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Hullabaloo


Thursday, October 19, 2017

 

Texas Strong

by digby


Axios reports:

Texas Sen. John Cornyn is frustrating both administration officials and conservative movement leaders by holding up the confirmation of Russ Vought to be Mick Mulvaney's right hand man at the Office of Management and Budget.

Cornyn — a member of Senate leadership who has a strong say over the floor schedule — has made it clear that Vought will be held up until he gets more funding for Texas' hurricane relief, according to three sources close to the situation. It's unclear how Cornyn has phrased his demand or how much extra money, exactly, he's asking for, but his message has been heard loud and clear by top Trump administration officials.

Maybe he can throw them some paper towels instead.


 

QOTD: The narcissist in chief

by digby


“I would give myself a 10” out of 10. I think we’ve done a really great job and we’ve had tremendous cooperation from the governor and we are getting there and people are really seeing the effort that’s been put into Puerto Rico”



If you feel like watching a Halloween horror story check out the whole press conference with the Governor of Puerto Rico. Oh my God. He's so ... dumb.




.
 

Is vote suppression a problem in close elections? Why do you ask?

by digby

Well look here. Ari Berman of Mother Jones, who literally wrote the book on the voter fraud fraud, has a scoop:

On election night, Anthony was shocked to see Trump carry Wisconsin by nearly 23,000 votes. The state, which ranked second in the nation in voter participation in 2008 and 2012, saw its lowest turnout since 2000. More than half the state’s decline in turnout occurred in Milwaukee, which Clinton carried by a 77-18 margin, but where almost 41,000 fewer people voted in 2016 than in 2012. Turnout fell only slightly in white middle-class areas of the city but plunged in black ones. In Anthony’s old district, where aging houses on quiet tree-lined streets are interspersed with boarded-up buildings and vacant lots, turnout dropped by 23 percent from 2012. This is where Clinton lost the state and, with it, the larger narrative about the election.


Clinton’s stunning loss in Wisconsin was blamed on her failure to campaign in the state, and the depressed turnout was attributed to a lack of enthusiasm for either candidate. “Perhaps the biggest drags on voter turnout in Milwaukee, as in the rest of the country, were the candidates themselves,” Sabrina Tavernise of the New York Times wrote in a post-election dispatch that typified this line of analysis. “To some, it was like having to choose between broccoli and liver.”


A New Study Shows Just How Many Americans Were Blocked From Voting in Wisconsin Last Year
The impact of Wisconsin’s voter ID law received almost no attention. When it did, it was often dismissive. Two days after the election, Talking Points Memo ran a piece by University of California-Irvine law professor Rick Hasen under the headline “Democrats Blame ‘Voter Suppression’ for Clinton Loss at Their Peril.” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said it was “a load of crap” to claim that the voter ID law had led to lower turnout. When Clinton, in an interview with New York magazine, said her loss was “aided and abetted by the suppression of the vote, particularly in Wisconsin,” the Washington Examiner responded, “Hillary Clinton Blames Voter Suppression for Losing a State She Didn’t Visit Once During the Election.” As the months went on, pundits on the right and left turned Clinton’s loss into a case study for her campaign’s incompetence and the Democratic Party’s broader abandonment of the white working class. Voter suppression efforts were practically ignored, when they weren’t mocked.

Stories like Anthony’s went largely unreported. An analysis by Media Matters for America found that only 8.9 percent of TV news segments on voting rights from July 2016 to June 2017 “discussed the impact voter suppression laws had on the 2016 election,” while more than 70 percent “were about Trump’s false claims of voter fraud and noncitizen voting.” During the 2016 campaign, there were 25 presidential debates but not a single question about voter suppression. The media has spent countless hours interviewing Trump voters but almost no time reporting on disenfranchised voters like Anthony.

Three years after Wisconsin passed its voter ID law in 2011, a federal judge blocked it, noting that 9 percent of all registered voters did not have the required forms of ID. Black voters were about 50 percent likelier than whites to lack these IDs because they were less likely to drive or to be able to afford the documents required to get a current ID, and more likely to have moved from out of state. There is, of course, no one thing that swung the election. Clinton’s failings, James Comey’s 11th-hour letter, Russian interference, fake news, sexism, racism, and a struggling economy in key swing states all contributed to Trump’s victory. We will never be able to assign exact proportions to all the factors at play. But a year later, interviews with voters, organizers, and election officials reveal that, in Wisconsin and beyond, voter suppression played a much larger role than is commonly understood.

And no, it's not good enough to say that Democrats are at fault because they don't win with a big enough margin that the other side can't steal it. That's not how this works. There will always be close elections and there is no reason why these malevolent wingnuts should be able to win by keeping Democrats from voting. Only suckers would blame themselves for this.


.
 

Fox and Friends is running the country

by digby

Please, somebody find a way to send this f-ing moron a fake feed of Fox and Friends. He is going to blow us all up because his favorite TV is so completely full of shit.



Update: Hah!





.

 

Despicable racism

by digby

Gabe Ortiz at Daily Kos caught this latest sickening propaganda being pushed by the f-ing moron Sarah Palin:

A collection of right-wing websites teamed up with half-term nitwit Sarah Palin to spread a fake news story that appeared to pin the Northern California wildfires that have tragically killed at least 40 people onto an immigrant man who was arrested at a park in Sonoma, California.

Jesus Fabian Gonzales—who “often sleeps in the park and is well-known to law enforcement”—was arrested Sunday after starting a small fire that he says he lit to stay warm, and one that “was so small a responding sheriff’s deputy was able to mostly put it out before firefighters arrived.” Gonzales was taken into custody without incident for one count of arson, but by Tuesday, Breitbart, InfoWars, and other sites were blaring sensationalist headlines, including one that stated that the “homeless arsonist behind Calif. wildfire that killed 40 people is an illegal alien”:

Breitbart News and InfoWars offered no evidence to link the man’s arrest to the fires and their accounts of the man’s arrest were disputed the same day by Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano.


“There’s a story out there he’s the arsonist for these fires. That is not the case. There is no indication he is related to these fires at all,” Giordano said in a news conference also broadcast on the department’s Facebook page and area TV stations. “I just did want to kill that speculation right now so we didn’t have things running too far out of control.”

Speculation from, say, Palin, who tweeted that “bet you not a single mainstream news organization is going to cover this story. Not PC or something.” No, it’s just fake, dumbass. In fact, USA Today notes that Sonoma County Sheriff’s Sgt. Spencer Crum said that “the only questions Breitbart News and InfoWars asked were about Gonzales's ethnicity and whether Immigration and Customs Enforcement had placed a detainer on him, which would hold him for an additional 48 hours at the jail.” It’s almost like they have an agenda here!

