Friday, June 23, 2017

Cartoon: Sean Spicer's historic blunder

WH Press Secretary Sean Spicer astoundingly called Nazi concentration camps “Holocaust Centers” in a recent hours show of a press briefing. Why is it that the Trump Administration seems to have a problem with all things Jewish?

This Bill Will Do You Harm

Former president Barack Obama. (photo: Nick Knupffer/Flickr)
Former president Barack Obama. (photo: Nick Knupffer/Flickr)

By Barack Obama, Barack Obama's Facebook Page
23 June 17
ur politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.

I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

New polling numbers are out for 'Trumpcare', and they're a disaster for Republicans

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks on Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, during the signing ceremony for the 21st Century Cures Act. From left are, McConnell, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., and Max Schill, 7, who suffers from Noonan Syndrome.  (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Which is exactly why they're trying to ram a Senate bill through without letting the public know what's in it.
As Republicans continue to barrel towards repealing the nation's healthcare reform efforts regardless of the suffering it will cause, their efforts continue to get even more wildly unpopular among voters.
As the GOP-led Senate prepares to take up the measure, only 35 percent of voters surveyed approve of the bill passed by the House last month. Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, disapprove of the bill. The other 16 percent don’t know or don’t have an opinion, the poll shows. POLITICO/Morning Consult polling indicates the bill has become less popular since the House advanced it in early May. Immediately after the bill passed, slightly more voters approved of the bill, 38 percent. Opposition to the bill was lower, too, immediately after the House passed it: 44 percent.
Which is the one and only reason Senate Republicans are keeping their version of the bill a closely-held secret until the last possible moment: They know the public is going to hate it. It's going to look very much like the House bill, it's going to uninsure millions of American citizens for no other reason than to pass the House-style tax cuts, people are going to die as a direct result and nearly everybody in America knows all of that.

Many in the Republican base are still fine with it, because they would agree to saw off their own legs and glue live chickens to the stumps if they thought Barack Obama would be against them doing that, but anyone with a preexisting condition, anyone who has health insurance now that didn't have it before, anyone on Medicaid who couldn't get it before and anyone who has a basic sense of decency isn't a fan. And Republican disapproval, too, is rapidly rising:
Among Republican voters, 30 percent disapprove of the GOP health care bill. That is up from 15 percent of Republicans disapproving in early May.
That’s a trend that Republicans can’t afford to see continue, hence both the secrecy and the speed. There won’t be hearings because the Republican leadership simply can’t afford to have their own base continue to hear about this thing—and given that only a third of all American voters like it, total, that shows you just how despised it is among voters who aren’t a part of their base.
[I]ndependent voters disapprove of the bill by a 2-to-1 margin: 26 percent approve, versus 53 percent who disapprove.
That's abysmal. You could get higher approval ratings by promising to give everyone in America free herpes.
[F]ew voters are cheering for the legislation’s passage. Only 27 percent think it will make the U.S. health care system better, compared to 41 percent who think it will make the system worse. Just 17 percent think it will decrease costs for them and their families, while 46 percent think costs will increase.
Voters are making a dramatic statement here: All but a handful detest this "reform" effort and oppose Republicans following through on it. And nearly everyone is clear on the effects, saying this bill will hurt both the overall U.S. healthcare system and them, personally.

The bad news is that the Republican lawmakers installed by those voters simply do not seem to care. At all. Rather than listening to voters warning them about how disastrous the bill will be they've decided to hunker down and simply not tell anyone what will be in it from now on, rushing to pass a final version within days of public release so that the public won't have a chance to either review it or complain.

Why? What's in this for Republican lawmakers? It's going to cost them votes even among their own base, it's going to open them up to endless future campaign commercials each featuring individual Americans from their own states and districts who lost insurance, or care, or even loved ones due to the Republican effort, and in return they get—what?

What's being promised to them that outweighs all that?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Death by Euphemism

How the Forest Service cons us into thinking "prescribed" burning is good for us
By Dorothy Holasek
Snowflake, AZ  

So, if you are the USFS think tank and you have to sell the public on the idea that it’s okay to sicken, disable, and shorten their lives with prescribed burn and managed wildfire smoke, after 50 years of mismanaging our National Forests, your sales pitch has to be good – really good.

The tried and true technique is to soften the blow with euphemisms by renaming the true meaning of what you are doing and the true effect on public health with vague, impersonal terminology.  You start off with “control burns” but, because they sometimes get out of control, you don’t want to limit yourself.  Then, switch to “prescribed burns”, like a doctor prescribing a necessary and authoritative treatment.  And we all know that prescriptions often have side effects that we must endure in order to get better.  “Managed wild fires” sound less scary than just a wildfire when, in fact, it’s a wildfire that we are not trying to put out.  “Managed wildfires” are wildfires that we actually grow by setting more fires nearby.

The problem is that we just spent 40 years educating the public about how smoking, including secondhand smoke, sickens, disables and shortens the lives of human beings.  Therefore, it helps to rename human beings “smoke receptors” and particularly vulnerable human beings such as infants, children, elderly and the infirmed, “smoke sensitive receptors”.  People are no longer human beings but “receptors” and the life-giving air that they breathe is referred to as an “airshed”.

Despite all these euphemisms, there is still that nasty problem of the smoke.  Aha! Just switch the responsibility for the harm caused from breathing smoke pollution to the individual, by convincing him that if he just practices proper “averting behavior” all will be well.  “Averting behavior” sounds quite harmless and easy to do like a sparrow darting around in the underbrush.  Actually, it represents staying indoors 24 hours per day, never opening window or doors, purchasing and running expensive air cleaners, air conditioning and even taking multiple month- long vacations upwind during unplanned times of the year.

Don’t explain to the public how a person would do this and still go to school, play sports, work outside, drive to work, shop, go to the doctor or church.

To top your strategy off, if the public shows up to a Forest Service meeting in order to ask questions about this ill-advised assault on public health and to suggest alternatives like changing our outdated log export laws, just prohibit any open questioning of the FS in front of the public and force the participants to sit in tiny talking circles with FS prepared outlines and a FS moderator at each table, similar to kindergarten class.  Any open discussion of smoke-free, proven and effective forest management techniques must be suppressed.  And, for God’s sake, never produce a nationwide USFS public smoke complaint form in case you might be expected to document the harm you are causing to public health.

Joe smoke receptor passed away suddenly from a massive heart attack at age 52 following several weeks of prescribed burns and managed wildfires in his airshed, leaving behind his smoke receptor wife, Mary, and two minor smoke sensitive receptor children.  Mary worked alongside her husband in their family landscaping business and, therefore, they were not able to practice proper averting behavior.  The children were notified of their father’s death at soccer practice, a non-averting behavior sport.  Even though Joe’s family is third generation, they must move to cleaner air because of Mary’s recently diagnosed COPD and the children’s asthma.  Joe and Mary loved the outdoors, were avid hikers and lifelong non-smokers.

Every successful large-scale assault on public health has been accomplished with the cooperation and blessing of lots of good people who were convinced that the harm that they were causing their fellow citizens was acceptable in the pursuit of a “higher goal”.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Just another reminder that Vice President Mike Pence is also a complete nutcase

As Vice President Mike Pence inches closer to the presidency due to, you know, all that stuff his boss keeps doing, here is your periodic reminder, stolen from his Father’s Day rant way back in the Bush era, that Mike Pence is also a complete nut.
“Despite her delicate features and voice, Disney expects us to believe that Mulan's ingenuity and courage were enough to carry her to military success on an equal basis with her cloddish cohorts. Obviously, this is Walt Disney's attempt to add childhood expectation to the cultural debate over the role of women in the military. I suspect that some mischievous liberal at Disney assumes that Mulan's story will cause a quiet change in the next generation's attitude about women in combat and they just might be right. [...] From the original "Tailhook" scandal involving scores of high ranking navy fighter pilots who molested subordinate women to the latest travesty at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, the hard truth of our experiment with gender integration is that it has been an almost complete disaster for the military and for many of the individual women involved.”
This is in addition to his refusal to meet privately with professional women in the workplace lest he be overcome by their female wiles and, of course, a governance record in his own state that nobody in his party dares bring up these days.
You can see why he didn't hesitate to join Team Tire Fire.

