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Published: Sat, 24 Jun 2017 20:08:13 +0000

Last Build Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2017 20:08:13 +0000

Copyright: Copyright 2005 - Steal what you want
 



Trump administration drops grant for a nonprofit helping people leave violent right-wing groups

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:55:04 +0000

In the final days of President Obama’s days in the White House, the Department of Homeland Security awarded a $400,000 grant to the Life After Hate nonprofit, an organization dedicated to helping members of violent right-wing organizations leave their groups and “begin the process of deradicalization.” From their website:

Life After Hate, Inc., a 501(c)(3) U.S. nonprofit, was created in 2011 by former members of the American violent far-right extremist movement. Through powerful stories of transformation and unique insight gleaned from decades of experience, we serve to inspire, educate, guide, and counsel.

Whether working with individuals who wish to leave a life of hate and violence or helping organizations (community, educational, civic, government, etc.) grappling with the causes of intolerance and racism, Life After Hate works to counter the seeds of hate we once planted. Through personal experience and highly unique skill sets, we have developed a sophisticated understanding about what draws individuals to extremist groups and, equally important, why they leave. Compassion is the opposite of judgment and we understand the roles compassion and empathy play in healing individuals and communities.

These services are critically important to stemming the threat of right-wing extremism. In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security released a report based on surveys from police departments nationwide saying domestic extremism posed as great or more of a threat than foreign terrorism.

The $400,000 grant for Life After Hate was part of a $10 million program that was halted by Donald Trump soon after he took office. Politico reports the program has been re-started, but one grant has been removed:

SCOOP: The Department of Homeland Security is restarting a stalled $10-million grant program for “Countering Violent Extremism” this morning. Life After Hate, a group dedicated to deradicalizing neo-Nazis and stopping white extremism, was slated to get $400,000 in the final days of the Obama administration (http://bit.ly/2sxsh6x) before the program was halted for review, but the Trump administration dropped them from the new grant list that’s getting announced today.

The group has seen a twenty-fold increase in requests for help since Election Day “from people looking to disengage or bystanders/family members looking for help from someone they know,” the organization’s founder Christian Picciolini told us. 

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This week at progressive state blogs: #PinkOut protests; Ohio's mediocre job gains; propping up coal

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 19:01:02 +0000

This week at progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite state- or city-based blog you think I should be watching. Here is the June 17 edition. Inclusion of a blog post does not necessarily indicate my agreement with—or endorsement of—its contents. Martha Jackovics at Beach Peanuts of Florida writes—Sen. Nelson And Sen. Rubio Weigh In On GOP Senate's AHCA Disaster:  [...] Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio went with his usual smoke and mirrors approach, pretending to be concerned about something he'll no doubt vote for regardless, simply because he would do anything to erase President Obama's legacy, which provides a bonus if it ends health insurance for millions while making his donors that much wealthier: “Senator Rubio will decide how to vote on health care on the basis of how it impacts Florida. He has already spoken to Governor Scott, Senate President Negron and Speaker Corcoran about the first draft of this proposal. He has instructed his staff to share with state leaders the first draft and has asked them to run numbers and provide input on how this initial proposal would impact Florida’s Medicaid program and individual insurance marketplace. He has invited them to send staff to Washington next week to help us formulate changes and amendments to this proposal. He will continue to reach out for input and suggested changes from Florida providers, insurers and patient advocate groups.”   Rather than read the bill himself, Rubio will just outsource that job to his Republican friends in Florida. You know, the ones who never found an excuse to cut people's health care they didn't love and embrace without a thought. Rubio would very much like them to crunch the numbers and see just how many people need to be cut off from health care in Florida to satisfy their greed posthaste so Republicans can vote on it next week and get on with their next taxpayer funded recess. As for Gov. Rick Scott, well, does Rubio really need his input? After all, this bill would be like Christmas to the governor, and any Republican governor who might follow him into office, especially when you consider that under the Senate plan governors can waive Medicaid without any legislator's action, period. What's not to love? As for Rubio reaching out to Florida "providers, insurers and patient advocate groups," let's get serious. The Republicans in D.C. also barred providers and patient advocacy groups from meetings even though there were numerous requests to be included, and for good reason. They're all against the Republicans' plans. As for insurers, they'll no doubt be on board with the plan, after all, Republicans want to sweeten the deal by eliminating caps on insurance executive's compensation. [...]



View from the Left: Trump's a monster—but that alone won't win elections

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 18:01:00 +0000

Senate Republicans had just released their heartless plan to strip health care from tens of millions of our nation's most vulnerable citizens—the sick, the old, the disabled. Tension quickly gripped the halls of Congress. GOP senators dodged cameras. Democrats declared the bill "meaner" than the House version, and from the floor Sen. Elizabeth Warren called its tax cuts for the nation's richest "blood money" that would cost "American lives." Outside the office of the bill's creator—GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—disabled Americans staged a raw and gutsy protest, quite literally fighting for their lives. As the protesters chanted "No cuts to Medicaid!"—Capitol Hill police literally ripped some of them from their wheel chairs in order to clear the hall outside the door of McConnell, who refused to meet with them. Right then—as Capitol Hill reporters circulated images of disabled persons being dragged away—Donald Trump had a light-bulb moment ... No time like the present to end this frivolous controversy over the nonexistent Oval Office recordings I claimed to have of James Comey. Ha—can't believe people fell for that! I think I'll tweet about it. Nothing else is really tickling my fancy. Ah yes, Mr. Center of the Universe strikes again—smothering any smidge of humanity with his bloated, all-consuming sense of self. Never mind all those anguished folks at the Capitol, I've got better things do. And by "better," I mean my things to do. Just one night earlier, Trump had told a crowd of his Iowa revelers, "I hope we're going to surprise you with a really good plan." "Surprise," yes. Surprisingly cruel, that is. Perhaps the truest utterance that escaped from the Windbag in Chief at the Iowa rally came when he complimented himself for thinking outside the box about using solar panels on his precious border wall: "Pretty good imagination, right?" Indeed—those voices are truly something special, Don. The synaptic lapse that transpired between Trump's Wednesday night appeal for some hint of humanity on health care and the toxic self-involvement that flooded his brain Thursday and drained out through his thumbs was just another day in the Oval Office. [...]



If those lips are moving ... a catalog of lies from the man who wants to make reality irrelevant

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 17:02:50 +0000

Donald Trump lied. That’s a headline guaranteed not to rise above the din these days. If Al Franken rewrote Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them with Trump as target, it would require publishing a set of encyclopedias.  The shocker headline would come from an instance of unvarnished truth-telling by our Grifter in Chief, the Commander in Tweet, the shyster, charlatan, and four-flusher squatting in the White House. While all presidents have told whoppers on occasion, built major policies on lies and, yes, founded or extended wars based on lies, Donald Trump is in a category all by himself. Brazen lying is more deeply embedded in his DNA than eye color. He lies about big stuff, and little stuff, and stuff it just makes no damn sense to lie about. So many of his lies are just stupid, unnecessary and easily fact-checked with 30 seconds plugged into the Google or YouTube. If Trump stuck to telling only disguised lies, clever lies, the kind of big lies that are buried so deeply inside small truths that many smart people aren’t woke to them as lies, he wouldn’t be getting scoured for it even at The Wall Street Journal.  As a consequence of the lies, David Leonhardt and Stuart A. Thompson at The New York Times have compiled a linked catalog of what they say is “nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office.” They found that Trump lied in public every day for the first 40 days of his presidency and has told at least one lie on “at least 74 of 113 days” in office. “On days without an untrue statement, he is often absent from Twitter, vacationing at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, or busy golfing.” Of course, he cheats at golf, another form of lying. Trump built his real estate empire on lies. He’s lied under oath. He ran his presidential campaign on lies. His first words as a toddler were probably lies.  He revels in lies and repeats the most thoroughly debunked ones because he knows that some people will believe him no matter how outrageously far from the truth what he says actually is. In short, he knows from experience that lying works. He has probably never read Edward Bernays or Joseph Goebbels, nor is as polished as they, but he nevertheless practices what they preached. If he were to give free rein to his narcissism in a tweet describing his own behavior, he’d call his lying “tremendous,” the “best”: “I know more about lying than anybody.” Even though he has never indulged himself on that score, he gleefully adopted the term “truthful hyperbole” invented by his ghostwriter to describe his approach to closing deals.  What’s worst about Trump’s tsunami of lies, however, is what Leonhardt and Thompson note in the introduction to their list. Donald Trump “is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant.” That is a very dangerous world. Because no matter how many lies are told, the contents of reality cannot be disappeared like the government websites Trump has ordered scrubbed. The trouble is that by the time reality trumps lies, it can often be too late to do anything about it. [...]



Canadian leaders have given up on Trump—so now they're going around him

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 17:00:54 +0000

Donald Trump is not fit for office. He's not stable, he has little to no interest in the nation itself, and is so self-absorbed as to judge every international interaction solely through the lens of his own momentary needs. This has turned our relationships with our allies immediately sour as each leader Trump meets with, dictators aside, finds it impossible to hold a coherent conversation with the man. When German leader Angela Merkel came to the public conclusion that the world could no longer count on a United States led by Trump, it was a dramatic policy shift by a key ally.

After only a few interactions with Trump, the Canadian government likewise decided that attempting to communicate substantively with Team Trump was a lost cause. Their workaround is now to largely ignore him, instead focusing on working with individual states and cities. It's been more effective, and is a preview of what our nation's relationship with the rest of its closest allies might soon look like.

Canadian officials have fanned out across the United States, meeting with mayors, governors, members of Congress and business leaders on matters from trade to the environment.

Ministers’ schedules resemble those of rock bands on summer tours. They travel armed with data on the precise dollar amount and number of jobs supported by Canadian firms and trade in that area. [...]

“Something snapped in the last few weeks,” said Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trudeau. With trade threats looming, Mr. Trump’s break on climate convinced Canadian leaders of the need for drastic steps.

Since then, Mr. Paris said, “the approach has been to maintain cordial relations with the White House while going to extraordinary lengths to activate American decision makers at all levels of the political system.”