There's more at the link. It's just, dare I say it,deplorable.

.
 

Trump's Big Lie

by digby


I wrote about Trumps Big Lie for Salon this morning:

Sometimes I think Donald Trump is trying to drive us all crazy. The relentlessness of the lies, the bizarre behavior and the overall chaos are just plain nuts. We've never experienced anything like this. Well, actually, there is one precedent, the monarch who was on the throne of England when America declared its independence. But that was a very long time ago. Since then we've had good leaders and bad leaders, some were even great while others were actual criminals. But this non-stop presidential pandemonium is unprecedented. And it's downright discombobulating.


In order to keep a grip on reality, it's tempting to try to find logic behind all the activity and ascribe the confusion to some sort of underlying strategy. You observe a wily character like Steve Bannon and read about his bizarre fringe philosophy of "disruption" to bring on some sort of global denouement and you read that he literally called Donald Trump "a blunt instrument for us" and you figure this might just be a big act in service of his ominous vision. Whenever Trump steps in it with an inappropriate tweet or behavior a torrent of commentary follows insisting that it's just a distraction for some other inappropriate tweet or behavior. It's understandable. It's frightening to think that the president's confidantes are all extremists and amateurs while the president himself creates chaos out of sheer incompetence.

On Wednesday Politico reported a startling poll result which the president tweeted when he saw it on Fox news:





This obviously made him very happy. And, needless to say, despite his absurd assertion that it's "much worse than this" that number is higher than one might expect.

The poll showed that 46% did believe that the news media was fabricating stories about Donald Trump and:

Just 37 percent of voters think the media do not fabricate stories, the poll shows, while the remaining 17 percent are undecided.

More than three-quarters of Republican voters, 76 percent, think the news media invent stories about Trump and his administration, compared with only 11 percent who don’t think so. Among Democrats, one-in-five think the media make up stories, but a 65 percent majority think they do not. Forty-four percent of independent voters think the media make up stories about Trump, and 31 percent think they do not.

Among the voters who strongly approve of Trump’s job performance in the poll, 85 percent believe the media fabricate stories about the president and his administration.

So, assuming this poll is a correct reflection of the public's view on this subject, most of the people who think the media is inventing stories about Donald Trump are Republicans and Trump supporters. That makes sense. That would account for between 35 and 40 percent. But what about the rest? Well, frankly I think they simply can't believe what they see and hear because it's --- unbelievable. It's more plausible to think the news media is making it up, especially for people who don't follow closely and only pay attention in passing. It simply can't be this bad.

I am among the 37% who believe the president is exactly what we see: an unqualified, wealthy egomaniac who won the presidency on a fluke and is in so far over his head that he's incapable of doing the job. But I can see that he has done something by accident, out of sheer defensiveness, that is powerfully disorienting: he's created a Big Lie.

"The Big Lie" is, of course, one of Hitler's "insights" so it's always dicey to even mention it in terms of any contemporary politician. And it also implies a conscious strategy which does not apply in this instance. But the idea that people are more inclined to believe a big lie rather than a small one simply because they can't fathom anyone being so audacious as to fabricate something literally unbelievable does describe this current phenomenon.

And you wind up going down the rabbit hole when you try to unpack it. Trump's Big Lie is that the news media is telling the Big Lie.

For instance, Trump has done something completely bizarre from the very beginning of his campaign. At his rallies he always says that the cameras won't show the crowd and that they have cut away from his speech. He says this as the cameras are clearly on and are panning the crowd. He knows that most people are seeing his rallies on television. He follows his coverage with fanatical attention. He's saying "you can believe me or you can believe your eyes" and because it's so frightening to think anyone could lie so shamelessly, many people are choosing to believe him.

Now it must be said that the news media bears some responsibility for this. For years they had played along with a right wing that cynically created the "liberal bias" trope in order to slant the news in their direction.It took Donald Trump viciously attacking them personally for them to challenge it head on. Their behavior during the Clinton and Bush years, as well as their contemptuous coverage of Hillary Clinton in this last campaign, had severely degraded their credibility with members of the public from across the political spectrum.

They are waking up to the consequences of years of excusing and enabling the right's undemocratic tactics but have yet to fully account for their role in it. After all, they eagerly embraced the last Republican Big Lie: the invasion of Iraq. It's undoubtedly the case that some number of those who think they're fabricating news stories today remember that.

Nonetheless, if nearly half the country believes the fake news that the news is fake, and the other half is being gaslit, we have an even bigger problem on our hands than Donald Trump. It means we're losing our grip on reality itself. This has happened before in history and it didn't end well. That's why it's important to keep your eyes focused and your ears open to what is happening even if it makes you feel crazy. You're not.








 

Entrepreneurs entrepreneurin'

by Tom Sullivan


The JPMorgan Chase & Co. headquarters at 270 Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, via Wikimedia Commons

Like Jesus the carpenter, I am a tradesman. Just without the sandals and his deep compassion and charity. My sin is, I don't aspire to be an entrepreneur. Unlike the sitting president, many of us just don't have the genes for entrepreneurship. Judging by policies that get the most traction in Washington, that makes us second-class citizens.

See, to be an entrepreneur is to be ennobled. A saint among citizens. A star in the capitalist firmament. Someone to make your mother proud. A job creator.

This is the gospel according to the ruling class, Ayn Rand, Horatio Alger, the Heritage Foundation and a heavenly host of other conservative think tanks. And quite a lot of politicians on either side of the aisle.

As venture capitalist Nick Hanauer said so memorably, "It's a small jump from job creator to The Creator. This language was not chosen by accident." It is, he said, a claim on status and privileges.

The business community let out a mighty, "We are not amused."

One of the stepping stones on the path to the Crash of 2008 was the Bush effort to create an "ownership society." Everybody should own a home. It is the American Dream and everyone should have one. Can't afford one? Not a problem. Financial wizards on Wall Street and their mortgage-backed securities could put you in a new home with no money down and no net cash flow. And then put your family out in the street when it all came crashing down.

