Question of the Day

Suggested by Shaker FarmerStina: "If you could terraform Mars to your personal specifications, what would those be?"

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The Monday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by swimming pools.

Recommended Reading:

Vann: Obamacare Isn't Out of the Woods Yet

Jonathan: The Rise of the Hacker Industrial Complex

Sophia: Scientists Hack a Human Cell and Reprogram It Like a Computer

Emma: [Content Note: Trans hatred] Trump Is Greenlighting the Harassment of Transgender Kids

Shay: [CN: Misogynoir] A Black Mama's Dilemma, or My Private Fears

Amar: [CN: War] Syrian Refugees Share Memories Stored on Their Phones in Powerful Photo Series

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

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Hoist with Their Own Petard

In his latest column, "The King of Crash and Burn," the New York Times' Charles M. Blow makes a great point about gerrymandering:

The [healthcare bill] loss is likely also the downside of Republican gerrymandering.

In the redrawing of districts following the 2010 census, Republicans created incredibly safe, ideologically pure districts with fewer dissenters. This protected more seats, but it also meant that the people who hold those seats have little to no incentive to ever compromise.

Republicans created hard-line districts that produced hard-line congressmen: obstructionist absolutists are gerrymandering's political offspring.

This is related to what I wrote earlier today about how the Republican Party's singular objective has been to win. And Blow also draws the connection between winning as exclusive focus and the bankruptcy of ideas:
These people weren't elected to govern, but to impede governance. Their mandate isn't to generate ideas and solve problems by the effective exercise of government. Their singular crusade is that government is ineffective and the solution is to forever see government itself as the problem. Ideas for them are anathema.

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Another Woman Has Been Killed in a Shooting Spree That Started with Domestic Violence

[Content Note: Domestic violence; guns; death.]

I have written many, many times about the link between domestic violence and mass shootings—most recently last month. Today, it grieves me to report that there has been another shooting in which a woman was killed, and five others injured, three critically, in a shooting incident which began with domestic violence.

The victims' names have not yet been made public. My condolences to the woman's family, friends, colleagues, and community, and my thoughts are with the people who survived, but with serious injuries.

The shooting happened in Sanford, Florida, which is the town in which Trayvon Martin was killed and where the police declined to arrest George Zimmerman until there was a national outcry about their indifference.

I have relentlessly argued the point that authorities must treat domestic violence as possible indicator for mass violence, as it has repeatedly been found to be—and, to that point, police interacted with the woman who was killed and the man who killed her twice today before the shooting.

Detectives describe Monday's violence as a series of escalations, beginning with a domestic dispute between Cashe and his girlfriend at her home shortly after 6 a.m.

That fight followed two previous verbal arguments between the couple that were so intense police were called to intervene.

A Sanford officer had to separate the couple at a gas station just a few hours before the shooting, according to authorities. Then, not even an hour later, police received a second call about the quarreling couple.

This time, officers learned they were arguing over personal possessions.

An officer was dispatched to the girlfriend's home, where he learned from a third party that Cashe had a gun. Not seeing one, the officer separated the couple, telling Cashe to go home.

But police say he did not.
No, he did not "go home." Instead, he killed his girlfriend, critically injured her father and her two sons, and injured two other people, including a girl who was waiting for her school bus.

There was, by the way, one presidential candidate in the last election who agreed with that statement; whose gun reform proposal included the introduction of legislation prohibiting "all people with histories of domestic abuse from buying or possessing guns, since current laws don't apply to people in dating relationships or convicted stalkers."

But the country took a hard pass and went with the guy who has himself been accused of domestic violence.

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So Much Winning

Gallup: Trump's Approval Rating Drops to New Low of 36%: "Donald Trump's job approval rating fell to 36% for the three-day period of March 24-26, following Republican House leaders' failed effort to pass a new healthcare bill that would have replaced the Affordable Care Act."

57 percent disapproval. Less than 10 weeks in office.

Currently under federal investigation.

Lost the popular vote by 3 million.

Muslim ban failed. Twice.

Healthcare reform failed.

Budget proposal panned.

The Loser President just keeps losing. And he's going to keep losing. Because he's a loser.

