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It only took three hours for the RNC to devolve into chaos.

The RNC began at 1 p.m., but its first three hours were relatively quite. Aside from Reince Preibus, the speakers were people no one has heard of, reading speeches in the halting tone of someone running for eighth grade class president. There were protests outside the convention, but things were calm. The biggest highlights of the first three hours were Eric Andre messing with Alex Jones and the RNC house band, led by SNL’s G.E. Smith, which played Holiday Inn bar mitzvah versions of misogynistic sex songs like AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” and The Faces’ “Stay With Me” to a hardly captive audience. (Bowie’s “Station to Station,” a 10-minute ode to cocaine psychosis, was also dragged out.)

Then, shortly after 4 p.m., all hell broke loose. Delegates opposed to Trump’s nomination acquired enough signatures to force a roll call vote to “unbind the delegates,” which would allow delegates to vote yay or nay on Trump as the nominee and—possibly—select a new nominee for president. Politico reports that the delegations from at least nine states submitted signatures calling for a roll call vote, but Rep. Steve Womack—who at one point left the stage for a considerable period of time—“declared the rules approved and moved on.” When Womack appeared for the second time, he informed the delegates that three states had withdrawn their support, presumably after considerable arm-twisting from Trump’s campaign. While this was happening, the Colorado delegation walked out, the floor devolved into shouting between pro- and anti-Trump delegates, and former New Hampshire senator Gordon Humphrey referred to Trump’s supporters as “brownshirts.”

One of the strangest things about the surreal scene in Cleveland is that any roll call vote would almost certainly be unsuccessful: It is, in other words, a purely symbolic vote that would allow Trump’s opponents to voice their objections and vote their conscience, but would likely accomplish little else. Of course, any dissent is a bad look during a convention—the time when the party is supposed to symbolically come together—which helps explain why Trump’s team is working so hard behind the scenes to suppress the vote.

March 24, 2017

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Who cares what John Boehner is doing right now?

As Trumpcare swirls down the toilet bowl of history, it has become fashionable to suggest, wryly, that Paul Ryan’s Obamacare troubles vindicate former House Speaker John Boehner, who faced widespread criticism for his own legislative failures.

Boehner wasn’t any more to blame for Republican problems than anyone else who might lead the party, the thinking goes, and must revel in watching someone else deal with them.

Allow me to politely dissent from this conventional wisdom.

Boehner is an affable guy, and less ideologically stringent than Ryan, which lends him afterglow in this particularly cruel and chaotic moment. George W. Bush benefits from this kind of revisionism, too. But neither man deserves it.

Boehner blew just about every call of his speakership, whether he was trying to lever President Obama into signing conservative bills, or limit losses when Democrats were operating from strength. His biggest accomplishments were budget sequestration, which everyone hates, and a modest agreement he struck at the end of his career with Nancy Pelosi to fix Medicare’s physician reimbursement formula. Not only did he leave no legacy, but he left the political system in far shabbier shape than he found it.

It isn’t a huge leap to think there would be no President Trump had Boehner simply put the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill on the House floor for a vote in 2013. He was widely applauded inside the beltway for mocking his own members, behind closed doors as a bunch of cowards, too scared to pass the bill they promised to pass…

…only to chickenshit out of forcing the issue himself.

The GOP’s current health care fiasco has its roots in Boehner’s unwillingness to insist that conservatives square their ambitions with reality. After Obama won re-election in 2012, Boehner sat down for a primetime interview and said, “Obamacare is the law of the land.” That was true! But within hours he’d allowed himself to be bullied into spending the rest of his speakership pretending repeal was still a viable option, essentially committing Republicans to a position that he knew would grow increasingly toxic as the ACA got implemented and more and more people began to enroll.

Boehner’s a great guy to have a drink with, and I’m sure he mows a mean lawn, but he’s entitled to no more absolution than any other powerful official who loses sight of the public interest.

Pictures of Trump signing things with white men, ranked.

The only thing Trump loves more than the Oval Office (which he likes to stare at) is signing things in the Oval Office surrounded mainly by white lads. Today, he authorized a permit to resume construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and the photograph of this auspicious event joined a growing body of such primary documents. Here are the best photos (so far).

