Fire on the mountain, run boys run

Jon Ossoff is up SEVEN POINTS in today’s Survey USA poll. If he wins this race at all, great Democratic candidates are going to come out of the woodwork to challenge Republican incumbents everywhere. The Montana special with Rob Quist on Thursday is looking tight too, though it’s tough terrain (Trump won by 20 points).

I’m not raising money for either of those two races anymore, since all the money will probably go to advertising of dubious efficacy.

I just emailed ActBlue about setting something up where we donate and money goes equally to all Democratic challengers. In the meantime, we’re still raising money against the asshole in NJ-6 (Rodney Frelinghuysen) who sent the letter that made the woman have to resign her job at a bank.

Goal Thermometer








The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

While we focus on the various obvious bathetic catastrophes (from blowing secrets to the Russians to the big man’s collapsing in a heap after a mere one day on the road) committed by the shitgibbon and his band of merry (but never gay — oh no! not that) men, it’s important to keep at least some attention on the rolling, very real damage the Trump administration wreaks on a daily basis.

I’m so far behind on a book project that I can’t really keep up, and I certainly can’t blog with anything remotely resembling depth and insight, so I’m going to try instead to throw up quick posts as various bits of policy news cross my magpie’s field of vision.

This morning’s treat comes via a Saturday story in FTFNYT.*  Under Scott Pruitt, it seems, the EPA has become the Captain Renault of environmental regulators: everything has its price, and the Captain is always eager to make a deal:

Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen.

But something changed in February just five days after Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to Devon, was sworn in as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Devon, in a letter dated Feb. 22 and obtained by The New York Times, said it was “re-evaluating its settlement posture.” It no longer intended to move ahead with the extensive emissions-control system, second-guessing the E.P.A.’s estimates on the size of the violation, and it was now willing to pay closer to $25,000 to end the three-year-old federal investigation.

The administration’s response?

The E.P.A. has not yet made a public response to Devon’s new posture, and Mr. Pruitt declined to comment for this article.

Want to bet on how it will turn out?

In just the last three months, with Mr. Pruitt in charge, the E.P.A. postponed a long-planned rule requiring companies like Devon to retrofit drilling equipment to prevent leaks of methane gas — a major contributor to climate change — and to collect more data on how much of the gas is spewing into the air.

The Interior Department, meanwhile, announced this month that it would reconsider a separate rule limiting the burning of unwanted methane gas from wells drilled on federal and Indian lands, a process called flaring. That announcement came the same day the Senate narrowly rejected industry calls to repeal the same rule.

Interior officials have also announced their intention to repeal or revise a contentious rule requiring companies like Devon to take extra steps to prevent groundwater contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, a drilling technique in which chemicals and water are forced into rock formations.

You get the idea. Pruitt has a history of working with Devon Energy; the administration has both a pro-extractive industry bias and powerful faction and the always reliable motive of f**king with anything that Obama accomplished.  Some of what the shitgibbon’s people aim to do can, no doubt, be delayed, obstructed, tied up.  Much, perhaps most will go through, at least over the next year or so, up until the pressures of the next election begin to bite.

So:  constant vigilance and trust no Republican. They’ll load up anything they can on anything they can, transferring public goods (clean air, clean water, anything not nailed down) to private hands.

Over to y’all.

*Publication of such stories  is why I continue to subscribe. Their political desk is…dodgy…but they still field more fine reporters than just about anywhere else I can think of. YM, as always, MV.

Image: Elihu Vedder, Corrupt Legislation, mural in the Library of Congress, 1896.



Self Inflicted Wounds II: Blinded, Deafened, and Definitely Dumb

In the street of the blind, the one eyed man is the guiding light

Genesis Rabbah (300-500 CE)

Five days before the inauguration I wrote:

Last week Yediot Ahronot reported, now confirmed by Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post, that Israel’s Intelligence Community has itself been warned to be careful sharing and transferring information and intelligence with the White House during the next Administration.

The concern is that any information and intelligence shared after the transition  will wind up with the Russians and the Russians would likely provide it to the Iranians (and the unspoken bit here for the Israelis is the Iranians would share it with the Syrians and Hezbullah). That this information quickly leaked from the Israelis is not an accident or a coincidence. It was intended to leak in order to provide the same message to our other allies and partners: that anything shared with the incoming Administration’s White House team may wind up with Russia. Through the Israeli leak the US’s other allies, partners, and clients have now been warned. This includes the other four members of the Five Eyes Intelligence alliance, the rest of our NATO allies, and other allies and partners. They have all been put on notice that the US Intelligence Community thinks that the incoming President, Vice President, their strategy, policy, and communication advisors, the incoming National Security Advisor and his deputies, and the rest of the incoming White House team cannot be trusted with classified information.

