- The Senate voted 50-49 to undo an Obama regulation designed to help low income earners save for retirement. I don't particularly understand the details of this one, to be honest. However, it's clear that when McConnell says that the new rule "undercut[s] a system of private retirement savings that has served millions of Americans very well for decades", what he's really referring to are the millions of rich, white Americans that the system has been built to benefit.
- The chair of the house executive oversight committee, Jason Chaffetz, reveals to everybody what we already knew: he is a terrible person. My favourite quote: “He’s already rich,” Chaffetz said. “He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.” Because rich people are so obviously beyond reproach.
- ICE continues to be awful. This story is awful. Dangerous criminals being deported here: When asked if the five people arrested had criminal records, an ICE spokesman said two of the people had no criminal record while the other three had "multiple traffic violations."
Friday, March 31, 2017
Not a whole lot of action today, as far as I can tell. Plenty of talk and statements (particularly regarding Flynn and his request for immunity from prosecution), but not much action. Here's what I've found.
Today, Trump declared war on Republican hardliners. Sounds like a great strategy!
In other news:
In other news:
- The EPA has been investigating a particular pesticide for along time now, and their scientists strongly recommended that this pesticide should be banned due to health issues. Pruitt, consummate science denialist, has overridden them. What's the point in having scientists if you aren't going to listen to what they have to say?
- Michael Flynn has offered to testify in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Wow, that sounds ominous, doesn't it? A statement he made in September that "when you are given immunity that means that you've probably committed a crime" is biting him hard, now.
- Today the Senate voted to allow states to withhold federal funds from businesses that provide abortion (obviously targetted at Planned Parenthood). The vote was 50-50. You can guess how Pence voted with the casting vote, can't you? Mitch McConnell made a statement that this legislation was about States knowing what was best for themselves. That is such utter bullshit. This is simply about Republicans policing womens' bodies.
- The secret intelligence reports that Nunes was reading? Appears to have come from two White house officials. This guy is far too close to the White house to investigate it. Today, "Spicer asserted that Congressional investigations are the correct venue to determine whether Nunes' behavior, and the behavior of the two White House officials who assisted him, is a problem". That is to say, the White House things that Nunes will investigate himself. Later reports are naming a third collaborator inside the White House. Can I just say that the level of corruption in this government is astounding?
- The State Department continues to fall apart with nobody working at its helm.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
A grab bag of terribleness today, and we're still reeling from yesterday's climate policy awfulness. I'm sorry I don't have better news.
- Trump wants $18 billion in domestic program cuts this year to finance the military and his wall. $1.23 billion of that is from the NIH (what the fuck do you have against the NIH???), $3 billion from educational programs (holy shit), and the rest of it just as bad. This isn't a plan to make American "great". It's a plan to completely fuck up a generation.
- Bowing to pressure from ethics inquiries, Ivanka Trump is being officially promoted to "Assistant to the President" (in an unpaid capacity). Nepotism at its finest!
- Chris Christie has been tapped to chair a commission investigating the epidemic of opioid addiction in the country. Because like everybody else in the administration, he's so qualified!
- A key claim from the Trump dossier has been verified. Alas, it's not the one we were all hoping for, but this does lend credence to the other claims.
- Would you like to know the type of people who Secretary of Health and Human Services Price is hiring? Did you think they'll be staunch anti-abortionists? You guessed right!
- It looks like Nunes could be facing an ethics probe. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
- Lamar Smith, anti-scientist, who is somehow the chair of the House committee on Science, Space and Technology, is continuing to completely undermine scientific research. His hearings today were a farce, and his proposed bills are anathema to anybody who calls themselves a scientist. Obama threatened to veto these bills for the past two years. Sadly, they have a good chance of being rubber-stamped now: the house just passed the first of them (and it's completely bullshit).
- There's reportedly a ban in the Department of Energy against using the words "climate change". This bodes very, very badly.
I don't think I heard any good news today. A lot of crap because Republicans don't think humans should be alive in 100 years, don't think you have a right to privacy on the internet, and think that you should kill bears in Alaska while they're hibernating.
- Ever loyal to his mining "friends", today Trump undid years of effort geared towards combating climate change by signing another crappy executive order. Here's an overview of Trump's 8-pronged approach to destroying the environment. Perhaps the biggest part is the undoing of the Climate Action Plan, which was setting stringent limits on emissions from US power plants, but there's plenty of other terribleness in there too. If you want to see what this does to the US contribution to the Paris Agreement, take a look at this article's graphs. They're not pretty.
- The administration is trying to gag former Attorney General Sally Yates in order to stop her testifying in the Russia investigation. What do you guys have to hide? Seriously??? You keep on saying you're innocent, but I don't think that word means what you think it means... This revelation only strengthens calls for Nunes to recuse himself. (Even the GOP is starting to call for his recusal!)
- The House of Representatives has rubber-stamped the Senate legislation to strip internet privacy protections from consumers. Do you think Trump is going to sign it?
- In case you thought that ICE wasn't such a bad agency after all, take a read of this. I'm really sorry, Chicago. You deserve better.
