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Monday, June 26, 2017

What kind of country is this?

by digby

Congressman Joe Kennedy tries to summon American pride. I'm not sure it works in the era of Trump, but it's a nice speech:

Death by a thousand cuts

by digby

Health Insurance expert Andy Slavitt:

New estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) paint by numbers the impact of the Senate healthcare bill. It’s a bill not about repealing “ObamaCare,” but about capping federal health spending and cutting taxes for the richest Americans and corporations.

The scope of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is broad. It expands Medicaid, prioritizes value-based care in Medicare and invests in public health. But Republicans’ criticisms have focused narrowly on the individual market — people purchasing health insurance on their own. Virtually every one of President Trump’s claims that “ObamaCare is dead” is about premiums, deductibles and choices among the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplace plans.

But the Senate Republican plan does not repeal this part of ObamaCare. Republicans could fully repeal the ACA’s Marketplace financial assistance and have enough to fund every tax cut envisioned in their bill. CBO’s January 2017 baseline assumes $781 billion in Marketplace assistance from 2018 to 2026, compared to the Senate bill’s $701 billion in tax cuts over the same period.

While the Senate bill does not repeal ObamaCare, it does not improve it either. The Senate bill would maintain the ACA’s health insurance tax credits, but at reduced levels, leaving consumers to spend more to get less. Marketplace spending under the bill would be about 60 percent of what is projected with no change according to CBO.

It takes the misguided approach of linking premium tax credits to lower value and higher deductible plans while eliminating financial assistance that reduces cost sharing for consumers. The Senate Republican bill also zeroes out the individual mandate fee, which CBO and insurers suggest will increase premiums by about 20 percent next year. And it lowers the “failsafe” or overall cap on Marketplace financial assistance, potentially rationing Marketplace subsidies like it rations Medicaid.

What’s more, CBO makes clear that Republicans prioritize cutting $772 billion in federal Medicaid spending, an amount that is nearly the same as every dollar spent on Marketplace financial assistance. Medicaid savings include rolling back the ACA’s coverage expansion and capping on federal Medicaid spending for the first time in the program’s history. In fact, over half of the pages in the Senate bill are devoted to Medicaid changes unrelated to the ACA.

In short, the CBO estimates suggest that the Senate bill neither repeals nor repairs ObamaCare. But it does cap federal health spending in order to cut taxes for corporations and high-income individuals. As Senators prepare to vote on this bill, they should be clear-eyed on its consequences.

Obviously the vast majority are fine with it. There might be a few on either end of the spectrum who think it's too cruel or not cruel enough. But the mainstream of GOP elected aren't balking.

Ivanka's tax cuts FTW!

by digby

Here you go with the new CBO score:

The Senate bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of people without health insurance by 22 million by 2026, a figure that is only slightly lower than the 23 million more uninsured that the House version would create, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Monday.

Next year, 15 million more people would be uninsured compared with current law, the budget office said.

The legislation would decrease federal deficits by a total of $321 billion over a decade, the budget office said.

The release of the budget office’s analysis comes as a number of reluctant Republican senators weigh whether to support the health bill, which the majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, wants approved before a planned recess for the Fourth of July.

Mr. McConnell already faced a host of reservations from across the ideological spectrum in his conference. Five Republican senators have said they cannot support the version of the bill that was released last week, and Mr. McConnell can afford to lose only two.

Before the budget office released its report on Monday, the American Medical Association officially announced its opposition to the bill, and the National Governors Association urged the Senate to slow down.

Now, the budget office’s findings will give fodder to Democrats who were already assailing the bill as cruel. It could give pause to some Republican senators who have been mulling whether to support the bill — or it could give them an additional reason to come out against the bill altogether.

It is still unclear whether the new budget office projections will be judged against the House’s version, or against the Affordable Care Act’s coverage figures. Beyond the number of Americans without health insurance, the Senate bill’s $321 billion in deficit reduction is larger than the $119 billion total that the budget office found for the bill that passed the House.

Earlier Monday afternoon, Senate Republican leaders altered their health bill to penalize people who go without health insurance by requiring them to wait six months before their coverage would begin. Insurers would generally be required to impose the waiting period on people who lacked coverage for more than about two months in the prior year.

The waiting-period proposal is meant to address a conspicuous omission in the Senate’s bill: The measure would end the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that nearly all Americans have health insurance, but it also would require insurers to accept anyone who applies. The waiting period is supposed to prevent people from waiting until they get sick to purchase a health plan. Insurers need large numbers of healthy people to help pay for those who are sick.

Under one of the most unpopular provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the government can impose tax penalties on people who go without health coverage. Republicans have denounced this as government coercion.

The repeal bill passed by the House last month has a different kind of incentive. It would impose a 30 percent surcharge on premiums for people who have gone without insurance. But the Congressional Budget Office said this provision could backfire. As a result of the surcharge, it said, two million fewer people would enroll, and the people most likely to be deterred would be those who are healthy

They will, of course, say the CBO is lying. And it could be wrong. But that could mean this mutant atrocity of a "health care" bill will actually be worse. In fact, it probably will trigger a death spiral in the whole insurance sector.

But whatevs. They knew it was going to be bad when they did it. They don't care. They want tax cuts for Ivanka and that's all there is to it.

They have all become monsters.


If you hate boomers the GOP is delivering for you

by digby

They're taking on the later boomers like me who tend not to vote for them as much. If they can pick off enough of us before we hit Medicare and SS age, properly suppress the vote of blacks and Hispanics they could set themselves up quite nicely for a future lock on the government.

The above chart tracks the increase in premium price for “silver plan” insurance coverage for a hypothetical 60-year-old with income at 350 percent of the poverty line in 2020.

The below chart tracks the decrease in premium tax credits for the the same hypothetical individual, except now the individual has an income slightly above 350 percent of the poverty line, so that they would not receive any federal tax credit to purchase insurance on the individual market.

CBPP took into account the Senate Republican bill’s cuts to tax credits for individuals purchasing insurance; the bill’s re-arrangement of the tax credit schedule, which would disfavor older people; the bill’s elimination of tax credits for individuals between 350 and 400 percent of the poverty line; and the bill’s stipulation that insurers would now be allowed to charge older people up to five times more than young people, as opposed to three times more under Obamacare. The bill would also eliminate Obamacare’s cost-sharing reductions, insurer subsidies to help low-income individuals afford care.

Suhweet! Look at all those potential sick, bankrupt and dead old people. It just gets better every day.

