Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker RachelB: "Do you remember getting over a fear, and if so, what helped?"

When I was in my teens, I had a major fear of being left out, which was also wrapped up in a fear of having nothing to do, mostly because I couldn't sit quietly and comfortably with myself.

What helped the most, to be honest, was probably just the self-assurance that tends to come with age, although also working on myself so that I was a person I enjoyed spending time with was very helpful, too.

I never would have imagined then how much I'd enjoy lots of alone time later in my life.

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The Monday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by petunias.

Recommended Reading:

Lance Mannion: [Content Note: Authoritarianism; bullying] Modern Day Presidential

Sarah Kendzior: How Trump Fulfilled a 30-Year Fantasy of Becoming President, with a Little Help from the Kremlin

Jodi Savage: [CN: Misogynoir; violence] For Black Women, the Wage Gap Can Be a Matter of Life and Death

Jessica Mason Pieklo: [CN: War on agency] Court Blocks Four Arkansas Abortion Restrictions

Kath: [CN: Fat hatred; disablism] Fat Liberation Is for Fat People with Disabilities, Too

Andy Towle: [CN: Trans hatred] Ivanka Trump 'Blindsided' by Trump's Transgender Military Ban, Learned of It on Twitter

Sameer Rao: [CN: Anti-black violence; appropriation] How #NoConfederate Became a Trending Clarion Call

Leave your links and recommendations in comments. Self-promotion welcome and encouraged!

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Trump's "Joke" Is Missing Any Discernible Humor

[Content Note: Police brutality.]

On Friday, I highlighted a section of Donald Trump's speech to an audience of Suffolk County police officers in which he advised police to be "rough" with suspects:

And when you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see 'em thrown in, rough! — I said, "Please don't be too nice." Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you're protecting their head, you know? The way you put the hand over... [mimics an officer putting a hand over a suspect's head as they're loaded into a police car] Like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody? Don't hit their head! I said, "You could take the hand away, okay?"
At today's White House press briefing, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about Trump's loathsome comments, and of course she said that he was joking.

Male Reporter (offscreen): What I wanted to ask was, when the president made his speech to police officers on Friday, almost within minutes, statements came from police chiefs across the country criticizing his remarks that seemed to endorse the use of force by police in certain arrests. Was the president joking when he said this, or did he check his remarks out with the International Association of Police Chiefs, or maybe the Attorney General?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: I believe he was making a joke at the time. [Next question.]
1. The framing of that question was garbage, since the only options were: Was he joking, or was he giving out good information? Not an option: Was the president sincerely endorsing breathtaking cruelty?

2. Again with the construction that it's either a "joke" or it's cruel, as though words can't be both.

Police brutality isn't a laughing matter. Not to decent people.

Trump set himself outside that demographic long ago, but his office demands silence if he can't muster decency.

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Discussion Thread: Self-Care

What are you doing to do to take care of yourself today, or in the near future, as soon as you can?

If you are someone who has a hard time engaging in self-care, or figuring out easy, fast, and/or inexpensive ways to treat yourself, and you would like to solicit suggestions, please feel welcome. And, as always, no one should offer advice unless it is solicited.

* * *

One of the most important acts of self-care I've been doing lately is swimming as often as I can, which has been about 3 or 4 times a week. I was talking about this on Twitter a couple of weeks ago.

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Y'Know the Old Saying: Scaramucci In; Scaramucci Out

The New York Times is reporting: "Trump Removes Anthony Scaramucci from Communications Director Role." Yeah, that seems about right.

Trump has decided to remove Anthony Scaramucci from his position as communications director, three people close to the decision said Monday, relieving him just days after Mr. Scaramucci unloaded a crude verbal tirade against other senior members of the president's senior staff.

Mr. Scaramucci's abrupt removal came just 10 days after the wealthy New York financier was brought on to the West Wing staff, a move that convulsed an already chaotic White House and led to the departures of Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, and Reince Priebus, the president's first chief of staff.

The decision to remove Mr. Scaramucci, who had boasted about reporting directly to the president not the chief of staff, John F. Kelly, came at Mr. Kelly's request, the people said. Mr. Kelly made clear to members of the White House staff at a meeting Monday morning that he is in charge.

It was not clear whether Mr. Scaramucci will remain employed at the White House in another position or will leave altogether.
It's a day ending in Y, so the Donald J. Trump administration continues to be a ridiculous shitshow.

At least, that's definitely the popular takeaway.


As I noted last Friday, when Reince Priebus was fired, getting rid of the last remaining senior staff with political experience is a major tipping point: Priebus, no matter your opinion of him, represented a last line. That line has been crossed. That line has been obliterated.

The administration is racing headlong into a dictatorship — now with a general as a chief of staff — and Scaramucci hastened that decline. Quite an accomplishment for 10 days.

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Daily Dose of Cute

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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We Resist: Day 193

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Any Politician Who Says Our Voting Machines Are Secure Is Lying and "Economic Anxiety".

I'll begin today's thread with a special FUCK YOU to the Democrats who are obliging us to divide our energies and resist their anti-choice indecency, too, like we don't already have enough to deal with: Dem Campaign Chief Vows No Litmus Test on Abortion.
Democrats will not withhold financial support for candidates who oppose abortion rights, the chairman of the party's campaign arm in the House said in an interview with The Hill.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) said there will be no litmus tests for candidates as Democrats seek to find a winning roster to regain the House majority in 2018.

"There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates," said Luján, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman. "As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America."

