Documentation. Witnesses. Facts. Truth. That's what they're afraid of.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Kate

Admirable Restraint

I watched all 30-odd minutes of John Dickerson's interview with Trump this morning and this was my biggest takeaway:

Important Question

After watching the above video of this vile being, I found myself wondering:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Late Night Track -- Unemployable


At least tonight it was. I don't think it's hyperbole that if Trump had come to office in 2009 when the economy was crashing that I'd be worrying about an actual Hitler scenario.

Earlier today, Atrios said:

You can blame individual voters for being stupid. I mean, fight with your crazy uncle for voting Trump or yell at your hippie friend for writing in Bernie in the general election, or whatever. Fight with random people on the internet about it if that's your thing (and of course it is). I think people who voted for Trump AND people who voted for Jill Stein are idiots (and not just out of "must Stop Trump!" considerations - Stein seems horrible). But after we're done telling people they're idiots - and they are! - a lot of money is going to be raised and spent to figure out how to get a plurality of votes for candidates in congressional races and then a plurality of votes in enough states for a presidential candidate.

Stupid is one thing. When I watch something like tonight's rally, the word "evil" seems much more appropriate. We might need some stupid voters to win, but let's let the evil ones go. On a night like this, I feel like there are a lot of evil people out there.

Politico On Trump's First 100 Days

As we approach the end of Day 100, I'll let Politico play us out.

President Donald Trump has dismissed the idea of measuring the success of his first 100 days in office as “ridiculous.” But the president and his top officials have made a number of startling moves this week with the deadline in mind, and Trump has privately obsessed over getting a win before the cutoff.
The last-minute moves have frustrated some of Trump’s allies, caused a scramble across his government and proved once again that decisions are made by one man on his whims — and often with an eye to his media coverage.
To his supporters, it looks like the kind of action Trump promised as a candidate. “That’s how a CEO makes decisions,” said Rep. Chris Collins, a New York Republican.
Trump’s promise last Friday to deliver a tax plan within five days startled no one more than Gary Cohn, his chief economic adviser writing the plan. Not a single word of a plan was on paper, several administration officials said, and Treasury officials worked all weekend to draft a one-page summary of his principles with a news conference the president demanding the action.
“The reason your head is spinning on this is that the plan isn’t even written yet,” one senior White House official said this week as conflicting details emerged about what would be in the plan. “This was all about doing something in the first 100 days and really it’s doing the process backwards.”
When White House officials demanded last week a health care vote by the 100-day mark, Speaker Paul Ryan was traveling in Europe and taken aback. The leader of the House of Representatives wasn’t in on the plan, had no desire to vote this week and feared it wasn’t even possible. No one even knew what the bill would say because the language had not been written.
“It was totally insane,” one senior GOP aide said. “It made no sense. There was no reason to say a vote was happening this week.”
A number of White House officials only learned of the president’s plan to sign an executive order removing the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement — and tout it during a 100-day rally in Pennsylvania — after it appeared in news reports. It was going to be “another accomplishment of our 100 days,” a senior official said. “The president wanted to do it this week.”
The looming 100-day marker has sent the White House into overdrive this week. Senior administration officials — chief of staff Reince Priebus, son-in-law Jared Kushner, legislative affairs head Marc Short, chief strategist Steve Bannon and Cohn — have held late-night sessions with reporters to sell the 100 days. Trump repeatedly asked aides for ideas with the marker in mind and has demanded plans for the event and lists of his accomplishments to highlight every single day of the week, administration officials said.
Trump ordered an event with Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin based on the 100-day marker, a person familiar with the planning said, leaving staff to rush and make it happen. It often takes weeks to plan an event.
The fear inside the West Wing, these people said, was that bad news coverage could lead to a staff shake-up, and many live with varying degrees of fear of losing their jobs. Priebus, several administration officials say, has been particularly concerned about the marker and the resulting news coverage.
The White House, which didn’t respond for comment, has tried to depict a busy and impatient president who is popular to his supporters because he promised to demand results. While the tax plan is nowhere near ready, the health care vote didn’t happen and Trump ended the week on NAFTA where he began, the president received news coverage of a busy week — and was talking about policies that were potentially moving instead of congressional failures or investigations into ties between Russia and Trump campaign officials. 
“I think the paper-pushers may have a system, but he will override the system,” said Trump adviser Roger Stone. “He’s the decision maker.”

I can't wait until the day that the media stops seeking Roger Stone's opinions on anything other than the quality of the prison food. Maybe in the second 100 days.

Trump's Shiney Hiney

There's a lot of Trump stuff on TV tonight, including the White House Correspondents' Association dinner and Samantha Bee's alternative. I'll be watching both on DVR, but I think I'll be watching Trump scream and flail at his latest Nuremberg Rally. Essentially, he'll be trying to scrub his first 100 days with this miraculous product:

Saw that on TV this evening, and really couldn't think of a more perfect analogy...


All over the country, people are turning out today to march for climate change awareness:

Doesn't look like anti-Trump energy is subsiding...

Open Thread -- WTF, Media? Edition

Following up on my impromptu series railing against the New York Times last week, spurred on by something Charlie Pierce wrote (feel better soon, Charlie!), I've got a oouple of posts coming up over the next couple of days where I yell at clouds excoriate a couple of publications (including the Times, again. In the meantime, here's that trio of posts from last week:

Charlie Pierce Asks a Rhetorical Question

Hacks Gonna Hack

It Was Comey, Duh.