My way or the highway

by digby

2018 is going to be a real thrill. The bully in chief won by raking down 16 other Republicans in a primary and he's going to do the same to members of the party who buck his agenda. Or that seems to be the plan anyway:
A new campaign by top White House allies targeting the GOP’s most vulnerable senator over health care sends a loud message to those resistant to the Trump agenda: We’re coming after you.

America First Policies, a White House-backed outside group led by the president’s top campaign advisers, has launched a $1 million attack against Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who on Friday announced that he opposed the Senate’s recently unveiled Obamacare repeal plan.

That included a Twitter and digital ad campaign targeting the senator, including a video that accuses him of “standing with” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a reviled figure in conservative circles.

“Unacceptable,” the video says. “If you’re opposed to this bill, we’re opposed to you.”

America First Policies is set to expand its campaign early this week with TV ads that will go after the Nevada senator.

The offensive aims both to punish Heller and to sway his vote, and it is a stunning act of political retaliation against a member of the president’s own party — one who faces a perilous path to reelection in 2018. Senior Republicans, many of whom are deeply worried about Heller’s political standing and increasingly nervous about the midterms, were shocked and spent the weekend measuring the possible fallout.

Those close to the White House say the attack is an outgrowth of President Donald Trump’s mounting frustration over his stymied legislative agenda and anger at Capitol Hill Republicans whom he sees as unhelpful.

In a Saturday tweet, Trump hinted at his displeasure after multiple senators expressed concerns with the bill: “I cannot imagine that these very fine Republican Senators would allow the American people to suffer a broken ObamaCare any longer!”

By targeting Heller, America First Policies is telegraphing to recalcitrant Republican lawmakers — even those trying to navigate treacherous political waters at home — that they will be punished if they don’t go along with the Trump agenda. Other Republicans could soon face similar attacks.

Brian Walsh, president of America First Policies, said after Heller’s Friday news conference that the group’s senior leadership — including former Republican National Committee chief of staff Katie Walsh, Trump fundraiser Tommy Hicks, and Nick Ayers, a longtime top strategist for Vice President Mike Pence — determined that “it was time to make a strong statement."

“For the greater part of a decade the GOP has promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, taken dozens of votes to do so, now, with the ability to keep that promise on the horizon, legislators are wavering,” Walsh said. “Sen. Heller's decision to walk away is unacceptable and sends the wrong message to the rest of the senators who are still working to get to ‘yes.’”

Within 90 minutes of Heller’s announcement, the group had mobilized. Determined not to let the news fade on a summer Friday afternoon, Brad Parscale, the digital director on Trump’s presidential campaign who now works with America First Policies, directed an anti-Heller Twitter offensive aimed at ginning up anger among Trump supporters. Spending just over $100,000, the organization encouraged people to tweet at Heller and his staffers, created algorithms that tied Heller with Pelosi, and promoted a “HellerVotesYes” hashtag.

For America First Policies, the move represented something of an about-face. During the House health care debate this spring, White House officials said the group was too passive and should have pressured Republicans who opposed the repeal effort. As Congress entered the summer months, the group promised a more muscular effort to promote the president’s agenda.

The anti-Heller move, however, rankled allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who keeps a close eye on his party’s 2018 plans and is deeply sensitive to attacks on his members. Several McConnell political advisers said they received no warning and vented that it was a serious misstep, especially with the party holding just a two-seat majority.

It sounds like they've got a big fight on their hands. Hooray for the good guys, right?


Heller’s team was also blindsided and infuriated by the barrage, said one adviser to the Nevada senator. But, fearful of further antagonizing the White House, they refrained from hitting back.

I will still be surprised if the moderates are the ones to stop this atrocity. Far more likely to be the wingnuts, who are being given cover by the Koch brothers.

Who knows? Maybe they'll push too hard and a whole group of "moderates" will fall out. But that would be a real change of pace for the Republican Party. None of the so-called moderates have ever bucked the leadership.

"I know you are but what am I" is not presidential

by digby

Has anyone noticed the picture Trump has on his twitter page is a huge crowd dressed in red with arms stretched out in Nazi salutes?

I wrote about Trump's "I know you are but what am I" gambit for Salon this morning:

In the wake of the big Washington Post report last week chronicling the Obama administration's responses to the Russian interference in the presidential campaign, Donald Trump finally admitted that it happened. Well, sort of. He did it the only way he could that would make him feel comfortable: passing the buck. In one of his greatest acts of chutzpah yet, Trump attacked Obama for failing to stop the Russian government from helping him win the election.

Then he seemed lose himself for a moment and just tweeted out in all caps MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

It's tempting to think this was all just Trump needing to vent on twitter (not that that is an acceptable practice for the President of the United States) but it appears to be the official White House strategy. Kelly Ann Conway echoed his line on Sunday Morning:
“It's the Obama administration that was responsible for doing absolutely nothing from August to January with the knowledge that Russia was hacking into our election. They did absolutely nothing. They're responsible for this...I have a hacking question for the Obama administration: Why did you, quote, choke, in the name of one of their senior administration officials? Why did you do nothing? Why didn't you inform candidate Trump?”
Trump himself went on Fox and said, “Well I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it. The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before the election. … If he had the information, why didn't he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don’t read that. It’s quite sad.”

That's crazy talk. The whole world knew about it on June 14, 2016 when the Washington Post first reported that Russian actors had hacked the DNC. And Donald Trump certainly knew about it at least as early as July 27th when he said, "They hacked—they probably have her 33,000 emails. I hope they do. Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing."

In the first presidential debate in September, Trump memorably responded to Hillary Clinton's assertion that the Russians had interfered by saying, "I don't think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She's saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don't—maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?"

And as for Conway's obnoxious question about why the Obama administration didn't inform candidate Trump, well they did. After that contentious debate exchange NBC News reported:
During Sunday’s debate, Donald Trump once again said he doesn’t know whether Russia is trying to hack the U.S. election, despite Friday’s statement by the U.S. intelligence community pointing the finger at Putin –- and despite the fact that Trump was personally briefed on Russia’s role in the hacks by U.S. officials.

A senior U.S. intelligence official assured NBC News that cybersecurity and the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 election have been briefed to, and discussed extensively with, both parties’ candidates, surrogates and leadership, since mid-August. "To profess not to know at this point is willful misrepresentation,” said the official. “The intelligence community has walked a very thin line in not taking sides, but both candidates have all the information they need to be crystal clear."

His rejection of this information has continued for months with tweets about the Russia scandal like this:

“Witch Hunt!”
“a lame excuse for why the Dems lost the election”
“fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election”
“taxpayer funded charade”
“a total hoax”
“an excuse used by the Democrats as justification for losing the election”
“A total scam!”
“a hoax”

These statements were all made since he became president. The only one failing to inform him is himself. And his persistent unwillingness to criticize Vladimir Putin or even admit that it's happening has created an overwhelming suspicion that he's hiding something.