The irony of Trump's bullying is that it threatens to make him impotent. If international allies decide there's simply no point in negotiating with Trump—given that he both lies during the interactions and can't be counted on to uphold whatever he agrees to in those conversations anyway—they will certainly ignore him. That which can be negotiated with individual states will be negotiated with individual states, and that which can't be will simply be placed on hold in the hopes that the United States will at some future point have a leader who is not mentally ill.

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Trump is picking judges to swing the courts hard right for a generation

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 15:15:20 +0000

Brace yourselves. This one’s depressing. In his early months in office, the courts have stood in the way of some of Donald Trump’s worst abuses. But he can change that—and he’s working on it. Trump inherited 108 judicial vacancies, thanks in large part to Senate Republicans having obstructed former President Obama’s nominations. Trump has already nominated 21 new judges, compared to just six for Obama at this point in his first term. And he is nominating the hardest core of the hard right, essentially building a pipeline from the Federalist Society to the federal bench: A good chunk of Trump’s judicial nominees so far have come through recommendations from The Federalist Society, a right-wing legal organization. Its executive vice president, Leonard Leo, was instrumental in helping the White House put Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. He recommended Gorsuch to Trump last fall and took a temporary leave from his job earlier this year to help prepare Gorsuch for his Senate confirmation hearing. Leo also gave Trump a list of names of potential judicial picks that conservatives would like to see on the federal bench. Trump has already nominated several of them. One of them is John Bush, a Kentucky lawyer who runs a local chapter of The Federalist Society. Trump nominated Bush, 52, last month to a lifetime post on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Progressive groups are vowing to fight his confirmation given some of his past remarks, which include comparing abortion to slavery and referring to them as “the two greatest tragedies in our country.” Bush has also said he strongly disagrees with same-sex marriage, mocked climate change and proclaimed “the witch is dead” when he thought the Affordable Care Act might not be enacted. These people could be shaping American law for a generation. They will be in a position to allow Trump to have his way on things that judges not directly chosen off a Federalist Society list would reject as unconstitutional. They will be in a position to block the next Democratic president from undoing Trump’s damage. They will make it more difficult for there to be a next Democratic president, because they will have significant say over electoral law. It has been a relief to see how often Trump has stumbled and failed at enacting the worst parts of his legislative agenda so far. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t doing lasting damage to American law and American justice. [...]



It's starting to look like layoff week at factories where Donald Trump has bragged about jobs

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:42:14 +0000

Donald Trump’s successful jobs record continues apace. Carrier just announced 600 layoffs at the factory where Trump supposedly “saved” 1,000 jobs. And then there’s Boeing. Trump visited a South Carolina Boeing factory not long after his (poorly attended) inauguration, saying that:

“We are going to fight for every last American job.” [...]

“We're here today to celebrate American engineering and American manufacturing,” Trump said at the time. “We're also here today to celebrate jobs. Jobs!” 

Well, guess what.

On Thursday, workers at the North Charleston plant learned they’d soon face layoffs.

The airplane manufacturer announced it would be cutting “fewer than 200 people” at the 787 Dreamliner campus and other facilities in the city.

While that’s a small fraction of Boeing’s South Carolina workers, it follows more than 2,000 voluntary and involuntary layoffs in Washington state and 700 buyouts in South Carolina. The trend is not good, in other words. But hey, it was a good non-union backdrop for Trump to claim he was winning on “Jobs. Jobs!”

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Voters oppose Trump's air traffic control privatization plan, poll finds

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:01:11 +0000

Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are gung-ho to privatize the American air traffic control system. The American people, not so much. According to a CNBC poll, a majority of people who hear a description of the plan think it’s a bad idea:

… in the area of ATC reform, respondents were asked about the shift to a system in which “the FAA would have some oversight…but would no longer manage the air traffic control system.” Respondents were given the following choices: “This is a good idea because the system is out of date and cannot keep pace with the significant increases in air traffic. A non-governmental entity led by aviation experts could update the system with the most reliable technology faster and less expensively, making air travel more efficient and safer” or “This is a bad idea because it would give the airlines too much control over a public asset and will give them authority to impose taxes and fees on U.S. passengers. These corporations could cut corners that serve their own interests and make it less safe and more expensive for all to fly.”

Only 33 percent sided with “ good idea,” while 53 percent selected “bad idea.” Another 11 percent said they were not sure, while the remaining 3 percent said neither.

Just another Republican plan that the public doesn’t want.

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Voting Rights Roundup: Supreme Court agrees to take landmark case on partisan gerrymandering

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:14:59 +0000

Leading Off ● Gerrymandering: On Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal this fall of a lower court ruling that struck down Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn state Assembly map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Over the past three decades, the high court has repeatedly held that partisan gerrymandering could in theory run afoul of the Constitution, but it has never struck down any maps on these grounds because it’s never been able to decide upon a standard for when to do so. If, however, the Supreme Court changes course and sides with the district court, a ruling in this case could establish a sweeping precedent leading to a wave of lawsuits against partisan gerrymanders nationwide.​ Campaign Action ​Republicans aggressively gerrymandered Wisconsin after they gained full control of the state’s government following the 2010 GOP wave. Their Assembly lines were particularly effective: Republicans won a commanding majority in the chamber in 2012 even as Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by seven points and Democratic legislative candidates won more votes statewide than Republicans did. And as shown in the map at the top of this post, Republicans maintained a lopsided 64-35 majority in 2016, despite the fact that Donald Trump won the state by less than one percent of the vote. While it has regularly invalidated maps for improper racial gerrymandering, the Supreme Court, as noted above, has never struck down a map for excessive partisanship despite 31 years of precedent that partisan gerrymandering could theoretically be unconstitutional. In a 2004 case on this topic, Justice Anthony Kennedy, as the deciding vote, refused to strike down the map at issue on the grounds that it represented an unfair partisan gerrymander. However, Kennedy effectively opened the door for future challengers if they could ever come up with a new standard for evaluating such claims—a standard that would have to satisfy the court’s perennial swing justice. The plaintiffs in Wisconsin have sought to overcome this problem by proposing a mathematical test called the “efficiency gap” that examines how many votes get “wasted” in each election, which we have explained in detail here. Under this test, if one party routinely wins landslide victories in a minority of seats while the other party wins much more modest yet secure margins in the vast majority of districts, that could signify a gerrymander that has gone so far as to infringe upon the rights of voters to free speech and equal protection. Although this test is imperfect, it provides one of many tools a court could use to judge a map’s partisan distortion. [...]



Abbreviated Pundit Round-up: Health care debacle and the reaction

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 11:20:16 +0000

Montel Williams/USA Today, self-styled Reagan conservative:

For seven years, House Speaker Paul Ryan and congressional Republicans told us they had “a better way.” Many voters took them at their word. We’re finding now, however, that Republicans had no replacement plan, instead cobbling one together last minute. Most likely, congressional Republicans believed they’d never have to actually repeal Obamacare. I’m betting many of them are praying that enough colleagues oppose the bill so that it simply dies, allowing them to blame Democratic obstruction.

At the end of the day, I don’t want another tax cut at the expense of another father not being able to get his daughter the lifesaving care I was able to provide my daughter. No father should have to choose between back-breaking debt and his child’s life. That is the inevitable result of the Senate proposal.

Republicans need to own the fact they’ve created a monster by lying to the base for the last seven years. They need to come clean. The truth is that they don’t really think this is a good bill. They are afraid of their own voters, to whom they gave a bad idea as a battle cry.

So on the bill, Dean Heller (NV) is a no. a real no. A profile in courage no. And Rs are mad at him. Rand Paul is a probable no (he’s enough of a jerk to do it, to spite his peers).  The other conservatives are fake nos. Cruz, e.g., is in it for the attention. Collins and Murkowski? Maybe Murkowski, hard to trust Collins. Flake, Portman? We’ll see but if it fails, it won’t fail by one. None of them have the courage for that.

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Open thread for night owls: Gessen—The Reichstag fire next time: The coming crackdown

Sat, 24 Jun 2017 03:00:57 +0000

Masha Gessen is the author of The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which will be published in October. In the July issue of Harper’s, she writes—The Reichstag Fire Next Time. The coming crackdown. Some excerpts: When each day brings more news than we are used to seeing in a week, and the kind of news that only the most catastrophic imagination can accommodate, we find ourselves talking about the Reichstag fire. Time feels both accelerated and slowed down, and so we imagine that we have been talking about the fire for years. It is the new president’s new clothes: invisible, yet always present in our perception of him. The Reichstag fire, it goes almost without saying, will be a terrorist attack, and it will mark our sudden, obvious, and irreversible descent into autocracy. Here is what it looks like: On a sunny morning you turn on the television as you make coffee, or the speaker in your shower streams the news, or the radio comes on when you turn the ignition key in your car. The voices of the newscasters are familiar, but their pitch is altered, and they speak with a peculiar haste. Something horrible has happened—it is not yet clear what—and thousands are dead, and more are expected to die. You hear the word “terror.” You feel it. [...] The actual fire in the Reichstag—the German parliament building—burned on the evening of February 27, 1933. Adolf Hitler had been appointed chancellor four weeks earlier, and already he had begun placing restrictions on the press and expanding the powers of the police. Yet it is the fire, rather than Hitler’s toxic first steps, that is remembered as the event after which things were never the same, in Germany or in the world. [...] To totalitarianism watchers, Trump’s campaign rallies, which segued into his victory rallies, including his “America First” inauguration, have looked familiar and perhaps more worrisome than an imaginary future fire. To historians of the twenty-first century, however, they will likely look like logical steps from the years of war rhetoric that preceded them, not quantum leaps. A nation can be mobilized only if it knows its enemy and believes in its own peril. It is not clear how many Germans attended that May Day parade because the spirit moved them and how many were compelled by fear or force. Four and a half decades later, in “The Power of the Powerless,” the Czech dissident Václav Havel described an individual who “lives within a lie,” the lie of the official ideology, without consciously accepting or rejecting it. Totalitarianism robs a person of the very ability to form an opinion. • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES QUOTATION “In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government — a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity. The public has a right to know this information. I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public. There is no danger to American interests from releasing it. And yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information.”                     ~Sen. Harry Reid, letter to then-FBI Director James Comey, October 30, 2016 TWEET OF THE DAY xUS, Japan missile interception test fails @CNNPolitics https://t.co/RlN6sIEEVl— Nukes of Hazard (@nukes_of_hazard) June 23, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST At Daily Kos on this date in 2005—Rove Plays The New McCarthy, G[...]