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Daily Dose of Cute

The doggies had a lovely time chilling out on Uncle Deeky's deck this weekend. (And so did Iain and I!)

image of Dudley the Greyhound lying on his dog bed on the deck on a sunny day

image of Zelda the Black and Tan Mutt lying on the deck on a sunny day

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 67

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:

Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan at the Washington Post: Trump Administration Weighs Deeper Involvement in Yemen War. "Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has asked the White House to lift Obama-era restrictions on U.S. military support for Persian Gulf states engaged in a protracted civil war against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, according to senior Trump administration officials. ...Approval of the request would mark a significant policy shift. U.S. military activity in Yemen until now has been confined mainly to counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda's affiliate there, with limited indirect backing for gulf state efforts in a two-year-old war that has yielded significant civilian casualties. It would also be a clear signal of the administration's intention to move more aggressively against Iran."

[Content Note: War; terrorism; death] Jonathan Marcus at the BBC: A New U.S. Strategy in the Fight Against So-Called Islamic State? "All the signs are that military commanders are being given greater autonomy in pushing forward the operation, whether it be freeing up the Pentagon from the micro-management of the White House and National Security Council, or greater leeway to local US commanders in Iraq to call in airstrikes. Inevitably, this has led to problems. Reports suggest the civilian death toll is growing markedly... US forces are now much more intimately involved in the fighting in both Iraq and Syria, though there are still the ritual denials that they are actually in the front line. ...The US seems to be intensifying its military campaign against IS without any real equivalent diplomatic surge."

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Jake Tapper at CNN: Nunes Says He Was on White House Grounds the Day Before Revealing Trump Surveillance Info. "One source told CNN that Nunes, a California Republican, was seen on the White House grounds the day before his announcement. In a phone interview, Nunes confirmed to CNN that he was on the White House grounds that day―but he said he was not in the White House itself. ...He told CNN he wanted to 'reiterate this has nothing to do with Russia.' Nunes went to the building because he needed a secure area to view the information, he told CNN." Sounds legit. (It does not sound legit.)

Greg Miller and Karoun Demirjian at the Washington Post: Chairman and Partisan: The Dual Roles of Devin Nunes Raise Questions About House Investigation. "Nunes, 43, has said he is committed to leading an impartial inquiry into Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. election, and search for any evidence of coordination with Trump or his associates. But Nunes, who served as an adviser on Trump's transition team, has also at times used his position as chair of the intelligence committee in ways that seem aligned with the interests of the White House. ...Nunes has pushed his panel to focus on lines of inquiry—including hunting the sources of damaging news leaks—that seem more favorable to Trump." This is why we need an independent commission to investigate. Now.

Sam Fellman at BuzzFeed: The Trump Administration Was Silent for Hours After Russia Arrested Hundreds of Protesters. "Russian police in riot gear arrested a leading opposition leader and hundreds of protesters in Moscow on Sunday, as the biggest protests Russia has seen in years bloomed in cities across the country. Hours after this crackdown on what appeared to be largely peaceful gatherings, the Trump administration did not issue any statements about the arrests." It took a State Department spokesperson 12 hours to issue a statement condemning the detention of peaceful protesters.

[CN: Shooting; death] In other things Trump couldn't be bothered to tweet about: "A shooting in a Cincinnati nightclub left 15 people wounded, one of them fatally, early on Sunday morning." Cameo, the site of the shooting, is a hip-hop nightclub.

The man who was killed has been identified as Obryan Spikes. My condolences to his family, friends, and community.

Joanna Walters at the Guardian: Donald Trump Blames Everyone But Himself for Healthcare Legislation Failure. "As internecine squabbling continued in the Republican party, [Trump's] targets included conservatives in Congress, Democrats and, possibly, the House speaker, Paul Ryan." The buck stops...over there somewhere.

Daniel Politi at Slate: Bannon Pushed Trump to Use Health Care Vote to Write Up 'Enemies List'. "The New York Times reports that Bannon kept on pushing President Donald Trump to pressure the health care vote to move forward so that an 'enemies list' could be compiled of all those who voted against the measure. The president's legislative affairs director, Marc Short, was also pushing the same idea. ...The Times story appears to confirm earlier reports from the Daily Beast that quoted an official saying that Bannon called on the president 'to keep a shit list on this.' The unnamed official added: 'Not sure if I'd call it an 'enemies list,' per se, but I wouldn't want to be on it.' Another aide described it as a 'hit list' for Republicans who were not loyal to the president." Everything is fine. (Everything is not fine.)

