prefail campaign quote ("What the hell do you have to lose?") and the White House flag at half-staff.

Shouldn't that be, uh, upside down? Her "Opening Statement," delivered bombastically from her fake bench, "live" from D.C. (on Saturday night, no less):

“Paul Ryan needs to step down as speaker of the House. The reason? He failed to deliver the votes on his health care bill. The one trumpeted [ha ha ha] to repeal and replace Obamacare. The one he had seven years to work on. The one he hid, under lock and key in the basement of Congress. The one that had to be pulled to prevent the embarassment of not having enough votes to pass.”

Also, the one the president wanted to have voted on anyway so he could get started with that enemies list.

Let's not forget about how Ryan failed to deliver an actual health care bill. Somehow Trump is faultless in this, having "made repeal and replacement of Obamacare the hallmark of his campaign, and then? Used valuable political capital to accomplish it." (Goes well with the set-up B-roll of the Big Black Truck Photo-op on Thursday, right before he had to go make some calls.)

Mere italics cannot capture the chutzpah of Pirro's delivery. You have to watch her schtick for yourself. E.X.C.O.R.I.A.T.E.S the House's head wonk (in such well-deserved terms) even as she, incredibly, utterly exonerates the vapid con man who promised the moon and delivered a light bulb, which, how was he to know the thing was burned-out?

Is this plain enough? Not, it is not. She needs to spell it out further.

From Judge Jeanine's Opening Statement on Fox News

"Folks. I wanna be clear. This is NOT on President Trump. NO ONE expected a businessman to completely understand the nuances, the complicated ins and outs of Washington and its legislative process. How would HE know which individuals upon whom he would be able to rely?"

That's one egg-headed phrase construction, but she makes it work, oddly enough.

"The President, on the other hand, is handling this with dignity" got a pretty big laugh at our house. So much dignity. He has the best dignity.

"I never put my faith in you, Ryan. ... To me, your loyalty was always in question."

And then she slips in a "you RINOs" dig, what? This is hardly "in name only," this cuts to the core of the modern Republican Party: Legislative Failure. Not content with their OWN failure, they seek to make any and ALL legislation fail.

She did not do any of the heavy lifting herself, and propose who should take his place at the front of the circular firing squad. "Raúl Labrador would take the job," one of my Facebook friends suggested, humorously/not-humorously. Because nothing would solve the problem of the Freedom Caucus-induced idiocy like putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum.

There's this, anyhow, #Truth from our Tweeter-in-chief, never mind he's saying it like it was a bad thing:

Democrats are smiling in D.C. that the Freedom Caucus, with the help of Club For Growth and Heritage, have saved Planned Parenthood & Ocare!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 26, 2017

With healthcare thus dispatched for the time being, we're now ready to move on to "tax reform" (i.e. a tax cut for the people who need it the least, without any stupid health care baggage this time), and shifting back to the long game of Republican sabotage. Our story to date:

If the Republicans make good on what sounds like a promise to have the ACA "explode", give Rubio credit where due for architecting failure. (If, on the other hand, it implodes, maybe credit Andy Puzder and his WSJ piece last November, before his personal implosion as nominee for Secretary of Labor. Can't say for sure, as his opinion is still paywalled away from the man on the street. Sad!)

After some sort of plosion, then... they'll fix it? The present episode does not instill confidence. Now that it is their turn to govern, and holding the House, Senate and Executive, utter incompetence and incapacity. A three-stage plan, so memorably Powerpointed by the nation's leading wonk (and 2nd in line for the presidency, keep in mind):

We have no idea how it could happen in the current dysfunctional political milieu, but if we were to set about actual, legitimate work toward refashioning our healthcare system to affordability, and away from cruelty, we need something to aim at. We will need smarter "outsiders" than what we have now. Here's one: Finnish journalist (and now naturalized US citizen) Anu Partanen, writing before this week's meltdown: The Fake Freedom of American Health Care.

"[T]his Republican notion is an awfully peculiar kind of freedom. It requires most Americans to spend not just money, but also time and energy agonizing over the bewildering logistics of coverage and treatment—confusing plans, exorbitant premiums and deductibles, exclusive networks, mysterious tests, outrageous drug prices. And more often than not, individual choices are severely restricted by decisions made by employers, insurers, doctors, pharmaceutical companies and other private players. Those interest groups, not the consumer, decide which plans are available, what those plans cover, which doctors patients can see and how much it will cost.

"And I haven’t even mentioned the millions of Americans who don’t earn enough to pay for insurance or a lifesaving treatment. If you can’t afford it, not buying it is hardly a choice.

"Eight years ago I moved to the United States from Finland, which like all the Nordic nations is a wealthy capitalist economy, despite the stereotypes you may have heard. And like all those countries, Finland has invested in a universal, taxpayer-funded and publicly managed health care system. Finns constantly debate the shortcomings of their system and are working to improve it, but in Finland I never worried about where my medical care came from or whether I could afford it...."

24.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The buck stops over there Permalink to this item

So, #45 cold-called WaPo reporter Robert Costa to complain about how the Democrats sunk his healthcare initiative. Seriously. It's Chuck Shumer's and Nancy Pelosi's fault.

"There's something preposterous and desperate about that spin," Michael Crowley said on Washington Week.

Also, pathetic.

They were the party of "No" while Obama was in office. Now they're the party of "WTF." Crowley also thought it was "delicious" irony in this "being the kind of monster that Bannon created" when he was running the fake news at Breitbart, "whipping up conservative members of the House against their leadership," and deposing John Boehner.

The upside for the president is that maybe if Obamacare "explodes—that was the word he kept using," he could come back in a year or two and then Congress would be ready to work a bipartisan deal.

Yes, bipartisan. What happened to that fellow who boldly pronounced "I alone can fix this" on his way to getting elected by a minority of the popular vote?

It's a mystery, but he did at least take the initiative to call the New York Times as well, with the same ludicrous spin that this is all the Democrats' fault.

Ok, one more Permalink to this item

TrumpCare was written in secret on the back of a napkin.

Obamacare had:

79 public meetings.
181 experts testify.
121 accepted amendments.

— Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) March 24, 2017

I guess it's never then Permalink to this item

Big, big challenge for the folks who thought the GOP go at healthcare would be a disaster to stay quiet and just let the proponents of DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING, IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW POORLY COCKED UP stew in their juices. Spicey, Pricey, and Trumpence have a sad.

Long faces in the Oval

Especially for a bill that would have been DOA in the Senate (like so many others out of the Freedom Caucus-deranged House in recent years), and at its best would have been worse for the majority of the country and a huge, unnecessary tax cut for the wealthy, and permanent damage to Medicaid, at least, it's hard not to gloat just a little.

If you don't want to see that ugly scene, stay away from Twitter.

Ok, maybe just this one:

Turns out, Obama was right

We DO get to keep the health care plan we liked.

— Stonekettle (@Stonekettle) March 24, 2017

Now or never, really? Permalink to this item

Mr. Artless Deal is not getting much done for the country, even as his family businesses continue to profit, and he enjoys taxpayer-supported golf outings and what-not. BBC et al. reporting he's issued an ultimatum, demanding "a make-or-break vote" in the House today. That's the Freedom Caucus' stock in trade, isn't it? I think their motto is "breaking stuff for years." When you need a NO, come see us.

Ms. Minority Leader was having a bit too much fun poking at the "rookie mistake," and here comes the boss saying the choices are the present pile of garbage (who knew it was so complicated?) or being stuck with Obamacare for good.

As if that were a... but OMG after all these years of screaming like stuck elephants about the nightmarish catastrophe to be hoist on this petard now would be might hard to take.

There are photo ops, anyway. The one about the pure white patriarchy poised to put the kibosh on maternity services as "essential." Sen. Patty Murray retweeted the VPOTUS for good effect:

A rare look inside the GOP’s women’s health caucus. https://t.co/SgLmvSpeSM

— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) March 23, 2017

Appreciated joining @POTUS for meeting with the Freedom Caucus again today. This is it. #PassTheBill pic.twitter.com/XG6lQIy5a6

— Vice President Pence (@VP) March 23, 2017

While the big man was trying the driver's seat and tooting the horn in a big, black truck out front.

Find you someone who loves you as much as Trump loves sitting in that truck. pic.twitter.com/focagjLubZ

— Cameron Tabatabaie (@CTabatabaie) March 23, 2017

As for the current half-baked casserole, it's worth a reminder that the previous and current law was the conservative alternative to the everybody-in, single-payer plan that would really meet the promises of everybody in (duh), lower costs and better outcomes overall. Since we couldn't possibly go that far, we went as far as pumping up the insurance industry instead.

"The only reason you will lose your coverage is because it was passed by President Obama.

"The Affordable Care Act was created in the extreme conservative group called the Heritage Foundation (Jim DeMint now runs it). The notion that the Heritage Foundation would propose a “government takeover” of anything is absurd on its face.

"It was first introduced into Congress by very conservative Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and several other Republican senators in the 1990s.

"It was enacted first by Republican Governor, and 2012 Republican standard bearer, Mitt Romney (R-MA). He considered it the signature achievement of his term because it was a conservative program. Conservatives claim to favor testing policies in the “laboratories” of the states. Romney did."

Sen. Grassley, it should be noted, is still on the job, and a walking testimonial to what a good idea term limits would be.

"There is a simple reason Republicans have been unable to craft a workable alternative—they had one in the 1990s, and Democrats enacted it as the ACA (“Obamacare”)."

Update: David Brooks' take: This bill is pure swamp. Crafted pure tops-down, "written by elites to serve the needs of elites."

"First, the new Republican establishment leaders needed something they could call Obamacare repeal — anything that they could call Obamacare repeal."

You hardly need second (somebody needs a win) or third (the bill was crafted by people who were "insular and nearsighted.")

23.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Just the headlines (Russia edition) Permalink to this item

Just the headlines (Healthcare edition) Permalink to this item

Bad sausage Permalink to this item

The only thing worse than the bill as it was would be the bill after it's put back through the grinder a second time, to whip up enough votes to squeak it through the House.

Don't take my word for it, listen to Conservative HQ editor George Rasley, desperate enough to revive the ghost of Harry Reid in the spluttering derision of Obamacare 2.0 or Lite or Rinocare or #Ryancare and recite all the horrible compromises that went into the 1.0 version.

Rasley tiptoes around "TrumpCare," oddly enough; CHQ still hoping to get something out of the fake president? This would be the first time he became bashful about slapping his name on something, ever. Maybe because there's no licensing deal to pad his wallet. But others have been jumping on the obvious, and the domains trumpcare.org and trumpcare.com were snapped up, somebody's buying ad space to encourage us to Apply for Trumpcare 2017 on Trumpcare.Healthcare.com. Speak to a Licensed Agent!

In "full arm-twisting mode," the president seemed to have reduced the votes in his favor in the House; without the naming license fees, there's really nothing in it for him. The far-right smells blood. Monday night, Idaho's Raúl Labrador was crowing that "we know that they don't have 216 votes." (There are five open seats in the House right now, lowering the usual bar from 218.) The latest NYT whip count, 1pm EDT, says there are 30 NOs, which would put them at 207, the most pathetic go at repeal in their five dozen tries. Our congressman, ID-2's Mike Simpson, is listed in the 19% "undecided or unclear" tranche.

This morning, the Freedom Caucus had its own audience scheduled with the Lord Emperor, "pressing to eliminate federal requirements that health insurance plans provide a basic set of benefits," because Freedom means being able to buy crap insurance, or not bother with insurance at all.

Jordan Klepper covers a Trump Rally, March 2017, for Comedy Central

"House Republican leaders called off a meeting with all members of their party earlier Thursday at the Capitol, placing their faith in a House Freedom Caucus negotiating session at the White House with President Trump. If the president and the conservatives can reach an agreement, a vote on the House floor, still scheduled for Thursday, can move forward."

Be still our hearts.

Not that you need a white paper to know which way the wind blows, but the Urban Institute has one, assessing who gains and who loses. Cut to the chase: them what's got shall have. Income over $200k/year, you're golden. A couple hundred for the middle class, and below $50k, you lose. Again. And again. Unless you live for attending campaign rallies. Those are still on.