- Republicans are casting necromancy on their failed healthcare bill. Observe: the rise of the zombie! Because of course they are...
- Manafort is under continued investigations because of shady business practices linked to money laundering. Wow. Will the news of this guy never end?
- Speaking of Russian things, Trump's business network had repeated dealings with Russians linked to organized crime. But there's nothing to hide in those tax returns...
- The Trump administration continues to delete scientific records. This is the most stupid and short-sighted action you can possibly take :-(
Monday, March 27, 2017
A grab bag of headlines today.
- Kushner has been tapped to lead a complete overhaul of federal government. This is essentially Trump's plan to run government like a business, for while the Huffington Post rightly lampoons him, pointing out that other countries established entire agencies to undertake some of the jobs that have been lumped on Kushner's shoulders. Let us also remember Kushner's complete lack of any qualifications...
- Speaking of Kushner, apparently he met with more Russians and failed to disclose these meetings. The Senate now wants him to explain himself.
- Today, Jeff Sessions rolled out the Justice Department's plan to wage war on sanctuary cities by withholding funding. Sigh.
- Trump continues steamrolling through Obama-era regulations, effectively unsigning four of them today. Two had to do with education rules regarding teacher training and school evaluations, one to do with protecting workers from wage theft, and the other was regarding the management of federal lands.
- The Trump administration is considering increasing their involvement in the civil war in Yemen. This is troubling.
- Further troubling is the administration's seeming lack of interest in the mass incarceration of peaceful anticorruption protestors in Russia, including the leader of the opposition party.
Oh my, does Trump not have it.
- Trump had a specially-printed "bill" for Angela Merkel, invoicing her for "300 billion pounds" in arrears for NATO. This is not how international diplomacy is conducted.
- Ethics concerns have led Democrats to introduce the MAR-A-LAGO bill, because the White house website is not updating its list of visitors (let alone the people visiting Trump's "Winter White house"). I'm curious to see how Republicans will react.
- Trump has, of course, been at Trump properties for 21 days out of 66 now. Promoting his own properties? Or just playing golf? (at least 13 days now!)
Saturday, March 25, 2017
The fallout from yesterday's drama continues today, with a lot of introspective and finger-pointing pieces. I haven't seen anything today pointing to any new action by the administration, so we can all breathe a little easier.
We do, however, get the treat of seeing an ad campaign that was prematurely purchased to thank Republicans for repealing the Affordable Care Act. Smirk all you like!
We do, however, get the treat of seeing an ad campaign that was prematurely purchased to thank Republicans for repealing the Affordable Care Act. Smirk all you like!
Friday, March 24, 2017
Today's coverage continues to be dominated by the Republican health care bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). After high drama in DC today, the bill is dead. Paul Ryan decided that bringing it to a vote when he knew the numbers were against him would be bad politics, and so Ryan and Trump conceded defeat and withdrew the bill. The Affordable Care Act remains the governing law, likely for at least another year. Trump immediately blamed Democrats for not supporting the bill, completely ignoring his own inadequacies and the inadequacies of his party. Who knew you couldn't ram a complete overhaul of health care through Congress in three weeks? Here's an overview of where things now stand, along with the damage that has been done to the administration.
In other news:
In other news:
- The administration approved the Keystone XL pipeline today, completely ignoring all environmental concerns.
- Nunes continues to find himself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Apparently he's convinced Manafort to testify before his committee, but scuttled public hearings with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Director of the CIA John Brennan, and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Democrats immediately cried foul, "[an] attempt to choke off public info". The entire mess reeks of colluding with the White house, which happens to be the subject of their investigation. Republicans are being particularly spineless on this. Alas, it looks like we're stuck with Nunes.
- ICE released it's first "public safety report" in accordance with some executive order or other. The obvious outcome is to reduce safety in the areas highlighted in the report. Add to this that ICE is targeting sanctuary cities for deportation raids... This is all disgusting.
- Eric Trump is keeping his father updated on the business world. Blind trust my ass.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Today was supposed to be the day that the House voted on their crappy health care bill. However, early in the afternoon, they realized that they were coming up short by about 30 votes, and scuttled their plans.
- One of the big blocs opposed to the bill is highly conservative (the Freedom Caucus), and so the Republican leadership extended them an olive branch by making a bad bill worse. Note that a bunch of old white men were the only people discussing removing maternity care from insurance plans. Great optics, guys.
- Trump responded late Thursday night by delivering a childish ultimatum: vote on the bill tomorrow, or he'll move on. I laud this decision: I look forward to celebrating the demise of this terrible bill this weekend.
- The congressional budget office rescored the bill based on changes as of Monday night. Their prediction: same number of people lose insurance as the previous iteration, and a further $200 billion in deficit. Disgusting.
- Note that public support for this bill is at 17%.
- Democrats will force a cloture vote on the Gorsuch nomination, according to Schumer. Republicans are naturally threatening to go nuclear. I love this quote: “If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”
- The senate voted 50-48 to significantly weaken internet privacy rules. Everybody should be up in arms about this.
- The State Department has started making it significantly harder for people to get visas to visit the US, implementing the beginning of "extreme vetting". An immigration lawyer has pointed out the irony of attempting to implement "extreme vetting" in a 5-minute visa interview.
