Friday, October 20, 2017

Required viewing: How the Trump administration got Chad to withdraw from the fight against ISIS in Niger

Yes, you read that title correctly.

If you keep up with the political news, and, worse, If you write about it, at some visceral level, you get a little numb. But sometimes the news is so foul that it breaks through that emotional firewall and you get seriously pissed off. That happened to me last night as we were watching the Rachel Maddow show.

Here’s the bare bones account.

If you look at the map of subsaharan Africa, from west to east, you find three land-locked countries: Mali, Niger, and Chad. The latter, Chad, has a competent, respected military force with lots of experience fighting terror groups, ISIS and Boko Haram, active in that region. Chad functions like the command post for that fight. But the Trump administration managed to put Chad on the most recent travel ban. Arguably the most important ally we have on that piece of ground in Africa is Chad and we severely insulted that country by banning its citizens from travel to the US. (Chad’s ongoing tussle with Exon Mobile over oil revenues might have contributed something here as might some bureaucratic bungling over passports at State and DHS.) When that travel ban was announced, Chad started withdrawing its troops from Niger. The immediate consequence was that there was a reduced military presence and lessened security in Niger. Why is that important? Remember that Niger was where the four US special forces soldiers were killed. And Trump and the administration and our military do not want to talk about that. For if they did, they would have to connect some dots as did Rachel on her show last night. When they do talk about all this, as did Chief of Staff John Kelly did yesterday, the focus is on communicating with the families of those fallen.

With all due respect to John Kelly, and with sympathy for those families, I still must ask: How can we not be outraged by this incredible incompetence?

Some serious bowing, scraping, and groveling is in order. The administration needs to do whatever, and I mean whatever, it takes to bring Chad back into the fight against ISIS and Boko Haram. The problem is that Trump never admits guilt or takes responsibility. Therefore, Chad will be sidelined and that part of Africa, at least, and our fight against terrorism, will be damaged as a result.

Below is a link to Rachel’s reporting last night. Consider it required viewing.

Inexplicable Trump travel ban decision preceded US Niger exposure.
Rachel Maddow looks at the utterly confounding decision by the Donald Trump White House to add important partner Chad to the latest iteration of the travel ban, and how it might put U.S. military lives in danger in places like Niger. Duration: 25:22

Here’s a summary from AlterNet. [Rachel Maddow Reveals the Sickening Reason Trump Hasn’t Talked About U.S. Soldiers Killed in Niger][alternet].
He made a terrible decision and hopes to keep his critics distracted.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow explained how President Donald Trump’s decision to include Chad on his travel ban may’ve endangered the lives of servicemembers in Niger, four of which were recently killed under circumstances that have not been properly explained.

By including Chad on the travel ban, against the advice of foreign policy experts and multiple officials, U.S. soldiers lost Chadian ground support in Niger. Multiple terrorist groups, including ISIS and Boko Haram, are active in Niger. But Chad began to remove its soldiers immediately following Trump’s travel ban.

“[T]hose Chadian troops were really doing something in Niger. They were protecting those villages in that whole region from ISIS militant groups being able to operate freely and be able to take more territory from there once again,” Maddow explained. “And pulling those troops out had an immediate effect in emboldening those ISIS attacks.”

Less than one week after Chad began removing troups from the region, four American soldiers were killed in an ambush.

“So, no wonder the president doesn’t want to talk about it,” Maddow said.

Republicans pass scary budget

Katrina vanden Heuvel At The Nation asks the scary question: What’s Even Scarier Than Donald Trump?
Her answer: Republicans have put forward a budget that would have truly terrifying consequences.

Donald Trump’s flailings are ever more terrifying. In the course of a few days, he tossed a grenade into the health-care markets that millions rely on, traduced the Iranian nuclear deal, threatened to abandon US citizens ravaged by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, continued to sabotage action on climate change, tweeted about censoring the media, and so undermined his own secretary of state that Republican Senator Bob Corker accused him of castration. For all of that, Trump’s grotesqueries are exceeded by a Republican Congress intent on a course so ruinous as to be, one hopes, impossible to sustain.

This week, Senate Republicans will seek to push through a budget resolution for the current fiscal year. The resolution provides guidelines for spending and tax cuts, with projections for the next decade. Although its provisions are destructive and absurd, it has the support of virtually all of the Republican caucus.

The resolution is designed to facilitate the passage of tax cuts with Republican votes only. The final package hasn’t been written yet, but Republican leaders have produced a “framework.” Its elements are perverse. We know that extreme inequality corrupts our democracy and impedes economic growth. As a detailed analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center makes clear, this bill will make it worse, with the top 1 percent pocketing over half of the tax cuts next year—and an obscene 80 percent by year 10. The multinational corporations that book profits abroad to avoid taxes will be rewarded with a retroactive tax cut for $2.6 trillion stashed overseas. The proposal would also expand that tax dodge by virtually eliminating taxes on profits they report as earned abroad. And at a time when hedge-fund operators pay a lower tax rate than schoolteachers, this bill would enlarge the outrage with a massive tax break for real-estate barons, hedge-fund managers, and lawyers, delivered by taxing “pass-through” income at a reduced rate. Instead of closing loopholes, this bill adds to them.

The spending side of the Senate bill has received less attention, but it’s even worse. As a comprehensive analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities details, the bill projects $5.8 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. At a time when the baby boomers are retiring, it calls for cuts of $473 billion in Medicare, over $1 trillion in Medicaid, and hundreds of billions of dollars in Obamacare subsidies to medium- and low-income workers. It projects cuts of over $650 billion in income-security programs for low-income workers—primarily food stamps, the earned-income tax credit, the child tax credit, and supplemental security income for disabled seniors, adults, and children in need. Another $200 billion will be cut from the Pell grants and student loans that help working families afford college. These cuts will leave millions without affordable health care and make millions of disabled and low-income Americans even more vulnerable.

The budget also contains stunning cuts in what is called “non-defense discretionary spending” (essentially everything the government does outside of the military, entitlements, and interest payments on the national debt). These include cuts to agencies that contribute to our safety—law enforcement, the Coast Guard, the FBI, the DEA—as well as services vital to our health, like environmental protection and water and sewage systems. The public investment crucial to our economy and our future—science and technology, medical research, modern infrastructure, education and advanced training, and more—would also be slashed. These programs are already projected to sustain deep cuts under the 2011 Budget Control Act, but the Senate bill decimates them. By 2019, it cuts this spending by 10 percent from 2017 levels; by 2027, that number is nearly 20 percent. As a share of the economy, our spending on domestic services will be reduced to levels not seen since Herbert Hoover.

This is a suicide budget. In a country dealing with a growing population, rising global competition, and pressing new challenges like catastrophic climate change, the Republican Senate would cash in our future to provide endless tax cuts for the richest among us.

The United States will lag rather than lead the industrial world in education and training. We will squander our edge in innovation. We will suffer the rising perils and costs of a decrepit and outmoded infrastructure. We already witness all these trends today. The Senate budget is on course to accelerate them.

This folly, one hopes, is too extreme to be passed. Yet this week, all of the Senate’s Republicans—save perhaps for one or two dissenters—will vote for a budget that is truly a road to ruin. Why? Partly, of course, to reward the wealthy special interests that fund their party. They may also fear right-wing challengers if they don’t toe the line. Or they may be motivated by purblind ideological conviction, although it’s hard to imagine that any of them really believe these measures would make things better. And then there’s sheer desperation: At this point, the GOP has to get something done, even if it does more harm than good to most Americans. President Trump’s increasingly manic careenings are terrifying to behold, but the remorseless suicide mission of the Republicans caucus in Congress should horrify us as well.

AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) thinks the real action will be on the tax breaks for billionaires bill. In His post yesterday (this morning’s email), Kabuki theater: budget vote-a-rama in the Senate today, he wrote this.

The U.S. Senate is voting on the GOP’s budget resolution today, which is really not about the budget at all, but rather, rigging the procedural rules in the Senate so that the GOP can vote on its so-called “tax reform” (tax cuts for Plutocrats) bill at some point with a simple majority vote of 50 senators plus the Vice President, and bypass the Senate cloture rule of 60 votes to forestall a Democratic filibuster through adoption of reconciliation rules.

There is little chance that the budget resolution will not pass. The real drama will come over the tax cuts for Plutocrats package. Deficit hawks like Sen. Rand Paul insist on maintaining the budget sequestration caps adopted several years ago. Defense hawks like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham want the sequestration caps for defense repealed. Mythical moderate Republicans such as Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are opposed to the draconian cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in the budget. And Sen. Bob Corker, whom Trump has chosen to vilify in his Twitter rages, is on record saying of the tax bill “Unless it reduces deficits – let me say that one more time – unless it reduces deficits and does not add to deficits with reasonable and responsible growth models and unless we can make it permanent, I don’t have any interest in it.”

With Paul and Corker opposed because the GOP tax bill adds to the federal deficit, it only takes one more GOP defection to defeat the tax cuts for Plutocrats bill.