22.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Judged de minimis Permalink to this item

Ian Millhiser, for ThinkProgress: While Gorsuch was testifying, the Supreme Court unanimously said he was wrong. Indeed, "awkward." But the substance of the case is more than a sour note in Neil Gorsuch's confident treatment of the Senate Judiciary Committee as an impotent plaything.

"In Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P., a case brought by an autistic student whose parents sought reimbursement for tuition at a specialized school for children with autism, Gorsuch read [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990] extraordinarily narrowly.

Under Gorsuch’s opinion in Luke P., a school district complies with the law so long as they provide educational benefits that “must merely be ‘more than de minimis.’”

“De minimis” is a Latin phrase meaning “so minor as to merit disregard.” So Gorsuch essentially concluded that school districts comply with their obligation to disabled students so long as they provide those students with a little more than nothing.

"All eight justices rejected Gorsuch’s approach."

Unanswered questions Permalink to this item

At some point in Monday's hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the scene from the NYT video feed made me think of monumental history...

I got to thinking about the Moai on Easter Island... pic.twitter.com/4ITuPtj5AE

— Tom von Alten (@fortboise) March 20, 2017

And a friend noted its Kabuki nature, which brought back the memory of attending a live performance in Tokyo, about 20 years ago. We had the benefit of kibitzing through headphones, in english, but there's only so much that can be explained. Part of the experience was audience participation by those in the know. When a principle actor would first appear, some old guy in the audience shouted out the name of his teacher, and maybe his teacher's teacher to boot. Honoring the lineage. When Roger Stone eventually appears to testify, I hope someone will be there to shout out Roy M. Cohn! in homage.

Stone's name came up, but the FBI director would not comment on individuals who might or might not be subjects of the current investigation. We'll just leave Adam Schiff's question hanging then, how was it that Stone would know to muse on Twitter mid-August that "Trust me, it will soon the Podesta's time in the barrel"? Wikileaks fired for effect starting October 7. Stone now has two lawyers to represent him, but still wants to speak for himself.

“There is still not an iota of proof that anyone on the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians,” said Mr. Stone, who met Mr. Trump through their mutual mentor, the McCarthy-era fixer and lawyer Roy M. Cohn.

Mr. Stone learned from Mr. Cohn that all press is good press, and to hit back, hard and often, and he is doing just that.

(He also likes his picture in the paper.) Toward the end of Maggie Haberman's NYT piece, this:

"And for a time, as a partner in a white-shoe Washington lobbying firm, Mr. Stone was a part of the swamp that Mr. Trump now wants to drain. He worked there with his old friend, Paul Manafort, who was Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman."

Manafort, Manafort, that name sounds familiar. Any other news about the former campaign chairman? Other than Sean Spicer "venturing into Baghdad Bob territory" yesterday to downplay Manafort's "very limited role" in the campaign. That he managed for a while. Until the scent of Russia around him got a bit too noticeable. There's this: AP Exclusive: Manafort had plan to benefit Putin government.

The story notes that it's a felony to fail to register as a Foreign Agent if you're lobbying on behalf of foreign political leaders or political parties, which technically, the billionaire Oleg Deripaska might not be, even if US diplomatic cables from 2006 (also, and I'm sure this is a coincidence, about the time Manafort got a multimillion dollar contract to work for him) described Deripaska as "among the 2-3 oligarchs Putin turns to on a regular basis" and "a more-or-less permanent fixture on Putin's trips abroad."

You can see why the FBI director wasn't prepared to guess how quickly the investigation could be wrapped up. And why, as Chairman Nunes concluded, "there is a big, gray cloud" over Washington (and no, Jim Comey is not the guy who put it up there). And Nunes didn't have to name drop him, but yes, the Secretary of State, Wayne TrackerRex Tillerson, too, one of our oligarchs who's cozy with their oligarchs, and obtw, can't find time to meet with NATO foreign ministers, but can find time for a trip to Russia next month.

Just watch out for fourth floor windows while you're there, Rex. (Nikolai Gorokhov is in intensive care, so not yet added to the list of Russian diplomats dying unexpectedly.)

Complicated and uncomfortable Permalink to this item

News last night was whether the House bill could be hackedreworked enough to get the "Freedom Caucus" on board, which makes me think about that joke about who'd want to be in a club that would accept that. The FC is pretty much the gang of "we'd rather eat worms." But this puts me and loony Raúl Labrador on the same side of an issue for once. Sort of. His fellow fan of Freedom Ted Yoho of Florida was on NPR yesterday talking about how essential the "repeal" part was to him:

"I had a friend put it this way. He says it's kind of like the doctor comes to you and says you have a malignant tumor. And the doctor says, we're going to take out 90 percent of it and hope you have a nice day. You know, the tumor will come back.

"And you know, with the Affordable Care Act, if you don't get rid of it all, there's remnants of that that will come back, and it'll say that the federal government has a role in your health care. And I'm just 180 degrees different on that."

This morning

After picking my jaw off the floor from the metaphor of the Affordable Care Act as malignant tumor, the next thought is, no government role in your health care, so there goes Medicare! Obviously Medicaid is unwanted. As for the president's targeting backsliders with tweets that could cost them reelection?

"You know, I ran against the sitting speaker of the House in 114th Congress, and people asked me, are you afraid of any retribution? And I said, no, I'm a Christian, and I fear no man. And I kind of feel the same way here. I'm very strong in my conviction. The people that sent me up here have the faith in me to stand up for that. But like I said, we're closer today than we were a week ago."

Closer to taking the possibility of healthcare insurance away from tens of millions of Americans. So very Christian. He did offer one useful insight, however:

"When you have bad legislation that comes into play lopsided from one party—and I fear for our side, too—that this is something that the country has to live with."

He and the rest of the back bench apparently expect to get more of what they want (which is to say less, for everyone) and who knows? Maybe Paul Ryan is now desperate enough to deliver for them. This morning's latest whip count from CBS shows 25 Republican No votes, not quite a match to the Freedom Caucus membership list, but close. 21 is the tipping point, so every one of these malcontents can imagine he* is the swing vote that needs special appeasement they can carry home to his district. (* Yes, the FC is boys-only.)

At which point we can switch to the other headline, DOA in the Senate, where it will only take three defectors to sink the ship. Politico subheads that "salvaging it will be the rescue mission of Mitch McConnell's career," as if.

“Maybe the best outcome is for this to fail in the House so we can move on to tax reform. Which is what we should have done anyway,” said one Republican senator, granted anonymity to make a frank assessment of the party’s political predicament.

It's not like the current president promised universal healthcare insurance coverage, lower premiums and lower deductibles, right?

Trump promised to cover everyone, lower premiums, and reduce deductible. RyanCare does the reverse on every point. https://t.co/nz4j3Jxe8S

— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) March 22, 2017

And anyway, what's the big hurry? They've only had six or seven years to craft a replacement, and now the push is on before the two-week April recess, which sounds so working class and drained-swamp, doesn't it? The prospect of going home to some good old Town Hall meetings might not be the visions of Spring Break they had in mind. Here in Idaho, the "mostly older residents of the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley" banding together as LC Valley Indivisible are apparently scary enough to have Labrador's office in Lewiston file a complaint with the U.S. Capitol Police.

The what?

The Capitol Police, which has jurisdiction over all congressional offices nationwide, assesses and responds to any potential threat as needed. ...

"Some of his concern and reasons why he went beyond locally is he didn't feel like the Lewiston Police Department was assisting how he wished they would have," Barker said.

That's Tim Barker quoted, the vice chair of the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce's Governmental Affairs Subcommittee, speaking for the Congressman's spokesman who "allegedly said an aggressive individual got in his face." For their part, the Lewiston Police Chief Chris Ankeny said Carlton reported his concerns but they were proven to be "unfounded."

"There was individuals there that were protesting in front of the offices there and making the employees feel uncomfortable," Ankeny said. "No crimes had been committed. They just felt uncomfortable based on some of the national attention that these protesters had raised."

21.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Speaking of leaks Permalink to this item

Not sure why we can't just have an "article" these days, but somehow everything is more RIGHT NOW and real if it's on Twitter? Easier to masticate and better for digestion. Never mind the medium, Peter Dauo (his old-fashioned Twitter handle is just that: @peterdauo) spells out the basic fact of U.S. political life in 2017: Why Hillary hate is at the core of the current crisis in US politics. "You can't understand Trump if you don't get Hillary," in 30 short pieces. Item #13, with a helpful graph of scandals, gaffes and controversies day by day.

13. FACT: No matter WHO ran against Hillary, the 2016 election was going to be about demonizing her to the point where she couldn't win. pic.twitter.com/7R1fDQBwKa

— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) March 19, 2017

Wikileaks/hacking, 33 million daily mentions. Clinton's email, 21 million. More than the rest of the list put together. Never mind that ultimately there was nothing of significant import in Clinton's email. It was amplified to be The One Big Thing that could tip the scales just enough in just the right states and elect not-Clinton with less than a majority of votes, the hugest mismatch between the Electoral College and the popular vote ever. Item #14 shows a media word cloud of The One Big Thing:

14. The news media spent SIX HUNDRED CONSECUTIVE DAYS on Hillary's emails. No Trump story, however egregious, got even one tenth the focus. pic.twitter.com/0lJtAKb12K

— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) March 19, 2017

FBI director Jim Comey's summer performance channeling the antipathy from the bowels of his organization out to the House Oversight Committee was no small thing, but it was his October surprise that finished the job. Timing is everything.

But Comey is still on the job, and now that Hillary Clinton is out of the way, he's acknowledged the extraordinary circumstances that compel him to let us all know in an opening hearing the FBI is indeed investigating the connections between the Trump campaign and the Russians.

The 5+ hour video of the hearing of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence is available via the committee's website) if you've got some time to kill, but if not, jump to Comey's opening statement at 0:27:40, where he drops the bombshell.

"As you know, our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those investigations that involve classified matters. But, in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest, it may be appropriate to do so, as Justice Department policies recognize. This is one of those circumstances. I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission is investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, and that includes the investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia's efforts."

About which he had almost nothing to say in public, other than to note, responding to Mr. Himes 40 minutes later, that the investigation started in late July.

The FBI and NSA directors briefed the leadership of the committee, in detail. Chairman Nunes opened the hearing by emphasizing the leaking aspects of the matter before them. As did Mr. Rooney. As did Mr. Gowdy, who is especially fond of the word "felonious."

“One thing you and I agree on is the felonious dissemination of classified material most definitely is a crime,” Mr. Gowdy, whose own Benghazi investigation was known as a porous source of information to reporters, told Mr. Comey, who repeatedly refused to say that he was even investigating the release of classified information.

The president (tweeting on his campaign account, sur@realDonaldTrump, which, I forget, is that the fake one?) chipped in at 7:02 am, trying to preempt what he must've known was about to come out in the hearing (not to get all obstruction of justice on us or anything) of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence:

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2017

Then there was the while-the-hearing-was-going-on tweet, which got rebutted in real time, call it improved government efficiency. A 5 hour hearing should be able to shout down more than a few 140-character bleats. Still, a lot of work to do, and finding leakers is not necessarily top of the list. While the FBI does its thing, if you're feeling nostalgic, have a listen to Marc Johnson's podcast, Episode 11: A Short History of Leaks.

Equinox Permanent URL to this day's entry

The pursuit of happiness Permalink to this item

Here's another U.N. plot: today is the International Day of Happiness (kind of northern-hemisphere biased, but seems like a good choice from where we sit), and they've put out another edition of the World Happiness Report. All the annoying Scandihoovians, Switzerland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand top the list, and the U.S. is not in the top 10. (Countries in the Middle East and Africa bring up the rear, no surprise there.)

Phone photo, prequinox

The BBC's report notes that this year's report from the Sustainable Development Solutions Network devoted a special chapter on the earth's problem child, us. Chapter 7, "Restoring American happiness" considers "the central paradox" of our economy: income is up, up, up since 1960, but we're not happier, happier, happier.

Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, which published the report, summarized the U.S. as offering "a vivid portrait of a country that is looking for happiness in all the wrong places."

