Friday, March 31, 2017

"NCAA Should Tell NC to Pound Sand"

The repeal of HB2, which is now giving Gov. Roy Cooper a black eye for caving too soon, is getting panned everywhere.

Here's Charlotte Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler's conclusion:
I can’t see how the NCAA will do anything but tell North Carolina lawmakers that Thursday’s shot just rimmed out. No, worse than that. This compromise that pleases hardly anyone is an airball, and should be labeled as such by a passionate crowd that just saw a terrible misfire in a packed arena.
While state legislators and Gov. Roy Cooper are hailing this as a last-minute collaborative victory, it looks to me a lot more like smearing lipstick on a pig. It does not fulfill Cooper’s promises to the LGBT community. It does not allow local governments to pass anti-discrimination ordinances until at least December 2020, and that was one of HB2’s most basic and controversial sticking points. The new bill leaves all gay people vulnerable to unequal treatment until past the next presidential election.
Emmert used a large part of a previously scheduled news conference in Arizona Thursday to answer questions about the HB2 repeal. Said Emmert: “HB2 is gone and no longer the law of the land. We made clear that absent any change in the law we weren’t going back to North Carolina. They’ve changed the law. Now the question is.... whether or not this new bill has changed the landscape sufficiently that the board is comfortable in returning to North Carolina.”
Emmert said he had not lobbied anyone on either side of HB2 – “that’s not our business to do that,” Emmert said – but added that he had talked frequently to Gov. Roy Cooper and numerous lawmakers over the past few days.
So, there has been a lot of talk, and now it’s time for some NCAA action.
I am not sure what happened Thursday will convince the NCAA to ultimately decide to put some of its championships back into our state.
But it shouldn’t.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Repeal of HB2 Happening Today

Apparently, there's no greater motivator for doing something in the NC General Assembly than a threat from the National Collegiate Athletic Association: repeal HB2 (or at least change it considerably) or lose the state's ability to host any sports championships through 2022. The NCAA's deadline for repeal is later today. So what else: The NCGA will be voting on a compromise deal to repeal HB2 this morning in Raleigh. Boom!

Governor Roy Cooper was reluctant to accept the deal (see below for why). The Republican House caucus, where the crazies go to fledge, was very reluctant (so reluctant, according to Colin Campbell and Jim Morrill, that the Republican leader in the House will have to have Democratic votes). Democrats bailing out Republicans from their leaking boat? How novel!

The deal itself does not make everyone happy, particularly the LGBT community. The bill will...
▪ Repeal HB2.
▪ Leave bathroom regulation to the state, essentially returning to the status quo before Charlotte passed a 2016 ordinance allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity.
▪ Enact a moratorium on similar ordinances until Dec. 1, 2020.
Let the far-right recriminations begin! Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, we're looking at you. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Virginia Foxx, On the Freaking Record

We can't demand Trump's tax returns, for we must protect his sacred privacy. But here's everyone's browsing history on the Internet. Sell it, trade it, invade it. We don't care!
 
The wonderful world of Republican morality!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

To the Bottom of Things

Jeff Darcy, Cleveland.com
Last night on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes actually said this:

“I’m sure that the Democrats do want me to quit because they know that I’m effective at getting to the bottom of things.”

Just gets hilarious-er and hilarious-er.

The cartoon makes perfect (if bizarre) sense. Trump is notorious for masquerading as his own press agent to plant stories about himself. Jeez!

Monday, March 27, 2017

All Eyes on the 6th District of Georgia

Photo: Dustin Chambers/Jon Ossoff for Congress
Special election to fill Tom Price's old congressional seat, the 6th District of Georgia -- which was also Newt Gingrich's old seat -- has already begun with early voting.

Trump's unpopularity among suburban, Republican-leaning voters has fueled expectations for Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional staffer who's never run for nor held elective office. But he's now a proven money-raiser ... some $3 million at last count.

It's a "jungle primary," with candidates from both parties -- some 11 Republicans alone -- running altogether at the same time to make it to the all-important run-off. Top two finishers on April 18 will face off head-to-head. One might have thought it would be two Republicans in this cherry-red district of affluent suburbanites, but Ossoff is considered not only competitive in the primary but also in the run-off.

A bridge too far? Maybe. Maybe not. We'll soon find out just how powerful the Trump backlash will be in 2018.

According to Richard Fausset and Jennifer Steinhauer,
The outcome of the election here may provide clues to how Mr. Trump’s presidency might, or might not, be deployed in local races. That is particularly true in wealthy suburban districts where Mr. Trump did not fare particularly well in November — and where Republicans may be especially vulnerable in 2018.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

GOP, Unfit for Government

So with huge Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, Trump blames Democrats for the massive belly-flop his Trump-Ryancare bill suffered yesterday.

BWA-ha-ha-ha!

The man learns nothing.

Meanwhile, it takes a Republican member of Congress to put his finger on exactly the psychological condition that makes this bunch so lame at governing:
“We have to do some soul-searching internally to determine whether or not we are even capable of functioning as a governing body,” said Representative Kevin Cramer, Republican of North Dakota. “If ‘no’ is your goal, it’s the easiest goal in the world to reach.” ("In Major Defeat for Trump, Push To Repeal Health Law Fails")

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trump: All Hat, No Cattle

Amazing how fast Trump abandoned his repeated (and repeated) campaign promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something far better. Much, much better. So better it'll make your head swim. Believe me.

Those were applause lines, and Trump loves applause. He loves applause a whole hell of a lot more than he loves public policy, and he's never had (a) much of an idea what was even in the Ryan health insurance bill and certainly not what got changed to please the Freedom Caucus and (b) a plan of his own. He doesn't care what's in the bill. He just wants to sign a bill. Because that would be winning.