Monday, June 19, 2017

So, Will President* Trump Just Fire Everyone?

Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)
Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire
19 June 17

Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller are under threat.

he latest transmission from the bowels of Camp Runamuck leads me to believe that the next step may be for the president* to fire everyone within a five-mile radius of the White House. (Sorry about that, you guys in the food trucks, as well as everyone who plays for the Capitals and the Wizards.) After which, he will find himself a lawyer from one of those billboards that line I-75 in Florida. 

Been in an accident? Crash a government? Call us immediately – 1-800-IMA-GRFT. 

Late Friday morning, Himself got a hold of his phone, leaped onto the electric Twitter machine, and decided that it was time to take a piece out of Rod Rosenstein, even if that meant confirming that, yes, he is being investigated by the FBI.

And, somewhere in the West Wing, an earnest young aide who once had a promising political career reaches into the bottom drawers of their desk for that vintage quart of Kentucky Gentleman that Uncle Dub down in Murfreesboro left in the will.

Meanwhile, back in the world, according to ABC News, Rosenstein may have to join Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III on the bench.

Rosenstein, who authored an extensive and publicly-released memorandum recommending Comey's firing, raised the possibility of his recusal during a recent meeting with Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, the Justice Department's new third-in-command, according to sources. Although Rosenstein appointed a special counsel to lead the federal probe, he still makes the final decisions about resources, personnel and -- if necessary -- any prosecutions. In the recent meeting with Brand, Rosenstein told her that if he were to recuse himself, she would have to step in and take over those responsibilities. She was sworn-in little more than a month ago.

Here, from the LawFare blog, is some speculation concerning what might happen next. Basically, the whole mess will descend on a lawyer named Rachel Brand, the associate attorney general.

In addition to these regulatory duties, Brand will face the tough task of insulating the investigation from the erratic and inappropriate behavior of President Trump. Such insulation is needed for the integrity of the investigation, so that any decisions it may reach about prosecution or exoneration have credibility. This task will require backbone—and a willingness not to last long in the job.

That sounds like enormous fun. The Tweet of Dumbocles hangs over your head the minute you walk in the door.

As if this weren't enough, and it never is, NBC's Katy Tur tweets that Michael Cohen, the president*'s personal lawyer, has hired one of his own, probably to prepare to testify before the House Intelligence Committee in September. The lawyers now need their own lawyers. This is in no way promising.

It's on days like this where you wonder most acutely whether or not this president* has it all together above the shoulders. Picking a fight with Rosenstein—who, just a day earlier, had contributed a bizarre warning about anonymous sources to the gathering chaos—makes as little sense as firing James Comey did, and admitting that the FBI is on your trail for having done so is tantamount to double-dog-daring the Feds to run you to ground. The idea that he wouldn't fire both Robert Mueller and Rosenstein before breakfast some morning because Brian Kilmeade said he should do it is more than plausible. It's now likely.

To gain some perspective, let's listen in to a White House conversation from June 21, 1972, via The New York Times. The president at the time was concerned about some law-enforcement activities. His chief of staff was called upon to explain matters.

The problem is that there are all kinds of other involvements and if they started a fishing expedition on this they're going to start picking up tracks. . . . The only tie they've got to the White House is that this guy's name was in their books, Howard Hunt, and that Hunt used to be a consultant ---- to Colson at the White House. . . . You've got to be careful of pushing that too hard, because he was working on a lot of stuff. . . . It leads to other things.

It's always something.

General Jefferson Beauregard Stonewall Sessions didn’t say much in his Congressional testimony the other day, but he did get flustered when denying that he would betray his country. Which country is that again, suh?

Changing Weather Keeps Highline Firefighters Alert

Highline Fire - June 19, 2017 Morning Update
Gazette Blog editor's note: With Highline Fire operations winding down, this will be the last update we will post unless conditions change dramatically.