Bankers did, by the millions, as David Dayen again details in a post this week for The Nation. Wall Street even paid its fines through fraud, according to a lawsuit now being heard in US District Court in New York City:

JPMorgan, it appears, was running an elaborate shell game. In the depths of the financial collapse, the bank had unloaded tens of thousands of toxic loans when they were worth next to nothing. Then, when it needed to provide customer relief under the settlements, the bank had paperwork created asserting that it still owned the loans. In the process, homeowners were exploited, investors were defrauded, and communities were left to battle the blight caused by abandoned properties. JPMorgan, however, came out hundreds of millions of dollars ahead, thanks to using other people’s money.
Federal appointees at the Office of Mortgage Settlement Oversight signed off on the JPMorgan. Former North Carolina congressman Brad Miller, a longtime advocate for financial reform, told Dayen:
“No one in Washington seems to understand why Americans think that different rules apply to Wall Street, and why they’re so mad about that,” said former congressman Miller. “This is why.”
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Douglas Schoen, a former Clinton White House senior political adviser, however, is not amused that many Democrats are insufficiently appreciative of the money Wall Street wizards have to offer its candidates, nor of all of the wonderful things they do. In his New York Times op-ed, he argues that Hillary Clinton’s "lurch to the left" cost her the election in this "center-right, pro-capitalist nation."

Therefore, "Democratic leaders must prioritize entrepreneurship, small-business growth and the expansion of job-training and retraining programs." Democrats need to partner more closely with a financial sector. "The financial industry brings to market the world’s most innovate products and platforms that expand the economy and create jobs."

You can never enough entrepreneurs entrepreneurin'. And people complain Democrats don't represent working people anymore. Where do they get such ideas?

The notion that policy should tilt towards entrepreneurs aspiring to be "job creators" devalues real people who work for a weekly paycheck. They take pride in what they do whether or not they are business owners. As Hanauer pointed out, it is consumption that drives the economy. You can't have entrepreneurs entrepreneurin' without consumers consumin'. And working people are the ones getting short-changed in Washington, not the entrepreneurs and the financial industry. As Miller suggested, people outside Washington know it too well.

Part of the impetus behind the ownership society was to create more Republican voters. The theory was that paycheck workers tend to think like and vote for Democrats. Mold them into property owners and you create conservative voters resentful of government programs that helped get them there and of safety net programs that still serve neighbors now beneath them on the social ladder. Not to be all "class warfare" or anything.

What Democrats like Schoen argue for is another version of the ownership society. If only everyone was an entrepreneur, they would think and vote like entrepreneurs. Uh, wait....

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 

“Basically, Russia loaded the gun. The Trump team fired.”

by digby

Oh look, the Trump campaign was tweeting the hell out of Russian bot twitter accounts:

Some of the Trump campaign’s most prominent names and supporters, including Trump’s campaign manager, digital director and son, pushed tweets from professional trolls paid by the Russian government in the heat of the 2016 election campaign.

The Twitter account @Ten_GOP, which called itself the “Unofficial Twitter account of Tennessee Republicans,” was operated from the Kremlin-backed “Russian troll farm,” or Internet Research Agency, a source familiar with the account confirmed with The Daily Beast.


The account’s origins in the Internet Research Agency were originally reported by the independent Russian news outlet RBC. @Ten_GOP was created on November 19, 2015, and accumulated over 100 thousand followers before Twitter shut it down. The Daily Beast independently confirmed the reasons for @Ten_GOP's account termination.

The discovery of the now-unavailable tweets presents the first evidence that several members of the Trump campaign pushed covert Russian propaganda on social media in the run-up to the 2016 election.

A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment, “for privacy and security reasons."

Two days before election day, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway tweeted a post by @Ten_GOP regarding Hillary Clinton’s email.

“Mother of jailed sailor: 'Hold Hillary to same standards as my son on Classified info' #hillarysemail #WeinerGate” the tweet reads.

Three weeks before the election, Brad Parscale, the Trump campaign’s digital director, retweeted a separate post from @Ten_GOP.

“Thousands of deplorables chanting to the media: "Tell The Truth!" RT if you are also done w/ biased Media!” the tweet read.

President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. followed the account until its closure on August 23rd of this year. Trump Jr. retweeted the account three times, including an allegation of voter fraud in Florida one week before the election.

“BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida Please, RT,” the tweet read.

Trump Jr. also retweeted the account on Election Day.

“This vet passed away last month before he could vote for Trump.. Here he is in his #MAGA hat.. #voted #ElectionDay,” the account wrote.

Former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn retweeted the Russian-backed troll account at least once. His son, Michael Flynn Jr., retweeted the account 34 times before it was removed from Twitter in August for its ties to Russian propaganda.

The account notably pushed for Flynn’s reappointment as Trump’s national security advisor, a job Flynn lost after press revelations that he’d lied about his telephone discussions with the Russian ambassador after the election hacks. It also repeatedly pushed Breitbart-backed talking points, including a fake news story about a gang rape in Twin Falls, Idaho that merited dozens of articles from Breitbart News.

Flynn Jr. will likely receive a Senate subpoena after he refused to be interviewed for the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation, ABC News reported on Tuesday.

Former Trump campaign advisor and longtime confidante of the president Roger Stone retweeted the account three times in 2017, twice to rail against commentators on CNN.

On the same day as the account’s permanent ban, @Ten_GOP was caughtpassing a photo of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Championship parade in Cleveland as a picture of the crowd gathered outside a Trump rally in Phoenix.

Last March the account was one of the most active in promoting WikiLeaks’ first big release of CIA documents, using the occasion to float the false claim that the so-called “Vault 7” documents acquitted Russia in the hack of the Democratic National Committee. “BREAKING: Obama’s CIA posed as RUSSIAN HACKERS to disguise their dirty work,” read one of the tweets. “The ‘Russian hacking’ was a false flag by the CIA. It was done to give Obama a reason to spy on Trump!,” read another.

Overt Russian propaganda outlets Sputnik and RT frequently used @Ten_GOP’s tweets in their news stories, including a story titled “Russia has no compromising info on Trump or Clinton, report is ‘total bluff’ — Kremlin.”

Far right news sites The Gateway Pundit and InfoWars quoted the account in articles several times.

Fox News cited @Ten_GOP as its sole example of a “Trump fan” in an article titled “Trump fans call for Kellogg's boycott after brand pulls Breitbart ads” last December.

Former FBI counterterrorism agent Clint Watts, who testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian cyberattacks, told The Daily Beast that this is “exactly what I was talking about” in his testimony in March.

“If what you said is true, I’d say, ‘My job is done,’” said Watts. “If this account is definitely an (Internet Research Agency) account, it proved Russian Active Measures (like the 2016 propaganda campaign) works, because Americans will use it against other Americans.”

Watts said the content of these pages is “made to look organic” so that “Americans will use it against their political enemies.”

“If you take rumors, false information, plants, and just repeat them, you’re doing the job of a foreign country. They are seeding out information or narratives they know candidates or partisans will use. They were so effective, they had the very top people in the campaign using it,” said Watts.

“Basically, Russia loaded the gun. The Trump team fired.”

Just coincidence, surely.

