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29.May.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

The House GOP is killing it Permalink to this item

An important, succinct opinion piece from state Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise): How the AHCA could kill Idaho. The Affordable Care Act does not solve the problems of access to healthcare in this country. Neither was it a good faith effort. The opposition party's obsession with "Repeal" at any cost is genuinely pathological. Idaho's Rep. Mike Simpson's justification for supporting the bill was that it was "the only opportunity," and "we need to start somewhere."

Not that the titles put on bills (let alone nicknames) are held to any standard of truth in advertising, but there is not much "affordable" or "health" or "care" in this latest effort. Fashioning it to (1) be done as quickly as possible, and (2) meet "budget reconciliation" constraints guaranteed that it could be neither safe nor effective. Simpson and others knew full well that the bill could not pass the Senate (any more than the previous 60 attempts out of the House).

This is what passes for symbolic victory. (But let's not overstate where we are; it's half-passed.)

More than $1,100 billion slashed from Medicaid and subsidies for individual insurance, with less than a third that amount as benefits (spending to reduce premiums, and reduced tax penalties to those who go without insurance). "Balance" that hot mess with $664 billion of tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy. All that and 14 million more uninsured in just one year (and 23 million over the next decade). Rep. Rubel outlines Idaho's fair share:

"The number of Idahoans whose health care access hangs in the balance is staggering. Nearly 700,000 residents have pre-existing conditions that could be excluded from coverage if the AHCA becomes law. Another 135,000 are projected to lose their health insurance outright under the AHCA. For the 78,000 Idahoans already in the “gap,” the AHCA would end any hope of eventual coverage under Medicaid expansion. ...

"[T]here is another equally dangerous but less publicized provision of the AHCA: it opens the door for insurance companies to re-impose limits on annual and lifetime coverage. Those provisions, which are currently barred, allow insurers to cut patients off once they reach a certain dollar amount in health services."

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

Single ladies need not apply, presumably? Permalink to this item

From the endless stream of fundraising, yet another lottery for dinner... with the Veep! No, not Julie Louis-Dreyfus, I would sign up for that, this is for the "real" VPOTUS of the day. Dinner. With him and Paul Ryan. It's hard to imagine something I would like to do less.

Team Ryan fundraiser

Anyway, as usual, should you be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your action. No contribution or payment of any kind is necessary to enter or win this Promotion. Making a contribution does not increase your chances of winning. To enter by making a contribution, find your own damn link. To enter without making a contribution, click here , and not only will you almost certainly not win, but you can guarantee a steady stream of other promotional email. Void where prohibited, naturally.

There are lots of rules. If you don't want to fill in the form, but you do have questions, you can send them via email to info@speakerryan.com or via U.S. mail to Team Ryan, 320 1st St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. They've already got my email, but I wrote to ask if the contest was open to women as well as men.

25.May.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Old-fashioned Montana politics Permalink to this item

Here it is election day in Montana, a special to replace Ryan Zinke who's moved to D.C. to be Secretary of the Interior, and the intertubes are burning up with "body slam" headlines. It seems the aspiring millionaire running for the GOP couldn't handle the pressure of being asked questions, and, well, took matters into his own hands.

Lit'rally.

TFW three Fox News employees back up your story. And then 3 big newspapers in the state retract their endorsements. Cut to the punch line from Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna:

"...Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, "I'm sick and tired of this!"

Hey, you had me at "grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands." It could be funny on The Simpsons, not so much in real life.

Still, not quite everyone agrees that this should be a simple and obvious disqualification for a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. (It was "only" charged as misdemeanor assault, come on.) The estimable state Representative from Idaho's District 24, Stephen Hartgen had this to say on Facebook today, in a thread a local reporter started with a link to The Week's coverage:

"The witnesses' account suggest the reporter was very pushy and demanding answers to his own questions, while the candidate was doing another interview. He was asked to wait, but didn't. Then things got out of control. I've been on both sides as a journalist and now as someone in public office and have witnessed many rude intrusions over the years. That's not to justify the jousting or the body slamming (if that's what it was), but from the witness accounts (they were the other journos), it appears there's plenty of responsibility here all around. Putting journs and politicians in such tense situations is a bit of gasoline and matches...Both see themselves as "protected"class..Invasion of space isn't something either group tolerates well. .Will it affect the outcome of the election? Not likely."

Such tense situations as... running for office?! Hartgen went on to say

"As a former journo editor and publisher, I've occasionally had to counsel staff on "invasion of space" issues, particularly among photogs who take pix but sometimes don't realize (or ignore) privacy and space (such as at funerals).....Also, in an intense campaign, stuff can get out of hand for politicians too......Sounds like there's plenty of overstepping here on both parts....."

Sounds like... What The Hell Are You Talking About?

Richard Wolffe has some more questions, starting with

"How did we get to this point? When did our public standards fall so low that charges of physical assault were met with the sound of crickets across the Republican side of Congress?"

(Note to Rep. Hartgen: next time, cue the crickets.)

Update: This is sick:

Source close to the Gianforte campaign tells NBC News they’ve raised $100,000+ online in last 24 hours—most coming after the alleged assault

— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) May 25, 2017

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

Sickness upon the land Permalink to this item

The CBO score of the AHCA (Gesundheit!) is out, some weeks after the House passed it and that big celebration of the President's legislative non-achievement. How can we put this charitably? There is no way.

CBO: AHCA would cut Medicaid and health care subsidy programs by $1.1 trillion, and cut taxes (primarily for the rich) by $900 billion. pic.twitter.com/4MZ7rENMgK

— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) May 24, 2017

14 million people would lose health insurance next year, 23 million in a decade.

Stealing a $trillion in healthcare from the poor to give to the rich. Paul Ryan's fantasy legislation. For god's sake, somebody call the coroner so we can get this R&R declared dead once and for all.

Ask your mother Permalink to this item

RT picked up the story summer of 2015 when the Idaho County GOP chair came up with the bright idea to have more Bible in our public schools, and gave the Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, the last word:

“So bad ideas can become law without much opposition. I suspect it won’t be too long before a state legislator sponsors this disastrous bill.”

Indeed it was not, and the 2016 Legislature managed to argue their way clear to an amended S1342 that "expressly permitted" religious texts, "including the Bible,"

"to further the study of literature, comparative religion, English and foreign languages, United States and world history, comparative government, law, philosophy, ethics, world geography, archaeology, music, sociology, and other topics of study where an understanding of religious texts, including the Bible, may be useful or relevant."

The amendment at least removed astronomy, biology, and geology from the enumerated list, but left the handy catch-all "other topics of study." Any old religious text, where useful or relevant, sounds relatively harmless, hmm? But our Governor agreed with the Attorney General that there was no upside, and vetoed the thing. The downside was the "direct contravention to the Idaho Constitution" and the almost certain "costly litigation" that would have followed.

That's pretty old news, though. I didn't comment on it here last year (surprisingly—seems like my kind of story), and it's long done and dusted.

Cover of State Board of Education booklet

But Jeanette turned up an interesting artifact while sorting this week. A 14-page list of selections from the Standard American Version of the Bible "for Daily Reading in the Public Schools" came her way from a "free" box of University of Idaho Library discards 40 or so years ago. The typewritten original had a bit of nice calligraphy on the cover, and Alton B. Jones as State Superintendent of Public Instruction. That places it during his terms in office, 1947-1958, and the only other date inside is February 14, 1925, when the Legislature Acted to mandate daily Bible readings. The statute number has changed, but it turns out the very same commandment is still on the books:

33-1604. BIBLE READING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. Selections from the Bible, to be chosen from a list prepared from time to time by the state board of education, shall be read daily to each occupied classroom in each school district. Such reading shall be without comment or interpretation. Any question by any pupil shall be referred for answer to the pupil’s parent or guardian.

The 2016 bill would have replaced this section with its new verbiage. Idaho's Constitution (Article 1, Section 4, Guaranty of religious liberty, and Article 9, Section 6, Religious test and teaching in school prohibited) as well as the immediately preceding statute, 33-1603. SECTARIAN INSTRUCTION FORBIDDEN, would seem like more than enough to render that statute null and void. But when the case was actually decided, Adams v. Engelking (1964), the judges started with the U.S. Constitution's First and Fourteenth Amendments, and didn't trouble themselves for more. 33-1604 is "invalid and unenforceable." (Thanks to the state board's Chief Communications & Legislative Affairs Officer for a quick and succinct answer to my inquiry.)

The spent remnant remains on the books, null and void, and with this curious artifact before me, an odd reminder of the good old days. Parents and guardians will have to decide on their own which verses to read to their children, perhaps those with some moral pedagogy they could explain, if questioned.

If you need suggestions, let me know. They come in ten categories, from "Prose and Poetry," through the "Life of Jesus," and "Miracles," skipping over verses in a curious way. The Old Testament miracle of The Fiery Furnace, for example, calls out Daniel 3:1, 4, 5, 8, 9, 12-28.

"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon....

But never mind the satraps, deputies, governors, judges, treasurers, counsellors, sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, cut to the hearld crying aloud, "that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up," and so on.

ICYMI, the miracle turns out to be that when the furnace is het up, "seven times more than it was wont to be heated," and then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are tossed in, they remain miraculously unharmed, and old king Nebuchadnezzar, duly impressed, spake a decree, oddly truncated from today's selection,

"that every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill; because there is no other god that is able to deliver after this sort."

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

2 + 2 = 4 Permalink to this item

What's two or four million million dollars one way or the other? Is the administration's budget proposal really based on a $2 trillion math error? Doesn't seem too far-fetched for stiff lower lip Mick Mulvaney.

Now that Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey have shut down, the greatest show on earth devolves to, I don't know, the "biggest tax cut in history," which, unlike all the previous ones, will unleash growth and thus not reduce revenue. Sure it's "wildly fanciful," but the Law of Big Numbers says you can just make stuff up. So... why not imagine that not only will unleashed growth make up the difference, it will add $2 trillion more!

Then we'll hardly need Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (whacked $616 billion), food stamps ($191 billion), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ($22 billion), Social Security disability benefits ($70 billion), student loans ($143 billion), or farm subsidies ($38 billion).

Former SecTreas Larry Summers about ran out of superlatives to describe the simply ludicrous.

"It appears to be the most egregious accounting error in a presidential budget in the nearly 40 years I have been tracking them."

And so much we don't know. Such as, "how could the secretary of the treasury, the director of OMB and the director of the National Economic Council allow such an elementary error?"

"The president’s personal failings are now not just center stage but whole stage.  They should not blind us to the manifest failures of his economic team.  Whether it is Secretary Mnuchin’s absurd claims about tax cuts not favoring the rich, Secretary Ross’s claim that the small squib of a deal negotiated last week with China was the greatest trade result with China in history, NEC Director Cohn's ludicrous estimate of the costs of Dodd-Frank, or today's budget, the Trump administration has not yet made a significant economic pronouncement that meets a minimal standard of competence and honesty."

Re-peal Permalink to this item

Looking for that email address to the Senate for comment on the healthcare bill, as if... we could talk some sense into the U.S. Senate? Somehow I was diverted to Ramesh Ponnuru's ... news analysis? for National Review, Health care: On to the Senate. I found it reposted on the American Enterprise Institute's blog for no obviously discernible reason, and commented there:

This is an amazing helping of word sausage. Come on back to it as if you just arrived from another country (or planet), and see if you can make sense of what you just wrote.

Should could my bet easier path could end up paying higher premiums wild exaggerations inept defenses "analysis" could run into problems one way would Alternately less likely would would "lose" could stipulate some degree of protection seems likely additional bit of security and thus reduce the political cost.

Is that about right? Where we are with "Repeal and Replace" on our way to a brighter future? We are deep in the weeds and descending into a swamp from which there seems no escape.

Tom von Alten 2009 photo

Last we heard... the Congressional Budget Office had not scored the glorious victory from the House, but here we go, they're about to release an estimate. Tomorrow afternoon. Cart before horse much? Or is elephant in a poke a better metaphor?

We loop back to National Review, and a May 19 post, same as the CBO "stay tuned" was, with the scoop that the House's bill "has not been sent to the Senate, and in fact, if the CBO scores the bill poorly, the House will have to vote on it again." Shades of the previous 60-some "repeals." We just keep ringing the same bell, over and over.

In our case at hand, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a House "healthcare" bill to pass through the magic budget reconciliation wicket that would allow the Senate to approve it with a simple majority (or Pence-broken tie).

On May 4, that glorious flurry of activity, including acting Chair, Rep. Mike Simpson "announced they ayes had prevailed" before the votes had actually been counted (just seeing if that would work), and upon then counting to find a 217-213 passage, immediate "Motion to reconsider laid on the table Agreed to without objection" and WHACK!

What? Hey, I object, we definitely need to reconsider this dog's breakfast of a tax bill maraudingmasquerading as "health care," Mike.

Anyway, there it sits, 19 days later.

So it couldn't possibly be "the last day" to comment to the Senate, when the Senate has not even received H.R. 1628 to act upon. I shall keep my powder dry for the morning.

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

All that and two bushels of dates Permalink to this item

So much to say about the scene of our Authoritarian-in-chief visiting the home of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, it's hard to know where to begin. Perhaps with this brief take from our Commerce Secretary who praised the "genuinely good mood" over there on the Arab peninsula. Sure you could get imprisoned, or lashed, or put to death if you protested...

"In theory, that could be true but, boy, there was certainly no sign of it."

What, there was no public flogging put on as part of the entertainment?

"At the end of the trip, Ross said, Saudi security guards gifted him and others with two bushels of dates."

From StarTrek.com's Ferengi page

Of course the glowing orb featured for the inauguration of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology was sucking all the air out of the press coverage (that and the sinkhole forming near Mar-a-Lago). What better locus for combatting extremism than the Arab kingdom willing to hand out a 10 or 15 year sentence for "breaking allegiance with the ruler"? (Besides, driving a car, swimming, and interacting with men are overrated.)

In other news, $110 billion more weaponry is sure to make a splash. Jared Kushner's golden touch triggered a possible discount:

"The two sides discussed a shopping list that included planes, ships and precision-guided bombs. Then an American official raised the idea of the Saudis’ buying a sophisticated radar system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles.

"Sensing that the cost might be a problem, several administration officials said, Mr. Kushner picked up the phone and called Marillyn A. Hewson — the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, which makes the radar system — and asked her whether she could cut the price. As his guests watched slack-jawed, Ms. Hewson told him she would look into it, officials said."

What else? How about some good old American infrastructure for sale? In a post on Facebook, Robert Reich highlights Saudi Arabia "join[ing] the parade of investors into U.S. public works by pledging a record $20 billion investment with Blackstone Group’s new infrastructure fund."

"It’s the latest push around the world by large investors to buy up U.S. airports, roads, bridges, water systems, and other public projects.

"Rather than taxing the wealthy and then using the money to fix our dangerously outdated infrastructure, the states and the federal government increasingly are giving rich investors tax credits to encourage them to do it.

"The investors then charge tolls and user fees, and earn big profits.

"So the public pays twice – once when we subsidize the investors with our tax dollars, and then again when we pay the tolls and user fees that also go into their pockets.

"We don’t even get the infrastructure that’s most needed. Projects most attractive to investors are those whose tolls and fees bring in the biggest bucks – giant mega-projects like major new throughways and new bridges.

"Not the thousands of smaller bridges, airports, pipes, and water treatment facilities most in need of repair. Not the needs of rural communities and smaller cities and towns too small to generate the tolls and other user fees equity investors want. Not clean energy."

Toll roads. Those were the good old days. We can hardly wait.

20.May.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Sequence of events Permalink to this item

Rod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General of the United States of America, now looks to be the most powerful man in Washington. I'd noticed the plural of "investigations" on the news last night, and the story reminds us that "five different Senate and House committees—including both congressional intelligence committees—are running inquiries into the Russian meddling." That's a lot of Congress, but with special prosecutor Robert S. Mueller III (the second most powerful man in Washington) on the job, Congress is likely to back off and return to whatever it is they normally do. (Recess and fundraising, in other words.) The people they'd like to haul up to testify could get all tight-lipped and 5th amendmenty.

The whole Senate was briefed from Rosenstein on Thursday, and the House on Friday, and @PeteWilliamsNBC somehow obtained his prepared remarks, which read mostly like a defense of the memorandum that was briefly used as cover for the firing of FBI Director Jim Comey.

"On May 8, I learned that President Trump intended to remove Director Comey and sought my advice and input," the text says. Rosenstein's "candid internal memorandum," "not a statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination," among other things it was not, was dated May 9.

What a month it's been! Here's the basis of my inference about power:

"As a special counsel, though, Mr. Mueller still reports to Mr. Rosenstein. (Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, recused himself from the investigation after it was revealed that he misrepresented his own contacts with Russian officials during his confirmation hearings.) Any expansion of his purview would need to be approved by Mr. Rosenstein, who retains the power to reject his requests or even remove him."

19.May.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I know you are but what am I? Permalink to this item

The accusations and the name-calling are all self-reflective. Crooked. Liar. Showboat. Grandstander. Nut job. Crazy.

"I can only speak for myself, and the Russians."

You can speak for the Russians?!

On firing a nut job Permalink to this item

Greg Weiner, political scientist at Assumption College, and a student of James Madison, explains that impeachment is a political thing, the indispensable provision "for defending the community against the incapacity, negligence or perfidy" of the Executive. It does not exact punishment for bad acts, but rather serves as a "prophylactic."

When the time comes—it seems nearer at hand than it probably is, but it will surely come—don't take it personally. "[I]ts purpose is to “defend the community” rather than to punish an individual, [so] the standards of a criminal trial do not apply."

"The idea is not to humiliate the president or to cause him to suffer by the loss of his office. It is to protect the public against his negligence or abuse."

The warning signs were clear enough before the election, but a sufficient minority of voters chose to ignore them, just as they choose to imagine they're going to get some advantage trickling down from the current administration. Matthew Yglesias, with links from his Vox original:

“When you're a star, they let you do it.”

"...Trump’s expressed view that a rich and famous man like him can get away with anything is both sincere and largely correct. From his empty-box tax scam to money laundering at his casinos to racial discrimination in his apartments to Federal Trade Commission violations for his stock purchases to Securities and Exchange Commission violations for his financial reporting, Trump has spent his entire career breaking various laws, getting caught, and then essentially plowing ahead unharmed. When he was caught engaging in illegal racial discrimination to please a mob boss, he paid a fine. There was no sense that this was a repeated pattern of violating racial discrimination law, and certainly no desire to take a closer look at his various personal and professional connections to the Mafia."

NYT credited to 'Russian Foreign Ministry'

Meanwhile, the hits from the president's meeting with the Russians—helpfully illustrated by TASS—keep coming. The White House document "circulated as the official account of the meeting" has now coughed up this gem, courtesy of "an American official" reading it to New York Times reporters: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Trump told the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador in the Oval Office.

Breathing room Permalink to this item

All those USGS and BuRec data streams note that they show "provisional data," subject to change, and yesterday, the report of the Boise River at the Glenwood bridge had an abrupt revision, downward. USGS Science in Idaho explained on their Facebook page:

"Downstream debris was backing up water at the streamgage, slowing water velocity and increasing the area of the water across the river. Streamflow, measured in cubic feet per second, is the product of multiplying area by stream velocity."

That explanation is a bit terse, since it wouldn't matter what backed up where, if you measured area and velocity and multiplied. They have a height gage, that's straightforward, and can measure velocity directly, but the area is indirect. But that's oversimplified too; it's not like velocity is uniform across the channel. It's continuously variable across the river, in and around the trees flooded along the banks, and up and down the depth. You can measure velocity in one or many places, but have to come up with an average somehow. They elaborated in a subsequent comment:

"Gage height readings were correct yesterday and remain so. USGS streamgages physically monitor gage height. Streamlfow is computed from gage height using a rating curve based on multiple field measurements. As more field data are collected, we adjust the rating curve. Under flood conditions, the river is rapidly changing. Debris can slow water velocity and increase the area of water across the stream. Those two values--velocity and area--multiplied together yield streamflow."

The "rating curve" is the best (and regularly adjusted) inference of flow from the gage depth. The river is definitely at "11.63 ft" and that's estimated to be 8,800 cfs, down almost a thousand cubic feet per second from the previous estimate.

That's all fascinating, but inquiring denizens of the Boise River valley really want to know, OK, now that you figured out the flow was lower than you said earlier, are you going to turn it up to what you thought it was? The USGS doesn't turn the valve, they just measure what goes by. The local Army Corps of Engineers (aka WallaWallaUSACE on Facebook) replied:

The daily river management meeting

"Corps and Reclamation reservoir managers plan to maintain discharges from the reservoir system at their current rate of flow. The way we've been managing the system to avoid major flooding effects has been working. At this time, no changes in discharges are planned as a result of the corrected streamgage rating."

The Corps also has an interesting video explainer with some views of the people who are making the decisions. (The editor managed to feature Gonzaga University schwag several times, just for fun.) Also, Chief of Hydrology John J. Heitstuman, the best science we can come up with and a hundred years of collected data and experience. Let's hope they're at the top of their game.

Building punking is now a thing Permalink to this item

And I guess that needs Twitter to be get the word out, too? Well, there are other social media that can carry pictures.

Exciting night at FBI headquarters https://t.co/buPNj3hObm

— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) May 19, 2017

The end of the world as we know it Permalink to this item

Catching up on the world according to Twitter first thing this morning, I see this ghostly notification at the top of the stream:

Twitter is over capacity. Please wait a few moments then try again.

Now what happened? I swear, it wasn't me.

On my next attempt to see something new, this:

Twitter error page

Then it came back a little, enough for me to peruse this fascinating thread from Jay Rosen,

1/ All day, been trying to think of a figure who had influence on US politics, media and public culture more destructive than Ailes. Cannot.

— Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) May 18, 2017

and attempted retweet brought more trouble. "Your account may not be allowed to perform this action. Please refresh the page and try again." Something is technically wrong. Off and on.

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

One apologist standing Permalink to this item

The only thing missing from the Politico story about the current administration's terrible awful no good very bad day yesterday is the part where, in desperation, with no one knowing what to say or how to defend the story, someone comes up with the idea to give Idaho's Sen. Jim Risch the short straw and have him pop up on the news with a "weasel" story.

43rd State Blues

We haven't seen such a splendid dudgeon since Danger Mouse roared that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was impugning (IMPUGNING, I SAY) the genteel character of then Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III during his bid to become Attorney General.

“There is this misunderstanding all these people want to go out there and defend us,” said one of the senior administration officials. “Who are they? Do you want to call them? Do you know how to get them on TV?”

was the question, and somehow Risch was the answer.