A day in the life of Trump's man-made disaster of a White House

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 20:02:45 +0000

Donald Trump's White House is positively toxic. Friday's news alone was a tour de force of the all-encompassing virulence that's now seeping from Trump throughout the entire executive branch and everything it touches.

Trump's days start with a crack-of-dawn phone call about everything Russia that's clearly aimed at distracting him and his thumbs from Twitter. Why his aides aren't just jingling some keys in front of him is a mystery, but the call is nothing but a venting session intended to soothe a sulking and brooding pr*sident.

Trump's entirely self-generated Russia predicament apparently has him miffed at his White House counsel Don McGahn. Somehow, McGahn has failed to stop Trump from engaging in a series of self-defeating, ill-advised, impulsive, and often petulant behaviors that have now made him the central focus of an obstruction probe. And make no mistake, that's McGahn's fault in Trump's view.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also causing a bit of consternation at the White House because, instead of hiring every appointee pushed his way, he's been "reviewing candidates" and insisting on a departmental assessment as he reportedly tries to restructure the agency. (Honestly, this news is a bit of a head scratcher since Tillerson helped gut the agency of expertise and has mostly functioned as a Trump minion with respect to Russia.) But whatever the problem with filling positions there, it appears to be a two-way street, with some Tillerson picks being entirely sidelined by the White House (similar to the difficulty Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has experienced with trying to get White House sign-offs on his top posts.)

And then there's Trump's inspirational jabs at his cabinet heads, like when he pantomimed firing his Veterans Affairs chief Friday during a bill signing for the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. At the East Room ceremony, Trump joked with VA Secretary David Shulkin that he was sure the law would be "properly implemented," to which Shulkin responded, "Absolutely."

Smiling, Trump responded, “Better be, David, or …” He then made a pistol with his right hand, aimed it at Shulkin and mouthed his signature words: “You're fired!”

Nothing like a little light humor from someone with sociopathic tendencies.

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Sen. Kamala Harris, leading Senate Dems call for decreased funding for Trump's deportation force

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 20:27:38 +0000

Citing an “indiscriminate approach to enforcement” that “has sown fear and anxiety in communities across the nation,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and leading Senate Democrats have signed a letter calling on the Senate Committee on Appropriations to reduce funding for Donald Trump’s deportation force, and set aside zero dollars for his massive border wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for:

“President Trump and his appointees have largely eliminated prioritization and discretion from the immigration enforcement system. There is little room for the case-by-case review that would allow for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion with respect to individuals who have lived in the country for long periods of time, who are parents of U.S. citizen children, or otherwise have strong ties to their communities and pose no public safety threat. This has resulted in numerous families being separated and American children being traumatized. There are approximately 4.1 million U.S. citizen children and families that could be negatively impacted by these indiscriminate deportations. This indiscriminate approach to enforcement has sown fear and anxiety in communities across the nation.”

The letter, led by Sen. Harris and signed by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and other leading Democrats, notes that Trump’s deportation force has not been targeting “bad hombres” as Trump and DHS Sec. John Kelly have repeatedly claimed, but instead undocumented parents with no criminal record—many with U.S. citizen kids and deep ties to the U.S.—undocumented immigrant victims of domestic violence, and other vulnerable populations:

“[W]e believe that existing funding levels should be reduced in order to limit President Trump’s mass deportation apparatus. ICE arrests of individuals with no criminal conviction have jumped 156 percent and make up a larger share of overall arrests as compared to last year. DHS should focus its resources on prioritizing actual threats, rather than targeting millions of unauthorized immigrants for removal.”

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Today's weather report: Rick Perry likely to get burned

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:38:35 +0000

Rick Perry may now be able to remember the name of his own agency—though we can’t be sure. However, it’s clear that he can’t remember basic science. In a visit to the climate denial promotion zone, also known as CNBC, Perry showed that he was right up there in the clan of Republicans who have taken Trump’s election as an excuse to not just deny that people have anything to do with climate change, but to trash the most basic aspects of why there is climate change.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry made it official on Monday: He denies the science behind human-caused climate change—specifically, the fact that burning fossil fuels increases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, trapping more heat. Asked whether he believes CO2 is “the primary control knob for the temperature of the Earth and for climate,” Perry replied, “No, most likely the primary control knob is the ocean waters and this environment that we live in.” 

Those blasted oceans. Always fiddling with the knobs. But Perry’s response didn’t sit well with the people who have to deal with climate’s little brother, the weather.

It is critically important that you understand that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause [of climate change]. This is a conclusion based on the comprehensive assessment of scientific evidence.  It is based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world. We are not aware of any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion. …

Without this fundamental understanding of science, it is impossible to discuss potential policy changes in meaningful ways. 

Perry may need to get his smart glasses to read that one to him. Short version: The weather men say your thinking is mostly cloudy with a 100 percent chance of being wrong.

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Federal judge temporarily stops Trump effort to deport 100 Iraqi Christians

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:18:28 +0000

A federal judge has temporarily halted the Trump regime’s attempt to deport more than 100 Iraqi Christians, mostly Chaldean Catholics, following a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Families, advocates, and experts have argued the deportations back to Iraq would be "like sending cattle to a slaughter”:

The Justice Department had argued that the detainees, including many who were recently rounded up after decades in the United States, must go to immigration court to try to remain in the country, not U.S. District Court. But the American Civil Liberties Union said they might be deported before an immigration judge can consider their requests to stay.

[U.S. District Judge Mark] Goldsmith heard arguments Wednesday. He said he needs more time to consider complex legal issues.

Potential physical harm “far outweighs any conceivable interest the government might have in the immediate enforcement of the removal orders before this court can clarify whether it has jurisdiction to grant relief to petitioners on the merits of their claims,” Goldsmith said.

“The court took a lifesaving action by blocking our clients from being immediately sent back to Iraq,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, in response to Judge Goldsmith’s decision. “They should have a chance to show that their lives are in jeopardy if forced to return.”

Detroit’s Iraqi community has been rallying for the release of the detainees, some of whom have spent decades in the U.S., others nearly their entire lives:

"My father has been here for almost 30 years. This is my home. This is his home, and this is his country," said 22 year old Rita Ghanam.  Ghanam's father Sarmad Ghanam is one of the detainees now awaiting his fate in a prison cell in Youngstown, Ohio.

Ghanam says her father was taken from his home in front of her younger sister on Sunday.

"They're pulling him out and he said 'I just want to kiss my daughter. I might not see her again,' and they wouldn't even allow him to kiss her," said Ghanam.

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Republicans in Missouri want to be able to keep women who use birth control from working

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:21:49 +0000

How far will Republicans in Missouri go to push their pro-life agenda? So far it seems, that they are willing to ban women who use birth control from even working. In what can only be described as pure zealotry, Republicans are trying to pass legislation to allow discrimination against women for their personal reproductive choices. 

Missouri’s Senate is considering legislation that would allow employers and landlords to discriminate against women who use birth control or have had abortions. The bill, which has the support of the state’s governor, Eric Greitens, was approved by the Missouri House Tuesday.

Known as SB 5, the bill was first passed by the Senate on June 14 following a special session called by Greitens. His aim was to overturn an ordinance that prevents employers and housing providers from punishing women for their reproductive health choices, according to a report by Feministing, a feminist website.

This is so utterly invasive, bizarre and out-of-control that it almost defies logic. It is absolutely incomprehensible and un-American. Except that Republicans are hyper-obsessed with controlling women’s bodies. So this makes perfect sense according to the puritanical framework from which they operate. 

Given the Senate’s vote on June 14, it it seen as likely to approve the updated version of SB 5. This would mean that landlords could refuse to offer housing to women based on their reproductive health choices, while employers could fire female staff members who were using birth control, or refuse to hire them. And while of course this isn't information most landlords or employers have access to, under SB 5 they could ask women what forms of reproductive health care they are using.

Never underestimate the lengths to which Republicans will go to take us back in time. This is positively repugnant. What’s next? Are landlords and employers going to go to the gynecologist with their female employees as well? Are they going to sign off on their pelvic exams and ultra sounds and the like? This is why our choices at the local, state and federal ballot box matter so much. Lawmakers like these should never be allowed anywhere near women—never mind near state legislatures where they can come up with hideous laws like these. If this travesty of a law does pass, let’s hope with all our might that lawyers sue the hell out of the governor and Republicans and take it all the way to the Supreme Court. This is tantamount to punishing women simply for being women and making free choices for themselves.  

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Rex Tillerson is so slow at filling offices that even Donald Trump is complaining

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:45:18 +0000

Donald Trump has proposed cutting the State Department budget by a third. Donald Trump has failed to even nominate candidates for many of the most critical positions. So who is to blame for not enough of Trump’s stooges scoring slots at the State Department? If you said Donald Trump, you’re obviously wrong.

The White House is becoming increasingly frustrated with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and a close-knit circle of aides over the slow pace of hiring and a chokehold on information and access to Tillerson, according to senior Trump administration officials and others familiar with the rift.

Tillerson simply refuses to put people Trump hasn’t named into jobs he won’t pay for. However, Rex does seem to adding his own layer of molasses to Trump’s slow-down-machine.

Tillerson also sketched a lengthy timeline for his internal review that would include a period of study and planning through 2017 and changes to the department’s structure and staffing next year. 

The former Exxon CEO looks to be in no hurry to fill empty posts. So any Trump associates expecting that job as undersecretary of excessive graft should take a nap until … say this time next year. 

Naturally, Trump isn’t happy with Tillerson. But then, Trump isn’t happy with Spicer, or Bannon, or Priebus, or anyone else. However, unlike those others, the secretary of State seems to be doing anything but hurrying to make amends with the boss.

