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Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Sunday, June 25, 2017


If you're satisfied with your health care, rattle your jewelry

by Tom Sullivan

There are no cheap seats here.

Vice President Mike Pence yesterday visited a Republican National Committee retreat in Chicago. He meant to rally his party's support for the Obamacare repeal bill coming to a vote in the Senate this week.

"This is our moment. Now is the time. Every moment Obamacare survives is another day America suffers," the designated staffer posted to his Twitter account.

"Before summer's out, we'll repeal/replace Obamacare w(ith)/system based on personal responsibility, free market competition & state-based reform," read another accompanied by a photo of a ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel.

"That's the Republican way. That's the American way," he added. "And that's the way we're going to reform health care in the 21st Century."

Not likely a John Lennon aficionado, Pence did not invite his audience instead of clapping to rattle their jewelry.

Hullabaloo's Heather Digby Parton tweeted, "Seriously, any kid who gets leukemia needs a big lesson in personal responsibility." There will be plenty of lessons to go around should the bill pass this week.

I've heard plenty of conservative talk-show tirades about liberal coastal elites. But proclaiming in this upscale Midwest venue that Republicans plan to make medical treatment contingent on "personal responsibility, free market competition & state-based reform" is about as coded and vaporous as anything a left-leaning, unpaid college intern might conceive. Except infinitely more cold-blooded. This kind of Kool-Aid for the commoners takes decades of right-wing-billionaire-funded messaging research to synthesize. Drink enough over time and even a Bible-believing vice president doesn't know his soul has been poisoned.

How poisoned? Former North Carolina Democratic congressman Brad Miller was not on the committees that formulated Obamacare. He admits it's flaws, but notes in a Facebook post this morning that Democrats failed on the atmospherics:

Democrats blew the politics by letting Republicans say it was all just about helping the poor and nobody else, just like something Democrats would do. I'm all for helping the poor, but expanding health insurance coverage and requiring standard benefits helps everyone, including the people who already have insurance. The cost of treatment for the poor, usually emergency care when they're really sick or hurt rather than care to keep them healthy, gets shifted to everyone else in their insurance premiums. I asked the Tea Party delegation that visited me about the ACA what they would do about the uninsured who come to the emergency room with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. They said let them die.
According to the right's ghoulish orthodoxy, the uninsured sick should have worked harder, planned better, and saved more. Dying will be a lesson to others of their kind in personal responsibility, and as a bonus decrease the surplus population.

If Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his colleagues get their way, those lessons may come swiftly and painfully. In Illinois alone, "650,000 residents could lose Medicaid coverage under the Senate bill, and subsequent effects of state law, in 2021," the Chicago Tribune reckons.

Back up and look again at the Pence tweet, at the lies, lies, and more lies, and consider that the country is not only in the hands of an emotionally stunted man-child, but in the grasp of a political cult.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Night at the Movies

Trees are important: After the Storm ****

By Dennis Hartley

Back in February of this year, my dear mother passed away, at the age of 86. While she had been weathering a plethora of health issues for a number of years, the straw that ultimately claimed her (pancreatic cancer) was diagnosed mere weeks before she died. In fact, her turn for the worse was so sudden that my flight to Ohio turned into a grim race; near as I could figure, my plane was on final approach to Canton-Akron Airport when she slipped away (I arrived at her bedside an hour after she had died). And yes, that was hard.

Since I obviously wasn’t present during (what turned out to be) her final days, I asked my brother if she had any “final words”. At first, he chuckled a little through the tears, recounting that several days prior, she had turned to him at one point and said “I wish I had some wisdom to impart. But I don’t.” I laughed (Jewish fatalism-it’s a cultural thing).

Then, he remembered something. The hospice room where my mother spent her last week had a picture window facing west, with a view of a field, a pond, a small stand of trees, and an occasional deer spotting. Two days before she was gone, my mother, my father, and my brother were quietly enjoying this pastoral scene with the bonus of a lovely sunset. My mother broke the silence with 3 simple words: “Trees are important.”

I’ve been mulling over those words. What did she mean? Indeed, trees are important. They are, in a literal sense, the very lungs of the Earth. As a metaphor, I must consider the foundational significance that The Tree of Life holds in Judaism. Was she “imparting wisdom” after all? Had she, at the end her journey, reached what Paddy Chayefsky once called a “cleansing moment of clarity” about The Things That Really Matter? Granted, it may not be as cinematic as “Rosebud”, but it’s at the very least a kissin’ cousin to a Zen koan. If I’d been there, I might’ve responded with something profound, like “Nicely put.”

I believe that is why, only three minutes in to writer-director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s elegant new family drama, After the Storm, I found myself suddenly and unexpectedly choking up over an exchange between a mother and a daughter during the opening scene. Perhaps I should say that my reaction was all at once unexpected...yet immediately understood.

“You’ll go senile being alone all the time,” a middle-aged woman named Chinatsu (Satomi Kobayashi) admonishes her recently-widowed mother (Kirin Kiki), “Go out and make friends.” Not missing a beat as she merrily bustles about the kitchen, Mom wryly rejoins “New friends at my age only mean more funerals.” Then, returning to stirring the simmering pot on the stove, the mother muses softly (half to herself), “The flavor sinks into the ingredients, if you cool it down slowly and let it sit overnight. Just like people.”

“Nicely put,” says a visibly surprised Chinatsu, with a smile.

“Nicely put” is how I would, in general, describe Kore-eda’s flair for dialogue throughout this wise, quietly observant and at times genuinely witty take on the prodigal son story.

The prodigal is Chinatsu’s younger brother Ryota (Hiroshi Abe), who has been drifting away from his sister and their mother in the wake of his divorce from Kyoko (Yoko Maki). While he is basically good-hearted, Ryota is a classic man-child who seems to be his own worst enemy. He works as a private detective, which he insists is not a “job”, but rather, “research” for a novel he is allegedly formulating. He actually is a published writer; his debut novel earned him a (relatively obscure) book award. However, that was some time ago, and his literary license for reveling in past glories has definitely expired. 

He has also long ago squandered any monies earned, due to his compulsive gambling habit. This propensity also keeps him in arrears on child support payments for his 11 year-old son Shingo (Taiyo Yoshizawa). He treasures his weekly visitations with Shingo; however Kyoko is threatening to cut them off if he doesn’t stay caught up on payments.

Ryota still carries the torch for his ex-wife; he enlists his partner at the detective agency to help do a little extra-curricular surveillance on Kyoko, and is distressed to see that she appears to be happily ensconced with a new boyfriend. His partner indulges him, but wisely counsels that perhaps it is time to let go, just as Kyoko seems to have moved on.