"[T]he dominant political discourse is all about raising the rate of economic growth. And the prescriptions for faster growth—mainly deregulation and tax cuts—are likely to exacerbate, not reduce social tensions. Almost surely, further tax cuts will increase inequality, social tensions, and the social and economic divide between those with a college degree and those without."

He helpfully provides an itemized plan for escaping the "social quagmire" we're in, rebuilding social capital with "a keen focus on the five main factors" that have eroded social trust and confidence in government. With my highlighting in his last paragraph:

"The first priority should be campaign finance reform, especially to undo the terrible damage caused by the Citizens United decision. The second should be a set of policies aiming at reducing income and wealth inequality. This would include an expanded social safety net, wealth taxes, and greater public financing of health and education. The third should be to improve the social relations between the native-born and immigrant populations. Canada has demonstrated a considerable success with multiculturalism; the United States has not tried very hard. The fourth is to acknowledge and move past the fear created by 9/11 and its memory. The US remains traumatized to this day; Trump’s ban on travel to the United States from certain Muslim-majority countries is a continuing manifestation of the exaggerated and irrational fears that grip the nation. The fifth priority, I believe, should be on improved educational quality, access, and attainment. America has lost the edge in educating its citizens for the 21st century; that fact alone ensures a social crisis that will continue to threaten well-being until the commitment to quality education for all is once again a central tenet of American society."

No joke.

18.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

You won't believe what happens next Permalink to this item

From Randall Munroe's web comic timeline

The vertical scale runs from 20,000 BCE to date. 22 millennia, which is a long, long time, and a tiny slice of the earth's history. Stack 45 of these and you'd have a million years, a longer, longer time, and still a drop in the ocean. You'd need more than 200,000 timelines this length to cover the age of the earth, and given our ignorance, there wouldn't be a lot to say for most of the way.

The flowers that bloom in the spring started doing that 7,000 timelines ago, give or take. (160 million years.)

So on the one hand, pace yourself. On the other, come on, it's only 22,000 years (and 14,975 pixels high).

Randall Munroe's entertaining, informative and elegantly presented web comic showing a timeline of earth's average temperature since the last ice age glaciation.

Failing infrastructure Permalink to this item

Since I floated down the Salmon River once upon a time, and the Stoddard pack bridge spanned it just below the confluence of the Middle Fork, I've seen it from the river view. No way I walked across it, but the beautiful timber suspension design is familiar around here, part of the legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps. I've been across others, starting with the Warm Springs Creek pack bridge over the Lochsa, on the way to Jerry Johnson hot springs, 40-some years ago now.

Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game photo

Patrick O'Donnell's photos of the Stoddard bridge show its timber towers, span, environs, and the obligatory rafting party. (His "Bridgemeister" hobby also includes photos of the Bernard Pack Bridge, with steel towers, and one in my personal archives, the Eagle Mountain bridge over the Lochsa, with reinforced concrete towers.)

The bad news is that the bridge collapsed "for unknown reasons," and it's up in the air whether or not it'll be rebuilt.

The Post Register's coverage includes "before and after" images from Idaho Fish and Game. On top of the long walk around, or trying to ford (or swim) somewhere, there's the "possible debris and cables in the river channel," yikes. (At least some of the cabling is intact, so you could try hand-over-hand if you had to.) This:

Allegations that the structure was unsafe arose about six years ago when a subcontractor working on a reconstruction of the bridge said it was unsafe. In a letter to the regional forester at the time, Scott Brown, head of Husky Timber Frames of Utah, said he and his workers were demolishing what remained of the trusses and decking in late August 2011 when the west end of the bridge slumped 14 inches.

“I cannot express to you the rush of fear that I and my four-man crew experienced,” Brown wrote in the letter.

The safety question seems to have been definitively answered.

Paging Adam Schiff: what to ask about Russian hacking Permalink to this item

In the newspaper we do e-subscribe to, this clusterbomb op-ed from Louise Mensch, a former conservative M.P. in Britain who "took part in a select committee investigating allegations of phone hacking by the News Corporation," and now a NY-based journalist who works at News Corp., go figure. What to Ask About Russian Hacking.

Oh, and in November, she broke the story that a FISA court had issued a warrant for the FBI to examine communications between “U.S. persons” in the Trump campaign relating to Russia-linked banks. After noting that the House Intelligence Committee's initial witness list "does not inspire confidence," her third graf with links from the original:

If I were Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the committee, I would demand to see the following witnesses: Carter Page, Paul Manafort, Richard Burt, Erik Prince, Dan Scavino, Brad Parscale, Roger Stone, Corey Lewandowski, Boris Epshteyn, Rudolph Giuliani, Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn Jr., Felix Sater, Dmitry Rybolovlev, Michael Cohen, Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, Stephen Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Michael Anton, Julia Hahn and Stephen Miller, along with executives from Cambridge Analytica, Alfa Bank, Silicon Valley Bank and Spectrum Health.

I did not take all those jumps this morning, but give us time. She proceeds with a remarkable list of questions that need to be asked in the House Intelligence Committee, a working first draft for Schiff to follow, at least. It will be fascinating to see how far the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Devin Nunes will let that proceed, since the conclusion walks, talks, and quacks like impeachment, after more than a few heads roll in the runup.

"Never in American history has a president been suspected of collaborating with a hostile foreign power to win an election. The founders provided three equal branches of government to protect the republic. The American people now depend on the House committee to do its job and uncover the truth."

Update: Apparently the NYT newsroom is not cool with all that's in this op-ed.

News from Washington (spoiler alert: Trump Trump Trump) Permalink to this item

The Washington Post used to have a simplistic paywall that was easily routed around, and I enjoyed some purloined content beyond their 5 free articles a month (or whatever it was) for the cost of cookie management, and signed up for their daily teaser email as well. Then they fixed the paywall... and the daily teasers were still interesting, but am I prepared to add another couple $hundred/year to my media budget? Apparently not.

We'll have to content ourselves with a few articles a month, and the attractive front page (which insists on reloading itself, that's annoying, and throwing the occasional breaking news banner at you). This weekend's headlines include:

That last one was really nagging at my curiosity. For real? Or for sendup? My satire detector still works, it was the latter:

White House promotes parody article of Trump’s ‘lean, mean fighting machine’ budget

The author said her story, which was included in the White House's new email newsletter, was “composed almost entirely of onomatopoeic noises (PEW PEW! GRRRRRRRR!) typed out in all caps.”

ThinkProgress has more (but not ALL, damn it), including the first paragraph, which was apparently what the WH communications staff thought was making America great again:

"Some people are complaining that the budget proffered by the Trump administration, despite its wonderful macho-sounding name, is too vague and makes all sorts of cuts to needed programs in favor of increasing military spending by leaps and bounds. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a “hard power budget” which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does."

17.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Here comes the Judge Permalink to this item

New Jersey's description of its court system puts the "Superior" court in the middle, go figure. They're where trials are held, and inferior to the Appellate Division, and of course the Supreme Court of the state.

Then cast your mind back 22 years, and the dawn of the world wide web, compliments of the New York Times, to when New Jersey judges were rankled by a ban on being able to be paid for moonlighting. They had to make ends meet on a bare $100,000 salary (with no raises for 4 years!). That wasn't too shabby back then, of course, and it was the 5th highest judicial salary in the country. News was, Judge Andrew P. Napolitano "and his 378 colleagues in New Jersey's Superior Court are barred by the State Constitution from supplementing their salaries by teaching, writing, lecturing or doing other outside paid work." Then 44 years old and single, he had aspirations, and left the bench for a partnership in a Newark law firm, and triple the salary.

And now... he's old enough to be collecting Social Security while he's applying his "very talented legal mind" and his flapping jaw on the Fake News network, cooking up conspiracy theories and setting off a cascading international scandal just for the hell of it. By the end of the week, this:

On Friday, Fox News was forced to disavow Mr. Napolitano’s remarks. “Fox News cannot confirm Judge Napolitano’s commentary,” the anchor Shepard Smith said on-air. “Fox News knows of no evidence of any kind that the now-president of the United States was surveilled at any time, any way. Full stop.”

Paging Ms. McCarthy Permalink to this item

"Putting the published accounts and common sense together," as if Andrew Napolitano on Fake News constituted some of either, our current spicy standup @PressSec put forward the claim is that the 44th President of the United States asked Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) to spy on candidate Trump.

“Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command,” Mr. Spicer read. “He didn’t use the N.S.A., he didn’t use the C.I.A., he didn’t use the F.B.I., and he didn’t use the Department of Justice. He used GCHQ.”

You don't say.

"The GCHQ quickly and vehemently denied the contention on Thursday in a rare statement issued by the spy agency, calling the assertions “nonsense” and “utterly ridiculous.” By Friday morning, Mr. Spicer’s briefing had turned into a full-blown international incident. British politicians expressed outrage and demanded apologies and retractions from the American government."

How much do we have to belabor the larger point? If you talk out of turn to foreign government officials, you don't have to be POTUS to know that somebody will be listening in. Russia, at the very least. You're such an interesting guy, and such a useful idiot.

Spring break with a heart Permalink to this item

The University of Idaho and its Department of Student Involvement has organized programs of Alternative Service Breaks to give students "the opportunity to challenge themselves and develop leadership skills through service across the globe, grounded in social justice issues, including urban poverty, racism and domestic violence." How cool is that? From the university's president's Friday Letter:

Idaho Vandals logo, inside the Kibbie Vault

"[T]his week 39 Vandals are serving across the Pacific Northwest. They are working with the Oregon Department of Forestry, building river access trails and helping with native plant restoration projects. Another team is in Seattle, doing home repairs in under-resourced neighborhoods. ...

"They are in Cottonwood, helping people in our corrections systems with math and language skill development, career planning and money management, as they prepare for a second chance after incarceration. Vandals are also in Twin Falls, connecting with refugees to understand the integration process and offer support and assistance for people who have fled their home countries because of persecution."

Over the winter break, "nearly 50 students went to Nicaragua, the Philippines and Ecuador. They helped communities with sustainable energy, sanitation technology and community gardens. That two-week experience made a lasting difference for communities."

Freedom is slavery Permalink to this item

Idaho's contribution to the so-called "Freedom Caucus," Rep. Raúl Labrador is on board with the growing coalition of people who think the American Health Care Act is a warmed-over dog's breakfast. The Conservative HQ staff is shouting out marching orders, and branding the milqeutoast legislation #RYNOcare, tidily capturing everything wrong with it. "We conservatives need to call and tweet House Freedom Caucus members today," they declared yesterday. You would have had to get up early in the morning to get on top of Labrador's tweetstorm though, a flurry of messages pounded out in an hour.

"There’s no natural constituency for the #AHCA except for Washington insiders," he wrote, "but I believe it can be fixed w/ fundamental changes." As if... the back bench could get their hot air balloon off the ground, ever? And this inside baseball:

LABRADOR: We’re 100% behind @POTUS, but steps 2 & 3 of the 3 step process won’t work. The only chance is step 1.

— Raúl R. Labrador (@Raul_Labrador) March 16, 2017

ICYMI, "step 1" is the legislation under discussion, malformed to stay within the budget reconciliation rules so that they can push it through the Senate with only 50 votes plus one (the Veep's tiebreak). But even 50 votes seem a pipe dream: here are Republicans Rob Portman (OH), Cory Gardner (CO), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Shelley Moore Capito (WV) hinky ten days ago, Rand Paul (KY) rabble-rousing, and Susan Collins (ME) saying no, do we have three defectors yet?

And this step 1 is "the only chance," ok. (Step 2 is administrative sabotage, and step 3 is dreamy legislation yet to be written.) The Freedom Caucus may well kill the thing before it even escapes the House.

Truly, nobody knew health care could be so complicated.

16.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Chickens Come Home to Roost Permalink to this item

Betty Hansen Richardson, U.S. Attorney for the district of Idaho from 1993 to 2001, provided this helpful summary of U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson's decision blocking the President's second try at a selective travel and immigration ban via executive order. Shared with her permission.

The court first observed that "the clearest command of the Establishment Clause is that one religious denomination cannot be officially preferred over another" and that "the government action must have a primary secular purpose." The court acknowledged that “the Executive Order does not facially discriminate for or against any particular religion, or for or against religion versus non-religion.” But facial neutrality cannot shield an action that "targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment." The court explained: “It is a discriminatory purpose that matters...”