So he threw a snit-fit late yesterday and sent a stern message to recalcitrant Republicans in the US House -- demanded, really -- told 'em to take an up or down vote on the Ryan bill (as changed, mainly to remove more and more "essential insurance services" from coverage, like emergency room visits), and if it didn't pass, he said, then WE KEEP OBAMACARE FOR ETERNITY.

So much for the art of the deal and the magic touch of the almighty businessman.

And about all that applause that Trump laps up like a pussy cat laps cream and which he always gets when he promises to repeal Obamacare:
A Quinnipiac University national poll found that voters disapproved of the Republican plan by lopsided margins, with 56 percent opposed, 17 percent supportive and 26 percent undecided. The measure did not even draw support among a majority of Republicans; 41 percent approved, while 24 percent were opposed.
Meanwhile, into the face of that adverse wind, Trump tweeted out at 7:28 a.m. yesterday morning, “Go with our plan. It’s going to be terrific.” Nobody with at least two active synapses believes the fool, and fewer and fewer are even listening to that kind of empty talk.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Republicans Caught on the Horns of a Dilemma

What will they do today? More specifically, what will Virginia Foxx do? (We know. We just love to ask.)

Either Republicans will pass the Ryan-Trumpcare bill that will wreak havoc with their own voters and impact their own re-election prospects.

Or they will vote it down, undermining President Steve Bannon's agenda.

If the bill fails, “How do we have any momentum to do anything else?” asked Representative Richard Hudson, Republican of North Carolina. “Without this bill, I don’t know how you do tax reform,” he said. If the bill fails, “it’s going to have negative repercussions for all of us.”

But what if it succeeds? (And of course Foxx will vote for it, because she's a company suck.) For true right-wingers, success for this bill means abject failure for the promise to repeal Obamacare: “The bill maintains Obamacare’s overall structure and approach, an approach that cements the federal government’s role in health insurance” -- Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.).

For more moderate Republicans (you mean, there are still some of those left on this earth?!), success for this bill will mean more hardship for their constituents. Doctors, nurses, and hospitals have come out strongly against the measure, and insurance companies have been largely "skeptical," to put it mildly.

"Much has changed in the years since the Affordable Care Act passed, with millions of Americans, many in red states, now getting health insurance as a result of the law, as well as treatment for the prescription drug addictions that have plagued scores of communities" (Jennifer Steinhauer).

Spending money to help people is exactly what the Republican "Freedom Caucus" intends to stamp out. Ordinarily, Virginia Foxx would be right there with them, but she owes Paul Ryan for her committee chairmanship. So "Obamacare Lite" is fine with her.

Devin Nunes, Tattle-Tell

Devin Nunes (R-Calif.),
Chair of the House
Intelligence Committee
FBI Director James Comey threw a clod in Trump's churn on Monday, confirming that there is an investigation into collusion between Trump's campaign and the Russians, and he threw a second clod in there when he refused to validate Trump's lie that President Obama had wiretapped him during the transition.

But here comes little Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) yesterday to change the subject and sow confusion by immolating himself in front of the press. Nunes is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and is supposed to be leading the House's investigation into the Russian subversion of our election. But he was also a member in good standing of Trump's transition team, so yuge conflict of interest.

But yesterday was the capper:

1. Nunes suddenly called a press conference and charged American spy agencies of gathering and sharing information unrelated to the Russian charges that was inadvertently picked up in "communication intercepts" of conversations involving foreign nationals who are presumably targets for investigation. (According to the NYTimes, "American intelligence agencies typically monitor foreign officials of allied and hostile countries, and they routinely sweep up communications linked to Americans who may be taking part in the conversation or are being spoken about.")

2. Nunes also admitted that he had no evidence that Trump or his associates had been directly eavesdropped on.

3. The real horror, Mr. Nunes told reporters, was that "he could figure out the identities of Trump associates from reading reports about intercepted communications that were shared among Obama administration officials with top security clearances. He said some Trump associates were also identified by name in the reports." Which is why he went running to the White House with the leaked information to tattle to the man he's supposed to be investigating.

4. In a second impromptu press conference on the driveway outside the White House, following his moment with Trump, Nunes was clearly trying to steer everyone away from the Comey bombshell on Monday by dangling the newest shiny object: dastardly leaks of classified information and inappropriate behavior by the intelligence agencies.

 5. Nunes said he received the information from an anonymous source ... after criticizing the media for publishing leaks.

6. He shared it with the press before his Intelligence Committee colleagues, including ranking Democrat Adam B. Schiff of California.

7. He went to the White House to brief Trump about the material despite leading an investigation involving the Trump administration.

For his part, Trump was clearly refreshed that Nunes had set himself on fire on the White House driveway: “I very much appreciated the fact that they found what they found.”

What would be happening today in America if this spectacle of improper tattling had happened between a Democratic House investigative committee chair and, say, President Hillary Clinton? Hmmm? Any idea?

The noose is tightening around this White House. Yesterday actually started with an AP investigative report that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had "agreed to advance Vladimir Putin’s political interests beginning in 2006 under a multimillion-dollar contract with one of the Russian president’s key allies."

It's always the cover-up that gets 'em.

In the meantime, Nunes must go. Go quickly. Go far away from any semblance of public trust.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Donald Trump Has Become His Own Cartoon

“He’s deeply, deeply insecure about how he’s perceived in the world, about whether or not he’s competent and deserves what he’s gotten. There’s an unquenchable thirst for validation and love. That’s why he can never stay quiet, even when it would be wise strategically or emotionally to hold back.”
--Tim O’Brien, author of “TrumpNation,” a 2005 biography that documented Trump's early years

"As a presidential candidate, he wanted to look dour, and vetoed any campaign imagery that so much as hinted at weakness, aides said. Which is why every self-selected snapshot — down to the squinty-eyed scowl attached to his Twitter account — features a tough-guy sourpuss. 'Like Churchill,' is what Mr. Trump would tell staffers when asked what look he was going for."
--Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman

“With almost every barbed, unscripted tweet, he deletes some story his administration wants to tell,” said David Axelrod, one of Mr. Obama’s top advisers. “He reacts to every affront, real or imagined, in Pavlovian fashion. He beats every perceived slight to death and, even when he’s won the point, continues beating.”