[CN: Racism; privacy violations] Olivia Solon at the Guardian: Facial Recognition Database Used by FBI Is Out of Control, House Committee Hears. "Approximately half of adult Americans' photographs are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI, without their knowledge or consent, in the hunt for suspected criminals. About 80% of photos in the FBI's network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver's licenses and passports. The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are more likely to misidentify black people than white people. These are just some of the damning facts presented at last week's House oversight committee hearing, where politicians and privacy campaigners criticized the FBI and called for stricter regulation of facial recognition technology at a time when it is creeping into law enforcement and business."

[CN: Assault] Angel Jennings and Anh Do at the L.A. Times: Reporter and Photographers Say They Were Assaulted by Trump Supporters at Huntington Beach Rally. "An OC Weekly reporter and two photographers said Sunday that they were physically assaulted by pro-Trump demonstrators at a Make America Great Again rally in Huntington Beach and are seeking the public's help in identifying at least one of the people responsible." This didn't happen in a vacuum. Trump's relentless discrediting campaign against the media is fueling this violent hatred.

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

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The Party of No Ideas

On Friday afternoon, following Republicans' epic healthcare reform failure, Speaker Paul Ryan gave a statement, during which he said it was evidence of the "growing pains" that accompany the switch from being an opposition party to a governing party.

Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains. And, well, we're feeling those growing pains today.
It's a line he's been using for awhile. On March 8, in response to criticism when the plan was unveiled, he said during a press conference: "I think what you're seeing is: We're going through the inevitable growing pains of being an opposition party to becoming a governing party."

Ryan can repeat that line ad infinitum, and it will still be bullshit every time.

The problem is not that the Republican Party is experiencing "growing pains." The problem is that the Republican Party is an incompetent shitshow being run by sadistic clowns.

They had seven years to come up with a viable alternative to the Affordable Care Act, and they didn't do it. They slapped together some unworkable garbage that was roundly panned from both the left and the right, presenting it with unbearably smug confidence, even as their president said breathtakingly ignorant codswallop like: "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated."

Even members of Ryan's own caucus are starting to make noise about the abject intellectual bankruptcy of their party:
As the prospect of a loss became more real on Friday, the frustrations of GOP lawmakers loyal to the leadership began to boil over. "I've been in this job eight years, and I'm wracking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that's been something positive, that's been something other than stopping something else from happening," Representative Tom Rooney of Florida said in an interview. "We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can't, then it's hard to justify why we should be back here."
The GOP is a party without a platform.

For decades, the primary (and often exclusive) priority of the Republican Party has been to win. The obstructionism, the propaganda, the bigoted wedge-politicking, the gerrymandering, the voter suppression—it's all been in service to winning.

Well, they've won. They've won it all. The presidency, both Houses of Congress, the majority of state governorships, the majority of state legislatures. They'll soon have a majority on the Supreme Court. There ain't nothing left to win.

They've spent decades preparing for—fighting for—this moment. And now that they've arrived, they have nothing to offer. No effective governance. No fully-formed policies. No ideas at all.

[Image is Trump on TV with scroll reading: "Trump blames Democrats for health care failure."]

No, Trump. No. You don't get to blame the Democrats anymore. Your party is the majority. If you can't get it done, the blame is yours and yours alone. Time for the Ownership Party to own that.

"Tax cuts and war" isn't a sufficient national agenda. People need help. The Republican Party promised to deliver it, after spending eight years denying President Obama the ability to provide it.

The failure to address the many needs across this nation will be catastrophic, especially when the only idea to "help" is redistributing the federal budget by siphoning money away from social programs to fund an even more bloated defense budget, thus standing to create even more need.

That failure isn't about "growing pains." It's about a party who has long had no ideas beyond seizing power. Who wanted power for power's sake. Who hasn't a clue how to govern, and, more importantly, hasn't the will to govern well.

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Investigations of Trump Administration Ties to Russia Is Now a Family Affair

As you may recall, Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, was one of the members of the Trump administration who had a secret meeting with Russian envoy Sergey Kislyak. Kushner's meeting with Kislyak was taken with disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn: It was the December meeting for which Kislyak was seemingly snuck in through a secondary entrance in order to evade press attention.