Update: Oh look

The account Tweeted “We love you, Mr. President!” to President Donald Trump – and Trump responded in kind, sharing the Tweet with his followers and writing, “So nice, thank you!”




.



 
Jeff Sessions just can't keep his stories straight

by digby



Sessions testified before congress about the Russia investigation today. It didn't go well:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday offered a revised account of his contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign. During his confirmation hearing in January he falsely claimed he had no contacts with Russian officials during the presidential campaign—when he was a prominent supporter of Donald Trump—but subsequently acknowledged he had met with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States. He insisted, however, that they did discuss any campaign-related issues. Yet while testifying before the Senate judiciary committee, he switched his story again, noting that it was possible that Trump campaign positions did come up with the Russian ambassador.
Sessions spoke with Kislyak on at least three occasions: in April at a Trump foreign policy speech at Washington’s Mayflower hotel; at the Republican National Convention in July; and at an August meeting in his Senate office. But during his confirmation hearing in January he said there had been no contact between him and any Russians.
After the the Washington Post on March 1 reported Sessions’ meetings with Kislyak, Sessions said his conversations with the ambassador were cursory and related to his work as a senator, not his status as a Trump adviser. “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign,” Sessions said later that month when he announced that he would recuse himself from matters relating to the FBI probe of Russian interference in the election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.

In June, appearing before the Senate intelligence committee, Sessions altered his story again, saying, “I have never met with or had any conversation with any Russians or any foreign officials concerning any type of interference with any campaign or election in the United States.”

On Wednesday, when Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) pressed Sessions on his contacts with Kislyak, the attorney general once more shifted his account, leaving open the possibility that campaign-related matters may have arisen. “I don’t think there was any discussion about the details of the campaign other than it could have been in the meeting in my office or at the convention that some comment was made about what Trump’s positions were,” he said. “I think that’s possible.”

Sessions also told Leahy he “did not recall” if he discussed emails—the Vermont senator seemed to be referring to the emails hackers stole from the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign—with any Russian officials. Leahy, a former prosecutor, said that Sessions had shifted from issuing flat denials about the nature of his contacts with Russians to now saying that he could not recall his conversations. Leahy later told reporters that Sessions had changed his story and given “false testimony” in January.

Sessions reacted indignantly to Democrats who challenged him about his interactions with Kislyak. He accused Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who pressed Sessions to explain his shifting accounts, of treating him unfairly and “improperly framing the subject.” Sessions declined Franken’s request that he answer questions simply. “I don’t have to sit here and listen to his charges without having a chance to respond,” Sessions said. “Give me a break.”

Grassley said later in the hearing that former FBI Director James Comey in March gave a classified briefing to Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the committee’s top Democrat, regarding Sessions’ contacts with Kislyak. (In June the Washington Post reported that intelligence intercepts did indicate that Sessions had discussed campaign-related matters with Kislyak, who then shared this information with Moscow.) But Grassley added that the FBI has refused to share the information with other members of the committee.
Give us a break.

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How do you negotiate with a pathological liar?

by digby

Bowl me over with a feather. He's still an f-ing moron:
President Trump appeared to distance himself further from a bipartisan Senate health-care effort Wednesday, warning against “bailing out” insurance companies.

“I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co’s who have made a fortune w/ O’Care,” Trump wrote on Twitter. He was referring to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who forged a deal with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that was released Tuesday and was greeted by ample GOP skepticism.

The president’s tweet Wednesday was his latest conflicting statement about the Alexander-Murray plan.

The compromise would authorize payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage in exchange for granting states greater flexibility to regulate health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

That's Bannon talking, telling him that "bailing out insurance companies" is a good talking point. They may even think they can pull over some lefties with that disingenuous line.

Here's the problem. All of the GOP repeal and replace bills include huge payments to insurance companies. Not that Trump's dipshit supporters know or care. Still, it seems worth pointing out that this is a stupid "populist" line that isn't true.

How long are they going to put up with this? What's the point? They won't even be able to get their holy grail of tax cuts with this man in the WH.:
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) sat down with Mike Allen immediately after getting off the phone with President Trump, who called to encourage him about the bipartisan health care bill he announced yesterday with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Trump told Alexander that he supports the effort, is glad they're trying, but still needs to review the deal to "reserve his options."

Alexander's bottom line: "Trump completely engineered the plan that we announced yesterday," by calling me repeatedly and asking Sen. Murray to be a part of it. "He wanted a bipartisan bill for the short term."

Yes, but: Minutes later, Trump tweeted: "I am supportive of Lamar as a person & also of the process, but I can never support bailing out ins co's who have made a fortune w/ O'Care."

House Speaker Paul Ryan's take: "The speaker does not see anything that changes his view that the Senate should keep its focus on repeal and replace of Obamacare," Doug Andres, Ryan's press secretary, told Axios.
It truly is the gang that couldn't shoot straight. We'll be so lucky to live through this.

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So why DID he fire Comey then?
by digby

So Trump didn't fire Comey over the Russia investigation and he didn't fire him for the official reason --- that he had treated Hillary Clinton unfairly during the election:




I guess I'll go with the reason I've always thought played a huge role in Trump's decision making. Comey is taller than Trump. He doesn't like that.


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Of course he hasn't called the families of all the fallen soldiers
by digby

Yes, he lied:
Like presidents before him, Trump has made personal contact with some families of the fallen but not all. What’s different is that Trump, alone among them, has picked a political fight over who’s done better to honor the war dead and their families.

He placed himself at the top of the list, saying on Tuesday, “I think I’ve called every family of someone who’s died” while past presidents didn’t place such calls.

But AP found relatives of four soldiers who died overseas during Trump’s presidency who said they never received calls from him. Relatives of two also confirmed they did not get letters. And proof is plentiful that Barack Obama and George W. Bush — saddled with far more combat casualties than the roughly two dozen so far under Trump — took painstaking steps to write, call or meet bereaved military families.

After her Army son died in an armored vehicle rollover in Syria in May, Sheila Murphy says, she got no call or letter from Trump, even as she waited months for his condolences and wrote him that “some days I don’t want to live.”

In contrast, Trump called to comfort Eddie and Aldene Lee about 10 days after their Army son was killed in an explosion while on patrol in Iraq in April. “Lovely young man,” Trump said, according to Aldene. She thought that was a beautiful word to hear about her boy, “lovely.”

I'm sure he'll say the one who didn't hear from his is a liar and that AP is fake news. And his people will believe him. They believe everything he says.

But it really is calumny to lie about the other president's being less caring towards the fallen than he is. It's really low. This is a burden that they all care about, even the bad ones, although I'm pretty sure that excludes Trump since he's a sociopath and doesn't really care about anything but himself.