Know Your Rights

The court then referenced the Supreme Court's admonishment that "courts may not turn a blind eye to the context in which a policy arose. Historical context and the specific sequence of events leading up to the adoption of a [challenged] policy are relevant considerations."

And, at that point in the opinion, the President's "chickens," that is to say his words and the words of his subordinates (e.g. Rudy Giuliani, Stephen Miller), "came home to roost."

The court stated, “A review of the historical background here makes plain why the Government wishes to focus on the Executive Order’s text, rather than its context. The record before this Court is unique. It includes significant and unrebutted evidence of religious animus driving the promulgation of the Executive Order and its related predecessor.” The court then set out several statements made by President Trump and members of his campaign and/or administration that provide evidence of this animus.

The court wrote, “These plainly-worded statements, made in the months leading up to and contemporaneous with the signing of the Executive Order, and, in many cases, made by the Executive himself, betray the Executive Order’s stated secular purpose. Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the Court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, “secondary to a religious objective” of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims...

Here, it is not the case that the Administration’s past conduct must forever taint any effort by it to address the security concerns of the nation. Based upon the current record available, however, the Court cannot find the actions taken during the interval between revoked Executive Order No. 13,769 and the new Executive Order to be “genuine changes in constitutionally significant conditions.” The Court recognizes that “purpose needs to be taken seriously under the Establishment Clause and needs to be understood in light of context; an implausible claim that governmental purpose has changed should not carry the day in a court of law any more than in a head with common sense.” In other words, the secular window-dressing was pretextual, and the improper purpose was manifest.

This was a well-considered, well-supported opinion written by a judge who, I believe, demonstrated not only solid legal scholarship but a great deal of common sense.

Another attorney, Steve Lord, commented:

Also interesting that [Judge Watson] relied on the Ninth Circuit's opinion in State of Washington and State of Minnesota v. Trump et al., now at 847 F. 3d 1151 (9th Cir 2017). Sidelight: the conservatives on the 9th wanted to "unpublish" the three-member panel decision on mootness grounds. The majority said no, so the 4 or 5 active cons dissented from the denial of the en banc panel and the denial of unpublishing. Judge Reinhardt has a great one-paragraph concurrence with the decisions to deny en banc and continue publication:

"I concur in our court’s decision regarding President Trump’s first Executive Order – the ban on immigrants and visitors from seven Muslim countries. I also concur in our court’s determination to stand by that decision, despite the effort of a small number of our members to overturn or vacate it. Finally, I am proud to be a part of this court and a judicial system that is independent and courageous, and that vigorously protects the constitutional rights of all, regardless of the source of any efforts to weaken or diminish them."

Car in the shop Permalink to this item

Should be no big deal, periodic maintenance, and oh, there's a recall to perform, so it won't be while-I-wait, but while I waited at the service counter, I saw there on the inside of the cubelet, the guy's PIN#, username and password on a sticky note. Should I... memorize it and see what fun could be had? Nah, life's too short, and it wouldn't be that much fun, anyway. When we're done with the car business, I politely suggest he might want to have his password not showing to customers, and he laughs, as if to say "computer security? What me worry!"

After arranging my own ride home (their offer wasn't all that timely), I found an email waiting for me, breathlessly announcing "Your Vehicle Report is Ready!" My, um, what?

The report from the "complimentary inspection," to see that the floor mat was properly secured and the windshield wasn't cracked and stuff. Ok, good, but really, I could wait until the car was back in my possession for all that.

And this:

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at or e-mail me at noreply@autopoint.com.

Ides of March Permanent URL to this day's entry

The judiciary Permalink to this item

With the Congress largely supine, this may be the last institution we have between us and a despot. The Hill: Appeals court won't rehear case on Trump's original travel ban.

One of the dissenting opinions criticized Trump's personal attacks against judges involved in the case.

“The personal attacks on the distinguished district judge and our colleagues were out of all bounds of civic and persuasive discourse—particularly when they came from the parties,” the opinion said. “It does no credit to the arguments of the parties to impugn the motives or the competence of the members of this court; ad hominem attacks are not a substitute for effective advocacy.”

For his part, our president is having rallies to complain about what bothers him. (What, are we living in Nazi Germany?) “This ruling makes us look weak, which by the way we no longer are, believe me,” Mr. Trump said, to mounting cheers from a loyal crowd.

Nothing quite cements a claim to credibility like that appended "believe me." The judges took him at his word:

"Judge Watson flatly rejected the government’s argument that a court would have to investigate Mr. Trump’s 'veiled psyche' to deduce religious animus. He quoted extensively from the remarks by Mr. Trump that were cited in the lawsuit brought by Hawaii’s attorney general, Doug Chin."

Pi day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Speaking of company email Permalink to this item

pi

The fraud case in New York state alleging that Exxon Mobil Corp. misled investors for years about the possible impact of climate change on its business has turned up this fun fact: York has turned up the fact that then-CEO and now-SecState Rex Tillerson used an alt-email account to discuss the hot topic of climate change, and/or "communications between select senior company officials and the former chairman for a broad range of business-related topics."

It seems his primary account "began receiving too many messages," so "Wayne Tracker" was hatched, but gee, the company didn't get around to producing Tracker's messages. Maybe there are "thousands of relevant files" not yet delivered to the court?

"Despite the company’s incidental production of approximately 60 documents bearing the ‘Wayne Tracker’ email address, neither Exxon nor its counsel have ever disclosed that this separate email account was a vehicle for Mr. Tillerson’s relevant communications at Exxon, and no documents appear to have been collected from this email account," [NY AG Eric] Schneiderman said.

Tapp, tapp, is this thing on? Permalink to this item

Is it yet another bombshell, or a tempest in a teapot? The unlikely trio of Dennis Kucinich, the Washington Times and Bill O'Reilly combine to report "it happened to me."

Where I used to work, one of the things the corporation told us was that we should have "no expectation of privacy" in our communications using their facilities. That did contrast with the persistent feeling of privacy in my little cubical, but I understood what they were getting at, and I didn't have a problem with it. It was work, after all.

As a member of Congress, apparently Kucinich felt his communication was more privileged, even when chatting up the son of Libya's president, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, then a high-ranking official in that country's government, and while there was a war going on.

As a candidate for president, and with a lot of friends talking to people in the Russian government for reasons not yet explained, were communications between Donald J. Trump and Russia's leaders intercepted, recorded, analyzed and archived, whether they terminated in his home tower, favorite golf course, or wherever?

My sense of it is that if they were not, someone was not doing his or her job. But that's just me. You remember that last Republican to run for president saying that Russia "is without question our number one geopolitical foe." I thought that (and a doubling of our largest-in-the-world military budget) was overblown at the time, but did not question that Russia was in the top five or ten. (Talk about throwback Tuesday; that entry from October 2012 has some Benghazi in it, too.)

What we do know is that the damning accumulated evidence of international intrigue was not used to intercept Trump's ascent to the office he now holds, even as non-evidence was sufficient for the FBI director to speak out of turn and screw up Clinton's election bid. You have to wonder why the president doth protest so much. Sure, he had to toss Michael Flynn off the bus, and Jeff Sessions has had to recuse himself (at least, so far), and lord a'mercy there is more to come out.

The unexploded ordnance is not about how much surveillance was done.

Having the president tweet his indignation is slightly pathetic, and speaks to how little he understands about (a) how things work these days, and (b) how to work things. Having Congress investigate is... more expensively pathetic, I'm afraid. Don't they have better things to do? Double-check the Congressional Budget Office's arithmetic, or something.

That about covers it Permalink to this item

The opposition is building, never mind the gaslighting. With a slim majority, the Republicans can't ram this down our throats (as they like to say) with more than two defectors, and there are now twelve getting hinky. How much "political wrangling and behind-the-scenes maneuvering" will it take to herd these cats?

The CBO bombshell was bigger than the pre-deprecation could hide. Newt Gingrich had to go beyond mere derision, all the way to "disgustingly." Also, OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!

"They should abolish the Congressional Budget Office. It is corrupt. It is dishonest. It was totally wrong on ObamaCare by huge, huge margins."

We can do that now, because the Comprehensive Plan [sic] for Reorganizing the Executive Branch will "improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of the executive branch by directing the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (Director) to propose a plan to reorganize governmental functions and eliminate unnecessary agencies (as defined in section 551(1) of title 5, United States Code), components of agencies, and agency programs."

Director of the OMB gets promoted to czar, sounds like. 180 days for the head of each agency to submit their proposed plans to reorganize ("if appropriate") to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability (and for the public to chip in their suggestions), then another 180 days for the DOMB to submit his (I'm guessing) plan to reorganize the executive branch in order to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of agencies.

Then BOOM. All bets are off. Privatize? Redundant? Redundant? (2.d.ii and 2.d.iii variations) Too expensive? And ok, something about "the equities of affected agency staff." Sic!

13.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Counting coups (and counties) Permalink to this item

Followed a tweet (the one predicting @PressSec will be the next one to go) into the live press gaggle with Sean Spicer today. One of the questions:

"When should the American people trust the President? ... When he says something, can we trust that it's real?"

Seems rhetorical, but Spicey pushed back. As long as he's not joking it's real...ly "what he believes." And that joke about the CBO?

"It's not a question of our credibility, it's a question of theirs."

No, the question was about yours.

Then more with the number-of-counties trope, a red flag flapping for abuse of statistics. To be perfectly honest, Idaho has 44 counties; the least populous quarter of them have a total population approaching 47,000. Those 11 counties make up 0.35% of the (3,140-some) counties and county equivalents in the U.S., and comprise 0.0146% of the country's population.

Take the least populous 31 counties of our rambling state; that's 1% of the total counties in the country. They have a population 330,000, which is one tenth of one percent of the country's population. So, how many insurance plans should Clark Co., population 982 have? It's a free country for people selling insurance, same as buying it, isn't it? (By the way, there are 28 counties with lower population density than Clark, half a person or less per square mile.)

It seems southern folk are splitters, and westerners lumpers. California, with a population 23½ times Idaho's has just 58 counties, a scant third more than Idaho. California has almost half again as many people as Texas, but Texas has more than four times the counties, a whopping 254. Georgia (159), Virginia (133), Kentucky (120) and Missouri (115) round out the top five by county count. That's a quarter of the country's counties in 5 states. Go figure.

Still rather swampy Permalink to this item

One of the fundraiser/outrage whipping emails over the weekend, the NRCC thinking that a subject of President Trump FURIOUS would light me up, reran a March 3d sur-@realDonaldTrump tweet:

It is so pathetic that the Dems have still not approved my full Cabinet.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 3, 2017

That was just before the staff dredged up photos of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi with Putin to try to deflect questions about Russia, and the fuming about the Attorney General having to recuse himself (at least). And that was just before the fake news-driven accusation that Obama was tapp tapp tapping his Trump Tower wires.

The guy who was supposed to be Secretary of Labor pulled himself out of the running middle of last month, so that had to start over from scratch. The 2nd nominee, R. Alexander Acosta, was supposed to have a confirmation hearing this Wednesday, but it seems the chairman of the committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions would rather be at a rally back home in Nashville. Whatever.

In the meantime, tell us more about the hiring practices and support for voting rights at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division when Acosta was in managment. Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law offered this assessment:

“He was someone who ignored problems, allowing them to fester on his watch,” she said. “When you look back at that time period, some of the worst problems happened when Mr. Acosta was the one running the place.”

When we get through all that, let's move on to Agriculture, where "agribusiness tycoon and former Georgia Gov. [George Ervin] Sonny Perdue [III, who] has long mixed personal and political business to benefit his friends and business associates [is] on track to do it again, even before he’s confirmed to the Cabinet post," according to Politico.

"Perdue, tapped by Trump to run USDA in January, has a long history of ethics controversies, notably when he signed a law giving himself a tax break, and when he was found to have violated Georgia law by funding his campaign accounts with contributions from his private enterprises. He still hasn’t faced a confirmation hearing, largely because his ethics paperwork has been under review. The Senate received his ethics disclosure forms — promising to put his assets into a blind trust — late Friday after weeks of delay."