The Senate GOP leadership adopted reconciliation rules to repeal “Obamacare” and failed miserably. There is a very good chance that the tax cuts for Plutocrats package will also fail despite adoption of reconciliation rules. Bad policy is bad policy, and there is more than enough to dislike in what has been proposed to garner at least three GOP defections on the GOP tax bill.

We now have to count on a severely divided Republican caucus in the Senate to realize those defections. See my post from Wednesday, McSally champions Trump tax breaks, but will anything survive a divided Congress?

UPDATE: They did it. The New York Times reports that the Senate Approves Budget Plan That Smooths Path Toward Tax Cut.

The Senate took a significant step toward rewriting the tax code on Thursday night with the passage of a budget blueprint that would protect a $1.5 trillion tax cut from a Democratic filibuster.

The budget resolution could also pave the way for opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil exploration by ensuring that drilling legislation can pass with only Republican votes.

Despite having full control of the government, Republicans have so far been unable to produce a marquee legislative achievement in the first year of President Trump’s tenure, putting even more pressure on lawmakers to succeed in passing a tax bill. The budget’s passage could keep Republicans on track to approve a tax package late this year or early in 2018.

As early as next week, the House plans to take up the budget blueprint that the Senate approved on Thursday by a 51 to 49 vote. Doing so would allow for the tax overhaul to move ahead quickly.

Sen. Rand Paul was the only Republican “no” vote - and that’s because he thinks the blueprint calls for excessive spending.

“This is the last, best chance we will have to cut taxes,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a member of the Budget Committee, who warned that the consequences would be ruinous if the party failed.

“That will be the end of us as a party,” he said, “because if you’re a Republican and you don’t want to simplify the tax code and cut taxes, what good are you to anybody?”

Right question, wrong assumption. Instead, let’s ask: if you are a Republican and you want tax breaks for the wealthy, what good are you to anybody?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Message for Trump supporters: You knew what you signed up for - and you voted for him anyway

Never let it be said that our President Donald Trump missed an opportunity to diss someone or some group. That’s particularly true of those now in the military and veterans.

The latest PR shit storm started when Trump was asked about four special forces soldiers who were ambushed and killed in Niger. The question asked was about what they were doing there and why Trump had not contacted the families. Trump deflected and redirected the question by claiming, falsely, that other presidents, notably Obama, had not called or written to families of solders killed in action. The redirection worked, according to Rachel Maddow on her show last night. The media is now consumed with what Trump said - or did not say - to one army widow. We’ll come back to the misdirection issue in a moment.

The Huffington Post reports that Trump Claims Congresswoman Lied About His Call To Army Widow.

The president was said to have told the woman her husband “must have known what he signed up for.”

Said Congresswoman was not having any of that.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) of fabricating the claim that he told the widow of a soldier killed in combat that she “must’ve known what he signed up for.”

“I have proof,” Trump tweeted. He offered no evidence.

Wilson stood by her account of the president’s phone call with the widow, telling CNN’s “New Day” that she, too, has proof of Trump’s conversation. “He is a sick man,” she said. “He’s cold-hearted and he feels no pity or sympathy for anyone.”

Army Sgt. La David Johnson was killed during an ambush in Niger earlier this month. Myeshia Johnson, his pregnant widow, received the call from Trump on Tuesday.

The fallen soldier’s mother said she also heard the call, and confirmed Wilson’s account was accurate.

In an interview before Trump’s tweet on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Wilson called Trump’s conversation with Johnson “absolutely crazy” and said the president didn’t even remember La David Johnson’s name.

Pressed for said proof later on Wednesday, Trump told White House pool reporters to “let [Wilson] make her statement again and then you’ll find out.”

Shortly after, Wilson reiterated her claim in a tweet.

I still stand by my account of the call b/t @realDonaldTrump and Myesha Johnson. That is her name, Mr. Trump. Not “the woman” or “the wife.”
— Rep Frederica Wilson (@RepWilson) October 18, 2017

Wilson was with Johnson at the time of the Tuesday call and said she heard the conversation on speakerphone. She recounted the exchange to South Florida’s NBC affiliate.

“Sarcastically he said: ‘But you know he must have known what he signed up for,’” Wilson told NBC6. “How could you say that to a grieving widow? I couldn’t believe … and he said it more than once. I said this man has no feelings for anyone. This is a young woman with child who is grieved to her soul.”

The fallen soldier’s mother, who said she also heard Trump’s speakerphone conversation, confirmed that Wilson accurately repeated what the president said.

OK. Enough already. All this is typical Trump. We already have evidence that he disrespects members of our military. Recall, please, his war of words with the gold star parents (the Khans) of an army captain killed while saving members of his command. Recall, please, Trump’s claim that he did not consider Senator John McCain a real hero because Trump respects those who did not get captured and tortured for 5 years.

Is the implication here that McCain is at fault for getting captured? Does that extend to Sergeant Johnson’s getting killed? Is that Johnson’s fault? Should McCain and Johnson have been smarter?

But what were those American soldiers doing in Niger? The Washington Post has the story, such as it is known to date. Phillip Rucker and Dan Lamothe report on Twelve days of silence, then a swipe at Obama: How Trump handled four dead soldiers. Here is their reporting on the Niger mission.

The White House has not explained why Trump took so long to comment publicly about the Niger ambush, but officials said Tuesday that he was regularly briefed on the incident during that period. They declined to provide details.

It’s looking like the White House did not want to talk about the existence of American troops in Niger. Here is more.

This month’s deadly operation in Niger was unusual and highly sensitive, and the military has not yet disclosed many details. It was something of a surprise that the Special Forces unit came under fire — and the remains of one of the fallen soldiers, Johnson, 25, were not recovered until two days afterward.

Marine Lt. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, told reporters Oct. 12 that the ambush marked the first time in at least six months that the U.S. military had faced enemy fire in the region.

McKenzie said the operation was meant to be an outreach effort in which the U.S. soldiers went out alongside local forces; it was “not designed to be a combat patrol.” But he defended the support the soldiers had, saying that there was a “pretty good level of planning” and that French forces responded within 30 minutes with helicopter air support.

The general said the Pentagon believes there is some connection to an affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group in the attack.

So maybe that is the real story - ISIS in Africa and America’s reaction to it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Checking in with Randy Rainbow: How do you handle a problem like Korea?

Randy Rainbow interviews Nikki Haley about Trump, Rocket Man, Korea, and WW III. Then he does a rendition of The Sound of Music.

McSally champions Trump tax breaks, but will anything survive a divided Congress?

Perry Bacon (fivethirtyeight.com) is pessimistic about the chances for a tax reform break passing the Congress. Here’s why: The GOP Had One Big Divide On Health Care. It Has Three On Taxes..

This one has been on my to-do list for a while, so now snippets follow with some new reporting on what our own Southern Arizona Rep. wants to do to us.

Remember how divided Republicans in Washington were on their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Well, they are even more divided so far on their push to change America’s tax system — a bad sign for a party desperate for a big achievement in a year in which they control both houses of Congress and the presidency.

With taxes … there are three dimensions on which key figures in the party disagree:

  1. How much does increasing the deficit matter?
  2. Is it temporary tax cuts or permanent tax reform?
  3. Who gets the cuts?

I’ll (briefly) unpack each one.

The deficit matters …

… even though Dick Cheney didn’t think so.

This divide is fairly similar to the main fault line on health care, pitting the most conservative members of the GOP, like the Freedom Caucus, against more traditional establishment Republicans such as Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, an increasingly sharp critic of President Trump. I emphasize Corker because he has been the most vocal Republican in insisting that the party’s tax plan not increase the federal budget deficit. …

Freedom Caucus members, meanwhile, are pushing for a big tax cut on corporations and small businesses, and placating them is important, since they initially blocked the Obamacare repeal. … The draft proposal released by congressional leaders and Trump last month included a 20 percent corporate rate, and the Freedom Caucus has praised it.

But an estimate by the Tax Policy Center of the draft proposal suggested that it would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over 10 years and $3.2 trillion over the following decade. So the draft is not addressing Corker’s concerns. And Trump’s attack of Corker via Twitter on Sunday could further embolden the Tennessee senator; he now has the opportunity to play a leading role in killing a cherished policy goal of a president he seems to loathe.

In that, Corker may have a powerful ally in our own Senator McCain. (Remember how Trump likes people who weren’t captured? Remember thumbs down on the last senate attempt at ACA repeal?)

The trio that opposed the Obamacare repeal (Arizona’s John McCain, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Collins) has been circumspect so far on the tax plan. But if they align with Corker, this is a huge barrier.

Temporary cut or permanent “reform”?

… a simple tax cut that increases the deficit may be easier to pass in the short term because Congress wouldn’t have to raise taxes on anyone. But in the long term, the entire policy might go away. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady has emphasized that he wants the tax cuts to be permanent, as has Ryan.

Here’s the problem: The draft Republican plan would raise a lot of people’s taxes. Estimates from the Tax Policy Center suggest that limiting tax deductions and going from seven tax brackets to three would cause tax increases for about 12 percent of taxpayers,1 including a third with incomes between $150,000 and $300,000, who would pay on average $1,800 more in taxes. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which is affiliated with the left-leaning Citizens for Tax Justice, estimates that about 17 percent of U.S. taxpayers would pay more under the GOP draft.