...Luján, serving his second term as the DCCC's chairman, has cast a wide net for candidates. A map on his office wall highlights districts held by dozens of Republican that he hopes to oust in the 2018 midterm elections.

"To pick up 24 [seats] and get to 218, that is the job. We'll need a broad coalition to get that done," Luján said. "We are going to need all of that, we have to be a big family in order to win the House back."
Did he really just say "we have to be a big family in order to win the House back" to justify compromising on abortion rights? Jesus fucking Jones.

* * *

Robbie Gramer, Dan De Luce, and Colum Lynch at Foreign Policy: How the Trump Administration Broke the State Department. "Veterans of the U.S. diplomatic corps say the expanding front office is part of an unprecedented assault on the State Department: A hostile White House is slashing its budget, the rank and file are cut off from a detached leader, and morale has plunged to historic lows. They say [Donald] Trump and his administration dismiss, undermine, or don't bother to understand the work they perform and that the legacy of decades of American diplomacy is at risk. By failing to fill numerous senior positions across the State Department, promulgating often incoherent policies, and systematically shutting out career foreign service officers from decision-making, the Trump administration is undercutting U.S. diplomacy and jeopardizing America's leadership role in the world, according to more than three dozen current and former diplomats interviewed by FP." Fucking hell.

There is literally nothing this administration does that I don't compare (inevitably unfavorably) to what Hillary Clinton's presidency would have looked like, and all of it is painful, but I am left particularly grief-stricken by the damage being done to the State Department and U.S. diplomacy, given Clinton's experience, knowledge, and talents in this area.

Louis Nelson at Politico: Pence: We Will 'Hold Russia Accountable for Its Actions'. Okay, player! "Pence's remarks came before members of the U.S., French, British, and Estonian militaries and followed a meeting between the vice president and the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Pence offered optimism that the U.S.-Russia relationship might improve but said that any warming would come with a shift in Moscow's behavior. ...'Under [Donald] Trump, the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable for its actions — and we call on our European allies and friends to do the same,' Pence said Monday in Estonia."

Trump's totes gonna continue (???) to hold Russia accountable, y'all! Great news! And we know we can believe it because Mike Pence always tells the truth! *jumps into Christmas tree*

Hey, speaking of Mike Pence, why is the Washington Post not speaking about Mike Pence?


[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Fredreka Schouten at USA Today: Secret Donations Are Helping to Boost Trump's Agenda, Fights with Investigators.
Groups spending millions in anonymous donations are leading the outside efforts to either defend [Donald] Trump or sell his agenda with voters and Congress, despite the president's repeated calls to "drain the swamp" in Washington of special-interest money.

The political empire affiliated with billionaire Charles Koch has spent $2 million to date to advance Trump's tax-cut blueprint and will hold events this week in Washington to kick off the next phase of its multimillion-dollar campaign to drive congressional support for a comprehensive tax plan to slice corporate tax rates and enact broader tax cuts.

Americans for Prosperity, the Koch network's grass-roots arm, already has 50 events scheduled in August and September to help promote the tax plan.

The pro-Trump Great America Alliance is spending $450,000 on a TV and digital ad that casts special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into possible collusion between Russia and Trump's campaign as a "rigged game."

The group already has pumped more than $3 million in advertising to advance Trump's policies and has committed to spending $5 million more, said Eric Beach, a Republican strategist who helps run the group.

The Judicial Crisis Network, which spent $7 million to push Trump's top judicial nominee, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, is "prepared to spend whatever we need to spend to help [Donald] Trump fulfill his promise of restoring balance to our federal courts," policy director Carrie Severino said in a statement.

Trump has more than 100 judicial vacancies to fill.

Another pro-Trump group, America First Policies, has spent $5 million push his agenda and to help a Trump-supported congressional candidate in Georgia.

All operate as nonprofits, can accept unlimited funds from virtually any source but are not required to disclose their donors publicly.
That all seems fine.

cartoon image of me with flames of anger crawling up the sides of my face

Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress: Trump's Latest Attempt to Gut Obamacare Could Backfire Spectacularly. "As soon as this week, according to Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, Trump intends to decide whether to cut off payments intended to stabilize insurance markets and make health care affordable for many Americans with modest incomes. Trump apparently believes that cutting off these payments will help 'implode' Obamacare. Yet, if Trump should stop the payments, that could have the unintended effect of expanding access to health insurance, even potentially making some health plans free for many families of modest means. The reason why involves a fairly complicated formula governing how most Obamacare exchange customers pay for their health plans, and Trump's apparent unfamiliarity with how that formula operates." It would be nice if one of his spectacular fuck-ups accidentally ended up helping people.

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

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Don't Look Away

[Content Note: Fat hatred.]

Your Fat Friend has written a terrific piece about thin people who find comments sections on fat advocacy pieces too harrowing to read: "Your Fat Friend Wants You to Read the Comments."

I shared a few comments with you in the hope of finding a witness to the cacophony in response to my handful of tweets — someone who could confirm the absurdity and harshness of strangers' responses. I should've anticipated what you would say.

Don't read the comments. I never do.

You, like so many other thin friends, were shaken, and found the comments too harrowing to continue reading.

I was surprised. These comments weren't anything I didn't hear regularly. These are words that strangers will readily say to me, face to face. Passersby shout epithets on the street. When turned down for a date, men snap "fat bitch" back at me with startling ease. Family members offer an unwelcome and unsolicited onslaught of diet advice and surgeon recommendations. Coworkers complain loudly about sitting next to passengers smaller than me. These comments are as ubiquitous as the air that I breathe. And like the air, they are invisible to you.