1. Thumbs up for plastic men dumping coal in rivers!

2. When Dodd-Frank makes you feel :[

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

3. Raise your hand if you love space and have never seen Hidden Figures! 

Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images

4. None of these boys know where babies come from.   

5. Receding 👏 hairlines 👏 are 👏 in.  

6. And then there was that time Trump got a special toy from the sheriffs. 

Pool/Getty Images

Our country is going to crash and burn all because of these idiots. 

Bloomberg/Getty Images

Trump’s EPA transition leader just blasted Ivanka and Rex Tillerson over climate policy.

Ever since Trump’s election, the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell has been leading the charge to permanently hobble the Environmental Protection Agency. He formed a transition team for the agency that included some of the nation’s most prominent climate science deniers, and created a policy document that recommends withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement, defunding international climate programs, withdrawing regulations on carbon dioxide and methane emissions, and somehow reversing the Supreme Court’s ruling saying carbon dioxide should be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

But at a conference for climate science deniers on Friday, Ebell said there have been roadblocks to getting these things accomplished. “We do have a problem,” he said. “Swamp creatures are still there. They are trying to infiltrate the administration. And some of them are succeeding.”

Amazingly, Ebell said one of those “swamp creatures” is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of oil giant ExxonMobil. Ebell blasted Tillerson for suggesting that the U.S. should remain a party to its international agreements to fight climate change, saying Tillerson just wants to “pal around” with diplomats on the subject. “Rex Tillerson may be from Texas, and he may have been CEO of Exxon, but he’s part of the swamp,” Ebell said.

Ebell also called out Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband Jared Kushner, who have reportedly been trying to convince the president to not be so awful on climate policy. Perhaps realizing the perils of singling out his former boss’s daughter, Ebell was more restrained with that criticism. “I don’t know that they really want to be identified as swamp creatures, and I’m not willing to do so,” Ebell said. “But at some point it needs to be pointed out that the people who elected Donald J. Trump are not wealthy Manhattanites, including his children.”

The GOP’s frat boy comments about women’s health care are bad. They also highlight Obamacare’s weaknesses.

This week, the ghouls that run our country’s government have revealed a complete lack of understanding of how maternity care works. (Serious question: Do they know where babies come from?) The conservative Freedom Caucus has pushed to eliminate Obamacare’s requirement that insurance plans offered to individuals and small businesses cover “essential health benefits” (EHBs), a list of ten categories that includes preventative care and pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care.

When asked about cutting EHBs, Senator Pat Roberts reminded the world that he, as a man, does not need mammograms:

Then Sean Spicer told reporters that old men don’t need maternity care (despite the fact that his boss had Barron at the ripe old age of 59).

Earlier in the month, Representative John Shimkus asked, “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?”

None of these comments are surprising. They are the same lines these man-children pulled when Democrats were trying to cover maternity care in the Affordable Care Act. They don’t seem to understand that a) pooling risks is how insurance works and b) we shouldn’t put the financial burden of having a child entirely on the mother.

But these statements, however sexist and dumb, also reveal a fundamental weakness of Obamacare. Our current health care system has to stretch individual plans in convoluted ways (such as EHBs) so that they can function as adequate coverage for a variety of conditions. This allows Republicans to continue to spew the rhetoric of “why do I have to pay for x, y, z if I don’t need it,” which is a logical way to think about commodities, but not about health care. The problem is that, as opposed to a single-payer system, health care under Obamacare is more easily cast as a product, instead of a right. It makes it easier for conservatives to undermine the societal goal of pooling risk.

Obamacare pulled us out of the wilderness when it came to women’s health and maternity care. Today, Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s budget director, said that pregnant women who want maternity care under their plan could just move to a state that mandates maternity coverage. But before the ACA, only nine states mandated maternity benefits. It’s clear that the GOP’s plan would be a disaster for women and that Republican simply don’t care. But their comments point to the way health care in this country could be strengthened.

Alex Wong /Getty Images

Here’s the scenario in which Trumpcare doesn’t crash and burn.

Opponents of the American Health Care Act had cause for optimism Friday morning. After days of wrangling, House Republicans still appeared short of the votes they’d need to pass President Donald Trump’s slapdash replacement of the Affordable Care Act. Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the Appopriations Committee, came out as a significant No vote.

Trump looked ready to accept defeat, gearing up to blame Speaker Paul Ryan for what would be a crippling debacle. Meanwhile, Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, was privately grousing that the bill “doesn’t drive down costs” and was “written by the insurance industry,” according to New York magazine. (Breitbart swiftly bannered Bannon’s comments in a splashy homepage headline.)

But as defeat becomes a more palpable reality, circumstances may change. All Republicans need to do is pass a bill in the House—any bill—to get over the toughest hurdle. After that, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may totally rewrite it to make it more politically palatable for the Senate. MoveOn’s Ben Wikler has been tweeting as much:

Wikler’s assumption is that the House Freedom Caucus caves both later today and when the Senate sends back its McConnell-written bill. This is, needless to say, a large assumption. The question is whether these Republicans (and others) see their fate tied to Trump, in which case they will pass the bill, or feel that they are better off on their own—in which case it dies.

Getty/Pool

Donald Trump does not seem to mind if Trumpcare goes down in flames.

Trump took to Twitter this morning for some last-minute whipping—including this snide shot at the Freedom Caucus.

But Trump’s main pitch still seems halfhearted, especially coming from someone who the right-wing press loves to breathlessly point out is a “marketer.” This is how you sell a $49.99 watch on the Home Shopping Network, not a health care plan that less than a third of Americans think is a good idea:

But even Trump’s more forceful pitch—his, “I thought you guys were against abortion?” quip at the Freedom Caucus—suggests someone who doesn’t really care about the fate of this bill. The abortion language in the bill wouldn’t make it through the Senate and almost certainly violates the Byrd Rule, i.e. it doesn’t meet the standard for passing the bill through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process. Every member of the Freedom Caucus must know that voting for the AHCA because of its anti-abortion language is folly.

Perhaps the weirdest development of the past few days is the fact that it’s become abundantly clear that Trump doesn’t seem to care if this bill lives or dies. The fact that 24 million could end up without health insurance is totally abstract to him. He’s barely been involved in selling the bill to Congress, and Mitch McConnell was reportedly leading the negotiations with the Freedom Caucus and others. (McConnell apparently thinks he can rewrite the bill to his liking as long as it gets past the first hurdle of the House.) When it became clear that Paul Ryan didn’t have the votes, Trump was literally playing with a truck—a reporter had to tell him that the bill wasn’t going to get a vote on Thursday.

Trump seems to know that he screwed up. Late Thursday The New York Times reported that Trump “has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.” This seems genuine, though it also hints at where this story is going: Paul Ryan will be blamed for the bill’s failure when it fails.

I should say if it fails. Either way, the White House doesn’t seem to care. In fact, losing may be the outcome that they want. Steve Bannon reportedly hates the bill because it doesn’t “drive down costs.” Others in the White House seem ready to move on, and have begun spinning this as if it’s a good thing:

This bill has been out for 19 days. And if Trump thinks he can walk away from this unscathed, he’s kidding himself.

March 23, 2017

Max Whittaker/Getty Images

A sexual harassment scandal casts a shadow on University of California, Berkeley and academic philosophy.

John R. Searle, one of the world’s most renowned philosophers, has been named in a sexual harassment lawsuit launched by a former student, Joanna Ong. As Katie J.M. Baker of BuzzFeed reports:

The lawsuit, which lists Searle and the Regents of the University of California as defendants, claims Searle groped Ong in his office after he told her “they were going to be lovers.” He also said he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual,” the complaint states, and that he was “going to love her for a long time.” Ong turned Searle down and reported him to other UC Berkeley employees, but they did nothing, the complaint states. Instead, Searle cut Ong’s salary and she was eventually fired, according to the complaint, which also claims Searle watched pornography at work and made sexist comments.

The story raises questions not only about Searle’s conduct, but also the possibly enabling environment of Berkeley (which has been rocked by similar scandals before). There might also be a cultural problem with the discipline of philosophy itself. An overwhelmingly male-dominated field, philosophy departments have seen more than their share of high-profile scandals in recent years.  

Getty

I have never enjoyed anything so much as watching Trumpcare bite the dust.

It’s hard to think of a bill that’s had a worse rollout than the American Health Care Act, which was hated by pretty much everyone from its inception. It was a big, unwieldy play doh ball of terrible ideas about health care that would make pretty much everyone’s lives worse, but especially the lives of the old and the poor. That it would make people’s lives worse without making health care any better or more affordable was almost a weird kind of accomplishment. But for these reasons and for others—conservatives wanted it to be even worse—the bill was widely loathed, a giant tax cut disguised as a health care bill that would turn back the clock a decade or more.

