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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Does Rep. Collins have insurance for a gun accident?

by Spocko
Congressman Chris Collins Gun Wanter
Congressman Chris Collins (R) New York wrote an opinion piece titled:

I’m a member of Congress and I’m going to start carrying a gun 

Okay Rep. Collins. I hear you, now I have a few questions I think the public has a right to know, especially those who are physically in the same place as you and your gun.
(Not that I expect he will answer them, he wouldn't say whether or not he was wearing a gun today while a chamber of commerce event at Micheal's Catering & Banquet in Blasdell NY. I have more on possible reasons why he didn't answer below*.)
Congressman, you have stated you will be carrying a gun everywhere in your district.

The Personal Questions

  1. Do you have liability insurance in case you have an accident with the gun and injure someone?
  2. What does your policy cover? What is exempt?
  3. What are the limits of your insurance coverage?
  4. If you have gun insurance, how much does it cost every year?
  5. How does gun insurance costs compare to your auto insurance? Homeowners Insurance? Your umbrella liability policy?
  6. Who pays for your insurance? You or taxpayers?
To put liability limits in terms of your state-required auto insurance, for example:
  • New York auto insurance minimums are $25,000 - $50,000 limits for bodily injury for each person accidently injured in a car accident.  Gun injuries can cost much more. For gunshot survivors, the cost is much more than a single bullet. (Link)
    “It's not uncommon for us to have a patient who has a total hospital bill for their acute inpatient hospitalization of over a million dollars,” Doherty said. “And in that situation, that patient has no insurance. Essentially, that's free charity care provided by the (Advocate Christ) hospital.”  American Aljazeera, 2015 by 

How Big Is Your Gun Insurance Coverage?

  • Is there a lifetime cap on the medical bills it will pay?
  • What if you injure someone with your gun and your insurance policy tops out? Do you have additional coverage such as an umbrella policy on your homeowners insurance?
  • Would your homeowners' insurance cover this? Some policies won't cover you if you are breaking the law when your gun accident happens. ( I don't know how much training you have, but my gun-carrying friends remind me that "negligent discharge of the firearm" is a more accurate phrase than "gun accident" which the media uses.)
Example: Let's say you hold one of your fundraisers in a gun-free zone. (I was going to say a Town Hall, but you haven't had one since you were elected in 2012!)

 You decide to break that law and carry your gun concealed into the gun-free zone then BANG!  You didn't intend to have an accident, but you did intend to break the law by bringing your gun into a place it was prohibited.  Violating that law could mean you are not covered by insurance.
Collins' lunch was at Micheal's Catering & Banquet.
They hold weddings where alcohol is served. 
Micheal's Catering & Banquet probably has a policy banning guns except those carried by licensed security guards and police officers. That might have been the reason Collin didn't answer the question if he was carrying a gun. Property owners can ban guns on their property, they have that right.

Micheal's also has a financial reason to ban guns at their events. They hold wedding and events where alcohol is served and people get rowdy (see photo). For insurance reasons they might ban guns on their property.

If they do not allow guns on their property and Collins defied them, their insurance carrier should be informed.  Yes it's after the fact, but insurance carriers either raise rates or cancel policies if they find out management allows people who have unknown levels of training and blood alcohol carrying guns onto their property.

The Big Questions

  • Who pays for the medical costs of the person injured by Collin's gun?
  • What if the injured person needs long-term medical care? 
  • What happens if the injured person has a pre-existing condition because of the gun shot?
Congressman Collins voted yes on HR1628, the Trump/Ryan Bill on American Medical Care.

That bill blocked people with pre-existing conditions from getting coverage if they were without coverage for over 30 days. (Say for example they lose their job during the weeks it takes to recover from a gunshot wound. That job loss also means losing their employee health care. )

If someone who is injured with the congressman's gun now has a pre-existing condition, they would be denied medical insurance in the future.

Gun owners are not required to be financially responsible for the gun accident injuries they cause while legally carrying guns in public.

Is Collins financially responsible for the consequences of decision to carry a gun everywhere? If not, why not?

Who should pick up the medical bill for gun injuries if the responsible gun owners who caused them won't?

