Saturday, June 24, 2017

Poking holes in gun-nut arguments

And he took a jab to the face

The U.S. gun culture at work

McConnell blames Democrats for not contributing to health care process he entirely shut them out of (kerry Eleveld) · Thursday, June 22, 2017, 12:26 pm

Republicans just released the text of their healthcare repeal bill and, at this very moment, they are currently dodging reporters in the halls of Congress so they don’t have to answer for the monstrosity drafted by about a dozen white men entirely behind closed doors.

No fanfare, no press conference, no public explanations where they field press inquiries about the content of the bill. Just a mad dash to outrun reporters.

Oh, and Mitch McConnell weighing in from the Senate floor with this:

"I regret that our Democratic friends made clear early on they did not want to work with us..."

… on taking health care away from tens of millions of Americans (that’s the only logical conclusion to that sentence).

Okay, so just to be clear: Total Secrecy + No Hearings + All GOP Drafters = An open process where Democrats were invited to share their ideas and contribute.

When Sen. Chuck Schumer spoke following McConnell, deriding the bill for robbing health care from millions, McConnell actually had the bald hubris to fault Schumer for talking about a bill he “hadn’t seen a copy of”—because, of course, Republicans held it in total secrecy until Thursday morning. Seriously, Mitch? You draft a bill without any public scrutiny whatsoever so you can jam it through the chamber on a party-line vote and then fault the Democratic minority leader for not knowing what’s in the bill? Good god, McConnell is a conscience-less monster.

Schumer noted, by the way, that 142 pages of the bill had been printed online previous to the release and that’s what he was basing his observations on.


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

Jun 23, 2017 9:29am EDT by Mark Sumner

Donald Trump asks the question frequently, and always with a sneer: If President Barack Obama knew that Vladimir Putin had intervened in the United States’ election with the direct intention of helping Trump, why did Obama wait so long to say anything? The answer detailed in a new story from the Washington Post turns out to be simple: First, Obama was trying to do the right things. Second, Republicans stopped that from happening.

As former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testified earlier this week, the Russian activity in the election went beyond just hacking into emails, beyond distributing those emails through Wikileaks, and beyond creating a stream of fake-news stories that were eagerly shared by alt-right websites and social media. Russia took unprecedented “active measures,” attempting to penetrate state databases and alter or delete voter roles.

It was tantamount a secret declaration of war by Russia, and the Obama administration treated it the security and care that it deserved.

Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried “eyes only” instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides. …

The material was so sensitive that CIA Director John Brennan kept it out of the President’s Daily Brief, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad. The CIA package came with instructions that it be returned immediately after it was read. To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the Situation Room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid.

At that early stage, they couldn’t tell the full extent of the Russian operations. They didn’t know the scale of the attack. They couldn’t tell who in the United States might be cooperating with the Russians. They could only be certain about one thing.

The intelligence captured Putin’s specific instructions on the operation’s audacious objectives — defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump.

Quietly, the intelligence community went to work as resources were dedicated to the issue and other agencies attempted to confirm or deny the information gathered by the CIA. If Obama had revealed the information, and the intelligence turned out to be false, he would certainly have been guilty of interfering with the election himself. Considering the import of the information, it was possible that simply talking about it openly could move the conflict from cyberspace to the battlefield. So Obama proceeded with caution, working to confirm the CIA’s intelligence and searching for ways to respond to Russian action. He needed to build a case that would hold up in front of both Republican leaders in Congress and the public.

It took time for other parts of the intelligence community to endorse the CIA’s view. Only in the administration’s final weeks in office did it tell the public, in a declassified report, what officials had learned from Brennan in August — that Putin was working to elect Trump.

Donald Trump throws that delay out there as not just a taunt, but proof that he is somehow “innocent.” Because if Trump had even a hint of information, he would have fired it straight out of his Twitter gun. Trump demonstrated this many times during the election and since, as repeated even the most tenuous and ludicrous rumor as if it were accepted fact.

Obama wasn’t going to do that. It wasn’t a matter of “staying classy.” It was a matter of following the law, protecting the nation, and reaching a result that was more than a revenge tweet. Obama was concerned that going public with the information in the early days invited both criticism and speculation. On the most basic leave, President Obama was simply trying to ensure that his actions didn’t make the situation worse.

But as carefully and thoroughly as the intelligence community assembled a case, there was one point they couldn’t get past.

Obama instructed aides to ... seek bipartisan support from congressional leaders for a statement condemning Moscow and urging states to accept federal help.

None of that happened. Some Republican leaders in Congress put off even meeting with intelligence officials, delaying the process by weeks. Meanwhile, Jeh Johnson attempted to designate election infrastructure as “critical,” in order to give them the same protection provided to defense contractors.

Brian Kemp, the Republican secretary of state of Georgia, used the call to denounce Johnson’s proposal as an assault on state rights. “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration,” Kemp said in a recent interview, adding that he remains unconvinced that Russia waged a campaign to disrupt the 2016 race. “I don’t necessarily believe that,” he said.

In short: Republicans were—and are—more concerned with hurting Obama than they were in stopping Russia. In a sense, Republicans as a group colluded with Russia, in that they refused to take action to protect the nation against intrusion. And it wasn’t just random state level officials. When Congressional leadership finally met with the intelligence community for a briefing ...

“The Dems were, ‘Hey, we have to tell the public,’ ” recalled one participant. But Republicans resisted, arguing that to warn the public that the election was under attack would further Russia’s aim of sapping confidence in the system.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went further, officials said, voicing skepticism that the underlying intelligence truly supported the White House’s claims. Through a spokeswoman, McConnell declined to comment, citing the secrecy of that meeting.