But fate and circumstance conspire (I’m saying it) one dark and stormy night to force an awkward family reunion; Ryota, Kyoko and Shingo hunker down to ride out a typhoon in his mother’s cramped apartment. This sets the stage for the third act, which is essentially a chamber piece about love, late-blooming “maturity”, and the renewal of family bonds.

It’s inevitable to draw comparisons here with the work of one of the masters of Japanese cinema, Yasujiro Ozu (1903-1963), whose name has become synonymous with such quietly observant family dramas. That being said, Kore-eda, while no less subtle than Ozu-san, is slightly less formal in his approach. In this respect, his film reminds me more of contemporary director Mike Leigh, another film maker who specializes in narratives regarding modern family dynamics, imbued with a seldom-matched sense of authenticity.

All the performances are beautifully nuanced; particularly when Abe and scene-stealer Kiki are onscreen. Kudos as well to DP Yutaka Yamazaki’s painterly cinematography, and Hanargumi’s lovely soundtrack. Granted, some could find the proceedings too nuanced and “painterly”, but those with patience will be rewarded. It may be true, as Tom Waits says, that “things are tough all over, when the thunderstorms start”, but after the storm, all is renewed. Kore-eda’s film reminds us that families, like trees, are important.

For my mother

Previous posts with related themes:

The Tree of Life
More reviews at Den of Cinema
On Facebook
On Twitter

--Dennis Hartley

Is this America?

by digby

Sadly, yes. The inauguration protests were met with major excessive force by the DC police. All of that's being litigated right now, with some protesters, including at least one journalist, charged with felonies and facing serious jail time.

But this is something else:

But the experiences of the lawsuit’s four plaintiffs — independent photojournalist Shay Horse, volunteer legal observer Judah Ariel, and peaceful protesters Elizabeth Lagesse and Milo Gonzalez — suggest that MPD sought physical and emotional retribution on the hundreds of people kettled, the ACLU alleges.

An officer ordered Horse, fellow plaintiff Milo Gonzalez, and three others to take their pants off before grabbing their testicles and then inserting a finger into their anuses while “other officers laughed,” the complaint alleges. Horse is a photojournalist, one of six reporters initially arrested and charged whose cases have been dismissed.

“It felt like they were trying to…break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.”

“I felt like they were using molestation and rape as punishment. They used those tactics to inflict pain and misery on people who are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty,” Horse said. “It felt like they were trying to break me and the others — break us so that even if the charges didn’t stick, that night would be our punishment.”

In a statement responding to the lawsuit on Wednesday, the MPD defended its reputation and maintained that all its arrests were proper.

“Each year, the men and women of MPD protect the rights and ensure the safety of thousands of First Amendment assemblies, demonstrations and protests,” the department said. While thousands demonstrated peaceably on Inauguration Day, the statement went on, “there was another group of individuals who chose to engage in criminal acts, destroying property and hurling projectiles, injuring at least six officers. These individuals were ultimately arrested for their criminal actions.”

The department also pledged that “all…allegations of misconduct will be fully investigated.” Michelman said the ACLU welcomes that promise but doesn’t exactly trust it.

“We have significant concerns that that won’t be sufficient, in light of repeat problems MPD has had with arresting law-abiding demonstrators and responding…with excessive force,” Michelman said.

This isn't the first time that the MPD has overreacted to scattered violence and rounded up peaceful protesters, subjecting them to extremely harsh treatment:

By dint of geography, MPD responds to far more mass demonstrations than any other police department. Marchers without permits regularly take over streets, sit in at organizational buildings, and even chain themselves to physical structures in protest without prompting the sort of crackdown that followed the Antifa provocations on Inauguration Day.

But MPD’s reputation for high standards on protester civil liberties coexists with a less-prominent and darker track record in cases like this one, Michelman said.

“When there are groups of people who protest only peacefully, demonstrations that go off without a hitch, MPD does tend to handle those pretty well. They tend to be prepared and respectful, and we commend them for that,” he said. “The problem is when there’s a little bit of lawbreaking at a mostly peaceful demonstration, the response from MPD is massive, it’s excessive, it’s unjustified, and it’s unconstitutional. That’s what we saw on January 20.” 
The indiscriminate targeting of reporters, legal observers, and peaceful protesters along with those who had broken windows and assaulted officers is not a one-off, he said. MPD reacted similarly to a World Bank protest in 2002 that went sideways. The city later paid $8.25 million to settle civil rights cases brought by nearly 400 protesters. That case, known among local lawyers as Pershing Park, was not the first multi-million-dollar payout by the District over an episode that broke from MPD’s broader pattern of high-road protest management.

You have to wonder if that isn't their instruction. If one person or group smashes a window, bring the hammer down on everyone in the vicinity no matter who and make sure they feel your authority as harshly as possible. Guilt by association.Of course the peaceful protesters have no way of knowing advance that there will be violence or have any capacity to stop it. But they must pay too.

The rape stuff seems like a natural evolution of such a policy. Remember Abu Ghraib and the "enema punishment" at Bagram and Guantanamo? Once they take the gloves off someone's fingers always seem to find their way into a prisoner's anus.

Trolling, trolling, trolling, can't hide

by digby

So, Trump is trolling Obama hard now for not stopping the Russian interference in the election on his behalf. The interference he says is a hoax designed to excuse Clinton's loss.

President Donald Trump questioned former President Barack Obama's response to Russia's attempts to influence the 2016 election in an interview airing Sunday morning, saying Obama didn't do enough to address the situation.

"Well I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it," Trump said in an excerpt of his interview on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" released Friday. "But nobody wants to talk about that."

"The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even -- before the election," Trump said. "And I hardly see it. It's an amazing thing. To me, in other words, the question is, if he had the information, why didn't he do something about it? He should have done something about it. But you don't read that. It's quite sad."

Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?

Dear Mr. President,

Now that you have finally acknowledged that the Russian government did interfere in the presidential election on your behalf, are you honored by their endorsement and hard work for your campaign? Since they are obviously your enthusiastic followers, can we expect them to "help" you more in the future? Should we, perhaps, set up a system whereby Russian citizens can vote directly in our elections rather than have to go through all this subterfuge? It would be a little more transparent and give the Russian people the assurance that our system is on the up and up and their choice has been legitimately elected.

One thing though. They Russians obviously don't fear you or hate you as much as they feared that sick old woman you were running against for some odd reason. So what did they expect from you in return?

Sincerely yours,

a citizen

He screwed the pooch again

by digby

He just couldn't say there are no tapes and then STFU. He had to try to cover himself again.

 The Daily Beast reports the fallout inside the White House:
But then, unprompted, he floated another possibility: U.S. intelligence or law enforcement officials might have his office bugged. “With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are ‘tapes’ or recordings of my conversations with James Comey,” Trump wrote. 
It was a bizarre suggestion that took some in the White House off guard. “No clue what the thinking was,” a White House staffer said of the tweets. “He could’ve just said there are no tapes. It’s baffling, frankly.”[...]
Instead of putting the “tape” issue to rest and leave it at that, Trump’s statements threaten to embroil the White House in yet another round of politically inconvenient questioning about issues—Comey’s firing, the FBI’s probe into Russian election-meddling, and Trump’s reported efforts to hobble it—that the White House has tried, with little success, to move past
Informed of the president’s denial that he had recorded his conversations with Comey, a senior administration official replied, “At least that’s behind us.” When alerted to his apparent suspicions of Oval Office surveillance, the official replied in a text message, “fml.” 
That’s shorthand for “fuck my life.” ... 
Had Trump not threatened Comey with the prospect of “tapes” of their conversations, Comey might not have leaked details of his memos. If those details hadn’t become public, the Justice Department might not have been pressured to appoint a special counsel. And without that special counsel, former FBI director Robert Mueller, news that Trump himself is personally under investigation might have been kept under wraps.With Mueller leading the Russia investigation, Trump again plotted ways to ensure that it would be resolved in his favor. He began floating the possibility of firing Mueller, a move that his advisers strenuously opposed, but that nonetheless received public attention when floated on television by Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, a friend of the president’s.

He's nuts. Can we just stipulate to that and move on? Seriously, this is aberrant behavior. He has no impulse control and he's obviously self-destructive.

What could go wrong?


Ivanka needs a tax cut

by digby

Arizona cut Medicaid before the ACA was enacted. Look what happened:

Swollen, throbbing, and pale purple, Beatrice’s left leg looked less like a limb and more like an oversized, striated eggplant.* But her breathing—or lack thereof—is what caught my attention first.

Beatrice was suffering from deep vein thrombosis, a condition that occurs when blood flowing through veins in the calf and thigh unexpectedly clots and obstructs the flow of blood to the rest of the body. Left untreated, the clot can dislodge and travel to blood vessels in the lungs—known as a pulmonary embolism. There’s a risk of sudden death.

The doctors dissolved the clots and stabilized her. Beatrice was clinically safe for now. The anxiety spreading over her face told me a different story.

Beatrice had been feeling throbbing pains in her leg for the past week. Afraid of the cost of urgent care, she hoped the pain would pass with time. Beatrice and her two children were constantly moving apartments every few months, and her Medicaid renewal paperwork had accidentally been sent to an old address, leaving her without coverage. Without insurance, she had been forced to choose between her rent and her leg. For the sake of her family, she had chosen her rent. Now she feared she no longer had a choice.

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A college volunteer at a Phoenix hospital, I stood on the sidelines watching in shock. I hoped to explore the practice of medicine, the doctor-patient relationships, and the miracles of treatment. Instead I discovered patients more frightened by dollars than disease. It was 2012.

In 2011, following the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, then–Arizona Gov. Janet Brewer cut the state’s Medicaid funding and froze enrollment. Arizona blocked new enrollment in Medicaid and only allowed existing enrollees to continue receiving benefits if their income remained below the federal poverty line and they turned in their annual renewal paperwork on time. A family that received a raise that lifted their income even slightly above the poverty line lost Medicaid coverage permanently, even if their income dropped below the line again the following year.

Between 2011 and 2013, 150,000 adults on Medicaid in Arizona, nearly two-thirds of the childless adults in the program, lost coverage. Over those months I spent at the hospital, many of the patients presented their own horror stories after losing Medicaid.

A farmworker had his right foot amputated, lost to gangrene because he had been putting bandages on ulcers on the bottom of his feet to avoid paying for clinic visits. A truck driver with Type I diabetes was driving across the border to Mexico every other week to buy insulin, a life-or-death drug, because he could no longer afford the price in the U.S. The last patient I saw in the hospital was a landscaper who showed up with his hand shattered from a construction accident and wrapped in duct tape. He hoped his simple fix meant he wouldn’t need, or have to pay, for a cast.

Congress can—and should­—learn from Arizona’s mistake.

The Senate’s health care bill freezes Medicaid enrollment, preventing new poor families from signing up. We’ll know more after it receives a score from the Congressional Budget Office next week, but it is also likely to cut Medicaid funding by hundreds of billions of dollars. Like Arizona’s 2011 freeze, if a patient goes off Medicaid, she’s barred from re-enrolling in later years, regardless of her financial or medical status. In particular, the federal cap on Medicaid spending will place more financial pressure on the states to rein in costs. The end result is that, like Arizona, more states will be forced to restrict Medicaid eligibility, cap enrollment, and cut health benefits. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 14 million Americans would lose Medicaid coverage over the next 10 years under the House GOP bill. Now that we’ve seen it, the Senate version of the bill doesn’t offer a much different result.

Congress can—and should­—learn from Arizona’s mistake. The U.S. health care system faces significant challenges. Rising premiums, high deductibles, and fewer insurers to choose from each year have been both difficult and frustrating for Americans to manage. But Arizona knows, better than any other state or the federal government, the catastrophic effects of taking health care coverage away from people entirely.

Arizona expanded Medicaid coverage in 2013 following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Commenting on Arizona’s decision to expand Medicaid, Brewer said “It saved lives, it insured more people, it brought money into the state, it kept rural hospitals from being closed down. And today there are tens of thousands of people that are very, very grateful.”

Yeah well, fuck 'em. Ivanka needs a tax cut.

By the way, just so you know, Medicaid's costs rise much, much more slowly than all the other programs in the health care sector. But whatever.

They welcomed the interference

by digby

It's hard not to be angry at President Obama for failing to adequately sound the alarm over the Russian meddling in the election. But we have been told for many months now that all blame for the outcome rests with that horrifying candidate who did everything wrong and nobody could stand, Hillary Rodham Clinton. So, that's that. I'm uninterested in relitigating all that at the moment. It's gets tiring.

If you really want to look at a man who will be remembered in history as a true patriot, look to Mitch McConnell who dismissed the warnings and refused to join the president in sounding the warning since Vladimir Putin was helping his team. Hey, they were fighting the world's most heinous Feminazi so it makes sense that the Republicans would ally with Russians. Worked for FDR and Stalin, amirite?

Anyway, this is the truly fatuous response from the administration:
“We made the judgment that we had ample time after the election, regardless of outcome, for punitive measures.”

Ok, so they thought that Clinton would win. Fine. But it was only 16 years ago that we had a close election that went to the Republicans by dubious means through the electoral college. It never occurred to them that it could happen again? That's ridiculous.

More importantly, if any of them even entertained the thought that Trump would do anything about this if he won, Mitch McConnell's reactions should have been enough to disabuse them of that fact.

The simple truth is that the Republicans welcomed a foreign government interfering in the election on their behalf. They knew and they were happy about it and they are now doing everything in their power to cover it up. There is no other way to look at it.

