A lot of people bet that a Republican congress would be able to pass a bill to fulfill the number on promise they have made for the last seven years once they got a Republican president in the White House. But these people actually put money on it:
Application and acceptance season is underway at America's colleges and universities. But this year, some institutions of higher learning may see a noticeable dip in attendance from one group purposely choosing to stay home: foreign students.
Applications from international students from countries such as China, India and in particular, the Middle East, are down this year at nearly 40 percent of schools that answered a recent survey by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.
Educators, recruiters and school officials report that the perception of America has changed for international students, and it just doesn't seem to be as welcoming a place anymore. Officials point to the Trump administration's rhetoric surrounding immigration and the issuing of a travel ban as having an effect.
"Yes, we definitely are sounding the warning," said Melanie Gottlieb, deputy director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, adding, "We would hope that the [Trump] administration would say [to] cool the rhetoric a bit around immigration."
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is a feature not a bug as far as Trump and his supporters are concerned. They don't want foreigners in the country. They see this as a success.
The tourist industry is complaining of lost profits too. But again, this is considered a good thing as far as the Trump faction is concerned.
It will be interesting to see how people feel about rising prices when Trump tries to do to trade agreements what he tried to do with health care. He and his supporters seem not to realize that foreign countries don't have to do exactly what Trump tells them to do. And remember, the great negotiator actually knows next to nothing about trade deals and has never successfully done a bigger deal than a single building project or a license to slap his name on some ugly ties. When he tried to go bigger in Atlantic City he lost his shirt. Four times.
This is an excellent report from CNN on the way Trumpcare went down to defeat and well worth reading all the way through. But this excerpt, I thought, pretty much nailed the problem, at least as far as the President was concerned:
Staff was for details, Trump was for closing," said one senior congressional aide. When it came to details, Trump "didn't know, didn't care, or both."
He didn't answer their specific questions about the bill, according to three members of Congress who attended the meetings. He didn't offer any arguments for why they should support the legislation other than to give him his first legislative victory.
Trump repeatedly focused instead on the politics of the broader situation, the people said. In the Oval Office, he quizzed the Republicans about the margin of victory in their districts last fall. His victory, not theirs.
"He did very little to say why we should vote 'yes,' " one Republican member of Congress said, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the White House. "He kept talking about his damn election."
In the end, the man dubbed "the ultimate closer" could not close the deal.
He doesn't know anything except himself which is all he can sell. They weren't buying. And, in fact,they aren't ever going to be in the market for that. These politician aren't like his adoring worshippers. The might care about ideology or power or money. But if it comes down choosing between themselves and Donald Trump it's no contest. He, of all people, should understand that.
When Norma Rae first hit theaters in 1979, I watched it in a packed movie house in West Hollywood with a friend from Greenville South Carolina. The textile mill Norma Rae worked in looked like one of the dying mills on the west (poor) side of Greenville. Partway through the tale of troubled union organizing in the South, I leaned over and whispered we were probably the only people in the theater to realize the film was not a period piece.
Looking ahead at what the economy has in store for a lot of Americans, that "period" is coming back.
Jia Tolentino writes in the New Yorker about the "gig economy" that celebrates working yourself to death. She begins with a cheery marketing tale of a Lyft driver going into labor who stops to take another fare on her way to the hospital. That's the spirit!
It does require a fairly dystopian strain of doublethink for a company to celebrate how hard and how constantly its employees must work to make a living, given that these companies are themselves setting the terms. And yet this type of faux-inspirational tale has been appearing more lately, both in corporate advertising and in the news. Fiverr, an online freelance marketplace that promotes itself as being for “the lean entrepreneur”—as its name suggests, services advertised on Fiverr can be purchased for as low as five dollars—recently attracted ire for an ad campaign called “In Doers We Trust.” One ad, prominently displayed on some New York City subway cars, features a woman staring at the camera with a look of blank determination. “You eat a coffee for lunch,” the ad proclaims. “You follow through on your follow through. Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”
A Fiverr press release on the campaign states,
“The campaign positions Fiverr to seize today’s emerging zeitgeist of entrepreneurial flexibility, rapid experimentation, and doing more with less. It pushes against bureaucratic overthinking, analysis-paralysis, and excessive whiteboarding.” This is the jargon through which the essentially cannibalistic nature of the gig economy is dressed up as an aesthetic.
No, really. You're not being exploited. You're experiencing greater freedom as an independent contractor living lean and on the edge as part of the emerging zeitgeist. You're "connecting, having fun, and killing it!" Lyricism like that got Arthur Dent thrown out of a Vogon airlock. On the 106th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, Matthew Dessem examines how the company's proprietors might have used such marketing upspeak to rebrand their sweatshop as a "hip, open-plan workplace" where partners won't have to "wander the confusing maze of government bureaucracies looking for an exit."
Perhaps Donald Trump's new Housing and Urban Development secretary, Ben Carson, wrote that copy for Fiverr to make extra cash in his spare time. After all, in his first address, Carson presented his staff with an inspiring tale of immigrants who came to these shores for the opportunity to be a part of America's exciting experiment in "can-do" capitalism: "That's what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less." They weren't slaves. They weren't human chattel. They were doers.
The Midas cult peddles this kind of delusional twaddle with a straight face. Believers celebrate (other) people working longer hours and into early graves as "uniquely American." Normal. A recovering Oxycontin addict tells PBS News Hour [timestamp 6:12], "it's the only thing that makes you feel normal. And it's the farthest thing from normal." But you can't see that from the inside of either an addiction or an economic cult.
Truth may be dead, but it occasionally intrudes nonetheless on cult catechism. A study by Anne Case and Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton of Princeton University finds that in America the problem is not just people working themselves to death, but people not working themselves to death. The reprobation the Midas cult heaps on the long-term unemployed is such that excommunicates are treating their guilt and hopelessness with opioids or a bullet to the head. The Princeton researchers call them "deaths of despair."