- Trump gave an interview to TIME magazine on "truth and falsehoods". It was ludicrous. This is the only version of the interview worth reading, where every unsubstantiated claim has been redacted. Trump's basic claim? "I'm President and you're not."
Today was marked by some explosive revelations regarding collusion between the administration and Russia.
- Manafort has been comprehensively tied to Russian interests. Is it curious that the year that he signed a $10 million contract with Russia was the year he moved into Trump tower? Added to this, new reports of the FBI confirming that it has information suggesting collusion between the administration and Russia. Wow. How are Republicans sitting pretty and ignoring all of this? (Here is a very complete analysis of what we know about Manafort)
- Nunes continues to be a fucking dick, running around his committee without telling them, and claiming that Trump's ream was "incidentally" subject to surveillance (because they were talking to shady foreign nationals). Not only is this making a smokescreen to cover for the administration, but why the fuck is somebody who was involved with the transition team heading the executive oversight committee, let alone telling them about their investigation? His behavior today is seriously compromising the ability of this committee to perform its duty. A lot of people are justifiably pretty horrified, and some are even pretty sure that Nunes just revealed highly classified information and should face prosecution (the irony of a Republican leaker is staggering). (A comprehensive analysis of the fuckery that went on here today)
- Ever the voice of reason, after the Nunes circus, McCain very bluntly stated that he does not believe congress has the credibility to investigate the Russian issue.
- Republicans are working hard to try and secure enough votes to push their crappy health care bill through the house. It looks like it's going to be very tight.
- The Department of Health and Human Services decided to stop counting LGBTQ people on their surveys. WTF???
- Is America's army big enough? The NY Times looks into this in detail. Note that having a big army is expensive. If your army is already big enough, you don't want to make it bigger unless you're planning on using it soon. Think about Trump's budget proposal in this light.
Wednesday, March 22, 2017
I'm weary today. Here are the things I thought were interesting.
- Ivanka Trump is taking up residence in the White House. Conflicts of interest? Nepotism? Any ethics oversight? Who cares?
- Tillerson is missing a meeting of NATO foreign ministers. Given that it's rather rare for a US Secretary of State to miss these meetings, combined with the administration's rhetoric towards NATO, this really doesn't send a good message. But don't worry, he's going to Russia afterwards!
- Manafort is under the microscope again, this time for money laundering. There is also evidence that Manafort never really left the Trump campaign. Incredibly shady.
- Because ICE agents are staking out courthouses, some women are now making the choice between abuse and the possibility of deportation, and concluding that the abuse is better. This is freaking awful.
- The senate hearing for Gorsuch continues today. Senator Al Franken went on the attack, doing his job admirably. Meanwhile, your Republican senators made fools of themselves. For example, Jeff Flake asked “Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?”
- Electronic devices are being banned on flights to the US from a variety of Middle-Eastern countries. Except for American airlines. Huh? Doesn't that completely undercut the claim that it's for security purposes? Here's a good analysis of what the fuck this is about.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
The big ticket item today was the head of the FBI James Comey presenting testimony to a House Committee on the FBI's investigation of links between Russia and Trump. It wasn't very nice to the administration, with at least one journalist describing today as the worst day for the Trump administration so far.
- Here are the highlights from the NY Times. The two big items: No, nobody was wiretapping the Trump campaign. And yes, the Trump campaign (now administration) was and remains under a criminal investigation into its ties with Russia.
- That's big. Here it is again: The Trump campaign was under criminal investigation during the campaign and voters were never told. Apparently Clinton's emails were worthy of public notification, even though they were a non-issue. Can I say I am profoundly angry that Comey chose to influence the election in this way?
- The revelations of the hearing were pretty bad for the administration, which started tweeting out selectively edited clips that they claimed victory from. However, those tweets were brought up in the hearing, and were shot down by Comey time and time again.
- The week-long senate session on confirming Gorsuch to the Supreme Court bench started today. I note with a particular bitterness the following quote from Ted Cruz: "the American people played a very direct role in choosing this nominee". Yes, and a convincing majority of those who voted wanted things the other way.
- Could you guess? Gorsuch has pretty terrible views on women.
- Paul Ryan has tweaked his healthcare bill. Hint: it's still terrible. Most of the changes push it even more strongly towards "repeal".
- And why do Republicans like this bill? Because it gives massive (read $200K+) tax cuts to the top earners in the country. Excuse me while I vomit.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Happy Saturday, everybody!
- Trump doubles down on claim that British intelligence participated in spying on Trump Tower. He has no fucking evidence, and is making an international incident out of it. The UK is understandably not pleased.
- More rhetoric from Tillerson regarding North Korea. None of it comforting.
- This is a bit old, but I've only just seen it. The GOP health care bill gives a 3.8% tax break on investment income and a 0.9% tax break on wage income to people earning more than $200K. This is in large part the cause of moving wealth from the poor to the rich. Who benefits from this? Look no further than the President himself. No wonder he is gunning for this bill!