Acres: 6,634 acres (based on infrared data)
Start Date: June 10, 2017
Cause: Unknown, under investigation
Origin: 8 mi N of Payson in 1990 Dude Fire Scar
Containment: 76%
Fuels: Grass, brush, heavy and down fuels, ponderosa pine and mixed conifer
Total personnel: 1,224                                                  
Last night crews completed the strategic firing operations in Bear Canyon to remove remaining unburned fuels between firelines.  Crews are now focused on mopping up any remaining heat near containment lines and patrolling for spot fires.  Crews continued to patrol and monitor the Ellison Creek and along the Rim.  All lines are holding on the southern flank of the fire and remaining hotspots have diminished.  Infrared flights are being used to detect remaining heat for crews on the ground.  Line is considered contained after crews have completed mop-up of heat along the fireline and the risk of spotting has been eliminated.  
Today firefighters will focus on mop-up and holding line around last night’s strategic firing operations along Bear Canyon. On the fire’s south flank crews will continue to mop-up hotspots along containment lines, patrol for spot fires, and continue suppression repair.
Repair of suppression impacts (dozer and handlines, equipment staging areas and safety zones) continues.  This includes construction of water bars to channel water off lines during monsoon rain events.  In areas where brush was cleared crews are now using chippers to remove slash piles along control lines.
Today thunderstorms are likely over the fire area potentially bringing dry lightning and strong erratic winds. While typical up canyon winds are expected to develop today crews are prepared for rapidly changing conditions associated with developing storms. 
Firefighters are prepared to respond to new lightning fires in the area. The Incident Management Team has assumed initial attack responsibility for new starts in the vicinity of Highline Fire and is prepared to make resources (helicopters, engines and crews) available to new fires in the surrounding area.  Crews and equipment surplus to these needs will be released and made available for other fires.
No additional community meetings are planned at this time.  Updates will continue to be posted to the social media sites listed below and Information Officers will be out in the communities posting updated information at key locations.
All Evacuations and pre-evacuations have been lifted.  Some roads near the fire are open to residents and fire crews only due to heavy fire equipment traffic.
The Coconino and Tonto National Forests Closure Orders and Fire Restrictions remain in effect.
Firefighters are working to protect values at risk where they can do so safely and effectively.  Values include watersheds, private property and adjoining communities, pipelines, range improvements, powerlines, air quality, prehistoric and historic resources, federally protected species, and nationally and regionally significant trail systems. 
Wildfires are a No Drone Zone. If you fly, we can’t. More info: Know Before You Fly,
Fire Information: (928) 985-0097 and (928) 362-2916 (8:00 am to 8:00 pm)
Media Line: 928-793-1955
Arizona Emergency Information:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Even Newt Gingrich Admits KremlinGate Is So Serious That "They're Probably Going To Jail."

Gingrich: "I told you this Russia bullshit was going to hit the fan, but no, don't listen to Mr. Impeachment himself. Not you!"
Donald Trump is not the only Republican, unfortunately, with an itchy twitter finger. Here’s what former Speaker of the House and current conspiracy theorist Newt Gingrich had to say recently about KremlinGate.
Muelleris now clearly the ti[p of the deep state spear aimed at destroying or at a minimum undermining and crippling the Trump presidency.
That wasn’t the end of it, there’s more. This is what Gingrich said to Sean Hannity last night:
“I don’t think they’re going to get the president, but they’re going to get somebody, and they're going to get him for something. And they're probably going to go to jail."
“This is like watching an old-fashioned Western movie. This is an Indian hunting party. They’re out looking for a couple scalps, and they’re not going to go home until they get some.”
This is the same Newt Gingrich, please remember that said the following when a Democratic president was the person of interest, and that president wasn’t suspected of colluding with a hostile foreign power.
“We have the spectacle in Washington today of the president frankly as defendant-in-chief. It would have been inconceivable for Washington or Franklin or Jefferson or Hamilton to have the person sworn to uphold the Constitution s the chief law-enforcement officer using every defense item he can find from every defense lawyer in town.” Newt Gingrich, May 1998
The “deep state” which is troubling, Newt, is the morass of lies, confusion, obfuscation and conspiracy which inhabits the region between your ears. You are one of the chief proponents and protectors of the “defendant in chief” and perpetrator of the “spectacle in Washington.”

Apparently it’s the path of righteousness and truth to investigate the president when the president is a Democrat and an indiscriminate Indian hunting party from the Old West hell bent on destruction when the president is a Republican. If hypocrisy were a fatal disease, Newt Gingrich would be terminal.