Others involved in the process, however, said Tillerson aides have sat on or ignored White House requests for action on personnel.

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Cheers and Jeers: Rum and Resistance FRIDAY!

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 23:30:05 +0000

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

Late Night Snark: First Edition of Summer Edition

"Summer starts today! Which used to mean news would slow to a trickle, padded out by gratuitous T&A reports from the beach and stories about skunks with their heads stuck in peanut butter jars. Oh, I miss those days."

---Samantha Bee

"Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell showed us a draft of his top-secret new health care legislation…and wouldn’t you know it, the bill includes a big tax cut for rich people. They're calling the plan 'Better Care.' As in, just imagine how much better this plan would be if the people who wrote it cared."

---Jimmy Kimmel

"The American Health Care Act---an act which answers the question, what if a bus-stop ad for a personal injury lawyer was a health care policy?"

---John Oliver

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---The Daily Show

"We don’t know too much about what will be in the final [Trumpcare] bill because all of the negotiations so far have taken place behind closed doors. They even put a sock on the doorknob so no one barges in while they're screwing poor people. It's just polite."

---Stephen Colbert

"Today was National Vanilla Milkshake Day. Or as Mike Pence calls it: Spicy Tuesday!”

---Seth Meyers

Your west coast-friendly edition of Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold... [Swoosh!!] RIGHTNOW! [Gong!!]

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Trumpty Dumpty gets huffy with his White House counsel

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:01:30 +0000

Donald Trump raised the profile of the FBI's Russia investigation by fueling speculation about whether President Obama wiretapped his phones. He then fired the guy in charge of that investigation, triggering the appointment of a special counsel. He also publicly and privately took steps to stymie that investigation, resulting in a probe into whether he obstructed justice. Now he's losing patience and he knows who the real culprit of his calamity is: White House counsel Don McGahn. Politico writes:

Trump started the week by giving McGahn, a loyal supporter who was among the first Washington establishment figures to sign on with his presidential campaign, a dressing down in the Oval Office for not doing more to squash the Russia probe early on.

The episode — recounted by four people familiar with the conversation — came as part of a broader discussion on Monday about the president’s frustrations with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which now includes the question of whether Trump himself tried to obstruct the investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey.

This is just so laughable. Trump has single-handedly driven this probe, starting with whom he hired to run his campaign to his incessant and incriminating tweets. But somehow McGahn is at fault for not squashing the probe. Perhaps, he should have broken both of Trump's thumbs and flushed his phone down the toilet. That would have been a start.

The Russia probe is now being almost entirely handled by Trump's personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, while McGahn focuses on things that normal White House counsels do, like vetting appointees and judges and offering legal advice about legislation and executive orders. But by taking aim at McGahn, Trump is once again cutting off his nose to spite his face.

McGahn’s fall from the president’s good graces is particularly noteworthy because he occupies such a crucial role in the White House. He’s one of the few senior members of the administration with Washington chops. As a former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission, longtime campaign lawyer, and former attorney to House Republicans, he knows how to work the government’s levers of power, even if that involves jamming them up.

Keep it up, Trump! No one does it better.

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Trump's Russia investigation rage leaves staff and friends worried

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:33:32 +0000

Donald Trump begins many mornings at 6:30 AM with a call with a member of his Russia defense legal team, according to a new Washington Post report on Trump’s current emotional state and the latest infighting among his top advisers.

His advisers have encouraged the calls — which the early-to-rise Trump takes from his private quarters in the White House residence — in hopes that he can compartmentalize the widening Russia investigation. By the time the president arrives for work in the Oval Office, the thinking goes, he will no longer be consumed by the Russia probe that he complains hangs over his presidency like a darkening cloud.

It rarely works, however. Asked whether the tactic was effective, one top White House adviser paused for several seconds and then just laughed.

These are the strategic minds running the White House? People who think that having Donald Trump begin his day by rehashing the thing that makes him most angry will help him set it aside and go on with his day? It’s not working, of course. Boasting 22 sources, because that’s how badly Trump’s team is leaking these days, the article reports that:

Some in the White House fret over what they view as the president’s fits of rage, and Trump’s longtime friends say his mood has been more sour than at any point since they have known him. They privately worry about his health, noting that he appears to have gained weight in recent months and that the darkness around his eyes reveals his stress.

But never fear!

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Cartoon: Hot take wave

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 21:51:14 +0000

I fully acknowledge that I’m part of the opinion-industrial-complex and its role in creating an uninformed public. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Follow me on Twitter @BrianMc_Fadden.

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The potentially tragic consequences of the GOP's healthcare repeal on people like Steve Scalise

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:02:32 +0000

The New Republic has a thoughtful piece examining the potential consequences of the GOP's healthcare repeal bill on someone who becomes the victim of a shooting, requires extensive care, and thank goodness, survives that attack, as Republican Congressman Steve Scalise hopefully will.

Naturally, Republicans and Democrats alike have shied away from politicizing last week's shooting of one of their own (though a pro-Karen Handel Super PAC saw it as fair game in the GA-06 race). But the short-term and long-term impacts of the GOP's healthcare repeal bill on someone in Scalise's situation are worthy of examination, which is exactly what Brian Beutler endeavored to do.

Uninsurance is not a widespread problem for people who work on Capitol Hill, which means Scalise will likely be spared the second-most horrifying consequence of his injuries: the financial cost.

Through no fault of his own, Scalise has just incurred hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars in medical expenses. And while he may ultimately be responsible for a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of these costs, he and his Republican colleagues in Congress are, as he convalesces, attempting to expose millions of Americans to the kind of financial ruin he has so far avoided.

The elephant in the room since the shooting in Alexandria has been the tension between elected Republicans’ reflexive expectation that one of their colleagues receive outstanding care at essentially no monetary cost to him, and what they believe millions of other Americans should expect if they meet a similarly unlucky fate.

Beutler asked Scalise's office for redacted copies of his insurance records following the shooting so as to make "his total medical costs and his out-of-pocket costs a matter of public record." As one might imagine, his office was not responsive to the inquiry.

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More Americans believe James Comey than Donald Trump, second poll this week confirms

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:56:21 +0000

Nope. Americans just don’t believe Donald Trump’s story about his conversations with then-FBI Director James Comey before he fired Comey. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal found that people believed Comey’s account over Trump’s by a two-to-one margin, with 45 percent believing Comey and a tiny 22 percent believing Trump.

Just 50 percent of Republicans believe Trump, though only 10 percent believe Comey, so Republicans really don’t quite know what to do with this. Half of them realize Trump is not telling the truth, but they can’t follow that one out to its logical end.

The bad news for Trump doesn’t stop there:

The NBC/WSJ poll also finds 46 percent of Americans disapproving of Trump's decision to fire Comey — up from 38 percent in May.

Just 27 percent approve of Comey's ouster. [...]

According to the NBC/WSJ poll, 53 percent of Americans believe that Russia's government interfered in the 2016 election, compared with 36 percent who disagree.

This is the second poll this week with similar results. No wonder Trump had to have his ego massaged at a campaign rally on Wednesday.

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Trump suggests 'new immigration rules' that Clinton already signed into law 20 years ago

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:14:38 +0000

Donald Trump is so yugely succeeding at making America great again, that ideas he’s suggesting during those incoherent, televised rants he calls “campaign speeches” are instantly becoming law. Or maybe it’s just that these “new immigration rules” he suggested during his Iowa rally this week were already signed into existence over two decades ago by a certain former president he once liked, until his more qualified wife massively kicked his orange rear in the popular vote last November:

Reading from his trusted teleprompter, Trump declared, “The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years.”

Recognizing the popularity of what he’d just said, the president added, “We’ll be putting in legislation to that effect very shortly.”

As it turns out, that won’t be necessary. The Hill reported that this idea already exists in a law created 20 years ago.

Known as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), the legislation was passed during the administration of former President Bill Clinton and said that an immigrant is “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit” for 5 years, which starts on the date the immigrant enters the country.

There are exceptions under the law as to what qualifies as a federal-means tested public benefit. Some exceptions include certain medical assistance, “in-kind emergency disaster relief,” and public health assistance for some vaccines.

“I suppose it’s possible Trump intends to ‘put in legislation’ to change the restrictions that already exist, but it seems more likely that the president is simply unaware of current federal policy,” notes Maddow’s Steve Benen.

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Nevada's Dean Heller says he’s opposed to Trumpcare 'in this form'

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:41:47 +0000

Campaign Action

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) announced Friday afternoon in a joint press conference with Nevada's Gov. Brian Sandoval that he will oppose the Senate Trumpcare bill "in this form." Heller's criticisms of the bill were pointed and many.

Heller laid out a laundry list of concerns with the Senate version of the bill, including concerns that rolling back Medicaid eligibility would eventually leave a nearly half-billion dollar hole in the state budget, and wouldn’t do anything to lower premiums. He said revisions that would make him more comfortable with the bill were unlikely to move forward given that conservative factions in the Senate demanding the bill go even further in rolling back the federal insurance law.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes,” Heller said. […]

Sandoval — who has long held concerns about federal efforts to roll back Medicaid eligibility — said the Senate version of the bill would require the state to find approximately $480 million to continue existing levels of coverage, which he said the state “cannot sustain.” The Republican governor said he felt that he had made a “personal commitment” to the newly eligible population, and promised to continue to fight for continuing insurance coverage. […]

“At first glance, I have serious concerns about the bill’s impact on the Nevadans who depend on Medicaid,” [Heller] said in a statement.

The DSCC isn't buying it.

Make your Republican senator feel the heat. Call their office EVERY DAY at (202) 224-3121 to demand that they say NO to ripping health care away from millions of Americans. No on Trumpcare. Then, tell us how it went.

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Senate Trumpcare bill: Gratuitous tax giveaways to the rich, gratuitous, monstrous pain for the poor

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 18:08:07 +0000

This makes the totally unnecessary, retroactive capital gains tax cut included in Trumpcare all the worse. The bill would force people on Medicaid to reapply every six months, or even more frequently.