[...] I don't read the comments. I never do.

But, my darling friend, the comments are the one passage from your world to mine. The comments are what I breathe every day — the heavy smog that thickens in my lungs. The cloudy mess I exhale when I tell you what has happened. The thick skin that has brought me this far, and allowed me to take so much in stride.

I need you to peer into the world I walk through every day. I need you to read the comments.
There is much, much more at the link, and I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.

It's a very good companion piece to one I wrote in October 2013: "I Wouldn't Even If I Could." That's about the advice that I should "just ignore" fat hatred, while Your Fat Friend's is about thin people confessing that they just ignore it (because they can).

Both of those dynamics are part and parcel of entrenching thin privilege by pretending that marginalization and abuse of fat people doesn't exist, even as such insistence is rooted in evidence of fat hatred's harm.

To posit that ignoring fat hatred is a viable option for fat people is absurd and cruel.

And any thin person who wants to do effective ally work in solidarity with fat people will never ask us to salve their discomfort at evidence of our abuse by ignoring it. Read the comments. Don't just ignore what our lived experiences really look like.

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"Economic Anxiety"

[Content Note: White supremacy.]

At the Guardian, Jason Wilson writes about American Renaissance's annual conference in Tennessee. American Renaissance is a white supremacist outlet founded by Jared Taylor, who advocates for "an all-white 'ethnostate,' carved out of US territory."

The audience was not just crusty old dinosaurs, as the white supremacist movement is often described by people who believe no effort is required to challenge white supremacy but instead we just have to wait for its ancient adherents to die.

To the contrary, the movement — empowered by the election of Donald Trump — is full of eager, and angry, young men:

When Taylor spoke, his audience was generationally diverse. Some, well into middle age or beyond, had heard it all before. But when he asked who was attending for the first time, the great majority raised their hands.

Many were millennials. Though all attendees wore conference dress code – jacket and tie – more than a few younger men sported the "fashy haircut," short back and sides with a severe parting, which has become a signature of the so-called alt-right.
Suffice it to say, people who show up to a conference to listen to a man speak about an all-white "ethnostate" aren't just economically anxious. I don't know how many times and in how many ways that dreadful narrative needs to be debunked, but here I am, debunking it once again.

Relatedly, although he's writing on the dirtbag left, I recommend this piece by Noah Berlatsky, "Maybe Taking the Arguments of Nazis At Face Value Is Bad," in which he observes: "The result [of unskeptically adopting the alt right's view of itself and of its enemies] is a left which centers Nazis, sneers at marginalized people, and generally abandons its moral bearings in order to chase an elusive and supposedly triumphant whiteness which it cannot distinguish from the working class."

The inability to distinguish whiteness from the working class is a problem across the political spectrum and persistent in political media.

And it's a very dangerous problem. We've seen precisely this mendacious conflation used to devastating effect before, and we must firmly resist replicating the obscene violence that so easily emerges from this messaging, over and over.

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Any Politician Who Says Our Voting Machines Are Secure Is Lying

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link.]

Joe Uchill at the Hill: Hackers Breach Dozens of Voting Machines Brought to Conference.

One of the nation's largest cybersecurity conferences is inviting attendees to get hands-on experience hacking a slew of voting machines, demonstrating to researchers how easy the process can be.

"It took me only a few minutes to see how to hack it," said security consultant Thomas Richards, glancing at a Premier Election Solutions machine currently in use in Georgia.

The DEF CON cybersecurity conference is held annually in Las Vegas. This year, for the first time, the conference is hosting a "Voting Machine Village" where attendees can try to hack a number of systems and help catch vulnerabilities.

The conference acquired 30 machines for hackers to toy with. Every voting machine in the village was hacked.
Well, that is terrifying.

At Alternet, Lulu Friesdat has video from the conference, in which hackers demonstrate how easily voting machines are hacked.

"It is very, very accessible," one man says about a machine he hacked. "You get can get right in. ...If you can get access to that card, you can make it say whatever you want."


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Open Thread

image of a purple sofa

Hosted by a purple sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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The Virtual Pub Is Open

image of a pub Photoshopped to be named 'The Beloved Community Pub'
[Explanations: lol your fat. pathetic anger bread. hey your gay.]

Belly up to the bar,
and be in this space together.

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Reince Priebus Is Out

Reince Priebus has been fired as White House Chief of Staff. General John Kelly, who was heading the Department of Homeland Security, will be Donald Trump's new Chief of Staff.

A general serving as White House Chief of Staff. Yikes.

Anyway. Here are some of my thoughts on this latest development.

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The Friday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by scarves.

Recommended Reading:

Flavia Dzodan: [Content Note: White supremacy] Sentimentality and the Building Blocks of Bigotry

Ayana Byrd: Study: There May Be Less Time to Fight Global Warming Than We Think

Brittney McNamara: Senator Mazie Hirono Celebrated for Health Care Vote While Having Stage 4 Cancer

Monica Roberts: How About Using Pics of Real Trans Service Members to Support Trans Troops?

Amy Littlefield: Thanks to Pence, Indiana Now Has One Less Abortion Clinic

Sikivu Hutchinson: The Misogynoir of Rock: Shredding While Black and Female

Rae Paoletta: These Deep-Sea Goths Live in Pure Darkness

Dan Van Winkle: IMAX Is Phasing Out 3D Movies Because People Just Don't Want Them

Leave your links and recommendations in comments. Self-promotion welcome and encouraged!