Kevin Siers, Charlotte Observer

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump Installs Loyalty "Commissars" in His Cabinet Departments

They are sent from the White House to keep an eye on the "loyalty" of Trump's top lieutenants. They demanded -- and got -- prime office space right next to the cabinet secretary's office. They appear at all high-level staff meetings to spy for Trump and report back to the White House. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has already gotten pissed off about the unsolicited advice, so he reportedly banned his "commissar" from many staff meetings.

According to Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin,
The arrangement is unusual. It wasn’t used by presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. And it’s also different from the traditional liaisons who shepherd the White House’s political appointees to the various agencies. Critics say the competing chains of command eventually will breed mistrust, chaos and inefficiency — especially as new department heads build their staffs.
But what's a little more mistrust, chaos, and inefficiency in this particular administration?

The problem of "watchers" in the cabinet agencies is exacerbated by the fact that Trump has failed to even name appointees to high-level deputy positions in many departments, let alone get them through the confirmation process. He clearly intends for his departments to go understaffed, which is fine if you're filming an independent porn film, perhaps, but may be disastrous for our government.

But never mind. Trump's spies will report to HDQs about the wreckage.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Board of Elections Power Grab Ruled Unconstitutional

A three-judge panel on Friday issued decisions about three contested power grabs by the Republicans in the NC General Assembly. Just weeks before Democrat Roy Cooper took office, the GA passed a law changing the composition of the state Board of Elections (and all county boards) that would effectively keep Republicans in charge of elections in even-numbered years; another law taking the power of appointment of executive branch workers away from the new governor; and another law mandating an NC Senate confirmation process for Cooper's top ten department heads.

The three-judge panel threw out the first two laws and in a 2-1 split decision, kept the last one. All of this is likely to be appealed to the NC Supreme Court by one or both sides.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Just Another Day in Trumpland

The leader of the Free World met yesterday in the Oval Office with the militaristic white nationalist leader of a fading empire, and the jerk refused to shake her hand.

The white nationalist had been harshly critical of Chancellor Angela Merkel last fall for allowing refugees into Germany. Refugees.

For her part, Merkel said, “I’ve always said it’s much, much better to talk to one another, and not about one another.” Which perhaps prompted the white nationalist to attempt a joke that both he and Merkel had been wiretapped by Barack Obama. Joke fell flat.

As Merkel and the white nationalist sat together in front of TV cameras in the Oval Office, the press pool began asking for the historic handshake, a request that Trump ignored. When Merkel turned to him and asked, "Do you want to have a handshake?" Trump wouldn't even look at her. That's how an asshole behaves.

Trump has now insulted, demeaned, or belittled many of the world leaders he's met with. And that's how a white nationalist behaves.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Virginia Foxx's Statement on Trump's Budget

Virginia Foxx never lacks for an instant press release on anything Trump says or does. She pretty much did the same for Obama, though the tone was different. Foxx was out today with cautious words about Trump's proposed budget.

What She Said
President Trump has promised to begin getting our nation’s fiscal house in order, and this budget shows that he intends to keep his promise.
What She Meant
I have never felt sexier in my life!
..........

What She Said
No one will agree with every proposal outlined in this budget, and it is up to Congress to carefully review the details. That is precisely what we will do in the coming weeks.
 What She Meant
I'm tingling down to my toes. I'm taking my shoes off! I'm counting my toes! I have all ten. They are brilliant digits!
..........

What She Said
We look forward to working with the president to implement fiscally responsible policies that promote economic prosperity, keep workers safe, and help ensure all Americans have access to an excellent education.
What She Meant
I can't wait for that first magical moment at Mar-a-Lago -- the gilding, the marble, the potted palms! The hand of Donald, gently guiding me over the threshold. Heaven should be so bounteous! (Heaven can wait.)

Death of a Salesman

Budget Director
Mick Mulvaney
Trump's budget director Mick Mulvaney defended his proposed budget yesterday, and we were all edified. Short version: The president has determined that the poor have too much and the rich, too little. Shorter version: Take all the money and give it to the military. Shortest version: Screw everybody.

People have been focused since yesterday's news on the projected loss of programs like Meals on Wheels. Those hot meals go most frequently to people who watch Fox News all day and who probably voted for Trump. They live predominantly in rural areas that boosted Trump over the top in swing states.

But Meals on Wheels is the least of the damage, really, to Trump World, as all sorts of programs that benefit farmers, small-town educators and their students, rural redevelopment, infrastructure replacement -- the list gets long very fast -- are also fingered for destruction. The Appalachian Regional Commission, which built 4-lane highways in West Virginia for the coal industry, and supports the delivery of health care all over Appalachia -- you're dead!

But never you mind. Mulvaney's budget is just an indication of the smallness of his soul and has zero prospect of actually passing Congress. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the powerful former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, spoke for many Republicans who haven't yet fallen off the right side of the known universe: “While we have a responsibility to reduce our federal deficit, I am disappointed that many of the reductions and eliminations proposed in the president’s skinny budget are draconian, careless and counterproductive.”

Draconian. Careless. And counterproductive. That's an apt selection of adjectives, Congressman!

Speaking to reporters, Mulvaney was sunny in his disposition about his budget rollout, saying in effect, "What did you effing expect from this particular president?" We're very accustomed now to a Trump who makes no apologies, but Mulvaney wanted to underline that trait:
[Mulvaney] said that after-school programs had failed to help children in schools, that housing programs were “not well run,” that government health research had suffered “mission creep” and that grants to local communities “don’t do any good.”
...And he said that the president made no apologies for eliminating the government’s efforts to curb climate change.
“We’re not spending money on that anymore,” Mr. Mulvaney told reporters at the White House. “We consider that a waste of your money to go out and do that.”
A smiling death's head
The people Trump said he would never forget -- those coal miners in West Virginia, those rural poor in Wisconsin, those scrambling farmers in Texas -- they're officially and resoundingly forgotten in this budget. Never mind the environment. Never mind public radio and PBS. Never mind the encouragement of art and the humanities. They will go because they're supported by liberals. All the other stuff that poor people depend on -- it will go because Steve Bannon wants to destroy government, and Trump is Bannon's puppet.