The sound you hear from Capitol Hill is a squawky “Oops!”

And Ryan doesn’t only have to worry about GOP members from high-tax states. Trump has reportedly told GOP allies that he thinks the party should define this policy as tax cuts, not tax reform. It’s not clear he cares that much if this tax policy will be around in, say, 2027, when he will be long gone from the White House.

Make that tax cuts for the wealthy and tax “reform” for the rest of us.

So who wins, who loses?

Beyond the debate over how big a tax cut the GOP should pass, there are disagreements in the party about which Americans should get the cuts.

I haven’t seen any Republicans explicitly call for tax cuts that disproportionately go to the rich (doing so might be a bit politically risky), but their draft tax proposal does exactly that. Some Republicans, though, are pushing for a less regressive plan.

For example, Rand Paul.

Kentucky’s Rand Paul, one of the key roadblocks for Republicans in the Obamacare repeal effort, is now blasting the draft tax plan, arguing that “it just should not be a tax hike on anyone.” …

It’s not clear if [Mike] Lee, Paul or [Marco] Rubio have tax increases they favor to make up for the additional tax cuts they want. So this stance is likely to make this proposal even worse in terms of deficit reduction, cutting against the goals of Corker (deficit neutrality as a policy ideal) and Brady and Ryan (permanent tax cuts).

What, if anything, is likely to survive these divides?

I’m not doing a whip count of which members are likely to vote for this proposal, in part because Republicans in Congress are still writing it and its contours could change dramatically, in ways that address some of these tensions.

But even more so than on health care, Republicans are trying to write a bill that reconciles a bunch of competing goals from their members.

I’m not saying it will be harder for Republicans to pass some kind of tax policy than repealing Obamacare. The GOP always has the option of shifting to a tax policy that cuts taxes for almost everyone, doesn’t raise them on anyone, increases the deficit and isn’t permanent, the approach George W. Bush took in 2001. This might irritate Corker, but I suspect the coalition of congressional Republicans who will vote against a tax policy that increases taxes on millions of middle-class people is larger than the group that will oppose a policy because it increases the deficit too much.

Right now, though, Republicans have a tax policy that increases taxes on the middle class and also increases the deficit. That is going to be very hard to pass.

But not for wont of trying. Here at home CD2 Rep. Martha McSally has taken to the road defending voodoo economics. You know, cutting taxes will magically increase revenues. I thought she was not that dumb. It’s Kansas, Toto! Remember when KS Gov. Sam Brownback tried to substitute brownbacks for greenbacks? It didn’t work out so well for Kansas.

In spite of counter examples, Daily Star writer Joe Ferguson reports on McSally’s beliefs that Trump’s tax proposal would help local businesses, middle class. That would be an “Oops”. Anything that is branded Trump is immediately suspect. The proposed tax breaks will be a huge windfall for folks in the Trump bracket but not for the rest of us. Moreover, it will balloon the deficit.

But, apparently from the reporting, those are not the issues discussed by McSally with the local business leaders - unless they were discussed in private.

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally signaled her support Tuesday for President Trump’s tax proposal, saying it represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to simplify the country’s tax codes.

Sitting in her Tucson office and flanked by business leaders she had met with privately for 90 minutes, the two-term Republican stressed the proposal is still in the most nascent of stages as lawmakers wrestle with core concepts.

She outlined her goals for tax reform, saying she wants to help the middle class with tax cuts, help small businesses grow, simplify the entire tax code and reset the tax code so that the United States can compete globally for new and growing businesses.

And how to pay for all that was high on the list, right? Well …

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Randy Rainbow interviews the “Desperate Cheeto” in chief

Randy Rainbow does a musical interview with the Desperate Cheeto himself. Not to be missed!!!!

That Trump should not be president seems axiomatic. But is the alternative any less bad?

There are thousands of reasons to get rid of President Donald Trump - for starters, he lies incessantly about everything, the estate tax for example. Nothing is sacred, nothing is beyond contamination by Trump’s dishonesty, even presidential behavior toward fallen warriors and their families: Trump forced to walk back ridiculous falsehood about Obama. Steve Benen reports.

Nearly two weeks ago, four American soldiers were killed in Niger, and before this afternoon, Trump had said literally nothing about it. Asked about his silence at a White House event, the president said he had not yet contacted the fallen Americans’ families because he wanted “a little time to pass.” He added that he’s written letters to those families, but they haven’t been sent yet.

Let’s note for context that since the ambush that claimed those four servicemen’s lives, Trump has golfed five times.

The president then decided to brag about how awesome he thinks he is as compared to his predecessors.

“The traditional way, if you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls. A lot of them didn’t make calls,” he said. “I like to call when it’s appropriate, when I think I’m able to do it.”

Even by Trump standards, this was a breathtaking lie. In fact, Alyssa Mastromonaco‏, a deputy chief of staff in the Obama White House, quickly explained that Obama (and other previous presidents) often called the families of Americans killed in action. Disgusted by Trump’s smear, Mastromonaco went to describe Trump as “a deranged animal.”

First, Obama didn’t call the families, then Obama didn’t call them “often.” Initially, Trump said he had the facts about what previous presidents did, then Trump said he didn’t have the facts and it’s the generals’ fault if the claims were wrong.

Regardless, this was a rare example of Trump being pressed on one of his lies at the same event in which he told the lie. And confronted with reality, the president folded almost immediately.

Quite possibly Trump makes shit up because he doesn’t know anything. He’s dumber than a brick and does not care that a common brick in my driveway is smarter than he is. Check out this from the Daily Kos Former Wharton Professor: “Donald Trump Was the Dumbest Goddam Student I Ever Had.”.

Part of the comorbidity that defines this president is an amazing shirking of responsibility, as reported by Steve Benen in another report from the Rachel Maddow blog, Trump rationalizes his failures: ‘I’m not going to blame myself’.

… in Trump World, the buck always stops somewhere else.

Trump drove this point home during remarks at a White House cabinet meeting yesterday afternoon:

“Despite what the press writes, I have great relationships with actually many senators, but in particular with most Republican senators. But we’re not getting the job done.

“And I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest. They are not getting the job done…. We’ve had other things happen, and they’re not getting the job done.”

It was a rare example of the president correcting himself in public. Initially, Trump said “we’re” not getting the job done, suggesting he and other Republicans collectively need to pick up their game, before he realized that he should clarify matters. “They’re” not getting the job done.

The president’s responsibility allergy has never been clearer.

Psychologically Trump should scare the hell out of everyone. You don’t have to conduct a personal interview with Trump to know that there is something very, very wrong with this guy. The public record of his statements and actions indicate a psychological disorder and that in turn suggests a mechanism for his removal from office, the 25th amendment. Jeannie Suk Gersen (“a contributing writer for newyorker.com, and a professor at Harvard Law School”) reports on How Anti-Trump Psychiatrists Are Mobilizing Behind the Twenty-Fifth Amendment

… the former chief strategist Steve Bannon warned Trump several months ago that “the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment.” That Amendment to the Constitution provides that the Vice-President and a majority of the Cabinet—or, alternatively, a congressionally appointed body—can determine that the President is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” and remove him.

The removal of Trump using the Twenty-fifth Amendment is the aim of a newly launched social movement composed of mental-health professionals. The group, called Duty to Warn, claims that Donald Trump “suffers from an incurable malignant narcissism that makes him incapable of carrying out his presidential duties and poses a danger to the nation.” On Saturday, the organization held coördinated kickoff events in fourteen cities, where mental-health experts spoke out about Trump’s dangerousness and, in several, took to the streets in organized funereal marches, complete with drum corps.

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a majority of American voters now believe that Trump is not “fit to serve as President.” While many lay members of the public have observed Trump’s increasingly erratic and unstable behavior, commentary from mental-health experts about Trump’s mental state was slow to gather steam because of the Goldwater Rule, an ethical principle of the American Psychiatric Association that says that psychiatrists cannot express professional opinions about public figures they have not personally examined. …

… Many appear to have given up on the impeachment of President Trump for the moment. But it’s a real turning point when mental-health professionals are so willing to organize politically, break brazenly with long-standing protocol, and even risk discipline by licensing boards. After this, talk of Trump’s removal under the Twenty-fifth Amendment may not seem so crazy.

The trick here is who gets to make that move. The 25th amendment specifies the cabinet (appointed by Trump) or other body appointed by congress (dominated by Trump’s own party, a group not known for their bravery).

That aside, successfully using the 25th to remove Trump would carry some worrisome consequences.

Jane Mayer, also writing in the New Yorker, exposes The Danger of President Pence. Trump’s critics yearn for his exit. But Mike Pence, the corporate right’s inside man, poses his own risks.

Note from Scriber: Mayer has an excellent and very long biography of Pence. I’ve had to be very selective in choosing my snippets with the result that a lot more of why we should be apprehensive about a Pence presidency is not covered here. You need to read the original.