While our Senator was blaming a tubular carnivore for calling the fire department, Aaron Blake was writing down the details of Donald Trump's absolutely brutal night, in 6 damning headlines, including the one about Trump's White House counsel knowing Flynn was under investigation even before he was hired, and 18 previously undisclosed contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Nobody's business but the Turks' Permalink to this item

Why did Constantinople get the works? Call it a good investment in political relations. Today's bombshell, from McClatchy's DC bureau: Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed—after being paid as its agent. Paid more than half a million dollars, in fact. The "unbeknownst to anyone in Washington" part seems a bit of fake news. Make it "unbeknownst to anyone else," at least.

The timeline is a bit of a head-spinner. The decision was before Michael Flynn was fired, for the second time, and before Trump was inaugurated.

"Obama’s national security team had decided to ask for Trump’s sign-off, since the plan would all but certainly be executed after Trump had become president.

"Flynn didn’t hesitate. According to timelines distributed by members of Congress in the weeks since, Flynn told Rice to hold off, a move that would delay the military operation for months."

Flynn was only officially national security advisor for the president for a little over three weeks. Unraveling what all that entailed will take quite a bit longer.

Downward spectacle Permalink to this item

Not that you need some random blog to tell you when it's front page news, but Washington is abuzz with surround sound of scandal. What caught our eye from yesterday was not on Twitter, but on the parade grounds for the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, where President Snowflake's commencement reverie wandered into self-pity.

“No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly.”

The firm surety of ignorance competes with a parade of quickmemes. Nelson Mandela, for example. Gabby Giffords. Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford had to dodge bullets. RFK, JFK, Abraham Lincoln (I wonder how many of you know he was a Republican?). Ceasar.

This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017

Because the actual witch hunts may have dispatched 50,000 accused, but they weren't politicians, right? Now that you mention it, this does seem a good moment to revisit that "vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism, false accusations, and lapses in due process."

With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 18, 2017

(The original tweet had that as "councel"; it was deleted and replaced with a corrected version.)

He makes a good point. This must be more serious than what happened back then. Bigly!

Rod Rosenstein enjoyed a measure of satisfaction after being used as cover for the Artful Dodger, by appointing former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as "special counsel, another term for special prosecutor." (But doesn't prosecutor sound better, counceller?)

Cheshire Putin

The "I" word arrived to the House floor ("Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan became the first Republican to say the allegations in Mr. Comey’s memo, if true, could be grounds for impeachment"), and Vladimir offered to help with a transcript of that meeting in the Oval, while he and Sergey and the boys shared a good chortle back in Moscow.

Following Turkey's president visit to the White House we were treated to a mideastern brawl right there on our own Embassy Row, "a chaotic scene of flying fists, feet and police batons—all in the middle of rush hour traffic."

Financial markets joined the fray, roiled by a Trump storm that drove the dollar to its lowest point in half a year. As quoted by Reuters: Rabobank strategist Michael Every said the key question was whether markets would "calm down, or panic more."

"The obvious point we've made before repeatedly is that Trump now has much less political capital to spend in the Capitol, and that makes Trumpflation far less likely. Yet things seem to be rapidly moving beyond that point, opening up other scenarios," he said.

It's an adventure! Next up: the first foreign trip, and a meeting with the Pope. (Is that brimstone I smell?)

On the farther reaches of the right, there are "alternative narratives" to comfort the afflicted. It's the "deep state." Roger Stone's forecasting the 25th Amendment with an Alzheimer's trigger. Fake news, of course. Jeff Bezos getting even for that antitrust allegation.

"For many Trump loyalists, the issue is not whether his presidency is messy and chaotic and dysfunctional. Many of them seemed resigned long ago to the fact that it would be. The more relevant question is whether they see anyone else who is equipped to change Washington in the way Mr. Trump promised he would."

There is no one else equipped to change Washington in the way that Trump is doing. Believe me.

George Rasley figures that there must be a Sophisticated Intelligence Operation To Destroy the president, and the FBI must investigate. (Well, they are investigating, George.) After the president's bragging blurt to the Russians, he's giving the literal stink-eye to "the Obama intelligence apparatus" with "ties worth literally hundreds of millions of dollars to Post owner Bezos. Imagine what CHQ could come up with if they started teasing apart the half a thousand shell companies the Trump family has to move money around the globe. And the "crazy like a fox" angle:

"Let’s be clear about President Trump’s sharing of intelligence with the Russians; it wasn’t a blunder or a leak. It was part of a carefully crafted strategy to engage the Putin government against a mutual enemy – the Islamic State."

Let's call that... one explanation. On top of the extraordinary claim of "carefully crafted strategy" there's this:

"What is going on inside the intelligence and national security agencies is no longer merely political foot-dragging or the resistance encountered by any new administration as it clears out the previous administration’s loyalists.

"This is an active conspiracy to undermine the government of the United States and on its face, meets the four corners of the definition of rebellion or insurrection set forth in 18 U.S. Code § 2383. It is time for the FBI to investigate the perpetrators of this rebellion, instead of its victims."

(18 U.S. Code § 2383 does not actually contain a definition, but nothing like a legal reference to spice up the shouting.)

If that's too deep a swamp to wade through, Mark Danville's letter to the Mercury News provides the Cliff Notes version. "Trump will go down as a great, great president." Which sounds half-right, anyway.

17.May.17 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Letter from home Permalink to this item

Isn't he earnest?

Sort of. Paul Ryan, nominally representing a district just south of where I grew up, but mostly endlessly thumping the drum of his joint fundraising committee authorized by and composed of Ryan for Congress, Inc., Prosperity Action, Inc., and the NRCC, wrote to me once again, with the subject "Just listening."

"Friend," he starts, "I spent last week traveling the country, listening to Americans--like you," and goes on for some 750 characters (not a lot, mind you), helpfully suggesting that perhaps "government-implemented barriers are getting in the way" of my success? He wants to hear from me! My answer to "What are the barriers getting in the way of your success?"

I took the jump, started to write about the daily distractions from the Congress and White House, but... ran out of space long before I'd had my say. The web form allows for just 200 characters of listening. Which, ok, is more than a tweet, but less than a tweet and a half.

Bears Ears Permalink to this item

Just submitted my comment to the Secretary of the Interior, regarding the Bears Ears National Monument, part of the larger demand of Executive Order 13792 of April 26, 2017, concerning TWENTY SEVEN National Monuments, designated since 1996 under the Antiquities Act.

Given the current administration's demonstrated lack of competence in other matters, it is rather mind-blowing to have such a consquential review whipped up in a few weeks, but here we are.

The full list subject to review comprises more than 11 million acres in 21 monuments in 10 states (including Idaho's Craters of the Moon) subject to "initial review" [sic]; the 87,563 acre Katahadin Woods and Waters in Maine, designated last year, to be "reviewed to determine whether the designation or expansion was made without adequate public outreach and coordination with relevant stakeholders"; and five Marine National Monuments (the Marianas Trench and Pacific Remote Islands, Papahanaumokuakea, and Rose Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts in the Atlantic).

Marc Toso photograph

The general docket—concerning all 27 monuments—is open for comment until July 10, but comments specific to Bears Ears must be submitted by May 26, just over a week from now.

It's Department of the Interior docket number DOI-2017-0002-0001, here: www.regulations.gov/document?D=DOI-2017-0002-0001. They can also be submitted in writing to

Monument Review, MS-1530
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington DC 20240

At the moment the website says they have almost 29,000 comments, including more than 6,000 posted today (not counting mine, yet, in the queue for "agency review"). Here it is as submitted, with a link to the original proclamation added. (The Federal Register's rendition is in black and white; Wikipedia and the Forest Service page have a color map, and more. The BLM's version uses a restful green for the outline.)

Dear Secretary Zinke:

It's hard to know where to begin. The presidential proclamation designating Bears Ears National Monument describes the remarkable cultural and historic values, and the flora and fauna of the monument lands. My own experience in and around this area goes back more than 40 years, and includes introducing my son to the wonder of it 35 years ago. He has now passed that gift on to his three children.

The declaration of the monument came after many decades of proposals to protect the area, and it is significant that the Native American tribes of this area came together to ask the president for the designation.

As with every land management decision, not everyone got what they hoped for, but valid existing rights and easements were retained for their owners.

These federal lands are an incomparable, and irreplaceable resource. I urge you to honor and respect this land, and to sustain its protection to the best of your ability under the Antiquities Act.

Update: H/t to EarthJustice for info about the comment period and prompting me to write. Their page has some beautiful, big photographs with permission to share. A reduced version of Marc Toso's beautiful photograph (2250 x 1503px as shared) is shown here.

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

Boom. Permalink to this item

Good observations are essential for so much these days. Science, engineering, economics, forecasting. Smoking out liars. I remember the one time in my process engineering career (which was the first part, starting now more than 30 years ago) that somebody in a supporting role lied to me about something relatively inconsequential. It was so inconsequential, in fact, that it took me a long time to work through troubleshooting the problem that resulted, because the possibility that someone telling me "I did X like I was supposed to do" when in fact he had not seemed completely unlikely.

But that's what happened. In my line of work, it was unusual enough that 30 years later, the incident stands out. (There was one other lie years later, so blatant, and so consequential, that there was no possible way its advantage could be left standing; a team of lawyers were turned loose on the miscreants, and things set right; a tale for another day.)

Once burned, twice careful, and my relatively comprehensive notes about day to day operations, decisions and actions of others became moreso, perhaps toward obsessive at times. That detailed note-taking proved useful for solving all sorts of problems, not just those caused by liars.

Still from performance art on the Trump D.C. Hotel

Which brings us to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an organization that has as its main line of business solving problems having to do with liars, grifters, con men, thieves, and worse. To rise to the top, you would be well served to take good notes.

Turns out the recently fired director of the organization, Jim Comey takes really good notes, or as they're calling them in the latest breaking news, "memos." Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation.

Some of them are classified, some are not, but they cover "every phone call and meeting he had with the president."

Who needs tapes? Certainly not the president, who would not be much helped by his multi-scoop servings of word salad being served up in audio. He can pretend that "I hope you can let this go" means something other than obstruction of justice. A friendly suggestion? Wistful hopes for the future?

The future is indeed bright, illuminated by a barrage of revelations centered at the White House.

Word of the day Permalink to this item

White House reaction cycle
1 - It never happened
2 - POTUS tweet
3 - It happened; NBD
4 - Nobody cares but you
5 - No more questions on this

— Brad Heath (@bradheath) May 16, 2017

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

Eliot Cohen is not my favorite neocon (ok, maybe I don't even have one), and has a history as checkered with tomato stains as any Italian restaurant's table coverings. (His résumé includes the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, beating the drums of war back in the day.) But he's been an insider for a long time, so consider this instructional, at least: The Terrible Cost of Trump's Disclosures. Subhead summary: "The consequences of the president’s reported divulgence of top-secret codeword information to the Russians are only beginning.

He starts with a caveat, that "if the Washington Post is right," so yesterday's news. But ICYMI,

"[T]he White House ... trotted out three reasonably sane, responsible, experienced adults to vouch for the President’s story. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, and National Security Adviser Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster made public statements calling the story false, giving different variants of this argument: The President did not disclose sources and methods for intelligence gathering, or future military operations."

Then what happened? Dim Dong Un confirmed by Twitter that Yes He Can, and Yes He Did:

As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2017

TASS photo. Can you believe it?