Republican leaders were so hungry to kill people on Medicaid, bankrupt the middle class and give tax cuts to their millionaire friends that they knowingly allowed a foreign government to help that corrupt, incompetent imbecile into the White House. Think about that.

I feel sick.

The art of growing a spine

by Tom Sullivan

The Obama administration received an "eyes only" CIA report last August that the Russian hacking attacks were far much more extensive than the DNC and Guccifer 2.0 episodes already known to the public. A bombshell report yesterday from the Washington Post claims the report "drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government ... detailed Russian President Vladi­mir Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the U.S. presidential race." The reporting is based on the accounts of over three dozen current and former senior officials from the White House, the State and Defense Departments, U.S. intelligence services and other agencies. Because of the sensitivity of these matters, most spoke only on condition of anonymity. The report makes clear that second-guessing at the highest levels of the Obama administration and political concerns by the leadership of both major parties in the midst of a presidential campaign quashed a more decisive response:

In political terms, Russia’s interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy. It was a case that took almost no time to solve, traced to the Kremlin through cyber-forensics and intelligence on Putin’s involvement. And yet, because of the divergent ways Obama and Trump have handled the matter, Moscow appears unlikely to face proportionate consequences.
It is a stunning and lengthy report you simply must read.

Over at the Post's Plum Line blog, Paul Waldman highlights how Democrats' timidity in dealing with the crisis helped elect Donald Trump. Granted, in August no one expected Trump to win:
What comes through again and again is that the Obama administration was terrified of looking partisan or doing anything that might seem like it was putting a thumb on the scale of the election, and the result was paralysis. This is a manifestation of what some years ago I began calling the Audacity Gap.
I've been doing riffs on this for years, but none this clean.
Democrats are forever worried about whether they might be criticized, whether Republicans will be mean to them, whether they might look as though they’re being partisan, and whether they might be subjected to a round of stern editorials. Republicans, on the other hand, just don’t care. What they’re worried about is winning, and they don’t let the kinds of criticism that frightens Democrats impede them. It makes Republicans the party of “Yes we can,” while Democrats are the party of “Maybe we shouldn’t.”
I've watched older (older than me anyway), local Democratic leaders second guess themselves this way for years instead of taking bold action, "But what will the Republicans do [to us] if we...?" "If we do that, we'll be handing Republicans a campaign issue," etc. And don't get me started on how Republicans made Sen. Dick Durbin cry in the Senate during George W. Bush's term. Democrats behave like abused spouses then wonder why voters won't elect them.

Even if they vote for them at the local and state level, voters often will not vote for Democrats when national security is on the line because Americans at heart want leaders, doers not thinkers. They want candidates they can trust to fight for them, not arbitrate for them. People who will take a stand, not negotiate a compromise (even though that is how much in representative government gets done).

Democrats' greatest weakness is they need people to like them, and they are easily hurt if people don't. Republicans know this. So they deploy their patented hissy fits regularly to get Democrats to back down, just as Waldman writes. Anat Shenker Osorio wrote, "Democrats rely on polling to take the temperature; Republicans use polling to change it."

Much as I hate to admit it, this quote from Margaret Thatcher captures that even more succinctly: "Don't follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you." That's leadership.

Last November 8th's debacle wasn't caused by this thing or that, but by what Lemony Snicket would call a series of unfortunate events. This week, this awful week is the outcome of that. Until Democrats stop cowering and start leading, they'll be stuck following.

Update: Edited for clarity.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Night Soother

by digby

Grab a cocktail and watch these vids.

Now watch this:

Now have another cocktail and watch them again. You'll feel better...:)

Trump interviews lawyers

by digby

Sounds right to me:

His impression is just uncanny ...

Death Spiral

by digby

The destruction of Medicaid in order to provide permanent, massive tax cuts for millionaires is undoubtedly the most heinous of the atrocities in the latest iteration of Trumpcare. But as Ian Millhiser at Think Progress points out, there's a lot more to it, this horrible consequence being one of them:
Let’s talk about “death spirals.”

That’s not a political term that Democratic operatives made up to scare you. “Death spiral” is actually the economic term of art for what Trumpcare will do to health insurance markets.

A death spiral is a kind of feedback loop where higher premiums cause healthy, paying customers to drop their health plans, which in turn leads to higher premiums, which in turn drives more people out of the insurance market. It’s called a “death spiral” because it often ends in the collapse of that market.

And, because we are talking about health care, it will also end in the deaths of many Americans who will no longer be able to afford care.

What is a death spiral? 
One of the most challenging problems solved by Obamacare is how to insure people with pre-existing conditions. Before Obamacare, insurers were free to deny coverage to such individuals — and this wasn’t something they did simply because they were being cruel.
The whole point of health insurance is that everyone pays into an insurance pool that they only take money out of when they need medical care. Pre-existing conditions can be quite expensive to cover — indeed, they can be more expensive than the insurer can reasonably charge in premiums.

If you load up an insurance pool with too many sick people, they start taking more money out of the pool than the health consumers are paying into it — until the whole thing collapses.

One possible solution is to simply require insurers to eat these costs, and pass a law requiring them to cover people with pre-existing conditions even if these individuals take out more money than they pay in. But such a law creates its own problem. If people can wait until they are sick to buy health coverage, people will wait until they are sick to buy health coverage. And that will leave insurers with too few healthy customers to cover the costs of their sick consumers.

The death spiral begins after an insurer raises premiums to meet this funding shortfall. Higher premiums drive out more healthy customers, which forces the insurer to jack up premiums even more, which drives out even more healthy customers, which forces the insurer to jack up premiums again.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained in the first Obamacare case to reach the Supreme Court, “in the 1990’s, several States — including New York, New Jersey, Washington, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont,” enacted laws prohibiting discrimination against people with preexisting conditions, and “the results were disastrous. ‘All seven states suffered from skyrocketing insurance premium costs, reductions in individuals with coverage, and reductions in insurance products and providers.’”

The Obamacare solution 
Obamacare solves this problem with an unpopular, but quite effective provision: the law’s so-called individual mandate. This mandate imposes higher taxes on most people who are uninsured, giving healthy people a financial incentive to buy health insurance that wards off a death spiral.

The Senate Trumpcare bill would repeal this mandate and replace it with, well, nothing.

That’s a huge problem because, while the Senate bill does weaken the law’s insurance regulations and allow states to waive some of them, it leaves in place Obamacare’s provisions prohibiting insurers from charging more to people with preexisting conditions. That’s a recipe for a death spiral.

Once the death spiral begins, things can get pretty grim, pretty quickly. When Kentucky tried protecting people with pre-existing conditions without also enacting an individual mandate, for example, nearly all insurers left its individual insurance market. In New Jersey, some premiums rose by 350 percent. In Washington, some counties had no private individual insurance coverage available at any price.