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Yes, that is savage. It’s unnecessary. It’s cruel. It’s a “fuck you” to all of low-income America, to disabled adults, to children—to the millions of people on Medicaid. Are the “moderates” in the Republican Senate conference going to capitulate to this, too?

Make your Republican senator feel the heat. Call their office EVERY DAY at (202) 224-3121 to demand that they say NO to ripping health care away from millions of Americans. No on Trumpcare. Then, tell us how it went.

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Midday open thread: House committee wants 'space corps'; EPA's methane measures being investigated

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:00:59 +0000

Today’s comic by Mark Fiore is Friend or foe:  • What’s coming up on Sunday Kos … A final ode to Cliff Huxtable: Burying the past in order to deal with the present, by Kelly Macias Right-wing ‘news’ sites distract from nightmare Trumpcare with scary fairy tales of freedom lost, by Ian Reifowitz The Democratic Party does not need a civil war, now or later, by Egberto Willies Hot enough for you? It’s likely to get worse. Much worse, by Sher Watts Spooner Senator Portman: 220,000 Ohioans with substance abuse coverage will lose it under repeal, by David Akadjian Step, Tap, Stomp: The power of dance rhythms, by Denise Oliver Velez The consequences of voting against you best interests, by Mark E Andersen • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups • Gabe Pressman, pioneering New York broadcast reporter dead at 93. • Sierra Club’s Michael Brune weighs in on delisting Yellowstone grizzly bears:  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region on Thursday from the Endangered Species List. The decision comes despite serious concerns in the scientific community about a declining, isolated population with diminishing food resources and record-high mortalities, as well as strong opposition from an unprecedented number of Tribal Nations. The Trump administration turned a deaf ear to repeated calls for consultation from dozens of Tribal Nations. States have already made it clear that without endangered species protections, immediate steps will be taken to reduce the number of bears in the area, including through trophy hunting—a move that will reverse grizzly bear recovery in the region. • California’s Senate president pro-term Kevin de León is at the center of West Coast resistance to Donald Trump. • EPA Inspector General will evaluate agency’s methane measurements: The Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Inspector General will investigate how the agency estimates methane emissions from the oil and gas sector after an environmental group alleged that its emission estimates and regulations are based, in part, on faulty studies. The evaluation, announced Wednesday, will focus on a pair of studies conducted jointly by the University of Texas–Austin and the Environmental Defense Fund in 2013-2014 that found methane emissions to be lower than EPA estimates. The studies, which were done in cooperation with a number of oil and gas companies, were subsequently challenged for allegedly using faulty equipment and underestimating emissions. • House committee pursues founding of military “space corps”: Congress took formal steps on Thursday toward requiring the US military to establish a dedicated "Space Corps," as concern mounts over the vulnerability of American space assets and their central role in modern war-fighting. [...] "We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems," said Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), who chairs the House Armed Services Subcommittee for Strategic Forces, and Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), the subcommittee's ranking member, in a joint statement. "Thus, Congress has to step [...]



As Senate Republicans attack health care, House Republicans continue attacks on immigrants

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:23:22 +0000

Senate Republicans appear set on voting to dismantle healthcare coverage for millions of disabled Americans and other vulnerable groups next week, but don’t worry, undocumented immigrant families, because House Republicans haven’t forgotten about you either. According to Politico, Republican legislators, led by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, (R-VA) are also readying even more bills targeting undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities: One of the bills to see a floor vote, dubbed Kate's Law, boosts penalties for immigrants who try to re-enter the United States after being deported. It is named after Kate Steinle, a young woman who was shot and killed in San Francisco by an immigrant who had been deported repeatedly yet returned. Trump frequently discussed the killing on the campaign trail last year. The second is legislation that goes after so-called sanctuary cities — localities that limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, including by refusing to hold an immigrant in jail longer just so federal officials can pick him or her up to be deported. Sanctuary cities, usually liberal jurisdictions such as New York, have also been a major Trump target. The legislation is penned by Rep. Goodlatte, who recently pushed a bill that “would require Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] deportation officers to have access to not just standard-issue handguns and stun guns, but also M-4 rifles or equivalents.” Meanwhile, federal immigration agencies run amok with rogue agents newly emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency, with oftentimes deadly consequences. These kinds of anti-immigrant bills are all being done under the guise of keeping America safe, when in reality the administration has been sweeping up and demonizing thousands of undocumented immigrants without criminal records. The current administration has the resources and capability to prioritize who should and shouldn’t get deported—the last administration was trying to do it but there was constant sabotaging from Republicans—but it becomes more and more clear every day they just want everyone with a tan out. [...]



Does Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito have a heart?

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 17:23:47 +0000

We’ll soon find out. Sen. Capito (R-WV) was actually willing to meet with constituents about Trumpcare, more than many of her Republican colleagues have done. But what happens after this meeting is what counts. 

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In this clip she’s meeting a mother who talks about her adult daughter who has lived with cancer for four years, imploring the senator to understand how Trumpcare could ruin everything for her daughter.

She's 41 years old. She's been fighting this cancer for four years, very diligently. [She] has maintained her job, has gotten promotions, has led teams. As sick as she has been, she would not be alive today if it wasn't for the ACA (Affordable Care Act). […]

With the cap, if she ever lost her insurance—in seven months she went over $1,200,000, and this has been going on for four years. Pre-existing condition, and we're not sure how long she's gonna be able to work. Maybe forever, that's what our goal is.

But these are real people. My daughter. And so I just want you to have that in your brain when you look at this [healthcare bill].

So, Sen. Capito. Will it be in your head when you vote on this next week? Or will you stay true to form and capitulate to your leader Mitch McConnell? Like your people always do.

Your Republican senator must feel the heat. Write them an angry letter giving them a piece of your mind.

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The completely gratuitous gift to the super-rich that proves Trumpcare is a tax bill

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 16:20:40 +0000

Campaign Action How blatantly heartless and craven is Mitch McConnell's Trumpcare bill? Even Fox Business will tell you. Look at this headline: "Senate Health Bill Gives Huge Tax Cuts to Businesses, High-Income Households." They're not necessarily saying it in a celebratory way, not when they come to the totally gratuitous tax break for the super-rich that's hidden away in the Obamacare repeal part of the bill. The tax portions of the proposal, a draft of which was released on Thursday in advance of a possible vote next week, are very similar to the elements in the version the House passed last month. The plan operates like the 2010 Affordable Care Act in reverse. Instead of raising taxes to pay for expanded insurance coverage, it reduces coverage and cuts taxes. The taxes it would remove were created to pay for Obamacare. The most notable is a 3.8% tax on investment income, including capital gains and dividends. The tax only applies to individuals with incomes exceeding $200,000 and married couples making more than $250,000. Like in the House bill, that tax would be repealed as of Jan. 1, 2017, dropping the top capital-gains tax rate to 20% from 23.8%. Under that measure, people who sold assets earlier this year, even before they knew if the tax cut would happen, would benefit. Retroactive tax cuts like this don't create an incentive and can yield windfall gains for people who already made decisions. [emphasis added] It's just a stocking stuffer to the main present of huge tax cuts the super-rich are getting; it’s blood money wrung out of Medicaid. It's totally gratuitous, the largest single tax cut in the whole bill. As Former Special Assistant to President Obama for Economic Policy Seth Hanlon tweeted "There is no reason to make a tax cut on capital gains/dividends *retroactive* unless your purpose is to shovel money to rich people." A retroactive capital gains tax cut, as Fox Business tells us, gives absolutely no incentive for investing in anything that will boost the economy or create jobs. It's just a reward for being part of the 1 percent. [...]



How McConnell wins on Trumpcare (unless we stop him): 'Moderates always cave'

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:51:37 +0000

Campaign Action

Because there isn't enough drama in the prospect of millions of people being kicked out of their health care and the destruction of a key part of the social safety net, we're being treated to the process story the day after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released his version of Trumpcare. The breathless reports from Politico are all about how McConnell will bring together his conference to pass this. Will he really be winning by losing? asks the Times.

WASHINGTON — When it comes to managing Republicans’ best interests, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, rarely loses. So it is possible that Mr. McConnell views the potential failure of a hastily written health care bill as an eventual boon.

What that boon is is never really explained in the article, oddly, but it does give a good set up to talk about all the potential obstacles to this actually happening, with the key graph here (though the reporter might not have noticed it):

Mr. McConnell plays his strategic cards so close to the vest that a queen of hearts must be tattooed on his tie. He may, of course, be convinced that the Senate can pass this bill. Perhaps after some moaning, and some changes to the bill through amendments, the 51 senators needed to get the bill over the line (or 50 if Vice President Mike Pence is summoned) will choose a good-enough effort over being tarred as the person who declined to make good on a seven-year promise to unravel President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.
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The North Carolina law you've never heard of that says consent during sex is irrelevant

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 15:29:05 +0000

Let’s talk about sex, folks—seriously. Let’s talk, again, about what constitutes consensual sex and what does not. This seems like something obvious that we should all know but it’s becoming increasingly clear that many of us do not. And because the Bill Cosby trial has brought this topic to the forefront of our attention, let’s take this moment to get conscious once and for all. Consensual sex is when both parties willingly choose to participate. Consent should be clear and openly communicated. A person has the right to withdraw their consent to sexual activity at any time, despite what religion or some states may want to tell you. This last part is particularly important. North Carolina, for example, doesn’t believe that this is true. Right now, they have an antiquated and abusive law on the books that says that women cannot change their mind during sex even if things become violent.  According to a 1979 state Supreme Court ruling, State v. Way, a man isn’t guilty of rape if he continues to have intercourse with a woman who asks him to stop, so long as she agreed to the encounter at the outset. North Carolina is the only state with such a law on the books, and efforts to change it have been unsuccessful, even as women have spoken out about how the law has harmed them. So we are all clear, this is a law that says that rape is perfectly legal. With archaic and vile laws like this in existence, it’s no wonder that Republican lawmakers would be so uninformed about sexual assault as to say incredibly asinine things like “legitimate rape.” Numerous women have come forward to press the state to change the law. They have described situations where they initially consented but changed their minds. One incident was taped. And while the tape confirmed the woman’s story, the police still did not charge her attacker. This law does not allow women to have any autonomy over their own bodies. It is downright frightening and a sobering reminder of how patriarchy and misogyny are incredibly real and powerful. So much so that in North Carolina, a woman not only doesn’t have the right to say yes (because that’s what consent really means), she also doesn’t have the right to say no.  [...]