Now, according to a new report in the New York Times, the Senate Intelligence Committee would like to have a chat with Kushner "about meetings he arranged with the Russian ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak," after it was discovered that Kushner had a second, undisclosed meeting with Kislyak.

Until now, the White House had acknowledged only an early December meeting between Mr. Kislyak and Mr. Kushner... Later that month, though, Mr. Kislyak requested a second meeting, which Mr. Kushner asked a deputy to attend in his stead, officials said. At Mr. Kislyak's request, Mr. Kushner later met with Sergey N. Gorkov, the chief of Vnesheconombank, which the United States placed on its sanctions list after President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia annexed Crimea and began meddling in Ukraine.
Vnesheconombank is Russia's state-owned economic development bank, "whose supervisory board is controlled by members of Mr. Putin's government, including Prime Minister Dimitri A. Medvedev."

Naturally, I was curious to find out what ties Vnesheconombank may have to other members of the Trump administration, and I found this article from January 2010, innocuously headlined: "Russians circle Ukraine group."

It's a story about how Vnesheconombank financed a takeover of one of Ukraine's struggling steel groups, right in the middle of a Ukrainian election.

Ruben Vardanian, the chair of Troika Dialog, a Moscow investment bank which was the financial advisor on the deal, is quoted as saying: "The deal is aimed at realising a strategy of consolidating metals assets across the territory of the [former Soviet Union] and could potentially lead to an expansion of cooperation between Russia and Ukraine."

"Cooperation" is an interesting word. The piece also notes: "Analysts said the deal is also evidence of Russia's bid to expand its industrial grip over former Soviet Union countries."

Guess who won that election a month later? The pro-Putin Viktor Yanukovych.

The same Viktor Yanukovych for whom both Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and Sanders chief strategist Tad Devine worked. In fact, Manafort and Devine were consultants for Yanukovych during that election.

So, seven years ago, a Russian state-owned bank announced a month before a Ukrainian election that it would finance a deal that stood to influence the outcome of that election. The candidate who won had on his campaign staff a man who would go on to become the campaign chair of a U.S. president, whose son-in-law is now under investigation because of a secret meeting with the chief of that bank.

Meanwhile, that same U.S. president has been silent as Russia bears down on Ukraine.

Maybe all of that is a coincidence. Maybe it's not.

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Well, I Suppose This Election Hot Take Was Always Only a Matter of Time

In the raging sea of post-election hot takes that blame Hillary Clinton for losing the election to an aggressive bigot and serial sexual abuser, I guess this was inevitable. Thomas Groome at the New York Times: To Win Again, Democrats Must Stop Being the Abortion Party.

Of course. OF COURSE.

Like most hot takes, this piece doesn't let the inconvenient fact that Clinton won the popular vote by three million votes get in the way of its supercool argument, nor does it acknowledge that Catholics are not a monolithic voting bloc. There are many Catholics who, even if they personally would not get an abortion, are resolutely pro-choice. This may come as a shock to Mr. Groome, but I even know Catholics who have had abortions, and aren't eternally ashamed about it.

There's also the small conundrum that President Obama won―twice―as a pro-choice candidate.

Last year's election was a watershed in this evolution. Hillary Clinton lost the overall Catholic vote by seven points—after President Obama had won it in the previous two elections. She lost the white Catholic vote by 23 points.
I know this is a radical suggestion, but maybe the problem isn't that Hillary Clinton is pro-choice, but maybe the problem is that Hillary Clinton is a woman.

Misogyny is still the word that shall not be spoken in post-mortems of the 2016 election. And I don't find convincing an argument that any voting demographic would swing wildly between Obama and Clinton as a result of an issue on which they held virtually identical views. Both of whom, not incidentally, had Catholic running mates who could competently articulate how they reconciled being politically pro-choice despite their church's anti-choice views.

I do, however, believe strongly that a voting demographic defined by an institution that holds at the center of its principles a belief that women must be disallowed from holding positions of power might be disproportionately likely to reject the idea of a female leader on the basis that she is a woman.

To ignore the effects of the implicit and overt messaging around female exclusion, to pretend that it doesn't matter, is willful ignorance about how culture and socialization work.