If the congresspeople start carrying everywhere the public should know:
  1. How well trained are they? 
  2. When they are carrying a gun. People should be able to choose not to be in the same room with them.
  3. If they are following the law when they are carrying. In many states it's prohibited to drink alcohol while carrying. 
  4. If they cause an accident while carrying the medical bills of the injured will be paid. 
  5. The injured will have guaranteed health care if they have a pre-existing condition that arises from being accidently shot by a congressman.

Even the working group doesn't know what's in it

by digby

Well, this is even weirder than we thought:
One of the Senate Republicans charged with negotiating an Obamacare replacement expressed frustration Tuesday with the secret process, saying that even he hasn’t seen the proposal set to be released in two days for a possible floor vote next week.

“I haven’t seen it yet, either,” said Senator Mike Lee of Utah amid complaints by other Republicans that they don’t know what’s in the health-care measure being drafted by their own party’s leaders.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to release a "discussion draft" Thursday and that it will go to the Senate floor for a vote "likely next week."

A week or so to examine the bill isn’t enough, said Lee in a video posted on his Facebook page. As one of about a dozen members of a health-care working group, he criticized the closely held process of drafting the measure.

"Even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it’s not being written by us," Lee said. "It’s apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate. So if you’re frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration. I share it wholeheartedly.”

I have to say that the fact that only a half dozen Republicans have expressed any concerns with this tells you everything you need to know. Then again, it will only take three to tank it so that's better than nothing.

John McCain is an asshole of course, who will almost certainly vote for whatever mutant horror they produce,but he does gt off a good quip from time to time. This was from the same article. Asked whether he has seen the bill he said:
No, nor have I met any American that has. I’m sure the Russians have been able to hack in and gotten most of it.

Or a 400 pound guy in his bed.

Now this is what I call making a market

by digby

A major asthma drugmaker has been quietly investing in coal on the side. The pharmaceutical company that just months ago was embroiled in a price-gouging scandal over its life-saving EpiPen now finds itself at the center of another potential controversy. According to Reuters’ Michael Erman, Mylan N.V. has for the last six years been buying up refined coal in order to reduce its tax bill and boost its bottom line: 
Since 2011, Mylan has bought 99 percent stakes in five companies across the U.S. that own plants which process coal to reduce smog-causing emissions. It then sells the coal at a loss to power plants to generate the real benefit for the drug company: credits that allow Mylan to lower its own tax bill. 
These refined coal credits were approved by Congress in 2004 in order to incentivize companies to fund production of cleaner coal. They are available to any company that is willing to invest the capital, and are set to expire after 2021. 
The story gets even sketchier. Mylan Chief Executive Heather Bresch, Erman notes, “is the daughter of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the second largest coal-producing state in the country.” And Mylan would not explain to Erman why it adopted this particular strategy, though an anonymous source said the coal operations “have increased Mylan’s net earnings by around $40 million to $50 million in each of the past two years.” Mylan is apparently the only publicly traded pharmaceutical company to partake in this type of tax aversion strategy. 
The sketchy part which Reuters did not point out is that two out of Mylan’s five specialty brand-name drugs treat pulmonary problems that are exacerbated by air pollution, a lot of which comes from coal. The company makes Perforomist, an inhaler that treats symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as prevents asthma attacks and exercise-induced bronchial spasm. 
Multiple studies have linked exacerbated COPD symptoms to air pollution, though those links are suggestive and not conclusive. Mylan is also in the asthma treatment market; the company makes EasiVent, which attaches to asthma inhalers to help the medicine more easily reach the lungs, and it recently failed to get regulatory approval for a generic version of the blockbuster asthma drug Advair. Peer-reviewed science has been linking coal combustion to more severe asthma since at least 1972. 
The coal that Mylan is investing in is refined, which means it burns cleaner than normal coal (hence the tax credits for companies that fund it). But cleaner coal is still coal, the dirtiest fuel source on the planet. Continuing to promote coal, in any form, is shown to be bad for the environment and public health. It’s good business for asthma drugmakers, though.

This company is like a cartoon superhero villain. I can't wrap my mind around this level of cynicism.

And hey, Joe Manchin, good work. You've managed to drag the Democratic Party right down in the same sewer with the Republicans on this one. But hey, I'm sure your constituents will be very happy. They are the ones who'll get COPD and asthma but then they'll blame you for your association with San Francisco liberals and elect a Republican who'll promise to kick all the hippies and gays and give them jobs they can't deliver.  But at least your daughter is making big bucks so it's all good.

