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Trump's HUD turns a blind eye to housing segregation—and yes, it may benefit Trump's own business

Daily Kos - 56 min 6 sec ago

It turns out that hiring your family’s event planner and/or Vice President of the Eric Trump Foundation for a high-level spot in the government's Housing and Urban Development agency may not lead to competent government decision-making.

Lynne Patton, a former event planner for the Trump family whose nomination to a HUD position drew criticism from policy experts and housing advocates last month, reversed HUD’s position on Westchester’s zoning laws on Tuesday. The agency had rejected 10 previous versions of the county’s “Analysis of Impediments,” a document which HUD grantees must submit to demonstrate their use of taxpayer money will not get spent into systems that tacitly reinforce racial segregation in housing.

Westchester’s fight with HUD originated from a lawsuit brought by the Anti-Discrimination Center. The county struck a settlement with HUD in 2009, but has failed to comply fully with it for close to a decade.

Despite being once again rejected just last April, Westchester County, New York, was able to finally skirt the HUD regulations requiring the county to demonstrate HUD funds would not be used for projects that encourage segregation with a devious plan indeed:

Westchester waited a few weeks once Patton was put in charge of the HUD office with jurisdiction over the county. Then, officials resubmitted the same analysis that was insufficient in April. Patton accepted the same figures her predecessors had rejected.

Patton has never worked in housing policy decision-making in her life, up until Trump put her in charge of these things. Coincidentally, resubmitting the same report that prior experts had rejected as insufficient turned out to be just fine when she thumbed through it.

Conveniently for the Trump family, however, weakening oversight of HUD programs will likely benefit them financially; the Trump Organization is co-owner of the largest federally subsidized housing complex in the nation, in Brooklyn, and relaxation of anti-discrimination regulations for that and similar New York properties will be a boon to landlords who want to continue to pocket federal cash but don’t want to be bothered with federal restrictions on who can get it.

Categories: Politics

Saturday Afternoon Open Thread

Balloon Juice - 1 hour 13 min ago

Remember when I made a Shrek birthday cake upon request for a family member a while back? A Puss in Boots (from Shrek 2) cake has been requested by another family member. I’m baking that cake now.

It’s going to be harder to get the decoration on this one right, I think. The future recipient specifically wanted it to depict the scene where Puss is all pathetic with the huge eyes.

Anyhoo, I’ll share pics later, nail it or nah. Open thread!

Categories: Politics

Steve Jobs' Life Is Now An Opera

Slashdot - 1 hour 23 min ago
An anonymous reader quotes CNN's report on a new project from Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell: "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" is set to open on Saturday night at the Santa Fe Opera, home to the largest summer-opera festival in U.S. The high-tech production, which runs until August 26, jumps in and out of key moments in the Apple founder's life, from early product-development days alongside Steve Wozniak and the launch of the original iPhone, to his wedding day with Laurene Powell Jobs... The opera features an electronic score, developed by Mason Bates, that incorporates sounds from the products Jobs created, including the audio synonymous with turning on an early Macintosh computer. The libretto, or operatic script, doesn't call out words like Apple or iPhone due to copyright issues; instead, it uses descriptors like "one device" to reference the smartphone. "Only one device, does it all," the libretto reads. "In one hand, all your need. One device. Communication, entertainment, illumination, connection, interaction, navigation, inspiration..." One scene in the high-tech production shows Jobs standing in his family's garage on his 10th birthday. When his father gives him a workbench, the walls around them light up into video screens...

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Categories: Misc

It's slowly dawning on Republicans that Trump just might be the worst president ever

Daily Kos - 1 hour 26 min ago

All is not well in Republicanville. No matter how slavish the Fox News segments become, it ain't working; it is slowly dawning on powerful Republicans that the president they are so dutifully protecting and sucking up to may, in fact, be an idiot.

Trump’s struggles go beyond health care. More than six months into Trump’s presidency, Republicans have no legislative accomplishments other than the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a confusing foreign policy, and a White House that is perpetually in damage-control mode. From lawmakers and governors to donors and foreign policy experts, a certain realization is sinking in within the party, based on more than a dozen interviews in recent days: Donald Trump has been a historically weak and ineffective president.

That it took six months to start wondering whether the man who talked about grabbing women, who discussed his penis size during a presidential debate, who sent his press secretary to baldly lie about the size of the crowds on his inauguration day, and who is currently engaged in a public defense of his campaign team openly seeking the assistance of the Russian government during a period of unprecedented assault on our election systems by that government, is perhaps not the brilliant world-shaping genius he made himself out to be.

This is the problem with the Republican Party. They don't catch on too quick.

Even the president’s top backers are losing patience. Billionaire Trump patrons Rebekah and Bob Mercer are “apoplectic” over the health care debacle, with renewed fears that Trump’s lofty goals of changing Washington have become all but impossible, said a Trump administration adviser. The adviser added that lobbyists and establishment lawmakers are making Trump’s life more difficult. [...]

“They’re saying, ‘It can’t be done, he can’t change Washington,’” the adviser said, before putting more of the blame for the lack of progress on Senate Majority Leader McConnell. “It’s the Washington cartel at its worst revolting against the president.”