The AHCA has now flatlined. The House delayed its vote on the bill on Thursday, a tacit acknowledgment that after three torturous weeks of incompetent negotiating, they did not have the votes to repeal the hated Obamacare in a chamber that they control. The bill appears to have fallen apart after the thirsty right-wing members of the Freedom Caucus went to the White House to demand even more concessions and were rebuffed. But even if the Freedom Caucus had gotten what they wanted, the bill still may not have passed the House. There were signs that moderates would have balked, unwilling to sign their names to something that would likely die in the Senate anyway for being insanely draconian.

Of course, the AHCA is not quite dead yet. The House will take it up again either on Friday or early next week, and probably with significant changes that will make the bill even more regressive. At the very least, it looks like the Republicans will be stuck on health care for much longer than Paul Ryan initially expected.

More than anything else, this is an indictment of Donald Trump’s leadership and his presidency. This was his first big test and he failed it miserably. He was unable to whip the votes, showing no command over the issue, the bill, or the legislative process. His own deep unpopularity, combined with multiple bombshells involving his campaign’s involvement with Russia, certainly didn’t help things. But no one hurts himself more than Donald Trump, who, far from being the greatest negotiator ever, clearly has no idea what he’s doing.

When he emerged to make his first public comment on the no-vote, he was wearing an I <3 Trucks pin. Like a big boy.

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The media has essentially stopped covering climate change.

In a report released Thursday, Media Matters analyzed how the major news networks—ABC, CBS, Fox News, and NBC—covered climate change on their Sunday and evening news casts in 2016. The results are pretty grim: Compared to 2015, the networks collectively decreased the time devoted to climate issues by 66 percent.

Media Matters

It’s not like there was nothing for these networks to cover, either. In 2016, the U.S. entered into the Paris Climate Agreement, the landmark 200-nation agreement to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius. NOAA and NASA announced their findings that 2015 was the hottest year on record. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders squared off during the Democratic primary on numerous climate-related issues, like how to revitalize coal country, the Clean Power Plan, and fracking. And then there was the presidential election, in which the U.S. elected its first unabashed climate denier candidate.

Speaking of Bernie Sanders, Media Matters also found that he was a far more frequent source of climate change news than all of the network news Sunday shows combined.


The most likely explanation for this is that, in 2016, the TV news networks largely focused on Trump—Trump’s speeches, Trump’s election, Trump’s empty podiums. And Trump, of course, does not talk about climate change, because he doesn’t think it’s real or problematic. Now that he’s president, Trump is ignoring climate change in even more consequential ways—by choosing a climate denier to lead the EPA, and by proposing to stop funding any effort to fight it. Clearly, the Trump administration would like the media to ignore climate change. It should not give him what he wants.

Twitter

Here are some good sentences from Roger Stone’s insane letter to the press about Russia.

On Thursday morning, the 21st century style icon wrote a long letter in which he defended himself from allegations that he had colluded with Russian officials during Donald Trump’s campaign:

Here are some sentences from the letter:

  • “They also said Saddam Husain had weapons of mass destruction, denied torched at Abu Dhabi prison, lied about the attack on our mission in Benghazi and lied about third party rendition, they also lied about Iran-Contra, Vietnam and the Kennedy assassination.”
  • “I myself reported Guccifer 2.0’s role in the DNC hacking in a piece for BREITBART NEWS but and heard no suggestions that he was a Russian asset until recently, thus my banal exchange with him is unwitting even if he was a Russian Agent.”
  • “If pretty-boy Rep. Eric Swallwell repeats it makes this first term mannequin a liar.”
  • “Quite clearly my telephone conversations with president candidate Trump was bugged and recorded.”
  • “I have released my entire public and private twitter exchange with Guccifer 2.0. It is benign. Banal. Not exactly 007 stuff, complete innocuous.”
  • “Our breif Twitter exchange is almost six weeks after Wikileaks has published the purloined documents showing Hillary and her goons had to”
  • “Schiff looks like a pussy to me”
  • “Thus collusion would be impossible unless one owned a time machine.”
  • “I will deconstruct their lies and spank them like children.”