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Trump Delivers Fascist Speech in Suffolk County

This afternoon, Donald Trump traveled to Long Island to give a speech at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood, before an audience of Suffolk County police officers.

It was a belligerently white supremacist and nakedly fascist speech, during which Trump claimed "that the 'Second Amendment would be gone' if it weren't for him" and promised (or, more accurately, threatened): "We're going to secure our border against illegal entry and we will build the wall, that I can tell you."

But perhaps the most alarming part of his remarks was this:

[Trump stands at a podium in front of an audience of uniformed police officers] And when you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see 'em thrown in, rough! — I said, "Please don't be too nice." [laughter] Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you're protecting their head, you know? The way you put the hand over... [mimics an officer putting a hand over a suspect's head as they're loaded into a police car, as the audience laughs] Like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody? Don't hit their head! I said, "You could take the hand away, okay?" [cheers and applause; Trump turns to face the officers and lifts his arms to bask in their approbation]
Rough, he says. That is a dog whistle.

And it is a dog whistle heard by a police force whose former chief "is serving a federal prison sentence for beating a prisoner and orchestrating a cover-up."

A dog whistle in a community that is majority non-white:

This is happening. The United States president is talking about building walls and empowering police violence, with a wall of police behind him in a Hispanic community. This is real. And we must resist it, and its attendant bigotry and dangerous othering, with everything we've got.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Matilda the Fuzzy Sealpoint Cat with her head in a jaunty pose while she naps on the sofa
Maximum sass, even while she's napping.

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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Healthcare Legislation Update: Not Over; Still Terrible

If you can't see the screencap embedded in the tweet, it reads:

I'm exhausted with all the "but it was actually a genius move, because since he let it come up for a vote, now it's dead!" bullshit. Okay, players. How many times have we heard this thing is dead so far? Like the GOP is going to just give up. The fuck they are. They'll find another way to try to get it done. Or, as Trump keeps threatening, they'll just accelerate Obamacare's death by causing it to fail. So how exactly did John McCain "save" healthcare? He didn't. What he did was save the Republican caucus from getting their asses kicked out of office if we still have free and fair elections in 2018. Now they get all the credit for their relentless effort to repeal Obamacare, and none of the blame for shitty healthcare policy when Obamacare "fails" because they undermined it.
If you can't see the screencap embedded in the tweet, it reads:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) met with President Trump Friday at the White House about the senator's ObamaCare replacement proposal.

The meeting, confirmed by Graham's spokesman, Kevin Bishop, comes as some Republicans are pushing to keep alive their effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare despite the failed vote in the Senate early Friday morning.

Graham has pitched his bill as a better alternative to ObamaCare than GOP leaders' plans. His measure, also backed by Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would convert money currently being spent on providing ObamaCare coverage into a block grant to states. States could then choose how to spend the funds.

If you're thinking, "Hey, aren't McCain and Graham pretty solid pals who have been showing up together a hell of a lot since Trump got elected pretending like they're not aggressive jackasses like the rest of their party but not actually doing anything to stop Trump and often abetting him at the last moment?" you are correct! They are indeed!

If you are wondering whether I believe McCain knew all along that Graham would try to do an end-run around Mitch McConnell and go straight to Trump with yet another healthcare plan, the answer is yes! I do!

A hero for whom, exactly?

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We Resist: Day 190

the Philadelphia Pride flag with the word RESIST in white text

One of the difficulties in resisting the Trump administration, the Republican Congressional majority, and Republican state legislatures is keeping on top of the sheer number of horrors, indignities, and normalization of the aggressively abnormal that they unleash every single day.

So here is a daily thread for all of us to share all the things that are going on, thus crowdsourcing a daily compendium of the onslaught of conservative erosion of our rights and our very democracy.

Stay engaged. Stay vigilant. Resist.

* * *

Here are some things in the news today:

Earlier today by me: Senate Healthcare Bill Fails Again and Russian Retaliation for Sanctions Vote Begins.

Today, I want to dedicate the entirety of the We Resist thread to the Trump administration's attacks on the LGBTQ community over the past couple of days. Although I am dedicating my post thus, please note that, as always, comments are open to all subjects that need our attention and resistance.

* * *

On Wednesday morning, Donald Trump tweeted:

This is as dishonest as it is indecent. Multiple studies have concluded that trans service members do not burden the military with "tremendous medical costs" nor "disruption."

This is just straight-up malice, justified by lies.

I'm sure I don't need to recall the many times that Trump claimed during the campaign that he would be a friend to the LGBTQ community. That was always a transparent lie — especially after he chose Mike Pence as his running mate (I'll come back to that) — but my condolences to anyone who inexplicably believed the disgusting charlatan and now feels betrayed.

More importantly: My unwavering solidarity with the people who knew he would rain abuse on marginalized people and voted accordingly.

I am white hot angry that Trump has placed a target on the backs of trans troops, many of whom came out because they believed they were safe following the decision during the Obama administration to allow them to serve openly.

Jane Coaston noted that the Department of Defense "is the largest single employer of trans people in the country. An estimated 15K [pdf] are currently serving."

Andrew Thaler also pointed out: "It's not just a reversal. It's a dramatic expansion beyond active duty soldiers. 'The military in any capacity' includes NOAA, the CDC, Army Corps of Engineers, Coast Guard, as well as a huge number of Defense supported science programs."

And Tressie McMillan Cottom observed: "Public sector jobs are where all marginalized people take refuge. They are taxpayers and citizens and deserve dignified labor from their own government."