And, if the Senate Trumpcare bill becomes law, this fate could await all 50 states.

They don't care. They want their tax cuts. I'm almost of the mind that they know Trump is either going to destroy the country or at thevery least destroy the Republican party. So they have just decided to go out in a blaze of glory.

The malevolent liar speaks

by digby

Which one, you ask? The Big Orange Kahuna of course, who just gave his first interview since the Lester Holt debacle to some fangirl from Fox. Taylor Link from Salon wrote it up:
“When he found out that there may be tapes out there — whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows — I think his story may have changed. You’ll have to take a look at that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events. And my story didn’t change — my story was always a straight story, my story always was the truth. But you’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed, but I did not tape.”

The president acknowledged on Thursday that he was not in possession of any recordings of his former FBI director. But Trump’s reasoning for saying that he did remained a mystery — until Friday, of course, when Fox News aired his interview, in which he conceded that he wanted to keep Comey honest.

Trump’s confession was especially bizarre considering part of it directly contradicted his own past statements. Trump suggested in his interview with Earhardt that his strategy worked because Comey did not change his story. Earlier this month, Trump accused Comey of lying under oath to Congress.

During a news conference with the Romanian president inside the White House Rose Garden, Trump said that Comey made false statements in his testimony and that he was willing to provide his own, truthful version of events under oath.

The interview, his first since admitting to NBC’s Lester Holt that Comey was fired over the Russia inquiry, touched on topics beyond witness tampering and collusion investigations.

Trump declares victory in “difficult” health care situation

Earhardt asked the president about the new health care bill in the Senate. Trump answered by declaring himself a legislative genius.

“Health care is a very difficult situation,” he said. “We are trying to do something in a very short time. I’ve been here for five months. Well, I’ve done in five months what other people haven’t done in years.”

In March, Trump said that a health care deal would be “easy.”

Basically he said that his threatening tweet forced Comey to change his story. That's not true. But it does confirm that he meant it as a threat.

He's delusional. Truly sick.

He also implied that Comey and Mueller are extremely close friends (not true by all accounts) and therefore Mueller is unreliable. And he added that he hopes  Pelosi doesn't step down because he wants the Republicans to be able to run against the
old bitch and win like he did when he ran against an old bitch. Well, he didn't say "old bitch" but the meaning was clear.

Lovely guy. A real pip. Makes me so proud to be an American.


Who are the terrorists?

by digby

A member of the Scranton Police Special Operations Group enters the woods in October 2014 near Canadensis, Pa., in a search for Eric Matthew Frein, an anti-government radical later convicted of killing a state trooper. Frein was caught after a 48-day manhunt.Credit: Butch Comegys/AP Photo/Scranton Times & Tribune

Dave Neiwert has written a vitally important piece on terrorist violence for the Center for Investigative Reporting. It won't reveal anything that most of my readers don't know in the abstract, but here is the data that shows where the real terrorist threat in America comes from:
Trump frequently had excoriated his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and his chief political opponent, Hillary Clinton, as naive, even gutless, for preferring “violent extremism” to describe the nature of the global and domestic terrorist threat.

“Anyone who cannot name our enemy is not fit to lead this country,” Trump said at one campaign speech in Ohio. During another, in Philadelphia, he drove home the attack: “We now have an administration and a former secretary of state who refuse to say ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ ”

It was a strange place to make his point. The only Islamist terror attack in Pennsylvania over the past 15 years was committed by Edward Archer, a mentally ill man who shot and injured a police officer in early 2016, later telling investigators that he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Far-right episodes of violent extremism were far more common.

Just two years before Trump’s Pennsylvania speech, anti-government radical Eric Matthew Frein ambushed two police officers in the township of Blooming Grove, killing one and wounding another, then led law enforcement authorities on a 48-day manhunt in the woods. (He was sentenced to death in April.)

Two months before that, police discovered that Eric Charles Smith, who ran a white supremacist church out of his home in the borough of Baldwin, had built a stockpile of some 20 homemade bombs.

In 2011, Eli Franklin Myers, an anti-government survivalist, shot two police officers, killing one, before being shot dead by state troopers in the small town of Webster. And in 2009, white supremacist Richard Poplawski opened fire on Pittsburgh police officers who had responded to a domestic dispute at his mother’s home, killing three and leaving two injured before surrendering. Poplawski, who was active on far-right websites, said he feared the police represented a plot by Obama to take away Americans’ guns.

This contrast, between Trump’s rhetoric and the reality of domestic terrorism, extends far beyond Pennsylvania. A database of nine years of domestic terrorism incidents compiled by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has produced a very different picture of the threat than that advanced by the current White House:  

  • From January 2008 to the end of 2016, we identified 63 cases of Islamist domestic terrorism, meaning incidents motivated by a theocratic political ideology espoused by such groups as the Islamic State. The vast majority of these (76 percent) were foiled plots, meaning no attack took place.
  • During the same period, we found that right-wing extremists were behind nearly twice as many incidents: 115. Just over a third of these incidents (35 percent) were foiled plots. The majority were acts of terrorist violence that involved deaths, injuries or damaged property.
  • Right-wing extremist terrorism was more often deadly: Nearly a third of incidents involved fatalities, for a total of 79 deaths, while 13 percent of Islamist cases caused fatalities. (The total deaths associated with Islamist incidents were higher, however, reaching 90, largely due to the 2009 mass shooting at Fort Hood in Texas.)
  • Incidents related to left-wing ideologies, including ecoterrorism and animal rights, were comparatively rare, with 19 incidents causing seven fatalities – making the shooting attack on Republican members of Congress earlier this month somewhat of an anomaly.
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of Islamist incidents in our database were sting operations, more than four times the rate for far-right (12 percent) or far-left (10.5 percent) incidents. 
  •  Yet as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out in early February, Trump has yet to acknowledge the threat of right-wing violence:
Long before the 9/11 attacks, the worst terrorist attack on American territory occurred at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, and co-conspirator Terry Nichols were unabashed radical right-wing terrorists. But check the record. You won’t hear Trump use those words. 
Instead, with his statements, policies and personnel, the president has exhibited an obsession with the Islamist threat to the homeland.

Please read the whole thing. There's a lot more. The right is in the process of creating a myth of left wing violence. As Joshua Holland points out in this piece for The Nation on the same subject:
In the wake of the mass shooting in suburban Virginia last week that left House majority whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and three others wounded, conservatives have been furiously waving the bloody shirt. With left-wing hate filling half the screen, Sean Hannity blamed Democrats, saying they “dehumanize Republicans and paint them as monsters.” Tucker Carlson claimed that “some on the hard left” support political violence because it “could lead to the dissolution of a country they despise.” Others have blamed seemingly anything even vaguely identified with liberalism for inciting the violence—from Madonna to MSNBC to Shakespeare in the Park.