Trump’s delay in publicly discussing the men lost at Niger did not appear to be extraordinary, judging from past examples, but his politicization of the matter is. He went so far Tuesday as to cite the death of chief of staff John Kelly’s son in Afghanistan to question whether Obama had properly honored the war dead.

Kelly was a Marine general under Obama when his Marine son Robert died in 2010. “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Trump said on Fox News radio.

A White House official said later that Obama did not call Kelly but not respond to questions whether some other sort of outreach was made. Kelly, who was absent from a pair of public White House events on Tuesday, was sitting near the president in his tax meeting on Wednesday but did not address reporters.

Democrats and some former government officials were livid, accusing Trump of “inane cruelty” and a “sick game.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, an Iraq veteran who lost both legs when her helicopter was attacked, said: “I just wish that this commander in chief would stop using Gold Star families as pawns in whatever sick game he’s trying to play here.”

For their part, Gold Star families, which have lost members in wartime, told AP of acts of intimate kindness from Obama and Bush when those commanders in chief consoled them.

Trump initially claimed that only he among presidents made sure to call families. Obama may have done so on occasion, he said, but “other presidents did not call.”

He equivocated Tuesday as the record made plain that his characterization was false. “I don’t know,” he said of past calls. But he said his own practice was to call all families of the war dead.

But that hasn’t happened.

No White House protocol demands that presidents speak or meet with the families of Americans killed in action — an impossible task in a war’s bloodiest stages. But they often do.

Altogether some 6,900 Americans have been killed in overseas wars since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the overwhelming majority under Bush and Obama.

Despite the much heavier toll on his watch — more than 800 dead each year from 2004 through 2007 — Bush wrote to all bereaved military families and met or spoke with hundreds if not thousands, said his spokesman, Freddy Ford.

Veterans groups said they had no quarrel with how presidents have recognized the fallen or their families.

“I don’t think there is any president I know of who hasn’t called families,” said Rick Weidman, co-founder and executive director of Vietnam Veterans of America. “President Obama called often and President Bush called often. They also made regular visits to Walter Reed and Bethesda Medical Center, going in the evenings and on Saturdays.”

He didn't bother to learn the fallen soldier's name before he called his widow. And he still doesn't know her name either.

Of course, he doesn't care to know them. He prefers soldiers who don't get killed, ok?

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The hostage-taker-in-chief
by digby


I wrote about Trump's "strategery" for Salon this morning:


As I have noted in many Salon columns over the past year, Donald Trump has been saying from the beginning of his term that he believed the best political move he could make with respect to health care would be to sabotage it and blame the Democrats. On Jan. 11, while Barack Obama was still president, Trump held a press conference and said:
We don’t wanna own it, we don’t wanna own it politically. They own it right now. So the easiest thing would be to let it implode in ’17 and believe me, we’d get pretty much whatever we wanted, but it would take a long time.
For Trump, everything in life is about taking credit for things he hasn't done and blaming others for things he has done. This is how he defines "winning."

The Republicans in Congress talked him out of that approach, because they understood that they would own whatever happens with health care. They now have total control of the government (at least in theory) and are expected to fix problems in the American health care system. Three days after he made that comment, Trump told The Washington Post he had a plan that just needed some final tweaking:
We're going to have insurance for everyone. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can't pay for it you don't get it. That's not going to happen with us. It's very much formulated down to the final strokes. We haven't put it in quite yet but we're going to be doing it soon.
He lied, obviously. He had no plan. What he may not have realized was that Republicans in Congress didn't have one that he could take credit for either. They spent the best part of a year trying to cobble together something they could describe as "repeal and replace," tuck some fat tax cuts inside it and call it a day. They tried and, as we know, they failed. Trump has been flailing around ever since, trying to evade responsibility, desperate to spin this abject defeat as a win.

At one point he simply denied that it had happened that way, weirdly claiming that the Senate had the win in the bag but a senator was in the hospital. He may have been conflating John McCain's absences for cancer treatment with the fact that McCain dramatically voted no on the "skinny repeal" bill, but in any case, it was delusional. There was no senator in the hospital and Republicans simply did not have the votes.

As it happens, through negotiations in the Senate over the course of several months, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., had worked on a bipartisan deal to shore up the Affordable Care Act, which did have some issues that needed to be addressed. They were reportedly making serious progress after the first vote failed in the Senate, until Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., decided to stage a final push for "repeal and replace." Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Alexander to stand down.

That didn't work either and, sullen over his bad press, Trump decided last week to go back to his own favored plan. That was when he pulled the plug on the Cost Sharing Reductions (CSRs), the government's payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. Combined with other administration policies, such as reducing the funding used to promote the sign-up period and pay the workers who guide customers through the process, it amounts to the kind of sabotage that Trump suggested back in January.

On Tuesday, however, Trump abruptly announced that Alexander and Murray had come up with what he called a "short-term fix," sounding as though he were going to back it. Despite the fact that the two senators had been working on this for months, Trump tried to take credit by claiming that his hardball tactics with the CSRs had forced them to come together and hammer out a deal.

At this point, nobody knows if anything will actually come of this. The House didn't seem to know anything about the Alexander-Murray plan, which is kind of a problem. Trump himself seemed to backtrack, tweeting later in the day, “any increase in ObamaCare premiums is the fault of the Democrats for giving us a ‘product’ that never had a chance of working” and then, in a speech before the Heritage Foundation on Tuesday night, saying, "I continue to believe Congress must find a solution to the Obamacare mess instead of providing bailouts to insurance companies." So who knows what he's really doing?

Ronald Brownstein offered an interesting observation at CNN.com on Tuesday about Trump's negotiating technique, which might explain what he's going for, even if he's doing it badly:
As a candidate, Donald Trump sold himself as a deal maker. As president, he's governing more as a hostage taker. Across an array of domestic and foreign challenges, Trump's go-to move has become to create what amounts to a political hostage situation. He's either terminating, or threatening to terminate, a series of domestic and international policies adopted by earlier administrations -- and insisting that others grant him concessions to change his mind.
Brownstein cites the health care gambit but also talks about how Trump is attempting similar maneuvers with his threats to withdraw from NAFTA, rescinding the DACA executive order and a full array of dangerous foreign policy provocations. Essentially, he's creating crises for others to fix so that he can take the credit -- or blame the other parties for failing to meet his demands.

The problem is that it never really works. He seems to believe that threatening to kill the hostages gives him leverage. It doesn't. As Brownstein notes, it more often leaves him stumbling around, isolated, with his opposition hardened and his allies divided and forming new relationships against him. It's a doomed strategy.

He's basically holding himself hostage and telling the world, "Give me what I want or the president gets it." It's tempting, right? The problem is that if he follows through on his threat he's going to take a lot of people with him.

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The Republicans are tired of the Russia investigation. Want it to stop.

by digby





CNN:

In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition. The concerns are in line with ones raised by President Donald Trump, who has publicly and privately insisted he's the subject of a "witch hunt" on Capitol Hill and by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Democrats, meanwhile, are raising their own concerns that the congressional Russia probes are rushing witnesses -- including the testimony of President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner -- as well as stalling appearances of other key Trump associates.

CNN interviewed more than two dozen lawmakers and aides on the three committees probing Russia's election meddling and possible collusion with Trump's team, which highlighted the partisan tensions and suspicions bubbling beneath the surface -- and increasingly out in the open. 
Sen. Jim Risch, a senior GOP member of the Senate intelligence committee, said "nobody wants to move this so quickly that we miss something," but added: "The question is how many weak leads can you follow?"

"We're a long ways down the line," Risch, an Idaho Republican, told CNN. "And with any of these things, the law of diminishing returns comes to play, and that's where we are right now, by any description."

"I don't see any reason why it couldn't be done this year," said Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican who sits on the intelligence and judiciary committees, calling for a final report in time to make changes ahead of the 2018 elections to prevent against more Russian cyberattacks.

The comments were echoed among influential Republicans across the three panels investigating potential Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. And the remarks present a fresh challenge for the GOP leaders of those committees, who are trying to navigate pressures from their members to finalize the inquiries while also attempting to chase down all relevant leads, which take time to pursue.

Rep. Mike Conaway, the Republican who is leading the House intelligence committee's Russia investigation, said this when asked about the timeline for issuing a final report: "Absolutely sooner than later. As soon as we get the things done we need to do in order to get the report written and finalized, we'll do that."

Conaway declined to put a date on a final report, however.

Sen. Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said Tuesday it's still his "aspirational goal" to finish the investigation this year.


There were 11 Benghazi investigations, taking years longer than the 9/11 Commission. And they were planning for more:

Jason Chaffetz, the Utah congressman wrapping up his first term atop the powerful House Oversight Committee, unendorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. That freed him up to prepare for something else: spending years, come January, probing the record of a President Hillary Clinton.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” the Republican said in an interview in Salt Lake City’s suburbs. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”

In a tweet Wednesday night, Chaffetz reaffirmed his distaste for Clinton and his refusal to endorse Trump — but reversed his plans not to vote for the Republican nominee.

But a foreign country interfering in the election is taking up too much time.

I wish I knew why they were so damned sure the Russian government would always work on their behalf in the future.

I do want to hear some more from them about patriotism, though. I keep forgetting what it means.

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The President of PTSD

by Tom Sullivan


Screen grab via WPLG

The sitting president is going to give the entire country PTSD.

Every morning's check of headlines brings another another punch to the gut. Yes, that is what his base wanted — for him do to their ideological opponents what they cannot. And to restore what they consider the natural order: them at the top of the social pecking order. Vicariously, if not in any real sense.

Your daily dose of outrage has been the business model of conservative talk radio for decades. Now it is the governing style of the Executive Branch.

Except what the sitting president's base feeds on is toxic. Something the saner among us eschew for our own mental health. Now, short of going off the grid or retreating to monasteries, it is there every day.

Last night, the body of U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson arrived in Miami. Johnson died in an ambush with American Special Forces in Niger two weeks ago. As his widow and family were en route to meet the military transport, she finally received a call from the sitting president, Business Insider reports:

While speaking with Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four US Army Special Forces troops killed in action during a mission in the African country of Niger earlier this month, Trump said, "He knew what he signed up for ... but when it happens, it hurts anyway," according to Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson, who relayed the account of the conversation to the local ABC affiliate, WPLG.
Wilson heard the conversation over the speaker phone and told CNN's Don Lemon:
"This is a young, young woman, who has two children, who is six months pregnant with a third child. She has just lost her husband. She was just told that he cannot have an open-casket funeral, which gives her all kinds of nightmares — how his body must look, how his face must look — and this is what the president of the United States says to her?"
Wilson wasn't done:
"I asked them to give me the phone because I wanted to speak with him," she said. "And I was going to curse him out. That was my reaction at that time. I was livid. But they would not give me the phone."
That was not what I was hoping to write about this morning. In Binghamton, NY, the national Poor People's Campaign continued last night. The Rev. Dr. William Barber II was just delivering a strong dose of truth:

If that wasn't clear from last weekend's Values Voters Summit, Barber put an exclamation point on it.

As someone on Twitter said, they've turned a cheery holiday greeting into an in-your-face curse.

The Poor People's Campaign continues tomorrow night in Boston.

* * * * * * * *

Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

 
Lock her up and take away her hot sauce

by digby




So Chris Cilizza is finally being taken to task for his tiresome, relentless crusade against Hillary Clinton, most recently for the crime of not denouncing Harvey Weinstein soon enough. It's quite a story. I highly recommend you read it.

But where is Clinton on this important issue, I'd like to know:

Fans everywhere are mildly disappointed. Desperate for sauce packets, a vocal population has made their demands known. Nearly everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the matter.

So where is Hillary Clinton?

In a times like this, we expect our leaders to take action. Maybe shouldn't be surprised that neo-liberal sellout Hillary Clinton — who we all know is the hands of big condiment — has failed to issue a public statement on the matter.

That doesn't make it any less damning.

Over the years, Hillary Clinton has made her "love" for hot sauce known in multiple interviews, even going so far as to carry a bottle of hot sauce in her bag. Her affection for spice just doesn't feel genuine: compare it to President Obama's love of mustard, which is obviously 100 percent authentic and comes directly from his far more authentic soul.

Hillary makes herself out to be a friend of the condiment community. Photo-op after photo-op show her at diners, pouring ketchup and hot sauce onto her overcooked burgers in a poll-tested, DNC-approved, strategy to make her look human.

Yet when the Szechuan sauce crisis finally emerged, the former Secretary of State had nothing to offer us but her craven silence.

Let me be clear: There is one person to blame for the Szechuan sauce outage, and that person is not the CEO of McDonalds. That person is somehow Hillary Clinton.

Perhaps if Hillary Clinton hadn't been so aligned with other condiments, McDonalds wouldn't have been so underprepared for their initial corporate promotion. People like Hillary Clinton have been lining their pockets with Heinz Ketchup wrappers and selling the Democratic party's condiment preferences to the highest paying bidder for years. Over time, voters became slowly alienated by third-way condiment Democrats. Some of whom, it is believed, use organic ketchup in a desperate attempt to satisfy their high-sodium lobbyist base.

Can we really blame voters for turning to Taco Salad Donald Trump in a time of such great need? I've been to these communities. I've seen the salt shakers full of rice. I've witnessed the pre-ground pepper.

It's time for Hillary Clinton to finally accept her full responsibility for the temporary Szechuan sauce outage, the 2016 election, climate change, this random hole I got in my pants yesterday, Harvey Weinstein, the mediocre seventh season of Game of Thrones, ugly birds, polio, Hurricane Maria and rompers for men — before leaving politics for good.

Then, and only then, will we finally probably not forgive her.

.
 
General Kelly Trump's toady

by digby





This is so low:
The Daily Beast confirmed that senior White House officials signed off on this specific line of attack as legitimate communications strategy. When The Daily Beast emailed White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to ask if she was an official telling reporters at multiple news outlets that Obama did not call Kelly, she declined to comment on the record.

She also did not respond to a question regarding if Kelly personally signed off on turning his deceased son into a political weapon to attack Trump’s predecessor this week.

Kelly has previously been reticent to invoke his son’s death in public. Shortly after he was killed, the elder Kelly spoke at a gathering of the Military Officers Association of America. Before taking the stage, he told the Marine introducing him, “Please don’t mention my son,” according to a 2011 Washington Post profile.

Obama administration officials were shaken by Trump’s revisiting of the attack line. It was noted that Kelly and his wife attended a Gold Star families breakfast at the White House in 2011 and sat at the First Lady’s table. But that point seemed secondary to the shock many felt that the administration was using the death as a political cudgel.

Alyssa Mastromonaco, the Obama deputy chief of staff, who had harshly criticized Trump when he first made the charge on Monday, told The Daily Beast that she was “traumatized” to see him do it again on Tuesday. On Twitter, Obama's national security spokesman Ned Price, encouraged Kelly to put a “stop” to “this inane cruelty.” Other former Obama officials simply couldn't fathom that Kelly would have signed off on this, to the point where they said it was affecting them on a human level.

“This debate is so sad,” Tommy Vietor, a veteran of the 2008 Obama campaign who later served as a National Security Council spokesman, said on Tuesday. “People should read the speech Gen. Kelly gave at the service of two Marines who died shortly after his son did. I think that’s the tone we should use when we talk about fallen service members. We shouldn’t politicize these things.”

This is typical of Trump. For all of his so-called love of veterans (and their foolish reciprocation) he is actually quite contemptuous of the military.  They aren't taking it well:




He certainly has the right to criticize the military. We all do. Of course, he's the first to condemn anyone else for doing that for "disrespecting the troops."

But pretending that he's the only president who cares about the fallen is just ... sickening. Especially since he's the one who didn't send the letter and make the fucking call!


.
 
Trump's Folly is taking shape

by digby




Oh look, it's Congressman Steve King inspecting the prototypes for Trump's wall:



This is his baby. Until he came along nobody was talking about spending billions to build a fucking wall. He came up with it as a dumb promise at his rallies. He won and now he's doing it.




 
Will this intensity translate into votes?

by digby




Who knows if loathing for Trump will get people to the polls? But it's there:
Gallup asked 2,016 U.S. adults Oct. 2-5, "How supportive are you of Donald Trump on a 100-point scale where zero means you do not support anything he is doing as president and 100 means you support everything he is doing as president?" The average score among all adults is 43 -- slightly higher than Trump's 39% job approval rating for the same four days of polling.

Reflecting the generally polarized nature of U.S. politics today, a majority either dislike most of what Trump is doing (43% give a score of 20 or lower) or support almost everything he's doing (22% give a score higher than 80). About a third of Americans have relatively mixed feelings, neither strongly supporting nor opposing the Trump presidency.

Among Democratic and Republican partisans, the averages for each group fall at opposite ends of the scale:

Among Democrats, the average score is 16. Although a majority of Democrats give Trump's actions a score of 3 or lower, a quarter of Democrats score the Trump presidency a 21 or higher.

Republicans support Trump less wholeheartedly than Democrats oppose him, giving him an average score of 77. About half of Republicans (47%) give his presidency a score of 80 or lower.

Independents' average score is 40. Slightly more than a third (37%) give Trump a rating between 21 and 80.
I don't know if people will get out to vote. There is an encroaching withdrawal and malaise setting in --- there's just so much political horror people can take. But hopefully, everyone will do the one thing that requires just a small amount of effort but will make a huge difference if we all pitch in: vote.

It can be done. The Democrats tossed out the Republican congress in 2006. The Republicans turned round and did the same thing in 2010. It's never been more vital than now.

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Yeah, I know. He's a liar.

by digby

















When I think about the fact that Obama was burned as a heretic at the stake for telling people that they could keep their doctor ...

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Who could be worse for CIA than Tom Cotton?

by digby






I wrote about the chilling rumors in DC about who might move into the CIA director's slot if Mike Pompeo is moved over to Secretary of State for Salon this morning:


It may be that it took direct, vicious attacks on the mainstream media for its practitioners to understand the catastrophe of Donald Trump and cover him both factually and, more important, truthfully. They aren't perfect, but they aren't being the lapdogs we all saw during the Bush administration and thank goodness for that. Still, they have yet to kill some stale old tropes that desperately need to be thrown overboard. One of them is this idea that there are "grownups" out there somewhere who will come rescue us from the folly of our democratic choices.

Back in 2001, the entire press corps was delirious over the ascension of George W. Bush after the years of Bill Clinton and his hippie White House. Those so-called "grownups" wreaked havoc, and the press seemed to be chagrined enough by the Bush administration's failures to let Barack Obama's quiet dignity speak for itself. But with the election of Donald Trump and his infantile bullying, this meme has returned in a big way. I wrote about this latest iteration of the "finally, the adults are back in charge" line a few months ago, and it's only become more frequent and more desperate as the administration sheds its original cast of characters in favor of what Trump refers to as "my generals." (It's like a remake of "Seven Days in May" around there these days.)

Well, it just got worse. The much-rumored upcoming departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has created lots of gossip about possible replacements, starting with UN ambassador Nikki Haley, known as "the Iran whisperer." The other possibility being discussed is CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a Trump favorite who drives three hours a day from Langley, Virginia, to the White House to personally deliver the president his national security briefing just the way he likes it -- short, sweet and with "killer graphics."

If Pompeo were to be moved into Tillerson's spot, that would open up the CIA job, and word is that Trump is considering Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas for that position. Cotton is only 40 years old and has had one term in the House and three years in the Senate, so he seems a bit young for the job. (In fact, he's the youngest current U.S. senator.) But he's apparently enough of a grownup to join the Trump babysitters' club. Axios reported:

MSNBC and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt — who talks frequently to Cotton on and off the air, and first floated the idea of Cotton for CIA — told me that Pompeo, Cotton, SecDef Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly would be "a quartet of serious intellectuals and warriors in the 'big four' jobs." And you could add National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster as a fifth.

