Friday, June 30, 2017

Kobach's Voter Suppression Commission Running Into Resistance (UPDATED)

Resistance to the voter information request from conspiracy monger Donald "Rump" Trump's commission on non- existent voter fraud (being run by the likes of Kris Kobach and Hans von Spakovsky) is building, so far with 21 State secretaries of state refusing to turn over all of the requested voter information:
A growing number of states are refusing to cooperate fully with President Trump’s voter fraud commission, setting the stage for a showdown over the nation's elections. 
The White House commission, led by Vice President Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, has asked all 50 states and Washington D.C. to turn over publicly [sic] information on its voters, including names, birthdays, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and party affiliation if the state law allows in the hopes of shoring up the nation’s election systems. [snip]
A bipartisan list of officials in at least 20 [21] states, including reliably red states like Mississippi and Oklahoma, had pushed back on the request as of Friday afternoon.  
“In the event I were to receive correspondence from the Commission...My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great State to launch from,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, said in a Friday statement. 
Top Democratic officials in California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and Virginia have all released statements blasting the commission and refusing to turn over any information. [snip]
The 21 states are California, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. 
This commission is a transparent effort by Republicans to identify and dis-enfranchise Democratic constituencies (not "shoring up the nation's election systems") by erecting barriers to voting, purging voting registers and by other means of voter suppression. The commission grew out of ludicrous right- wing conspiracy mongering about "millions" of illegal votes being cast in the 2016 election, which was then taken up by Rump to assuage his ego that he hadn't really lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by almost 3 million. The Rump regime quickly pivoted from repeating lies about voter fraud in the last election to creating a commission that would work to suppress primarily Democratic voting under the guise of ensuring "electoral integrity."  The obvious question being, if these treasonous slugs were truly interested in "electoral integrity" instead of voter suppression, they'd be rather more curious about how and why the Russian government jiggered our electoral system, and how that system can be protected in the future. Curious that they're not curious, no?

UPDATE:  The number keeps growing --

UPDATE II: Make that 27 (and counting) --

Weekend Song

American alt- rock band Live (hailing from that musical hotspot York, PA!) has gone through several lineup changes and a hiatus from 2009- 2012. Now the original lineup is back and touring in the U.S. until November, when they head for South Africa. The band had a big hit in 1994 with "Lightning Crashes." Hope you enjoy.


Today's Cartoons

(click on images to enlarge)

(Tom Toles, Washington Post)

(Nick Anderson, Hearst Papers)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

(Jeff Darcy, Cleveland Plain Dealer)

(Dan Wasserman, Boston Globe)

Trump's Tabloid Sycophant (UPDATED)

The National Enquirer, the trashy and deceitful supermarket tabloid, has made no secret of its love for sexual predator and narcissist Donald "Rump" Trump. While targeting Rump's foes like Hillary Clinton with nasty slurs, it lavishes praise on him. The tabloid's owner, the appropriately named David "Little" Pecker, is a friend and confidant of Rump's, whom he's known since Rump's nightclubbing days in New York City.

Jeffrey Toobin has a fascinating, lengthy article in The New Yorker about the tabloid's worshipful relationship with Rump. An Enquirer editorial meeting recently gave some insight into Pecker's  aversion to anything critical of his icon:
"Someone suggested a story about a video from Donald and Melania Trump’s first overseas trip. The video, which had just gone viral, showed the couple walking down a red carpet on the airport tarmac in Israel. When Donald reached for Melania’s hand, she slapped it away with a sharp flick of her wrist.“I didn’t see that,” Pecker said, on the speakerphone. The half-dozen or so men in the room exchanged looks. One then noted that the footage of Melania’s slap had received a good deal of attention.“I didn’t see that,” Pecker repeated, and the subject was dropped."
During the 2016 elections, Pecker's rag was responsible for running some of the most vile accusations against Rump's opponents, famously the "story" that "Tailgunner" Ted Cruz's father was somehow connected with the assassination of President Kennedy. They were even more blatant and relentless in their attacks on Hillary Clinton:
It was even tougher on Hillary Clinton, regularly printing such headlines as ‘sociopath’ Hillary Clinton’s secret psych files exposed!” A 2015 piece began, 'Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clinton to an early grave, The National Enquirer has learned in a bombshell investigation. The desperate and deteriorating 67-year-old won’t make it to the White House—because she’ll be dead in six months.' On election eve, the Enquirer offered a special nine-page investigation under the headline 'Hillary: corrupt! racist! criminal!' 
But the truly ominous part of Toobin's article is the reporting that Pecker is contemplating buying Time, Inc., which is experiencing financial difficulty.
"Pecker is now considering expanding his business: he may bid to take over the financially strapped magazines of Time, Inc., which include Time, People, and Fortune. Based on his stewardship of his own publications, Pecker would almost certainly direct those magazines, and the journalists who work for them, to advance the interests of the President and to damage those of his opponents..." (emphasis added)
Amoral hacks like Pecker have absolutely no respect for a free press in the service of the public. To him, as to many on the right-wing, it's a tool to advance a bankrupt philosophy and, in this case, an unhinged and dangerous demagogue chipping away at the nation's democratic institutions, first and foremost the First Amendment.

UPDATE:  There's another story this morning about Pecker's rag attempting to blackmail Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski over Rump coverage, the basic truth of which the dimwit shitgibbon has now admitted.  Calling New York Attorney General Schneiderman!

UPDATE II:  Looks like one of the White House officials who delivered the "friendly advice" was young master Jared "Mr. Ivanka Trump" Kushner.

Cultured Canine Classic Concert Crasher

Dog-lover or not, you'll find this canine music lover adorable as it meanders on stage during a recent performance by the Vienna Chamber Orchestra in Ephesus, Turkey. Check out the satisfied yawn at the end. Props to the musicians, who take it all in stride, and to this sweet dog's musical tastes.

Thanks, we all needed that.

America's Humiliation

Today's New York Daily News cover:

Referring, of course, to this.

"Not normal" is the new normal under the regime of loathesome loon Donald "Rump" Trump.

BONUS:  John Cassidy at The New Yorker has it right --
... Where America, until recently, had at its helm a Commander-in-Chief whom other countries acknowledged as a global leader and a figure of stature even if they didn't like his policies, it now has something very different: an oafish Troll-in-Chief who sullies his office daily.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Today's Cartoon Threefer

(click on images to enlarge)

(Patrick Chappatte, New York Times)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

(Gary Markstein, Creators Syndicate)

Who Are You Going To Believe - Republicans Or Your Lying Eyes?

The Republicans are trying hard -- man, are they trying -- to convince us that the Senate TrumpCare bill does not do what it actually does.

Look closely. Here's the Republican myth, followed by the reality.

(click on charts to enlarge)

Myth (from HHS Secretary Tom "Tax Cuts For The Rich At Any" Price):

Reality (attribution Mark Sumner, Daily Kos)

The Congressional Budget Office scoring also doesn't lie, unlike Republicans.

Make no mistake, folks: they're still coming after Medicaid so they can give the rich a tax cut.

Rethuglican Games On Russia Sanctions Bill

By an overwhelming bi-partisan vote of 98 - 2 on June 15, the Senate passed a bill increasing sanctions on Russia and blocking Putin supporter and demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump from unilaterally lifting sanctions, as he would clearly love to do to reward Russia for its help in electing him and to protect his business interests with them. The bill was sent to the House for a vote, where Rump has been putting pressure on them to water down the bill to make it more Russia / Rump friendly, despite the unanimous consensus in the intelligence community that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections to benefit Rump and will continue to do so if not stopped.

Rump's actions to water down or even stop the sanctions bill are another blatant, public sign of his fealty to Moscow, and it appears some House Rethuglicans are OK with that. In a delaying, procedural maneuver, the House has returned the bill to the Senate, with objections that all legislation affecting revenue must originate in the House. Senate Democrats are willing to go along with House-drafted language that would address that objection, but have not received assurances from House Rethugs that that would be the final change to win passage by the House. A close eye needs to be kept on these party-before-country Rethuglicans.

The takeaway from this episode is that Rump has an existential reason for making Russia happy, something that overrides the national interest and his political survival. We trust that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will find out what that reason happens to be.

Tweets Of The Day - Cuts

This from Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Bismarck of Bamberg, SC:

Funny, we thought peacekeeping was a primary goal of the United Nations.  Silly us.

Meanwhile, the "leader of the free world" (no, not the real leader of the free world Angela Merkel!) is occupied with important affairs of state this morning:

Why doesn't the world have confidence in us anymore, we wonder...

BONUS:  Rump's getting pushback from other Republicans. Sad!

Two New Polls Confirm Toxicity of Senate TrumpCare Bill

Bolstering findings from an NPR/ PBS Newshour/ Marist poll earlier this week, two more national polls show the vast majority of the public absolutely hates the Senate TrumpCare bill.

Despite its new name and some tweaks, American voters disapprove 58 - 16 percent of the Republican health care plan to replace Obamacare, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. 
USA Today/ Suffolk University:
Just 12% of Americans support the Senate Republican health care plan, a new USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll finds, amid a roiling debate over whether the GOP will deliver on its signature promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. 
In the survey, taken Saturday through Tuesday, a 53% majority say Congress should either leave the law known as Obamacare alone or work to fix its problems while keeping its framework intact. 
These numbers are great and again prove that most Americans can identify a shit sandwich when they see one. That doesn't mean the sociopaths in the Republican Party still won't try to get the tax cuts for their rich supporters that forms the basis of TrumpCare (and everything else they do, for that matter).

The July 4 recess is a time for all of us to continue to beat the drum about this malevolent effort by Republicans to decimate health care for poor and middle class people in this country. Take time, get active and we can stop this. Once again, here's what you can do.

BONUS:  That NPR poll?  It also had this finding --
... [B]y a 24-point margin, Americans believe former President Barack Obama was, by far, a more effective leader in comparison to Trump, 58 percent to 34 percent. Among independents, there is an even more pronounced 36-point difference, 65 percent to 29 percent.

Trump's Fox Friends And TrumpCare

Seth Meyers looks at Republican floundering on TrumpCare, and the dubious "help" being provided by GOP-TV (a.k.a, Fox "News"):

BONUS: The New Yorker gets in on the mockery (illustration by Mavroudis).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mr. Uncomplicated

Demagogue and ignoramus Donald "Rump" Trump only recently realized that health care was a "complicated" matter, but one would think that he would at least know the Cliffs Notes version of his floundering TrumpCare bill. One would be wrong.

In yesterday's meeting with the Senate Rethuglican caucus, according to the New York Times, Rump appeared ignorant of some of the bill's most significant features, e.g. the transfer of money from health care to the pockets of the wealthy and insurance companies via tax cuts. Rump appeared confused by one Senator's comment that the bill's tax windfall for the wealthy would be used by their opponents:
"'A senator who supports the bill left the meeting at the White House with a sense that the president did not have a grasp of some basic elements of the Senate plan — and seemed especially confused when a moderate Republican complained that opponents of the bill would cast it as a massive tax break for the wealthy,' the Times reported a senate staffer revealed.

The senator also said that Trump said he would navigate tax reform later, and seemed to ignore the tax implications that are part of the new health bill."
It was hard even for Machiavellian scoundrel Sen. Mitch "Missy" McConnell to maintain the charade of presidential competence:
When asked by reporters clustered on the blacktop outside the West Wing if Mr. Trump had command of the details of the negotiations, Mr. McConnell ignored the question and smiled blandly.
The Times also reported that the Senators privately expressed a preference for Vice President and Rump suck-up Mike "Dense" Pense to be in charge of White House interactions on the bill. The article's suggestion that he wasn't in charge or knowledgeable apparently enraged Rump, who went on Twitter this morning to denounce the article as baseless "fake news."

One of the authors of the story, Glenn Thrush, had a tart response to the buffoon-in-chief:
Perhaps "very smart" Vladimir Putin can explain it to him.

Mid-Week Like This Song

British jazz guitarist Chris Standring has 12 successful albums to his credit. His seamless mix of contemporary and funk jazz elements can be heard in most of his compositions. Here he is performing "Like This, Like That" in concert.

Today's Cartoon Threefer

(click on images to enlarge)

(Jim Morin, Miami Herald)

(Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

(Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee)

Senate TrumpCare Bill Wildly Unpopular

Apparently, most Americans can identify a shit sandwich when they see one:
Americans broadly disapprove of the Senate GOP's health care bill, and they're unhappy with how Republicans are handling the efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. 
Just 17 percent of those surveyed say they approve of the Senate's health care plan, the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Fifty-five percent say they disapprove, while about a quarter said they hadn't heard enough about the proposal to have an opinion on it. (our emphasis)
Keep the pressure on, folks. This is far from over, regardless of the toxic polls. There are strong, well- financed forces on the far right that want to see this "22 million lose health care so we can give tax cuts to the rich" bill pass.

As Sen. Murphy puts it (below), the best cure for Trump angst is political action.

Tweet Of The Day - The Cure

We just love this guy:

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Today's Cartoon Threefer

(click on images to enlarge)

(Andy Marlette, Pensacola News Journal)

(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Senate Republicans Delay Vote On TrumpCare (UPDATED)

(Susan Walsh, AP)

The Senate won't be voting on the Republican TrumpCare "22 million lose health care so we can give tax cuts to the rich" bill this week after all.  The vote is being postponed until after the July 4 recess due to resistance from within the Republican caucus, some of whom have been hearing from us*, others from their plutocrat backers who want the bill to be more "mean." All 52 Republican Senators are at the White (Supremacist) House this afternoon to get a pep talk/ arm twisting from clueless dimbulb Donald "Rump" Trump, with special attention being paid to weasel caucus members (who should keep in mind what Sen. Lindsey "Huckleberry" Graham noted yesterday, "[I]f you count on the President to have your back, you need to watch it.").

That gives us about 10 days to continue to put the pressure on the weasel caucus, something the TrumpCare tool kit can help you do.

*UPDATE:  The calls/ messages seem to be piling up.  Keep going!
Republican senators’ offices say they’re getting a flood of calls from voters worried about the GOP Obamacare repeal bill, potentially further complicating Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s attempt to muscle the legislation through this week.
(Photo: Rump surrounded by weasel caucus members Sens. Dean Heller (NV), Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) at this afternoon's "pep talk.")

U.S. Image In World Tanks Under Trump

A new Pew Research Center poll of 37 nations shows that neo-fascist demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump is mistrusted to lead in international affairs by a wide margin. His policies are broadly unpopular and damaging to the U.S.' image abroad, with only 22% having confidence in his ability to do the right thing in international affairs, as contrasted with President Obama, who scored 64% at the end of his second term. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin also received low marks, but neither as low as Rump's. The negative view is particularly stark among the U.S.' closest allies in Europe, Asia and North America. Tellingly, Rump gets higher marks than Obama in only Russia and Israel.

Rump's own character has damaged our country's image abroad, according to the poll:
"Trump’s character is also a factor in how he is viewed abroad. In the eyes of most people surveyed around the world, the White House’s new occupant is arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous. Among the positive characteristics tested, his highest rating is for being a strong leader. Fewer believe he is charismatic, well-qualified or cares about ordinary people." (emphasis added)
Rump nemesis German Chancellor Angela Merkel received the highest ratings, with 42% expressing confidence in her leadership. Perhaps that's why she's considered by many to be the new leader of the free world.

BONUS:  Here's the change, from Obama to Rump --

Surprise! Trump's Lawyer Is Also A Grifter

We know that narcissistic con artist Donald "Rump" Trump knows how to run a grift (see Trump University fraud case), albeit badly. So it's not a surprise that his lawyer, double-talking shyster Jay Sekulow, is up to his dyed hair in a grift. It's being reported that Sekulow, a lawyer for the religious right, diverted donations to his "charity" to himself and his family to the tune of $60 million since 2000. Those are some hefty "administrative costs." The "charity", Conservative Advocates Serving Evangelism, offers legal support to right wing groups alleging religious discrimination because they want to discriminate against others. The report indicates that Sekulow's telemarketers pressed low income people to contribute, providing the Sekulow scam with millions of dollars per year in income. According to the report,
"Attorneys and other experts specialising in nonprofit law said the Sekulows risked violating a federal law against nonprofits paying excessive benefits to the people responsible for running them. Sekulow declined to detail how he ensured the payments were reasonable."
Apparently Sekulow's governing belief is that charity begins at home.

(photo: "Let us prey....")

May's Desperate Power Move

The UK Conservative Party's losses in the snap elections a couple of weeks ago put their Prime Minister, Theresa May, in a minority position, unable to govern with insufficient votes in Parliament without forming a coalition with another party. May succeeded in rounding up the ultra-right Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, but only by promising them a £1 billion bribe.

The DUP was founded by notorious religious bigot Ian Paisley during Northern Ireland's religious civil war ("The Troubles") in the early 1970s. Their positions on social issues would please the far-right here in the U.S.: opposition to both birth control and abortion, climate change denial, and opposition to same-sex marriage. As Unionists, they favor British military presence in Northern Ireland and a virtual amnesty for police and paramilitary officials accused of atrocities during the uprising.

Another consequence of the alliance may be the fracturing of the power-sharing arrangement with Sinn Fein in governing Northern Ireland. Many Irish republicans are concerned that with the alliance, the DUP can hold Prime Minister May hostage in exchange for punitive measures against them. Any retreat from the "Good Friday Agreement" could spark new unrest in Northern Ireland after nearly two decades of peace, a situation that would fall squarely on the UK's Conservative Party.

Trump Wags The Dog, Media Chases

So, this morning the top news story on the morning shows was the CBO score on the life- threatening Senate TrumpCare bill... haha no!

The Top News was a statement put out by the White (Supremacist) House asserting that Syria's Assad was about to use chemical weapons on his people and the U.S. would respond harshly should that happen, news that caught U.S. military officials off guard (hmmm, curious). No further information or background was forthcoming, leaving us to wonder if this was a "wag the dog" effort to distract from the aforementioned damning CBO analysis of the latest TrumpCare shit sandwich (spoiler alert: we think so!).

(To be clear, we have no doubt whatsoever that the Assad regime would be capable and willing to pull off this kind of a war crime -- again. It's just that the circumstances have the smell of a decomposing rat.)

We recall the last time the regime of nitwit Donald "Rump" Trump used military force in Syria was in early April, about a week after the Russiagate investigation was heating up with the offer of former NSA advisor Michael Flynn to testify in exchange for immunity. You'll also recall several puerile commentators lost their credibility forever by praising Rump for the April 6 cruise missile strike ("he became president last night") and gawking at the cruise missiles being launched. That's just what the Rump regime intended for the media to portray, of course, and they largely got it from them, because there's nothing like a little boom- boom to get these armchair chin strokers excited. (The morning print media may not have had time to react today -- at least the print and on- line versions of the Washington Post are not taking the bait so far.)

This time, it would appear the diversion was to get the CBO score off the tee- vee for a few precious hours, while making Rump look tough vs. the Syrians and their Russian patrons. A win- win for them. Call us cynical, but from the looks of this morning's shows, it looks like the diversion worked.

BONUS:  Steve M. covers the coverup in the wingnut media (so we don't have to).

Monday, June 26, 2017

CBO: 22 Million Fewer Covered Under Senate TrumpCare Bill!

The Congressional Budget Office has now analyzed the Senate TrumpCare/ tax cuts for the rich bill:
Twenty-two million fewer people would have health coverage over the next 10 years under legislation that Senate Republicans aim to bring to the floor for a vote this week, according to the Congressional Budget Office.  
The measure would dramatically scale back federal funding for Medicaid and financial assistance low- and middle-income people receive to make private health insurance affordable. The hundreds of billions of dollars saved would mostly be transferred to wealthy people and health care companies in the form of tax cuts. And the bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by $321 billion over the coming decade.
Here's the CBO report for you.

The jig is now up; there's no fixing this as a purported "health insurance reform bill." We now want to hear from the weasel caucus as to how this will affect their vote.

BONUS (click on tweets to enlarge):

Do No Harm Quote of the Day

Medicine has long operated under the precept of Primum non nocere, or ‘first, do no harm.’ The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels." -- American Medical Association Executive Vice President and CEO James Madara, in a letter to amoral toady for plutocrats Sen. Mitch "Missy" McConnell denouncing the Senate tax cut for the rich bill, disguised as a health insurance reform bill, a.k.a. TrumpCare. The letter not only blasts the bill's deep cuts in Medicaid, it also opposes Rethuglican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which accepts Medicaid patients and which provides health care services to poor families beyond reproductive care for women. (As we noted below, there are three Republican Senators who are doctors and are expected to end up voting for this abomination, because tax cuts for the rich!)

The AMA, founded in 1847, represents over 224,000 physicians and medical students in the U.S.

Pharma Bro and Racist Sheriff On Trial

Two despicable clowns are headed to court today: Martin "Pharma Bro" Shkreli, the monster that hiked drug prices for a critical life saving drug by 5,000 percent and allegedly defrauded investors, and former Maricopa Co., AZ Sheriff Joe "Pink Undies" Arpaio, the bigoted sheriff who enjoyed humiliating prisoners in his jail and who defied a court that ordered him to stop profiling people.

Pharma Bro was involved in what Federal prosecutors have called a Ponzi scheme to shift money to a hedge fund he managed from a biopharmaceutical company producing the life-saving drug. The drug, Daraprim, had cost $13.50 per pill prior to him becoming chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals; Shkreli took it to $750 per pill. Prosecutors say Pharma Bro lied to his hedge fund investors about its financial health, and stole money from the drug company to cover losses. He presents a very arrogant, defiant front, and has threatened and taunted people through social media.

Meanwhile in Arizona, Pink Undies Arpaio (so dubbed because he dressed his prisoners in pink underwear) faces criminal misdemeanor charges for violating a Federal court order for 18 months to cease racially profiling and detaining Latinos in making traffic stops. While Arpaio is lionized by far-right wing xenophobes, Latino immigration advocates say his arrests of undocumented aliens have fractured families and caused misery in the Latino community.

Unsurprisingly, both Pharma Bro and Pink Undies are big fans of neo-fascist con artist Donald "Rump" Trump. Don't be surprised if he pardons these two malevolent losers later.

Today's Tomorrow Cartoon - The Senate TrumpCare Bill

(click on image to enlarge)

(Tom Tomorrow, via Daily Kos)

Monday Reading - The Horror, The Lies And A Test

-- We're soon going to be hearing from the Congressional Budget Office on the impacts of the Senate TrumpCare bill. Here's one preview primarily focused on loss of coverage:
Gary Claxton, the director of the health care marketplace program at the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, said he believed the CBO would predict “15 or more million” would lose coverage. 
The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, estimated in one analysis that between 15 million and 23 million people would lose coverage under the Senate plan. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton touted that estimate on Twitter, writing: “Forget death panels. If Republicans pass this bill, they’re the death party.” [snip] 
“I know we’re going to get a horrific CBO score next week,” MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, who helped design Obamacare, said Sunday on MSNBC. “The CBO score will be horrible, but it won’t be as bad as the House bill, because the Senate is cheating by pushing the damage out by a few years.”

-- E.J. Dionne, Jr., writes about the three biggest lies Republicans are telling about their Senate TrumpCare bill (go check them out), and then concludes:
I hope I never have to write about Lie Four, which would be Republican senators who surely know better — including Susan Collins, Dean Heller, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Shelley Moore Capito and Rob Portman — justifying their votes for this monstrosity by claiming that it’s the best they could do. 
Heller signaled doubts about the proposal on Friday, which is a step in the right direction. But only by killing this bill would these senators open the way for reasonable fixes to the ACA. Do they really want to say someday that one of their most important votes in the Senate involved taking health care away from millions of Americans? I would like to believe they are too decent for that. I hope I’m not lying to myself. 
(We hate to be overly cynical, and certainly hope we're wrong, but we think -- after an appropriate level of faux public "concern" and self- flagellation by the above- named Republican Senators -- enough will do as they always do and put party above country and pass the bill, adorned with some face- saving fig leafs.)

-- Jimmy Kimmel reminds another Republican Senator of his pledge that he would honor the "Kimmel test" before voting for a repeal bill:

Cassidy is also a doctor by profession, so one would "hope" that he would also be guided by the Hippocratic test -- "First do no harm." Of course, there are two other Republican Senators who are doctors (John Barrasso and "self- certified" Rand Paul) who are perfectly willing to overlook that oath in their zeal to pass tax cuts for the rich.

-- A reminder that pressure works, and if these spineless cowards don't feel pressure, they will surely cave. Here's your link to the TrumpCare tool kit. Let your voice be heard.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Across The Universe, Cont. - 30 Million Light Years From Home

(click on image to enlarge)

From NASA/ ESA, June 19, 2017: The object in the middle of this image, sitting alone within a star-studded cosmos, is a galaxy known as ESO 486-21. ESO 486-21 is a spiral galaxy — albeit with a somewhat irregular and ill-defined structure — located some 30 million light-years from Earth.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed this object while performing a survey — the Legacy ExtraGalactic UV Survey (LEGUS) — of 50 nearby star-forming galaxies. The LEGUS sample was selected to cover a diverse range of galactic morphologies, star formation rates, galaxy masses, and more. Astronomers use such data to understand how stars form and evolve within clusters, and how these processes affect both their home galaxy and the wider Universe. ESO 486-21 is an ideal candidate for inclusion in such a survey as it is known to be in the process of forming new stars, which are created when large clouds of gas and dust (seen here in pink) within the galaxy crumple inwards upon themselves.

LEGUS made use of Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS). The WFC3 obtained detailed observations of the target objects while the ACS obtained what are known as parallel fields — instead of leaving ACS idle, it was instead trained on a small patch of sky just offset from the target field itself, allowing it to gather additional valuable information while the primary target was being observed by WFC3. Parallel fields played an important role in Hubble’s Frontier Fields programme, which used the magnifying power of large galaxy clusters (via a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing) to explore objects in the distant Universe.

Credit:  ESA/Hubble & NASA

Republican Gerrymandering Quantified

The Associated Press conducted a study of U.S. House and State legislative races in 2016 and found, just as Donald "Rump" Trump said, the election was being rigged (but not in the way the dimbulb was suggesting):
The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts. 
Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010. 
The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority that stood at 241-194 over Democrats after the 2016 elections — a 10 percentage point margin in seats, even though Republican candidates received just 1 percentage point more total votes nationwide. (our emphasis)
Not that this comes as a news flash, of course. Sam Wang identified the effort known as "Redmap" back in 2012:
Through artful drawing of district boundaries, it is possible to put large groups of voters on the losing side of every election. The Republican State Leadership Committee, a Washington-based political group dedicated to electing state officeholders, recently issued a progress report on Redmap, its multiyear plan to influence redistricting. The $30 million strategy consists of two steps for tilting the playing field: take over state legislatures before the decennial Census, then redraw state and Congressional districts to lock in partisan advantages. The plan was highly successful.
The Supreme Court is considering a case (Gill v. Whitford) of egregious partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin, and other cases are awaiting Supreme Court review.  While the outcome of these cases may not affect the 2018 or 2020 elections, they will certainly determine how aggressively Republicans will try to use 2020 census data to rig future State and U.S. House elections wherever they can.  Along with voter suppression actions, that's pretty much their last line of defense against popular democracy.

Sunday Reflection

"Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."  -- George Orwell (pen name of Eric Arthur Blair), born on this day in 1903, apparently previewing Republican communication strategy of the past 40 years.

Kushner Flops With Palestinians

Man-for-all-jobs and Russia's backdoor man Jared "Mr. Ivanka Trump" Kushner was designated as the White (Supremacist) House's person in charge of negotiating a peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, that is, when he's not reorganizing the Government or resolving the opioid epidemic or negotiating with China and Mexico. After all, neo-fascist demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump recently said a negotiated peace was "not as difficult as people have thought."

Apparently, it's too difficult for young squire Kushner. Kushner met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and made the mistake of reading Abbas a list of demands prepared by Israeli Likudnik Bibi "Bomb Bomb" Netanyahu. Needless to say, Abbas was furious with Kushner for wasting his time and acting as a messenger boy for Bomb Bomb. A statement from the Palestinian Authority said they were "greatly disappointed" by the meeting, which is diplomatic-speak for "don't send us this clueless preppie again."

One has to wonder if Rump is setting his over-tasked son-in-law up for failure out of jealously or some warped psychological game.  Whatever the case, putting this inexperienced real estate heir in charge of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is reckless in the extreme and endangers our interests -- and peace -- in the Middle East.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Today's Cartoon Threefer

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(Tom Toles, Washington Post)

(Matt Davies, Newsday)

(Jeff Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune)

Quote Of The Day

The simple truth is that the Republicans welcomed a foreign government interfering in the election on their behalf. They knew and they were happy about it and they are now doing everything in their power to cover it up. There is no other way to look at it. 
Republican leaders were so hungry to kill people on Medicaid, bankrupt the middle class and give tax cuts to their millionaire friends that they knowingly allowed a foreign government to help that corrupt, incompetent imbecile into the White House. Think about that.
I feel sick. 
 Us, too.

Numbers Don't Lie (Unlike Trump)

Some numbers collected over the past couple of days:

-- 200, the number of jobs cut at a Boeing plant in South Carolina, where pathological liar and con man Donald "Rump" Trump promised them "jobs" five months ago;

-- 600 +, the number of jobs cut at a Carrier plant in Indianapolis, where Rump supposedly made a "deal" to keep the jobs in Indiana;

-- 110, the jobs being lost at Rexnord, also in Indiana, which Rump claimed in December were staying;

-- Ford announcing it would be making the new Focus not in the U.S., but in China, after Rump claimed credit in January for keeping the jobs in the U.S. (bye-bye 700 jobs); and

-- 45%, the percentage of people who say they're more likely to believe former FBI Director James Comey than Rump (22%)

And some general advice on people and numbers: you can fool some of the people all of the time (e.g., Rump's base), and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

BONUS:  The New York Times is keeping track of the deluge of lies Rump has told just since taking the oath of office in January. Mindboggling.

Your Three Minute Primer On The Senate TrumpCare Bill

National asset Sen. Chris Murphy (D- CT) lays out the main horrors in the dog's breakfast TrumpCare bill in about three minutes.  For when you're still deciding whether or not to get involved.

Here, once again, is the link to your TrumpCare tool kit.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Today's Cartoon Threefer

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(Mike Luckovich, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

(Chris Britt, Creators Syndicate)

(Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press)

Weekend Music

The superlative, soon- to- be 91 Tony Bennett (born Anthony Benedetto) was just announced as the 2017 winner of the Gershwin Prize by the Library of Congress, which is given "to a composer or performer for their lifetime contributions to popular music."  A true Renaissance man, Bennett's contributions over his more than 70- year career are both qualitative (just listen to the man!) and quantitative (70 albums, 13 Grammys, Kennedy Center Honors, etc.). But we also love him because he's a mensch - a good Democrat whose philanthropic, civil rights, and humanitarian efforts have been widely praised, and whose musical gifts he readily shares with fellow artists. To honor his latest achievement, we've got to go with a composition by George and Ira Gershwin that, as with most other songs he's covered, Bennett effortlessly owns.  Hope you enjoy.

Today's Tweets: McConnell's Party Room Readied

Disabled Americans who rely on Medicaid were hustled away from amoral conniver Mitch "Missy" McConnell's office yesterday so that he wouldn't see them.

Tech Companies Sell "Rope" To Russia

Western tech companies have agreed to demands by the Russian government to review the source codes for their cyber security products sold in Russia such as firewalls and anti-virus applications, ostensibly to assure Russia that Western intelligence agencies haven't planted any "backdoor" viruses or other means to infect their own security systems. This is certain to give Russian cyber experts valuable information about vulnerabilities in our own cyber security software systems at a time when we face cyber attacks -- political and economic -- from bad actors like Russia, North Korea and China. The tech companies include Cisco, IBM, Hewlett Packard, McAfee and SAP, who are eager to sell their products in the Russian market despite the obvious gift to Russian cyber intelligence officials:
"U.S. officials say they have warned firms about the risks of allowing the Russians to review their products' source code, because of fears it could be used in cyber attacks. But they say they have no legal authority to stop the practice unless the technology has restricted military applications or violates U.S. sanctions....The demands are being made by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which the U.S. government says took part in the cyber attacks on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the 2014 hack of 500 million Yahoo email accounts. The FSB, which has denied involvement in both the election and Yahoo hacks, doubles as a regulator charged with approving the sale of sophisticated technology products in Russia." (emphasis added)
One U.S. company, Symantec, has refused to comply with Russia's demands. Last Monday, man-for-all-jobs Jared "Mr. Ivanka Trump" Kushner presided over a meeting of tech and communications executives, including Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM, and Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP. It would have been an opportune time for Kushner to have addressed that particular matter of complying with the demands of a hostile foreign power on the part of some present, but he likely doesn't see Russia as "hostile" to his business and family interests, much less his country's.

An old quote, variously attributed to Karl Marx, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin seems apt here:
“The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

The Time To Stop TrumpCare Is Now

Folks, if you haven't put the TrumpCare tool kit into practice, time may be running out faster than you think.

Steve Benen clues us in on the tactic Republicans will use to fast track their "tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of keeping America healthy" bill:
... A House Republican told a reporter from The Hill last yesterday that if the Senate bill passes next week, the House will simply pass that version “as is,” sending it on to Donald Trump for a presidential signature. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), who almost single-handedly rescued his party’s far-right health care initiative, confirmed to a Washington Examiner reporter that there would be no conference committee if the bill clears the Senate. 
This is no small detail. We’re looking at a landscape in which the Senate will vote next week, and if it passes, House Republicans will almost certainly act quickly to rubber-stamp that legislation – at which point, it’s game over. 
At the risk of sounding overdramatic, the next six days will dictate the health security for tens of millions of Americans. If the Republican plan isn’t stopped over the next week, it won’t be stopped at all.  (our emphasis)
Judd Legum has a pretty readable summary of this travesty of a bill, if you want to see what a mean, afflict the afflicted and comfort the comfortable piece of Republican income redistribution looks like.

Let's get to work!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

President Obama On The Senate TrumpCare Bill

President Obama weighs in on the Senate TrumpCare bill:
Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today. 
I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did. 
We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course. 
Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams. 
And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past. 
We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it. 
That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse. 
But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system. 
The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely. 
Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation. 
I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings? 
To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need. 
That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family. 
After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.
We're glad he's adding his moral authority to this, even now. But will any Republican Senator's heart be softened by this message? (Spoiler alert: No.) Meanwhile, Charles Pierce has a message for Trump voters, which we heartily endorse.

Today's Cartoon Threefer - Harming Americans

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(Tom Toles, Washington Post)

(Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune)

(Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Tweeting The Senate TrumpCare Bill


The video prompted even Mrs. Alan Greenspan to say it was "a brutal image for Republicans and supporters of this bill."

Intel Chiefs: Trump Wanted Us To Refute Collusion Charge

When Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Director of the National Security Agency Admiral Mike Rogers testified earlier this month before the Senate Intelligence Committee, they made news by declining to describe their conversations with Putin loyalist and demagogue Donald "Rump" Trump as to whether they were asked by Rump to publicly declare there was no collusion with Russia. Now, it's being reported that, in closed testimony before the Senate investigators and Special Counsel Mueller, both Coats and Rogers have acknowledged that Rump "suggested" that they speak out against the collusion charge publicly. That information confirms a pattern of behavior by Rump, most notably toward former FBI Director Comey, to misdirect or derail the investigation into his and his campaigns dealings with Russia. It certainly bolsters the credibility of Comey's testimony that Rump told him that he "hoped" Comey would drop the investigation into disgraced former national security advisor Michael Flynn. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into obstruction of justice by Rump focused on Rump's conversations about the investigation with Comey, and now, Coats and Rogers.

Don't Let Them Get Away With It (UPDATED)

Today is the day the draft TrumpCare bill that 13 white male Senate Republicans have been crafting in secret, without hearings or expert counsel, will be revealed.  It will be the first time the public, as well as their Republican and Democratic colleagues, will see the tax- cut- for- the- rich- disguised- as- health- insurance- reform bill. The draft purportedly mirrors much of what's in the "mean" (quoting D.J. Trump) bill passed by the Republican sociopaths in the House in May, with fillips like an extended timeframe for the Medicaid expansion phase out to appease spineless Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy and Dean Heller. We're confident that the bottom line, which will be confirmed once the Congressional Budget Office does its analysis, will be higher premiums and loss of coverage for millions, all to provide tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. In other words the perfect dystopian Republican "solution."

Meanwhile, we certainly hope you've had a chance to voice your opinion to your Senator (especially if he or she is a Republican).  It's never too late to make a difference.

The TrumpCare tool kit developed by the Center for American Progress makes it as quick and easy as possible. Now, there is anecdotal evidence that the anti- TrumpCare calls/ emails/ etc., are starting to build:

The next 10 days will be critical.  They think they can get away with passing this monstrosity before people catch on to the damage it will inflict. We need to do everything we can to make sure that doesn't happen.

Make them own this.

UPDATE:  You can read the "discussion draft" bill, embedded here.

Stephen Colbert On The Senate Republicans' TrumpCare Bill

Here's Stephen Colbert's take on Senate Republicans' "frantic scramble" to pass their TrumpCare bill before July 4:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Today's Cartoon Threefer - TrumpCare (Or "What You Don't Know Will Kill You")

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(Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press)

(Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

(Jack Ohman, Sacramento Bee)

Senate Republicans are scheduled to release details of their version of TrumpCare tomorrow. Here's your TrumpCare tool kit.  If you haven't already, please use it.