This is all a truly remarkable example of projection. In the wake of the shooting, Erick Erickson wrote a piece titled, “The Violence is Only Getting Started,” as if three innocent people hadn’t been brutally murdered by white supremacists in two separate incidents in just the past month.

In the real world, since the end of the Vietnam era, the overwhelming majority of serious political violence—not counting vandalism or punches thrown at protests, but violence with lethal intent—has come from the fringes of the right. Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project says that “if you go back to the 1960s, you see all kinds of left-wing terrorism, but since then it’s been exceedingly rare.” She notes that eco- and animal-rights extremists caused extensive property damage in the 1990s, but didn’t target people.

Meanwhile, says Beirich, “right-wing domestic terrorism has been common throughout that period, going back to groups like to The Order, which assassinated [liberal talk-radio host] Alan Berg [in 1984] right through to today.” Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, told NPR that “when you look at murders committed by domestic extremists in the United States of all types, right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of those murders.” The actual share is higher still, as violence committed by ultraconservative Islamic supremacists isn’t included in tallies of “right-wing extremism.”

A 2015 survey of law-enforcement agencies conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum and the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security found that the police rate antigovernment extremists as a greater threat than reactionary Islamists. The authors wrote that “right-wing violence appears consistently greater than violence by Muslim extremists in the United States since 9/11, according to multiple definitions in multiple datasets.” According to the Department of Homeland Security, “Sovereign Citizens”—fringe antigovernmentalists—launched 24 violent attacks from 2010 through 2014, mostly against law enforcement personnel. When Robert Dear shot and killed three people at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, it became the latest in a series of bloody attacks on abortion providers dating back to Roe v. Wade in 1973. In the 30 years that followed that landmark decision, providers and clinics were targeted in more than 300 acts of violence, including arson, bombings, and assassinations, according to a study by the Rand Corporation.

But while the extreme right has held a near-monopoly on political violence since the 1980s, conservatives and Republicans are no more likely to say that using force to achieve one’s political goals is justified than are liberals and Democrats. That’s the conclusion of a study conducted by Nathan Kalmoe, a professor of political communication at the University of Louisiana. In 2010, he asked respondents whether they agreed that various violent tactics were acceptable. Kalmoe found that less than 3 percent of the population strongly agreed that “sometimes the only way to stop bad government is with physical force,” or that “some of the problems citizens have with government could be fixed with a few well-aimed bullets.” He says that while “there were tiny [partisan] variations on these specific items,” they weren’t “statistically significant on average.”

Ideology alone isn’t a significant risk factor for violence. “There’s a much stronger factor of individual personality traits that predispose people to be more aggressive in their everyday lives,” Kalmoe says, “and we see that playing out with people who engage in political violence.” Mass shooters are often found to have had histories of domestic violence, and that was true for James Hodgkinson, the shooter who attacked the congressional baseball practice in Virginia. Kalmoe says, “we often see that violent individuals have a history of violence in their personal lives. People who are abusive, or who have run afoul of the law in other ways, are more likely to endorse violence.”

Read that piece too. I don't know where all this is going but with all these right wingers armed to the teeth, the least we can do is be armed with the facts.


Trump's self-destructive Reality Show hucksterism

by digby

I wrote about the "big reveal" on the tapes for Salon this morning:

For weeks President Donald Trump has held out the enticing possibility that there were recordings of his meetings with James Comey that would prove him to be a showboating liar for all the world to see. The suspense was killing us. Finally on Thursday, after teasing and teasing, Trump admitted that he hadn’t taped anyone but still suggested he couldn’t be sure that someone else (the National Security Agency? the Russians? a 400-pound guy in his bed?) might have been taping him in the White House.

It’s true that Trump never said outright that he had taped anyone. He just hinted at it starting with this angry tweet in the wee hours of the morning on May 12:

This was three days after he had abruptly fired Comey and the morning after The New York Times reported that the two of them had a private dinner à deux during which Trump asked for Comey’s “loyalty” and Comey demurred by saying he’d give him “honesty,” which is the last thing Trump would ever want. That Times article was Trump’s first clue that Comey wasn’t going to go away quietly.

That tweet also came the morning after Trump foolishly went on national TV and admitted to NBC News’ Lester Holt that he had fired Comey because of the Russia investigation, saying, “In fact when I decided to just do it. I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story; it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.'”

We now know that Trump also told the Russian foreign minister and ambassador the morning after Comey’s firing, “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” There’s no reason to believe that he whispered in the ambassador’s ear on the way out, “We’re in the clear, comrade.” But it’s not hard to imagine that the Russian official might have taken the president’s comments about Comey in that spirit.

All that set in motion a chain of events that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller and an obstruction-of-justice investigation — to go along with the existing investigation into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and the Russian government. Is he tired of all that winning yet?

Trump’s sales technique of promising to show you something bigger and better than you’ve ever seen before was developed when he was casino owner back in the ’80s and ’90s. “Come to my golden palace and you too can be a gazillionaire, just like me!” Of course, he was a terrible casino owner, caught up in money laundering and bad deals and bankruptcy for decades, but that doesn’t mean plenty of people haven’t been taken in by his promise to remake them in his image. God knows why anyone would want that, but there seems to be an endless supply of takers for Trump’s toxic snake oil.

When his plans for gambling riches finally withered away and he was deeply in debt, Trump’s sales technique morphed into the reality-show style of the 2000s such that he finally got the national celebrity attention he’d always craved with his shows “The Apprentice” and “Celebrity Apprentice.” Teasing the “big reveal” is a staple of every reality show on TV. They drop hints and show sneak peeks for weeks. They milk the dramatic moments for everything they have all season long until they finally show the much-anticipated denouement in the very last show. But the “big reveal” is often a big flop. That happens a lot in the Donald Trump show, whether on TV or in the White House.

Here are some examples of Trump’s big teases, most of which he never delivered on:

1. In 2011, he started the yearslong “investigation” of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate, promising he would reveal his findings. He never did. Last year he begrudgingly admitted that Obama had been born in the U.S. and then took credit for making him prove it.

2. Trump promised to release his tax returns as soon as an audit was completed but has never done so and has never shown any proof that an audit occurred. We await his release any day now with bated breath.

3. After reports emerged that Melania Trump had worked in the U.S. illegally (in the 1990s), he announced that his wife would give a press conference two weeks later to discuss her immigration status. We’re still waiting.

4. Donald Trump pretended to be seriously running for president several times and in 2000 even did some stumping in New Hampshire as a potential Reform Party candidate before deciding against it. In 2012, of course, he thought he could ride the birther wave until President Obama destroyed him at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. But he teased his 2016 run from that point onward. We know what the big reveal of that one was on Nov. 8.