- Do you have a student loan that you're struggling with? Never fear, because Trump is here! To make sure your life is miserable, that is. A common-sense Obama regulation has been rolled back, justified by only the statement that "it should have received public review".
- Trump has talked a lot about investing in infrastructure. So why does his budget slash funding to transportation services across the board?
- The consumer protection agency, set up six years ago, was designed to be independent of the administration. Trump wants to bring it under his control.
Friday, March 17, 2017
You deserve congratulations. You survived another week!
- Trump met with German Chancellor Merkel today. It sounds like the meeting was really awkward, with Trump being a dick. Of particular note was Trump's following statement: "As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps". Disgusting. Compare this to the very positive rapport between Merkel and Obama.
- This one slipped by me earlier: a Maryland judge also blocked the travel ban, although only the section prohibiting people from various countries from visiting. Trump has vowed to appeal.
- Secretary of State Tillerson, speaking in Japan, made some incendiary comments regarding North Korea today. The Korean peninsula sounds quite tense at the moment, and I don't trust this administration not to plunge into another war, let alone a nuclear one.
- Tillerson, who is not travelling with the normal press pool (who despite administration claims, pay their own travel expenses), so we have to go with Korean media for reports on the visit. Today's highlight: Tillerson is too fatigued to properly meet with officials on this visit. Both Clinton and Kerry did the office of Secretary of State proud. Tillerson is presently the booby-prize that nobody wanted.
- Paul Ryan's awful health care bill narrowly passed out of the House Budget committee today, with three Republicans voting against it. A fourth would've stalled the bill.
- Trump has no idea how NATO is funded when he claims that many NATO countries are in arrears. From the end of this article, "In fact, the alliance had long ago set a goal that each member would devote at least 2 percent of GDP to defense in their own budgets. The members contribute their capabilities to NATO, not monetary assessments. Those who haven’t reached 2 percent, which is the majority of nations, don’t “owe” or have to make up shortfalls of the past."
Today saw the release of Trump's first budget proposal. Before you go and read any of the headlines below, I implore you to look at this comic, which sums the entire document up better than any words can. All I can say is: I'm glad that this thing is dead on arrival in congress.
- Numerical details, and historical analysis.
- Complete rundown (and source for the above graphic).
- The only thing that wins is the military. Already the most expensive military on earth by a significant margin, the most powerful military on earth by a significant margin, and basically half of discretionary spending in the government, it apparently needs a 10% boost (and a wall). Fuck off.
- If there is such a serious threat that the military needs such extra money, how about raising taxes to cover it? What's that, Republicans? I can't hear you.
- Proposed gutting of science funding (another article). NIH? Down 20%. Department of Energy? Down 20% (except for the nukes, up 10%). EPA science? Down 40%. NASA's earth sciences program? Down 5%. NOAA? Down 26%. You know what made America great after WWII? Science funding. You want to know how to kill US science? Enact these cuts.
- 19 agencies completely eliminated, including the National Endowment for Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. These are TINY on the grand scale of things, and yet so important.
- The White House budget director had this shit to say: "These cuts are compassionate [to American taxpayers]". I love this statement from the author of the article: "In light of this stellar record, increasing the rate of child homelessness to finance new weapons systems is one of “the most compassionate things we can do.”" Note that this budget is essentially revenue-neutral, meaning that it doesn't change somebody's taxes at all anyway.
- This tweet is perhaps the most apt thing of all: "From a purely semantic standpoint, cutting programs that 'failed to meet their objectives' to fund the Pentagon is just amazing"
- Disgraced head of national security Michael Flynn has been taking money from multiple Russian companies, including ones linked to Russian intelligence. Remember Stone? He's being investigated by the FBI for having at least 16 communications with Russian hackers. This Russia story isn't going away.
- Trump continues to make ridiculous statements about being "wiretapped" by his predecessor, despite House and Senate committees reporting they've found no evidence.
- Trump met with the Irish President today, and took the opportunity to quote an "Irish" proverb. It turns out Trump stole it from a Nigerian poet.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Holy smokes, so much to unpack today.
- The really bad sections of Trump's travel ban have been struck down nationwide by a judge in Hawaii. (Those sections are 2 and 6, if you're curious - the country ban and the refugee ban.) (Full text of the opinion) It's another pretty scathing opinion.
- Tillerson, acting as Secretary of State, threatens to withdraw the US from the UN Rights Council. Not particularly diplomatic, in my humble opinion.
- The head of the Defense Department believes that climate change is real and poses a national security risk. Are Republicans going to listen? I doubt it.
- Hidden in this article is details of Kushner getting a $400 million bonus in a "Sweetheart deal" from a company linked to the Communist party of China (another article). Holy shit. If that's not a conflict of interest, I'm a donkey who's just eaten an elephant and is about to undergo metamorphosis into a blue whale.
- Republicans have watered down regulations on drug-testing people on public benefits. This has repeatedly been shown to cost more money than it saves, and is just plain dehumanizing.
- Another article detailing how Obamacare is not in a death spiral.
- Trump wants to undo emissions regulations on the automotive industry, directing the EPA to review their standards. So long as his pals make money, the environment doesn't matter, right? However, California may be a thorn in his side on this one. (Yay!) Get ready for a showdown over their waiver to have stricter emissions standards, though.