None of this is to say that President Obama and his administration made the right decision by not taking action earlier. The Washington Post article is fairly damning on that count. And as Julia Ioffe observed in this article in the Atlantic, it might have made a difference in another way if the administration had done before the election what it did afterwards:
When Obama did make the attack public, the amount of panic and political dust kicked up by the release of the intelligence report in January, along with the congressional investigations it triggered, proved debilitating for Russian ambitions. The Russians lost their main ally in the White House, Michael Flynn, who was pushing President Trump to unilaterally lift Russia sanctions.

It's doubtful that alone would have altered the outcome of the race. We know that the Republican leadership was happy for the Russian government to help their team get elected and they would have dismissed any public actions as dirty partisan pool. But it is possible that it might have made the Russian government pull back from the brink and think better of making such an audacious move.

It's likely that the administration thought Clinton was a lock and that they could deal with it properly after the election. That was very bad judgment. They should have known that in a year in which the Republican Party had 17 (mostly) qualified candidates and yet they nominated Donald Trump, anything could happen.

Blaming Obama for the Russian hacking will probably convince most of Trump's voters that he's off the hook. They'll believe anything. But that won't solve his problem. Thanks to his own clumsy, self-destructive attempts get the investigation into the interference quashed he's now the subject of a criminal inquiry. Tweeting in so many words, "I know you are but what am I" isn't going to change that.

This is the worst case of "I know you are but what am I" in American political history but it's quite clever. It's leaving Democrats disoriented and the media bewildered.

Haberman claims that this is a technique Trump uses in order to make deals --- be on all sides of an issue.

He didn't do more but if he had the Trump campaign would have complained that he was meddling in the campaign.That's why they didn't do more.

Is he going to stick to the new line that the Russians did interfere? Who knows.

Talked himself into  corner... did it happen or didn't it?

Cyber-security commission?

If it was real now they are going to have to back sanctions he's going to have to change his tune. Totally reversed himself.


Get busy. Get loud.

by Tom Sullivan

Link here.

The country awaits the new scoring from the Congressional Budget Office of Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's Obamacare repeal bill. Expect the report to show millions will lose the protections of health insurance coverage. With opposition mounting to the repeal bill released last Thursday, President Trump cannot understand why Democrats do not join with Republicans and "wrap their arms around it so that everybody is happy with it.” He complained Sunday to Fox News, “Well, their theme is resist. I’ve never heard of anything like this, resist.”

Except that time he "moved on" that married woman down in Palm Beach and failed.

Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana urged Congress to designate a National Day of Civility on July 12. Johnson, a Republican, was responding to the shooting of his colleague Rep. Steve Scalise on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia. No doubt he is more sincere than the president.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Will Bunch is suspicious, if not of Johnson, of others urging civility. He recalls the 2010 Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Rally to Restore Sanity as a good-natured but misguided diversion. Elsewhere, T-partiers were "working their proverbial butts off" to elect a slate of retrograde politicians that would give Republicans control over redistricting in state house across the country. The GOP sweep in 2010 would introduce the country to a slew of voter suppression measures and more:

The truth is that a lot of the people pleading for a return to civility in American politics are actually hoping for something different: Passivity, or inaction. It’s not something completely new — using protests and occasional lapses into violence as an excuse to crack down on dissent and take away the civil liberties that are supposed to be guaranteed to us in the Bill of Rights is an old trick.

The shootings in Alexandria by James Hodgkinson, an unstable man with a history of domestic violence, while inexcusable, are sadly inevitable in a population of 320 million, Bunch writes.

But while no one should incite violence, there’s also a real danger in too much “civility” and calm at a moment like this, when it’s unfortunately not an exaggeration to say the fate of America as a democracy is hanging by a thread. If you’re not angry about what’s taking place in Washington at this very moment, you’re not paying attention. Which is what they’re going for.
It's easy for people who lie with verve to cow civilized opponents with charges of incivility. Most of the time, they fall for it too. Calls for civility come whenever those in power strive to hang onto it in a system that is "unfair and unequal." Don't fall for it this time, not with "the fate of America as a democracy ... hanging by a thread," Bunch insists. One gathers he has more on his mind than Obamacare repeal.
The people are going to have to do what the politicians won’t do. Fight — with reckless abandon but under control. Violence never solves anything, but meaningful social changes has never come without large-scale resistance and with righteous anger, from Selma to Stonewall and beyond. Reasonableness has its place, but it’s important to understand that there’s a class of folks out there who talk about “civility” when what they really mean is don’t call your senator, don’t circle the Capitol at 5 p.m. Wednesday night to show your outrage, and by all means do not say anything that will interfere with this orderly transfer of $800 billion from the struggling middle class to the already wealthy. Yes, there’s a problem with the level of anger in American politics right now. It’s not high enough.
There's still time to have your voices heard on the Republicans' Better Care Reconciliation Act (Obamacare repeal). Don't worry if your senators are Democrats and already with you. Don't assume they know what you think. They need ammunition. That's you. If your senators are or Republicans, get loud 24/7.

"You can take all the right steps, you can show all the personal responsibility in the world, but there are things that will happen that you will never be able to plan for."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

He just wants a little civility for heavens sakes

by digby

President Trump gave an interview today. He said this about the health care bill:

"When I ran, I talked about the rigged system because I saw I was winning states that I wasn't getting, the delegates I should be getting. I would look at this and I would say 'what kind of a system?' The whole system is very, a lot of bad things going on. A lot of very bad things going on.

One of the things that should be solved are probably won't be is the Republicans and Democrats don't get together. And I am open arms, but I don't see that happening. They fight each other, they the level of hostility. 
And by the way, this isn't just Trump... this has been like this for years. You've been doing this for a long time. It has been like that for a long time. But the level of hostility as an example of the health care bill you are reporting on and everyone is reporting on. It would be so great if the Democrats and Republicans could get together wrap their arms around it and come up with something that everyone is happy with, it's so easy, but we won't get one Democrat vote, not one, and if it were the greatest bill ever proposed in mankind we wouldn't get a vote, and that's terrible thing.

So there is well look their theme is resist. I've never heard anything like this. Resist.

He says thing like this with wide-eyed wonder and then rushes off to tweet some hideously rude comment.

Here are few things he's said about Democrats:

That's from a list of hundreds of insults he's hurled at everyone in media and politics on twitter over the last couple of years.