I'm not the only one unhappy with the Times this weekend:

Has anything the media has done pissed you off lately? If so, leave a note in the comments.

Earworm of the Afternoon -- While My Guitar Gently Weeps

May Day March

On Monday, May 1, on a day on which people around the world (except, notably, in the US) celebrate labor, several groups, led by immigrant groups, will be engaging in action around the world:

More than 50 organizations representing Black Lives Matter, women's rights, immigrants, the environment, laborers, LGBTQ groups and much more got on board.
As announced on the Movement for Black Lives' website, "We will strike, rally and resist. Our aim is to build a mighty movement of all people dedicated to freedom. That means we don’t deny our differences, we embrace them and build a movement bold, broad and big enough to include our many realities."
Participating organizations, including, the Women's March, United We Dream, and Mijente, among others, have compiled organizing toolkits available for free on their websites, hosted multiple planning conference calls for participants all over the country, and created an event locator to help prospective protesters find events in their area.
Many of these protests, rallies, marches and additional direct actions are centered around and will coordinate with the second Day Without Immigrants, which as AlterNet previously reported is organized by Movimiento Cosecha, a national immigrants' rights group that has been planning the nationwide strike for months. The campaign site explains, "On May 1st, we will not go to work, we will not go to school and we will not buy. We are going to make it clear that this country cannot function without immigrants."
In addition to Cosecha, the immigrant strike is "backed by a network of over 300,000 farmworkers, servers, cooks and food-manufacturers, including a large local chain of the Service Employees International Union," and the Food Chain Workers Alliance.
The goal is to show just how much American businesses rely on immigrant labor to keep the economy running. As the organizers said in a statement, "We need to show this administration, Congress and large corporate interests that our human and economic worth is more powerful than their agenda of hate and greed. Opposing Trump is not enough. We must stop him."
Events are planned nationwide. In Houston, Texas, workers and allies will gather and wear red for a morning rally and march. In California (Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento), there are multiple marches occurring throughout the day and even after 5pm, for those unable to strike during work hours. Also on the West Coast, in Vancouver, Washington, local chapters of the ACLU and Indivisible groups are meeting for a march and rally, also after the workday. Even deep-red Arkansas is hosting multiple events, including rallies in Little Rock, Rogers and Portsmouth, which as the Guardian points out, have large immigrant populations.
In New York City, thousands of people will converge near City Hall for speeches by Women's March organizer and Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, labor leaders, and New York City elected officials, as well as DACA recipients and other undocumented New Yorkers at risk under the current administration.
Those looking to get involved or support the strikers can visit or Movimiento Cosecha

The Nation says this could be one of the biggest May Days in a long time:

On May 1, hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their allies are expected to take to the streets in a nationwide show of power. Immigrants have been marching on May Day for a decade now, first in 2006, when 1.5 million people took to the streets across the country to demand immigration reform. Until that year, May Day had been associated solely with International Workers’ Day; now immigrants have made it a day to demand their rights, too. 2006 marked a watershed moment; it was the first time immigrants and their loved ones took to the streets in such massive numbers. In the decade since, marching on May 1 has become an annual custom, and the day is a key national day of action for immigrant rights activists and advocates.
This year is no ordinary year, though.
“As immigrants our livelihoods, our futures, our families—they’re all in danger,” Jorge-Mario Cabrera, the director of communications at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), said. “May Day presents an opportunity for us to not silence ourselves and to remain vigilant.”

Sadly, I have jury duty beginning that morning, but I'll armchair chronicle what I can and perhaps show up if I get sent home early.

It'll be another sign to see if we can continue the momentum until the 2018 elections. Still a long way away.

When Your Morning Is Hell...

Totally off topic, but this makes me crack up every time I see it.


My morning is sucky today; I had to be up super early for a Saturday morning so Verizon could visit to fix my internet. Hopefully it's back up soon.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Daily Combover - April 28, 2017

After a very candid AP interview less than a week ago, Trump sat down with Reuters on Thursday to clear up a few misconceptions about his first 100 days in office. To be sure they knew he won, he made sure to hand out maps of his victory before they got started:

We're just as confused as you are.

Let's dig into a few of the highlights:
"There's a chance that we could end up having a major, major, conflict with North Korea, absolutely."
QUESTION: Is that your biggest global worry at this point?
"Yes, I would say that's true, yes. ... North Korea would be certainly that."