In 1990, Pence tried and failed again to unseat [Democratic Congressman Phil] Sharp, waging a campaign that is remembered as especially nasty. One ad featured an actor dressed in Middle Eastern garb and sunglasses, who accused Sharp, falsely, of being a tool of Arab oil interests. But Pence’s campaign foundered after the press revealed that he had used donations toward personal expenses, such as his mortgage and groceries. It wasn’t technically illegal, but it violated the trust of his supporters and sullied his pious image. “Mike burned a lot of bridges,” Gregory recalled. “He upset a lot of his backers. It was partly because of immaturity, but he really was kind of full of shit.”

The following year, Mike Pence wrote an essay, carried by local newspapers, titled “Confessions of a Negative Campaigner,” in which he said, “A campaign ought to demonstrate the basic human decency of the candidate.” He admitted to reporters that he had violated this standard, and said that he had no “interest in running for elected office in the foreseeable future,” but added that if he ever did he would not wage a negative campaign. “I think he realized he’d besmirched himself,” Sharp told me. “He comes across as Midwestern nice, but it was mean and shallow.” Sharp, who after two more terms joined the faculty at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and is now semi-retired, remains unimpressed by Pence. “This is not a person, in my limited exposure, about whom I’d ever say, ‘Wow, he should be President!’ ”

After Barack Obama was elected President, Pence became an early voice of the Tea Party movement, which opposed taxes and government spending with an angry edge. Pence’s tone grew more militant, too. In 2011, he made the evening news by threatening to shut down the federal government unless it defunded Planned Parenthood. Some Hoosiers were unnerved to see footage of Pence standing amid rowdy protesters at a Tea Party rally and yelling, “Shut it down!” His radicalism, however, only boosted his national profile. Pence became best known for fiercely opposing abortion. He backed “personhood” legislation that would ban it under all circumstances, including rape and incest, unless a woman’s life was at stake. He sponsored an unsuccessful amendment to the Affordable Care Act that would have made it legal for government-funded hospitals to turn away a dying woman who needed an abortion. (Later, as governor of Indiana, he signed a bill barring women from aborting a physically abnormal fetus; the bill also required fetal burial or cremation, including after a miscarriage. A federal judge recently found the law unconstitutional.)

Pence’s close relationship with dozens of conservative groups, including Americans for Prosperity, the Kochs’ top political organization, was crucial to his rise. A key link to these groups was provided by Marc Short, the current White House official, who in 2008 became Pence’s chief of staff at the Republican Conference. Short had grown up in moneyed conservative circles in Virginia, where his father had helped finance the growth of the Republican Party, and he had run a group for conservative students, Young America’s Foundation, and spent several years as a Republican Senate aide before joining Pence’s staff. His wife, as it happened, worked for the Charles Koch Foundation, and he admired the brothers’ anti-government ideology. A former White House colleague described Short to me as “a pod person” who “really delivered Pence to the Kochs.”

… the Checks & Balances Project hadn’t detected “much money going from the Kochs to Pence before he promoted the ‘No Climate Tax’ pledge.” Afterward, “he was the Kochs’ guy, and they’ve been showering him with money ever since.” Peterson [executive director of the Checks & Balances Project] went on, “He could see a pathway to the Presidency with them behind him.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, who has accused the Kochs of buying undue influence, particularly on environmental policy—Koch Industries has a long history of pollution—is less enthusiastic about their alliance with Pence. “If Pence were to become President for any reason, the government would be run by the Koch brothers—period. He’s been their tool for years,” he said. Bannon is equally alarmed at the prospect of a Pence Presidency. He told me, “I’m concerned he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”

And in a rare moment of national unity, we should all share Steve Bannon’s concern.

The bottom line is simply this. There are lots of reasons why Trump is unfit to be president. But there is no good alternative in the succession. If Pence is not a welcome alternative, then consider that the next in line is Paul Ryan.

Why the estate tax repeal will help truckers: The biggest pack of lies by the biggest liar in human history.

Here’s a link to a viral video from Sen. Bernie Sanders. In brief: “President Trump told a group of truck drivers in Pennsylvania that repealing the estate tax would help their families. He forgot to mention that only the top 0.2 percent of Americans would benefit by repealing the estate tax.”

And the truckers applauded and hooted and hollered. That’s a sad comment on Trump’s base. Here’s just two of the contrary comments by retired truckers.

Eric Slind as I retired trucker I can attest to the fact that the estate tax was always on my mind…if I died would the government prevent my family from enjoying my bequest of an 8 year old pick-up, and an almost paid off double wide…actually as a trucker I was more concerned with getting paid fairly, safe equipment, a health care plan, a pension, safe working conditions, a grievance procedure and other items unimportant to the GOP.

Russ Bengtson Hey truck drivers, don’t applaud this guy. He’s giving your boss more money and you none. P.S. I was a Teamster for 40 years just so you know.

FYI: Trump Sr. is doing this so that Trump Jr. will inherit his fair share of the American dream.

FYI: Trump Jr. does not drive a truck for a living.

FYI: it is not clear what Donnie Jr. does for a living.

FYI: therefore there is no logical reason why Donnie should inherit that much money.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The silence of the Republican lambs

Here is the existential question for Republicans, especially those now in Congress. Given the laundry list of Trump’s transgressions, including waging war against Republican senators, why are so many of the GOP remaining silent? As the costs to the country pile up, why are so many sitting it out? They can reclaim power from the reckless, unreliable, and ultimately dangerous chief executive, so why don’t they speak - and act?

Aaron Blake (Washington Post’s The Fix) lists 5 reasons the GOP won’t dump Trump.

Last Sunday, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) declared President Trump to be childish and dangerous. And not only that: He said almost all of his colleagues agreed. “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” Corker told the New York Times after he labeled the White House an “adult day-care center” and said that Trump could set off World War III.

Six days later, precisely zero Republican senators have added their names to Corker’s criticisms. Why?

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson has a theory: Cowardice. “More than anything else at this moment,” he writes, “the nation has need of Republican vertebrates.”

But politicians aren’t just reflexive cowards; they are often calculated ones. And there are plenty of reasons we haven’t seen a mass exodus of GOP lawmakers from Trump — if lots of them do indeed agree with Corker.

Here are five non-mutually exclusive possibilities:

  1. They still hope — against hope — that Trump will change
  2. It’s an unnecessary risk, from a self-preservation standpoint
  3. Some have paid the price for it
  4. They don’t trust themselves
  5. It could destroy the GOP

Check out Blake’s column for elaborations of these reasons why (most) Senators are not speaking up against Trump’s transgressions.

Scriber adds a possible sixth reason. Despite his overt, obvious behavioral aberrations and the inferred character flaws, the Senators agree with him and his agenda. His agenda (e.g., destroying all things Obama) is the Republican Senator’s agenda.

Susan Glasser, Politico’s international columnist, reports on an illuminating interview with a long-time Republican lobbyist, Ed Rogers: For Trump, “Consequences Are Piling Up” with Republicans in Washington. The President’s feud with Senator Bob Corker has spurred fellow-Republicans to register varying degrees of disgust, dismay, fury, and disappointment about the state of affairs in the White House.

When I cited Corker’s comments that most Republicans at least privately shared the belief that the White House had been turned into an “adult day care” center for its capricious seventy-one-year-old chief resident, Rogers offered his own criticism of the White House.

A sampling: “They’re grasping at straws.” “There is a permanent hunkered-down quality.” “It’s shocking, it’s embarrassing.” “They’re just making it up every day as they go along.”

And yet, he hesitated when I asked whether Republicans agreed with Corker that Trump was dangerous. “I think the word ‘dangerous’ is still a rare word,” Rogers corrected me, saying that the words “reckless” and “destructive” were far more common. He went on, “Saying the D-word is different than believing there are now stewards of normalcy in [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions, in Tillerson, in Kelly, and others that, I think everybody acknowledges, are protecting institutions from Trump, and protecting Trump from Trump, for that matter.”

“The only thing that is reliable and dependable about Trump is that he’s unreliable and not dependable,” he added.

So why is Rogers - and the rest of the Washington Republicans - so reticent?

… he was in no mood to defend Trump. The constant tweeting, the personal attacks on his own team, were taking a toll. “Every week!” Rogers said. “It’s surreal.” Then he paused, almost groaning when he asked, “Why does it have to be this way?”

Republicans, I observed, seemed to be finding life under Trump a lot harder than Democrats, and Rogers agreed. “You want to be loyal,” he said. “You want to be a good member of the team.”

So there it is: a seventh reason, a drive for loyalty, a motive to be a team player.

And there is another possible eighth reason - fear. (This is related to reason #3 above.) The AP reports, via the Daily Star, that Steve Bannon is waging open war on Republican Senators: Bannon on GOP insurgency: ‘Nobody can run and hide’.

Steve Bannon has a stark message to Republican incumbents he considers part of the establishment: “Nobody can run and hide.”

President Trump’s former chief strategist is promoting a field of potential primary challengers to take on disfavored Republicans in Congress and step up for open seats.

Among the outsiders: a convicted felon, a perennial candidate linked to an environmental conspiracy theory and a Southern lawmaker known for provocative ethnic and racial comments.