It seems that top secret codeword information is no joke unless you are Idiot King. For the rank and file, "if you hope to keep your job and stay out of jail, you take it seriously." Cohen sees the same non-denial denial that Josh Marshall did (below). It wasn't a direct disclosure of "sources and methods," and that's not what the Washington Post reported.

"It said that he divulged intelligence. And since it seems likely that the Russians captured all of the conversation—they were allowed to bring their electronics into the room, including the only video cameras, the American press having been excluded—they undoubtedly got all of it. And you bet that their analysts are even now chuckling as they figure out what the sources were. ...

"[O]ne simply cannot assume that anything these senior subordinates of the president say is the truth."

Might as well laugh Permalink to this item

NYT roundup of the Best of Late Night. In The Atlantic, Idaho's junior Senator gets the pole position for a quick take of Republicans displaying a mix of defense and alarm on Trump allegations. Not a huge surprise that Jim "gitalong" Risch is a defender:

“It’s no longer classified the minute he utters it,” Republican Senator Jim Risch said, according to Talking Points Memo’s Alice Ollstein. Risch reportedly noted that the president “has the ability to declassify anything at any time without any process.”

That's that then. Ollstein's report for TPM pushed the sunny side below Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who had this memorable line:

We are in a downward spiral right now, and we’ve got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening.”

The good news is, it's not like there's a Machiavellian master plan to deconstruct the American experiment or anything, and the president's stalwart supporters are still getting what they voted for: a bull in the china shop. With a lot more crockery to go. Code-word level security: "Idiot in the Oval." We don't know what it means.

We have General McMaster's statement that "The story that came out tonight as reported is false," and he was in the room. "It didn't happen." But, ah, what didn't happen, exactly? Josh Marshall combs over what he sees as "a classic non-denial denial."

In this downward spiral, there seems to be no statement from the president or any of his surrogates that is believable on its face.

Other than that Trump gets two scoops of ice cream while everybody else gets only one. We believe that.

In other entertainment news, we watched the two-years old Masterpiece rendition of Wolf Hall again, the last two episodes last night. Henry VIII feels like he was ripped from the headlines, all these five centuries later, does he not? Spoiler alert: it doesn't end well for those closest to him.

From Masterpiece, Wolf Hall, special features

15.May.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

All your bits are belong to us Permalink to this item

There's something satisfying about the news that the latest worldwide malware attack is the biggest threat to the biggest bootleggers. Not that legit software innoculates you. Two out of three of our properly licensed Windows (7) machines have stumbled into the realm of can't-Windows-Update, and I just took one into a shop to see about getting that fixed.

Reported problems on social media, meh, students at universities locked out of their theses, hmm, payment systems at gas stations down, ouch, and computers in tens of thousands of institutions hit, dayum. This observation is probably not as droll to the folks in Redmond (even if Microsoft is still making a ton of money):

"If those behind the ransomware attack profited from the hacking, they may have figured out how to do something that has been beyond Microsoft: making money from Windows in China."

It seems a lot of people "are simply not used to paying for software." At least not up front. When MS tried to cut off support for XP, China got huffy that "such corporate behavior could be considered anticompetitive" and the company ended up handing out free upgrades instead. (No wonder the Chinese are also stealing our president's lunch money these days.)

The ransomware plan seems a little more direct than most software licensing, but it's a difference of degree. Plan B could be to make a Chinese O/S, or something on Linux? There's no escaping the price of software, sooner or later. Making your own is not the low-cost way forward, nor will it innoculate you against bad actors.

ZDNet said late last night to brace yourselves for the 2nd wave, after a 22-y-o researcher accidentally (by his account of the story) figured out that there was an obscure and unobtained domain name embedded in the code and this is remarkable:

"Upon running the sample in my analysis environment I instantly noticed it queried an unregistered domain, which i promptly registered."

Seriously?

"Now one thing that’s important to note is the actual registration of the domain was not on a whim. My job is to look for ways we can track and potentially stop botnets (and other kinds of malware), so I’m always on the lookout to pick up unregistered malware control server (C2) domains. In fact I registered several thousand of such domains in the past year."

Good on ya, then. And good to have a healthy heart when this happened shortly after:

"[An] employee came back with the news that the registration of the domain had triggered the ransomware meaning we’d encrypted everyone’s files (don’t worry, this was later proven to not be the case), but it still caused quite a bit of panic."

In fact, whether it was intended to work this way or not (he has another possible explanation), registering the domain acted as a "kill switch" on the propagation of the malware.

Lots of people are suddenly very keenly interested in an "executive guide" to the subject, updated to include the latest, and "biggest ransomware attack to date, WannaCry—also known as WannaCrypt—also known as WannaCry and Wcry—[which] caused chaos across the globe in an attack which started on Friday 12th May 2017."

And then there's the problem of malware on phones. More users at the mercy of device and software designers, more exploit opportunities.

You can't be too careful out there.

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

Since you mentioned "tapes" Permalink to this item

Reported on TPM, and presumably, everywhere else, other than Fox News.

“Under Section 1512 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, it is a crime to intimidate or threaten any potential witness with the intent to influence, delay, or prevent their official testimony,” Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) wrote in a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn.

“The President’s actions this morning—as well as his admission yesterday on national television that he fired Director Comey because he was investigating Trump campaign officials and their connections to the Russian government—raise the specter of possible intimidation and obstruction of justice,” the lawmakers continued.

One other thing:

“We also request all documents, memoranda, analyses, emails, and other communications relating to the President’s decision to dismiss Director Comey,” they added.

The party of trolls Permalink to this item

Charlie Sykes cued up for the Sunday Review: If Liberals Hate Him, Then Trump Must Be Doing Something Right.

Reading about Sykes' background, it sounds like we might have crossed paths back in the day, but then he went to a West Allis weekly, about the time I went West. From Young Democrat, to Different Kind of Democrat, to disillusioned anti-abortion liberal, to Republican, most recently an Even McMullin sort of a Republican, his op-ed title is freighted with sarcasm. Rush Limbaugh celebrating the president's "epic troll," for example.

"In many ways anti-anti-Trumpism mirrors Donald Trump himself, because at its core there are no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character, only a free-floating nihilism cloaked in insult, mockery and bombast."

And don't forget the keen interest in self-dealing corruption.

Criminal justice Permalink to this item

Beginning of March, we were reeling from the reports that the diminutive new Attorney General had committed perjury in his confirmation hearing when he said “I did not have communications with the Russians” when in fact he had met with the Russian Ambassador to the US twice in the past year, while pretending to be both a U.S. Senator and adviser to the Trump campaign.

Remember what a huge scandal the Republicans thought it was when A.G. Loretta Lynch had a conversation with Bill Clinton while Hillary's emails were all the rage?

She was warned.
She was given an explanation.
Nevertheless, she persisted.

Mitch McConnell #mansplaining

But not much of a problem with accepting a lie from a colleague on the way in to the A.G.'s office. Cue up the scene of Idaho's own smaller-than-life Senator putting on some dudgeon for the cameras. Those were the days.

That was before Senators Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, Tom Udall, and Bernie Sanders read from Coretta Scott King's letter.

The good old boys club went ahead and confirmed Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as Attorney General, and then when it turned out—one short month to the day after his confirmation—that he had a bit of a Russian compromat problem, he "recused" himself from that particular matter, which is not to be confused with "resigned," nor with actual recusal, given that a couple months later, here he is opining upon the firing of the FBI director while the Russia-Trump campaign investigation is still red hot.

Now Mr. Sessions is rolling out a "get tough on crime" policy without irony. Our world-beating levels of incarceration are not enough! It seems he is compensating for his own shortcomings. (Thank goodness for the prosecutorial discretion that lets folks like him scoot through with a wink and a nod.)

Worse than Watergate Permalink to this item

There's a lot we don't know, but there's this interesting fact from James Fallows: the median age of people in the US is about 38, so most of them had not been born when the Nixon administration caught cancer. Fallows had a front-row seat back in the early 1970s, and is about as well-respected a journalist as you could find.

"[B]ased simply on what is known so far, this scandal looks worse than Watergate. Worse for and about the president. Worse for the overall national interest. Worse in what it suggests about the American democratic system’s ability to defend itself."

The underlying offense. The blatancy of the interference. The nature of the president. (Sure Nixon was "paranoid, resentful, bigoted, and a crook." But "also deeply knowledgeable, strategically prescient, publicly disciplined—and in some aspects of his domestic policy strikingly “progressive” by today’s standards." He created the EPA.

"Donald Trump, by contrast—well, read the transcripts of his two most recent interviews, and weep. He is impulsive, and ignorant, and apparently beyond the reach of any control, even his own."

The resiliency of the fabric of American institutions. (PAGING MR. ROSENSTEIN.) The cravenness of party leaders. (PAGING MITCH MCCONNELL.)

But that's all taking events literally, as if words still had meaning, and there were something we could point to and say "this right here, this is normal." Charles Pierce, with the color commentary for Esquire:

"Anyway, remember on Wednesday, when the story was that it was Rosenstein's unsolicited bill of particulars that made the president* fire Comey? Well, it became Thursday, and we were back with the master of The Deal, who doesn't let lesser men close for him.

"But first, just a little slander:

TRUMP: He's a showboat, he's a grandstander, the FBI has been in turmoil, you know that, I know that, everybody knows that. You take a look at the FBI a year ago, it was in virtual turmoil. Less than a year ago, it hasn't recovered from that.

"And irony takes a big swig of Virginia Gentleman, shoots up some fine Afghan H, and walks into a propeller blade."

Can't keep up Permalink to this item

But at least I have some company in my misery: Sean Spicer in among the bushes, and oh dear Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the headlights. SHOWBOATUS has their back, though.

As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

...Maybe the best thing to do would be to cancel all future "press briefings" and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017

Very active.

Like that meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister and the Ambassador attended by the official government photogs, where the president went ahead and admitted he was Putin's puppet and TASS tweeted the flabby gaggle to beat the band.

This photo is going to be the first thing you see at the future Trump Presidential Library pic.twitter.com/w8A7mJtro1

— Matt Novak (@paleofuture) May 10, 2017

Nothing (else) to see here people, move along.

From the NBC News interview with Lester Holt

"When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said you know? [strikes that talking-to-hisself pose] This Russiar [sic] thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won."

The good news is that our president wants "that thing"—the investigation of collusion between his campaign and the Russians—"to be done properly."

When I hear Dear Leader keep saying "I am not under investigation" I feel young again. Like it's November 17, 1973.

"There's so many investigations," he said, he can't keep up. You know, you've got the FBI, and the Congress, the House, and then there's the Senate. So many investigations.

He's having a hard time telling the truth about a.n.y.t.h.i.n.g right now.

"I want to get to the bottom."

You're getting there!

"There's a big thing going on right now, which is spying."

Also, the other big thing going on right now, which is lying. Very active. It's not possible to state all this stuff with perfect accuracy!

"And I have a certified letter! Just so you understand. I'm not just saying that. I've given the letter, I've given the letter to Senator Lindsey Graham. He has the letter. And I think frankly... uh, if, I assume he's going to give the letter out, but it says, 'I am not involved in Russia.' No loans, uh, no nothing."

It's a certified letter, people.

[Update: Whoop, how did I miss the fact that the letter is dated March 8, 2017?! Also, a million years ago, on January 11, Fortune had a nice little piece about the firm, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, being awarded Russia Law Firm of the Year in 2016. You could make this stuff up, but no one would believe you. Here you go, on their own site: Russia Law Firm of the Year.]