- Trump is meeting with the President of China. Where? Mar-a-Lago, of course. Emoluments, anybody? WHY IS NOBODY PAYING ATTENTION TO THEIR BELOVED CONSTITUTION???
- Trump, who campaigned on the claim that Wall St executives do not have the good of the people in mind, has nominated a 5th Goldman Sachs banker to a senior position. Welp, so much for the little people.
- How much is hinging on this crappy health care bill? Well, given that Republicans refuse to raise taxes, they need as much savings as they can get from health care, so they can spend it on their other promises.
- ICE agents are making arrests inside courthouses. Wow. Can you get any more brazen?
- The CBO points out that the Republican health care bill, which doesn't mention Planned Parenthood by name, singles only Planned Parenthood out for partisan attack and defunding. Meanwhile, we have research strongly suggesting that defunding Planned Parenthood would actually be VERY expensive due to the lack of health care that it provides and the number of unwanted births. Huh, fancy that.
- John Kerry's speechwriters point out how Tillerson's silence on so many issues is damaging the US internationally.
- The Supreme Court nominee has a bunch of very shady ties to a billionaire who got him where he is today.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
The big news tonight is that somebody got hold of part of Trump's 2005 tax returns, and leaked them to the press (video + analysis). The White house is not happy. Trump claimed an income of $130 million, and paid income taxes of $36.5 million. Note that Trump paid a very similar tax rate to people earning between $50,000 and $100,000. I think most people will agree that his tax rate (24%) is not particularly fair. Also, he wants to get rid of the alternative minimum tax, which was responsible for about $30 million of his taxes.
- A new executive order: Trump wants to "reorganize" the executive branch. Reorganize being a euphamism for completely destroying federal agencies. As Shakesville points out: 1) the primary objective here is the elimination of whole agencies, 2) secondary objective is to privatize what can't be eliminated, and 3) there is no metric for valuing the benefits an agency brings. Note also that the people charged with defending their agencies are the people Trump put there, who were specifically chosen because they think their agencies shouldn't exist. This has Bannon's fingerprints all over it, and is going to be devastating. (Full text, fairly readable)
- Paul Ryan continues to be abominable, claiming that ditching 24 million people from health insurance is a good thing for the country, because it will make insurance costs go down slightly. The temerity of claiming the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) report suggests a good thing for the country is despicable.
- An important point that the CBO made in their report on the Republican health care plan: Obamacare is not imploding. Oops, that seems to be Trump and Ryan's favorite line...
- Republicans are trying to lift regulations on gun silencers. Because that's such a great idea, making it easier to get away with murder.
- Trump has broadened CIA powers to launch deadly drone strikes. In particular, removing the requirement of making sure that civilians aren't killed. How could this ever be a good idea? A friendly reminder that drone strikes are the biggest recruitment tool for terrorists.
- Trump hasn't donated his paychecks; is apparently looking for a "worthy cause". Aka, he's been caught out again.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
So, the Republican healthcare plan is bad. Spectacularly bad.
- So bad, it's worse than predicted. You know how the Affordable Care Act basically extended coverage to 20 million people? It's estimated that 24 million will now *lose* coverage under this new plan, over then next ten years. That's not even including employers who decide to stop granting health insurance as a benefit. Also, essentially all savings from the new bill come from gutting Medicare/Medicaid. This is a disaster. The Trump administration's response? Discredit the Congressional Budget Office!
- Customs and Border Patrol are demanding access to US citizens' phones and passwords when entering or leaving the country. This story is horrifying, and an important read. If you leave the country temporarily, you may want to leave your phone behind.
- Faced with a deadline to provide any evidence of wiretapping, the administration told the press that when they said "wiretapping", they didn't mean that "wiretapping", they meant the other "wiretapping". Which is about as bullshit as you get.
- Preet Bharara was investigating Fox News. It seems his firing will blunt that investigation, benefiting Trump. Something about the independence of the judiciary?
- Another fucking nightmare of a nomination: Scott Gottlieb to head the FDA. This guy has deep ties to the pharmaceutical industry, and has actively stoked fears about Obamacare's birth control mandate.
- Trump refuses to release proof that he's donating his paychecks. Is anybody surprised? I didn't think so.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Another relatively quiet Sunday.
- What the heck is going on with Flynn in the administration? Rachel Maddow points out how the entire timeline doesn't add up, and how it appears that the administration is covering for something.
- More details about the abrupt firing of the US Attorney Generals, in particular, the one who had jurisdiction over Trump Tower (who had previously been explicitly invited to stay on). You may recall that a few days ago, ethics groups urged him to investigate possible violations of the emoluments clause.
- Given the propensity of drone strikes to kill civilians, Obama had a series of regulations regarding constraints on how counterterrorism attacks were handled. Trump is seeking to undo them. Given that America's drone program has been one of the biggest recruiting tools for terrorism, this seems like folly at best.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Weekends are usually quiet, so here's just a friendly reminder that daylight savings goes on tonight (at least, in the US).
- In a surprise move, Trump is actually talking with the Palestinians. I'm curious what will come of this.
- More analysis of Trump's jobs claims. The Washington Post awarded him four Pinocchios, their highest rating of "bullshit".
- Apparently Trump just learnt that the US Attorneys currently in place were appointed by Obama, and summarily requested their immediate resignation (with two exceptions of fanatic loyalists). Not only that, they were told to clear out by the end of the day, which is far more abrupt than previously. I will just note that a "purge" of officials who disagree with you, as some from the right wing have called for, is typical for authoritarian regimes.
- The administration knew that Flynn was accepting money to lobby on behalf of Turkey and STILL brought him on board? Oh vey. This beggars belief.
Friday, March 10, 2017
Nothing major today, unlike yesterday's newsdump, but still plenty to fret about.
- I mentioned yesterday that the State Department is being unraveled. Here's further evidence. The Mexican equivalent of the Secretary of State was in DC, and the State Department wasn't even aware of his presence. Why was he there? To meet Kushner, of course.
- The monthly jobs report for February is out, and it's pretty good news. The trend set by the past 12 months continues. Trump, of course, is taking credit for it all. This is somewhat more ironic given that he previously repeatedly denounced these reports as lies. Even more ironic is that if the January one was a fabrication, then the change from January to February (which is what was reported) cannot be trusted at all. Evidently, Trump has no respect for facts unless he thinks they make him look good. (Here's an analysis of what can actually be attributed to Trump)
- Republicans propose making mandatory genetic testing results available to your employer. Wow. Just wow. What happened to patient confidentiality?
- Trump has proposed a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure. Of course, his plan is actually to spend far less than that, and give tax breaks to companies to build new toll roads, which is garbage. Worse, engineers have estimated that $4.6 trillion is required in overdue maintenance. They suggest raising taxes on gasoline to cover the shortfall. As if that's ever going to happen.
- Ted Cruz is proposing to completely overturn Senate rules by asking the Vice President to overrule the Senate parliamentarian. This is, by any measure, insanity.
- Incredibly shady looking details into where WikiLeaks is presently hosted: Moscow. When did that start? Just before the Podesta leaks...
- Republicans are quietly dismantling the civil justice system through a series of tort reforms. This includes severely hampering class action suits.
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has recused himself from issues regarding the Keystone pipeline. This wouldn't have been an issue to begin with if somebody appropriate was in the position.
There is so much crap in the news today. You'll want to eat this in a few bites, folks.
- The Russian plot thickens. Some amazing journalism here. Here's Rachel Maddow discussing the revelations (I highly recommend listening to this!). This is the explanation for why the Republican party ditched the Ukraine in favor of Russia, as a former Trump staffer confessed that Trump personally wanted the language removed, despite previous denials from the Trump campaign. This hints at direct collaboration between the Trump team and Russia, and corroborates the salacious dossier so very strongly. This further video puts more of the jigsaw puzzle together. (Why was a known Russian intelligence agent working with the Trump campaign to change the language on the Ukraine? Why did a Trump staffer visit Moscow on official business two weeks earlier? Holy shit!)
- Although Trump is being slow about nominating people for positions that require senate approval, for positions that don't need senate approval, he's signed up some very shady characters. ProPublica is compiling a list of as many of them as possible. This seriously looks like a shadow government...
- The new EPA chief thinks carbon dioxide isn't a greenhouse gas. This is in contradiction to both his agency, and every scientist ever. In fact, you can do your own experiment to understand how carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Costs less than $20 to buy everything you would need, in case you don't have the required items already sitting around at home. It is unfathomable that this ignoramus is leading the EPA. Ignoring climate change is going to literally kill us all.
- Holy shit, the State Department is screwed under Tillerson (another Rachel Maddow video). Here's a written analysis.
- Trump is proposing to seriously slash the HUD budget to pay for his wall/army. Because inner cities don't need money, do they? Who thinks Ben Carson is going to stand up to him?
- At least 5 states have now gone to court to challenge the Muslim ban.
- Congress is gutting Obama's signature education rules.
- Trump is starting to campaign for the pile of wood pulp that he calls a healthcare bill, after it passed two committee hurdles. I have hopes that the bill will die in the house, but I'm pretty sure the senate really will kill it.
- Paul Ryan think the problem with the Affordable Care Act is that it forces healthy people to subsidize sick people. This can only be the Ponzi scheme known as ... wait for it ... "insurance"! Of course, he was widely lampooned for his performance on the internet.
- As one might expect, the crackdown on illegal immigrants is encouraging hostile employers to violate labor laws.
- Russia is deploying banned missiles, in what seems to be a deliberately provocative action.
- Finally, why can't many agencies fill vacancies? Because they look at the social media accounts of the applicants, and refuse anybody critical of Trump.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Today marked International Women's Day, for which a partial strike was called. Rallies were held across the country, although they were much smaller than the Women's March held after the election (what did you expect for a weekday?).
In the news today:
Finally, following up on Chaffetz's comments yesterday, here is a well-written takedown of the philosophy that leads to such comments.
In the news today:
- Despite earlier denials, Trump met with the Russian ambassador early in his campaign. Are you surprised? I'm not.
- The GOP Healthcare Plan is really struggling on all fronts. As it should. Now, go and redo your homework, and come back to us once you have a better plan.
- Can you believe that they actually titled the thing "World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017"???!
- Ethics groups are trying to turn up the heat on Trump regarding his conflicts of interest. This, on top of further stories involving Chinese trademarks...
- The head of the EPA is stacking its administration with people committed to undermining it. So much for the environment. I sincerely hope that other countries can make up for the USA's shortsightedness, but as the second-largest polluter in the world, I doubt it.
Finally, following up on Chaffetz's comments yesterday, here is a well-written takedown of the philosophy that leads to such comments.
A lot of people talking today. Most of them saying that the Republican healthcare plan is crap. Either because it goes too far, or doesn't go far enough. I like Ezra Klein's observation: "In reality, what I think we’re seeing here is Republicans trying desperately to come up with something that would allow them to repeal and replace Obamacare." He points out that "repeal and replace" is a slogan, not a policy, and now that Republicans are attempting to carry out their promise, they're really finding it difficult. I will just note that by axing the individual and employer mandates, these cretins are guaranteeing that insurance premiums will skyrocket.
In other news:
- Three balanced perspectives on why the new bill is terrible.
- A liberal perspective on why the new bill is utterly garbage.
In other news:
- Nations targeted by the new Muslim ban are vocally objecting, as is the UN. Hawaii looks to be the first state to file suit against it.
- Trump needs to pay for a wall. So, to fund a tiny fraction of the wall, he's proposing to cut funding to the TSA and the Coast Guard. A colleague put this nicely: "Sure, that makes sense. Cut programs deemed as effective in deterring terrorism in order to pay for 1% of a pointless physical barrier that addresses a fictitious problem."
- Jason Chaffetz proposed that people "invest" in their healthcare by forgoing smartphones. Note: forgoing an iPhone will allow you purchase about a month of healthcare coverage. Also, "investing" implies that you have extra funds to use. This is straight up classism.
- Trump's continued use of Mar-a-Lago as an alternative base of operations is causing issues with people paying for access to his cabinet, a serious conflict of interest.
Monday, March 6, 2017
Today, for your viewing pleasure, let me present you with four stories so vile that reading even only their titles is guaranteed to curdle the milk on your fridge!
- Trump issued a new executive order today to enforce his new Muslim ban. Some of the blatantly unconstitutional parts of the previous order were removed, but the thing is still despicable and completely unnecessary. This will likely lead to less chaos than before due to the order containing some implementation details (and a 10-day grace period), but it's still horrendous. Expect court action within the next few days. (Full text)
- The House revealed its new plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"). Two pieces of early analysis. I haven't read much into the details, but the basic premise seems to be to gut Medicaid and remove the "individual mandate". In order to encourage people to have health insurance, a coverage "gap" will allow insurance companies to charge a 30% premium. Make no mistake: they are playing with people's lives here, and people will die as a result of this. Oh, did I mention that it includes a clause to entire strip Planned Parenthood of funding?
- The administration offered to continue Planned Parenthood funding if they stop offering abortions, threatening to cut funding if not. This is a ridiculous effort to claim the moral high ground by saying that Planned Parenthood isn't negotiating in good faith. Of course, none of the federal funding that Planned Parenthood receives goes towards abortions (thanks to the Hyde Amendment), so this is ridiculous at best. A friendly reminder that the vast majority of the services that Planned Parenthood provides are not abortions.
- Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, claimed today that slaves imported against their will to North America were "immigrants" with dreams "that their great grandchildren would be happy", after waxing nostalgically about the times when there were no minimum wages or labor laws. This is a despicable rewriting of history.
Sunday, March 5, 2017
Not only is Trump's twitter outburst yesterday irresponsible, he's doubled down on it today, in the face of mounting challenges.
- Trump has called for an inquiry into the matter. Classic deflection, trying to steer news and resources away from the growing Russia scandal. For an irreverent overview of what the hell this is all about, I recommend Jezebel's coverage.
- Trump's aids don't know how to defend the statement, and so have either stopped discussing it, or have simply decided not to.
- The NY Times has an excellent piece looking at the "deregulation nation" that Trump is creating. In the past 6 weeks, over 90 pieces of regulation have been repealed. Most of them are environmental, consumer and worker protections. Furthermore, most of them are at the behest of corporate lobbyists and trade association executives. Drain the swamp indeed.
Saturday, March 4, 2017
The only thing of note today was completely un-noteworthy. This morning, Trump once again went off on a deranged twitter rant. I'm not sure why people even pay attention to him any more. His tweets targeted Obama (amongst others), with claims that Trump Tower had its phonelines tapped by the former President. He offered zero evidence for this, and multiple sources have pointed out that the DOJ would order wiretaps, not the President, and for a court to approve a wiretap request from the DOJ would require a pretty hefty suspicion of wrongdoing in the first place. This twitter rant fits the usual MO of deflection for Trump, given that his administration is presently under scrutiny for its plethora of Russian ties.