When President Bush said he would be remembered the way Truman was remembered, his approval rating was sitting at his low of 28%. Trump, on the other hand, polling at his highest approval yet -- 43% -- seems determined to follow that path as well. But this time with a second Korean War.
"On the THAAD system, it's about a billion dollars. I said, 'Why are we paying? Why are we paying a billion dollars? We're protecting. Why are we paying a billion dollars?' So I informed South Korea it would be appropriate if they paid. Nobody's going to do that. Why are we paying a billion dollars? It's a billion dollar system. It's phenomenal. It's the most incredible equipment you've ever seen - shoots missiles right out of the sky. And it protects them and I want to protect them. We're going to protect them. But they should pay for that, and they understand that."
I'm still amazed at his complete and utter ignorance about everything. "Shoots missiles right out of the sky." We've employed similar technology since 1990. Yes, this is much more advanced, but it's nothing we haven't seen before.
"Yours is the toughest question. Because at what point does it end? But we can't let them come over here. I have to say, there is an end. And it has to be humiliation. There is an end. Otherwise it's really tough. But there is an end. We are really eradicating some very bad people. When you take a look at what's going on with the cutting off of the heads. We haven't seen that since Medieval times. Right?"
Again, utter ignorance of recent history. Beheadings are fairly common in Saudi Arabia -- and have been increasing over the last two decades. But hey, the Medieval Times near his golf course puts on quite the show.
"He certainly doesn't want to see turmoil and death. He doesn't want to see it. He's a good man. He's a very good man and I got to know him very well ...
We'll see how it all works out. I know he would like to be able to do something. Perhaps it's possible that he can't. But I think he'd like to be able to do something."
Two weeks ago, Trump admitted that he had no idea how complicated the relationship was between China and North Korea. Now he seems to be right back where he was before his meeting with Xi.
"He's 27 years old, his father dies, took over a regime, so say what you want but that's not easy, especially at that age. You know you have plenty of generals in there and plenty of other people that would like to do what he's doing. So I've said this before and I've, I'm just telling you, and I'm not giving him credit or not giving him credit. I'm just saying that's a very hard thing to do."
"As to whether or not he's rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he's rational."
It really sounds like he's giving him credit. I wonder if he's still waiting for Kim Jong Un's birthday invitation.
"I get a call from Mexico yesterday, 'We hear you're going to terminate NAFTA.' I said that's right. They said, 'Is there any way we can do something without you – without termination?’ I said, 'What do you want to do?' He said, 'Well, we'd like to negotiate.' I said we'll think about it. Then I get a call, and they call me, I get a call from Justin Trudeau and he said, 'We'd like to see if we can work something out,' and I said that's fine. Because I've always - I've been very consistent. It's much less disruptive if we can make a fair trade deal than if we terminate."
As we Combovered on Wednesday, terminating NAFTA would destroy our economy. He's obviously lying about these calls, but at least someone convinced him that ending NAFTA would be a terrible idea.
"It's unacceptable. It's a horrible deal made by Hillary. It's a horrible deal. And we're going to renegotiate that deal, or terminate it."
QUESTION: When will you announce it?
"Very soon. I'm announcing it now."
"By the way, with South Korea, just so you know. They're ready for it. Mike Pence was representing me, he was just over there, he's told them. And we have the five-year anniversary coming up very shortly. And we thought that would be a good time to start ...
It's a great deal for South Korea. It's a terrible deal for us."
 I really wish Reuters would have followed up here and asked him why the KORUS deal was so terrible. Trump hears the word trade and jumps to "terrible deal." As it turns out, KORUS has been a net boon for US manufacturers. But you won't hear that from Trump.
"Frankly, Saudi Arabia has not treated us fairly, because we are losing a tremendous amount of money in defending Saudi Arabia."
As if he would pull out of Saudi Arabia. He owns several properties there.
"Well, my problem is that I've established a very good personal relationship with (Chinese) President Xi. And I really feel that he is doing everything in his power to help us with a big situation, so I wouldn't want to be causing difficulty right now for him ... So I would certainly want to speak to him first."
So is he admitting that he made a mistake challenging One China?
"If there's closure, there's closure. We'll see what happens. If there's a shutdown. It's the Democrats' fault. Not our fault. It's the Democrats' fault. Maybe they'd like to see a shutdown."
Math is clearly not his strong suit. Republicans have majorities across the board. If there's a shutdown, it's completely on them.
"We will do trade deals that are going to make up for a tremendous amount of the deficit. We are going to be doing trade deals that are going to be much better trade deals ...
"There will be other ways that we are going to raise revenues. But we are going to run the country properly, and we are going to be reimbursed when we do things. Why should we be paying for somebody else's military?"
 Unless you plan on imposing tariffs, trade deals will not deliver tax dollars. And tariffs will lead to counter-tariffs that will slow GDP growth which will lead to fewer tax dollars collected on the domestic front. Either way, there's no chance he offsets additional cuts.
"It's a possibility, we're talking to both. It's a possibility, but I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians. There is no reason there's not peace between Israel and the Palestinians - none whatsoever. So we're looking at that and we're also looking at the potential of going to Saudi Arabia."
Good thing he appointed someone with no career experience working on peace deals to oversee a resolution between Israel and her Arab neighbors. Experience is overrated.

Have a good weekend.

Catch you on the flip side.

The Professional Left - Ep 386 Trump wants another 100 hexadecimal

Driftglass and Blue Gal cover the (lack of) successes in Trump's first 100 days. And as always a big reminder to stay engaged!

Listen here.

Late Night Track -- For Martha

Friday Links -- 4/28/2017

Some stories to wrap up the week. I'm wiped!

No longer do we get the hourly lecture that WE SHOULD NOT FOCUS ON TRUMP'S TWEETS THEY'RE JUST A CUNNING DISTRACTION. They are what they are: a cranky old guy yelling things at the television while watching Fox News. Yes, he happens to run the world, but still.

99 Days in 99 Seconds

From Stephen Colbert:

Ah, 99 days ago. We were like 999 days younger then.

Open Thread -- False Flag This, Asshole!

Losing the custody of one's kids is not the kind of thing I'd normally poke fun at, but it's Alex frickin' Jones, who believed that Sandy Hook was a hoax, so consider this a thread to crap on him in the comments if you'd like.

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Good

What Has Trump Accomplished?

Look! I did one thing!