Angus Deaton: Mortality rates have been going down forever. There's been a huge increase in life expectancy and reduction in mortality over 100 years or more, and then for all of this to suddenly go into reverse [for whites ages 45 to 54], we thought it must be wrong. We spent weeks checking out numbers because we just couldn't believe that this could have happened, or that if it had, someone else must have already noticed. It seems like we were right and that no one else had picked it up.
We knew the proximate causes — we know what they were dying from. We knew suicides were going up rapidly, and that overdoses mostly from prescription drugs were going up, and that alcoholic liver disease was going up. The deeper questions were why those were happening — there's obviously some underlying malaise, reasons for which we [didn't] know.
Anne Case: These deaths of despair have been accompanied by reduced labor force participation, reduced marriage rates, increases in reports of poor health and poor mental health. So we are beginning to thread a story in that it's possible that [the trend is] consistent with the labor market collapsing for people with less than a college degree. In turn, those people are being less able to form stable marriages, and in turn that has effects on the kind of economic and social supports that people need in order to thrive.
In general, the longer you're in the labor force, the more you earn — in part because you understand your job better and you're more efficient at your job, you've had on-the-job training, you belong to a union, and so your wages go up with age. That's happened less and less the later and later you've been born and the later you enter this labor market.
Deaton: We're thinking of this in terms of something that's been going on for a long time, something that's emerged as the iceberg has risen out of the water. We think of this as part of the decline of the white working class. If you go back to the early '70s when you had the so-called blue-collar aristocrats, those jobs have slowly crumbled away and many more men are finding themselves in a much more hostile labor market with lower wages, lower quality and less permanent jobs. That's made it harder for them to get married. They don't get to know their own kids. There's a lot of social dysfunction building up over time. There's a sense that these people have lost this sense of status and belonging. And these are classic preconditions for suicide.
The Los Angeles Times account reports on several factors behind the spike, including "the widespread erosion of institutions that provided stability in American life for much of the 20th century: the manufacturing industry, the church, unions and stable marriage." The second item in that list is none of the government's business. But we might strengthen the first and the third through public policy, and thereby reinforce the last. Problem is, the Midas cult's systematic policy for decades has been to encourage offshoring of manufacturing and to discourage formation of unions in pursuit of wealth maximization for the priest class. Meanwhile, it's just fine with the company if those working longer hours for less and those who aren't working at all owe their souls to the company store. As I said, that period is making a comeback.
Case and Deaton believe the damage done is the result of "cumulative disadvantage over life" that will take years to reverse. But so far, there are only promises of better times from policymakers whose focus is on reelection and the the economy rather than on the people in or victimized by it.
When Trump's replacement candidate for labor secretary, R. Alexander Acosta, faced confirmation hearings last week, the New York Times reports,
.. his testimony suggests that as labor secretary his primary goal would not be to look out for workers by promoting fair pay and workplace safety. Instead, he seems more interested in shielding employers from having to address those concerns.
Mr. Acosta’s answers to questions about other worker protections were also troubling. He would not commit to upholding a Labor Department rule, set to take effect in April, that would require financial advisers to put clients’ interests first when giving advice or selling investments for 401(k) rollovers or other retirement-related transactions. Nor would he commit to enforcing a rule to protect construction workers from carcinogenic dust.
But they'll defend a worker's right to work for less, and to grow another day older and deeper in debt.
With this week's collapse of the Republican effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, Democrats have an opportunity to step into the power vacuum and offer Americans something better. Bernie Sanders announced he would:
“We have got to have the guts to take on the insurance companies and the drug companies and move forward toward a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” on Friday night. “And I’ll be introducing legislation shortly to do that.”
That's laudable, timely and symbolic, but not enough. Sanders is still an outlier. Both Republicans and Democrats are still too closely allied with the financialized economy and in the thrall of the cult. If not of Midas, then Rand. People need work, decent-paying work, not just for keeping a roof over their heads, but to maintain their dignity and mental health.
Sitting in that theater watching Norma Rae, I wondered how many sitting around me might think it a reflection of a time gone by. Now I worry it was predictive of a time coming back.
You know how I know Philip Seymour Hoffman was a great actor? Because he always made me cringe. You know what I mean? It’s that autonomic flush of empathetic embarrassment that makes you cringe when a couple has a loud spat at the table next to you in a restaurant, or a drunken relative tells an off-color joke at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a good sign when an actor makes me cringe, because that means he or she has left their social filter on the dressing room table, and shown up for work naked and unafraid.
There are many things about Donald Cried that will likely make you cringe. In fact, the film’s titular character (played by its writer-director Kris Avedisian) is the type of role Hoffman would have felt quite comfortable tackling…expressly for the purpose of making us feel uncomfortable.
A sort of twisty cross between Vincent Gallo’s cringe-inducing black comedy Buffalo '66 and Miguel Arteta’s equally discomfiting character study Chuck & Buck , Avedisian’s story centers on a thirty-something Wall Street banker named Peter (Jesse Wakeman) who returns to the blue-collar Rhode Island burg where he grew up to bury his grandmother and tidy up all of her affairs.
During his taxi ride from the train station to his late grandmother’s house, Peter realizes (much to his chagrin) that he has lost his wallet while in transit. Quickly exhausting all other options for assistance, the panicked Peter has little choice but to walk across the street, where his childhood pal Donald lives. We quickly glean why he just didn’t go there first-Donald is beyond the beyond.
Donald is overjoyed to see Peter again after all these years. Disturbingly overjoyed, like a deliriously happy puppy who dances around your legs like a dervish because he was sure you were abandoning him forever when you left the house for 2 minutes to check the mail. In other words. Donald seems oblivious to the time-space continuum. While Peter has chosen to put away childish things and engage the world of adult responsibility, Donald was frozen in carbonite at 15.