The argument about reproductive choice is just the latest attempt to Occam's Big Paisley Tie the most obvious reason why people who voted for Obama wouldn't vote for Clinton. And the refusal to even consider that possibility all but guarantees it will happen again.

I certainly hope the Democratic Party will not take policy advice from anyone whose argument doesn't even give cursory consideration to the sexism that continues to stare us all in the face, while we shamefully avert our gaze.

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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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The Friday Blogaround

This blogaround brought to you by steam engines.

Recommended Reading:

Monica: [Content Note: Trans violence; death] Rest in Power and Peace, Alphonza

Andy: Rep. Mark Pocan: I've Seen 'Damning Evidence' on Trump-Russia Coordination in Classified Reports

Charles: [CN: Disablism] Neil Gorsuch Is an Incredibly Callous Human Being

Amie: [CN: Addiction] The Opioid Epidemic: Why Are Women at Risk?

Rob: The BBC Is Using This Excellent Photo of Trump for Everything

Vivian: Brett Ratner Thinks It's Rotten Tomatoes, Not His Movies, That's Destroying the Film Industry

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

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Healthcare Bill Open Thread

Well, this is it. They're starting the vote, with the outcome not at all certain. As they take the vote, the latest Quinnipiac poll stands at 56 percent of respondents disapproving of the GOP plan, 26 percent unsure, and only 17 percent approving of the plan.

There is no question that the Republican House majority is not acting according to the will or the best interests of We the People.

Here is a thread for discussion, as it unfolds.

UPDATE: They pulled the bill. No vote.

UPDATE 2: Speaker Paul Ryan is now making a statement. "Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with growing pains. And we're feeling those growing pains today." Good grief.

If you're wondering if he's still trashing the Affordable Care Act, even after this shitshow, the answer is obviously yes.

UPDATE 3: Trump blames Democrats (sure), but he's relieved it's over.

No stamina. Sad!

Gonna be a long four years, bub, if you think this constituted an exhausting battle. JFC.

UPDATE 4: Ryan: "We're going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future." He and I have very different feelings about that statement.

UPDATE 5: This is a victory for today. The Republicans aren't going to drop the fight to repeal the Affordable Care Act, no matter how futile that fight may be, and they will, in the interim, do everything they can (especially via the Department of Health and Human Services) to subvert the protections of the ACA.

So we have only but a moment to celebrate. And I will use that moment to suggest we all laugh very hard at this.

We're gonna win with healthcare, and for our veterans! We're gonna win with every single facet! We're gonna win so much, you may even get tired of winning! And you'll say: "Please, please, it's too much winning! We can't take it anymore! Mr. President, it's too much!" And I'll say: "No it isn't! We have to keep winning! We have to win MORE! We're gonna win more!"

And now, back to the resistance.

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This Is Not Good

Below, a Reuters video headlined: "Dozens of Russian tanks deployed close to Ukrainian border."

The Reuters description of the video, which is without narration, is as follows: "A Reuters witness on Wednesday (March 22) saw dozens of modern tanks arriving at a railroad station in Pokrovskoye in the country's southern Rostov region. The tanks were loaded off the railroad carriages and deployed in a field near Matveyev Kurgan village some 10 km from the border with Ukraine. Russian regularly holds military drills in Rostov region involving its infantry, artillery, and air force, and has a number of military bases in the area. Moscow had earlier said it planed to reinforce its western and southern flanks with three new divisions as a retaliation for NATO's plans to boost its military presence in eastern members Poland and the Baltic States."

Relatedly, with a hat tip to @ThatShockratees, the BBC reported yesterday: Ukraine Munitions Blasts Prompt Mass Evacuations.
Some 20,000 people are being evacuated after a series of explosions at a massive arms depot in eastern Ukraine described by officials as sabotage.

The base in Balakliya, near Kharkiv, is around 100km (60 miles) from fighting against Russian-backed separatists.

The dump is used to store thousands of tonnes of ammunition including missiles and artillery weapons.

Rescue teams are overseeing a huge evacuation effort for people living in the city and nearby villages. ...Everyone within a 10km (6 miles) radius of the dump is being evacuated, the Interfax news agency quoted an aide to President Petro Poroshenko as saying.