The point is: This is a big fucking deal, in several ways. It is not just "a distraction."

Further to that, it also isn't a surprise, if you've been paying attention to Pence — or paying attention to me paying attention to Pence.

screen cap of a tweet authored by me warning 'Keep. Your. Eyes. On. Pence.' and linking to a Foreign Policy report: 'Mike Pence has quietly been working to get the Pentagon to undo transgender military service'

It's not a "distraction" if it's a noted policy objective of the man who's running White House policy.

They weren't even circumspect about the huge role Pence would play in the administration:
Donald Jr. explained that his father's vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.

Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?

"Making America great again" was the casual reply.
So here we are.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had no idea that Trump was planning this reversal and expansion of policy, say there will not be "any changes to its transgender policy until [Donald] Trump clarifies what he meant in a series of surprise tweets." In a memo to military leaders, the chair of the Joint Chiefs, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, wrote: "There will be no modifications to the current policy until the president's direction has been received by the secretary of defense and the secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."

Until directed otherwise by the fucking president.

Trump's tweet, even without any directives on implementation, has already caused a candidate for a senior position at the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw himself from consideration: "John Fluharty, a former executive director of the Delaware Republican party, informed a DHS official in an email Wednesday morning that he was pulling out of contention to be the assistant secretary of partnership and engagement at the department."
"As I mentioned in our conversation, I am a strong advocate for diversity, both in the Republican Party and in government," Fluharty wrote in an email obtained by POLITICO. "The President's announcement this morning — that he will ban all of those who identify as transgender from military service — runs counter to my deeply held beliefs, and it would be impossible for me to commit to serving the Administration knowing that I would be working against those values."

Fluharty, who is openly gay, said he interviewed for the job on Tuesday, one day before Trump's surprise tweet that the government "will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity" in the U.S. military.
I guess he hadn't noticed that virtually the entirety of Trump's administration is straight white cis men, but okay. The point is that this executive bigotry is yet another barrier to staffing the federal government with competent or decent people.

Trans people should be allowed to serve openly in the military and have access to healthcare because they are human beings and all human beings deserve these basic rights and dignities.

Queer people shouldn't be granted rights because it benefits cishet people — but I sure hope that cishet people realize that taking away trans rights and reducing trans inclusion will have a deleterious effect on us, too. It will make our country less safe, it will make our governance even worse, and it will diminish us as a nation and as individual people.

I'm not "distracted" by this news. I am highly preoccupied by it because how my government treats my fellow countrypersons is extraordinarily important to me. It defines the United States to the world, and it defines us to ourselves and each other.

* * *

Later the same day, Jeff Sessions' Justice Department "argued in a major federal lawsuit that a 1964 civil rights law doesn't protect gay workers from discrimination, thereby diverging from a separate, autonomous federal agency that had supported the gay plaintiff's case."
The Trump administration's filing is unusual in part because the Justice Department isn't a party in the case, and the department doesn't typically weigh in on private employment lawsuits.

But in an amicus brief filed at the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, lawyers under Attorney General Jeff Sessions contend that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans sex discrimination, does not cover sexual orientation.

"The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination," says the Justice Department's brief. "It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress rather than the courts."

The Justice Department also contends that Title VII only applies if men and women are treated unequally.

"The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect," the brief says.
The DoJ isn't even a party in the case, but filed a brief just to use its weight to argue that LGB folks aren't entitled to protections under Title VII. Fucking hell.

This, I fear, is only the beginning of a campaign to erode the social justice progress made over the last decade. Resistance is a marathon. Let's all make sure we keep well hydrated.

*passes water bottles to anyone who needs 'em*

What have you been reading that we need to resist today?

Open Wide...

This Scaramucci Guy Seems Pretty Cool, I Guess

Hahahahahahahahaha just kidding he is the wooooooooorst.

[Content Note: Disablism] Ryan Lizza at the New Yorker: Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White House Leakers, Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon. This entire thing really needs to be read in its entirety, but here's an excerpt:

On Wednesday night, I received a phone call from Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director. He wasn't happy. Earlier in the night, I'd tweeted, citing a "senior White House official," that Scaramucci was having dinner at the White House with [Donald] Trump, the First Lady, Sean Hannity, and the former Fox News executive Bill Shine. It was an interesting group, and raised some questions. Was Trump getting strategic advice from Hannity? Was he considering hiring Shine? But Scaramucci had his own question—for me.

"Who leaked that to you?" he asked. I said I couldn't give him that information. He responded by threatening to fire the entire White House communications staff. "What I'm going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we'll start over," he said. I laughed, not sure if he really believed that such a threat would convince a journalist to reveal a source. He continued to press me and complain about the staff he's inherited in his new job. "I ask these guys not to leak anything and they can't help themselves," he said. "You're an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I'm asking you as an American patriot to give me a sense of who leaked it."

..."Is it an assistant to the President?" he asked. I again told him I couldn't say. "O.K., I'm going to fire every one of them, and then you haven't protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks."

I asked him why it was so important for the dinner to be kept a secret. Surely, I said, it would become public at some point. "I've asked people not to leak things for a period of time and give me a honeymoon period," he said. "They won't do it." He was getting more and more worked up, and he eventually convinced himself that Priebus was my source.

"They'll all be fired by me," he said. "I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he'll be asked to resign very shortly." The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn't been invited. "Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac," Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: "'Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.'" (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)

Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a Politico report about his financial-disclosure form, which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus. The reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci didn't know this at the time, and he insisted to me that Priebus had leaked the document, and that the act was "a felony."