The first of those two forms they link to was signed on February 1, huh. Politico gives the last word to Scott Faber, a lobbyist for the Environmental Working Group (famous for tracking hundreds of $billions in farm subsidies as a public service):

“This isn’t like draining the swamp. This is like putting the original swamp monster in charge.”

12.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Surreally awful Permalink to this item

Paul Krugman: "[T]he bill unveiled this week is worse than even the cynics expected; its awfulness is almost surreal." No mean feat, given the seven years the Republicans have had to come up with an alternative. Did they really just keep saying no, no, no, no, no, no (etc.) with absolutely nothing up their sleeves beyond this "dog's breakfast"?

And the "trust us" of additional legislation to cover all the things the initial bill rammed through reconciliation can't do, and all the things that can't be done by administrative (in)action. All that other stuff will somehow not have the problem of Senate filibusters that reconciliation avoids? While Paul Ryan assures us that the Affordable Care Act—the law that's already is in place—is "collapsing," because, I don't know, the seven year program of sabotage and anti-marketing from his party?

Success has a thousand fathers they say, but this thing is looking like an orphan: nobody wants their name on it. Not least because it's a ruse that is nothing like the president's promises, or the country's needs.

Not to put too fine a point on it, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is advising anybody who wants a future in politics to run the other way:

“So, I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.”

11.Mar.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our creepiest National Security Council principal Permalink to this item

The checkout computer at the Library! gave me a bzzzt yesterday and told me to take my things to the front desk. A cheerful employee intercepted me before I'd taken two steps and said "let me see if we can figure out what's wrong." Just that annual (is it really annual?) check to see whether I'm still in the taxpaying boundary, and yes, I am. "Your current address?" he asked. "Same as it's been for [mental arithmetic redacted] years," I answered, slightly peevishly. "And that is?" he countered. I would need to say the secret numbers and words. "That's a long time to be in one place," he mused as he worked my answer into the machine. Indeed.

The Washington Post story about the peripatetic man of mystery and "chief strategist" brought that vignette to mind. It seems that Stephen K. Bannon was a man with no fixed address during his political rise, providing a jolly goose chase for a reporting team (who he won't talk to) and tax collectors.

"He owned a house and condo in Southern California, where he had entertainment and consulting businesses, a driver’s license and a checking account. He claimed Florida as his residence, registering to vote in Miami and telling authorities he lived at the same address as his third ex-wife."

"Bannon told a friend that year he was living in multiple cities, including Washington, New York, London and Miami..."

No income tax in Florida, don't you know, and Bannon had quite a bit of taxable income, including a $million salary as executive chairman of Breitbart News Network. (He had two other jobs at the same time. Tough to make ends meet these days.) Registered to vote in Florida, but never voted. "[N]eighbors near two homes he leased in Miami said they never saw him. His rent and utility bills were sent to his business manager in California." And so on. I guess his boss' supporters will celebrate all that as sticking a finger in the eye of the man? Not that Joe the Plumber could get away with this kind of stuff, but it's so great that somebody can.

The sun came up today Permalink to this item

Crocus 2017

(Also, the crocuses.) I haven't seen any tweets claiming responsibility, but I have my suspicions. In other news, the February jobs report is in, and heartening, another two hundred thousand-some jobs and unemployment staying under 5%. There was somebody in the news claiming credit (and yes, it was the same guy who called BLS numbers a hoax last year), but after 77 consecutive months of job growth—almost 6½ years—the only thing to say is thanks, Obama!

The good news is that there are more and more Obama successes for some fatuous putz to take credit for.

Just in case you were wondering, 10 million new jobs over four years would require 208,333 every month. For 48 consecutive months. Starting riiiiight, oh I don't know, now? Next month? After some sort of policy or legislative action? Unless just a name brand is all we need. Then we'd be all set. (Credit where due for that constitutional crisis right out of the chute, though.)

Speaking of jobs, this late January advice for weighing jobs in the new administration, from David Frum.

"Some 40 people were indicted as a result of the Watergate scandal. Among those sentenced to prison: the attorney general of the United States, the White House counsel, and President Nixon’s two most senior White House aides. A dozen men were convicted or pled guilty to a range of charges after the Iran-Contra affair.

"White Houses can be dangerous places under leadership that does not respect the law."

And of course political appointments don't have a lot of job security. The NYT story about the abrupt termination of 46 U.S. Attorneys (that's almost exactly half of them in case you were wondering, plus the "many" who have already left) suggests that Sean Hannity is calling the shots from Fox News.

"Deep-state Obama holdovers embedded like barnacles in the federal bureaucracy are hell-bent on destroying President Trump. It's time for the Trump administration to purge these saboteurs."

But sure, fine, whatever, that's just Hannity. What about some elder statesmen in the Congress?

“They're dealing with seditious people within the Department of Justice, within the FBI, within the Department of Interior, within the CIA,” Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said. “There are just people that don't approve of the Trump presidency, and I think that they're trying to take him down from the inside.

“I think you have people within the government, what you call the deep state, bureaucrats, Obama appointees that hate Donald Trump,” Hunter added.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, agrees.

“Donald Trump needs to purge leftists from the executive branch before disloyal, illegal and [treasonous] acts sink us,” he tweeted.

That seems like some pretty casual, cowardly, broadband libel. Here a week later, it's still standing. With his alt-spelling of "treasonous."

@RealDonaldTrump needs to purge Leftists from executive branch before disloyal, illegal & treasonist acts sink us. https://t.co/o1DYtgA7aL

— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) March 6, 2017

Worth mentioning, I think: the most recent U.S. Attorney for Idaho, Wendy Olson, did an exemplary job for our state, and the federal government. She was a far better civil servant than some of the assholes chipping up commentary just now, let alone the private sector assholes. She already left, tendering her resignation a couple weeks ago. The First Assistant (since Sept. 2010), Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr., became Acting U.S. Attorney, and had this for Wendy's sendoff:

“As United States Attorney for the District of Idaho since 2010, Wendy Olson has been an indispensable and collaborative law enforcement partner in Idaho. Her efforts reflected the highest traditions of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney community. We thank Wendy for her tireless work on behalf of the District of Idaho and the American people over the last 20 years, and we wish her the very best as she begins the next chapter of her distinguished career.”

But that's just the one I know. I can't speak for the other 92.

10.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Justice (and sanity) pending Permalink to this item

We're still in this limbo where the current president has tweeted out the accusation that the previous president committed an serious crime, based not on facts that his executive branch might have provided him, but rather something he saw on fake news TV.

The sensible, rational people who have been in and around government for a long time (while our lead actor was still groping babes and stiffing contractors in a variety of shady and outright fraudulent deals) are still coming to terms with all that. E.J. Dionne Jr., for example, thinks this experiment may be at an early tipping point.

"He signaled his lack of evidence first by reportedly pushing his White House staff to ransack sensitive intelligence information to find support for his claim. Then on Sunday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump wanted Congress to look into the matter and that the administration would offer no further comment.

"Trump has a problem either way. If he was not wiretapped, he invented a spectacularly false charge. And if a court ordered some sort of surveillance of him, on what grounds did it do so?

"Every time the issue of the relationship between Trump’s apparatus and Moscow comes up, he is moved to unleash unhinged counterattacks. This only underscores how urgent it is to get to the bottom of this story quickly."

Also, why hasn't Jeff Sessions resigned?

And why aren't Republicans demanding the Trump release his tax returns and just set all our minds at ease?

Ha ha.

Update: Michael Flynn decided to register as a foreign agent, retroactively, “to eliminate any potential doubt.” His company was paid a $half a million for the work it was doing for Turkey, while he was part of the Trump campaign last year, and leading the RNC mob in chants of "LOCK HER UP."

Guilty, and justice partially served Permalink to this item

The trials of the Malheur final four have wrapped up, and there were enough felonies for everybody to get at least one, even if two of the four dodged the conspiracy charge. That's way better for civility and law and order than the Bundy boys and five co-defendants getting off with no convictions, last fall.

"The prosecution sharpened its case this time, zeroing in on how the actions of the men on trial revealed their intent to intimidate federal workers and explaining that jurors didn't need to see a formal written or verbal agreement to find a conspiracy."

The worst of the perps got off, so justice was not fully served. But federal prosecutors have yet another chance at the Bundy clan and fellow travers, down in Nevada. Let's hope they're sharper still for that one.

In front of the federal courthouse, [Duane] Ehmer said he was disappointed that "now I'm a felon," but was looking forward to returning to Irrigon in eastern Oregon in the interim before sentencing.

Dude, if you can't stand the time, don't do the crime. You've been a felon for some time, as a matter of fact. All that's changed is that you're now a convicted felon.

My kind of college Permalink to this item

Today's Friday Letter from the president of the University of Idaho (which isn't up on the web just yet, but in my inbox first thing) announces that the State Board of Education has approved a new Bachelor's degree, in Medical Sciences, in the College of Science. Along the way, this motivating factoid: "Health care is 20 percent of our nation’s economy." The new degree will feed the need for "allied health professionals" such as medical writers, health care administrators, and "careers across the burgeoning health care sector."

When I was in school, they had a college of Letters and Science, combined. They still have Letters but now those are ganging up with Arts and Social Sciences. ("CLASS," get it?) The College of Science is about biology, chemistry, geography, geology, mathematics, physics, and statistics, which were just my cup of tea when I let go of Art and Architecture 40 years ago. Microbiology and maybe molecular biology were at the forefront... and "bioinformatics" and "computational biology" hadn't quite been invented. Thanks to Wikipedia, I see it was the turn of the millennium when they reshuffled things. Forestry, Wildlife & Range Sciences ("FWR") turned into Natural Resources in 2000, Agriculture became Agriculture and Life Sciences the next year, and then L&S went to CLASS, Science was born and Mines & Earth Resources caved in, the spoils divvied up between Engineering and Science.

But anyway, healthcare. I see that Modern Healthcare has assembled a one-page list of 21 OECD nations with universal coverage with Healthcare share of GDP by country, 2016 that they'd be happy to sell me for $49 (or "free to Premium Web subscribers"), or, I could head back to Wikipedia for free.

Datagraphic from WikiBasti on Wikipedia

The 20% figure might have been generous rounding, or "looking forward," or including more of the "allied health professions," but still, something is significantly out of whack there. Are we treated 60 or 100% better than people in Austria, Canada, Germany, Switzerland and the U.K.? Maybe, but probably not. Down that same Wikipedia page, the chart of health care expenditure per capita (data from 2014) shows us outlying, at $9,000 vs. 7, 6, 5,000 and less across the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations.

There's room for improvement. Speaking of improvement, I'm reminded of the ebullient giant of statistical presentations, Hans Rosling, and his recent passing into the Great Beyond. Have another look at how he brings 120,000 numbers from 200 years and 200 countries to life in 4 minutes, and brighten your day:

9.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Warm up, river up Permalink to this item

Boise R. at 7500 cfs, near Americana Blvd.

The water managers have dialed up the Lucky Peak outflow to a bit over 8,000 cfs, with 1,100 into the New York Canal, and the rest headed for Boise and points west. 7,258 and f'cast 7,500 at the Glenwood Bridge in Garden City.

That's versus the current natural flow of 2,300 cfs; they're making way in the three reservoirs for what's about to melt, bigly. NWS tweet shows a map of the forecast "significant snow melt" expected over the weekend: the west central mountains from Council to Twin Falls, The Owhyees, the Wallowas and Blue Mountains in Oregon. The Boise front had a lovely dose of cold powder over last weekend and Monday and Tuesday; I made tracks for almost 4 hours on Monday, with the temperature around 20°F or less at the top. Today it was in the 40s at Bogus Basin and 60s down in town.

The Boise river system has 949,700 acre-ft capacity, and is a bit over half empty. We have... 21 billion cubic feet available. If the gates were closed, and 7,500 cfs were flowing in, it would take 32 days to top up Lucky Peak, Arrowrock and Anderson Ranch.