It’s an insurgency that could imperil Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

Senate Republicans had been upbeat about adding to their 52–48 majority, especially with Democrats defending more seats next year, 10 in states Trump won in last year’s presidential election.

But the Bannon challenge could cost them, leaving incumbents on the losing end in primaries or GOP candidates roughed up for the general election.

In Arizona, Bannon is backing former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is challenging Trump antagonist Sen. Jeff Flake. Ward remains known for entertaining the debunked theory that jet aircraft are used to affect the weather or poison people intentionally.

By the way, the Daily Star carried a damning report on Trump’s attacks on the Affordable Care Act: Pro-Trump states most affected by his health-care decision. That is one of the “consequences” of Trump’s recklessness that will haunt the GOP.

So what has the GOP given us? What costs are these spineless, speechless invertebrates willing to bear? Dana Milbank (Washington Post) casts the answers as a new revision of The Holy Bible, according to Trump.

… The Bible is, after all, foreign law; none of it was written in America. It would, therefore, be in order for President Trump to revise biblical law by executive order — much as he used one this week to dismantle Obamacare without an act of Congress. He could place a copy of the order, etched in a 2 ½ -ton stone monument, in the White House Entrance Hall.

Some proposed revisions:

Note from Scriber: I’ve listed just some - my own personal faves.

In Mark 12:31, after the phrase “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” insert: “Thou shalt not interpret anything in Section 12:31 as applying to residents of Puerto Rico.”

In Matthew 5:5, after the phrase “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth,” insert the phrase: “The meek shalt not necessarily inherit health insurance.”

In Exodus 20: 1–17, popularly known as “The Ten Commandments,” the following deletions, revisions and additions are to be made:

After the phrase, in 20:4, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” insert the language: “Exempt from the term ‘graven image’ will be: (a) Time magazine covers, actual or simulated; and, (b) life-size portraits of the president purchased at auction with charitable funds.”

The phrase, in Exodus 20:8–11, is hereby revised to state the following: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Acceptable remembrances of the sabbath include (a) any golf played in Bedminster, N.J., (hereafter referred to as The Land of Milk and Honey); (b) any golf played at Mar-a-Lago, Palm Beach, Fla. (hereafter referred to as the Garden of Eden).”

In Exodus 20:12, in the phrase “Honor thy father and thy mother,” insert: “Inasmuch as they hath given thee a very, very small loan of $14 million.”

In Exodus 20:13, after the phrase “Thou shalt not kill,” insert the following: “Thou mayest, however, totally destroy North Korea, which thou shalt accomplish by expanding thy nuclear arsenal tenfold.”

In Exodus 20:14, following the phrase “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” insert: “What thou has done with thine previous wives is thine own business.”

In Exodus 20:15, after the phrase “Thou shalt not steal,” insert: “Exempt from section 20:15 shall be ‘emoluments’ as defined in the U.S. Constitution.”

In Exodus 20:16, the phrase “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is to be amended with the following: “No Pinocchios, nor Pants-on-Fire, nor any other description of false witness by the Fake News Media shall be judged as evidence thou violated clause 20:16.”

In Exodus 20:17, after the phrase “Thou shalt not covet,” insert: “but thou canst grabbest whomsoever by whatsoever part, if thou art a star.”

Those are the values of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The Republicans are faced with a gnashing, snarling, twittering menace to their existence. And the silence of the lambs is deafening.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Did Trump just grant independence to the US Virgin Islands?

Here’s the truth (before the White House spin team started redacting and revising).

CNN’s Daniella Diaz reports that Trump says he spoke to US Virgin Islands’ ‘president’ — which is him.

Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump accidentally referred to the US Virgin Islands’ governor as their President during a speech Friday — even though he is technically their President.

“I will tell you I left Texas and I left Florida and I left Louisiana and I went to Puerto Rico and I met with the President of the Virgin Islands,” he told the audience of the Values Voter Summit in Washington.

We are one nation and we all hurt together, we hope together and we heal together,” he said, later adding, “The Virgin Islands and the President of the Virgin Islands, these are people that are incredible people, they suffered gravely and we’re be there, we’re going to be there, we have really, it is not even a question of a choice.”

Trump appeared to be referring to Virgin Islands Gov. Kenneth Mapp, instead of the “President” who is Trump himself. The Virgin Islands is a US territory.

Diaz reports that the White House changed “President” to “Governor” in the official transcript. Of course they would.

And now for the fiction.

New Yorker satirist Andy Borowitz reports that Trump Says I.Q. “Even Higher” Now That He Knows Virgin Islands Are Part of U.S.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Donald Trump said on Friday that his I.Q. is “even higher” now that he knows that the United States Virgin Islands are part of the United States.

“Quite frankly, a few weeks ago, when I learned that Puerto Rico was a part of the U.S., I thought that that boosted my I.Q. to a whole new level,” Trump said. “Now that I also know about the Virgin Islands, my number must be off the charts.”

He said that he was eager to retake his I.Q. test because of “all the amazing things I learned this week.” “For example, I just learned that the stock market can’t reduce the national debt,” he said. “If there was a question about that on an I.Q. test, I would nail that question.”

Trump said that his one concern was that an I.Q. test does not exist that can accurately measure his ballooning intelligence.

“I always knew that I was scary smart, but now I think my brain is terrifying,” he said.

Scriber’s usually unreliable sources add more reporting. Trump, following his foreign policy of revenue neutrality, promises more foreign aid to the Virgin Islands and less for the other sovereign nation of Puerto Rico. Trump elaborated: “Puerto Rico needs to get their act together before we provide another penny of foreign aid. Our troops will be coming home soon and FEMA will have a balanced budget.”

Trump’s war on health care is “purposeful, malicious and amoral”

Here are two commentaries on Trump’s assault on the Affordable Care Act.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that Trump goes to war against his own country’s health care system.

[Trump tweeted:] “The Democrats [sic] ObamaCare is imploding. Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”

In other words, the president, who is effectively going to war against his own country’s health care system, is moving forward with a plan that’s likely to hurt many Americans in order to gain some kind of political leverage.

Cost-sharing reductions may seem like a fairly obscure element in the larger debate, but they’re a key component of the Affordable Care Act, which helps cover middle-class consumers’ out-of-pocket costs. The president, motivated by spite, has turned them into a political weapon.

The Congressional Budget Office has already provided a detailed analysis of what would happen if Trump pulled the trigger on such a gambit: scrapped CSRs would lead to a 20% increase in consumer premiums by next year and a 25% increase by the end of the decade. The move is projected to force some insurers from the system altogether, leaving some Americans unable to buy coverage through an exchange marketplace.

What’s more, the move is projected to push the U.S. budget deficit higher – subsidies will have to go up to meet the higher premiums – which means higher costs for everyone, even as the system covers fewer people. In other words, Trump has identified a change that will spend more to do less.

The CBO made all of this clear two months ago. It’s not as if the president can say he wasn’t warned about the adverse consequences of this ridiculous gambit. In fact, it was around this time that Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Republican chairman of the Senate committee that oversees health care policy, added that if the CSR payments end, “Americans will be hurt.”

Trump is doing it anyway, indifferent to the real-world consequences. The president is making a conscious decision to undermine his own country’s health care system on purpose.

All of this, of course, comes on top of the series of related steps the Republican has already taken to make it more difficult for Americans – which is to say, his ostensible constituents – to get the coverage and health security they’re entitled to under the law.

If Trump thinks this will force Democrats to accept a GOP repeal plan, he’s mistaken. If Trump thinks he can blame “Obamacare” for the damage he’s doing to the system, he’s misguided – because he’s taking ownership of American health care right now, forcing consumers to pay more while he sabotages the system as part of a bizarre political vendetta.

The president is taking a sledgehammer to our health care system, and he’s making no effort to hide his actions. As conditions deteriorate, there will be no one else to blame.

But why would he do that?

AZBlueMeanie (Blog for Arizona) observes, I think quite accurately, that President Trump sabotages ‘Obamacare,’ will blow up health care markets out of spite.

President Donald Trump, who promised to repeal and replace “Obamacare” on day one in office — “it will be easy” — suffered humiliating deafeats after several failed attempts by Congress. For a man fixated on erasing any legacy of Barack Obama out of jealousy and spite, he has been stewing about ways he can sabotage “Obamacare,” and with it the health care of millions of Americans, outside of congressional action. It is purposeful, malicious and amoral.

As the Post’s Greg Sargent notes, As Trump implodes, he threatens to hurt millions — out of pure rage and spite. This is a mentally and emotionally unstable man who is unraveling. See, Trump aides scramble to manage the president’s outbursts; “I Hate Everyone in the White House!”: Trump Seethes as Advisers Fear the President Is “Unraveling”. It’s time for Congress to act to stop Trump before he can harm any more Americans out of pure rage and spite.

Conservative commenter “Steve”, one not known for agreeing with AZ BlueMeanie on much if anything, said this:

“It is purposeful, malicious and amoral.”

I hate to say it, but I think you are correct in this instance. I firmly believe that if you can’t get Congress to act on healthcare, then Executive Orders are NOT the way to go to change things. Healthcare is too important and too complex to be handled in such a cavalier fashion.