This budget will not pass, not as proposed. But it will stand as an object lesson for the kind of minds that have taken control in the White House.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

President Rollerball: “I've been reading about things”

Trump went to a friendly corner last night (Tucker Carlson's show on Fox News) to make shit up that his supporters will likely believe.

Carlson asked the obvious question: Why did Trump tweet that President Obama had him wiretapped in Trump Tower? Trump hilariously answered that he had been reading the New York Times -- make that "the failing New York Times" and its "fake news" -- and suddenly, it dawned on him: “Wait a minute, there's a lot of wiretapping being talked about.”

Yes, the president of the United States actually said those exact words last night on Fox News.

Trump also claimed that "information" would soon be revealed that could prove him right, but he would not explain what that "information" might be. He said he would be “submitting certain things” to a congressional committee investigating the matter and that he was considering speaking about the topic next week.

“I think you're going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” Trump said, like a green grocer about to introduce a new line of Venezuelan peaches.

If you were a jazz musician, you would call what Trump just did "vamping" -- looping a repeated phrase while trying to think where to go next. Trump always does that -- promises additional "information" -- really earth shattering stuff that will knock everyone back on their heels -- in just a few more days. He did that same thing about those three million illegal voters he claims denied him the popular vote last November. No big revelation ever materialized, nor will it ever.

He's constantly caught in a lie, and he vamps.

Carlson then suggested that Trump “devalues his own currency” by tweeting things that are not true. Trump's response was as limp as overcooked pasta: “Let's see whether or not I proved it .... I mean, let's see whether or not I prove it. I just don't choose to do it right now .… I think we have some very good stuff, and we're in the process of putting it together, and I think it's going to be very demonstrative.”

"I just don't choose to do it right now." BWAhahahaha!

Then he took what he obviously considered a foolproof escape hatch out of the trap Carlson had maneuvered him into: “Don't forget, when I say 'wiretapping,' those words were in quotes. That really covers, because wiretapping is pretty old-fashioned stuff. But that really covers surveillance and many other things. And nobody ever talks about the fact that it was in quotes, but that's a very important thing.”

What? Oh, we get it. If Trump tweets something in quotes, it's not real. Like the failing New York Times.

I don't think we're going to survive this perjurer, America!

Another Republican Scheme To Make the NC Judiciary a Partisan Tool

If there's one thing Republicans in Raleigh are good at, it's thinking up new ways to grab more power and then to keep it.

They've been thwarted over and over by court rulings that find many of their power grabs unconstitutional. So what to do? Change the courts, and they've got new court-packing laws wending their way through the General Assembly right now.

They intend to deprive the governor of his ability to appoint special superior court judges and new judges to vacancies on district courts. Who are they proposing to give the appointment power to? Why, to themselves, of course! More pernicious, they intend to shrink the size of the NC Court of Appeals from 15 to 12, explicitly to prevent Governor Roy Cooper from making appointments for three Republican judges who have mandatory retirements coming up during his first term.

The proposed court-packing bills are all the work of this man, Rep. Justin Burr, who represents Stanly and Montgomery counties. In a party full of power mad manipulators, Burr stands out as exceptional.

The NCGA's own Lex Luthor.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pat McCrory: Forever the Whiner

The popular meme these days among the conservative brethren is "snowflake," applied to "libruls" and especially to the young people who flocked to vote for Bernie Edwards last year ... "snowflake" because they supposedly melt at the first sign of heat, like hearing grown men exercise their god-given and constitutional rights to insult women, minorities, the disabled, the poor, and Michelle Obama.

You wanna study a real snowflake? Look no further than ex-governor Pat McCrory, who has not drawn a non-whining breath since he was defeated for reelection last fall. McCrory recently did an interview with an Asheville-based evangelical podcast during which he complained that he lost reelection because college students voted illegally (taking a page from Trump), that "most people have no idea what [HB 2] really is," that the Human Rights Campaign "thought police" is out to get him, and that, consequently, he's having trouble landing a job because everyone thinks he's a bigot.

"Heck, it's even impacted me to this day, even after I left office," McCrory told his interviewer. "People are reluctant to hire me because, oh, my gosh, he's a bigot, which is the last thing I am."

On Monday, McCrory told the News & Observer that he's been considered for part-time teaching positions, but university leaders are worried about student protests. (Never you mind! Samantha Bee has offered help fluffing McCrory's resume.)

Jeffrey C. Billman has offered the best summation of snowflake Pat: "So weird how people who fall over themselves to make political piƱatas out of vulnerable populations [witness his signing of HB2 minutes after it passed] demand safe spaces the second they encounter the consequences of their actions."

How Do You Run Government When You Hate Government?

Watching the Republicans in Congress flounder on health insurance reminds us all that they have no talent for making government work. Their big talent is for bashing government, for screaming "un-American" about any progressive idea, and for shredding the social safety-net the minute they have power.

Radio yakker Laura Ingraham is warning Trump that the Paul Ryan replacement for Obamacare is "a trap" that will take Donald down in 2020. Is Trump too far into the trap to suddenly get out? He threw his Twitter support behind Ryan's bill before anyone told him what's in it, and he's holding a big campaign rally in Tennessee later today to promote it. Because being applauded by a few thousand supporters is the same as conducting wise government.