Still, if Peter is to stick to his timetable of wrapping up the grandmother business in 24 hours, Donald (who has a car) looks to be his only hope. From their first stop at the funeral home, it’s clear that Donald’s complete lack of a social filter is going to make this a painfully long 24 hours.
The tortuous path of the “man-child” is rather well-trod, particularly in modern indie filmdom. That said, there is a freshness to Avedisian’s take, as well as an intimate authenticity to the performances that invites empathy from the viewer. Once you get past the cringe-factor, you actually do care about the characters, especially when you realize we’ve all known a Donald (or a Peter) sometime or another. Perchance we’ve even seen one looking back at us from a mirror, no?
During his news conference on Friday, Press Secretary Sean Spicer tried to argue that President Trump couldn’t possibly have worked harder in his unsuccessful effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Spicer also said Trump planned to spend a “working weekend” in Washington, D.C.
But on Saturday, Trump headed to a golf course for the 12th time during the nine weeks he’s been president. And by visiting the Trump National Golf Club in suburban Virginia, Trump — who repeatedly ripped President Obama for his much less-frequent golf outings and promised he “would rarely leave the White House because there’s so much work to be done” during the campaign — has now visited a Trump-branded property for eight straight weekends. That covers all but the very first weekend of his presidency.
White House pool reporter Adrian Carrasquillo reports that it’s unclear what Trump is doing at his golf course.
Carrasquillo reports that Trump staffers said the president was there for meetings. But Trump has previously misled the press about what he’s up to at his golf courses.
I'm guessing he's golfing. The pool report says he's disappeared for three hours and they're stuck at the tennis courts waiting around for some word. Trump does this.
I wouldn't begrudge him his golf week-ends if he hadn't been such as jerk about Obama's much rarer golf outings and relentlessly ragged on Clinton for her alleged lack of stamina while promising that he was going to be working around the clock when he got to the White House. He's a spoiled rich princeling who likes to insult and degrade others for being lazy and weak when he's the lazy and weak one.
And his offspring aren't too bright either:
Trump’s latest trip to one of his properties comes a day after Forbes broke news that Eric Trump plans to give his father quarterly updates about how Trump’s sprawling business empire is doing financially. Trump has refused to divest from his business, putting him in a unique position to profit off the presidency.
“Yeah, on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it,” Eric Trump said, in reference to what he’ll brief his father on. “My father and I are very close… I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.”
There's lots more at the link about the latest examples of Trump's ongoing corruption in the White House.
It was clearly Moore’s intention that Trumpland (filmed October 7 and released a scant 2 weeks afterwards) would ideally be seen by as many people as possible before November 8. However, he was careful to cover all his bases. If there is one consistency about Michael Moore’s films, it is that they are prescient…and already, I can identify at least one nail he hit squarely on the head.
This comes in the form of another speculative scenario Moore lays out, this one for Trump supporters to envision, should the election go their way. Moore assures them that he feels their pain; as a fellow Midwesterner from a manufacturing town in neighboring Michigan, he “gets” the frustrations that have been building up within the ranks of a certain white, working-class demographic, why they are feeling squeezed out, and why Trump might appear to be their savior.
Suddenly, in a wonderfully theatrical flourish, Moore seems to shape-shift into a Trump voter. He talks about how they are going to feel on Election Day, how incredibly empowering it will be to put that “x” in the Trump box on their ballot card. It’s going to be the “…biggest ‘fuck you’ ever recorded in human history” when their boy takes the White House. “It’s going to feel REAL good,” Moore assures them, “for about…a week.” Uh-oh. “A week?” What’s he mean by that?
It will kind of be like Brexit, Moore explains after a suitable dramatic pause to let things soak in. Remember how eager the Brexit supporters were to shake things up in their country, and give a big “fuck you” to Europe? Sure, they “won”. But then, buyer’s regret set in. There was even a desperate stab to petition for a re-vote, spearheaded by many of the very people who supported it!
OK, so maybe Trump voters haven’t quite reached that stage yet, but they will. Their soon-to-be Fearless Leader is sending up oodles of red flags with kleptocratic cabinet appointment after kleptocratic cabinet appointment. Now, that seems to be in direct contradiction to his campaign stance as champion of the working class…d’ya think? So…just give them time (and pitchforks).
Well, at least one Trump voter has had an epiphany about the man who wrote The Art of the Con Deal. One down, 59,999,999 to go.
Paul Manafort stood in the foyer of the third-floor ballroom of the Charles Hotel, across the street from the Taubman Building of the Harvard Kennedy School, on Wednesday. Having left his mafioso uniform of gleaming pinstripe suit and tie at home in favor of a half-zip sweater and casual slacks, he went mostly unnoticed, even at an event for political operatives and junkies, where a man of his status should be a star. And Harvard, it turns out, is not the only place the ex-chairman of the Donald Trump presidential campaign and former lobbyist for some of the worst dictators and killers of the 20th century is operating in the shadows these days.
According to two sources with knowledge of the Trump presidential transition process, Manafort—whose formal association with the president-elect ended in August—is heavily involved with the staffing of the nascent administration.
Manafort was hired by the Trump campaign in April. A veteran political operative and lobbyist who’d worked on the Republican conventions nominating everyone from Gerald Ford to Bob Dole, he was cut from a different cloth than the novices who’d worked for Trump since his 2015 announcement. His presence was viewed as an effort to professionalize the operation and to herd delegates for the upcoming convention in July, which at that time looked as though it might be contested.
But immediately, there was a clash of egos between Manafort, whose official title was campaign chairman, and then-campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, a notoriously short-fused man who’d never run a presidential campaign before. When Lewandowski was eventually let go in late June, it seemed a victory for Manafort—but it wouldn’t last for long.