Trump’s actions will not bring Democrats to the table. On top of that, he might be causing conservatives to, finally, admit to Trump’s tantrums and realize what an infantile monster resides in the White House. (I know, I know. One can hope.)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Trump delivers one-two punch to affordable health care

No more subterfuge. No more subtlety. Trump is waging all out war on American health care.

Overnight multiple sources anticipated that Trump would scrap cost-reduction subsidies. And then he did it. Here’s the round-up on that starting with an updated item in this morning’s FiveThirtyEight Significant Digits email.

$7 billion
POLITICO is reporting that President Trump intends to did end the subsidy payments to private insurers that lower medical costs for 5.9 million Americans who otherwise would not be able to afford health insurance coverage. If that holds, premiums will rise and the deficit will increase, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. [POLITICO, The New York Times]

Politico reported that Trump will scrap critical Obamacare subsidies.
Cutting off the payments to insurers, which could happen almost immediately, is likely to provide another jolt to Obamacare markets.

The New York Times predicted Trump to Scrap Critical Health Care Subsidies, Hitting Obamacare Again, and also predicted consequences for the federal budget noting that If Trump Stops Funding Key Health Care Subsidies, the Federal Government Will Actually Pay More.

It should not be surprising to learn that individual insurance premiums will spike as insurers make adjustments to counter the loss of the subsidies.

Here in Arizona the Daily Star carried the AP report on its front page: Trump orders end to subsidies as he dismantles ‘Obamacare’

In a brash move likely to roil insurance markets, President Donald Trump will “immediately” halt payments to insurers under the Obama-era health care law he has been trying to unravel for months.

Before sunrise Friday morning, Trump went on Twitter to urge Democrats to make a deal: “The Democrats ObamaCare is imploding,” he wrote. “Massive subsidy payments to their pet insurance companies has stopped. Dems should call me to fix!”

In another tweet later Friday morning, Trump said: “ObamaCare is a broken mess. Piece by piece we will now begin the process of giving America the great HealthCare it deserves!

The Department of Health and Human Services had made the announcement in a statement late Thursday. “We will discontinue these payments immediately,” said acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan and Medicare administrator Seema Verma. Sign-up season for subsidized private insurance starts Nov. 1, in less than three weeks, with about 9 million people currently covered.

Halting the payments would trigger a spike in premiums for next year, unless Trump reverses course or Congress authorizes the money. The next payments are due around Oct. 20.

Democrats were quick to respond.

”It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” said House and Senate Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Chuck Schumer of New York. “Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”

The president’s action is likely to trigger a lawsuit from state attorneys general, who contend the subsidies to insurers are fully authorized by federal law, and say the president’s position is reckless.

I wonder if our state AG will join that suit. (Just kidding. Why would he?)

All this came on top of Trump’s first punch, a deregulation move that would enable cheap insurance policies but ones that would offer fewer benefits and less protection to the insured. The LA Times reported that Trump issues order to deregulate health insurance, promising relief from Obamacare. But that “relief” rhetoric is nonsense and health care providers know it. Medical groups angry after Trump loosens insurance rules reports the Washington Examiner.

President Trump’s effort to loosen federal rules to expand use of cheap, lower-quality health plans is drawing complaints from several major medical groups who fear the move will hurt the implementation of Obamacare.

The American Hospital Association and a collection of 18 groups — including the American Heart Association, March of Dimes and the American Cancer Society’s lobbying arm— opposed the executive order that Trump signed Thursday. Behind the criticism is a fear that the order’s embrace of short-term and association health plans could destabilize Obamacare’s marketplaces and endanger protections for people with pre-existing conditions like cancer.

For years, the GOP sought to destroy the Affordable Care Act. Just in the first months after Trump’s election the Republicans in Congress trotted out bill after bill - all being significantly worse along every dimension than whatever faults might be charged to ACA. Neither Congress nor Trump could swing it, in the end, thanks to our Senator John McCain. The bottom line now is that what Trump could not get done legislatively, he is now doing by royal decree - with the result that all players in American health care system will pay more and get less.

Borowitz: “Impeachment should be a pay per view event”

And that, Andy predicts, would wipe out the national debt.

Speaking at the New Yorker Festival, satirist Andy Borowtitz previews The End of Tump. It’s a short video and one not to be missed.

You might have to click on the speaker symbol in the clip to activate the audio.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

While Puerto Ricans die from water born disease, Trump frets about a “financial crisis ... largely of their own making”

When Trump visited Puerto Rico and hoop-shot paper towels at Puerto Ricans, he congratulated our island territory for only 16 deaths from Hurricane Maria. The death rate is now over triple that number and increasingly it looks like many deaths will result not from the hurricane but from what happens afterwards.

Rachel Maddow reports on FEMA’s response to food and water shortages in Puerto Rico. Their response is shocking: Not our job to distribute food and water in Puerto Rico.
Rachel Maddow reports on the situation in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, which has not received any FEMA aid despite multiple visits from FEMA representatives who helped victims with paperwork. FEMA says its the mayor’s job to distribute food and water. Duration: 2:42

Here’s the NY Times’ summary of what else is happening (or not) as of Oct. 10: 84 Percent of Puerto Rico Still Doesn’t Have Power.

Restoring electricity has been one of the island’s biggest priorities — and its biggest challenge. So far, 84 percent of the territory continues to go without power. Generators that run on gas or diesel have been powering hospitals, apartment buildings, restaurants and other structures.

At a news conference on Friday, Gov. Ricardo A. Rosselló said the goal is to have 25 percent of the electrical system restored “within the next month.”

About 67 percent of cell towers remain down and more than 80 percent of cellphone antennas aren’t working, making communication difficult.

Puerto Rico is currently operating 112 shelters housing 6,067 people. Those with the means to leave have been abandoning their destroyed homes and flying to the United States. Some plan to return, others say they’re never coming back. Officials say more than 100,000 people could end up in the Orlando area in the coming months.

All of the island’s airports and 78 percent of the gas stations are operational, but only 392 miles of the 5,073 miles of roads are open.

About 37 percent of the island remains without running water. Residents have been receiving bottled water, but as of last week distribution remained a challenge. Approximately 86 percent of the island’s supermarkets are open.

Most of Puerto Rico’s hospitals and dialysis centers are open, but the shortage of fuel, which is used by the generators powering these facilities, continues to create problems.

The Department of Defense sent the U.S.N.S. Comfort, a medical ship with 250 hospital beds, to Puerto Rico on Oct. 3.

That was a bit late and is turning out to be rather little. Rachel Maddow explains.

Bad leadership turned Puerto Rico crisis into catastrophe
Rachel Maddow describes reporting on the chaos in the Donald Trump White House and notes that the continued problems in the disaster response in Puerto Rico that is costing American lives is attributable to bad leadership at the top. Duration: 19:01

Her segment on water-born illness and deaths in Puerto Rico starts at the 7:30 mark and her comments on the hospital ship start around 13:00.

Against this backdrop of dire need and bureaucratic bungling, our president expresses his solidarity (Scriber snickers) with Puerto Ricans. Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports that Trump’s posture towards Puerto Rico takes a more callous turn.

Over the last year, Donald Trump’s willingness to publicly contradict Mike Pence has led to some cringe-worthy moments, but developments over the last 24 hours offer an especially awkward example.

The vice president spoke at a National Hispanic Heritage Month reception yesterday, and offered strong assurances to the people of Puerto Rico: “We’re with you; we stand with you; and we will be with you every single day until Puerto Rico is restored bigger and better than ever before.”

In a trio of tweets this morning, Pence’s boss said pretty much the opposite.

“ ‘Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making.’ says Sharyl Attkisson. A total lack of accountability say the Governor. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

Let’s note for context that as of yesterday, more than 80% of Puerto Rico is still without power, three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit. What’s more, roughly a third of the island’s American residents do not yet have access to clean water.

It’s against this backdrop that the president thought it’d be a good idea to blame Puerto Ricans and starting laying the groundwork for a weaker response to the island’s disaster.

“We will be with you every single day,” at least until Donald Trump feels like he’s seen enough.

The morning of his visit to the island … culminated in the president admonishing the “politically motivated ingrates” on the island.

As best as I can tell, he’s made no similar comments about any other Americans who’ve suffered from natural disasters this year.

Go ahead, Mike Pence, tell us another one about how the Trump administration “stands with” the people of Puerto Rico.

All that is solidarity Trump style.

Even while the US seems paralyzed and ineffective in helping its own, another country promises aid. Puerto Rico to Get Power Relief From German Microgrid Supplier reports Bloomberg.

Sonnen GmbH, a German provider of energy-storage systems, is planning to install microgrids to provide electricity for at least 15 emergency relief centers in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Sonnen began delivering its storage systems to Puerto Rico last week and expects to deliver at least one shipment each week as the island’s ports reopen, the Wildpoldsried, Germany-based company said in an emailed statement Monday. It’s working with local partner Pura Energia, which installs solar panels with Sonnen batteries.