Politics and Reality Radio: Study Finds the Right’s More Divided Than the Left; In MSM, Trump Spoke About Islam 7x More Than Muslims.

with Joshua Holland

This week, we're joined by political scientist Lee Drutman, the author of a new study that finds -- yet again -- that cultural divides between the parties are more consequential than differences over economics and other concrete policy disputes. But what might be a more controversial finding is that the supposed existential battle for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party is overblown, and those who supported Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in last year's primaries are more similar ideologically than the conventional wisdom would suggest.

Then Joshua Holland takes a quick look at the politics of Senate Republicans' disastrous health care bill.

Last but certainly not least, we speak with Meighan Stone, a fellow at Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, about her new study looking empirically at how the mainstream press covers the Islamic community and refugees -- who speaks, what topics are selected and the overall tenor. What she found goes a long way toward explaining why large numbers of Americans' hold negative attitudes about the world's second largest religion.

Pauline Henry: "Feel Like Making Love"
Santiago y Luis Auserón: "Las Malas Lenguas"
Pluto Shervington: "Kung Fu Fighting"
Donald Fagen: "Snowbound"

As always, you can also subscribe to the show on iTunes, Soundcloud or Podbean.
What will we tell the children?

by digby

I encourage you to read the NY Times' chronicle of all the president's lies since he took office. It is an awe-inspiring list, and a very handy reference for someone like me.

Here's the story:

President Trump’s political rise was built on a lie (about Barack Obama's birthplace). His lack of truthfulness has also become central to the Russia investigation, with James Comey, the former director of the F.B.I., testifying under oath about Trump's “lies, plain and simple.”
There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving. He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.

We have set a conservative standard here, leaving out many dubious statements (like the claim that his travel ban is “similar” to Obama administration policy). Some people may still take issue with this standard, arguing that the president wasn't speaking literally. But we believe his long pattern of using untruths to serve his purposes, as a businessman and politician, means that his statements are not simply careless errors.

We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump's part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying. 
Trump Told Public Lies or Falsehoods Every Day for His First 40 Days

The list above uses the conservative standard of demonstrably false statements. By that standard, Trump told a public lie on at least 20 of his first 40 days as president. But based on a broader standard — one that includes his many misleading statements (like exaggerating military spending in the Middle East) — Trump achieved something remarkable: He said something untrue, in public, every day for the first 40 days of his presidency. The streak didn’t end until March 1.

Since then, he has said something untrue on at least 74 of 113 days. On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing. 
The end of May was another period of relative public veracity — or at least public quiet — for the president. He seems to have been otherwise occupied, dealing with internal discussions about the Russia investigation and then embarking on a trip through the Middle East and Europe.

Trump has retained the support of most of his voters as well as the Republican leadership in Congress. But he has still paid some price for his lies. Nearly 60 percent of Americans say the president is not honest, polls show, up from about 53 percent when he took office.

Apparently Republicans are fine with this. I can't help but recall the endless caterwauling over the fact that President Clinton didn't immediately publicly admit that he had had a consensual affair. It was the end of the Republic. he had to be impeached.

But as long as they get their tax cuts they are a-ok with this.
There are no right wing terrorists, only patriots

by digby

I posted the other day about the new study on terrorist violence in the United States. It showed that the most common form, and its deadly, is right wing violence. Surprise.

Get a load of this from Josh Harkinson at Mother Jones:

The Department of Homeland Security announced today that it is restarting a $10 million grant program for “Countering Violent Extremism” but will no longer fund Life After Hate, a group dedicated to countering neo-Nazis and white extremism.

In January, before President Barack Obama left office, DHS announced it would be giving grants to Life After Hate and 30 other anti-extremist groups and law enforcement agencies, but the Trump administration suspended them before the money had been awarded. The new list of grantees announced today by Trump’s DHS includes groups that combat Al Qaeda and ISIS and leaves out organizations primarily focused on countering white supremacists and other far-right hate groups. Perhaps this should come as no surprise because, as Reuters reported in February, Trump transition officials as far back as December were debating changing the focus and name of the program from “Countering Violent Extremism” to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism.” President Trump has also made it a habit to largely ignore attacks committed by anyone who doesn’t qualify as a “radical Islamic terrorist.”

“Obviously we are disappointed in that decision,” Life After Hate co-founder and board member Tony McAlver told Mother Jones. Comprised of 50 former members of right-wing hate groups, Life After Hate has received 10 times more requests for help in the past year than in the previous five years combined, McAlver says. The organization was hoping to secure a $400,000 grant from DHS, which would have allowed Life After Hate to expand its efforts with an in-house tech team to identify and counter neo-Nazi recruitment online. “It was not to pay salaries and stuff,” McAlver says. “It was for a specific online campaign.”

Here's the response from the Trump administration liars:

Responding to questions from Mother Jones, DHS denied that Life After Hate was excluded because of its focus on far-right extremism. “DHS used its discretion to include other factors and information when reviewing each applicant” such as whether the applicants “were viable to continue after the award period,” said DHS spokeswoman Lucy Martinez. “The program has not been altered to focus on any one type of violent extremism,” she added, maintaining that 16 projects funded by DHS “are equipped to handle all types of violent extremism, including white supremacist violent extremism.”

That's BS. They will not bother with right wing violence. They are allies, good Real Americans, Trump voters. Remember, Trump routinely celebrated vigilantism on the campaign trail , having his crowds chant "Death Wish" and encouraging gun nuts to exercise their second amendment rights on Hillary Clinton if she had won in order to keep her from appointing a Supreme Court Justice. Right wing terrorists are valued members of their base.

Is he having memory issues?

by digby

He sent that this morning. Does he not know what year it is?


Make it go viral

by digby

Watch this video. It shows exactly what these GOP monsters are trying to do. For fucking tax cuts for Ivanka.

Andy Slavitt on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell from Andy Slavitt on Vimeo.

Put this video on your Facebook page. Tweet it, send it by email, whatever. It says everything about what they are turning us into.

People, we are an incredibly wealthy country. We don't have to deny heath care to our most vulnerable citizens. We don't have to deny it to anyone. We have the money. We are just being run by radical zombies who have only one thought in their minds as they rampage through the country: tax cuts for Ivanka. It's their only purpose in life.


If you're satisfied with your health care, rattle your jewelry

by Tom Sullivan

There are no cheap seats here.

Vice President Mike Pence yesterday visited a Republican National Committee retreat in Chicago. He meant to rally his party's support for the Obamacare repeal bill coming to a vote in the Senate this week.

"This is our moment. Now is the time. Every moment Obamacare survives is another day America suffers," the designated staffer posted to his Twitter account.