General Flynn gets more interesting every day

by digby

I caught up with the latest on our favorite nutty General for Salon this morning:

CBS News released a new poll Tuesday focused on the public’s attitudes toward the Russia investigation. It contained very bad news for President Trump. His overall approval rating sits at a new low of just 36 percent, a drop of 7 points since their last poll in April. He’s even down 11 points among Republicans. And this drop is largely due to his handling of the Russia probe. Trump is underwater on terrorism and the economy as well, with 50 percent disapproving of his handling of the former and 51 percent disapproving of the latter. But on Russia, he’s at a whopping 68 percent disapproval rating. Drill down and it gets worse: 81 percent of the public believe Trump should not stop the investigation and an amazing 64 percent believe that Trump is more interested in protecting his administration from investigation than he is in protecting the United States.

So,this isn’t going well for our fearless leader. While his hardcore base is sticking with him he is starting to lose Republican voters in very worrying numbers. His own culpability in this, so far, seems to be tied to his insistence that former national security adviser Michael Flynn not be investigated for his activities with respect to Russia. He tried to get FBI Director James Comey to drop it and then fired him. He was reported to have asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers to intervene. He even held a rambling press conference not long after he fired Flynn and he said this about the whole matter:

Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice President Pence, who is with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given. He didn’t have to do that, because what he did wasn’t wrong. … And, you know, you can talk all you want about Russia, which was all a, you know, fake news, fabricated deal, to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats, and the press plays right into it.
Trump had known for weeks by this time that the FBI believed Flynn was subject to blackmail by the Russian government. He either didn’t believe it or didn’t care.

In the same press conference in which he defended Flynn, Trump made clear he was very upset by a Wall Street Journal story published that day saying the intelligence community was withholding information from him. He read a statement from the acting CIA director that denied it. This is interesting because the New York Times ran a big story Tuesday night pertaining to that question.
[N]early every day for three weeks, the new C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, sat in the Oval Office and briefed President Trump on the nation’s most sensitive intelligence — with Mr. Flynn listening. Mr. Pompeo has not said whether C.I.A. officials left him in the dark about their views of Mr. Flynn, but one administration official said Mr. Pompeo did not share any concerns about Mr. Flynn with the president.
Of course we cannot know for sure that Pompeo never expressed any worries about Flynn to Trump. But it’s astonishing no matter how you look at it. If the CIA failed to tell its new director about important questions regarding the national security adviser, and allowed him to pass on classified secrets to a potentially compromised person, that’s a problem. If Pompeo continued to brief someone he knew his agency believed was subject to blackmail, that should disqualify him from the job. But if Pompeo did tell the president and was ordered to keep on briefing Flynn anyway — that’s even worse. We already know that Trump disregarded the warnings from Acting Attorney General Sally Yates because he believed she was a Democratic stooge. But if he did the same with his own handpicked CIA director, he’s even more of a rogue president than we knew.

If there’s one thing clear by now it’s that Donald Trump demands loyalty from the people around him and that when he doesn’t get it, he gets very upset. But he has rarely shown such loyalty in return. For some reason he has shown tremendous loyalty to Michael Flynn and the reason for that has to be one of the major lines of inquiry in the investigation into Flynn’s activities.

Flynn’s story gets crazier by the day. This week we’ve seen new reporting that shows him being in involved in even more nefarious business deals than we knew before. There was a jaw-dropping article by Jeff Stein of Newsweek reporting that Flynn tried to broker a previously overlooked $100 million deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East. That’s right, they actually thought it was a good idea to create nuclear material in the middle of a violent, sectarian religious war zone. What could go wrong?

It’s a complicated deal involving some of Flynn’s business associates as well as some ex-military types and others who apparently saw it as a way to form a Middle East security perimeter manned by the Russians, the Europeans and the Saudis, while isolating Iran — and making huge profits. It’s all very byzantine, and the Obama administration was opposed to any version of it for good reason.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the FBI is investigating the co-founder of Flynn’s lobbying company, a man named Bijan Kian, who seems to have aroused their interest over his high-dollar dealings with certain Turkish and Russian businessmen. It’s unclear if this is a new direction for the investigation or simply one that follows on Flynn’s previously reported activities.