"I've called the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice," he told me.

"Are you serious?" I asked.

"The swamp will not defeat him," he said, breaking into the third person. "They're trying to resist me, but it's not going to work. I've done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they're going to have to go fuck themselves."

Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. "I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock," he said, speaking of Trump's chief strategist. "I'm not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I'm here to serve the country." (Bannon declined to comment.)
Wow. Okay. So, it's obviously the Bannon quote which has gotten the most attention, because the political press is a shambolic disgrace. But there are three extremely important points here:

1. Threatening to fire people because of their lack of loyalty is classic authoritarianism. Note that he wasn't threatening to fire them strictly because of leaking: He says he asked them for "a honeymoon period" — that is, a temporary pause on leaking. "I've asked people not to leak things for a period of time," Scaramucci tells Lizza. So it isn't the leaking that's the issue, but the lack of loyalty demonstrated by refusing to comply with his short-term moratorium.

2. The new White House Communications Director clearly views a central part of his role as being a general in Trump's war on the press. Calling a reporter to try to intimidate him into giving up a source, and pressuring him by threatening people's jobs if he won't, is not what happens in a healthy democracy.

3. Scaramucci is yet another Trump lackey with zero government experience, and it shows. He has no clue how anything works, which is evidenced by the fact he didn't know his financial disclosure form was publicly available, and further evidenced by the fact that he openly admitted committing a crime!

"The President, Vice President, Counsel to the President, and Deputy Counsel to the President are the only White House individuals who may initiate a conversation with DOJ about a specific case or investigation." Oops.

* * *

Speaking of the president: "The President likes people with backbone. And at the moment, Scaramucci is empowered: We're told the President loved the Mooch quotes. But [Donald] Trump doesn't like being upstaged. 'Mini-me' can't forget the 'Mini' part. Being more Trump than Trump, in Trump's house, is a dangerous game."

Scaramucci has to worry about his job after behaving like a reckless, angry, authoritarian jackass not because he is a liability to the president, but because he's a threat to his ego, as there's only room for one and a half reckless, angry, authoritarian jackasses in the West Wing, but not two.

And from the same piece: "The story that [top Republicans have] been telling themselves and others, about the President growing in office, looks more and more like a fable. Instead, insiders feel the situation is getting worse." Ya fucking think?!

*jumps into Christmas tree*

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Russian Retaliation for Sanctions Vote Begins

On Wednesday, I explained how a House vote on Russia sanctions, which included a provision that Donald Trump cannot rescind them without Congressional approval, was infuriating Vladimir Putin and prompting Russia to threaten retaliation.

Yesterday, the Senate also overwhelmingly passed the bill, with only two holdouts: Senators Rand Paul and Bernie Sanders.

Now the bill goes to Trump's desk for signature — and even if he has the audacity not to sign it, it has a veto-proof majority in both houses of congress.

Putin is not happy, saying at a press conference, "It’s impossible to endlessly tolerate this kind of insolence towards our country," and openly threatening retaliation: "We are behaving in a very restrained and patient way, but at some moment we will need to respond."

That moment quickly arrived.

Neil MacFarquhar at the New York Times: Russia Seizes 2 U.S. Properties and Orders Embassy to Cut Staff.

Russia took its first steps on Friday to retaliate against proposed American sanctions for Moscow's suspected meddling in the 2016 election, seizing two American diplomatic properties and ordering the United States Embassy to reduce staff by September.

...In its statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that the United States Congress had voted to toughen sanctions. "This yet again attests to the extreme aggressiveness of the United States when it comes to international affairs," the statement said.

Dmitri S. Peskov, the spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin, said the Russian leader had signed off on the measures despite saying a day earlier that he would wait for the final version of the law before taking any such steps.
To be clear, that's a message to Trump. Here's our move after the Senate passed this thing. It was escalate if you sign it.

Remember: Konstantin Kosachyov, chair of the international affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, said publicly after the House vote that Russia's response should be "painful for the Americans." Seizing diplomatic properties is a big deal, but I wouldn't describe it as "painful."

The pain is yet to come if Trump signs. Or if his veto is overruled.

And there's no way out from under it, short of removing Trump from office. These are the consequences of pretending that the sitting president isn't owned by the foreign adversary who interfered to elect him.

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Senate Healthcare Bill Fails Again

Before I get to the details of the latest Republican failure to pass a sickening "healthcare reform" that would kill people, I want to just take a moment to say: This rollercoaster is stressful as hell — and I am incandescently angry that the Republican Party is obliging us to spend our time and energy begging them not to take away our and/or others' health insurance, and that they are undermining people's health by inducing so much relentless stress, and that they are causing people to worry about whether they or their parents or their kids or their friends will have lifesaving access to healthcare, and that this entire fucking thing is a game to them while we are wrecked with anxiety.

I am angry that they are doing this to us, and I am angry that it is not over — because even if their half-assed legislation continues to fail and fail and fail, they will endeavor to ruin the Affordable Care Act to "prove" it was never any good. They will kill people for spite.

I am angry and I am sad. So profoundly grief-stricken that this is what the United States has become. It was never a perfect place, far from it, but this desperate, seething bile among the governing party to harm the nation's citizens in massive numbers, as directly as possible... It hurts. If it hurts you, too, know that you are not alone in this pain.

* * *

So, last night, at 1:30 in the morning, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called a vote on the latest iteration of Republican's healthcare bill, the "skinny" Obamacare repeal, and it failed.