"Before summer's out, we'll repeal/replace Obamacare w(ith)/system based on personal responsibility, free market competition & state-based reform," read another accompanied by a photo of a ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel.

"That's the Republican way. That's the American way," he added. "And that's the way we're going to reform health care in the 21st Century."

Not likely a John Lennon aficionado, Pence did not invite his audience instead of clapping to rattle their jewelry.

Hullabaloo's Heather Digby Parton tweeted, "Seriously, any kid who gets leukemia needs a big lesson in personal responsibility." There will be plenty of lessons to go around should the bill pass this week.

I've heard plenty of conservative talk-show tirades about liberal coastal elites. But proclaiming in this upscale Midwest venue that Republicans plan to make medical treatment contingent on "personal responsibility, free market competition & state-based reform" is about as coded and vaporous as anything a left-leaning, unpaid college intern might conceive. Except infinitely more cold-blooded. This kind of Kool-Aid for the commoners takes decades of right-wing-billionaire-funded messaging research to synthesize. Drink enough over time and even a Bible-believing vice president doesn't know his soul has been poisoned.

How poisoned? Former North Carolina Democratic congressman Brad Miller was not on the committees that formulated Obamacare. He admits it's flaws, but notes in a Facebook post this morning that Democrats failed on the atmospherics:

Democrats blew the politics by letting Republicans say it was all just about helping the poor and nobody else, just like something Democrats would do. I'm all for helping the poor, but expanding health insurance coverage and requiring standard benefits helps everyone, including the people who already have insurance. The cost of treatment for the poor, usually emergency care when they're really sick or hurt rather than care to keep them healthy, gets shifted to everyone else in their insurance premiums. I asked the Tea Party delegation that visited me about the ACA what they would do about the uninsured who come to the emergency room with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. They said let them die.
According to the right's ghoulish orthodoxy, the uninsured sick should have worked harder, planned better, and saved more. Dying will be a lesson to others of their kind in personal responsibility, and as a bonus decrease the surplus population.

If Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues get their way, those lessons may come swiftly and painfully. In Illinois alone, "650,000 residents could lose Medicaid coverage under the Senate bill, and subsequent effects of state law, in 2021," the Chicago Tribune reckons.

Back up and look again at the Pence tweet, at the lies, lies, and more lies, and consider that the country is not only in the hands of an emotionally stunted man-child, but in the grasp of a political cult.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Night at the Movies

Trees are important: After the Storm ****

By Dennis Hartley

Back in February of this year, my dear mother passed away, at the age of 86. While she had been weathering a plethora of health issues for a number of years, the straw that ultimately claimed her (pancreatic cancer) was diagnosed mere weeks before she died. In fact, her turn for the worse was so sudden that my flight to Ohio turned into a grim race; near as I could figure, my plane was on final approach to Canton-Akron Airport when she slipped away (I arrived at her bedside an hour after she had died). And yes, that was hard.

Since I obviously wasn’t present during (what turned out to be) her final days, I asked my brother if she had any “final words”. At first, he chuckled a little through the tears, recounting that several days prior, she had turned to him at one point and said “I wish I had some wisdom to impart. But I don’t.” I laughed (Jewish fatalism-it’s a cultural thing).

Then, he remembered something. The hospice room where my mother spent her last week had a picture window facing west, with a view of a field, a pond, a small stand of trees, and an occasional deer spotting. Two days before she was gone, my mother, my father, and my brother were quietly enjoying this pastoral scene with the bonus of a lovely sunset. My mother broke the silence with 3 simple words: “Trees are important.”

I’ve been mulling over those words. What did she mean? Indeed, trees are important. They are, in a literal sense, the very lungs of the Earth. As a metaphor, I must consider the foundational significance that The Tree of Life holds in Judaism. Was she “imparting wisdom” after all? Had she, at the end her journey, reached what Paddy Chayefsky once called a “cleansing moment of clarity” about The Things That Really Matter? Granted, it may not be as cinematic as “Rosebud”, but it’s at the very least a kissin’ cousin to a Zen koan. If I’d been there, I might’ve responded with something profound, like “Nicely put.”

I believe that is why, only three minutes in to writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s elegant new family drama, After the Storm, I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly choking up over an exchange between a mother and a daughter during the opening scene. Perhaps I should say that my reaction was all at once unexpected...yet immediately understood.

“You’ll go senile being alone all the time,” a middle-aged woman named Chinatsu (Satomi Kobayashi) admonishes her recently-widowed mother (Kirin Kiki), “Go out and make friends.” Not missing a beat as she merrily bustles about the kitchen, Mom wryly rejoins “New friends at my age only mean more funerals.” Then, returning to stirring the simmering pot on the stove, the mother muses softly (half to herself), “The flavor sinks into the ingredients, if you cool it down slowly and let it sit overnight. Just like people.”

“Nicely put,” says a visibly surprised Chinatsu, with a smile.

“Nicely put” is how I would, in general, describe Kore-eda’s flair for dialogue throughout this wise, quietly observant and at times genuinely witty take on the prodigal son story.

The prodigal is Chinatsu’s younger brother Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), who has been drifting away from his sister and their mother in the wake of his divorce from Kyoko (Yoko Maki). While he is basically good-hearted, Ryota is a classic man-child who seems to be his own worst enemy. He works as a private detective, which he insists is not a “job”, but rather, “research” for a novel he is allegedly formulating. He actually is a published writer; his debut novel earned him a (relatively obscure) book award. However, that was some time ago, and his literary license for reveling in past glories has definitely expired. 

He has also long ago squandered any monies earned, due to his compulsive gambling habit. This propensity also keeps him in arrears on child support payments for his 11 year-old son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa). He treasures his weekly visitations with Shingo; however Kyoko is threatening to cut them off if he doesn’t stay caught up on payments.

Ryota still carries the torch for his ex-wife; he enlists his partner at the detective agency to help do a little extra-curricular surveillance on Kyoko, and is distressed to see that she appears to be happily ensconced with a new boyfriend. His partner indulges him, but wisely counsels that perhaps it is time to let go, just as Kyoko seems to have moved on.

But fate and circumstance conspire (I’m saying it) one dark and stormy night to force an awkward family reunion; Ryota, Kyoko and Shingo hunker down to ride out a typhoon in his mother’s cramped apartment. This sets the stage for the third act, which is essentially a chamber piece about love, late-blooming “maturity”, and the renewal of family bonds.