Meanwhile, Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller is continuing to beef up his team. He has added the Russian-speaking Elizabeth Prelogar, a former law clerk to Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, to his team. In another Reuters report we learn that Andrew Weissmann, former chief of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section, another recent addition to Mueller’s team, has the Trump people concerned because he’s known for his skills at getting people to flip on their superiors, friends and colleagues.

Weissmann may not be required to use his expertise on Flynn. According to speculation by two Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., it looks very much as if Flynn is already cooperating with the FBI. Stay tuned.
You say you want a revolution?

by digby

Well we have one. It's a right wing revolution. And they are winning.

The Republicans will do anything to destroy all attempts to provide universal health care to the American people and give themselves and their rich friends and heirs a huge tax cut by any means necessary. So far they have passed gigantic legislation without waiting for the CBO score that would outline the costs and the impact on our citizens. And they've changed the 10 year window for a deficit increasing tax cut, something they insisted on in the past. We knew they didn't really care about deficits but they aren't even pretending anymore.

Now this from Stan Collender:

Republicans appear ready to make a small, but significant change to historic Senate procedure in order to advance their legislation to rework the U.S. health insurance system, a move that could have notable impact on the future of the chamber’s operations.

GOP leaders are sending signals that, if necessary, they plan to invoke a seldom-used rule included in the Congressional Budget Act that would allow Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi to skirt a decision from the chamber’s parliamentarian, a key gate-keeper for the budget maneuver known as reconciliation that Republicans are using to advance their health insurance measure.

Such a decision would have ripple effects far beyond the tenure of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a careful practitioner of the chamber's procedural rules, and open the door for future leaders to more easily advance legislation under a 51-vote threshold.
“It is the Parliamentarian’s office that determines whether or not a reconciliation bill is in compliance with the rules of the Senate. This is not a function of the chairman of the Budget Committee,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the ranking member on the Budget panel, said in a floor speech this month. “I am extremely concerned that the chairman of the Budget Committee, in an unprecedented manner, appears to have made that determination himself with regard to the Trump-Ryan health care bill.”

The Senate could vote as early as next week on the health measure. Reconciliation permits legislation to pass the Senate with only a simple majority of members supporting it, but the bill must also comply with a set of chamber rules governing the process.

Congress set up this process earlier this year when it passed the fiscal year 2017 budget resolution. That measure included reconciliation instructions that laid out the requirements any bill must meet in to advance under the simple majority threshold.

In this case, that was $1 billion in deficit savings over 10 years from the provisions in the legislation under the jurisdiction of four committees: the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Finance committees.

Under ongoing debate with the Senate parliamentarian is whether the House bill would actually achieve the required savings under the HELP Committee. The Senate parliamentarian has yet to make a formal decision on the matter.

Democrats argue that a provision to repeal the 2010 health care law’s  cost-sharing subsidies falls within the jurisdiction of the finance panel.

Republicans have yet to formally submit an argument to the parliamentarian outlining why they believe the section that would end those payments should be considered under HELP’s purview, one senior democratic aide said. The GOP is expected to submit that argument on Wednesday, a senior Republican aide said, and the decision by the parliamentarian is expected to come before the Senate votes on the measure.

A spokesman for the Senate Budget Committee did not respond to request for comment.

The jurisdiction in this case is critical. If the parliamentarian was to side with Democrats in her decision, then the House bill as a whole may not comply with the fiscal 2017 reconciliation instructions.

While the Senate is writing its own bill, McConnell must first introduce the House measure on the floor to file a substitute amendment to it with the new language. If the House bill were deemed to be noncompliant, however, then the GOP would need the standard 60 votes instead of 51 to advance it, a likely impossible task given no Democrats are expected to support it.

But Republicans appear ready to invoke a section of the Congressional Budget Act that they say would effectively give the Senate Budget Chairman authority to determine whether the legislation meets the required deficit reduction levels.

“Final decision on the score rests with the majority Senate Budget Committee Chairman, but it has to be within reason, I can’t just pick a number out,” Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming, told Roll Call.

Essentially they are saying that they get to decide what the law requires rather than the parliamentarian. Might makes right.

They will argue that nobody cares about process. And frankly, they're right. In order to have an orderly, decent, political system you need responsible patriots running it, people who care about the fundamental principles of democracy.