Ticking down to Trump's hundredth day in office, Michael Grunwald tells us about what Trump actually has -- and hasn't -- gotten done during his tenure:

The indelible takeaway from those first 100 days is that Trump’s assault on political norms has continued. In fact, he has violated Washington norms so casually and constantly that his norm-breaking is becoming normalized. That shattering of protocol and expectations may turn out to be more consequential than any of his massive policy
promises or modest policy achievements to date.
Some of Trump’s he-did-what? provocations have been consequential in their own right, like his explosive accusation that President Barack Obama wiretapped him, which he refused to retract even after it was debunked, or his conspiracy theory about 3 million illegal voters, which many see as a prelude to a push to restrict voting rights. He’s flouted democratic norms with banana-republic attacks on journalists, judges, protesters, the Congressional Budget Office and other critics beyond his control. He’s flouted anti-corruption norms by refusing to divest his business empire, spending almost every weekend at his own clubs, and making little apparent effort to avoid conflicts of interest. He’s defied the Washington hypocrisy police with incredibly brazen flip-flops on Syria, Medicaid cuts, China, NATO, Goldman Sachs and the nefariousness of presidential golf. And even though he had no experience in government, he’s shocked Washington by surrounding himself with aides with no experience in government: his son-in-law, his daughter, the former head of a right-wing website and a Goldman executive.
What’s also shocking is what’s no longer shocking, like the president getting his news from "Fox & Friends," or calling the Senate minority leader a “clown,” or obsessively trashing Hillary Clinton months after he beat her, or congratulating Turkey’s leader for rolling back democratic rules, or repeatedly threatening to let the individual health insurance market collapse to score political points, or suggesting his speech to Congress was the best speech ever given to Congress, or appearing to suggest he thinks his “good friend” Luciano Pavarotti and even Frederick Douglass are still alive. Trump’s Twitter feed is a through-the-looking-glass jumble of baseless allegations, over-the-top boasts and all-caps reactions to whatever he just saw on TV. Even more amazing: Trump’s national security adviser was fired after just three weeks in office for lying about his contacts with Russia, and his White House aides apparently helped engineer a charade where the House Intelligence chairman pretended to uncover evidence supporting the president’s impulsive wiretapping tweets. The thing is, whenever there’s amazing news, new amazements soon overshadow it, and the national conversation moves along.
The point is that the unprecedented is becoming commonplace. Imagine how the media would have reacted if Obama had signed a party-line bill to let oil companies hide their payments to foreign governments, or if his spokeswoman had urged Americans to buy products from his daughter. Imagine how Fox News would have reacted if Obama’s White House had released (and defended!) a Holocaust remembrance statement that didn’t mention Jews, or if his wife had decided to live in Manhattan instead of the White House. In the Trump era, it all blends into Trump-being-Trump background noise. We barely notice when he promises to negotiate bilateral trade deals with European countries that are legally prohibited from negotiating bilateral trade deals, or when his administration puts out a press release consisting entirely of administration officials praising him. It wasn’t a big story when Trump’s nominees for Army secretary, Navy secretary and deputy commerce secretary withdrew because they couldn’t unwind their financial conflicts, even though their would-be boss didn’t even try to unwind his. Remember his trash talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings at the National Prayer Breakfast? Did his White House really accuse the British of spying on him, too? The bar for surprise rises every day.

It's a very detailed piece, documenting Trump's major moves, their immediate impact, and their potential long-term significance. It also has cool charts :)

Long read, but worth it. Read the whole thing here.

Late Night Track -- Art for Art's Sake

The Daily Combover - April 27, 2017

Today Dear Leader had a really busy schedule:

Of course you wouldn't know it based on his Tweets today. He started out at 6am with a 3-part lie about Canada and Mexico wanting to revamp NAFTA:

We can only hope that his counterparts in Mexico and Canada can keep the three countries from entering into a recession that could rival the Great Recession. As we covered yesterday, we're talking about $1.2 trillion in total imports and exports -- or roughly 5.5% of total North American GDP.  That would be an unprecedented loss.

Up next, on his way to his hair appointment at 6:30AM, Trump began his MOAT: the Mother of all Tweets.
One can only assume there was a carbon monoxide leak in his limo because that Tweet isn't even remotely based in reality. Let's see what happened after his combover.
Clearly instead of preparing for his meeting with Macri, he found it more useful to keep telling lies about the Democrats. It makes sense, mining is the smallest sector of our economy, so he has to look out for them. And those awful Democrats are refusing to join the Republican majority in approving Trump's budget so that means healthcare will not be funded. But wait, don't Republicans have majorities in both chambers? Doesn't that mean they can do what they want with the budget irrespective of the Democrats? Seems like Trump's still in fantasy land.

Now that we're just an hour away from his meeting with Macri, he definitely must have put his phone down, right?

No. Not even close:
The gall of that last Tweet in particular is amazing. Recall that yesterday he signed an executive order that was the first step in stripping two dozen national landmarks of their protected status.

No wonder by the time Macri arrived, Trump was absolutely confused by their discussion.
The look of a baffled old man.
Catch you on the flip side.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Open Thread -- No Internet Edition

I've spent most of the day without the internet, so I don't even know what's going on.

Inform me in the comments...

The Bob Cesca Show, 4/27/2017 -- Masturbating Fist Jerk

Bob and Jacki Schechner discuss the American Health Care Act, among other things. They're puzzled over who might really be pushing the bill and why, given that it's even worse than its last iteration.

The answer's pretty simple. The who are the Republican donor class and corporations.

The why is partially tax cuts -- repealing Obamacare eliminates its taxes, which would be a windfall for the wealthy.

And, as I wrote a few weeks back, it's about something else as well -- destabilizing the work force.

Also, Bob has *another* new theme song. It's a lot better.

Listen to the whole thing here.

Earworm of the Afternoon - Closing Time

The President Show

I'll give this a shot tonight, but there's no way it can be good, right?

Not Camelot

I'm glad to see people noticing that Ivanka Trump is not a "moderating influence" in the White House (she shouldn't even *be* there), and that her husband, Jared Kushner, is probably more dunce than genius (he shouldn't be in the WH either).

Following John Oliver's takedown on Sunday, Sarah Kendzior tells us that the whole Trump/Kushner clan are nothing but kleptocrats (we NYers have known that for years):

That there has not been greater inquiry into her financial dealings and foreign ties speaks to a normalization of abuse of executive power, possibly because trading policy for handbags seems less threatening than Trump’s many other misdeeds. But the Trump family businesses should be scrutinized all the same. Trump did not drain the swamp; he merely made it into a moat that protects his family.
At the center of this protective measure is Jared, who when not doing his alleged job of Absolutely Everything, serves as a chess piece in the Trump administration’s media games, a pawn ready to be turned king. 

Kushner's been at this a while; outside of his in-laws, he's got quite the record himself, including another shady deal uncovered by the NY Times yesterday:

It was the summer of 2012, and Jared Kushner was headed downtown.
His family’s real estate firm, the Kushner Companies, would spend about $190 million over the next few months on dozens of apartment buildings in tony Lower Manhattan neighborhoods including the East Village, the West Village and SoHo.
For much of the roughly $50 million in down payments, Mr. Kushner turned to an undisclosed overseas partner. Public records and shell companies shield the investor’s identity. But, it turns out, the money came from a member of Israel’s Steinmetz family, which built a fortune as one of the world’s leading diamond traders.
A Kushner Companies spokeswoman and several Steinmetz representatives say Raz Steinmetz, 53, was behind the deals. His uncle, and the family’s most prominent figure, is the billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is under scrutiny by law enforcement authorities in four countries. In the United States, federal prosecutors are investigating whether representatives of his firm bribed government officials in Guinea to secure a multibillion dollar mining concession. In Israel, Mr. Steinmetz was detained in December and questioned in a bribery and money laundering investigation. In Switzerland and Guinea, prosecutors have conducted similar inquiries.
The Steinmetz partnership with Mr. Kushner underscores the mystery behind his family’s multibillion-dollar business and its potential for conflicts with his role as perhaps the second-most powerful man in the White House, behind only his father-in-law, President Trump.

Are there ever going to be any consequences to any of this?

So, Like, What's Up With North Korea?

Before the entire Senate took the bus to the White House, Leah McElrath st ShareBlue sounded the alarm about the possibility of war:

For a president desperate to prove his first 100 days are not a total failure, engaging in military action against North Korea, which poses an actual, though not imminent, threat to U.S. national security, could be the opportunity he is seeking to show his strength as a leader.

After the meeting, Leah's colleague Oliver Willis gave me no reason to think it was a big deal or that the Senate learned anything new:

Donald Trump invited the entire Senate for a briefing at the White House on North Korea and military preparation, but only spent 14 minutes with his fellow leaders.
Based on what those senators are now telling reporters, the entire meeting seems to have been a colossal waste of time.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) told the Washington Post, “There was very little, if anything new” in the meeting, adding, “I remain mystified about why the entire Senate had to be taken over to the White House rather than conducting it here.”
A Democratic senator told the New York Times that, during the meeting, Trump did his “ridiculous adjective” bit, and that in response there were “about 80 sets of invisible eyes rolling.”

On Twitter, Ron Asher agrees:

Trump very well may have just done it for his own self-aggrandizement. As absurd as that is, I hope that's the case. I'd like to wake up tomorrow unincinerated.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Late Night Track -- Spiders (Kidsmoke)

Spiders are singing in the salty breeze
Spiders are filling out tax returns
Spinning out webs of deductions and melodies
On a private beach in Michigan

The Daily Combover - April 26, 2017

Over the last week, Trump has been threatening to roll back 50 years of trade deals -- especially one in particular, NAFTA.
NAFTA, or the North American Free Trade Agreement, was negotiated and signed by President George H.W. Bush and later signed into law by President Bill Clinton. For 25 years, NAFTA has been the law of the land. Over the last two decades, trade between the US, Canada, and Mexico has quadrupled from under $300 billion combined to nearly $1.2 trillion -- the single largest trade area in the world. Fully one-third of US exports go to Canada and Mexico, and the two rank as our #1 and #2 trade partners respectively.

Collectively, we export $517B worth of US goods to Canada and Mexico and import back $590B for a net export deficit of $73B -- which hits us as a 0.4% GDP drop.

So what exactly do we import from our two besties? 24.4% of our imports are petroleum products. 6.7% are agricultural products. Of course, importing oil and food from Canada and Mexico offers a number of benefits:
1. It reduces our dependence on OPEC oil.
2. Via pipelines and short transports, the flow of oil is far more secure and stable; a repeat of the 1973 embargo is unlikely. Plus the added infrastructure has made it easier for us to produce our own oil and oil equivalents.

And as I mentioned back in January,
The biggest single driver of our trade deficit is oil imports. Last year alone we imported about 6.9 million barrels of oil per day -- and thanks to Obama's energy policies, that's actually at a 25 year low. Today on Twitter, I decided to quantify that a little:
3. US oil has a higher extraction cost but by reducing transportation and processing costs, our production is now so much more efficient that we are actually exporting petroleum. Guess who our biggest importer is? Mexico.

