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Once again the so-called leader of the free world started his day with a twitter rant. He began with a slam against any Republican senator who dares to vote against the latest attempt to take away health care for millions of Americans, and then moved on to the other lunatic with nuclear codes:

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Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017

Apparently this was his statesmanlike I’m-rubber-you’re-glue response to Kim Jong Un calling Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” And then it was on to bragging that he was the “most tweeted about world leader” on the day of his deranged speech at the United Nations, seemingly unaware that the majority of those tweets went something like, “OMG, did he really just say that?” and “We’re all going to die.”

Next up, more whining about the “Russia hoax”—you know, the one that the CIA, FBI, NSA and his own secretary of state agree happened—being all in the imagination of “Crooked Hillary” and the “dishonest Media,” and that:

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The greatest influence over our election was the Fake News Media "screaming" for Crooked Hillary Clinton. Next, she was a bad candidate!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017

He finished his morning of presidenting with a reminder that he is holding a rally tonight in Alabama … and then he went golfing. Again.

God bless America.

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The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

VA-Gov:  Republican Ed Gillespie has dropped another "anti-immigration" ad that makes his first one look positively tame by comparison (it's still terrible, though).​

Campaign Action

​Gillespie's new spot essentially equates "dangerous illegal immigrants"—itself a racist anti-Latino trope—with MS-13, a dangerous and violent street gang that actually heavily targets undocumented Latinos. The ad further equates Democrat Ralph Northam's vote against prohibiting "sanctuary cities" with "increasing the threat of MS-13." It uses photos of imprisoned MS-13 members and flashes the gang's "Kill, Rape, Control" motto across the screen in a positively Willie Horton-esque attempt to stoke racially charged fears among Virginia voters.  

And here's a fun fact about that Northam vote on "sanctuary cities": The vote Gillespie hits Northam for in the ad was almost certainly engineered by GOP lawmakers to force Northam to break a tie in the state Senate—solely to give the Republican an anti-immigration talking point, because Virginia doesn't technically have any "sanctuary cities" to ban in the first place.

Daily Kos Radio is LIVE at 9 AM ET!

September 22nd, 2017 05:01 am
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Wow, what a week.

I knew sending Trump to the UN was probably a bad idea, but I didn’t thing I’d end up thinking Kim Jong-un had pwned our president. But there you have it: Donald J. Dotard.

We’ll do our best to get you ready for another weekend of the Trump era. If there is such a thing as being ready.

Listen right here at 9:00 AM ET!

Podcasts! They’re hip! They’re hot! Everyone’s got one! But Daily Kos has had one since slightly after that point at which you would have been able to say that we had one before it was cool. Only we do ours over a live stream, every weekday morning from 9-11 ET. So the news is as fresh as the morning dew! Delivered and interpreted for you by David Waldman, Greg Dworkin, Joan McCarter, and even Armando.

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The Jewish New Year, the Islamic New Year, and the International Day of Peace all coincide on the same day this year! Given that, it makes perfect sense that planet Nibiru will be colliding with our planet shortly.  End times being nigh and all, David Waldman took today off, but not before pre-recording a new KITM. Today’s show thumbs its nose at the apocalypse by addressing several “tip of the iceberg” stories due to reveal themselves over time (If time continues to exist): The first receipt of taxpayer funds flowing directly into Mar-a-Largo, and Trump’s wallet—$1,092 for 2 nights. More connections between Trump’s business partners and the Russians being discovered at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant. The first evidence of Russians explicitly manipulating Trump supporters in real life on Facebook surfaces. More facts, and more mystery emerges on Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met Team Trump. News breaks on Paul Manafort offering “private briefings” for Russian Billionaires. All of above is of interest to Robert Mueller, who is probably linked to Armageddon by someone.

(Thanks to Scott Anderson, who writes our summaries! Please help me pay him more!)

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

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We begin today’s roundup with Paul Krugman at The New York Times who explains how Republicans are lying in an attempt to gain support for their latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act:

Graham-Cassidy, the health bill the Senate may vote on next week, is stunningly cruel. It’s also incompetently drafted: The bill’s sponsors clearly had no idea what they were doing when they put it together. Furthermore, their efforts to sell the bill involve obvious, blatant lies.

Nonetheless, the bill could pass. And that says a lot about today’s Republican Party, none of it good.

Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin analyze the impact of block grants:

An internal analysis by the Trump administration concludes that 31 states would lose federal money for health coverage under Senate Republicans’ latest effort to abolish much of the Affordable Care Act, with the politically critical state of Alaska facing a 38 percent cut in 2026.

The report, produced by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, focuses on the final year of a block grant that states would receive under the Cassidy-Graham legislation. It shows that government funding for such health insurance would be 9 percent lower overall in 2026 under the plan than under current law.

LBCF, No. 152: ‘In these shoes?’

September 22nd, 2017 11:07 am
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Posted by Fred Clark

The misogyny is palpable, but we’ve had plenty of opportunity to explore that before now, so let’s set aside for the moment L&J’s warped understanding of gender and consider instead their warped understanding of footwear.
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Mike Konczal at The Nation writes—The Financial Industry Is Its Own Best Enemy:

The financial sector is one of the biggest enemies of reform and accountability. Yet by consistently screwing up, it has also become the most influential advocate for outside regulation. Consciously through malice, or unconsciously through its size and complexity, it has time and again demonstrated the importance of the existing rules and the need for additional oversight. [...]

Which brings us to the Equifax scandal. Equifax, one of the three main consumer-credit data companies, is paid to spy on and compile all of your personal financial records. The company holds sensitive data on almost every aspect of our lives, yet hackers were able to get past their weak protection systems. This is because you aren’t a customer of Equifax; you are the company’s product. As a result, Equifax has no incentive to provide you with good services. In the wake of the hack, Equifax offered a credit-monitoring tool, but to use it consumers needed to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement that said they wouldn’t sue the company. (Equifax has since dropped this requirement after an outcry.)

These kinds of arbitration agreements replace courts with a private judicial system of company lawyers, and they have since metastasized across the entire economy. The CFPB recently finalized a rule that would outlaw these mandatory agreements by financial companies starting next year. Among other things, the rule would prevent Equifax from forcing people into arbitration after it goes into effect. Yet under an obscure congressional procedure, Republicans have the ability to repeal this rule with only 50 votes in the Senate. Though they might still do it, they’re having a harder time now, since they would be on the hook for any further abuses.

As reported by David Sirota, Equifax was one of the lead companies lobbying against the CFPB rule. But Equifax’s calamitous blunder, more than any white paper, demonstrates the need for strong new regulations to protect our personal data. If the rule survives, we can thank the companies whose own horrible gaffes demonstrated the need for it in the first place.

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QUOTATION

“I was astonished, bewildered. This was America, a country where, whatever its faults, people could speak, write, assemble, demonstrate without fear. It was in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. We were a democracy... But I knew it wasn't a dream; there was a painful lump on the side of my head... The state and its police were not neutral referees in a society of contending interests. They were on the side of the rich and powerful. Free speech? Try it and the police will be there with their horses, their clubs, their guns, to stop you. From that moment on, I was no longer a liberal, a believer in the self-correcting character of American democracy. I was a radical, believing that something fundamental was wrong in this country—not just the existence of poverty amidst great wealth, not just the horrible treatment of black people, but something rotten at the root. The situation required not just a new president or new laws, but an uprooting of the old order, the introduction of a new kind of society—cooperative, peaceful, egalitarian.”                 ~Howard Zinn, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times (1994)  

TWEET OF THE DAY

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This sums it up! pic.twitter.com/K6CmetEn0n

— drH (@hammer_hawk) September 21, 2017

BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2006—Fighting them there:

The problem with the whole idea that we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here (beyond the fact that Iraq never attacked the U.S. in the first place) is that we're still the target. […]

No one here needs to be reminded that al Qaeda wasn't even in Iraq until the U.S. invasion unleashed the chaos that has allowed them to flourish there. Somehow I don't think that was part of the "good plan" for Iraq that Lieberman likes to talk about, or at least that he liked to talk about before he decided it was just politically safer to avoid the topic altogether.

On today’s Kagro in the Morning show: Trump-Russia has roots in Miss Universe 2013, because Trump World is a sex cult. How much is that Manfort in the window? The Natalia Veselnitskaya origin story. First evidence is in on domestic emoluments, and Russia’s real world organizing via Facebook.

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Rhode Island is on a roll this week, going from committing to pay the renewal fee for every DACA recipient in the state to its state legislature passing paid sick leave, with Gov. Gina Raimondo expected to sign the bill into law.

Under the bill, starting in July 2018, workers will be able to take up to three earned sick days, phasing up to four days in 2019, and finally five days starting on Jan. 1, 2020. Workers at companies with 17 or fewer employees would be allowed the same amount of sick time each year without adverse consequences for the employee, but it would not have to be paid. [...]

Employers violating the statute would be subject to the same penalties applicable to minimum wage violations: fines ranging from $100 to $500 for every day they have been in violation. The measure would take effect July 1, 2018.

The bill would mean 90 percent of Rhode Island workers would now have access to paid sick days. In addition, another 44,000 workers would be able to take unpaid sick days.

In a statement, Wendy Chun-Hoon, co-director of Family Values @ Work, said that:

“Rhode Island joins its New England neighbors Massachusetts, Vermont and Connecticut, as well as the 37 other jurisdictions that have created new laws ensuring workers’ access to paid sick days. Nearly 100,000 Rhode Islanders who work without paid sick days can now count on the fact that they won’t be forced to ignore their own health needs or choose between caring for their families and providing for them. Rhode Island's law has the strongest family definition of the statewide paid sick day laws in New England, allowing workers to care for loved ones whether or not they are directly related by blood or marriage. This law also covers safe time, so that workers can take time off work to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, or so that they can take care of a loved one who needs safe time support.  