Speaking of spying, thus spake SHOWBOATUS on the Tweet machine this morning:

James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 12, 2017
Cover of Newsweek, Dec. 10, 1973

The NY Times has now graphed the events leading up to Comey’s firing and the subsequent firestorm across the parallel universes of "what happened publicly" and "what happened behind the scenes" and among the bushes.

The editorial board rounds up the Trump-Russia Nexus Top Ten (half of which is the TRUMP FAMILY BUSINESS). I guess they were short on space? And if they went ahead with the full list (and hyperlinks to all the background) that's burning up Facebook's servers just now, they might look like conspiracy nuts.

It's just that... well, the the Rex Tillerson oil patch thing,
and the Jared Kushner thing,
and the Felix Sater thing,
and the Boris Ephsteyn thing,
and the Rosneft thing,
and the Gazprom thing,
and the Sergey Gorkov banker thing,
and the Azerbaijan thing,
and the “I love Putin” thing,
and the Donald Trump, Jr. thing,
and the Sergey Kislyak thing,
and the Russian Affiliated Interests thing,
and the Russian Business Interests thing,
and the Emoluments Clause thing,
and the Alex Schnaider thing,
and the hack of the DNC thing, and the Guccifer 2.0 thing,
and the Mike Pence “I don’t know anything” thing,
and the Russians mysteriously dying thing,
and Trump’s public request to Russia to hack Hillary’s email thing,
and the Trump house sale for $100 million at the bottom of the housing bust to the Russian fertilizer king thing,
and the Russian fertilizer king’s plane showing up in Concord, NC during Trump rally campaign thing,
and the Nunes sudden flight to the White House in the night thing,
and the Nunes personal investments in the Russian winery thing,
and the Cyprus bank thing
and Trump not releasing his tax returns thing,
and the Republican Party’s rejection of an amendment to require Trump to show his taxes thing,
and the election hacking thing and the GOP platform change to the Ukraine thing,
and the Steele Dossier thing,
and the Leninist Bannon thing and the Sally Yates can’t testify thing,
and the intelligence community’s investigative reports thing,
and the Trump reassurance that the Russian connection is all “fake news” thing,
and the Spicer’s Russian Dressing “nothing’s wrong” thing,
and the Chaffetz not willing to start an investigation thing,
and the Chaffetz suddenly deciding to go back to private life in the middle of an investigation thing,
and the The Lead DOJ Investigator Mary McCord SUDDENLY in the middle of the investigation decides to resign thing,
and the appointment of Pam Bondi who was bribed by trump in the trump university scandal appointed to head the investigation thing,
and the The White House going into full-on cover-up mode, refusing to turn over the documents related to the hiring and subsequent firing of Flynn thing,
and the Chaffetz and White House blaming the poor vetting of Flynn on Obama thing,
and the Poland and British intelligence gave information regarding the hacking back in 2015 to Paul Ryan and he didn't do anything thing,
and the Agent MI6 following the money thing,
and now the trump team KNEW about Flynn's involvement but hired him anyway thing,
and The Corey Lewandowski thing,
and the Preet Bharara firing thing but before he left he transferred evidence against trump to a state level Schneiderman thing,
and the Betsy Devos' Brother thing,
and the Sebastian Gorka thing, and the Greg Gianforte from Montana thing,
and the Pence actually was warned about Flynn before he was hired thing,
and the Pence and Manafort connection thing,
and the 7 Allies coming forward with audio where trump was picked up in incidental wire tapping thing,
AND NOW the Trump wants to VETO Sally Yates' testimony thing!!
And the Trump just fired James Comey thing!!
And the Comey asked for more money because his daily investigators' briefings were starting to show actual Trump campaign - Russia collusion thing,
and the acting FBI director’s testimony that Comey was well-respected and was having no credibility problems with the FBI rank and file or running the agency, refuting contrary White House statements thing,
and the Trump's dismissal memo to Comey mentions Russia but none of the DOJ memos do thing.

So yeah there’s probably nothing there. #FakeNews

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

You in a heap a trouble now boy Permalink to this item

Am I obsessing? Perhaps, but my head's been ready to explode for about 21 hours now and the story just gets more and more incredible. James Hohmann's WaPo PowerPost went up midmorning EDT and covers much of what was in my first blog post of the day, but I'm just getting to it now. It's only going to get worse.

"Senior officials at the White House were caught off guard by the intense and immediate blowback to the president’s stunning decision to fire James Comey. They reportedly expected Republicans to back him up and thought Democrats wouldn’t complain loudly because they have been critical of Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Indeed, that was the dubious excuse given publicly for his ouster."

Seriously? Caught off guard?!

However this fascinating Russian spy novel turns out, some useful reference material, out of this morning's "must read" opinion from David Ignatius, The Comey debacle only magnifies the Russia mystery.

"In a book called ‘Spy the Lie,’ a group of former intelligence officers explain the behavioral and linguistic cues that indicate when someone is being deceptive. Interestingly, many of these are evident in Trump’s responses to questions about Russia’s covert involvement in U.S. politics."

"The authors’ list of tip-offs includes “going into attack mode,” “inappropriate questions,” “inconsistent statements,” “selective memory” and the use of “qualifiers,” such as “frankly,” “honestly” and “truthfully.” The authors’ point is that people who are innocent answer questions simply and directly."

For the next edition, add "believe me" to that list of tip-offs.

River check Permalink to this item

Excerpt of Boise R teacup diagram from US BuRec

The Boise River system's natural flow topped out at 24,140 cfs on Sunday afternoon, then relaxed to 19-ish, even though the weather is getting warm and lovely. Up to 80 today, mid-80s tomorrow, but then helpfully back to the 50s and 60s through the weekend. That accounts for the near-term forecast peak near 21,000 cfs, but rolling off to only 11,000 by the end of next week.

Anderson Ranch reservoir, at the top of the stack, is 95% full now, and we're down to less than 200,000 acre-feet space left. That's 10 days' worth of the watershed running with 20k "natural flow" and only 10k let out of Lucky Peak.

More reactions Permalink to this item

Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center who served in the previous three Republican administrations: Don’t Be Complicit, Republicans.

"Among the reasons we can confidently conclude that the president abused his power is that the White House’s explanation for the expulsion of Mr. Comey was transparently false, even ludicrous. The reason the Trump administration gave for firing Mr. Comey this year is the exact same reason for which Mr. Trump praised Mr. Comey last year: the former F.B.I. director’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server."

Anthony Zurcher's reporting for the BBC covers the various angles in overview, under the question of the day: Did President Trump fire James Comey as part of a cover-up? Yes, that's what we're asking. Alternate explanation is that it was just a fit of pique.

Politico fills in the paint-by-numbers from unnamed sources: "He had grown enraged by the Russia investigation, two advisers said, frustrated by his inability to control the mushrooming narrative around Russia. He repeatedly asked aides why the Russia investigation wouldn’t disappear and demanded they speak out for him. He would sometimes scream at television clips about the probe, one adviser said."

"It's time to move on," Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy press secretary, said on Fox News. As contrasted with, I don't know, David Corn, for Mother Jones: This is impeachment territory.

With much of the FBI and the White House in shock, "the mood was more elated at Roger Stone's house in Florida," from which Stone "declined to comment Tuesday night but said he was enjoying a fine cigar."

The ACLU: "serious alarm bells for our system of checks and balances."

George Rasley, Conservative HQ editor: A blow for the rule of law. Seriously. Never mind that CHQ spluttered apoplectically about going after Clinton harder and faster last year, now he's celebrating Rosenstein's wonderfully convenient justification. Not the faintest whiff of "cover up" concern here. Rasley's too busy explaining how this isn't like Nixon and Richardson and Ruckelshaus and the firing of Archibald Cox.

But hey, give it time.

Peter Baker and Senator Patrick Leahy remember all that Watergate stuff, too. Leahy: "First, we can easily dismiss President Trump’s transparent pretext for dismissing FBI Director Comey. ... The claim is so unbelievable that it is almost laughable." And most importantly, in case there was any vague confusion, "It is clear that any credible investigation must take place outside the political chain of command."

The NYT editorial board said the explanation for the shocking move "is impossible to take at face value," and "the country has reached an even more perilous moment" than Watergate.

So now the question is: will the current chain of command succeed in stymieing the investigation that must proceed? Give Leahy the last word for the moment:

"This is not just a scandal. The President’s actions are neither Republican nor Democratic. They are authoritarian. This is an effort to undo the ties that bind our democratic form of government. All of us—both sides of the aisle—must now put country over party."

"Was he fired? You are kidding!" Permalink to this item

Lots of stand-out responses to our sexual predator con man in chief, and his perjurer of an Attorney General firing the FBI director, including this Washington Post story featuring Sean Spicer hiding behind a tall hedge to avoid reporters:

After Spicer spent several minutes hidden in the bushes behind these sets, Janet Montesi, an executive assistant in the press office, emerged and told reporters that Spicer would answer some questions, as long as he was not filmed doing so. Spicer then emerged.

“Just turn the lights off. Turn the lights off,” he ordered. “We'll take care of this. ... Can you just turn that light off?”

Spicer got his wish and was soon standing in near darkness between two tall hedges, with more than a dozen reporters closely gathered around him. For 10 minutes, he responded to a flurry of questions, vacillating between light-hearted asides and clear frustration with getting the same questions over and over again.

On the top of the story, there are some videos. The second one is of a deliciously ill-timed little stand and wave by Secretary of Oil Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Script was, come through the double doors, walk to the flag setting, shake hands for the photogs, Tillerson welcomes Lavrov, turn around and leave.

But those pesky reporters! As Tillerson tries to wave off the palaver and get the hell out of there, a voice from the gaggle:

"Does the Comey firing cast a shadow over your talks, gentlemen?"

Lavrov stops in his tracks.

"Was he fired? You are kidding! You are kidding!"

Still from the WP video

Conversation was impossible, or at least unwanted. The two men complete the rest of the script by turning their backs to the photographers and shambling back out the double doors.

This morning's scheduled meeting between the Foreign Minister and our president "will be closed to press, according to the White House." No doubt. [Update: the official TASS photographer got in?!)]

Video #3 is Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer telling us he told the President "you're making a big mistake," and with a two word question that remains to be answered?

Why now?

The obvious answer is that because the House, and the Senate, and the FBI are all investigating the President's campaign's ties to Russia.

According to the story, Deputy A.G. Rod J. Rosenstein took it on himself to conduct a probe of the FBI director, and then sent a memo to the president yesterday, with a nice cover letter from the supposedly recused Jeff Sessions. PressSec Spicer "said he's not aware of any of Rosenstein's superiors who might have directed him to do this."

Any of his superiors?! He's the Deputy Attorney General, he's got exactly TWO superiors. And then this measure of the head man:

"The president then swiftly decided to follow the recommendation, notifying the FBI via email around 5 p.m. and in a letter delivered to the FBI by the president's longtime bodyguard. At the same time, the president personally called congressional leaders to let them know his decision. Comey learned the news from media reports."

Just like Sergey Lavrov. You are kidding!

Update: The NYT report shows it was worse still:

"Mr. Comey learned from news reports that he had been fired while addressing bureau employees in Los Angeles. While Mr. Comey spoke, television screens in the background began flashing the news. In response to the reports, Mr. Comey laughed, saying that he thought it was a fairly funny prank. Shortly after, Mr. Trump’s letter was delivered to F.B.I. Headquarters in Washington."