4. Food is now cheaper and fresher than ever before. As I mentioned in November,
Stop and think about that for a moment. How does that affect you personally? At $80 a box, the average retail price for a single avocado approaches $3. But what if we begin to restrict trade with Mexico? What if we impose a tariff on Mexican produce? The global average tariff on produce according to the USDA Economic Research Service is about 50%. Suddenly that $3 avocado is now $4.50. And in the winter, when almost all of our avocados are imported, that probably means fewer stores will stock avocados because that is a lot of money to spend on fruits that probably will not sell very well at retail given its exorbitant price. 
And what about our exports? It turns out that despite that 0.4% slowdown from the net export deficit, the net impact of NAFTA is a 0.5% growth factor on GDP thanks to increased economic production and decreased inflationary pressures. Hence, while we're losing 0.4% on the trade deficit, we are gaining 0.9% elsewhere -- or approximately $171 billion.

Despite Trump's claims to the contrary, our farmers benefit bigly from NAFTA.
Agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico amount to $39.4B -- exactly matching our level of agricultural imports (primarily fruits and veggies in the winter from Mexico), a 156% increase in exports. Compare that to the rest of the world in which our agricultural exports only increased 59% over the same 25 year period.

Want another surprising statistic? NAFTA actually increased US manufacturing jobs -- by 800,000 in just the first four years of its passage. While we lost several automobile factories, the increased demand for other US product rose, boosting US manufacturing by nearly half a trillion dollars.

Trump's attacks on NAFTA shouldn't be of any surprise to those of us who have been paying attention. But one has to wonder how much of it has to do with economics and how much has to do with xenophobic racism.

Catch you on the flip side.

Open Thread -- Building Up the Democratic Party

Following up on my last post, other than not doing this,

what could the Democrats be doing differently to start kicking some elephant around? Leave comments.

Four Weird Tips to Remove Wrink, er, Fix the Democratic Party

For those of you who haven't been here long or who are just stumbling on it, aside from giving us a chance to vent about the damage the Republicans are doing to  the country and the world today, we also have a positive focus -- how the Democratic Party can come back stronger from its divisions ("The Great Consolidation") after a rocky 2016.

I don't believe that the Democratic Party is particularly broken (for reasons I don't want to get into again):

But with the kind of damage the Republicans want to do to this country, we can't do enough to build and bolster the party.

Mark Riddle of U.S. News & World Report has four tips for how to do that (more details at the link):

  • Establish and support a progressive training and strategy table.
Definitely. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL) just did something like that locally, with great results.

  • Establish a $50,000,000 leadership fund to coordinate efforts.
  • Establish a coordinating group for nontargeted races. 

Yes. Until we put money and personnel into generally funding the party and the progressive movement, we can't have nice things. And I like nice things.

  • Present a unified commitment to America.

I disagree with the premise -- we had the most progressive, coherent plaform ever at the Democratic National Convention this year; and there was relative harmony over it until WikiLeaks dropped the first e-mail bomb to divide the party right as the convention was starting -- but it would be great if we could figure out how to brand and disseminate that commitment so that the press and the public pick up on it.

More of this, please!

Obamacare Subsidies Safe for the Time Being

To more or less close two of the stories I've been watching this week, it appears that Obamacare isn't going anywhere for a while:

The White House is telling lawmakers that it will continue paying Affordable Care Act cost-sharing subsidies, potentially defusing a bruising conflict between Democrats and Trump administration officials that had sparked a new round of shutdown fears in Washington Wednesday.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) confirmed the news Wednesday afternoon after word started spreading around the Capitol. It was not immediately clear how long the White House planned to keep the money flowing.
“Our major concerns in these negotiations have been about funding for the wall and uncertainty about the CSR payments crucial to the stability of the marketplaces under the Affordable Care Act," Pelosi said in a statement after two phone calls with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. "We’ve now made progress on both of these fronts."
With Congress closing in on a deal, lawmakers were expected to buy another week to finish the deal as a Friday evening shutdown deadline loomed, two sources said. Leaders are leaning toward passing a one-week extension of funding at current levels.
“More progress needs to be made on some of our priorities, and we continue to be concerned about poison pill riders that are still in this legislation," Pelosi said.

 NANCY SMASH! once again!

We have GOT to get the gavel back in this woman's hands
It also appears that this will keep the government open for the time being.
Though it technically only ensures the Obamacare subsidies continuing to be paid, I think this signals that the Republicans know they once again don't have the votes for a repeal. I'm cautiously optimistic about its long-term prospects because the Republicans really are realizing something important -- leaving people uncovered is not a good bet politically, particularly if Republicans don't get something like tax cuts as part of the deal:
And it allows Republicans to avoid blame for causing chaos and confusion in the insurance markets.
“If we pull the subsidies ... I think there would be nobody with a health insurance plan next year.” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.).
Is our Republicans learning? Maybe, but only in way equivalent to a kid can "learn" how to spell a word by having it seared into onto the palm of her hand with a branding iron.
Having said that, I'll take it.

Earworm of the Afternoon -- Perfect

The Bob Cesca Show, 04/25/2017 -- Unintelligible

Bob has Kimberley Johnson... I'd say more, but really all that matters is that I got to hear this over and over:

That makes me giddier than it should.

Listen to the full podcast here.