Add higher deductibles to the ways Trumpcare will hurt you

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 15:48:34 +0000

The Senate Trumpcare bill, like the House bill before it, is death (literally, in many cases) by a thousand cuts. If it doesn’t just strip your Medicaid, it’ll price you out of being able to get coverage or leave you with insurance that doesn’t cover what you need covered or—as Jonathan Cohn wonkily explains—leave you with higher deductibles:

Under the Affordable Care Act, the benchmark plan is a “silver” plan. Silver plans have an “actuarial value” (AV) of 70, which means they should cover roughly 70 percent of the typical person’s medical expenses. Under the Senate proposal, the benchmark plan would be a policy with an AV of 58 ― in other words, a plan that would cover just 58 percent of the typical person’s medical expenses. That’s pretty close to what, under the Affordable Care Act, qualifies as a “bronze” plan. [...]

In 2016, the median deductible in a silver plan on healthcare.gov was $3,500 a year, according to the Center on Medicare and Medicaid Services. This, roughly speaking, is the plan that Obamacare is designed to help consumers get. In 2016, the median deductible in a bronze plan on healthcare.gov was $6,300. This ― again, roughly speaking ― is the plan that Senate Republicans want to help consumers get. 

The effects could be even bigger for low-income people:

Somebody making $20,000 a year could easily see deductibles increase dramatically, from $1,000 (the average deductible for lowest-income consumers in 2016, according to Aviva Aron-Dine of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) up to that $6,300 average. And for somebody at that income level ― think a home care worker or retail clerk barely covering costs like food and rent ― even modestly higher out-of-pocket medical costs would be crippling.

Of course low-income people would be especially screwed. Of course. This is a Republican plan, after all. But there’s plenty of pain to go around, all to pay for a tax cut for the wealthy.

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Donald Trump reveals how he outsmarted James Comey with pretend tapes 'it wasn't very stupid'

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:50:58 +0000

Donald Trump was interviewed about Thursday’s tweet, issued at prime distract-from-horrible-Senate-healthcare-bill time, saying that he never had any recordings of his conversations with James Comey. In this interview, Trump issues a declaration of just how smart him be.

As with most Trump explanations, this one first needs to be translated into English.

Trump: Well I didn’t tape him. Uh. You never know what’s happening when you see that the Obama administration, and perhaps longer than that, was doing all this unmasking and, uh, surveillance, and you read all about it—and I’ve been reading all about it for the last couple of months. About the seriousness of the … And horrible situation with the surveillance all over the place. And you’ve been hearing the word ‘unmasking’ — a word you probably never heard before. So you don’t know what’s out there. 

Translation: I worry that Barack Obama is under my desk.

Trump: But I didn’t tape, and I don’t have any tape. And I didn’t tape. 

Translation: I totally taped him.

Trump then goes on to say that he thinks Comey may have changed his story. This prompts an assist from his chirpy Fox & Friends of Donald Trump interviewer who praises Trump for pretending to have tapes. Sorry, “Tapes.”

Fox: It was a smart way to make sure he stayed honest in those hearings!

Trump: Well … uh. It wasn’t … uh. It wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that.

That’s right. Donald Trump trapped James Comey into being honest … by lying. Him not stupid!

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In a strong statement, AARP vows to 'hold all 100 Senators accountable' for health care bill

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 14:22:48 +0000

When the Republicans finally released their secretive wealthcare bill yesterday, several horrible elements immediately jumped out, many or most of them affecting citizens 46 years of age and older. Wealthcare bill provisions would decimate Medicaid, which 64% of nursing home residents rely on. The bill would allow insurance companies to charge higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions, something that would affect an estimated 130 million Americans, many over the age of 50 years old. And finally, the wealthcare bill includes an “age tax” that would mean beginning at age 46 years old, insurance companies could begin charging up to five times more than premiums for younger people: The AHCA would raise that limit: Premiums for older people could jump to five times the amount insurers charge younger consumers, from the limit of three times the younger consumers’ rate under the current law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Such a change would significantly increase financial burdens on millions of older adults, but the shift in costs would do little to get more young consumers to enroll. Needless to say, this will have a dramatic effect on the 38 million members of AARP and they released a very strong statement vowing to hold all 100 senators accountable for their vote: “This new Senate bill was crafted in secrecy behind closed doors without a single hearing or open debate—and it shows. The Senate bill would hit millions of Americans with higher costs and result in less coverage for them. AARP is adamantly opposed to the Age Tax, which would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more for coverage than everyone else while reducing tax credits that help make insurance more affordable.     “AARP is also deeply concerned that the Senate bill cuts Medicaid funding that would strip health coverage from millions of low-income and vulnerable Americans who depend on the coverage, including 17 million poor seniors and children and adults with disabilities. The proposed Medicaid cuts would leave millions, including our most vulnerable seniors, at risk of losing the care they need and erode seniors’ ability to live in their homes and communities. [...]



Here's why disabled people faced arrest to protest Medicaid cuts: Their lives were at stake

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:48:56 +0000

Thursday, protesters with disabilities gathered outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office to stage a die-in calling attention to Trumpcare’s massive cuts to Medicaid. It was a shocking scene as Capitol police dragged them away and arrested them. But when you find out what was at stake, it’s clear why people would risk harm and arrest to protest this. The foundation of millions of people’s ability to live independent lives is at stake, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains: People with disabilities account for more than 1 in 5 Medicaid beneficiaries under age 65.  Nationwide, nearly 13 million non-elderly Americans with disabilities receive health coverage through Medicaid, including more than 2 million children. Nearly half of non-elderly people with disabilities have their health care covered through Medicaid.  Medicaid is crucial for people with disabilities. It provides comprehensive health benefits and serves as the primary payer for essential long-term services and supports that help people with disabilities stay independent in their homes. Many of these long-term care services are unavailable through private insurance and are too costly for all but the wealthiest people to fund out of pocket, such as personal and attendant care services. Medicaid can also cover wheelchairs, lifts, and case management services. And Medicaid can help people with disabilities find and hold jobs. A number of states provide supportive employment programs through Medicaid that offer services to help people with disabilities join the workforce. For many, Medicaid cuts would mean being forced out of their homes and into institutions: The House bill would place a fixed cap on per-beneficiary federal Medicaid funding, cutting federal funding to the states by growing amounts over time. This would force many states to make excruciating decisions on whom they cover, the benefits they provide, and how much they pay providers, and likely would jeopardize coverage and care for vulnerable populations that Medicaid covers. People with disabilities who rely on Medicaid-funded services to avoid having to live in a nursing home or other institution would be among those hit hardest. The House bill’s cuts would likely prompt many states to roll back their progress in expanding access to care in the community and prevent them from making more progress in the future. That’s because unlike most services in Medicaid, which states must cover, most home- and community-based services are optional Medicaid benefits that states can cut when they face funding shortfalls. [...]



Cartoon: Friend or foe

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:51:08 +0000

U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is getting curiouser and curiouser. Soon after President Trump’s recent visit, a major rift happened between Saudi Arabia and Qatar (among others). Trump came out firmly in support of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. If you were just getting a handle on the various Sunni and Shiite players, now add in a rift between Sunni nations.  

The Middle East’s already-complicated foreign policy picture just got decidedly more complicated. The Saudi royals and Trump explain the Qatar rift as being all about terrorism and Islamic extremism, but Saudi Wahhabism is not exactly a model of religious tolerance and democracy. Hmmm, could there be a business angle to this entire confusing mess?

If Qatar is so evil, then why is the U.S. Navy conducting joint training exercises with them right now? It seems that the White House and the Pentagon aren’t on the same page when it comes to foreign policy. Keep your eyes peeled and enjoy the cartoon. (And be sure to visit me over on Patreon!)

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Republicans blocked President Obama from telling the public about Russian actions to help Trump

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:29:08 +0000

Donald Trump asks the question frequently, and always with a sneer: If President Barack Obama knew that Vladimir Putin had intervened in the United States’ election with the direct intention of helping Trump, why did Obama wait so long to say anything? The answer detailed in a new story from the Washington Post turns out to be simple: First, Obama was trying to do the right things. Second, Republicans stopped that from happening. Campaign Action As former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified earlier this week, the Russian activity in the election went beyond just hacking into emails, beyond distributing those emails through Wikileaks, and beyond creating a stream of fake-news stories that were eagerly shared by alt-right websites and social media. Russia took unprecedented “active measures,” attempting to penetrate state databases and alter or delete voter roles. It was tantamount a secret declaration of war by Russia, and the Obama administration treated it the security and care that it deserved. Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. … The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid. At that early stage, they couldn’t tell the full extent of the Russian operations. They didn’t know the scale of the attack. They couldn’t tell who in the United States might be cooperating with the Russians. They could only be certain about one thing. The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump. [...]



The Senate Trumpcare bill: Mean, mean, mean

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 13:01:02 +0000

Campaign Action Mitch McConnell released what he and his leadership team are calling a "discussion draft" of Trumpcare on Thursday, calling it the "Better Care Reconciliation Act" (wags immediately added "Plan" to the end of the title so we can call it BRCAP). It's being carefully presented as just a discussion bill to give Republican senators the opportunity to publicly declare that that bill "as written" is unacceptable to them, from both the extreme right and the mainstream far right that passes for "moderate" these days. This will allow McConnell to make some tweaks—like throwing a few billion more into opioid addiction treatment, or giving Medicaid expansion one more year to exist, or making the tax credits even more penurious to keep the undeserving from getting them—that will allow factions to declare victory on their particular issues and 50 of them to support the bill. Two Senators, one of which will likely be Nevada's Dean Heller will probably be allowed to vote no. Most of the in-fighting and posturing of the next week will be who gets to be the second one. There's a helluva lot for the so-called moderates to oppose. Any hopes that the Senate would make the bill less harsh than what the House passed last month, the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) have been dashed. Here's some of the top line destruction it will create. It will destroy Medicaid more completely than the House bill. While it waits until 2021 to phase out Medicaid expansion, it still ends it, and with it coverage for some 14 million Americans. It makes deeper future cuts to Medicaid than the House bill, setting a limit on per-person spending for states, and tying increases in that spending limit to the overall consumer price index, a measure that grows much more slowly than the increase in health spending, the measure the House bill used. In the long term, that means Medicaid will be cut far deeper in BCRAP. It ends Medicaid as we know it. It jeopardizes coverage for 1 in 5 Americans, for half of all births, for two-thirds of all seniors in nursing homes, for three-quarters of poor children. It gives 400 of the country's  highest-earning families a $33 billion tax break, blood money for those Medicaid cuts. Those cuts "roughly equal the federal cost of maintaining the expansion in Nevada, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Alaska combined." Among those getting a big tax cut: health insurance CEOs. The Affordable Care Act taxed CEO income over $500,000, BCRAP ends that. [...]



Morning Digest: Nevada Democrats land their first major candidate in pivotal 2018 gubernatorial race

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:01:25 +0000

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, and David Beard. Leading Off ● NV-Gov: On Thursday, Democratic Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak announced he was running for governor in 2018, making him the first prominent candidate from either party to jump into the race to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Sisolak serves as chairman of the seven-member commission in a county that covers the greater Las Vegas area and over two-thirds of the Silver State's population, giving him a prominent springboard for higher office.​ Campaign Action ​Sisolak's commission record will also give opponents chances to attack him, though, particularly over a controversial $750 million hotel tax to pay for part of a new $1.9 billion football stadium to bring the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. However, Sisolak starts the race with over $3 million in cash on hand since he can transfer leftover funds from his 2016 re-election campaign to a statewide contest. Democrats regained both legislative chambers in 2016 amid Hillary Clinton's 48-46 victory statewide, and they quickly set about passing an ambitious progressive agenda only to see Sandoval veto measures such as a Medicaid buy-in health care public option and automatic voter registration. Consequently, if Democrats win the gubernatorial race next year for the first time since 1994, they could gain unified control over state government for the first time in over a quarter century, meaning the stakes are enormous in this evenly divided swing state. Despite those high stakes, this race has been surprisingly slow to develop. Republican state Attorney General Adam Laxalt is widely expected to run and appears to be his party's front-runner at the moment, but he has yet to even acknowledge publicly that he's actively considering it. Laxalt released a poll in early June that had him leading Sisolak 46-37, but with practically no other polling of the race, it's hard to know where things stand. It's not even certain that both men will win their respective parties' nominations, since Republican state Treasurer Dan Schwartz has previously said he was considering it, while wealthy Democratic businessman Stephen Cloobeck has reportedly been quite interested too. [...]



Daily Kos Radio is TAPED at 9 AM ET!

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 12:01:27 +0000

I’m not taking the day off. I’m a method actor, studying for the role of Daniel Day Lewis portraying me preparing for the biopic, “The Day Off,” in the Lewis biopic, “Not a Day Off.” It hurts your brain to think about it, but trust me, it’s procedurally sound. Anyway, the real point is, I’ve got an all-new show for you today, even though I’m on the road. I’m not actually going anywhere. I’m also studying for a role as a road. Listen LIVE (from your perspective, anyway), right here at 9:00 AM ET! NPR not doing it for you? Have the networks left you mad as hell? Think The New York Times isn’t fit to print? Well, uh… that’s bad! And if I’m not mistaken, you want good, not bad. Kagro in the Morning is good! Imagine reading and discussing the news every morning with your favorite Daily Kos editors! Now imagine doing that with David Waldman, Greg Dworkin, Joan McCarter, and even Armando! Pretty close, right? Why let the corporate news drive you crazy with biased content and exorbitant subscription fees, when Daily Kos Radio can do it at half the cost? Help keep us up and running with a monthly, sustaining donation to our Patreon account! Or choose your own schedule with our Square Cash account. Imagine what we could do together! I have a feeling it would sound something like this: x YouTube Video YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash Remember how life was, back before the Senate Republicans released their Trumpcare bill? KITM does. In fact, today’s entire show was recorded in those more innocent times, making David Waldman and Greg Dworkin’s prescient analysis even more trenchant... So quit being distracted by the “new” news and listen to this stuff first! The Senate say they have some divisions in their ranks on their health-care tax bill, but really, they knew what it was—tax cuts for the rich, and Medicaid destroyed. Republicans know opposition to the House bill has doubled among even Republican voters, but they bet this won’t matter for their reelection, and they are relying on the media forgetting before 2018. So—deductibles and out-of-pocket go up? Yep. Lives of the neediest on Medicaid ruined or destroyed? Sure! Strangle Planned Parenthood? Of course! But think of all of the regulations and taxes going away! Mitch would be happy to throw out a lot of Senate rules to make that happen. All of this distracts from Trump’s Russian collusion, as Dan Coats and Mike Rogers could tell you, but no, not the President. Today was not the day Donald trump finally became president, because he remains a candidate, and somehow he’s the worst at that too. Campaign Finance Law: When “Collusion” with a foreign government becomes a crime. The FBI fired Sebastian Gorka for anti-Muslim diatribes, but it’s a living. (Thanks again to Scott Anderson for the show summary!) Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold. [...]



Abbreviated pundit roundup: Senate GOP unveils massive tax cut for the rich as its health care bill

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:46:06 +0000

We begin today’s roundup with The New York Times and its editorial on the Senate Republican health care bill, which is nothing more than a massive tax cut for the wealthy at the expense of the nation’s most vulnerable:

It would be a big mistake to call the legislation Senate Republicans released on Thursday a health care bill. It is, plain and simple, a plan to cut taxes for the wealthy by destroying critical federal programs that help provide health care to tens of millions of people. [...]

If passed in its current form, the Senate bill would greatly weaken Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides insurance to nearly 69 million people, more than any other government or private program. It would do this by gradually but inexorably shifting more of the financial burden of Medicaid to states, in effect, forcing them to cover fewer people and to provide fewer services. Over all, the Senate would reduce federal spending by about $1 trillion over 10 years and use almost that much to cut taxes for rich families and health care companies.

The Washington Post agrees:

It includes a range of mostly unwise and ungenerous changes to the nation’s health-care system, but it might, if enacted, end up as mostly a massive, unpaid-for tax cut for wealthy people and industries with pull on Capitol Hill. [...] 

The cynicism of this exercise is evident in its staging. The bill would kill a variety of taxes right away, but the subsidy and Medicaid cuts would not phase in until after the 2018 midterm election. It would be left to future Congresses to allow severe cuts to the safety net or major expansion of the federal debt, or a combination of the two. Instead of forcing this choice between Americans’ physical health and the nation’s fiscal health, senators should end this repeal-and-replace disaster now.

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Open thread for night owls: 'Pizzagate' gunman gets 4-year prison sentence

Fri, 23 Jun 2017 03:00:59 +0000

The gunman who entered a Washington pizza restaurant to investigate false allegations peddled by Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists that the building was a hub for a child-trafficking ring supposedly connected to Hillary Clinton has been sentenced to four years in prison. Federal prosecutors countered in their memo to the judge that it was “entirely the product of good luck” that no one was shot. They urged Jackson to send a strong message to deter those who would commit violence based solely on “malicious and misguided” Internet rumors. “Beyond Pizzagate, the Internet is full of wild conspiracy theories where people urge members of the public . . . to take action,” wrote the assistant U.S. attorneys Ahn and Sonali D. Patel. [...] “A significant sentence is required to deter other people from pursuing vigilante justice based only on their YouTube feed,” prosecutors wrote. Prosecutors had asked for a four and a half year sentence. • An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance Events • Indivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups TOP COMMENTS • HIGH IMPACT STORIES TWEET OF THE DAY xMedicaid is important to disabled people. We raise our voice and get answered with handcuffs #ADAPTandRESIST pic.twitter.com/Wm00OG4JYI— Colleen Flanagan (@ColleenFlangan) June 22, 2017 BLAST FROM THE PAST At on this date in 2007—Good ideas that are bad politics: So here's the deal.  Five years, no new highways.  No new bridges, bypasses, nothing.  Instead, we allocate the same money for highways, but we spend half of it on fixing up the infrastructure we already have, and the other half building up public transportation so we don't need as many highways.  Bonus funding for any city that gets rid of existing lanes. On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, you didn’t have to wait for the Gop health care tax bill text to know how bad it was. Greg Dworkin told you! The FBI once “fired” Sebastian Gorka for his anti- Muslim scamming. The argument for treating Trump-Russia as a campaign finance violation story. x Embedded Content YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash [...]



Seattle's $15 minimum wage raised pay with zero effect on restaurant jobs, new study shows

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:20:50 +0000

Raising the minimum wage does not kill jobs, no matter what Republicans tell you—and a new study of the Seattle restaurant industry, where some businesses are already paying a $15 minimum wage, provides another data point showing just that. According to the University of California, Berkeley, study, the increased minimum wage had employment effects that were “not statistically distinguishable from zero,” which is a fancy way of saying “we looked and we could not find a damn thing.” The Seattle Times reports: Indeed, employment in food service from 2015 to 2016 was not affected, “even among the limited-service restaurants, many of them franchisees, for whom the policy was most binding,” according to the study, led by Berkeley economics professor Michael Reich. [...] It can be hard to separate what impact the wage law had on employment in Seattle versus the effect of the city’s white-hot economy and tight labor market, but “we do our best,” Reich said. The study compares the wage and employment growth rates in Seattle to a control group of counties, in Washington state and across the U.S., that had similar growth rates as Seattle in the years shortly before the minimum-wage law took effect. A report issued last year found indications that the increased minimum wage did slightly restrict job growth, but we don’t know if the difference comes from differing methodologies or from the studies covering different time frames. Both studies have to contend with Seattle’s booming economy, which could conceivably mask lowered growth of the job rate for low-wage workers … but which itself refutes the Republican talking points against raising the minimum wage. Because “it’s hard to tell if even more low-wage workers would otherwise be employed because the economy is so darn good” does not exactly back up claims that having the minimum wage be a living wage will destroy the economy. [...]