Hewitt also said that Cotton and Trump get along well and that he and Pompeo both "like and listen to the president" and "accept his realism in foreign affairs." Trump's views on foreign affairs are not of what is called the "realist" school, nor are they actually realistic, so I'm not sure what Hewitt's referring to. But it sounds as though both men are champion Trump flatterers, which makes the president comfortable and happy.

On the substance, Cotton is a terrible choice. He comes from Arkansas, but he went to Harvard for both undergrad and law school. Then he served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army Ranger and worked in management consulting at McKinsey & Company, before embarking on his long-planned political career. (I wrote about him back in 2015, calling him Sarah Palin with a Harvard degree.)

His one term as a congressman was unremarkable, but he flew into the Senate like a whirlwind and immediately embarrassed the entire Republican caucus by catching them all on their way out of town and getting them to sign an ill-considered letter he wrote to the Iranian government telling them that the nuclear agreement wasn't worth the paper it was written on. As former Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote at the time:

The document was crafted by a senator with two months of experience under his belt. It was signed by some members rushing off the Senate floor to catch airplanes, often with little close analysis. Many of the 47 signatories reasoned that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s endorsement was vetting enough. There was no caucus-wide debate about strategy; no consultation with Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has studiously followed the nuclear talks (and who refused to sign). 
This was a foreign policy maneuver, in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation, with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises questions about the Republican majority’s capacity to govern.

Those questions have now been answered. It has no such capacity.

Cotton is clearly an intelligent man, but his instincts are highly Trumpian. It's seems likely that he's among the advisers who pushed the president toward decertification of the Iran deal based on no evidence. As CIA director, he would have no compunction about doing whatever is necessary to "find" evidence to achieve his long-cherished goal of a war with Iran. (It wouldn't be the first time the CIA director declared a "slam dunk" in such a situation.)

According to Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Cotton's Harvard thesis reveals his philosophy:

Cotton insists that the Founders were wise not to put too much faith in democracy, because people are inherently selfish, narrow-minded, and impulsive. He defends the idea that the country must be led by a class of intellectually superior officeholders whose ambition sets them above other men. Though Cotton acknowledges that this might seem elitist, he derides the Federalists’ modern critics as mushy-headed and naive. 
“Ambition characterizes and distinguishes national officeholders from other kinds of human beings,” Cotton wrote. “Inflammatory passion and selfish interest characterizes most men, whereas ambition characterizes men who pursue and hold national office. Such men rise from the people through a process of self-selection since politics is a dirty business that discourages all but the most ambitious.”
On the surface, such a belief would seem to be an odd mix with the allegedly populist Donald Trump and his "alt-right" white nationalist allies, but it really isn't. Trump himself is a big believer in eugenics and Steve Bannon is looking for a few good men to lead his army into the big final battle. Tom Cotton may be just the grownup they've been looking for.

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QOTD: Coach Pop

by digby



The great San Antonio Spurs coach called up Dave Zirin to speak on the record about Trump's latest atrocity:

“I’ve been amazed and disappointed by so much of what this president had said, and his approach to running this country, which seems to be one of just a never ending divisiveness. But his comments today about those who have lost loved ones in times of war and his lies that previous presidents Obama and Bush never contacted their families are so beyond the pale, I almost don’t have the words.”

At this point, Coach Pop paused, and I thought for a moment that perhaps he didn’t have the words and the conversation would end. Then he took a breath and said:

“This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House, unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office, and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this president should be ashamed, because they know better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all.”
I couldn't have said it better myself.

I don't know how long we and individuals can live with this rage. But as long as I have it I know I am not insane.


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I'm just a bill pill

by Tom Sullivan

The Washington Post and "60 Minutes" have exposed congressional and industry complicity in creating (and perpetuating the prescription opioid drug epidemic that has claimed tens of thousands of American lives. It is another object lesson in whose interests take priority on Capitol Hill.

The "60 Minutes" report Sunday profiled whistleblower Joe Rannazzisi who once ran the Drug Enforcement Agency's Office of Diversion Control. The office is charged with preventing prescription drugs from reaching the black market. Congress came under pressure from pharmaceutical distributors after Rannazzisi's efforts to prosecute corrupt pharmacists he calls "drug dealers in lab coats" began reaching higher up the supply chain:

JOE RANNAZZISI: This was all new to us. We weren't seeing just some security violations, and a few bad orders. We were seeing hundreds of bad orders that involved millions and millions of tablets. That's when we started going after the distributors.
Industry pushers began pushing back. Rannazzisi found his prosecutions systematically slowed by superiors. "Cases his supervisors once would have easily approved, now weren't good enough," the report explains. The industry began hiring former DEA lawyers to help quash their former agency's prosecutions through lobbying and, in particular, through drafting legislation.

It's easier to slip something by when the industry's drafter knows how DEA investigations work and how to strategically circumvent them.

The Post reports:
A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar.
Naturally, Congress is shocked, shocked it was duped into passing an industry-written bill that made the epidemic worse:
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, says he's horrified that a bill everyone approved -- the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016 -- made the epidemic worse.

"They made it and camouflaged it so well all of us were fooled. All of us. Nobody knew!" Sen. Manchin said. "There's no oversight now ... that bill has to be retracted ... has to be repealed."

The law sailed through the Senate last spring. It had the backing of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and was sponsored by members of both parties, so nobody in Congress thought to question it.
Missouri Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill introduced a bill Monday to repeal last year's law. "60 Minutes" asks:
Who drafted the legislation that would have such a dire effect? The answer came in another internal Justice Department email released to 60 Minutes and The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act: "Linden Barber used to work for the DEA. He wrote the Marino bill."
In a not-unrelated post this morning, Paul Krugman takes on the lies used to sell the GOP tax cut plan. He writes:
In fact, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the hope for tax cuts is the main thing keeping congressional Republicans in line behind Donald Trump. They know he’s unfit for office, and many worry about his mental stability. But they’ll back him as long as they think he might get those tax cuts through.

So what’s behind this priority? Follow the money. Big donors are furious at missing out on the $700 billion in tax cuts that were supposed to come out of Obamacare repeal. If they don’t get big bucks out of tax “reform,” they might close their pocketbooks for the 2018 midterm elections.
Money is speech, saith the Supreme Court. And those with the deepest pickets speak the loudest. It is commonplace to hear community activists protesting police violence to chant, "Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?" The rest of us should ask Congress the same thing. Even if the question is rhetorical.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.