It failed because two female senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, opposed it, and because John McCain also opposed it — and because every single Democratic Senator and both Independents opposed it.

A couple of observations about McCain's vote:

1. Again, McCain is being hailed undeservedly as a hero. Because he chronologically cast the final of the third Republican opposition votes, his is being called the "decisive" vote, which elides his two Republican female colleagues' opposition and the opposition of the entire Democratic caucus.

The New York Times' headline is "Senate Rejects Slimmed-Down Obamacare Repeal as McCain Votes No" and this is an actual paragraph from the coverage of the paper of record: "Senator John McCain of Arizona, who just this week returned to the Senate after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, cast the decisive vote to defeat the proposal, joining two other Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, in opposing it."

That's a bit of a simplification. But sure. Giving white men credit they don't deserve has never had any bad consequences for this country, so why not?

2. Framing McCain as the hero of the hour also elides that he didn't cast his vote because he's had a change of heart on healthcare.

To underline the point: This still isn't over, and we still can't trust McCain.

Donald Trump is doubling down on his vow to undermine Obamacare. Mike Pence will be on the warpath. We are being governed by men of breathtaking malice, so whatever relief this brings will be short-lived. That's the reality.

And I wish I had better news than that.

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Open Thread

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Hosted by a pink sofa. Have a seat and chat.

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We Resist: Day 188 + Programming Note

a black bar with the word RESIST in white text

I've got some offline life stuff happening today and tomorrow which will keep me away until Friday morning. So, here is a thread for sharing and discussion of political news this afternoon and tomorrow.

I will be on Twitter as I'm able.

See you back here Friday.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt lying on the floor under my desk, her chin resting on her paws, looking up at me
Zelly peeping at me from underneath my desk.

I love it when she lies with her chin on her paws like this, and her shar pei inherited neck rolls pooch out and make her look like she's got chipmunk cheeks. She is so freaking cute. ♥

As always, please feel welcome and encouraged to share pix of the fuzzy, feathered, or scaled members of your family in comments.

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Russia Sanctions Are Bringing Us to a Brink

A brink of what is not yet clear. Although I think we have a good idea about some pretty dire scenarios. Here's why...

Richard Lardner at the AP/ABC: House Punishes Russia, Blocks Trump from Waiving Penalties.

Eager to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 election, the House has overwhelmingly backed a new package of sanctions against Moscow that prohibits [Donald] Trump from waiving the penalties without first getting permission from Congress.

Lawmakers passed the legislation, 419-3, clearing the far-reaching measure for action by the Senate. If senators move quickly, the bill could be ready for Trump's signature before Congress exits Washington for its regular August recess. The Senate, like the House, is expected to pass the legislation by a veto-proof margin. The bill also slaps Iran and North Korea with sanctions.

The 184-page measure serves as a rebuke of the Kremlin's military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed President Bashar Assad. It aims to hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him by targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.

"It is well past time that we forcibly respond," said Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Trump hasn't threatened to reject the bill even though Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other senior administration officials had objected to a mandated congressional review should the president attempt to ease or lift the sanctions on Russia. They've argued it would infringe on the president's executive authority and tie his hands as he explores avenues of communication and cooperation between the two former Cold War foes.

But Trump's persistent overtures to Russia are what pushed lawmakers to include the sanctions review. Many lawmakers view Russia as the nation's top strategic adversary and believe more sanctions, not less, put the U.S. in a position of strength in any negotiations with Moscow.

Trump's "rhetoric toward the Russians has been far too accommodating and conciliatory, up to this point," said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa.
In sum, Trump's behavior toward Russia has become so alarming that even Republicans now understand they have to do something about it — so they've enacted a safeguard to ensure he can't just unilaterally ditch the sanctions they've voted to impose on the nation who attacked our election process.

Putin is not going to be happy about sanctions designed to "hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him" by targeting, among other things, "crucial sectors of the Russian economy." He's going to be very angry, in fact. And he's going to be very frustrated that the Made in America presidential puppet he bought isn't doing his bidding.

And he's not being quiet about it.

[Content Note: Video may autoplay at link] Stepan Kravchenko at Bloomberg: Russia Warns of 'Painful' Response if Trump Backs U.S. Sanctions.
Russia threatened to retaliate against new sanctions passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, saying they made it all but impossible to achieve the Trump administration’s goal of improved relations.

The measures push U.S.-Russia ties into uncharted territory and "don't leave room for the normalization of relations" in the foreseeable future, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday, according to the Interfax news service.

Hope "is dying" for improved relations because the scale of "the anti-Russian consensus in Congress makes dialogue impossible and for a long time," Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia's upper house of parliament, said on Facebook. Russia should prepare a response to the sanctions that's "painful for the Americans," he said.
Russia is just openly, publicly threatening to attack the U.S. in a way that is "painful" for the civilian population if our president doesn't do whatever they want (which is painful for us in a different way).

What is Trump going to do? Even if he vetoes the sanctions bill, it has a veto-proof majority and will likely get passed without his signature. Then what? Russia isn't going to care that the imposition of sanctions are out of Trump's hands.

Then what?

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Trump vs. Sessions: A Classic Authoritarian Struggle

Previously: Trump Is a Terrible President — and a Terrible Boss.

Donald Trump's campaign to cajole Attorney General Jeff Sessions into quitting continued into the afternoon yesterday, as he said during a press conference in the Rose Garden: "I am disappointed in the Attorney General. He should not have recused himself [from the Russia probe] almost immediately after he took office. And if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have, quite simply, picked somebody else. So I think that's a bad thing not for the president, but for the presidency. I think it's unfair to the presidency. And that's the way I feel."