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

This is not the healthcare bill we were looking for Permalink to this item

There's a comment on this op-ed from the Sunday Times that starts "there's nothing new in what Peter Suderman writes, other than [that] he is a conservative admitting that the underlying rationale..." for the House Health Care Disaster Is Really About Taxes.

I'm sure that's right, nothing new there. But on the other hand, and regardless of the source, having the logistical plan for what the Republicans are doing laid out so clearly seems like new information.

I thought that yeah, there's a big tax cut in there because they can, and because of the ongoing obsession. But that's putting the cart before the ass. It's all about taxes, the ones on the wealthy.

You don't need a critic of the Affordable Care Act to tell you that the really quick, dirty, and nonsensical "health care" plan is "worse [than Obamacare] in nearly every way."

It will do nothing whatsoever to fix problems with the ACA, to expand coverage, to lower premiums, or deductibles, or to stabilize the metastable pre-existing condition we've stumbled into.

"It’s unclear what health policy problem this bill would solve. Even for an opponent of Obamacare, it is difficult to understand why House Republicans chose this path to revamping the nation’s health care system.

"It’s difficult to understand, that is, if you think they were passing a health care bill. It makes more sense when you realize that isn’t what they were doing at all. They were passing a tax cut — one intended to pave the way for more tax cuts."

If they can get the basic outline rammed through the Senate, and magically within the budget reconciliation process to avoid having to obtain anything more than a 50 Senators and Mike Pence to say yay, it's going to make a bad situation worse for the vast majority of us. It will leave tens of millions more people without insurance, it will increase the cost for the sick and the elderly, it will cause more deaths directly, and indirectly, and will drive more people down out of the middle class and into medical bankruptcy.

In order to cut taxes on the top 20% of earners. And then to cut taxes even more.

That tax "reform" thing is bullshit too. This is just smash and grab.

Dunning Kruger for Governor Permalink to this item

Raúl Labrador's been making the late night comedy rounds, "as seen on" Jimmy Kimmel Live! and Seth Myers' A Closer Look, at least, for his less-than-elegant counterpunch to a constituent's question on people dying from not being able to afford healthcare.

"That line is so indefensible," the Congressman said, with the cameras rolling. That "line."

"Nobody dies because they don't have access to healthcare."

Some media took the trouble to fact-check the claim, god knows why. Myers gave it all due consideration. "That's like saying nobody dies from falling out a window. It's the pavement that gets you."

So what will our back-bench, rock-throwing, anti-government Freedom Caucus representative due to top that, you're wondering?

He's going to run for Governor of the state of Idaho! Because... we could really use more of the swampy D.C. pants on fire cluelessness back home? The Congressman had a big press eventquietly slipped into the Secretary of State's office to file his paperwork, and got in and out in 15, 20 minutes, so he could have no comment.

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

Back in the U.S., Back in the U.S., Back in the U.S.S.R Permalink to this item

Tuned into the middle of the Senate Intelligence subcommittee hearing today, and found it pretty much riveting. I was very impressed with Sally Yates, who mopped up the floor with the two partisan hacks from Texas, Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Cornyn: "...I have to tell you that I find it enormously disappointing that you somehow vetoed the decision of the office of the legal counsel with regard to the lawfulness of the president's order and decided that instead that you would countermand the Executive Order of the President of the United States because you happen to disagree with it as a policy matter. I just have to say that."

Even though, THAT ACTUALLY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SUBJECT OF TODAY'S HEARING, THAT'S COOL.

Yates: "...I remember my confirmation hearing... You specifically asked me in that hearing that if the President asked me to do something that was unlawful or unconstitutional ... would I say no. And I looked at this, I made a determination that I believed it was unlawful. I also thought that it was inconsistent with the principles of the Department of Justice, and I said no. That's what I promised you I would do, and that's what I did."

David Corn boiled down the big picture not long after the hearing adjourned: Why the Sally Yates Hearing Was Very Bad News for the Trump White House

"So this hearing indicated that the Trump White House protected a national security adviser who lied and who could be compromised by Moscow, that Trump can no longer cite Clapper to claim there was no collusion, and that US intelligence had sensitive information on interactions between Trump associates and possible Russian agents as early as late 2015. Still, most of the Republicans on the panel focused on leaks and "unmasking"—not the main issues at hand. They collectively pounded more on Yates for her action regarding the Muslim travel ban than on Moscow for its covert operation to subvert the 2016 election to help Trump."

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifies

Helpfully excerpted by Twitterfolk: Cruz v. Yates and Cornyn v. Yates, with bonus footage from then Senator Jeff Sessions (now A.G., and recused from this party for his own Russian dressing).

For his part, Dear Leader was firing both barrels, @POTUS and su-@realDonaldTrump what he wanted Ms. Yates to be asked "under oath": Did she know how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to the White House Counsel?

They asked! They also asked her if she was the leaker. She answered "no," and "no."

To summarize the main story:

1. After his starring role at the RNC last summer ("LOCK HER UP") and lots of other interesting stuff, Gen. Mike Flynn lied to the VPOTUS, at least.

2. When VPOTUS repeated what Flynn told him that Sally Yates knew was not true, she got in touch with the White House Counsel, pronto.

3. Shortly afterward, SHE was fired, for refusing to uphold the Muslim travel ban.

4. And Flynn stuck around at work for another 18 days, only being sacked after the press got wind of what was going on.

Seems like we're pretty ripe for a special prosecutor.

But hey, things could be worse Permalink to this item

If we lived just a little bit further west, we'd be in ID-01, and our congresscritter would be Raúl Labrador, who is making national news with a made-for-campaign-ads accidentally candid defense of the indefensible Freedom Caucus position.

"That line is so indefensible" was in fact the first blurt in his response to a question at a recent townhall. As one of the FC members The punchline came next:

"Nobody dies because they don't have access to health care."

You don't say.

After all the praise heaped upon him for his stamina, and the temerity to face hostile crowds at town hall meetings, he wants us to overlook the gobsmacker. He meant insurance. Nobody dies because they don't have healthcare insurance. Right?

"During ten hours of town halls, one of my answers about health care wasn't very elegant," Labrador said in the statement. "I was responding to a false notion that the Republican health care plan will cause people to die in the streets, which I completely reject." ...

In his statement issued Saturday, Labrador criticized the media for not focusing on his entire response to the question, adding that hospitals are still required to treat people in need of emergency care regardless if they can pay.

Yeah, that's really digging out of the hole, isn't it. You don't need insurance, or money, because they have to treat you at the emergency room. Quit whining. Take a number.

Not that Labrador's inelegant ideology needs it, but The Washington Post took the trouble to fact check just how deep into denial the claim was.

The greatest half-time celebration of all time Permalink to this item

Pence's sycophantic introduction of his boss was not as widely featured, but he's there on Times Video, calling out Republican leadership by title and surname, and winding up to pronouncing "the beginning of the end of Obamacare." It's strange to study speaking body language in detail. Pence is nodding, nodding, nodding while he's heaping praise on his boss and through "finally give the American people" but now shaking, shaking, shaking for "give the American people the kind of healthcare they deserve."

That was odd.

Paul Ryan was not the only guy chewing gum for the Rose Garden scene, but he had the good sense to swallow it as the head man began to speak. You can't have a good Resting Smirk Face whilst chewing. Ryan looks like a happy fella. His brow ruffled briefly but then when it came time to "make no mistake" that "this is a repeal and replace," he lit up like the sun and joined the happy applause. And oh, the line about "ransom money to the insurance companies," that made him chortle. Let's not get too specific. What's most important?

"But very importantly, it's a great plan. And that's what it's all about."

"How'm I doing? Hey, I'm president! I'm president! Can you believe it?"

No sir, a lot of us really can't believe it, even after one hundred-some days.

"Ahh I don't know, I thought you need a little more..."

Intelligence? Talent? Knowledge? No, the word he came up with was "time." He thought you needed a little more time, to... whatever. Craft worthwhile legislation? As a matter of fact, that does take more than a couple of weeks, and can even be insurmountable after 6 or 7 years' trying.

"Don't forget, Obamacare took 17 months," he said, as if... the House has beat the previous world record for whipping something through? Just 8 weeks this time! "And this is a real plan. This is a great plan. And we had no support from the other party."

"It no longer matters, because we won."

"It's going to be an unbelievable victory, actually." After, well, you know. After "it" actually passes the Congress and gets signed into law, if that happens, and whatever "it" ends up being. For the previously intractible House GOP factions, two amendments were tacked on, making it palatable to both (the far-right-wing Freedom Caucus, and the moderate Tuesday Group). The FC were brought on board by a provision that allowed states to waiver their way out of letting people with pre-existing conditions obtain insurance if they haven't had it all along.

(If you're in a state that throws you off the bus, you should move.)

Then the TG were mollified by tossing $8 billion in the pot to make up the difference, somehow. (And if it doesn't? Fred Upton says "we'll go back to the well.")

But the reason I was dredging up old news is that I was looking for my congressman, Mike Simpson, the guy who got to swing the big gavel for the just-barely passage last week, to see how he looked there in the Rose Garden celebration. I could not find him in the crowd. He was not among the speakers, for sure, but he was also not to be seen among the three or four score suits arrayed behind the podium. Early flight out? Not invited? Didn't want to go?

The press release posted on his site has the familiar palaver, with the rather incredible numerical bragging point, quoted: “I voted against the passage of Obamacare and I have voted to repeal it over 60 times,” said Simpson. And what's so good about the supposed replacement?

Lower premiums, more choices, hmm. Stabilize insurance markets that have been so steadily roiled by lawsuits, and sabotage. Having achieved the prospect of "total collapse in the health care market" (rhetorically, at least), something had to be done! (Stop sabotaging apparently didn't bubble up to the top of the list.)

"The American Health Care Act is the only opportunity we have to start that replacement process. It is not perfect given the limited scope of reconciliation rules, but to fix health care we need to start somewhere."

The only opportunity, what?

6.May.2017 Permanent URL to this day's entry

I always feel like somebody's watching me Permalink to this item

Pre-clickbait from tomorrow's Sunday Review, in the form of what seems like good advice: Don't let Facebook make you miserable. But then he starts by confirming our fear that we need the advice: "Social media is making us miserable."

After spending the past five years studying aggregate Google search data, the author suggests we can see what searches other people are making by typing in the start of something and looking at autocomplete. He suggested "I always..." and I gave it a try, albeit with my default, non-tracking engine, DuckDuckGo. (It doesn't connect my searches to me, is the idea, but it still tracks what all is being searched for?) Top phrase at the moment on my machine was the headline above. Slightly freaky.

If that sounds interesting, maybe the author's new book would be too: Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Somehow it's the #1 best seller in data mining already, even though it doesn't officially come out until Tuesday.

Democrats in the West Permalink to this item

Montana has always struck me as the quintessential western state: high, wide, handsome, and mostly unpopulated. When I rode my bike across the place four decades ago, there were 700,000-some inhabitants, and they've since edged over a million people, not quite 7 people per square mile. Idaho's population is dense by comparison: 19.0 to the mile. Montana's political corruption has been legendary over the years, and in late 2011 their Supreme Court made waves by challenging the execrable Citizens United decision from the nation's high court. (Spoiler alert: the SCOTUS whacked the SCOTSOM per curiam, affirming the earlier conclusion that "independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption." Speaking of alternative facts.)

From the Mountain West Digital Library

The named defendant in the original case, Western Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Attorney General, is now the Democratic governor of Montana, Steve Bullock, and he's got some ideas about How Democrats can win in the West. Having "won re-election comfortably, running on progressive ideas and against an extremely wealthy Republican opponent" on the same day that his state gave just over a third of its votes to Hillary Clinton, he's got a point of view, anyway. "Spend time in places where people disagree with you," is his main point. "Reach out. Show up and make your argument."

"If you’re not geographically diverse, it’s hard to even speak a language that makes sense to folks in faraway places. That’s especially a problem in the West, where voters have always mistrusted the federal government. Lately we watch cable news broadcasts coming from New York, featuring creatures of Washington and a dialogue full of lifeless talking points that either defend or assail some federal policy or proposal. That’s the native tongue of Washington, and it’s a language the Democrats’ last three losing presidential candidates spoke fluently but that almost always misses the reality of what Americans, especially those far from the nation’s capital, think and feel."

Bullock says they "kept fighting" that battle against Citizens United and indeed, Montana voters were 3 to 1 in favor of insisting that corporations are not human beings; that money is property, not speech; and rights under the United States Constitution are rights of human beings, not rights of corporations.

That was about the same time as dark money reportedly helped Montana Democrat Jon Tester keep his Senate seat, go figure. Bullock writes in his op-ed that

"in the past few years we eliminated all of the anonymous corporate campaign expenditures that used to plague our state elections, often millions of dollars a year. This dark money is now illegal in Montana, and we are bringing, and winning, legal actions against the bad actors."

Huffpost celebrated Montana Republicans and Democrats uniting to ban dark money in April, 2015, and Bullock's opponent failed to get any traction for his complaints in the 2016 campaign.

And so our battles continue, including the one against the "bizarre but powerful right-wing movement to allow wealthy individuals to take ownership of public lands and close them off." All it takes is a little more fresh air and "hanging out someplace a little more down to earth." If only.

Cinco de Mayo Permanent URL to this day's entry

First they came for a list of pre-existing conditions... Permalink to this item

but mine was not on the list, so I said nothing. But I am wondering, where are these lists of pre-existing conditions coming from? One advocacy email pointed at this Money magazine piece which buries the lede: What counts as a pre-existing condition is whatever an insurer says.

Seriously?

Yes, seriously, that's how it was before the Affordable Care Act, when medical underwriting was open season. As explained by the Kaiser Family Foundation, back in December.

"Before the ACA, individual market insurers in all but five states maintained lists of so-called declinable medical conditions. People with a current or past diagnosis of one or more listed conditions were automatically denied. Insurer lists varied somewhat from company to company, though with substantial overlap."

Or maybe you're taking something on the list of "declinable medications"?

"Current use of any of these medications by an applicant would warrant denial of coverage."

The fallback plan is for you to be handled in a "high risk pool," which means no, sorry, there is no way in hell your premium is "gonna start to come down" or your deductible will be less than "so ridiculous."

The text of what passed the House yesterday, H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act of 2017, does not include any list of "pre-existing" (or other) conditions. It does allow the age-related premium variations to increase from 3 to 1, as they are now, to 5 to 1.

And it says that states "may" use funds that will be allocated to help "high-risk individuals." If they feel like it. It also talks about how that bucket of cash ($15 billion for all 50 states in 2018, then cut to $10 billion a year in 2020 and beyond, because we're going to be saving So Much Money) is to be divvied up to individual states in a way that "reflects the goals of improving the health insurance risk pool, promoting a more competitive health insurance market, and increasing choice for health care consumers."

"Improving the health insurance risk pool."

That sounds nice for insurance companies, anyway. Not so nice if you've been thrown in that pool and are drowning in premiums you can't pay.

If $15 billion sounds like a lot of money to you, how about $45 per capita? Does that sound like a lot? The price of a co-pay for one visit to the doctor? But that money is not for everyone, only for this indeterminate group who are too expensive to be part of your everyday insurance pool.

We don't know how many people that will be. We don't know what conditions states or insurance companies will put on the list (but we know they'll be ones that are expensive to treat). We don't know how many states will seek the waiver to let them push their sick residents into the deep end of the pool.

Glenn Kessler's Fact Checker analysis for WaPo: Here’s what you need to know about preexisting conditions in the GOP health plan.

Make no mistake about this nonexistent plan Permalink to this item

Daily flavor of the Conservative HQ email put E.O. "calling off the Obama Justice Department’s anti-Christian crusade" [sic] as "a huge victory for conservatives," even though "the new rules have yet to be seen" as the top story. That's special; Dear Leader doesn't even have to pretend to do anything and he gets their applause.

Second best item, "The House Obamacare Vote: First Step To Repeal Or Sham?" CHQ thinks it's a step toward full repeal (they don't bother with any "replace" b.s.) but still "deplorable" (as they scare-quote the word) "for its insurance company subsidies and its sham defunding of Planned Parenthood." So we can agree on the shammitude, at least. The Senate won't endorse the deal as it is, and with any moderation of the terms, the Freedom Caucus will get hinky again. Idaho's Raúl Labrador was one of the key vote-switchers between the previous version and the one that passed the House yesterday.

Saw on the news that our Congressman, Mike Simpson, got to be the man with the gavel for the final vote, whack it home, and declare that "without objection the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table" in practiced peremptory pronouncement. How glorious to be among the leadership of a ship of fools.

Dear Leader pretending to conduct his claque

The captain with his first mates, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, Whitey, and Whitey (Who the hell let those women up from below decks?!) was so overwhelmed with this first significant half-passed legislative victory that he turned his back to the camera and pretended to conduct his claque.

Then he served up some of that famous ho-made word salad.

"This is really a great group of people. And they're not even doing it for the party, they're doing it for this country, because we suffered with Obamacare... I went through two years of campaigning, and I'm telling you, no matter where I went, people were suffering, so badly, with the ravages of Oba, Obamacare, and I will say this, that, uh, as far as I'm concerned, your premiums, they're gonna start to come down, we're gonna get this passed through the Senate, I feel so confident, uh, your deductibles, when it comes to deductibles, they were so ridiculous that nobody got to use their current plan, uh, this nonexistent plan that I heard so many wonderful things about over the last three or four days, after that, I mean, it's, I don't think you're going to hear so much right now, the insurance companies are fleeing, it's been a catastrophe, and this is a great plan, I actually think it will get even better, and this is, make no mistake, this is a repeal, and a replace of Obamacare, make no mistake about it. Make no mistake."

Clappy clappy, Paul Ryan bobbleheading over his left shoulder with the Eddy Munster grin, clappy clappy.

May the Fourth Permanent URL to this day's entry

Boise River spring still flinging Permalink to this item

NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service datagraphic

A recent piece in the Idaho Statesman showed a weather service graph I hadn't seen before. Took me a bit, but I tracked down the NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service page for the Boise River above Lucky Peak dam, showing the current, and forecast flow, a.k.a. the "natural flow" that's controlled by the dam and downstream water works operators.

Our first warm weather in a while makes it of particular interest; sunny and in the mid-80s today, feeling like we're moving into the new season, finally. The coming forecast goes up to a 21,720 cfs peak Sunday afternoon, before rolling back to 18,000-ish. That's about double want they want to send down the river below Lucky Peak, so the space in the three reservoirs has to absorb the difference, of about 20,000 acre-ft/day. (Handy rule of thumb conversion for the two flow rate units: 1 cfs ~ 2 acre-ft/day)

The system teacup diagram shows we could keep up that rate of increase for about two weeks before we'd have to "go natural" downstream.

The flow in the New York Canal has finally been dialed up to "average" for the date, about 1900 cfs. Irrigators might be ready to use some of that. The in-river flow at the Glenwood Bridge is hanging just shy of 9,000 cfs at the Glenwood bridge, down the bench from where we live.

I've added one blue box to the integration of the water year graph that I made 2 weeks ago. That's 1.8 million acre-ft colored in then.

Integrating the flow of the Boise R. below Lucky Peak, May 2017

Or, as Mother Jones summarized Permalink to this item

The depraved piece of legislation, boiled down to a bullet list, here.

Other than that, how's your day going? Permalink to this item

Recasting the forecast from Jennifer Rubin for the Washington Post into the past tense, with the House having done its bad deed for the day:

In an audacious move, the House leadership forced a vote on a bill that had not been scored in its current form or been seen by the vast number of members. The vote occurred without any financial justification for a new allotment of $8 billion over five years (a sliver of the amount that experts say is needed to provide accessible and affordable coverage to people with preexisting conditions through high-risk pools). Members voted for a huge tax cut for the rich (contrary to Trump’s populist message), simultaneously making coverage more expensive for older, rural Americans. It was opposed by virtually every medical association (plus AARP) and retains provisions that a large percentage of Americans oppose (e.g. rolling back Medicaid, kicking as many as 24 million people off coverage, abolishing the essential benefits that must be offered).

In the end, all of the Democrats and 20 Republicans voted NO. The bill passed 217-213.

Hot on the heels of that triumph, Team Ryan sent out a fundraising blast with the subject Promises made. Promises kept.

Send more money "for the battles ahead."

for the 24 million americans set to lose health care, this is what a death panel actually looks like pic.twitter.com/plTW5iihlJ

— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) March 13, 2017

Of course they didn't Permalink to this item

The Hill reports:

"House GOP leaders worked Wednesday night to fast-track consideration of an amended American Health Care Act without posting the bill text and without a Congressional Budget Office analysis detailing the effects of the latest changes to the legislation. ..."

But did not get around to fixing that special exemption for members of Congress and their staffs from losing the healthcare bill's popular provisions.

"Rep. Tom MacArthur's (R-NJ) office said separate legislation would close that loophole."

Due diligence Permalink to this item

Seven years of wailing and gnashing their teeth in the wilderness, and a week or two of intraparty negotiation later... the Republicans in the House are ready to vote on reforming healthcare (again). In a triumph of democracy, they want to let it devolve to the states to decide how to handle people who are too poor and too expensive to comfortably fit the vaunted universal mantra of "market solution."

Some of you are just too expensive to live, sorry.

Our congressman, Mike Simpson, is part of the GOP leadership, and while he has demonstrated the capacity for statesmanship over the years, he has not been on the list of members on the fence this time.

Peach flowers, 2017

It seems a party victory is important, whatever the cost. Fulfilling the mindless promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, no matter the failure of the replacement to approach the rest of the pie-in-the-sky basket of promises. Better healthcare, cheaper premiums, still covering those with pre-existing conditions, and so on?

It's gonna be so great... that we can't possibly wait for the Congressional Budget Office to actually try to assess the costs and benefits before we vote on it.

We're in a screaming hurry.

I took one last shot by email last night, even though I figured that was pointless. The boilerplate auto-response has this creamy filling:

"Not only do I carefully consider the content of each letter or email that I receive from Idahoans, I believe it is important to respond to each one in a timely manner. Because of the complex nature of the issues and the volume of mail that I receive, please allow 2-3 weeks to receive a written response via email or postal mail."

Two to three weeks to consider a three paragraph email. That's cool. And what, twice the time they're all going to spend considering a healthcare bill that's going to affect three hundred million people?

I tried calling this morning. Busy. Then not answering, and mailbox full. Tried the Boise office, they're not at work yet at ten to 9? Or not picking up the phones ringing off the hook. Voicemail box for the gal who takes messages is full.

According to the New York Times' reporting, the GOP is confident enough that it has the votes to pass something that they're actually going to have a vote this time. And this, under the subhead "The hypocrisy pitch":

"As House Republicans entered their conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Thursday morning, reporters peppered them with a single question: Have you read the bill?"

If not the whole bill, how about the amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (NJ), allowing states to opt out of certain requirements of the ACA, and let their residents buy fake insurance? (Now with lower premiums!) That's said to have "won over the House Freedom Caucus."

You know if the Freedom Caucus likes it, it has to be crappy.

So, how will this trainload of sausage fare in the Senate? It's not like the House hasn't tried five dozen whacks at this already.

"Yes, Republican senators share their House colleagues’ desire to repeal major parts of the Obama-era health law. ..." But which ones? "[E]xpect to see plenty of changes to the House bill — and, in the long run, plenty more fits and starts." Or fits and stops.

And if your fits are a pre-existing condition, sorry about that, those aren't covered anymore!

Update: One more busy signal in D.C. and one more try in Boise, I got through! And right to the point. I did not have a script ready, not actually expecting to get through. Blurted something like:

"I'd like to let Mike know I want him to vote against this health care bill that he probably hasn't read, and that's a pig in a poke, and that the Congressional Budget Office hasn't even scored."

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

The little insanities add up Permalink to this item

Conservative HQ never took that Ben Franklin quip about "moderation" to heart. It seems they really do want a king. Today's screed from editor George Rasley laments that President Ryan Takes Over, by... well, you know, setting the budget? Which is actually in the Constitution and all, that “very rough” and “archaic system” as the orange man put it recently. (Not making this up. He said the founding document he took an oath to uphold is “really a bad thing for the country.”)

You can feel the outrage at the lack of $1.5B for a border wall. And the long list of items FUNDED that they don't like. Also, "judicial tyranny."

"But this is the way it always goes with President Ryan. Ryan’s budget brinkmanship strategy is to wait until the government is about to run out of spending authority, then demand that conservatives cave-in on the Democrats’ priorities."

That "brinkmanship" has been such a knock-down winner for all these years, who could've guessed the latest half-assed ploy would go belly up? Nobody knew it was this complicated!

alt="At the Renwick, 2004">

You have to wade through a lot of personal blather (and sadly, nothing but a passing mention of the Renwick Gallery) in Jeffrey Rendall's 100-day take to get the definitive statement:

“Moderates” never did anything great or noteworthy. Don’t they recall the story of King Solomon and splitting the baby?

ICYMI, he provides a link to biblegateway.com where you can ponder how the King's canny dispute resolution has any relation to the question of political compromise. Compromise is carrying out Solomon's threat, is that it? And from there, he wanders into a desert of lament about the "threats" (his quotes) from the "depth of hatred for our 100-day-old president" [sic] coming in "at a pace yet unknown in American history." (Quoting reporting on Politico, it's thanks to his Twitter habit: "the masses" have been given "the impression they can correspond directly with [redacted].")

Well, and the campaign rallies. The masses can correspond directly with pre-printed signs, applause and adulation. That's cool. But "the left's powerful hatred for him," and "the insane nature of the left," those are not cool.

May Day Permanent URL to this day's entry

Stop if you can do it safely Permalink to this item

Is it free speech, or engineering? Or both? This story about a guy in the state next door getting a fine for practicing engineering without a license (or as the NYT headline put it, doing math without a license) caught my eye. Back in the day when I was an honest-to-god engineer working for a large corporation, that was cool because... the corporation would be responsible for any malfeasance I cooked up? Sort of—corporations are all about dodging responsibility, after all. And they're persons, I hear, so... should they have to take a licensing exam or something? But I did not, and could have "Engineer" on my business cards, preceeded by "Process" or "Manufacturing" or "Design" or "Product Development" and not have to pay any fines.

This fellow in Oregon, educated as an electronics engineer, got peeved about his wife's red-light camera ticket, and tried to get the city of Beaverton to make their yellow lights a bit longer, so that she (and he, and we) could get through the intersection before the light turns red.

"After extensive research, he concluded that the timing formula did not account for the extra moments it takes for a slowing car to make a legal right turn. Yellow lights should be long enough for the driver to cross, he argues."

Of course they should. And there should be some dwell between one direction turning red, and and the other direction turning green. You do not need to be an Engineer to figure out why.

As I learned from a lawyer friend of mine, the question is not "did the light turn red while you were in the intersection?" It's only "was it red when you entered the intersection?" Because... how the hell could you know how much yellow is left, anyway? (The engineering question is: who long does the yellow have to be to give adequate warning for the speed limit and worst typical design conditions?)

The guy's wife paid the ($260!) fine, which means she admitted her guilt. She chose... poorly. The right thing to say is, "in my judgment, when the light turned yellow, I was too close to the intersection to stop safely." The Oregon driver's manual says:

"A steady yellow signal warns you that the signal is about to turn red. Stop before entering the intersection, or if you cannot stop safely, drive carefully through it."

And the Idaho driver's manual, similarly:

"If you have not entered the intersection and can come to a safe stop, you should do so. If you are already in the intersection, you should continue moving and clear it safely."

It's a judgment call. Stop if you can stop safely.

Engineered artifacts

But today's topic is not yellow lights, it's about the freedom of speech. And about who can measure things, and use arithmetic and algebra and draw graphs and conclusions. Someone who earned a bachelor's degree in electronics engineering and who tests audio products and repairs, upgrades and calibrates test instruments, and was willing to spend a couple of years (!) researching traffic light timing intervals, including consulting with Dr. Alexei Maradudin, one of authors of the original 1959 mathematical formula used as a basis for programming traffic light signals, seems alright to me.

Unfortunately, Mr. Järlström (as I see he spells his name) gave himself up too, and paid the $500 civil penalty which is mostly, but not entirely about simply CALLING HIMSELF AN ENGINEER. There's this:

"By reviewing, critiquing, and altering an engineered ITE formula, and submitting the critique and calculations for his modified version of the ITE formula to members of the public for consideration and modification of Beaverton, Oregon's and "worldwide" traffic signals, which signals are public equipment, processes and works, Jarlstrom applied special knowledge of the mathematical, physical and engineering sciences to such creative work as investigation, evaluation, and design in connection with public equipment, processes, and works. Jarlstrom thereby engaged in the practice of engineering under ORS 672.005(1)(b). By doing so through the use of algorithms for the operation of traffic control systems, and through the use of the science of analysis, review, and application of traffic data systems to advise members of the public on the treatment of the functional characteristics of traffic signal timing, Jarlstrom engaged, specifically, in traffic engineering under OAR 820-040-0030(1)(b) and (2)(a)."

Doing all that is a violation. You shall not question the Professional Engineers unless you are one! How dare you!

Good on Järlström for taking the next step, filing a civil rights lawsuit against the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying for violating his First Amendment rights. (Which—who knew you still have if you're a citizen of another country and lawful permanent resident of the U.S.? Or do you?)

I wish him the best of luck. We all non-licensed professional engineers should be able to speak publicly and privately about technical topics, including the mathematics behind traffic lights; and to petition the government in that regard. As for calling ourselves "engineers," I'm not quite as sure. Perhaps the state P.E. boards can retain the purview and brand for Professional Engineers without cramping the style of the Järlströms of the world as they go about reviewing and critiqueing and inventing things.

ICYMI Permalink to this item

BTW, we didn't think the Whitehouse Correspondents Dinner was boring at all. Hasan Minhaj killed it. There should be a tradition (for the next three years, at least), that the president doesn't attend. The Tea Party took the trouble to post a report insisting that "Minaj," a supposed "comedian" actually "flopped."

Law and order Permalink to this item

Different start to the month than last year's, still plenty to be grateful about, and still plenty to gaze at in wonder. Top of the moment's You've Got To Be Kidding Me seems like an invitation to the Philippines' strong man that has reportedly stunned aides and critics alike. "Are you out of your mind?" we might ask. Our president topped "a speech that was a grievance-filled jeremiad" with the invite, and left us all "slack-jawed." David Gergen called it "the most divisive speech I've ever heard from a sitting American president," and "deeply disturbing."

From a video of the Harrisburg rally

(I see there's an hour 20 of that campaign rally (?!) on YouTube, starting with fluffer Mike Pence's entrance to some sort of Berzerker music. "It's been 100 days of action. 100 days of consequence." Such as... avoiding shutting down the government for a week, without cutting Planned Parenthood funding or wasting money on a boder wall, that was something. Watch for Pence having the time of his life with his predictable boo-getter line of "left-wing activists and their willing allies in the media" 2 minutes in, a girl with a pink "WOMEN for [redacted]" sign learning how to shake her fist and thumbs-down at the same time. Other Pence highlights: FAKE NEWS. AMERICA IS BACK. Fake news such as... "He signed more bills [sic] cutting job-killing regulations than any president in American history." Also THE WAR ON COAL IS OVER. And the SecDef is nicknamed "MAD DOG." Chants of U-S-A U-S-A and BUILD THAT WALL. Then Pence introduced his boss with gratitude "for the love he shows every day," the Berzerker music again, and the little man comes out from the blue curtain, clapping for himself along with the crowd.)

I'm reminded of the one and only time I traveled to Singapore on business, and filled out one of those embarkation cards that had the red-letter warning: THE PENALTY FOR SMUGGLING DRUGS IS DEATH. (Now the form is all done up in red, and they don't go into that. Maybe it's in the instructions? Here, among the Travellers' Tips, no special emphasis: "Under the Singapore law, the penalty for the illegal importation of controlled drugs such as heroin or morphine is death.")

I also heard they were hard on people who chew gum. I had some with me, the emergency couple of pieces in case your ears go bad on coming down from cruising altitude. I kept it under wraps while I was there, and stayed on the good side of the law. (I think that was before Michael P. Fay got that famous four strokes of the cane for allegedly vandalizing cars and stealing signs.)

The problem with the Philippines might be that Fox & Friends hasn't covered the issue well enough? A look at the Time magazine photoessay on that country's drug war is sobering. No need to get bogged down in a lot of text. This is most of it:

"Since Duterte took office in late June, more than 6,000 people have been killed in his campaign to purge the Philippines of illegal drugs and those associated with them, according to reliable estimates by local media. The victims—suspected users and pushers—do not enjoy due process, and they are always killed at night, sometimes inside their own homes. The perpetrators are vigilantes, hired guns and likely cops too.

"Duterte made no secret that this would happen. “All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you,” he said last April, a month before he was elected. It wasn’t just campaign bluster. For 22 years Duterte had served as mayor of the southern city of Davao, where he took a pathological approach to restoring order to the city’s streets. Under his leadership, the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals and drug users in Davao by vigilantes was practically state policy. In December, speaking to a group of business­people, Duterte admitted to personally killing a few himself while he was mayor. ..."

Wikipedia's page on the Philippine drug war has the estimate at 9,000 killings now, most carried out by vigilantes. The links include the day-after-inauguration report in the Guardian:

"He said he would issue shoot-to-kill orders to the security services and offer them bounties for the bodies of drug dealers. He also urged ordinary Filipinos to kill suspected criminals.

"Suspected" criminals.

"During the campaign, Duterte said 100,000 people would die in his crackdown, with so many dead bodies dumped in Manila Bay that fish there would grow fat from feeding on them."

It is conceivable that our president is just looking out for his personal interests; that 57-floor tower in Manila with his name on it. A handful of millions of dollars for the licensing deal. That would be incredible, yes, but from what we've seen, it's a plausible explanation.

Update: "Breaking news," as they say, we have a bipartisan agreement to fund government through September.

raveling

Tom von Alten
ISSN 1534-0007