Even in Donald Trump’s America, states and cities can make progress to help working families.

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Turns out “fake news” is real, just not the way Donald Trump thinks it is. The Republican Governors Association—the GOP’s official campaign arm dedicated to electing Republican governors nationwide—is connected to two websites that purport to be independent news sources but are, in reality, propaganda platforms that support GOP candidates.

The first, launched in Virginia as a way to boost Ed Gillespie’s flaccid campaign, is the at-least-mildly-obvious Republican Standard, which describes itself as “a new media journal delivering clear, factual and smartly-balanced information to Virginia’s public square.” The Republican Standard, which is run by GOP operatives tied to Gillespie and “to a firm that has been paid by the RGA,” devotes most of its space to pro-Gillespie items and pieces that shed an unfavorable light on Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ralph Northam. (When contacted for comment on the site, the Gillespie campaign refused to say anything, instead referring questions to the RGA.) The site’s senior editor is Shaun Kenney, and his Republican Standard bio conveniently fails to mention that he used to be executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

The RGA’s broad-spectrum propaganda endeavor is far more insidious. The Free Telegraph is a site that trumpets the supposed accomplishments of Republican governors and gubernatorial candidates and blasts the alleged shortcomings of their Democratic counterparts. An Associated Press inquiry revealed that the RGA sought to conceal its involvement in the creation and administration of the site; it launched in July with no indication that it was the product of an official Republican Party committee. After the AP caught on to them, they “remedied” their lack of accountability. Now, at the very bottom of each page, you can squint and see a teeny tiny “paid for by Republican Governors Association” disclaimer, in fine gray-on-black font for ease of reading, surely.

Don’t let the Republicans get away with hijacking the news. Contribute $3 to help elect Democrat Ralph Northam governor of Virginia.

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A week and a half later, no one seems to know what exactly happened to Kenneka Jenkins. On September 9, the 19-year-old went to a party with friends at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosemont, Illinois. She never made it home. She was later found dead inside of a freezer in the hotel. While results of the autopsy are pending, the theory police are currently working with is that Jenkins was drunk and wandered into the freezer, accidentally locked herself in, and died there. Her family isn’t convinced.

“To me, I feel like they helped kill my child: the police department and this hotel,” Teresa Martin, Jenkins’s mother, told local media during a heart-wrenching interview alongside other family members. She said neither the authorities nor the hotel’s staff did enough to address her repeated pleas for help. [...]

Jenkins’s friends, Martin said, told her the young woman disappeared after they briefly left her alone in the hotel hallway to retrieve her car keys and cellphone from inside the room.

But Martin has since questioned that account, telling local media that the friends’ description of events keeps changing.

According to Martin, Kanneka’s friends called her around 4 AM to tell her that they were unable to find her daughter. She proceeded to call the police and tried to file a missing report—citing that Kanneka wasn’t the type of person to just wander off and that she was worried because she didn’t have a high tolerance for alcohol. The dispatcher told her to give it some time and the police did not file a missing person’s report until 1PM. It was then that the family began their own search in the hotel. The police found her body sometime after 12:30 AM the next morning. 

Video from social media and surveillance cameras seems to capture her last moments. 

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Hey, remember how decent people warned that Donald Trump’s presidential pardon of the lawless, criminal, and very racist Joe Arpaio would only give the green light to others in power to continue the scourge of racial profiling? Here’s The Oregonian:

Federal agents mistook a longtime Washington County employee for an [undocumented] immigrant just as a nearby demonstration against arrests of undocumented immigrants ended at the courthouse in Hillsboro.

The mistake rattled Isidro Andrade-Tafolla, a married father of three children who lives in Forest Grove and has worked as a road maintenance worker for the county for nearly 20 years.

"It was frightening, disturbing, humiliating and I'm still trying to process being stopped because of my color and my race," he said Tuesday.

Andrade-Tafolla was leaving a court hearing with his wife when two people in plain clothes approached him to demand his name and identification, but refused to identify themselves. Andrade-Tafolla, who is Latino and a United States citizen, later recalled that both had been seated near them inside the courtroom:

"They never identified themselves even when my wife and I kept asking who they were and why they wanted my information," said Andrade-Tafolla, 46.

"I gave them my name. They said they had a picture of me, that I wasn't here legally and when they showed my wife and I the picture, there was no resemblance except we were both Hispanic." The woman in the van had the photo on her cellphone.

According to Andrade-Tafolla, several more unmarked cars pulled up—all to try and detain one person, but remember, there’s no money for Head Start—with those agents also refusing to verbally ID themselves.

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On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Trump Campaign Chair Paul Manafort offered to give a “private briefing” on the state of the campaign to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

A spokesperson for Deripaska has denied that any briefing took place. But if it did, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time Manafort exchanged notes with the Russian aluminum king. After all, Deripaska was the sugar daddy to many of Manafort’s activities in Eastern Europe. And more than a decade ago, Manafort offered to provide the oligarch with very special information.

Manafort told Deripaska in 2005 that he was pushing policies as part of his work in Ukraine “at the highest levels of the U.S. government — the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department,” according to the documents. He also said he had hired a “leading international law firm with close ties to President Bush to support our client’s interests,” but he did not identify the firm. 

According to the New York Times, we now know the name of that law firm.

The Justice Department, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation, recently asked the firm, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, for information and documents related to its work on behalf of Mr. Yanukovych’s government, which crumbled after he fled to Russia under pressure.

And one of the things that law firm did for Manafort, was justify political prosecutions in Ukraine.

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According to a report from NPR, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents skirted their own “sensitive locations” policy—which dictates that areas like medical facilities are generally off-limits excluding “exigent circumstances”—in the arrests of an undocumented couple who were rushing their two-month-old baby to a hospital for an emergency, lifesaving procedure. 

Initially, Oscar and Irma Sanchez, who have three other U.S. citizen kids, were told that their local hospital wasn’t equipped to do the surgery, and that they would need to take Isaac to Driscoll Children's Hospital in Corpus Christi. But that meant the undocumented parents would have to go through a Border Patrol checkpoint. As they were trying to figure out how they could get their baby to Corpus Christi to save his life, “a Border Patrol agent showed up in the waiting room … perhaps tipped off by a nurse”:

The agent said that the family could be escorted through the checkpoint, but that they would be arrested upon their arrival in Corpus Christi — an arrangement that they agreed to, because it would get their son the surgery.

The Border Patrol followed the ambulance, the night of May 24, as it raced to Corpus through desolate ranchland, carrying Oscar, Irma and tiny Isaac — with an IV in his arm and a tube in his stomach. Once they arrived at Driscoll Children's Hospital, the green-uniformed agents never left the undocumented couple's side. Officers followed the father to the bathroom and the cafeteria and asked the mother to leave the door open when she breast-fed Isaac.

This is your tax dollars at work. "Everywhere we went in the hospital," Oscar said, "they followed us."

CBP claimed to NPR that they were nice enough to always leave “one parent with the baby at all times” while they took the other off-site to fingerprint, book, and expose to possible deportation. At one point, Oscar says, he asked the hospital if they could delay Isaac’s surgery for just a short time until both parents were back onsite. The doctor agreed, and Isaac’s procedure was, thankfully, a success.

CBP claims they didn’t violate their “sensitive locations” policy because no arrests were made at the hospital, despite the fact they were treating a breastfeeding mother and her child no different than they would someone who actually did pose a danger. Neither parents have criminal records. And, there’s no answer yet from Driscoll Children's Hospital if and why a member of their medical staff is moonlighting as a federal immigration agent. 

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller has become keenly interested in many White House episodes in which Donald Trump played a central role, not least of which was the crafting of an initial statement about the meeting between Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and a Kremlin-linked lawyer. That statement—which disintegrated over a period of days under the weight of further reporting—was reportedly dictated by Trump from Air Force One, which has piqued Mueller’s interest. Politico writes:

Special counsel Robert Mueller has sought phone records concerning the statement written aboard Air Force One defending a meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians at Trump Tower last year that was set up by Donald Trump Jr., according to two people familiar with the investigation. [...]

The statement about the Trump Tower meeting, written on the return from a European summit earlier this year, touched off a frenzy inside the White House, with dozens of phone calls from Air Force One and back in Washington and New York.

A few other things capturing Mueller interest include Trump's bizarre Oval Office meeting with Russian officials and the firing of both Mike Flynn and James Comey.

Investigators are particularly interested in what happened inside the White House after former deputy attorney general Sally Yates told White House lawyer Don McGahn of the Flynn meeting with Russians. Flynn was said to have misled Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with Russian officials during the presidential transition.

What Mueller’s team undoubtedly knows at this point is Yates’ full accounting of those back-to-back meetings in which she informed McGahn that Flynn had been lying and might be compromised. We don’t know all of what transpired in those meetings because Yates wasn’t at liberty to say during her Congressional hearing, but Mueller sure wants to know how that information settled into the West Wing because it took another two weeks before Flynn was finally ousted from his sensitive national security adviser post.

Oh, and in case you missed it, Spicey and his penchant for taking meticulous notes may wind up being a gift to Mueller. If he was as prolific as Axios reporting suggests, his notes could provide a window into White House atmospherics at many of these critical junctures.

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The Kaiser Family Foundation has provided an estimate of funding changes under the latest attempt at TrumpCare under the Republican Graham–Cassidy Bill. Their numbers confirm how this bill hurts everyone, with overall drop of $107 billion less made available through the Republican “block grants” than is now provided through the ACA. But even that doesn’t capture the way this is really being used as a carrot to red states and a big stick to blue states.

There would be a significant redistribution in federal funding across states under the block grant. Overall expansion states would lose $180 billion for ACA coverage and non-expansion states would gain $73 billion over the 2020-2026 period. A typical Medicaid expansion state would see an 11% reduction in federal funds for coverage compared to an increase of 12% in a typical non-expansion state.