Since it's so lovely to be along the river most of the time, expensive real estate pushes the limit, and there are some nice people who get soggy property at 7,000 cfs plus. Still, if you wave your magic wand around the National Weather Service's interactive inundation map for the Glenwood Bridge gauge, you see that it isn't until 10,000 cfs or so that "moderate flooding" begins. (I suppose "minor flooding" is when your neighbor's house floods, and "moderate" is when yours does.) Up here on the first bench, we could stay dry even at the 34,800 top end of that mapping.

That end-of-the-flood line just below Garden City is not another dam, just the end of the estimation tied to that gauge. Jog over to the Eagle Island gauge to see the larger spread downstream.

A more perfect union Permalink to this item

Yeah, but other than the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Catholic Health Association of the United States and the Children’s Hospital Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Medical Association and the AARP, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR), Rand Paul (R-KY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and the chief medical officer of Medicaid, who's against it?

Never mind that it took dead-of-night sessions in the Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees to push the Thing from the Reconciliation Swamp forward. (If you're feeling a little rundown lately, perhaps you need more ways, means, energy or commerce, hmm?)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) just wants to make sure nobody gets a leg up on Florida. “I want to make sure Florida is treated fairly,” he said. Well on his way to becoming an elder statesman.

Speaking of which, there was this "compelling" argument from #2 Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, slated to whip the bill through the Senate: “There have been six or seven years of input,” he said. “We have to pass it because the alternative is the status quo.”

Never mind the cheaper, better, everybody will be insured smoke that the Big Giant Head said we were going to get. Something has to be better then nothing, right? And if we don't pass this, we'll all just look really, really stupid after those six or seven years of "input."

Update: NYT datagraphic from analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Here's who Republicans think should be the biggest losers: older Americans with low incomes who live in high-cost areas. Fifty, sixty, income of $50k or less. Sorry! No more iPhones for you! The KFF has an interactive map for you to look up your income and your age. (And a color scheme that works for the red-green color blind.)

NYT datagraphic

8.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Unity, at last Permalink to this item

Alex Shephard's piece for New Republic subtweets its headline with this answer: "The Republican replacement for Obamacare is such a mess that it has united people from across the political spectrum." The question is, Is Trumpcare Already Dead? (Also, could Jason Chaffetz be the worst possible frontman evar?)

Sen. Rand Paul thinks he won't have to bother voting against the AHCA (pronounced "Ahhh... Ka") in the Senate because "it's dead on arrival in the House," which doesn't quite make sense (especially when Paul Ryan assures us he'll have 218 votes in the House, a.k.a. the bare minimum to pass something).

Something about the "vibrant, free market where people get to do what they want." Never mind how many million miles away from vibrant this RINOcare bill is.

Ryan said Republicans are fulfilling their campaign promise to end the “nightmare” of Obamacare, and he noted that if Republicans did nothing, the law would collapse on its own, leaving millions of people without affordable healthcare.

“We are doing a mercy—an act of mercy by repealing this law and replacing it with patient-centered healthcare reforms that we as conservatives have been arguing for and fighting for, for years.”

We can all get behind mercy killing, right?

But that's just the "first phase." Second is the HHS czarSecretary using "something like 1,400 instances in this law that [give him] discretion" to "bring more market freedom and market stabilization."

Because a free market is always a stable market, right?

And then, third time's the charm, phase three will be when they "pass the bills that we want to pass that we cannot put in reconciliation because of those budget rules." Shopping across state lines; medical liability reforms; nationwide buying pools through your trade associations; just the whole shebang that everyone in the Senate will be over the moon about.

Just because it's collossally stupid doesn't mean we shouldn't go ahead and do it.

[D]on’t underestimate the cravenness of the Republican Party. The Wall Street Journal editorial board, for one, is calling for Republicans to pass it anyway. “The House bill is the only heath-care show in town,” they write, adding, “Republicans have a limited window for repeal and replace, and this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”

The GOP is revolting over the botch Permalink to this item

They've been howling in outrage over "Obamacare" for so long, they didn't notice the moon set years ago. Repeal! Replace! they cried for years and years without actually ever coming up with a replacement. Now they're the dog that caught the bus, and—whoops!—nobody here but us chickens, it's time to put up (because lord knows they're not about to shut up).

So waddawe got? Their president-elect said “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” plainly enough. "Much less expensive and much better." Bigly. Also—7 weeks ago—“It’s very much formulated down to the final strokes. We haven’t put it in quite yet but we’re going to be doing it soon.”

Of course, he says and tweets a lot of crazy stuff that nobody in his or her right mind should believe. Those were heady days, when the House Republicans had jumped the Inauguration Day gun and started the process of "dismantling" the Affordable Care Act even before they had a president who would sign stuff for them.

Stephen Skowronek adds "disjunctive" to the long list of negative adjectives attaching to the current administration, highlighted by a decent Ross Douthat column on our topic du jour. We are "straddling a political order passing into history and another one struggling to be born. And 'disjunctive' generally means ineffective, because the parties such presidents are leading are likewise trapped between past and future and unable to unify and act." Those "internal tensions" in the party about to pass into history

"have given us the botch that is the House G.O.P.’s Obamacare alternative. It’s a piece of legislation caught betwixt and between: It includes enough in the way of tax credits and regulation to be labeled 'Obamacare lite' by the party’s would-be ideological enforcers, but it also promises to throw many people off the insurance rolls — many Trump voters included — for the sake of uncertain policy goals. Its outline bears some resemblance to what the smartest conservative health policy thinkers favor, but it doesn’t want to spend the money (whether on risk pools or pre-funded health savings accounts or income-linked subsidies) that would make that approach politically viable. And its desire to spend less while keeping Obamacare’s most popular regulations (the ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, above all) promises to make the risk of an insurance death spiral that much worse."

Here's Margot Sanger-Katz again, on why "even some Republicans are rejecting the replacement bill." Mike "Obi Wan" Lee, from Utah, said this is “not the Obamacare repeal bill we’ve been waiting for.”

Because... mostly, the scant majority in the Senate means this camel has to squeeze through the eye of reconciliation, that swampy "budgetary maneuver" that avoids the need for 60 votes to beat a filibuster. (Work with Democrats to craft a compromise? Oh hell, they burned that bridge to the ground years ago.) Now we have "a bit of a Frankenstein health bill," that might leave 10 or 15 million more people without insurance, doing nothing to stop cost increases or fulfill the pie in the sky promises of the con artist in chief.

The "market solution" to healthcare is that poor people will just have to die sooner. Doing away with the individual mandate will be an expensive exercise in libertarianism: "The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that eliminating that provision would lead to premiums that are 20 to 25 percent higher, even without any cuts in subsidies." There are very generous tax cut benefits for the people who need them the least, which is another "market solution." They're the ones who paid for this Congress, after all, and they should get something out of it.

The Conservative HQ has an apoplectic take, complete with the Obamacare 2.0 kiss of death from "our friend Matthew Boyle writing for Breitbart." But that's just the parsley on the side. The main course is that Paul Ryan Betrays President Trump. It's "a complete sellout" (that, somehow, "the president is already being suckered into endorsing"). They were so livid, this pre-edited paragraph:

"And among those among many, many problems one of the most egregious aspects of the bill is the subsidy for illegal aliens that will be paid for by the hardworking American citizens who elected President Trump."

Perfidy!

So what's the very worst thing we could call this? TrumpDontCare? Ryancare? #RINOcare, for sure. It is "actually worse than Obamacare in many respects, and it is all being done behind closed doors using budget reconciliation, not open debate and amendments."

Mark this date on the calendar, CHQ and I are total agreement on something.

We do not, however, agree on how great it would be "if only" the federal government would wave its magic wand and allow purchasing insurance across state lines ("as Republicans have promised for years"). That would light up a race to the bottom, as states vie to be the most industry-friendly non-regulator, such as South Dakota for usurious credit cards, or Deleware for corporations. (We, the people are last in line.)

That's the essential nugget the Club for Growth insists upon, while spitting out the "warmed-over substitute for government-run health care" that crawled out of the Capitol basement.

USA Today collects conservative slams, including Heritage Action, blistering that it "not only accepts the flawed progressive premises of Obamacare but expands upon them." And from the Conservative Review's Facebook photo collection:

from Conservative Review on Facebook

7.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Creatures of the swamp Permalink to this item

Are you ready for some really exciting and novel ideas for how to finance our deteriorating infrastructure? Public-private partnerships sound really exciting. Where's the money coming from? Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said

"I'm not saying foreign."

Ah, but she started to say foreign, before she stopped herself. And then she talked about money "coming into the United States," which sounds kind of foreign.

"...corrupt government leaders often use their children or their siblings to distance themselves from illicit projects."

To fund... "a bridge, or a road, or..." she seemed to have exhausted the list in her mind "...any kind of infrastructure..." which, she then interrupted herself to point out "will include, probably, energy, water, broadband, so it's not just roads and bridges."

"But it's to build the whole infrastructure that will make our country more competitive, going forward."

Sean Hannity's a smart guy, and he could see that she was struggling to channel her breathless enthusiasm into coherent sentences. Can I mansplain that for you in a question?

"If I'm hearing it properly, what you're saying is, for example, if a company were to rebuild a road, they might get their investment back by having a toll on that road and that's where the taxpayers don't pay a penny, they make a profit, it's a win-win? Something like that?"

"Yes," she exhaled with a grateful laugh, "thank you for putting it that way."

We built the Interstate Highway System. We put MEN ON THE MOON. And now we have Donald Trump and Elaine Chao and Sean Hannity planning to make us "more competitive" with toll roads.

OpenStreetMap view of Azerbaijan and its neighborhood

Or perhaps something in a stubby, turgid, half-finished luxury hotel on the wrong end of the capital of Azerbaijan? Is that like infrastructure? And just because the whole enterprise stinks to high heaven, does our home-grown Midas family get to shield its eyes (and tax returns) and claim innocence in ignorance?

“No, that’s just wrong,” Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean at George Washington University Law School, who specializes in the F.C.P.A., said. “You can’t go into business deals in Azerbaijan assuming that you are immune from the [Foreign Corrupt Practices Act]” She added, “Nor can you escape liability by looking the other way. The entire Baku deal is a giant red flag—the direct involvement of foreign government officials and their relatives in Azerbaijan with ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Corruption warning signs are rarely more obvious.”

Do go read that whole, long, piece by Adam Davidson for The New Yorker's March 13, 2017 issue, about how "the President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard," and in which the man who is now president admitted to being unable to do business and obey the FCPA, "a horrible law" that "should be changed." (But never fear: our new Attorney General testified during his confirmation hearings that he will continue to uphold the FCPA, unless he was lying about that, too.)

And then think about the leaner/meaner plan for government, where a thousand top level management positions are unfilled as part of the Steve Bannon plan to deconstruct the administrative state. One credulous minister of transporation and a two hundred thousand dollars cash in a bag can go a long way to lubricating a deal worth hundreds of millions, or billions.

And if Azerbaijan seems too obscure, perhaps you've heard of India, Uruguay, Georgia, Indonesia, the Philippines, China or Brazil, where other Trump properties have gone up and swampy deals have gone down.

If, like me, you couldn't have put your finger on Azerbaijan on an unlabeled map, note that it borders Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Iran. Baku is on the Absheron peninsula into the Caspian Sea, and is the lowest lying national capital in the world.

Here is your shiny new pig in a poke Permalink to this item

The House GOP leadership (I guess) set up a new website just to sell its Affordable Care Act repeal and replacement to all of us. The domain they obtained for it is housegop.leadpages.co which is... strange. A sizeable number of two-letter top-level domains are assigned to countries, some of which keep them to themselves, and some of which market them as global domains. .co is Colombia's. The U.S. House of Representatives bought a Colombian domain name for the plan they finally let out of the basement.

The subtitle below Introducing the American Health Care Act, splashed across the hero image tells us that "Obamacare [sic] is collapsing. Republicans have a plan to repeal and replace it."

The intro text and Q/A on the web mentions "Obamacare" more than two dozen times, and the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act" (or "Affordable Care Act," for short) zero times. The big blue button is wired to bit.ly/2mAsBiT, which expands to point to a PDF on dl.dropbox.com.