Friday, March 3, 2017
Relatively quiet today, although some of these will still make your blood boil.
- Pence has been quite rightly accused of staggering hypocrisy regarding his emails. Especially after being hacked, he set up a new insecure email account.
- The administration doesn't give a fuck about the environment. One of the first things the new Secretary of the Interior did was to undo an Obama-era ban on the use of lead bullets for hunting.
- Republicans use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to further weaken worker protections, bringing the total number of regulations repealed by them through the CRA to 13. Historically, only one regulation had ever been repealed through this act.
- Do you want to hear more about all the people in Trump's administration who have been meeting with Russians? There's more than a dozen of them now, and the majority of them have denied such meetings at various points. This looks spectacularly bad for the President.
- The State Department released their yearly report on human rights. Usually this is a big deal, with the Secretary of State giving a globally-watched presentation on the report. This year, Tillerson decided not to make a deal of it at all and made no appearance, giving the strong impression that this State Department doesn't care about human rights.
- More stories of ICE being particularly vindictive and tearing families apart. This time, over a decade-old low-level marijuana conviction for somebody with a green card. No non-citizen appears to be safe.
- The Department of Homeland Security wants to separate parents and children in immigration detention. This marks a new low.
Thursday, March 2, 2017
After the explosive revelations last night, there was baying for blood this morning. News today was dominated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. By early morning, Republican leadership had joined with Democrats demanding his recusal from the Russian probe. Democrats often went further, seeking his resignation. By afternoon, he had organized a press conference to recuse himself. This was followed up by revelations that Jared Kushner has been involved in meetings with Russians. The whole mess looks incredibly shady, and calls are growing for an independent investigator.
In other news:
In other news:
- The White house has created an office for "Victims of Immigration Crime" to help people who have been harmed by undocumented immigrants. This is like making an office to help people harmed by people with red hair. It is segregationist, and serves no purpose other than to inflame tensions and breed mistrust. In response to the obvious question: "But what about victims of crimes committed by Americans?", the White house response was "THAT'S UNAMERICAN". Such utter bullshit. (Note: This office was created by one of those executive ordery thingies.)
- It has been revealed that Pence used a private email server for government business (and worse, it is known to have been hacked!). Of course, it's not an issue when a Republican does it. The hypocrisy is deafening, unlike the silence that's been coming from the Republican camp.
- The FCC, hell-bent on undoing as much regulation as possible, just iced consumer privacy regulations. Not cool, dude.
- Ben Carson, another completely unqualified nominee, was confirmed as the HUD Secretary.
- So was Rick Perry for Energy Secretary.
- Reports that the administration nixed training on ethics for White house staff. Because if they're ignorant, it's not unethical? Or something?
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Today's coverage was overshadowed by Trump's speech last night. Because he demonstrated he was capable of reading a speech that somebody else wrote from a teleprompter, mainstream media fell over itself to declare him "presidential", and I refuse to link to such articles. This was despite the fact that his speech presented largely unchanged shallow policies that severely lacked in detail, was full of xenophobic dogwhistles, and was grossly misleading if not flat-out wrong on almost every detail. I was particularly unimpressed by taking political advantage of a grieving widow whose husband died in a raid Trump refuses to take responsibility for.
In other news:
- Here is my favorite analytic coverage.
- Here is an annotated transcript of the speech.
- Here are a bunch of lies, discussed. I like the first one: claiming that he had already begun to "drain the swamp" almost made me literally vomit. In creating the richest cabinet in American history, for every bucket of water removed from the swamp, he's added a swimming pool.
- Here is a scathing retort of the mainstream media.
- Here is a list of as many lies as fact-checkers could find during the speech, complete with citations.
- Here is a detailed analysis of Trump's absurd claim regarding the labor force.
In other news:
- Remember how Conway got in trouble for violating federal law? The White house has determined that she shouldn't get anything more than a slap on the wrist.
- After investigating the legality of asking for papers after a domestic flight, lawyers come up empty-handed. ICE and CBP have no way of circumventing the 4th amendment, and you are well within your rights to refuse a request for ID in such situations.
- Session's DOJ believes that police can do no harm, and as such is rolling back investigations into police misconduct. Because being killed for being black is apparently perfectly ok to him.
- The Senate has confirmed Ryan Zink as Interior Secretary. Another climate change denier, put in charge of 20% of the land in the country.
- Trump has complained that his nominations are being held up. Of the 549 vacancies, 15 have been confirmed, 18 have been nominated and await confirmation, and the rest haven't been nominated. Now who's being obstructionist?
- The administration is trying to make the State Department irrelevant. For what is possibly the most important agency in the government, this seems extraordinarily short-sighted.
- More stories of ICE arrests. These continue to be dehumanizing and frankly, really fucking terrifying. ICE is going to continue deporting whomever they like without any concern for the lives it is ruining until something is done (and I have no idea what can be done).
- Our esteemed Attorney General has been caught lying under oath regarding communications with Russia. And yet he still won't recuse himself from any investigation into Russia. Shady? I'll let you decide.
- More evidence of Russian collusion. Pay close attention to the second paragraph. Yikes.