The Israelis have now had their worst fears confirmed.

SAN FRANCISCO — Two Israeli intelligence officials confirmed to BuzzFeed News Tuesday that Israel had shared specific intelligence with the US regarding ISIS plots to smuggle explosive laptops onto planes, under the unique intelligence-sharing agreement the two countries maintain.

“There is a special understanding of security cooperation between our countries,” they said. “To know that this intelligence is shared with others, without our prior knowledge? That is, for us, our worst fears confirmed.”

The officer previously spoke to BuzzFeed News in January, when he said that Israeli officials had specific concerns about what Trump would share with Russian officials. Israel, he added, routinely shared intelligence that included sources of information and asset names, he said — the type of information that could endanger the lives of those providing the raw intelligence.

“There has to be trust for this sort of arrangement. I cannot speak for Israel’s entire security apparatus, but I would not trust a partner who shared intelligence without coordinating it with us first,” said the officer.

A second intelligence officer, who spoke to BuzzFeed News via encrypted app and also spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Israel had shared specific intelligence with the US regarding an active threat to US-bound planes. Speaking to BuzzFeed News via a military base in northern Israel, he said Israeli intelligence officers were “boiling mad and demanding answers” as to whether Israel’s military would continue its current intelligence-sharing agreement with the US.

One of the reasons that this is so problematic is that by disseminating this information we have made it much, much harder for Israel to conduct human intelligence operations within ISIL’s demesne in Syria. This puts their assets (human sources) at risk – both Israeli and non-Israelis working with the Israelis in Syria. It makes getting this information and intelligence harder. It makes it less likely that Israel will continue to share timely, sensitive information with us. And our other allies and partners are now going to be less likely to share timely, sensitive information with us as well.

“It’s a big deal, and we want to make sure sensitive information is handled properly,” a European diplomat told CNN, adding that the country represented by the diplomat would not cut communications with the US entirely but could potentially reassess what information is transmitted at the political level.
The diplomat — who spoke to CNN on the condition that neither their name nor country were identified — said allied agencies could explore ways to share specific information through channels used only by military and intelligence officials.
Although pulling back “is something we could envision,” the diplomat said, “we’re not going to cut the cord.”
My concluding thoughts from January are even more relevant now:

…the US will have its ability to see and hear seriously restricted starting next Friday. We won’t be blind, as we’ll still have our own capability, but our vision will be significantly dimmed and our hearing significantly dulled. This will make managing and mitigating the foreign, defense, and national security problem sets that we are currently facing, let alone the ability to anticipate future ones, much more difficult. And this includes the ongoing Russian active measures, influence, and cyber operations directed at us, at our allies, and at our partners.

 



Live Feed: LTG McMaster’s Press Conference

LTG McMaster, the Assistant to the President-National Security Advisor (APNSA), is scheduled to hold a press conference at 11:30 AM EDT. As BettyC wrote this morning, the President’s 7 AM tweets seem to have completely undercut the statements of LTG McMaster, his senior deputy Dina Powell, and Secretary of State Tillerson from late yesterday afternoon/early yesterday evening. I would expect that this morning’s press conference will be a further attempt to redirect and conduct crisis communications to manage these reports rather than to create further crises.

Here is a link to the (now correct) live feed:



Tuesday Morning Open Thread: Onward Together (But Never in Lockstep)

On Monday, Clinton described that effort as one to “encourage people to get involved, organize, and even run for office,” while tweeting out the names of several groups that have led anti-Trump or grassroots Democratic efforts this year, like: SwingLeft (which identifies potential districts to turn blue for would-be donors or volunteers), Run for Something, and Color of Change, which does a lot of criminal justice work…

Organized over the last few months with former DNC chair and governor Howard Dean, the group is still in the early development stages…

“We’re not looking to duplicate or replace the DNC or the DCCC or all that stuff,” Dean told BuzzFeed News recently. “We’re looking to give these folks the opportunity to do the building they’re already doing on their terms, but in a more organized way, when the one hand knows what the other hand is doing.”

Dave Weigel, in the Washington Post, “Possible 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls gather for progressive ‘ideas’ conference”:

Don’t call it a “cattle call.” Don’t call it the “CPAC of the left.” On Tuesday morning, the Center for American Progress will host a daylong “Ideas Conference” — its third, as CAP President Neera Tanden points out. It’s just different from the last two in that at least 140 reporters have signed up to cover it, and they’re not shy about calling it a 2020 scouting session.