States that attempted to do the right thing will be punished. States that deliberately denied help to their own people will be rewarded.

But that’s not all. A third of the drop in federal funds comes from putting a cap on Medicaid payments. Those caps get more damaging over time, and they don’t just affect extended Medicaid.

Almost all states face a potential loss of federal funds for their traditional Medicaid programs under the per enrollee cap; thus, the per enrollee cap offsets some or all of the gains some states may realize under the block grant and further cuts federal spending in states that may see a loss under the block grant.

Republicans can sell the idea that in the short term they stole money from Nancy Pelosi and Bill de Blasio to shower on their home state. But the truth is they’re robbing from everyone—including the poor in their own state.

BAD NEWS: Zombie Trumpcare is back. GOOD NEWS? If we stop (or delay this) past September 30, we win. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them YOU ARE WATCHING! (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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Posted by Fred Clark

We're continuing in Norman Geisler's 1975 discussion of "When Abortion Is Justified." Geisler, a conservative white evangelical, first wrote this in 1971. Two years before Roe and two years after, conservative evangelical views were the same.
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Donald Trump has claimed to love “the blacks” over and over again. During the 2016 presidential campaign, he famously asked what blacks had to lose by voting for him. A great many of us (especially black women) predicted that blacks stood to lose a lot by Trump being in office—hence our not voting for him. But we are also now learning that blacks have a lot to lose just by working for Trump. In a new lawsuit filed this week in Washington, D.C., three black employees claim that they were discriminated against in their work for BLT Prime, the steakhouse in the Trump International Hotel. 

In a civil complaint filed Wednesday morning in D.C. Superior Court, [Dominque Hill], a former BLT employee, and [Irving Smith, Jr.], a current one, allege that the Trump Organization and hotel managing director Mickael Damelincourt saw to it that the restaurant routinely steered black employees to less lucrative shifts and subjected them to discriminatory behavior by other staff and by guests. The two men are joined in the case by another former BLT employee, JaNette Sturdivant.

Why is this not surprising? Trump has a long history of anti-black racism. From his calls for the death penalty for the Central Park Five to being sued for housing bias and discrimination, his actions have long proven that he believes that blacks are, in every way, inferior to whites. While Trump clearly doesn’t oversee the day-to-day operations of the hotel, we should not have any doubt that he has put in place a team of equally bigoted and racist employees who have little respect for blacks and other people of color. After all, we’ve seen who he’s brought to work for him in the White House. 

“They started hiring all these people and instead of putting them on day shifts they was giving them night shifts and keeping us on day shift. Next thing I know, within the month all the black people were on the day shift,” [Smith said]. [...]

After the election, Smith claimed one of his co-workers began making racist statements to him and that Smith’s complaints to management fell on deaf ears.

“He used to say ‘This is white America time, you need to get used to it, and if you don’t get used to it you should go work somewhere else,’ ” he alleged.

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Donald Trump is a little touchy about leaks these days and now his administration is taking action! First up, the White House Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where employees attended anti-leak classes this week. The AP writes:

Government employees who hold security clearances undergo background checks and extensive training in safeguarding classified information. Relatively few EPA employees deal with classified files, but the new training also reinforces requirements to keep “Controlled Unclassified Information” from unauthorized disclosure.

Surely EPA employees have been the ones providing a hotbed of sourcing that's taking down Trump. Seriously, dude? Start with the White House—the people you hired—because they clearly hate you. Or better yet, take a look in the mirror.

A three-page fact sheet sent to EPA employees as part of the training warned that leaks of even unclassified information could have serious consequences to national security.

“Enemies of the United States are relentless in their pursuit of information which they can exploit to harm US interests,” the document said.

Wonder if there's any warnings in there about putting foreign agents in the most powerful national security post at the White House. Or how about guidance that conferring with people working expressly against the interests of the United States is discouraged.

That could have been useful.

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Some things just won’t stay dead.

The GOP’s attempt to repeal Obamacare and kick millions of Americans off of their health insurance. Zombies. Jesus. Jon Snow.

And now we can add Republican attempts to sow fear and division with blatantly racist campaign ads in Virginia elections this cycle to the list. 

Dawn of the Dead Horse: It sure is getting beaten.

Campaign Action First, there was Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie’s fear-mongering ad that was chock full o’ racist dog whistles and sought to target Democratic nominee and current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam as weak on immigration policy and for allegedly supporting “sanctuary cities.” The ad claimed that Gillespie will keep us “safer” by “get[ting] tough on illegal immigration” and used racially charged language and tropes often used to smear members of the Latino community. Then there was the blatantly racist direct mail piece dropped by a Virginia Republican’s “leadership PAC” (read: political committee that does certain things so GOP candidates can keep their hands clean) against Elizabeth Guzman, a Latina House candidate. The mailer uses the term “illegal alien,” a term that’s dehumanizing and is just one of the many racially charged dog whistles often used to cloak racism in a veneer of moral authority while perpetuating negative stereotypes. The mailers also are designed to evoke the racist trope that giving driver’s licenses to members of this community would lead to gun violence or voter fraud. (Take a gander at them yourself right here.) Now we’ve come back around to Gillespie, who’s just dropped another “anti-immigration” ad that makes his first one look positively tame by comparison (but don’t get it twisted—the first one is still awful).  Gillespie’s ad essentially equates “dangerous illegal immigrants”—itself a racist anti-Latino trope—with MS-13, a dangerous and violent street gang that actually heavily targets undocumented Latinos. The ad further equates Northam’s vote against prohibiting “sanctuary cities” with “increasing the threat of MS-13.” It uses photos of imprisoned MS-13 members and flashes the gang’s “Kill, Rape, Control” motto across the screen in a positively Willie Horton-esque attempt to stoke racially charged fears among Virginia voters.   And here’s a fun fact about that Northam vote on “sanctuary cities”: The vote Gillespie hits Northam for in the ad was almost certainly engineered by GOP lawmakers to force Northam to break a tie in the state Senate—solely to give the Republican an anti-immigration talking point, because, well, Virginia doesn’t technically have any “sanctuary cities” to ban in the first place.

The ad is straight out of Donald Trump’s racist fear-mongering playbook, and it’s just the latest indication of Gillespie’s terror and desperation

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Helen Huynh and her family were devastated when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia this past February, one that required immediate chemotherapy until she could undergo a lifesaving stem cell transplant. Despite the grim news, there was a ray of light for the Garden Grove, California, grandmother of three: one of her three sisters in her native Vietnam was a perfect match.

But when Thuy Nguyen, Helen’s baby sister, interviewed with U.S. officials in Ho Chi Minh City, her visa was denied. Immigration officials claimed that because she had never traveled out of Vietnam before, they believed she wouldn’t return home after the transplant:

“Evidence may come in many forms, but when considered together, it must be enough for the interviewing officer to conclude that the applicant’s overall circumstances, including social, family, economic and other ties abroad, will compel him or her to leave the United States at the end of the temporary stay,” the letter stated.

“Regrettably, Ms. Nguyen was unable to establish to the satisfaction of the interviewing officer that her employment, financial and family situation in Vietnam constituted sufficient ties to compel her to depart the United States.”

But Helen’s family says that officials cut Thuy’s interview so short that she had no chance to show that she has a family and businesses that she must return to in Vietnam. “She’s not poor, but that’s the mentality that these interviewers have,” said Yvonne AiVan, Helen’s eldest. “If you are from a less developed country, you won’t leave.”

When Thuy tried to make her case in another request, immigration officials denied her again. And then a third time.

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Sixty seconds. That seems to be an average amount of time that police officers give a situation before fatally shooting people of color. Philando Castile was shot 64 seconds from the time he and his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, were stopped by Jeronimo Yanez. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule—especially when it comes to children. Seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was shot about nine seconds from the time police surrounded the house she was in, attempting to do a raid to serve an arrest warrant. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot within two seconds of officers approaching him in the park in which he was playing with a pellet gun by himself. But the sixty second rule stood again last night as a police officer in Oklahoma City shot a deaf man—despite repeated cries from neighbors and family members that the man was hearing impaired.

The man, Madgiel Sanchez, was shot around 8:15 p.m. outside his home soon after the police responded there to investigate a hit-and-run accident. The first officer to arrive called for backup, pulled out his Taser and ordered Mr. Sanchez, 35, who was on his front porch, to drop the two-foot-long pipe he was clutching, the police said.

The officer’s commands did not register with Mr. Sanchez. He ambled off the porch toward the officer, waving the pipe in his right hand, according to the police and a witness. [...]

“Don’t kill him, he’s deaf,” his daughter yelled. “Don’t do it!”

About six other neighbors joined in, frantically trying to get the officer’s attention. But less than a minute after the episode began, a second officer arrived and immediately pulled out his handgun, [Mr. Rayos, a neighbor said]. While people continued to scream, the first officer fired his Taser at Mr. Sanchez, while the second fired his handgun, the police said.

Both the police and witnesses claim that Sanchez “ambled” toward officers. To amble means to walk at a slow or leisurely pace. This means that Sanchez wasn’t charging at the officers. Hell, he wasn’t even walking briskly toward them. Surely, two officers—one equipped with a taser, the other with a gun, could have come up with some other alternative to fatally shooting this man. Especially as seven people are shouting at you that the man cannot hear. But remember, sixty seconds—that’s all cops seem to need when it comes to taking the lives of people of color. Multiple shots fired and a man dead, all in response to a hit-and-run call. 

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Facebook has agreed to provide Congress with the 3,000 ads paid for by suspected Russian trolls.

"After an extensive legal and policy review, today we are announcing that we will also share these ads with congressional investigators," Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch said in a statement. "We believe it is vitally important that government authorities have the information they need to deliver to the public a full assessment of what happened in the 2016 election."

Though Facebook had previously released the ads to Special Counsel Robert Mueller when presented with a warrant, they have refused to make these ads public citing company policy.

After denying for months that any Russian entities purchased ads on Facebook during last year’s election, the social media giant has admitted that it belatedly discovered that some 470 phony accounts linked to a shadowy St. Petersburg media firm with ties to the Kremlin. The firm allegedly placed ads on highly charged issues in American politics, such as LGBT and gun rights — ads that in some cases explicitly mentioned Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the 2016 election.

Without the ads becoming public, along with information from Facebook on how the ads were deployed, it’s impossible for Americans to determine how many of the online ads they saw during the election cycle were actually propaganda generated in Moscow.

With the ads being presented to congressional investigators as well as Mueller, it becomes more likely that this information will eventually become public. While studies indicated that many of the stories that circulated on Facebook in the closing days of the campaign were sourced from fake sites set up by Russian propaganda providers, it’s not clear what percentage of Facebook’s political ads also came from these sources.

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This is nuts. Republicans can’t get the votes on their health care bill, so they’re going to instead throw in a sweetener like, say, letting some states keep what Democrats’ passed: Obamacare. 

x

If you want to know how great the Graham-Cassidy bill is for states, the bribe for Alaska is that THEY GET TO KEEP OBAMACARE!!

— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) September 21, 2017

Here’s how it works, according to Independent Journal Review:

x

OMG. the @GOP's attempt to buy Murkowski's #GrahamCassidy vote is literally just...OK ALASKA CAN KEEP #OBAMACARE https://t.co/WMMsl670cg pic.twitter.com/zhXWCX923q

— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) September 21, 2017

Translation: Hey, we know our bill stinks and our healthcare ideas are craptacular, so how about we just let your state opt out entirely and get all that stuff Democrats want you to have. Or better yet ...

x

how about Rs just rename Obamacare "Freedomcare" & we'll all pretend you did something & move on.

— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) January 12, 2017

Editor’s note: The first version of this story included a tweet that turned out to be a joke. That tweet has been entirely removed to avoid confusion.

Thursday, Sep 21, 2017 · 8:11:58 PM +00:00 · Kerry Eleveld

UPDATE: Graham has apparently had a change of heart since June, when Republicans were pushing a repeal bill that wasn’t his: “I worry Cornhusker kickbacks and Louisiana purchases and if they start doing that crap, they’re going to lose me.”

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Three years after the Flint water crisis, we are still learning the devastating impact that drinking poisoned water had on the city’s population. In addition to the outbreak of Legionnaires disease that killed at least a dozen people and sickened almost a hundred others, a new study reveals that the water crisis also affected fertility rates and fetal mortality. 

Fertility rates decreased by 12% among Flint women, and fetal death rates increased by 58%, after April 2014, according to research by assistant professors and health economists David Slusky at Kansas University and Daniel Grossman at West Virginia University. The pair examined vital statistics data for Flint and the rest of the state of Michigan from 2008 to 2015, zoomed down to the census-tract level.

That post-April 2014 time period is significant, because that's when — in an effort to save money — the city of Flint switched from water supplied by the city of Detroit to using the Flint River as a drinking water source, without adding needed anti-corrosives to the water. Lead levels in drinking water supplies spiked as a result.

While approximately fifteen local and state officials have been charged for their role in the water crisis, no one has actually gone to jail. And there are currently no plans to charge Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R). This is the problem with a greedy, capitalist society that values profit over people. In a country as plentiful and resource rich as the United States, politicians can compromise clean drinking water in an effort to save money and poison an entire city. And years later, no one is held accountable. Meanwhile, the damage for Flint residents is long-lasting. 

There is no safe level of lead in the body, but the impacts of lead are considered most severe on the developing brains and nervous systems of children and fetuses. It can lead to lower intelligence, behavioral problems and diminished life achievement, according to researchers. And the damage is irreversible; it cannot be undone. [...]

Babies born in Flint were also nearly 150 grams lighter than in other areas, were born a half-week earlier and gained 5 grams per week less than babies in other areas examined over the time period.

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Today’s comic by Ruben Bolling is White supremacist president offended by being called white supremacist

Join others next Tuesday, Sept. 26, to register hundreds of thousands of people on National Voter Registration Day

Preet Bharara finds a new gig:

Preet Bharara, whom President Donald Trump fired as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, is joining CNN as a senior legal analyst, POLITICO has learned.

Bharara was known for his media savvy on the job in Manhattan, and since leaving office in March he has amassed nearly 440,000 Twitter followers. He also recently launched a podcast, “Stay Tuned With Preet.” On Wednesday’s episode, Bharara recalled how Trump initially requested he stay on as U.S. attorney shortly after the presidential election, and he also described his growing unease as the president-elect — and later president — broke with protocol by calling him directly on the phone.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial:

It is a sight to see this time of year: Three nurses surrounding a dying soldier, somber bronze figures nestled among eight willow oak trees turned autumn gold. To the passing tourist, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial might be just another photo opportunity. To Diane Carlson Evans, a former Army nurse, the women’s memorial is a testament to a nine-year struggle for recognition.

Going up against Congress, three federal commissions and two existing Vietnam War memorials, Evans led a nurses’ campaign for a memorial on the Mall next to her “brother soldiers.” This Veterans Day, she will gather around the memorial with her sister nurses to honor its 20th anniversary.

Coming expiration of Trump’s Muslim travel ban could allow Supreme Court to avoid ruling on this matter of executive authority.

• 

An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance EventsIndivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups

Fatalities from Mexico quake reach 250 as rescuers continue searching for survivors:

The name “Frida Sofía” trended on Twitter on Wednesday as the country was captivated by what the media and authorities said was the imminent rescue of a girl trapped in the rubble of a collapsed school.

But Frida Sofía was not the name of the girl rescuers were trying to pull from the rubble of the Enrique Rébsamen school. All students with that name at the school were accounted for, Mexican broadcaster Televisa – which focused heavily on the school site – reported Thursday morning. The girl’s parents also had not been located, according to public education secretary Aurelio Nuño.

“Frida Sofía” trended again on Thursday, though the tweets were tinged with rage as Mexicans railed against the country’s big broadcasters for peddling false hope as the country dug out from the two massive earthquakes in less than two week.

San Francisco, Oakland sue oil companies over damages from rising seas:

The suits, filed separately in Superior Court in San Francisco and Alameda County and announced Wednesday, claim that a slate of oil, gas and coal producers not only caused the heat-trapping gases that drove sea level rise but knowingly did so, a challenge akin to litigation against big tobacco companies in the 1990s.

Both cities are asking the companies, which include Bay Area-based Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Shell and BP, to pay billions in compensation for past and future flooding, coastal erosion and property damage resulting from climate change.

NRDC: Climate Alliance states show what real leadership looks like:

In a forceful show of climate leadership, Governors Andrew Cuomo (NY), Jerry Brown (CA), and Jay Inslee (WA) and former Secretary of State John Kerry came together in New York City Wednesday as part of Climate Week to celebrate the progress and growth of the U.S. Climate Alliance, the bipartisan coalition that has grown to 14 states dedicated to meeting the Paris agreement climate goal. The coalition was founded by Cuomo, Brown and Inslee after President Trump announced the U.S. intent to withdraw from Paris.

• Sally Yates joins Georgetown Law for the fall semester.

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Want to know what the wild card is in the GOP's dead-sprint to a vote is? The P-word. Yep, the parliamentarian, who's sort of a like a congressional referee, still has to rule on which parts of the Graham-Cassidy repeal bill are valid based on the whether they are directly related to the budget. It was the Senate parliamentarian, for instance, that told Republicans they only had until September 30 to repeal health care with a simple majority.

But now the parliamentarian will be weighing in on the Graham-Cassidy bill's most critical element: whether states can waive the Obamacare provision that requires insurers to cover certain essential health benefits (EHBs) and prevents them from jacking up prices for people who have pre-existing conditions. It's the bill's entire reason for being. When Sen. Lindsey Graham says they are trying to give "flexibility" back to the states, what he means is the federal government would give states the power to allow insurers to limit their coverage and price gouge people with pre-existing conditions in order to make overall coverage cheaper. But guess what? That provision might not even be allowable, which would completely upend the nature of the bill. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent writes:

Some health policy analysts think there’s a decent chance that the parliamentarian will strike those deregulatory features under the Byrd Rule, because they don’t have a direct budgetary component. Daniel Hemel of the University of Chicago, for instance, points out that a very similar feature was struck from a previous GOP repeal bill and thinks it should — and very well may — happen again. [...]

I asked Hemel what the consequences of this would be, and he emailed:

“Without the waiver provision, Graham-Cassidy is a totally different bill. It doesn’t provide states with flexibility, but it still takes away a lot of money. This would change the terms of the debate entirely — and would do so just a few days before the senators cast their final votes.” [...]

Nicholas Bagley of the University of Michigan agrees and adds that this would mean that a primary selling point for the bill would vanish: It would no longer meaningfully offer the states “flexibility” and would no longer constitute the “federalism” that supporters have extolled.

If this were to happen, the bill would become a virtual monster in the eyes of Republicans—keeping all of Obamacare's protections in place while simultaneously failing to lower costs and yet still  sucking billions of federal dollars away from the states. Honestly, it's hard to imagine who would vote for that and there's a good chance we would never know because it's equally as hard to imagine Mitch McConnell bringing it to the floor.

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If it’s put into place smoothly and with no delays or problems, the healthcare repeal bill Republicans are trying to force through the Senate would cut funding and weaken protections for tens of millions of people. And that’s the best-case scenario, because “if it’s put into place smoothly” is a helluva big if. When Massachusetts chose to pass its own healthcare law back in 2003, it took four years to get it running. Graham-Cassidy would give states about two years:

“The answer is absolutely no,” said Jon Kingsdale, who ran Massachusetts Connector, the system that matched Massachusetts residents with health insurance, and is now a public health professor and a consultant. “That’s not enough time for most states to figure it out.” [...]

