March 22, 2017

House Republicans, Deeply Divided, Face Painful Choice on Health Vote

Jennifer Steinhauer - The New York Times:

A group of the most conservative House members met with the president at the White House on Wednesday. On Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump met with moderate House Republicans for over an hour in the Oval Office to entertain their concerns, but did not appear to have a clear grasp of the policy specifics in question, some of them said.

Mr. Trump, a man who rushes to hang his name in gold anywhere he can, has rejected the moniker that some have given the House bill, Trumpcare.

(Emphasis, mine.)

Republicans who wanted to do tax reform, or regulation reform, or any number of other legislative business priorities in the golden “first 100 days” of the new presidency were waylaid by Mr. Trump’s agreement to put Paul Ryan’s Obamacare repeal at the top of his priority list. They didn’t have a ready replacement, and what they did cobble together serves no-one but the very wealthy, who stand to gain a tax break.

Well played. With an administration facing investigation on multiple fronts and all-but-certain defeat in tomorrow’s vote, Republican and voter good will is about to go out the window.

Let’s call this opportunity squandered. Republicans, do yourselves and America a favor: step back, take a breath and serve your country’s best interest in the coming political shitstorm.

#GOP #fraud #squandered #opportunity #Congress #115th #Trump #investigation

House Intelligence Chair Stars in White House Shitshow

Karoun Demirjian - The Washington Post:

House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes went to the White House on Wednesday afternoon to personally brief President Trump about intelligence he says he has seen regarding surveillance of foreign nationals during the presidential transition.

The hell with separation of power and Congressional oversight responsibilities - Representative Devin Nunes was on a mission today. Not, however, the one to which he swore an oath.

An independent commission is needed. We need to learn what improprieties or crimes, if any, were committed by members of the Trump campaign, transition, and administration. The Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee has shown himself untrustworthy and unwilling to conduct himself and his office properly. Take it out of his hands.

#GOP #fraud #house #intelligence #committee #Devin #Nunes

On That New iPad

Stephen Hackett, on the “new” iPad introduced March 21 - 512 Pixels:

This is the iPad for the large group of consumers not interested in turning their iPads into their work machines. These people don’t care about Workflow or advanced multitasking or Swift Playgrounds. For the masses who are still streaming Netflix and checking Facebook on iPad 2s and 3s, this new price may finally be enough to lure them back into the Apple Store.

I’d add checking email, reading books and comics, navigating with Waze or Apple/Google Maps, and anything else I do with my current iPad. There’s a short list of iPad Pro features unavailable on this refreshed model - no Pencil support for drawing, no Smart Keyboard connector, no four-speaker sound. Features many won’t miss.

At $559 for 128GB storage (all your music, all your photos, all your video) and cellular capability (GPS chip, connectivity anywhere) this is the least expensive iPad ever available with these features. With its upgraded processor and lower price, it’s the iPad I’d buy.

#Apple #iPad #refresh

March 21, 2017

On a Lighter Note, I've Found my Next iPhone

Chris Welch - The Verge:

Apple today introduced an iPhone SE with larger storage capacities of 32GB and 128GB of storage, doubling the capacity of the 16GB and 64GB models that have been available since the SE was released one year ago today. The prices remain the same as last year’s launch prices: $399 and $499.

Otherwise unchanged, the SE retains the perfect wireless phone form factor.

#Apple #iPhone #SE

All the President’s Lies

David Leonhardt, in an op-ed for The New York Times:

Comey, as much as liberals may loathe him for his 2016 bungling, seems to be one of the few public officials with the ability and willingness to pursue the truth. I dearly hope that Republican members of the Senate are patriotic enough to do so as well.

Our president is a liar, and we need to find out how serious his latest lies are.

We can’t trust any information coming out of this White House. Nor should we be surprised to learn of that at this late date in our familiarity with Mr. Trump; the only surprises forthcoming will be the truths his lies cover up.

Those paying attention last year knew that Donald Trump was a profligate liar who would say or do anything to advance his agenda, that he cared less about the United States than he did about himself. It was a simple, demonstrable fact.

So here we are. Sixty days in and this administration, as Rome, burns while the Congressional majority fiddles, fretting over leaks in an attempt to divert attention. Keep that in mind a year from this November.

For now, try to imagine what other deceptions the Trump administration has been practicing. What are his cabinet appointees and their political “minders” doing to the agencies and departments of our government? How long will it take to un-do the damage they’re causing to our relationships abroad?

This quote of FBI Director Comey helps focus the mind (The Washington Post):

I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts. As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #lies #impeachable #offense #FBI #counterintelligence #investigation #Comey

March 20, 2017

F.B.I. is Investigating Trump’s Russia Ties, Comey Confirms

Matt Apuzzo, Matthew Rosenberg, and Emmarie Huetteman - The New York Times:

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, took the extraordinary step on Monday of announcing that the F.B.I. is investigating whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

Mr. Comey’s remarks before the House Intelligence Committee created a treacherous political moment for Mr. Trump, who has insisted that “Russia is fake news” that was cooked up by his political opponents to undermine his presidency. Mr. Comey placed a criminal investigation at the doorstep of the White House and said agents would pursue it “no matter how long that takes.”

Huh. I guess the FISA warrant reported last November was put to use, after all.

It’s usually not the crime that comes back to bite the guilty, it’s covering it up. In this case, though, the crime might be enough.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #crimes #misdemeanors #Russia #intelligence

Jimmy Breslin's Columns

Jimmy Breslin, June 7, 1990 - Newsday:

Corum was asked to become the head of the Kentucky Derby by Louisville businessmen who said they had a grave problem. Newspapers all over the world claimed Louisville was a place where Derby visitors were robbed. Prices were tripled, touts were everywhere and women who were supposed to be available and uncommonly glamorous turned out to be nothing more than common thieves.

Corum glanced at the clips and threw them in the air. “This is great. There is nothing better for a championship event than a treacherous woman. If a guy from North Dakota goes home from here after the race and has to be met because he doesn’t even have cab fare left, that guy is going to say to himself, ‘Wow. I must have had a hell of a time. I can’t wait for next year.’ But if that same guy goes home and he still has half his money, he is going to say ‘I guess I didn’t have such a great time at the Kentucky Derby after all.’

“Because, gentlemen, this is the rule. A sucker has to get screwed.” Corum ran the Kentucky Derby on this premise for years, and the game was good for all of Louisville. No sucker ever wept.

Explains why I spent so little time in the casino when we traveled to Las Vegas years ago. Few suckers lounging by the pool, and enjoying fine dining. You get what you pay for, there.

#suckers #get #screwed #jimmy #breslin

White House Installs Political Aides at Cabinet Agencies to be Trump’s Eyes and Ears

Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin - The Washington Post:

The political appointee charged with keeping watch over Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and his aides has offered unsolicited advice so often that after just four weeks on the job, Pruitt has shut him out of many staff meetings, according to two senior administration officials.

At the Pentagon, they’re privately calling the former Marine officer and fighter pilot who’s supposed to keep his eye on Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “the commissar,” according to a high-ranking defense official with knowledge of the situation. It’s a reference to Soviet-era Communist Party officials who were assigned to military units to ensure their commanders remained loyal.

...

Most members of President Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for top deputies. But they do have an influential coterie of senior aides installed by the White House who are charged — above all — with monitoring the secretaries’ loyalty, according to eight officials in and outside the administration.

Of course it would be the party of those fondest of bitching about political correctness that would install political purity minders among cabinet offices. Given more to hypocrisy lately - health care coverage that isn’t; travel bans targeting religion rather than security; stepped-up deportation and the Great Wall of Trump costing money cut from needed social programs, yet protecting no-one - than legislation and governance, the GOP, and the Trump administration in particular are a modern American version of good ol’ Soviet era communism: the state owns you, and ownership begins at the top. Allowed to continue, it will spread downward through the various executive agencies until a shadow government monitoring our existing government pulls the strings, rather than the people’s elected representatives.

This is a disgusting disgrace to our constitutional process of self-governance.

Why do these people so hate America that they are systematically turning it into the menace we resisted for much of the twentieth century?

And why did so many decent Americans vote for them?

#political #correct #soviet #era #purity #unamerican #minders #GOP #hypocrisy 

Oleo Sponge Can Sop up Oil in a Spill

Megas Geuss - Ars Technica:

The Oleo Sponge is made of a polyurethane foam whose interior surfaces are covered with oleophilic molecules that draw oil out of water. The challenge, according to Argonne, was finding a way to “glue” those oil-loving molecules to the sponge’s interior. That issue was tackled with the help of 2011 research from Argonne scientists, who were able to infuse metal oxide with nanostructures. The Oleo creators used that technique to develop a primer for the interior of the sponge that the oleophilic molecules stick to. The result is a sponge that can adsorb up to 90 times its weight in oil.

After use, the sponge can be wrung out and the oil can even be reclaimed in some cases.

The test article has been used several times over, with no breakdown in the polyurethane membrane. What a terrific invention.

I wonder what they’d recover dragging it across the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the destroyed Deepwater Horizon rig’s spill plume. Only a small fraction of that disaster’s spilled oil was recovered from beaches and the water’s surface.

#oil #sponge #absorbant #reusable #oleo

March 18, 2017

Trump Budget Cuts Put Struggling Americans on Edge

Sabrina Tavernise and Trip Gabriel - The New York Times:

Now, that program is on the chopping block. It is one of many cuts in President Trump’s new budget proposal that would inflict the deepest pain on the most vulnerable Americans — a great number of whom voted for him.

“I understand what he’s trying to do, but I think he’s just not stopping to think that there are people caught in the middle he is really going to hurt,” said Ms. Feltner, 57, who was a nurse for 25 years and voted for Mr. Trump. “He needs to make some concessions for that. I was a productive citizen. Don’t make me feel worthless now.”

It’s always someone else’s needs that are questionable, someone else’s program subsidy that’s money wasted, someone else who’s a deadbeat freeloader, until it’s you.

This article details the travails of eleven beneficiaries of programs Mr. Trump would eliminate. It’s a good read - it’ll connect you with these people’s plights and what lies ahead for them if Trump succeeds.

We really do reap what we sow.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #inhumane

Trump Drags Key Foreign Allies Into Controversy

Jenna Johnson and Karla Adam - The Washington Post:

The controversy is scheduled to continue into a third week, with [FBI Director - AJR] Comey set to testify Monday before the House Intelligence Committee. He has been asked to clarify whether the FBI is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election and alleged links between the Trump team and Russian officials.

On Friday, the House Intelligence Committee received a set of documents from the Justice Department in response to its request for materials regarding Trump’s accusation. The panel did not reveal whether the documents substantiate or refute the president’s wiretapping claims.

Those paragraphs give clues as to why Mr. Trump declined to express regret for his unsubstantiated accusations against former President Obama, and his office’s further accusation that the British intelligence agency GCHQ was involved, as well. Trump has been laying the groundwork for revelations that will emerge from upcoming Congressional testimony.

When they do emerge, Trump will point back to his accusations, re-implicate President Obama in the gathering of evidence, and label the damning testimony illegally brought and therefore “fake news.”

If the FISA warrant issued for investigation of “US persons” connected with Trump and Russian efforts to sway the US election implicates him, however, Trump will burn for it. Treason well qualifies as a high crime. See the Constitution of the United States, Article 2, section 4.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #high #crimes #misdemeanors #impeachment #constitution

March 17, 2017

Upbeat Post of the Day

Because I can always use just a little more Zele.

Labrador Retriever about to bark

Two dogs laying together

#happyPost

∴ Rank Hypocrisy

Many of the same people denigrating Mr. Trump’s detractors also stand to lose the most if the president and his handlers have their way with the federal budget. Meanwhile, Trump’s budget request, no more than a wish list of social programs to cut, is likely dead on arrival at the hands of his own party.

Playing what-if for the moment, though, imagine the Congressional GOP caucus goes along with the president’s request. Some of the programs in danger are those with positive social benefit for those who voted for Mr. Trump. In particular, those living among the epidemic of opioid overdose stand to lose the very programs providing addiction and recovery assistance.

Mr. Trump’s priorities are military spending, Homeland Security, and his beloved Great Wall of Trump.

Opioid deaths eclipsed gun-related deaths nationwide in 2015. In Virginia alone, opioid deaths exceeded automobile-related deaths in 2014.

Here-in lies the hypocrisy of Trump’s apologists. We’re told Trump was elected on the populist notion that modernity had left behind so many communities, places where a decent living could be had years ago with just a high school diploma and hard work, and that the coastal and city-dwelling “elites” had long ignored the problem, even caused it with trade agreements and globalization. These rural areas are where the opioid abuse epidemic has hit hardest. Trump promised he’d “bring back those good jobs,” among them coal mining and manual manufacturing.

But as we’ve learned, manufacturing jobs departing for countries with cheaper labor in the 1980s and 1990s evolved into jobs taken over or rendered obsolete by advancing technologies in the last two decades. Those jobs no longer exist here.

Worse, Mr. Trump’s budget request adds to coal country’s pain: it rolls back mining safety regulation put in place after many mine workers died from health and safety problems.

And yet.

We’re treated to a daily sneer from Americans who not only voted against their own best interest, but the best interest of their neighbors, their region, and their country. They tell us “get your diaper and pin” and “I laugh at your liberal tantrums.” Their schadenfreude comes on the backs of their neighbors, friends, and even themselves.

Elections are definitive. They directly point to who the electorate aspires to be. In large number our electorate saw this poor man’s idea of a rich man, this ignoramus’s idea of a wise man and bought his specious arguments. In Donald Trump, a significant minority of the electorate saw who they aspire to be. And now, slowly, Trump country is beginning to realize the mistake they made.

There’s one silver lining to Mr. Trump’s ascension. It revealed the ugliness, the hatred, the fear rampant among large swaths of America. Racial, religious, and cultural intolerance is finally fully in the open. It’s hard to combat what you cannot see, but now, at least, we have a well self-defined target.

#Trump #fraud #America #elections #ugliness #hypocrisy

Intellectually Bankrupt: Trump Digs In on Wiretap

Peter Baker and Charlie Savage - The New York Times:

Indeed, the White House even added a new assertion on Thursday during a fiercely combative and sometimes surreal briefing by the press secretary, Sean Spicer, who berated reporters and read from news accounts that either did not back up the president’s claims or had been refuted by intelligence officials.

One report that Mr. Spicer read contended that Mr. Obama used Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, the signals agency known as GCHQ, to spy on Mr. Trump. In effect, the White House was embracing a claim that the United States’ closest ally collaborated with a president against a presidential candidate.

There was an active FISA warrant to investigate a couple of Russian banks, their money handling, and related “US persons" at around the same time Spicey alleges president Obama, and now Britain’s GCHQ were “wiretapping” Mr. Trump. I wonder if a counter-intelligence operation looking at Russian involvement in our upcoming election counts as wiretapping.

#Trump #fraud #GOP #elections #Russian #banks #FISA #GCHQ #Spicer

March 16, 2017

∴ Almost Speechless

Between the president’s doubling down on his accusation against president Obama of spying on him, now through the auspices of the UK’s GCHQ, and the disgrace that is the dead-on-arrival Trump budget request, there’s not much more that needs to be said. Clearly Mr. Trump and his handlers are both morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #disgrace #budget

March 15, 2017

Businesswoman Who Bought Trump Penthouse Is Connected to Chinese Intelligence Front Group

Andy Kroll and Russ Choma - Mother Jones:

To sum up: An influence-peddler who works with a princeling tied to Chinese military intelligence placed $15.8 million in the pockets of the president of the United States.

Good times, good times. Workin’ the Russkies, workin’ the Chinese. What could go wrong?

This right here is why elected officials, at minimum, put their private interests in a blind trust for the duration of their tenure.

For Mr. Trump, our presidency is more business as usual. Money in, money out.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #conflictOfInterest

Fiscal Conservatives Should Love National Health Care

Kevin Drum - Mother Jones:

In the long run, however, Frum is right. It’s ironic, but it turns out that central governments are a lot better at keeping a lid on health care costs than the private sector. The reason is taxes. National health care is paid for out of tax revenue, and the public pressure to keep taxes low is so strong that it universally translates into strong government pressure to keep health care costs low. By contrast, the private sector is so splintered that no corporation has the leverage to demand significantly lower costs. Besides, if health care costs go up, corporations can make up for it by keeping cash salaries low. This is part of the reason that median incomes have grown so slowly over the past 15 years. Corporations simply don’t care enough about high health care costs to really do anything about it.

The costs associated with a short hospital stay, or a procedure, even something as commonplace as a heart attack are obscene. Put bluntly, either you have insurance to cover the costs and pay relatively little out of pocket, or you suffer and maybe die. Or you’re age 65 or over, covered by Medicare and perhaps a Medigap policy, and pay next to nothing.

In short we already have an answer to the problem of health insurance coverage, and have had it since 1966. And it doesn’t mean the end of private insurance companies, though it does likely mean consolidation in that industry.

One way or another, the US eventually will find its way to universal, single-payer health insurance coverage. It’s going to take failure of the GOP’s AHCA bill, or enactment followed by popular revolt, or even, though unlikely, nationwide failure of the ACA before Congress throws in the towel and begins negotiating like politicians.

#GOP #fraud #ACA #AHCA #health #care #insurance #costs #coverage

March 14, 2017

Trump Loyalists Sound Alarm Over ‘RyanCare,’ Endangering Health Bill

Robert Costa and Philip Rucker - The Washington Post:

Trump’s allies worry that he is jeopardizing his presidency by promoting the bill spearheaded by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.), arguing that it would fracture Trump’s coalition of working- and middle-class voters, many of them older and subsisting on federal aid.

Vice President Pence and administration officials scrambled Tuesday to salvage the plan amid widespread dissatisfaction in both the Senate and House over the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 24 million fewer people would be insured in a decade under the Ryan proposal, titled the American Health Care Act.

Mr. Trump endangered his presidency long before he took the oath of office. His Russian contacts didn’t end with Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn.

The GOP is the dog that caught the car, and has no idea what to do with it. For seven years they ranted about and tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now that they have the political authority to do it the best they can come up with serves, at minimum, those at least comfortably wealthy. The people in need of these health insurance policies get the short end of the stick.

It’d be a comedy if they weren’t literally playing with people’s lives.

#ACA #AHCA #CBO #RyanCare #Trump #GOP #Republicans

115th Congress Progress Report

House majority: Republican. Senate majority: Republican. President: Republican.

Laws enacted to date: 8.

#GOP #gettin #it #done

Republicans Are Threatening to Expose Trump as the Emperor With No Clothes

Aaron Black - The Washington Post:

Late Monday, a spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) threatened to subpoena the Trump administration to produce evidence of Trump’s claim that President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. The White House has declined to produce this evidence publicly, offering various excuses

and

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) made his own threat. Last week, Graham — who is clearly skeptical of the wiretapping claim and chairs a subcommittee looking into it — asked the Justice Department and the FBI to provide copies of any warrants or court orders related to the alleged wiretapping. Having not received anything, Graham said Tuesday that he would announce his next steps Wednesday and may push for a special committee.

“They're about to screw up big time if they keep running to the intel committee and not answer that letter,” Graham said, according to CBS's Alan He. He added: “If they don't honor this request and give us an answer, then I would say that we need a joint select committee because regular order is not working.”

Hear the footsteps? These are leading Republican politicians threatening to subpoena and ask for a joint select committee to investigate the executive office of the president of the United States.

Where there’s that much smoke, there’s a house a’fire.

Good article. Worth a read.

#Trump #fraud #Lindsey #Graham #Devin #Nunes

Will “Repeal and Replace” Implode?

Harold Pollack - healthinsurance.org:

How and why did Republicans propose such a politically damaging plan in the first place? I have been studying and practicing health policy for more than twenty years. I have never seen a less-professional, more shambolic legislative process than the one Republicans are now pursuing.

From a political perspective, Obamacare has never been more popular, now that its survival is genuinely in doubt. Virtually every provision of its Republican alternative is disliked. Most Americans, including most Trump supporters, support ACA’s Medicaid expansion as it is. Huge majorities support ACA’s higher taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 to support health care, support ACA’s more generous subsidies to people of modest incomes who have trouble affording coverage.

The million-dollar question - why? Why are Congressional Republicans pushing this bill?

It’s nearly universally disliked among those who take the time to learn about it. The GOP has taken to denigrating the Congressional Budget Office for its cost and effect report delivered yesterday, it was so damning. The CBO is a nonpartisan, fair broker of information, one the GOP has itself relied on for decades.

This bill fulfills no campaign promise. It fails to “cover everyone,” it fails to fully replace the ACA, and it fails to offer incentive for insurers or participants to remain in the market or pay for a policy.

The only winners in this bill are those making more than $250,000 a year, who will receive a nice tax cut. But they make up a small portion of the electorate. Meanwhile, the larger portion of GOP voters, many on the lower end of the income spectrum and without other means to health insurance stand to lose what they have under the ACA.

Donald Trump and the GOP health insurance bill may be the hill the Republican party chooses to die on. And that’s just dumb.

#ACA #AHCA #GOP #fraud #dumb #repeal #replace

March 13, 2017

I Had This Happy Lab for 13½ Years

Sweet old girl. She was the dog I always wanted. I have a Zele-shaped hole in me now.

Zele one full week 006

Zele mid first week 006

First snow 007

#Zele

The CBO Just Delivered a Huge Blow to Republicans’ Obamacare Replacement

Aaron Blake - The Washington Post:

Republicans, sensing this day was coming, have spent the better part of the past week arguing that the CBO score doesn’t matter, that it’s historically been a poor estimate, and even that it’s merely a “beauty contest,” as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) put it Friday. But it’s one thing to make that case; it’s another to make just about every Republican senator believe it, as Ryan and President Trump need to. And it’s yet another to get skeptical House Republicans to vote for a bill they know could be dead on arrival in the Senate, where Republicans have just 52 votes.

The GOP is making a very big mistake casting doubt on the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO has had the non-partisan last word on the cost effect of legislation for a long time - long enough that an obscure office no-one is elected to came to be known to most Americans by only its initials. We need a fair broker of information like that. The GOP’s actions, left unchecked, will tear down yet another necessary institution.

Is this what you voted for?

#GOP #fraud #Trump #CBO #AHCA #Obamacare

As Daylight Saving Starts, Some Ask: Why Fall Back at All?

Jess Bidgood - The New York Times:

Changing the clocks brings grumbles around the country, and especially here, in the nation’s Easternmost region, where “falling back” in the wintertime means sunsets as early as 4 p.m. and sometimes earlier. But as the clocks once again were nudged ahead to daylight saving time in many parts of the nation over the weekend, foes of turning the clocks back in the first place saw a glimmer of hope in New England.

This has been my wish for years: we go onto daylight saving time and stay there. I’d rather have the extra hour of daylight in the afternoon.

After the dates for DST and EST were changed several years ago what was an almost even split between the two standards became lopsided. We’re on standard time only four months of the year now.

Make it simple. Move the country off standard time all at once.

#DTS #daylight #saving #time

March 9, 2017

If Only 100 People Lived on Earth …

Jason Kottke - kottke.org:

Because many people have trouble with very large numbers, what if you reimagined the billions of humans on Earth as a slightly more manageable number?

One-minute read. Lends a little perspective, whittling down billions to just 100.

#jason #kottke #population #demographics

Getting Closer to Pappy

We dined with friends at a lovely Italian restaurant in The Plains, Virginia this past weekend. All agreed the food, beverages and company were first-rate. If you’re in the area, Girasole is a terrific place for fine dining.

What caught my eye as we were seated, though was this card:

A card displaying tasting prices for Pappy Van Winkle bourbon

Yes, that’s $75 for a shot of bourbon. Very rare, well-reviewed, and highly coveted bourbon.

As an Alcohol and Beverage Control licensee, Girasole apparently entered and won last fall’s statewide lottery for the 96 bottles available in Virginia. Since 18% of sales are to licensees, 18% of the winners were drawn from licensee entries. Over fifty-thousand lottery entries were received.

Mind you, this was a lottery for the right to buy a bottle of this bourbon, not win a bottle of it.

This card was the closest I’ve come to actually tasting Pappy Van Winkle. 1.5-ounces is not enough for a decent taste, and $75 for not-enough is wasted money.

#pappyvanwinkle #bourbon #virginia #abc #lottery

Lawmakers Take up Obamacare Revision Without an Independent Scorekeeper

Karen Tumulty and Max Ehrenfreund - The Washington Post:

Two committees in the Republican-led House have begun drafting sweeping health legislation without the benefit of an objective estimate of its impact from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) — a reckless move, critics say, considering that they are dealing with the well-being of tens of millions of Americans and an industry that accounts for close to one-fifth of the economy.

Ever notice how Republicans only complain about capricious spending when the president is a Democrat?

There’s a word for that. Right on the tip of my tongue. Hippo-, hippa-, happy. Yeah, that’s it.

Happy fucking hypocrisy.

Still will not pass the Senate. You’re welcome.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #ACA #AHCA #health #insurance #hypocrisy

Mid-life Crisis, Thy Name is Miata RF

Sharp. Seductive. And priced in the vicinity of the sedan I’ve been eying.

Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

#mid #life #crisis #mazda #miata #mx-5rf

March 8, 2017

Trump Aides Address His Wiretap Claims: ‘That’s Above My Pay Grade’

Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman - The New York Times:

After weeks of assailing reporters and critics in diligent defense of their boss, Mr. Trump’s team has been uncharacteristically muted this week when pressed about his explosive — and so far proof-free — Twitter posts on Saturday accusing President Barack Obama of tapping phones in Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign.

Not above their pay grade; against the law.

Of course they’re keeping their mouths shut. Their boss has either undeniably proven himself a fool, or publicly commented on evidence of an ongoing criminal or counter-intelligence investigation. This one’s a lose-lose.

If the former, well, we knew that, and now the rest of the world does, too.

The latter is itself a criminal offense.

Which is worse? It hardly matters - it’s both.

#Trump #fraud #notTooBrightEither #impeachable #offense

In His Own Words

“Maybe rather than getting that new iPhone” Americans “should invest in their own healthcare” - Rep. Jason Chaffetz

And our president claims the free press is the enemy of the American people. His pal here must be running a close second, at least. Just one of my mom’s many meds runs over $1000/month without insurance.

#Trump #Chaffetz #GOP #fraud #ACA #AHCA

To Fund Border Wall, Trump Administration Weighs Cuts to Coast Guard, Airport Security

Dan Lamothe, Ashley Halsey III, and Lisa Rein - The Washington Post:

The Trump administration, searching for money to build the president’s planned multibillion-dollar border wall and crack down on illegal immigration, is weighing significant cuts to the Coast Guard, the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies focused on national security threats, according to a draft plan.

The proposal, drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), also would slash the budget of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which provides disaster relief after hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. The Coast Guard’s $9.1 billion budget in 2017 would be cut 14 percent to about $7.8 billion, while the TSA and FEMA budgets would be reduced about 11 percent each to $4.5 billion and $3.6 billion, respectively.

I’m not a fan of TSA’s performance at our airports. Cutting their budget, though, is exactly the wrong thing to do. They need more appropriation, more agents, more training, more spot testing at airports large and small across the country, and removal of low performing employees.

The United States Coast Guard is our first-line offense for drug interdiction, illegal seaborne entry into the United States - including potential terrorists - and a vital link in our overall border protection and law enforcement. Again, if anything, they should be receiving a larger appropriation, not being gutted.

And FEMA? Are they serious? That’s the federal agency that moves in right behind a natural disaster. They’ve compiled an excellent track record of service since the hurricane Katrina disaster to those most in need after homes and communities have been ravaged by hurricane, tornado, landslide, flood. You name it, they respond.

The Trump administration has very poorly set their priorities. Removing funding for these agencies takes the United States in the wrong direction, and all we receive in return is Mr. Trump’s vanity wall.

Another terrific time to contact your Congressmen.

#Trump #budget #appropriations #coast #guard #tsa #fema #priorities

March 7, 2017

Mr. Trump May Have Shot Himself in the Foot

Mr. Trump authored a Twitter post this past weekend that was followed up by a “no comment” by his White House press secretary.

Tweet by Trump

Another Trump tweet

Too late, though. Trump’s tweet may have revealed previously undisclosed information about a wiretapping operation at Trump Tower in New York City. The trouble for Trump is, if his claim is not true he’ll look like an even greater buffoon than he does now, and if it’s true he’s revealed evidence of an ongoing criminal or national security investigation. No-one is immune from prosecution for doing such, not even the president.

He just couldn’t help himself.

#Trump #fraud #impeachment 

House Republicans Unveil Plan to Replace Health Law

Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan - The New York Times:

House Republicans unveiled on Monday their long-awaited plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, scrapping the mandate for most Americans to have health insurance in favor of a new system of tax credits to induce people to buy insurance on the open market.

There’s a slew of details about the bill in this article, so it’s worth a quick scan. It doesn’t look so good if you’re among those Americans relying upon an ACA policy, or assistance from Medicaid expansion.

The early talk from DC holds that both the GOP and Democrats are giving it a thumbs-down. It’s early still, and it’s not unanimously condemned.

After months of reading on this, and seeing the initial reaction to what’s in the bill, my guesses are: the bill will fail in the Senate, if not in the House where it’s been brought; the ACA will stand as-is; and the coming explosive scandal surrounding Mr. Trump will bring a loss of majority to the GOP - and open the door for the Democrats to improve the existing law. Taking a cue from the populist Sanders wing of the party the new Congress will move the ACA closer to a single-payer system.

That’s a long-term prediction. I could easily be wrong. I’m not wrong about the coming storm, though.

#Trump #fraud #ACA #healthcare #insurance #GOP #replacement #Trumpcare

March 6, 2017

House Republicans Release Long-awaited Plan to Repeal and Replace Obamacare

Amy Goldstein, Mike DeBonis, and Kelsey Snell - The Washington Post:

House Republicans on Monday released long-anticipated legislation to supplant the Affordable Care Act with a more conservative vision for the nation’s health care system, sketching out a system of individual tax credits and state grants to replace the current law.

But GOP leaders did not issue cost or coverage estimates for their plan, which is still being reviewed by nonpartisan congressional budgetary scorekeepers, and there were signs Monday that fellow Republicans could balk if the legislation leaves swaths of the country without insurance coverage.

How many children will this ACA replacement leave without coverage? How many single mothers, struggling to keep their kids healthy? We don’t know, can’t know, because this “release” doesn’t tell us. The bill has been kept a secret in the bowels of Congress. That in itself is a disgrace.

This is the conservative vision for American health care coverage. May god have mercy on their souls, for as details emerge and they each succumb to age and disease surely they will burn in the hells they’ve professed to believe in all their years.

Oh, and this package will not pass muster. It will not become law. And the ACA, aka Obamacare, will endure, because America is not full-up of the heartless bastards who've crafted this attempt at a transfer of wealth BACK to the extremely wealthy.

#Trump #GOP #Obamacare #ACA #NoFuckingWay

Poll: Majority Supports Special Prosecutor for Russia Investigation

Rebecca Savransky - TheHill:

A CNN/ORC poll finds that 65 percent of Americans think a special prosecutor should handle the investigation and 32 percent think Congress can handle it.

Broken down by party affiliation, only 43 percent of Republicans think a special prosecutor is necessary to handle the investigation, while 82 percent of Democrats and 67 percent of independents call for a special prosecutor.

This says less than appears.

It remains to be seen how many Americans support investigation of Mr. Trump’s Russian connections at all. It’s one thing to say a majority supports one method over the other. It’s another to show that the public wants an investigation at all. I’ve not seen polling on that question. The poll only indicates that 55% responding say they’re at least “somewhat concerned” about the growing scandal.

Although AG Sessions has recused himself from any investigation into the 2016 election, his acting deputy, Dana Boente, is the only official now who can appoint a special prosecutor. The evidence gathered by James Comey’s FBI will need to be overwhelming to force Boente’s hand.

What a great time to write to your Senators and Congressman expressing how you feel about the scandal.

#Trump #Russia #special #prosecutor #polling

March 3, 2017

Trump Administration Considering Separating Women, Children at U.S.-Mexico Border

Julia Edwards Ainsley - Reuters:

Women and children crossing together illegally into the United States could be separated by U.S. authorities under a proposal being considered by the Department of Homeland Security, according to three government officials.

Part of the reason for the proposal is to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children, said the officials, who have been briefed on the proposal.

The policy shift would allow the government to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings. Children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services, in the “least restrictive setting” while until they can be taken into the care of a U.S. relative or state-sponsored guardian.

After a day perusing the latest prevarication from DC, this story struck me as the most inhumane, immoral item of the bunch. The Trump administration is going out of its way to handle immigrants, illegal or otherwise, as offensively as possible.

I know this particular vein of Trump’s vulgarity comes from Steve Bannon, but the two came as a package. Have these people not a shred of decency?

#Trump #GOP #fraud #indecent #inhumane #immoral

March 2, 2017

US Senate Calls on British Spy Chris Steele to Give Evidence on Explosive Trump-Russia Dossier

They’re coming for you, Donald, and they will not be gentle. Despite your election victory, few in your party, the other party, the United States or on Earth have much regard for you. And now you’ve given them a wedge to crack you wide open.

You have fucked with our culture, our country, and our Constitution. That comes with a cost.

Kim Sengupta - The Independent:

Christopher Steele, the former MI6 spy who prepared the explosive Trump report, has been approached about testifying before the US Senate Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the new President’s alleged links with Russia, The Independent can reveal.

...

John McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate, and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sent an intermediary to London in November last year to collect Mr Steele’s dossier, which was subsequently passed personally by the Senator to FBI director James Comey.

And Mr Steele had, while carrying out his Trump inquiry, himself liaised for regular periods with the bureau.

...

Mr Steele was, and continues to be, held in high regard by British security and intelligence services as well as the American security officials who worked with him in the past.

#Trump #fraud #GOP

∴ Political Scandal, Like Gravity

I’ve remarked before at how the new Trump administration has called to mind so many quotes from the Dark Knight trilogy of films. What popped into my noggin this morning was a line of dialog spoken by The Joker:

As you know, madness is like gravity…all it takes is a little push.

It’s not madness that’s tipping, though, it’s political scandal. Once corroborative evidence comes to light it’s all downhill.