If I Forget Thee, St. Petersburg

Former National Security Advisor and Longtime Traitor Mike Flynn, who will definitely not be forgetting Russia anytime soon

Somehow there is so much going on right now that it didn't even occur to me to mention it when I made my weekly post about the stories I'm following. Part of it is that it feel to me like it's in a holding pattern until May 8th, when Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who knows where many of the bones were buried (she was fired, in part, because she was trying to warn the Trump team about Mike Flynn's relationship with Russian), is set to testify and I don't expect that much to happen between now and then. However, there were a couple of signs today that the story isn't going away soon.

You know how I know? Because the New York Times told me so:

The Flynn Story Isn’t Going Away
Michael Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, was fired weeks ago, but his ties to Russia keep raising questions this White House won’t answer and dark suspicions it can’t seem to dispel.
Representative Jason Chaffetz, Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Elijah Cummings, the committee’s top Democrat, got right to the point on Tuesday, saying Mr. Flynn may have broken the law by failing to disclose payments totaling over $65,000 in 2015 from companies linked to Russia. They included $45,000 received from Russian state television for a speech in Moscow; on the same trip, he attended the network’s gala, sitting at the elbow of President Vladimir Putin. With his background, Mr. Flynn clearly knew that the failure to disclose payments on his security clearance forms could have disqualified him for a sensitive national security role.
Mr. Chaffetz also said Mr. Flynn, as a retired general and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, should have sought permission from the secretary of state and the secretary of the Army for his trip to Russia and for the payment. “I see no evidence that he actually did that,” Mr. Chaffetz said at a news conference on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Cummings said that the White House is stonewalling committee requests for documents related to Mr. Flynn’s hiring and firing, including records of his phone calls and correspondence. Mr. Chaffetz, amazingly, described the White House as “cooperative.” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, later called the committee’s records requests “outlandish” and “ridiculous.” Which can hardly be called cooperative.
The fact remains, though, that a Republican committee chairman has said Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser concealed payments from Russia while Moscow was under investigation for meddling in the election, and that deepens an already serious problem for this White House. 

Time Magazine, too:

The Investigations Into Russia and the Trump Campaign Aren't Dying Down
An FBI investigation and congressional probes into the Trump campaign and contacts with Russia continue to shadow the administration, each new development a focus of White House press briefings and attention on Capitol Hill.
President Donald Trump has dismissed the story as "fake news" and raised allegations of politically inspired spying by the Obama administration, but the investigations show no sign of abating anytime soon. 

Not too subtle.

There really isn't a whole lot of news in either of these stories, but it's good to see that I don't have to cover all of the news all of the time! Every now and then the Times fills in for me.

Late Night Track -- Big Poppa

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Daily Combover - April 25, 2017

Normally the Combover focuses on an event that has already transpired. But today we're going to look at something that's coming... tomorrow.

You see, tomorrow Trump plans on signing his 53rd order, one that will review the designations under the Antiquities Act. Translated into English, that means he will be empowering Interior Secretary Zinke to review and subsequently recommend that Trump "undeclare" National Monuments.

This, following shortly after Zinke rebooted coal leasing programs and the GOP announced plans to target the Endangered Species Act.  One thing is for sure, the GOP appears to be attacking nature just for the sake of it.

Today at 5:11PM, Zinke was introduced by Spicey to talk a little about the order:
SECRETARY ZINKE:  So I'll read this and then I'll answer some questions.  Tomorrow, the President will come to the Department of Interior, to my office, and sign the executive order to review the Antiquities Act.  The executive order will direct me, as the Secretary, to review prior monument designations and to suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monuments.  The monument designation period stretches from 1 January 1996 under which the act -- and it has to include acts and monuments that are 100,000 acres or more -- so the beginning date is January 1st, 1996, and the other condition is they have to be a total of 100,000 acres or more.  That should include about 24 to 40 monuments.  That gives you kind of a thumbnail.  
Two of the most recent monuments (named by President Obama) are Bears Ears and Gold Butte. Both contain lands and structures sacred to Native Americans and therefore have been targets of Republican attacks and white nationalist militia outrage since President Obama named them monuments.

And, of course, the public wants monuments left alone:
Recent polls have shown strong support for national parks and monuments, said Christy Goldfuss, who directed the White House Council on Environmental Quality under Obama.
Kristina Waggoner, vice president of the Boulder-Escalante Chamber of Commerce in Utah, said business near the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument in southern Utah are booming, driven by sharp increases in tourism since the area was designated in 1996 by President Bill Clinton.
"I'm here today to support the monument and my 3-year-old son," Waggoner said on a conference call with reporters organized by a pro-Obama group. "Once our land is gone, it's gone forever."
The pristine view from Gold Butte

But unpopularity hasn't stopped Trump yet and it's not likely to stop him now. Continuing with Zinke's presser:
The executive order directs the Interior to provide an interim report to the President within 45 days of the day of the order and a final report to the President within 120 days of that order.  
For the record, in the last 20 years, in particular, that would cover about, oh, tens of millions of acres to include marine area sanctuaries.  Some of these areas were put off limits for traditional uses, like farming, ranching, timber harvest, mining, oil and gas exploration, fishing, and motorized recreation.  
That's very true, but as we just read, what they lost in resource excavation, they gained in tourism.