Amid a stream of investigative journalism scrutinizing his political work in Ukraine, of particular interest given Trump’s praise of autocratic Russian President Vladimir Putin, Manafort was axed and replaced by a combination of Steve Bannon, the president of Breitbart News, and Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster, who served as the campaign CEO and manager, respectively.
How far he faded into the margins of Trump’s orbit is unclear.
Even in his role as the campaign’s chairman, Manafort was not exactly visible, save for the odd Sunday show appearance. And Lewandowski, after being fired and taking a job as a cable TV pundit, continued to receive payment from the campaign and advise the candidate. Manafort, who keeps an apartment in Trump Tower, was never compensated for his work, making it more difficult to keep an account of his entanglement with the campaign.
But now, a few months and an election night victory later, it seems Manafort is back, and in a position he surely finds more comfortable: one shrouded in almost total mystery.
“When they’re picking a cabinet, unless he contacts me, I don’t bother him,” one former campaign official who worked closely with Manafort told The Daily Beast. “It’s a heady time for everyone.”
“I think he’s weighing in on everything,” the former official said, “I think he still talks to Trump every day. I mean, Pence? That was all Manafort. Pence is on the phone with Manafort regularly.”
As a lobbyist, Manafort is particularly concerned with decisions the president-elect might make that will affect his industry, the former official explained. “A guy like Manafort tries to make sure that the government is as comfortable for business as possible. He wants names he knows on every door.”
“He’s not worried as much about who’s the secretary of HHS,” the former official added, “as he is about who’s the secretary of HUD.”
Another Trump campaign source who worked alongside Manafort confirmed to The Daily Beast that he is heavily involved in selecting the incoming administration’s “personnel picks.”
When The Daily Beast caught up with Manafort sometime later, he would neither confirm nor deny his presence on the Trump transition team.
“I don’t want to get into that,” he said. “I’m here to talk about the campaign, I don’t want to talk about transition.”
When pressed on the issue, he reemphasized, “no comment,” before continuing a conversation with several other people.
Meanwhile in Cambridge, Conway, who now acts as a senior adviser to the president-elect, was making her way through the hotel lobby for check-in.
She told The Daily Beast she had “no comment” on the Manafort matter. “But I can research that and get back to you,” she added.
She winked and continued walking with her roller bag.
Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, later told The Daily Beast, “Paul Manafort has no association with the transition team or communication with the President-elect.”
Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, reportedly bamboozled his boss into switching his vice presidential pick from embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) by staging an airplane malfunction.
In July, The New York Times reported that Trump and Pence “impromptu dinner” after the GOP candidate’s plane was grounded by “mechanical problems.”
“And at some point during the evening, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Pence if he would say yes, were Mr. Trump to offer him the No. 2 slot,” according to the Times.
But a Sunday report in the New York Post revealed that Manafort took the dramatic step of lying to Trump about mechanical problems with the plane after his boss tentatively selected Christie for the V.P. slot.
“Trump had wanted Christie but Bridgegate would have been the biggest national story,” Trump source told the Post. “He’d lose the advantage of not being corrupt.”
Manafort left the campaign in August after question arose about his business ties with Russia.
This is as illustrative of Bannon's mindset as you can get:
When the balky hardliners of the House Freedom Caucus visited the White House earlier this week, this was Steve Bannon's opening line, according to people in the conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building:
"Guys look, this is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.
Bannon's point was: This is the Republican platform. You're the conservative wing of the Republican Party. But people in the room were put off by the dictatorial mindset.
One of the members replied: "You know, the last time someone ordered me to do something, I was 18 years old, and it was my daddy. I didn't listen to him either."
Granted, the Freedom Caucus is cray-cray. But thinking they were going to respond to this Hollywood producer pretending like he's in a cheap TV movie was daft. They are bullies themselves and they know how it works. It's not like this.
The Washington Post's Dave Weigel documents activists' role in yesterday's defeat of the American Healthcare Act in the U.S. House of Representatives:
On Friday afternoon, as congressional Democrats learned that the GOP had essentially given up on repealing the Affordable Care Act, none of them took the credit. They had never really cohered around an anti-AHCA message. (As recently as Wednesday, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was still using the phrase “make America sick again,” which most Democrats had abandoned.) They’d been sidelined legislatively, as Republicans tried to pass a bill on party lines. They’d never called supporters to the Capitol for a show of force, as Republicans had done, several times, during the 2009-2010 fight to pass the Affordable Care Act.
Instead, Democrats watched as a roiling, well-organized “resistance” bombarded Republicans with calls and filled their town hall meetings with skeptics. The Indivisible coalition, founded after the 2016 election by former congressional aides who knew how to lobby their old bosses, was the newest and flashiest. But it was joined by MoveOn, which reported 40,000 calls to congressional offices from its members; by Planned Parenthood, directly under the AHCA’s gun; by the Democratic National Committee, fresh off a divisive leadership race; and by the AARP, which branded the bill as an “age tax” before Democrats had come up with a counterattack.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus told reporters, “Those big rallies get a lot of media coverage, but they’re not effective.” But across from the Capitol yesterday, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi joined a small one organized by MoveOn, kicked off her shoes, and led the group in a jump for joy.
So what was effective?
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) tells the Post his office "received 1,959 phone calls in opposition to the American Health Care Act. We had 30 for it."
“For the first time in a long time, a pretty sizable number of Republicans were more scared of grass-roots energy of the left than of primaries on the right,” said Joe Dinkin, a spokesman for the Working Families Party.