It's all about "relief from taxes and mandates" and returning control of health care from bureaucrats in Washington to the states "and restores the free market so Americans can access the quality, affordable health care options that are tailored to their needs."

The impossible dream is about to be realized: lower premiums! More options! No (Washington) bureaucrat telling you what to do! "Relief from all of Obamacare’s taxes!" No more mandates! And ok, something has to be sacrificed, halfway down the page.

Are you repealing the subsidies?

Obamacare’s subsidies must be repealed. They are deeply flawed and leave millions of middle-class individuals and families without any help to pay for health care.

Idaho Vandals logo, inside the Kibbie Vault

One of the "deep flaws" was that they relied on states to expand Medicaid to bridge the gap between those in abject poverty and those who are scraping by, and many states—Idaho among them—have failed to accomplish that legislative work year after year after year.

But don't worry, there will be a "tax credit" of some sort. "Unleash[ing] innovation and competition in the health care market" will make money rain down from the sky. $2,000 to $14,000 per year for low- and middle-income Americans, depending on age and family size.

Medicaid will be magically transformed into "quality, affordable options through a new, competitive, state-based private insurance marketplace," which I'm sure each and every one of the 50 states are eager to whip into shape, even as Congress looks after Washington D.C. and its 670,000+ citizens. And no one is going to lose their health insurance. Gender discrimination will be prohibited, so... maternity leave for everyone! (But of course no abortions.)

How are you paying for this plan? How much is it going to cost taxpayers?

We are still discussing details...

Margot Sanger-Katz boils some of the details under discussion out of the 123 pages stored on some computer as G:\P\15\HT\REC1\ECTITLE_16.XML and formatted in dreamy bureaucratese, with numbered lines and scintillating prose such as

5 SEC. 101. THE PREVENTION AND PUBLIC HEALTH FUND.
6 (a) IN GENERAL.—Subsection (b) of section 4002 of
7 the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42
8 U.S.C. 300u–11), as amended by section 5009 of the 21st
9 Century Cures Act, is amended—
10 (1) in paragraph (2), by adding ‘‘and’’ at the
11 end;
12 (2) in paragraph (3)—
13 (A) by striking ‘‘each of fiscal years 2018
14 and 2019’’ and inserting ‘‘fiscal year 2018’’;
15 and
16 (B) by striking the semicolon at the end
17 and inserting a period; and
18 (3) by striking paragraphs (4) through (8).

It's going to be a real page-turner, you can tell, just from page #1. The headline cuts to the chase: G.O.P. Repeal Bill Would Cut Funding for Poor and Taxes on Rich.

And the story notes that four Republican Senators were a bit hinky already sending a letter to the Majority Leader with their concerns. Sanger-Katz notes parenthetically that "To pass, the bill needs 50 Senate votes, which means that leadership can’t afford to lose even three senators."

Didn't the Affordable Care Act have sixty votes in the Senate? Yes, it did. 58 Democrats, and 2 independents. But somehow the GOP has a plan to shiv their replacement through with barely 50? After they satisfy each and every member of their caucus who wants something special for his or her state. Better stock up on popcorn.

March fourth Permanent URL to this day's entry

One of the bit players crumbles Permalink to this item

Asked a fairly straightforward and unincriminating question, ("Briefly start out by telling us how you knew, or know Donald Trump and what kind of work did you do on the campaign last year?") Carter Page's answer on February 15 began with a junior version of a poltician dodging the question.

"You know I... it, it's funny you were just talking about, uh... leaks, with your uh your former, uh, former interviewee. Y' I don't talk about the internal works that I did to help, uh, the campaign..."

It's a fabulous display of stumbling, dissembling, and diversion. He claims he was a junior something or other and never in any "small" or "direct" meetings with the candidate. In other words, the billing of him as "former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor" was overblown, but here he was in the national news, and on TV, in spite of the Trump campaign having thrown him off the bus last summer. He had some talking points. Fake news, dodgy dossier, regurgitation, "public relations attacks," a vague innuendo that the Clinton campaign was guilty of "obstruction of justice," and a sheaf of papers that he'd sent to a NY Times reporter, "unfortunately" not included in their front page story. One sided!

Woodruff: "You were in Russia, you worked in Russia for a number of years, where do you think this comes from? Were you in contact with, in any kind of contact last year with Russian, uh, government officials?"

Page: "It comes from deep animosity, and deep negative feelings against the Russians..."

Didn't answer the question. Mrs. Clinton, Sally Yates, yada yada. Judy Woodruff asked the question again, he finally answered, unequivocally.

"I had no meetings. No meetings."

He has now changed his tune, and we see the two weeks-ago denial was a flat-out lie. He met with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in Cleveland last summer, did that slip his recollection somehow? Something refreshed his memory, finally? “I will say I never met him anywhere outside of Cleveland. Let’s just say that much,” he added, on Thursday.

Weekend update Permalink to this item

Storms overnight, rain in town and things are greening up, several inches of snow in the mountains (but–ahem–34° up there? meh), and uneasy slept the orange head under the crown. After that glorious moment of TelePrompTered presidentiality blew up into a blizzard out of Siberia and Jefferson Beauregard's confirmation perjury, Dear Leader returned fire with, of course, a middle of the night Tweetstorm. McCarthy! Nixon! Watergate! "Bad (or sick) guy!"

Lordamercy, I know you are, but what are we? Now this:

Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't voluntarily leaving the Apprentice, he was fired by his bad (pathetic) ratings, not by me. Sad end to great show

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017

A bit of foreshadowing in that, hmm? On our way to the last episode, Benjamin Wittes has Ten Questions for President Trump on the LawFare blog. Mild spoiler alert, here comes #7 and #8:

7. If you were tweeting not based on knowledge received as chief executive of the United States, were you tweeting in your capacity as a reader of Breitbart or a listener of Mark Levin's radio show?

8. If so, on what basis are you confident the stories and allegations in these august outlets are true and accurate vis a vis the activity of the government you, in fact, now head?

Someone may be briefing the president later today, but the astute David Neiwert, who "was around when the Church Committee more or less created them," explains "how the real world works: The president cannot order a wiretap, by statute. Only the FBI can do that, and even then only when armed with a FISA warrant."

And he points out that there was an unconfirmed story about this back in October, which, unless the answer to #7 is "the latter," and this is more diversionary #FakeNews out of the White House, is hereby confirmed.

Update: Jonathan Chait drills down through this new Russia scandal defense, posing as the victim of Obama. Previewing the line of argument that may emerge as his primary defense? With links in the NYMag original:

"Before this morning, Trump’s message on the Russia scandal has emphasized his innocence. He and his associates have done nothing wrong, and all the charges reflect baseless Democratic attempts to make excuses for Crooked Hillary’s sad defeat. (i.e., “Russia talk is FAKE NEWS put out by the Dems, and played up by the media, in order to mask the big election defeat and the illegal leaks!”) His new line of argument ignores the question of his own guilt or innocence and turns the accusation against his predecessor, who – he alleges – ordered his phones to be wiretapped.

"The apparent source of this theory is a radio rant by right-wing talk show host Mark Levin, which was aggregated by the pro-Trump conservative ethnonationalist site Breitbart... Since wiretaps must be legally approved by a special court and would require a high standard of evidence, it is highly unlikely that Levin’s theory is correct. (Or, at least, the theory assumes an act of breathtaking illegality by Obama for which Levin has produced no evidence.) It is also fairly ironic that Trump has chosen to compare Obama to Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, given that Trump was closely mentored by the key architect of McCarthy’s smear campaign, and deliberately patterned his own campaign on Nixon’s."

Cut to the chase:

"The benefit of this line of reasoning is that it does not require conservatives to actually defend Trump’s behavior. All that’s needed is for their distrust of Obama to overcome their misgivings about Trump—a condition that describes virtually the entire Republican base."

3.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Speaking of Russia Permalink to this item

September 8 was so impossibly long ago, and who remembers what was happening back then? Caroline O. checked it out on LexisNexis and tweets what she found. TWO MONTHS BEFORE THE ELECTION, and just after Obama and Putin discussed US "sanctions targeting 37 individuals and companies involved in Russia's aggression in Ukraine" at the G20 summit, and the freaking DAY AFTER the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper publicly suggested for the first time that Russia was behind the DNC hack,

And (here it is), on the same day that #Sessions met w/Kislyak, Russia suddenly became optimistic about building good relations w/the US, 8/ pic.twitter.com/wGClxKeFix

— Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) March 2, 2017

But other than that, it's just some kind of witch hunt, I'm sure.

You've got mail! Permalink to this item

As we struggle to comprehend the gravity well surrounding the Russian connections (with J.B. Sessions' half-step toward the right thing, and oh, did we mention Jared Kushner was in on it too?), "this just in," the IndyStar: Mike Pence used a personal email for his state business—and was hacked.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP photo

Not a personal email server, but an account. An AOL account, no less. He "routinely used a private email account to conduct public business as governor of Indiana, at times discussing sensitive matters and homeland security issues."

Indiana's new governor "released 29 pages of emails" from the AOL account, which would be like what, a week's worth? "but declined to release an unspecified number of others because the state considers them confidential and too sensitive to release to the public." But hey hey hey, not too sensitive or confidential to have on AOL.

As Mike Flynn and the angry mob at the RNC would say, LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP! Unless... email isn't that big a deal?

"Pence fiercely criticized Clinton throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, accusing her of trying to keep her emails out of public reach and exposing classified information to potential hackers."

But Pence's spokesman said any comparisons were "absurd."

2.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

End of the trail for another scofflaw cowboy clan Permalink to this item

As Peter Walker summarizes on Facebook: "Before the Bundys there was Wayne Hage. A similar legal theory, and a similar story—he deliberately grazed public land for years without a permit. But unlike the Bundys, Hage pursued his theory in a court of law rather than with armed force. Hage won in a lower court, but a higher court reversed the decision and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Now Hage's estate is required to stop grazing public land and pay $587,294."

Idahoans will recognize the Hage name as the final epithet on Congressman [sic] Helen Chenoweth's surname, after she and Wayne got hitched during her third and final term in the big House in 1999. (She pledged to serve no more than three terms and honored that.) Wikipedia records that she moved to Hage's Nevada ranch, where the two continued to write and speak on private property rights issues until their deaths in '06 (from cancer in his case, and a one-car rollover and no seat belt in hers).

Wayne Jr. continued the long-running dispute, and looked to be sitting pretty after U.S. District Judge Robert Clive Jones ruled in his favor (and cited a Forest Service and a BLM employee for contempt, for good measure). But the 9th Circuit wasn't having any of that from the most-appealed and most-reversed judge in Nevada. From the appeals court opinion, reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal last January:

"Defendants openly trespassed on federal lands. Rather than simply resolving the fact-specific inquiries as to when and where the cattle grazed illegally, the district court applied an 'easement by necessity' theory that plainly contravenes the law.

"A dispassionate observer would conclude that the district judge harbored animus toward the federal agencies. Unfortunately, the judge's bias and prejudgment are a matter of public record."

Starting from day 1 of the 2012 trial, and ending with the now moot 104-page opinion "detailing what [Jones] called the federal government's vindictive actions against the ranching family." The Supreme Court was not interested in reviewing the 9th Circuit's decision and the case was reassigned to the decidedly less-sympathetic Chief Judge of the Las Vegas District, Gloria Navarro who just issued the order summarized by Walker.

The early rise of anti-government rebels would seem almost quaint were it not for the ongoing damage redounding today and being mainstreamed into the Republican Party. The Wikipedia article has a citation to Timothy Egan's 1996 column in the New York Times, in which we can reconsider the question of whether the Chenoweth-Hage ilk is "too radical for mainstream America," or coming into its own. (She was, apparently, too much for then-new Speaker Newt Gingrich, so go figure.) From '96:

"Mrs. Chenoweth has repeatedly insisted, for example, that Federal Fish and Wildlife agents are using helicopters to work in Idaho, a mountain state with millions of acres of public land. In paramilitary and survivalist circles, helicopters have particular resonance; they are viewed as stealth agents of a global martial force."

3rd Owhyee Rendezvous

They were black helicopters, don't you know.