Puerto Rico’s electricity grid was completely knocked out when Hurricane Maria slammed into the island Sept. 20, and repairs are expected to take months. That’s generating interest in microgrids, small-scale systems that combine solar panels and batteries that can be installed quickly to restore power to a few buildings at a time. Tesla Inc. is sending hundreds of its Powerwall battery systems to the island, and Sunnova Inc., Puerto Rico’s largest rooftop solar provider, plans to install batteries to complement its systems.

Sonnen is donating equipment for the 15 relief centers. It also expects increased demand for its systems with Puerto Rico consumers and will donate profit from local sales to build as many as 35 additional microgrids on the island.

”It is our duty to stand firmly with the people of Puerto Rico and do everything possible to help start the rebuilding process,” Chief Executive Officer Christoph Ostermann said in the statement. “There is a clear connection between our mission to support humanity during a climate disaster and our mission to fight climate change.”

Meanwhile, back on our mainland homeland, Trump, backed by climate change deniers, is pulling us out of the Paris accord on climate change.

A while back I blogged about how China was investing heavily in African infrastructure - building airports for example. The United States? Not so much - or not at all. I did not anticipate that the US would be on the receiving end of charity from another country. Perhaps our leaders have yet to understand that humanitarian investment is good for business.

A final thought: in response to the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, the well-known buck stopped with then President Bush. Trump is doing his damndest to make sure that the buck stops with the Puerto Ricans. Trump likes big, beautiful things. The biggest, most beautiful cluster-fuck [1] is in the making and our indifferent, indolent President Donald Trump cannot dodge it.

[1]: From Wiktionary: A chaotic situation where everything seems to go wrong. It is often caused by incompetence, communication failure, or a complex environment. (Scriber: In this case, all three.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The “calm before the storm”: What is to be done about the mad king and who can do it?

The short answer, according to a New York Times writer, is reclaiming war powers (what) by the Senate (who).

Corker Told the Truth About Trump. Now He Should Act on It. That’s the title of an op-ed in the NY Times by Michelle Goldberg. (h/t AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona)

Over the past few months, the country has been in a foul sort of trance. Among people who work in politics, Republicans as well as Democrats, it is conventional wisdom that President Trump is staggeringly ill-informed, erratic, reckless and dishonest. (He also might be compromised by a hostile foreign power.) But it’s also conventional wisdom that with few exceptions, Republicans in Congress are not going to stand up to him. America’s nuclear arsenal is in the hands of a senescent Twitter troll, but those with political power have refused to treat this fact as a national emergency. Thus, even though a majority of Americans consider the president unfit for office, a fatalistic sense of stasis has set in.

Credit Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, for momentarily snapping us out of it. On Sunday evening, after a Twitter feud with Trump, Corker gave an interview to The New York Times in which he said publicly what Republican officeholders usually say only privately. Trump, Corker told the reporters Jonathan Martin and Mark Landler, is treating the presidency like “a reality show” and could be setting the nation “on the path to World War III.” Corker has previously said that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly “help separate our country from chaos.” On Sunday, he identified the agent of that chaos. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Corker said of Trump.

Now that Corker has done the country the immense favor of acknowledging the obvious, the key question is: What’s next? Corker, despite his culpability in helping to legitimize Trump during the presidential campaign and despite waiting until he’d announced his retirement to speak out, has behaved more patriotically than most of his quietly complicit colleagues. But as Trump continues to tweet threats at a war-ready North Korea, it is not enough to simply hope that the president’s minders can stop him from blowing up the world.

Corker, after all, is not a passive spectator; he’s the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “The Congress holds the ultimate power for war,” Jerry Taylor, president of the Niskanen Center, a libertarian think tank, told me. “Though they have more or less delegated that power away to the executive branch, they can take it back.”

They could start with a pair of bills introduced by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey and California Representative Ted Lieu, both Democrats, prohibiting the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a congressional declaration of war. So far, the only Republican to sign on in either chamber is Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina. But given how little faith Senate Republicans have in Trump’s judgment, they have a duty to take up this legislation or develop an alternative. “Increasingly, senators and members of Congress are going to come to the conclusion that there has to be a firewall that is erected so that a single human being cannot impulsively launch nuclear weapons,” Markey told me.

Despite its overall record of weakness, Congress has already acted on one occasion to curb Trump’s worst foreign policy impulses. In July, Republicans voted overwhelmingly for a bipartisan bill that, among other things, limited Trump’s ability to unilaterally lift sanctions on Russia. Tying Trump’s hands on nuclear weapons would be a far more aggressive step, but it’s one that members of Congress who are mindful of this moment’s profound peril should take.

Of course, “should” is the key word here. There are plenty of things that Republicans should do about Trump, including impeaching him for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution. We’ve grown so inured to Republican politicians’ persistent refusal to put the welfare of the country above their re-election prospects and lust for tax cuts that complaining about it feels banal and naïve.

But Corker’s expression of alarm is a reminder that we are teetering on the cusp of horror. He made it clear that Trump’s tweeted provocations of North Korea are impulsive rather than strategic. “A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” he said. We need to take seriously the possibility that Trump might cavalierly start a war that could kill millions of people. It would be a human calamity of inconceivable, history-bending scale, and it would leave America as a hated global pariah. Now that Corker has admitted that Trump cannot be trusted with the power he holds, he and other Republicans have no excuse not to try to take that power away.

Republican silence is consent

Taylor, of the Niskanen Center, is in frequent contact with anti-Trump Republicans, and he senses a growing sense of urgency among them. “Having an unstable narcissist who is ignorant of politics, policy and foreign affairs with the nuclear codes has probably turned them white as a sheet,” he said. “There is some degree of serious responsibility that they fully realize that they hold.” If so, now would be a good time to show it.

AZ BlueMeanie brings the responsibility for Senatorial action home in his update on The madness of King Donald – a ‘containment policy’ will not work.

What say you Senator McCain, Mr. “country first”? What say you Senator Flake, the self-annointed conscience of conservatism? Silence is consent. If you are going to defend America from the madness of King Donald, now would be the time to do it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Trump ditches DACA deal. Dems furious.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) reports on how Trump moves away from the deal he struck with Dems on Dreamers

At the time, it seemed like Donald Trump might have done something important. A week after rescinding the DACA policy that extended protections to nearly 1 million Dreamers, the president appeared to reach an agreement with Congress’ top two Democrats – Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi – to protect the young immigrants.

Though a variety of details needed to be worked out, Trump and the Democratic leaders appeared to endorse a framework in which the White House accepted DACA protections, while Dems agreed to boost border security. The fight over the border wall, the president said at the time, would “come later.”

Almost immediately, Trump received a round of positive press; his approval rating started improving; and there was chatter about his impressive “independent” streak. The president had every incentive to follow through on the agreement he reached with Schumer and Pelosi.

If you bought into this narrative - that Trump was moving to the center - you are guilty of wishful thinking. Benen explains.

A month later, Trump is nevertheless headed in a regressive direction.

The Trump administration Sunday sent Congress a list of tough immigration reforms it would require to be included in any legislation that would allow immigrants brought into the United States illegally as children, known as Dreamers, to remain. The proposals include funding for a southern border wall and are likely to be rebuked by Democrats. […]

[T]he policies outlined by the White House on Sunday night are likely to push Democrats away from the negotiating table. Some of the toughest proposals include removing protections for unaccompanied minor immigrants, allowing state and local police to investigate immigration status more broadly and limiting visas given to spouses and family members of immigrants who come to the United States to work to curb a pattern referred to as chain migration.

The list of demands also includes money for his proposed border wall, though the list didn’t specify how much money the White House expects to see for the project in exchange for DACA protections.

In other words, the terms of a fairly straightforward agreement were reached in September – a shield for Dreamers in exchange for increased border security measures – only to see Trump change the terms in October.

If you thought the president was becoming more pragmatic and responsible a month ago, I have some very bad news for you. The White House knows Dems will never accept these terms, which is probably why Trump World made the demands in the first place.

NBC News’ report on this added, “One source familiar with the deliberations described the policies last week as a ‘wish list’ of Trump’s senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, an immigration hard-liner and former Senate staffer for Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

The NY Times reports on Miller as the one person most likely responsible for Trump’s reneging, Stephen Miller, the Powerful Survivor on the President’s Right Flank. Mr. Miller, who was a conservative trapped in a liberal California high school, has rocketed to the upper reaches of White House influence, especially on immigration.

”The 31-year-old?” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, muttered to reporters earlier this year, despairing over who might be making decisions in Mr. Trump’s White House.

Yet on perhaps the president’s signature issue — immigration policy — Mr. Miller has emerged in recent days as the driving force behind the administration’s insistence on a wish list of hard-right proposals as part of any deal with Democrats to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation. White House demands include a crackdown on unaccompanied children at the border, the construction of a border wall with Mexico and legislation to sharply reduce legal immigration.

As the surviving watchman on the president’s right flank since the removal in August of Stephen K. Bannon as chief strategist, Mr. Miller also remains a key craftsman in speechwriting at the White House. Mr. Trump, who has long prized Mr. Miller’s fierce loyalty, has embraced his instincts to sharply restrict the number of refugees admitted to the United States next year and to impose new travel restrictions on several predominantly Muslim countries and others deemed to be national security risks.

Benen continues with an explanation of why no one, other than Miller maybe, can trust Trump to keep his word.

This should, of course, surprise no one, but it touches on an important aspect of dealing with this White House: whoever has access to Trump’s ear last wins. When Trump met with Democratic leaders, he liked what he heard and shook hands on a bipartisan agreement. When Trump then spoke to Stephen Miller, he also liked what his aide had to say, and changed course on the deal.

This makes negotiations with the president all but impossible. Since he doesn’t understand the substantive details of any issue, policymakers are better off dealing directly with White House aides – since they’re the ones who ultimately tell Trump what to think anyway.

DACA is a classic example of a president who can’t seem to make up his mind. Before the election, Trump vowed to scrap protections for Dreamers, only to say after the election that the young immigrants can “rest easy.” He then reversed course, rescinding the protections, only to announce soon after that he might be inclined keep them anyway.

Then he struck a deal with Dems, asking the nation, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” Now Trump is gutting that deal, putting Dreamers’ futures at risk.

This incoherence obviously matters in the immigration debate, but it’s also a reminder of why trying to work with Trump in any debate is almost certain to fail.

Update: In a joint written statement issued late yesterday, Pelosi and Schumer said, “The Administration can’t be serious about compromise or helping the Dreamers if they begin with a list that is anathema to the Dreamers, to the immigrant community and to the vast majority of Americans.

“We told the President at our meeting that we were open to reasonable border security measures alongside the DREAM Act, but this list goes so far beyond what is reasonable. This proposal fails to represent any attempt at compromise. The list includes the wall, which was explicitly ruled out of the negotiations. If the President was serious about protecting the Dreamers, his staff has not made a good faith effort to do so.”

Now think about what kind of trust this inspires in world leaders.

Washington does a heck of a job on Puerto Rico’s Brownies

co·lo·ni·al·ism
kəˈlōnēəˌlizəm
noun
the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.

Any way you cut it, the United States is practicing colonialism to the detriment of Puerto Ricans. The Jones act, now nearly 100 years old, forces Puerto Rico to pay more - double - for goods imported from the US than the cost of those goods on the mainland.

The Huffington Post reports that The Jones Act Waiver For Puerto Rico Just Expired And Won’t Be Renewed. That means the U.S. island decimated by Hurricane Maria will go back to paying double the shipping costs for food and supplies.

The Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico expired Sunday night, and “it is not being extended at this time,” Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Lapan told HuffPost on Monday.

DHS had temporarily waived the Jones Act ― an arguably outdated law that imposes exorbitant shipping costs on the U.S. island ― on Sept. 28. The waiver has meant that Puerto Rico has been able to import food, fuel and supplies more quickly, and for half the cost, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

With the 1920 law back in effect, the island will go back to paying much higher shipping costs to import supplies. The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by U.S.-owned and operated ships, which are more expensive vessels than others in the global marketplace. That’s meant that Puerto Rico pays double the costs for goods from the U.S. mainland compared with neighboring islands ― and that U.S. vessels are making bank.

The return to higher shipping costs won’t help Puerto Rico as it tries to climb out of economic devastation. Nearly half of the 3.4 million Americans on the island still don’t have drinking water since Maria hit nearly three weeks ago. Just 15 percent have electricity. Many people still haven’t heard from loved ones, and at least 39 deaths have been attributed to the storm.

Despite the DHS position, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said Monday night that he wants another extension of the Jones Act waiver.

“I think we should have it,” Rossello told CBS News’ David Begnaud. “In this emergency phase, while we’re looking to sustain and save lives, we should have all of the assets at hand.”

Lapan said DHS is “always prepared to review requests on a case-by-case basis and respond quickly” to possible waivers of the Jones Act. But those decisions have to be related to national defense, he said, and are not driven by cost-related matters.

“We believe that extending the waiver is unnecessary to support the humanitarian relief efforts” on Puerto Rico, Lapan said. “There is an ample supply of Jones Act-qualified vessels to ensure that cargo is able to reach” the island.

President Donald Trump, who is spending Monday golfing, had originally hedged on waiving the Jones Act for Puerto Rico at all, saying “a lot of shippers” didn’t want him to do it. He eventually caved to pressure from lawmakers including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

McCain has been pushing to get rid of the Jones Act altogether. It costs Puerto Rico hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and he recently introduced legislation to nix the law.

“Now that the temporary Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico has expired, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass my bill to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from this archaic and burdensome law,” McCain said in a statement to HuffPost. “Until we provide Puerto Rico with long-term relief, the Jones Act will continue to hinder much-needed efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria.”

Let me ask you this. Suppose the US had acquired an island, Port Rich, populated by 98% Caucasians, mostly monolingual speaking English as their first language. Do you think what is described here about Puerto Rico getting hit by Hurricane Maria would have happened in Port Rich when it got hit by Hurricane Mary? Would the president in effect say to the residents of Port Rich that their plight is their own fault? Would we force them to pay double for their imported goods so that US shippers could make their profits? Would we let millions of our white-skinned brothers and sisters do without drinking water and electric power for three weeks?

Monday, October 9, 2017

NRA offers silencers to white America. Trump tosses paper towels to Puerto Ricans. Mourn for us.

Here are my nominations for cartoons of the week. It was a difficult choice. AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona offers a choice lineup of illustrated news for this Mournday Mourning.

NRA is OK with trading lives for gun rights. Any way you cut it, the NRA is the front and center player in the continuing series of mass shootings. It caves on bump stocks in order to bump stocks of firearms companies. Guns don’t kill people? Try telling that to the 59 dead in Las Vegas.

Trump takes Hurricane Maria to Broadway. Hurricane Maria set the stage for Trump’s heck-of-a-job Brownie moment. Bush was talking to the then FEMA director. Trump means the Puerto Ricans doing the relief work on their own.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Why the majority keeps losing — on guns and everything else

The Washington Post features an essay by E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann … the authors of “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported,” from which parts of this article are drawn.. The authors explain Why the majority keeps losing on guns. Scriber thinks their analysis extends much more broadly and deeply.

Why does our political system make it impossible even to consider solutions to gun violence? After the massacre in Las Vegas that has so far taken nearly 60 lives and left more than 500 injured, the first reaction of the many politicians who carry water for the gun lobby was to declare it “premature” to discuss measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

The “premature” word echoed from President Trump’s White House on down, and those who used it were really saying that Congress would never enact even modest efforts to prevent mass shootings. This is damning evidence of the stranglehold that far-right lobbies have on today’s Republicans, who extol law and order except when maintaining it requires confronting the National Rifle Association.

But something else is at work here. As we argue in our book, “One Nation After Trump,” the United States is now a non-majoritarian democracy. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, that’s because it is. Claims that our republic is democratic are undermined by a system that vastly overrepresents the interests of rural areas and small states. This leaves the large share of Americans in metropolitan areas with limited influence over national policy. Nowhere is the imbalance more dramatic or destructive than on the issue of gun control.

The non-majoritarian nature of our institutions was brought home in 2013. After the Sandy Hook slaughter, the Senate voted 54 to 46 in favor of a background-checks amendment crafted by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). Those 54 votes were not enough to overcome a filibuster, which the GOP regularly abused during the Obama years. Worse, since most large-state senators voted for Manchin-Toomey, the 54 “yes” votes came from lawmakers representing 63 percent of the population. Their will was foiled by those who speak for just 37 percent of us.

Ending the filibuster would not solve the problem; in some cases, it might aggravate it. As The Post’s Philip Bump has noted, if all 50 senators from the 25 smallest states voted for a bill and Vice President Pence cast his lot with them, senators representing just 16 percent of Americans could overrule those representing 84 percent.

And this problem will only deepen. David Birdsell, a Baruch College political scientist, has calculated that by 2040, 70 percent of Americans will live in 15 states — and be represented by only 30 of the 100 senators.

Gerrymandering, the electoral college, and voter suppression “further skew electoral outcomes, as does the power of money in politics.”

Our paralysis on guns reflects a looming legitimacy crisis in our system. In the short run, advocates of sane gun laws should keep up the pressure, particularly in election showdowns involving candidates who resist any steps to make our country safer. In the long run, we need reforms to make majority rule a reality.

In case you missed it, the underlying dimension here is liberal-urban <—> conservative-rural. Overlay on that dimension the 37% vs. 63% mentioned above in connection with the failure of the background checks amendment after Sandy Hook. Even though there were 54 “yes” votes, the measure was filibustered.

This is not good news for Democrats. The issue is larger than guns alone. If the demographic trend continues, we may very well see Philip Bump’s scenario in which an 84% urban, multiethnic, Democratic majority is completely suppressed by a 16% rural, alt-white, ultra-conservative minority.

I have to wonder if we have already passed a tipping point on this one. Few solutions are apparent short of doing what AZBlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona suggests: Amend the Constitution to reform the U.S. Senate. Given that the members of the Senate representing just 37% of the population already control the show, the chance of such an amendment gaining any traction seems increasingly remote.