It's not as if Democrats have never tried to get their base to call their congresscritters. Before House Freedom Caucus chair Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) was mine, it was Democrat Heath Shuler from the Blue Dogs. I'd call a friend on the staff and ask how calls were running on an upcoming vote. Ten to one conservative-to-liberal, she'd say with an exasperated sigh, asking, "Where are the Democrats?!" Post-November 8, 2016, progressive activists are coming out of nowhere and wanting something, anything to do. It's an opportunity for them to make something happen on key votes. It appears they just did. They finally picked up their phones.
But over the course of this fight, there were a lot of Facebook comments from people who called their representatives (particularly Republicans) and got no answer, a busy signal, or a voicemail box that was full. It's frustrating. Email forms are tedious and get ignored if messages are from out of state or district. So try an old-fashioned work-around. If you are under 35, you may never have sent a fax.
On March 21, 2010, the House was preparing to vote on the Affordable Care Act passed by the Senate. The vote would be close. A 2008 Obama campaign veteran I know was planning to blast his large email list and encourage people to phone Heath Shuler's office in support of passage. But it was Sunday. No one would answer and his voicemail in Washington was already full. It would be pointless to ask people to waste their time on a call without even a chance to leave a message.
We thought of inviting people to Democratic headquarters to send a fax to the congressman. But that would be time-consuming and tedious. So we came up with a better idea.
We drafted a sample letter in support of the ACA and emailed it to my friend's list. We suggested if people replied giving their assent, plus adding their name, address, phone number, and perhaps a customized message of their own, we would gladly fax it to the congressman on their behalf.
Minutes later, Paul shouted, "Oh my God, I just got 15 emails!" And they kept coming, some with notes, others without, for hours. Paul bundled them into sets of five, one letter per page, and created a PDF I sent electronically through my fax machine to Shuler's Washington, D.C. office. If that line was busy, we sent to his district office. A veteran union organizer friend calls this tactic fax jamming.
We sent 600 individual faxes.
The Affordable Care Act passed that day with a 219–212 vote. Shuler voted against the bill anyway, but the coordinated effort left an indelible impression. At an event sometime later, one of Shuler's staffers reported we had broken their machine and said something lame about Democrats killing trees. But six hundred voters had their voices heard. On a weekend. Outside of regular business hours.
With the advent of free, online e-fax services, organizers don't need an actual fax machine to mount a similar effort. People on their lists who cannot reach representatives by phone can send faxes from their computers or smart phones any time of the day or night, seven days a week. There is something satisfying in knowing at the other end a physical document spits out that a staffer has to handle and catalog. Since I find it difficult to break away for phone calls in the middle of the workday, I use e-faxing to send letters after hours. (Faxzero dot com is one I often use; the site even has links to House and Senate fax numbers.)
After they were ignored by their mother following their birth on February 3, three Malayan Tiger cubs have been cared for by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s nursery staff. Now, the cubs’ care team includes the zoo’s four-legged, resident nursery companion and former nanny to several zoo babies: Blakely the Australian Shepherd Dog. The six-year-old super-dog has been called into action to provide snuggling, comfort, and a body for the cubs to climb on.
“He’s more than just a large, warm pillow for the cubs. Blakely is the adult in the room. He teaches them proper Tiger etiquette by checking them when they’re getting too rough or aggressive,” said Dawn Strasser, head of Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery staff. “This is something that their human surrogates can’t do.”
The cubs, named Chira (because she was treated by a chiropractor), Batari (which means goddess) and Izzy (which means promised by God,) would have received similar cues from their mom. Because being with her is not an option, Blakely is the next best thing. His baby-rearing resume includes experience with Cheetahs, an Ocelot, a Takin, a Warthog, Wallabies, Skunks, and Bat-eared Foxes. Last year, to recognize Blakely’s nurturing nature, the City of Cincinnati proclaimed October 19 to be Blakely Day!
“My team can feed and care for the Tiger cubs, but we can’t teach them the difference between a play bite and one that means ‘watch out’. So, that’s Blakely’s job,” said Strasser. “Just a little time with him at this early age will help them learn behaviors that will come in handy when they meet Tigers at other zoos in the future.” The cubs will move to the Zoo’s Cat Canyon this summer after they have received their last round of immunizations.
Malayan Tigers are Critically Endangered, with fewer than 250 breeding-age adults living in the wild. Less than 100 of these Cats live in zoos, making these three cubs – and Blakely’s job as caregiver – incredibly important to the effort to save Malayan Tigers.
Eric Trump told Forbes he will keep his father “abreast of the family business’ profits.”
Said Trump: “I am deadly serious about that exercise. I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”
However, just two minutes later he admitted he would give his father reports “on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it,” adding that the updates will be “probably quarterly.”
Then there's Junior who instead of keeping his distance and concentrating on the business, took to the twitter:
It has become something of an online custom in the social media age to react to tragic news stories — like Wednesday’s attack in London — with well-meaning if sometimes rote messages like “thoughts and prayers.” But that does not appear to be Donald Trump Jr.’s style.
“You have to be kidding me?!” Mr. Trump said Wednesday afternoon on Twitter, as details of the episode — which left at least five dead, including the assailant, and 40 injured — continued to unfold. The message continued, “Terror attacks are part of living in big city, says London Mayor Sadiq Khan.”
Mr. Trump, the oldest son of President Trump, was calling attention to an article from September in The Independent, a British newspaper, that described Mr. Khan’s reaction to a bombing then in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.
Mr. Trump mischaracterized the London mayor’s remarks. Mr. Khan did not describe terrorism as “part of living in a big city,” as if bombings and shootings were an inescapable fact of life. He said that terrorism preparedness, including providing sufficient support to the police, was “part and parcel of living in a great global city.”
“That means being vigilant, having a police force that is in touch with communities; it means the security services being ready, but it also means exchanging ideas and best practice,” Mr. Khan said in a video interview published by The Evening Standard, another British paper. (For the record, Mr. Khan did say the victims of the Chelsea bombing were in his “thoughts and prayers.”)