The answer to why Barack Obama didn’t speak out more strongly and more early about Russian interference for Trump, is because Republicans blazed the trail Trump is still following: They refused to cooperate, placing party above country.


Trump lies

Robert Reich

Trump’s rally last night in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was filled with lies. Now that he's doing more rallies and fewer press conferences, his lies must be countered with the truth.

1. Trump said he is pushing repeal of the federal estate tax so “farms can be passed on” to farmers’ children and grandchildren.
Baloney. The estate tax falls on fewer than one-half of 1 percent of farm estates. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that only 50 farms and closely held businesses will pay any estate tax in 2017. All are multimillion-dollar farms. Only estates worth $5.45 million or more must file a return, and most of them don’t owe any tax. For those who do owe tax, the Tax Policy Center estimates that the average effective rate would be 20 percent — with the option of spreading payments over 14 years.

2. Trump said “all” insurance companies have “fled the state of Iowa” and that “they’re leaving all of the states.”
Rubbish. Health insurer Medica Health announced Monday it would stay in the Iowa market statewide. As of June 21, there were just 44 counties in 3 states (Ohio, Missouri and Washington) in any danger of losing health insurers. But insurer Centene now says it will expand coverage in these states. Note also that the major reason given by insurance companies for leaving the Affordable Care Act is uncertainty from the Trump administration about whether it will continue to subsidize low-income enrollees.

3. Trump claimed he has reversed the trend of coal mining job losses because of his rollback of coal regulations, and pointed to the opening of a new coal mine in Pennsylvania as evidence that his policies have led to a resurgence in coal mining.
Utter nonsense. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 40,000 coal mining jobs have been lost over the last 5 years. Since January, a minuscule 1,000 new coal mining jobs have been added, largely due to the opening of the Corsa Coal Company’s Acosta Deep Mine near Pittsburgh on June 8. But that had nothing to do Trump. The development of the Acosta mine began 2 months before his election victory. Also, the Acosta mine produces a type of coal used to make steel, a niche market in the coal industry, and the opening was due to problems mining such coal overseas. The vast majority of coal produced in the U.S. is thermal coal, used to generate electricity, whose consumption has declined by nearly 18 percent between 2012 and 2016 due to the surge in cheaper natural gas production driven by the shale revolution and to competition from renewable energy.

4. Trump touted his decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which he said would have been an economic “catastrophe” for the U.S.
He's lying. The Paris agreement was on the way to stimulating renewable energy in the U.S. Now, China is about to take the lead on renewables. And failure to control carbon in the planet's atmosphere will be an economic, political, and social catastrophe. The agreement, which took effect last year, was signed by 195 countries and aims to keep warming “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and to pursue “efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.” Trump's removal of the U.S. from that agreement is shameful and destructive.

5. Trump said he proposed a new law to bar new immigrants from receiving welfare for five years.
More rubbish. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, signed into law in 1996 by then-president Bill Clinton, already does that. It states that immigrants are “not eligible for any Federal means-tested public benefit for a period of 5 years beginning on the date of the alien’s entry into the United States.” That would include such benefits as food stamps, Medicaid and Social Security.

By this point, anyone who believes what comes out of Trump's mouth is either a knave or a fool.


Variety calls out ‘dishonest or unprofessional’ Megyn Kelly for history of anti-black statements

Sarah K. Burris
23 JUN 2017 AT 00:17 ET                  

After a controversial rollout of her new shows on NBC, Variety railed against new star Megyn Kelly in a blistering op-ed.

Just three weeks into her new Sunday magazine show, the entertainment trade magazine called out Kelly as a “star” growing “dimmer than ever.” The continued their sharp attack calling the new program a “disaster” with interviews that have been mocked or outright denounced. The controversy has scored an ample amount of free media, yet the ratings show a lack of audience interest, though Variety notes newsmagazine shows that surround a single anchor traditionally flop.

The op-ed continued saying that Kelly not only failed the now-notorious Alex Jones interview but the PR fallout was equally disastrous.

“She has floundered in interviews on-camera and made to look either dishonest or unprofessional off-camera,” wrote TV critic Sonia Saraiya. “And her essential sense of newsworthiness is oddly awry; after all of the hullabaloo defending her interview of Jones, she couldn’t manage to get the segment to coalesce around a news peg.”

Kelly’s second big mistake was going up against beloved morning host Kelly Ripa, who the op-ed claimed: “was already going to eat Kelly for lunch.” Now that Kelly is struggling and Ripa scored Ryan Seacrest as a co-host, the timeslot hers to lose.

Then there’s the problem of the history of Kelly’s ghastly comments about black people. Oddly enough, NBC has decided to schedule the timeslot that typically draws in a large audience of African-American women (23.1 percent of the total audience).

Saraiya went on to note that Kelly’s main skill at Fox News was to appear as though she was a “thoughtful conservative” with a kind of “maternal concern.” It earned her scorn among the right wing. But her fluffy interview with Alex Jones has now alienated her from moderates and killed any chance of recruiting progressive viewers.

Fox provided Kelly an opportunity to contrast with the rest of her far right colleagues and appear trustworthy. But at a network filled with middle-of-the-road voices and independent journalists, Kelly has no hope of standing out as anything other than a conservative. Saraiya assumed that the network was hoping to eventually score center or center-right women as viewers, but that seems like a long-shot now.

“Perhaps well-heeled paranoia coming from someone who could be in your PTA meeting is not as appealing as it once was,” the criticism continued. “It may be worth going back to the drawing board entirely.”


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