It's quite a story over the years, dating back to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, by High Country News' timeline. Wayne Hage shows up in 1991, when the Forest Service impounded about a hundred of his cattle, and started the legal circus. The 1992 shoot-out at Ruby Ridge arrested our attention, and the next year—1993—Cliven Bundy started refusing to pay grazing fees to the BLM, which ordered him to remove hundreds of his cows from 80,000 acres of public land in southern Nevada.

Fast-forward to date, Walker notes that "the same judge who ruled against the Hage estate is also overseeing the Bunkerville trials. That doesn't bode well for Oregon-like acquittals in the Nevada cases."

Some swamp to drain Permalink to this item

"I did not have communications with the Russians." Well, except for those two times. But the actual question Senator Franken asked Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions IIII during his confirmation hearing for the Attorney General job was left unanswered. Franken asked, "If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?"

Jeff Sessions testifies, badly

Sessions said he didn't communicate with them, and that he was "unable to comment." Gosh, if only he'd been unable to comment a little sooner, we might not be having this conversation?

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) sent Sessions an additional written question: “Have you been in contact with anyone connected to any part of the Russian government about the 2016 election, either before or after election day?” The AG’s one-word answer could not have been more categorical: “No.”

The right thing to do is obvious enough. Starts with "re" and doesn't end with "cuse."

The spin might be entertaining though, coming from a gal who used to be Sean Spicer's "#2" at the RNC. Yeah there was that one secret meeting with the Ambassador, but that was "in his capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, not as a Trump campaign surrogate," so not even relevant.

We can wrap this up without a lot of hearings, can't we? A knowing and deliberate falsehood about a clearly pertinent matter made under oath? Let's let John Bresnahan, Capitol bureau chief at Politico spell it out:

/2 Sen. Sessions would call for a criminal investigation with possible perjury charges. Covered Sessions for years, I have no doubt on this

— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) March 2, 2017

1.March.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's not a backroom deal Permalink to this item

It's a basement room deal.

Today, House Republicans made it known that they will release their plan tomorrow and that it will only be made available to House Republicans. Representative Chris Collins tells the Washington Examiner the plan “would be made available Thursday morning to Republicans in a basement room of an office building that adjoins the Capitol.”

That's cool, because John Oliver already spilled the beans on Last Week Tonight. There's a pattern here:

"Republicans have happily complained about flaws in the law, have taken no responsibility for fixing them, and in fact have often undermined the whole thing. But that time is now over. It is their turn to present a plan, and the clock is now ticking...."

We're all imagining "more choices, better care, lower cost, without disrupting existing coverage," with pretty much no actual plan to look at. Unless we get a special ticket to the basement. And are cool with non-insurance talking points about refundable tax credits, health savings accounts, block grants to fund Medicaid, high-risk pools, and a continuous coverage incentive [PLACEHOLDER].

Or let's go with the president's plan: Everybody's gotta be covered. And the government pays for it. And it'll be private. And you'll be able to negotiate everything you need, and keep your doctors and keep your plans. You "can have everything."

That thing you just saw him do Permalink to this item

The president swept Van Jones off his feet anyway. Oh my, "there was humanity in the exchange." It was utter gaslighting in claiming success (outsourcing the lie to the Secretary of Defense, as Brian Beutler put it, more in a bit), but let's look on the bright side? "Etched into eternity." Never mind that Trump had blamed Owens' death on "the generals" earlier in the day.

And then... ad libbing? Oh god, please don't. "Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he’s very happy, because I think he just broke a record." A big ovation in Congress is what we live for, right?

Those moments stood out from the usual alternative factifying. Draining the swamp (not), stopping drugs at the border (good news: U.S. manufacturing is UP, at least as long as the feds lay off it), taking credit for decisions that happened before he was elected, the Keystone pipeline creating "tens of thousands of jobs" (not), using U.S. steel (not), the "has spent" so far, and over the next three decades, that crazy murder rate thing (killed it!).

In terms of the actual context and actual policy, Ben Casselman's take for FiveThirtyEight: Trump’s Speech Was Quiet — And Quietly Radical. Just "a complete overhaul of U.S. policy on taxes, trade, immigration and health care," billions more for defense (did he skip over the billions less for diplomacy?) and a $trillion for infrastructure. (Whose $trillion? We're not quite sure, so it must be ours.) "The policies Trump laid out Tuesday night would change the country and its global relationship in profound ways."

Just a week ago, Farhad Manjoo tried to take a week off, and pretty much failed; his "week off" account is all about you-know-who. You hardly need to scroll down this blog to know I'm as guilty as the next guy.

Beutler's piece for the New Republic excoriated the media's performance more roundly than our Tweeter-in-chief has ever been able to. Not to put too fine a point on it, The Worst Performance of Trump’s Presidency Now Belongs to the Press Corps.

"There is apparently less capacity for living and learning in political journalism than there is in elementary school; less object permanence than in nursery school."

The end of black history (month) Permalink to this item

Started this post on Feb. 9, but it seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Working title was "Fomenting fear," which, given last night's declaration that fear is over, seems almost quaint. What got me started was a Facebook post from Jerry Sturgill, who wanted to be a U.S. Senator from Idaho, but isn't Republican enough. This was in the heat of the judicial battle over the travel ban.

“Extreme vetting” is a marketing term concocted by President Trump and his advisors. The term shows (a) ignorance of the current, established vetting process, (b) diminishes the devoted civil servants who do the vetting, (c) stokes unfounded fears and anger in voters ignorant of the process, or (d) all of the above.

Refugees are NOT “streaming across our borders.” The current vetting process is NOT defective. Delay for more study and the concocting of any more “extreme” measures is NOT necessary—and NOT humane. ...

He recommended the Feb. 3 episode of This American Life, It's Working Out Very Nicely, in which they document what happened when the President’s executive order went into effect, and we all wonder "What was that all about?"

What was it all about for the President of the United States to claim that the news media weren't giving enough coverage to terrorism, and to have every major news organization say YES WE HAVE TOO AND SEE HERE, HUNDREDS OF REPORTS ABOUT DOZENS OF ATTACKS!

One comment under Sturgill's post: "Trump(bannon) are just keeping their base stirred up. They want us divided. It was the theme of the campaign and continues daily. Anyone hear anything about Russian hack lately? Any serious investigation? Any business conflicts? Anyone checking? But everyone's reading the tweets of a madman."

Said man madly tweeted to complain that Nordstrom's was treating his daughter "so unfairly" as his mind wandered, 21 minutes into his Daily Intelligence Briefing. Maybe the PDB PBD new DIB is so much "more comprehensive" than the old one that they'd covered all the myriad threats of the day by then.

Tommy Christopher points out that the momentary hint of fresh air in political news was not so much; the private, whispered criticism from the nominee for the Supreme Court seat that Mitch McConnell highjacked is not actual proof of "independence." As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview with Rachel Maddow:

"To whisper to a senator behind closed doors that he’s disheartened, without condemning, without making a public statement, is not close to enough. ... He did not answer any questions he should have. I asked him a simple question—is a Muslim ban unconstitutional? He wouldn’t answer it. He’s an originalist. I asked him about his view of the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution, he wouldn’t answer it. Question after question after question, he refused to answer. You know what this reminds me of? I had an eerie feeling as I sat in that that meeting. Here was a judge, well groomed, intelligent, very polite, very, very articulate, who wouldn’t give his views on anything.

"Justice Roberts, then Judge Roberts, assured us he’d call balls and strikes. He gets in office and his court does Citizens United, a huge break with precedent that ruins, ruins the politics of America. He repeals, basically, the Voting Rights Act by eliminating Section V, a sacred right, and I am very worried that Judge Gorsuch is similar. He’s going to not answer questions, he’s going to have a nice appearance, he’s going to claim he’s independent, but he has not exhibited any real independence whatsoever. And with this president, independence is more called for than ever."

Way out here in Idaho, some of our politicians are eager to follow the leader on the refugee question. Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter said "I’m OK with religious preference."

As the Governor of Idaho.

(Let's not call it "discrimination" though.) The Interfaith Equality Coalition drafted an open letter on behalf of local clergy and invites them to sign on, to "disagree that our great state desires to give preference to Christians as refugees over people of other, or of no, faith," which, really, should go without saying, but at this point, does not.

"Our country, our state, and our faith come together in a confluence of shared values of justice that is impartial, equality that sees the interconnected nature of all life, and care that responds to the needs of others—and most particularly those who exist on the margins of our society: the tired, the hungry, and the poor. Such plight knows no boundary of faith, race, gender, sexuality, or class."

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz trots out the old white-hooded chestnut that David Neiwert chewed up and spit out a year ago. Cruz was of course feinting with damn praise to counter criticism of the very idea of Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III becoming Attorney General. The Democrats are the party of the Ku Klux Klan, eh? Which Democrats are you talking about, sir? Not the ones such as wanted to read Coretta Scott King's letter on the floor of the Senate.

Into the wild blue yonder Permalink to this item

Delivered soberly and almost verbatim from a prepared text, restrained and serious, that's new. Sort of presidential, finally, 5 weeks in. This is exciting: we are DONE with fear-mongering.

“The time for small thinking is over, the time for trivial fights is behind us. From now on, America will be empowered by our aspirations, not burdened by our fears.”

So glad to have our fears waved away, with the same magic wand as used to save "$700 million plus on a F35" [sic] just by "getting involved." I know planes are expensive, but are there real numbers somewhere? Winslow Wheeler's 2014 piece on warisboring.com said the average unit cost of the Air Force F-35A, Marine Corps F-35B and Navy F-35C was $178 million, which would make saving $700 million a copy a Very Big Deal. Huge.

Lockheed Martin's fast facts extols the 60% drop in production costs since the first unit was built and offers ABC pricing "not including the engine." Their month ago press release cites a "$728M reduction in the total price (for Lot 10) when compared to Lot 9 and marks the first time the price for an F-35A is below $100M." Without the engine. Lot 10 is slated to be 90 units: "55 jets for the U.S. services and 35 jets for international partners and foreign military sales customers." Australia, Italy, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, and the U.K. are flying F-35s. And there's a lot of butter coming out of those guns:

"Currently, the F-35 program supports more than 1,300 suppliers in 45 states, directly and indirectly employs more than 146,000 people. There are also hundreds of suppliers around the world supporting the F-35 program, creating thousands of international jobs. By the 2020s, at full rate production, direct and indirect job growth is projected to be more than 260,000, with a majority of those jobs in the U.S."

UK's Royal Navy photo

That all sounds great, but does anybody tote up the costs and issues for us? Wikipedia, maybe. Says there that "by 2014, the program was '$163 billion over budget [and] seven years behind schedule'" by one estimate, and that "critics also contend that the program's high sunk costs and political momentum make it 'too big to kill.'" It's not dead yet, so there you go. The development contract was signed more than 20 years ago, and they've been rolling off the assembly line for just over 8 years.

If there's a bottom line in all that, I couldn't find it. Maybe one of the 682 cited sources has it. Here's one, by Colin Clark for breakingdefense.com, 2 years ago: F-35 costs down 2% for the short lead, and the longer:

"[A]fter decades of botched programs, bloated budgets, technical screwups and long delays we may be seeing what Winston Churchill might have called the beginning of the beginning of the end of acquisition malfeasance by America’s military. The 79 major programs monitored for the Pentagon’s authoritative Selected Acquisition Report dropped $9.1 billion from last year."

L-M touting a "$60 billion decrease in Operations and Support costs of the F-35 program during the last year alone," something more than just how much the next airplane off the line is figured to cost. They saved $60 bil, so, uh, how much did we spend? The author invites us to "comb through" the Dec. 2014 Selected Acquisition Reports (SARs). The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is summarized near the bottom, and we see that 2 years ago the overall costs (lifetime? One year? Projected to infinity and beyond?) "decreased $7.5 billion from $398.6 billion to $391.1 billion."

Seven and a half seems a bit less than sixty, and which year? How long? How much? $1.45 trillion over 50 years? How many planes? How many years per plane?

A year ago, breakingdefense's report quoted SAR alphanumeric soup at length, numbers in base year 2012 dollars, and other numbers in "then year dollars." 1 BY$ = 1.73 TY$. When is "then"? How high the sky?

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007