Categories: Politics

Fox News' Steve Doocy Flips Over Special Counsel Access To Trump's Tax Returns

Crooks and Liars - 1 hour 27 min ago

As Trump surrogates rev up their attacks on Bob Mueller's character and affiliations, Fox News' Steve Doocy assailed Mueller for potentially looking into Trump's tax returns.

Fox and Friends opened up their program by bashing special counsel Bob Mueller for hiring members of his team they say will torpedo Trump just because they hate him.

Co-host Steve Doocy listed all the reasons why America should distrust the special counsel, calling it "a witch-hunt being led by Democrats who, for the most part, have given a lot of money to Democrats over the past."

"They've got clients that have included the Clinton Foundation," he continued. "And then again, there's Mr. Mueller's relationship with James Comey. The former guy who got fired."

Ainsley helpfully chimed in, adding, "Five out of the six attorneys have given money to the Democratic Party that President Clinton or President Obama or the DNC."

Guest co-host Clayton Morris piled on too. "So the concern among the Trump administration right now is, don't look at our finances. That's what -- this is off-limits, this is not what we're talking about here. The mandate for Bob Mueller was around the Russian meddling in our election, and --"

Doocy: "That's why he got hired."

(Why are they so afraid to have their finances scrutinized?)

Morris continued, "Hired, whether or not the colluding took place. So we haven't seen tax returns, we haven't seen -- and apparently the FBI is looking into --

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Categories: Politics

A Great New Music Video From Banda Magda: "Tam Tam"

Little Green Footballs - 1 hour 31 min ago

Here's another outstanding track from the upcoming Banda Magda album to kick off a music-laden weekend.

Banda Magda - Tam Tam
From Banda Magda’s upcoming album "Tigre", to be released September 2017 on Verve Label Group/GroundUP Music.

***Please set to HD (or at least 480p).

Pre-order for "Tigre" is available now:

Physical: https://store.groundupmusic.net/collections/banda-magda
Digital: http://smarturl.it/Tigre_iTu

Music & Lyrics by Magda Giannikou

FILM CREW
Andy LaViolette: Cinematography
Magda Giannikou: Producer / Director / Artistic Decorator / Set Designer
Megan McDermott: 1st AC / Scenic Artist / Grip
Jon Schlowsky: Best Boy / Scenic Artist
Mika Mitamura: Make-up / Hair Styling
Amanda Tuiran: Scenic Artist / Production Assistant
Ana Tuiran: Prop Master / Scenic Artist / Playback Engineer
Declan Saint-Onge: Production Still / Photographer
Gabrielle Vigueira: Scenic Artist / Production Assistant
Ed Viguiera: Production Assistant
Juni DiStasio: Set Designer Assistant
Maria Zaharenia: Research and Style Guide Director
Ira Senak: Grip / Playback Engineer / Production Assistant
Tom Beuchel: Production Assistant
John Muller: : Production Assistant

Filmed at Flux Studios NYC and the GroundUP Music Offices.

Edited by Magda Giannikou and Megan McDermott, Darondo Productions.

MUSIC CREW

Magda Giannikou: voice & accordion
Ignacio Hernandez: nylon-string and electric guitar
Jordan Perlson: drum set
Marcelo Woloski: percussion & vocals
James Shipp: percussion & vocals
Keita Ogawa: percussion & vocals
Andres Rotmistrovsky: electric bass & vocals
Justin Stanton: rhodes & vocals
Mike "Maz" Maher: trumpet
Chris Bullock: tenor saxophone
Mika Mimura: vibraphone & marimba
Maeve Gilchrist: lever harp
Juan Andres Ospina: vocals
Michael League: baritone and hammertone guitar

Featuring the Banda Magda String Orchestra
primi: Maria Im & Curtis Stewart
secondi: Brooke Quiggins Saulnier & Sami Merdinian
viole: Lev Ljova Zhurbin & Irena Momchilova
celli: Maria Jeffers, Sam Quiggins & Colin Stokes

Music Produced by Magda Giannikou & Fab Dupont
Arrangements by Magda Giannikou
Recorded by Fab Dupont, Ira Senak, Tom Beuchel, Josh Welshman, Mike La Tona & John Muller at Flux Studios NYC
MIxed by Fab Dupont at Flux Studios NYC
Mastered by Diego Calviño at 3:3:2 Studio

A special thank you to the Abram crew: Irini Gonou, Miltos and Ilias Pantelias, Kallia Pantelia, Christel Llop, Luna Martinez & Jean-Christophe Bonrepaux.

Lyrics

Si tu veux que je joue mon tambour,
Tou tou tou tou, à ton tour,
Teinte ton rythme et impressionne-moi.

Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam,
Faut que tu me donnes tous tes charmes.
Teinte ton rythme et impressionne-moi.

Si tu veux que je joue mon tambour,
Tou tou tou tou, à ton tour,
Teinte ton rythme et impressionne-moi.

Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam,
Faut que tu me donnes tous tes charmes.
Teinte ton rythme et impressionne-moi,
Teinte ton rythme et impressionne-moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.

-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-
Danse devant moi,
-Eo Eo-
Faut que je vois comment tu danses.
Si tu veux que j’avance,
-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-

Danse devant moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.

Si tu veux que je devienne soleil,
Brille d’un éclat de feu vermeille
Fais toi volcan et impressionne-moi,
Si tu veux que je devienne la lune,
Cherche mon reflet sur ta lagune,
Nage comme un dieu et impressionne-moi,
Nage comme un dieu et impressionne-moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.

-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-
Danse devant moi,
-Eo Eo-
Faut que je vois comment tu danses.
Si tu veux que j’avance,
-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-
Danse devant moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.

-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-
Danse devant moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.

Fais-moi voir que quand tu danses,
Tu mets les étoiles en trance.
Fais-moi voir que quand tu bouges,
Ta lagune devient toute rouge.
Fais-moi voir que quand tu sonnes,
L’univers entier se donne.
Fais-moi voir que quand tes mains m’attrapent,
Impressionne-moi.

-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-
Danse devant moi,
-Eo Eo-
Faut que je vois comment tu danses.
Si tu veux que j’avance,
-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-
Danse devant moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.

-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-
Danse devant moi,
-Eo Eo-
Faut que je vois comment tu danses.
Si tu veux que j’avance,
-Eo Eo-
Impressionne-moi,
-Eo Eo-

Danse devant moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.

Danse devant moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.
Danse devant moi,
Si tu veux que je fasse Tam Tam.

Tam Tam
Tam Tam
Tam Tam

Categories: Politics

This week at progressive state blogs: Challenger for Paul Ryan; NC's Cooper nixes offshore drilling

Daily Kos - 1 hour 56 min ago

This week at progressive state blogs is designed specifically to focus attention on the writing and analysis of people focused on their home turf. Here is the July 15 edition. Inclusion of a blog post does not necessarily indicate my agreement with—or endorsement of—its contents.

Cathy Myers, candidate for Wisconsin Cathy Myers on her Harley.

Amy Lyn Smith at Electablog of Michigan writes—‘Single-payer healthcare is achievable’ says Cathy Myers, who wants Paul Ryan’s Congressional seat

Cathy Myers literally lives across the street from Rep. Paul Ryan in Janesville, Wisconsin, so she knows exactly who she’s up against. Not to mention having witnessed his many attempts to wrest healthcare coverage away from millions of Americans just to give the wealthy a tax break.

Healthcare is one of the primary reasons Myers decided to run for Ryan’s seat in Congress, which is up for grabs in 2018. She believes healthcare is a right — and that the healthcare plans supported by Ryan aren’t actually healthcare plans, she says.

Why suggest a healthcare plan that isn’t one? The healthcare plan Paul Ryan proposed is actually a tax break for the very top, and the number of people that were going to be cut out of healthcare was staggering.

The whole point of healthcare is to figure out how to cover people, not how to exclude people.

Eclectablog.png

With every new Republican proposal threatening to deprive millions more Americans of healthcare coverage, now may be the best possible time for Democrats to begin lobbying hard for what would actually help the most Americans: single-payer healthcare.

According to Physicians for a National Health Program, single-payer health insurance, also known as “Medicare for all,” means a single public or quasi-public agency organizes healthcare financing, but the delivery of care remains largely in private hands. Under a single-payer system, all residents of the U.S. would be covered for medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.

Categories: Politics

Let's Encrypt Criticized Over Speedy HTTPS Certifications

Slashdot - 2 hours 23 min ago
100 million HTTPS certificates were issued in the last year by Let's Encrypt -- a free certificate authority founded by Mozilla, Cisco and the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- and they're now issuing more than 100,000 HTTPS certificates every day. Should they be performing more vetting? msm1267 shared this article from Kaspersky Lab's ThreatPost blog: [S]ome critics are sounding alarm bells and warning that Let's Encrypt might be guilty of going too far, too fast, and delivering too much of a good thing without the right checks and balances in place. The primary concern has been that while the growth of SSL/TLS encryption is a positive trend, it also offers criminals an easy way to facilitate website spoofing, server impersonation, man-in-the-middle attacks, and a way to sneak malware through company firewalls... Critics do not contend Let's Encrypt is responsible for these types of abuses. Rather, because it is the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to issuing basic domain validation certificates, critics believe Let's Encrypt could do a better job vetting applicants to weed out bad actors... "I think there should be some type of vetting process. That would make it more difficult for malicious actors to get them," said Justin Jett, director of audit and compliance at Plixer, a network traffic analytics firm... Josh Aas, executive director of the Internet Security Research Group, the organization that oversees Let's Encrypt, points out that its role is not to police the internet, rather its mission is to make communications secure. He added that, unlike commercial certificate authorities, it keeps a searchable public database of every single domain it issues. "When people get surprised at the number of PayPal phishing sites and get worked up about it, the reason they know about it is because we allow anyone to search our records," he said. Many other certificate authorities keep their databases of issued certificates private, citing competitive reasons and that customers don't want to broadcast the names of their servers... The reason people treat us like a punching bag is that we are big and we are transparent. " The criticism intensified after Let's Encrypt announced they'd soon offer wildcard certificates for subdomains. But the article also cites security researcher Scott Helme, who "argued if encryption is to be available to all then that includes the small percent of bad actors. 'I don't think it's for Signal, or Let's Encrypt, to decide who should have access to encryption."

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Categories: Misc

View from the Left: What will the GOP do in 2018 if McConnell is nothing but a snake oil salesman

Daily Kos - 2 hours 56 min ago

The GOP effort to pass health care repeal has been on life support for weeks, but Sen. Mitch McConnell just won't pull the plug.

Managing to pass something now, however—especially with news that Sen. John McCain is fighting an extremely aggressive, even brutal, type of brain cancer—would be the legislative equivalent of pulling a rabbit out a hat without even having a rabbit to begin with.

Whether he's the legislative magician everyone imagined him to be or simply a master of destruction is something we'll find out next week, when he's apparently going to demand a vote on a yet-to-be-determined bill: repeal with no replacement or one of two repeal/replace bills that would both be ruinous to the nation's health care coverage.

Amid McConnell's shell game, Sen. Susan Collins is the only Republican senator who has been consistently firm in her opposition the past couple weeks. Here she is marveling at the fact that McConnell hasn’t even designated which bill they’ll be considering:

"I don’t even know what we’re proceeding to next week," said Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a centrist Republican who has called on her party’s leaders to take a more measured approach to fixing the current healthcare law.

Other more moderate Republicans like Nevada's Dean Heller and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski seem to be waiting to see what kind of goodies McConnell can float their way. To some extent, so is Rand Paul on the conservative side.

But it's McCain's declining health that could change everything for Republicans, and not just on health care. His potential inability to cast votes could reduce their edge in the Senate from 52 to 51 seats, even more razor thin than before. And frankly, McConnell hasn't proven to be much of a whiz at the vote counting so far. Nothing brought his incompetence into sharper focus this week than the spectacle of him and Donald Trump wining and dining half a dozen of the GOP's "yes" votes on health care Monday night, right as two uninvited Senators released statements that torpedoed the bill.

McConnell, for all the hype about his genius, didn't even know who the weakest links in his caucus were, much less how to appease and persuade them.

That's the backdrop against which we can now measure the prospect of Republicans passing anything through the Senate on a party-line vote with an even less predictable head count than they had just one week ago.

Categories: Politics

Remember That Time Anthony Scaramucci Trashed Donald Trump On Fox?

Crooks and Liars - 2 hours 57 min ago
Remember That Time Anthony Scaramucci Trashed Donald Trump On Fox?

Donald Trump's newly-minted communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, once thought the worst of Trump and didn’t hold back about it on the Fox Business Network.

I'm going to bet that Donald Trump was not watching Fox Business on the morning of August 24, 2015. But thanks to Media Matters and WNYC/NPR reporter Matt Katz, this clip reminds us what Scaramucci had to say then about his new boss now. A few excerpts below:

  • “He’s probably going to make Elizabeth Warren his vice presidential nominee.”
  • Trump is “Anti-American, very, very divisive.”
  • “The Queens County Bullies Association” is what he’ll be president of.
  • “I don't like the way he talks about women. I don't like the way he talks about our friend Megyn Kelly.”
  • “You're an inherited-money dude from Queens County.”
  • “This sort of nonsense is going to cause him to eventually implode.”
  • “Are you a Democratic plant for Hillary Clinton? … That’s what we want to know. Stand here and prove otherwise.”
  • “This nonsense is going to end and I predict it’s going to end before Thanksgiving.”

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Categories: Politics

And as things fell apart, nobody paid much attention

Balloon Juice - 3 hours 6 min ago

Brian Beutler has a rather alarmist take on the seemingly inevitable constitutional crisis:

Should Trump fire Mueller, with the tacit assent of Republicans in Congress and the DOJ leadership, there will be little recourse. It is feasible (though difficult) to imagine a GOP House and Senate passing an independent counsel statute to restore Mueller to his job; it is nearly impossible to imagine them doing so by veto-proof margins. And should Trump pardon himself and his inner circle, it is dispiritingly easy to imagine Republicans reprising their familiar refrain: The president’s power to pardon is beyond question.

If this crisis unfolds as depicted here, the country’s final hope for avoiding a terminal slide into authoritarianism would be the midterm election, contesting control of a historically gerrymandered House of Representatives. That election is 16 months away. Between now and then, Trump’s DOJ and his sham election-integrity commission will seek to disenfranchise as many Democratic voters as possible, while the president himself beseeches further foreign interference aimed at Democratic candidates. Absent the necessary sweep, everything Trump will have done to degrade our system for his own enrichment and protection will have been ratified, and a point of no return will have been crossed.

I’m with Beutler up to a point, but I don’t think that foreign interference and disenfranchisement will have that much effect and that Democrats will retake the House if Trump fires Mueller and pardons everybody.

Here’s some questions I’d like to hear people’s take on, along with my answers to them. Some are recreational!

Will Trump fire Mueller? (Yes)
If so…
When? (Sometime in August)
Will some Republicans in Congress speak out? (Yes)
Will Congress impeach? (No)
Will Congress appoint a new prosecutor? (No)
Does Alan Dershowitz keep defending Trump? (Yes)
Does Glenn Greenwald keep defending Trump? (Yes)
Does Jonathan Turley keep defending Trump? (No)
Will we have more or less legitimate elections in 2018? (Yes)
Will Democrats take the House? (Yes)
Will Democrats take the Senate? (No)
Will our system of government survive? (Yes)

Categories: Politics

Kasich ‘Gobbledygooks’ On GOP Health Care Bill

Plunderbund - 3 hours 10 min ago

Ohio’s term-limited governor penned another op-ed in the New York Times on Republican health care bills in Congress and how unacceptable they are in their current form.

Nearly identical to previous pronouncements by John Kasich, his latest piece in the NYT, “The Way Forward on Health Care,” is mostly made from political gobbledygook, a word with synonyms that include gibberish, claptrap, nonsense, rubbish, balderdash, blather, and garbage.

Kasich will wander off the political radar screen when he leaves office at the end of next year, but until then, he’s all-in on giving “states the flexibility to innovate and manage” in order to avoid a “serious blow to states’ fiscal health at a time when most – Ohio included – are feeling headwinds from a softening national economy.” Ohio’s 69th governor knows about fiscal health all too well, in light of his final budget being a billion or more out of balance, and surrounded by lawmakers who used only cuts to cure the deficit.

Kasich has used the headwinds-from-Washington ruse on previous occasions to camouflage his poor performance in creating the quantity and quality of jobs Ohioans are still waiting to recover to refill inventory from large job losses in 2000 and 2007. With 54 straight months of under performing the nation job creation average as his record, Kasich refuses to look to his own policies and programs – which include but are not limited to massive tax cuts for the rich and stealing funds from local governments and schools – as the source of Ohio’s problems over President Barack Obama’s two-terms, that for many other states brought strong job growth.

Even though he’s traveled to Germany and England, Kasich appears to know little about why all the other advanced, industrialized countries of the world, when they confronted health care for their citizens, didn’t pick the American system.

But he uttered more gibberish, saying the Senate plan “failed to repair Obamacare’s damage to the insurance markets.” Curiously, for someone who signed Grover Norquist’s no new taxes pledge and incessantly looks to cut income taxes for Ohio’s wealthiest, Kasich used more balderdash to explain that insufficient tax credits “would make coverage unaffordable for many lower income Americans,” hundreds of thousands of whom live in Ohio, where the median household income at $49,429 has fallen thousands below the national median income of $55,775, ranking Ohio 35th.

For the benefit of the governor and others who share his fiscal conservative mindset, tax credits for the poor are funded by income taxes on the wealthy. The two-term governor who likes to dispense bitter medicine to those who least deserve it, when it suits his politics and personality, is all for cost-sharing from people poor enough that they qualify for Medicaid, the federal-state safety net that most benefits children, women, the elderly, disabled and mentally ill.

Kasich pretends to not know that insurance markets are really controlled by for-profit insurance companies, not Washington bureaucrats or the onerous demands of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Profits by these profit-making corporations are the real drivers behind higher insurance premiums and/or decisions to abandon a single county or an entire state because they aren’t returning enough value to their shareholders.

The former Lehman Brothers banker and Fox News talk show host goes long to carp on Obamacare insurance exchanges. He and and co-pilot, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, had a chance to run Ohio’s insurance exchange, following the Supreme Courts ruling that the ACA, and the individual mandate it contained, is constitutional, but ran from the responsibility, which forced Washington to do it.

Now Kasich wants to fix “Obamacare exchanges before it takes on Medicaid.” Where was the great reform and innovator five years ago when he could have been a leader, showing how smart he is on the topic President Donald Trump has said “is so complicated?

Kasich, desperately seeking to keep his voice and profile prominent after he leaves elected office, says Ohio and other states are “willing to assume greater financial risk by transitioning to a block grant or per-capita cap.”

Ohio’s senior U.S. senator in Washington, Sherrod Brown, told reporters on Wednesday that block grants or per-capita caps, strategies Kasich endorses, is just “another way to squeeze Medicaid.”

Kasich ends his claptrap op-ed by declaring that the “best next step is for members of both parties to ignore the fear of criticism that can come from reaching across the aisle and put pencil to pad on these and other ideas that repair health care in real, sustainable ways.”

If Kasich had any real record to point to on reaching across the aisle in Columbus, where he’s ruled as an authoritarian when he can, his call for bi-partisanship on the ACA might not be the gibberish it is.

The boy from McKees Rock, Pennsylvania, has many fatal flaws, but high among them is his support to repealing Obamacare, as he’s told his fan base. Voicing more nonsense, though, Kasich want to replace it “with meaningful reforms that ensure we’re not leaving our most vulnerable citizens behind.”

Kasich has become a political darling to some Democrats and national TV talk shows for his one-trick pony defense of Medicaid and its expansion to those earning 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

In Ohio, 2.9 million Ohioans are at risk from Republican health care reforms, with 151,000 or more potentially losing access to substance abuse treatment. More analysis of the GOP bills in Congress shows that insurance companies could charge as much as five times more for people over 50 while still letting insurance carriers to deny coverage for routine doctor’s visits, cancer screenings, and substance use disorder treatments. In practical, every-day terms, Ohioans could pay an average of $1,380 more for the same coverage they have now under the ACA.

And what about Planned Parenthood? Kasich is exceptionally quiet on this issue, given how bad his administration has been for lady Buckeyes over the years. The  bills in Congress would defund Planned Parenthood, which 2.4 million Americans – including more than 81,000 in Ohio – depend on for care. Kasich told audiences on his losing presidential campaign last year that he thinks Planned Parenthood sells aborted baby parts. That goes beyond gobbledygook to garbage.

Obamacare, the nation’s health care law as it’s come to be called, is the conservative Republican plan, dreamed up by the Heritage Foundation, a Washington incubator for programs and policies that sooth Kasich’s soul. As health care expert Steven Brill notes, the ACA is the Republican plan, which explains why they have no other workable alternative.

If Kasich ready to accept any suggestions from Democrats, as he repeatedly claims he is, that would lead to a public option or Medicare for all? The rest of the world is already there, but it seems Kasich is full of Gobbledygook – and all its unflattering synonyms – when it comes to the way forward on health care.

Categories: Politics

Medicaid Expansion Had a Huge Impact on the Finances of the Poor

Kevin Drum - 3 hours 21 min ago

It often slips people’s minds that the point of insurance is fundamentally financial. Auto insurance doesn’t prevent accidents, but it keeps you from going bankrupt over one. Ditto for homeowner’s insurance, life insurance, etc.

Health coverage is a little different because, in addition to being traditional insurance, it also pays for lots of routine medical care. Nevertheless, it’s still insurance. You can get medical care without it,¹ but it will cost you a fortune. So when you take a look at, say, Medicaid expansion, it’s at least as important to look at financial outcomes as it is to look at health outcomes.

Via Paul G-P on Twitter, here’s a CFPB study of how Medicaid expansion under Obamacare affected the finances of the poor. The authors take advantage of the fact that some states accepted the Medicaid expansion and some didn’t. They also have access to extremely detailed tradeline data in credit records. Here’s their basic result:

In states that didn’t expand Medicaid, nothing much happened. In states that did expand Medicaid, medical debt fell nearly 40 percent by the end of 2015. As a check, they also examined overall debt, and found that it varied by only a small amount between expansion and non-expansion states.

Note that this is a 40 percent reduction in total medical debt. Since Medicaid is available only to the poor, it’s a good bet that it’s reduced the medical debt of the poor by considerably more than 40 percent.

So: Does Medicaid work? Yes indeed. It has moderate but positive effects on health, and very large effects on medical debt.

¹Sometimes, anyway.

Categories: Politics

A New Sampling Algorithm Could Eliminate Sensor Saturation

Slashdot - 3 hours 23 min ago
Baron_Yam shared an article from Science Daily: Researchers from MIT and the Technical University of Munich have developed a new technique that could lead to cameras that can handle light of any intensity, and audio that doesn't skip or pop. Virtually any modern information-capture device -- such as a camera, audio recorder, or telephone -- has an analog-to-digital converter in it, a circuit that converts the fluctuating voltages of analog signals into strings of ones and zeroes. Almost all commercial analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), however, have voltage limits. If an incoming signal exceeds that limit, the ADC either cuts it off or flatlines at the maximum voltage. This phenomenon is familiar as the pops and skips of a "clipped" audio signal or as "saturation" in digital images -- when, for instance, a sky that looks blue to the naked eye shows up on-camera as a sheet of white. Last week, at the International Conference on Sampling Theory and Applications, researchers from MIT and the Technical University of Munich presented a technique that they call unlimited sampling, which can accurately digitize signals whose voltage peaks are far beyond an ADC's voltage limit. The consequence could be cameras that capture all the gradations of color visible to the human eye, audio that doesn't skip, and medical and environmental sensors that can handle both long periods of low activity and the sudden signal spikes that are often the events of interest. One of the paper's author's explains that "The idea is very simple. If you have a number that is too big to store in your computer memory, you can take the modulo of the number."

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Categories: Misc

Buried 19-year-old memo indicates special counsel Mueller might have authority to indict Trump

Daily Kos - 3 hours 35 min ago

With Donald Trump focused on the legality of pardons for himself and selected minions, and spewing a torrent of early morning official White House statements in 140-character bits amid new revelations about Russian contacts, legal authorities are again wondering whether a sitting president is immune from prosecution. The conventional reasoning is that immunity reigns.

However, digging via the Freedom of Information Act byThe New York Times has uncovered a buried memorandum that says it doesn’t. The source? The execrable Kenneth Starr, who sought to bury President Bill Clinton, contributing to the vicious ultra-partisanship that has only grown in the past two decades. Starr, speaking with apparent contrition last year, claims Clinton has redeemed himself in his post-presidential years. Regardless of the source, the memo raises new possibilities. As Charlie Savage reports

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Mr. Starr assigned Ronald Rotunda, a prominent conservative professor of constitutional law and ethics whom Mr. Starr hired as a consultant on his legal team, to write the memo in spring 1998 after deputies advised him that they had gathered enough evidence to ask a grand jury to indict Mr. Clinton, the memo shows.

He points out that Watergate special counsel Leon Jaworski also had determined in 1974 that Richard Nixon could be indicted, saying so in a memo and later in a court brief. Neither time did those views get tested in court since Nixon resigned in the face of impeachment and Clinton was acquitted by the Senate after a five-week impeachment trial.

The Jaworksi memo and brief and the Starr memo aren’t the only legal explorations of the subject, however. As Savage points out, In 1973, a brief by Solicitor General Robert H. Bork inferred that the Constitution makes presidents immune from indictment and trial. This was backed up decades later in a 2000 memo by Randolph D. Moss, the head of the Office of Legal Counsel under Clinton.

These conflicting views have never been tested by the Supreme Court, or any of the lower courts.

What the Starr memo gives credence to is the possibility that Robert Mueller III, the former FBI director who is now special counsel, may have more options than is generally thought to be the case when it comes to action he might take when he has completed his inquiry into Trump’s campaign dealings with Russia and whether he obstructed justice. If Mueller found enough evidence to indict and consequently chose to accept the Jaworski and Starr point of view, he would still have to ponder the impact of the anything-but-small political fallout from taking the momentous step of indicting a sitting president for the first time in the history of the Republic. 

All this assumes, of course, that Donald J. Trump won’t get up one of these mornings and tweet to the world that he has fired Mueller. 

Categories: Politics

The US And Australia Are Testing Hypersonic Missiles

Slashdot - 4 hours 23 min ago
schwit1 quotes Engadget: Both the U.S. and Australia have confirmed that they recently completed a series of mysterious hypersonic missile tests. All the countries will say is that the flights were successful, and that they represented "significant milestones" in testing everything from the design assembly to the control mechanisms. They won't even say which vehicles were used or how quickly they traveled, although past tests have usually relied on Terrier Orion rockets and have reached speeds as high as Mach 8. The tests are part of the long-running HIFiRE (Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation) program, whose first launch took place way back in 2009. They should help bring hypersonic flight to a "range of applications," according to HIFiRE partner BAE. That could easily include ultra-fast aircraft, but it's widely believed the focus here is on missiles and similar unmanned weapons. A hypersonic missile would fulfill the US military's goal of building a conventional weapon that can strike anywhere within an hour, and it would be virtually impossible to stop using existing missile defenses. In theory, enemy nations wouldn't dare attack if they knew they'd face certain retaliation within minutes. Originally NASA was involved in the project, which has been ongoing for more than eight years. But it's timeline may have shortened after reports that foreign powers including Russia and China are already building their own hypersonic missiles.

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Categories: Misc

El Rushbo Endorses Group Pardon As Answer To Ending Russia Investigation

Crooks and Liars - 4 hours 27 min ago
El Rushbo Endorses Group Pardon As Answer To Ending Russia Investigation

Pardons are the in-thing for people in the in-crowd this week, apparently. Republican Party leader Rush Limbaugh is now chiming in with his blessing on the strategy too.

"One way to end this is just pardon everybody that Mueller is investigating, right now," Rush said, after wringing his chubby hands about Mueller's team donating to Democrats. (Nobody should tell him Anthony Scaramucci donated to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, okay?)

"Just pardon them," he ordered. "It would shut down the investigation. If there's not going to be any punishment, if there are not going to be -- whatever charges are brought eventually, if allegations are made. They've been pre-pardoned here. It'd be one way of shutting it down."

Rush is a blowhard, but he's not too bright. Apparently he doesn't realize that a pardon means each person pardoned can be compelled to testify. And that testimony could lead straight to his Hero having to pardon himself...and admit he sold the country out to a hostile foreign power.


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Categories: Politics

Here’s the Real Reason Trump Fired Comey

Kevin Drum - 4 hours 43 min ago

Just a quick observation here. Donald Trump demonstrated again this morning that he remains obsessed with Hillary Clinton:

Trump is preoccupied with Hillary because she ruined his victory: he still can’t stand the thought that she got several million more votes than he did. I suspect the same is true of James Comey. Sure, he wanted Comey to help him out with the Michael Flynn investigation, but Comey’s real sin was being a living, breathing, daily reminder that Trump won only because Comey helped him out with his last-minute letter about the email investigation. This gnawed endlessly at Trump, so Comey had to go.

Categories: Politics

Senate parliamentarian makes swiss cheese out of Trumpcare, complicating McConnell's path to 50

Daily Kos - 4 hours 47 min ago

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Because the Republican Congress had to pass their Obamacare repeal and "replacement" bill with just Republican votes, they had to resort to budget reconciliation, a process that allows for passage with just 51 votes. But there's a catch in that—the Byrd Rule, which means basically the provisions of the bill have to have a direct impact on either spending or revenue to be ruled in order.

The person who determines if the bill's provisions past muster is Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate parliamentarian, in what's colloquially known as the "Byrd Bath," and in the case of Trumpcare she's decided big chunks of it don't. Her ruling significantly complicates Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's life, which is no more than he deserves.

The biggest casualty would be the GOP’s replacement for Obamacare’s individual mandate, which required people to buy insurance or face a penalty. Under the Senate GOP’s bill, people who went more than a month without health coverage and then bought insurance later on would have to wait six months for their coverage to take effect and cover their medical bills.

The provision was considered necessary in order to encourage people to sign up for health insurance and keep the market stable. Without such a provision, experts fear the insurance market could be sent into a death spiral—only the sickest people, who cost insurers the most, buy coverage, and premiums and costs continue to rise.

Another key provision for market stability—the funding of Obamacare’s cost-sharing reductions, currently in limbo because of an ongoing Republican lawsuit—was also said to be out of order under the Senate rules, according to a summary posted on the Senate Budget Committee website. The cost-sharing reductions are payments to insurers that help them meet a requirement that low-income people get help with their copays and deductibles.

Two provisions crucial for social conservatives, the defunding of Planned Parenthood and the restrictions on federal tax subsidies paying for health insurance that covers abortion, would also require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and pass—and with no Democrats willing to vote for them, those provisions appear effectively dead. Without them, it could be even harder to win conservative support for the bill.

The loudest of the House Freedom Caucus maniacs immediately chimed in, saying that without Planned Parenthood defunding, passage in the House  is "almost impossible." But the Cruz amendment to allow insurance companies to sell policies that don't comply with Obamacare's regulations as long as they sell one plan that does hasn't been considered yet. Conservatives are dead set on this one, but it hasn't actually been added yet—possibly to avoid a bad CBO score, possibly because they haven't been able to craft it so it would pass through the Byrd Bath. A few more of the provision that are still under review are "Enhanced waivers for some Affordable Care Act regulations; A provision allowing small businesses to establish association health plans; The provision allowing insurers to charge older people more than younger people compared to the ACA; and The option for states to receive a block grant instead of a per-person funding cap" in Medicaid.

The Planned Parenthood ruling is the big political problem for McConnell. He does have an option, with that and everything else declared out of order and requiring 60 votes, which is to overrule her on the floor. That would be the job of Vice President Mike Pence in this case. But as long as the Byrd Rule has been in effect, the Senate has abided by the Parliamentarian's judgment. Overruling here here would be another one of those "nuclear options" for McConnell. He's perfectly capable of doing so, but that might be a step too far for a big swath of his caucus who is already pissed at McConnell for completely abandoning the normal legislative process on this bill and for shutting them out.

With enough continued, loud, unrelenting opposition on our part, this all might be moot. The goal for us now is to make sure there aren’t 50 votes for McConnell to move forward on the bill, so that they don’t even get to the point of having a rules fight.

Make your Republican senator feel the heat. Call their office EVERY DAY at (202) 224-3121 to demand that they say NO to repealing Obamacare and ripping health care away from millions of Americans. After your call, tell us how it went.

Categories: Politics

The six-month verdict on Trump: A fraud, a liar, and quite possibly an idiot

Daily Kos - 4 hours 56 min ago

Donald Trump has been "president" for six months now. It is not normal for one of the nation's top papers to celebrate the six month anniversary of a new administration with a column reminding readers that the new leader is a lying sack of crap, but we do not live in normal times.

So it goes with Trump, the most fact-challenged politician that The Fact Checker has ever encountered. As part of our coverage of the president’s first 100 days, The Fact Checker team (along with Leslie Shapiro and Kaeti Hinck of the Post graphics department) produced an interactive graphic that displayed a running list of every false or misleading statement made by the president. He averaged 4.9 false or misleading claims a day.

Readers encouraged us to keep the list going for the president’s first year. So at the six-month mark, the president’s tally stands at 836 false or misleading claims. That’s an average of 4.6 claims a day, not far off his first 100-day pace.

This may still count as a charitable interpretation of his behavior. As the weeks wind on it's becoming more evident that Trump lies not merely in an attempt to puff up his accomplishments and stature, but because he has only a limited understanding of events surrounding him. His NATO claims have been gibberish; his most recent interview was not characterized by lying as much as by sheer incoherence. His attempts to sell the Senate's healthcare bill have been especially instructive, as he has repeatedly made claims about what the bill does that bear no relation to its actual contents—in front of the very senators he's attempting to court.

He may not be intentionally lying. He may be unable to grasp even basic concepts about the world he now finds himself in. He may genuinely believe that NATO "owes" America cash, or that he brilliantly negotiated his way through agreements that were in fact negotiated years before he gained office. He may be, in other words, a moron.

One Friedman Unit into Donald's White House tenure, the nation's press is in agreement that the president of the United States lies, and lies a lot. Television chyrons are regularly reminding viewers that some particularly egregious thing the POTUS has said is not in fact true; the contents of White House press briefings are more valued by the nation's comedy writers than by the reporters covering them, and it is generally understood that the office functions more as a therapy outlet for Trump's latest obsession than as a substantive White House connection to the outside world.

It is likely that six months from now, we will have similarly settled on the near-universal acknowledgement that the president is, in fact, not merely a liar but suffering from a more severe mental impairment. What we will do about it is still up in the air, but it seems clear that the day is coming.

Categories: Politics