Since then Trump has claimed that he knows things “other people don’t know” about the hacking of the election and promised to reveal it shortly after the beginning of the year. He apparently forgot about that but he worked his decision on the Paris climate accords more effectively, teasing it like the finale of “Project Runway.”

But the president got himself in serious trouble with his tweeted claim that Obama had “wiretapped” him, and we know how badly he’s damaged himself with the hint that he wiretapped the FBI director. He seems to believe that this sort of “showmanship” is something that translates well in politics. Frankly, he might be right. His followers love him and it keeps him in the press. But it’s not a big winner in the legal system, which is where “reality” drama becomes the real thing. Prosecutors and judges have less of a sense of humor about lies and intimidation tactics.

It’s hard to know how much Trump thinks any of this through. I’d guess very little: He runs on instinct. But his instincts are those of a cheap used car salesman or a TV pitchman. They were good enough to get him into the White House on a fluke, but they don’t give him the skills required to be president. Now they are causing him to create enormous problems for himself, one after another.


Auto-aurotic fixation

by Tom Sullivan

Still from Goldfinger (1964).

Wondering this morning: can you brainwash yourself? Because we have not seen the kind of homicidal groupthink behind the Senate health care bill since Jonestown. Former health insurance executive turned health care crusader, Wendell Potter, told Joy Reid his insurance company colleagues "would never be this cruel."

"There is something that has really happened to this party of my father and my grandfather," Potter says. "It's as if they're under some kind of evil force that would lead them to take away access to health care for millions of people..." It's gold. It's money, and the power, not the freedom, that comes with it.

I've said I can often tell a new acquaintance is a Republican by how quickly the conversation turns to money. It's a fixation. One wonders a guy like Donald Trump ever had the time away from counting his money to have sex. Unless impoverishing others is even better.

That was the plot of the 1964 Bond film, Goldfinger. The super-villain meant to break into Fort Knox, not to steal the gold there (far too troublesome to move), but to irradiate the U.S. reserves, making his own supplies far more valuable and allowing the Chinese to profit from the economic chaos. If Auric Goldfinger were real, the Midas cult would promote his beatification.

President Donald Trump. Sen. Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, obviously, are nowhere near that clever. But they've got cruel down cold. Exhibit A is the Senate health bill revealed yesterday. It's complex. Vox's Sarah Kliff has an explainer. But the New York Times editorial board cuts to the chase:

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

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Republicans have pitched the bill as a fix for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. But their true ambition is not to reform Obamacare, which, whatever its shortcomings, has given 20 million Americans access to health insurance. If passed in its current form, the Senate bill would greatly weaken Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides insurance to nearly 69 million people, more than any other government or private program. It would do this by gradually but inexorably shifting more of the financial burden of Medicaid to states, in effect, forcing them to cover fewer people and to provide fewer services. Over all, the Senate would reduce federal spending by about $1 trillion over 10 years and use almost that much to cut taxes for rich families and health care companies.
If you can't set off a dirty bomb in Fort Knox, this might be the next best thing. Weaken and impoverish your neighbors to make yourself and your friends richer and more powerful.
The inevitable shrinkage in Medicaid will be particularly devastating to older Americans. Contrary to what many people think, the program does not just benefit the poor. Many middle-class seniors depend on it after they have exhausted their savings. Medicaid pays for two-thirds of the people in nursing homes. The disabled and parents who have children with learning disabilities also rely on Medicaid. The program covers nearly half of all births in the country. And in recent years, it has played a very important role in dealing with the opioid epidemic, especially in states like Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia. Medicaid pays between 35 percent and 50 percent of the cost of medication-assisted addiction treatment, according to two professors, one from Harvard and one from New York University.
A constituent explains to West Virginia's Republican Sen. Shelley Capito what passage of the Senate bill would mean for her daughter:

It tugs at your heart. If you have one. Unless you are someone whose soul is so corrupted by the lure of gold and the cultish brainwashing to which you've eagerly submitted that taking away health care from millions is your dream. Someone like this guy:

Superman: Is that how a warped brain like yours gets its kicks? By planning the death of innocent people?

Lex Luthor: No, by causing the death of innocent people.
Ah. Sorry. Wrong guy. Like Goldfinger, that super villain is fictional. I meant this one:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A headline for the ages

by digby

Oh Politico, you never disappoint:

Dispatch from the shooting gallery

by digby

My God this is so awful:

A 17-year-old boy and his dog were fatally shot by deputies early Thursday morning after the pit bull attacked a deputy in Palmdale, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

The incident occurred about 3:47 a.m. in the 38500 block of 10th Street East, authorities said in a statement.

Deputies at the scene said they initially responded to a report of loud music at a party. As they were conducting an investigation, one of the deputies was allegedly bitten by a pit bull. The deputy was not seriously injured.

The dog was restrained by its owner, but as the investigation continued the animal got loose again and charged at the deputies, authorities said. The deputies then opened fire on the pit bull.

Amid the shooting, the dog's owner allegedly raced around a corner in an effort to apprehend the animal. The teen was struck at least once in the upper torso, the sheriff's department said.

He was transported to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. His name was not immediately released.

Note that the deputy wasn't seriously injured. Too bad about the dead boy. Ooops. Turns out when you try to apprehend your dog which the cops want you to apprehend they will just start firing willy nilly and shoot you too. Good to know.

Oh look, more hacking

by digby

This piece by TIME isn't alarming at all. But it does explain why Republicans believe that they can do absolutely anything they choose with no repercussions at the ballot box. They have "friends" helping them:
The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers, current and former officials tell TIME.

In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents.

The fact that private data was stolen from states is separately providing investigators a previously unreported line of inquiry in the probes into Russian attempts to influence the election. In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, according to Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the State Board of Elections.

Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign, two sources familiar with the investigations tell TIME.

“If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are, How did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge?” the former top Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, Michael Bahar, tells TIME. “That is a crux of the investigation."

I wrote about the hacking of the DCCC for Salon. That's an under-reported part of this story but an important one. Republicans showed that they are more than willing to accept help from these sources and it helped them win. I think we can expect more of it since they are not going to do anything to prevent this from happening again and the president's ongoing clear signals that the US isn't serious about doing anything about it.


QOTD: Orange Julius Caesar

by digby

Talking about his cabinet full of wealthy Wall Streeters and plutocrats at his rally last night:

These are people that are great, brilliant business minds. That’s what we need. That’s what we have to have. So the world doesn’t take advantage. We can’t have the world taking advantage of us anymore. I love all people. Rich or poor. But in those particular positions, I just don’t want a poor person. Does that make sense? If you insist, I’ll do it — but I like it better this way.
That's Trump populism for you. Very impressive.