“We’re focused less on the politics of the moment and more on, ‘What’s the alternative?’ ” Tanden said in an interview. “I expect there’ll be some criticism of Trump, but we expect most of our speakers to provide a positive vision.”…

The conference, which as in the past will take over the St. Regis hotel, will kick off with a speech from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and end with a speech from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), both in their 40s and elected to their high-profile jobs in 2013. About half of the rest of Tuesday’s speakers are considered potential 2020 presidential candidates: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Gov. Terry MacAuliffe (D-Va.). Gov. Steve Bullock (D-Mont.), whose 2016 reelection victory gave Democrats one of their few reasons to cheer in a rural state, will also get a set piece speech…

On Wednesday, after most of the media are gone, CAP will host training sessions for “resistance” activists — part of a series that the think tank has organized. One of Tuesday’s panels will bring some of the activists together, as well as Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, whose “Daily Kos” blog has become a major crowdfunding source for Democratic campaigns.

“I LOVE these new resistance groups,” Moulitsas said in an email. “We need to stop chasing after white racists lost to the fake news bubble, and realize that out of the 97 million Americans who didn’t vote last year, the majority is our own liberal-leaning base. We need to get THOSE people registered and active in the franchise.”

Apart from organizing for the future, what’s on the agenda for the day?



Revisiting Cassidy Collins

On Sunday, Politico reported that there are back-channel discussions in the Senate on healthcare between Democrats and Republicans.

Cassidy’s and Collins’ efforts haven’t limited their talks to the handful of red-state Democrats whom the GOP once eyed as possible converts on health care. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), for one, spoke to Cassidy in March about the Republican’s efforts and praised him for the outreach.

“Sooner rather than later, we’ll return to those discussions,” Carper said.

In addition to Kaine and Carper, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) have spoken with Republicans in general terms about health care recently, according to several people familiar with the matter. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a leading figure in the GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare, has also talked with Democrats including Kaine,

If the skeleton of discussion is Cassidy-Collins, then quiet talks to shape future talks make sense for Democrats in my opinion. As I see it the outcome tree for Democrats to engage on a Cassidy-Collins like discussion look like the chart below:

Not engaging is an all or nothing bet that values politics of playing for a massive wave in 2018 and a trifecta in 2020 to correct the policy damage. If a bill that can get 50 Republican Senators and the Vice President to vote for it gets out of the Senate, it will get out of the House. It will be less bad than the AHCA but it will be very bad from a Democratic policy perspective.

Engagement either leads to burning Senate time if there is no productive grounds for a deal which is a good in and of itself in a normal legislative environment and extremely valuable in today’s climate or a deal that cements the federal role in healthcare where the argument is over which dial to turn and how far to turn it. That returns healthcare to normal politics and cements a massive ideological victory for liberalism bought at the cost of a tactical policy retreat and giving up the ability for Democrats to use healthcare as a board with a nail on it to beat up on Republicans in the 2018 midterms.

Cassidy-Collins is fundamentally a healthcare bill.  I am still scratching my head at how to make auto-enrollment work with deductibles for a single individual under $10,000 but it is a healthcare bill.  The AHCA is a tax cut bill with massive Medicaid cuts attached to it.

A few cups of coffee to see if there is a plausible agreement zone by both conservative Democrats in vulnerable seats and Senators who liberals can trust as policy validaters are worth drinking.



Which Way The Wind Blows

Whether Donald Trump can be impeached depends on the Republicans. A few have said that firing James Comey was perhaps not a nice thing to do. They haven’t been particularly vehement about it, testing the water. Over the next few days (and rolling revelations), it’s worth watching what direction Republicans move. Most of those speaking out have left themselves room to say oh golly gee, I guess Donald Trump is an honorable man after all; I was mistaken. Events today are making that less likely, but it’s probably best not to be too optimistic.

Anyhow, we have something of a weathervane. If those who have already spoken out begin taking the sleazy road, that makes impeachment less likely. If others begin to join them in criticizing the administration, things could get interesting.

Here’s my list. Do you have any more?

Justin Amash, MI3

Richard Burr, NC senator

Shelly Capito, WV senator

Barbara Comstock, VA10

Charlie Dent, PA15

Jeff Flake, AZ senator

James Lankford, OK senator

John McCain, AZ senator

Marco Rubio, FL senator

Ben Sasse, NE senator

Angus King of Maine has been making some noises, but he registers as an independent ETA and caucuses with the Democrats.