Munitions from the depot are used to supply military units in the conflict zone in nearby Luhansk and Donetsk, reports say.

The authorities are investigating various ways the explosions may have been caused, Defence Minister Stepan Poltorak said, including the possibility of an explosive device being dropped from a drone.

A drone was reported to have been used an earlier attempt to set the facility on fire in December 2015.
Although there is no explicit blame directed at the Russians here, note that Ukrainian officials describing it as an act of "sabotage" makes very clear who they believe is responsible.

And of course there is no question that the tanks being deployed near the Ukrainian border are Russian.

Meanwhile, the U.S. president is under investigation for collusion with Putin.

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Healthcare Vote Update & John Lewis Brings the Fire

The final floor vote on the healthcare [sic] legislation is currently scheduled for 4pm ET. (KEEP CALLING!)

Speaker Paul Ryan met with Donald Trump earlier, purportedly to tell him that they don't have the votes. But I am not taking anything for granted unless and until this thing fails.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Lewis BROUGHT THE FIRE to the House floor in opposition to this bill, and it was fucking amazing.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend for yielding. Mr. Speaker, I rise to oppose this bill. As elected representatives, we have a mission, an obligation, and a mandate to fight for each and every American.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, who will stand for the American people? Who will speak for those who have been left out and left behind? Mr. Speaker, I've said it time and time again: Healthcare is a right. It is not a privilege reserved for a wealthy few. For what does it profit this body to pass this bill and lose our soul?

This bill is a shame. It is a disgrace. Mr. Speaker, today my heart breaks for the disabled, for women, for seniors, and working families. My heart aches for those who are living paycheck to paycheck. My heart mourns for innocent little children whose very lives depend on if their family can pay the bills.

This is the heart and soul of the matter. We cannot abandon our principles. Mr. Speaker, we cannot forget our values. I've fought too hard and too long to back down now. I will fight any bill that turns the clock back to a darker time. I will fight every single attempt to turn a deaf ear, a blind eye, and a cold shoulder to the sick! To our seniors! And to working families!

Mr. Speaker, I will fight every day, every hour, every minute, and every second! I oppose this bill with every breath and every bone in my body! We must not give up! We cannot. I will not give in. Not today, not tomorrow, and NEVER! EVER!

On this bill, there's only one option, and that option is to vote NO! We can do better, Mr. Speaker. We must do better! Vote no on this bill!

THAT is what an elected representative who cares about the people he represents looks like.

Not that Paul Ryan would be able to recognize it with his cold, dead eyes.

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Daily Dose of Cute

image of Dudley the Greyhound asleep on the sofa, with his lip all stretched out on the cushion
LOL. I want to be sleeping this hard RIGHT NOW.

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

Open Wide...

We Resist: Day 64

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:

Natasha Geiling at ThinkProgress: Trump Administration Issues Permit for Keystone XL Pipeline. "On Friday morning, pipeline developer TransCanada announced that it had received a presidential permit to move forward with the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The Obama administration spent six years considering the controversial cross-border pipeline before ultimately denying a permit for its construction in November of 2015. The Trump administration reversed that decision after a little more than 60 days in office, following an executive order issued January 24 by [Donald] Trump calling for TransCanada to resubmit its permit request to the State Department."

[Image in tweet shows Trump sitting at his desk, looking pleased with himself, while surrounded, as usual, by a bunch of white men.]

[Content Note: Nativism; covers next four paragraphs] Michael D. Shear at the New York Times: Trump Administration Orders Tougher Screening of Visa Applicants. "The Trump administration is making it tougher for millions of visitors to enter the United States by demanding new security checks before giving visas to tourists, business travelers and relatives of American residents. Diplomatic cables sent last week from Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson to all American embassies instructed consular officials to broadly increase scrutiny. It was the first evidence of the 'extreme vetting' Mr. Trump promised during the presidential campaign."