Love what former Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said about this current moment in Republican mismanagement: "Most of the people who are in opposition to this [Ryan's bill] have never governed, don’t know how to govern, and don’t want to govern. Unfortunately, Republicans now control the government and have to learn how to govern. The Laura Ingrahams of the world, who make their money agitating, aren’t functional in a situation where the president has to govern.”

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Paul Ryan and Virginia Foxx Believe It's Every American's Right NOT To Have Health Insurance

According to the Congressional Budget Office report released yesterday, Trumpcare, the GOP bill to revise the Affordable Care Act, would nearly double the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 percent to 19 percent over the coming decade. That comes out to 24 million more people who will go without health-care coverage over 10 years if the bill is enacted, including 14 million next year alone.

Anticipating this devastating news, a 501(c)(4) issue-advocacy group closely aligned with Paul Ryan had TV ads already cued up to run in 15 congressional districts represented by Republicans who've managed to get the Trumpcare "stank" all over their fine clothes.

The ads urge viewers to “thank” the GOP lawmakers for living up to their promise of “replacing the Affordable Care Act with the better health-care you deserve.” The ads do not use the word “repeal.” The new, product-tested verb is "improve." Because 14 million fewer insured people during the first year of Trumpcare will be an improvement.

"The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" commercial looks like this in Congresswoman Barbara Comstock's district in Virginia:





The same ad is running or will run in the following congressional districts (where, evidently, the Republican incumbents are now considered vulnerable because of Trumpcare): Jeff Denham (Calif.), David Valadao (Calif.), Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Darrell Issa (Calif.), Mike Coffman (Colo.), Carlos Curbelo (Fla.), Rod Blum (Iowa), David Young (Iowa), Don Bacon (Neb.), Greg Walden (Ore.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Kevin Brady (Tex.), Will Hurd (Tex.), and Paul Ryan Hisownself (Wisc.).

Who believes this propaganda? Some people, no doubt, but probably not the Republican congress members who've hatched it, and the ad above sorta proves that they're chumming the waters with their own precious bodily fluids and drawing the sharks.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Trumpcare = Public Resentment

“If you ask someone to give up something, there will be resentment. If that claims my congressional career, so be it. It will be worth it to me to have effected this change.
--Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health
Congressman Burgess's comment reveals the current kamikaze attitude among US House Republicans. Trump needs a legislative victory. Trump doesn't know what's in that bill repealing the Affordable Care Act. He certainly hasn't read it. It doesn't come close to fulfilling the promises he made about insuring every American. But none of that matters. "Get it passed!" So Rep. Burgess is ready to go down in flames to give Trump his victory.

Congresswoman Foxx just luvs Trumpcare
The Congressman's comment also reveals the truth of the matter (something none of them have admitted in public and certainly not in front of TV cameras): "We Republicans are taking away health insurance from you idiots who voted for us." Republicans would take away more if they could get away with it ... Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security ... the entire social safety net that they've always despised. Look no further than Congresswoman Virginia Foxx to see the mean face of Republican intentions. Conservative Republicans are actually fighting Paul Ryan's repeal bill on the grounds that it isn't mean enough, does too little to reduce subsidies for the poor.

If Rep. Burgess and Foxx get their wish, and if the US Senate goes along, chaos will ensue and will fulminate well into the 2018 general election season. According to Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan, "A growing chorus of Republican policy experts and senators are pleading to slow the process down or risk a political blood bath."

But Trump enjoys a good blood bath. He takes his almost every morning between 6 and 7 a.m.

Trumpcare -- we're not supposed to call it that, but too bad -- has been harshly criticized by medical professionals, hospitals (especially rural hospitals), insurers, and various state officials, who said it "could increase the number of uninsured and destabilize insurance markets." The Congressional Budget Office is expected to render its verdict on the legislation this coming week. Republicans should maybe brace for bad news. Not that they give a good goddamn about the truth. They're living in a post-truth, alternative facts universe.

Trump World! You have to get there through the looking glass (but please exit through the gift shop!).

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Virginia Foxx Makes the New York Times for a Planned Invasion of Privacy

Yes, Madam Foxx is all over the press for introducing a bill, the innocently named "Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act," which would allow employers to gather genetic data on their employees and also penalize them for not participating in a company's wellness program.

Big Brother, meet Aunt Sassy.

According to Reed Abelson, "The bill ... has already provoked fierce opposition from a wide range of consumer, health and privacy advocacy groups.... Critics claim it undermines existing laws aimed at protecting an individual’s personal medical information from use by an employer and others."

“We strongly oppose any legislation that would allow employers to inquire about employees’ private genetic information or medical information unrelated to their ability to do their jobs, and to impose draconian penalties on employees who choose to keep that information private,” a group of advocates -- including AARP, the American Diabetes Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Epilepsy Foundation, the March of Dimes and others -- wrote in a letter to Foxx.

Under Foxx's bill, workers could be coerced into giving up private medical information, such as weight, blood pressure, and "whether they are at particular risk for cancer."

I've seen this movie! Gattaca (1997), "a biopunk vision" of a future society driven by eugenics and genetic discrimination. Only the best specimens get anywhere.

Wonder if the Madam would like to have her genetic profile taken and shared. I suspect not.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Sorry. The Future Has Been Canceled

Scott Pruitt
“The future ain’t what it used to be at the E.P.A.”
--Scott Pruitt, Trump's administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference
Scott Pruitt would know. He's the lawyer that used to put out oil and gas industry propaganda under his own name as attorney general of Oklahoma, where defending the fossil fuel industry comes before church.

He's now in charge of protecting the environment of the United States, which means that pirates are now at the helm of the ship of state.

Pruitt just changed his testimony at his confirmation hearing -- "I never said I thought climate change was a hoax" -- to "carbon-dioxide has nothing to do with the warming of the planet." Such an attitude not only flies in the face of widespread scientific consensus that carbon-dioxide does indeed trap more heat at the earth's surface, but it also denies reality. Anyone heard lately about the Rhode-Island-size chunk of the Antarctic ice shelf that's about to drop into the ocean because of softening ice?