“In some ways, a clean slate is much more complicated than very discrete decisions,” said Larry Levitt, an executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health research group. Mr. Levitt described the challenges facing states under this legislation as “formidable.”

In contrast with an earlier bill from Mr. Cassidy, which offered a default option for uncertain states, there is no backup plan in the bill. The Obamacare coverage programs would disappear everywhere in 2020, and any state unable to make a plan and submit an application would be ineligible for the new grant funding. If a state succeeds in obtaining the funding but doesn’t have a functioning new system on Jan. 1, 2020, consumers and markets would be thrown into chaos.

Even the insurance companies don’t want it:

“The bill contains provisions that would allow states to waive key consumer protections, as well as undermine safeguards for those with pre-existing medical conditions,’’ said Scott P. Serota, the president and chief executive of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. “The legislation reduces funding for many states significantly and would increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans.”

America’s Health Insurance Plans was even more pointed. The legislation could hurt patients by “further destabilizing the individual market” and could potentially allow “government-controlled single payer health care to grow,” said Marilyn B. Tavenner, the president and chief executive of the association. Without controls, some states could simply eliminate private insurance, she warned.

Another Obamacare repeal bill?! It’s time to jam the congressional phone lines again. Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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With a blast of bombast, Donald Trump made clear once again this week that he wants to dump or renegotiate the Iran nuclear agreement—known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—which he calls “an embarrassment to the United States.” He also says he has already made up his mind about what to do, but he’s not telling anybody what he has decided. And he seems to mean not anybody. 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that UK Prime Minister Theresa May asked Trump if he would tell her what he had decided, but he wouldn’t. Hardly surprising since Tillerson himself hasn’t been told, saying: "He has not shared that with anyone externally." He said that Trump will announce his decision "when he thinks it is useful to let you know." White House chief of staff John Kelly, who reflected the feelings of lots of Americans when he publicly face-palmed during Trump’s grotesque speech to the United Nations Tuesday, seems to know. But while he is signaling his feelings regarding his boss’s oratory in other ways, he’s not talking about what may be coming on Iran.

The twisted reality we now live in has spurred the nation’s chief diplomat to consider himself “external” when it comes to major matters of U.S. foreign policy. 

The response to Trump’s bluster and enigmatism has been highly critical. For instance, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said all parties to the agreement are in compliance, including Iran, and "There is no need to renegotiate parts of the agreement because the agreement is concerning a nuclear program and as such is delivering." Yukiya Amano, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iran is complying with the agreement, noting that that nation “is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.”

What the agreement has done is close off pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon for the immediate future and open the door to improved relations. Since signing, Iran has dismantled two-thirds of its uranium enrichment centrifuges, plugged its plutonium-producing reactor with concrete, exported more than 20,000 pounds of uranium, put a cap on how much uranium can be enriched to the level needed for research reactors, shipped away its spent fuel, and allowed highly intrusive international inspections. 

All of this doesn’t matter to the regime squatting in the White House. 

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Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday that House Speaker Paul Ryan told him to his face, "If you pass it, we pass it." It's still not clear Senate Republicans will make it to 50, but even if they do, it's no done deal in the House either and, frankly, Ryan hasn't proven to be much of a vote counter. The biggest problem? The version of the GOP healthcare bill that cleared the House earlier this year did so by just four votes, and the Senate's current bill deals a major financial blow to states that house 45 districts represented by Republicans who are either considered vulnerable or being targeted by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The Washington Post does the math:

That’s a total of 22 GOP-held seats currently rated as vulnerable by Cook Political Report that are in states that would lose billions in federal funding under Graham-Cassidy. Adding in the seats that the DCCC is targeting beyond those, and you get a total of 45 targets in these 11 states.

When the Republicans’ previous Obamacare repeal passed the House in May, 20 Republicans voted no, as the measure passed by just a four-vote margin, 217-213. Thus, if all those Republicans vote no on Cassidy-Graham, it would take only a shift of a handful of Republican yes votes to halt Cassidy-Graham, should it reach the House floor.

And consider this: Fully 16 vulnerable House Republicans voted "yes" on the last GOP bill but may think twice about the cuts Graham-Cassidy inflicts on their states. Check them out below.

Knight (CA) Issa (CA) Denham (CA) Royce (CA) Walters (CA) Rohrabacher (CA) Faso (NY) Tenney (NY) McSally (AZ) Frelinghuysen (NJ) Roskam (IL) Bost (IL) Lewis (MN) Paulsen (MN) Curbelo (FL) Poliquin (ME)
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Talk of Republican moderates typically involves someone being played for a sucker, as the party’s efforts to repeal Obamacare show off. Time after time, we see a Republican senator make what looks like a principled stand against their party … until caving on the final vote, having been bought off by a concession a fraction the size of their original objections. Was the so-called moderate played for a fool by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s arm-twisting and Donald Trump’s attack tweets, or was the media played for a fool by a performance of Reasonable Moderate Standing Up to Their Party that was rigged all along? Whatever the answer, the rush to pass Graham-Cassidy shows off just how fake the whole thing is.

On the past failed Obamacare repeal bills, several Republicans extracted concessions that supposedly justified their yes votes. West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito and Ohio’s Rob Portman got $45 billion in opioid funding that wasn’t going to make up for the gutting of Medicaid expansion, but they could pretend to have gotten a win. But, Alice Ollstein reports:

This time around, with a bill that includes even deeper cuts to Medicaid and no additional opioid funding, Capito refuses to say how she will vote and Portman has said he is “open” to the proposal.

When asked by TPM whether Portman is attempting to negotiate the same funding boost and whether that will influence his final vote, Portman’s office would only say: “The senator is reviewing the proposal and getting feedback.”

Cynical but safe money is on Capito and Portman voting for Graham-Cassidy without any opioid funding added. Meanwhile, the Republicans who did follow through and stand up to their party last time wanted some stuff going forward—like having bills go through regular order rather than being rammed down their throats. Will John McCain do an about-face and decide regular order isn’t so important to him after all, or will he live up to his own hype? Will Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski continue to stand firm even as the pressure their leadership is putting on them builds? There’s even less in Graham-Cassidy for all these people than there was in previous votes, so if they go along with McConnell and Trump, they’ll be telling us a lot about where principle ranks in relation to partisanship.

There is only one way to stop Trumpcare: Republican senators must pay their political price by having constituents mad at them. We need you now, more than ever to make calls. Call your senator at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to vote NO. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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Twenty-seven companies that urged the Trump regime to stick with the Paris Climate Accord also contributed a total of $3.3 million to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) that has worked assiduously to dump President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan. That plan was designed specifically to reduce greenhouse emissions from U.S. power plants in 2030 by 32 percent over 2005. It’s the key U.S. government effort to help meet the emissions goals of the nonbinding Paris accord. And it’s in limbo.

This is how the 27 companies that urged the Trump regime not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord divided their donations to the Republican and Democratic attorney generals associations. The Republican group has been highly active in trying to dump the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan that would cut greenhouse emissions.

The excuse from the companies that responded to investigators from the Center for Public Integrity who revealed the contributions? It’s just politics. They said they had also contributed to the Democratic Attorneys General Association. In other words, all that cash was just pragmatism on their part. Uh-huh.

The center’s Rachel Leven and Jamie Smith Hopkins write:

But campaign finance experts countered that business officials can influence policy without writing a check to decision-makers like attorneys general—advocating their policy positions through lobbyists, for example. Because these businesses have said climate action is a priority, making political contributions that can work against that goal puts their reputations or even revenues at risk, these experts said.

"I don't doubt that their public statements about the Paris climate agreement are sincere but it matters that when it actually comes down to how they spend their money, they're giving to politicians that have almost the exact opposite goal," said Daniel Weiner, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice's Democracy Program, which advocates for campaign finance reform. "It doesn't mean that they're actually lying, but it does lead one to wonder how strong their commitment to fight global warming actually is.

While RAGA has, of course, engaged in other activity, the center’s reporters note that the Clean Power Plan, which requires states to come up with methods of reducing emissions from fossil-fuel power plants within their boundaries, has gotten “an outsize share of energy” from Republican attorneys general.

Along with a handful of Democratic AGs, the Republicans have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over the plan in a case that is slowly winding its way toward the Supreme Court. The court itself ruled 5-4 in early 2016 that the plan should be on hold until a lower court ruling on it is decided. Indeed, on RAGA’s list of achievements on its website: convincing the court "to halt implementation of Obama's signature climate change initiative." 

Levin and Hopkins found that only two of the 27 companies had openly challenged the Clean Power Plan. Several others have supported it strongly, with Google and Microsoft going so far as to file legal arguments against the lawsuit the Republican AGs had launched. And yet those two contributed nearly $400,000 to RAGA. Worst of all among the 27 was SolarCity, the nation’s largest provider of residential solar panels. The morning the Supreme Court stayed the Clean Power Plan, SolarCity’s stock plummeted. That ought to have delivered a clear message. Yet just three months later, the company contributed $20,000 to RAGA, giving nothing to the Democratic Attorney Generals Association. Perhaps that was just stupidity. But it sure wasn’t evidence of sincerity.

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Reports this week that Paul Manafort was under surveillance before, during, and after his six months as chair of Donald Trump’s campaign show that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has access to information showing how the relationship between Trump and Russia evolved over an extended period. According to a report at Axios, there’s another potential long-term source of information for Mueller.

Former colleagues of Sean Spicer tell Axios that he filled "notebook after notebook" during meetings at the Republican National Committee, later at the Trump campaign, and then at the White House.

It’s seems unlikely that Spicer jotted down “and then Trump told us all we were working for Putin,” but the notebooks do provide a good check on dates, attendance, and topics of discussion. 

One White House official told me: "People are going to wish they'd been nicer to Sean. … He was in a lot of meetings."

Asked by Axios reporter Mike Allen to comment on the story, Spicer had a succinct reply.

"Mike, please stop texting/emailing me unsolicited anymore. … From a legal standpoint I want to be clear: Do not email or text me again. Should you do again I will report to the appropriate authorities."

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Sen. Bill Cassidy’s response to being called out by Jimmy Kimmel was, as Kimmel put it in his Wednesday night monologue (video below), to “pull the all comedians are dummies card” by smarming “I am sorry he does not understand.” Too bad for Cassidy Kimmel really does know what he’s talking about—and has the benefit of being able to tell the truth. 

But experts say that Cassidy and Graham’s bill can't guarantee those protections and that Kimmel’s assessment was basically accurate because of the flexibility the bill gives states to set up their own health care systems. For example, health insurers could hike premiums for patients with pre-existing conditions if their states obtain waivers from Obamacare regulations — as Kimmel said. [...]

"Kimmel did not overstate the impact," [Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families director Joan] Alker said. "If Graham-Cassidy becomes law, there is no guarantee a child born with a congenital heart defect will get the coverage they need. It would depend on where they live, but even states with good intentions would struggle to protect children with the massive cuts to Medicaid included in this bill."

Cassidy insisted that what Kimmel “does not understand” is that Graham-Cassidy would mean “more people will have coverage,” a claim the Washington Post fact checker gave three Pinocchios because “the consensus is that his funding formula makes his claim all but impossible to achieve.”

Cassidy’s response guaranteed that Kimmel would come back at him—along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, Fox & Friends’ Brian Kilmeade, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—but Kimmel also delivered some bad news, in the form of a report that call volume had not gone up in Sen. Susan Collins’ office after Kimmel urged viewers to call their senators. That’s a problem that needs fixing.

Quiet phone lines mean Republicans will think they can get away with this. LIGHT THEM UP. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote “NO” on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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Republican healthcare repeal bills have been massively unpopular. Many of the members of Congress who’ve supported them have hidden out and refused to face constituents, while those who dared hold town halls were angrily confronted. Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski was hailed as a hero back home for her vote against repeal. But the Washington Post lets us know what really mattered to the Republican senators who are now, yet again, getting ready to vote for a massively unpopular bill. After they failed at their longtime campaign promise of Obamacare repeal:

... according to GOP senators and aides, Republicans faced an unrelenting barrage of confrontations with some of their closest supporters, donors and friends. The moments occurred in small gatherings that proved even more meaningful than a caustic town hall — at meetings with local business executives, at church, at parks.

They didn’t dare hold town halls open to all their constituents, but boy, they heard it from their donors. The GOP’s repeal bills might have had support under 15 percent in some polls, might have had less than half the support of Obamacare … but the hardcore base, the Republican donors and local bigwigs who your senator actually listens to and cares about? They were all worked up by Donald Trump’s tweets and angry that congressional Republicans had failed. And that’s why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying, again, to ram through a vote on a bill that few people understand but that has an awful lot in common with those earlier bills that voters loathed.

Thought Obamacare was safe? Think again. Republicans have revived their repeal effort and we must stop them. Keep calling your senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them DON’T REPEAL OBAMACARE! (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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FOLLOW @RubenBolling on the Twitters and a Face Book.

JOIN Tom the Dancing Bug's subscription club, the Proud & Mighty INNER HIVE, for exclusive early access to comics, extra comics, and much more.

GET Ruben Bolling’s new hit book series for kids, The EMU Club Adventures. (”Filled with wild twists and funny dialogue” -Publishers Weekly)  Book One here.  Book Two here.

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By any measure, Maria is a monster. It struck Puerto Rico with sustained winds of 155 mph and some areas reported gusts above 200 mph. Damage isn’t extensive, it’s near universal. With electricity out across the entire island, and cell service limited to a few areas, it’s difficult to even determine just how badly Hurricane Maria has pummeled Puerto Rico. But … it’s bad.

"Definitely Puerto Rico — when we can get outside — we will find our island destroyed," Abner Gómez, director of Puerto Rico's emergency management agency, told reporters on Wednesday as the storm engulfed the entire island. "The information we have received is not encouraging. It's a system that has destroyed everything it has had in its path."

Flooding in San Juan is described as “intense” and on Thursday morning, rain is continuing to generate flash floods across the island. In addition to punishing winds and a strong surge along the coast, Maria dropped more than a foot of rain on Puerto Rico in just a few hours. The continuing flash floods represent a deadly threat, with messages like this going out, and many people not in a position to hear.

This is a FLASH FLOOD EMERGENCY for Central Puerto Rico. This is a PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS SITUATION. SEEK HIGHER GROUND NOW!

Images coming from San Juan have been both terrifying and heartbreaking.

"The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there," Yulín said, adding: "We're looking at four to six months without electricity" in Puerto Rico, home to nearly 3.5 million people.

Some rescue and recovery forces from the continental United States had already deployed to Puerto Rico following the close passage of Hurricane Irma less than two weeks ago. But additional forces will definitely be needed.

Americans came together to support the victims of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma—which was as it should be. But the victims of Hurricane Maria, in both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, are in far more desperate straits. This is an American tragedy that demands a massive American embrace and support for the affected areas.

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Does Donald Trump even know what the latest Republican healthcare bill would do to people with pre-existing conditions, or is he lying about it? It’s like a Schrodinger’s lie—Trump is profoundly ignorant and it’s unlikely he knows what’s in the Graham-Cassidy bill, but he would certainly lie about it without thinking twice (or once, for that matter) if he did know. Either way, this tweet is false:

x

I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does! A great Bill. Repeal & Replace.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2017

Here's reality:

 The bill wouldn't repeal the Affordable Care Act's rules about pre-existing conditions. But they might end up only existing on paper, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt said.

Graham-Cassidy doesn't let states waive the part of the Affordable Care Act that says insurers have to cover sick people. But it does allow states to opt out of several other ACA rules that can cause people with pre-existing conditions to pay more for their health care. Those provisions include:

The ban on charging sick people higher premiums than healthy people.

It’s the trick Republicans have been trying to play all along—claim that you’re protecting people with pre-existing conditions because insurance companies can’t say directly “we will not insure you,” but let the insurance companies charge people with pre-existing conditions so much that no one could afford coverage. We’re not denying you insurance, we’re just charging you $100,000 a year! Your pre-existing condition is totes covered! What a “great Bill.”

We haven’t won the battle to save health care yet. Republicans are STILL pushing to repeal Obamacare. Call your senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to vote “NO” on any repeal bill. (After you call, please tell us how it went.)

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The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

WV-Sen: On Wednesday, MetroNews' Brad McElhinny reported that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told a group of lawmakers that he was supporting Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin's bid for re-election. Before early August, that probably wouldn't have been very exciting news. Justice is close to Manchin and last year, the senator endorsed Justice in the three-way Democratic primary; Justice also hired several of Manchin's advisers for his campaign. But just last month, Justice attended a rally with Donald Trump and announced he was joining the GOP.​

Campaign Action

​Manchin is running for re-election in a state that backed Trump 68-26, and he's going to need to win over a lot of voters who like Trump. Justice argued that, by re-electing Manchin, West Virginians would actually be helping Trump. McElhinny quotes the governor telling the room, "Now he may be a terrible person to y'all but Joe has been a friend of mine and I'm going to tell you this as straight up as I can be: Joe Manchin is becoming a very key, integral part with Donald Trump. And I'm going to take my read off of Donald Trump." Justice continued, "Joe Manchin is — and I know this — Joe Manchin is Donald Trump's liaison with the Democrats. And you want, and I want, what Donald Trump is trying to get done."

It's unclear how much help Justice will be for Manchin. Justice, a coal billionaire, did very well as the Democratic nominee in coal country, an area that has abandoned Democratic presidential candidates but still is open to voting blue down-ballot. These are the type of voters Manchin is going to be seeking next year, and if Justice is still well-regarded in the region, his cross-party seal of endorsement could be a big help.

However, that's a big if. While a recent poll from Repass and Research America Inc. gave Manchin a 51-34 approval rating, that same sample found the newly Republican governor with a weak 34-44 score. West Virginia doesn't get polled often, so we don't have other numbers to compare it to. But it's possible there just aren't many voters Justice could appeal to who already don't like Manchin.

And as we've seen in the past year, Justice is an eccentric guy. If he really believes he's backing Manchin to help Trump, he may change course if Trump tells him to. Indeed, an unnamed person who was at the meeting tells Buzzfeed's Henry Gomez that Justice indicated he'd follow Trump's lead. Still, Republicans will be working hard to caricature Manchin as a typical Democrat who has lost his way in D.C., and the senator will be happy to echo Justice and define himself as a bipartisan figure.

Cheers and Jeers: Thursday

September 21st, 2017 05:15 am
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From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE…

The New Scarlet Letter

Every morning when I wake up and get dressed, I can’t help but notice the seven-inch pale red scar running from my sternum to just below my belly button. I have another scar---two inches horizontal---on my upper chest. They’re a daily reminder of the emergency surgery I had last March that revealed a thriving cancer colony in my gut (happily removed), and the “mediport” that was my hookup for three months of chemo.

They are also a daily reminder that I am now a walking pre-existing condition.

Under the Affordable Care Act, I can look at those scars and feel grateful and relieved. Not just because I’m now cancer-free, but because when it returns (I have no doubt it will---before they were rooted out, those cancer cells were sending postcards to all their friends gushing about what sweet retirement property my insides have to offer) I know I won’t be price-gouged by the insurance vultures or denied coverage outright. Because it’s against the law. Thanks, Obama. Seriously---thanks, Obama!

But. If this new Graham-Cassidy-Trumpcare bill Republicans are trying to ram through Congress passes next week, that could all change. My scars will instead become a daily reminder that these perfumed-hanky-sniffing grifters have put a guillotine blade above my, and your, and everybody else’s necks. Under Trumpcare, any state will have the blessing of the federal government to green-light the insurance vultures to let you suffer and die because you once had the unmitigated gall to seek medical attention at some point in the past.

This is just one part of Trumpcare 4.0---yes, Lord Dampnut owns this just as much as Congress---that is unconscionably heartless. We know this because we have pre-existing memories of things like this and this.

What Republicans will try to foist on our country next week smacks of domestic terrorism to me. Few people will be able to wake up every morning knowing for certain that their health insurance will do what they expect it to do if they need it. There’s no doubt that people will die because of the cruelty that’s been hastily stuffed in this bill. And for what? Purely political reasons. Tax cuts for the rich. A Koch brothers rim job. A chance to erase the signature achievement of the previous Democratic president who was a thousand times smarter and more compassionate than these stooges will ever be. A cheap check mark in the win column they can wave in front of the faces of the base they’re about to screw.

The Affordable Care Act is working. If Republicans weren’t sabotaging it, it would be working even better. If they would huddle up with Democrats to work on improvements (like they were until Mitch McConnell forced them to disband this week), it could hum like a well-oiled machine. But no. Billionaires come first and fuck the rest of you.

If Trumpcare 4.0 passes, our scars and our medical histories will once again become the modern-day scarlet letter---a flashing red light to Big Insurance that yours is an account that may be cut loose in the name of profits; a feature, not a bug, in Sens. Lindsey Graham’s and Bill Cassidy’s sick minds. (Cassidy should have his medical license revoked for stomping all over the Hippocratic oath. Ditto Tom Price.)

These hacks don’t deserve this victory. America doesn’t deserve this deep dive back into the dark ages. Call your senators (202-224-3121 in DC, or their local office), especially if they have an “R” after their name, and give ‘em firm but polite hell. The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. And this sack of shit, created by two old white male lying sacks of shit, is evil personified.

Cheers and Jeers starts below the fold...

Daily Kos Radio is ALL-NEW at 9 AM ET!

September 21st, 2017 05:01 am
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Happy Thursday! And happy Rosh Hashanah, too! (And my super-calendar also says it’s Peace Day, and that the first day of Muharram begins tonight!) I’m off to go dip everything I can in honey, but to ensure that you too can enjoy a sweet new year, I offer you this ALL-NEW, pre-taped episode of the show. It’s a big day on the Trump-Russia front, and we’re ready for it!

Listen right here at 9:00 AM ET!

Podcasts! They’re hip! They’re hot! Everyone’s got one! But Daily Kos has had one since slightly after that point at which you would have been able to say that we had one before it was cool. Only we do ours over a live stream, every weekday morning from 9-11 ET. So the news is as fresh as the morning dew! Delivered and interpreted for you by David Waldman, Greg Dworkin, Joan McCarter, and even Armando.

We think you’ll like it so much, you’ll even help support its continued production, with monthly donations via Patreon, or one-time contributions via Square Cash.

Not ready to face the world that early? Unsure whether you’re ready to donate your hard-earned cash? We’ve also got these handy-dandy record-o-matical things, like the one below, featuring our most recent LIVE show! At Daily Kos, it’s always free to try before you buy! (I think! Usually, anyway!)

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YouTube | iTunes | LibSyn | Keep us on the air! Donate via Patreon or Square Cash

Sorry, no penis weightlifting do’s and don’ts today. However, between David Waldman and Greg Dworkin, today’s KITM manages to address all other conceivable topics—with the exception of those David reserved for tomorrow’s KITM  Rosh Hashanah Special... Stay tuned! Norms! Donald Trump is the Normless President. Actually, his single issue, himself, reflects his supporter’s single issue, themselves. His “tone” indicates that focus to conservatives. Fury! As if what the public feels truly matters. It’s not just our opinion though, we need to win. Jimmy Kimmel has a right to be furious. Bill Cassidy doesn’t need to lie, it just helps. Republican Senators blow a Category 5 anal smoke hurricane. CBO? What’s a CBO? Chaos! Republican Plan B—destroy everything, anyhow. The Gop is closing off all exits. The Koch brothers are turning off their money spigot. She might have seemed heroic fighting alongside her daughter in the Cupcake Wars, but Kelly Roberts doesn’t have what it takes to be Ambassador to Slovenia: a transparent business record. Tom Price used to dislike fiscal irresponsibility, but then… Trump won’t shut up, but California hopes to censure him occasionally. Trump’s lawyers never know when to shut up, just like the boss. Michael Cohen, who has a Trumpian daddy-daughter thing, loves the news cameras too. People buying MAGA hats knew, deep down, their money would be paying Donald’s legal bills, but so did the big donors. Nearly a dozen cities are calling on Congress to impeach Trump over foreign emoluments. Someone figured out that the United States Coast Guard administers the charge card program for the Department of Homeland Security! The Free Telegraph is the new Republican fake news you’ll soon be seeing cited. The day a doctor’s husband leaves her and her house is burgled, she began research on saving women from cancer.

(Thanks to Scott Anderson, who writes our summaries! Please help me pay him more!)

Need more info on how to listen? Find it below the fold.

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Trevor Timm at The Guardian writes—America gives $700bn to the military – but says healthcare is a luxury:

When Bernie Sanders released his much anticipated healthcare plan last week, countless pundits and members of Congress asked why the government should pass such a bill given its potential cost. Now that Congress on the verge of sending a record-setting $700bn Pentagon spending bill to Trump’s desk, you can bet those deficit scolds will be nowhere to be found.

On Monday evening, the Senate passed – in bipartisan fashion – a policy bill that set the parameters for military spending in 2018 that tops $700bn, including tens of billions in spending for wars Trump has been expanding in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. 

Amazingly, the bill far exceeds even the increase in spending that the Trump administration was asking for, and as the Associated Press reported, it would put “the US armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Only eight senators voted against the bill – three Republicans and five Democrats. It passed with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. Even in a time of hyper-partisanship, you can always count on Congress to come together and spend hundreds of billions of dollars to build weapons and bombs for killing people overseas, even as our infrastructure crumbles at home and thousands of people die each year without healthcare.

Thursday Things: Empty Ink Bottles

September 21st, 2017 07:50 am
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Posted by Sarah Mattozzi

Colorful flat lay of empty fountain pen ink bottles and glass dip pens.

We're crazy for empty ink bottles! Fountain pen inks come in some of the most gorgeous, eye-catching, and appealing bottles many of us have ever seen. Why not show them off? These bottles make the perfect desk decoration, especially when you find a new purpose for them. This week's Thursday Things showcases the luscious lines and classic curves of some of our favorite ink bottles. It also serves as a great reminder that you can find these stunning empty bottles for sale here on our site! If you're looking for ideas on how to use these beauties, check out our 7 Ways to Re-Use Empty Ink Bottles blog. 

Featured products:
Colorful flat lay of empty fountain pen ink bottles and glass dip pens.
Empty Ink Bottles
Colorful flat lay of empty fountain pen ink bottles and glass dip pens.
J. Herbin Glass Dip Pens
Colorful flat lay of empty fountain pen ink bottles and glass dip pens.


Which brand's ink bottle is your favorite?

Write on,
The Goulet Pen Company Team
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John Carl Baker is a Mellon-ACLS Public Fellow. His writing has appeared in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the New Republic, War Is Boring, and elsewhere. At Jacobin, he writes—Averting Annihilation:

These fears of nuclear apocalypse were on full display this week, as three full days of nuclear-tinged Trumpisms inspired half-serious jokes about our impending doom across social media. On Tuesday, Trump made his now-infamous comments about unleashing “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea. On Wednesday, in the preferred presidential medium of Twitter, Trump took credit for modernizing the nuclear arsenal — despite the fact that this process began under Obama and will take thirty years (and $1.2 trillion) to complete. Yesterday, Trump wondered aloud whether his initial comments about the DPRK weren’t “tough enough,” thereby ensuring the apocalyptic fervor continues for yet another news cycle.

Trump is clearly capable of heightening atomic terror all on his own, but the media-fed dynamic he inhabits with Kim Jong-un, autocratic leader of the latest nuclear-armed state, exacerbates the situation even further. Between them, they’ve increased public fears of nuclear war like no set of national leaders since Reagan and Andropov.

That said, it’s probably unfair to lay fully half the blame for this heated environment at the feet of Kim Jong-un and the North Korean government. After all, it’s difficult for experts, let alone laypeople, to separate out the real Jong-un from the omnipresent media caricatures tailor-made to reaffirm North Korea’s bogeyman status. This rich and racist tradition of foreign policy journalism drinks deeply of what Hugh Gusterson calls “nuclear orientalism” — essentially, the idea that our nuclear monarchs are calm and rational while those in the East are inscrutable, impulsive, and dangerous. [...]

Any nuclear attack would be met by a devastating flurry of counter-strikes from the US, whose military resources — nuclear and otherwise — are so superior to North Korea’s that it’s rather silly to even compare the two. The DPRK nuclear weapons program is worrisome, but it exists because the government is terrified of regime change — an outcome Kim Jong-un has legitimate reason to fear, given US actions in Iraq and Libya.

The real danger — the one that definitely exists right now — is that the two countries could unintentionally reignite the Korean War. The situation has been extraordinarily tense for months (remember the Carl Vinson episode in April?), and Trump’s bellicose comments are exactly the sort of thing that could turn a heated environment into, well, “fire and fury” in a heartbeat. If the president issues something that sounds like a threat, it might be interpreted precisely as such, pushing the other side to take preemptive action in anticipation of an immediate attack. [...]