Tina Vasquez at Rewire: ICE Report on So-Called Safety Threats 'Misleading at Best'. "The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week fulfilled part of [Donald] Trump's January executive order by issuing its first report on declined detainers. The report, which advocates say is 'misleading at best,' meets the president's call for a weekly list of all the alleged crimes committed by undocumented immigrants. ...Michele Waslin, senior research and policy analyst at the American Immigration Council, told Rewire in a phone interview that there are 'glaring problems' with the report, but the fact that it exists at all is 'ludicrous.' 'The administration says it's doing this for public safety reasons, but the report undermines public safety in several ways,' Waslin said. 'It undermines the privacy of those listed and it undermines safety in the jurisdictions listed. ICE is using serious resources to create this report, rather than using those resources to, say, deal with actual threats to safety.'"

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Maria Santana at CNN: Source: ICE Is Targeting Sanctuary Cities with Raids. "Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been targeting so-called 'sanctuary cities' with increased enforcement operations in an effort to pressure those jurisdictions to cooperate with federal immigration agents, a senior US immigration official with direct knowledge of ongoing ICE actions told CNN. ...This week, a federal judge in Texas seems to have confirmed that tactic. US Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin revealed during an immigration hearing Monday that a mid-February raid in the Austin metro area was done in retaliation for a local sheriff's recent decision to limit her department's cooperation with ICE."

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] Roque Planas at the Huffington Post: Trump Is Relocating Immigration Judges to Speed Deportations. "Donald Trump, whose administration argues that immigrants abuse the court system to delay deportation, dispatched immigration judges to the country's two largest family detention centers this week so detainees' cases can be processed more quickly. But experts―and The Huffington Post's visit to one of the centers―suggest that the president may end up disappointed if he thinks relocating judges will speed up deportations. When Judge Monica Little, who normally presides over immigration court in Los Angeles, heard the first four cases under the new system on Wednesday at the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, she issued rulings that gave the detainees before her weeks to find lawyers and collect evidence."

Shannon Vavra at Axios: Mnuchin: Losing Human Jobs to AI "Not Even on Our Radar Screen". Like I keep saying: Automation is the word that Trump simply will not utter, because you can't "bring jobs back" that have been lost to automation. From the same interview: "I think we should look at putting President Trump on the thousand dollar bill." Sure. Also, on Trump's stamina: "He's got perfect genes. He has incredible energy and he's unbelievably healthy." Holy shit.

[CN: Video may autoplay at link] This is probably a good time for a reminder that "Trump's father instilled in him the idea that their family's success was genetic, according to Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio. 'The family subscribes to a racehorse theory of human development,' D'Antonio says in the documentary. 'They believe that there are superior people and that if you put together the genes of a superior woman and a superior man, you get a superior offspring.'"

[CN: Misogyny] Caitlin MacNeal at TPM: Mulvaney: If Your State Doesn't Mandate Maternity Care, Change Your State. "Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, one of the top administration officials who had been working to pass the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, on Friday morning brushed off concerns about a new provision in the bill that repeals the Essential Health Benefits requirement. That provision would repeal a requirement that insurers cover a list of 10 essential benefits, including maternity care. Asked about this on CBS' 'This Morning,' Mulvaney argued that states can still require that insurance companies cover the EHBs. ...Co-host Alex Wagner asked Mulvaney about people who do not live in a state that requires maternity coverage. 'Then you can figure out a way to change the state that you live in,' Mulvaney replied."

Matt Gertz at Media Matters: The Life Cycle of a Donald Trump Lie. "Trump and his team are doing everything they can to create an atmosphere of uncertainty in the which people will trust Trump over all other sources. ...But this only works if Trump is perceived as honest. And so Trump never admits that he was wrong, never acknowledges if his story has changed, claims that it is the people who say that he's pushing falsehoods who are the real liars, and kicks up as much dust as possible around his falsehoods. This turns every lie he tells into a polarized argument, with him and his media allies on one side and his perceived enemies on the other."

Nolan D. McCaskill at Politico: Eric Trump Will Share Business Updates with Father. "In an interview with Forbes published Friday, Eric Trump described the setup as 'kind of a clear separation of church and state that we maintain.' 'I am deadly serious about that exercise,' he said. 'I do not talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That's kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it's something that we honor.' But nearly two minutes later, Trump admitted that he will keep his father up to speed on some aspects of the business."

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

Open Wide...

Manafort Will Speak to Intelligence Committee, But Committee Chair Cancels Open Hearing with Others

During a press conference earlier today, Republican Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes announced that former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, whose ties to Russia have raised serious questions about the Trump campaign's possible collusion with Russia during the campaign, would come in for an interview with the committee.