It’s inevitable to draw comparisons here with the work of one of the masters of Japanese cinema, Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963), whose name has become synonymous with such quietly observant family dramas. That being said, Kore-eda, while no less subtle than Ozu-san, is slightly less formal in his approach. In this respect, his film reminds me more of contemporary director Mike Leigh, another film maker who specializes in narratives regarding modern family dynamics, imbued with a seldom-matched sense of authenticity.

All the performances are beautifully nuanced; particularly when Abe and scene-stealer Kiki are onscreen. Kudos as well to DP Yutaka Yamazaki’s painterly cinematography, and Hanargumi’s lovely soundtrack. Granted, some could find the proceedings too nuanced and “painterly”, but those with patience will be rewarded. It may be true, as Tom Waits says, that “things are tough all over, when the thunderstorms start”, but after the storm, all is renewed. Kore-eda’s film reminds us that families, like trees, are important.

For my mother

Previous posts with related themes:

The Tree of Life
More reviews at Den of Cinema
On Facebook
On Twitter

--Dennis Hartley

Is this America?

by digby

Sadly, yes. The inauguration protests were met with major excessive force by the DC police. All of that's being litigated right now, with some protesters, including at least one journalist, charged with felonies and facing serious jail time.

But this is something else:

But the experiences of the lawsuit’s four plaintiffs — independent photojournalist Shay Horse, volunteer legal observer Judah Ariel, and peaceful protesters Elizabeth Lagesse and Milo Gonzalez — suggest that MPD sought physical and emotional retribution on the hundreds of people kettled, the ACLU alleges.

An officer ordered Horse, fellow plaintiff Milo Gonzalez, and three others to take their pants off before grabbing their testicles and then inserting a finger into their anuses while “other officers laughed,” the complaint alleges. Horse is a photojournalist, one of six reporters initially arrested and charged whose cases have been dismissed.

“It felt like they were trying to…break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.”

“I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment. They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” Horse said. “It felt like they were trying to break me and the others — break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.”

In a statement responding to the lawsuit on Wednesday, the MPD defended its reputation and maintained that all its arrests were proper.

“Each year, the men and women of MPD protect the rights and ensure the safety of thousands of First Amendment assemblies, demonstrations and protests,” the department said. While thousands demonstrated peaceably on Inauguration Day, the statement went on, “there was another group of individuals who chose to engage in criminal acts, destroying property and hurling projectiles, injuring at least six officers. These individuals were ultimately arrested for their criminal actions.”

The department also pledged that “all…allegations of misconduct will be fully investigated.” Michelman said the ACLU welcomes that promise but doesn’t exactly trust it.

“We have significant concerns that that won’t be sufficient, in light of repeat problems MPD has had with arresting law-abiding demonstrators and responding…with excessive force,” Michelman said.

This isn't the first time that the MPD has overreacted to scattered violence and rounded up peaceful protesters, subjecting them to extremely harsh treatment:

By dint of geography, MPD responds to far more mass demonstrations than any other police department. Marchers without permits regularly take over streets, sit in at organizational buildings, and even chain themselves to physical structures in protest without prompting the sort of crackdown that followed the Antifa provocations on Inauguration Day.

But MPD’s reputation for high standards on protester civil liberties coexists with a less-prominent and darker track record in cases like this one, Michelman said.

“When there are groups of people who protest only peacefully, demonstrations that go off without a hitch, MPD does tend to handle those pretty well. They tend to be prepared and respectful, and we commend them for that,” he said. “The problem is when there’s a little bit of lawbreaking at a mostly peaceful demonstration, the response from MPD is massive, it’s excessive, it’s unjustified, and it’s unconstitutional. That’s what we saw on January 20.” 
The indiscriminate targeting of reporters, legal observers, and peaceful protesters along with those who had broken windows and assaulted officers is not a one-off, he said. MPD reacted similarly to a World Bank protest in 2002 that went sideways. The city later paid $8.25 million to settle civil rights cases brought by nearly 400 protesters. That case, known among local lawyers as Pershing Park, was not the first multi-million-dollar payout by the District over an episode that broke from MPD’s broader pattern of high-road protest management.

You have to wonder if that isn't their instruction. If one person or group smashes a window, bring the hammer down on everyone in the vicinity no matter who and make sure they feel your authority as harshly as possible. Guilt by association.Of course the peaceful protesters have no way of knowing advance that there will be violence or have any capacity to stop it. But they must pay too.

The rape stuff seems like a natural evolution of such a policy. Remember Abu Ghraib and the "enema punishment" at Bagram and Guantanamo? Once they take the gloves off someone's fingers always seem to find their way into a prisoner's anus.

Trolling, trolling, trolling, can't hide

by digby

So, Trump is trolling Obama hard now for not stopping the Russian interference in the election on his behalf. The interference he says is a hoax designed to excuse Clinton's loss.

President Donald Trump questioned former President Barack Obama's response to Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election in an interview airing Sunday morning, saying Obama didn't do enough to address the situation.

"Well I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it," Trump said in an excerpt of his interview on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" released Friday. "But nobody wants to talk about that."

"The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even -- before the election," Trump said. "And I hardly see it. It's an amazing thing. To me, in other words, the question is, if he had the information, why didn't he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don't read that. It's quite sad."

Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?

Dear Mr. President,

Now that you have finally acknowledged that the Russian government did interfere in the presidential election on your behalf, are you honored by their endorsement and hard work for your campaign? Since they are obviously your enthusiastic followers, can we expect them to "help" you more in the future? Should we, perhaps, set up a system whereby Russian citizens can vote directly in our elections rather than have to go through all this subterfuge? It would be a little more transparent and give the Russian people the assurance that our system is on the up and up and their choice has been legitimately elected.

One thing though. They Russians obviously don't fear you or hate you as much as they feared that sick old woman you were running against for some odd reason. So what did they expect from you in return?

Sincerely yours,

a citizen

He screwed the pooch again

by digby

He just couldn't say there are no tapes and then STFU. He had to try to cover himself again.

 The Daily Beast reports the fallout inside the White House:
But then, unprompted, he floated another possibility: U.S. intelligence or law enforcement officials might have his office bugged. “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” Trump wrote. 
It was a bizarre suggestion that took some in the White House off guard. “No clue what the thinking was,” a White House staffer said of the tweets. “He could’ve just said there are no tapes. It’s baffling, frankly.”[...]
Instead of putting the “tape” issue to rest and leave it at that, Trump’s statements threaten to embroil the White House in yet another round of politically inconvenient questioning about issues—Comey’s firing, the FBI’s probe into Russian election-meddling, and Trump’s reported efforts to hobble it—that the White House has tried, with little success, to move past
Informed of the president’s denial that he had recorded his conversations with Comey, a senior administration official replied, “At least that’s behind us.” When alerted to his apparent suspicions of Oval Office surveillance, the official replied in a text message, “fml.” 
That’s shorthand for “fuck my life.” ... 
Had Trump not threatened Comey with the prospect of “tapes” of their conversations, Comey might not have leaked details of his memos. If those details hadn’t become public, the Justice Department might not have been pressured to appoint a special counsel. And without that special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, news that Trump himself is personally under investigation might have been kept under wraps.With Mueller leading the Russia investigation, Trump again plotted ways to ensure that it would be resolved in his favor. He began floating the possibility of firing Mueller, a move that his advisers strenuously opposed, but that nonetheless received public attention when floated on television by Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, a friend of the president’s.