“Nothing is more important to me than keeping Londoners safe,” Mr. Khan added. “I want to be reassured that every single agency and individual involved in protecting our city has the resources and expertise they need to respond in the event that London is attacked.”
On Thursday morning, Mr. Khan said in an interview on CNN that he would not respond to Mr. Trump’s tweet because he had “been doing far more important things over the last 24 hours.”
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
And then there's his closest advisers Ivanka and Jared who, instead of being in town for the big Obamacare repeal negotiations, are vacationing in Aspen.
He lost. Big time. Trump tweeted and called and according to Sean Spicer, he "left everything on the field."
He tried his hardest. Let's give him a participation trophy.
Sean Spicer said this morning that they demanded the bill get a vote. Then they switched gears and said the President demanded that the bill be pulled. Whatever.
The upshot is that the great negotiator couldn't even get his own party to agree to a bill they all ran on. He made the ultimate miscalculation by backing the Freedom Caucus, notorious nihilist back-stabbers whose seats are entirely safe instead of the moderates who would be primaried from the right for voting against the bill and opening up the seat to a Democrat. They were the ones who needed his protection but he's too dumb to know that.
The White House finally realized that a vote on this bill was worse than no vote at all and they defaulted to Trump's preferred strategy which is to just keep ragging on the hated black guy which he knows his voters love more than anything.
I can hardly wait to see what he does in his unilateral trade negotiations. Get ready to pay 20 bucks a pound for tomatoes, folks.
This is what Republicans get for voting for a cheap huckster who went bankrupt four times. Too bad for the majority that didn't vote for him.
Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the now-famous (for the wrong reasons) chair of the House intelligence committee, held another weird press conference Friday morning. It wasn't as much of a doozy as his double feature on Wednesday, when he claimed he had been given information indicating that members of Donald Trump's presidential transition team, including possibly Trump himself, had been picked up during lawfully authorized intelligence surveillance of other targets and that their identities had been disclosed in intelligence reporting based on these intercepts. That triggered a hullabaloo—had Nunes revealed classified information? was he pulling this stunt to help Trump?—and his actions prompted Democrats to question Nunes' ability to lead an effective probe of Moscow's meddling in the 2016 campaign and the interactions between the Trump camp and Russia. On Thursday, in a private meeting of the committee, Nunes apologized to his fellow committee members for his bizarre pressers but did not fully explain his move or share the information he had. This was part of an already bad week for Nunes.
Nunes' own account bolsters the argument that he is not a credible manager of the probe of the Trump-Russia scandal.
On Friday, Nunes didn't make anything better. In fact, with a series of elliptical statements, he suggested that on Wednesday he had gone off half-cocked—which is not SOP for an intelligence committee chairman in charge of a highly sensitive and politically charged investigation. Asked repeatedly about the information that was the basis for his charge that Trump and his associates were inappropriately "unmasked" in classified intelligence reports based on legally authorized top-secret surveillance of foreign targets, Nunes said he did not have that material in hand. He noted he had "viewed" the documents this week. And he said that he hoped to receive copies of the material "from the NSA and other agencies" on Friday, over the weekend, or early next week. He also indicated that there were more documents related to this matter than he had seen. Nunes added that he had been aware of the "unmasking" prior to reviewing the documents he saw.
Put this all together, and the scenario looks like this: Someone told Nunes that the identities of Trump and/or Trump associates appeared in intelligence reports based on surveillance conducted during the transition. Nunes then reviewed some of these documents this week. And on Wednesday afternoon (two days after a holding a day-long hearing with FBI chief James Comey and NSA head Mike Rogers), Nunes—without telling his fellow committee members and without conducting any thorough examination of the matter—went public. That is, he went rogue. And he rushed to the White House to share his half-baked information with Trump. (Afterward, Trump declared that he was now "somewhat" vindicated for claiming Obama had illegally wiretapped him in Trump Tower during the election—despite the fact that Nunes' statements were not related to Trump's fact-free charge.)
I was on the Majority Report with Sam Seder earlier and Sam had a very interesting alternative theory about what actually happened. He points out that after the hearing the other day the committee held a closed door meeting and for the first time Comey revealed some of what he had. Sam's hypothesis is that Nunes, as a member of the transition team whomay not feel entirely secure from surveillance himself had to figure out a way to get Comey's information to the White House and needed to find reason to go up there personally to deliver it. So he came up with this cockamamie scheme, which would explain why he didn't share what he had with the committee --- he didn't have anything.
It's an interesting theory. This Nunes gambit was very strange and certainly gives rise to suspicions that he was doing something other than what he said he was doing. The fact that suddenly three former Trump associates have agreed to testify before the committee makes you wonder why they might feel more confident in their stories all of a sudden.
Nunes should have recused himself from this committee. He was a member of the transition and for all we know he's implicated himself. He's not smart enough to outwit the counterintelligence agents, though. He probably shouldn't try ...
In both its substance and its procedural details, the plan cooked up by the Trump administration and House Republican leadership to overhaul the American health care system is completely insane.
As of Thursday evening, Republicans have announced a plan to stage a do-or-die vote on the legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a new system. They’re not sure they have the votes to pass the bill, in part because the actual substance of the bill was only coming out at around 9 pm. With the text finalized so late, they won’t have analysis from the Congressional Budget Office before the planned vote.
But House Republicans are in such a hurry to pass an unpopular bill that won’t become law that they won’t even take the time to figure out what the law does.
AHCA 1.0 meant 24 million people lost insurance
What we do have is a CBO score of an earlier version of the bill, which said it would cause 24 million Americans to lose health insurance while raising premiums and deductibles for remaining patients on the individual market. It would also accelerate the bankruptcy of the Medicare Trust Fund, all in pursuit of a large tax cut overwhelmingly tilted toward millionaires.