An Activists’ Calendar of Resistance EventsIndivisible’s list of Resistance Events & Groups

TOP COMMENTS HIGH IMPACT STORIES

QUOTATION

“Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."                 ~Justice William O. Douglas, Speech delivered to the Authors Guild Council upon receiving the Lauterbach Award, (Dec. 3, 1952)  

TWEET OF THE DAY

x

To be clear: "Y'all" is Natives asking that a child that was kidnapped & raped not be made into a kid's Halloween costume.  See those likes? pic.twitter.com/vXgGuIITu8

— Rebecca Roanhorse (@RoanhorseBex) September 20, 2017

BLAST FROM THE PAST

At Daily Kos on this date in 2003—Billions for Iraq, Part II:

How much the U.S. ultimately spends on reconstruction projects in Iraq is a question of no small consequence since aspects of our country’s own infrastructure suffer gravely from what budget-makers call "deferred maintenance." However, another question comes to mind. Given how much taxpayer money is being dished out, how can we be certain the corporations that take on reconstruction projects are on the up and up?

This question arises because many of the corporations - some of them America's biggest - have run afoul of the law on numerous occasions. And there's far more than reconstructing Iraq that's at issue. There is the overall Defense budget, which is soaring independently of the extra $67 billion that Bush seeks for military operations in Iraq.

Don’t we need a strong defense? Absolutely. Wouldn’t we be crazy not to spend enough money to deter another 9/11? Without a doubt. But let’s argue at another time about the proper size of the Pentagon budget.

Almost half America’s military spending now flows to corporations, and some of the biggest defense contractors are crooks. Repeat offenders. Incorrigibles.

In this era of supposedly tough-on-crime politicians across the spectrum, shouldn't we have a “three strikes” law applied to these corporadoes?

It’s a simple approach. Get caught once or twice in fraud or other outlawry and we’ll give you another chance - just as we do street criminals. Get caught three times and you can explain to your shareholders how you came to be excluded from obtaining government contracts for, say, the next two decades. Felons can’t vote until they do their time. So why not prohibit felonious corporations from making campaign contributions, their version of voting?

Obviously, I’m dreaming. But shouldn’t we at least be able to count on Washington to enforce laws already on the books when it comes to the shenanigans of taxpayer-fueled contractors? Shouldn’t more of these crooks be incarcerated? Oops. Dreaming again. [...]

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Campaign Action

When it comes to the resistance against Donald Trump, it’s no exaggeration to say that California has been leading the way. For the state, it’s personal. California is home to the largest undocumented population in the nation, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Since his poorly-attended inauguration, the Los Angeles Times reports that state leaders have introduced more than 35 bills and two dozen resolutions opposing Trump’s xenophobic agenda, including the most sweeping anti-deportation bill in the nation. Today, the state’s attorney general announced the latest action includes a lawsuit to stop Trump’s racist border wall:

The lawsuit set to be filed in federal court in San Diego will argue that the effort violates federal law and the Constitution by intruding on state authority, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.

"They're violating the Tenth Amendment and infringing on a lot of state laws, not just federal laws, that affect our state. At the same time, they're trying to do something that only Congress can do," Becerra told journalists in Washington in advance of an official announcement he plans to make in San Diego Wednesday.

Becerra said the suit will argue that federal officials are running afoul of the law by declaring the expansion of the border wall to be an emergency that justifies waiving environmental studies and usual contracting procedures.

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A few things stand out about a CNN article headlined “Trump privately tries to mend fences with Senate Republicans.” First, its very existence. Sure, every president is going to have a rocky moment or two with his party’s senators, but how often do we see the sheer number and variety of beefs as Trump has accumulated? He’s repeatedly attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, his nastiness toward John McCain is legendary, he feuded with Bob Corker after Corker was critical of his embrace of white supremacists after Charlottesville … the list goes on. The man has a lot of fences to mend, for some strange reason.

But the next thing that jumps out is that Trump himself isn’t the primary fence-mender. That duty is falling to his No. 2 guy, Mike Pence. Of the senators named in the article as having been attacked by Trump prior to fence-mending, Trump has invited Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski to lunch and spoken with Corker and McConnell. But Pence “has been in regular communication with” McConnell and talked to Corker long before Trump did. He’s also in touch with McCain and with McCain’s Arizona colleague Jeff Flake, who Trump has apparently not reached out to—and really how awkward would that conversation be, considering that Trump has talked up a primary challenge to Flake?

And you can’t help but think that Pence could have ulterior motives in keeping such great relationships with the very people who might, depending on the results of the special counsel’s investigation, end up voting on whether to remove Trump from office.

Finally, Senate Republicans really do see Trump as an unpredictable, tantrum-prone child:

"I think it's like a thunderstorm," Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said of his conference's relationship with Trump. "After a while it clears up, the sun comes out and everything is OK." [...]

Asked if he finds that kind of relationship acceptable, Cornyn said bluntly: "What choice do I have?"

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is under constant threat from Republicans, but it just keeps doing its job, helping people who’ve been screwed by the financial industry. This week, the CFPB reached a proposed settlement with an abusive owner of billions in student debt. If a federal judge signs off on the settlement:

The creditor, the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, holds $12 billion in student loans that were originally made by banks. In Monday’s settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the trusts agreed to pay nearly $19 million in penalties and borrower refunds — and could be on the hook for millions in additional payments and forgiven loans. A debt collector that National Collegiate hired, Transworld Systems, will pay an additional $2.5 million.

The trusts “sued consumers for student loans they couldn’t prove were owed and filed false and misleading affidavits in courts across the country,” said Richard Cordray, the consumer bureau’s director.

That’s not a ton of money when you consider the amount of debt National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts holds, but the settlement doesn’t end there:

... the National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts must audit their book of more than $8 billion of loans, many of them in default, to prove they can document that they own each loan and that it's not too old to collect. Until it is complete, investors who own the bonds that contain those loans won’t receive any cash from borrowers, even those making steady payments. Instead, the money will go into an escrow account. [...]

According to the CFPB, [lawsuits] it examined were rife with irregularities: Some were filed well past the statute of limitations, others lacked paperwork establishing that the listed creditor actually had a right to collect, and many contained misleading statements. Debt collectors trying to process them, according to the bureau, were so inundated with paperwork that they had interns and mailroom clerks sign critical documents.

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Although there are persistent stereotypes that label it as such, sickle cell disease (a red blood cell disorder) is actually not a condition that only affects black people. While it is commonly found among people of African descent in the U.S., it is also found in Hispanics, Southern Europeans, people from the Middle East and India. There are, however, glaring disparities in how sickle cell patients are treated in the U.S. healthcare system—mainly due to the fact that the majority of sickle cell patients in the U.S. are black. In a country where racism and white supremacy are embedded into every structure, it is unsurprising that black sickle cell patients find it hard to get comprehensive and quality treatment. And, as a recent article by STAT shows, this is made even more complicated by the ongoing opioid epidemic. 

The U.S. health care system is killing adults with sickle cell disease. Racism is a factor — most of the 100,000 U.S. patients with the genetic disorder are African-American — and so is inadequate training of doctors and nurses. And the care is getting worse, sickle cell patients and their doctors said, because the opioid addiction crisis has made ER doctors extremely reluctant to prescribe pain pills. [...]

In hospitals, sickle cell patients are typically treated by generalists who know little about the disease and patients’ desperate need for pain relief. At one hospital, researchers found that sickle cell patients waited 60 percent longer to get pain medication than other patients who reported less severe pain and were triaged into a less serious category.

STAT-conducted interviews with 12 sickle cell patients in order to understand their experiences when seeking medical care. Many reported that they are often treated by doctors who know very little about the disease and the need for pain management among patients. They also shared that it is common knowledge among sickle cell patients that if you go to the emergency room for treatment, you may not leave alive. Failure to provide accurate treatment is a cause of early death among patients and speaks to the need for improved education and training for doctors and medical professionals.

We Are Being Governed by Fools

September 20th, 2017 11:02 pm
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Posted by Fred Clark

Even if your individual self-interest or the interest of your ethnic or religious tribe is the only thing you care about, that self-interest should compel you to ensure equal protection and full accommodation for people with disabilities -- because you could become one of them in the twinkling of an eye.
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And now James Mattis joins the list of Trump officials attempting to shut out press coverage of his agency. Given that he is the secretary of defense and his "agency" is the Pentagon, this is a bit of a big deal.

Under Mattis, the Defense Department has become less transparent and publicly accountable than it has been in previous administrations, according to interviews with numerous reporters who cover the beat. The reporters requested anonymity, saying they feared that being quoted by name could lead to further loss of access.

You can tell what reporters think of Mattis when none of them are willing to go on the record criticizing him. The problem appears to be, and stop us if you've heard this one before, that Mattis both doesn't trust the press and wants to make damn sure nobody reports anything that could get him in trouble with his paranoid, hypersensitive nutcase of a boss.

“There is a growing perception by Secretary Mattis that the media is trying to pit him against the president and deliberately misinterpret the things that he says,” said the administration official.

The real problem is that no two members of the administration appear to ever be on the same page when asked about either the president's supposed position or his administration's supposed policies. But Mattis may indeed see reporters asking him to clarify just what the flying hell is going on, during any given day, as a “gotcha” question. He seems to be taking steps to avoid appearing on camera, as well, by having spontaneous off-camera "gaggles" with reporters rather than scheduled, on-camera briefings:

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Things I need to remember:
• Asking for help is not, as it turns out, fatal.
• Laughing is easier than pulling your hair out, and doesn't have the unfortunate side effect of making you look like a plague victim.
• Even the biggest tasks can be defeated if taken a bit at a time.
• I can write a paper the night before it's due, but the results are not all they could be.
• Be thorough, but focused.
• Trust yourself.
• Honesty, always.

Historians are the Cassandras of the Humanities

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