He's nuts. Can we just stipulate to that and move on? Seriously, this is aberrant behavior. He has no impulse control and he's obviously self-destructive.

What could go wrong?


Ivanka needs a tax cut

by digby

Arizona cut Medicaid before the ACA was enacted. Look what happened:

Swollen, throbbing, and pale purple, Beatrice’s left leg looked less like a limb and more like an oversized, striated eggplant.* But her breathing—or lack thereof—is what caught my attention first.

Beatrice was suffering from deep vein thrombosis, a condition that occurs when blood flowing through veins in the calf and thigh unexpectedly clots and obstructs the flow of blood to the rest of the body. Left untreated, the clot can dislodge and travel to blood vessels in the lungs—known as a pulmonary embolism. There’s a risk of sudden death.

The doctors dissolved the clots and stabilized her. Beatrice was clinically safe for now. The anxiety spreading over her face told me a different story.

Beatrice had been feeling throbbing pains in her leg for the past week. Afraid of the cost of urgent care, she hoped the pain would pass with time. Beatrice and her two children were constantly moving apartments every few months, and her Medicaid renewal paperwork had accidentally been sent to an old address, leaving her without coverage. Without insurance, she had been forced to choose between her rent and her leg. For the sake of her family, she had chosen her rent. Now she feared she no longer had a choice.

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A college volunteer at a Phoenix hospital, I stood on the sidelines watching in shock. I hoped to explore the practice of medicine, the doctor-patient relationships, and the miracles of treatment. Instead I discovered patients more frightened by dollars than disease. It was 2012.

In 2011, following the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, then–Arizona Gov. Janet Brewer cut the state’s Medicaid funding and froze enrollment. Arizona blocked new enrollment in Medicaid and only allowed existing enrollees to continue receiving benefits if their income remained below the federal poverty line and they turned in their annual renewal paperwork on time. A family that received a raise that lifted their income even slightly above the poverty line lost Medicaid coverage permanently, even if their income dropped below the line again the following year.

Between 2011 and 2013, 150,000 adults on Medicaid in Arizona, nearly two-thirds of the childless adults in the program, lost coverage. Over those months I spent at the hospital, many of the patients presented their own horror stories after losing Medicaid.

A farmworker had his right foot amputated, lost to gangrene because he had been putting bandages on ulcers on the bottom of his feet to avoid paying for clinic visits. A truck driver with Type I diabetes was driving across the border to Mexico every other week to buy insulin, a life-or-death drug, because he could no longer afford the price in the U.S. The last patient I saw in the hospital was a landscaper who showed up with his hand shattered from a construction accident and wrapped in duct tape. He hoped his simple fix meant he wouldn’t need, or have to pay, for a cast.

Congress can—and should­—learn from Arizona’s mistake.

The Senate’s health care bill freezes Medicaid enrollment, preventing new poor families from signing up. We’ll know more after it receives a score from the Congressional Budget Office next week, but it is also likely to cut Medicaid funding by hundreds of billions of dollars. Like Arizona’s 2011 freeze, if a patient goes off Medicaid, she’s barred from re-enrolling in later years, regardless of her financial or medical status. In particular, the federal cap on Medicaid spending will place more financial pressure on the states to rein in costs. The end result is that, like Arizona, more states will be forced to restrict Medicaid eligibility, cap enrollment, and cut health benefits. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 14 million Americans would lose Medicaid coverage over the next 10 years under the House GOP bill. Now that we’ve seen it, the Senate version of the bill doesn’t offer a much different result.

Congress can—and should­—learn from Arizona’s mistake. The U.S. health care system faces significant challenges. Rising premiums, high deductibles, and fewer insurers to choose from each year have been both difficult and frustrating for Americans to manage. But Arizona knows, better than any other state or the federal government, the catastrophic effects of taking health care coverage away from people entirely.

Arizona expanded Medicaid coverage in 2013 following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Commenting on Arizona’s decision to expand Medicaid, Brewer said “It saved lives, it insured more people, it brought money into the state, it kept rural hospitals from being closed down. And today there are tens of thousands of people that are very, very grateful.”

Yeah well, fuck 'em. Ivanka needs a tax cut.

By the way, just so you know, Medicaid's costs rise much, much more slowly than all the other programs in the health care sector. But whatever.

They welcomed the interference

by digby

It's hard not to be angry at President Obama for failing to adequately sound the alarm over the Russian meddling in the election. But we have been told for many months now that all blame for the outcome rests with that horrifying candidate who did everything wrong and nobody could stand, Hillary Rodham Clinton. So, that's that. I'm uninterested in relitigating all that at the moment. It's gets tiring.

If you really want to look at a man who will be remembered in history as a true patriot, look to Mitch McConnell who dismissed the warnings and refused to join the president in sounding the warning since Vladimir Putin was helping his team. Hey, they were fighting the world's most heinous Feminazi so it makes sense that the Republicans would ally with Russians. Worked for FDR and Stalin, amirite?

Anyway, this is the truly fatuous response from the administration:
“We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures.”

Ok, so they thought that Clinton would win. Fine. But it was only 16 years ago that we had a close election that went to the Republicans by dubious means through the electoral college. It never occurred to them that it could happen again? That's ridiculous.

More importantly, if any of them even entertained the thought that Trump would do anything about this if he won, Mitch McConnell's reactions should have been enough to disabuse them of that fact.

The simple truth is that the Republicans welcomed a foreign government interfering in the election on their behalf. They knew and they were happy about it and they are now doing everything in their power to cover it up. There is no other way to look at it.

Republican leaders were so hungry to kill people on Medicaid, bankrupt the middle class and give tax cuts to their millionaire friends that they knowingly allowed a foreign government to help that corrupt, incompetent imbecile into the White House. Think about that.

I feel sick.