Sometimes it’s one issue that blows up, and then blows away, or an issue followed by a cover-up, which itself becomes the bigger scandal. Every now and then, though, a scandal is revealed as a tangled web of lies, leading to a cover-up that pales compared to the original scandal it points back to, forcing even the most loyal apologist to demand answers. What we have now with Mr. Trump appears to be the latter.

Think back to the Benghazi affair. What was a multi-year investigation/witch hunt into then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s responsibility for the over-run and sacking of an American diplomatic outpost and a CIA annex in Libya, and the deaths of four men including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, blew away after Clinton lost the presidential election of 2016. Funny, that.

Consider the Watergate affair, which began as a third-rate burglary. If President Nixon wasn’t involved in the break-in, he was involved in the hiring of the White House Plumbers who carried it out, and his Oval Office taping system caught him okaying the use of the CIA to wave off an FBI investigation.

As has become cliche, it wasn’t the crime that did Nixon in, it was the cover-up.

The rathole beneath Mr. Trump is growing into a scandal of historic depth. The FBI is actively investigating connections between him and Russia, the Senate Intelligence Committee took up a probe into the same in January and, just yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee did the same.

Mr. Trump’s second campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was forced to step down after his Russian connections were revealed, and more recently Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was fired when he lied about similar Russian contacts.

Last night it was a reported that Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied to Congress during his confirmation hearing, claiming he’d never spoken to representatives of the Russian government. He did speak with the Russian ambassador to the US, three times, while he was acting as lead foreign policy advisor to candidate Trump.

You live long enough and patterns begin to emerge. People don’t change much after age twenty, and powerful people always want more power the way wealthy people always want more money. So it’s not all that difficult to recognize the pattern emerging around Mr. Trump: a man of privilege to whom truth is a stranger, elected to high office, has surrounded himself with like-minded people. As Trump is fond of saying, he loves to negotiate deals. Stories about Russian state actors keep turning up. An image of deal-making with the wrong people is taking shape.

We’re going to find out how thoroughly we’ve been sold out by Mr. Trump, because, like gravity, all it took was a little push. Read it for yourself.

#Trump #Russia #fraud #Benghazi #Tony #Rezko #Watergate #Jeff #Sessions #Paul #Manafort #Michael #Flynn #Chris #Steele #dossier #SVR

Barack Obama Named Recipient Of JFK Profile In Courage Award

The AP:

The award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences. It is named for Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage.”

Richly deserved. Here is a man with a Harvard law degree and all the security and comfort it would have afforded him, who turned instead to community organizing and local politics to improve people’s lives on the south side of Chicago. Look where it got him.

#Barack #Obama #Profile #In #Courage

Sessions Met With Russian Envoy Twice Last Year, Encounters he Later Did Not Disclose

Sometimes I feel like we’re living through All the President’s Men.

Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller - The Washington Post:

Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) spoke twice last year with Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Justice Department officials said, encounters he did not disclose when asked about possible contacts between members of President Trump’s campaign and representatives of Moscow during Sessions’s confirmation hearing to become attorney general.

At his Jan. 10 Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Sessions was asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) what he would do if he learned of any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of the 2016 campaign.

“I’m not aware of any of those activities,” he responded. He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians.”

Officials said Sessions did not consider the conversations relevant to the lawmakers’ questions …

Perhaps I’m missing relevant nuance to this Q&A, but to us lay-folks this of called a lie under oath. “I’m not aware of those activities,” “I have been called a surrogate,” and “I did not have communications with the Russians” are mutually exclusive.

Special counsel or select committee of Congress, take your pick. It’s coming either way.

#Trump #Sessions #fraud #Russian #ambassador #intelligence #election

March 1, 2017

More Details From the NYT Story

Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt - The New York Times:

American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence. Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.

I could quote this article all night long. Go read the damned thing.

The president’s people colluded with Russian government and intelligence officials prior to our election in order to help them win. How high up in the administration does the collusion go? Was  Trump aware? Did he direct any of this? Did he approve it? Did he make promises in return for assistance? Is this why he signaled that he’d relax sanctions on Russia after the inauguration?

#Trump #fraud #Russia #intelligence

Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking

The latest -

Matthew Rosenberg, Adam Goldman, and Michael S. Schmidt - The New York Times:

The New York Times, citing four current and former officials, reported last month that American authorities had obtained information of repeated contacts between Mr. Trump’s associates and senior Russian intelligence officials. The White House has dismissed the story as false.

Since the Feb. 14 article appeared, more than a half-dozen officials have confirmed contacts of various kinds between Russians and Trump associates. The label “intelligence official” is not always cleanly applied in Russia, where ex-spies, oligarchs and government officials often report back to the intelligence services and elsewhere in the Kremlin.

Steven L. Hall, the former head of Russia operations at the C.I.A., said that Mr. Putin was surrounded by a cast of characters, and that it was “fair to say that a good number of them come from an intelligence or security background. Once an intel guy, always an intel guy in Russia.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee began an investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian intelligence agents in January. The FBI is in the midst of an investigation of their own. Today, the House Intelligence Committee announced that it, too, would open an investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian intelligence.

Are you paying attention yet?

#Trump #fraud #Russia #intelligence #House #Senate #FBI

Jeff Sessions Hasn't Even Read the DOJ's Landmark Reports on Police Abuse in Ferguson and Chicago

Brandon Ellington Patterson - Mother Jones:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions acknowledged Monday that he hasn’t read the Obama-era Department of Justice reports on abuses committed by police departments in Chicago and Ferguson, Missouri. Sessions, who is now the nation’s top law enforcement official, said he’s only read summaries of the two reports, according to Reuters, and, apparently, he found no reason to read on.

Just yesterday AG Sessions announced a pull-back on civil rights-based DoJ lawsuits against police agencies found engaging in discriminatory policing. And now he admits not fully reading reports on two of the more egregious cases of discriminatory policing in recent history. There’s a wealth of reporting on these reports, and links to supporting data in the MJ article.

What’s next? Has Attorney General Sessions ever heard of Freddie Gray?

Bravo, AG Sessions. Bravo, too, disgusting disgrace Trump. Well played. Pulled another one over on the black man.

Wake up, America. Justice demands it.

#Trump #Sessions #fraud #civil #rights #discrimination #policing #disgusting #disgrace

REPORT: White House Lied to Journalists About Trump Speech in ‘Misdirection Play’

Alex Griswold - Mediaite:

CNN reported Wednesday on a senior administration official admitting that the White House intentionally misled reporters ahead of President Donald Trump‘s congressional address in order to get generate positive press coverage as part of a “misdirection play.”

Multiple reports Tuesday indicated that Trump would embrace a more moderate tone on immigration and would announce that he was willing to negotiate granting millions of illegal immigrants legal status. Most of those reports, cited to a “senior administration official,” came immediately after anchors lunched with Trump. Some of those outlets then just attributed the claim to the president himself.

But when it was time for Trump to actually give the speech, he said nothing of the sort.

Suckers.

Learn: self-serving narcissists with delusions of grandeur will play you all day, every day to get what they want. First person experience: you cannot ever win, or break even. They will deceive you and shake your hand bearing a smile. They always bear a knife for your back.

When will you take this man at face value? He is a disgusting disgrace who will stop at nothing to further his interests.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #disgusting #disgrace #narcissist

∴ Note the Disgrace. Don't Turn Away. Face It.

In a single day Mr. Trump laid blame for the death of Navy Senior Chief William Ryan Owens on “his generals,” and trotted out Owens’ widow Carryn in the House gallery during his address to a joint session of Congress. That he enjoyed the glow of presenting the terribly distressed, grieving widow to America and the world, during what must be the worst days of her life, while refusing to accept his own responsibility for the loss of her husband’s life is the act of a coward and of a commander who does not deserve the billet, a man so devoid of moral authority and humility as to earn the description disgusting disgrace.

There is not one shred of decency in Mr. Trump, a serial lier and would-be plutocrat. Slapped down by federal courts, he lashed out at “so-called judges.” Investigated and reported on by a free press, he lashed out at reporters as “the enemy of the United States.” Faced with the first service member death on his watch, he sidestepped and threw responsibility upon his top commanders, saying, “they lost Ryan.” Blame, blackball, duck.

Mr. Trump has shown himself unworthy of the title commander-in-chief and president of the United States. The day his campaign’s ties to the Russian government and intelligence apparatus come to light cannot come soon enough.

#Trump #GOP #fraud #disgrace #Russia #intelligence #SVR #compromised #Comey #emails

The Three Failures of Trump's Speech to Congress

David Frum - The Atlantic:

Last night would have been the perfect occasion to call for an independent inquiry to vindicate Trump from unfair insinuations that his team colluded with Russian espionage to sway the 2016 election. If Donald Trump were conscientious, last night would have been a magnificent opportunity to review progress toward disentangling himself from the Trump business and erecting the ethical firewall his team again and again have promised to the American people.

He did not, and he will not, because he cannot afford the gamble of open inquiry.

As Frum goes on to say, Mr. Trump is nothing if not a gambler. He’s enjoyed great success and suffered great failure for prior gambles. Even now he’s only one or two removes from true disaster should dots continue connecting, as they have the past few weeks, between his campaign, his top-line advisors, and the Russian government. Open inquiry is a gamble too much even for Trump.

Recall how Trump sidestepped prior business disasters: bankruptcy court. That’s not an option for a president. Where does that leave us, should Trump’s personal gamble fail?

#Trump #fraud

∴ The Current Wave of Job Replacement

Alana Semuels - The Atlantic:

In not too long, these jobs may be a thing of the past. The White House released a report in December predicting that 1.3 million to 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck-driving jobs could disappear because of automation. That’s 80 to 100 percent of all truck-driving jobs. Though the White House did not specify over what time period this replacement would take place, some of the technology that will automate truck driving is already in use. In 2015, Daimler received permission to test a self-driving truck, the Freightliner Inspiration, on Nevada roads. A truck from Otto, Uber’s self-driving truck division, delivered cans of Budweiser to Colorado Springs in October. David Alexander, an analyst with Navigant Research, anticipates that most truck companies will gradually introduce automated driving technology in the next five to 10 years.

New jobs will emerge as a result. But they will essentially be in a different field—technology. Autonomous trucks use sensors and a navigation system to drive on the road. They brake independently and use radars and cameras to navigate around other vehicles. Alexander, of Navigant, says that automated trucks will still need people in these trucks, at least at first. But the jobs will be for people who can handle these systems’ on-board computers and fix problems that arise. “It will be less involved with physically driving the truck, and more with monitoring the truck,” he said.

This is a repeat of what we’ve seen in manufacturing over the last couple of decades - jobs replaced not by off-shoring, as in the waning decades of the 20th century, but rather by automation. They have been and continue to be low paying, difficult and not particularly desirable: the article states an average 6-month longevity among new truck drivers.

It has become the norm in America that well-paying employment is not to be had by those with only a high school diploma. To expect otherwise is anachronistic given broad changes in the nature of work and the workforce.

The solution for better employment has always been more and varied education. That remains the case. A four-year degree is the minimum for highly technical or managerial employment, and professional trade school graduation is a necessity for what used to be entry-level employment, such as robotic manufacturing facilities and, if this article holds true, truck “driving.”

This shift has been a long time coming. Political candidates touted retraining the American workforce as early as 1988. Now that it’s upon us and people are lamenting their community and employment, the response must be as Mr. Trump spoke in his address to a joint session of Congress last night: education. It’s not only the civil rights issue of our time, it’s the survival issue of our time.

(NB: I actually agreed with something he said.)

#work #employment #technical #education #minimum #requirements