Pruitt is not only spouting his crap against the evidence of science and freaking reality. He's preparing to defy the very law itself. Under provisions of the Clean Air Act (passed under the last liberal president, Richard Nixon), the EPA which Mr. Pruitt now heads must regulate pollutants that harm human health. In 2009 carbon dioxide was judged to be an "endangerment" and therefore must be regulated by the EPA. That finding has been unheld in federal court, and the Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the lower court.

So what's a Trump/Pruitt to do? Why, issue an executive order, naturally! According to the reporting of Coral Davenport, "Mr. Trump is expected to announce an executive order next week directing Mr. Pruitt to begin the legal process of unwinding the climate change regulations on [carbon dioxide] emissions from power plants."

The wrecking crew owns this joint now.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Prejudicing -- Or Pre-Judging -- the Judges in North Carolina

The Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly intend to make all judicial elections partisan. Under their proposed new law, all judges would run under a party label, because, according to Senator Phil Berger, we need to know exactly how judges are going to rule before they even hear the evidence (no kidding!):
“Judges have the power to make decisions that impact millions of North Carolinians, and voters deserve to know where they stand on the important issues facing our state,” Berger said. “That’s why this bill restores a common-sense and straightforward partisan election system that lets voters know who shares their views on the proper role of the judiciary.”
That's about as naked as it gets -- the injection of partisan politics into what is supposed to be a fair and impartial judiciary.

Good God Almighty! There's no limit to their cynicism and their thirst for more power.

 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Understatement of the Day

"Trump’s relationship with Fox News may actually be far friendlier than is his relationship with America’s intelligence community."
--Philip Bump, "You'll Never Guess Who Tweeted Something False He Saw on TV"
Philip Bump was referring to something Trump saw and thought he understood on "Fox and Friends" this morning. He tweeted out that President Obama was responsible for releasing 122 Guantanamo "vicious killers" who had returned to the fight. He got it from "Fox and Friends," who didn't clarify that 113 of those Gitmo former detainees back in the terror business were released by George W. Bush, not Barack Obama. "Fox and Friends" didn't clarify because they obviously wanted viewers to believe that Obama had released them ... which Trump dutifully believed.

The idiot.




A Magical Negro Is Threatening Trump

Apparently, Barack Obama is still running the US government.

That's the newest conspiracy theory, exploded into full public view last Saturday by a series of Trump tweets in which he alleged that Obama had tapped his phones.

Not just tapped his phones. Obama is also apparently directing his corps of loyal federal employees to leak every damaging piece of information they can find on Trump. (Gee, couldn't one of you good moles at least leak Trump's tax returns?)

The conspiracy theory is fed constantly by Breitbart News, Fox News, and Infowars, the propaganda triumvirate dedicated to feeding the fears of the low-information voter. The fount flows first through Steve Bannon, who's ladled supposed "deep state" skullduggery into Trump's victim fantasies.

Trump put the Obama wiretapping conspiracy out there, and the propaganda triumvirate -- seconded by conservative talk radio -- has rushed to supply "facts" to dress the window. “Donald Trump is the victim. His campaign is the victim. These are police state tactics!" said Mark Levin, the originator of the wiretapping theory, on an obliging Fox News.

The fact that Obama has kept a low profile since the inauguration only fuels the conspiracy-minded. Obama must be plotting in secret -- since we can't see him -- sending directives to his agents in the FBI, the CIA, the NSA to leak information, assembling an army of Soros-funded Marxist-Leninist insurgents to show up at Republican town halls, chuckling over the transcripts of secretly tape-recorded phone calls made by the Pussy-Grabber-in-Chief.

How the former president has grown since he left office!

Has Anyone Seen the Watauga Republican Party?

Curious-er and curious-er.

The Watauga Republican Party held its annual county convention last Saturday -- with Virginia Foxx as featured speaker -- but have you seen one peep about it in any news media? There's nothing on their Facebook page. Their website -- http://www.wataugarepublicans.com -- is just plain disappeared.

After speaking at the convention, Foxx fled Boone for her mountaintop aerie rather than step down the street to the tea-and-cookies reception held in her honor by High Country Forward, which actually had more people in attendance than were at the Republican convention.

Photo Ken Ketchie, High Country Press















Photo Ken Ketchie


























But what happened at the Republican convention? Since there's a press blackout, we have to turn to what sources we can find, and what we find is this:

Anne Marie Yates refused to run for another term as chair. Apparently, no one wanted to be chair, so they nominated and elected someone who wasn't even present: Karen Lerch. She ran (unsuccessfully) in 2016 for County Commission against John Welch. Now she's head of the party. We assume someone's told her.

This Is How They Act When They Know Their Bill Is Crap

They kept it hidden as long as possible, and now they intend to rush it through committee hearings and to a floor vote before everybody catches on to what's in those 400 pages. None of them will appear on camera to talk about it or answer questions, which is a dead give-away of just how bad it is.

No one's talking about Paul Ryan's health insurance overhaul except, of course, the man absolutely guaranteed not to have read one word of it -- Rollerball Trump, who obliged Ryan this morning by tweeting praise for something he's ignorant about. ("Who knew health care was so complicated?!")

Another dead give-away: Republicans offered no estimate of cost nor any estimate of how many people will lose or gain health insurance, because ... because the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the strictly non-partisan tribe of bean-counters on the Hill, has not "scored" the bill for its costs or for its unintended by-products. And get this: Paul Ryan & Co. intend to push the whole mess through the House without those CBO estimates.

There's only one reason for keeping everyone ignorant, and you know what it is. Actually, maybe you don't. Paul Ryan is keeping the costs under wraps as a guard against his right wing -- people like Virginia Foxx and Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who don't like spending a thin penny on poor people. Meadows, who leads the conservative Freedom Caucus, has warned Ryan that anything but "a clean repeal" will not pass. We don't want no "Obamacare Lite," Meadows growled on the Fox News website.