That bill, as written, was too right-wing to pass the Senate, where a number of Republicans have raised concerns about the defunding of Planned Parenthood and draconian cuts to Medicaid.
But that wasn’t right-wing enough for the right wing of the House GOP caucus, so now changes are in the works to eliminate federal regulations that require plans on the individual health insurance market to provide “essential health benefits.” (The bill would instruct states to set such regulations on their own.) Those federally mandated benefits, which members of the House Freedom Caucus find so irksome, are as follows:
Outpatient care without a hospital admission, known as ambulatory patient services
Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care
Mental health and substance use disorder services, including counseling and psychotherapy
Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices, which help people with injuries and disabilities to recover
Preventive care, wellness services, and chronic disease management
Pediatric services, including oral and vision care for children
It’s easy to demagogue the idea of removing those regulatory protections. The specter of an all-male meeting deciding that there’s no need for pregnancy, maternity, and newborn coverage is particularly egregious. But many of these line items simply test the conceptual limits of a health insurance plan. Suppose you bought something called health insurance that didn’t cover emergency services, hospitalization, preventive care, or rehabilitative services. Would that even be health insurance?
Worse, neither the authors of the revised legislation nor the members of Congress being asked to vote on it have any idea what the revised bill’s effects would actually be. There are a lot of moving parts to legislation. Will this deregulatory drive make total spending go down (because skimpier plans will be cheaper) or up, because cheaper, skimpier plans will attract more customers who are spending the government’s money? I’m not sure, and members of Congress aren’t sure either. Unlike me, Congress has a team of experts at their disposal who could figure it out for them if they had a few days to work. But House GOP leaders don’t want to know — they’re desperate to hold a vote tomorrow before any analysis is done.
Rush to nowhere
That’s the fundamental insanity of running headlong toward a floor vote without a score from the CBO. A lot of pixels have been spilled on the basic hypocrisy of the procedural aspects of the AHCA. But the real issue here is about substance, not process. Making public policy is hard. The CBO is a tool to help make sure members of Congress understand what they’re doing. They are not using that tool, and consequently, they are flying blind — voting for a series of interlocking changes that will drastically impact tens of millions of people’s lives with no idea what is going to happen.
Most egregiously of all, at this point the tempo is apparently being dictated by Donald Trump’s personal pique at recalcitrant House members.
A president with no interest in the details of public policy is impatient with the idea that House members might care what the content of the bills they pass is, and has decided to make passing this law a test of personal loyalty to him.
That’s a ridiculous way to think about legislation in general. But it’s a particularly egregious way to think about this particular bill, since candidate Trump would have thoroughly denounced it. He promised — in the primary, in the general election, and even during the transition — to put forward a plan that covers everyone, lowers deductibles, and protects Medicaid. He then hashed out a bill that doesn’t do any of those things, and is now professing to be not just eager to pass a bill that defies all of his campaign commitments but furious at people who are skeptical of the merits. Meanwhile, even if it does pass, the bill would have to be substantially revised to have any chance in the Senate.
There’s simply no reason to be doing this. At best, House members will be taking a politically tough vote for an unpopular bill that doesn’t become law. At worst, it will somehow actually become law, and members will find themselves accountable for the catastrophic consequences they haven’t even bothered to try to understand. All out of misguided loyalty to a president who never supported these ideas and doesn’t appear to have any interest in the content of the legislation.
On Thursday I wrote a snarky lead for my story about the Devin Nunes mini-drama commenting on how “prescient” Donald Trump and his associates have been — implying that they are often scheming and just can’t keep their mouths shut about what they are up to. It turns out that I’m the one who’s prescient. Later that morning Time magazine’s Michael Scherer released an interview with President Trump about his relationship with facts and the truth, in which he essentially said that he’s an “instinctual” person who says things that may not be factual in the moment but that will come true in the future.
As I write this, we are waiting to see if Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump will be able to corral enough Republican votes to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the legislative mutant they call the American Health Care Act. It’s unknown at this hour exactly what’s in it but reports have it growing more cruel and heartless by the minute. This was largely because Trump himself got into the negotiations with the hard-right Freedom Caucus and promised its members the moon. Here’s how it looked:
You’ll notice that the group was unmistakably estrogen free (as well as blindingly white). That was particularly offensive since those legislators had spent the day insisting that men shouldn’t have to pay for women’s health care (a problem that analyst Ron Brownstein has dubbed “the mommy tax“).If the Freedom Caucus dream bill were to pass into law, it would essentially create a lucrative government subsidy for insurance companies that no longer have any obligation to provide actual insurance. As Chris Hayes said on his show on Thursday night, it’s an invitation for thousands of Trump University-style scams to spring up all over the country to take advantage of free money in an unregulated market.Trump made lots of promises but didn’t really get anywhere as one vote gained became two votes lost. If he knew anything about what really makes Republicans tick he would have taken a page from his vice president’s playbook and simply reminded them of their reason for living:
By the end of the day Trump put his foot down and threatened the caucus with a vow to keep Obamacare in place if they don’t pass the bill on Friday. They all undoubtedly know that keeping Obamacare has been Trump’s real preference for some time now. If his vaunted “instincts” are truly as keen as he thinks they are, this would likely be the outcome. He can say it’s what he always wanted, rail against former President Barack Obama for a few more years and blame Paul Ryan for the political fallout.Of course, if they do manage to pass the bill, Trump will take credit for being the greatest negotiator the world has ever seen. He will win no matter what because in his mind everything in the world is about who gets blamed — and as I wrote a while back, it’s never going to be him. He told Scherer in the Time interview:
What am I going to tell you? I tend to be right. I’m an instinctual person, I happen to be a person that knows how life works.
One would think that a momentous legislative event like this would be the only real political news out there, but the near-death of the AHCA was just one of several stories in this wild week. Early on came the shocking House Intelligence Committee hearing with FBI Director James Comey and National Security Agency chief Michael Rogers in which it was confirmed that there were investigations of possible coordination between Trump’s campaign and agents of the Russian government to tilt the election in favor of Trump. Both also testified in no uncertain terms that the wiretapping accusations by the president against former President Obama were untrue.
Two days later this serious event turned darkly comical when Nunes, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called a press conference to reveal that a “source” had shown him evidence that Trump’s transition staff had been under surveillance after all and he needed to rush over to the White House to inform the president. Nunes has refused to share the evidence with anyone else, but from what people have gathered it’s likely that some routine intercepts captured conversations or emails involving members of the Trump team.
The Time interview was being held as the Nunes story was breaking and Scherer hadn’t even heard about it. Trump immediately informed him that Nunes had a lot of information about the surveillance and went on and on with an unintelligible rationale for the nasty accusation. But buried in the middle of that word salad was this:
[A] lot of information has just been learned, and a lot of information may be learned over the next coming period of time. We will see what happens. Look. I predicted a lot of things that took a little of bit of time.
Nunes made a valiant first pass at making his president’s prediction come true but he didn’t get the job done.
Trump went on to list other predictions that came true, most of which were figments of his imagination. He truly believes that he’s never ever been wrong about anything and when he lies he’s actually telling the future. He said it over and over again in that astonishing interview. When asked if he will have a credibility problem when he has to deal with a serious national security event, he replied:
The country believes me. Hey. I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena. There wasn’t a seat, they had to send away people. I went to Tennessee four nights ago. We had a packed house, they had to send away thousands of people. You saw that, right? Did you see that? . . . The country’s not buying it, it is fake news.
He signed off the interview simply saying, “Hey look, in the meantime, I guess, I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not.”
Believe it or not, that’s still not the most surreal thing that happened this week. In the middle of the hard-fought health care negotiations on Thursday, Trump held yet another one of his tedious photo-ops. And this happened:
Other than totally abdicating every promise he made to his voters on health care and being implicated in potentially the biggest scandal in American history, it was a good week for the president. He got to sit in a big truck.
Trumpcare for Men:
for men with hair and men without
by Tom Sullivan
Thursday's Obamacare repeal and replace vote is now Friday's Obamacare repeal and replace vote. Donald Trump, legendary closer, delivered an ultimatum to House Republicans whipping for votes on the American Health Care Act:
Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney made clear Thursday evening that President Donald Trump is done negotiating on the hotly-debated health care bill and wants a vote on Friday.
And, if the president doesn't get a vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, he will move on to other priorities, Mulvaney said according to a source in the room during the tense talks with GOP members. A senior administration source confirms to NBC News the "very definitive, very clarifying" message from the president and the administration's intention to move on — should the health care bill fail to move forward — to other matters such as tax reform, trade and border security.
Trump faces a major defeat on his first big legislative push and doesn't seem to care. He doesn't have the attention span for it and it's not his problem:
If the bill does not pass, the president would see it as "people in Congress breaking their promises to their constituents to repeal and replace Obamacare" even with a Republican president in the White House," the source told NBC News.
Thursday was supposed to be a signature day for Trump and the Republicans. The seventh year anniversary of Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act would see its demise. For seven years and after dozens of show votes, Republicans promised to repeal it at the first opportunity, but they spent yesterday furiously attempting to get their fractious caucus behind the unpopular measure. The White House's effort to satisfy members of the House Freedom caucus yielded a photo that drew the ire of women.
As white GOP men debate eliminating coverage for maternity services, I wonder if they will cover Viagra in the bill. pic.twitter.com/C1tAuTixIC
A Twitter user praised the diversity in the Trumpcare meeting: white men with hair and without.
"Nobody knew health care could be so complicated," Trump informed his base in February. Except Trump was the only nobody in the room. Everyone else who had paid any attention did. The complicating factor in today's House vote is after all the late-night negotiations and sweeteners added to land this GOP vote or that, nobody knows what is in the bill coming to the floor. The Washington Post's Dan Balz confirms:
Hardly anyone knows what is in the current bill, or what could be in it after further negotiations. Concessions to conservatives have brought defections among some moderates. Rep. Mark Meadows, (R-N.C.), the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters Thursday afternoon that there were still 30 to 40 Republicans not committed to supporting the bill. Republicans can afford to lose only 21 or 22 of them, depending on how many Democrats are present to vote.
Republicans are keenly aware that a vote that harms GOP primary voters could mean an end to their careers. But a vote against the president could damage Republicans' ability to get passed many of the other legislative goodies on their wish list. "If we vote it down, we will neuter Donald Trump's presidency," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher told reporters yesterday:
There were daunting obstacles to a deal heading into the White House meeting Thursday morning. A number of Freedom Caucus members had suggested Trump’s latest concession — repealing Obamacare's mandate that insurance plans provide a minimum level of "essential" benefits — wasn't enough. The group wants a complete repeal of all Affordable Care Act regulations — including popular provisions Trump promised he would maintain.
"This sounds barbaric. It is barbaric," writes Jordan Weissmann at Slate. "Obamacare's regulations, remember, really were designed to work as a cohesive whole. If you pull out a few of its key stones, you're likely to create as much wreckage, if not more, than if you demolished the whole thing."
Two thoughts come to mind. First, the image at the top of this post of the Three Stooges' Curly — another man without hair — trying to fix a leaking faucet by threading on lengths of pipe, only to have the leak move to the end of the new pipe. Second, for all the money, sweat and contortions legislators have gone through to save America's complex, private insurance-based health system (and insurance company profits), we could have had a simpler, single-payer system to serve all Americans that looked less like a leaking cage of pipe. But that would make too much sense.
For his part, Donald Trump spent yesterday generating memes and leaving the heavy lifting to people accustomed to working.