Maine Democrats are about to seriously screw voters ... and themselves

Wed, 21 Jun 2017 22:13:17 +0000

What if I told you that, last year, Maine voters passed one of the most substantial voting reforms in American history? And now, what if I told you that Democrats in the state legislature were about to kill it? That’s the situation we’re dealing with here in the great state of Maine, as the legislature—the lower half of which has a Democratic majority—prepares to vote to repeal the state’s new Ranked Choice Voting law, which was approved by 52 percent of voters in a statewide referendum last year. Only a simple majority of both the House and Senate would be required to repeal the law. Republicans control the Senate, and Democrats have a slim 75-71 House majority over the GOP, and there are five independents. Already, at least three House Democrats back full repeal. Here’s why Ranked Choice Voting is such a big deal: Ranked Choice Voting restores majority rule by empowering voters to rank candidates for state and congressional office from their most favorite to their least favorite. It ensures that candidates with the most votes and broadest support win—and we Mainers know a thing or two about the importance of majority rule after seeing Paul LePage win two gubernatorial elections without ever securing a majority. (And winning his first term with a paltry 38 percent of the vote.) Ranked Choice Voting won with 52 percent of the vote last fall. All told, 388,273 Mainers voted for Ranked Choice Voting—that's more votes than every Democratic legislator received combined, and is more votes than Paul LePage received in either of his two gubernatorial elections. Then, last month, the state Supreme Court issued a nonbinding opinion saying that parts of the Ranked Choice Voting referendum passed by voters were unconstitutional. That sounds bad, but here's the thing: Repealing the law is NOT the legislature's only course of action. Here are just a few things that the legislature could do that would acknowledge the court's opinion and still respect the will of the people: Amend the state constitution to allow for Ranked Choice Voting Amend the law to create a "trigger," so that the law would take effect only after the constitution is amended sometime down the road Create a dual system that would allow for Ranked Choice Voting in congressional races and primaries—with which the state Supreme Court took no issue [...]



Republicans ready to shut down government in Washington state

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 17:25:15 +0000

Public workers in Washington state are getting temporary layoff notices, as the state could be headed for a government shutdown on July 1 if the Republican-held state Senate and Democratic state House and governor can’t reach a budget agreement before then. The legislature is under court order to fix school underfunding, and—surprise!—Republicans are rejecting most options for adding revenue and refusing to negotiate. The editorial board of The Olympian writes: Basically this fight didn’t need to play out this way. It pits the Democratic-majority state House against a Republican-controlled Senate, but fundamentally it is ideology on the GOP side that is blocking progress. The Democrats have been realistic about the need for new revenue. Republicans have dug in with fervor against new taxes — with one self-serving exception. The GOP favors jacking up property taxes on mostly urban areas that have sky-high property valuations, housing affordability issues and Democratic representation. That won’t work morally or politically. Their members are justify this overall tax increase by telling their supporters that it actually means tax cuts in their districts. So far, Democrats have showed some willingness to compromise. First, Gov. Jay Inslee suggested House Democrats pull a capital gains tax proposal off the table. Inslee, a Democrat who had proposed the tax, was acknowledging it would probably not pass in the Senate where Republicans adamantly oppose it. But Republicans, of course, won’t compromise. As a result, Washington residents and workers are looking at a shutdown that would cause more than 50,000 senior citizens to lose meals, tens of thousands of families to lose child care, and state parks to close. Workers’ compensation claims wouldn’t be processed, workplace safety inspections would stop, veterans would lose PTSD counseling, an enormous range of healthcare services would halt, people with disabilities wouldn’t get vocational rehabilitation services, and much, much, much more. Par for the Republican course, in other words. Stay tuned. [...]



A town comes together to protect man accused of sexual assault and his accuser commits suicide

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 16:02:24 +0000

As a society, we are a long way from dealing with rape humanely. In part, this is because many of us still don’t understand what consent is and that it’s not just about a person’s right to say no but also about their right to say yes. Our legal system is woefully inadequate when it comes to addressing sexual assault and victim shaming combined with laws that favor the accused are powerful reasons that many choose not to come forward. In Alabama, college student Megan Rondini did everything victims are told to do when she reported her assault by a prominent local businessman. Her experience with the criminal justice system was so horrific that she committed suicide.  Under Alabama’s archaic rape law, victims must prove they “earnestly” resisted their attackers, and the investigator who interviewed Megan quickly decided she hadn’t fought back against Bunn — she hadn’t “kicked him or hit him," he explained. His investigation would conclude that no rape occurred. But he didn’t stop there. Instead, he started building a case against Megan, questioning her for multiple crimes she wasn’t even aware she had committed. Megan met T.J. Bunn, Jr. in a local bar. She did not remember how she ended up in his car on the way to his house but she did clearly recall that she was sober enough to tell him that she did not want to have sex with him. After telling him that she had to go multiple times and him not allowing her to leave, she “felt like just letting him have sex with me was the only way he would let me go.” This is absolutely not the same thing as consent. After he passed out, she tried to get out of his bedroom but the door was locked. She took his handgun for protection and $3 from his wallet, just in case she needed it. She then climbed out of a window in his house and broke into his car looking for her keys. She could not find them but managed to text a friend who picked her up and took her to the hospital where she met with law enforcement to report her assault. That is when she learned that the law and the community would do it all could to protect Bunn, the son of an influential family, instead of her.  [...]



Donald Trump to hold 2020 re-election fundraiser next week at his Washington hotel

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:39:25 +0000

Donald Trump started spending money on his 2020 re-election effort on November 24, 2016—less than three weeks after the election. He officially launched his re-election effort on inauguration day. It’s a move that allows Trump to do two things: First, he can hold rallies at which he can voice over the top attacks, angry divisive rhetoric, and general nuttiness. Second, he can do this:

President. Candidate. Businessman. Three of President Donald Trump’s roles converge next week as he holds his first re-election fundraiser at his hotel in Washington.

Donald Trump is officially holding his first fundraiser of his re-election, at the hotel he operates in a federal-government-owned building. Next week.

In a comparison when things were still sane, Barack Obama announced that he planned to run for re-election on April 4, 2011. That was a year and half before the election. It was also nearly a month ahead of the usual date, and the early sign-on generated heated complaints from Republicans at the time.

To be fair, Barack Obama did fundraising in 2010—for the upcoming congressional elections. His fundraising for re-election was limited to just over a year before the 2012 race. The same schedule fit George Bush, who attended dozens of fundraisers in 2003, and Bill Clinton, who attended a smaller number of fundraisers in 1995 for the 1996 election.

But spending 25 percent of his time in the White House regularly ignoring his day job and shoveling in donations isn’t enough for Trump. He started before he even took office, and he’s not going to stop demonstrating that Donald Trump is all about Donald Trump. All the time.

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Trump goes beyond saying Russians weren't involved, claims that the DNC hack was a 'hoax'

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:57:55 +0000

If Donald Trump’s Thursday morning Twitter stream is designed to provide a smokescreen for the Senate chopping away health care for millions of Americans, he’s definitely lighting up the diesel fuel and damp garbage. Not only did Trump flat-out lie about the nature of former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, not only did Trump continue to dispute Russia’s involvement in hacking Democratic emails, he went into new territory. He declared that the hack of the DNC email server never really happened at all. x...Why did Democratic National Committee turn down the DHS offer to protect against hacks (long prior to election). It's all a big Dem HOAX!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017 That’s correct. Donald Trump is now claiming that Democrats faked being hacked. And, presumably, released thousands of their own emails to Wikileaks, where Trump could express how much he loved the site, and Trump could feed out-of-context quotes from those emails to his rallies to stoke the flames of HIllary-hate. Because … that would be great. Putting a “why” to this may seem difficult. But clearly, if Democrats faked an intrusion into their own servers and handed the emails to Wikileaks, they had to know that Hillary’s close personal friends Julian Assange and Roger Stone would lure trusting Donald Trump into using the damaging emails. So that Hillary would lose … but then Obama officials could then twist every intelligence office in the nation into saying that the Russians were behind it, and after that Democrats could claim that Donald Trump had colluded with the Russians, and they could all work together to thwart Trump’s plans. It was probably all planned when Bill Clinton visited Loretta Lynch’s plane (and don’t let the fact that the plane thing came later throw you off, Clintons are tricky). It all makes perfect … nonsense. [...]



Months after Trump's hype, Carrier announces 600 layoffs

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:58:07 +0000

Remember how, back before the media caught on to Donald Trump’s habit of announcing he’d “created” jobs that had been long planned or “saved” jobs that either didn’t need saving or weren’t actually saved, his Carrier deal was major headline news? Trump supposedly saved 1,000 jobs from being sent to Mexico, and we were supposed to ignore the fact that many of the jobs being “saved” were never planned to be cut, and the giant tax subsidies he doled out to make that happen, and all the jobs that were still going to Mexico, and the fact that the deal was going to help the company eliminate jobs through automation.

Well, Carrier isn’t in the headlines so much these days, which makes it about time for the asterisks on Trump’s big deal to kick in with a vengeance. Layoffs are officially coming for more than 600 workers at the plant:

"The jobs are still leaving," said Robert James, president of United Steelworkers Local 1999. "Nothing has stopped." [...]

[The CEO of Carrier’s parent company] said the laid-off workers would be offered jobs at other factories across the country.

"We're going to be hiring something like 5,000 people this year," he said.

But union officials say they have heard nothing from the company about any job offers elsewhere within the company. All they have received is the official notice, as required by federal law, that the first round of cuts — 338 jobs — will take place on July 20, with an additional 290 employees terminated on Dec. 22, three days before Christmas.

But of course this reality won’t get nearly as many headlines as Trump’s hype did. 

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