The Ryan bill -- oh, let's go ahead and call it Obamacare Lite -- actually keeps federal subsidies via a backdoor, by granting the states that expanded Medicaid coverage $100 billion over nine years to subsidize the Medicaid poor. States that didn't expand Medicaid -- like North Carolina dumb -- get far less, mainly some piddling money to shore up rural hospitals that are already hurting because of NC dumbness.)

But let 'em pass it. The political fall-out has already started, and 2018 general elections are not that far off. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, the Senate is waiting:
On Monday, four Republican senators — Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — signed a letter saying a House draft that they had reviewed did not adequately protect people in states like theirs that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. [Reporting of Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan]

Monday, March 06, 2017

When You're Friends With Phil Berger, You Get the Cushy Job

Jeffrey Warren
Late in the 2016 regular session of the North Carolina General Assembly, the Republican honorables created out of thin air a new "center" for study at UNC-Chapel Hill, the "UNC Policy Collaboratory," a fancy name for something that looked like an official way to obstruct environmental policy reform in the state.

The GA established the "collaboratory" without faculty input, and many observers assumed the new center was being established to give Republican Senate leader Phil Berger's "science advisor" (a guy named Jeffrey Warren) a new job and a perch from which to stand guard over actual science and any resulting academic meddling in environmental policy.

Well, sure enough, news comes this morning that Jeffrey Warren has been named Research Director at the collaboratory. This is the guy, in his former job as Berger Whisperer, who was apparently the brains behind many pieces of bad environmental legislation, including the law that stops local governments from regulating the fracking industry and the law that restricts how scientists measure sea-level rise.

Warren's salary at the collaboratory will be $175,000 per annum. Obstructing science has its rewards.

Mental Health Diagnosis of the Day

“We have as president a man who is erratic, vindictive, volatile, obsessive, a chronic liar, and prone to believe in conspiracy theories. And you can count on the fact that there will be more to come, since when people like Donald Trump gain power they become less, not more, restrained.”
--Conservative commentator Peter Wehner, who was the top policy strategist in George W. Bush’s White House, quoted by Karen Tumulty

Sunday, March 05, 2017

How the Little Mind Thinks

On Thursday evening, March 2, talk radio yakker Mark Levin floated a conspiracy theory that President Obama, in his last weeks in office, implemented a program to thwart and subvert incoming President Trump, including but not limited to a wiretap program based on a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) request.

By Friday, March 3, Breitbart News, which has excellent pipelines into the White House, amplified Levin's theory with added enhancements meant to raise the small hairs on every conspiracy-minded right-winger out there.

By Friday evening, at his gilded Mar-y-Lago cage for the weekend, President Trump was telling resort guests all about Obama's orders to have him wiretapped, and then early Saturday morning he began floating the conspiracy in a series of unhinged tweets to his Twitter followers.

It was another one of those outrageous shiny objects that Trump likes to wave when things are otherwise going badly, which they have been. His followers will believe every word, not putting two-and-two together, but the rest of us are free to see just exactly how the small mind works.

"A senior White House official" -- feel free to guess who -- told a couple of New York Times reporters that Donald F. McGahn II, the president’s chief counsel, was working to secure access to "what Mr. McGahn believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates."

Not much later -- and this gets good! -- and "after the White House received heavy criticism for the suggestion that Mr. McGahn would breach Justice Department independence," a different administration official  -- again, feel free to guess who -- said that the earlier statements about McGahn's efforts had been "overstated." The official said the counsel’s office does not know whether an investigation exists.

According to the reporting of Schear & Schmidt, several of Mr. Trump’s advisers "were stunned by the president’s morning Twitter outburst. Those advisers said they were uncertain about what specifically Mr. Trump was referring to...."

Ben Rhodes, a former top national security aide to Mr. Obama, said in a Twitter message directed at Mr. Trump on Saturday that “no president can order a wiretap” and added, “Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.” For if there's one thing we've learned about Trump, it's that he projects his own dark instincts onto other people.

And then there's this bit of intel:
In the fall, the F.B.I. examined computer data showing an odd stream of activity between a Trump Organization server and Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s biggest banks, whose owners have longstanding links to Mr. Putin. While some F.B.I. officials initially believed that the computer activity indicated an encrypted channel between Moscow and New York, the bureau ultimately moved away from that view. The activity remains unexplained.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska issued a statement following Trump's Twitter tirade: “The president today made some very serious allegations, and the informed citizens that a republic requires deserve more information .... we are in the midst of a civilization-warping crisis of public trust.”

Civilization-warping. What he said!

Great Moments in Understatement

"The president’s decision on Saturday to lend the power of his office to accusations against his predecessor of politically motivated wiretapping — without offering any proof — was remarkable, even for a leader who has repeatedly shown himself willing to make assertions that are false or based on dubious sources."
--Michael D. Shear and Michael S. Schmidt, "Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones"
Is not this man mentally ill? Or, if not sick in the head, is he merely just over-impressed with his own creativity in da sudden turn of events. You know -- reality tv, now coming to you from the White House.

Either way, the man is not worthy of the presidency, and it's becoming more likely by the day that foreign interference either put him there, or conspired to do so.

Friday, March 03, 2017

"Ginny, We'll Make Your Town Hall Fun!"


Blowing Rock voter records musical video invitation to Congresswoman Virginia "Ginny" Foxx to come out of hiding and hold a town hall meeting -- "with tea and cookies!"

Dumping Coal Waste Into Waterways Is NOTHING Compared To What's Coming

Trump promised during the presidential contest that he would "cancel" the Paris accord on global warming, the 194-nation agreement that all countries -- rich and poor, developed and undeveloped -- will take steps to reduce greenhouse gases. Since the Paris accord was signed, we have experienced two record-setting hot summers and now an unprecedented warm winter, so the urgency to stop the global warmup has become more intense.

Enter Trump. Russia's favorite president has already been peeing on environmental regs. According to leaked budget documents, the president intends to kill off nearly two dozen E.P.A. programs, including the Obama-era Clean Power Program, climate partnership programs with local governments, Energy Star grants to encourage efficiency research in consumer products and climate-change research. Those would be part of a broader Trump budget submission that would cut the EPA’s funding by 25 percent, to around $6.1 billion from $8.2 billion, and its staff by 20 percent.

As Steve Bannon suggested at CPAC, why else would Trump have appointed Scott Pruitt EPA administrator except to dismantle the EPA and environmental protections.

According to the reporting of Coral Davenport (with good sources inside the Trump White House),
Next week, Mr. Trump plans to sign an executive order directing Mr. Pruitt to start the lengthy legal process of unwinding Mr. Obama’s E.P.A. regulations for cutting greenhouse pollution from coal-fired power plants. Those regulations are the linchpin of the last administration’s program to meet the nation’s obligations to reduce climate emissions under the Paris agreement.
Davenport also reports that a power struggle has erupted in the White House between Steve Bannon, who published scores of articles bashing climate change as a hoax when he ran Breitbart, and Ivanka Trump, who thinks it would be politically boneheaded to withdraw the US from the Paris accords. According to Davenport, Rex Tillerson, the Exxon man, has formed an alliance with Ivanka in opposing Bannon. Tillerson sees withdrawal from the Paris agreement as potentially hurting the US's reputation (not to mention its honesty and commitment to the world's welfare) among other nations.

When the ex-CEO of Exxon is our best hope for saving the planet, you know we're in #TrumpNation.

Meet Mr. Kislyak

Sergey Kislyak, at Trump's speech
before Congress this week
Sergey Kislyak, Russia's man in Washington (who gets people recused and fired and whose moving mouth causes widespread amnesia among Trumpsters), has been hanging around our nation's capitol for years. Kislyak (pronounced kees-LYACK), 66, is "jowly and cordial with an easy smile and fluent if accented English, yet a pugnacity in advocating Russia’s assertive policies."

He appears to be both wily old dog and just plain dog:
"Invited to think tanks to discuss arms control, he would invariably offer an unapologetic defense of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine and assail Americans for what he portrayed as their hypocrisy — then afterward approach a debating partner to suggest dinner."
Sir Henry Wotton is famous for defining diplomats: "An ambassador is an honest gentleman sent to lie abroad for the good of his country." Kislyak fits the bill. When asked during a speech at Stanford University about the Russian hacking of our election last year, Kislyak denied what we have since learned was indeed happening.

You want to believe that this affable gentleman, a great schmoozer who attends every major social and civic event in DeeCee, is not also an accomplished spy, funneling every tidbit of intel straight to Putin?

“He is very smart, very experienced, always well prepared,” said R. Nicholas Burns, a former under secretary of state who negotiated three Iran sanctions resolutions at the United Nations with Mr. Kislyak. “But he could be cynical, obstreperous and inflexible, and had a Soviet mentality. He was very aggressive toward the United States.”

At the Stanford University speech, 
When an audience member asked about Russian mistakes, he demurred. He said the most serious problem with the United States is that it believes it is exceptional. “The difference between your exceptionalism and ours is that we are not trying to impose on you ours, but you do not hesitate to impose on us yours,” he said. “That is something we do not appreciate.”
According to Neil MacFarquhar and Peter Baker (from whom the above quotes are taken), Kislyak expects to be replaced soon by "a hard-line general," and anyway, Washington has become a less friendly place lately. "He is surprised how people who once sought his company were now trying to stay away."

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Putin Caged Trump at Every Level

Under oath in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing in January, Trump's Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he had not met with any Russian officials during the campaign. He had. Twice. With the Russian ambassador, that same Putin dude whose contacts with Michael Flynn led to Flynn's lying and to Flynn's subsequent firing.

Apparently, talking to the Russian ambassador leads to lying.

What has followed the revelation is just as interesting and in some ways more revealing. First, there was a qualified denial: Sessions said he hadn't met with “any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.”

Meaning, I may have met with "Russian officials" but not "to discuss issues of the campaign." Hmmm.

Then this also emanated from the Justice Department, also last night: "a department official who came to the defense of the attorney general" said, “There’s just not strong recollection of what was said.”

Apparently, talking to the Russian ambassador leads to lapses of memory. Michael Flynn said he couldn't remember either what he had discussed with the Russian ambassador.

So this question arises: If Sessions had conversations with the Russian and now can't remember what they talked about, how does he know they didn't discuss the campaign?

The Trump boys are getting wrapped around their own axle.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Alt-Trump

Rollerball did not air all his grievances last night, so metaphorically he didn't jerk down his pants and take a Trump dump on the dais, which we guess made the speech to Congress "an amazing performance," "a home run," "a very presidential presentation."

Trump vowed to "promote clean air and clean water" very early in the speech, which was a bit of a howler, considering the executive order he just signed allowing coal companies to dump their waste into mountain streams and his projected budget recommendation which would gut the Environmental Protection Agency (already under the loving care of the Oklahoma vandal Scott Pruitt).

“The time for small thinking is over, the time for trivial fights is behind us,” said the man TV personality who has engaged in Twitter fights with Arnold Schwarzenegger over "Celebrity Apprentice." Among many other late-night and early-morning Twitter eruptions.

"We must build bridges of cooperation and trust -- not drive the wedge of disunity and division," said the man who's built his entire personality on driving wedges faster than a North woods logger.

He disappeared all mention of Russia, like he disappeared the "fake news" and all those mythical illegal voters who denied him the popular vote. The speech really was alt-Trump and just underscores the lack of any core to the man:
In private discussions since the inauguration, a mystified Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader from Kentucky, has said that Mr. Trump appears uncertain of precisely where he stands on a number of critical issues. [Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman]