Saturday, March 25, 2017

Day 65: Taking Stock

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!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 64: Crash and Burn

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:
To celebrate the death of the AHCA, I knitted a pink pussy hat for my pet hedgehog. Here's a picture. You're welcome.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 63: A Healthcare Debacle

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.
For everybody - please call your congressperson to make your opinion known on this bill.
In other news:

Day 62: Holy Shit, Russia!

Today was marked by some explosive revelations regarding collusion between the administration and Russia.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Day 61: Nepotism strikes again

I'm weary today. Here are the things I thought were interesting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Day 60: Congressional Testimony

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

Day 59: Sleepy Sunday

Honestly, I haven't seen any articles today that are worth reading. Huzzah! No bad news today!

(As always, if you find something relevant, feel free to post it in the comments.)

Day 58: Spy games

Happy Saturday, everybody!
Finally, have you been calling your congresspeople? Here's what it's like to be on the other end of that phoneline.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 57: We survived another week

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."
And because you made it to here: An obviously satirical Washington Post article headlined "Trump's budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why" (quite amusing) was highlighted on the White House website today. I feel sorry for the intern who I'm guessing has just been fired.

Day 56: One Budget to Rule Them All

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.
This thing is VICIOUS. It boosts spending to the military and homeland security, and budgets for a fucking useless wall, while tearing down essentially all domestic programs and foreign aid. Oh, and the State Department? Completely hobbled. The entire population is going to suffer as a result of this bloodbath. But then again, that's the point, isn't it? Destroy as many lives as possible, one federal agency at a time?
  • 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"
Here's what else crossed the news today:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Day 55: Blocked!

Holy smokes, so much to unpack today.
Tomorrow, we get to see the Trump budget that's been hinted at so strongly for so long. We're expecting a big boost to military, at the expense of foreign aid, the State department, the EPA, and programs for the Arts. Tune in tomorrow to hear the good news!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Day 54: Leaked Tax Returns

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.
Finally, in case you want to get up to speed, here is an overview of all of Trump's connections to Russia that we know about, going back 30 years. It's actually very concise.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Day 53: Who needs health insurance?

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

Day 52: Further Analysis

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

Day 51: Daylight Savings On Tonight!

Weekends are usually quiet, so here's just a friendly reminder that daylight savings goes on tonight (at least, in the US).
Finally, in some possibly good news, constitutional challenges to the US ignoring climate change are proceeding in the courts, although the Trump administration is desperately trying to kill them. I am disturbed that the administration's position is that "preserving records is a burden", however.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Day 50: How did we make it this far?

Nothing major today, unlike yesterday's newsdump, but still plenty to fret about.

Day 49: Presents for Russia

There is so much crap in the news today. You'll want to eat this in a few bites, folks.
I also have an apology. Apparently the "World's Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017" is some Texan congressman's pet bill, and doesn't refer to the "American Health Care Act". Still, it's some hubris.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Day 48: Day without a woman

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:
In addition to the above actions by the administration, Wikileaks recently dumped the entire electronic arsenal of the CIA for all to view. They sound suuuuper unhappy right now.

Finally, following up on Chaffetz's comments yesterday, here is a well-written takedown of the philosophy that leads to such comments.

Day 47: Healthcare under siege

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.
(There's plenty of newsbites around on what people have said, but I like these three links as a summary of what the bills actually contain.)

In other news:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Day 46: A New Ban

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

Day 45: Reactions

Not only is Trump's twitter outburst yesterday irresponsible, he's doubled down on it today, in the face of mounting challenges.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Day 44: Unhinged President

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

Day 43: Settling in for the weekend

Relatively quiet today, although some of these will still make your blood boil.
In case you think nobody said anything stupid today, I'll just leave you with this article regarding what Republicans think of poor people and healthcare...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Day 42: Recusal

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:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Day 41: Let down by the media

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.
Regardless, people apparently have an attention span of mere days, and think that when Trump puts on a vaguely passable performance, that all is right in the world again (warning: this one will make your blood boil). As Jezebel puts it: "If his address to Congress was a historic moment, it will be historic because it was the moment Trump’s bigotry became “presidential” and the American people stopped resisting." If you need any reminder of just how awful this President has been, just look through the archives of this blog.

In other news:
Update: