Chicago crime wave prompts Team Trump to send reinforcements - Trump challenges GOP senators to repeal ObamaCare now, replace later if no deal - Republican state attorney generals threaten lawsuit if Trump doesn't end DACA   
          Health care reform: First, do no harm   

Louisiana’s Republican U.S. Sens. John Neely Kennedy and Bill Cassidy soon must decide how they want to be remembered by future generations: as partisan hacks who put their party ahead of their constituents, or as courageous independents who sought to end America’s bitter political divide.

That’s what’s at stake when the two men vote on the GOP’s latest health care reform bill.…
          NYT retracts claim that ‘17 US intelligence agencies’ verified Russian DNC email hack   
Preview The New York Times has retracted its claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies agreed that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic emails in an effort to influence the 2016 election in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Read Full Article at
          June 30, 2017 - Did GOP run an Operation to Hack into Hillary's emails?   
Pat discusses an article in the Wall Street Journal which features an interview with a long-time researcher for the Republican party. Did the GOP try to purposefully hack into Hillary Clinton's email server and then give what they allegedly found to Wikileaks? Was Michael Flynn involved?
          Donald Trump Mocks MSNBC TV host Mika Brzezinski "Bleeding Facelift"   

The US president, Donald Trump will fight "fire with fire", those were the words of Deputy White house press secretary, Sarah Huckabee, after the president went on a Twitter tirade against MSNBC TV host Mika Brzezinski.

Trump tweeted the attack to the Tv host, and said she was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" when she visited his Mar-la-go resort in Florida. Trump also attacked Brzezinski's co-host, Joe Scarborough, who he said is developing a "dictatorship."


The tweet have generated different backlash from house members, who believes that what Trump had done is beneath the office he holds. Some backlash Trump's tweet got are from;



Clap Back From Mika Brzezinski

The TV host, Mika Brzezinski clapped back at President Trump later this morning with the picture below;


The little hand is referring to the alleged "small hands" used by Marco Rubio to insult Trump during the Republican primary.


          Fox News host slams Trump over sexist tweet: 'They called Obama every name but he didn't lash out'   
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel defended the President
          Retrasan votación sobre ley sanitaria en Senado de EE.UU.   
Retrasan votación sobre ley sanitaria en Senado de EE.UU.
La dirigencia republicana del Senado estadounidense decidió posponer hoy la votación sobre su proyecto de ley sanitaria hasta después del receso del 4 de julio,…

          Trump says Obamacare should be repealed even if it's not replaced with anything   
Senators from different wings of the Republican party disagree with key parts of the Obamacare repeal and replacement bill
          HIV advocate reflects on arrest while protesting Senate health care bill   

On Wednesday, June 28, Eric Sawyer and about 10 other HIV activists were arrested while engaging in civil disobedience in protest of the Republican-led Senate’s version of a health care reform bill that they say will be devastating to those living with HIV. It’s not a new experience for Sawyer, who is the vice president […]

The post HIV advocate reflects on arrest while protesting Senate health care bill appeared first on Metro Weekly.

          Gotta love those #Republicans... Read more: #comics #webcomics   

from my Twitter. follow me on Twitter.

posted: June 27, 2017 at 01:39PM

          Gotta love those #Republicans... Read more: #comics #webcomics   

from my Twitter. follow me on Twitter.

posted: June 27, 2017 at 01:39PM

          #HellerVoteNo #HellAlwaysVoteNoAgainstRepublicanInterests! They did the same against Obama & Dems for 8 years. Se…   

from my Twitter. follow me on Twitter.

posted: June 25, 2017 at 12:27AM

          And here I thought #Republicans were against the redistribution of wealth! Guess it's ok when it's redistributed in…   

from my Twitter. follow me on Twitter.

posted: June 24, 2017 at 12:38AM

          I am shocked! SHOCKED to learn of Republican obstructionism!   

from my Twitter. follow me on Twitter.

posted: June 23, 2017 at 01:26PM

          The Myth of Proposition 187   
From the academic journal Political Behavior: Reexamining the Effect of Racial Propositions on Latinos’ Partisanship in California by Iris Hui and David O. Sears First Online: 23 March 2017 DOI: 10.1007/s11109-017-9400-1 Many seasoned politicians and scholars have attributed the loss in support for the Republican Party in California to its push for three racially divisive propositions […]
          Republicans call on Ginsburg to recuse herself in travel ban case   
Corrected: Fifty-eight Republican lawmakers are calling on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself in the travel ban case that will be argued before…
          Week In Politics: Senators Work On Health Care Bill While Trump Tweets   
This week Republican senators postponed a vote on their health care bill but continued to make changes. Also, President Trump received bipartisan criticism for a crude tweet.
          What To Do About Obamacare   
Republican voters mostly aren't against it for reasons other than the fact that it was championed by the black Muslim guy from Kenya. They don't like the as-yet-unenforced mandate, and they don't like it for all of the reasons that few people actually like our health care system - at best it's needlessly a pain in the ass, at worst, well, you know the worst. A lot of them are pissed off because they think the blahs got the secret welfare ACA (Medicaid) while they got Obamacare (the exchanges), even though a big reason (not the only one!) a lot of them didn't get Medicaid was they yelled and screamed for their states to "reject Obamacare" and, thanks to Roberts, what they could reject was the Medicaid expansion.

Hospitals hate the idea of repeal. Insurance companies mostly don't like it. For people with employer insurance, people who got Medicaid, and people who can kinda sorta afford the individual plans, it's mostly better (and since the mandate isn't even enforced, it's basically better for anyone who chooses to buy it).

Ultimately any "Republican healthcare plan" is basically Obamacare, but shittier. Even my glibertarian college facebook friend who HATES OBAMACARE earnestly described what the health care system should be, and it really was Obamacare without the mandate, to the letter.

The sociopaths in Congress wants to take away Medicaid, make it less affordable and with fewer benefits (at worst, completely fake insurance, at best something slightly better than that). Remove revenue from insurance companies and hospitals, including forcing them to eat more emergency room bills. Oh, and people don't get needed care and go bankrupt and die.

The leading liberal think tank has decided to make another stab at bipartisan fixes to Obamacare because I guess whatever was in the water that made Obama think elected Republicans were interested in such a thing is still in the water in DC. I'm not sure why "here's a really complicated plan that people won't like much more than the status quo and has no chance of passing" is better than "here's a really simply-sounding (nothing is simple, of course, but the bureaucracies should handle the bureaucracy, not us) idea that would be popular and better and universal and has no chance of passing right now" but centrists gotta centrist I guess.

          This Is Republicans   
As Pareene says, Trump the person is not normal, but the Trump presidency basically is just a Republican presidency, with some extra crazy tweeting.
          Analysis: "Bad" foreign firms drive U.S. manufacturing jobs revival   

By Lesley Wroughton and Howard Schneider

SPARTANBURG/CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Years before Donald Trump began promising to bring back good manufacturing jobs by getting tough with U.S. trade partners, such jobs have already been on the rise, largely thanks to foreign companies now cast as villains in Trump's narrative.

Reuters analysis of federal jobs data shows that out of 656,000 new manufacturing jobs created between 2010 and 2014, two thirds can be attributed to foreign direct investment.

More recent jobs numbers are not yet available, but over $700 billion in foreign capital has poured in over the last two years bringing total foreign investment to $3.7 trillion at the end of 2016, a world record. (Graphic:

Now foreign companies that have spent billions of dollars on U.S. factories and local leaders who host them worry that global supply networks that back those investments will fray if Trump makes good on his pledge to roll back trade liberalization.

The U.S. president has threatened to tear up North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico and slap higher tariffs on nations that run trade surpluses with the United States, such as Germany or China. The administration is also discussing tighter immigration rules and more security screening of investment.

The tough message helped sway swing northeastern and Midwestern Rust Belt states Trump's way in the 2016 election, but puts him at odds with companies and local leaders in the south, which has driven the recent growth in manufacturing jobs.

The southern states have voted for Trump, but have also spent decades wooing foreign companies with flexible labor laws, financial incentives and investment in ports, roads and other infrastructure.


The courtship has spawned new auto plants from Kentucky to Georgia, and a new Airbus plant in Mobile, Alabama.

Few places highlight the gap between Trump's rhetoric and local aspirations better than Spartanburg in South Carolina.

German carmaker BMW has invested here $8 billion in a 1.2 million square foot (11.15 hectares) assembly plant, which has become the largest single exporter of cars by value from the United States.

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster, a Republican and Trump supporter, credits the German automaker for putting his state on the global investment map.

"The presence of this company changed everything in the trajectory of our state," McMaster said on Monday at an event unveiling BMW's newest X3 sports utility vehicle.

Its Chief Executive Harald Krueger said the carmaker would invest additional $600 million in Spartanburg over the next four years, adding 1,000 jobs to the 9,000-strong workforce, and spend further $200 million on employee training and education.

But the poster child of South Carolina's success also doubles as a whipping boy. In January, BMW's plans to build a plant in Mexico drew Trump's ire and last month the U.S. president was quoted as saying Germany was "very bad" on trade and selling too many cars in the United States.

And even as the company highlights its contribution to the U.S. economy and the benefits of free trade, it is hedging its bets by preparing for a possible protectionist backlash.

Outside of the spotlight, BMW is retooling factories in South Africa and China to build volume models like the X3 SUV, reducing its dependence on Spartanburg.

“We have a big footprint here, and we are flexible enough," Oliver Zipse, BMW's board member responsible for manufacturing, told Reuters. "We will build the X3 not only in Spartanburg, we will split it into South Africa and then to China, so we will have some flexibility to produce cars somewhere else,” he said.

“If something happens at the political level - which we don’t know yet - we are able to have a flexible response.”

The Trump administration has said it welcomes foreign investment and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, who spoke at an opening of a new Samsung Electronics <005930.KS> plant in South Carolina, said such projects showed that "America is becoming an even stronger destination for global businesses looking to grow.”

The southern U.S. states owe much of their success to coastal port authorities and cities that have invested heavily to make their channels and docks fit for shipments to and from China and Mexico.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina who has often clashed with Trump, said protectionism would undermine those accomplishments and hurt American workers.


"Negotiate a trade agreement with Europe, modernize NAFTA, don't tear it up," Graham told Reuters at the BMW factory. "We're going in the wrong direction. We need more trade agreements, not less."

Graham noted how low-cost competition from China and Mexico destroyed South Carolina's once thriving textile industry and how the state reinvented itself as a manufacturing hub, bringing the likes of BMW or French tire maker Michelin .

The now humming port city of Charleston has a similar story to tell. When a major navy base shut down in the 1990s wiping out 20,000 jobs, local officials worked to bring foreign manufacturers, which now employ around 10,000 in the three counties around the city and more is set to come.

Mercedes-Benz, part of Daimler AG , is adding 1,300 jobs so it can make its Sprinter van here rather than merely assemble it with imported parts, which also means more business for local suppliers.

Up the road, Volvo Car Group, part of Chinese conglomerate Geely, is due to open its first North American plant next year with a target workforce of 2,000.

Local development officials expect more jobs and investment to come, but worry that some steps discussed by the Trump administration could have a chilling effect.

Claire Gibbons, director of global marketing at the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, said the proposed new tariffs, tougher immigration rules and stricter reviews of foreign investment projects would amount to a "doomsday scenario" for the region.

"This is an education opportunity for us all, for the people making the decisions that don't understand the ramifications."

(1 euro = $1.1350)

(Additional reporting by Edward Taylor in Munich. Editing by David Chance and Tomasz Janowski)

          What the Senate's Obamacare Replacement would mean for Mental-Health Treatment (Pacific Standard)   

By Francie Diep

June 26, 2017

See Original Post

When Obamacare repeal was but a twinkle in Republicans' eyes, Pacific

Standard wrote about how the disappearance of the Affordable Care Act might

affect Americans who need mental-health care, including addiction treatment.

At the time, we didn't ...

Read more

          Trump a Viable Nominee? Unfortunately, Young Republicans Say Yes   
Donald Trump commands significant support among GOP youth
          Re: Inside Gianforte’s election night party, or: How Montana Republicans learned to stop worrying and love the ‘body slam’   
I love the part about Robert Crumley being supportive of someone breaking the law. He has done it himself a couple of times in Gallatin County.
Posted by montanan4montana
          Trump is undoing the GOP health care bill, one tweet at a time   
Trump's erratic and chaotic style makes it extremely difficult for Republicans to garner support for their controversial health care bill, writes Julian Zelizer.

          Why Obamacare is here to stay   
Senate Republicans continue to work to repeal and repeal Obamacare, but even if they succeed, it has become clear this week that the law has fundamentally shifted expectations surrounding health care in the country.

          Prostitutes: Senate health care bill will devastate us   
Adding a voice to the chorus against the Republican-led American Health Care Act is a group not usually heard on protest frontlines: prostitutes.

          Republicans to Trump: Please stop   
Republican lawmakers were caught off-guard by President Donald Trump's personal attack on "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski Thursday, with several saying the remarks were unbecoming of his office.

          Reform Roundup: June 30th, 2017   

Catch up on the week’s electoral reform news with our round up of folks across the country writing and talking about FairVote reform vision. This week, Congressman Don Beyer introduced the Fair Representation Act (FRA), H.R. 3057.

  • Congressman Don Beyer wrote for The Washington Post about needing to change how we elect the House of Representatives. “Applied nationally, we would have more moderate Democrats from districts leaning Republican, and vice versa, creating a type of politician — now nearly extinct — known as a ‘bridge builder.’ Many members would share constituents with members of the other major party, creating incentives to work together on legislation affecting the district.”

  • Anita Earls wrote for The Nation about how the Fair Representation Act would put an end to gerrymandering and improve representation for communities of color. “There is a way forward. If we want to stop gerrymandering, and move beyond constant litigation over how lines are drawn, we must rethink the way we do districting itself. That’s why the Fair Representation Act creates such an exciting path forward. In states like Texas, for example, where black and Latino populations live close together, those communities are often pitted against each other for the one majority-minority seat. A multi-winner district, and a genuine multi-racial slate, would decrease tension between racial minorities, while increasing their voice.”

  • FairVote Executive Director Rob Richie and Board Chair Krist Novoselic spoke to Pedro Echevarria of the Washington Journal C-SPAN about FairVote’s 25th Anniversary year and the introduction of the Fair Representation Act. “With multi-member districts, you don’t need to receive 50% of the vote, which is what you do when you’re just electing one person like president. You can lower that share to whatever is proportionate to the number of seats, so if you have 5 seats it will take about a 5th of the vote. And by doing that, it opens up every single corner of every single state to meaningful engagement and participation and representation. One party would not sweep all of the seats anywhere.” 

  • The American Prospect reported on the Fair Representation Act and its potential to end Congressional Dysfunction. "The bill would not only institute nonpartisan redistricting commissions and a new voting system designed to create a proportionally representational Congress, but also aims to dramatically reduce the number of safe seats for each party and eliminate the unopposed re-election of representatives. In 2014, 31 congressional representatives were re-elected unopposed."

  • Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and David De la Fuente of ThirdWay wrote in U.S. News & World Report about why voters need the Fair Representation Act. “If policymakers don’t offer solutions to fix our electoral system and restore faith that our representative democracy is working the way it should, voters will continue to react with anger and deliver wave elections where they “throw the bums out” every other year. As we’ve seen over the past few election cycles, these reactive waves make it even harder to govern, further contributing to the cycle of frustration that led to them in the first place.”

  • The Alexandria News reports on the introduction of the Fair Representation Act, introduced by Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia’s 8th district. “The Fair Representation Act is the most comprehensive approach to improving congressional elections in American history,” said Rob Richie, the executive director of FairVote. “It creates an impartial, national standard that gets at the core of FairVote’s mission: Giving voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and a representative democracy that works for all Americans.”



          The Fair Representation Act has been introduced to Congress   

I’m sponsoring the Fair Representation Act because Congress is broken. It is hyper-partisan. It is far too polarized. The FRA creates a structure where members of Congress are incentivized to work together. This is the right thing to do to give voters the strong voice that they deserve in our elections.

--Congressman Don Beyer (VA-08)

On June 26, 2017, Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) introduced H.R. 3057: The Fair Representation Act. He was joined by co-sponsors Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Ro Khanna (D-CA). This is a historic moment. The Fair Representation Act is the most comprehensive approach to reforming congressional elections in United States history. It would truly realize the vision of the House of Representatives as “The People’s House.”

The Fair Representation Act

FairVote has called for expanding the use of multi-winner ranked choice voting in United States elections since its founding 25 years ago. Ranked choice voting can replace the broken, zero-sum, winner-take-all system - in which the biggest group of voters in a district are the only ones earning representation - with fair representation for all. In this era of fierce partisan divisions, nowhere needs this change more than the House of Representatives.

RCV-ballot-09.pngUnder the Fair Representation Act, every state would use ranked choice voting to elect its Representatives. Voters would be free to rank their choices without fear of “spoilers.” Instead of only one candidate winning with the most votes, several candidates would win based on how many votes they earn. For example, in a state like Oklahoma or Connecticut that elects 5 winners, 17% of voters can elect 1 of the 5 winners; 34% of voters can elect 2 of the 5 winners; and so on. A majority of voters can always elect a majority of seats, and everyone earns their fair share.

States that elect up to 5 winners will not need any districts at all. Larger states will use districts, but the districts will elect 3, 4, or 5 winners each. That means that a state like Massachusetts that elects 9 Representatives will divide into equal thirds, with each of the three districts electing 3 winners with ranked choice voting. To adopt a district map, these states will form independent redistricting commissions composed of ordinary state citizens (not politicians or lobbyists) who will operate transparently and hold hearings around the state to find the district map that makes the most sense for their state.

The use of ranked choice voting in multi-winner elections will transform the House of Representatives. The current system only allows the biggest group of voters in each district to win representation, all other voices are silenced. As a result, there are millions of voters who prefer Democrats stuck in safe Republican districts and millions of voters who prefer Republicans stuck in safe Democratic districts, women and people of color are under-represented, and everyone has too few choices. The Fair Representation Act can elevate those voices, giving them more power to elect candidates they support and who will go to Congress to work for them.

A Historic Moment

Under the Constitution, Congress has the responsibility to act when our federal elections are not working. It has acted on that responsibility many times in the past, passing laws changing how we elect Congress in 1842 (requiring single-winner districts), 1872 (equal populations per representative), 1901 (requiring that districts be “compact”), 1929 (repealing the requirement to use districts), and 1967 (re-imposing the requirement to use districts). It has been 50 years since Congress has acted in this arena, even as the current system fails to deliver on the promise of a representative House.

Representative Beyer has shown tremendous leadership in holding Congress to its constitutional responsibilities. The attention it attracted from the public demonstrates the hunger that voters have for a more empowering system. FairVote livestreamed Rep. Beyer’s press conference, which was viewed over 44,000 times and ultimately reached over 554,000 people.;overflow:hiddenno0truetrue

The day after the bill’s introduction, Rep. Beyer published an opinion piece in the Washington Post explaining why he introduced the Act. It begins “Democracy is in crisis. Even as the country is deeply divided along class and ideological lines, it seems to be unified in its frustration with our current brand of politics.” Other voices have also weighed in on the need for the Fair Representation Act, including:

As more media coverage happens in the coming days and weeks, we'll add it to the list on our website.

You Can Help the Fair Representation Act Gain Momentum

Now that the vehicle for transforming elections to the U.S. House of Representatives is a bill in Congress, you can help to move the conversation forward. Contact your Representative today to ask them to support the Fair Representation Act. You can find your Representative here, and email them a letter supporting the Fair Representation Act. A sample letter is provided here. You also could consider calling your Member, which increases their likelihood of responding. Better still would be to form a group to have a meeting with your Member and their district office staff. 

Finally, we want to keep adding names to our petition in support of the Act. We currently have over 1500 signatures. Please consider sharing the petition online and drawing people’s attention to our new video and our public resources, at

          Duncan Hunter, the vaping congressman, vapes again   
The Republican representing most of Temecula puffs from an e-cigarette during a hearing
          GOP Operative Implied He Was Working w/Gen. Flynn To Get Hillary’s Erased Emails From Russian Hackers   
Russian Hackers

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that during the 2016 campaign a Republican opposition researcher named Peter W. Smith believed the emails Hillary Clinton erased from her basement server (she claimed they were personal) were hacked, probably by the Russians. Smith tried to track the emails down and retrieve them for opposition research.  According to the report, Smith […]

The post GOP Operative Implied He Was Working w/Gen. Flynn To Get Hillary’s Erased Emails From Russian Hackers appeared first on The Lid.

          Re: Multnomah County Republicans Formally Allow Militia Groups to Run Security   
So is this douchbags hiring assholes or assholes hiring douchbags?
Posted by lahar legar
          Re: Multnomah County Republicans Formally Allow Militia Groups to Run Security   
"The volunteers are afraid of going to Portland street fairs and Portland events because of what happened to them,"

'What happened to them' being that some of the Oath Keeper's friends in Patriot Prayer sent an anonymous letter to threaten themselves to claim victim-hood, misunderstanding that Antifa would never deign to send a missive to public entities, since, you know, they don't beleive public institutions are legitimate.
Posted by The Beans
          Re: Multnomah County Republicans Formally Allow Militia Groups to Run Security   
So the MCGOP says it has "no money" to hire legitimate private security contractors and wants to use a bunch of guys who like to cosplay with guns and ammo. OK, great. But aren't they worried about what could happen if one of these "ammosexuals" gets a bit hot under the collar and wounds or kills someone while providing security? Aren't they worried about liability?
Posted by tommyspoon
          Re: Multnomah County Republicans Formally Allow Militia Groups to Run Security   
Pile this on top of the recent NRA ad that is essentially a call-to-arms for a 21st Century civil war in America, and we're looking at a group of insane gun nuts being primed to unleash a good deal of chaos, death, and injury on the general population. This needs to be stopped ASAP. These assholes are a significant threat to everyone.
Posted by FlavioSuave
          Re: Multnomah County Republicans Formally Allow Militia Groups to Run Security   
So they have quit even pretending to be sane.
Posted by jnat
          GOP's Plan B for Obamacare repeal began with quiet push from Koch network   

President Trump’s surprise suggestion Friday that deadlocked Senate Republicans shift their focus to simply repealing Obamacare — and worry about replacing it later — has its roots in a Koch network proposal that has been shopped around Congress for months.

The influential Koch network, backed...

          Trump: Kill Obamacare now, replace later   

(Reuters) – President Donald Trump urged Republican senators today to repeal Obamacare immediately if they cannot agree on a new healthcare plan to replace it, potentially sowing confusion as congressional leaders struggle for a consensus on healthcare legislation. Senate Republican leaders had set today as the target for rewriting legislation that would repeal extensive parts […]

The post Trump: Kill Obamacare now, replace later appeared first on MassDevice.

          'Beneath the dignity of your office': Republicans blast Trump Twitter spree   

The US President is under fire from within his own party after he attacks MSNBC's Morning Joe team, calling male host Joe Scarborough "psycho" and female host Mika Brzezinski "crazy" and "low IQ", saying she was "bleeding badly from a facelift".

          Useful Ajit Pai's lawyer nominated for top US telco watchdog role   

Brendan Carr will be a reliable vote against net neutrality as an FCC commissioner

President Donald Trump has nominated Brendan Carr, the FCC's general counsel, to fill the last remaining Republican commissioner slot at America's telco watchdog.…

          TS271: Post Election Polls, House Bill 133, Guests Caitlin Barlow & Katie O'Brien   
This week Bryan and Erin share about their time at the Women’s March and the disaster of a human that is Kellyanne Conway. Also, a post election poll shows that Republican men believe women have it better in America right now, and House Bill 133 in Wyoming would allow discrimination under religious freedom against LGBTQ people. Plus, guests Caitlin Barlow and Katie O'Brien from the TV Land show “Teachers” are here to discuss Kris Jenners influence, their improve group “the Katydids”, and writing polar opposite characters from themselves. Catch “Teachers” on TV Land Tuesdays at 9PM before Throwing Shade. Follow them on Twitter! @katiecobrien and @Caitlin__Barlow
          TS270: Throwing Shade TV Tonight, Jennifer Holliday, Women's March, Guest Derek Meeker   
This week Bryan shares the myth of the stomach flu, while Erin shares her plans for the Inauguration. Also, Jennifer Holliday promptly backs out of performing at the Inauguration with a heartfelt response, and the Women’s March on Washington is this Saturday 1/21, and we have all the details. Plus, Bryans partner, guest Derek Meeker is here to discuss their wedding, Derek’s Republican past, and his coming out story.  Throwing Shade is TONIGHT 1/17 on TV Land at 10:30 PM! Watch it live, set your DVRs, get on Tinder or Grindr and find someone who has a tv! Just watch!
          Michigan will not have an anti-abortion license plate, thanks to Gov. Snyder   
Governor Rick Snyder has vetoed a bill that would have created a state-issued “Choose Life” fundraising license plate, with proceeds going to the Choose Life Fund.

Snyder said in a statement that he was concerned that “The ‘Choose Life’ license plate is a political message that has the potential to bitterly divide millions of Michiganders." In his view, it is "not appropriate for a state-issued license plate.”

House Republicans approved the bill in May on a near party-line vote, according to the Free Press. Reps. Robert Kosowski of Westland and Brian Elder of Bay City were the only Democrats who supported the legislation.…
          TS258: Patti Smith, Brian Babin, Log Cabin Republicans   
This week Bryan saw the original nasty woman Patti Smith over the weekend with a bunch of heterosensuals and lived to tell the tale, while Erin has a surprising conversation with a local silhouette artist. Also, Texas Representative Brian Babin believes women should be told when they are being nasty. Nasty women vote hunny! And the Log Cabin Republicans have sashayed away from Trump and have decided to not endorse him for president.   
          TS243: Donut Parties, Medical Studies, Periods, Republican Bribery   
This week Erin tells us how she was scammed by a donut party while Bryan shares his love of naming everything "jer-majesty." Also Medical research studies are not allowing women to participate because their periods and their emotions will taint the data. Also Republicans are getting bribed to vote against gun laws with such a low amount of money they couldn’t even buy an iced coffee, but remember..their prayers are with us.
          What Jon Stewart Means To Me   
August 2006, I wrapped up my life in India and moved to the United States for a PhD in Marketing.

I left the country I really knew and moved to a strange new land, with its strange new customs, and strange people, and strange grocery aisles! I had a tough time fitting in!

Okay, no I didn't.

The thing is, I moved when I was 26 years old, as opposed to most other Indian grad students who move here right out of college, having not seen any of the "real world". Thanks to blogs and internet forums and American TV shows and second hand stories from close friends who moved there four years before, I more or less knew what to expect from America. To me, almost everything ranging from grocery aisles to the way the people talked and behaved to the local "customs" seemed familiar.

The one thing that wasn't as familiar was the news cycle. I have always been a huge news junkie, especially interested in politics. Although I followed the basics of American politics even when I lived in India, I did not really "know" the scene too well. Sure, I had followed the 2004 primaries, seen Howard Dean's howl, slept through John Kerry's speeches, and more or less knew why Florida or Ohio are so much more crucial in the Presidential race than Tennessee or Indiana.

And I knew America's comedy scene well enough, having been a big fan of Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, and of course, George Carlin.

And yes, I was vaguely aware of this funny guy called Jon Stewart who combined politics and comedy. When I was in India, CNN used to air a half hour compilation of the best bits of his show once a week. Not quite the "Daily" show but whenever I came across it on TV, I watched it and chuckled. To me, it seemed like a funny enough show with a political context.

And then in August 2006, I moved to America. I fit in quite easily in most ways, ranging from food to socializing to academics to day to day chores. One aspect where I felt lost was the politics. I realized that I knew about American politics only peripherally. So I started reading more blogs, watching the big three cable news channels, reading newspapers, etc.

The first time I watched The Daily Show was due to jet lag a couple of days after I arrived. I had slept through most of the afternoon and evening and in the wee hours of the night, I found myself as alert as a watchdog. While my roommates slept, I plonked myself in front of the TV and started flipping channels. And I came across the slightly familiar face of Jon Stewart. It was 1 or 2 AM so obviously, it was the repeat telecast.

As I watched, I found myself drawn in instantly, maybe because of the Indian connection. The segment was about how Republican senate candidate George Allen had referred to an Indian-American staffer of his opponent Jim Webb as "macaca". What I loved about that segment was that it combined facts, opinion, and humor perfectly without taking cheap shots at anyone. I made a mental note to watch the show again the next night.

And I loved the show again. And then I watched it again. And I kept watching every night. It taught me about aspects of the US "midterm" elections that I had never really fully understood sitting in India. It contextualized the red-v-blue battle in terms more nuanced and pithy than I had ever read on any blog. And of course, it made me laugh, especially with the hilariously quirky George W Bush impression.

I still remember that hilarious song about the midterms

"So just remember this November that your vote will count,
A very very very very very small amount!"

Jon Stewart helped me seamlessly blend into the American political discourse the way thousands of hours of reading blogs and news sites never had. He has that uncanny ability to zero in on the most consequential news items of the day and in 22 short minutes....14 if you omit the interview...present a perfect blend of analysis and irony.

Within a few days, the 11 PM time slot on my daily calendar....or at least Monday-Thursday calendar was earmarked for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He chuckled, he made faces, he did impressions, but above all, he managed to be that guy inside us all who is just utterly baffled with the absurdity and sometimes cruelty of the world around us, but tries to cope with it using humor.

Jon Stewart helped me through American political milestones from the 2006 midterms to the 2014 midterms, not ignoring other events worldwide. One of his and his show's greatest qualities has been the ability to strike the right balance in expressing resentment about something. Many comedians have gotten in trouble for crossing the "line" of tastefulness. Which is why many comedians steer clear of troublesome topics.

But Jon has somehow always been able to address tricky and even tragic topics with the right balance of sensitivity and respectful humor. And occasionally, just straight talk. His post 9/11 speech is the stuff of legend, so I won't talk about it here.

But as a former Bombayite now living in the US, my most memorable and personally relevant example of this uncanny knack of addressing tragedies tastefully is the segment he and John Oliver did after the 2008 Bombay attacks

It was just so perfect!

Watching Jon Stewart has been a part of my life from the very first week I moved to this country 9 years ago. He's been an integral part of my life.

I have attended two of his show's tapings in person and was blown away by how nice he was even off-camera. I went to DC with 250,000 other people for the Rally to Restore Sanity that he and Stephen Colbert organized.

And now he's announced that he's leaving The Daily Show. Given what a permanent fixture he's been in my life in this country, this is a BIG change. But I understand why he needs to do what he needs to do. Rosewater has shown that he's capable of much more and who can fault him for wanting to spread his wings?

I'll miss you Jon, and 11 PM Monday to Thursday just won't be the same after you leave.

          TS231:Frappiato Maxiato,John Kasich,Ted Cruz, Guest Jason Micallef   
Attention all women, John Kasich has a one size fits all solution for sexual assault on women! Just avoid parties with alcohol, got it? Ted Cruz also has some wise words for married gay republicans, he thinks they can uhh ummm question. Did you hear that Throwing Shade the TV show got picked up? Well guest and future TVLand sister friend Jason Micallef is here and has once in a lifetime insight on Heathers.
          Illinois senate Republican leader Christine Radogno to resign as budget deadline looms, and other Chicago news   

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Friday, June 30, 2017. Have a great weekend!…

          TS218:DWP,Tap shoes,Luxury Periods,David Daleiden   
Good news, Bryan settled his insane electric bill and is now only slightly overpaying like the rest of us! This week, Republicans are sticking to the their principals that public bathrooms are the safest, cleanest places in the world and must be protected from the transgender community! Also Ingrid Nelson asks Obama why tampons are considered luxury goods. Last time we checked getting blood all over our new Egyptian cotton sheets wasn’t considered a privilege!
          TS216: 2016, Making a Murderer, Ted Cruz, US Women Fail   
Happy New Year! Here's to a new year full of true crime, false allegations and documentaries about amputated legs. Bryan is kicking it off right with new claims that Ted Cruz is the most gay-friendly Republican candidate (he's not). And Erin discusses a new United Nations finding that says America is really nailing it when it comes to women (it's not). Oh well. At least we'll always have Gloria Swanson jeans. Want to participate in the University of Georgia's College of Public Health gay men's health survey, visit .  
          TS157:Halloween,Party Stores,Lady Bishops & Louie Gohmer   
Happy Halloqueen! This year, Erin and Bryan are giving you three looks - classic Halloween realness, True Detective realness and Gone Girl realness. But that's not nearly as spooky as how the Vatican feels about female bishops or how Republican Congressman from Texas Louie Gohmert feels about gays. Spooky!    Watch Us!  Every Wednesday on Funny or Die Subscribe and Rate Us! iTunes Tweet Us!  @gibblertron & @bryansafi Use the Hashtag #tspod Email Us! Like Us! Throwing Shade Facebook Page Old School Listen! RSS Feed
          32 million people would lose coverage if Obamacare was repealed   

Republican senators are skittish enough that their health care bill would leave 22 million people more without health insurance by 2026, compared to Obamacare.

They likely won't be too keen on President Trump's suggestion to just repeal Obamacare immediately and replace it later if they can't get enough support to pass their bill.

That move would probably leave 18 million more people without coverage in the first year after its enactment and 32 million more by 2026, according to a Congressional Budget Office report that looked at an earlier GOP bill to repeal Obamacare.

It would also cause premiums on individual market policies to increase by up to 25% the first year and to nearly double by 2026.

All this would happen mainly because the individual mandate -- which requires nearly all Americans to get coverage or pay a penalty -- would be repealed. But some insurers would also likely pull out of the market, the CBO said. The remaining carriers would likely raise rates dramatically because the remaining enrollees would tend to be older and sicker.

This is one reason why Republican lawmakers in both the House and the Senate moved away from a straight repeal of Obamacare without a replacement bill. That left insurers, consumers and other Republican members in a tizzy. Only 19% of Americans supported repealing Obamacare first and replacing later, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released in March.

That hasn't stopped some conservative GOP members from pushing for a full repeal. Both Senators Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Rand Paul of Kentucky have recently broached the topic with Trump, likely leading to his tweet Friday morning.

While senators are expected to ignore Trump's suggestion, it does inject more uncertainty into the future of Obamacare and the individual market. And that's the last thing insurers need.

Already, many are raising rates or even dropping out of the individual market completely for 2018. Some 36 counties in Nevada, Ohio and Indiana are at risk of having no carrier on their exchanges next year, according to Kaiser.

Their main concerns: the mandate that everyone have insurance and the cost-sharing subsidies for lower-income Americans.

Insurers are brushing off the president's comments, saying they are moving forward with the efforts in Congress.

"We're focused on making recommendations to improve the [Senate bill], and on ensuring a stable 2018," said Kristine Grow, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry trade group.

Follow this story

          TS68-2:Republicans for Gay Marriage, Yahoo! telecommuters, Oscars 2013 with guest Elizabeth Laime (part 2)   
Back from the brink of death, Bryan and Erin saddle up for an entire rodeo of 'ssues! With chitty chat on Republicans for gay marriage, Yahoo!'s not-so-work-from-home mom's, and post-Oscar throwing shade with Totally Laime's Elizabeth Laime. Can I have the honor of gripping love handles? Part two of two, bonus butts! Subscribe and Rate on iTunes @gibblertron & @bryansafi #tspod Official Max Fun Page Facebook page RSS Feed
          TS68-1:Republicans for Gay Marriage, Yahoo! telecommuters, Oscars 2013 with guest Elizabeth Laime (part 1)   
Back from the brink of death, Bryan and Erin saddle up for an entire rodeo of 'ssues! With chitty chat on Republicans for gay marriage, Yahoo!'s not-so-work-from-home mom's, and post-Oscar throwing shade with Totally Laime's Elizabeth Laime. Can I have the honor of gripping love handles? Part one of two, bonus butts! Subscribe and Rate on iTunes @gibblertron & @bryansafi #tspod Official Max Fun Page Facebook page RSS Feed
          TS63: Obama's Inauguration, Notre Dame, Gay Republicans, Lance Armstrong   
Four more years! We love beers! Jury of our peers! Bryan and Erin dive thumb deep into Obama's gay friendly speech, Notre Dame's image problem, althetes who rape, GoProud, and Matthew McConaughey's ex-bestie, Lance "Live Strong Bracelet" Armstrong. Ring around the rosey!  Subscribe and Rate on iTunes @gibblertron & @bryansafi #tspod Official Max Fun Page Facebook page RSS Feed
          TS10:Equinox, True Life, Republicans and Gay Rights, & Sydney Spies   
Br-why-an and Erin get pup early to throw some shade on the GOP's LGBT "support", sexy yearbook photos, MTV dipping her toes into gay fetishes, and Equinox's new non-exercise themed ad campaign from Terry Richardson. It's your friminipit nep nep! 
          Can Trump Succeed Where Reagan Failed?   
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

People with family members who were killed by undocumented immigrants meet with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on June 29, 2017.

On Thursday, the House passed the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act, which proposes to withhold federal funding from localities that refuse to cooperate with Trump administration immigration measures aimed at criminal noncitizens and other undocumented people. The bill would also allow individuals and close family members of individuals who are victims of felonies committed by undocumented immigrants who have been released from local or state custody against the advice of federal authorities to file suit against states.

The day before, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, the new president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, called on Congress to work on bipartisan immigration and criminal justice law reforms, adding that cities could use more federal assistance to fight terrorism and crime, and provide mental illness, substance abuse, and reentry programs.

Landrieu said in a letter to House members that local leaders do not want their law enforcement officers involved in federal immigration detention activities, nor do they want to be put in legal jeopardy for possible violations of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures. (A related bill known as Kate’s Law would establish new mandatory minimum prison terms for deported criminals who return to the United States.)

The sanctuary cities battle, like so many of Trump’s hastily conceived and poorly executed policies, appears headed for another showdown, either when the bills arrive in the Senate, or, in the unlikely event that the upper chamber drums up the 60 votes needed to approve them, almost certainly in the courts.

While the Trumpian turmoil is new, past presidents’ attempts to compel localities to comply with federal policies have met with mixed success. A new report, “Reagan vs. Cities: The 20th Century Battle Over South African Apartheid & Lessons for the Trump Era,” from Jobs to Move America and the Center for Media and Democracy, details the 40th president’s efforts to stamp out the U.S. anti-apartheid movement by several means, including denying federal funds to cities and states that took actions against companies that did business in South Africa.

The report explores the mixed outcomes for two cities that sought to stand their ground against this federal overreach. In 1984, the U.S. Department of Transportation, with the backing of the Justice Department, threatened New York City with the loss of transportation dollars unless the city revoked a local ordinance preventing city officials from contracting with businesses that operated in South Africa or used materials from the country. Although Mayor Ed Koch complained all the way up to President Ronald Reagan, the feisty New Yorker finally backed down, declined to take the matter to the courts, and finally reworked the measure to satisfy federal officials and preserve the city’s federal funding.

Two years later, Baltimore, which had crafted a local ordinance requiring city pension funds to divest $1.1 billion from entities that did business with South Africa, also came under fire. The trustees of the pensions funds and the funds’ beneficiaries (who feared significant financial losses in the short timeframe the funds had to comply with the divestment ordinance) joined forces to take the city to court.

The State Department and the National Security Council submitted briefs supporting the trustees and beneficiaries. But Baltimore ultimately prevailed in the state courts, and the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case. By 1991, nearly 100 cities in 28 states had taken a variety of actions against companies doing business in South Africa.

Although an early attempt by Trump to deny federal funding to sanctuary cities was roundly criticized as unconstitutional (the president aimed to usurp powers granted to Congress) and ultimately blocked by a federal judge, Republicans in Congress have stepped up to take their turn at the issue. Federal courts likely will have the final word on whether the federal government can compel states to assist in immigration enforcement activities or whether such provisions infringe on state powers.

Congress can indeed attach conditions to funding, especially if the funding is related to a specific purpose like law enforcement. Since the Supreme Court has indicated its willingness to consider wider immigration questions like those posed by the administration’s travel ban, it is unlikely that the high court would decline to weigh in, as it did in the Baltimore pension funds question.

Like the anti-apartheid activists, sanctuary cities supporters may find that public response to the crisis may compel different responses from Washington. Grassroots efforts to protect undocumented people have sprouted up all over the country; nearly 650 of the country’s more than 3,000 counties have placed limitations on local law enforcement assistance to federal immigration detention efforts.

But the support for such measures is far from solid in the country at large. Lawmakers in more than 30 states have introduced bills to curb cities’ abilities to weigh in on immigration enforcement. A new Gallup poll shows that Americans’ interests in decreasing the numbers of immigrants admitted to the country have not shifted dramatically.

The “Reagan vs. Cities” report also notes that in addition to cutting off federal funds and other measures, Trump’s tactics include “a public relations strategy aimed at vilifying opponents.” The court of public opinion, however, isn’t always malleable. Reagan may have been the “great communicator,” but he was mostly unable to compel cities and states to abandon divestment and other economic strategies aimed at crippling South African apartheid. Trump, if anything, is more of a great alienator than communicator, who will ultimately run up against the numerical impossibility of deporting millions of undocumented people.

          Bridging the Mind-Body Gap in Health Care   
(Photo: Shutterstock)

After the birth of her youngest son nearly 20 years ago, Elay Nantz of Colorado developed carpal tunnel syndrome in her right hand, sank into post-partum depression, and attempted suicide. After a three-month stay at a Colorado psychiatric hospital, she endured a carousel of specialists who only wanted to know “What do you want?” or “What do you need?” and then wrote countless prescriptions. If she stood her ground and said the pills weren’t working, they would refer her to another doctor. Two of her four psychiatrists even fell asleep during her counseling sessions. Eventually, she stopped seeking treatment.

Nantz has struggled with depression for most of her life and has bounced in and out of doctors’ offices. She felt that the mental health system just saw her as a wallet to rifle through. “None of them gave a crap about me,” she says.

After she had surgery on her hand in 2009 and began physical therapy, her health improved. But after Nantz got divorced in 2010, she lost her private insurance and went on Medicaid—which her physical therapist did not accept. Her hand grew weak and shook so much that she could not hold a fork. It would tumble to the ground and stay there until one of her three children picked it up. A bad day would lead to deeper depression. She felt worthless.

The combination of depression and carpal tunnel meant she could not work and provide for her children. Her thoughts turned to suicide again: “I felt like the only exit I could see was me dying—my head was a mess—like I was in a cave and I couldn’t get out,” she told The American Prospect. “I was getting ready to kill myself.”

Nantz believed that the health-care system simply viewed her as a depressed woman with shaky hands rather than a 45-year-old mother of three who wanted to work and care for her family. But after running out of other options, she decided to try counseling one more time. In 2015, she met Dr. Yaira Oquendo-Figueroa, a staff psychologist at a Salud Family Health Center in Denver.  

Oquendo-Figueroa took an “integrated care” approach to Nantz’s problems that focused on breaking through the institutional barriers that separate mental and physical health care.  In integrated care settings, behavioral health specialists work together with primary-care doctors to treat individual patients. An ongoing relationship between physicians and a patient is the basis of primary care, and it provides a pathway for coordinating mental health treatment.

Oquendo-Figueroa listened carefully to Nantz’s problems and helped her develop the mental “tools” to steer her thoughts in a positive direction. She also connected her with an acupuncturist to treat her carpal tunnel. “She changed my life and the perception of everything,” Nantz says of Oquendo-Figueroa. “I think she’s a magician.”

Mental and physical care have long occupied distinct silos in the American health-care system. However, if Congress has its way, the treatment gulf between these two areas could become even wider, particularly for poor and low-income people who rely Medicaid, the largest health insurer in the United States.

Medical professionals like Oquendo-Figueroa have redoubled their efforts to offer a program of treatment that addresses psychological issues and physical ailments in tandem—which can go a long way to helping patients like Nantz. “You can’t separate the head from the body,” the doctor says.

Primary-care physicians see the majority of patients with mental health problems in the United States, but they are not trained to provide specialized treatment for mental illnesses. According to Benjamin Miller, a University of Colorado’s School of Medicine psychologist who specializes in linking mental and physical care, fewer than 4 percent of primary-care physicians accurately screen for depression. There has been little change in the percentage of adults who use mental health services, or who report an unmet need for mental health services. Two-thirds of doctors say that they can’t get their patients access to outpatient mental treatment because of a shortage of workers, lack of coverage, or inadequate coverage.

Meanwhile, suicide rates in America have risen by nearly 25 percent over the past 15 years and, of the 20 percent of Americans who suffer from mental illness, only about one-fifth get treatment. “The U.S. health-care system [has] two cultures of care that isolate the mind from the body, and mental health has fallen victim to that,” says Miller.

In the 1970s, Salud Family Health Center opened in northeast Colorado to serve patients who were historically underserved or completely uninsured, like the state’s migrant farm workers. In 2013, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognized Salud as a “patient-centered medical home,” a health-care delivery model that promotes strategies like integrated care. This model upends the traditional health-care system by providing mental health care in primary-care settings, where it is most accessible.

For many people, primary-care clinics and doctors’ offices are a safe haven. “People want an [ongoing] relationship with someone, they want to feel connected [and] to know you’re they’re for them,” Miller says. He believes that nurturing these relationships provides patients with an avenue to discuss and manage mental health issues before they become serious.

The Colorado health center includes a mobile legal team that advocates for patients, especially undocumented immigrants or Medicaid recipients who live paycheck to paycheck. The center also sends behavioral health professionals around the clinic to meet patients in other departments. “Let’s say that a patient is coming for a dental cleaning, and the hygienist concludes that the patient may be anxious or depressed,” says Oquendo-Figueroa. “I go there and do a consult right there in the dental area.”

While that practice may seem invasive to people who have health-care plans that cover behavioral therapy, a dental clinic might be the only time that some Medicaid or Medicare recipients can talk to a mental health professional.

Washington State’s Mental Health Integration Project features telepsychiatry to help treat low-income patients on Medicaid and Medicare. Encouraging patients to stay in touch with care managers and consulting psychiatrists over the phone allows those health centers to reach more people, and not just during regular visits.

Anne Shields, the associate director of the University of Washington’s Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions program sees e-medicine as one possible solution to a shrinking, aging workforce of psychiatrists, especially in rural areas of the country where there were never many specialists to begin with. From 1995 to 2014, while the total number of physicians in the United States grew by 45 percent, the number of psychiatrists only increased by 12 percent. In 2010, 59 percent of psychiatrists in the United States were 54 years old or older. “Primary-care settings are very diverse, small practices,” Shields says. “Rural health centers have no more than three people working and they’re not going to be able to hire a behavioral health-care manager.”

While health-care staffing often determines the number and types of services a hospital provides, integrated care relies on coordination between doctors to identify the specific treatments that will work for an individual patient. Using this approach, a small rural health center can strive to provide the same high-quality integrated care that an urban hospital system does.

Yet despite the health benefits that integrated care provides, the American health-care system continues to rely on traditional strategies. Treating mental and physical conditions separately has not only prevented vulnerable populations from accessing treatment, but it has also driven up those costs. Miller has calculated that, on average, physical conditions cost twice as much per person per month to treat when there is a mental illness present as well.

Moreover, mental health crises often play out in emergency rooms, which are the least efficient and most expensive care locations. Integrated care has reduced the patients’ reliance on emergency room treatment by focusing on preventative services, and targeting mild or moderate symptoms before they become severe.

The Cherokee Health System in Tennessee found that integrated care patients used emergency services 68 percent less than the regional average; specialty care 42 percent less; and hospital care 37 percent less. These savings amounted to a 22 percent discrepancy between CHS’s total cost and the regional average.

Most health-care networks prioritize people with serious mental illnesses over patients with mild or moderate symptoms, which prevents people from getting the help they need earlier. “The bulk of mental health services are in the public system, but people can’t get those services until they have had many crises,” says Debbie Plotnick, a vice president of Mental Health America, one the nation’s leading mental health advocacy groups.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress could tear wide open the existing gap between having insurance that covers mental health treatment and having access to that treatment with their plans to undo the Affordable Care Act. The ACA repeal proposals fail the two-step process Miller of the University of Colorado uses to evaluate potential reforms: “Does this continue to further fragment our experience with health?” he says. “And does this limit my patient’s ability to get access to mental health treatment where they want it?”

Moreover, transforming Medicaid into a block grant program means that mental health programs would take a significant hit as state officials search for savings to offset the federal cuts. Miller believes that integrated care programs would be the first to go, forcing medical professionals to make difficult decisions about whether they can marshal the resources to help people like Nantz. Repealing the ACA would simply take programs designed to bridge the gap between mental and physical illnesses backward—states, Miller says, “can’t take a chance on this right now.” 

          Voting Fights in the States   
AP Photo/Andrew Selsky

Oregon Governor Kate Brown, at podium, celebrates Oregon's first year of an automatic voter registration program with a news conference, where she said that in the November election, over 97,000 ballots were cast by new voters registered by the so-called motor voter program. Hazelnuts contained in the bags in the foreground represent the 270,000 Oregonians who were registered to vote by the program. 

The national battle over voting rights and “voter fraud” will play out in Washington over the next months in relation to the Kobach-Pence commission and the resistance to it. But in the meantime, issues have been joined this spring in state legislative sessions around the country. And the resulting scorecard may surprise you.

Back in November, when the dust settled after the election, the numbers on partisan control of legislatures seemed stark and frightening for advocates of voting rights and election reform. Republicans controlled both chambers in 31 states, and had the full “trifecta,” including the governor, in 24. In sharp contrast, Democrats controlled both houses in only 13 states, and had trifectas in a mere six. Looking at these numbers, at the post-Shelby decision absence of Voting Rights Act preclearance protections, and at the radically changed posture of the Justice Department, many feared an onslaught of voter-suppression legislation that would create an even more diminished electorate for the elections of 2018.

Well, it’s now the end of June, and while some legislatures are still in session, the great majority have finished their business for the year. Several states have indeed passed bad bills. But, overall, the results are significantly better, both in staving off voter-suppression efforts and in expanding voting rights and voting access, than one might have expected as the sessions began.

First, A Few Real Successes

Perhaps the most remarkable outcome this year is in Illinois, which has a Democratic legislature and a conservative Republican governor, Bruce Rauner. Last year, the legislature passed an automatic voter registration (AVR) bill with bipartisan support, but Rauner vetoed it. 

Under automatic voter registration, people who go to the DMV, and potentially other agencies as well, are automatically put on the voter roll, unless they opt out. In Oregon, which was the first adopter, AVR has added several hundred thousand voters to the rolls.

In Illinois, an AVR bill was reintroduced this year and, remarkably, passed both chambers with unanimous votes. While Rauner has 60 days to sign the bill, all indications are that he will, joining Illinois with eight other states and the District of Columbia where AVR is being implemented, and showing that maybe, at least in Illinois, encouraging people to register and vote doesn’t seem like a partisan trick.

The victory was also the work of a broad and determined coalition of voting-rights and election-reform advocacy groups, under the rubric of Just Democracy. Brian Gladstein, Executive Director of Common Cause Illinois and one of the leaders of the coalition said:

This bill will bring over one million eligible voters into the electoral process in Illinois. During a time of heightened partisanship in Springfield and across the nation, we have demonstrated that breaking down barriers to the ballot box can be achieved and supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

AVR still has a good chance to pass in other states. In Rhode Island, an AVR bill passed the House unanimously and a positive vote in the Senate is expected shortly. Governor Gina Raimondo has said she will sign it if it comes to her desk. In Massachusetts, where the legislative session goes on all year, an AVR bill with 102 legislative sponsors has been heard in committee (23 speakers in favor and none against), and could be before the full legislature in the fall.

In some other states, AVR made headway but was eventually blocked. These include Maine, New Mexico, and Nevada. In Nevada’s case, the bill passed both houses, but was vetoed by Republican Governor Brian Sandoval. A ballot initiative on AVR now goes to the voters, who will have the chance to approve it in the November 2018 general election.

In addition to automatic voter registration, other real gains were made. Utah expanded opportunities for early voting and absentee voting. New Jersey improved its processes for military voters and Indiana improved its registration process at the motor vehicle department.

Another issue where progress was made, though halting and slow, is restoration of the right to vote for citizens with felony convictions. Forty-nine bills were introduced in 16 states to restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated people who have served their sentences. A real victory occurred in Wyoming, which enacted a bill providing that people who completed their sentence after January 1, 2010, do not need to submit an application for restoration of voting rights and will automatically be issued a certificate of restoration.

In Florida, where 1.7 million citizens can’t vote due to the state’s lifetime ban on voting by people with felony convictions (1.5 million have fully completed their sentences), the broad and bipartisan Florida Rights Restoration Coalition has made major strides. The Florida Supreme Court has approved language for a proposed ballot initiative to restore voting rights to ex-felons; now the job is collecting 700,000 signatures on the petition in order to be on the ballot in November 2018.

In Minnesota, the Restore the Vote Coalition got a bill to more effectively restore voting rights through one house of the legislature. And in Nebraska, the state’s conservative unicameral legislature passed a bill to restore voting rights to citizens upon release from incarceration by a 27-13 margin, but the bill was vetoed by Governor Pete Ricketts. (Nebraska voting-rights advocates also derailed a proposed constitutional amendment requiring voter ID.)

Now for the Bad News

To be clear, and clear-eyed, the move to make voting more difficult and restricted continues, and several states enacted laws designed to limit the vote in one way or another. The forces bent on restricting the vote have won significant victories over the last several years, though many of the laws have been successfully challenged in court. In fact, of the worst voter-restriction bills that passed this year, a majority were actually efforts to re-pass laws struck down in court, altered in order to make them more judicially acceptable.

·      Iowa enacted a law, championed by Secretary of State Paul Pate, which includes restrictions on voter-registration drives; hindrances to Election Day, early, and absentee voting; strict voter-ID requirements; and—most troublesome—the right to purge voter rolls of “non-citizen” names without any clarity on who and how such decisions to purge are made. This could lead to significant numbers of eligible voters being disenfranchised.

·      New Hampshire passed a bill restricting registration for students and low-income voters by requiring proof of residency for those who register 30 days before the election, with investigation and criminal penalties for failure to comply. (A component to eliminate same-day registration was dropped from the bill.)

·      In Arkansas, a voter-ID law, modified after courts struck down an earlier, similar law, was passed and signed. The law reinstates the requirement that a voter must provide one of a narrow choice of IDs at the polls. In addition, the legislature put a constitutional amendment requiring voter ID on the 2018 ballot.

·      In North Dakota, the only state that doesn’t require voter registration at all, the governor signed strict voter-ID requirements into law. The bill was softened somewhat, particularly in regard to the Native American community, to avoid the fate of the 2016 version of the law, which was struck down in court.

Why Less Carnage?

No one wants to be naïvely optimistic, or to underestimate how much damage has already been done in states by determined efforts at voter suppression. Racially charged and politically motivated efforts continue at every level to find ways to discourage people from registering and voting. In the wake of Shelby, these efforts have multiplied and will continue to do so.

But, overall, the results in the 2017 legislative sessions were not nearly as bad as seemed likely last November. There was not a deluge of major voter-suppression legislation. Some bad bills were passed, a number were weakened as they made their way through the legislative process, and a significant number were sidetracked along the way. Two main reasons for this seem clear.

First, the courts, both state and federal, have played a significant role in preventing extreme assaults on voting. Prodded by strong litigation efforts from voting-rights organizations, in state after state, courts have found voter-suppression efforts unconstitutional, blocking their implementation. In addition to the direct effects of the cases, their cumulative impact has been to caution and restrain advocates of restrictive legislation from overreaching.

Second, it is deeply encouraging to see the growing power, sophistication, and rapid response capabilities of the movement for an inclusive democracy. In state after state, coalitions were activated, or created, to fight back against the efforts to stifle, shrink, and bleach the vote. 

And the advocates didn’t just play defense. Despite the potentially unfavorable partisan makeup in so many states, the affirmative action for expanding the right and ability to vote continues to make headway—winning in some states, gathering momentum for future victories in others. 

And there is one other cause for optimism worth noting. I recently attended a conference of 200 legislators and election officials from around the country, co-convened by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Democracy Fund. The focus of the event was election technology and administration. There was strong and bipartisan support for improving election machinery, combating the challenges of cybersecurity, and fighting for adequate funding to run elections in the best way possible. This is one of the reasons that online registration and automatic voter registration are making real progress; they are technical improvements as well as access expansions. The election officials take their responsibilities seriously, and if legislators, state and national, would take their cues, bipartisan progress just might become more possible.

Thanks to Cecily Hines for research and perspective for this column.

          Comparing Trump’s Tweets with the Words of Abraham Lincoln   

President Donald Trump and President Abraham Lincoln have a lot in common, they are both presidents, Republicans, and they both have lots of famous quotes attributed to them. But it’s safe to say they may be remembered a bit differently. While Lincoln wrote about preserving the Union, fighting and winning the Civil War, and

The post Comparing Trump’s Tweets with the Words of Abraham Lincoln appeared first on New York.

          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit....
          Study highlights Democrats’ campaign hurdles in 2018   
The Buzz is the Register’s weekly political news column. Ardent opposition to President Donald Trump is motivating veteran and first-time activists in Orange County’s four Republican congressional districts, but unseating the incumbents remains an uphill road. Three of those GOP members won reelection by more than 10 percentage points last year. And while polls show […]
          Healthcare Activists Rally as Senate GOP Delays Vote   
McConnell’s June 27th announcement to delay the vote came just as healthcare advocates kicked off their three day long People’s Filibuster in an effort to put pressure on the Senators who were considering voting for a bill that would cut $772 billion from Medicaid and $408 billion from insurance subsidies in order to give a tax break to the top 1 percent of American earners and major corporations.
          Trumpcare Trades Women’s Lives for Tax Cuts to the Super Rich and Business Interests   
  For Immediate Release: June 23, 2017 Contact: Megan Connor / / 703 973 6469 Feminist Majority today joined with Feminist Majority, National Organization for Women, In Our Own Voice, and the National Women’s Law Center in opposition to Trumpcare, which will have a catastrophic effect on many women’s lives. Watch the press conference here.  Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released a draft of the Senate’s healthcare bill that shamelessly targets women: pregnant women trying to access maternal and per-natal healthcare; the women who make up nearly 70% of all adult Medicaid enrollees; young women trying to access reproductive healthcare; and elderly women who make up over two-thirds of nursing home patients. Just like the House version, the Senate bill is not about providing healthcare services but rather about taking them away from millions of people—mostly women. It takes nearly a trillion dollars away from Medicaid to give massive tax cuts to the super rich and benefits to insurance providers and drug companies. This bill disgracefully takes from Medicaid nearly a trillion dollars and would deny life-saving services to the 74 million people who rely on Medicaid for care. Medicaid pays for nearly half of all births in the United States. […]
          June 30 Digest    

Republicans call on Ginsburg to recuse herself in travel ban case

Corrected: Fifty-eight Republican lawmakers are calling on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to recuse herself in the travel ban case that will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Read the full story at ABA Journal

Despite exposés and embarrassments, hundreds of judges preside in New York without law degrees

The news releases are sent out with considerable regularity, brief and basic accounts of actions taken by the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct: A judge is sanctioned for misconduct on the bench; another agrees to give up their job because of questionable behavior in his or her private life.
Read the full story at ABA Journal

Globe-trotting attorneys offer new-era strategies for efficient business travel

In this age of ever-changing rules and regulations, business travel can be more difficult than ever. The reality is that the more preparation and planning that go into a business trip, the more likely it will be a success.
Read the full story at ABA Journal

How to be your own advocate at work without stepping on toes (podcast)

Even trained advocates don’t get everything they want at work. But what are some good strategies for knowing when to accept a manager’s decision, or continue to press for what you want?
Read the full story at ABA Journal

Trump's Labor Dept. Tells Court It Will Revise Obama's Overtime Rule

The U.S. Labor Department told a federal appeals court Friday that while it intends to revise the Obama-era rule that made millions of workers eligible for overtime pay the agency will continue to defend its authority to create and enforce such a regulation.
Read the full story at The National Law Journal

          Now is Not the Time to Come to the Aid of the Party   
There used to be “moderate” Republicans whose views were no worse than, say, Barack Obama’s. That is ancient history now. These days, for anyone who is not at least a multi-millionaire or an acolyte of the moneyed interests, Republicans are like mosquitoes. They cannot be ignored but, from a human perspective, they do no earthly good. And yet, they abound. This can only be because, as they say, “there is a sucker born every minute.” More
          What the Democratic Party Should Know   
It has turned out that the Democratic Party is the party that would fall apart after Trump’s election, although, like the odds on the election itself, most pundits pictured the Republican Party destroyed by Trump’s election. It was always in the cards that a mogul president, regardless of how quirky, would meld with Republicans intent More
          Koch Brothers Take Aim at Republican ‘Moderation’ and the Constitution   
The Republican Party isn’t extreme enough. So say the Koch brothers, who are threatening to withhold the $400 million they have promised to inject into the 2018 electoral cycle. Members of the U.S. Congress have received their marching orders: Repeal the Affordable Care Act (in other words, replace “Obamacare” with “Trumpcare”) and lavish billionaires with More
          Sanders Has His Priorities Backwards; We Can’t Delay Medicare for All   
We thought that Senator Sanders was on track to introduce and advocate for a national improved Medicare for All bill, but Tuesday he stated publicly at a Planned Parenthood rally that his priorities are to first defeat the Republican health plan, then to improve the Affordable Care Act with a public option or allowing people More
          Trump urges Republicans to repeal Obamacare now and replace it later   

President Donald Trump barged into Senate Republicans' delicate health care negotiations Friday, declaring that if lawmakers can't reach a deal they should simply repeal "Obamacare" right away and then replace it later on.

Trump's tweet revives an approach that GOP leaders and the president himself...


The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

While the very fabric of space-time warped and undulated over the Trump-Morning Joe conflict (we’ll get to that), Republicans in the House finance subcommittee worked up a scheme to neutralize the Johnson Amendment. The proposed rule would deny the IRS the funds it would need to investigate Johnson Amendment violations…for churches only. That’s right, no mention of other nonprofits, no mention of other houses of worship. We joined a big coalition of groups opposing the measure, and I did the equivalent of marching up and down, toddler-Bart-Simpson style, making noise about it.

But you know, the fabric of space time. Undulating and whatnot. About that:

After Trump did his dumbass Trump thing that he does, Sarah Huckabee Sanders attempted to justify the president’s behavior as some kind of proportional response to bullying (????), and when asked who she could point to as a role model, she defaulted to God. That’s fine, but you’d think a couple human role models would be useful in a pinch. Maybe keep a couple of those in your back pocket. Just a thought.

More fun was the op-ed by Mika and Joe themselves, where they threw so much shade it looked like an eclipse. They said Trump wasn’t mentally healthy enough to watch Morning Joe, and made the charge that Trump had blackmailed them with the threat of a negative National Inquirer article.

David Roberts at Vox tries to come to grips with what the hell is wrong with the man, and why it’s so hard to figure it out:

Trump defies our theory of mind because he appears to lack a coherent, persistent self or worldview. He is a raging fire of need, protected and shaped by a lifetime of entitlement, with the emotional maturity and attention span of a 6-year-old, utterly unaware of the long-term implications of his actions. ... Politicos and journalists need a story in which Trump’s stumbling and grasping can be construed as a savvy media strategy, a “distraction” from some other wrongdoing he has going on, or a “pivot” from his current omnishambles. Those are all versions of political maneuvering with which they are familiar. They need for Trump to want things, to be after things, to have a plan. ... But there’s no there there.

CFI Los Angeles chief Jim Underdown recoils at the utter plausibility of The Handmaid’s Tale, and laments that the star of the TV version, Elizabeth Moss, is herself a Scientologist:

What doesn’t fit is that the Church of Scientology could be a central character in The Handmaid’s Tale TV series. For decades we’ve been hearing real-life stories from ex-Scientologists that sound like they could be plots in the series.   

Nikhil Sonnad at Quartz does a great service, cataloguing how Alex Jones’ Infowars store and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop store and the Moon Juice store all sell the same snake oil.

Speaking of Alex Jones (if we must), he had a guest, Robert David Steele, who said this:

This may strike your listeners as way out but we actually believe that there is a colony on Mars that is populated by children who were kidnapped and sent into space on a 20 year ride. So that once they get to Mars they have no alternative but to be slaves on the Mars colony.  

Now, Jones does seem to distance himself from this idea a tad (“Well I don’t know about Mars bases”), but don’t give him too much credit! Or any! Because then he says this:

I know they’ve created massive, thousands of different types of chimeras that are alien lifeforms on this earth now. 

Just in case you’re wondering, NASA denies the allegation. Well, of course they would. Pfft.

In Bizarro America, aka Canada, a new survey shows that the electorate would prefer an atheist, gay, or transgender prime minister over an evangelical Christian. 

CFI’s new intern Andy Ngo thinks back to the Orlando massacre one year ago, and how the discourse about it has been too diffuse, asking, “While it is imperative to prevent and condemn discrimination against Muslims, why does that have to come at the cost of speaking openly about religious fundamentalism, particularly Islamism?”

South Africa will no longer have single-religion public schools. (A group lobbying for this change, the Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie, has the greatest acronym ever: OGOD.) 

Australian homeopathics company Brauer is being investigated for promoting an ebook that advocates the use of homeopathy to treat babies and toddlers.  

Theologian and sociologist Peter Berger has died at the age of 88. I don’t know much about most of his work, but his book The Social Construction of Reality blew my mind when I read it in college a million years ago. 

Quote of the Day:

This. This is wonderful. You’re welcome.

* * * 

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.

Follow CFI on Twitter: @center4inquiry

Got a tip for the Heresy? Send it to press(at)!

News items that mention political​ candidates are for informational purposes only and under no circumstances are to be interpreted as statements of endorsement or opposition to any political candidate. CFI is a nonpartisan nonprofit.


The Morning Heresy: “I actually read it.” - Hemant Mehta


          We need more money in health care. Here's one way to get it   
If there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family, this bill will do you harm.” – Former U.S. president Barack Obama Even President Donald Trump called the initial House of Representatives bill “mean.” Senate Republicans recently delayed discussion and voting on their own health care bill until at least after […]
          Dems To Challenge McLean Co Clerk   
Democrats plan to mount a challenge next year to Republican McLean County Clerk Kathy Michael. Nikita Richards has announced she is running as a progressive. Richards said Michael was not pro-active in heading off long voter waiting lines in the 2016 election cycle.
          Why Do People Want to Kill Each Other Over Politics?   
A philosophically-trained writer at the Federalist says it's because we view the government's power as far more necessary to life and its goods than it really is.
If government power is the people’s best and only hope, then to deny the use of that power, or even to exercise it in the wrong way, is just like killing people. So you are naturally going to long to see the political malefactors behind such a policy struck down, for the same reasons we love the scene in the action movie when the bad guy finally falls off the skyscraper and gets what’s coming to him.

This attitude is not strictly limited to the provinces of the Left where we currently see it so flamboyantly displayed. As we have recently discovered, some on the Right also look to government for salvation, hoping that the right kind of limits on trade and immigration, the right deals made by the right dealmaker, will solve all of our problems—and anyone who doesn’t support that leader is a traitor.

But the basic idea of government as salvation is associated more with the Left, because expanding the power of government is their primary political cause.
Is he right about that? Vox argues that it's impossible to tell conservatives apart from their caricature of conservatives -- and for them, I don't doubt that this is true. Republicans want to kill the poor in order to provide tax cuts for the rich, and that's the only way to understand the policy they're proposing.

I don't care a bit about tax cuts for the rich, but I'd like to see the government get completely out of health care. My reasoning has two parts: most importantly, because government-run health care poses severe challenges to human liberty; less importantly, because the government's effectively-unlimited money distorts markets and produces runaway price inflation. If the government must be involved at all, it should be on the back end, quietly repaying expenses for qualifying veterans (and potentially certain very poor individuals) so that no one realizes that there's an unlimited pool of money they could chase. Then people's capacity to come up with the money up front would serve as a market brake on the inflation, and yet veterans would be able to pursue the health care they want from the doctors they choose -- not ones imposed on them by an uncaring, massive bureaucracy.

But I suppose that's tantamount to saying that I want people to die.

          Confidence in Institutions Poll   
We look at this poll every year, more or less. This year's results are unexpected: American confidence in institutions is up, at a level not seen since Obama first took office.

More, this poll defies the trendline I've been worried about over previous years. The decline in faith in institutions has chiefly affected the non-coercive institutions: the consistently highly placed winners were the police, the military, and the criminal justice system. Congress, newspapers, churches -- all the non-coercive branches fared worse and worse. This year, that reversed to some degree.

There's a big partisan split in a couple of places, especially faith in the Presidency (swings near fifty points for both parties) and newspapers (way up among Democrats, down somewhat among Republicans). SCOTUS shows a zero shift among Democrats, but a big gain among Republicans -- no doubt the outcome of the Gorsuch fight.

But that doesn't hold everywhere. Many institutions show compatible shifts, including things like organized labor (Republicans up by two, Democrats by a little more), church (1/3), and public schools (9/5). At least some of the ways in which we deal with each other nonviolently are tracking up a bit, and that's kind of surprising given the political climate.
          Fox & Friends ignores WSJ report suggesting possible Russia collusion   

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

President Donald Trump’s favorite morning news show, Fox News’ Fox & Friends, completely ignored a Wall Street Journal report about a Republican Party operative who sought former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails from Russian hackers and who may have been working with then-Trump senior adviser Michael Flynn.

On June 29, the Journal (which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns Fox News) reported that before the 2016 presidential election, GOP operative Peter Smith “mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers.” Smith “implied that he was working” with Flynn during his “conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him,” according to the report. The FBI has previously said that it could not find definitive proof that Clinton’s server had been hacked.

Media Matters searched SnapStream for “wall,” “street,” and “Flynn” on morning shows of Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN that aired on June 30 and found that Fox & Friends did not mention the story even once. By contrast, CNN’s New Day covered the story in multiple segments, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe hosted the Journal reporter who broke the story to discuss it.

Fox & Friends has repeatedly dismissed the investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and tried to delegitimize the FBI Russia probe, claiming there's "no evidence" of collusion. Their failure to report the story is yet another effort by the hosts to cover for Trump, who regularly watches and praises the show and has drawn upon it as a source for numerous policy and other ideas.

          Did a GOP politician effectively buy Roger Stone’s endorsement against Sen. Elizabeth Warren?   

Roger Stone posted social media endorsements of Massachusetts state Rep. Geoff Diehl’s bid to challenge Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) just days after Diehl rented his email list.

Stone, who contributes to radio host Alex Jones’ Infowars network and will soon host his own Infowars show, has a history of pushing racist, sexist, and conspiratorial rhetoric. Stone has been a longtime adviser to Trump and worked as a paid consultant for Trump’s campaign; he is now reportedly under FBI investigation as part of the agency’s probe into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Stone announced in May through a marketing company that he’s accepting advertisers for his “online presence,” which includes his email list and "social media posts."

Diehl’s campaign rented Stone’s list on June 16 for a fundraising email. A message accompanying the email stated: “We are excited to share with you a special message from one of our sponsoring advertisers, Diehl For Senate. It is also sponsors like them that help fund Stone Cold Truth. Please note that the following message reflects the opinions and representations of our sponsor alone, and not necessarily the opinion of Roger Stone.”

Endorsements for Diehl subsequently appeared on Stone's Facebook and Twitter accounts. Those posts gave no indication whether they were advertisements.

Stone’s Facebook page posted the following on June 23: “Help Us Fire Elizabeth Warren!!!!! Geoff Diehl: The REAL Deal for Massachusetts Help build our grassroots movement to support the real Diehl for Massachusetts. Stand with Geoff Diehl for U.S. Senate. Your donation will send a loud message that it's time to put Massachusetts first.” Much of that language is taken from Diehl’s website. Diel’s Facebook page subsequently touted the Stone post by writing: “The Stone Cold Truth is that we need a U.S. Senator who will put Massachusetts first. Donate today!” 

On June 24, Stone tweeted a link to a Diehl fundraising page and asked followers to "help us fire Elizabeth Warren."

Diehl retweeted Stone and a supporter who celebrated Stone's tweet:

Stone’s backing of Diehl is at odds with his colleagues at Infowars, which has thrown its support to entrepreneur Shiva Ayyadurai, who is competing against Diehl for the Republican nomination. He appeared on Alex Jones’ program on June 7 and June 25. During the June 7 interview, Jones said it was “really exciting” to have Ayyadurai challenging Warren, gave viewers his campaign website address, and asked the Republican how people can support his candidacy. Ayyadurai responded by asking Jones’ listeners to make donations and to volunteer with his campaign.

He appeared on Jones’ June 25 show with guest host Owen Shroyer for roughly 20 minutes; the video description stated: “Everyone show your support for Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai running against Democrat Elitist, Elizabeth Warren in 2018.” During the appearance, the candidate said that “what Alex does is probably, sort of the last sort of beacon of truth that’s out there.”

Requests for comment to Diehl were not returned.

          NRA spokesperson "proud" of controversial NRA ad that smeared anti-Trump resistance movement   

National Rifle Association spokesperson Dana Loesch doubled down on her earlier video that characterized dissent against President Donald Trump as “the violence of lies” that needed to be countered with the “clenched fist of truth.” Loesch said she was “proud” of the video and “endorse[d]” it “personally.”

In the ad, which was originally posted on the YouTube page of NRA’s news outlet NRATV in April 2017, Loesch claimed that in their opposition to Trump, left-wing Americans “scream racism, and sexism, and xenophobia, and homophobia, [and] bully and terrorize the law-abiding until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.” She went on to say the only way to save “our country and our freedom” is with “the clenched fist of truth.”

The video drew widespread criticism after NRATV reposted it on its Facebook page on June 28. In a June 29 article, Vox’s Zack Beauchamp called the video “chilling” and said it “comes this close to calling for a civil war against liberals.” The same day, ThinkProgress’ Aaron Rupar wrote a piece saying the video “stops just short of calling for violence against … progressives.”

During the noon edition of NRATV’s program Stinchfield, which provides live updates at the top of the hour from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST, Loesch, who is also an NRATV commentator, doubled down on the spot, calling it a “fantastic ad” that “holds up a mirror to the violent aspects of the left.” Loesch denied that she was inciting violence in the ad, saying that she meant “meeting that violence with simple truth and simple peaceful ideas”: 

GRANT STINCHFIELD (HOST): Dana, this video is like two and a half months old. I’m glad it's getting attention, it got some attention before. More people to watch it, the better in my book.

DANA LOESCH: Absolutely, and Grant, I want to make one thing perfectly clear, I am proud of this ad and I endorse personally the message of this ad. It’s a fantastic ad and it holds up a mirror to the violent aspects of the left. And, Grant, we have seen this time and time again. We saw this violence in Chicago during the campaign for the general election. We saw this violence in the streets of Washington, D.C., during the inauguration -- where there were not just a few, mind you, but a number of a very far leftists who thought that breaking store windows, arson, property damage, physical assault, setting fires in the middle of the street, et cetera, et cetera -- that these were all forms of protected speech and that they were generally acceptable forms of dissent to a fair election. And then of course, Grant, we have seen time and time again on college campuses, individuals react so physically, hostilely to a simple difference of opinion. And so they set fire on their college campuses and once again we see arson, and we see property destruction, and we see physical assault over and over again. I know, Grant, that I don't have to remind you or anyone else of what happened sadly just two weeks ago when a leftist went to a ballfield with a list of Republican congressmen and decided to open fire on GOP congressional members because they were simply Republicans. Now with this ad, Grant, when I say the clenched fists of truth, I mean the clenched fists of truth. And this is where I get the inspiration for that line. Everybody knows what this is, right? Everybody can recognize this? It’s the symbol of the resistance movement. It’s the symbol of the movement that by and large has sanctioned the violence of which I speak. It has sanctioned the arson, and the property destruction, and it has sanctioned the physical assault. So, I didn’t say meet fist with fist. And I didn’t even mention anywhere in this ad to go and purchase a firearm. I specifically, Grant, said clenched fist, not of physical altercation like they promote, but of truth. Meeting in the battleground of ideas, meeting that violence with simple truth and simple, peaceful ideas. That is what we have always been about, and even in the face of continued aggression and violence and destruction from the left, that is what we will continue to be about. 

          Bret Stephens and MSNBC’s hiring spree: The network keeps moving right   

Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Update: MSNBC and Greta Van Susteren have agreed to part ways.

MSNBC is now a pasture for pseudo-intellectual conservatives. Climate denier and Iraq War booster Bret Stephens is just the latest right-wing hire at the network.

In recent months NBC News Chairman Andy Lack has overseen a hiring spree of right-wing pundits and former Fox News personalities. The stable includes Hugh Hewitt, Megyn Kelly, Charlie Sykes, Greta Van Susteren, and George Will. They join other conservatives at the network: Elise Jordan, Steve Schmidt, Michael Steele, Rick Tyler, Nicolle Wallace, and former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough. This is to say nothing of NBC News contributor and Trump apologist Mark Halperin; and given their frequent appearances, it may be just a matter of time until David Frum, a speechwriter for then-President George W. Bush, former George W. Bush chief of staff Andy Card, and neocon Bill Kristol join the network as well.

Compared to CNN’s boorish Trumpists or the state media apparatchiks at Fox News, the common thread among MSNBC conservatives is a certain pretentious shine. They’re frequently just arguing that President Donald Trump is the wrong type of conservative, when in fact Trump is the apotheosis of everything conservatism has been careening toward for some time. (The exception is Hugh Hewitt, who is now just a huge Trump booster after vacillating during the campaign.) 

Many of these hires have direct, intimate connections to Bush, the most disastrous president in decades. Card, Frum, Jordan, and Wallace worked in the Bush administration, and Stephens, Kristol, Will, Scarborough, and Hewitt were all huge cheerleaders for the Iraq War. And that history matters. Two major media institutions, including a newspaper of record, are now paying Stephens essentially just to troll liberals with climate denial and to push America towards a war with Iran.

You can separate Lack’s hiring spree into two buckets: pundits and brands. Neither offer much value in the long run. In this media environment, opinions are cheap (including mine!). Everyone has one and most of them stink. There’s no long-term return on opinions (and no lack of people wanting to get on TV to share theirs).

Adding brands like Megyn Kelly or Greta Van Susteren is equally pointless. It’s no wonder that both of these shows have failed. There’s simply no audience for them outside the Fox News bubble. Particularly with Kelly, NBC News executives seem completely unaware that her entire show at Fox News was built around racial dog-whistling (with occasional moments of bucking the party line).

Also, as Ryan Grim noted, it is the progressive shows that Lack hasn’t touched that are succeeding the most.

Rather than spending all this money on right-wing pundits and big names, the true value-add for news networks now is reliable and aggressive journalism. That’s hard to do. It’s expensive. It’s time-consuming. But it’s ultimately what will define NBC News and MSNBC.

          Why market competition has not brought down health care costs   
It is easier than ever to buy stuff. You can purchase almost anything on Amazon with a click , and it is only slightly harder to find a place to stay in a foreign city on Airbnb. So why can’t we pay for health care the same way? My research into the economics of health care suggests we should be able to do just that, but only if we say goodbye to our current system of private insurance — and the heavy administrative burden that goes along with it. Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable…

          Democrat from Las Cruces jumps in race for Congress   
A Democrat from Las Cruces on Thursday announced his campaign to unseat Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, although it remains unclear if the seven-term congressman will seek re-election to Congress, run for governor or pursue something else. Although the general election isn’t until November 2018, David Baake said he’s not waiting to get his congressional […]
          El desprecio a las mujeres no pasa factura a Trump (ni a su partido)   
El último ataque machista del presidente, el más virulento desde que está en la Casa Blanca, ha provocado críticas de los republicanos, que tienen la vista en las legislativas de 2018
           Moderate U.S. Republicans warn of trouble for tax reform    
By David MorganWASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) - Twenty moderate Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives warned on Friday that efforts to overhaul...
           Trump to Senate Republicans: kill Obamacare now, replace later    
By Doina Chiacu and Susan CornwellWASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump urged Republican senators in a tweet on Friday to repeal ...
           GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates    
WASHINGTON (AP) - Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law...
           Summer looms with GOP stuck on health care, budget, taxes    
WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans are stuck on health care, can't pass a budget, and hopes for a big, bipartisan infrastructure package are fizzling. Overhauling...
          GOP's Plan B for Obamacare repeal began with quiet push from Koch network   

President Trump’s surprise suggestion Friday that deadlocked Senate Republicans shift their focus to simply repealing Obamacare — and worry about replacing it later — has its roots in a Koch network proposal that has been shopped around Congress for months.

The influential Koch network, backed...

           Trump urges GOP to repeal Obama law now, replace later    
WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump urged divided congressional Republicans on Friday to break their logjam over dismantling President Barack Obama's...
          Trump Urges GOP To Repeal Obama Law Now, Replace Later   

President Donald Trump urged divided congressional Republicans on Friday to break their logjam over dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law by “immediately” repealing it and replacing it later, a formula that GOP leaders dismissed months ago as politically unwise. Trump’s early-morning tweet embraced a sequential approach favored by only a handful of conservatives eager to take quick action on one of the party’s foremost priorities — repealing Obamacare, something Republicans have long promised to do. But his suggestion threatened to sharpen divisions between conservatives and moderates, who are leery of stripping coverage from millions of constituents without something to substitute for it. “If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” Trump tweeted. Supporters of that idea include Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Rand Paul, R-Ky. House and Senate leaders long ago abandoned initial thoughts of first erasing Obama’s law, and then replacing it. Such a step-by-step approach would leave Republicans vulnerable to Democratic accusations that they were simply tossing people off coverage without helping them obtain medical care. It could also roil insurance markets by prompting insurers to flee or boost premiums because of worries over whether, when and how Congress would replace the statute. And the idea would leave unresolved the quandary stumping lawmakers today — how to replace Obama’s system of online insurance markets, tax subsidies and an expanded Medicaid with something that will get enough Republican votes to pass Congress. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to comment on Trump’s tweet. Underscoring the fissures within the GOP, conservative group leaders welcomed Trump’s suggestion but said it didn’t go far enough because it could open the door to a subsequent bipartisan compromise to replace Obama’s law. They accused McConnell of not wanting to go far enough and protecting GOP moderates who want to keep parts of the statute, such as insurance coverage requirements. “It’s distressing to see so many Republicans who’ve lied about their commitment to repeal. Mitch McConnell wants to amend Obamacare,” Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said in a conference call. Mimicking a southern accent, the New Jersey-born Cuccinelli said, “Root and branch, root and branch,” repeating an expression McConnell once used about how thoroughly he wanted to repeal the Obama law. On Thursday, Senate Republicans were considering breaking a stalemate over what their replacement bill should do by preserving a tax boost Obama’s law imposed on high earners. Keeping that tax increase in place was a bid to woo party moderates and rescue their sputtering push to repeal his health care overhaul. The break from dogma by a party that has long reviled tax boosts — and most things achieved by Obama — underscores McConnell’s feverish effort to rescue the Senate legislation from the brink of possible defeat. The money from the tax boost would instead be used to bolster proposed health care subsidies for lower-income people. The change, proposed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would give a more populist flavor to the bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that as the legislation now is written, it would boost out-of-pocket costs for many poor consumers and produce 22 million uninsured people while cutting around $700 billion in taxes over a […]

The post Trump Urges GOP To Repeal Obama Law Now, Replace Later appeared first on Yeshiva World News.

          Sessions Hopes Russia Probe Ends ‘Sooner Rather Than Later’   

Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a vote of confidence Friday to former FBI director Robert Mueller, the special counsel leading an investigation into potential coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign, but he also said he hoped the investigation could “move forward and come to an end sooner rather than later.” The attorney general’s comments during a “Fox & Friends” interview were his most expansive to date on the Justice Department’s appointment last month of Mueller to run the investigation. “Mr. Mueller is someone I’ve known a long time, and I’ve had confidence in him over the years,” said Sessions, an Alabama Republican who served for years on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel that oversees the FBI. Those remarks stand in contrast to a drumbeat of Republican criticism of the special counsel’s investigation, including from President Donald Trump, who on the same show last week contended that Mueller was “very, very good friends” with fired FBI director James Comey and characterized that relationship as “very bothersome.” Republicans have also raised conflict-of-interest concerns by noting that some lawyers on Mueller’s investigative team have previously contributed to Democratic candidates, though federal law and department policy does not permit the special counsel to take into consideration the political affiliations of a potential hire. Sessions said he was hopeful the investigation would conclude sooner than later, a point White House staff has repeatedly made, and he did suggest that questions about the composition of Mueller’s staff could be fair game. “We expect integrity from every person involved in this investigation. Mr. Mueller is entitled, lawfully, I guess, at this point, to hire who he desires,” Sessions said, “but I think he should look for people who have strength and credibility by all people.” Mueller was appointed FBI director by Republican President George W. Bush and held the position for 12 years. (AP)

The post Sessions Hopes Russia Probe Ends ‘Sooner Rather Than Later’ appeared first on Yeshiva World News.

           TV hosts charge Trump is unstable, accuse him of blackmail    
By Doina ChiacuWASHINGTON, June 30 (Reuters) - Two television hosts attacked by U.S. President Donald Trump questioned the Republican leader's mental...
          Congresista de EEUU denuncia situación de huelguistas de Holguín   
Congresista de EEUU denuncia situación de huelguistas de Holguín

El congresista republicano cubanoamericano Mario Díaz-Balart denunció
hoy en un comunicado la situación de tres hermanos que están en huelga
de hambre en Cuba y se les ha negado tratamiento médico.

Díaz-Balart califica de vergonzoso el arresto de Anairis Miranda Leyva,
Adairis Miranda Leyva, Fidel Manuel Batista Leyva, y Maydolis Leyva
Portelles por no mostrar duelo por la muerte de Fidel Castro.

El comunicado califica de valientes a estos tres activistas de derechos
humanos, actualmente bajo arresto domiciliario, y recuerda que han sido
reconocidos por Amnistía Internacional como prisioneros de conciencia.

Diaz Balart demanda la liberación incondicional de los tres hermanos y
que reciban la atención médica que necesitan.

El congresista añade que este y otros muchos abusos en Cuba demuestran
la crueldad que sufren los que se atreven a oponerse al régimen de Raúl
Castro y evidencia el coraje de la familia Leyva y de tantos activistas
en el movimiento prodemocrático cubano.

[Basado en un comunicado del congresista Mario Díaz Balart]

Source: Congresista de EEUU denuncia situación de huelguistas de Holguín
          Supporters await the release of disabled demonstrators jailed for occupying Cory Gardner’s office   
DENVER — Supporters of about 10 disabled Coloradans arrested last night for occupying Republican Cory Gardner’s downtown office are holding a vigil outside a Denver […]
          As GOP El Paso County Commissioners redraw their own district lines today, progressive activists have a message: We’re watching   
UPDATE: Members of the El Paso County Commission are set to vote on the new district lines today Democrats in Colorado’s heaviest Republican county are […]
          Connecticut Medical Device Companies Watching Health Care Reform Closely   
Supporters of the Senate health care reform bill have been few and far between outside of the Republican party. But there's one important industry in Connecticut that is cheerleading for the legislation: medical device companies.
          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit....
          Trump floats repealing Obamacare now and replacing it later – The Boston Globe   
The Boston Globe Trump floats repealing Obamacare now and replacing it laterThe Boston Globe(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump on Friday said that if Republican senators can't strike a deal on their health bill, they should immediately repeal Obamacare and then … Continue reading
          Study Finds That Southeast And Midwest Will Suffer Most From ‘Climate Change’ Or Something   
Where do you find the most pro-science skepticism when it comes to anthropogenic climate change? The Southeast and Midwest. Republican leaning states. So, shockingly, guess which areas are targeted in this new “study”? As Climate Changes, Southern States Will Suffer More Than Others As the United States confronts global warming in the decades ahead, not […]
          House Passes Kate’s Law Along With Anti-Sanctuary City Bill On Mostly Party Line Votes   
Unsurprisingly, most Democrats voted against both bills (CNN) House Republicans joined President Donald Trump on Thursday afternoon in declaring war on sanctuary cities — passing legislation targeting the cities’ funding while hammering a message of the dangers posed by undocumented immigrants. “Kate’s Law” is named for Kate Steinle, a young woman murdered on a busy […]
          Trump urges Republicans to repeal Obamacare now and replace it later   

President Donald Trump barged into Senate Republicans' delicate health care negotiations Friday, declaring that if lawmakers can't reach a deal they should simply repeal "Obamacare" right away and then replace it later on.

Trump's tweet revives an approach that GOP leaders and the president himself...

          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   

Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit.

Republicans repeatedly have failed to scrap the law preventing churches and other nonprofits from...

          GOP health care debate turns to stark question: help the vulnerable, or help the rich?   

Republican negotiations over how to overhaul the Affordable Care Act centered sharply Thursday on a divisive and ideological question: How much money should the Senate health care bill spend on protecting vulnerable Americans, and how much on providing tax relief to the wealthy?

Senate Majority...

          House GOP backs bills to crack down on illegal immigration; Trump hails passage   

Warning of threats to public safety and national security, the Republican-led House on Thursday approved two bills to crack down on illegal immigration, a key priority for President Donald Trump.

One bill would strip federal dollars from self-proclaimed "sanctuary" cities that shield residents...

          Hopes fade for Friday revise of Senate Republican health care bill   

Senate Republicans appeared unlikely to hit a self-imposed Friday deadline for revising their health care bill, as negotiators considered scaling back promised tax cuts for the wealthy in order to provide more insurance assistance to the poor.

Vice President Mike Pence led a White House push by...

          Trump plans FCC nomination, providing crucial vote to reverse net neutrality rules   

President Trump intends to nominate Brendan Carr, a former aide to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, to fill the final open seat at the agency and provide a crucial vote to reverse tough net neutrality rules.

Carr, currently the FCC’s general counsel, would fill a Republican...

          Obama Excuses Chavez While American Rots in Cuba   
Accuracy in Media Except for some innuendo in the mainstream press that the Republicans are “desperate” for an issue to use in the presidential campaign, Obama’s mind-boggling statement about Marxist Hugo Chavez of Venezuela not having “a serious national security impact” on the United States is getting little national media attention. But like the private […]
          On 'Fox & Friends,' Ivanka Trump Squashes Progressive Hopes   
When Ivanka Trump quit her position at the helm of her company for an unpaid post within her father's White House, it raised eyebrows — cries of nepotism — and for many progressive women, it was proof, that someone would be on their side. Some saw her as a potentially moderating force within the new Republican administration. NPR checks in on the president's special adviser five months into the presidency.
          Trump Suggests Repealing Health Law Now and Replacing It Later   
Months ago, President Trump said that approach to the Affordable Care Act was unacceptable. Now, as Republicans struggle to reach a new agreement, that old idea has appeal.
          Trump Backers ‘Furious’ That Senator Stood Against Health Care Bill   
Dean Heller, the Nevada senator who broke with President Trump on health care, now faces the wrath of Las Vegas’s biggest titans and the Republican rank and file.
          Projected Drop in Medicaid Spending Heightens Hurdle for G.O.P. Health Bill   
A Congressional Budget Office analysis showing a 35 percent decrease after two decades created a fresh challenge for Republican leaders trying to muster support for their repeal bill.
          Your Money: Plan on Growing Old? Then the Medicaid Debate Affects You   
Here’s how the various Republican health care bills germinating in Congress might affect Medicaid — and how they could reduce your options in old age.
          Health Care Is Complicated. Trump’s Pitch? Not So Much.   
If your only source of information were President Trump, this is what you would know about the American Health Care Act, the Republican legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
          5th Annual Washington Kastles Charity Classic Returns Thursday, July 27   

Republicans and Democrats come together for the Washington Kastles Charity ClassicWASHINGTON, June 30, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Washington Kastles have announced that the 5th Annual Washington Kastles Charity Classic will take place on Thursday, July 27th in Kastles Stadium at the GW Smith Center. Pairing Republican and Democratic Members of Congress,...

          In The Land Of Bill Gates, A Standoff Over Money For Schools | GOOD Education   
In The Land Of Bill Gates, A Standoff Over Money For Schools | GOOD Education:

In The Land Of Bill Gates, A Standoff Over Money For Schools
Not one of Washington State’s 13 resident billionaires pays a dime in income tax.

ZACHARY WARREN SPENDS A LOT OF HIS TIME THINKING ABOUT CHAIRS. Desk chairs, to be more specific. Though there’s a range of chair sizes in the classroom where he’s taught for years in the Seattle Public School system, he says, “They don’t fit the kids. The desks don’t fit the kids.”
The problem, Warren believes, is that public education in his state isn’t fully-funded. Which means equipment doesn’t always work. Or adequate supplies simply aren’t available. So teachers like him — who already struggle to make it on salaries that are well below what it takes to live in the blazing Seattle housing market — must dig into their own pockets to pay for them. And when it comes to desk chairs, well, they aren’t exactly available for a couple bucks at the corner store.
Teachers being asked to foot the bill isn’t a pattern that’s limited to Washington; it’s a nationwide problem, due in large part to the fact that teachers, who are evaluated on student success, can’t do their jobs without basic supplies. But it’s surprising that in a prosperous state with a booming economy — home to two of the world’s biggest corporations, Amazon and Microsoft — schools can’t seem to put the coins together to pay for pencils and paste.
It’s a familiar conundrum for the Washington State legislature. Colloquially referred to as the WaLeg, the state government entered its second special session this month, an extension to the 2017 legislative period. Though the word “special” is right in the name, there’s nothing unique or surprising about the fact that lawmakers are staying in Olympia, the capitol, for an extra 30 days. It happens almost every year.
Despite the state’s reputation as a liberal haven, the WaLeg is split nearly dead in half down the aisle (the Senate has 24 Democrats and 25 Republicans, while the House has 50 Democrats and 48 Republicans). It’s a division that has led to some unusual funding shortfalls in one of the nation’s wealthiest states: Not a single one In The Land Of Bill Gates, A Standoff Over Money For Schools | GOOD Education:

          Independent Candidates Sparse Despite Voter Gains   
Even as California voters increasingly turn away from political party labels, Democratic and Republican candidates dominate elections.
          Republicans grow increasingly anxious about heading home without a health plan - Washington Post   

Washington Post

Republicans grow increasingly anxious about heading home without a health plan
Washington Post
The dispute within the Republican Party over health care widened further Friday as President Trump joined with two conservative senators in calling for an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act if the party fails to agree on an alternative plan by ...
Conservative groups unleash on Senate Republicans over repeal billPolitico
What exactly does Trump want from this health care bill?CNN
GOP's Plan B for Obamacare repeal began with quiet push from Koch networkLos Angeles Times
ABC News -Breitbart News -The Atlantic -BuzzFeed News
all 148 news articles »

          U.S. Senate revises Russia sanctions bill, sends it to House   
The U.S. Senate reached an agreement on Thursday to resolve a technical issue stalling a new package of sanctions on Russia, although the measure's fate in the House of Representatives remained uncertain, lawmakers said. The legislation passed the Senate by a nearly unanimous 98-2 margin on June 15, looking like it might complicate President Donald Trump's desire for warmer relations with Moscow, where officials have denounced new sanctions. But it was blocked in the House, where Republican leaders said the Senate bill violated a constitutional requirement that any bill affecting government revenues originate in the House, something known as a "blue slip" violation. Lawmakers from the two chambers have bickered about the issue since. Democrats accused House Republican leaders of trying to kill the bill to please Trump after administration officials said they had concerns about it. Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters
          Florida eases private flood insurance purchasing regulations   
Starting next week, Floridians might have an easier time purchasing flood insurance in the private market. Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a measure (HB 813) this week that will make changes in Florida’s regulation of privately sold flood insurance, with the goal of streamlining some of these procedures. The changes take effect July 1. Most flood insurance policies across the country are sold under the National Flood Insurance Program. This federal program was created after most insurers stopped offering flood coverage in the 1960s and 1970s. Rising costs for federal flood policies in the past decade have led some private insurers to re-enter flood markets, and Florida authorized private insurers to sell their own flood policies in 2014. Some of these policies are surplus lines insurance policies, those purchased from out-of-state insurers whose policies can be sold in Florida only under certain circumstances. The new law will extend an exemption simplifying the
          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit....
          Florida enacts changes for insurers facing insolvency   
Florida is amending its regulatory procedures for handling an insolvent insurer. The bill (HB 837) was signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Monday following its passage by the state's legislature in May. The law will amend the process established by Florida law for rehabilitating and liquidating insolvent insurance companies. Under federal law, an insolvent insurer cannot declare bankruptcy, but it can be rehabilitated or liquidated by the state. According to an analysis of the bill from the Florida House, many of the bill's provisions are based on model legislation developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, a regulatory support organization created by insurance regulators from the 50 states. One provision included in the bill establishes the role of the Florida Department of Financial Services to deal with large deductible workers' compensation policies for an insolvent insurer. A larger deductible policy has the insurer pay the claim in full
          Trump says Repeal, Replace Later and Self-employed/Small businesses might lose affordable coverage!!!   
Like Trump's comment that took the nations breath away...:

Yet House and Senate Republican plans are getting trashed, not surprisingly, in this most recent poll:

So if Republicans can't prevent 23 million people from losing their health care insurance with a new plan, at least just dump the Affordable Care Act outright?

Dumb doesn't begin to describe taking this kind of chance with 8 percent of the economy. But get a load of what his in-the-tank true believing followers think:
Among Republicans, Trump wouldn't bear the brunt of the blame if Congress is unable to repeal and replace Obamacare. Just 6 percent would blame him, and half said they would blame congressional Democrats. Another 20 percent said they would blame GOP lawmakers.
Of course Republicans are only doing what voters wanted them to do...see graph....

The Senate's Better Care Act adds mind-boggling costly complexity to the U.S. health care system. 

For me, an "all payer system" is simple; every doctor is your doctor, every hospital is your hospital. No bills, no worries ever. .

Waaayyyyyy too easy say Republicans, who want us to spend days, months and years maneuvering through their nightmarish and complicated idea of free market freedom. One idea is so ridiculously convoluted and costly that it numbs the mind, making people join a group formed to manage health policy...seriously?
KFFDotOrg: Association Health Plans for Small Groups and Self-Employed Individuals under the Better Care Reconciliation Act: The Senate Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), includes a provision to create new association health plan options for small employers and self-employed individuals ... the ACA requirement that premiums cannot vary based on health status does not apply in the large group market. Neither does the requirement for policies to cover ten categories of essential health benefits. 

SBHPs would be able to set premiums for small firm and self-employed members based on health and risk status ... However, in the event a covered individual becomes seriously ill or injured, nothing under federal law would prevent the SBHP insurer from raising the premium for that small employer or self-employed individual, even to unaffordable levels. This could lead to premiums in the traditional small group market becoming much higher for employers who need to seek coverage there ... making health insurance less affordable for sick individuals and small groups who would have to rely on them, and potentially not available at all.

          Reeling from Horrifying GOP Health Care Bills? Just wait till you lose your Voting Rights, just around the corner.    
While everyone is still wondering how Republicans could ever seriously fix their health care bills that drop 22 to 23 million Americans with a few more insane amendments, voting rights is about to take a huge hit:
The Republican presidential tactic of crippling agencies you don't like by putting either the incompetent or the actively hostile in charge of them (continues) ... Kris Kobach, the godfather of the national movement to suppress the votes of people the GOP would prefer not to exercise the franchise (was) named as vice-chairman of his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, a snipe hunt the only apparent purpose of which is maintaining the fiction that masses of people, many of them brown, are gaming our elections. 
Here's the most damning news that might just alert us to specific Republican governors who take the bait:
Kobach wrote a letter to his fellow secretaries of state that left many jaws on the floor. From The Kansas City Star: In a Wednesday letter, Kobach asked the Connecticut secretary of state's office to provide the commission with all publicly available voter roll data, including the full names of all registered voters along with their addresses, dates of birth, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers, voting history and other personal information ... he sent similar letters to election officials in every state. 

Quite simply, any secretary of state who complies with this request is either too stupid to hold the job, or is in sympathy with Kobach's goal of whitewashing the electorate.  Alex Padilla, the Secretary of State for California, said, "California's participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach. The President's Commission is a waste of taxpayer money and a distraction from the real threats to the integrity of our elections today: aging voting systems and documented Russian interference in our elections."

Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill was a bit more discreet: "The courts have repudiated his methods on multiple occasions but often after the damage has been done to voters. Given Secretary Kobach's history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this commission."
BREAKING: Scott Walker gives up voter information to Trump's big government demands. Hey, we just had a recount too. All is well?

Wisconsin elections officials said Friday that they'll sell some voter information to a presidential commission investigating election fraud. Administrator Mike Haas issued a statement Friday saying data is available for purchase and the commission must release it to buyers, adding that the commission routinely sells the information to political parties, candidates and researchers. The commission would charge the presidential panel $12,500 for the data.
Having done a lot of research on "the right to vote," I found that despite the guarantee in the 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments...with help from the Voting Rights Act (now destroyed by activist conservative Justices), voting seems to be the least defended squishy right ever. In fact, I could make the argument that women and African Americans were definitely given the right to vote, but anyone else including white guys...nope.

What if Obama did this? Always the best test against hypocritical Republican policy:
As Vanita Gupta points out in that same K.C. Star report, if someone in the Obama administration had made this request, at the very least, there would be a full week of howler monkeys screaming about federalism from every perch in every conservative think-tank in the jungle. At the most, there would be hearing after hearing about the Obama administration's plan to seed thousands of the president's fellow Kenyans in every crucial precinct in Ohio and Florida. What's more important, though, is that the national campaign to roll back voting rights now has reached the highest levels of government, with the blessing of the president* and the president*-in-waiting. This is the final step backwards across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

          NRA Declares War on Liberals.    
I've been writing about the Republican authoritarian movement for some time now along with their sheepishly devoted voters. They've been vilifying liberals, progressives and Democrats for years. Not coincidentally, I've also noticed my conservative friend in Milwaukee has made the attacks more personal, with an arrogance rooted from one party rule. After all, they "won" and will never lose power again. And according to my friend, with the appointment of conservative judges, liberals will lose in the courts as well.  

NRA Ad Warning: What I've seen from tweets and blog commentary is perfectly summed up in the recent NRA ad. It is literally all there, with the added call to arms of course. Trump's blatant attack on the First Amendments very clear protections of the press, the rise of right wing media, and the many years of vilifying  "the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances," the NRA ad may be the marker right wing authoritarians have been waiting for. Especially after the way this ad hit the fan:

"They use their media to assassinate real news. They use their schools to teach children that their president is another Hitler. They use their movie stars and singers and comedy shows and award shows to repeat their narrative over and over again. And then they use their ex-president to endorse “the resistance.”

All to make them march. Make them protest. Make them scream racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia. To smash windows, burn cars, shut down interstates and airports, bully and terrorize the law-abiding — until the only option left is for the police to do their jobs and stop the madness.

And when that happens, they’ll use it as an excuse for their outrage. The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth.

I’m the National Rifle Association of America. And I’m freedom’s safest place."
As Vox's Zack Beauchamp put it:
This chilling NRA ad calls on its members to save America by fighting liberals: A liberal insurgency is destroying American society. The “only way” to protect yourself from this surge in left-wing violence (a made-up threat, to be clear) is to donate to the NRA.

In a 2013 op-ed, for example, NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre argued that a lawless America was inevitable if the liberals succeeded in their nefarious plan to take your guns … it functions as a kind of anti-politics — casting the NRA’s political opponents as devious enemies who can’t be opposed through normal politics. Republicans control all three branches of government and a large majority of statehouses nationwide. There is literally zero chance that any kind of major gun control passes in America in the foreseeable future.

The threat, instead, is from a kind of liberal-cultural fifth column: People who are acting outside of legitimate political channels to upend American freedoms, through protest and violence. It’s a paranoid vision of American life that encourages the NRA’s fans to see liberals not as political opponents, but as monsters.
The ad features right-wing pundit Dana Loesch, who seems determined to turn everything in our country beet red:

The NRA made the mistake of using "blue" as their background, making it ripe for parody, like this...

          Trump Tweets: Repeal Obama Health Law Now   
"If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!"
          Cancel August recess for Congress, group of Senate Republicans say   
The Senate is scheduled to leave Washington by July 28 and not return to Capitol Hill until Sept. 5
          A room full of Republicans just addressed climate change, here’s why   

The House Armed Services Committee passed an amendment recognizing climate change as a threat to national security. The amendment tells the defense secretary to take steps to address it.

The post A room full of Republicans just addressed climate change, here’s why appeared first on

          NYT Retracts Claim That ’17 US Intelligence Agencies’ Verified Russian DNC Email Hack   
The New York Times has retracted its claim that all 17 US intelligence agencies agreed that Russia was behind the hack of Democratic emails in an effort to influence the 2016 election in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
          Evan F. Moore: Baseball shooting victim Scalise owes life to those he wants to strip of liberties    
It has to be a weird feeling for a white man who has used racist and anti-gay rhetoric to have his life saved by a black man and a gay black woman.House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was one of five people shot when a gunman opened fire at congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14.Scalice spent several days in critical condition and was recently released from the intensive care unit. The Republican congressman owes his life to people whom he previously [...]
          "Internment Camp"   

Carlos Vera is with Pay Our Interns.

Senator Feinstein, one of the richest members of Congress, doesn't pay her interns. Senator Harris has "pledged to pay beginning in the Fall."

In the Huffington Post: Congress Called Out For Not Paying Interns:

The extent of the problem the report outlines is startling. In the U.S. Senate, 51 percent of Republicans pay their interns, while only 31 percent of Democrats offer paid internships. The rates in the House of Representatives are even worse, with 8 percent of Republican representatives and 3.6 percent of Democratic representatives paying their interns.

Interesting---and surprising---to learn that the Repugs are better overall about paying their interns than the Democrats. Good---and not surprising---to see that Bernie Sanders pays his interns.

See also Interns: Working for free and Internment Camp.

          Up Close and Personal with George W. Bush's Horrifying Legacy   
The Iraq disaster remains George W. Bush's enduring folly, and the Republican attempt to shift the blame to the Obama presidency is obscene nonsense. This was, and will always be, viewed properly as Bush's quagmire, a murderous killing field based on blatant lies. This showcase of American deceit, obvious to the entire world, began with...
          Trump mocks TV host: 'bleeding badly from a face-lift'    
President Donald Trump on Thursday ridiculed the brains, looks and temperament of a female cable television host whose show he says he has stopped watching. His latest crude broadside against a woman's appearance set off a storm of protest from Republicans and Democrats alike and did nothing to advance his struggling policy agenda.
          GOP adds opioid money to health bill, fate remains in doubt    
Top Republicans have agreed to add $45 billion for battling opioids abuse to their struggling health care bill, but the measure's fate remained uncertain Thursday as leaders confront an expanding chorus of GOP detractors.
          Analysis: For GOP Congress, an imperative on health care    
Congressional Republicans are stymied over health care. But after seven years of promising to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's law, they risk political disaster if they don't deliver.
          Maryland to become first state with law to protect Planned Parenthood   

Maryland on Saturday will become the first state in the nation with a law to protect funding for Planned Parenthood from a possible federal cutoff. Legislation ensuring that the state will cover the cost of the group's health care services in Maryland if Congress blocks it from receiving federal funding is among the more than 250 bills passed by the General Assembly that will become law July 1. The new laws include Republican Gov. Larry Hogan 's plan to offer tax breaks for manufacturers who bring new jobs to economically disadvantaged parts of the state, as well as his proposal to expand technical education.

          GOP health care debate turns to stark question: help the vulnerable, or help the rich?   

Republican negotiations over how to overhaul the Affordable Care Act centered sharply Thursday on a divisive and ideological question: How much money should the Senate health care bill spend on protecting vulnerable Americans, and how much on providing tax relief to the wealthy?

Senate Majority...

          Oregon Republican group to have right-wing ‘government resistance’ militia run their security: report   
The Republican Party of Multnomah County, Oregon has elected to allow local right-wing militias to run security for them at events, as per the Portland Mercury newspaper. According to documents leaked to the Mercury, the Multnomah County Republicans voted Monday to allow the Oregon Three Percenters ...
          Moderate House Republicans warn of trouble for tax reform   
Lawmaers from the moderate Tuesday Group said including hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts could be "extremely problematic" for tax reform.
          Johnson Amendment under fire from House Republicans   
President Trump has promised religious conservatives he will “get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment,” a part of the tax code that bars churches from campaigning for or donating to specific political candidates. In a largely overlooked move, House Republicans have taken the most concre...
          GOP lawmaker tells Christian group that transgender soldiers are a ‘threat’ to America   
A Republican lawmaker this week singled out transgender soldiers as a “threat” to the United States during an interview with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Center, a Christian organization that has for years fought against expanding rights for LGBT citizens. As ThinkProgress documen...
          Thousands join the justice march from Ankara to Istanbul   
Thousands of protesters are on the road from Ankara to Istanbul on the 'March for Justice' The head of Turkey's secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kilicdaroglu stands at the head of the march in a demonstration to protest against the 25-year-prison term handed down to fellow party member Enis Berberoglu for espionage. He is expected to arrive to Istanbul's Maltepe prison on July 9 where Berberoglu is imprisoned. 00.13 CHP LEADER KEMAL KILICDAROGLU MARCH 00.20 PEOPLE MORE MARCH 00.25 VOX POP1 (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) ACTIVIST, OZNUR OZKOK, SAYING: "Wherever Kilicdaroglu goes, wherever justice goes we will follow it and end there. It may go to eternity, we do not care, we will walk." 00.33 VOX POP2 (SOUNDBITE) (Turkish) ACTIVIST, MEHMET YIGIT, SAYING: "I had to join this march. I have to join for my son, for my daughter, for all our children. Everybody needs to take to the streets." 00.42 Berberoglu was the first CHP lawmaker to be imprisoned in a government crackdown that followed the attempted military coup in July 2016. More than 50,000 people have been jailed and more than 150,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs.
          Now in Effect: Kentucky Right to Try Act Rejects Some FDA Restrictions on Terminal Patients   
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 29, 2017) – Today, a Kentucky law went into effect that sets the foundation to nullify in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that deny access to experimental treatments by terminally ill patients. A coalition of three Republicans sponsored Senate Bill 21 (SB21). The legislation gives terminally ill patients access…
          Now In Effect: New Kentucky Law Expands Health Freedom   
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 29, 2017) – While Congressional Republicans have yet to put forth a bill to get rid of Obamacare, a new Kentucky law went into effect today that will help facilitate healthcare freedom in the state. It will also set the stage for people there to nullify federally run healthcare in practice. A…
          Illinois senate Republican leader Christine Radogno to resign as budget deadline looms, and other Chicago news   

Welcome to the Reader's morning briefing for Friday, June 30, 2017. Have a great weekend!…

          Republicans round on Trump over 'bleeding facelift' tweet   
Senior members of the president's own party criticise remarks he made against MSNBC journalists.
          Crazed Liberal Suspect Threatens List of Republicans in Courtroom Rant   
radical left

There has been no shortage of bizarre, leftist behavior to behold in recent weeks, as the so-called "resistance" reaches fever pitch.

The post Crazed Liberal Suspect Threatens List of Republicans in Courtroom Rant appeared first on The Constitution.

          The GOP Healthcare Plan Fails the “Jimmy Kimmel” Test   

This week the Senate Republican leadership unveiled its Obamacare replacement plan. Like its House counterpart, the misnamed Senate plan retains most of Obamacare’s core features.

The post The GOP Healthcare Plan Fails the “Jimmy Kimmel” Test appeared first on The Constitution.

          House Republicans Pass Kate’s Law, Illegal Community in Uproar   

The House just passed a pair of laws meant to crack down on illegal immigration and the crime that comes with it.

The post House Republicans Pass Kate’s Law, Illegal Community in Uproar appeared first on The Constitution.

          Senator Explains that Capitalism is the Best Solution to our Healthcare Woes   

For the last few months, Senator Rand Paul has been explaining why it is that every Democrat idea, and most of the Republicans ones, on healthcare are self-defeating

The post Senator Explains that Capitalism is the Best Solution to our Healthcare Woes appeared first on The Constitution.

          Evan F. Moore: Baseball shooting victim Scalise owes life to those he wants to strip of liberties    
It has to be a weird feeling for a white man who has used racist and anti-gay rhetoric to have his life saved by a black man and a gay black woman.House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was one of five people shot when a gunman opened fire at congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14.Scalice spent several days in critical condition and was recently released from the intensive care unit. The Republican congressman owes his life to people whom he previously [...]
          Illinois House adjourns, plunging state into third year without a budget   
Illinois House lawmakers adjourned Friday without approving a budget, officially entering a third fiscal year without one, but with optimism that a deal can be reached over the weekend.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan conceded Friday morning that a budget deal wouldn't be consummated by midnight – the start of the 2018 state fiscal year – and implored the major bond ratings agencies not to downgrade the state’s credit rating to junk status.

But House lawmakers offered up a glimmer of hope with a bipartisan 90-25 test vote to approve a $36.5 billion spending plan fueled by a $5 billion income tax increase.

Lawmakers and experts statewide had warned for months about the host of bad consequences that await the state should it enter an unprecedented third straight year without a budget, courtesy of the differences between the Democratic-dominated General Assembly and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

They go far beyond becoming the first U.S. state to be have its credit rating dip below investment grade. For starters, Comptroller Susana Mendoza has said she will be unable to cover the basic state services ordered paid by courts, and the Illinois State Department of Transportation has halted all of its road construction projects.

“We will remain in session to continue our progress toward passing a balanced budget," Madigan said in the statement. "In light of this ongoing progress, I would ask that bond rating agencies temporarily withhold judgment and allow legislators time to negotiate a bipartisan, balanced budget."

Madigan’s statement included letters he sent Friday to Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service. Standard & Poor’s warned several weeks ago that it will downgrade the state to junk should it not have a budget by Saturday, and the other two agencies could follow suit.

"We will continue working to put a compromise on the governor’s desk and end this impasse through the next week, and I ask you to allow these negotiations to move forward," Madigan wrote to all three ratings firms.

Illinois' current spending, mandated by court orders and consent decrees despite the lack of a budget, has resulted in a $6.2 billion deficit and a $14.7 billion stack of unpaid bills as of Friday afternoon.

The proposed budget in the House relies on increasing the state income tax and cutting $2.4 billion.

The revenue plan conceived by House Democrats likely would increase the income tax rate for individual filers by 32 percent, or from 3.75 to 4.95 percent of income. The increase would take effect Saturday – earlier versions that made the increase retroactive to Jan. 1 met with resistance from Republicans.

If approved, it would take on average an extra $600 a year from a worker making $50,000 a year.

The 4.95 percent rate is close to the 5 percent rate that Illinois taxpayers paid for four years after lawmakers raised taxes in the lame-duck session after the 2010 election. That temporary increase, which raised the individual rate by 66 percent, took an average of a week's pay from every Illinois worker.

Rauner, who was elected in 2014 on a platform of reversing Illinois' sinking fortunes, has insisted that any budget that includes tax increases must include sufficient pro-taxpayer and pro-business reforms. They include a four-year property tax freeze, and reforms to workers' compensation laws and changes to pension benefits for state employees.

The bitter partisan divide in Springfield over how to come together on a spending plan has eased in significant part to cooperation as Republicans and Democrats alike work to avoid the nightmare scenario that experts warn will come to pass if a budget isn't finalized, and fast.

"I come to you today with great joy, not with regret or despair. We're going to save our state, and we're going to save it together," Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva, the House Republicans' floor leader, said to thunderous applause.

Andersson, whose district includes a sliver of McHenry County, was the only local house lawmaker who voted yes on the 90-25 test bill. Republican Reps. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills; Barbara Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake; Steven Reick, R-Woodstock; and Allen Skillicorn, R-East Dundee, all voted no.

Skillicorn said that Illinois taxpayers will be giving more to the state in exchange for weak and "watered down" reforms.

"It's pretty clear to me that the governor and a large portion of Republicans have capitulated to the speaker," Skillicorn said. "The appropriations amendment didn't have any substantial cuts, no structural reforms, and really was something that compromises the values of the people of McHenry County."

McSweeney, as he has since the budget impasse started, reiterated that he is a "hell no" on any tax increase.

"There's nothing that's been done to reform Illinois government or spending. It's a travesty. It's a joke," McSweeney said.

Whatever plan the House passes will need to clear the Senate before going to Rauner for a vote. Senate Democrats approved a budget in May in the last days of the legislative session – without a single Republican vote – but Madigan did not bring it forward for consideration.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

          President Trump urges GOP to repeal Affordable Care Act law now, replace later   
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump urged divided congressional Republicans on Friday to break their logjam over dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law by "immediately" repealing it and replacing it later, a formula that GOP leaders dismissed months ago as politically unwise.

Trump's early-morning tweet embraced a sequential approach favored by only a handful of conservatives eager to take quick action on one of the party's foremost priorities — repealing Obamacare, something Republicans have long promised to do. But his suggestion threatened to sharpen divisions between conservatives and moderates, who are leery of stripping coverage from millions of constituents without something to substitute for it.

"If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!" Trump tweeted.

Supporters of that idea include Sens. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., and Rand Paul, R-Ky.

House and Senate leaders long ago abandoned initial thoughts of first erasing Obama's law, and then replacing it.

Such a step-by-step approach would leave Republicans vulnerable to Democratic accusations that they were simply tossing people off coverage without helping them obtain medical care. And the idea would leave unresolved the quandary stumping lawmakers today — how to replace Obama's system of online insurance markets, tax subsidies and an expanded Medicaid with something that will get enough Republican votes to pass Congress.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., declined to comment on Trump's tweet.

On Thursday, Senate Republicans were considering breaking a stalemate over what their replacement bill should do by preserving a tax boost Obama's law imposed on high earners. Keeping that tax increase in place was a bid to woo party moderates and rescue their sputtering push to repeal his health care overhaul.

The break from dogma by a party that has long reviled tax boosts — and most things achieved by Obama — underscores McConnell's feverish effort to rescue the Senate legislation from the brink of possible defeat.

The money from the tax boost would instead be used to bolster proposed health care subsidies for lower-income people.

The change, proposed by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would give a more populist flavor to the bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that as the legislation now is written, it would boost out-of-pocket costs for many poor consumers and produce 22 million uninsured people while cutting around $700 billion in taxes over a decade — largely for richer people and the health care industry.

"You're increasing the burden on lower-income citizens and obviously alleviating the burden on the wealthy. That is not an equation that works," Corker said. He said he was "very confident" that leaders would address the issue in the updated bill.

Top Republicans also considered an amendment pushed by conservatives to let insurers offer plans with low premiums and scant benefits. To do so, a company would also have to sell a policy that abides by the consumer-friendly coverage requirements in Obama's 2010 statute, which the GOP is struggling to repeal.

Both proposals were encountering internal Republican opposition, and it was uncertain either would survive.

McConnell postponed a vote on an initial version Tuesday because of opposition from conservatives and moderates alike. By this week's end, he wants to nail down changes that would assure the bill's passage after Congress' weeklong July 4 recess. No more than two of the 52 GOP senators can oppose the measure for him to prevail, and there were no indications he'd achieved that margin as senators left town Thursday.

"We're kind of at a stalemate right now, I'd say," said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., who with Ohio GOP Sen. Robert Portman and others wants to forestall reductions the measure would make in Medicaid.

The Medicaid program for low-income and disabled people has grown dramatically in their states and others, but the Republican bill would cut it, with reductions growing over time.

Under Corker's proposal, the bill would retain Obama's 3.8 percent tax increase on investment income for married couples making more than $250,000 a year and individuals making more than $125,000. Keeping that increase would save $172 billion over 10 years, and moderates want to use that money to make coverage more affordable for poorer consumers.

Conservatives said they opposed the idea, along with the chairmen of Congress' two tax-writing committees: Senate Finance chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and House Ways and Means chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

Also in play was a proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to let insurers offer skimpier policies, which conservatives say would lower premiums.

Moderates oppose that, especially if it lets insurers raise premiums on people with pre-existing medical problems.

Republicans also said party leaders agreed to add $45 billion for battling opioids abuse to their bill. They were also considering a proposal by conservatives to let people use tax-advantaged health savings accounts to pay health care premiums.

          MSNBC 'Morning Joe' hosts fire back at Trump Twitter blasts   
NEW YORK – "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski said Friday that President Donald Trump lied about their December encounter in a tweet and that his "unhealthy obsession" with their program doesn't serve his mental health or the country well.

The two MSNBC personalities postponed a vacation in order to respond to Trump's tweet, which drew broad condemnation a day earlier because he called Brzezinski "crazy" and said she was "bleeding badly from a face-lift" when he saw them at his Florida estate.

"It's been fascinating and frightening and really sad for our country," Brzezinski said on their program.

"We're OK," said Scarborough, her co-host and fiance. "The country's not."

The hosts, who also co-bylined a column that was posted on The Washington Post's website on Friday, said they had known Trump for more than a decade and have "fond memories" of their relationship, but that he's changed in the past two years. They were at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida shortly before the New Year in December to encourage Trump to give them an interview.

Brzezinski, who said she's alarmed at how the president deals with women who disagree with him, said she believed her teasing about a Post story about fake Time magazine covers with Trump's face hanging at his golf facilities is what precipitated the latest Twitter attack.

"It is unbelievably alarming that this president is so easily played, he is easily played by a cable news host," she said. "What does that say to our allies? What does that say to our enemies?"

They said Trump was lying about Brzezinski having a face-lift, although "she did have a little skin under her chin tweaked."

Their program and Trump have had a tortured relationship. They were criticized by some for being too close to Trump during the campaign and giving his candidacy an early boost, but have turned sharply against him. Brzezinski in recent weeks has wondered whether Trump was mentally ill and said the country under his presidency "does feel like a developing dictatorship."

The hosts said that they've noticed a change in Trump's behavior over the past few years that left them neither shocked nor insulted by the Thursday tweet.

"The guy who is in the White House now is not the guy we know," Scarborough said.

Trump on Thursday had launched a crude Twitter attack on the brains, looks and temperament of Brzezinski, drawing bipartisan howls of outrage and leaving fellow Republicans beseeching him: Stop, please just stop.

Trump's tweets revived concerns about his views of women in a city where civility already is in short supply and he is struggling for any support he can get for his proposals on health care, immigration and other controversial issues.

"I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)," Trump tweeted to his nearly 33 million followers Thursday morning. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

The tweets served to unite Democrats and Republicans for once in a chorus of protest that amounted to perhaps the loudest outcry since Trump took office.

"Obviously I don't see that as an appropriate comment," said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump's tweets, "blatantly sexist." The president, she added, "happens to disrespect women ... it's sad."

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma even linked the president's harsh words to the June 14 shootings of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others.

"The president's tweets today don't help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue," Lankford said, noting that he had just chaired a hearing on the shootings.

On Trump's level of insult-trading, Brzezinski responded on Twitter by posting a photograph of a Cheerios box that included the phrase "made for little hands." People looking to get under the president's skin have long suggested that his hands appear small for his frame.

Trump's allies cast his outburst as positive, an example of his refusal to be bullied.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was "pushing back against people who have attacked him day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that?"

"The American people elected a fighter; they didn't elect somebody to sit back and do nothing," she added.

First lady Melania Trump, who has vowed to fight cyberbullying while her husband is president, gave his tweets a pass.

"As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder," her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

The White House has shown increasing irritation over harsh coverage of the president on Brzezinski and Scarborough's "Morning Joe," including commentary questioning Trump's mental state.

          Trump criticized for trash-talking MSNBC hosts   
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump launched a crude Twitter attack on the brains, looks and temperament of a female TV personality Thursday, drawing bipartisan howls of outrage and leaving fellow Republicans beseeching him: Stop, please just stop.

Trump's tweets aimed at MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski revived concerns about his views of women in a city where civility already is in short supply and he is struggling for any support he can get for his proposals on health care, immigration and other controversial issues.

"I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore)," Trump tweeted to his nearly 33 million followers Thursday morning. "Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

The tweets served to unite Democrats and Republicans for once in a chorus of protest that amounted to perhaps the loudest outcry since Trump took office.

"Obviously I don't see that as an appropriate comment," said Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi called Trump's tweets, "blatantly sexist." The president, she added, "happens to disrespect women ... it's sad."

Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma even linked the president's harsh words to the June 14 shootings of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others.

"The president's tweets today don't help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue," Lankford said, noting that he had just chaired a hearing on the shootings.

On Trump's level of insult-trading, Brzezinski responded on Twitter by posting a photograph of a Cheerios box that included the phrase "made for little hands." People looking to get under the president's skin have long suggested that his hands appear small for his frame.

Trump's allies cast his outburst as positive, an example of his refusal to be bullied.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president was "pushing back against people who have attacked him day after day after day. Where is the outrage on that?"

"The American people elected a fighter; they didn't elect somebody to sit back and do nothing," she added.

First lady Melania Trump, who has vowed to fight cyberbullying while her husband is president, gave his tweets a pass.

"As the first lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder," her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

As Trump welcomed South Korean President Moon Jae-in for a White House dinner Thursday evening, he did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about whether he regretted the tweet.

Some of the administration's most high-profile women – daughter and presidential assistant Ivanka Trump, Counselor Kellyanne Conway and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell – did not respond to requests for comment.

The White House has shown increasing irritation over harsh coverage of the president on Brzezinski and Scarborough's "Morning Joe," including commentary questioning Trump's mental state.

About two hours before his tweets, Brzezinski said on the show that "it's not normal behavior" for any leader to be tweeting about people's appearances or to be bullying, lying, undermining managers and throwing people under the bus. She said that if any business executive behaved the way Trump does, "there would be concern that perhaps the person who runs the company is out of his mind."

On Wednesday, she had mocked Trump after a story in The Washington Post said he had posted fake Time magazine covers of himself in some of his golf resorts.

"Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself, lying every day and destroying the country," Brzezinski said.

Trump, who has a habit of throwing up distractions to deflect bad news, has been straining to advance his agenda lately, with the Senate this week coming up short in finding enough votes to begin debate on a bill to roll back President Barack Obama's health care law.

His demeaning broadside against a woman raised new complaints among critics who have long accused him of sexism and inflaming tensions in a deeply polarized nation. Trump also has consistently stoked a long-running feud with the press that has not hurt him with his base of roughly a third of the electorate.

But one expert rejected the idea that Trump's tweets about the MSNBC hosts amounted to a calculated push-back against the media.

"It's not a critique of the press. It's a diatribe. It's a rant," said Theodore L. Glasser, professor emeritus at Stanford University and an expert in mass media.

It wasn't the first time Trump has assailed a television personality who is a woman. In 2015, he went after then-Fox News Channel host Megyn Kelly when she questioned him at a debate. Trump said later that during the exchange, Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever."

It's also far from the only time he's raised eyebrows with remarks about the physical attributes of women. Just this week in the Oval Office, Trump interrupted his phone conversation with the new prime minister of Ireland to remark on a "beautiful" Irish journalist in the room and take note of the "nice smile on her face."

The latest flare-up did nothing to improve Trump's chances of advancing the health care bill that formed a centerpiece of his campaign.

"This has to stop - we all have a job - 3 branches of gov't and media," tweeted Republican Susan Collins of Maine, a critic of the Senate GOP bill. "We don't have to get along, but we must show respect and civility."

Tweeted Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a frequent Trump critic: "Please just stop. This isn't normal and it's beneath the dignity of your office." Agreed South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham: "Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America."

Brzezinski and Scarborough, who are engaged, have known Trump for years and interviewed him numerous times during the campaign. But they have been highly critical of Trump since he took office.

They did meet with Trump at his Florida estate on New Year's Eve for what they described as a brief visit, and also spent time with the president and senior staff at the White House in February. But Brzezinski supporters disputed Trump's characterization of the Mar-a-Lago meeting, saying it was the president who repeatedly asked the couple to visit him. Brzezinski and Scarborough were staying in the area for the holidays.

NBC News spokeswoman Lorie Acio said in a statement, "It's a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job."

          Illinois legislative leaders meet; no word on budget deal   
SPRINGFIELD – Illinois’ legislative leaders met twice Thursday but surrendered few details about how close they are to a budget pact with one day remaining before the start of a third consecutive fiscal year without a spending plan

The relatively calm day in an otherwise cacophonous Capitol was interrupted by the announcement that the Senate’s minority leader, Lemont Republican Christine Radogno, would vacate her Senate seat Saturday, although she pledged to keep working until the moment of her departure.

The first woman to lead a caucus in the Illinois General Assembly stepped forward last winter to broker a budget compromise with Democratic Senate President John Cullerton. She faced disappointment when she could get none of her 21 other Senate Republicans to go along with the “grand bargain” they fashioned, but told reporters she is not a casualty of the contentious, two-year budget battle.

“Though I leave political office with a sense of sadness and some disappointment, I leave with no regrets,” Radogno said. “I did my best – that’s all I could do.”

Without a budget by Saturday morning, bond-rating houses have threatened to downgrade Illinois’ creditworthiness to “junk” status. Universities could face the loss of academic accreditation and the treasury will soon run short of money to cover even the court-ordered payments that have kept Illinois government on autopilot while erecting a $6.2 billion annual deficit and $14.6 billion in past-due bills.

House Speaker Mike Madigan said the House would vote Friday on the Democrats’ version of an annual budget, a $36.5 billion spending plan they said spends $800 million less than Rauner himself proposed last winter. Without elaboration, Madigan said negotiations continue over Rauner’s demands that are tangential to the budget, including cost-cutting changes to workers’ compensation, state employee pension benefits, a statewide property tax freeze and local government consolidation.

The Chicago Democrat has complained for two years that Rauner is not “reasonable” in seeking discussions of “nonbudget” items in talks over a fiscal plan. But this week, he staked out his own. They include Rauner’s promise to sign a school funding overhaul that won wide legislative majorities, requiring state regulation of rates by companies selling workers’ comp insurance, and mandating an open procurement process for a $9 billion contract the Rauner administration plans to sign for managed-care health coverage.

Madigan said he is negotiating on Rauner’s demands in an effort to compromise.

“I don’t see that I’m being unreasonable,” Madigan said. “I’m here. I’m proposing to vote on things I don’t believe in. ... But in the spirit of compromise, I’m prepared to vote” for those measures.

Radogno’s exit sets off a succession scramble which includes Deputy Republican Leader Bill Brady of Bloomington, the unsuccessful GOP candidate for governor in 2014.

A social worker, the 64-year-old Radogno was elected to the Senate in 1996. She and Cullerton assumed their leadership positions on the same day in 2009. Cullerton called their tenure “nine years of cooperation and professionalism.”

Rauner called her a “consummate professional” who “championed fiscal discipline and human services.” House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said “Chris always stayed above the fray in this very partisan environment.”

Madigan, a legislator since 1971, applauded Radogno’s hard work, honesty, integrity, and forthrightness and concluded his praise with an apparent shot at Rauner.

“The genius of the legislative process lies in the ability to compromise,” Madigan said. “Chris Radogno understood that.”


Contact Political Writer John O’Connor at . His work can be found at’connor

          Senior US Senators Want to Amend Saudi 9/11 Law   

Senior US Senators Want to Amend Saudi 9/11 Law Under the amendment, a government could be sued only if it “knowingly” engages with a terrorist entity 2 Senior Republican US Senators said this week they want to amend a law allowing lawsuits against Saudi Arabia over the September 11 attacks to narrow the scope of […]

The post Senior US Senators Want to Amend Saudi 9/11 Law appeared first on Live Trading News.

          Donald Trump Suspends Campaign, Attends 9/11 Remembrance   

Donald Trump Suspends Campaign, Attends 9/11 Remembrance Donald Trump is visiting the 9/11 Remembrance Memorial Sunday to mark the 15th anni of the radical Islamic terror attacks. The Republican nominee also visited a nearby Firehouse after his stop at Ground Zero Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton announced she will visit Ground Zero for the annual moment […]

The post Donald Trump Suspends Campaign, Attends 9/11 Remembrance appeared first on Live Trading News.

          The Republican Health Care Plan is an Attack on People Like Me   

This article first appeared on The Progressive. How many Americans will be impacted by the GOP’s Obamacare repeal legislation, drafted under veils of secrecy? How many will suffer the consequences? Probably everyone. But the harshest impacts will be felt by those Americans who are already the most vulnerable. Individuals and families who need maternity care, Read More >>

The post The Republican Health Care Plan is an Attack on People Like Me appeared first on Center for Community Change.

          Stand up and be counted Mr. & Mrs. Republican.   

Come on Republicans fight, fight, fight.

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) was the only Republican to vote against Kate’s Law, a law that would impose harsher penalties on...
          Cancel August recess for Congress, group of Senate Republicans say   
The Senate is scheduled to leave Washington by July 28 and not return to Capitol Hill until Sept. 5

          'Not mentally equipped to continue watching our show': 'Morning Joe' cohosts respond to Trump's attack on Mika Brzezinski   

joe scarborough mika brzezinskiMSNBC

"Morning Joe" cohosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough have responded to President Donald Trump's tweets attacking the pair.

In a Washington Post column published early Friday titled "Donald Trump is not well," Brzezinski and Scarborough wrote "we are both certain" that Trump "is not mentally equipped to continue watching our show."

In tweets Thursday morning, the president called the two "low I.Q. Crazy Mika" and "Psycho Joe." Trump also claimed Brzezinski once visited his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, while she was "bleeding from a face-lift."

"I heard poorly rated @Morning's speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me," Trump tweeted. "She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"

On "Morning Joe" on Friday morning, Brzezinski said, "I'm fine. My family brought me up really tough."

The tweet "doesn't bother me one bit," she said.

Scarborough went further, saying, "We're OK — the country is not."

In Friday's Washington Post column, Brzezinski and Scarborough responded to specific claims Trump made in his tweets.

"Mr. Trump claims that we asked to join him at Mar-a-Lago three nights in a row. That is false. He also claimed that he refused to see us. That is laughable," Brzezinski and Scarborough wrote.

"Mr. Trump also claims that Mika was 'bleeding badly from a face-lift.' That is also a lie."

The column cites pictures from the night showing that "Mika and her face were perfectly intact." CNN's Brian Stelter posted a photo of Brzezinski from the Mar-a-Lago visit in which she looks uninjured:

Brzezinski originally responded to Trump's tweets Thursday by tweeting a photo of a box of Cheerios featuring the words "Made For Little Hands." For years, Trump has taken issue with people saying he has small hands and fingers.

The White House deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, argued Thursday that the president had every right to "hit back" at "the liberal media" and "Hollywood elites" when they criticize him.

The segment that may have triggered Trump's tweeting Thursday morning took aim at a fake Time magazine cover that The Washington Post had learned was hanging at several of Trump's golf clubs and properties.

"Nothing makes a man feel better than making a fake cover of a magazine about himself lying every day and destroying the country," Brzezinski said.

Brzezinski also said Trump was covering his hands on the fake Time cover "because they're teensy."

Top Republicans denounced Trump after the tweets.

"Obviously, I don't see that as an appropriate comment," House Speaker Paul Ryan said. "What we're trying to do around here is improve the tone and the civility of the debate, and this obviously doesn't help do that."

Trump has had a contentious relationship with the MSNBC hosts. Before Trump ran for president, Brzezinski and Scarborough were friendly with him, and they were initially receptive to his candidacy.

But they have since pivoted to criticizing him heavily on-air. In turn, Trump has both praised the pair and criticized them on social media since announcing his candidacy in 2015.

An MSNBC representative told Business Insider,"It's a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying, and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job."

Allan Smith contributed to this report.

NOW WATCH: 'He started talking about blood coming out of her ears’: Joe Scarborough claims a red-faced Trump ranted about Mika Brzezinski in front of 20 congressmen

See Also:

SEE ALSO: The rise and fall of Trump's relationship with Mika Brezinski, the 'Morning Joe' co-host he just attacked on Twitter

          Trump's war with the media is reaching new heights as the Republican healthcare bill stalls   

donald trumpChip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has escalated his war on the mainstream media in recent days with raging tweetstorms and public remarks that veer off message.

Over the past week, the White House has engaged in a series of provocations of media outlets that have shocked even reporters and observers who have become accustomed to Trump's often factually inaccurate jabs at the media at campaign rallies and on social media.

Trump's escalation came to a head Thursday when he unleashed a series of venomous tweets criticizing "Morning Joe" hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough and remarking (possibly falsely) on Brzezinski's appearance.

The backlash was almost immediate, as many decried the remark as sexist and others questioned its veracity outright.

The tweets came after several days during which the Trump White House had further provoked the media.

Politico reported that the White House hoped to seize on what staffers saw as a victory when CNN retracted a story over the weekend about a Trump transition official's interactions with a Russian oligarch. The bungled story led to the resignations of three high-level, respected staffers at the news network.

The president and several top staffers tweeted about the incident, and the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, repeatedly mocked CNN reporter Jim Acosta for protesting the communications shop's decision to cut back the number of televised press briefings.

And on Tuesday, the deputy White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, asked Americans to watch a video showing John Bonifield, a CNN health editor who is not involved in Russia-related coverage, questioning the network's decision to focus on the investigations of the Trump administration's Russia connections.

"There's a video out there circulating right now, whether it's accurate or not, I don't know, but I would encourage everybody in this room, and frankly, everybody across the country to take a look at it," she said, after referring to CNN as "that outlet."

She continued: "If it is accurate, I think it's a disgrace to all of media, to all of journalism. I think we have gone to a place where if the media can't be trusted to report the news, then that's a dangerous place for America, and if that's the place where certain outlets are going, particularly for the purpose of spiking ratings, and if that's coming from the top, that's even more scary, and that's even more disgraceful."

The president also appears to be seething over aggressive media coverage in private. At a closed-door fund-raiser with donors and lawmakers on Wednesday at his Washington, DC, hotel, Trump reportedly seemed fixated on the media, singling out CNN commentator Van Jones.

Trump spoke for about 30 minutes at the event, according to people present who spoke with Politico, and "continued to bash a favorite target — the media, and, in particular, CNN." Trump reportedly "presented himself as a victim of its reporting, which he described as deeply unfair."

Trump's frequent attacks on the media come as the Senate struggles to win support for its healthcare bill. One of Trump's key campaign promises was repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and that effort now seems to have stalled.

The White House also deemed this week "Energy Week," but Trump's attacks have distracted from that message as well.

Many Republicans have publicly criticized Trump for focusing on the media, saying his actions are stifling attempts to gin up support for the Republican healthcare bill.

"Obviously, the more we can focus and have a debate with the White House and the Senate and the American people and the House about how we're going to fix the failing Obamacare system, how we are going to go forward united, I think that is more helpful to the dialogue," Rep. Tom Reed told CNN on Thursday.

Trump has strayed off GOP talking points in other public appearances as well, including during a major rally last week. During his remarks in Iowa that were carried on national television, Trump asked Senate Republicans to "add some money" to the healthcare bill, leading some senators to suggest that the president lacks a grasp of the legislation that aims to cut costs.

And while some Republicans have expressed frustration with Trump's inability to stay on message, others have suggested Trump should largely stay on the sidelines in the healthcare fight if he contradicts or can't effectively propagate the party's message.

"You know, he's very personable and people like talking to him and he's very embracing of that, so there will be certain people he'd like to talk to," Sen. Bob Corker said, according to the Associated Press. "But I'd let Mitch" McConnell, the Senate majority leader, "handle it."

NOW WATCH: Here's the TV segment that prompted Trump's vicious Twitter attack on Mika Brzezinski

See Also:

SEE ALSO: CNN issues pithy one-word response to undercover video sting attempting to embarrass Van Jones

          Re: Disability rights advocates stage sit-in at county Republican headquarters   
"There is a point at which the law becomes immoral and unethical. That point is reached when it becomes a cloak for the cowardice that dares not stand up against blatant violations of justice.
Posted by Beth Jamison
          Why market competition has not brought down health care costs   
It is easier than ever to buy stuff. You can purchase almost anything on Amazon with a click , and it is only slightly harder to find a place to stay in a foreign city on Airbnb. So why can’t we pay for health care the same way? My research into the economics of health care suggests we should be able to do just that, but only if we say goodbye to our current system of private insurance — and the heavy administrative burden that goes along with it. Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable…

          After Two Years Without A Budget, Debt And Pain Are Mounting In Illinois   

After nearly two years without a budget, the state of Illinois and those who depend on it may be running out of time. Lawmakers are scrambling to approve a new budget before a midnight deadline on Friday but an agreement between Republicans, led by Gov. Bruce Rauner, and the Democratic leaders in the legislature appears distant.

          Illinois legislative leaders meet; no word on budget deal   

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Illinois' legislative leaders met twice Thursday but surrendered few details about how close they are to a budget pact with one day remaining before the start of a third consecutive fiscal year without a spending plan The relatively calm day in an otherwise cacophonous Capitol was interrupted by the announcement that the Senate's minority leader, Lemont Republican Christine Radogno, would vacate her Senate seat Saturday, removing one of the key negotiators at a critical time.

          GOP Senators Postpone Vote On Health Care Bill   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: And let's bring another voice now into the conversation. NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley has been covering this debate for years and years and years... SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: (Laughter). INSKEEP: ...And is here with us and has been listening to Matt Schlapp. Scott, what did you hear there that was noteworthy? HORSLEY: Well, he is right that Republicans have spent more time demonizing Obamacare than they have really selling their own plan. And part of the challenge is philosophically, the Republicans, at least in Congress, envision a health care system where the government plays a smaller role, where there is more consumer skin in the game, that is, consumers bear more of the responsibility. They feel like that'll inject market forces and help to keep costs down. But you have a president, Donald Trump, who has been marketing great care at low costs for everyone. Everyone's going to be taken care of. So there is a
          Poll Shows Low Support For GOP Health Care Bill   
Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: The Senate will not be voting this week on a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell postponed the vote until after the Fourth of July recess once it became clear he didn't have the support he needed in his own party to pass the measure. And that lack of enthusiasm appears to match the mood of the nation. A new NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll finds fewer than 1 in 5 Americans supports the Senate bill, but Republican leaders insist they're not giving up. NPR's Scott Horsley is with us now. Good morning, Scott. SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel. MARTIN: Senator McConnell very much wanted to have this vote this week before the Fourth of July and when all the congress members go home for that recess. He was forced to backtrack. So what now? HORSLEY: Good question. This is a retreat. It's not necessarily a surrender. McConnell says he's still optimistic that he can win the
          Kris Kobach Will Make Voting Great Again! (Offer Valid For Old White Republicans Only)   
'Voting' sure was nice while it lasted.
          Evan F. Moore: Baseball shooting victim Scalise owes life to those he wants to strip of liberties    
It has to be a weird feeling for a white man who has used racist and anti-gay rhetoric to have his life saved by a black man and a gay black woman.House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana was one of five people shot when a gunman opened fire at congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, June 14.Scalice spent several days in critical condition and was recently released from the intensive care unit. The Republican congressman owes his life to people whom he previously [...]
          House may stall Senate's Russia sanctions bill even after technical issue resolved   
New sanctions drawn up against Russia in the US Senate are no longer snagged by a technical matter, but the bill may still be in limbo, as it faces opposition in the House of Representatives. On Thursday, the Senate fixed what's known as a "blue slip" violation in its bill to lay further sanctions on Russia. At issue was the constitutional requirement that revenue bills must originate in the House. Democrats are accusing Republicans of stalling the sanctions in an attempt to please President Donald Trump after his administration officials raised concerns with the bill, according to Reuters. Republicans in the House say that their reluctance to push the bill forward is purely procedural, Reuters reported.
          SENATE: Some Republicans want to scrap summer recess   
With action stalled on major legislative items, 10 Republican senators are calling on leadership to cancel the August recess to tackle the growing workload if "meaningful progress" doesn't materialize in the coming weeks.
          Trump suggests just repeal Obamacare, then try to replace it   
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump barged into Senate Republicans' delicate health care negotiations Friday, declaring that if lawmakers c...
          GOP may keep Obama tax on wealthy in bid to save health bill   
WASHINGTON (AP) — Top Senate Republicans may try preserving a tax boost on high earners enacted by President Barack Obama in a bid to woo party ...
          Comment on Moderates by forwhatimustwrite   
I'd say in order for moderates to effectively compete in the political arena, they'd have to do a handful of things. 1) set up a moderate political union. 2) host a moderate political convention, and 3) work to set up a moderate political party and host a convention every election year like the Republican and Democratic Party does. You see the conservatives have both a political union and political convention but the liberals do not and that's one of the many reasons the conservatives have been so successful at defeating the conservatives. The liberals really are weak and they've done nothing to stand up against the conservatives. If use moderates could stand up to both the liberals and conservatives then we could all really succeed in the political arena.
          Comment on An Open Letter to Moderates by Ron P   
Dave, "If Trump can manage to pull growth off the 2% peg its has been on for 2 decades – republicans will do well in 2018. If he can not then republicans should not do well." First, I think this administration is showing that the President does not have much influence in Washington when the party is not aligned with the presidents agenda. And I suspect that future GOP presidents will have the same problem as Trump given the fact the Democrats are of two mind sets, liberal and socialist, while the GOP is a multi headed monster where they are unable to come to "compromises" within the party to get anything done. Where the Democrats are all aligned like ducks crossing the street, the GOP is like a group of chickens scattering every which way possible when anything comes up. (Worse than herding cats!) As for your comments about economic growth, one thing that is mentioned occasionally, but not by the conservative mouth pieces, since they want growth as their talking points, is the changing demographics in the country. 1. The baby boomers that fired up this economy for decades are aging, they are no longer buying big ticket items, they are downsizing and their money is now going to leisure and healthcare. 2. The housing boom of the 90's will most likely never be seen again like it had been. Why? The cost of new housing. And much of that is due to land cost. Where land could be purchased for a few thousand per acre when housing boomed and houses could be put on postage sized lots, land now cost up to, and sometimes over 6 figures per acre. Then add to it the growing regulations where communities require lots to be of a certain size, and the land alone has added thousands to a cost of housing construction. 3. The millennials, the next largest demographic group are now starting families and they are now finding they have to pay for things themselves. They no longer are living with mommy and find that what she paid for the past few years is really expensive. They also are finding they have to pay off high student debt that resulted in a somewhat do nothing degree so, due to these reasons and some others, they do not have the money for big ticket items. 4. The millennials also do not want to start out small like their parents did in housing. They grew up in large homes with spacious yards and that is what they want. So the small starter homes are not being built, this generation is living in rental property and that also reduces large ticket purchases, like appliances. 5. The growth in the Hispanic population. One of the fastest growing demographics is the Hispanic population. It will take some time for this group to achieve the standard of living that middle class America enjoys for a number of reasons.. They do not have the money to spend on large items, but their money goes to basic needs. 6. And my last comment, the changing job markets. Over the long run, it is estimated that 40% of all jobs by 2050 (just 30 years from now) will be gone and taken over by robots. Cabbies, Uber drivers, truck drivers, railroad employees, restaurant workers, most warehouse workers and most all manufacturing left in America will be done by robots. This leaves healthcare and service workers, like plumbers, electricians, etc as the major employers in America. (They say technology will drive jobs, but I believe all of those will be overseas and not in America). So as we move toward this 40% reduction which is happening now, people will experience a down turn in income also impacting economic growth. I think 1-2% is the new normal.
          Comment on An Open Letter to Moderates by dhlii   
Separately as things stand I do not think that Republicans can manage legislation. The Health care mess at the moment demonstrates that their margins are too small to accomplish anything that is actually needed and half measures are worse than nothing. I would love to see tax reform - but we need REAL tax reform, not twidlling at the edges. There is not likely to be a second bite at tax reform for another decade. Right now there better off doing small things that are possible. There is a long list of small measures that are not likely to be viewed as controversial enough that Republicans can not pass them on their own that would increase the ability to reign in the administrative state. There are some that might get democratic support. There is substantial talk among democrats all of a sudden regarding "federalism" - returning powers of the federal government back to states. If Trump can manage to pull growth off the 2% peg its has been on for 2 decades - republicans will do well in 2018. If he can not then republicans should not do well. Tax reform would help alot but there is a catch-22 to get the political will to do tax reform properly - republicans need to succeed and build credibility. They should repeal PPACA or atleast bring a straight repeal to a vote in the house and senate. That is what the promised. They never should have promised more. Talk of further reform can happen AFTER that. I would also note I am less afraid of Trump as the head of the executive acting unilaterally within the constraints and powers of the executive. I am not too happy with him as the leader of the GOP pushing legislation. With respect to Congress he seems more interested in scoring points - passing something, than in passing what is needed. Think about that as you think about how much you value compromise. With few exceptions as an administrator Trump seems to be "doing the right thing". He has put mostly good people in place. He sometimes buts heads with them, but ultimately he appears to have vetted them well and is leaving them to do their job their way. Regardless, there is alot he can accomplish. Right now the economy is improving - or appears to be. Given that I have heard a years worth of predictions of coming recession, that is pretty amazing.
          Senate committee backs aviation bill minus key Trump goal   
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Republican-led Senate committee on Thursday backed an aviation bill that omits one of President Donald Trump's goals —...
          $36.5 billion spending plan for Illinois   
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — House Speaker Michael Madigan says he will call a $36.5 billion spending plan for a vote Friday while Democrats and Republicans continue to negotiate tangential issues crucial to a state budget deal with
          Nugent Goes On Campaign Trail For Republican Texas Gubernatorial Hopeful   
Republican Greg Abbott welcomed salty-tongued rocker Ted Nugent to his campaign for Texas governor on Tuesday but claimed ignorance about inflammatory remarks his polarizing surrogate has made on immigration and women.
          Jack Abramoff Explains The 'Lobbyist Safecracker Method'   
Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been making the rounds lately. He's out of prison. He has a new book. He's in a talkative mood. So I figured it was a good time to ask him about the business of lobbying — not about what he did that was illegal, but about the ordinary, legal stuff. The firm he worked for was called Greenberg Traurig. I chose a year at random when Abramoff was working there, and picked a client I hoped would be fairly typical. I chose Tyco International, a multinational corporation that in 2003 gave Abramoff's firm $1.3 million. "They were fighting to stay out of the tax bill that year, which would have retroactively taxed them to the tune of about $4 billion," Abramoff says. At the time, Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, had introduced a bill with a provision that targeted companies like Tyco, which maintained an off-shore tax status. The provision would have imposed new taxes on Tyco going back to 1997. So Abramoff and his team targeted the sponsor,
          The National Debt: What The Left And Right Agree On   
The congressional supercommittee announced Monday that it failed to come to an agreement on reducing the deficit. After three months of negotiating, the Democrats and Republicans just couldn't agree on how much spending to cut or how high to raise taxes. But this is not a story about how the left and right disagree with each other. In fact, they actually largely agree. Alison Fraser , director of economic policy studies at the right-leaning Heritage Foundation, says this: We are on the wave, of the leading edge of 78 million baby boomers retiring into entitlement programs. So going forward, spending in the future is unsustainable. Bob Greenstein , president of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says this: Over the course of a few decades, the debt would rise to over 100% and then over 200% of GDP and then keep rising. That's not sustainable. Everyone agrees that our nation is pretty deep in debt — about $10 trillion in debt. And they agree that within a decade or
          Trump Wants To Repeal Obamacare, Replace It Later. That Could Be Difficult   

Trump tweeted the proposal Friday morning, suggesting if Republicans couldn't reach a deal, they should immediately repeal Obamacare and replace it later. But the plan to repeal and then replace might create more problems for Republicans in the long-term.

          GOP Senators From Opioid-Ravaged States Uneasy About Health Care Bill   

There's a pretty direct correlation between states with high overdose death rates and Republican senators expressing reservations with the bill.

          Republicans grow increasingly anxious about heading home without a health plan - Washington Post   

Washington Post

Republicans grow increasingly anxious about heading home without a health plan
Washington Post
The dispute within the Republican Party over health care widened further Friday as President Trump joined with two conservative senators in calling for an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act if the party fails to agree on an alternative plan by ...
Conservative groups unleash on Senate Republicans over repeal billPolitico
What exactly does Trump want from this health care bill?CNN
GOP's Plan B for Obamacare repeal began with quiet push from Koch networkLos Angeles Times
ABC News -Breitbart News -HuffPost -ThinkProgress
all 158 news articles »

          “Please Just Stop”: Republicans Slam Trump’s Attack On Mika   
– “Please Just Stop”: Republicans Slam Trump’s Attack On Mika: With his latest two tweets, in which he attacked “Morning” Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, Trump may have finally crossed the line. At least that’s the view of a group of Republicans who slammed Trump’s over his tweets attacking MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski, saying the ... Read more
          Sen. Rand Paul: 'When It Comes to Health Care Reform Establishment Republicans Don't Know How to Make a Good Deal'   
Description not available at this time, check back later
          Trump suggests just repeal Obamacare, then try to replace it   
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump barged into Senate Republicans' delicate health care negotiations Friday, declaring that if lawmakers can't reach a deal they should simply repeal "Obamacare" right away and then replace it later on.
          Inside Mae Beavers: A Parody Arises   
Your PeskyFly was considering a soft-core parody of Tennessee's puritanical, porn-busting gubernatorial candidate Sen. Mae Beavers. The premise: Me and May would destroy millions of innocent young lives with passionate acts of slippery abandon. Awesome so far, right? Catch was, I couldn't come up with the right title. Should it be Around the World with Mae Beavers? 69 Things I Know About Mae Beavers? Strangers in a Strange Beaver? Butt Slammers Vol. 4? So many choices, none of them quite right.

Like they say, when you snooze you lose. While I was dithering, some industrious person was busy crafting a Mae Beavers parody that's so much better than anything I might have come up with because, presumably, this call's coming from inside "the House."

The entire text, typos and all, as originally shared by the Nashville Scene.

How to be The Ultraconservative Candidate
Nothing is more important when running for office in Tennessee than getting the conservative vote – and it is the ultraconservative who will probably win the election. So how can you appear to be the ultraconservative candidate?

Preeminence: Make yourself the preeminent conservative in the state. Remember, it is a competition, and by passive aggressively one-upping all other politicians, you can appear to be really nice but in reality, you are crushing the reputations and political futures of potential opponents. Which is good to do because self-centered, attention-grabbing is a useful skill to ensure your future political success.

Secure your superiority through negative contrasting; unnecessarily make comparisons that negatively contrast other elected officials with you. This will present you in the most positive light. Should an official try to claim that they are conservative, what they are really doing is claiming to be more conservative than you. Put an end to this by calling them a RINO, and inferring that they secretly support an income tax.

The key to being the preeminent conservative is control. Control is the glue that holds conservatives who lack critical thinking skills together. It is also a passive aggressive technique you can use against other Republicans; it is really the best way to ensure that you receive the constant attention and admiration from the public that you deserve.

Remember, being in office for 25 years doesn’t mean you are an establishment politician as long as you always call other conservatives who have been in office for a shorter amount of time than you establishment politicians. This helps you assert your dominance in the lives of everyone around you, and dominance helps to improve your life. If anyone doubts you, simply recite your impossible dogmatic standards or your rabid deep-seated feelings of victimization.

Public Speeches: Supplying detail in your public speeches is bad, and may cause you to have to answer actual questions; so speak in vague generalities and platitudes at all times. People will read between the lines and respond with total adoration and obedience. If political insecurities necessitate wild claims about ISIS infiltration or constituents – sweep the room for mics first.

Be sure to call all other Republicans RINOs, that way these officials will learn that they have done something wrong, and because you should be speaking in vague generalities, people will just assume you are the only real conservative without any way to actually measure. They will also believe that all other legislators are simply RINOs at the core of their being.

Further, each time you make negative accusations about the legislature, it is encouragement for them to be more conservative.

Statesmanship: Emphasizing your own statesmanship through snarky comments has the added benefit of shaming other legislators – communicating your own statesmanship through misdirected shame is a direct way to communicate that you are preeminent, and don’t forget – they deserve it.

Legislation: Be legislatively savvy. File bills that appear so conservative that they are actually unconstitutional. Then issue a press release that takes advantage of the blind support of people who don’t know the difference. Insist on running these bills in committee; when the Attorney General opines that the bill is constitutionally suspect this is your big chance to issue a second press release that labels the AG and your Republican colleagues as RINOs – which makes you appear to be the only real conservative in the legislature.

Paint your record as something completely different than what it is. Your oath to uphold the Constitution should never get in the way of your own narcissistic desire for preeminence. Only a true freedom fighter would file an unconstitutional bill, and your refusal to fix your bill by making it constitutional can easily be justified by a plain folks’ appeal that encompasses name calling and proper over simplification of the actual legal issues.

Never let anyone else’s conservative efforts be good enough for you. Remember, if another legislator asks for your support for their ultraconservative idea, they’re not trying to be friendly, they are trying to overthrow your tyrannical reign of control and dominance. You can’t let that happen. You’ll want to play the trump card of filing a nearly identical bill, except, make it a little more outrageous. Then issue a press release containing a directly indirect passive aggressive message that the first legislator has stolen your work. This clearly puts you back in the driver’s seat.

This technique works for dead ultraconservative bills too. If another legislator’s ultraconservative measure died because it came smack dab up against legal realities, you can steal that bill next year and announce to the world that because that legislator was such a RINO and pathetically decided not to get the job done, you will justly assume your natural position of conservative preeminence. When you come up against the same issues as the prior legislator, you can thoroughly enjoy the renewed sense of purpose that floods into your life while you sit on top of your moral high ground calling the committee members who can’t vote for your unconstitutional bill RINO's.

Budget: Take advantage of the fact that the state budget is so large that no one can possibly know off hand all that it contains. This fact alone creates a lot of suspicion and skepticism among ultraconservatives. In this way, year after year, you can receive statewide attention for being the lone conservative vote against the budget. When media ask why you voted no, supply a simplistic platitude, “There is too much pork in that budget”, an explanation so simple that even a democrat can understand. Pork works because people identify pork with fat, and fat makes people think of indulgence and waste.

Supreme Court: Ignoring Supreme Court cases that have already been decided is another good way to lock down your support from a statewide ultraconservative base while at the same time unmistakably signal your disrespect for the judiciary.

Security: You are entitled to your feelings of needing special treatment, and requiring security makes you appear important enough to protect. But what if no one has actually threatened your life? No problem – your paranoia can assist you in just making something up. Also, by pleading, a wealthy conservative businessman is likely to pay for you to have the constant presence of security whenever you are out in public – this has the added benefit of making you look really important and worthy of protection.

Look the Part: Drive a conservative vehicle. It may be tempting to develop a Lexus nexus with other candidates but that’s really sketchy and y’all in Tennessee … a pickup truck is your best bet.

The Constitution: If you’ve gotten this far, understanding constitutional facts isn’t necessary for you so don’t spend any time on this subject. You’ll want to spend most of your time creating new unconstitutional bills that appear ultraconservative but in reality, will rigidly control people’s lives or help them to realize that they are going to spend eternity in hell.
Since being an ultraconservative is a political philosophy that doesn’t have an actual platform or rule book, you don’t need to know what constitutes an ultraconservative and neither does anybody else. This also means that you have zero knowledge of what may or may not be constitutional in your ultraconservative sense. But don’t worry about that, to fill this small little loop-hole, you only need to publicly preach with conviction that any views you hold are truly ultraconservative, and if anyone else who may actually know something about the constitution raises the specter that you are incorrect, it will be crystal clear that they are actually a RINO and you can call them out on that fact.

These suggestions are a really good start towards your goal of ultraconservative preeminence. Good luck with your political future. 


          June 30, 2017: Hour 2   
In hour two of Here & Now's June 30, 2017 full broadcast, we talk with Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson — whose state expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — about his reaction to the Senate health care plan. Also, we meet Mikah Meyer, who's on a quest to be the youngest person to visit every one of the National Park Service's 417 sites in one continuous trip. And recreational marijuana goes on sale for the first time Saturday in Nevada, after voters passed a ballot measure in November to make the practice legal in the state.
          Quieren ponerle un stop a Trump   
Los tuits del presidente unificaron a demócratas y republicanos.
          Republicans Move to Make Silencers More Easily Available   

Two Republican senators introduced legislation that would make suppressors—or silencers, as they’re more commonly known—more easily available to the American public. The bill, called the... Read More

The post Republicans Move to Make Silencers More Easily Available appeared first on The Daily Signal.

          GOP Senator Proposes Transferring Sanctuary Cities’ Federal Funds to Border Wall Budget   

One Republican senator is proposing a new solution for sanctuary cities that do not follow the law: take some of their federal funding and transfer... Read More

The post GOP Senator Proposes Transferring Sanctuary Cities’ Federal Funds to Border Wall Budget appeared first on The Daily Signal.

          Censuran a Trump tras criticar a presentadora de televisión   
Los tuits del presidente unificaron a demócratas y republicanos para las que quizá sean las protestas más estridentes desde que llegó a la presidencia.
          Local News Roundup: Panel Finds Fault In Keith Scott Case; Budget Veto; Soccer Funding   
Friday, June 30, 2017 Was the Keith Scott shooting justified? A citizens group weighs in. Republican lawmakers cancel out a budget veto. Charlotte agrees to discuss possible soccer funding. Guest host Tom Bullock and a reporters roundtable recap the week's news.
          Why not Mormonism?   
Periodically, one reads of an evangelical leader or Republican legislator who believes that the Bible has a great deal to say about America. Yet biblical scholars are buzz-killingly insistent that all of the biblical writings were composed during a time when no one in the Eastern Hemisphere had any idea that the Americas existed. Even … Continue reading Why not Mormonism?
          The gloomy, blustery and vindictive session drawing to a close   

As the 2017 General Assembly session draws to a close, reporters, pundits and partisans will all soon be putting their session wrap-ups together, reminding us all of what has happened in the last six months at the Legislative Building in Raleigh.

It would be a mistake to start the review in January when the session formally convened. This session really started a month before that, in December when Republicans adjourned a special session called for hurricane relief and immediately convened another one---with no notice or warning---to take power away from newly elected Governor Roy Cooper who would be sworn into office a few weeks later.

The post The gloomy, blustery and vindictive session drawing to a close appeared first on NC Policy Watch.

          Possible Petraeus replacements? Michigan's Mike Rogers on the list   
While politicians argue over who knew what and when with regard to the FBI's investigation into CIA Director David Petraeus' extra-marital affair, many insiders are speculating over who his replacement will be. Today, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times David Sanger wrote about possible replacements. And way down at the bottom of his article, Sanger lists Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers (R-8th District) as a possible replacement: Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a former F.B.I. official and could sail through confirmation hearings and give a bipartisan air to the administration’s efforts, as Mr. Petraeus did. A Rogers appointment seems less likely next to names like Michael J. Morell, Mr. Petraeus' deputy, and retired C.I.A. operative John O. Brennan. MLive said Rogers' office had no immediate comment. In the meantime, Congressman Mike Rogers is one of those on the Capitol working to find out
          The Cost of Waiting to Drain the Swamp Is High   
Ed Feulner, “Drain the swamp!” It was the battle cry of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Many Republican members of Congress echoed that call as well, riding it to victory — and control of both legislative...

Summary Only: Visit for Full Story!

          Yes, Petty Idiocy Still Rules Society    

Late night loud yowls, most precious Big Cat Beauties... sheesh, geez, what a long busy-overwhelming week for this Big Cat... okay, really who cares about ENEMY-MSM Mika? However, petty idiocy still rules our society...sadly! But come on, Mika looks like a programmed android, and she is STUPID ... all you have to do is look at her, listen to her for a few minutes, and it's obvious--her IQ is not impressive, let's say... and let's get a dose of reality, how obvious is it that President Trump is just fish-hooking these brainless-wonder presstitutes into reacting crazily... MEANWHILE he's doing the real business of being president of these united states. BEHIND THE SCENES.

Yeah, the Kougar couldn't resist this political cartoon. ~smiles~

Okay, according to Sorcha Faal of there is a plot to possibly assassinate President Trump during the G20, when The Donald and Putin are supposed to meet... thus, to blame it on the Russians and cause a world war.




Save Me The Feigned Outrage Over Trump’s Mika Brzezinski Tweet

Paul Joseph Watson | The media has spent the last 2 years viciously attacking Trump over his appearance.




Senate Banking Committee features Sen. Corker plan to hand mortgage market to Wall Street and big banks



Catholic church involved in child sex once again 



Fake news ringleader hides from press 



Trump admin could launch false flag blamed on Assad

Russian Senator Alexei Pushkov warns that the United States is preparing a false flag “provocation” as a pretext to launch a military assault on Syria.
Responding to a CNN report that the U.S. “has ships and aircraft in place to strike Syria,” if ordered to do so by the President, Pushkov cautioned that this could be the precursor to a staged incident.
“The United States put its Navy and Air Force on alert, and is just waiting for an excuse to strike Syria. Assad will not give them one.” This, Pushkov wrote, makes it “the perfect time for a provocation.”
США привели в готовность силы ВМФ и ВВС и ждут лишь предлога для удара по Сирии. Асад им предлога не даст. Идеальное время для провокации.
Earlier this week, the administration warned Bashar Al-Assad that the U.S. was aware of new preparations for a chemical attack and that he would pay a “heavy price” for any such action.
This was followed up by a tweet from Ambassador Nikki Haley in which she asserted, “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”
Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.
On Wednesday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated that the Trump administration’s warning to Assad had been “successful,” but Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova took the move as “a warning sign of an intervention.”
“The campaign, which was started by the US and is being backed by London and Paris, on the alleged chemical attack that is claimed to be prepared by Damascus, is not original, it’s a textbook script, which has already been used in several countries in the region,” Zakharova said.
“The situation seems to be a massive provocation, both military and information-wise, a provocation which targets not only the Syrian leadership, but also Russia,” she added.
Back in April, the Trump administration launched 59 cruise missiles against a Syrian airfield claimed to be the base for government aircraft that carried out a chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun.
The decision caused a split amongst Trump’s base because he specifically ran on the promise of not getting the United States entangled in more Middle Eastern conflicts that lead to the overthrow of secular leaders.
Follow on Twitter: 

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor at large of and Prison




Legislation is "propping up" insurance companies

Senator Rand Paul continued to voice stern opposition to the Obamacare replacement legislation Friday, saying it isn’t even ‘Obamacare lite’ anymore, and instead is more like ‘Obamacare plus’.
Appearing on “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” last night, Paul noted that the Republican legislation may actually provide more subsidies than Obamacare.
“[W]hen we look at the bill, we actually find that with the Obamacare subsidies, not only are we keeping them, we may actually be providing more subsidies than Obamacare has.” Paul exclaimed.
“Our early estimates on the bill are that the bill may spend more in the next year or two than Obamacare does.” Paul added.
“And so, it’s hard for us to get our mind around that this is a repeal bill if we’re spending more, keeping all the subsidies, and then we’re going to start a brand new federal entitlement program where we give insurance companies money.” the Senator explained.
“I keep reading it and…it sounds like Obamacare to me. It doesn’t even sound like Obamacare-lite. In some areas, it may be Obamacare-plus, on the subsidy side.” he urged.
Paul also warned that the bill “subsidizes the death spiral of Obamacare.”
“It dumps a bunch of federal money, taxpayer money, or borrowed money into the insurance industry and says, ‘Hey, please lower the prices if we give you money.’” Paul told viewers.
In a further appearance on Morning Joe Friday, the Senator said that the so called healthcare overhaul is actually centered around “propping up” insurance companies.

“The insurance companies make all the money; all of this is predicated upon still propping up the insurance companies.” Paul said, adding that “you should be able to get insurance for $1 a day. I mean, you really should.”
The Senator argued that the legislation will amount to more “bailing out” of insurance companies.
“I want the bill to look more like a repeal bill. I promised people I was going to repeal it; I didn’t promise people that I was going to replace it with a federal program of bailing out insurance companies,” Paul asserted.
“I mean, we could do this for cars,” he added. “New cars are expensive. We could have a car stabilization fund.” he further argued.
In an interview with Breitbart, Paul noted that “The bill keeps ten of twelve Obamacare regulations that causes the prices of premiums to spiral upward.”


  • Late night big ole yowls,dearest and summer-dancing KitKats ... so, most of the news-info below is from a week or so past ... time flies way too fast, and this Big Cat just can't keep up at all.






    June 27, 2017

    Stunning 1967 Dissertation Warns Infiltration of Rothschild Luciferians in US Government 2

    Between 1967 and 1968 Myron Fagan recorded three LP records: The Illuminati and the Council on Foreign Relations.  The dissertations document the activities of the house of Rothschild were  produced byAnthony J. Hilder – an American activist, author, film maker, talk show host, broadcaster and former actor.
    This stunning recording from 1967 speaks to the very problems we face today, including Fake News, government corruption, the Corrupt United Nations and infiltration of a Luciferian Rothschild cult who may have gained irreversible control of the US government.





    "Stop liberal violence!" Journalist screams

    A conservative journalist interrupted the Trump assassination play in Central Park, N.Y., on Friday, only two days after the politically-motivated shooting of Republican lawmakers.
    Laura Loomer of Rebel Media was arrested after rushing the stage, yelling that the production promoted violence against President Trump and his supporters.
    The play, which is sponsored by Time Warner and the New York Times, features a Trump-lookalike who is violently assassinated in the same manner as Julius Caesar.



    Breaking: Whistleblower Says Deep State in Control of State Department : Ongoing Child-Trafficking Cover-Up at St. Dept.

    Did you know that at the State Department they have an exorbitantly paid employee, of Middle East background, who is in charge of the sex-trafficking brochures for the State Department? Did you know that same person refuses to cover this issue as domestic issue? This plays right into the hands of the Deep State cover-up of their child-sex-trafficking practices at the highest levels of government? This is tantamount to overtly supporting and covering up child-sex-trafficking and the State Department is the willing accomplice. Did you also know that the State Department has 3 men, led by Deep State minion and close Obama ally, Larry Palmer, who controls all information coming in and out of the State Department and they control the FOIA’s for the State Department as well.
    State Department employee, Monika Wesolowski, has been unduly harassed and has had her life threatened for trying to expose traitors and overt practices of treason and sedition by State Department employees who are aligned with the Deep State motives and objectives. The following is an interview I conducted with Monika followed by objective, hard proof of the claims made by this whistleblower.
    Unlike a lot of sources,this interview names the names of the guilty.

    Monika “Begs” for Protection and Nobody From the State Department Will Help

    Monika has begged for protection from the death threats, violent attacks and constant harassment. As recently as last Tuesday, June 13, 2017, Monika took the issue to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s aides. As of the date of this publication, she has not heard back on this critical issue. I want to put the State Department on notice, you do not wait 5 days to investigate these kinds of allegations when someone’s life is in danger. This is an example of intentional/unintentional depraved indifference to the safety of of State Department employee, Monika Wesolowski (see the email communications at the bottom of the page).
    Previously, on The Common Sense Show,  I documented, with pictures, government vehicles that have stalked and harassed Monika. The Fairfax, VA. police have told Monika that it is not safer to go home and they cannot protect her.
    More recently, Monika has had animals poisoned to death. She, herself, has had to be treated for poisoning, some of which was uranium related. When I recently tried to interview Monika by Skype, ourcommunications were blocked for hours. Simultaneously, our cell phone communications were blocked as well. Here home has been invaded when she is not home. She was boxed in by two Muslim men, at the carwash, and stayed near until she called the police. This woman is the Deep State posterchild for political and personal harassment. In the following emails, please note the reference to CHILD-SEX-TRAFFICKING. I further want it to be known that Liz Crokin discovered a connection between the Virginia Shooter baseball practice shooter and child-sex-trafficking and that the primary shooting victim, Rep. Scalise had just sponsored a child-sex-trafficking bill eight days prior to being shot. This is no coincidence, the Deep State strikes again.
    Monika has backed out of previous interviews because she is in fear of her life. I have convinced her that if you are going to be on the list, you better be on top of the list. Because I know the fate of Breitbart and Hastings, I have shared this information with other journalistic outlets who are going to cover this case and we are going to turn up the heat significantly.
    I want to remind everyone, that in several earlier publications, I have tapped into two unnamed sources, one from the FBI and one from the State Department and was told that there is a Deep State purge underway. Monika confirms the assertion as her office is “like a morgue, people have either left or people have cleared out their desks and are awaiting their departure”.

    Crickets Chirping

    After numerous instances of being harassed and attacked, she reached out to Secretary Tillerson’s office, but to no avail. Here are the unanswered communications:
    From: Wesolowski, Monika
    Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2017 1:39 PM
    To: Peterlin, Margaret JA
    Cc: Kenna, Lisa D
    Subject: RE: Personal and Confidential
    Ms. Peterlin and Ms. Kenna,
    The issue goes back deeper into 2013 and child trafficking. I have not seen my eight year old son in a year . I worry for his safety and mine. It is imperative I speak to you in person, I will not speak to anyone outside of Mr. Tillerson’s close administration for fear for my life and that of my son’s. Thank you for speaking to me on the phone. I have been wanting to send this email for several months but afraid to.
    Monika A. Wesolowski
    Visual Information Specialist
    United States Department of State
    Global Publishing Solutions (A/GIS/GPS)
    Phone: 202-xxx-xxxx voicemail
    Phone: 202-xxx-xxxx direct

    From: Wesolowski, Monika
    Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2017 12:50 PM
    To: Peterlin, Margaret JA
    Cc: Kenna, Lisa D
    Subject: Personal and Confidential
    Importance: High
    Dear Ms. Peterlin,
    I proudly attended Secretary of State Tillerson’s swearing in ceremony and have faith that he will be successful at the State Department. I would like to arrange a meeting with your office with the Secretary of State Mr. Rex Tillerson. It is imperative I speak to Mr. Tillerson. I do not feel safe at my office or at home, I have been under constant attack. I have had things happen to my family, myself, and in the office that I cannot talk about in email. I feel my life and health, as well as that of my family and those close to me, is in danger because of where I work and the people I work with, and their connections. I do not know who to trust and cannot trust Diplomatic Security here at DOS, my coworkers or upper management, especially not Ambassador Palmer, who is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Global Information Services. I was informed by my HR that Ambassador Palmer pushed for the Hatch Act for my having a photograph and items of President Trump in my cubicle after the election. The situation at work has been hostile and I have been harassed. Please let me know if you could speak with me or arrange a meeting with the Secretary. Please expect a call regarding this email just to verify.
    Thank you kindly,
    Monika A. Wesolowski
    Visual Information Specialist
    United States Department of State
    Global Publishing Solutions (A/GIS/GPS)
    Phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx voicemail
    Phone: 202-xxx-xxxx direct


     I believe Monika’s best protection is the light of day. On that note, I would ask that all forward this article to your contact list. Secondly, if Tillerson’s office will not respond to this grave situation, then I would ask that everyone send this article to President Trump AND Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Finally, we need to keep the heat on this issue.




    Neil deGrasse Tyson now pushing Monsanto propaganda alongside wife abuser and convicted felon
    Mike Adams
    Why am I not surprised? Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has become a mouthpiece for the GMO and chemical agricultural industries that poison the global food supply, is narrating a new documentary called "Food Evolution."
    The film pushes the same pro-GMO propaganda as a violent wife abuser who used to write for Forbes. Another fake science front group -- the ACSH -- appears in the film and is run by a convincted medical fraud FELON who spent years in prison (and now runs biotech propaganda campaigns for a living).
    Neil deGrasse Tyson has become a shameful betrayor of humanity and nature and an insult to real science.





          McConnell tries to scare his right flank by talking to the NYT   
I'm convinced this is just McConnell's threat to Republican hard liners that unless they got on board and drop their opposition to his version of TrumpCare, McConnell will cut a deal with Democrats to shore up ObamaCare.

I'm happy to be wrong. There are certainly a lot of ways the ACA could be improved. I just can't imagine this Congress doing any of those things.

          Will a Donald Trump Presidency Affect Tesla?   

Now that a Republican is going to be the next U.S president, people in most parts of the world are wondering on where the direction of America is going and how the presidency of Donald Trump will impact the economy. With the win of Trump, this means that a lot of Americans are hopeful of […]

The post Will a Donald Trump Presidency Affect Tesla? appeared first on Car plus Auto Blog.

          Republican Congressman Says He Shouldn’t Pay For Maternity Leave Because He Has An X Chromosome   

Republican representative Pete Olsen recently told a conservative radio show that he shouldn’t be required to foot the bill for prenatal care and maternity leave for American women (as the Affordable Care Act does) because he and other men have X Chromosomes. And you thought Donald Trump was the worst sexist in D.C. Ring of

The post Republican Congressman Says He Shouldn’t Pay For Maternity Leave Because He Has An X Chromosome appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.

          Nikki Haley May Have Acted Illegally by Endorsing a Republican Candidate   

A watchdog group is calling out U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for potentially violating the Hatch Act when she endorsed a GOP candidate. Haley’s alleged violation occurred on June 19 when she retweeted a post from President Trump openly endorsing Ralph Norman, a South Carolina congressional candidate. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) penned

The post Nikki Haley May Have Acted Illegally by Endorsing a Republican Candidate appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.

          Trump Tells Republicans To Destroy Obamacare Now, Replace It Some Other Time   

Donald Trump told Republicans in Congress that if they aren’t able to pass their healthcare bill then they should simply repeal the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – and then worry about replacing it later. This would result in millions of people immediately being kicked off their health insurance plans and cause a severe market

The post Trump Tells Republicans To Destroy Obamacare Now, Replace It Some Other Time appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.

          Key Democratic Fundraisers are Now Pushing the Republican Agenda   

The Democratic Party’s biggest Donors are hard at work lobbying for Republican policies. Ring of Fire’s Josh Gay discusses the defection in this video. Transcript of Above Video: Great news everyone! – Some of the biggest players for Democratic fundraising from the November 2016 campaign are back in Washington – working to make their voices

The post Key Democratic Fundraisers are Now Pushing the Republican Agenda appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.

          Republican Who Said Poor People Shouldn’t Buy iPhones Wants Taxpayers To Pay His Rent   

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz might be leaving office this week, but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to convince America that members of Congress should be entitled to a $2,500 a month housing stipend to pay for their living areas in Washington, D.C. The man who once said that poor people need to choose between

The post Republican Who Said Poor People Shouldn’t Buy iPhones Wants Taxpayers To Pay His Rent appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.

          Fox News Host Offers Bizarre Defense Of GOP Healthcare Bill – “We’re All Going To Die Someday”   

Kennedy, the former MTV VJ who now serves as one of the co-hosts of Fox News’ The Five, offered a bizarre rebuttal to the attacks that Democrats have lobbed against the Republican healthcare plan: She says that claims of people dying from the legislation are overblown considering that “we’re all going to die someday” anyway.

The post Fox News Host Offers Bizarre Defense Of GOP Healthcare Bill – “We’re All Going To Die Someday” appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.

          Threatening Death To GOP Lawmakers? SHOCKER!   

A man who says he became fed up with the Republican Party has allegedly threatened to kill one Florida lawmaker and has named other who he may have targeted.
          Ann Coulter Bashes Sean Hannity’s Love For Trump, She Literally Wrote A Book Praising Trump   

Ann Coulter lashed out Fox News host Sean Hannity for being a blind loyalist to Donald Trump, saying that Hannity would likely endorse Communism if Trump said it was good. Hannity fired back by saying that Coulters falls “in and out of love” with Republican politicians all the time and that she bores him. It’s

The post Ann Coulter Bashes Sean Hannity’s Love For Trump, She Literally Wrote A Book Praising Trump appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.

          Yeah, They Think It's On Its Way -- And Soon!   
Most voters continue to think President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans will make significant changes to Obamacare in the near future, but most also worry those changes will go too far.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 62% of Likely U.S. Voters think it’s at least Somewhat Likely that President Trump and Republicans in Congress will make significant changes in Obamacare in the next six months. Thirty-one percent (31%) believe changes in President Barack Obama’s health care plan are unlikely. These figures include 35% who say it’s Very Likely changes are coming and 11% who feel they are Not at all Likely.

The survey of 1,000 Likely U.S. Voters was conducted on June 26-27, 2017 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.
          Republicans Have Done Nothing For The American People Since Lincoln – Mike Malloy Show   

Radio talk show host Mike Malloy talks about the Republicans trying to save face after delaying the vote in the Senate for a replacement of Obamacare. “Facing growing opposition from members of his own party, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has delayed the vote on the Republicans’ healthcare bill until after Congress’s 4 July recess.”

The post Republicans Have Done Nothing For The American People Since Lincoln – Mike Malloy Show appeared first on The Ring of Fire Network.

          Auth sale a prestarle ropa a Guillier: “Lo republicano es no votar si no está tu candidato”   
"Ayer la derecha alertaba por riesgo que gente de la Nueva Mayoría influyera en sus primarias, ahora protestan porque Guillier llama a los suyos a no participar", tuiteó el ex timonel del PPD. El experto electoral vaticinó que Sebastián Piñera será el representante de Chile Vamos al obtener 500 mil votos. En el caso del Frente Amplio augura una victoria de Beatriz Sánchez con 350 mil preferencias.
          Debates en las primarias: degradación del lenguaje político que perjudica a la democracia   
Culturalmente, la política chilena se mueve en una ciénaga de frases y afirmaciones inconexas de partidos y candidatos, que no reflejan de manera nítida ni un ideario doctrinario republicano, por simple que este pudiera ser, ni tampoco una idea de gobernanza política para cualquier grupo que emerja triunfante del proceso electoral que se avecina. Repeticiones […]
          "House Republicans OK Measure Asking Military to Study Climate Change"   

"A year ago, the U.S. House tried to block the military from preparing for climate change. Now, several GOP members have voted to support studying the security risks."

Source: ,

          Why market competition has not brought down health care costs   
It is easier than ever to buy stuff. You can purchase almost anything on Amazon with a click , and it is only slightly harder to find a place to stay in a foreign city on Airbnb. So why can’t we pay for health care the same way? My research into the economics of health care suggests we should be able to do just that, but only if we say goodbye to our current system of private insurance — and the heavy administrative burden that goes along with it. Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable…

          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit....
          Summer looms with GOP stuck on health care, budget, taxes   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are stuck on health care, can&apos;t pass a budget, and hopes for a big, bipartisan infrastructure package are fizzling. Overhauling the tax code looks more and more like a distant dream....
          Joe Scarborough Net Worth   

Charles Joseph “Joe” Scarborough was born on the 9th April 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. He is a TV and radio personality, probably best known for hosting the MSNBC’s program “Morning Joe”. He is also recognized as a lawyer, author and former politician, who was active as a Republican in the US House of Representatives. …

The post Joe Scarborough Net Worth appeared first on Celebrity Net Worth.

          6/30/2017: FRONT PAGE: Poll: 53% majority say leave Obamacare intact or fix it   

Just 12% of Americans support the Senate Republican health care plan, a new USA TODAY/ Suffolk University Poll finds amid a roiling debate over whether the GOP will deliver on its signature promise to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. In the...
          6/30/2017: NEWS: “More than 200,000 Nevadans ... received insurance for the first time under Medicaid expansion.”   

bill will decrease funding for the expansion over a three- year period. It will also cap funding for Medicaid overall. For someone like Sen. Dean Heller, R- Nev. — whose state expanded Medicaid and whose Republican governor has been a vocal opponent...
          Rob Maness Is Running For John Schroder’s House Seat   

Schroder did resign it, after all, which means the seat is open and there will be an election for it this fall. A press release from Col. Maness… This morning, St Tammany business owner, former Fortune 500 business executive, and retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness, announced that he is a Republican candidate for the […]

The post Rob Maness Is Running For John Schroder’s House Seat appeared first on The Hayride.

          6/30/2017: OPINION: Don’t repeal and replace — retain and repair Obamacare   
Scrambling for votes on their wildly unpopular health care bill, Senate Republicans find themselves with an unappealing choice. They can anger their base by ditching seven years of promises to repeal Obamacare. Or they can strip 22 million people —...
          Have the democrats noticed they haven't won an election since?   
[0] Question by puzzling on 06/30/17 8:37 AM Replies: 6 Views: 69
Tags: Technology, Snowflakes, Republicans, Politics, Liberals
Last Post by McGentrix on 06/30/17 1:24 PM
          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
WASHINGTON (AP) " Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit.Republicans repeatedly have failed to scrap the law preventing churches and other nonprofits from backing candidates, so now they are trying to starve it. With little fanfare, a House Appropriations subcommittee added a provision that would deny money to the IRS to enforce [...]
          Missouri governor creates panel to revamp prison system   
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Republican Gov. Eric Greitens is creating a taskforce to find ways to revamp Missouri’s prison system. Greitens announced his executive order Friday. He’s directing the taskforce to find ways to ensure there’s enough room for the state’s most violent offenders without expanding prisons. Greitens also wants the taskforce to find […]
          Trump suggests just repeal Obamacare, then try to replace it   
WASHINGTON (AP) " President Donald Trump barged into Senate Republicans' delicate health care negotiations Friday, declaring that if lawmakers can't reach a deal they should simply repeal "Obamacare" right away and then replace it later on.Trump's tweet revives an approach that GOP leaders and the president himself considered but dismissed months ago as impractical and politically unwise. And it's likely to further complicate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's task as he struggles to [...]
          Summer looms with GOP stuck on health care, budget, taxes   
WASHINGTON (AP) " Republicans are stuck on health care, can't pass a budget, and hopes for a big, bipartisan infrastructure package are fizzling. Overhauling the tax code looks more and more like a distant dream.The GOP-led Congress has yet to salt away a single major legislative accomplishment for President Donald Trump " and a summer of drift may lead to a logistical nightmare this fall.Instead, Trump's allies appear both divided and indecisive, unable to deliver on his [...]
          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit....
          Summer looms with GOP stuck on health care, budget, taxes   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are stuck on health care, can&apos;t pass a budget, and hopes for a big, bipartisan infrastructure package are fizzling. Overhauling the tax code looks more and more like a distant dream....
          Re: Sen. Cory Gardner's staff may have tried to "heat out" protesters   

If you want National health care the Republican bill will be as bad as the ACA was (past tense....)

Dave :-)
Posted by William David Beadles
          The Difference Between Being Wrong and a Liar   

Jack Shafer over at Politico has the typical defense of CNN's Fake News operation. Can't a guy just make a mistake.

Should Journalists Have the Right to Be Wrong? CNN screwed up. So have we all.

Etc... etc

As the Supreme Court noted in the landmark libel case Times v. Sullivan, the First Amendment is of little use unless we provide “breathing space” for controversial reports that end up containing unintentional mistakes—like the CNN story—as long as they’re made without malice. As I’ve written before, journalistic errors aren’t a modern thing caused by the 24-hour news cycle or stimulated by Twitter’s itchy trigger-fingers. Show me a famous set of historical stories—the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, the Normandy invasion, the Cold War, the civil rights struggle, the 9/11 attacks or the day-to-day coverage of past presidents, and I’ll show you grievous errors in the reporting. From Tucson to Abbottabad to Mumbai, breaking news routinely tosses off condemnable errors of fact, usually made by conscientious reporters doing their best under intense pressure.

Malice is the key word.

Everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect. But there's a big difference between mistakes and motivated lying. The difference is good faith. It's ethics and integrity.

Does anyone on either side honestly believe that the media has any ethics and integrity when it comes to Trump? Or, for that matter, Republicans in general. Good faith works both ways. If you extend nothing to the other side, there's no reason for the other side to extends any to you.

Why should Republicans believe that CNN made an error rather than told a deliberate lie? It comes down to trust. And there isn't any reason for any.

Nor does Shafer provide any reason for trust by compulsively quoting ex-Gawker's John Cook.

Cook, who runs digital investigations at Gizmodo Media Group, provides an editor’s eye view of the challenges reporters face when tolerance for errors falls to zero.

Earlier this week, Cook wrote my kicker for me when he tweeted, “One good way to reduce the rate of production of good journalism is to engineer an environment where mistakes are viewed as catastrophic.”

Like running Hulk Hogan's sex tape. Just one of those errors that impede the production of hit pieces.

Journalism can’t exist unless we give reporters the occasional right to get it wrong.

Journalism can't exist when those outside their circle no longer trust in their integrity.

          Fact Checking Network Gets Backing From Soros, Radical Iranian Tycoon   

Good news. Your "facts" are about to be "checked" by George Soros.

If the whole fact checking paradigm that the media has blackmailed Facebook and Google into rolling into their results hadn't been sufficiently poisoned by naked partisanship and left-wing politics, the presence of the amateur embattled left-wing activists at Snopes, here comes the death knell for its credibility.

"Fact-checking has never been this important. Come define its future" is the Poynter headline. But its future has already been defined, the cheerful posting informs us, by its funders.

Thanks to $1.3 million in grant funding from the Omidyar Network and the Open Society Foundations, the IFCN can now expand its work. New initiatives will include an innovation fund to reward new formats and business models for fact-checking, an impact tracker to help evaluate and monitor the efficacy of this type of work, and a tool to turn the links fact-checkers use into a searchable database of trustworthy primary sources.

Everyone knows who radical leftist billionaire George Soros is.

Soros is the left's biggest radical sugar daddy. But somewhere up there, particularly for pro-terror sites, is Iranian tycoon Pierre Omidyar. 

Pierre Omidyar has financed a war on national security and Israel through anti-American sites such as The Intercept. 

When you understand that this is where the "international fact checking network" is getting its financing, you understand the kind of "fact checking" it will be doing. And whom you can expect to be doing it.

Facebook and Google's embedding of partisan left-wing "fact checking" sites is one of the greatest assaults on freedom of expression on the internet. And now the partisan sites are about to fall further into the fever swamps of left-wing extremism.

Congressional Republicans should call out Google and Facebook for their double standard in advocating Net Neutrality while pushing Opinion Bias.

          Republicans Force Pentagon to Push Global Warming   

Every time you think Congress has hit rock bottom, they manage to exceed your expectations.

The House Armed Services Committee’s annual defense policy bill will include a provision requiring a Defense Department report on the effects of climate change on military installations.

Why? You're wondering.

Why is the Pentagon going to be wasting time providing ammo and employment to leftists to continue Obama's corruption of the military into a social justice organization instead of focusing on the somewhat more pressing national security threats that we face, ranging from terrorism to nuclear war to China's escalation?

Why are we going to see these same reports and the leftists writing them being touted in a larger push to impose carbon taxes and other Warmunist plans to raise the prices of everything with the profits going to their special interests and agendas?

Because a Dem proposed it and enough Pubs backed it.

The amendment — brought up by Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) in the readiness portion of Wednesday’s markup — instructs each military service to come up with a list of the top 10 military installations likely to be affected by climate change over the next 20 years.

Such a provision aims to ensure that the Defense Department “is prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on threat assessments, resources and readiness,” according to the amendment language.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) was the sole lawmaker to speak out against the amendment, claiming it instructs the Pentagon “to take their eye off the ball.”

“We have heard testimony in front of this committee consistently about the array of imminent threats we face … the Russians, Chinese, ISIS, al Qaeda, Iran, North Korea. … There is simply no way that you can argue that climate change is one of those threats. Not even close,” she said. “There is no evidence that climate change causes war.”

She continued: “North Korea is not developing nuclear tipped ICBMs because the climate’s changing. ISIS and al Qaeda are not attacking the West because of the weather.”

You would think that this would be the Republican position... you would think.

But several of her Republican colleagues, including Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), disagreed with her take.

“There is a line in the play ‘1776’ about the Declaration of Independence: ‘I’ve never seen, heard nor smelled an issue so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about.’ There’s nothing dangerous about talking about it. It’s a report,” Bishop said.

I'm glad that Bishop is taking his inspiration for national security policy from musicals. 

There's a big difference between "talking about it" and making it a priority to produce reports validating a leftist talking point. How about having the Pentagon produce reports discussing the threat of Islamic immigration to bases.

Suddenly, that will be an issue too dangerous to be talked about. Even though it, unlike the Great Flying Global Warming Monster whom the left worships, is actually a national security threat. 

Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) backed up Bishop’s line of thinking. “It’s just a report and there are strategic implications that we need to be aware of,” he said.

That's politese for "I have no idea hat any of this is about, but let me stay on the safe side and not stick my neck out."

Rep. Susan Davis (R-Calif.) called the amendment “a start.”

Climate change “is one of those issues that is sort of in that bucket that we ignore at our own peril,” Davis said.

The leftist corruption of the GOP is another of those issues.

This is what happens when there's no organized agenda, no comprehensive messaging, and no understanding of the threats and problems we face.

          GOP's Plan B for Obamacare repeal began with quiet push from Koch network   
President Trump’s surprise suggestion Friday that deadlocked Senate Republicans shift their focus to simply repealing Obamacare — and worry about replacing it later — has its roots in a Koch network proposal that has been shopped around Congress for months.

The influential Koch network, backed... Reported by L.A. Times 1 hour ago.
          Comment on The Righteous, Seduced by Secret Combinations by SWS   
Its really a shock to see LDS congressmen toss their integrity aside to support such a vile, amoral, dishonest, self-serving windbag as trump. Even more disturbing perhaps, is their aggressive partisan disrespect and obstruction of President Obama and his administration- he is a decent man who loves this country and worked every day for the people. And, that very secret meeting that several Republicans attended, vowing to obstruct anything and everything Pres. Obama tried to accomplish was a deal made in darkness- they vowed to obstruct even things that were for the good of the country because they wanted him to be a 1 term president- that is pretty evil. That meeting is a "secret combination". Republican hatred is still burning, even though the majority of Americans do not want the Affordable Care Act repealed, Mitch McConnell is trying to force it through anyway. The ACA can be fixed, but their hatred of Pres. Obama is the main reason they want it repealed. Trump is clearly trying to erase the existence of Pres.Obama from the pages of history, which is why McConnell & Ryan are supporting Trump, even supporting him on stupid things like withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord- putting the US in the same category with Nicaragua and Syria. The Trump, Ryan & McConnell team is a secret combination. McConnell's closed door creation of a terrible healthcare plan, with plans and schemes to push it through Congress is a secret combination. The GOP & Trump's plan to slash taxes for the very wealthy & corporations, while taking away, privatizing or gutting every aspect of government that helps people, will turn our government into a one primarily run by the wealthiest families and big corporations- rolling back regulations on pollution is one example of placing corporations over the welfare and health of people. Some in the religious right are also part of this secret combination- by diverting funds from public Education to private/religious schools, generations of Americans will be taught ideas as science that have nothing to do with science, they will teach their stereotypes and their irrational fears- they will turn this country into the pre-apocalyptic nation they are longing for. Talk of the Illuminati is an old story as well- mostly based on conspiracies without any real proof. But, these secret meetings, secret agendas that will redefine the U.S. and our freedoms is very real is happening in front of our faces. Other groups the right accuses of practically everything, just want their civil rights, equal rights, and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Orrin Hatch, Lee, Chaffetz & Heller have all shown their cruelty in their votes and are or have been part of these secret combinations. Orrin Hatch doesn't even appear to have a soul anymore.
          Gillespie Sends Out Explosive Tweet for Fourth of July   

Republican candidate for governor of Virginia Ed Gillespie put out an explosive video on Twitter Friday about legalizing fireworks in Virginia.

The post Gillespie Sends Out Explosive Tweet for Fourth of July appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.

          LibVibe - 20 December 2007   
Click on the link above to listen to the seven-minute newscast, anytime.
  • Season's Greetings and Happy New Year!
Stories reported:
Gates Foundation awards ALA $950,000 to improve access to Internet resources in public libraries (interview, release); Ex-librarian leaves $300,000 for library; Verizon, Maier giving $500,000 each to library; Library cuts book budget by $200K; Two million people, only two libraries; Student finds surprise in library book; Columbia joins Google Book project; Library branch will move to former Barnes & Noble.

CSA Illustrata from ProQuest

          Hedge Fund Traders Return To Banking As Trump Promises To 'Make Prop Trading Great Again'   

The hedge fund industry is finding itself in increasingly dire straits as persistently weak returns and the advent of low-cost investing have forced more and more funds to shut down. So, it's unsurprising that, amid this steadily worsening backdrop, more traders are heading for the exits. But where are the heading? Increasingly, more traders are moving back from where they came - i.e. the big banks, which expect to see a boost in trading revenue as President Donald Trump has vowed to dial back postcrisis regulations that forced banks to wind down their prop desks.

In recent months, a number of high-profile hedge fund names have made the leap back to banking, according to Bloomberg.

“This month, Barclays Plc hired Chris Leonard, a founder of two hedge funds in the decade since he left JPMorgan Chase & Co., to turn around U.S. rates trading. At the end of last year, ex-bankers Roberto Hoornweg and Chris Rivelli, both of Brevan Howard Asset Management, left that London hedge fund for banks.


Recruiters say these moves and others aren’t just the usual attrition: banks in New York and London are interesting employers again a decade after the financial crisis, and may get involved in more proprietary trading if President Trump eases regulatory burdens. There’s also another factor: many macro funds just don’t make money anymore.


One recruiter says he expects defections to increase over the next nine months.


“In the last quarter of the year or first quarter of 2018, you will find more people leaving the hedge funds to join banks to run proprietary money,” said Jason Kennedy, chief executive officer of the Kennedy Group in London, which hires for banks and hedge funds. “The banks will become more attractive in terms of jobs and pay.”

The Trump administration has struggled to pass elements of its agenda - most notable its plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. And it only recently scored a partial victory on its immigration ban. Yet financial deregulation is one area where the Trump agenda is moving inexorably forward. On June 13, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin issued a report – the first in a series that will detail how the administration plans to proceed with paring back post-crisis regulations.  Some of the more notable proposals in the highly-anticipated report include: adjusting the annual stress tests, easing trading rules (i.e., gutting the Volcker Rule), and paring back the power of the watchdogs - like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Unlike the administration’s health-care plans, these measures enjoy broad support among Republicans.

Meanwhile, hedge funds are finding it increasingly difficult to compete for top talent.

"...the bar within the hedge-fund world has increased dramatically over the last year,” Kennedy said.


Hedge funds, stung by years of underperformance and revolts from investors, are increasingly under pressure to dump their traditional 2 percent management and 20 percent performance-fee model, curtailing their ability to hire and retain talent. Louis Bacon’s Moore Capital Management, Tudor Investment Corp., Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, Canyon Capital Advisors and Brevan Howard were among money managers who cut fees last year. More hedge funds shuttered last year than started, a trend that continued in the first quarter of 2017, according to data from Hedge Fund Research Inc.


“It is not surprising that traders are looking for a safe haven, and if banks have more room to operate these moves could make sense,” said John Purcell of Purcell & Co., a London-based executive recruitment firm."

The unprecedented easy money policies adopted by the world's largest central banks in the aftermath of the crisis have hurt macro funds' profits by suppressing two-way volatility.

“Tim Sharp made the move back to the sell side even earlier, and says banks now have attractive niche trading businesses and many are nearly done downsizing. He joined Credit Suisse Group AG in July 2015 after less than a year running money at BlueCrest Capital Management LLP, the firm led by Michael Platt. At the end of that year, Platt’s firm, once among Europe’s largest hedge funds, announced it would return about $7 billion of the $8 billion it managed.


“It’s very difficult for macro funds," Sharp said in an interview. “Central bank policies have crushed volatility and reduced opportunities, and also it’s survival of the fittest.”


Sharp, who is now a director at Credit Suisse, left BlueCrest a few months after the Swiss central bank’s shock decision to remove its currency cap, which caused losses at several firms.


"Macro as an overall strategy has recently experienced a prolonged phase of lackluster returns, triggering a number of unwinds at big shops," said Nicolas Roth, co-head of alternative assets at Geneva-based Reyl & Cie.”

As Bloomberg explains, the flow of traders back into banking is a reversal of a trend that began in 2008, when banks, reelingfrom the crisis, saw an exodus of traders move to the buy side as many hoped to cash in on the postcrisis recovery. The advent of the Volcker rule forced banks to wind down their prop trading desks, spurring even more defections. Another factor: the rising cost of regulatory compliance is making it increasingly expensive to start a hedge fund.

"Hedge funds were booming. In 2009, hedge funds gained almost 20 percent, their best yearly performance since 1999, according to the HFRI Fund Weighted Composite Index; a year later, they returned 10.3 percent.


While macro strategies raised $13.8 billion in the first five months of this year, the most of any trading strategy tracked by eVestment, investors are disappointed by their returns. Traders wagering on currencies and rates continue to struggle, even as peers are showing signs of recovering from their multi-year funk.


Andrew Law’s Caxton Associates lost 8 percent this year through May and told clients that it’s slashing performance and management fees. Paul Brewer’s hedge fund Rubicon Global Fund plunged about 27 percent this year, hurt by wrong-way currency wagers, people said earlier this month.


It’s also more expensive to start a hedge fund than it was, because of the difficult capital raising environment and rising cost of regulatory compliance.


“Some macro traders are returning to the sell side, maybe in a hope that a Dodd-Frank rollback will re-open proprietary trading activity,” Roth said."

Here’s a breakdown of other personnel moves, courtesy of Bloomberg.

  • Anthony Kemp returned to Morgan Stanley at the beginning of May from Stone Milliner Asset Management, which he joined in summer 2015
  • Alex Silverman left Citadel to join Morgan Stanley in New York at the end of March 2017
  • Dipak Shah joined Citigroup Inc. as director in October 2016 from Capula Investment Services after previously working at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

          Weekend Reading: Want Some Volatility With That?   

Authored by Lance Roberts via,

Over the last couple of week’s, volatility has certainly picked up. As shown in the chart below, stocks have vacillated in a 1.5% trading range ever since the beginning of June. (Chart through Thursday)

Despite the pickup in volatility, support for the market has remained firm. Importantly, this confirms the conversation I had with Kevin Massengill of Meraglim just recently discussing the impact of Algorithmic Trading and how they are simultaneously currently all “buying the dip.” As he notes, this is all “fine and dandy” until the robots all decide to start “selling rallies” instead. (Start at 00:02:40 through 00:04:00)

But even with the recent pickup in volatility, volatility by its own measure remains extremely compressed and near its historical lows. While extremely low volatility is not itself an immediate issue, like margin debt, it is the “fuel” that when ignited “burns hot” during the reversion process.

Currently, as we head into the extended July 4th weekend, the bull market trend remains clearly intact. With the “accelerated advance” line holding firm on Thursday’s sell-off, but contained below the recent highs, there is little to suggest the advance that began in early 2016 has come to its final conclusion.

However, such a statement should NOT be construed as meaning it WON’T end as it more assuredly will. The only questions are simply when and how deep the subsequent reversion will be?

Volatility is creeping back. The trick will be keeping it contained.

In the meantime, this is what I am reading over the long holiday weekend.

Happy Independence Day.




Research / Interesting Reads


Life is [Stocks] are a fragile thing. One minute you’re chewin’ on a burger, the next minute you’re dead meat.” – Adopted From Lloyd, “Dumb and Dumber”

           GNR reforça patrulhamento nas estradas   
A Guarda Nacional Republicana intensificou até domingo a fiscalização rodoviária no quadro da 1ª fase da Operação “Hermes - Viajar em Segurança”.

Feel Good About the Markets? Maybe You Shouldn’t Read This


Traders outside the New York Stock Exchange. Investors have seemed oblivious to claims of Russian interference in the election, the firing of the F.B.I. director and other political turmoil. Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times        

Throughout the turbulence of his first months in office, President Trump has been able to point to one bastion of support: the stock market. Earlier this month he tweeted the “great economic news” he thinks the mainstream media has been ignoring: The Dow Jones industrial average was up 16 percent and the Nasdaq up 19.5 percent since his election. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross maintained that the Trump administration had bestowed $4 trillion in gains on investors.
Investors have seemingly been oblivious to claims of Russian interference in the election, the firing of a director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the appointment of a special prosecutor. As the second quarter ends this week, 2017 has so far been a banner year, with major indexes hitting records.
But as the bull market rolls on, some see storm clouds on the horizon. “Valuations are high and it’s one of the longest and largest bull markets in history,” said James Stack, president of InvesTech Research. “Bull markets don’t last forever. So the question is, when will the music stop?”
Investors “are on a knife’s edge,” said Michael J. Kelly, global head of asset allocation for PineBridge Investments. With many still scarred by the financial crisis, “they see a potential disaster around every corner.”

This month the so-called Faang stocks — Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, which have led the market’s rally — faced a sudden downdraft, which many market watchers called a warning of turbulent times to come.
On June 14, the Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates for the second time this year, a move that was widely expected and barely caused a market ripple. But more ominously for stock investors, the Fed also said it would reduce its $4.2 trillion balance sheet and taper its purchases of longer-term government bonds (though it didn’t say how fast), bringing to an end the quantitative easing it undertook after the financial crisis.
And then there’s Mr. Trump himself, whose unpredictability and erratic behavior still have the potential to rattle markets.
So I asked some prominent investors and market analysts whether they were pulling back from stocks, and how they viewed these latest developments.
A Crack in the Faang Stocks
After some of the Faang stocks plunged over 3 percent on June 9, Goldman Sachs compared them to the leading stocks of the tech bubble. But by the end of the month they’d recovered and were again approaching all-time highs.
There’s no question that these market darlings, which together have accounted for a disproportionate percentage of the market’s gains, are expensive, and getting more so. Price-to-earnings ratios range from 39 (Facebook) to 187 (Amazon). Their market caps are so huge they dominate the indexes.
They show up not only in so-called growth funds, but also in value and low-volatility funds. Should they embark on a sustained plunge, a bear market could quickly follow.
The tremor in June was “a warning shot across the bow,” said Bill Smead, the founder of Smead Capital Management in Seattle. The Faang stocks “are showing all the classic signs of being overcooked,” he added. “What magazine hasn’t had Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg on the cover?
There’s no question this can end very badly. But the market can stay irrational for a very long time.
My sense is that there’s one big blowout rally left in these stocks.”

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange this month as Janet Yellen announced the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates. Credit Drew Angerer/Getty Images       
Mr. Stack noted that the Faang stocks had brief sell-offs last June and October, only to rebound. Still, he said, “the Faang stocks will be among the hardest hit in the next bear market due to the amount of money that flowed into them and the high expectations that have driven them higher.”
But like Mr. Smead, he doesn’t expect that to be imminent. “We’re not buying them, but we’re not necessarily saying sell,” Mr. Stack said. He urged investors to rebalance portfolios that have become too heavily weighted in these stocks.
A Tightening Federal Reserve
Everyone I interviewed agreed that the Fed is the most likely catalyst for the next bear market, but that may still be years away.

“Historically it’s difficult to find a bear market that wasn’t triggered to some extent by the Fed,” Mr. Smead said. “But I don’t think unwinding the long bond position as gradually as they’re going to will have a significant impact. What would have an impact is if the Fed is forced to raise rates faster than everyone anticipates. The Fed has prepared investors for one more rate hike this year. That’s where the potential surprise could come. If we see two or three by year’s end, we’re going to see definite headwinds and maybe a market top of some significance.”
Mr. Kelly said the Fed had plenty of room to maneuver before stocks start to be affected. “We just had a once-in-70-year crisis that left very long scars. Businesses basically didn’t invest for eight years. In tightening, the Fed is acknowledging that a monetary policy built on a very fragile economic backdrop is no longer appropriate. But we’re just getting to the point now where people are crawling out of their shells and we’re seeing more normal economic activity.”
Mr. Kelly said bull markets typically last another three to four years after such a point in the economic cycle, and can even go another eight or nine. “Bull markets die from excess, not old age,” he said.
Mr. Smead agreed. “There’s no question we’re getting closer to normal rates,” he said. “That will be difficult for the stock market when it happens. People will be less willing to be adventurous. But that’s still years away.”
Over at InvesTech Research, “we’re still quite bullish,” Mr. Stack said. “We’re not increasing cash reserves. We are rebalancing towards more defensive and out-of-favor sectors, like consumer staples and health care.”
‘I Wouldn’t Call It a Trump Rally’
“The risks don’t lie with potential charges of obstruction of justice or even impeachment,” Mr. Stack said. “For political mayhem to upset the economic apple cart, it has to irreparably damage confidence at the consumer and business level. So far we don’t see that happening. Consumer confidence and consumer sentiment measures are at 16-year highs, and C.E.O. confidence in April was the highest since 2004.”
Nor have investors given up hope that a Republican Congress will still deliver business-friendly corporate tax reform and a pro-growth overhaul of the tax code, despite the president’s troubles.
At the same time, “Trump shouldn’t be looking to the market for vindication,” Mr. Smead said. “I wouldn’t call it a Trump rally. He’s basically riding on the Obama years. “
His bottom line: “We don’t pay much attention to politics, and that’s been a good thing.”

          Donald Trump lashes Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough   
US President Donald Trump has again ridiculed the intelligence, looks and temperament of a female television host in a vulgar Twitter attack, triggering a storm of protest from Republicans and Democrats alike. In a Thursday morning...
          Kansas Lawmakers Wait For School Funding Decision   
The Kansas legislative session may be over, but lawmakers still aren't sure whether their work has ended. They're waiting to see whether the new school funding system they put in place will satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court. The court previously said education spending was inadequate. In response, lawmakers approved $300 million in new funding over two years and a new method to distribute the money. Mark Tallman, with the Kansas Association of School Boards, says members of the group like the new funding formula, but they still have concerns. “We still believe that the dollars don’t measure up to where we believe they needed to be. We don’t think the court is going to say we’re spending too much,” Tallman says. Legal briefs on the new spending plan will be submitted to the Supreme Court this week . Republican Senate President Susan Wagle believes the new plan is adequate, noting that school funding is a large percentage of overall state spending. However, she says lawmakers will be
          Medicaid cuts in Senate bill could have dire effects at Ohio opioid clinic   
CBS News has learned that Senate Republicans, hoping to win support for the Obamacare replacement, have added another $45 billion for the treatment of opioid addiction. However, that is just a fraction of what Medicaid currently covers. So, what happens if Medicaid is cut drastically? Adriana Diaz reports.

          State Single Payer And Medicaid Buy-In: A Look At California, New York, And Nevada   

An illustration of the US map

Rising insurance premiums, lack of access, uncertainty, and commotion around Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal, have all contributed to the growing discontent and unease surrounding health care reform. Pressure to act continues to mount. Insurance titans Humana, United Healthcare, and Aetna have all rolled-back participation on the ACA Marketplaces. Anthem recently announced that it would exit the Ohio health insurance Marketplace, potentially leaving at least 18 counties without an exchange plan next year. Missouri and Washington State are also facing similar Marketplace participation issues. States such as Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee have seen individual market exchange premiums increase more than 45 percent since 2016. Furthermore, participating exchange plans are asking for steep rate increases for next year—averaging between 11.1 percent and 44.7 percent.

These events have contributed to an economic and political climate ripe for disruptive legislation. While Congress and the current administration pursue solutions to address premium and access issues, more states are inserting themselves in the conversation. More than a dozen states have explored options to leverage federal 1332 and 1115 waivers, which would provide flexibility to develop market stabilizing programs and regulatory changes to their respective individual and Medicaid markets. More recently, a few state legislatures have leap-frogged one-off programs such as reinsurance or high-risk pools, and sought to create a truly different market structure. Three states’ legislatures, California, New York, and Nevada, have developed high-profile state-driven solutions to address consumer access and price-related concerns. While state-led waiver initiatives such as those from Alaska and Oklahoma are meant to provide an incremental stabilizing force to their respective markets, the models that California, New York, and Nevada legislatures proposed could fundamentally reshape the framework of state health markets more akin to what Massachusetts did 11 years ago.

State Models

These state legislative developments are essentially falling into two camps, termed “state single payer” and “Medicaid buy-in.” State single payer describes almost any system that creates a single coverage mechanism for health care that is administered through a centralized authority. California and New York fall into this first bucket. The Medicaid buy-in proposal that the Nevada legislature approved did not expand the Medicaid program to everyone, but it attempted to leverage the structure and negotiated rates of the Medicaid program to enable commercial insurance carriers to replicate these features in the private market.


On June 1, 2017, the California State Senate passed SB 562 23-to-14, creating what is known as “Healthy California”—a program intent on eliminating the segmentation of the health insurance market into different coverage types such as Medicare, Medicaid, employer-sponsored, and individual insurance. Instead, there would be a single health care market for everyone. The benefits would be simplified as individuals would not be subject to premiums, copayments, or deductibles. Medical, pharmaceutical, dental, vision, and long-term care would be provided to all residents—including undocumented immigrants—free of charge. The state would seek to pay providers Medicare rates, and a nine-person panel would administer the program.

Experts estimate the program would cost approximately $400 billion per year—double California’s current budget. California could cover about $200 billion from current federal and state spending—including Medicaid and Medicare. An additional $100 to $150 billion would come from what employers are already spending. The additional funding needed could involve a 15.0 percent payroll tax, a 2.3 percent sales tax, and/or a business tax increase.

On Friday, June 23, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon decided to hold the bill within the Assembly Rules Committee until further notice. While Rendon’s actions did not entirely kill the bill, it will not be revived until next year. The bill may have a stronger prospect for passage next year if more thoughtful attempts to address financing, care delivery, and cost controls emerge.

New York

On Tuesday, May 16, the New York State Assembly passed a bill (A.5062) that resembles California’s in several core ways. Universal statewide coverage would be provided throughout the state, and enrollees would no longer be subject to out-of-pocket costs or network restrictions. This is the fourth time in recent history that the State Assembly has passed a similar bill.

The savings or costs—depending on who you talk to—range anywhere from $45 billion in savings to a need for $225 billion in tax increases. A hike of approximately $90 billion in annual new tax revenue appears to be the consensus estimate. Identified funding sources would be progressive payroll taxes and/or non-earned income tax increases.


Nevada’s State Assembly and Senate recently passed a bill that was unique in its own merits but not quite as transformative. AB374—known as “Sprinkle care”—after its namesake State Rep. Mike Sprinkle (D) who introduced the bill—focused reforms solely on the individual insurance market and directed the state to contract with insurers to offer a commercial health plan based on the state’s Medicaid coverage. Employer-sponsored insurance and Medicare would have been maintained, but a commercial insurance product resembling the state’s Medicaid coverage would have provided consumers a new option. The plan would have offered a different benefit structure and leveraged the state’s lower Medicaid reimbursement rates.

On June 17, Nevada’s Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval, vetoed the bill hours before it would have become law. The bill’s failure may speak more to its hasty drafting than its potential to serve as a roadmap for future legislation. While Gov. Sandoval expressed concerns of moving too fast too soon without solid factual foundations, a more thoughtful version of Nevada’s plan could serve as a model for future legislation within Nevada or other states.

Exhibit 1 below outlines and distinguishes the three models.

Exhibit 1: Distinctions Among the State Models

 CaliforniaNevadaNew York
Cost$400 billion per year; $200 billion outside current state and federal spendingUnclear$90 billion in annual new tax revenue
Proposed funding source15.0% payroll tax; 2.3% sales tax; business tax increasePossible use of federal income tax creditsProgressive payroll tax; non-earned income taxes, for example capital gains
Administration of benefitsStatePrivate sectorState
Employer-sponsored insurance continuesNoYesNo
Medicare and Medicaid continue as separate programsNoYesNo
Reimbursement ratesMedicarePossibly MedicaidMedicare
1332 waiver neededYesYesYes
1115 waiver neededYesUnclearYes

Possible Implementation Scenarios

First off, it’s important to note that any single-payer model proposed by California and New York are likely years away from implementation as significant market restructuring and government infrastructure would need to be in place to enact such a drastic shift. Nevada proposed its solution be implemented in 2019, which was aggressive given that much of the plan’s details were not fully developed (the original bill is only four pages).

We foresee three potential scenarios playing out across the state legislative movements: limited adoption, a Massachusetts-like scenario in which the federal government uses a state’s plan as a blueprint for national reform, or nothing happens at all.

Under the limited adoption model, a state such as California passes a single-payer model, and other like-minded and potentially neighboring states adopt similar models over time. For example, one could envision California passing a bill that Oregon and Washington later adopted and tweaked according to the needs of their specific populations. Further adoption would be limited, however, given many states’ reticence to increase taxes, adversely affect their labor markets, and abandon private-sector solutions.

In a Massachusetts-like scenario, a state such as New York, California, or some other state adopts a single-payer model that serves as a template for a federal single-payer approach. Just as Massachusetts provided a roadmap for the ACA’s enactment, a trailblazer state could provide a workable model for an expanded federal government single-payer program.

A final scenario assumes that states either do not pass single-payer or other disruptive models given consumer and business community pushback or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not grant federal waivers necessary to implement the programs. As to the latter point, there will be a host of regulatory hurdles and waiver applications necessary under any of these models, and getting approval could be challenging despite the prospect of increased waiver flexibility within the current administration.

Let us consider Nevada, given that it was likely the least disruptive of the three proposals. The designation of a commercialized Medicaid policy as a Qualified Health Plan and the potential application of federal tax credits toward such a product may have required the use of Section 1332 to apply for a State Innovation Waiver. Alternatively, current federal law prohibits a state from using federally matched Medicaid funding to reimburse a health care provider for services provided to a person who earns more than 138 percent of the federal poverty level or for other expenses that are unrelated to the administration of Medicaid. To the extent that the Nevada Care Plan relied on state or federal Medicaid dollars, the state may have also needed to consider applying for a Section 1115 or similarly oriented Medicaid waiver. These waivers were never crafted, and it’s unknown if the current administration would have been receptive to these changes.

At least for the short run, the “nothing happens” scenario has a high probability of playing out. Other states have tried and failed to create single-payer systems in the past. For example, consider the original Washington State effort in the early 1990s, Vermont’s attempt a couple years ago, and Colorado’s failed ballot measure last year.

Potential Local And National Impact

What would happen to markets if states passed legislation resembling any of these models? The answer depends on the model. In the California and New York scenarios, private insurance companies and brokers would cease to operate within the state. If a single-payer model spread to other states and/or the federal government, then the insurance and brokerage markets would be decimated. It is beyond this post’s scope to discuss in meaningful detail consumer implications associated with the various models. One thing is certain, consumer premium, coinsurance, and copayment responsibilities would either drop completely or be heavily reduced. Accessibility would improve in the sense that more people would have coverage, but it would also depend on agreed reimbursement rates and the percentage of providers who would be willing to accept new patients. Even if a state passed legislation, implementation could eventually become unworkable as was the case in Vermont.

In a Nevada-like scenario, private payers would continue to compete for Medicaid insurance lives as the state leverages aspects of the Medicaid program to reform commercial markets. Brokers would continue to sell group and individual market plans. Employers would continue to offer insurance, although fewer would likely offer over time given the tax advantages associated with qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements.

Regardless of what scenario occurs, the broader industry trend of states engaging in thoughtful attempts to innovate amid difficult market conditions is one that will likely have broader impacts across the country. While the US health insurance system is unique in its reliance on the private market to facilitate and manage health care coverage, much of the regulatory construct of the market is still shaped by the federal government. As more states seek to develop their own unique systems and solutions, we appear to be in a time where states are truly the laboratories of health care policy.

          Democratic Ideas On ACA Improvements; More From CBO On BCRA Medicaid Cuts   

On June 28, 2017, the New York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, facing difficulty in corralling 50 Republican Senators to unite behind a version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, has suggested he might turn to the Democrats for help in shoring up the deteriorating situation under the ACA if he cannot get Republicans in line. If he does so, he may find that Democrats have both a proposed diagnosis and cure for the most immediately pressing problems facing the individual insurance market.

On June 28, 2017, the Democratic staff of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions released a joint report entitled “A Manufactured Crisis: Trump Administration and Republican Sabotage of the Health Care System.” The report details how individual market stability is being undermined by the uncertainty created by President Trump’s repeated threats to withhold reimbursement from insurers that are legally required to reduce cost sharing for 7.1 million exchange enrollees, coupled with his ambivalence regarding the enforcement of the individual mandate. The report includes numerous quotes from insurance regulators and insurers from nearly 20 states and nationwide warning that uncertainty regarding cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments and individual mandate enforcement is causing insurers to raise premiums and exit individual insurance markets.

Also on June 28, 2017, Senator Jean Shaheen, joined by 20 Democratic Senators, introduced the Market Certainty Act. (text) This bill would clarify that funds were permanently appropriated to fund the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reductions. It would also expand eligibility for the CSRs, making them available to individuals with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. It would increase the amount of cost-sharing reductions so that individuals with incomes between 100 and 200 percent of FPL would be responsible for only 5 percent of cost sharing on average; individuals with incomes between 200 and 300 percent of FPL for 10 percent, and individuals with incomes between 300 percent and 400 percent of FPL for 15 percent.

Under current law, individuals between 100 and 150 percent of FPL must pay 6 percent of costs on average; individuals between 150 and 200 percent of FPL, 13 percent; individuals between 200 and 250, 27 percent; and individuals above 250 percent of FPL, 30 percent.

Under the Republican Better Care Act, cost sharing reductions would be funded at current levels through 2019 and then repealed. After that, consumers would be responsible for 42 percent of health care costs on average under plans that could be purchased with premium tax credits available to individuals with incomes below 350 percent of FPL. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the deductible for an individual at 75 percent of FPL under the Better Care Act would be half of annual income, and that few low-income individuals would purchase coverage with such little value.

Senator Shaheen’s proposal, coupled with reinsurance legislation offered by Senator Shaheen and other Democrats earlier in June, could go far toward stabilizing individual insurance markets, luring insurers back into markets they have abandoned and lowering premiums, deductibles, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket limits for insured Americans.

As noted in the Democratic staff report (and by others), the uncertainty regarding the commitment of the Trump administration to continuing cost sharing reduction payments is a major factor contributing to destabilization of individual insurance markets. (Anthem has apparently announced it is leaving 14 counties in Nevada, leaving 61 bare counties in Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and Nevada for 2018.) Given this situation, a frequently asked question posted at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid website on June 28, 2017, strikes a note of irony. The FAQ describes in detail procedures that insurers must follow to address discrepancies in their cost-sharing reduction payment reconciliation data for 2016. CMS will notify insurers regarding overpayment or underpayment of CSRs for 2016 on June 30, 2017. Insurers have until August 11 to notify CMS of data discrepancies. It is all very technical, but illustrates again that while at the policy level storms are raging in the individual insurance market, at the technical level the engines keep chugging along.

CBO Projects Medicaid Cuts In Senate GOP Bill Would Reach 35 Percent By 2036

On June 28, 2017, the CBO released a supplement to its June 26 Better Care Reconciliation Act cost estimate. The supplement was requested by the Democratic ranking members of the Budget Committee and Finance Committee. It addresses the effects of the BCRA on Medicaid spending beyond 2026. The CBO recognizes the limits to its ability to make very long-term spending projections but does predict how the BCRA would affect spending through 2036.

The BCRA imposes a per-capita cap on federal Medicaid funding growth for some groups of enrollees beginning in 2020, and reduces the cap as of 2025 so that federal funding growth rates for all groups would be pegged to the consumer price index for all urban consumers. CBO had earlier estimated that BCRA’s Medicaid provisions would reduce federal Medicaid spending by 26 percent as of 2026—a $160 billion cut in spending for that year—compared to spending under current growth rates.

The CBO projects that the gap between federal Medicaid spending under the BCRA and under current law would widen to 35 percent by 2036. The CBO projects that Medicaid costs to maintain current services will grow at an annual rate of 0.7 percent above GDP growth in 2027, which will rise to a 0.9 percent annual excess growth rate above GDP growth by 2036. General increases in cost in the health care system attributable in part to new technologies will drive the cost of services higher while Medicaid programs will have to replace federal spending by state spending, cut provider payment rates, reduce benefits, restrict eligibility, or find some way to provide services more efficiently.

CBO believes that dollar projections 20 years out are misleading and thus gives its spending projections in terms of percent of GDP. In the absence of the BCRA, Medicaid spending would account for 2 percent of GDP for 2017 and 2.4 percent by 2036. CBO projects that under BCRA, Medicaid spending will account for 1.6 percent of GDP in 2036, a 35 percent cut. Medicaid would be a very different program in 2036 than it is now.

          Our least-favorite quality in Trump: everything about him   

Here is an interesting concept –

Twitter is also a regular reminder of what has long been Americans’ least-favorite quality in Trump: his temperament. A Quinnipiac University poll this month found that just 29 percent of Americans describe Trump as “levelheaded.” Even one-third of Republicans said the president is not a prudent man.

Our “least favorite quality”? What, because he has other, better ones? His temperament is everything. It’s not as if you can put his temperament to one side in order to give due credit to other things about him; his temperament suffuses everything he does and says. It’s a very “Aside from that, Mrs Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” idea that Trump is separable from … Read the rest

          In unusually personal and vulgar terms   

The Times on Trump’s vulgar attack on a woman tv host:

President Trump assailed the television host Mika Brzezinski on Thursday in unusually personal and vulgar terms, the latest of a string of escalating attacks by the president on the national news media.

And women. There’s more than one pattern here. There’s Trump’s loathing and disgust at women as well as his hatred of independent journalism.

The graphic nature of the president’s suggestion that Ms. Brzezinski had undergone plastic surgery was met with immediate criticism on social media. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, wrote on Twitter, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of

Read the rest

          Minneapolis Just Adopted a $15 Minimum Wage in a Landslide Vote   
City council members credit the hard work of grassroots labor organizations.

The Minneapolis City Council passed a law Friday making it the first Midwestern city to adopt a $15 minimum wage, increasing the salaries of 71,000 workers by 2024. 

With the historic vote, Minneapolis joins a growing wave of progressive U.S. cities like San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C., where the Fight for $15 movement and other grassroots organizations have scored major labor victories.

Before the vote, which passed 12-1, Minneapolis city council members credited activists and organizers from Fight for $15 and Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha for pushing the bill forward. 

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) tweeted a video of himself singing "Money (That's What I Want)" in celebration of the news. 

“Keep it up. We’re going to fight here in Washington, you guys are fighting there in Minneapolis, we’re fighting all over the country so the American people can get a raise,” Ellison said. 

In May, Ellison, the deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee, alongside Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Senate introduced a $15 minimum wage bill that has little chance of passing in a Republican-controlled Congress. 

In the face of austerity and social safety net cuts in the federal government, grassroots organizers and activists are looking more and more to local and state arenas to implement policies that combat poverty and inequality. 


Related Stories

          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit....
          Summer looms with GOP stuck on health care, budget, taxes   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are stuck on health care, can&apos;t pass a budget, and hopes for a big, bipartisan infrastructure package are fizzling. Overhauling the tax code looks more and more like a distant dream....
          GOP touts lower premiums, but other insurance costs to rise   

In this May 16, 2017 file photo, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans are touting lower premiums under their health care legislation, but that reflects insurance that would cover a smaller share of the cost of medical bills.

          Enacting Trump-GOP agenda on health care, tax reform and build the wall difference between expanding majority in 2018—or losing it   

By Robert Romano With majorities in the House and Senate, plus President Donald Trump in the White House, the Republican Party is poised to either make big gains on signature campaign promises — reforming health care, the tax code and building the wall — or fail amid interparty squabbles over the details. The opportunity is vast. Republicans have an advantage […]

The post Enacting Trump-GOP agenda on health care, tax reform and build the wall difference between expanding majority in 2018—or losing it appeared first on NetRight Daily.

          Ad tax would be bad business   

By Peter Hong President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress have pledged to do something that hasn’t been done in over thirty years: comprehensively reform our badly broken tax code.  Having stalled on legislation to overhaul Obamacare, failed to even begin construction on a wall protecting the southern border, and spent much too much time distracted by all things […]

The post Ad tax would be bad business appeared first on NetRight Daily.

          Op-Ed: Why Trump supports health bill even many Republicans can't get behind   
Donald Trump has blindly supported every iteration of Congress’s health bill, says Tara Golshan.
          Op-Ed: Why Donald Trump can’t seem to make deals in Washington   
Trump can't close a deal with Republicans on health care to save his life, writes Vox's Matt Yglesias.
          GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit....
          Summer looms with GOP stuck on health care, budget, taxes   
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are stuck on health care, can&apos;t pass a budget, and hopes for a big, bipartisan infrastructure package are fizzling. Overhauling the tax code looks more and more like a distant dream....
          1625 - Cliff Schecter: The Republicans Health Care Scam & Larry Murphy Does Hilarious Resistance Politics   

Cliff Schecter, explains what why Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are holding up the health care destruction bill. What's Mitch McConnell's angle. Shelly Moore Capito, shows how a Republican can be bribed to support the bill. The Republican assault on Medicaid. Ezra Klein sort of loses his innocence. The Trump and Morning Joe war and the new assault on voting rights.

Larry Murphy, talks about Trump country in Massachusetts. Trump's constant lies. The Boston bros and Trump and Larry keeps up with everything.

          White House: Liberal Media Gave 1 Minute to Tax Reform, 353 Minutes to "False Narrative on Russia"   

During the White House press briefing on Thursday, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited data from a Media Research Center study showing that the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening news shows devoted 55% of their entire coverage, since mid-May, to "pushing a false narrative on Russia."

During the briefing, several reporters asked Sanders about a tweet by the president, in which he criticized the hosts of MSNBC's Morning Joe program, and whether  tweeting took attention away from the president's legislative agenda.

Sanders said President Trump often tweets on policy issues but the liberal media apparently do not want to discuss those messages, only the more controversial ones about media or personalities.

"I think the president would love us all to focus on the legislative agenda a whole lot more," she said. "You look at the coverage over the last month of the extended period between May and June, all of the major networks, if you look at their coverage and what they are talking about, they spent one minute in the evening newscast talking about tax reform.

She continued, "Three minutes on infrastructure. Five minutes on the economy and jobs. Seventeen minutes on health care, and 353 minutes attacking the president and pushing a false narrative on Russia."

Those numbers were gathered by the Media Research Center in a June 27 study entitled TV News Is Obsessed With Trump-Russia Probe, which was published by NewsBusters, a division of the MRC.

"I mean look at that in comparison," said Sanders.  "If you guys want to talk about legislative agenda and focus on policy and priorities, you guys get to help set that table."

"Three hundred and fifty-three minutes of attacks against the president and driving a false narrative and one minute on tax reform," she said.  "That's over the course of a month. The numbers don't lie."

The study examined the evening news casts at ABC, CBS, and NBC from May 17 - when Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed - to June 20.

For all that coverage, the study found "353 minutes of airtime devoted to the Russia probe, or 55 percent of all coverage of the Trump presidency during those weeks."

"The networks' relentless coverage of Russia meant little airtime was spent on important policy topics, as the investigation garnered 20 times more attention than the new health care bill, 100 times more attention than the administration's push to improve the nation's infrastructure, and a stunning 450 times more coverage than the push for comprehensive tax reform," MRC Research Director Rich Noyes inhis report.

The networks devoted less than one minute to tax reform over the course of five weeks. The economy and jobs? 5 minutes. New Cuba policy? 5 minutes. Infrastructure spending? 3 minutes.  Climate change got 47 minutes.  But the Russia/Comey investigation was the priority of the networks with 353 minutes in coverage.

"TV's obsession with the Russia investigation flies in the race of what the public says it actually cares about," reports Noyes. "According to a Harvard-Harris poll released late last week, ‘a majority of voters believe the Russia investigations are damaging to the country and are eager to see Congress shift its focus to healthcare, terrorism, national security, the economy and jobs.'"

"Given the disconnect, it should be no surprise that half of all voters see the media as biased against Trump," said Noyes, "compared to only four percent who think the media are pro-Trump, according to a recent Rasmussen poll, with two-thirds of Republican respondents (68%) saying media coverage of the president is ‘poor."

At the White House, Sanders further remarked, "The media's focus on priorities-they don't line up with the rest of America. Right now we've got our economies growing, the stock market is up, unemployment is down, jobs are back and ISIS is on the run. America is winning and that's what we would like to talk about.

"But you guys constantly ignore that narrative."

Disclosure: The Media Research Center is the parent organization of 

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          Israel, American Jewry and Trump's GOP   

Earlier this month Norway, Denmark and Switzerland did something surprising.

Norway announced that it was demanding the return of its money from the Palestinian Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Secretariat, for the latter's funding of a Palestinian women's group that built a youth center near Nablus named for PLO mass murderer Dalal Mughrabi.

Denmark followed, announcing it was cutting off all funding to the group.

And last week, the Swiss parliament passed a resolution directing the government to amend Swiss law to block funding of NGOs "involved in racist, antisemitic or hate incitement actions."

For years, the Israeli government has been urging these and other European governments to stop funding such groups, to no avail. What explains their abrupt change of heart?

In two words: Donald Trump.

For years, the Obama administration quietly encouraged the Europeans to fund these groups and to ratchet up their anti-Israel positions. Doing so, the former administration believed, would coerce Israel to make concessions to the PLO.

But now, Trump and his advisers are delivering the opposite message. And, as the actions by Denmark, Norway and Switzerland show, the new message is beginning to be received.

If the US administration keeps moving forward on this trajectory, it can do far more than suspend funding for one terrorism-supporting Palestinian NGO. It can shut down the entire BDS industry before Trump finishes his current term in office.

To understand what can and ought to be done, it is first important to understand the nature of the BDS movement. Under the catchphrase BDS, two separate campaigns against Israel and against Jews are being carried out.

The first BDS campaign is a campaign of economic warfare. The focal point of that campaign is Europe. The purpose of the campaign is to harm Israel's economy by enacting discriminatory, anti-Israel trade policies and encouraging unofficial consumer and business boycotts of Israeli firms and products.

The US Congress can end this economic war against Israel by passing laws penalizing European states for engaging in trade practices that breach the World Trade Organization treaties. The US Treasury Department can also push strongly and effectively for such an end in its trade negotiations with the EU. The Treasury Department can also investigate whether and how EU trade practices toward Israel constitute unlawful barriers to trade.

Unlike the situation in Europe, where the BDS economic war against Israel is fairly advanced, efforts in the US to mount economic boycotts of Israel hit an iceberg early on due to the swift preemptive actions taken by state legislatures.

In 2015, then-South Carolina governor Nikki Haley became the first governor to sign a law barring her state government from doing business or investing in companies that boycott Israel. Last week Kansas became the 21st US state to pass an anti-BDS law along the same lines. Last month, all 50 state governors declared opposition to BDS.

The second BDS campaign being carried out against Israel is a form of political and social warfare.

Its epicenter is US academia. Its purpose is to erode US support for Israel, by making it politically unacceptable and socially devastating to publicly voice support for Israel on college campuses and more generally in leftist circles.

As is the case with the economic BDS campaign, the best way to defeat political BDS is through state and federal government action. If state and federal governments withheld funding to universities and colleges that permit BDS groups to operate on their campuses, campus administrators, who to date have refused to lift a finger against these hate groups, would be forced into action.

If the US Education and Justice departments opened civil rights investigations against major BDS groups for antisemitic bigotry, campus administrators would finally begin banning them from their campuses.

For many Israelis, the notion that defeating BDS is a job for the US government rather than for grassroots, American Jewish activists, will come as a surprise.

When Israelis think about the BDS movement, they tend to think that the American Jewish community is the place to turn for assistance.

This is not merely incorrect.

As two studies published in the last few weeks show, the notion that Israel can look to the American Jewish community for help with anything is becoming increasingly dubious.

To be sure, there are several American Jewish groups that devote massive resources to combating BDS on campuses. But their actions are tactical.

They fight specific BDS resolutions coming to votes before student councils. They train pro-Israel students to defend Israel to their peers.

While helpful, none of these actions constitutes a serious challenge to the movement.

On a strategic level, the effective moves made to date against BDS have been initiated by Republicans.

Alan Clemmons, the South Carolina lawmaker who initiated the anti-BDS bill in his statehouse and has since gone on to spearhead the state government anti-BDS drive nationally, is a Christian Zionist.

Clemmons didn't act out of concern for South Carolinian Jews. The Jewish community of South Carolina numbers a mere 20,000 members. The state-by-state anti-economic BDS campaign is neither the brainchild of any major Jewish group nor the product of their efforts.

So, too, to the extent that the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress take action to defeat BDS on campuses and in Europe, they won't be answering the call of their Jewish constituents. American Jews vote overwhelmingly for the increasingly anti-Israel Democratic Party. And while making up a mere 2% of the US population, American Jews contributed 50% of the donations to the Democratic Party in the 2016 elections.

This then brings us to the two studies of the American Jewish community and its future trajectory.

The first study was published by the Jewish Agency's Jewish People Policy Institute. It analyzes the data from the 2013 Pew survey of American Jewish attitudes. The Pew survey demonstrated that the Jewish identity of American Jews is growing increasingly attenuated and superficial.

Famously, the study noted that while 19% of American Jews said that they view observance of Jewish law as an essential part of their Jewish identity, 42% said they viewed having a good sense of humor as an essential part of their Jewish identity.

The JPPI study analyzed the Pew data regarding rates of marriage and childbearing among American Jews aged 24-54. The study started with the data on intermarriage. Sixty percent of non-haredi American Jews are married to non-Jews. A mere 32% of married American Jews are raising their children as Jewish to some degree.

From there, the JPPI study considered marriage and childbirth rates in general. It works out that a mere 50% of American Jews between 24 and 54 are married. And a mere 40% of American Jews between those ages have children living with them. In other words, the majority of adult American Jews are childless.

The JPPI study tells us two important things.

First, in the coming years there will be far fewer American Jews. Second, among those who are Jewish, their Jewish identity will continue to weaken.

Clearly, it would be unwise for Israel to believe that it can depend on such a community to secure its interests in the US for the long haul.

The second study shows that not only can Israel not expect the American Jewish community to help it maintain its alliance with the US. The number of American Jews willing to spearhead anti-Israel campaigns is likely to grow in the coming years.

The second study was produced by Brand Israel, a group of public relations experts that for the past decade has been trying to change the way young Americans think about Israel. The idea was to discuss aspects of Israel that have nothing to do with the Palestinians, with an emphasis on Israel as a hi-tech power. The hope was that by branding Israel as the Start-Up Nation, leftists, who support the Palestinians, would still support Israel.

Fern Oppenheim, one of the leaders of Brand Israel, presented the conclusions of an analysis of the group's work at the Herzliya Conference this week and discussed them with the media. It works out that the PR campaign backfired.

Far from inspiring increased support for Israel, Oppenheim argued that the hi-tech-centric branding campaign made leftist American Jews even more anti-Israel. She related that over the past decade, there has been an 18-point drop in support for Israel among US Jewish students.

To remedy the situation, which she referred to as "devastating," Oppenheim recommended changing the conversation from hi-tech to "shared values."

The problem with Oppenheim's recommendation is that it ignores the problem.

Young American Jews aren't turning against Israel because their values are different from Israeli values. By and large, they have the same values as Israeli society. And if they know anything about Israel, they know that their values aren't in conflict with Israeli values.

Young American Jews are turning on Israel for two reasons. First, they don't care that they are Jewish and as a consequence, see no reason to stick their necks out on Israel's behalf.

And second, due in large part to the political BDS campaign on college campuses, supporting Israel requires them to endanger or relinquish their ideological home on the Left. Since their leftist identities are far stronger than their Jewish identities, young American Jews are joining the BDS mob in increasing numbers.

This then brings us back to BDS.

The only way to diminish the groundswell of American Jews who are becoming hostile toward Israel is to defeat the forces of political BDS on campuses. To do this, Israel should turn not to the Jewish community but to evangelical Christians, the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress.

As for the American Jews, Israel needs to stop viewing the community as a resource and begin to view it as a community in crisis. To this end, the most significant contribution Israel can make to the American Jewish community - particularly to non-Orthodox American Jews - is to encourage them to make aliya. Assuming that current trends will continue, the only way non-Orthodox American Jews can have faith their grandchildren will be Jewish is for a significant number of them to make aliya.

No, this won't appeal to all American Jews. But nothing Israel does will. Israel's job isn't to reach the unreachable. It is to protect its alliance with the US and to help the Jews that remain in the room. 

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A version of this piece also appeared on The Jerusalem Post.



          The "Crime of the Century" is Bad Journalism   

The latest propaganda piece from The Washington Post, "Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault," is based, as usual, mostly on anonymous sources determined to make former President Barack Obama look good. The gist is that Obama tried his best to punish Russia for alleged interference in the 2016 election, but he fell short and left the matter in the hands of President Donald Trump, who has done nothing.

So Trump is blamed for Obama's failure. How convenient.

The essence of the piece is that "intelligence" was "captured" that somehow proved that Russian President Vladimir Putin gave "specific instructions" that he wanted  to "defeat or at least damage the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, and help elect her opponent, Donald Trump."

Pardon me, but I don't believe this for a moment. This "intelligence" may be what the Post seeks to expose-Russian "active measures" or disinformation.

As we reported back in January, "Looking at the election objectively, it is possible to say that Russian leader Vladimir Putin may have had a personal vendetta against the former U.S. secretary of state for some reason, stemming from allegations of U.S. meddling in Russian internal affairs. On the other hand, Putin may have preferred that Clinton become the U.S. president because her failed Russian ‘reset' had facilitated Russian military intervention in Ukraine and Syria, and he believed he could continue to take advantage of her."

This makes far more sense than the Post story.

Remember that Obama won the 2012 election after dismissing his Republican opponent Mitt Romney's claim that Russia was a geopolitical threat to the United States. Obama had also been caught on an open mic before the election promising to be "flexible" in changing his positions to benefit Russia.

"These comments provide more evidence that Obama was never the anti-Russian figure he postured as in the final days of his second term," we noted.

The Post story by Greg Miller and others is an obvious response to the observation that, if Obama thought the Russian interference was such a big deal, what did Obama try to do about it?

One can read the entire article if you are interested in how pro-Obama propaganda is manufactured by the Post. Some parts of the article are more ludicrous than others, such as this paragraph:

"Throughout his presidency, Obama's approach to national security challenges was deliberate and cautious. He came into office seeking to end wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was loath to act without support from allies overseas and firm political footing at home. He was drawn only reluctantly into foreign crises, such as the civil war in Syria, that presented no clear exit for the United States."

The paragraph is designed to mask Obama's indifference to Russian aggression in places like Crimea, Ukraine and Syria. In regard to the latter, Obama failed to save Syria from Russian aggression and facilitated a conflict-through secret arms shipments to the region-that now stands at 500,000 dead.

Obama's alleged "cautious" approach in the Middle East was to support jihadist groups in Syria and Libya, and back regimes such as the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, which was overthrown by the military backed by the people.

The hero in the Post account is Obama's CIA director John Brennan, who joined the agency after admitting to voting for Moscow's man in the 1976 presidential election, Gus Hall of the Communist Party USA. Suddenly, we are led to believe, as CIA director, he became anti-Russian after discovering a Moscow plot in 2016 to disrupt the presidential election.

"In political terms," the paper said, "Russia's interference was the crime of the century, an unprecedented and largely successful destabilizing attack on American democracy."

This is complete nonsense. There is no evidence any votes were changed as a result of this so-called "interference."

The crime of the century is bad journalism based on anonymous sources who hide behind papers like the Post to spread their self-serving and partisan propaganda.

"This account of the Obama administration's response to Russia's interference is based on interviews with more than three dozen current and former U.S. officials in senior positions in government, including at the White House, the State, Defense and Homeland Security departments, and U.S. intelligence services," the Post said. "Most agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the issue."

One paragraph in particular tells you everything you know about the anonymous sources behind this story. "Those closest to Obama defend the administration's response to Russia's meddling," the Post said. Yes, indeed, those "closest to Obama" would certainly do so.

Then we're told that that "They believe that a series of warnings-including one that Obama delivered to Putin in September-prompted Moscow to abandon any plans of further aggression, such as sabotage of U.S. voting systems."

There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever for this dramatic statement. It's completely made up.

Remember, this is the same Obama who once assured Putin that after he won his re-election campaign in 2012, he would have "more flexibility" with the Russian leader and be able to offer more concessions.

Now, all of a sudden, Obama is rough and tough and gets things done with the Russian leader. What a joke.

The paper reported that "Obama confronted Putin directly during a meeting of world leaders in Hangzhou, China. Accompanied only by interpreters, Obama told Putin that ‘we knew what he was doing and [he] better stop or else,' according to a senior aide who subsequently spoke with Obama. Putin responded by demanding proof and accusing the United States of interfering in Russia's internal affairs."

Or else?

It sounds like the red line in Syria that Obama had warned the Syrian regime not to cross. But they crossed it anyway.

Obama's so-called "secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault" exists in the minds of Post reporters who are waging a not-so-secret struggle to rehabilitate the former president's disastrous foreign policy toward Russia and most of the rest of the world.

Let's not forget one more debacle-Obama's deal with Russian client state Iran to facilitate the regime's nuclear weapons program and world-wide terrorism.

That may end up being another crime of the century, on par with President Bill Clinton's deal with North Korea that was supposed to prevent the communist regime from getting its hands on nuclear weapons.

Speaking of North Korea, whose nuclear weapons program accelerated under Obama, hear the words of Otto Warmbier's father about his son being released after Trump took office: "I think the results speak for themselves."

Obama's "cautious and deliberate" approach was to let the young man languish in a North Korean prison while being tortured to near death.

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          Safe Is The Word For Trump's FCC, Thankfully   

The newly constituted FCC is conservative and deregulatory, but in a way you would expect had any of the establishment Republicans won the White House last November. When Trump won, I worried that he would stack the FCC with nut-job loyalists so that he could follow through with his threats against the media. Luckily, that didn't happen.

          State Officials Make Legal Threat Against DACA   

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other state Republican attorneys general sent a letter Thursday threatening to sue if the Trump administration does not “phase out” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, under which more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, many of them now college students, have obtained two-year, renewable work permits and protection against deportation.

Trump has sent mixed messages about the DACA program, which was established by former President Obama in 2012. During the campaign Trump said that he would “immediately terminate” what he described as an “illegal executive amnesty” program. Since his election he has softened his tone and said he would deal with DACA “with heart,” but he has not pledged to continue it. A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said earlier this month that the program “continues to be under review with the administration.”

The 10 attorneys general that sent the letter threatening to sue over DACA were all part of a 26-state coalition that sued over another Obama-era program known as DAPA, which would have extended DACA-like protections to parents of American citizens and permanent residents. The Trump administration earlier this month rescinded the DAPA program, which was blocked by court order from ever going into this effect, saying there was "no credible path forward to litigate the currently enjoined policy."

In rescinding DAPA, however, DHS clarified that current beneficiaries of DACA will continue to be eligible to seek a two-year extension of their status upon expiration and that “no work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates.”

In the letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the 10 state attorneys general said that if the administration refuses to phase out the program, which they describe as "unlawful" in that it "unilaterally confers eligibility for work authorization and lawful presence without any statutory authorization from Congress," they will amend their lawsuit against DAPA to challenge the DACA program as well.

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, condemned the attorneys general who sent the letter, saying in a statement that "their evident xenophobia is not remotely consistent with the trajectory of our nation's history and future progress."

"MALDEF urges the president not to cave in to the toothless threat in today's Texas letter," Saenz said. "Presidential authority does constitutionally extend to protecting DACA recipients, whom the president has repeatedly declared worthy of protection. We urge the president to fight to vindicate that authority."

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          PA GOP Using Budget to Derail Traditional Oil and Gas Regulations   
Did some big environmental setbacks just get horse-traded for Republican budget votes? A Fiscal Code amendment that randomly showed up over the summer, which would effectively derail the Department of Environmental Protection’s ongoing process for writing new traditional oil and … More after the jump
          PA GOP Won’t Disinvite Trump from PA Society Fundraiser   
Everybody in the Republican Party is making official statements denouncing Donald Trump for calling for a total ban on Muslim immigration, but the proof is in the pudding. Tom Fitzgerald reports that Donald Trump is still a welcome guest at … More after the jump
          PA Budget: House Republicans vs. The World   
Via Charles Thompson: Pennsylvania House Republicans abandoned the fragile state budget “framework” Saturday after members told caucus leaders they could not support the roughly $2 billion in new taxes needed to pay for it. Republicans said they will start work … More after the jump
          PA GOP Choosing a Worse Overall State Business Climate Over a Severance Tax on Marcellus Shale Coalition   
The latest reports seem to suggest there is once again some fragile agreement on a state budget framework, but in case it isn’t finalized yet, everybody really needs to step back and reflect on how insane the legislative Republicans’ revealed … More after the jump
          State Agency-Crippling Bill Heads to a Vote in the Senate Rules Committee Today   
When we last left the IRRC bill Republicans cooked up to completely defang Executive branch rule-making, it had passed the House on close to a party-line vote, and has now headed back to the Senate. Laura Legere at the Post-Gazette brought … More after the jump
          #HB965 Update: Tom Wolf Opposes Crippling State Agency Regulatory Authority   
A few updates on this turd of a bill since last night. Not surprisingly, Tom Wolf officially opposes new Executive branch agency regulations disappearing into the legislative purgatory of Republican-controlled committees before going to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Wolf needs 68 House … More after the jump
          PA Republican Bill Up for a Vote Today Would Gut State Agencies’ Rule-Making Authority   
If you’ve been sitting there thinking “I hope the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania never passes any new protections for worker safety, food safety, or air and water quality ever again” have PA Republicans got a bill for you! Up for a … More after the jump
          Texas Supreme Court bends to politics on same-sex marriage benefits. Bad news everywhere   
Texas Republicans haven't given up the fight against same-sex marriage and their political pressure on that state's Supreme Court today paid off.

The Court reversed an earlier decision and sent back to a trial court the question of whether same-sex married couples are entitled to the same government-subsidized benefits — such as health insurance — that opposite-sex couples receive. There was a fairly tortured path to today's decision and the decision itself is a maze. But in short, the court said, there is no inherent right to such benefits.

But, in conceding that the U.S. Supreme Court in the Obergfell decision ended state bans on same-sex marriage, the Texas court said it did not  it "did not hold that states must provide the same publicly funded benefits to all married persons" or specifically hold unconstitutional laws in Texas aimed at preventing equal treatment of gay couples.

It ordered the trial court to consider these issues, without saying how the court should decide. The court, in essence, punted, but in a way favorable to opponents of same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court said the case hadn't been fully briefed to begin with because the Obergfell decision arrived as the case was ongoing.

This article in Slate ahead of today's ruling explains the case in more detail.

Today's opinion drew on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in a recent case from Arkansas, the Pavan case, that should support the broadest interpretation of Obergfell. There, the court said issuance of birth certificates was among the many processes controlled by the state that should be applied equally.

Said the Texas court:

In Obergefell, the Supreme Court acknowledged that our historical view of marriage has long been “based on the understanding that marriage is a union between two persons of the opposite sex.” It concluded, however, that this “history is the beginning of these
cases,” and it rejected the idea that it “should be the end as well.” But Obergefell is not the end either. Already, the Supreme Court has taken one opportunity to address Obergefell’s impact on an issue it did not address in Obergefell, and there will undoubtedly be others. [The Pavan case.] Pidgeon and the Mayor, like many other litigants throughout the country, must now assist the courts in fully exploring Obergefell’s reach and ramifications, and are entitled to the opportunity to do so. 

This looks like a terrible precedent, a signal to the bitter-enders to force lawsuits on every potential application of the law and to deny equal treatment by whatever means possible in whatever context possible. It's a mean prospect. Equal means equal. With Neil Gorsuch now linking arms with Alito and Thomas on the Supreme Court against Pavan, it might not prove such a simple proposition if Trump adds more of his ilk to the court.

I shudder to think what Jerry Cox can do with this thinking before the anti-gay Arkansas Supreme Court majority that found simple discrimination in birth certificates legal. This case is an invitation for a Bob Ballinger or Bart Hester or similar to claim — as plaintiffs from Houston did in the Texas case — that their religious freedom is infringed by paying taxes that go to subsidize health insurance for married gay people.

          Trump's voter commission already stirring criticism   
Donald Trump's appointment of an "election integrity" commission including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach raised red flags from the start and its activities have already spurred more concerns that it's another vote suppression ploy.

Kobach has led efforts to suppress votes in Kansas and has participated in highly flawed efforts to investigate voter rolls nationally. He's a pal of Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin.

Now he's sent a letter to all 50 states in advance of the first meeting.

The information requested includes the names, addresses, birthdates, political party v(if recorded), last four digits of the voter's Social Security Number and which elections the voter has participated in since 2006, for every registered voter in the country.

Kobach, who is also Kansas' Republican secretary of state, did not say how the commission plans to use the data other than to help it "fully analyze vulnerabilities and issues related to voter registration and voting."
If history repeats, he'll drum up some bogus matching lists, heavily flawed because, for example, the fact that five or six  people with the same name, say Jose Cruz or Roosevelt Washington to give you the idea of what Kobach hopes to find, exist in several states isn't evidence of voter fraud.

Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department Civil Rights Division, boiled it down to this on Twitter:

The letter @KrisKobach1787 is sending to states confirms: Pence and Kobach are laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain & simple. 
The Kentucky secretary of state has told Kobach to stuff it.

I've asked Mark Martin's office if it intends to comply with Kobach's request. UPDATE: His spokesman, Chris Powell, says Arkansas has not received the letter.

I also sent an e-mail to former Democratic state Rep. David Dunn, now a lobbyist at the Arkansas Capitol, for his response to this. He was appointed to this panel thanks to friendship with Mark Martin. I wondered what he thought of the witch hunt in which he's been enlisted. No response as yet.

Talking Points Memo, in outlining how dubious this effort is, notes:

Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill (D), who released the copy of Kobach’s letter sent to her, issued a statement saying that, while they’ll be turning over the data, they’ll also be requesting from Kobach’s commission “any memos, meeting minutes or additional information as state officials have not been told precisely what the Commission is looking for.”

“This lack of openness is all the more concerning, considering that the Vice Chair of the Commission, Kris Kobach, has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas,” Merrill said. “The courts have repudiated his methods on multiple occasions but often after the damage has been done to voters. Given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this Commission.”
David Dunn, where are you?

The League of Women Voters' Chris Carson had this to say:Vir

“There is no justification for this giant fishing expedition. The Commission itself is a distraction from the real issue of voter suppression, and that efforts to ‘investigate voter fraud’ threaten our most fundamental voting rights.

“This most recent move by Mr. Kobach is an indicator that the so-called Election ‘Integrity’ Commission is not interested in facts, but false accusations and dangerous policy recommendations.

“State laws govern the release of voter registration information, and, at a minimum, election officials must follow those laws before releasing data. "
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said: "I have no intention of honoring this request." California, Massachusetts and Kentucky aren't going along either. UPDATE: Add Rhode Island. UPDATE: Add Indiana!

FURTHER UPDATE: Kobach says Kobach-led Kansas won't supply the Social Security numbers he's requested.

Mother Jones explains how this is a building block for more Republican vote suppression.

More from Talking Points Memo on this bad idea.

UPDATE: In late afternoon, Ari Berman says 18 states have refused to participate: CA, CT, IN, KY, MA, MN, NC, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, RI, TN, UT, VA, VT, WA

Good overview here including clueless comment from David Dunn. Who knew?

Even Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said on national TV that this is not a good idea

          Trump nominates Cody Hiland to be U.S. attorney for eastern district   
As expected, Donald Trump has nominated Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland of Conway to be U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. He must be confirmed by the Senate.

Hiland's name was among nine U.S. attorney nominees put forward by Trump today, a second wave of appointments. He was known to be under consideration after FBI background checks began and meetings with U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman, both Republicans. Most of the 93 U.S. attorneys were fired or resigned after Trump took office. Career prosecutors are serving as interim leaders in both the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas, where former Democratic Rep. Chris Thyer and Conner Eldridge had served respectively in the Obama administration.

Prosecutors run now as non-partisans, but Hiland, who lost a judicial race last year, is a Republican regular. His prosecutor position covers Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties.

He's been a lawyer in private practice, a staff attorney at the Public Service Commission and former program director for the Arkansas Transitional Employment Board. He was a staff aide to Gov. Mike Huckabee and is a graduate of the University of Central Arkansas the UALR Law School.

          Gov. Hutchinson says major change needed in Senate health legislation   
Gov. Asa Hutchinson outlined four major changes he'd like to see in Republican-backed health legislation pending in the Senate.

In short, he said — if in more diplomatic words — the bill as written would be devastating to Arkansas. Hutchinson chose to put it more kindly. He said the Senate was moving in "the right direction" and said "the status quo is not acceptable."

But he added: "There have to be significant changes in the current draft in order to give states like Arkansas options for the future and to continue coverage and not have a $500 million per year gap in our economy."

He said he'd spoken to Arkansas's senators about this, but referred questions about their reaction to them. To date, Sens. Tom Cotton and John Boozman have resisted saying much of anything about the legislation, though Cotton was one of 13 white male Republicans who participated in the secret drafting.

The shortcomings have been self-evident for some time in states like Arkansas that took advantage of the Medicaid expansion provided through the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. House-passed and Senate-proposed legislation would obliterate the Medicaid expansion and also severely restrict traditional Medicaid coverage for the elderly and disabled by going to per capita distributions to states. Both changes would devastate Arkansas, with a large traditional Medicaid population and more than 300,000 people now covered by the Medicaid expansion. Hutchinson said the state was already making changes to reduce costs and state cooperation should be a goal of congressional action. Some 60,000 would lose coverage by reducing coverage for those making 138 percent of the poverty level to 100 percent and by instituting work rules.

Hutchinson suggested these changes in what's under consideration:

* Exempt those elderly, blind and disabled covered by traditional Medicaid from the per capita cap on spending. Otherwise, the cost would be shifted to the state, he said. (He said later it was OK to put children's coverage, Arkids, under a per capital program because they were generally lower cost.)

* If the federal government moves to block grant funding for Medicaid, Hutchinson said the funding should include in the figuring the Medicaid expansion population. Some states didn't take the money. If the pot is redivided to cover all states equally, those who expanded will lose and those who didn't will gain. "This puts us in a difficult position to manage and maintain coverage," Hutchinson said. If the population is considered, he said, "the state can assume the risk and create savings and ensure coverage of the working poor."

* Senate legislation must "redesign" the tax credits, or subsidies, for those covered in the health insurance marketplace. Hutchinson echoed critics of the Senate legislation who say the subsidies are so small as to be worthless.  "If the subsidy is not sufficient, an individual will decide they can't afford it." He said "there have to be sufficient subsidies to make it work."

* The states must be given "flexibility" on how they spend money received under per capita reimbursements. He didn't specify some examples of what he had in mind. In some states, though, flexibility has meant not providing certain services (birth coverage for example) and measures co-pays, work, drug testing and other sometimes controversial ideas.

Hutchinson acknowledged that the Medicaid expansion, now known as Arkansas Works, by law must end if federal support is reduced. That's not an immediate concern because actual reductions won't occur for several years into the plan now outlined in Senate legislation. "They've given us a long glide path," he said.

Timing noted: Hutchinson finally weighed in with criticisms that have been voiced for weeks by many others following a week in which the Senate leadership's plan for a quick vote on the GOP fill apart because of he couldn't keep all Republican senators on board.

Noted too: Hutchinson refused to talk taxes — either those to pay for his expanded vision of health coverage and the windfall for the wealthy envisioned in the pending bill.

Just yesterday, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families gave some idea of the blow the Senate bill would deliver to rural health care.

          How bad are Trump's judges? A Little Rock native illustrates   
We've written before about Little Rock native John Bush, the Louisville lawyer nominated by Donald Trump for a seat on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He comes Federalist Society-certified, which is bad enough, but his record as an opinion further illustrates his lack of fitness for the bench, particularly when it comes to a demonstrated animus toward gay people and women's abortion rights. He also professed a lack of knowledge or awareness of any divisiveness spawned by Brown v. Board of Education. Yes, a Little Rock native knew of no fallout from the seminal desegregation ruling that ultimately brought federal troops to the city of his birth.

An article in his hometown Louisville Courier-Journal, where his wife, also a lawyer, contributes a similar right-winged opinion column, illustrates just how bad Bush is. And he's little different from many others Trump has nominated. Even some Republican senators have been taken aback by Bush, but apparently have been brought into line by Republican leadership to approve. They believe him today when he says he really didn't mean all the ugly things he's written. Lying then or lying now? It's a bad bet for an enforcer of the Constitution.

Bush's strategy now is to duck questions about his blogging.

Trying to save his nomination to a federal appeals court, Louisville attorney John K. Bush has evaded questions about blog posts in which he equated abortion with slavery as America’s greatest tragedies, denounced gay marriage and embraced other conservative views.

Responding to written questions from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee about his more than 400 posts on hot-button issues, Bush repeatedly said “my personal views are irrelevant to the position for which I have been nominated.”

He refused to answer questions about commentaries in which he criticized public financing or raised doubts about global warming, saying the questions call "upon me to weigh in on a political debate, which I cannot ethically do as a nominee for judicial office.”

Asked why he joined the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group whose Louisville chapter he co-founded, he said, “I believed that membership ... would help me learn about interesting legal topics that I might not otherwise encounter in my practice.”
He is not alone. Trump has turned his appointments over to the Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. With Supreme Court appointee Neal Gorsuch already forming a block with Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, the future is not bright.

          On water, MI GOP Atty. General shames WI GOP officials    
Make sure you read about Michigan Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette calling for the closing of an aging oil pipeline belonging to bad corporate actor Enbridge running beneath the Mackinac Straits and putting Lake Michigan and crucial drinking water and recreational industries at risk.

A link to the story is here:

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said Thursday it’s time to begin the process of shutting down the twin 64-year-old oil pipelines that run across the bottom of the picturesque Straits of Mackinac.
Schuette's name should ring a bell because he recently filed heavy-duty felony charges against several high-ranking state and local officials in the wake of the catastrophic poisoning of Flint's water supply, including the charging of appointees of incumbent Michigan GOP Gov. Rick Snyder.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

*  Because of a two-term limit, Snyder cannot run for re-election in 2018, and with Flint matters still ongoing and its nightmare cemented as Snyder's enduring legacy, it will behoove any candidate for Governor to run with a solid environmental and public record firmly established.

Schuette is considered a possible candidate: his actions in the Flint and Mackinac pipeline issues give him those bona fides.

*  It also places him back into what had been mainstream politics in Michigan, as I understand it, where Republican Governors like William Milliken and John Engler had good, even admirable environmental records because essentially all of Michigan is within the Great Lakes basin and strong, consensus water preservation was traditionally bi-partisan, or non-partisan, and certainly better than we have in Wisconsin right now.

Our "chamber of commerce mentality" GOP Governor Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel move in lockstep with the ideological right's insistence on private control of public waters and our shared environment, regardless of proven consequences.

Note that Walker's Department of Natural Resources had not even followed its own procedures designed to fix known contamination issues and guarantee clean drinking water near a growing number of industrial-scale animal feeding operations. 

Part of a pattern of the separation of public policy from the public interest that the DNR has laid down at Walker's direction since the beginning of his administration, and which has accelerated her time.

And as the Mackinac Straits pipeline issue broke into the news, Walker's office had no comment, a TV news outlet reported.

Little wonder. Walker has used Enbridge as campaign photo op material, despite its horrible spill and pollution record nationally and in Wisconsin.

Walker and Schimel, with backing from the GOP-run Legislature, have separately or together worked to: evade the intent of the state's constitutional mandate that the waters of the state belong to everyone; privatize the state's groundwater; speed the expansion of a north-south oil pipeline by minimizing the project's environmental reviews; bulldoze wetlands to create sand mines, pull back prevention of phosphorous dumping into rivers, and on pollution enforcement generally, and cooperate with Trump initiatives to remove federal protections for wetlands and other surface waters.

Hard to overstate the differences between the current Wisconsin approach under Republicans and environmental law enforcement by the Republican Attorney General in our neighboring state across Lake Michigan.

And if the explanation is, 'that's what's been created in the wake of Flint,' wouldn't it be better if Wisconsin came to its senses and recovered what Gaylord Nelson, Aldo Leopold and John Muir had bequeathed us.

And so we wouldn't need a Flint-level disaster to snap us back to reality?

          The Myth of Proposition 187   
From the academic journal Political Behavior: The big tipping point from California as a purple state where Republicans often eked out victories to a solidly blue state happened before Proposition 187 in 1994. Instead it happened on Election Day 1992 when Bill Clinton crushed George H.W. Bush in California and both Fei
          Republicans grow increasingly anxious about heading home without a health plan - Washington Post   

Washington Post

Republicans grow increasingly anxious about heading home without a health plan
Washington Post
The dispute within the Republican Party over health care widened further Friday as President Trump joined with two conservative senators in calling for an outright repeal of the Affordable Care Act if the party fails to agree on an alternative plan by ...
GOP's Plan B for Obamacare repeal began with quiet push from Koch networkLos Angeles Times
Repealing Obamacare with no replacement could be a 'recipe for disaster'ABC News
Trump to Senate Republicans: kill Obamacare now, replace laterReuters
Politico -Breitbart News -BuzzFeed News
all 182 news articles »

          Can This Popular Icon Save Trumpcare? Capitol Hill Damaged During Speaker’s Entrance   
Washington, DC—Vice President Mike Pence is doing his best today to sell a less than popular healthcare bill. Republicans took all the usual steps, including lying and relabeling, but to no avail. They are saying that the increased number of uninsured Americans, Pioneer Health Recipients and Obama death panels, which didn&#8217;t actually exist under the ACA, will be created and&#8230;
          Messenger: Missouri GOP flip-flops on privacy to aid Trump's fake search for voter fraud   
The president wants Missourians private information. Republicans plan to comply. Why the switch?
          Many Republicans Up in Arms Over GOP’s New Leader   
News Item...
           New Jersey passes daily fantasy sports regulation, tax bill    
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) The New Jersey Legislature has passed a bill to regulate and tax daily fantasy sports and sent it to Republican Gov. Chris Christie.
          The Never-Ending Battle Over Selecting Oklahoma's Most Powerful Judges   
Anti-abortion laws. A Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol. An overhaul of the workers’ compensation system. Controversial rejections of all or parts of these legislative actions by the Oklahoma Supreme Court – coupled with a push by national and state conservative groups – have led to a steady march of bills over the past decade that would alter the process for choosing state Supreme Court and Appeals courts justices. The 2016 legislative session was no exception. The Oklahoma House and Senate approved measures to change the way the state’s most powerful judges are selected, although none of the proposals became law or made it to the November ballot. The bills failed to pass because of several factors, including concern about over-politicizing the judicial selection process; disagreements between House and Senate Republicans; opposition by Democrats, and lobbying by the Oklahoma Bar Association. But if previous sessions going back to at least 2008 are any indication, similar
          Oklahoma Supreme Court Denies Rehearing Over Ten Commandments Monument   
The Oklahoma Supreme Court Monday reaffirmed its decision that a Ten Commandments monument must be removed from the capitol grounds. The high court denied Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s request for a rehearing. The state supreme court justices found nothing of merit to rehear the case. They ruled on June 30 that the monument was in violation of the state constitution’s ban on using public money for religious purposes. American Civil Liberties Union legal director Brady Henderson says he expected the court’s decision to reaffirm. “We understood when we saw the order of June 30, the original decision in the case, that it was both factually accurate and legal correct. We didn’t have much concern about the court wanting to change its result,” Henderson said. Republican state Representative John Paul Jordan of Yukon filed an amendment to change that provision of the constitution in 2016. He wasn’t surprised by the court’s denial of a rehearing. “A lot of times what happens is with a judge
          Ten Commandments Decision Prompts Conservative Outcry   
The Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision to order a Ten Commandments monument removed from the state Capitol grounds has so angered conservatives in the Legislature that some Republicans are calling for justices to be impeached. Others want to amend the Bill of Rights in the 108-year-old state constitution. The outcry immediately followed the court's 7-2 decision Tuesday that the monument violates the Oklahoma constitution's ban on using public property to benefit a religion. Some state legislators want a public vote on whether to repeal that ban from the constitution, but state Rep. Kevin Calvey is calling for justices to be impeached. The president of the Oklahoma Bar Association, David Poarch, says calling for impeachment when a ruling doesn't go in your favor is a dangerous precedent.
          State Lawmaker Is Eligible For District Attorney Job, Court Rules   
The Oklahoma Supreme Court says Republican state Rep. Fred Jordan of Jenks is eligible to become Tulsa County's district attorney, even though a raise for prosecutors was approved during his term in the Legislature. In a 5-1 ruling on Friday, the state's highest court ruled that a provision of the constitution did not apply to Jordan, since he wouldn't become district attorney until after his legislative term ends. Jordan's candidacy had been challenged by his opponent in the Aug. 26 Republican primary runoff, Steve Kunzweiler, who is the chief of the Tulsa County district attorney's criminal division. Kunzweiler argued Jordan isn't eligible to serve as DA because of a pay increase that was approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Jordan abstained from voting on the bill. ------------------------------------------ KGOU produces journalism in the public interest, essential to an informed electorate. Help support informative, in-depth journalism with a donation online , or contact
          Another editorial…what do you think?   

(Attached below is the editorial from the June 29 Waterbury Republican-American.  What do you think?  Send me a comment at , sign my “New Direction” petition at and please share this with CT Taxpayers!)

Connecticut budget

 Democrats’ risky strategy

Our June 19 editorial noted Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, like many state Democrats, has portrayed legislative Republicans as naysayers incapable of making positive public-policy contributions.

Speaker Aresimowicz offered this criticism just before the legislature’s regular 2017 session adjourned June 7 without a 2017-19 budget.

The speaker has no credibility left to make this argument in the future.

He may have created a political problem for his party.

Legislative Republicans proposed a budget April 27. After plummeting revenues rendered it unbalanced, the GOP went back to the drawing board. The House and Senate Republican caucuses released separate, updated proposals May 16. Connecticut faces an approximately $5 billion deficit in the 2017-19 biennium.

After the legislature adjourned, lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had to figure out how to fund state government come July 1, the start of fiscal year 2017-18. A special legislative session was scheduled for today. Republicans hoped to bring their budgets up for votes.

June 27, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Leonard A. Fasano, of North Haven, wrote to Speaker Aresimowicz and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, on the matter. “Under the rules of special session, a budget bill or bill implementing the budget must be emergency certified, which requires the signature of the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore. … Therefore, I am asking for your approval as soon as possible so that a vote can be held on (the Senate Republican) budget,” he wrote. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, hoped “to force an up-or-down vote on the House Republican package,” the Republican-American reported June 28.

However, Speaker Aresimowicz refused to allow votes on any budget proposals – not the GOP’s budgets and not on Gov. Malloy’s “minibudget.”

Scheduling conflicts and dissension in the House Democratic ranks factored in the speaker’s decision.

Speaker Aresimowicz was criticized not only by Sen. Fasano and Rep. Klarides, but by Sen. Looney.

Come Saturday, Gov. Malloy almost certainly will have unilateral control of Connecticut’s finances until a budget is agreed upon.

The governor has unveiled an executive order that will “impose drastic spending cuts to local funding, hospitals and social services,” according to the Republican-American.

Sen. Looney, Rep. Klarides and Gov. Malloy himself have said gubernatorial-only control is a less than ideal scenario.

In the wake of this episode, it is hard for Speaker Aresimowicz to claim Republicans offer nothing positive.

Indeed, as Sen. Fasano noted, the speaker “has still not offered a complete state budget proposal.”

Additionally, if Gov. Malloy’s cuts prove as “draconian” as Sen. Looney predicts, the public should pin some of the blame for them on Speaker Aresimowicz.

That wouldn’t help Democrats during the 2018 legislative elections, when they will try to recover from their 2016 losses.


          “A dereliction of duty.”   

“A dereliction of duty.”

By Sen. Tony Hwang

We’re ready to vote on a budget.  We’re here at the State Capitol on behalf of state taxpayers.  We’re here to work.”

On June 29, I stood with Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats at the State Capitol to say exactly that.

Connecticut Senate Republicans have produced a detailed, line-by-line, thoughtful budget that has been thoroughly vetted by non-partisan analysts.

Our Senate Republican plan, which can be read at

  • restores cuts to town aid
  • restores cuts to local education funding
  • restores cuts to hospitals
  • does not harm non-profit organizations
  • reduces the size of government
  • makes necessary changes to state employee benefits
  • protects core services for seniors, the disabled, children and our most at-risk residents.

Stanley Black & Decker’s CEO said he prefers the Senate Republican approach “because it goes much further toward eliminating inappropriate practices related to public employee pensions and is less punitive to towns and municipalities.”

Unfortunately, Senate Republican plan never received a vote prior to the end of the fiscal year.

The Democrat Speaker of the House, who controls the House legislative agenda, refused to allow votes on any budget proposals.

This in my view, is a dereliction of duty.

This is failure.

The Hartford Courant described it as “abrogation of a serious responsibility.”

And I wholeheartedly agree.

 So, what happens now?

Gov. Malloy will have unilateral control of Connecticut’s finances until a budget is agreed upon.

 The governor has unveiled an executive order which will “impose drastic spending cuts to local funding, hospitals and social services.”

Vulnerable people will be hurt.

Pain will be inflicted.

This didn’t have to happen.

You, the taxpayers, sent me to Hartford to work on your behalf and to be your advocate.

Every day, I try my very best to do my job and be your voice in Hartford.

On June 29, I showed up at the State Capitol to do exactly that.  We were blocked from doing so.

And that’s truly a shame.

What can you do?

Call the House Democrats Office at 860 240-8500.  Tell them how you feel.

Tell them to do their job.

Send me your comments at .



*Sen. Hwang represents Easton, Fairfield, Newtown, Weston and Westport.  On the web: .


          Senator Kelly Releases Statement Re: Aetna’s Relocation to NYC   

HARTFORD, Conn. – Today Co-Chairman of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, State Senator Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford) released the following statement regarding Aetna’s announcement that they will move their Corporate Headquarters to New York City in 2018.

“While this is disappointing news, it is not surprising,” said Sen. Kelly. “Far too long Connecticut has been governed by those with little regard for fiscal responsibility and even less regard for good-paying jobs and the hard-working families that call Connecticut home.”

Following a never-ending budget battle in Hartford, Aetna’s announcement comes just a year after General Electric’s move from Connecticut to Boston.

“If GE’s move wasn’t a wake-up call, this is,” said Sen. Kelly. “All eyes are on us, whether it’s large corporations with headquarters here or the Wall Street credit agencies, all are watching anxiously as the Connecticut economy continues to flounder. We cannot fail to do our jobs; we must put Connecticut on a path to prosperity.”

“Senate Republicans have done their job and have a plan to do this,” said Sen. Kelly. “Our plan lays the foundation for a new Connecticut, a plan that will put hard-working families first, a plan that creates jobs through a stable and predictable economy. Connecticut needs a new direction and Senate Republicans are ready to lead the way.”

Learn more about what’s in the budget proposal  at


          Another editorial…what do you think?   

(Attached below is the today’s editorial in the Waterbury Republican-American.  What do you think?  Send me a comment and please share this with CT Taxpayers!)

Connecticut budget

Democrats’ risky strategy

Our June 19 editorial noted Connecticut House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, like many state Democrats, has portrayed legislative Republicans as naysayers incapable of making positive public-policy contributions.

Speaker Aresimowicz offered this criticism just before the legislature’s regular 2017 session adjourned June 7 without a 2017-19 budget.

The speaker has no credibility left to make this argument in the future.

He may have created a political problem for his party.

Legislative Republicans proposed a budget April 27. After plummeting revenues rendered it unbalanced, the GOP went back to the drawing board. The House and Senate Republican caucuses released separate, updated proposals May 16. Connecticut faces an approximately $5 billion deficit in the 2017-19 biennium.

After the legislature adjourned, lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy had to figure out how to fund state government come July 1, the start of fiscal year 2017-18. A special legislative session was scheduled for today. Republicans hoped to bring their budgets up for votes.

June 27, Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Leonard A. Fasano, of North Haven, wrote to Speaker Aresimowicz and Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, on the matter. “Under the rules of special session, a budget bill or bill implementing the budget must be emergency certified, which requires the signature of the Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore. … Therefore, I am asking for your approval as soon as possible so that a vote can be held on (the Senate Republican) budget,” he wrote. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, hoped “to force an up-or-down vote on the House Republican package,” the Republican-American reported June 28.

However, Speaker Aresimowicz refused to allow votes on any budget proposals – not the GOP’s budgets and not on Gov. Malloy’s “minibudget.”

Scheduling conflicts and dissension in the House Democratic ranks factored in the speaker’s decision.

Speaker Aresimowicz was criticized not only by Sen. Fasano and Rep. Klarides, but by Sen. Looney.

Come Saturday, Gov. Malloy almost certainly will have unilateral control of Connecticut’s finances until a budget is agreed upon.

The governor has unveiled an executive order that will “impose drastic spending cuts to local funding, hospitals and social services,” according to the Republican-American.

Sen. Looney, Rep. Klarides and Gov. Malloy himself have said gubernatorial-only control is a less than ideal scenario.

In the wake of this episode, it is hard for Speaker Aresimowicz to claim Republicans offer nothing positive.

Indeed, as Sen. Fasano noted, the speaker “has still not offered a complete state budget proposal.”

Additionally, if Gov. Malloy’s cuts prove as “draconian” as Sen. Looney predicts, the public should pin some of the blame for them on Speaker Aresimowicz.

That wouldn’t help Democrats during the 2018 legislative elections, when they will try to recover from their 2016 losses.



          Wow…have you seen this Hartford Courant Editorial?   


(Please read and share the following July 28th  Hartford Courant editorial for an update on the CT state budget.  Send me your comments at

Mr. Aresimowicz, Get The Democrats To The Capitol

It’s on you, Joe Aresimowicz.

For many months, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives has known that the state was facing a multibillion-dollar problem. He knew legislators would have to make painful cuts and find creative and fair ways to raise revenues if they had a prayer of solving it.

And they had a deadline. The fiscal year ends Friday.

But now, after mustering zero workable solutions over the past few months and with only hours to go, Mr. Aresimowicz has refused to call for a vote on a reasonable stop-gap budget offered by the governor and supported by the Senate‘s Republican and Democratic leaders.

Why? Because, Mr. Aresimowicz said, a temporary solution isn’t good enough — but also because the Democrats are on vacation.

v”I believe my members are less than likely to hop on planes and leave their families at vacation places all over this country and other countries to come in and do a temporary fix,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

He refused to identify for The Courant those Democratic state representatives who chose to go on vacation at a critical time in one of the most serious budget crises the state has ever faced. Leaving town this week is a stunning dereliction of duty.

Mr. Aresimowicz and the rest of the House Democratic caucus are instead choosing to accept spending cuts so drastic that basic social safety nets for some of the state’s most vulnerable will be lost. Cuts to town aid will be so deep that local officials might have to recast their entire budgets. The move also puts the state’s shaky credit rating at further risk.

Apparently realizing that the legislature is incapable of finding its own elbows, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy earlier this week wisely offered legislators the option of passing a “mini-budget” for the next quarter that would allow for some new revenue (much of it already earmarked for certain programs but not yet spent). Without a budget, the governor can’t raise revenue or shift funds. He can only slash millions, cutting services for the sick and the poor and eviscerating school funding grants to towns.

The vote on the mini-budget would have to take place Thursday or Friday. If nothing passes by the end of Friday, the governor’s executive order budget goes into effect.

If Mr. Aresimowicz continues to refuse to call for a vote, the impacts will be felt immediately. It will eliminate services to some clients of the Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Rental assistance will be slashed by millions. Funding for summer youth jobs will be completely eliminated.

School funding will see the biggest cuts if the legislature can’t come up with a budget before the fall. How big? Take West Hartford. In the last fiscal year, the city received $20.9 million in state funding for schools. Under the governor’s proposed executive order, West Hartford would receive $4.3 million. Simsbury, which received about $6 million last year, would get zero dollars.

Do the math.

The most frustrating thing is that through these past few months, the legislature wasted time debating and amending bills that didn’t stand a chance of becoming law, and leadership knew it. Mr. Aresimowicz placated members of his caucus by entertaining floor debate on bills such as marijuana legalization that were soon enough left to rot.

How could House Democrats have gone months without coming up with a workable, clear, full-spectrum solution to the state’s $5 billion budget shortfall? Did they not realize that that was their job? Or did their own internal politicking get in the way?

One Democratic effort to fashion a budget failed spectacularly in April when a 262-page detailed spending plan couldn’t even get a vote in the Democrat-controlled appropriations committee. In May, Democrats offered a one-page sketch of a plan, along with a spreadsheet containing more details. Since then, nary a peep from the party nominally in control of the legislature.

Others had their priorities in order.

The Senate and House Republicans, and Mr. Malloy, came up with actual spending plans. Their respective strengths and weaknesses are debatable (Mr. Malloy’s budget director Ben Barnes told The Courant’s editorial board that the House Republican’s plan contained “large pieces of baloney”), but that’s the point — they have offered something to debate.

What have House Democrats offered?

Shamefully little.

And now they refuse to vote on a measure that would at least keep some basic protections in place.

Mr. Barnes warned that if the legislature refused to vote on the mini-budget, there would be a “significant risk” of another bond rating downgrade from Wall Street. “They are paying close attention to what we are doing,” he said.

Mr. Aresimowicz’s failure to call for a vote, to say nothing of his failure to craft a complete budget proposal that was at least palatable to his own caucus, is an abrogation of a serious responsibility, and the consequences for the people of Connecticut are going to be profound.

It’s mystifying how legislators could be so cavalier about solving the budget problem, the most important thing they have to do.

Connecticut’s Democratic leaders need to ask themselves: Whom do you serve?

Mr. Aresimowicz, call for a vote.

          Fasano Statement on Aetna’s Announcement   

Hartford – Senate Republican President Pro Tempore Len Fasano (R-North Haven) released the following statement regarding Aetna’s confirmation that they will move their headquarters to New York City.

“It’s disappointing but not surprising news today that Aetna has confirmed its decision to move its headquarters out of Connecticut. The statement from Aetna today makes it clear that Aetna, like many job creators, is closely watching what happens at the state Capitol. Budget uncertainty and economic volatility is something that our state’s job creators cannot ignore, and something that without a doubt factors in to their business decisions. Connecticut is at a crossroads and now is the time to send a strong message that our state is committed to policies that create stability, predictability and growth. We need to make it clear that the policies that have driven our state into the ground have to end, and we need to adopt a budget that moves our state in a new direction.

“Much like what happened with GE, Aetna has not been silent on their concerns. In 2015, when huge tax increases were on the table, Aetna made it clear they saw that our state was ‘in danger of damaging its economic future by failing to address its budget obligation in a responsible way.’ They also said ‘such an action will result in Aetna looking to reconsider the viability of continuing major operations in the state.’  Unless we take measures to move Connecticut in a new direction, job creators like Aetna will continue to be faced with questions of whether it makes sense to continue growing in our state. Today they are moving their headquarters, but if nothing changes could more moves be in store? We cannot dismiss their move or comments as inconsequential. We have to recognize that now is the time for a significant shift in policy to better our state for all people, businesses and communities.”

          Free Summer Meal Program for Kids and Teens     

The 2017 Summer Lunch Program locations have been announced. These summer meals are free, nutritious, meals and snacks that are provided to kids and teens, 18 years of age and younger, throughout the summer while school is out. Many locations serve both breakfast and lunch. This is a federally assisted meal program – no paperwork, no registration and no ID is required. See nearby locations below or The Summer Meals program will continue through August 18th.

Nearby Locations:

  • Where: 37 Mather Avenue, Building 25, Groton

  • When: Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM -9:00 AM & 11:30 AM -12:00 PM

    image001July 3rd

  • Where: Groton Estates Park
  • Nathan Hale Road, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 9:15 AM – 9:45 AM & 12:15 PM -12:45 PM

    image001July 3rd

  • Where: 126 Litton Avenue, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM & 11:15 AM – 11:45 AM

    image001July 3rd

  • Where: River Front Center
    476 Thames Street, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 8:15 AM – 8:45 AM & 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM

    image001July 3rd


  • Where: Washington Park
  • 155 Meridian Street, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM – 9:00 AM & 11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

    image001July 3rd

  • Where: William Seely School
  • 55 Seely School Drive, Groton

  • When: Monday-Friday, 8:15 AM – 9:00 AM & 11:45 AM – 12:15 PM

    image001July 3rd

  • Where: Nautilus Park Community Center
  • 124 Gungy Wamp Road, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 9:15 AM -9:45 AM & 12:15 PM – 12:45 PM

    image001July 3rd

  • Where: Claude Chester Elementary School
  • 1 Harry Day Drive, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM -9:00 AM & 11:45 AM – 12:30 PM Breakfast not served on Fridays

    image001July 3rd


  • Where: Catherine Kolnaski Elementary School
  • 500 Poquonnock Road, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM- 8:45 AM

    image001July 3rd


  • Where: Bluff Point Playground
  • 61 Depot Road, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 9:45 AM – 10:15 AM & 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM

    Breakfast Not Served on Fridays

    image001July 3rd

  • Where: Stonington High School
  • 176 South Broad Street, Pawcatuck
  • When: Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM & 11:15 AM – 12:30 PM

    image001July 4th


  • Where: TVCCA Community Building
  • 36 Central Avenue, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM & 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
  • image001July 3rd & July 4th

  • Where: Bill Memorial Library
  • 240 Monument Street, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 9:15 AM – 9:45 AM & 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM

    Breakfast Not Served on Fridays

  • image001July 3rd


  • Where: Dolphin Gardens
  • 45 Proteus Avenue, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 9:15 AM – 9:45 AM & 12:30 PM – 1:00 PM

    image001July 3rd & July 4th


  • Where: Dolphin Community Center
  • 100 Tern Road, Groton
  • When: Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM – 9:00 AM & 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM

    image001July 3rd

  • Where: Groton Public Library 52 Newtown Road, Groton

  • When: Monday-Friday, 9:00 AM – 9:30 AM & 11:30 AM -12:20 PM

    image001July 3rd

  •           Sen. Cory Booker On Health Care And The Democrats' Future   
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit STEVE INSKEEP, HOST: With Republican senators delaying a vote on their bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, many lawmakers on the left now see an opportunity, among them New Jersey's Cory Booker. Just outside the Capitol the other evening, Senator Booker and Congressman John Lewis were chatting about health care. And before long, a crowd gathered around with concerns of their own. CORY BOOKER: And it was just a beautiful night. There was something magical about it in the sense that it was spontaneous, but so authentic in the sense that I think you could stand on any street corner in America and you're going to have people walking by who have been touched by Medicaid and aspects of this bill that would threaten the gains that they've made or one of their family members have made. INSKEEP: Rachel Martin talked with Senator Booker about whether the Senate Democrats and Republicans can work together. RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Where do you see common
              With The Senate's Health Care Vote Delayed, What's Next For Democrats?   
    Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: To health care now - both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are complaining that they aren't working together. Here's Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaking on the Senate floor yesterday. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) MITCH MCCONNELL: It's unfortunate that our Democratic colleagues refuse to work with us in a serious way to comprehensively address Obamacare's failures in the seven years since they passed it. MARTIN: Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had this response. (SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) CHUCK SCHUMER: We Democrats are genuinely interested in finding a place where our two parties can come together on health care. MARTIN: So what is the next move for the Democrats? Tom Perez is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He's with us in the studio. Thanks for coming in this morning. TOM PEREZ: Always a pleasure. MARTIN: Do congressional Democrats really want to work with Republicans to try to
              GOP's Plan B for Obamacare repeal began with quiet push from Koch network   
    President Trump’s surprise suggestion Friday that deadlocked Senate Republicans shift their focus to simply repealing Obamacare — and worry about replacing it later — has its roots in a Koch network proposal that has been shopped around Congress for months.

    The influential Koch network, backed... Reported by L.A. Times 1 hour ago.
              Orlando activists stage die-in at Marco Rubio's office over Trumpcare   
    To the tune of the Negro spiritual "Wade in the Water," protesters in Orlando staged a die-in outside U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's office Wednesday to demand he vote against the Republican health care bill that would leave 22 million people uninsured by 2026.

    Senate GOP leaders wanted to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act earlier this week but were unsuccessful because they lacked votes.…
              Same-Sex Marriage Support At All-Time High, Even Among Groups That Opposed It   
    Support for same-sex marriage is growing — even among groups traditionally opposed to it — according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. The report, based on a survey conducted earlier this month, suggests public opinion is shifting quickly, two years after the Supreme Court's Obergefell v. Hodges made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states . Overall support for same-sex marriage is at its highest level since the Pew Center began polling on the issue more than two decades ago, at 62 percent in favor compared to 32 percent opposed. Support is also growing among groups that have been more skeptical than the population as a whole toward allowing gays and lesbians to legally marry. Here are six takeways from the survey: 1. Republicans are now split As recently as 2013, Republicans opposed same-sex marriage nearly two-to-one. They're now virtually split. The survey found that 47 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents favor allowing same-sex marriage, with 48
              Can The Trump Brand Win State Elections, Too? The front-runner in Virginia's Republican gubernatorial primary this year, Ed Gillespie, is campaigning on what traditionally would be considered an impressive political resume: former Republican National Committee Chairman, presidential adviser, lobbyist, and, in 2014, unsuccessful Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. In one campaign ad , Gillespie is seen alongside former President George W. Bush, and promises voters, "I know firsthand how the system works." That, of course, is the same political system that many voters repudiated by electing President Trump, who narrowly won Virginia's GOP primary in 2016. Next Tuesday's Virginia's gubernatorial primary is serving as an early test of how strong Trump's brand is at the state level. The state's primaries also offer a look at how intra-party struggles brought to light by the 2016 campaign are playing out among Republicans and Democrats . One of Gillespie's two rivals for the Republican
              Talk Show America 9/8/2011   
    itunes pic
    Jimmy SOB Hoffa and Bidens Remarks Against The Tea Party, The MSNBC/Reagan Library Republican Debate, What To Expect From Obama's Job Speech.
              The health of a hospital   
    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.

    When Arkansas expanded Medicaid in 2014, Mike Haynes signed up for health insurance for the first time in his adult life. "Before that, I really couldn't afford it," he said. "One income in the state of Arkansas is very tough when you're raising two children. I did it, but I couldn't afford fringe benefits, so to speak. I had to feed my kids and put clothes on them."

    Haynes, 63, is a real estate agent in Mountain Home. His children are grown now, but things remain tight. "We're eating bologna, not steak," he said. His wife has multiple sclerosis and can no longer work (she qualifies for the traditional Medicaid program through her disability benefits), and Haynes' income fluctuates dramatically with the housing market. In 2014, "paychecks were few and far between," he said, and he signed up for coverage under the state's Medicaid expansion, which offers coverage to Arkansans who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (that's $16,400 for an individual or $33,600 for a family of four).

    A year later, his wife encouraged him to go in for a routine physical, and he ended up being diagnosed with prostate cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma. "It was an eye-opener, extremely scary," Haynes said. "All of a sudden your whole world changes."

    The doctor told him that if he hadn't come in, he had two years left to live. Now, he's in remission after a dozen sessions of chemotherapy. "I can't stress enough how much it meant to me to have coverage," Haynes said. "I knew I wasn't going to lose my house and everything else." Before getting coverage, Haynes had always avoided going to the doctor because he assumed he wouldn't be able to pay the medical bills, and he said he would never have gone in the first place without health insurance.

    "Two things saved my life: Obamacare and my wife," Haynes said. "That's the truth."

    Haynes has been able to get his treatment at Mountain Home's Baxter Regional Medical Center, recently named one of the top 100 rural and community hospitals in the nation by the National Rural Health Association.

    The Medicaid expansion has been just as vital to Arkansas's rural hospitals as it has been to patients like Haynes, said Ron Peterson, Baxter Regional's CEO. The reduction in uncompensated care has led to a $4.2 million annual positive impact for the hospital, Peterson said. "The expansion meant the difference between us running in the red vs. running in the black," he said.

    Arkansas is one of 31 states — few in the South — that expanded Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults like Haynes as part of the Affordable Care Act. The state used a unique approach known as the private option — later rebranded "Arkansas Works" — which uses Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for the newly eligible population. The federal government pays for most of the costs through funds made available by the ACA.

    The ACA's crafters essentially made a deal with hospitals: The ACA cut Medicare reimbursements, but the reduction in uncompensated care through the Medicaid expansion helped offset some of those cuts. Without that offsetting boost, some of the state's smaller rural hospitals might not be able to survive. A hospital like Baxter — the fifth most Medicare-reliant hospital in the nation, according to Moody's, thanks to the community's significant proportion of retirees — would be forced to make dramatic cuts in services without the Medicaid offset. "The expansion of Medicaid through Arkansas Works is one of the key components that's been able to help us through the change in the ACA," Peterson said. "Not just Baxter, but it helps all of rural Arkansas."

    The political future of the Medicaid expansion, however, remains dicey. State Sen. Scott Flippo, a Republican who represents the area, campaigned on ending the program and has voted multiple times for unsuccessful attempts to defund it in the Arkansas legislature. Meanwhile, the American Health Care Act, the bill backed by President Trump and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month, would end the ACA's enhanced funding for new and returning enrollees beginning in 2020, effectively ending the Medicaid expansion program. Trump won Baxter County with 74 percent of the vote.

    Peterson said that he was hopeful that the AHCA proposal would be amended further, but as it stands, the phase-out of the Medicaid expansion "would be devastating to our hospital, and I think it would be extremely bad news for all rural hospitals."

    It can be a challenge to explain the value of Medicaid expansion amid the always thorny politics of the national health care debate, Peterson said. "I think that people in Mountain Home really appreciate the hospital and appreciate the services that are provided here," he said, pointing to significant giving from the community to the Baxter Regional Hospital Foundation and the more than 500 volunteers who give more than 80,000 hours of their time every year. "They want to see this hospital succeed. I just don't think they see the tie and the connection with the Medicaid expansion."

    Baxter Regional is by far the largest employer in the community, employing 1,600 individuals; its payroll is more than $70 million. Outside of the hospital, opportunities for professionals are few and far between, Dan Greer, a network analyst at Baxter Regional, said. Greer has worked at Baxter Regional for nine years; before that, he worked at the Baxter Bulletin, but lost that job after the newspaper was downsized. "If it wasn't for the hospital being here, I would have been gone," he said.

    If the Medicaid expansion ended, Peterson said, "You're looking at easily 200-300 jobs eliminated out of the community. That may not sound dramatic, but it's dramatic in a community of our size."

    Baxter Regional's mission is to remain independent and as comprehensive as possible, Peterson said, both of which would also be threatened if the hospital took a financial hit from the elimination of Medicaid expansion. "We believe that having that local input and that local control helps us be more community-driven and make sure we're meeting the needs of the community," he said. "And we try to provide urban medicine in a rural setting. Just because you live in a rural area should not mean you should not have access to quality care."

    Baxter Regional offers cardiac surgery, comprehensive oncology services and 30 different specialties; this summer, the hospital will start offering neurosurgery. As a Level III trauma center, the hospital has the resources to provide care for most traumatic injuries.

    "You can't measure the value on that," said Dr. Brad Shultz, a physician in the emergency room, where the hospital sees 30,000 patients a year. "The sick, aged population we have, if we didn't have the specialists, we couldn't buy enough ambulances to keep them all transferred."

    That transport itself can be a dangerous part of medical care. "Every time they're exposed to a new health care setting, it's adding risk to their situation," Gerald Cantrell, the hospital's paramedic director, said. In nonemergency situations, meanwhile, a multiple-hour drive may discourage patients from seeking the care they need.

    "We're fairly isolated," Peterson said. "The next hospital that has all the types of services that we have is at least two hours away."

    The hospital has invested in technology to deliver high-quality care to its isolated community. In its intensive care unit, the hospital has an "electronic ICU" that provides 24-7 access to intensive care specialists in St. Louis. Its radiology department was one of the first in the state to use 3D tomosynthesis for mammography, which is more accurate and leads to fewer call backs, and the first in the nation to develop a mobile 3D tomosynthesis unit in a custom-made RV that offers screenings in the community. "It allows us to take the mammography out to where the patient is, and helps us get to even more remote areas than Mountain Home," Peterson said. "We're going to the rural community and bringing that technology to them."

    The STEMI program (STEMI is the medical shorthand for a severe heart attack) has a coordinated system in place to communicate between paramedics and the hospital to deliver care as quickly as possible — and crucially, Baxter Regional has the cath labs (diagnostic imaging equipment necessary for the optimal treatment of a heart attack) and specialists to provide an immediate intervention.

    "A lot of your smaller rural hospitals won't have cath labs," Peterson said; they can offer only less effective clot-busting drugs. "If we weren't the size hospital that we are and started cutting back, you could see people having a heart attack, getting a drug, and being shipped off and not getting that intervention for three to five hours when they need to be getting it right away."

    "Arkansas has the highest mortality rates nationwide for death from heart attack," Dr. Kim Foxworthy, the STEMI coordinator, said. "Our statewide mortality rates would definitely be higher if we did not have the technology and facility here. People are just not going to make it."

    Just as important, Peterson said, was the hospital's commitment to outreach. He cited the community paramedic program, which offers direct services to high-needs patients in their homes, and four on-site Community Health Education and Support Houses, which offer services for patients and their families for diabetes, cancer, aging and women's health.

    Without the Medicaid expansion, Peterson said, the hospital would be forced to make difficult — and potentially life-threatening — choices about what services to cut. That would impact everyone who relies on Baxter Regional, not just those covered by the Medicaid expansion. Servicing a remote community in the Ozarks with a population that isn't growing, it's unclear how the hospital would make up the funding gap if expansion goes away.

    "The numbers do not add up," Peterson said. "Unless you want to abandon people who live in rural America."

    Haynes, the cancer survivor who got coverage thanks to the Medicaid expansion, said he remembers years ago having to drive more than two hours to Springfield, Mo., to get to a hospital with an incubator when his daughter was born. "That's a thing of the past," he said. "I received outstanding care here. It's a tremendous service to the community."

    Haynes voted in the presidential race for the first time last November and, like most of his neighbors, he voted for Trump. "I felt like we were going to be in the same position no matter what Hillary did, we needed some improvements, and I really just wanted a guy that wasn't involved in politics," Haynes said. He said he has been watching the progress of the AHCA with concern, particularly when the Congressional Budget Office found in March that an earlier version of the bill would lead to 24 million fewer people being covered (the CBO is set to issue a new score for the amended version of the AHCA this week).

    "I guess I was naive because when he spoke 'change,' in my mind, I thought 'even better,' " he said. "And then as it moved along and 24 million people weren't going to get coverage, I thought, 'What's going on? Am I one of the 24 million?' "

    After he wasn't able to work for a year and half because of the cancer, Haynes has just started back at his job. "It'll get better — the economy is getting better, I'm getting better, so I'm very positive about the future," he said.

    Haynes said he's still grateful for President Obama. "I'd vote for the man tomorrow," Haynes said. "I don't play politics. But the man did a lot for me, period. Without Obamacare, I wouldn't be sitting here. How would you feel?"

    This story was supported by the nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project, part of an initiative to foster journalism about inequality in the South and the Heartland, and is also courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.

              Health care policy FAQ   
    What proposed state and federal changes mean for the future of health care policy in Arkansas.

    Health care policy impacts millions of Americans, including the more than 300,000 Arkansans currently covered by the state's Medicaid expansion program. The details, however, can get confusing quickly. It's hard enough to keep track of all the names — private option, Arkansas Works, Medicaid expansion, Obamacare, ACA, AHCA. On top of that, it seems like every month lawmakers propose to shift the policy ground beneath our feet. The Arkansas legislature met in a special session earlier this month to approve Governor Hutchinson's plan to alter the state's Medicaid expansion, adding work requirements and cutting eligibility. That plan now awaits approval from the federal government. The same day the governor signed that bill into law, the U.S. House passed the American Health Care Act, which would completely undercut the governor's proposal and threaten the very existence of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. It's now in the Senate, awaiting a vote.

    The Medicaid expansion helped cut the state's uninsured rate in half. What would the proposed changes coming from the governor and Republicans in Congress mean for those who rely on that coverage? Let's take a look.

    What is the Medicaid expansion? What is Arkansas Works?

    The Affordable Care Act (often called Obamacare) provided funding to cover low-income adults under the Medicaid program. This expansion of Medicaid covers people who make less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level — that's $16,400 for an individual or $33,600 for a family of four. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could choose whether or not they wanted to accept the Medicaid expansion. Arkansas decided to move forward, but with a twist: The state obtained a special waiver from the federal government to use Medicaid funds to purchase private health insurance for the Medicaid expansion population, a policy that became known as the private option. Later, when Hutchinson became governor and continued the policy, he re-branded it as Arkansas Works. Whatever name it goes by — Medicaid expansion, private option, Arkansas Works — the program covers more than 300,000 Arkansans, with most of the costs covered by the federal government through the ACA.

    How will Hutchinson's proposed alterations to the Medicaid expansion change who is eligible?

    Hutchinson, with the legislature's backing, is seeking permission from the federal government to limit eligibility for Arkansas Works to households at or below the federal poverty line (that's $11,880 for an individual or $24,300 for a family of four). That would mean that current beneficiaries who make between 100-138 percent of the FPL — more than 60,000 of the state's working poor — would be removed from the program.

    Assuming the ACA remains in place, what options will those cut from coverage under the governor's plan have for health insurance?

    Most of the 60,000 people who would lose Arkansas Works coverage would be eligible for the ACA's Health Insurance Marketplace, often called the exchange, where they can buy subsidized health insurance. The ACA provides income-based premium tax credits and cost-sharing reduction subsidies that keep premiums, co-pays and deductibles relatively low.

    Others will not be able to get subsidized coverage on the exchange, because their employer offers them health insurance (the state Department of Human Services estimates this applies to 20 percent of the beneficiaries in the 100-138 FPL group). If that employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) meets two tests — it's considered "affordable" under the law and meets a "minimum value" standard in terms of coverage — then they are barred from getting the premium credits and cost-sharing reductions that would make coverage on the exchange affordable for them. Those who fall into this category would typically face higher costs and receive less generous coverage if they switch to ESI.

    Will the working poor have to pay more under the governor's plan?

    The governor has claimed that the 60,000 people being removed from the Medicaid rolls "will not lose access to coverage" and would get "the same level of financial support that they have now." In fact, those beneficiaries will pay more than they do today — sometimes much more — and coverage will be skimpier for many.

    Under the terms of its Arkansas Works agreement with the federal government, the state is allowed to charge beneficiaries who make between 100-138 percent of the FPL premiums up to 2 percent of their household income. However, currently, the state charges a flat rate of $13 per month.

    On the exchange, premiums for plans equivalent to Arkansas Works are designed to be equal to 2 percent of household income (because of the federal subsidies, that's what this group will have to pay for premiums regardless of whether the unsubsidized premium that insurance companies charge for the plan goes up or down). That's significantly more than $13 per month. An individual right at the poverty line would have to pay up to $20 a month in premiums. An individual who makes 138 percent of the FPL would have to pay up to $27 per month. Meanwhile, larger family sizes will have larger incomes in order to fall in the 100-138 FPL range. So a single mother of three, for example, who is right at the poverty line, would be on the hook for $40 per month premiums on the exchange; if she was at 138 percent of the FPL, she would be on the hook for $56 per month premiums.

    For those who have to move to ESI plans, the premium increase will be even more dramatic. For an ESI plan to be deemed affordable, premiums cannot exceed 9.69 percent of household income. That means that a plan could have premiums nearly five times what someone was paying under the 2 percent max allowable under Arkansas Works (and even more than that compared to the flat $13 premiums that the program is imposing this year). Under the Medicaid rules in the Arkansas Works waiver, an individual living at the poverty line could be charged no more than $20 monthly; the most that a single mother of three could be charged is $40. But if those same beneficiaries get insurance through a plan at work, they could face employee-contribution premiums of up to $95 or $195, respectively, and would then not be allowed to shop on the exchange. They would have to find a way to pay those premiums or go without health insurance.

    What happens if people don't pay premiums?

    If people are unable to pay their premiums under Arkansas Works, they don't lose their coverage; they incur a debt to the state, which likely isn't collectible unless the individual has a state tax refund from which to withhold. On the other hand, if people are unable to pay their premiums on the exchange, they'll be booted off of coverage and become uninsured for the remainder of the year. These premiums are relatively small, but this is a population with almost no disposable income. Forty dollars a month may not sound like a lot, but for a family of four at the poverty line, that could be the difference in getting enough groceries to go around. Currently, only 25 percent of these beneficiaries are paying the $13 premiums each month. If they struggle to keep up with premiums on the exchange, they'll end up without coverage.

    Will the working poor get the same level of coverage under the governor's plan?

    Those who are sent to the exchange will get plans that have a similar amount of coverage to the plans on Arkansas Works, though that coverage may take different forms (for example, they might have deductibles, whereas Arkansas Works only has co-pays). However, there is one key difference, which will lead to many having to pay more out of pocket on the exchange plans. Under Arkansas Works, Medicaid rules impose a strict limit on the total amount that beneficiaries can be charged between premiums and cost-sharing (it cannot exceed 5 percent of monthly or quarterly income). There is no such rule on the exchange, and while there are out-of-pocket limits, the total amount that beneficiaries have to pay could exceed 5 percent of income.

    For example, consider an individual who makes $12,500 a year: If she was being charged premiums at 2 percent of her income, the most that she could be charged in cost-sharing under Arkansas Works on a monthly basis is $35. Over the course of the year, that would work out to $360. If that same individual was on the exchange, the available plans average nearly twice that, $660.94, as an out-of-pocket maximum — and that's only over the course of the year, with no protections for monthly/quarterly charges.

    Things look much worse for those who are routed to ESI plans instead of the exchange. For a work-sponsored plan to meet the "minimum value" test, it only has to cover 60 percent of average expected costs, as opposed to 94 percent under Arkansas Works. That could mean $5,000 deductibles or $7,000 out-of-pocket maximums, expenses that many people in this population could not realistically afford to pay.

    Will the governor's plan increase the uninsured rate in the state?

    Almost certainly, yes. Many will not be able to afford the premiums or the cost-sharing and will have no choice but to go without coverage. Others may struggle to successfully navigate the system and find their way to coverage alternatives in the first place. Moving this population from Medicaid to other coverage is not as easy as flipping a switch. Sixty thousand people will receive a sudden letter that their coverage has been canceled; many of them have no experience purchasing private health insurance. The transition would require a massive outreach and education effort and excellent communication. The Hutchinson administration has often faced criticism for its failures at such outreach, including a botched eligibility renewal process in 2015 that led to tens of thousands of eligible beneficiaries losing coverage. In similar transitions in other states, even with much more extensive outreach efforts than Arkansas has ever done, attrition was significant as people inevitably got lost in the shuffle and ended up with gaps in coverage.

    "Our greatest concern is that tens of thousands of Arkansans will become uninsured because they are no longer eligible for Arkansas Works, unable to afford other coverage, or simply fall through the cracks because of the constant policy changes," Marquita Little, of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said. (Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families have provided donations to the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.)

    What happens if Donald Trump and the Republican Congress repeal the ACA and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA)?

    The AHCA would completely unravel Arkansas Works, as well as Hutchinson's plan for Arkansas Works 2.0.

    The Medicaid expansion would be completely phased out, eliminating the enhanced federal funding for new and returning enrollees starting in 2020. Without that funding, Arkansas could not realistically continue to offer Medicaid coverage for the population of low-income Arkansans reliant on Arkansas Works under current law, now numbering more than 300,000 beneficiaries. Forget about Arkansas Works 2.0; Arkansas Works itself would be dead.

    Hutchinson said that he hopes the enhanced match rate for Medicaid expansion will be saved now that the AHCA is in the Senate. But even if it is, the AHCA would still completely undermine Hutchinson's plan for the 100-138 FPL population because of the way it changes the subsidies on the exchanges. Hutchinson's plan presupposes that the 100-138 FPL population can rely on those subsidies. The ACA offers tax credits that ensure that the amount people are charged for premiums on the exchange will not exceed 2 percent of income; the AHCA has no such limit and its tax credits aren't based on income. The Arkansas Works beneficiaries that Hutchinson aims to send to the exchange would find themselves faced with premiums that most of them could not possibly afford if the AHCA passed in its current form. Premiums would be even higher for older people in this population because the AHCA would also allow insurance companies to charge higher amounts based on age than the ACA does. Under the AHCA, regardless of how poor the consumer was, the Congressional Budget Office found that the average monthly premium faced by an individual who is 21 years old would be $120; at 40 years old, $200; at 64 years old, $1,216.

    Hutchinson acknowledged this problem. "The governor would like to see the AHCA's tax credits increase for the lower income populations to account for this issue and ensure there are affordable coverage options available outside of Medicaid," his spokesman J.R. Davis said.

    In addition to drastically lowering the premium tax credits available to poorer and older Arkansans, the AHCA would also altogether eliminate the ACA's cost-sharing reductions, which offer cost protections from co-pays and deductibles to low-income consumers. Under current law, people in the 100-138 FPL range can sign up for plans that cover 94 percent of the average cost of medical expenses; under the AHCA, those same plans would only cover 70 percent. Under the ACA, someone who was sent to the exchange as part of Hutchinson's plan would face an average deductible across eligible plans of $246 and an average out-of-pocket maximum of $661. Under the AHCA, cost-sharing would skyrocket, with deductibles for those same plans ranging from around $1,500 to $3,500 and the out-of-pocket maximum ranging from around $3,600 to $7,150.

    What other impacts would the AHCA have on Arkansas health care?

    In addition to eliminating the Medicaid expansion and increasing costs on the exchange for poorer, sicker and older Arkansans, the AHCA would also enact hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to the state's traditional Medicaid program (the program that existed before the ACA's expansion), covering the elderly in nursing homes, low-income children, very poor parents, the blind, the disabled and other vulnerable populations. Such cuts would put additional burdens on the state budget or force the state to cut services or eligibility for traditional Medicaid.

    Work requirements

    In addition to cutting eligibility, the governor's proposal would institute work requirements for Arkansas Works beneficiaries. The Obama administration did not allow work requirements for Medicaid because it said such requirements were not consistent with the purpose of the program, which is to increase access to health care. The Trump administration has signaled that it is receptive to the idea of work requirements, so Hutchinson is trying again with the request.

    The details of the work-requirement program still need to be worked out between the state's Department of Human Services and the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but here is the outline of the governor's plan, according to DHS:

    In order to continue receiving coverage, beneficiaries must work 20 hours per week or 80 hours per month. If they are not working, they have to participate in job training programs (or potentially certain approved volunteer activities).

    Beneficiaries must be in compliance for nine months out of the year. Otherwise, they will be kicked off of coverage and locked out of the program for the remainder of the year.

    People aged 18-49 will be subject to the work requirement, and those older than 50 will be exempt. The following groups will also be eligible for exemptions:

    Those deemed "medically frail" — the 10 percent of Arkansas Works beneficiaries who have the most intensive medical needs.

    Those caring for an incapacitated person.

    Those caring for dependent children in the home.

    People receiving unemployment benefits.

    Those participating in a drug or alcohol addiction treatment program.

    Full-time students.

    Pregnant women.

    DHS projects that around half of Arkansas Works beneficiaries would be eligible for an exemption.

    This analysis is courtesy of the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, an independent, nonpartisan news project dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans.

              The real transgender crisis in Arkansas: health care   
    Finally, the doctor is in.

    While Arkansas lawmakers were wringing their hands this past legislative session over what to do about genitalia sightings in bathroom stalls — a nonexistent problem that, had the legislation passed, would have required bearded, buff men to use the ladies' room — doctors, medical students and activists were working to address a real problem: the dearth of health care for transgender individuals.

    Nonscientific ideas about gender crowded out reason, as Republican state lawmakers like Sens. Linda Collins-Smith of Pocahontas and Gary Stubblefield of Branch and Reps. Bob Ballinger of Berryville, Mickey Gates of Hot Springs and Greg Standridge of Russellville promoted bills that would have required Arkansans to wear their original birth certificates around their necks and thrown people in jail if their nudity offended. Their actions, thankfully, were stopped by a business-minded Governor Hutchinson. But Hutchinson only stanched the flow of hurt that such ignorance surely set loose, the sort of bullying that drives 45 percent of transgender teenagers to attempt suicide.

    Had legislators gotten their heads out of the stalls, they could have acted to help, rather than further marginalize, their fellow Arkansans. They could have changed state Medicaid rules that disallow reimbursement for hormone therapies. They could have appropriated funds to run the Department of Health's suicide hotline. Or they could have talked to physicians who would have helped them understand that transgendered people are not freaks, no more likely to prey on people than, say, redheads or Razorback fans.

    Rowan Rodgers, 27, is one of those burly, bearded guys that, had Collins-Smith's bathroom bill passed, requiring folks to show original birth certificates at the bathroom door, would have been coming to a girls' powder room near you. The Heber Springs man, born with the genital attributes of a woman but who as a toddler asked for boys' underwear on a shopping trip with his father, praised Little Rock gynecologist Dr. Janet Cathey for making his life, and that of his fiance and two kids, better. "She's a one of a kind," he said.

    Cathey, along with Drs. Sara Tariq and Sam Jackson are a few of the physicians working to provide better health care for transmen and transwomen, both in clinics and the classroom, at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

    Cathey, an obstetrician/gynecologist, sees transgender patients in clinic one morning a week at UAMS. It's work she said is the most rewarding of her life. She's been treating transgender patients for most of her 30-year career, providing hormone therapy to transmen who, in the days before social media, learned of her willingness to help by word of mouth. It started shortly after she opened her practice, when a caller inquired if she'd provide testosterone to a woman, "and I thought, 'Why not?' " It grew from there.

    "I get tearful thinking about it," Cathey said. Her transgender patients "are the most appreciative patient population you could ever have. When you put someone on hormones, and they come in two months later for follow-up, and they say, 'I've just had the best two months of my life ... .' "

    That she feels bonded to her patients is obvious: She does tear up while she's talking about them.

    In 2009, Cathey injured her spine in an automobile accident and had to sell her practice. That left her transgender patients hanging. As she recuperated, she knew she didn't want to retire. "I thought maybe I could do a gender clinic. I knew there was a need," she said. But how could she afford to set up a new practice?

    Serendipitously, she ran into Dr. Curtis Lowery, chairman of UAMS' department of obstetrics and gynecology. He asked her to help oversee the medical college's residents' clinic, and she agreed.

    Cathey wasn't the only doctor who saw a need for a gender clinic. A year into her work at UAMS, she was approached by mental health professionals about setting up a gender clinic. With the same determination it took to get back on her feet again — she walks now with the help of braces and a cane — she went to Lowery and told him that's what she and another OB/GYN wanted to do. "He said, 'Just don't lose a lot of money.' "

    The administration allotted her two spots for gender patients. "I said, 'Y'all just wait.' "

    There is now a four-month waiting list to be seen in the gender clinic: The two spots for appointments have stretched to a morning's worth of appointments. She and Dr. Mary Racher "make about 60 patient contacts" a month. "We've seen, between the two of us, probably around 300 patients," genetic females transitioning to males and genetic males transitioning to female, in the past two and a half years, Cathey said. Men get estrogen and androgen blockers. Women get testosterone. Transmen — the term for a genetically female person who is transitioning to male — can schedule hysterectomies and breast reduction surgery.

    What does she think about legislative attempts to pass a bathroom bill? "I promise you have peed next to a transperson plenty of times."

    Rodgers has been a patient of Cathey's since 2015. "I was very depressed when I went in there," he said. "She knew it."

    But his hormone therapy lifted "a huge weight off my shoulders. When I took testosterone ... [changes in my] energy level, my voice, it was like injecting life into myself. That's the best way I can explain it. It was definitely life-changing."

    Rodgers cried after his first shot in Cathey's office. After his second, he quit having periods. "I was like, 'wow.' "

    The relief and happiness that Rodgers experienced after the start of hormone therapy is common, though the reasons why have not been well studied. "There is something neurochemically going on," Jackson, the Psychiatric Research Institute resident, said. It may be that the hormones resolve the emotional conflict that transpeople experience. Hormones "change the brain so it becomes correct. ... It confirms to me that biologically, there is something there, activating the brain and the right receptors, [telling the brain] yes, this is the correct hormone situation I am supposed to be in."

    The hormones alter mood so much, Cathey said, that her patients can quit taking their antidepressants. "I've seen kids come in on SSRis (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and Abilify (an antipsychotic). They come in and they won't make eye contact. In two or three months [after hormone therapy], they're animated. It's too much to think it's not biological. They're getting relief." They're getting what they need, she said.

    Though some Arkansas legislators believe that men are men and women are women and never the twain shall meet, medicine knows that human gender is on a continuum.

    As Arkansas Children's Hospital endocrinologist Dr. Michele Hutchison explained it, there are several kinds of gender. There is chromosomal gender: one X and one Y for males and two Xs for females. There is hormonal gender: For example, boys born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome are born looking and identifying as female because their bodies don't respond to testosterone. Boys with Reifenstein Syndrome —partial androgen insensitivity — may be born with either male or female genitalia and may identify as either male or female. There is something called testosterone transfer in fraternal twins, when the testosterone of the male fetus is transferred to the female fetus and makes the female masculine in genital and brain structure, etc. There is physiological gender: Whether there is a penis or a vagina. There is emotional gender: Whether you feel like a boy or a girl.

    "It's a complex system that goes into creating a child," Hutchison said.

    Hutchison said there is an "ever-growing body of evidence" that trans children and trans adults differ physiologically from non-trans persons, though the research "is in its infancy."

    Male and female brains differ in structure, chemistry and how information is processed. One study, a small brain imaging project, showed that the brains of transgender children acted like the brains of the sex with which the children identified — transmale brains looked male, transfemale brains looked female. "Of course, behavior and experience shape brain anatomy, so it is impossible to say if these subtle differences are inborn," she said.

    Arkansas Children's Hospital, which has physicians on staff who address such things as ambiguous genitalia, is looking into creating a gender clinic, Hutchison said. Health care — especially mental health care, given the high attempted suicide rate — for children who identify with a gender their bodies don't reflect would be a good thing, she believes.

    "The hospital treats children with diabetes, and adrenal issues and hyperthyroidism [for example]. We're so good at it now. It's a fantastic hospital. We're so good at those things that we don't lose kids. This is an area where we could quite literally save some lives," Hutchinson said. "I have goose bumps" thinking about it, she said. She said clinics in Seattle, Los Angeles and Boston offer a model to look at.

    Before she transitioned, Michelle Palumbo moved to Salem (Fulton County) with her wife and four children. She showed up with long hair, wearing earrings. Folks just attributed that to the fact that she was from New York.

    But Palumbo had for a lifetime struggled with feelings of being a woman in a man's body. She was a cross-dresser, and her wife was OK with that.

    In 2008, after her third heart attack and after doctors told her she could die at any time, Palumbo made up her mind to transition. Because she had been a bench chemist, she made her own estrogen, a fact that she said made Cathey's jaw drop when she finally went to her for proper medication two years ago. "If there is an angel on this earth," it's Cathey, Palumbo said.

    "We are not freaks," said Palumbo, 64. She considers people who think so "religious extremists"; by contrast, the member of Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church considers herself a "religious evangelical." Palumbo also described herself as "ticked off" at the legislature, where she testified on various anti-transgender bills in the last session.

    Palumbo moved to Little Rock in September after someone she'd confided in spread the word of her transition. (She'd been binding her breasts.) Her high school daughter was getting teased at school; kids were asking, "What's between your father's legs?" Palumbo said. Her wife stopped her from raising hell at the high school, and asked her to move out. The couple is now divorcing, though Palumbo said of her wife, "there's no better person on earth."

    Palumbo is of the same generation as many of the legislators who don't understand that there is such a thing as transgender identification. In fact, 30 years ago, she decided to go through conversion therapy. "I wanted to be a man," she said, and her wife at the time had grown tired of Palumbo's "internal battle of identity." Palumbo said she would buy women's clothes and wear them, and then decide to "purge that, be a man, then the cycle would start all over again."

    The psychiatrist Palumbo went to told her she could "cure her," and prescribed more sex. After a year and a half, Palumbo realized there was no cure. She researched transgender issues. "I'm not a freak. I'm not nuts."

    Also because of her age, she believes, Palumbo is less militant than younger people about getting pronouns right. When a nurse who was looking down while Palumbo was signing in at the doctor's office and, hearing her voice, addressed Palumbo as sir, the nurse became flustered and apologetic. Palumbo told her not to worry. "I was upset because she was upset," Palumbo said, laughing. (Palumbo's voice is not generally deep, but on occasion it can change.)

    Medical settings can be problematic, though not always because providers are uncomfortable with transgender people. Palumbo said her medical chart includes information that she is transgender, and at a recent appointment, the nurse who called her in for a heart procedure had a "stone cold" look on her face. Palumbo told her if she had a problem with her gender identity, she'd like to have another nurse, "but if you misgender me [use the wrong pronoun], I'm not going to be upset. Boom! Big smile."

    And another thing about coming out as an older person: "You have more guilt," Palumbo said, wistfully. "You've made relationships with more people. When you're young, it's not like that."

    "You can't hold people responsible for what they don't understand."

    Dr. Tariq, assistant dean for undergraduate education at UAMS' College of Medicine, teaches the practice of medicine, a three-year course, to students in their second year: how to be compassionate, effective and "savvy." About seven or eight years ago, she introduced LGBT care into the course curriculum.

    Not surprisingly, the LGBT community is underserved. "The patients are very vulnerable, and not just because they have to take their clothes off and let us poke around," Tariq said. They are called on to reveal information about themselves that they have never told anyone else. She teaches her students "the most irresponsible thing you can do is ignore them."

    Many of UAMS' medical students have never been knowingly exposed to members of the LGBT community. As part of the curriculum, Tariq brings in a panel of LGBT folks — most recently, two transgender persons, a lesbian and a gay man.

    One of the panelists told the assembled students that when he walks into a doctor's office he looks around for signs that the clinic is friendly to gay people. Even "as a brown woman in the South, that would never occur to me," Tariq said. The panelists gave examples of bad treatment: Doctors referring them to psychiatrists, not to deal with depression, but because they believe them to be mentally ill. Doctors making no eye contact. Doctors referring them to other doctors because they are uncomfortable treating them. (Palumbo recounted the experience of a transgender friend who was upbraided by a doctor for coming in: "There are children here!" he was told, as if he were a pederast.)

    Many transgender people choose to keep their body phenotype, especially since surgery is both expensive and sometimes risky. That means pap smears and mammograms for transmen, prostate exams for transwomen. It also means mammograms for transwomen, since estrogen stimulates real breast tissue. "My motive," Tariq said, is to teach her students "to leave their biases at the door."

    Part of Tariq's curriculum was contributed by Sam Jackson. In his fourth year of medical school, Jackson did a rotation in primary care for LGBT patients at Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles. There, he worked with the hospital's transgender support group, which he said was the largest in Southern California.

    "I am a story-driven person," Jackson said. "I really liked hearing the patients' stories. ... It just blew my mind." The experience left him with a passion for working with the trans community, and when he returned, Tariq asked him to share his experiences with her students.

    "We've done an OK job of talking about LGBT health in the past," Jackson said. "We learn how to interview patients, take a sexual history and not be judgmental. It becomes a rote process ... and makes it easier for you to ask [questions] in a nonjudgmental way."

    Now, Jackson is medical director for a clinic for transgender youths, the Rainbow Clinic, which meets quarterly at UAMS' student-staffed 12th Street Health and Wellness Center. Lucie's Place, a shelter for homeless LGBT youth, partners with UAMS for the Rainbow Center. Jackson also hopes to work with Cathey's clinic to provide psychiatric care.

    Cathey has heard the stories, too. She recited what a transmale told her: "I remember one of my earliest memories was I got out of Pull-Ups and was going to Walmart to get real underwear, and we go in the girls' department and my mother picks out pink panties. And I said, I want boy underwear." An 18-year-old told her, "It wasn't that I wanted to be a boy. It was that I knew I was a boy." That patient's mother told Cathey that as a child, every picture he drew of himself was as a boy, never as a girl.

    "One patient who was transfemale said she was coming home from first grade and her mother asked, 'How was your day?' And the patient said, 'This girl had on a pink dress and a pink bow and could I get a pink bow?' And the mother said, 'No, that's not how God made you, you're a boy."

    An older patient told Cathey that in her 30s she'd learned you could buy hormones over the counter in Mexico, and, as Cathey related, "I went over and picked out the highest dose of Premarin I could. It was like magic. The second time, the border patrol started questioning me." She was too intimidated to continue. "Those were the best six months of my life," the patient told Cathey.

    "It really gets you," Cathey said. Nobody would choose to be transgender. Palumbo said the same. "No guy would decide to be a woman. ... Who would give up male privilege?"

    Dating also presents new issues for some transgender people, and they seek Cathey's advice. When do they tell people they're interested in about their transgender situation? "I don't talk about my genitals on a first date," Cathy said she tells them, "and you don't have to, either." She also tells them not to reveal anything at their apartment or their friend's.

    One of Cathey's patients, a transwoman, told her she'd come out to her parents as gay last Christmas, and was thinking of telling them she was transgender this Christmas. "So last year, they had a gay son and this year they have a heterosexual daughter?" Cathey asked.

    Rowan Rodgers, who's been with his girlfriend for seven years, first as a lesbian woman, waited a couple of years before he told her he was transgender.

    "I didn't know how she'd react. We have two children, and it's just when you live in a world where you don't know how people are going to take things ... . You hear about people disowning their children. It's just bad. If I have one regret, it's not telling her sooner.

    "At first, there were a lot of questions. It was a lot she had to take in. But she was very accepting. I call her 'my constant.' "

    The children, boys 11 and 13, "are wonderful," Rodgers said. "They are thriving, doing wonderful in school and so smart and the most accepting of a lot of people who I thought were my friends. They said, 'You're my dad and I love you.' "

    His parents, Rodgers said, "are a different story." They call him by his "dead name," which is what transgender people call the names given them at birth. "They tell me their daughter is dead." Rodgers has tried to keep the relationship going. "So when they call and want to talk, I'm there. When they tell me they hate me, I turn the other cheek."

    Caring for the transgender community has also required that Cathey become a social worker of sorts. She's made her nurse a notary to help with legal documents, and helps her patients navigate the process of changing birth certificates, which requires a name change and a letter from a physician.

    One of those persons she's helped changed a birth certificate was Rodgers. "I was lucky," Rodgers said. "I got a very nice lady" at the health department's vital records office. Now, Rodgers always keeps his birth certificate with him. "I'm always scared I'm going to be hassled."

    Cathey and her patients have struggled with Medicaid, and Cathey is fearful the current political situation will make things harder for her transgender patients, many of whom rely on Medicaid because of the barriers to work that an anti-transgender society presents. Medicaid will cover top surgery — mastectomy — once a transman has begun to transition and the sex on his birth certificate has been corrected, because at that point, the condition is considered gynecomastia — male breasts. But it wouldn't pay for Rodgers' testosterone.

    "Reassignment surgery male to female," Cathey estimated, "is about $50,000, but that's nothing compared to a total hip replacement." She hears people complain their insurance shouldn't have to pay for gender reassignment. To them she would say, "Well, you know what, I don't want to pay for your hip surgery."

    Rodgers has found a pharmacy in Heber Springs that charges him a reasonable price for testosterone. He's also had top surgery and a hysterectomy. "Right now, I'm not planning to have any other surgery. I'm fine. The breasts bothered me and having a period every month."

    Rodgers is looking forward to summer. "This is the first year I get to go out and swim. That's a beautiful thing."

              The Little Rock millage question: taxation without representation?   
    Frustration with the state's takeover of Little Rock schools scrambles the usual political lines on an upcoming millage election.

    On May 9, residents of the Little Rock School District will vote on a ballot measure that would allow the district to make facilities improvements totaling $160 million, if approved. According to LRSD Superintendent Mike Poore, the measure is not a new tax, since it would not raise the rate of 46.4 mills now levied on property owners. Instead, by refinancing debt on an existing bond, the district would push back the expiration date of a portion (12.4 mills) of the current tax rate by 14 years, from 2033 to 2047. The LRSD says the projects to be funded by this extension of debt would include construction of a new high school in long-neglected Southwest Little Rock, major renovations to the McClellan High School campus and improvements to almost every school building in the district, from roof replacements to air conditioner upgrades to new windows. The work could begin as early as this summer, with some efforts completed in time for the 2017-18 school year.

    So why are many public school advocates — including the city's most visible African-American civic leaders — urging a "no" vote on May 9?

    In a word, distrust. Since January 2015, when the district was taken over by a 5-4 vote of the state Board of Education, the LRSD has been governed not by a locally elected school board, but by Arkansas's education commissioner, Johnny Key, a gubernatorial appointee. The proximate reason for the takeover was low student performance at six schools (out of the district's 48 campuses) that were deemed to be in "academic distress" based on test scores over a three-year period. But many in Little Rock saw other reasons for the state's actions: a racially motivated animus toward the majority-black local school board, which was dissolved by the January 2015 state board vote, and a desire to promote privately operated charter schools at the expense of public ones. For those critical of the takeover, the past two years have only confirmed these suspicions.

    Two charter operators in Little Rock, eStem Public Charter Schools and LISA Academy, are dramatically expanding and will likely draw many students away from the LRSD in the coming years — perhaps thousands. The state board authorized their expansion plans in March 2016 over the vocal protests of the district's erstwhile superintendent, Baker Kurrus, who was fired by Commissioner Key shortly thereafter. Kurrus had served just one year on the job, having been hired by Key in 2015. Then, in the 2017 legislative session, the Republican majority created a new law that will soon allow charters to force districts to sell or lease school buildings deemed "unused or underutilized." The LRSD will close two buildings at the end of the current school year, and the ongoing migration of families toward charters raises the possibility of more closures in the future. And more charter operators are eyeing the Little Rock market: In March, a New Orleans-based operator called Einstein Charter Schools began the application process to open a campus in the city. All of this means the district is asking taxpayers to shoulder millions of dollars in additional debt to improve public buildings at a time when the future ownership of those buildings is itself in doubt.

    Those who believe racial prejudice propelled the takeover find fault both with charter growth and with the district's priorities while under state control, especially the recent closure decisions. The LRSD soon will shutter two K-5 elementary schools, Franklin and Wilson, along with a pre-K facility, Woodruff Early Childhood Center. The LRSD's alternative school, Hamilton Learning Academy, will move to the Wilson building, with the old Hamilton building likely to be used by adjacent Bale Elementary. Franklin and Wilson are located in majority-minority neighborhoods and their student populations are mostly African-American and Latino. Though many of the projects outlined in the LRSD's list of capital improvements to be funded by the May 9 vote would benefit schools serving black and Latino students — the Southwest Little Rock high school most of all — many activists are deeply skeptical the district will follow through with those promises. Because the ballot measure does not specifically state which projects will receive funding, some warn the $160 million could be directed toward schools in more affluent, whiter neighborhoods rather than those with the greatest needs.

    Superintendent Poore is at the heart of this controversy. The decision to close or repurpose schools was his, and he defends it as a difficult but necessary choice. (Key, who acts as the district's board while under state control, gave final approval.) For years, the LRSD received $37 million annually from the state as a result of a desegregation lawsuit — over 10 percent of its budget — but those payments will soon end. Although both Poore and his predecessor, Kurrus, made major cuts in other areas, the district still had to trim $11 million from the 2017-18 budget.

    Poore told the Arkansas Times recently that school closures were painful, but also long expected. "The reality was we had 2,300 vacant elementary seats — 4,100 when you add in the portable [buildings] — and so we took out of the mix two elementaries with maximum capacities being just under 1,000." If the LRSD doesn't close buildings, Poore argued, it would have to cut back on staff. "Yes, these two schools closing, and the preschool closing, that has an impact on our communities, but I'll tell you what could have had a bigger impact. ... When 80 percent of your business is people, now you're talking about privatizing food service, privatizing custodial. ... We could have been impacting hundreds of employees if we'd taken that route."

    As for the charter school issue, Poore said he urged legislators to vote against the recent legislation, which will give charters the ability to wrest underutilized buildings away from districts. Poore has not been as outspoken as Kurrus on the potential harm that charter growth can deal to the LRSD, but he's made it clear he doesn't want the district's facilities to be colonized by outside schools. For that reason, he is moving quickly to find a new use for the Franklin and Woodruff buildings, and the district is now reviewing proposals garnered by a recent RFP.

    "We're trying to be aggressive about repurposing," he said, adding later, "I don't believe we want to enhance the number of charter seats [in Little Rock] right now."

    Poore argued that capital improvements are necessary if the district hopes to retain students or to win back families that have left the LRSD for charters or private schools. He pointed to studies showing modernized facilities can boost student achievement by several percentage points. "I can't control [charter growth], but what I can control is what we do. ... If you've improved academic performance and you're creating a better learning environment and it's a more pleasing building to kids and patrons, that prevents some of the issues that we're already facing right now in terms of our competitiveness. And it ties into the bigger picture of what this district has to do to have the community believe that, and, more importantly, have families say, 'I want my kid in Little Rock schools.' "

    Poore also said the proposed debt extension on the May 9 ballot is "just the first phase" in a larger, long-term plan to address the full $340 million in needs identified by a 2014 study of district facilities, which will eventually require a modest millage increase. Getting the ball rolling with an initial $160 million investment will build confidence for that future vote, Poore believes. "My No. 1 target that has been given me since I came in, from the governor, the commissioner and this community, is [to] get local control back. But the No. 1 thing to do is to serve kids well, and they deserve to not have a roof that leaks. They deserve to have air conditioning that creates fresh air [and] hallways that aren't dark and dingy," he said.

    Yet for many, the May 9 vote itself is a reminder that LRSD voters have not weighed in on a school issue since the September 2014 local board election — a few months before the state takeover dissolved that body. State board member Jay Barth, a Little Rock resident, recently pushed his colleagues to set a timeline for release of the district from state control, but the effort foundered.

    "There are people who are critical," the superintendent acknowledged, "who say, 'Really, Mike Poore? You're coming to ask us in May to extend the debt, and you just closed schools? And really, you're coming when we don't even have local control?' Well, on the local control issue — this does allow every citizen in this whole community right now [to speak]. You can't get a truer form of democracy than everyone gets to go vote on this issue. So in that sense, it really is a deal to let the community say, 'Here's what we think.' "

    And what does the community think? To get a sense, we asked school advocates on both sides to make their case.

    Maxine Allen

    I am a sixth-generation Little Rock residential property owner. I witnessed my parents paying a poll tax in order to vote. I am a product of the segregated and then newly integrated Little Rock School District. I attended the district at a time in which white schools received textbooks first. By the time black schools got the books, they were soiled, pages were missing and text had been marked through. In spite of all of that, I believed I received an excellent education.

    I am a parent who served as a "room mother" and whose children attended Woodruff, Pulaski Heights and Williams Magnet Elementary Schools; Pulaski Heights, Horace Mann Magnet and Forest Heights Middle Schools; and Parkview and Central High Schools. I believe my children received a quality education.

    I am a pastor who has served as a volunteer in public schools. I believe every child needs a great school where they are immersed in diversity, encouraged to think critically and empowered to expand their worldview. As a United Methodist, I operate within our tradition that declares education is a right of all children. This is affirmed by scripture, which calls us to "train children in the way they should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

    However, I believe that we must regain local control of our schools BEFORE voting for any millage. The LRSD is no longer in academic distress (if it ever was, as six schools do not a distressed district make). While I have many friends on the opposite side of this issue, I cannot in good conscious vote for the millage until we have an elected LRSD board. There's just something about the basic American principle, "No taxation without representation." For these reasons, I urge you to vote against the millage!

    Rev. Maxine Allen is the president of the Christian Ministerial Alliance.

    State Sen. Joyce Elliott

    Little Rock School District students deserve not just better facilities, but world-class facilities. So let's just stipulate that we all agree on that point and try to understand why many of us feel as if we are redlined to bear the burden of a master plan not revealed to us. For example, most of the millage extension supporters I have observed do not have schools closing in their neighborhoods.

    LRSD students, parents/guardians, educators and others deserve to have their district back, not under state control. To this date, there has been no compelling reason put forth for the state to have assumed authority over the LRSD when 42 of the 48 schools in the district — 87 percent — were not in distress. The number has since climbed to 45 schools, or 94 percent. It was a raw exercise of power by folks who gave vague answers such as, "Well, something needed to be done." Yes — about the few schools in academic distress. Taking over the entire district was totally unwarranted. If I have a couple of teeth that need to be extracted, would you extract them all using the logic "something needed to be done"? Certainly not. But that's just what the State Board of Education did.

    And now the extended apparatus of the board, Commissioner Key, has wielded power far beyond addressing the schools in academic distress by hiring a superintendent (Baker Kurrus), firing that superintendent, installing present Superintendent Michael Poore and unilaterally closing schools in historically underserved neighborhoods south of Interstate 630. And now, folks who advocated for the state board to seize control of the LRSD, such as the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, are leading the effort to extend the millage with glossy flyers and bright yard signs.

    I cannot vote for a tax without elected, accountable representation. I want the best for LRSD students, but I am not prepared to dishonor the blood-soaked history of all those who sacrificed to guarantee me full citizenship rights. There are many voters who share my visceral feeling that a tax election imposed by one person is a betrayal of democracy. There are others, it appears, who have no problem with it and who are cheerleading to carry out a vote under conditions you might find in a developing country.

    This election is a deliberate attempt to force us into a false dilemma: On May 9, choose better facilities for students, or choose to insist on restoration of our rights as citizens. Let us not choose but work together to demand both. Let's not give in to political extortion.

    Will the folks who pleaded for the takeover now join in the demand to return the LRSD to us? I hope so. I am ready to join hands with you.

    Joyce Elliott is a Democratic state senator representing a portion of Little Rock and a former teacher.

    Bill Kopsky

    For the first time in my life, I will be voting AGAINST a bond measure for important civic infrastructure. My opposition to the bond extension comes down to trust, transparency, accountability and inclusion.

    A deep distrust rooted in more than a century of racial and economic segregation is the LRSD's biggest challenge, not finances. The state takeover and Education Commissioner Johnny Key, our one-man appointed school board, have made it worse.

    Commissioner Key consistently refuses to meet with the community and has failed to produce any vision for the school district other than a massive, polarizing charter school expansion. He is barreling ahead despite clear data showing that charter schools fail to outperform LRSD schools with similar demographics. Those charters leave the LRSD with a more segregated student population and significantly fewer resources to meet their needs.

    The greatest tragedy of Commissioner Key's charter mania is the distraction from effective education reforms we could be working on together. We should be expanding community schools, not closing neighborhood schools. We should be recruiting and developing more world-class teachers, not demoralizing and chasing them away. We should be building community partnerships to help our students meet their full potential, not alienating wide swaths of the city. We should be dramatically expanding early childhood education, summer and afterschool programs, and supports for low-income students and English-language learners.

    The LRSD is attempting some of these reforms, but it is constantly being undermined by the state. In 2015, legislators attempted to hand the entire district over to private charter corporations. Then, the commissioner fired our superintendent, Baker Kurrus, for telling the truth about charter expansion's harmful effects. This year, the legislature passed a law requiring us to give closed school buildings to charter corporations while those in control of the district simultaneously shut down schools in the most vulnerable parts of town in a sham public engagement process.

    Now with no trust, transparency or accountability, and no district-wide plan for the future, Commissioner Key asks for a bond extension? It's outrageous. How could anyone trust him with a blank check?

    Those arguing for the bond extension rightly point out that LRSD facilities have many needs. They fail to make a case for the urgency of doing this while we remain under state control. The bond that we are being asked to extend doesn't expire for years to come.

    There's no reason why Little Rock taxpayers can't make this decision once LRSD is back in local control. The schools our kids deserve are rooted in evidence-based and community-driven reforms. In the coming years I hope to vote for a transparent and accountable bond measure that unites our city. For now, VOTE AGAINST.

    Bill Kopsky is a Little Rock School District parent and public education advocate.

    Marion Humphrey Sr.

    I intend to vote against extending this millage because I do not trust either Education Commissioner Johnny Key or the Arkansas State Board of Education.

    Key was placed in charge of the district after the state board's racist and immoral vote on Jan. 28, 2015, to remove the lawfully elected and majority African-American district's board of directors. The takeover came after the district's board was notified by letter on July 10, 2014, that six out of its 48 schools were in academic distress. The district was given just one semester in which to correct the acknowledged problems with those schools. No further academic proficiency testing was done between the time of notification in July and the time of the takeover the following January. The fix was already in.

    The state board simply wanted someone other than the duly elected district board members in control, even if that meant recklessly throwing the district into disarray and chaos in the middle of the school year. The majority of the state board removed a local school board composed of people whom the Walton Family Foundation and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce did not want to be in charge of the district — and especially its $330 million budget.

    Yet Key has not made himself available to the general public to discuss why the millage extension is necessary. Whether he does not want to disclose what he intends to do with the additional money or whether he does not have time to be bothered with some of us, Key is simply not accessible to many district patrons. Perhaps he has targeted the voters he thinks he needs for passage of the millage extension and sees no need to waste his time with others.

    I am not convinced that additional money is needed to make the capital improvements that proponents suggest, and I am not confident in the judgment of Commissioner Key. If he cared about families living south of I-630, why would he close schools such as Wilson, Franklin, Woodruff and Hamilton? After all, Wilson received an exemplary rating from the Arkansas Department of Education. If our concern is truly about a great education for the children of this district, why would an intelligent and thoughtful educator close an exemplary school and do collateral damage to its neighborhood as well?

    For my first time ever, I intend to vote against a school millage.

    Marion A. Humphrey Sr. is a retired Pulaski County Circuit judge and a pastor at Allison Memorial Presbyterian Church.

    Dr. Anika Whitfield

    It is really simple. The LRSD is currently being managed by two men, both of whom were appointed to their positions, are not natives of Little Rock, did not attend the LRSD and do not have children who attend the LRSD now or in the past. Education Commissioner Johnny Key and Superintendent Michael Poore are making decisions for our district without locally elected representation or accountability.

    Key will argue that he appointed the LRSD Community/Civic Advisory Board to represent the people of this city. The problem with that argument is that Key chose persons who will serve his interest in supporting the expansion of charter schools. Key has been publicly lobbying to replace traditional public education options for students with private-public charter schools.

    In addition, Key has refused to meet in public settings to engage with parents and community members who have questions about school closures, community impact studies, plans for academic improvements in schools designated to be in academic distress, ways to assist traditional public schools, and ways to help advertise, recruit and promote the great programs and opportunities for students, parents and teachers in the LRSD — just to name a few of his denied requests for public meetings.

    Given the fact that Key is the sole board member of the LRSD, the only person who makes the final decisions for the LRSD, and the sole person who has the power to overrule Poore's decisions, it would be unwise to hand more tax money over to this appointed leader who has shown little to no respect for the residents of Little Rock, the students who attend the LRSD and their parents. Key has publicly said that he would not be open to yielding to the Little Rock Board of Directors and mayor to conduct neighborhood impact studies before closing schools, displacing students and school personnel and taking away public, anchoring institutions from people who fund and support them.

    Voting for the May 9 LRSD millage tax extension would be like Walmart giving Target money and expecting Target to use those funds to improve Walmart's business. Not going to happen. It would be like giving a thief keys to your home and expecting the thief to protect your home and possessions. Not a wise choice. I strongly encourage voters to vote AGAINST the May 9 LRSD millage tax extension.

    A better investment of taxpayers' dollars, time and resources would be to directly invest in students, schools, teachers and families in the LRSD. This way, you know that your dollars will be spent on students and teachers that need these resources, and not on brick and mortar. Invest directly in students, teachers, families and schools in a way that you can ensure is actually meaningful and not destructive to the vitality of the LRSD.

    Dr. Anika T. Whitfield is an LRSD graduate, an alumna of Franklin Elementary and a volunteer in the district.

    Faith Madkins

    As I walk the halls of McClellan High School each day, I see a small community high school filled with Lion pride, exceptional talent and growing potential. Unfortunately, with the good also comes the bad. I have immense pride in my school, but sadly I cannot say the same about my district. I have been in the Little Rock School District all of my life since kindergarten — bouncing around from school to school — and I've seen most of what the district has had to offer.

    Our buildings are older than most of our parents. In fact, most of our grandparents can remember these schools being built. That means everything in these buildings is outdated. Things that would have sufficed 60 years ago would never make the cut today.

    To further explain what I mean, I want to place you in my shoes. So, here we are at the doors of McClellan. It's springtime and the flowers are blooming. The sun is out, and it is beautiful outside. The bell sounds, and it is time for first period. The main halls are so cramped that it's difficult to pass through the crowd. It's hard to not feel a shoulder or a backpack invade my personal space and even harder to not trample over someone's feet. I can avoid going to my locker; I stopped using it due to the fact it frequently jammed. There wasn't enough space in there, anyway. I finally get to class and take my seat. As my teacher is talking, I can't help but be distracted by what's going on next door. Most of our walls either (a) don't reach the floor or (b) are paper-thin. Yet I am expected to focus.

    A teacher of mine once said, "You know you have a friendship when you can have a conversation with disagreements and still go out for lunch." Now that I am 18, I am able to sit down at that table with you and join the conversation. Let's establish a friendship based on the well being of the students in this district. With all of our agreements and disagreements, let's at least be able to agree that the students deserve better. I deserved better, and I had to settle. Don't force other kids to do the same. Let's go out for lunch May 9.

    Faith Madkins is a senior at McClellan High School.

    Mollie Campbell

    I am the proud mother of two, soon to be three, young children. My oldest is in pre-K at Forest Park Elementary. My younger two will follow their big sister to Forest Park, Pulaski Heights Middle School and eventually Central High. My family is committed to being in the Little Rock School District for the next 18 years. That is why this vote is so important to me.

    Schools all over our district are seriously overdue for upgrades and improvements. The buildings are on average 53 to 68 years old and have gone without any major capital investments since 2000. Our kids deserve the best possible learning environment. They should not be in buildings with leaky roofs or cafeterias without air conditioning. Every student in the district deserves modern, clean, safe facilities.

    This vote will invest millions back into our schools and will impact the entire district — every school and every student. Roof repairs, window replacements, new security systems, restroom renovations and heating and air conditioning replacements will improve the lives of every student, teacher and staff member in the district. The list of improvements to be made comes from a study conducted in 2014, and the funds generated will go directly toward these capital improvements ... no surprises.

    Our kids deserve better. After talking with several people about this vote, I acknowledge that some would rather wait until a local school board has control of the money. I, too, look forward to the swift return of our local school board. On this issue however, how long should we ask our kids to wait and allow their education to suffer in the meantime? We cannot let perfection be the enemy of the good when we have a chance to improve all of our kids' classrooms and learning experiences immediately. By voting FOR this ballot measure on May 9, my daughter will enter kindergarten this fall in a school that was improved this summer.

    Every day, as my 4-year-old walks into school, I expect her to do everything she can to maximize her learning experience. As her parent, I know it is my responsibility to do the same for her, and right now that means supporting this investment in her school and schools across the district. The time is NOW to invest in our kids and our community, so I look forward to voting FOR our kids on May 9.

    Mollie Campbell is a Little Rock School District mom.

    Bobby Roberts

    In 2014, the Little Rock School District commissioned a facilities study that indicated that approximately $300 million in facilities upgrades and improvements were needed. In January 2015, the school board voted unanimously to approve a $375 million facilities plan.

    At that same time, the Central Arkansas Library System had just opened a new library and revitalized our facilities throughout the region. These new facilities helped bring the joy of reading and learning to thousands of students. It was amazing to see the impact that a new library could have on a community by providing a place for people to read, gather, access the internet and learn. These libraries gave students the tools and resources they needed to study, learn and excel. Many of these fine new buildings were constructed when voters approved the refunding of existing bonds. This is exactly the same funding method that the LRSD is proposing to voters.

    I saw firsthand what a difference investing in our libraries made in our city and in the lives of children. I know that investing in our schools would have an even greater impact. We need to give students the tools for success, and reinvesting in our aging, outdated academic facilities is the best way to do that. These old buildings do not do that, and we are hampering our students' ability to learn by denying them modern facilities.

    If we vote now to extend our bonds, we will raise an additional $160 million to begin addressing the needs of our school facilities. Every school, and therefore every community, in the district will feel the investment of this money by the 2017-18 school year. This investment in our neighborhoods will save us huge dividends by lowering the operational costs of our schools and making them more energy efficient, with better lighting and renovated restrooms and roofs.

    By providing them with new facilities, modern technology and a better learning environment, we will empower our students to succeed. By improving their schools, we can increase academic achievement while also providing them with a safer and healthier learning atmosphere. Join me in supporting our kids; join me by voting FOR on May 9.

    Bobby Roberts is the former director of the Central Arkansas Library System.

    Keith Jackson

    As the founder of P.A.R.K., I understand the importance of investing in education. We see the impact that P.A.R.K's modern facility in Southwest Little Rock has on the success of our students. By supporting this vote, you are ensuring that every student in the district will be able to learn in a new and improved learning environment.

    In Southwest Little Rock, this vote means that over $95 million will be invested into the community. At a cost of $55 million, a new high school off of Mabelvale Pike would be built beginning this summer and would serve hundreds of students. This school would open in the fall of 2019 and would be equipped with the newest classroom and athletic facilities. With 21st century sports facilities that would be available for community usage, this new high school would benefit everyone in the community.

    McClellan High School would also receive a $40 million investment, completely revitalizing the school. Improvements like updated HVAC, roof and window repairs, classroom remodeling and technology updates would create energy savings and enhance the learning environment for our students. This repurposing of McClellan will change the lives of every student that will go through the school.

    Improved schools throughout the district can only be a good thing for Little Rock and our community. A vote FOR on May 9 will be a major boost for Southwest Little Rock. With your support, we can give our kids the modern learning environment and facilities they deserve!

    Keith Jackson is the founder of Positive Atmosphere Reaches Kids, a nonprofit based in Southwest Little Rock that provides afterschool and summer programming for youth.

    Gary Smith

    There have been no new major capital improvements in our schools since 2000. That means that a student graduating this year will have gone through his or her entire academic career in schools that are outdated and in dire need of improvement. By voting to extend the debt on our bonds for an additional 14 years, we will be able to invest $160 million into rebuilding and rehabilitating every school in our district — all without raising the tax rate.

    On average, district elementary school buildings are 68 years old, middle school buildings are 69 years old and high school buildings are 53 years old. A successful election will allow the district to make much-needed improvements district-wide before the start of the 2017-18 school year, including lighting, heat and air conditioning repair and window and roof replacements. These improved facilities will not only support the increased academic achievement of our students by improving their learning environment, but will also create a return on investment by decreasing energy costs. These improvements were selected as priorities after holding 46 community forums.

    I'm tired of Little Rock being a donut hole. I'm tired of being surrounded by other cities that are investing in their schools and making a difference in their students' lives. We have watched surrounding districts pass millage increases, build new schools and improve existing ones, and we have done nothing for nearly 20 years. We have a chance now to make a difference.

    This choice should be an easy one. We cannot have a great city and a great community without a strong, viable school district. Students are going to go to school tomorrow in a school that desperately needs help. They are going to use outdated technology and go to class in buildings with leaky roofs. This is something we can change. We need to create a better atmosphere for our students, and this vote is the way to do that.

    Gary Smith is the chairman of the Committee to Rebuild our Schools Now.

              How the 2017 Arkansas legislature made life worse for you   
    But it wasn't as bad as it could've been at the Capitol.

    Arkansas's legislators were locked and loaded when they arrived for the 91st General Assembly this year, determined to get more guns into public places and take away voting and abortion rights, their evergreen attacks.

    Thanks to the legislature, concealed weapons soon may be carried just about everywhere except Razorback games and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Unemployment benefits were cut, whistleblowers were silenced and charter schools were given advantages over regular public schools. Other legislation was symbolic but ugly, such as an act authored by Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro) that aims to stop Sharia, or Islamic ecclesiastical law, from taking over Arkansas's court system.

    Some of the silliest bills went nowhere, such as efforts by Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) to wipe Bill and Hillary Clinton's names off the Little Rock airport, to indefinitely delay implementing the voter-approved medical marijuana program and to call a convention of the states to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Anti-immigrant legislation that would have penalized colleges and cities with so-called "sanctuary" policies withered in committee. Rep. Smith, the sponsor of the bill targeting universities, warned that rogue professors might hide undocumented immigrants in their offices and then dump their human waste on campus in the dark of night; surprisingly, this argument did not persuade his colleagues. Rep. Kim Hendren (R-Gravette) proposed banning cell phones from public schools; later, he filed a bill prohibiting teachers from using books authored by leftist historian Howard Zinn. Neither gained traction.

    What was good? A little. Conservatives tried to circumscribe the medical marijuana amendment with bans on smoking and edible products, among other roadblocks, but the worst of the anti-pot legislation stalled. Evidently reassured by Governor Hutchinson's promises to make the private option more conservative (read: stingier) down the line, the annual appropriation for Medicaid passed without a major fight — a relief for the 300,000-plus Arkansans receiving health insurance through Obamacare. Pushed by Hutchinson, the ledge directed some of Arkansas's tobacco settlement proceeds to expand a waiver program for the developmentally disabled, opening the door to services for some 500 to 900 desperate families stranded for years on a waitlist. At long last, the state will stop its reprehensible practice of celebrating Robert E. Lee's birthday simultaneously with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a symbolic but important step forward that was championed by the governor.

    Here's our survey of the damage:

    In Glock we trust

    The biggest gun-related news this session was the passage and signing of House Bill 1249, now Act 562, which creates a new "enhanced carry" permit that will allow gun owners who have undergone eight hours of additional training — including active shooter training, with a curriculum still to be worked out by the Arkansas State Police — to carry a concealed handgun in many places previously forbidden under the state's concealed carry law, including the state Capitol, public colleges and universities, bars, churches and courthouses. Concealed carry in prisons, courtrooms and K-12 schools is still forbidden, and private property owners, including bars, churches and private colleges, can still prohibit firearms if they choose.

    Sponsored by Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville), the bill was a far piece from where it started by the time it was signed. Originally, Collins' bill would have solely mandated that public universities and colleges allow faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns. It was an attempt to push back against the state's public colleges and universities, which have steadfastly rejected Collins' and his colleagues' attempts to institute "campus carry" in the past. Amendments to HB 1249 soon pushed it several clicks further toward the broad "guns everywhere" approach favored by the National Rifle Association, and far beyond a potential shooting iron in a well-trained professor's briefcase. Now, anyone with the enhanced permit will be able to carry on a college campus, including into sometimes-contentious student and faculty disciplinary hearings and raucous college dorms.

    The passage of the bill spawned some last minute scrambling when the Southeastern Conference expressed concerns about fans coming to college football games carrying heat, resulting in Act 859, a cleanup effort that prohibits concealed carry in college athletic venues. Also exempted by Act 859 were daycares, UAMS and the Arkansas State Hospital, an inpatient facility for the mentally ill. The bill also allows private businesses and organizations to ban concealed carry without posting a sign to that effect. If a private business decides to ban concealed carry without posting a sign, anyone caught carrying a concealed weapon on the premises can be ejected or told to remove their gun if they want to come back. If the concealed carrier repeats the infraction, they can be charged with a crime. Even after the purported cleanup, that still leaves a lot of places open to concealed carry unless those places set a policy forbidding the practice, including most hospitals, mental health facilities and off-campus high school and middle school sporting events. At the signing ceremony for HB 1249, Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said, "We believe that if you have a legal right to be somewhere, and you're a law-abiding person, you ought to have a legal right to defend yourself." For the NRA, that means the right to be armed everywhere, any time, as long as you don't have a criminal record. Notice Cox didn't say anything about pesky permits or training.

    Speaking of law-abiding persons, also of concern when it comes to concealed carry is Act 486. Under the law, the Arkansas State Police is now prohibited from establishing or amending any administrative rule that would revoke or suspend a concealed carry permit unless the holder of the permit was found to be in violation of a criminal offense. While not penalizing a person if they haven't committed a crime sounds like a good idea, the problem is that people can and do go off the rails for a multitude of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with a violation of the criminal code. Before the passage of Act 486, the State Police had broad latitude to revoke or suspend concealed carry permits for a number of reasons, including serious alcohol and drug abuse, dangerous mental illness, or a mental health professional's determination that a permit holder might be a threat to himself, his family or the public. With the passage of Act 486, though, a concealed carry holder who suffers a complete mental breakdown to the point of visual hallucinations can keep on packing right until the moment he or she is admitted at the State Hospital (thanks Act 859!), even if the person's family or a doctor asks the State Police to pull their permit. Ditto with people suffering from substance abuse issues, elderly dementia patients and those who hint they might be capable of suicide or homicide. Under the law, a permit can still be revoked or suspended if the person is caught carrying into a prohibited place like a courtroom or jail, but as seen above, the list of places where handguns are prohibited is dwindling by the year. Otherwise, thanks to Act 486, we just have to wait until that person commits a crime. By then, it's too late.

    In the What Could Have Been column, we have HB 1630, by Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock), which would have created the misdemeanor offense of "negligently allowing access to a firearm by a child" if an owner failed to secure a loaded gun or left it in a place a child could easily access. Though the bill had exemptions for hunting, sport shooting and use of firearms on a farm and had a sliding scale of penalties, with incidents involving the death or serious injury of a child at the top of the list, it went nowhere.


    Traditional schools took licks, but the worst was kept at bay.

    The single worst education bill passed in 2017 was probably Act 542, sponsored by Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale), which requires school districts to sell or lease "unused or underutilized" facilities to competitor charter schools. Charters already had right of first refusal in the event a district decides to sell a building — but after Act 542 goes into effect this summer, a charter can force a district to sell or lease a building, even if the district doesn't want to do so. If a different entity — a nonprofit, say, or a clinic or a business — wants to buy an unoccupied school building instead, that's too bad. Act 542 requires a district to hold on to unused buildings for two years, just in case a charter comes along and wants the facility for itself.

    Clark pointed to a situation a few years ago in which the Helena-West Helena School District refused to sell a vacant elementary to KIPP Delta, a charter. But there are good reasons why a district wouldn't want to hand over an asset to a direct competitor: Charter networks tend to weaken districts by bleeding away higher-performing students and public money, and they often enjoy advantages their traditional public school counterparts do not. As some opponents of the bill pointed out, the new law is tantamount to forcing Walmart to sell a store to Target. That's why school superintendents across the state fought the bill and convinced no small number of Republicans to join Democrats in opposing it. In the end, though, it passed the House on a 53-32 vote. Republican legislators also rejected proposals by Democrats Sen. Joyce Elliott and Rep. Clarke Tucker — both from Little Rock, which is seeing unchecked charter growth at the expense of traditional public schools — to impose fairer rules on charters.

    Thankfully, the legislature turned down an even worse proposal. HB 1222 by Rep. Jim Dotson (R-Bentonville) proposed a convoluted scheme to divert millions of dollars away from the public coffers (by means of a tax credit to wealthy donors) and toward private schools in the guise of "education savings accounts" to be used for student tuition. A school voucher plan in all but name, the bill would have been devastating to public education. Dotson eventually scaled back the legislation to a pilot program with a four-year sunset, allowing a Senate version of the bill to win passage in that chamber — but many Republicans remain fond of their local school districts, and it narrowly failed in the House.

    Meanwhile, legislators expanded an existing voucher program, the Succeed Scholarship. Created in the 2015 session, it uses public tax dollars to pay private school tuition for a limited number of K-12 students with special needs. Parents are required to waive their child's civil rights protections under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In the past, the scholarship was open only to kids with an Individualized Education Program, or IEP; now, foster children living in group homes will also be eligible, thanks to Act 894 by Rep. Kim Hammer (R-Benton). Act 327 by Rep. Carlton Wing (R-North Little Rock) will allow a nonaccredited private school to participate, as long as the school has applied for accreditation. And, the appropriation for the Succeed Scholarship rose from $800,000 to $1.3 million — an increase of 63 percent — potentially allowing as many as 200 students statewide to participate.

    That bump is especially notable alongside the meager 1 percent increase in the state's overall K-12 education budget for the next two years — far less than the 2.5 percent boost recommended by legislative staff tasked with determining what constitutes "adequate" school funding. A bit more money will be directed to teacher pay and special education, and pre-kindergarten will see an overdue $3 million increase, so the money situation could be worse. Still, with state revenue squeezed hard by tax cuts, and private and charter schools knocking at the door, traditional public schools are clearly not the General Assembly's top priority.

    On other fronts, school legislation was a mixed bag. Elliott's Act 1059, will limit the use of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students in grades K-5 — a much-needed reform — but her bid to end corporal punishment failed in committee. (Rural Arkansas still loves the paddle.) One of the better education bills to pass this session was Elliott's Act 1039 which gives teeth to a 2013 law (also by Elliott) requiring dyslexia screening and intervention. Its reporting requirements and enforcement mechanism hopefully will force districts to deliver better reading interventions to dyslexic students. A major accountability bill developed by the state Education Department, Act 930, will overhaul how schools are monitored by the state, though it's too soon to say how the changes will play out. Act 478 by Rep. Bruce Cozart (R-Hot Springs), will require high school students to pass a civics test before graduating; an attempt by Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) to impose the same requirement on legislators and state agency heads received a cold reception. A bill by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle), now Act 910, will end September school elections and require them to be held concurrent with the November general or spring primary election date. That could spell trouble for future millage votes.

    Finally, there's higher education: "Campus carry" dominated the news, but a major change in funding may be just as consequential. Act 148, which originated with the governor's office, creates a funding formula for colleges and universities that ties state money to metrics like graduation rate. HB 1518, now Act 563, a worthy bill by Rep. James Sturch (R-Batesville) requires the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board to create an action plan for addressing sexual assault on college campuses.

    Benjamin Hardy


    Some help for the working poor and lots of punting.

    Give modest credit to Governor Hutchinson. In the 2013 and 2015 legislative sessions, Republican legislators pushed a massive cut on taxes on capital gains and reduced the income tax burden on all but the working poor. This session, Hutchinson provided some relief at the lower end of the tax bracket. Hutchinson pushed through a $50 million tax cut, directed at households with a taxable income of less than $21,000. The cut is misleading, though, as it targets taxable income, which is often far less than salary or adjusted gross income. In fact, Arkansas Advocates for Children & Families pointed out that 48 percent of the overall $50 million cut will go to taxpayers in the top 40 percent of earners, while only 5 percent will go to those making less than $18,000 per year.

    Establishing a refundable state Earned Income Tax Credit, tied to the federal EITC, would have been considerably more beneficial to the lower 40 percent of Arkansas earners, who often have no income tax liability, but pay a large share of their income in sales tax. An EITC would have provided a more substantial boost to the working poor at less cost than Hutchinson's cut. Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) and Sen. Jake Files (R-Fort Smith) were behind the EITC proposal, which historically has bipartisan appeal, but they couldn't get support from Hutchinson or enough other legislators.

    Hutchinson also supported legislation that exempted all military retirement pay and survivor benefits from state income taxes. The first $6,000 of military retirement pay had been exempt previously. Since most veterans aren't career soldiers and eligible for a pension, the exemption will leave out many veterans (again, an EITC would have been a better avenue). But few politicians on either side of the aisle were going to stand in the way of helping veterans — even though Hutchinson unconscionably larded the measure with unrelated tax hikes. The legislation offset the eventual $13.4 million cost of the exemption by raising the sales tax on candy and soda. Completely unrelated to veterans' retirement income, the bill provided a $6 million tax cut on soft drink syrup, which it paid for by taxing unemployment benefits and digital downloads. So, veterans with pensions got a bump and corporate interests got significant help, while folks downloading books and movies, as well as people in between jobs, got screwed.

    In the "could have been worse" column, more credit for Hutchinson: He held at bay lawmakers from his party such as Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs) who wanted to cut $100 million or more in taxes — threatening essential state services in the process — by creating a commission to consider the future of tax policies in the state.

    The commission will have to consider two issues the General Assembly punted on. A bill that would have required out-of-state online retailers to collect sales tax on purchases made by Arkansans stalled in the House, with several Republicans decrying the proposal as a tax increase even though Arkansans already are required to pay the tax by law (few do because it requires self-reporting.) Still, Amazon said it would voluntarily begin collecting sales tax on Arkansas customers beginning in March. Another bill that merely would have referred to voters a proposal to increase the tax on gas to pay for bonds for highway construction failed on similar anti-tax grounds.

    Lindsey Millar


    Atual reform

    Act 423, "The Criminal Justice Efficiency and Safety Act," might be the most consequential piece of good legislation the General Assembly passed. It's a sprawling, omnibus law, with three primary components.

    Most consequentially, it introduces swift and certain sanctioning, which means parolees and probationers who commit minor violations of the terms of their supervision will be sent for 45 to 90 days to Arkansas Community Correction facilities, where they will receive rehabilitative programming, instead of being sent to prison for significantly longer stints. Arkansas in recent years has had the fastest growing prison population in the country, fueled largely by parole violators returning to prison. Swift and certain sanctioning is expected to free up as many as 1,600 prison beds and save the state as much as $30-$40 million.

    The law also seeks to divert people who commit nuisance offenses because they are high on drugs or having a mental health crisis in public from jail or prison. It establishes Crisis Stabilization Units, regional facilities where people in crisis could go to receive treatment for several days. The law mandates the creation of three such units, but $5 million earmarked in the state budget for the operation of the facilities, paired with significant additional federal money the state expects to draw from Medicaid, could allow for several more CSUs to open. The locations of the CSUs have not yet been selected, but Craighead, Pulaski and Sebastian counties are thought to be leading candidates. Finally, Act 423 also requires law enforcement officers to receive crisis intervention training to help them de-escalate interactions with people amid behavioral health episodes.

    The law is the product of 18 months of study and presentations by the nonprofit Council of State Governments, which reported to a Legislative Criminal Justice Oversight Task Force that bill sponsor Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock) co-chaired. Hutchinson, co-sponsor Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) and CSG say the new law will save the state money, which can be reinvested in effective criminal justice policies. CSG's justice reinvestment program has successfully been implemented in states across the country.

    Of course, whether it's successful here will depend on policymakers seeing the reforms through. One potential stumbling block: CSG recommended that the state hire 100 new parole and probation officers to better supervise the nearly 56,000 people on parole and probation. Current supervision officers handle on average 125 cases. Governor Hutchinson's budget didn't provide for funding to hire 100 new officers, though it did make temporary funding to Arkansas Community Correction permanent, which will at least allow the department to retain the 60 officers it had hired since 2015. That's not enough, Sen. Hutchinson (who is the governor's nephew) said. He hopes a future General Assembly will approve additional funding for more officers using some of the savings generated by Act 423.

    A perennial stumbling block for any criminal justice reform is the inevitable violator who commits a serious crime. A significant portion of Arkansas's recent prison growth spike came because of punitive parole policies enacted in the wake of the 2013 murder of a teenager in Little Rock by a serial parole violator. It's natural to think that locking up people who commit crimes for long stretches reduces crime, but research shows it's just the opposite, Sen. Hutchinson said.

    "I've had the luxury of studying this for years now. It's hard to wrap your brain around sometimes," Hutchinson said. "Longer sentences do not, in fact, result in lower crime rates. The longer [people are] incarcerated, the greater chance of recidivism they have."

    Hutchinson chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, and many of its members, chief among them Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest), were hostile to the idea of moving away from incarceration in certain situations. King introduced the tough-on-crime Senate Bill 177, which would have required anyone with three stints in prison to serve at least 80 percent of any subsequent sentence. Arkansas already has a two-strikes law: After someone commits a second serious violent or sexual crime, he's required to serve 100 percent of his sentence. So King's measure would have mostly targeted low-level property and drug crimes and at huge cost. According to an impact statement, it would have added 5,499 inmates at a cost of $121 million in 2026. The total 10-year cost to the state would have been $692 million, and that's not including the significant cost of building new prison housing. King let the bill die in the House Judiciary Committee after Governor Hutchinson forcefully spoke out against it.

    Three other positive new laws: Act 566, sponsored by the odd couple Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) and Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville), has Arkansas opt out of a section in President Clinton's sweeping 1996 welfare reform law that prevents anyone who has been convicted of a felony drug offense from receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. Act 1012, from legislation sponsored by Tucker and Hutchinson, allows someone on probation or parole for an offense that did not involve the operation of a motor vehicle who has a suspended drivers license because of unpaid fines or fees to continue to drive to work or school. Act 539, sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain Home) and Rep. Rebecca Petty (R-Springdale), prevents minors from being sentenced to life without parole. Before they become eligible for parole, the new law requires minors sentenced to life terms to serve 20 years for nonhomicide offenses, 25 years for first-degree murder and 30 years for capital murder. Of course, the Parole Board could repeatedly deny parole requests and force someone sentenced to a life term as a minor to spend his life in prison.

    The heartbreaker of the session in criminal justice was the failure of Democratic Sen. Joyce Elliott's proposal to require racial impact statements for new criminal justice legislation. The impact statements would have provided research on whether proposed legislation would have a disparate impact on minority groups. Similar bills failed in 2013 and 2015, and this one was substantially amended to merely provide the impact statements as an option, but it died on the House floor. It was another reminder that for many white people, there is no greater insult than suggesting that they or something they do might be racist, even if the bias was unintended. One opponent, Rep. Ballinger, said he did not believe in systemic racism.

    Lindsey Millar


    Risking women's health

    Women and their bodies were subjected to serious new insults this year by Arkansas legislators practicing medicine without a license.

    Among the most egregious laws was the so-called "dismemberment abortion" bill, now Act 45, whose chief sponsors were Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley) and Sen. David Sanders (R-Little Rock). The bill prohibits doctors from performing what doctors believe is the safest method of second trimester abortion: dilation and evacuation. The alternatives would be something akin to a Caesarean section, in which the belly is cut open to remove the fetus, or an induced abortion, which requires the woman to go into labor to expel a fetus killed by an injection of salt water, urea or potassium chloride into the amniotic sac. Those procedures are what doctors call "high morbidity" — meaning they have a high risk of making patients sick.

    Dilation and evacuation is recommended by the World Health Organization, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Medical Association. The difference between those organizations and the Arkansas legislature is that one group does not believe women should receive the best health care possible.

    But Mayberry and Sanders and their co-sponsors think D&E, which uses a vacuum, is tantamount to butchery. But hysterectomy and induction abortions accomplish the same end as a D&E and are far less safe.

    There is no exception for incest or rape in the law. And, like previous laws passed by legislators who think their particular religious beliefs give them the right to control women, the law particularly harms women who can't afford to travel to a more broad-minded jurisdiction to exercise a legal right.

    Another evil of the law is that it allows a spouse, parent or guardian to bring a civil suit against the abortion provider if the woman has "received or attempted to receive" dilation and evacuation. That means, according to abortion rights activists and Mayberry himself, a husband can stop an abortion. He may have committed rape. A parent may have committed incest. Doesn't matter.

    Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) and Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) brought us the bill that became Act 733, the so-called "sex-selection abortion ban." Despite the fact that there is zero evidence that Arkansas women are dashing into abortion clinics because they've determined the sex of their fetus and don't like it, the bill has the potential to create an huge burden on the doctor provider.

    Say a woman has had prenatal tests to see if her fetus has a genetic disorder. She learns there is a disorder and, by the way, the sex of the fetus. Her doctor must ask if she knows the gender of the fetus. If she answers that she does, the abortion must be delayed, because this new state law requires the doctor to "request the medical records of the pregnant woman relating directly to the entire pregnancy history of the woman." No abortion may be performed until every chart for every pregnancy generated by the woman's ob-gyn (or ob-gyns) and staffs and hospitals, every record generated during every trip to the ER she may have had to make, is supplied and reviewed by the abortion provider. Not only could that take a lot of time and generate a mountain of paperwork — what if the woman already had five children? — but it would also notify, perhaps against the woman's will, her doctors and their staffs that she is seeking to obtain an abortion.

    The bill does not state what information in those records would suggest that the woman was hell-bent on not having another boy or girl.

    "Why are physicians and the clinic made to be an investigative party into a woman's motives to have an abortion?" asked a spokesman for Little Rock Family Planning, the state's only clinic that offers abortion up to 21 weeks.

    Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs) and Sen. Scott Flippo (R-Bull Shoals), like Mayberry and Sanders, introduced what's called a model TRAP law (targeted regulation of abortion providers) meant to end abortion by imposing stricter inspection regulations on clinics. The bill allows the state Department of Health to make yearly trips to inspect clinic records and "a representative sample of procedures"; to regulate all aspects of the clinic "without limitation," and to collect an annual fee of $500.

    While purporting to be a bill to protect women's health, the new law, Act 383, is designed to let the state shut down a clinic for facilities violations not spelled out in the legislation. It's not clear what violation would close the clinic. Towel on the floor? Out of paper towels? Scoop left in the break room freezer's icemaker?

    As it happens, Little Rock Family Planning is inspected frequently, more than the once every year that the law already called for. The health department inspected the clinic four times in 2016, citing such things as discolored ceiling tiles and a chair with rips. The clinic's spokesman said some inspections are instigated by complaints from the anti-abortion protesters that picket outside.

    The vague language of Act 383 "has potential for abuse. We don't know if we would be singled out and treated differently, if our license could be suspended for even minor paperwork violations," the spokesman said.

    — Leslie Newell Peacock


    The public's right to know took one step forward, two steps back.

    Arkansas's robust Freedom of Information Act came under assault in 2017 as never before, with legislators proposing at least a dozen new exemptions to the open records law. Thanks to SB 131, now Act 474, by Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch), security plans of the State Capitol Police are no longer disclosable to the public; Stubblefield's reasoning was that someone seeking to do violence at the Capitol might request such plans, but the law is written so broadly that virtually any record of the Capitol police could fall under the new exemption. Stubblefield's SB 12 (Act 541) created a similar exemption for schools, including colleges and universities. HB 1236, now Act 531, by Rep. Jimmy Gazaway (R-Paragould), prevents the disclosure of a body-cam or dash-cam recording of the death of a law enforcement officer.

    Thankfully, though, many anti-FOIA bills failed. The most significant was SB 373, by Sen. Bart Hester (R-Cave Springs), which proposed exempting attorney-client communications and work product from the FOIA if the client is a public entity. The force behind the bill was the University of Arkansas. The problem with this idea — aside from the fact that attorney-client communications can already be shielded on a case-by-case basis, by order of a judge — is that a public entity could declare almost any record exempt simply by emailing that record to its attorney. Had it passed, this loophole could have swallowed the entire FOIA.

    On the bright side, Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R-Rogers) managed to pass HB 1427, now Act 318, to require candidates to file their monthly finance reports electronically, rather than on paper. HB 1010, now Act 616, by Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) extends the same requirement to political action committees and other groups. This matters because a searchable electronic database will make it much easier for the public to track contributions made to candidates and PACs, as well as their expenditures.

    However, the legislature quashed an effort to shine a light on the darkest regions of campaign finance when it rejected HB 1005, by Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock). The bill would have required disclosure of "electioneering" spending, meaning advertisements by independent organizations, nominally unaffiliated with any candidate, that dodge ethics laws by scrupulously avoiding the use of phrasings like "vote for" or "vote against." A growing number of states recognize that such ads — which have proliferated tremendously in recent years and comprise hundreds of millions of dollars in spending nationwide — are de facto campaign commercials and require them to be reported as such. Not Arkansas.

    Benjamin Hardy


    Threats stalled.

    The legislature still shows animus toward people who don't fit its definition of normal, but Arkansans lucked out when three anti-LGBT bills failed. Two so-called "bathroom bills" that targeted transgender children and adults and another that would have let doctors refuse to perform a procedure if it offended their "deeply held beliefs" did not make it into law.

    But the legislature also blocked a bill that would have corrected an injustice. SB 580, by Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock), would have provided for the automatic listing of both parents' names on the birth certificates of children of married same-sex couples, an important factor in establishing inheritance and other matters. In a marriage between a man and a woman, the names of both parents are listed on a child's birth certificate, even in cases of surrogacy or artificial insemination. Arkansas is the only state that treats children of same-sex parents differently in this regard, seemingly in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 ruling that struck down bans on gay marriage nationwide. Elliott's bill would have fixed the problem, but when SB 580 came before the Senate Judiciary Committee, vice-chair Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas) said same-sex parents could make a will if they wanted to ensure their kids get an inheritance.

    Besides the children of same-sex couples, Collins-Smith doesn't much like transgender people, either. She introduced SB 774 to require that people had to use public bathroom or changing facilities that corresponded with the sex as listed on their birth certificates, and that the governing body of the public entity had to make sure the law was enforced. Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau director Gretchen Hall and Verizon Arena General Manager Michael Marion told Collins-Smith in a hearing on the bill said they could not see how it would be possible to know what was on the birth certificate on the thousands of people who might answer the call of nature at an event. "It's your job to find a way," Collins-Smith snarled. Collins-Smith pulled down the bill when she realized it was not going to pass.

    The House passed a bill introduced by Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Berryville), who also had his mind on bathroom use, to expand the state's indecent exposure law. State law already says it is a crime to expose one's genitalia with intent to gratify sexual desire; Ballinger's bill would have made it a crime simply to expose genitalia in front of a person of the opposite sex. (Maybe it's common practice to inspect genitalia in bathrooms up in Berryville.) Though the House vote for the bill was 65 to 3, the bill went down the Senate Judiciary Committee drain, as Collins-Smith's did.

    Governor Hutchinson, who did not want Arkansas to suffer economically as North Carolina did when it passed its "bathroom bill" (since partially repealed), was relieved.

    Another ugly bill was introduced by Rep. Brandt Smith (R-Jonesboro): the Health Care Freedom of Conscience Act, which would have allowed doctors to refuse to administer health care services that offended their "deeply held beliefs." Smith had in mind both reproductive rights and transgender reassignment surgery. There was no support for the bill from medical professionals, and state Surgeon General Dr. Gregory Bledsoe spoke against it, saying, "If you're a member of any sort of minority group ... these sorts of bills send a message that threatens you."

    Leslie Newell Peacock


    Workers, consumers and other enemies of the state got a raw deal.

    Governor Hutchinson deserves some recognition for passing a modest income tax cut for working people this session, even if it wasn't quite the boost for the poor that he claimed (see Taxes, page 15). But in almost every other way, the average Arkansan got screwed by the 2017 session.

    Start with Act 986, by Rep. Laurie Rushing (R-Hot Springs), which will outlaw private class-action lawsuits under the Deceptive Trade Practices Act — a cornerstone of consumer protection law. Such suits are a powerful deterrent against businesses that intentionally scam customers in various small ways, such as false advertising or misleading promotional offers. Preventing consumers from bringing claims as a class gives the unscrupulous a freer hand to prey on the unsuspecting.

    Act 606, by Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R-Horatio), provides a boon to corporations by allowing an employer to sue a worker who records a video or takes photos in the workplace "and uses the recording in a manner that damages the employer." In other words, it will stop whistleblowers from documenting unethical or illegal practices, such as animal abuse at factory farms. Animal rights organizations refer to it as an "ag-gag" bill.

    Maybe the biggest prize for big business, though, was the "tort reform" measure that was referred to the 2018 ballot, Senate Joint Resolution 8. Sponsored by Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain Home), it proposes a new amendment to the state constitution that would place ceilings on the noneconomic and punitive damages that may be awarded to a claimant in a civil suit. Attorney contingency fees would also be capped, at one-third of the net recovery. In short, this would sharply limit the ability of someone who was grievously harmed by an act of medical malpractice to seek compensation in court. SJR 8 sparked a bruising fight in the legislature, with a few Republicans breaking ranks to speak forcefully against abridging the right to a trial by jury. But business interests — especially nursing homes — have been pushing tort reform for years, and the measure proved unstoppable. Unless Arkansas voters reject it in 2018, that is.

    Speaking of abridged rights, the legislature also referred a proposed amendment that would enshrine a voter ID requirement in the Arkansas Constitution. The hard truth is that House Joint Resolution 1016, by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R-Elm Springs), will likely pass in 2018 given the state's electoral trends. Never mind that proponents of voter ID can't cite any documented instances of voter impersonation in Arkansas, and never mind the evidence that such measures elsewhere have resulted in voters being disenfranchised — voter ID has become gospel to Republicans, aided by President Trump's falsehoods about rampant fraud in the 2016 election. Redundantly enough, the legislature also passed a voter ID bill in addition to the referred amendment, Act 633 by Rep. Mark Lowery (R-Maumelle).

    Arkansas's status as the worst state in the nation for renters went unchallenged. A bill by Sen. Blake Johnson (R-Corning), now Act 159, softened but preserved the state's unconscionable, one-of-a-kind criminal eviction statute, which courts in several counties have deemed unconstitutional. Thanks to the lobbying efforts of the Arkansas Realtors Association, Arkansas also remains the only state in which there is no minimum habitability standard for rental property. HB 1166, by Hot Springs Republican Rushing, purported to address that deficiency, but the bill's proposed standards were pitifully weak — limited to electricity, water, sewer and a roof — and it may have limited renters' meager rights in other ways, so it's best it failed.

    Legislators' sympathy for landlords didn't translate to protecting small property owners railroaded by the oil industry. House Bill 2086, an effort by Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-Little Rock) to more carefully examine the use of eminent domain by pipeline companies, was drafted in response to the construction of the Diamond Pipeline, which will carry crude oil across the length of Arkansas from Oklahoma to Memphis. It failed to get out of committee.

    Currently, unemployment benefits in Arkansas cover workers for a maximum of 20 weeks, which is a shorter span than any surrounding state except Missouri (also 20 weeks). Act 734 from Rep. Lundstrum will soon reduce that coverage time to 16 weeks ... and reduce weekly benefits checks paid to laid-off workers. This is despite the state's unemployment trust fund having amply recovered from the recession (it now contains around $500 million) and unemployment levels at record lows. So why trim benefits now? Simple: Employers want more money for themselves.

    There was at least one good piece of consumer legislation, though, sponsored by none other than Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway). Act 944 aims to close a loophole exploited by payday lenders, which were driven out of Arkansas some years ago by a ban on high-interest loans but recently have been creeping back into the state by charging astronomical "fees" in place of interest.

    And some bad measures failed, the most obnoxious probably being HB 1035 by Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville). The bill would have prohibited SNAP recipients from using food stamps to purchase items the state Health Department deems unhealthy, such as soda; it stalled in the face of opposition from grocery stores and others. House Bill 1825 by Rep. John Payton (R-Wilburn), which went nowhere, would have seized lottery winnings from citizens who have received public assistance from the Arkansas Department of Human Services. And, efforts to chip away at workers compensation failed this time around. Got to leave something for 2019.

    Benjamin Hardy

              Why Arkansas plans to kill eight men in 11 days   
    Under the guise of 'synthetic civility.'

    If Arkansas goes through with its plan to kill eight men, two a day, over 11 days in April, it will make history. No state has killed so many death row inmates so quickly since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The men to be killed — Bruce Ward, Kenneth Williams, Jack Harold Jones, Jason McGehee, Stacey Johnson, Don Williamson Davis, Marcel Williams and Ledell Lee — were all sentenced before 2000. The reason for the rush now has nothing to do with the horrific details of their cases. It is because of the method Arkansas will use to kill them.

    The supply of one of the pharmaceuticals used in Arkansas's three-drug lethal injection protocol is set to expire at the end of the month. Governor Hutchinson wants to kill the inmates before the drug itself dies. Never mind that prison staff will be charged with taking two lives, back to back, four times in under two weeks. Never mind that the drug itself may well be ineffective at anesthetizing a person against the otherwise excruciating pain of the fatal injection.


    The execution chamber at the Arkansas Department of Correction's Cummins Unit is a small room with a gurney and white walls. On April 17, 20, 24 and 27, the executions will begin at 7 p.m. There will be two each night.

    Executioners in Arkansas are called the "IV Team" in the few documents the state makes public concerning executions. They are supposed to be a cadre of volunteers, each of whom must have a license or certification as an EMT, nurse, physician or physician's assistant and at least two years of experience in their field. This is the state's protocol, despite the American Medical Association's guidelines that a physician should not participate in executions. However, we cannot ask members of the IV Team why they would volunteer to kill someone, because Arkansas law ensures the executioners' identities are not public information.

    Before the execution, the IV Team will check the contents of the "Injection Drug Box" to guarantee that everything is prepared. The condemned inmate will be waiting to die in a spartan Cummins holding cell, after traveling about a half-mile from death row at the Varner SuperMax, passing over the sprawling farmland on which prisoners work.

    When all is set, the inmate will enter the execution chamber, where the gurney will be positioned so the IV Team can see his face and his "infusion sites." He will be strapped down, and the IV Team will begin its work. They will use the materials in the Injection Drug Box to puncture his arms. Two IV bags will be set up. The tubing will be cleared of air and made ready for use. They will initiate flow of the IV, then double-check to make sure that the rate of flow is uninterrupted. They will wait for the signal from the warden.

    Once that signal is given, the IV Team will begin to kill the inmate.

    To do this, they will administer two syringes of 250 milligrams of midazolam to sedate the prisoner and wait five minutes. A supervisor (either a Department of Correction deputy director or a designee) will check that the inmate is unconscious. We do not know how he will determine consciousness. In other states, this has meant pinching the prisoner or checking their eyelids.

    It will be crucial, though, that the man is actually insensate. If he is not, what happens next would be grisly.

    The IV Team will administer the second drug, vecuronium bromide, two syringes of 50 milligrams each, to paralyze the man. If not properly sedated by the midazolam, the inmate will feel as if he is being painfully suffocated — but because the paralytic agent has stopped his movements, he will remain outwardly unresponsive, giving the illusion of peaceful repose. Then comes the third drug, two syringes of 120 milliequivalents of potassium chloride. The final drug, if the inmate was not sedated by the midazolam, will feel like a hot poker crawling through the veins toward the heart before it causes cardiac arrest and death.

    Midazolam has not always worked: The possibility of a protracted death while conscious is very real. Prisoners gasped for breath for extended periods when midazolam was used in certain executions in Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Oklahoma. Midazolam is an anti-anxiety drug, not an anesthetic. States have only turned to midazolam within the past five years, as drug manufacturers refused to sell them pharmaceuticals for the purpose of killing inmates. With more effective sedatives such as sodium thiopental effectively unavailable, midazolam has now been used in 20 U.S. executions since 2013.

    One of those times was in Arizona in 2014, when a death row inmate named Joe Wood writhed in pain for two hours as he died under ineffective sedation.

    "His mouth closed and it opened wide again. His head lurched back and his mouth closed. It opened again and again and then it was Joe Wood constantly gasping and gulping and struggling to breathe for almost two hours," Dale Baich, a defense attorney for Wood, said. "It was unforgettable." This led to a ban on midazolam in lethal injections in Arizona. Florida and Kentucky have moved away from the drug, too.

    The Arkansas dates are scheduled when they are because the state's midazolam supply expires at the end of this month. This is the paradoxical logic of Governor Hutchinson's decision to set the executions so closely together: We need to hurry up to use an ineffective drug before we cannot use it at all.

    Hutchinson has taken a conciliatory tone, as if his hand had been forced, telling state media, "I would love to have those extended over a period of multiple months and years, but that's not the circumstances that I find myself in." This is baffling, Robert Dunham, director of the Death Penalty Information Center, said, because Hutchinson can extend the period over multiple months and years — he has that power. The only thing stopping him, it seems, is that the state would not be able to use its current supply of midazolam. Instead, it would have to go through the difficult task of finding another sedative in killing these men. Hutchinson, and his office, declined to comment for this story.

    "Under the law, there doesn't seem to be any reason why you would carry out eight executions in [11] days," Dunham said. "The only justification is that they're going to run out of the drugs." Even worse, Dunham said, Hutchinson's schedule is "an intentional decision to create a significant risk."

    The hasty schedule could increase the risk that the midazolam will be ineffective, especially considering the Department of Correction staff could be ill prepared. The state's last execution was 12 years ago, in 2005. Wendy Kelley, the department's director, has never presided over an execution. Those with experience in executions say that even with training, and under perfect circumstances, it would be hard to prepare for such a grueling string of lethal injections.

    "I don't think people understand there's a lot more to it [for Department of Correction staff] than just giving people a shot and then they go to sleep," said Deb Sallings, a longtime capital defense attorney in Arkansas. "It's hugely stressful, even for one execution."

    This is why 25 former correction officials urged Hutchinson to reconsider his execution dates in a March 28 letter. "We are gravely concerned that by rushing to complete these executions in April, the state of Arkansas is needlessly exacerbating the strain and stress placed on these officers," the letter said.

    Among the signatories is Frank Thompson. Thompson was an employee of Arkansas's Department of Correction for 10 years before moving to Oregon. During his interview to work for Oregon's department, he was asked if he supported the death penalty. Thompson said yes, and on his arrival, the department put him to the test. Oregon had just passed a law changing its method of execution, and the protocols needed to be written for the state's first execution in over three decades and its first ever by lethal injection. Thompson was tasked with developing all the details of how Oregon would kill.

    "Well, that exposed me to the whole question of capital punishment at a level that was intensely personal," he said. If not for this experience, Thompson noted, he would have likely continued supporting the death penalty. The specifics changed his opinion. He now advocates against the death penalty, emphasizing the harm it can cause prison staff.

    "It is almost impossible to take the life of another human being without the people who are doing so losing some of their humanity," he said. "It is also impossible to ask people to take the life of a human being without one person being started on the road to post-traumatic stress disorder at some level. And the more repetitive that task is, the more cumulative that stress becomes."

    "There's no clean way [with lethal injection]," said Jerry Givens, another signatory of the letter and a former correctional officer in Virginia who performed 62 executions. "There's a syringe, and you're dealing with blood."

    This is even more troubling because both Thompson and Givens have serious doubts that those on the IV Team are actually volunteering. "When the boss asks you to do something, you're going to do it," Thompson said.

    Thompson also noted that just being a correction officer is already extremely stressful. "And then, out of that environment, you ask a group of people to do a dauntingly stressful task," he said. Arkansas is asking this team, he continued, "to do it serially, eight times, in the shortest period of time in recent history in the country, under a circumstance where a drug is still being tried out and has recently been a part of botched execution[s]."

    "It creates a scenario that is unimaginable in its stress potential," Thompson said. "Doing it that frequently, under that amount of stress, raises the likelihood that something may not go right, having nothing to do with whether or not the team of professionals are as well-trained as any other team."

    Givens prognosticated in a more blunt fashion: "You'll probably have eight mistakes."


    Midazolam has never been successfully used as a sedative for a double execution, let alone the four Arkansas will conduct between April 17 and April 27. When Oklahoma attempted a double execution in 2014 using the drug, the first of the two men to be executed, Clayton Lockett, died horrifically.

    From the beginning, executioners struggled to find a vein for the IV. Eventually, they located one in Lockett's groin. They then administered midazolam and determined Lockett unconscious, but at some point, the IV became dislodged. This meant that a portion of the dose of the sedative, as well as the next two drugs in the protocol, went into the inmate's tissue instead of his bloodstream. Lockett woke up. He said "the drugs aren't working" and struggled through a slow death. The other execution, of Charles Warner, was postponed.

    Lockett's death provides a harrowing case study in the many ways that something could go wrong here in Arkansas. Although the IV was not administered properly, an autopsy determined that the amount of midazolam that entered his bloodstream should have rendered him unconscious nonetheless, which implies the drug may not effectively stop the pain of the subsequent injections. A consciousness check was performed, implying that these checks do not always actually determine whether an inmate is fully sedated. Worst of all, a report released by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety after the execution found that the hastiness of officials in attempting to perform a double execution played a part in the misadministration of the IV. It recommended that "executions ... not be scheduled within seven calendar days of each other."

    There's also a chance that such a traumatic death could occur and we just would not see it. It was only because of the poor placement of the IV that Lockett's agony was clear. If properly administered, the second drug in the three-drug protocol — the paralytic — would have hidden much of Lockett's pain from an outside observer.

    "Once that paralytic has been administered — once it's on board — everything's going to look fine; no matter what the reality is," Berkeley's McCracken said.

    This paralytic element, defense attorney Baich said, has caused many to not question lethal injection. "In the '80s and '90s, reporters would write, 'Prisoner made his last statement, the process began, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.' And what we know is that's not what was going on. What was happening was a very brutal act," Baich said.


    It was John Williams' second day as a federal public defender in September 2015 when Governor Hutchinson originally set execution dates for most of these prisoners. (Williams is a former reporter for the Arkansas Times.) At that time, they were scheduled to be spaced out over a longer period but still organized as double executions. But a circuit judge stayed the executions and the state appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

    Williams and other attorneys knew midazolam's spotty history and argued that the midazolam procedure — with its possibility of resulting in extreme pain — constituted cruel and unusual punishment.

    "Even though the death penalty may be legal, you can't carry it out in a way that tortures someone. Certain methods are unacceptable," Williams said.

    Whether midazolam was unacceptable was addressed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision from earlier in 2015, Glossip v. Gross. In the Glossip decision, the court affirmed, 5-4, a lower court ruling that prisoners were unable to prove that the use of midazolam constituted cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution's Eighth Amendment.

    In the majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that "because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution," the logic of "holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain [during executions] would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether." The relevant language from Glossip going forward was that the method of execution can cause no "unnecessary pain or suffering," Dunham said, and prisoners — at least by the majority's standards — had not proved the three-drug midazolam protocol caused this. This is why Arkansas promises, in all caps, on the one document describing the lethal injection procedure it makes public, "EVERY EFFORT WILL BE EXTENDED TO THE CONDEMNED INMATE TO ENSURE THAT NO UNNECESSARY PAIN OR SUFFERING IS INFLICTED BY THE IV PROCEDURE."

    This did not mean Glossip approved midazolam for executions; it simply said there was not yet enough evidence to rule out its use. Williams and other defense lawyers, in a post-Glossip argument, attempted to prove that the facts had changed and that midazolam was now provable as causing "unnecessary pain or suffering" in Arkansas.


    Glossip follows a long history of challenges to the death penalty concerning whether a particular method of execution violates the Eighth Amendment. In the late 1960s and early '70s, a number of court challenges to the death penalty culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia, which said that Georgia's death penalty statute violated the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual punishment" because it gave juries complete sentencing discretion, which led to arbitrary outcomes for the convicted. Because other states had similar execution schemes that could lead to arbitrary outcomes, the ruling led to a de facto moratorium on the death penalty in the U.S. It was short-lived. States adapted their statutes, creating guidelines for juries and judges in capital cases. In 1976, the court's Gregg v. Georgia decision reinstated the death penalty in Florida, Georgia and Texas, and said the death penalty itself did not violate the Eighth Amendment.

    After this intense battle, proponents of capital punishment needed a "method that would look humane, and here comes lethal injection," said Deborah Denno, a professor at New York's Fordham University Law School who studies the history of the death penalty. The idea was that lethal injection would showcase a medicinal version of killing. "With lethal injection somebody would look like they're going to sleep," she said. "People didn't realize what the drugs were doing."

    When the use of lethal injection began, there was talk of broadcasting the executions on television as an act of transparency. The procedure, it was thought, would allow proponents to show that capital punishment was not gruesome.

    This was all in the wake of killing prisoners with an electric chair.

    "The problem is [that] electrocution is such a hideous way of killing someone that lethal injection seemed much more civil," said Jeff Rosenzweig, a defense attorney for multiple Arkansas death row inmates. "But, as it turns out, the paralytics and stuff were just masking the agony."

    There is no reason to use a paralytic during an execution, other than to stop viewers from seeing a dying inmate's movements. It does not contribute medically to the ending of life. It is allowed, the states argue, because it helps the process and the prisoner keep their dignity.

    "It was all about looks," Denno said.


    The solution presented by Justice Alito was that prisoners, if they can prove the current method of execution is torturous, must choose a better way to be killed. "Under Glossip, they said if you don't like what the state has chosen, you have to pick another one," said Rosenzweig. "We had to plead something that would likely cause a death and is commercially available. "So we did: firing squad."

    But Arkansas law does not allow firing squads as a method of execution. In 2016, the Arkansas Supreme Court rejected the defense attorneys' idea of a firing squad and other methods and lifted the stay on the executions. A majority of the state's justices held that the prisoners failed to prove that "the current method of execution presents a risk that is sure or very likely to cause serious illness and needless suffering" and that "there are known, feasible, readily implemented, and available alternatives that significantly reduce a substantial risk of severe pain." The decision did not say whether midazolam was torturous. It simply said other methods were not available. It did not meet the second prong. The reason: Arkansas's statute only allows one method of execution by law — lethal injection (with a backup of electrocution if lethal injection is not available).

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor summed this up well in a dissent when the court decided to not hear a similar case in which an Alabama prisoner had asked to be killed by firing squad and was denied. She wrote, "Under this view [in Glossip], even if a prisoner can prove that the State plans to kill him in an intolerably cruel manner, and even if he can prove that there is a feasible alternative, all a State has to do to execute him through an unconstitutional method is to pass a statute declining to authorize any alternative method."

    In deciding whether a method of killing an inmate is torturous, it seems that appearances matter more than the inmate's actual experience. What legislators approve as methods of execution largely has to do with what the public can stomach, Dunham said. Lethal injection fits the bill. "The American public thinks all the other methods of execution are cruel and unusual punishment. And that's whether it is firing squad, electric chair, lethal gas, hanging or beheading," he said.

    "The use of lethal injection has a kind of synthetic civility to it," Dunham said. "It has the appearance of a peaceful passing, and that gives the public comfort."

    "Other [methods of execution] would be better [for prisoners]. Firing squad would be better," Williams, the defense attorney, said. "And people are shocked when you propose that as an alternative. And [defense] attorneys wouldn't do that if Glossip didn't make them do it." But the optics have overridden actual suffering in the case of administering the death penalty. "If the death penalty is something that our society wants to be carrying out, we should acknowledge its brutality," he said.


    State laws purposefully help keep many of the details of how the Department of Correction administers and prepares for lethal injection hidden from the public — especially the history of the drugs it is using.

    In April 2015, the Arkansas legislature passed a law that created a Freedom of Information Act exemption for information about where death penalty drugs come from, their manufacturers or how the state buys them. This was after, in 2013, the Department of Correction had promised the prisoners "the packaging slips, package inserts, and box labels received from the supplier." Attorneys included this contradiction in their challenge to the executions in 2015.

    But the Arkansas Supreme Court said that this was not a legitimate complaint because those specific items — packages and labels — could be made public, just "so long as the identification of the seller, supplier, or testing laboratory is redacted and maintained as confidential." In other words, the information prisoners wanted.

    The state wants to keep the sellers secret because if it were known where the drugs were coming from, manufacturers — who don't want their products used for lethal injections — could stop supplying them to middleman suppliers. Denno said in her research into the death penalty that this decision by manufacturers is both practical and moral. Drug companies just do not want to be "intertwined in this dirty mess that is the death penalty," she said.

    Arkansas's secrecy law therefore facilitates a loophole in which a middleman supplier can buy a drug from a manufacturer — perhaps promising not to sell to a state to be used in executions — but then sell to Arkansas nonetheless. In doing so, the supplier may well have disobeyed its contract with the manufacturer, but no one else knows.

    Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Merritt admitted as much at a hearing before Judge Wendell Griffen on Oct. 27, 2015, concerning the law. She said, "the supplier has a contract with the manufacturer of the FDA-approved drug that is currently in the ADC's possession whereby the supplier is contractually not supposed to be selling drugs to state departments of correction for use at execution. This supplier did anyway in an effort to aid the State." By keeping the supplier secret, the state is able to buy drugs for its executions that the manufacturer did not want used to kill.


    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty has been fighting capital punishment in the state since 1977. Furonda Brasfield, the coalition's executive director, said the compressed execution schedule has shocked the public into action.

    "I think that outrage has caused individuals to be more active than maybe they were in the past," Brasfield said.

    Sometimes people can forget about the death penalty, said Rev. Steve Copley, board chair of Faith Voices Arkansas and the Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

    "Humans, we do daily life. Life goes by on a day-to-day basis. Arkansas has not had an execution since 2005. So, you know we're nearly 12 years. And, even though folks are opposed to the death penalty, you know, life continues to happen," he said. "I think any execution being scheduled right now would have caused a reaction, but eight of those in 10 days, after 12 years without an execution, I think just really pushed people's sensitivities."

    It means, Deb Sallings, said, "You can't ignore what we're fixing to do, whether you believe in it or not. It's reopening the debate, because we're now faced with it. We didn't have to think about it for 12 years in Arkansas."

    The result has been packed town hall meetings, a vigil in front of the Governor's Mansion and national media attention.


    There is still a possibility that Arkansas could stop some of these executions.

    Five of the eight men who are headed to the execution chamber have asked for the governor to grant them clemency. During the last two weeks of March, prisoners or their attorneys made their cases before the Arkansas Parole Board, a panel of gubernatorial appointees, at the Varner SuperMax facility. In a small room — the inmate and his lawyer sitting at a folding table that faces the parole board's folding table, about two feet away — prisoners expounded on the ways they have changed, who they are as people, and why they should be granted mercy. They drew on large files created by their lawyers.

    Stacey Johnson insisted on his innocence and questions DNA evidence used against him at trial. James McGehee was young, only 20, when he committed his crime; his request for clemency argued that "science now understands that a twenty-year-old is more like a juvenile than an adult." Kenneth Williams passionately told the board he found God in prison. He became a minister, he said, and has written often about his harrowing journey to faith.

    "Darkness surrounded me; it invaded and stained my soul," Williams wrote in a statement included in his clemency packet. He said he knows he is in prison, not among the "preferred, but among society's waste places. Four concrete walls surround me; a steal [sic] door keeps me confined to an 8 X 10 casket."

    Yet, there in that box, he found change. "Inside of me, within the darkness, a small flicker of light sprung forth. Perhaps, I believe it was triggered from a dormant seed of hope, long placed inside of me by someone who cared enough about me. Perhaps they saw something in me worth saving, something I couldn't yet see myself."

    Williams wrote a letter of apology to the community that he mailed to the Pine Bluff Commercial. In it, he admitted to other killings he had committed and not been convicted of. He asked forgiveness from the community. He wrote, "Once we determine that we have made a grave mistake, we always say, 'If I could go back in time, I would make this different.' The thing is, we can't go back, what is done, is done."

    Each morning of the clemency hearings, after each prisoner made his case, the parole board headed back to Little Rock. In the afternoons, at the offices of the Arkansas Parole Board, prosecutors and victims' families made their cases. And theirs were filled with details, too, that they say have been forgotten in these death penalty cases.

    Ledell Lee hit Debra Reese 36 times with a wooden tire tool that her husband had given her for protection and then he strangled her to death. Bruce Ward killed and raped a woman working behind the counter in a convenience store. Jason McGehee led a group that kidnapped, tortured and murdered a 15-year-old boy with special needs. Kenneth Williams — at that point already given life without parole for a capital murder — escaped prison by hiding in a hog-slop tank that he gained access to on a religious call. Once out of prison, he killed a former warden of Cummins who lived near the prison and then another man in Missouri.

    Stacey Johnson killed and raped Carol Heath as her 6-year-old daughter, Ashley, watched from the closet. In a letter presented to the clemency board on March 24, Ashley wrote, "Stacey Johnson brutally beat, raped, and slit my mother's throat with both of her young children in the home. There was blood everywhere."

    At the hearing, Carol Heath's sister and son spoke passionately about the need for execution, to allow closure for their family. Yet Ashley admitted she felt conflicted about the execution of Johnson. Her letter said, "I cannot agree with the choice of you being executed, but I also cannot agree with your having life in prison."

    Heath's comments cut to the heart of how clemency works: The board has to make a decision on life in prison or death. On the morning of March 31, they heard that Jason McGehee has had only one citation for misbehavior (covering a light bulb) during 19 years on death row and that he helped other inmates as a mentor. In the afternoon, though, they heard about the devastation he wrought on the family of John Melbourne Jr., whose picture was set on the lectern facing the board. Melbourne's family desperately wants to see McGehee's death after years of waiting.

    "I'm just asking y'all to let this course go through," said John Melbourne Sr., the victim's father. "He hasn't changed. He knew very much what he was doing."

    However, the board only makes recommendations; the final decision regarding clemency is up to the governor. It is not expected that Hutchinson will commute any of the eight men's sentences, despite the reputation he has acquired for moderation within his party. Inevitably, that presents a comparison with Arkansas's most famous Republican moderate — Winthrop Rockefeller — who in 1970 commuted the sentences of all 15 inmates then on death row before leaving office. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, came back to Arkansas in 1992 during his run for president to execute Ricky Ray Rector, who had brain damage. Clinton wanted to look tough on crime.

    Beyond Hutchinson, the last chance may be a flurry of legal challenges, both state and federal.

    One, by Bruce Ward's lawyers, cites his mental incompetence, claiming he "is a diagnosed schizophrenic with no rational understanding of his death sentence and impending execution." Another challenges the clemency hearings, which were carried out fewer than 30 days before the execution, evidently in violation of the state's own regulations.

    Others repeat claims that the state's schedule puts extra stress on Department of Correction employees, that the schedule only increases the likelihood of midazolam failing to fully sedate an inmate, and that when Arkansas kills these men it will be cruel and unusual.

    The only other question left is who will watch. The state requires that "no fewer than 6 and no more than 12 respectable citizens" view the executions. As of now, it is unclear if the Arkansas Department of Correction has recruited enough citizens. This is probably because it is easier to view the death penalty from afar.

    Up close, it can be gruesome.

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              Quién es Stephen Colbert, el presentador de los Emmy 2017    


    La próxima gala de los premios Emmy ya tiene cadena, CBS, fecha, 17 de septiembre, y presentador. El canal anunció ayer que Stephen Colbert sería el encargado de conducir la gala, un encargo que representa un importante apoyo para quien asumió el puesto de David Letterman al frente de 'The Late Show' cuando éste se retiró, y que en el último año ha visto como James Corden, que presenta el programa que le sigue en la parrilla, le ha superado en viralidad y visibilidad. Corden hasta ha presentado ya los premios Tony y, el mes que viene, conducirá los Grammy.

    Stephen Colbert puede no ser tan viral ni tener tanto tirón entre el público joven, pero su elección es bastante interesante teniendo en cuenta que es de los presentadores de late night con más interés en el comentario político y de los que ha sido más críticos con Donald Trump, el nuevo presidente de Estados Unidos. ¿Pero quién es Stephen Colbert?

    A la fama con 'The Colbert Report'

    Colbert, en realidad, es actor, o empezó su carrera como tal. Estudió y participó en Second City, el grupo de teatro e improvisación humorística de Chicago del que han salido, entre otros, Steve Carell y Tina Fey, y fue alternando su faceta interpretativa con la escritura de guiones en comedias de culto en Estados Unidos como 'Strangers with candy', protagonizada por Amy Sedaris. Casi toda su carrera ha estado basada en los sketches relacionados de algún modo con la actualidad, que es lo que le llevó a entrar en 'The Daily Show', en 1997.

    Allí, interpretaba a "Stephen Colbert", un corresponsal de noticias republicano recalcitrante y con un alto concepto de sí mismo, que funcionaba como contrapunto a las visiones más progresistas de Jon Stewart, el presentador del programa. La popularidad que alcanzó su personaje (que en España podía tener un ejemplo similar en el empresario de derechas que El Gran Wyoming interpretaba en 'Caiga quien caiga') fue tal, que Comedy Central acabó concediéndole su propio espacio 'The Colbert Report', en 2005.

    También era un pseudo informativo satírico, pero la parodia llegaba al llevar al extremo las posturas de los sectores más conservadores del país y, por supuesto, el narcisismo del propio Colbert. Criticó la manera en la que los candidatos en las primarias de cada partido suman apoyos y fondos para su campaña presentando su propia candidatura a la presidencia de Estados Unidos tanto por los republicanos como por los demócratas, y Colbert nunca dejó pasar la oportunidad de hacer chistes de las noticias más absurdas, sobre el sistema político del país y de dejar bien claro su amor por 'El Señor de los Anillos'.

    En 2014, CBS decidió que fuera él quien sustituyera a David Letterman en su late show de las 23:30, que se enfrenta directamente a 'The Tonight Show', y en el año y medio que lleva al frente de ese programa ha dejado claro que lo suyo sigue siendo el humor político.

    Así es Stephen Colbert

    'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert' es un programa de late night muy tradicional, con su monólogo inicial, su banda de acompañamiento, su segmento comentando las noticias, sus sketches pre grabados, sus entrevistas a invitados y su actuación musical para cerrar la noche. Colbert ya no se esconde aquí tras un personaje, sino que es él mismo, y es mejor entrevistador que Jimmy Fallon, por ejemplo, pero necesita que el invitado aporte algo de su parte para que sus charlas sean realmente interesantes o, como mínimo, simpáticas.

    Su programa no ha llamado especialmente la atención hasta que no decidió meterse más a fondo en el comentario de la campaña electoral, con segmentos como 'The hungry for power games', que utilizaba 'Los juegos del hambre' para hablar de las primarias de ambos partidos, o las semanas de programas en directo durante las convenciones que eligieron a los candidatos.

    Ahí es donde Colbert ha encontrado lo que le hace diferente de los demás presentadores de late night, y será interesante ver si traslada parte a la gala de los Emmy. Puede ser un cambio interesante con respecto a las bromas más directas de Jimmy Kimmel el año pasado, o al humor inofensivo de Andy Samberg en 2015. Colbert, además, ha demostrado que puede cantar, por lo que su estreno como presentador en los Emmy puede continuar con la tradición de los números musicales. El 17 de septiembre lo comprobaremos.

    En ¡Vaya Tele! | Los 27 mejores momentos de la gala de los Emmy 2016, en gifs

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    Perhaps you've heard: Democrat Rob Quist, Republican Greg Gianforte and Libertarian Mark Wicks are seeking Montana's lone congressional seat, the one left vacant when President Trump called Ryan Zinke to Washington to head the Department of the Interior. The special election that will send one of these men to Congress will be held May 25.

    Across the country, voters sit elections out because they lack access to reliable information about the candidates and issues, and Forward Montana, along with the Missoula Independent and Last Best News, aims to change that.…
              Comentário a Portugalinho post cultural   
    Boa resposta a provocacao... Se pela segunda republica quer dizer aquela que eu chamo de terceira, infelizmente, estarei de acordo com o que diz... o desleixo nunca fez bem a ninguem. Continuo no entanto convencido que o regime corporativo pouco mais fez que prolongar algumas das decisoes republicanas e eliminar outras. Houve, sem duvida, a formaçao de quadros, a francesa, para as colonias e para as grandes empresas, que, infelizmente, deixou de ter seguimento...
    Quanto a escrita e afins das novas geraçoes nao sei que lhe diga. Quantas pessoas sabiam escrever no Portugal de 1960? Quantas sabem agora?
    Preocupa-me mais o nivel cultural das elites e o facto de que os mais competentes das novas gerações tenham partido deixando a nossa estimada terra abandonada a relvas e afins...


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              Disability rights activists are going viral. They won't stop until the GOP health care bill dies.   

    Dawn Russell spent two nights camped out with nine other people in a small room in Sen. Cory Gardner's office. On Thursday evening, after their 60-hour sit-in, Russell and her fellow activists were removed from the office and arrested. 

    Russell was there because the Colorado Republican is one of the key swing votes who could either help pass or stop the GOP's health care bill — and she is one very angry constituent. 

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    The Denver-based activist lives with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination. She's a veteran member of ADAPT, a grassroots community that organizes disability rights protests. They frequently stage protests against laws that would reduce funding for Medicaid, the federal health program that aids low-income people and those with disabilities. Read more...

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              Comment on Republican Senate restores spending in NASA budget by Cotour   
    Related because its about government spending, and government spending is about taxation: I got into a political "discussion" with a lady friend the other day (Read: Loud head to head head butting that ended with a nice hug :) Her big issues? Trump and the "RICH" have too much money and her taxes are too high, and Trump is going to become Hitler! (What ?) I wrote a private little poem for her that preceded this piece but thought it not appropriate to share. "On another subject: 51.6 percent of all taxes collected by the government are from just 2.7 percent of the population, the "RICH". The rest of the taxes collected, 49.4 percent, come from the remaining 97.3 percent of the population. (2.7 % of the population the “Rich” pay 51.6 percent of all the taxes in the country, as per PEW) If you are interested in lowering your taxes there needs to be less government confiscation of it. So if you are FOR, among many other things, universal healthcare (Read: Welfare / healthcare is not a right but a service that must be paid for. Everyone should have it but someone must pay for it), open borders and illegal immigrants being supported by our social welfare systems, a culture of dependency created by political party’s in order to ensure a dedicated voting block to keep them in power, then you are insisting on higher and higher taxation. That is the Liberal / Democrat model. The Republicans have their own issues that create higher taxation. (Both party’s are by nature corrupt) Government, any government, is from its inception a corrupt and perverted operation, that is what was well understood by the Founders of America. All government can be is corrupt, the only question is to what degree. Your personal dislike of Trump is understandable, he seems to be a bore, but his kind of unique personality and skill set is perfect for Washington and its kind of corruption. He is sooo disruptive to the everyday perverted and corrupt business that goes on in Washington that in the long term he will IMO prove a net positive. What is the by design institutional counter balance to any president? The Constitution. Any president can not just do as they please, there are counter balances in the form of the Congress and the courts. Trump is no Hitler, could never become a Hitler. That is a false political narrative. Why? Because the Founders of America understood the nature of man and the nature of man as it relates to governance / government and power. And they designed mechanisms to limit the power of any and all presidents. So instead of spending time worrying about who has how much or too much $$, it might be a better idea to figure out who is spending all the money, your tax money, and limit how they can spend it. NO?"
              Comment on Republican Senate restores spending in NASA budget by Garry   
    This is an excellent example for why the President should have a line-item veto, as many state governors do.
              Comentario en Cementerio de texto con tangentes por Alejo Urzass   
    Lo de las dos eses no es exactamente una errata, pero sí hay algo de reo indultado en ellas. No sigo las andanzas de los vástagos de la saga Floyd's, de hecho ni a ellos mismos desde aquel agotador The Wall que tiene momentos de excesivo patetismo según mi opinión. De todos modos las causas republicanas (acaso esa que cuenta lo sea) me son más bien simpáticas. Y, efectivamente estimado Doc, el premio es suyo: donde Gerardo quiso decir <i>digo</i> dijo <i>Diego</i>.
              GOP's Plan B for Obamacare repeal began with quiet push from Koch network   

    President Trump’s surprise suggestion Friday that deadlocked Senate Republicans shift their focus to simply repealing Obamacare — and worry about replacing it later — has its roots in a Koch network proposal that has been shopped around Congress for months.

    The influential Koch network, backed...

              GOP bill would let churches endorse political candidates   
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Churches should have the right to endorse political candidates and still keep their tax-free status, say House Republicans targeting a law that prohibits such outright politicking from the pulpit....
              Summer looms with GOP stuck on health care, budget, taxes   
    WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans are stuck on health care, can&apos;t pass a budget, and hopes for a big, bipartisan infrastructure package are fizzling. Overhauling the tax code looks more and more like a distant dream....
              Consumer Sentiment Declined in June   
    Consumer Sentiment fell 2.0 points in June to 95.1, according to the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index.  

    The Current Economic Conditions Index rose 0.8 point to 112.5, while the Consumer Expectations Index decreased 3.8 points to 83.9. 
    “Although consumer confidence slipped to its lowest level since Trump was elected, the overall level still remains quite favorable. The average level of the Sentiment Index during the first half of 2017 was 96.8, the best half-year average since the second half of 2000, and the partisan gap between Democrats and Republicans stood at 39 Index-points in June, nearly identical to the 38 point gap in February. The partisan divide still meant that June's Sentiment Index of 95.1 was nearly equal to both the average (95.7) between the optimism of Republicans and the pessimism of Democrats and the value for Independents (94.6). Surprisingly, the optimism among Republicans and Independents has largely resisted declines in the past several months despite the decreased likelihood that Trump's agenda will be passed in 2017,” said Richard Curtin, chief economist of UM Surveys of Consumers. “The most important policies to consumers are those that directly or indirectly affect their jobs, incomes, or their financial security. Fortunately, increasing uncertainty about future prospects for the economy has thus far been offset by the resurgent strength in the personal financial situation of consumers. The combination of continuing improvements in personal finances and increasing concerns about the economic outlook is typical around cyclical peaks. Nonetheless, the data provide no indication of an imminent downturn nor do the data provide any indication of a resurgent boom in spending. Even with a much improved 2nd quarter, personal consumption spending is expected to advance during 2017 by about 2.3%.” 

    Read the University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers 
    Banks and the Economy.

              Re: UC Berkeley: Free speech lawsuit is unfounded   

    It's a frivolous lawsuit which I expect will get tossed. A key point which often gets overlooked is that the student republican group signed a contract with Coulter for a specific date, without having secured any location on campus for that date. Then they tried to force the school to make a venue available on the date and time the students wanted and cried that their rights were violated when they couldn't get their way.

    Good to see that the school is addressing a sensible event booking policy. Just weeks before graduation is one of the busiest times on campus. Different departments hold events that have been booked far ahead, with staffing, security and other resources already committed. Very immature of the students to assume they could just drop a large controversial event in the campus without proper planning.

              House passes Kate’s Law and anti-sanctuary city law, which now move to the Senate   

    Two dozen Democrats voted with Republicans Thursday to pass Kate's Law, which will now move to the Senate.

    The post House passes Kate’s Law and anti-sanctuary city law, which now move to the Senate appeared first on Powdered Wig Society.

              Cubs’ Albert Almora Shows Trump How To Make America No. 1 Again   
    Joe Maddon and a few members of the Cubs visited Donald Trump in the Oval Office on Wednesday — an informal gathering arranged by the Ricketts family, who are big-time Republican donors. The team took plenty of heat on social media on Tuesday when it was announced, which is perhaps why they announced it only […]
              China's Charter 08   
    China's Charter 08
    New York Review of Books
    Volume 56, Number 1 · January 15, 2009

    Translated from the Chinese by Perry Link

    The document below, signed by more than two thousand Chinese citizens, was conceived and written in conscious admiration of the founding of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia, where, in January 1977, more than two hundred Czech and Slovak intellectuals formed a
    loose, informal, and open association of people...united by the will to strive individually and collectively for respect for human and civil rights in our country and throughout the world.
    The Chinese document calls not for ameliorative reform of the current political system but for an end to some of its essential features, including one-party rule, and their replacement with a system based on human rights and democracy.

    The prominent citizens who have signed the document are from both outside and inside the government, and include not only well-known dissidents and intellectuals, but also middle-level officials and rural leaders. They chose December 10, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the day on which to express their political ideas and to outline their vision of a constitutional, democratic China. They want Charter 08 to serve as a blueprint for fundamental political change in China in the years to come. The signers of the document will form an informal group, open-ended in size but united by a determination to promote democratization and protection of human rights in China and beyond.

    Following the text is a postscript describing some of the regime's recent reactions to it.

    —Perry Link

    A hundred years have passed since the writing of China's first constitution. 2008 also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thirtieth anniversary of the appearance of the Democracy Wall in Beijing, and the tenth of China's signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy student protesters. The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

    By departing from these values, the Chinese government's approach to "modernization" has proven disastrous. It has stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity, and corrupted normal human intercourse. So we ask: Where is China headed in the twenty-first century? Will it continue with "modernization" under authoritarian rule, or will it embrace universal human values, join the mainstream of civilized nations, and build a democratic system? There can be no avoiding these questions.

    The shock of the Western impact upon China in the nineteenth century laid bare a decadent authoritarian system and marked the beginning of what is often called "the greatest changes in thousands of years" for China. A "self-strengthening movement" followed, but this aimed simply at appropriating the technology to build gunboats and other Western material objects. China's humiliating naval defeat at the hands of Japan in 1895 only confirmed the obsolescence of China's system of government. The first attempts at modern political change came with the ill-fated summer of reforms in 1898, but these were cruelly crushed by ultraconservatives at China's imperial court. With the revolution of 1911, which inaugurated Asia's first republic, the authoritarian imperial system that had lasted for centuries was finally supposed to have been laid to rest. But social conflict inside our country and external pressures were to prevent it; China fell into a patchwork of warlord fiefdoms and the new republic became a fleeting dream.

    The failure of both "self- strengthening" and political renovation caused many of our forebears to reflect deeply on whether a "cultural illness" was afflicting our country. This mood gave rise, during the May Fourth Movement of the late 1910s, to the championing of "science and democracy." Yet that effort, too, foundered as warlord chaos persisted and the Japanese invasion [beginning in Manchuria in 1931] brought national crisis.

    Victory over Japan in 1945 offered one more chance for China to move toward modern government, but the Communist defeat of the Nationalists in the civil war thrust the nation into the abyss of totalitarianism. The "new China" that emerged in 1949 proclaimed that "the people are sovereign" but in fact set up a system in which "the Party is all-powerful." The Communist Party of China seized control of all organs of the state and all political, economic, and social resources, and, using these, has produced a long trail of human rights disasters, including, among many others, the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957), the Great Leap Forward (1958–1960), the Cultural Revolution (1966–1969), the June Fourth [Tiananmen Square] Massacre (1989), and the current repression of all unauthorized religions and the suppression of the weiquan rights movement [a movement that aims to defend citizens' rights promulgated in the Chinese Constitution and to fight for human rights recognized by international conventions that the Chinese government has signed]. During all this, the Chinese people have paid a gargantuan price. Tens of millions have lost their lives, and several generations have seen their freedom, their happiness, and their human dignity cruelly trampled.

    During the last two decades of the twentieth century the government policy of "Reform and Opening" gave the Chinese people relief from the pervasive poverty and totalitarianism of the Mao Zedong era, and brought substantial increases in the wealth and living standards of many Chinese as well as a partial restoration of economic freedom and economic rights. Civil society began to grow, and popular calls for more rights and more political freedom have grown apace. As the ruling elite itself moved toward private ownership and the market economy, it began to shift from an outright rejection of "rights" to a partial acknowledgment of them.

    In 1998 the Chinese government signed two important international human rights conventions; in 2004 it amended its constitution to include the phrase "respect and protect human rights"; and this year, 2008, it has promised to promote a "national human rights action plan." Unfortunately most of this political progress has extended no further than the paper on which it is written. The political reality, which is plain for anyone to see, is that China has many laws but no rule of law; it has a constitution but no constitutional government. The ruling elite continues to cling to its authoritarian power and fights off any move toward political change.

    The stultifying results are endemic official corruption, an undermining of the rule of law, weak human rights, decay in public ethics, crony capitalism, growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor, pillage of the natural environment as well as of the human and historical environments, and the exacerbation of a long list of social conflicts, especially, in recent times, a sharpening animosity between officials and ordinary people.

    As these conflicts and crises grow ever more intense, and as the ruling elite continues with impunity to crush and to strip away the rights of citizens to freedom, to property, and to the pursuit of happiness, we see the powerless in our society—the vulnerable groups, the people who have been suppressed and monitored, who have suffered cruelty and even torture, and who have had no adequate avenues for their protests, no courts to hear their pleas—becoming more militant and raising the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions. The decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional.


    This is a historic moment for China, and our future hangs in the balance. In reviewing the political modernization process of the past hundred years or more, we reiterate and endorse basic universal values as follows:

    Freedom. Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. Without freedom, China will always remain far from civilized ideals.

    Human rights. Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom. The government exists for the protection of the human rights of its citizens. The exercise of state power must be authorized by the people. The succession of political disasters in China's recent history is a direct consequence of the ruling regime's disregard for human rights.

    Equality. The integrity, dignity, and freedom of every person—regardless of social station, occupation, sex, economic condition, ethnicity, skin color, religion, or political belief—are the same as those of any other. Principles of equality before the law and equality of social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights must be upheld.

    Republicanism. Republicanism, which holds that power should be balanced among different branches of government and competing interests should be served, resembles the traditional Chinese political ideal of "fairness in all under heaven." It allows different interest groups and social assemblies, and people with a variety of cultures and beliefs, to exercise democratic self-government and to deliberate in order to reach peaceful resolution of public questions on a basis of equal access to government and free and fair competition.

    Democracy. The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign and the people select their government. Democracy has these characteristics: (1) Political power begins with the people and the legitimacy of a regime derives from the people. (2) Political power is exercised through choices that the people make. (3) The holders of major official posts in government at all levels are determined through periodic competitive elections. (4) While honoring the will of the majority, the fundamental dignity, freedom, and human rights of minorities are protected. In short, democracy is a modern means for achieving government truly "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

    Constitutional rule. Constitutional rule is rule through a legal system and legal regulations to implement principles that are spelled out in a constitution. It means protecting the freedom and the rights of citizens, limiting and defining the scope of legitimate government power, and providing the administrative apparatus necessary to serve these ends.


    Authoritarianism is in general decline throughout the world; in China, too, the era of emperors and overlords is on the way out. The time is arriving everywhere for citizens to be masters of states. For China the path that leads out of our current predicament is to divest ourselves of the authoritarian notion of reliance on an "enlightened overlord" or an "honest official" and to turn instead toward a system of liberties, democracy, and the rule of law, and toward fostering the consciousness of modern citizens who see rights as fundamental and participation as a duty. Accordingly, and in a spirit of this duty as responsible and constructive citizens, we offer the following recommendations on national governance, citizens' rights, and social development:

    1. A New Constitution. We should recast our present constitution, rescinding its provisions that contradict the principle that sovereignty resides with the people and turning it into a document that genuinely guarantees human rights, authorizes the exercise of public power, and serves as the legal underpinning of China's democratization. The constitution must be the highest law in the land, beyond violation by any individual, group, or political party.

    2. Separation of Powers. We should construct a modern government in which the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive power is guaranteed. We need an Administrative Law that defines the scope of government responsibility and prevents abuse of administrative power. Government should be responsible to taxpayers. Division of power between provincial governments and the central government should adhere to the principle that central powers are only those specifically granted by the constitution and all other powers belong to the local governments.

    3. Legislative Democracy. Members of legislative bodies at all levels should be chosen by direct election, and legislative democracy should observe just and impartial principles.

    4. An Independent Judiciary. The rule of law must be above the interests of any particular political party and judges must be independent. We need to establish a constitutional supreme court and institute procedures for constitutional review. As soon as possible, we should abolish all of the Committees on Political and Legal Affairs that now allow Communist Party officials at every level to decide politically sensitive cases in advance and out of court. We should strictly forbid the use of public offices for private purposes.

    5. Public Control of Public Servants. The military should be made answerable to the national government, not to a political party, and should be made more professional. Military personnel should swear allegiance to the constitution and remain nonpartisan. Political party organizations must be prohibited in the military. All public officials including police should serve as nonpartisans, and the current practice of favoring one political party in the hiring of public servants must end.

    6. Guarantee of Human Rights. There must be strict guarantees of human rights and respect for human dignity. There should be a Human Rights Committee, responsible to the highest legislative body, that will prevent the government from abusing public power in violation of human rights. A democratic and constitutional China especially must guarantee the personal freedom of citizens. No one should suffer illegal arrest, detention, arraignment, interrogation, or punishment. The system of "Reeducation through Labor" must be abolished.

    7. Election of Public Officials. There should be a comprehensive system of democratic elections based on "one person, one vote." The direct election of administrative heads at the levels of county, city, province, and nation should be systematically implemented. The rights to hold periodic free elections and to participate in them as a citizen are inalienable.

    8. Rural–Urban Equality. The two-tier household registry system must be abolished. This system favors urban residents and harms rural residents. We should establish instead a system that gives every citizen the same constitutional rights and the same freedom to choose where to live.

    9. Freedom to Form Groups. The right of citizens to form groups must be guaranteed. The current system for registering nongovernment groups, which requires a group to be "approved," should be replaced by a system in which a group simply registers itself. The formation of political parties should be governed by the constitution and the laws, which means that we must abolish the special privilege of one party to monopolize power and must guarantee principles of free and fair competition among political parties.

    10. Freedom to Assemble. The constitution provides that peaceful assembly, demonstration, protest, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights of a citizen. The ruling party and the government must not be permitted to subject these to illegal interference or unconstitutional obstruction.

    11. Freedom of Expression. We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. These freedoms should be upheld by a Press Law that abolishes political restrictions on the press. The provision in the current Criminal Law that refers to "the crime of incitement to subvert state power" must be abolished. We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.

    12. Freedom of Religion. We must guarantee freedom of religion and belief, and institute a separation of religion and state. There must be no governmental interference in peaceful religious activities. We should abolish any laws, regulations, or local rules that limit or suppress the religious freedom of citizens. We should abolish the current system that requires religious groups (and their places of worship) to get official approval in advance and substitute for it a system in which registry is optional and, for those who choose to register, automatic.

    13. Civic Education. In our schools we should abolish political curriculums and examinations that are designed to indoctrinate students in state ideology and to instill support for the rule of one party. We should replace them with civic education that advances universal values and citizens' rights, fosters civic consciousness, and promotes civic virtues that serve society.

    14. Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

    15. Financial and Tax Reform. We should establish a democratically regulated and accountable system of public finance that ensures the protection of taxpayer rights and that operates through legal procedures. We need a system by which public revenues that belong to a certain level of government—central, provincial, county or local—are controlled at that level. We need major tax reform that will abolish any unfair taxes, simplify the tax system, and spread the tax burden fairly. Government officials should not be able to raise taxes, or institute new ones, without public deliberation and the approval of a democratic assembly. We should reform the ownership system in order to encourage competition among a wider variety of market participants.

    16. Social Security. We should establish a fair and adequate social security system that covers all citizens and ensures basic access to education, health care, retirement security, and employment.

    17. Protection of the Environment. We need to protect the natural environment and to promote development in a way that is sustainable and responsible to our descendants and to the rest of humanity. This means insisting that the state and its officials at all levels not only do what they must do to achieve these goals, but also accept the supervision and participation of nongovernmental organizations.

    18. A Federated Republic. A democratic China should seek to act as a responsible major power contributing toward peace and development in the Asian Pacific region by approaching others in a spirit of equality and fairness. In Hong Kong and Macao, we should support the freedoms that already exist. With respect to Taiwan, we should declare our commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy and then, negotiating as equals and ready to compromise, seek a formula for peaceful unification. We should approach disputes in the national-minority areas of China with an open mind, seeking ways to find a workable framework within which all ethnic and religious groups can flourish. We should aim ultimately at a federation of democratic communities of China.

    19. Truth in Reconciliation. We should restore the reputations of all people, including their family members, who suffered political stigma in the political campaigns of the past or who have been labeled as criminals because of their thought, speech, or faith. The state should pay reparations to these people. All political prisoners and prisoners of conscience must be released. There should be a Truth Investigation Commission charged with finding the facts about past injustices and atrocities, determining responsibility for them, upholding justice, and, on these bases, seeking social reconciliation.

    China, as a major nation of the world, as one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and as a member of the UN Council on Human Rights, should be contributing to peace for humankind and progress toward human rights. Unfortunately, we stand today as the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics. Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby not only constricting China's own development but also limiting the progress of all of human civilization. This must change, truly it must. The democratization of Chinese politics can be put off no longer.

    Accordingly, we dare to put civic spirit into practice by announcing Charter 08. We hope that our fellow citizens who feel a similar sense of crisis, responsibility, and mission, whether they are inside the government or not, and regardless of their social status, will set aside small differences to embrace the broad goals of this citizens' movement. Together we can work for major changes in Chinese society and for the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country. We can bring to reality the goals and ideals that our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years, and can bring a brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization.

    The planning and drafting of Charter 08 began in the late spring of 2008, but Chinese authorities were apparently unaware of it or unconcerned by it until several days before it was announced on December 10. On December 6, Wen Kejian, a writer who signed the charter, was detained in the city of Hangzhou in eastern China and questioned for about an hour. Police told Wen that Charter 08 was "different" from earlier dissident statements, and "a fairly grave matter." They said there would be a coordinated investigation in all cities and provinces to "root out the organizers," and they advised Wen to remove his name from the charter. Wen declined, telling the authorities that he saw the charter as a fundamental turning point in history.

    Meanwhile, on December 8, in Shenzhen in the far south of China, police called on Zhao Dagong, a writer and signer of the charter, for a "chat." They told Zhao that the central authorities were concerned about the charter and asked if he was the organizer in the Shenzhen area.

    Later on December 8, at 11 PM in Beijing, about twenty police entered the home of Zhang Zuhua, one of the charter's main drafters. A few of the police took Zhang with them to the local police station while the rest stayed and, as Zhang's wife watched, searched the home and confiscated books, notebooks, Zhang's passport, all four of the family's computers, and all of their cash and credit cards. (Later Zhang learned that his family's bank accounts, including those of both his and his wife's parents, had been emptied.) Meanwhile, at the police station, Zhang was detained for twelve hours, where he was questioned in detail about Charter 08 and the group Chinese Human Rights Defenders in which he is active.

    It was also late on December 8 that another of the charter's signers, the literary critic and prominent dissident Liu Xiaobo, was taken away by police. His telephone in Beijing went unanswered, as did e-mail and Skype messages sent to him. As of the present writing, he's believed to be in police custody, although the details of his detention are not known.

    On the morning of December 9, Beijing lawyer Pu Zhiqiang was called in for a police "chat," and in the evening the physicist and philosopher Jiang Qisheng was called in as well. Both had signed the charter and were friends of the drafters. On December 10—the day the charter was formally announced—the Hangzhou police returned to the home of Wen Kejian, the writer they had questioned four days earlier. This time they were more threatening. They told Wen he would face severe punishment if he wrote about the charter or about Liu Xiaobo's detention. "Do you want three years in prison?" they asked. "Or four?"

    On December 11 the journalist Gao Yu and the writer Liu Di, both well-known in Beijing, were interrogated about their signing of the Charter. The rights lawyer, Teng Biao, was approached by the police but declined, on principle, to meet with them. On December 12 and 13 there were reports of interrogations in many provinces—Shaanxi, Hunan, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, and others—of people who had seen the charter on the Internet, found that they agreed with it, and signed. With these people the police focused on two questions: "How did you get involved?" and "What do you know about the drafters and organizers?"

    The Chinese authorities seem unaware of the irony of their actions. Their efforts to quash Charter 08 only serve to underscore China's failure to uphold the very principles that the charter advances. The charter calls for "free expression" but the regime says, by its actions, that it has once again denied such expression. The charter calls for freedom to form groups, but the nationwide police actions that have accompanied the charter's release have specifically aimed at blocking the formation of a group. The charter says "we should end the practice of viewing words as crimes," and the regime says (literally, to Wen Kejian) "we can send you to prison for these words." The charter calls for the rule of law and the regime sends police in the middle of the night to act outside the law; the charter says "police should serve as nonpartisans," and here the police are plainly partisan.

    Charter 08 is signed only by citizens of the People's Republic of China who are living inside China. But Chinese living outside China are signing a letter of strong support for the charter. The eminent historian Yu Ying-shih, the astrophysicist Fang Lizhi, writers Ha Jin and Zheng Yi, and more than 160 others have so far signed.

    On December 12, the Dalai Lama issued his own letter in support of the charter, writing that "a harmonious society can only come into being when there is trust among the people, freedom from fear, freedom of expression, rule of law, justice, and equality." He called on the Chinese government to release prisoners "who have been detained for exercising their freedom of expression."

    —Perry Link, December 18, 2008
              Huge Breakthrough for Christians: New Law Now in Effect in Southern State   

    Governor Matt Bevin recently signed the ‘Bible Literacy Bill’ into law, which went into effect on Friday, June 30th of 2017 according to NBC News. The bill has been controversial given the separation between church and state expectations, but Bevin believes this could be very beneficial even for those who are not believers.


    Bevin commented on the newly passed law, “The idea that we would not want this to be an option for people in school, that would be crazy. I don’t know why every state would not embrace this, why we as a nation would not embrace this.”

    The Bible Literacy Bill specifically allows public schools to teach a social studies elective, which covers the basics of the Holy Bible. The law states that the course will provide the following information: “Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.”


    The purpose of the bill is to inform students about the impact the bible has had on our history and culture. Republican State Representative D.J. Johnson, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “[Whether] you believe that it’s the word of God or you think it’s complete fiction, you can’t deny the impact it’s had on our culture.”

    Watch the video below for more information:

    This law acts as a huge breakthrough for Christians, given recent circumstances of students being shamed for reading their bible and praying on school properties. The beautiful thing is, children in families who otherwise wouldn't have had the chance to hear God's word, will now have the opportunity to do so. Would you love to see this law be passed in all states?

    Please continue to pray for our government and our nation. If you love this story, share it on your Facebook page! Thank you!

              A Talk Radio Listener Notes That Some Republicans (Miami Cubans And An Arab) Voted AGAINST The Sanctuary City Bill   
    From: A Talk Radio Listener [Email him] Seven  Republicans (three [...]
              COLLUSION: GOP Operative Tied with Michael Flynn Sought Hillary Clinton Emails from Russian Hackers   

    Remember when Donald Trump looked in the cameras during his July 27, 2016, press conference and asked Russia to find Hillary Clinton’s emails? Um, there was a reason for that….collusion. “Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were […]

    COLLUSION: GOP Operative Tied with Michael Flynn Sought Hillary Clinton Emails from Russian Hackers


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              'A waste of taxpayer money': Trump's voter fraud commission is facing pushback from a dozen states   
    • TrumpAt least a dozen states pushed back against a broad request from the White House commission on voter fraud.
    • The states included Indiana, whose secretary of state sits on the commission.
    • The requested information has raised questions about the ways it can be used.

    At least a dozen states are already pushing back against a request by President Donald Trump's voter-fraud commission to hand over registered voters' personal information to make public. 

    The bipartisan Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, sent a letter to all 50 states on Wednesday seeking registered voters' names, addresses, dates of birth, partial Social Security numbers, and party registration.

    It also asked for a decade's worth of voter history, information on felony convictions, and whether they have registered in more than one state. The commission said all voter data submitted by the states would be made public, and the Justice Department sent a separate letter asking states to reveal how they maintain their voter rolls.

    At least 12 secretaries of state — from Indiana, California, Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Minnesota, Utah, Oklahoma, New York, Tennessee and New Mexico — have so far declined to hand over information that is not already publicly available. 

    Indiana's secretary of state, Connie Lawson, sits on the commission. But she said in a statement that "Indiana law doesn’t permit the Secretary of State to provide the personal information requested by Secretary Kobach." Only certain voter information, she said, is available to the public under Indiana law: name, address, and congressional district assignment.

    California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said in a statement that handing over the requested information would "legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach."

    “I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally," Padilla said Thursday.

    Kris Kobach

    Trump vowed to investigate voter fraud just days after taking office, repeating false claims that millions of illegal ballots were cast in the presidential election. There is no evidence to support Trump's repeated assertion that he lost the popular vote to Democrat Hillary Clinton in November's election because people voted illegally, independent experts and analysts have said.

    Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes said in a statement that "Kentucky will not aid a commission that is at best a waste of taxpayer money and at worst an attempt to legitimize voter suppression efforts across the country."

    "The president created his election commission based on the false notion that 'voter fraud' is a widespread issue — it is not," Grimes said. "Indeed, despite bipartisan objections and a lack of authority, the president has repeatedly spread the lie that 3-5 million illegal votes were cast in the last election."

    States are already wary of accepting federal help when it comes to voting and election systems. States pushed back when the Department of Homeland Security wanted to designate their voter systems as "critical infrastructure" before the election last year, and are still reluctant to allow the government to conduct a complete digital forensics analysis of the voting machines to see if they were tampered with. 

    'Serious privacy concerns' and 'laying the groundwork for voter suppression'

    Election law and voter-fraud experts broadly agree that the commission's request is not only baseless, but an infringement on privacy and states' rights.

    "Having all of this information raises serious privacy concerns," wrote Rick Hasen, an election law expert and professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. "Will the information be kept securely, or is it at risk of being hacked for identity theft purposes? Will it be used by the Trump campaign and other political officials for political purposes? How secure will this be?"

    Ari Berman, a contributing writer for The Nation who is writing a book on the history of voting rights, wrote Friday that "never before has a White House asked for such broad data on voters, and it could be easily manipulated by Trump’s commission."

    Berman said the request could be a pretext to make it harder to register to vote, leading to widespread voter suppression efforts.

    "Kobach has a very well-documented record of making wildly misleading claims about voter fraud and enacting policies that sharply limit access to the ballot in his home state of Kansas," he wrote. "He’s been sued four times by the ACLU for voter suppression and was sanctioned by a federal court last week for 'deceptive conduct and lack of candor.'"

    Vanita Gupta, who ran the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department during the Obama administration and now heads the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, agreed that Pence and Kobach appeared to be "laying the groundwork for voter suppression."

    "The integrity of our elections is indeed under assault — just not in the way Trump claims," she tweeted Thursday. 

    A 'gold mine' of voter information

    There is also the question of whether making this personal information, including Social Security numbers and military status, publicly available in one place risks making it more vulnerable to manipulation and misuse by adversaries.

    Russian hackers targeted election systems in at least 21 states last year, top DHS official Jeanette Manfra told the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month. The hackers probed election infrastructure and successfully infiltrated a "small number of networks," said Sam Liles, the DHS's top cyber official.

    The hackers stole voter-data information, which they could then use "in a variety of ways," said top FBI counterintelligence official Bill Priestap, including to affect future elections, target individual voters, and determine whether the data is something they can manipulate going forward. 

    When a data-analytics firm hired by the Republican National Committee last year to gather political information about US voters accidentally leaked the sensitive personal details of roughly 198 million citizens earlier this month, cybersecurity experts called it "the motherlode of all leaks" and a "goldmine" for anyone looking to target and manipulate voters. 

    That information did not even include highly sensitive information like Social Security numbers that the administration now wants to gather and, apparently, make publicly available. 

    "It’s just shocking," Myrna Pérez, an expert on voting rights and election administration at Brennan Center for Justice, told Mother Jones on Friday, "that in a period where we know that there’s a risk that we have foreign interference and foreign attacks on our registration systems, that somebody thinks it’s a good idea to take the voter registration rolls in all 50 states and put them all together in one place."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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              By: Xennady   
    MikeK, I take your points, and I know I'm an outlier here when it comes to my low opinion about Bush. But I am extremely tired of so-called leaders who deliver us various forms of defeat, then congratulate themselves because they haven't brought us complete disaster. I put Bush and Nixon in this category, both. It seems an interesting parallel that Nixon and Bush had foreign policies requiring significant and important military commitments- Vietnam and Iraq- yet they both failed because they were unable to manage the domestic political scene. Nixon was undone by Watergate, after relentless harassment by his enemies, then forced to resign. If I recall Ford later went down to the leftist-run Congress begging them to meet our treaty commitment to South Vietnam, but they refused. I've long regarded the abandonment of South Vietnam as a terrible stain on the honor of the US, but now I read that Nixon did it deliberately, convinced it didn't matter if we let our Vietnamese allies get murdered by our enemies. Huh? And all after we had spent vast amounts of blood and treasure on the struggle, too. I'm sorry, I just can't accept that. But I suspect that if Nixon hadn't been so distracted and weakened by Watergate South Vietnam may have been able to survive anyway, especially if the left hadn't been able to cut off US support. Bush wasn't any better. It seems by now Republicans should have figured out that leftists aren't their friends, and developed some sort of countermeasures. Instead, Bush simply wouldn't respond, tamely accepting blame for disasters not his fault, accepting idiotic policies in the name false comity, and refusing to make obvious political attacks on his political enemies, which were a key part of his job. I know it's pointless to offer advice now, and of course everyone's hindsight is famously excellent, but for Pete's sake you don't need to be an architect to notice that a building is burning down, either. Again, the buck stopped with Bush. Period. When the democrat senate refused to act upon his nominees, he should done a little more about it than nothing at all. He should have been pointing out that they were refusing to act, perhaps he should have even gotten mad about it, using the power of his office to make his objections known. And it actually mattered, because if Bush had been able to get his people in place perhaps Moussoui's infamous laptop would have been opened, preventing 9/11. Failing that happy eventuality, he could have made a political case against the democrats, appropriately blaming them for their actions, resulting in weaker opposition that maybe wouldn't have been so bold as to derail the nation's entire political discourse over something so idiotic as the Plame affair. That never happened, obviously. Worse, much worse, Bush seemingly delighted in pushing policy loathed by the rank-and-file supporters of the GOP. The Bush Amnesty bill and the intense opposition it engendered is well known, but I also recall a proposal to rewrite labor law that would have had the effect of eliminating overtime pay. Being that the GOP is essentially a middle-class party, and many middle-class voters get overtime pay, this was essentially a direct attack by the Bush administration upon a huge segment of its support. Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt, successful presidents who also had intransigent opposition, a hostile press, general bad times and grim brutal warfare to contend with during the times in office would never have made such a stupid mistake, enraging their supporters for trivial gain. For sake of brevity I'll refrain from discussing the 2008 economic collapse. Anyway, because Bush was regarded by the public as a failure, radical narcissist Barry Obama became president, throwing away all we had gained in Iraq either because of sheer moronic idiocy or vile treason. Ugh. Again, I know I'm an outlier. But I humbly suggest we stop accepting the excuses we're given and just face facts: Both Nixon and Bush were failed Presidents. They failed at home, and they failed abroad. We just don't have enough lipstick to make them stop being pigs. Alas.
              By: Xennady   
    <blockquote>Bush got the blame because the Leftist media are DNC operatives with bylines. They wanted to cover for Clinton and blame the Republican. It almost worked. There is no crime or malfeasance so large the Leftist media will not attempt to cover up or cast blame elsewhere. There is no innocent person they will not smear or even destroy in pursuit of that goal. Do not believe them on any subject. Like Jay Carney and Baghdad Bob, they are (highly) paid liars.</blockquote> This is absolutely spot on, and I agree with every word. But it is also incomplete, and I am not willing absolve Bush of events that took place on his watch. When I voted for him I thought I was voting for an end to the insane political correctness and general idiocy of the Clinton era. But no, didn't happen. Federal law enforcement had possession of Zacharias Moussoui's laptop for weeks before the attack, but never opened it for fear of being accused of profiling. What they would have found on it may have prevented the it. Later, somehow Jamie Gorelick ended up on the 9/11 commission, despite her role in causing the attack by erecting the infamous "Gorelick wall," intended to prevent the FBI and CIA from sharing info that would have revealed Clinton's illegal money trail from China. Of course, it also prevented those agencies from sharing info about terrorism. It seems to me that Bush both could and should have taken direct measures to change these two unhappy occurrences. I believe that if Bush, President and head of the executive branch, had more forcefully expressed his opposition to profiling the FBI agents involved may have been willing look at tha