The art of growing a spine

by Tom Sullivan

The Obama administration received an "eyes only" CIA report last August that the Russian hacking attacks were far much more extensive than the DNC and Guccifer 2.0 episodes already known to the public. A bombshell report yesterday from the Washington Post claims the report "drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government ... detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race." The reporting is based on the accounts of over three dozen current and former senior officials from the White House, the State and Defense Departments, U.S. intelligence services and other agencies. Because of the sensitivity of these matters, most spoke only on condition of anonymity. The report makes clear that second-guessing at the highest levels of the Obama administration and political concerns by the leadership of both major parties in the midst of a presidential campaign quashed a more decisive response:

In political terms, Russia’s interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy. It was a case that took almost no time to solve, traced to the Kremlin through cyber-forensics and intelligence on Putin’s involvement. And yet, because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences.
It is a stunning and lengthy report you simply must read.

Over at the Post's Plum Line blog, Paul Waldman highlights how Democrats' timidity in dealing with the crisis helped elect Donald Trump. Granted, in August no one expected Trump to win:
What comes through again and again is that the Obama administration was terrified of looking partisan or doing anything that might seem like it was putting a thumb on the scale of the election, and the result was paralysis. This is a manifestation of what some years ago I began calling the Audacity Gap.
I've been doing riffs on this for years, but none this clean.
Democrats are forever worried about whether they might be criticized, whether Republicans will be mean to them, whether they might look as though they’re being partisan, and whether they might be subjected to a round of stern editorials. Republicans, on the other hand, just don’t care. What they’re worried about is winning, and they don’t let the kinds of criticism that frightens Democrats impede them. It makes Republicans the party of “Yes we can,” while Democrats are the party of “Maybe we shouldn’t.”
I've watched older (older than me anyway), local Democratic leaders second guess themselves this way for years instead of taking bold action, "But what will the Republicans do [to us] if we...?" "If we do that, we'll be handing Republicans a campaign issue," etc. And don't get me started on how Republicans made Sen. Dick Durbin cry in the Senate during George W. Bush's term. Democrats behave like abused spouses then wonder why voters won't elect them.

Even if they vote for them at the local and state level, voters often will not vote for Democrats when national security is on the line because Americans at heart want leaders, doers not thinkers. They want candidates they can trust to fight for them, not arbitrate for them. People who will take a stand, not negotiate a compromise (even though that is how much in representative government gets done).

Democrats' greatest weakness is they need people to like them, and they are easily hurt if people don't. Republicans know this. So they deploy their patented hissy fits regularly to get Democrats to back down, just as Waldman writes. Anat Shenker Osorio wrote, "Democrats rely on polling to take the temperature; Republicans use polling to change it."

Much as I hate to admit it, this quote from Margaret Thatcher captures that even more succinctly: "Don't follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you." That's leadership.

Last November 8th's debacle wasn't caused by this thing or that, but by what Lemony Snicket would call a series of unfortunate events. This week, this awful week is the outcome of that. Until Democrats stop cowering and start leading, they'll be stuck following.

Update: Edited for clarity.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Night Soother

by digby

Grab a cocktail and watch these vids.

Now watch this:

Now have another cocktail and watch them again. You'll feel better...:)

Trump interviews lawyers

by digby

Sounds right to me:

His impression is just uncanny ...

Death Spiral

by digby

The destruction of Medicaid in order to provide permanent, massive tax cuts for millionaires is undoubtedly the most heinous of the atrocities in the latest iteration of Trumpcare. But as Ian Millhiser at Think Progress points out, there's a lot more to it, this horrible consequence being one of them:
Let’s talk about “death spirals.”

That’s not a political term that Democratic operatives made up to scare you. “Death spiral” is actually the economic term of art for what Trumpcare will do to health insurance markets.

A death spiral is a kind of feedback loop where higher premiums cause healthy, paying customers to drop their health plans, which in turn leads to higher premiums, which in turn drives more people out of the insurance market. It’s called a “death spiral” because it often ends in the collapse of that market.

And, because we are talking about health care, it will also end in the deaths of many Americans who will no longer be able to afford care.

What is a death spiral? 
One of the most challenging problems solved by Obamacare is how to insure people with pre-existing conditions. Before Obamacare, insurers were free to deny coverage to such individuals — and this wasn’t something they did simply because they were being cruel.
The whole point of health insurance is that everyone pays into an insurance pool that they only take money out of when they need medical care. Pre-existing conditions can be quite expensive to cover — indeed, they can be more expensive than the insurer can reasonably charge in premiums.

If you load up an insurance pool with too many sick people, they start taking more money out of the pool than the health consumers are paying into it — until the whole thing collapses.

One possible solution is to simply require insurers to eat these costs, and pass a law requiring them to cover people with pre-existing conditions even if these individuals take out more money than they pay in. But such a law creates its own problem. If people can wait until they are sick to buy health coverage, people will wait until they are sick to buy health coverage. And that will leave insurers with too few healthy customers to cover the costs of their sick consumers.

The death spiral begins after an insurer raises premiums to meet this funding shortfall. Higher premiums drive out more healthy customers, which forces the insurer to jack up premiums even more, which drives out even more healthy customers, which forces the insurer to jack up premiums again.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in the first Obamacare case to reach the Supreme Court, “in the 1990’s, several States — including New York, New Jersey, Washington, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont,” enacted laws prohibiting discrimination against people with preexisting conditions, and “the results were disastrous. ‘All seven states suffered from skyrocketing insurance premium costs, reductions in individuals with coverage, and reductions in insurance products and providers.’”

The Obamacare solution 
Obamacare solves this problem with an unpopular, but quite effective provision: the law’s so-called individual mandate. This mandate imposes higher taxes on most people who are uninsured, giving healthy people a financial incentive to buy health insurance that wards off a death spiral.

The Senate Trumpcare bill would repeal this mandate and replace it with, well, nothing.

That’s a huge problem because, while the Senate bill does weaken the law’s insurance regulations and allow states to waive some of them, it leaves in place Obamacare’s provisions prohibiting insurers from charging more to people with preexisting conditions. That’s a recipe for a death spiral.

Once the death spiral begins, things can get pretty grim, pretty quickly. When Kentucky tried protecting people with pre-existing conditions without also enacting an individual mandate, for example, nearly all insurers left its individual insurance market. In New Jersey, some premiums rose by 350 percent. In Washington, some counties had no private individual insurance coverage available at any price.

And, if the Senate Trumpcare bill becomes law, this fate could await all 50 states.

They don't care. They want their tax cuts. I'm almost of the mind that they know Trump is either going to destroy the country or at thevery least destroy the Republican party. So they have just decided to go out in a blaze of glory.