Which was a reiteration of what he told the New York Times last week. And it's just as alarming now as it was before.

Sessions reportedly has no plans to quit, especially because "more than any other member of Trump's Cabinet, Sessions has been an uncompromising advocate for Trump's agenda. The attorney general has worked methodically to dismantle Obama's legacy at the Justice Department" — and Sessions knows how beloved that has made him among conservatives. He has his own base of loyalty, so he's prepared to "call Trump's bluff."

If he hangs on, that will eventually result in his regaining Trump's loyalty and support, because Trump is a coward who fears looking weak, so he won't risk defeat in a major showdown. Instead, he'll re-embrace Sessions — and Sessions is giving him good reason to do so by reportedly planning to "make an announcement about several criminal leak investigations within days."

"The investigations will be centered around news reports containing sensitive material about intelligence," which has been an era of Trump's obsessive focus for months.

How all of this is unfolding is incredibly informative, illuminating just how resolutely Trump is running his administration like a classic authoritarian. He demands personal loyalty, which very specifically entails committing to abet and replicate his contempt for the rule of law and lack of ethics, and when he doesn't get it, he immediately begins the process of alienation.

Weak characters will simply leave (e.g. Sean Spicer). Strong characters will call his bluff, and he will spin to look like he's the one in control of their collective fates. They'll throw him a bone to stay in his good graces. But with every interpersonal battle lost, he will become weaker, and thus more dangerous, as he responds to feeling weak with displays of the abuse he substitutes for actual strength.

None of this is good, at all. And beware the political press minimizing it as "drama" or "palace intrigue." It is serious, scary business — and we should all understand exactly what we're seeing.

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Open Thread

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Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker Drazil: "You get a super power! You can fly, or be invisible, or know whether someone is lying or telling the truth. Which do you pick and why?"

Flying. For one million reasons, but mostly because IT WOULD BE SO FUN.

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Christopher Nolan on Tom Hardy: "He's Extraordinary"

four images of Tom Hardy with his face partially covered for roles in four different films: The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, and Dunkirk

Just yesterday, I said in my review of Christopher Nolan's new film Dunkirk: "I don't know why Tom Hardy keeps picking roles where masks cover up the most beautiful face of all time. That said: He can do more with his eyes than actors who draw $5M+ salaries can do with their whole bodies, costuming, props, and dialogue."

With a hat tip to Billerina, I've discovered that Nolan agrees. (Which is no surprise, considering he keeps putting Hardy in his films!)
Nolan told the Press Association: "I was pretty thrilled with what he did in The Dark Knight Rises with two eyes and couple of eyebrows and a bit of forehead so I thought let's see what he can do with no forehead, no real eyebrows, maybe one eye."

"Of course Tom, being Tom, what he does with a single eye acting is far beyond what anyone else can do with their whole body; that is just the unique talent of the man. He's extraordinary."
What immense praise. And well deserved.

I've seen a couple of tweets, by the way, that suggest Tom Hardy does his best work while his face is all covered up. That is incorrect. He also does fantastic work while being extremely naked, lol.

(That link goes to a post about his nakedness, sans images. You're welcome and/or I'm sorry.)

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Senate Votes to Open Debate on Obamacare Repeal

Oh, also? They just completely shit all over the United States democracy, until it suffocated under the weight of their filth and died.

The vote today was on a "motion to proceed," which opens debate on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. What Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did was essentially convince nearly every member of his caucus to vote to move forward to "debate" a bill that hasn't yet been written. And within the allotted debate time (20 hours), Senate Republicans will scramble to write an actual bill on which the Senate will then vote.

Fifty Republican Senators went along with this profoundly anti-democratic and authoritarian charade, and then Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.

What comes next is unknown, because the Republicans can't get a piece of "healthcare reform" legislation passed when its details are known. This is a humongous fraud being perpetrated on the American public, and virtually the entire Republican Party is going along with it, all for the vile objective of taking away people's health insurance.

The malice of it is breathtaking.

I watched, with tears streaming down my face, the Republicans cast their votes, eager to make their constituents' lives worse and willing to consign to the dustbin of history even the illusion that we will restore anytime soon something proximate to functional democracy.

I watched one of the two major parties in this country — the majority party; the governing party — toss aside democratic processes and the most basic responsibility of lawmakers to know what constitutes a law before voting to advance it.

I watched as John McCain returned to the Senate to a standing ovation, so he could cast a vote to move ahead with taking away healthcare from the people who pay for his.

Look at that. Look at their happy faces; listen to their enthusiastic applause. They are over the fucking moon that John McCain rushed back from his brain surgery to advance a bill that will deny people the same lifesaving care.

I loathe every one of them. In the gallery, spectators chanted, "Don't kill us!" They heard the citizens who pay their salaries, pay for their healthcare coverage, pay for their travel when they fly back to cast an execrable vote, begging them not to take away the healthcare they need to live.

And one by one, they ignored those pleas and voted "Aye."

Against the wishes of voters. In breach of democratic norms. With zero hesitation about the lack of a bill to actually advance.

I would say that we will vote them out of office should they pass whatever turd of a bill they write, but they are busily making sure we can't do that, either.

Twenty hours from now is one last chance to stop this iteration of repeal. Tonight, call as you have never called before. Make their lives a fucking misery.

Tell them no. Even if you believe it won't make a difference to them. It will make a difference to you.

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