Zinke concluded with a summary:
So here’s what the executive order does in summary.  It restores the trust between local communities in Washington that the local communities and states will have a voice -- those states that are affected, and local communities.  The executive order puts America and the Department of Interior back on track to manage our federal lands in accordance with traditional multiple use, as laid out by Pinchot and the President, and directs the Department of Interior to make recommendations to the President on whether a monument should be rescinded, resized, modified in order to better manage our federal lands.  And this executive order gives rural communities across America, again, a voice, as his campaign promised and is delivering that.
Here’s what the executive order does not do.  The executive order does not strip any monument of a designation.  The executive order does not loosen any environmental or conservation regulation on any land or marine areas.  It is a review of the last 20 years, and the review has timelines in which I am obligated to uphold.
I'll give them one thing, they are really good as messaging. From Zinke's description this sounds like this is just standard practice, long overdue. But in reality, Gifford Pinchot's legacy is about to be strip mined to satisfy the GOP's quest to defile nature.

Daily Combover reminds you to never be fooled by anyone in the Trump Regime. They are all monsters in their own right.

Catch you on the flip side.

Tilting At Healthcare

Josh Marshall asks why the Republicans don't just give up on the Obamacare repeal:

Even as they face an insanely busy week when a government shutdown will need to be averted and President Trump would also like to unveil a tax overhaul plan, some GOP lawmakers—perhaps at the behest of White House officials seeking to save face ahead of the 100-day mark—are talking up the possibility of a new deal to revive legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.
Even as GOP congressional leaders tamp down expectations of any quick movement to resuscitate the bill, which was pulled from a House floor vote last month due to lack of support, the latest round of hype signals a longer-term problem for the GOP’s approach to governance. As long as Republicans can’t fully move on from Obamacare repeal, it stands to infect the other agenda items they seek to pass while they still have full control of Congress.
“The bills is undead. You can’t kill it, you can’t revive it,’ said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of social medicine and health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
This week, for instance, a potential government funding showdown has shaped up around threats from Trump to blow up the ACA’s individual market unless legislators fund his border wall, a political flashpoint that neither Democrats nor many Republicans want to hash out in must-pass spending legislation.
Trump’s apparent logic is that such tactics give him leverage to force Democratic negotiations on repealing Obamacare—a posture that doesn’t really make sense when grounded in both the political realities of who owns health care at this point (Republicans) and the GOP’s own moves to shut Democrats out of their legislative process.

There's just no way they can pass it. If they had had a bill ready in January (rather than just voting on a bill instructing Congress to write a bill), they might have gotten it done. But the fact that they didn't allowed the Democrats to change the conversation from "We'll replace Obamacare with the bestest thing you could ever imagine, and ponies!" to "How many people will the AHCA leave uninsured?" So the Republicans had to try to cobble something together that might work for Republicans who are spooked at the prospect of losing their seats because they've left their constituents uninsured, and those who really just don't care who's insured (or maybe want people to go insured) as long as the taxes in the ACA disappear. They couldn't do that a few weeks back, and there's no reason to believe they can now.

I see the Republicans as the guy at the bar who has nothing to say, so he keeps repeating the same conversation over and over. Aside from an Obamacare repeal and tax cuts (which, for budget reasons, likely can't happen before that repeal, there's very little they want to do that won't get by a Democratic filibuster in the Senate. Essentially, all they can do is use executive orders and wait for Trump's Cabinet appointees to blow up the government from the inside, and they're left with nothing left to do... If they don't tell the AHCA story, they've got nothing to tell. So they repeat that story.

100 Days of "Historic Accomplishments"

Today Trump unveiled his list of "accomplishments."

Clearly he has confused the word accomplishments with activity.

President Trump's 100 Days of Historic Accomplishments

GETTING GOVERNMENT OUT OF THE WAY: President Donald J. Trump has done more to stop the Government from interfering in the lives of Americans in his first 100 days than any other President in history.

President Trump has signed 13 Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolutions in his first 100 days, more than any other President. These resolutions nullified unnecessary regulations and block agencies from reissuing them.
Since CRA resolutions were introduced under President Clinton, they’ve been used only once, under President George W. Bush.
The Wall Street Journal editorial: “So far the Trump Administration is a welcome improvement, rolling back more regulations than any President in history.”
TAKING EXECUTIVE ACTION: In office, President Trump has accomplished more in his first 100 days than any other President since Franklin Roosevelt.

President Trump will have signed 30 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Obama signed 19 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President George W. Bush signed 11 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Clinton signed 13 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President George H.W. Bush signed 11 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Reagan signed 18 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Carter signed 16 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Nixon signed 15 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Johnson signed 26 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Kennedy signed 23 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Eisenhower signed 20 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Truman signed 25 executive orders during his first 100 days.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed 9 executive orders during his first 100 days.
A SLEW OF LEGISLATION SIGNED: Despite historic Democrat obstructionism, President Trump has worked with Congress to pass more legislation in his first 100 days than any President since Truman.

President Trump has worked with Congress to enact 28 laws during the first 100 days of his Administration.
President Obama enacted 11 laws during his first 100 days.
President George W. Bush enacted 7 laws during his first 100 days.
President Clinton enacted 24 laws during his first 100 days.
President George H.W. Bush enacted 18 laws during his first 100 days.
President Reagan enacted 9 laws during his first 100 days.
President Carter enacted 22 laws during his first 100 days.
President Nixon enacted 9 laws during his first 100 days.
President Johnson enacted 10 laws during his first 100 days.
President Kennedy enacted 26 laws during his first 100 days.
President Eisenhower enacted 22 laws during his first 100 days.
President Truman enacted 55 bills laws during his first 100 days.