The counsel for Paul Manafort contacted the committee yesterday to offer the committee the opportunity to interview his client. We thank Mr. Manafort for volunteering and encourage others with knowledge of these issues to voluntarily interview with the committee.
Note that Nunes did not specify whether Manafort would testify under oath; he merely said that he would come in for an "interview." He also did not specify whether said interview would be public, or would happen in a closed-door session.

Even if it's just an interview, it's not necessarily an entirely worthless, GOP ass-covering endeavor. It could provide the Democrats on the committee an opportunity to ask some questions, the answers to which, if they are unsatisfactory, could provide an argument for a subpoena.

That said, the Republican majority on the committee could refuse to issue a subpoena.

Which is why, again, we need an independent commission to investigate.

Another reason: Nunes also canceled the open hearing that had been scheduled with former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former Director of the CIA John Brennan, and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

Rep. Adam Schiff, Democratic Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, gave a press conference following Nunes' presser, condemning Nunes' decision and asking the majority members to reconsider.

He argued, quite rightly, that in order to do a credible investigation, as much as possible needs to be public. But, to the contrary, the committee chair, Nunes, is trying to "choke off public information."

Today the chairman has announced that meeting is canceled. He has also announced that he wants to bring back Directors Comey and Rogers for a closed session. We welcome at any time bringing the former directors back in closed session. We don't welcome cutting off the public access to information when we have witnesses, as these three very important witnesses, who are willing and scheduled to testify in open session.

We also have made the offer, rejected by the majority, that we could have these three witnesses testify in open session and if there were questions the members wanted to ask in closed session, that we could then go to a closed portion of the hearing. In fact, this is just what we do in the worldwide threats hearings often, where we have open testimony followed by testimony in closed session.
Democrats proposed an accommodation, which is accepted in other hearings, and the Republican majority simply rejected it out of hand. Because their concern isn't protecting sensitive info; it's protecting the president.

This is where we stand: There are serious allegations that the sitting President of the United States colluded with a hostile foreign power to win the election. He is now under investigation by federal intelligence agencies. The House committee tasked with investigating is controlled by a Republican majority, and the Republican chair, who was a member of the president's transition team, is colluding with the president outside the committee, while simultaneously hamstringing Democrats who want to meaningfully investigate.

This is not the description of a healthy democracy.

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Senate Votes to Overturn Internet Privacy Rules

While everyone was (quite understandably) paying attention to the Republican healthcare bill yesterday, the Senate quietly voted to overturn internet privacy rules passed by the FCC during the Obama administration, which prevented internet providers from sharing your browsing history with corporations without your consent.

Jacob Kastrenakes at the Verge reports:

The privacy rules, passed last year by the FCC, required internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to get each customer's permission before sharing personal information like which websites they visit. But internet providers want to be able to sell that data and use it to target ads, so they've been vocal about opposing the rules since around the time [Donald] Trump took office.

This vote uses the Congressional Review Act, which lets Congress strike down recently passed rules by federal agencies, to block the FCC's action. It now heads to the House, where it'll need another vote before the rules are wiped out.

"This resolution is a direct attack on consumer rights, on privacy, on rules that afford basic protection against intrusive and illegal interference with consumers' use of social media sites and websites that often they talk for granted," Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said in the Senate today ahead of the vote.

What makes this reversal particularly damaging is that it won't just undo these privacy rules, but it'll prevent the FCC from passing similar privacy rules in the future. That means that the FCC won't be able to pass strict privacy rules again, even if opinions change in Congress.
Emphasis mine.

The potential for abuse is almost unlimited. Think about the things that people search online, which would be made available to for-profit corporations under the auspices of "targeted advertising." Think about the way that information could be misinterpreted. If my friend is diagnosed with an illness I don't know much about, and I research it online, will that search be reflexively presumed to be an indication of my own health?

This erosion of privacy is so, so chilling.

It hasn't been implemented yet. There is still time to call your rep's office and tell them to vote no on rolling back FCC privacy rules on browsing histories. If you've got a Republican rep, appeal to their espoused commitment to privacy rights.

Even if it won't change their vote, at least voice your opposition and let them know what hypocrites they are. Let them know we see them.

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