The crowd loved it.  But then he knows he could shoot into the crowd and kill one of them and they'd still love him. In fact, Trumpcare is a version of exactly that. Only he's using a Thompson submachine gun.

The GOP is finally doing their oversight duty. They're investigating Hillary Clinton and Loretta Lynch

by digby

I wrote about it for Salon this morning:

Was President Donald Trump an unwitting agent of the Russian government? That’s not the sort of question we would have ever thought would be asked in a Senate hearing — and not just because until quite recently the idea that there would ever be a President Donald Trump was an absurd joke. This question is not something we could ever have imagined would be asked at a Senate hearing no matter who the president is. Yesterday it was.

The Senate Intelligence Committee heard testimony from Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, who said unequivocally that the Russians had interfered in the election. He noted that they had tried to do this many times in the past with cruder methods but the internet has given them new and very effective tools to accomplish their goals. When asked what those goals were, he replied:
The primary goal, in my mind, was to sow discord and to try to delegitimize our free and fair election process. I also think another of their goals, which the entire United States intelligence community stands behind, was to denigrate Secretary Clinton and to try to help then — current President Trump.
Following up on that comment, Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico asked Priestap if he thought Trump was an unwitting agent of the Kremlin. He sat there for several beats, saying nothing. Then the leading FBI counterintelligence official answered, “I can’t really comment on that.”

Heinrich said he didn’t blame him and the room erupted in relieved laughter. It was a very weird moment. A top FBI official said that the Russian government had interfered in the election on behalf of the current president and that he couldn’t comment on whether or not our president was an unwitting Russian agent. My God.

It’s hard to imagine a more serious and important question, particularly since Trump still refuses to admit that this interference happened, despite the insistence of the entire U.S. intelligence community that it did. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to find all this suspicious. He is the president and he denies that there is a major threat to our democratic system.

One would think that leading Republicans might start to feel the hair on the back of their necks standing up a little bit. The mere fact that a plausible case can be made that Trump was working for the Russians, knowingly or otherwise, should have them worrying about the fallout. But they have bigger fish to fry, it seems. It’s not that congressional Republicans and administration officials don’t care about their oversight responsibilities. They do. They just aren’t interested in oversight of Donald Trump. Instead they are committed to ensuring that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Loretta Lynch are properly held to account, even though none of them is still in office.

This is no joke. Fox News reported on Tuesday that Trump’s State Department has opened a formal inquiry into former Secretary of State Clinton’s emails. You may have thought this question had been thoroughly investigated and finally dropped, but apparently some Republicans are determined to keep digging until they find a reason to “lock her up.”

And it’s not just the State Department. Fox News reported that the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has “launched its own inquiry into Clinton’s handling of emails.” And Fox News detailed as follows:
Grassley cited among his concerns the July 5 statement of former FBI Director James Comey that the agency found Clinton and her staff members were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.” Grassley also contended there is “evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information”
Hillary Clinton left the State Department in 2012. That’s five years ago.

Grassley has finally roused himself to examine the possible obstruction-of-justice charges against the president, but according to Politico it’s mainly out of pique that the Trump administration hasn’t turned over documents he has requested. You’ll be glad to know that along with that investigation Grassley plans to take up the federal case of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s suggesting that James Comey use the word “matter” rather than “investigation” in the middle of a presidential campaign.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, the Republican from South Carolina who is now House Oversight Committee chair (replacing the abruptly retired Jason Chaffetz), said yesterday that his committee plans to pull back on calling witnesses as this might interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller. This essentially means that the committee’s investigation will grind to a halt. Gowdy’s view is that “Congress tends to politicize everything” (which is hilarious coming from the grand Benghazi inquisitor) and the real issues with the Russia probe are not the possible interference, which he believes is overblown, but rather the active measures of Russia, the Obama administration’s response and the leaks coming out of the Trump administration. In other words, his priorities have absolutely nothing to do with Donald Trump.

Gowdy hasn’t said whether he also plans to get back in the Clinton investigation business, but he told Fox News’ Martha McCallum last month that he believed James Comey “had access to information” that made it necessary to wrest the email investigation from the Department of Justice and then he hinted broadly at collusion between former Attorney General Lynch and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. He may get another crack at his old nemesis after all.

Mueller has been up on Capitol Hill this week filling in the various committees on his investigation. Undoubtedly and for good reason, he has asked them to be cautious about compromising his investigation. It’s entirely possible that Republicans in both houses will defer to Mueller and let the special counsel’s office work quietly behind the scenes to determine if our president is a Russian agent while they stage a public spectacle featuring Hillary and Bill Clinton, Loretta Lynch and James Comey for the viewing pleasure of their president and their voters. 

Don’t say they would never do that. You know they would.

Oh goodie. The nasty GOP mean 'tweens are in charge.

by digby

They apparently used the old hippie punch to great effect in Georgia so they're getting thrills up the leg at the opportunity to put it to use again. This is from that nasty, smug, mean little boy Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller:
The mass email from The Daily Caller has a bouquet of groupthink that opens into floral notes of irony: it begins with a jab at “liberal snowflakes” before announcing “we are proud to be the Deplorables, the real Americans that respect this country’s tradition and fight coastal elitism.” And what better way to celebrate Deplorable pride, the conservative magazine asks, than to join their wine club?

“Les Deplorables Wine comes in two varietals, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay. Both are delicious Central Coast wines that will leave you wanting more as soon as you finish a bottle,” the Daily Caller writes, seven sentences after decrying coastal elites, many of whom were undoubtedly involved in the grape-picking, fermenting and bottling process for Les Deplorables.

If the Daily Caller is indeed trying to provoke class antagonism between “deplorables” and “coastal elites,” selling the deplorables on fancy wine seems to belie that mission. Yet the irony of a Daily Caller Wine Club was evidently lost on the editors of the conservative magazine founded by millionaire pundit Tucker Carlson, who himself has been known to be a wine drinker.

Don't try this at home folks. Only Real Americans are allowed to openly behave like nasty little 12 year old twits and insult people based upon where they live. We have to have "empathy" for them.

This is a really nice little scheme though. Sell fabulous Central Coast wine (and it is fabulous) to a bunch of nasty twits while insulting the people who live in the place where the wine was made. Sweet.

And for anyone who thinks getting rid of Pelosi will solve this problem think again. This is something they have been doing for a very long time:

Clinton = hippie
Hillary Clinton = feminazi
Gore = tree hugger
Dean = latte swilling hipster
Kerry= french speaking, arugula eating coward
Obama= secret Muslim usurper

Warren (Boston egghead), Kamala Harris (San Francisco liberal) etc, etc.

They will always find a way to mock Democrats as not being red-blooded Real Americans. It's what they do. And they are allowed to do this with impunity because they are so sensitive about their heartland culture that it would be very rude to retaliate in kind.