We don't have that. We have a radical majority party bent on siphoning off as much of the money currently used to help the poor and middle class survive as they can in order to give it to their rich cronies. They have no other purpose. It is now a real kleptocracy that's enabled by a corporate sponsored right wing media that feeds the resentments of half of the people in the country with lies and propaganda. And they even make a tidy profit at it.

Donald Trump could not have happened if it weren't for the Republican party paving the way.

And just one word about Democrats. Yes, they have their share of corruption and weakness and lack of imagination and everything else everyone hates about them. But they aren't this bad. And they are the only vessel we have to fight this back. Just a little note to remind people that you have to pick your battles in this life and arguing about what color the house should be painted while it's going up in flames is not a wise strategy.


Nothing is worse than being from California

by digby

San Francisco in particular, but I'm pretty sure anyone from here is considered a freak.

If you want to know why Karen Handel pulled it off, it's because of this:

Just remember. Liberals are very intolerant and rude people who look down upon the good people of Real America and this is why we lose.



Collective sigh

by Tom Sullivan

Did all the money thrown into the Georgia 6th District congressional runoff between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff matter? For Democrats, not enough. Handel won the heavily Republican district formerly held by Newt Gingrich by just under four points. Not bad for Ossoff in a district Tom Price won by 20 points before leaving to lead Donald Trump's Department of Health and Human Services. Less impressive if one considers Hillary Clinton only lost it by one point. Name recognition and a track record counts for something.

As Nate Silver predicted cannily, there are hot takes aplenty this morning. Democrats are demoralized. Republicans are buoyed. Does the outcome really matter? The first thing we do, let's kill all the consultants. (There might be something to that one.)

But it's early and the numbers haven't all been crunched. Josh Marshall had these observations last night:

My take is that the most realistic way to see this result is that it is one of a string of special elections in which Democrats have dramatically over-performed in Republican districts. Yet they haven’t been able to win any of them yet. There were two before this (Kansas and Montana) and another tonight (South Carolina) where the Democrat also lost but got a lot closer than people expected.

If you take the average Democratic over-performance in these districts and apply it to the entire House, Democrats are quite likely to take the House next year. What I take from this is that Republicans are struggling under Trump and Democrats are energized. But Democrats need to keep refining both their message and improving their electoral infrastructure. The most challenging takeaway I take from these races for Democrats is that even though Republicans have lost substantial ground and are operating in a tough environment they’ve nevertheless been able to mobilize money and partisan affiliation to hold on in tight races. That can’t be ignored. It’s also very significant.
As several of us saw on Twitter, there will be a reflex to demand Democrats get "a total overhaul on every single level." Certainly, Ossoff ran an uninspiring campaign from a message standpoint (cut wasteful spending?), and a very Clintonesque one, "relying on the same 'new majority' voters that put Obama in the White House."

But there is also the improving "their electoral infrastructure" part of Marshall's equation. There is certainly an over-reliance on a priesthood of consultants, data geeks, and technological terrors for solving what are essentially human relations problems. Voters are human beings, not data points or cattle to be herded. It might help if campaigns treated them as such. But if my area is any indication, there is also this. Few county organizations have built up the institutional memory and skills for running effective get-out-the-vote programs year to year, mid-term to presidential to municipal. Activists age out of high-intensity campaign work and take what they've learned (if anything) with them. Many smaller counties rely on national coordinated campaigns to parachute in every four years (if they do) to tell them what to do when the ambitious twenty-something staffers don't know themselves.

Winning an election is not just a contest of ideas; it is a contest of skills. At a meeting recently, one county Democratic officer expressed interest in learning about all these "high-tech" tools we use. I think that meant computers. Democrats need an upgrade from the grassroots up as much as from the top down.

All that aside, Charlie Pierce had the perspicacity not to lose sight of what really happened last night:

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

It will be a collector's item

by digby

... but sheesh. Really? This doesn't look "diverse" to me. It looks like somebody sketched them all out in a Brooklyn coffee house.


Shooting through the fence

by digby

Apparently, Americans are allowed to shoot through the border fence and kill people on the Mexico side. Or, at least, we think we are.

This story is just awful. We'll have to see if the shooter is held liable for what he did:

A 16-year-old Mexican teenager killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent appeared to be on the ground as the agent fired 13 of the 16 shots through the border fence in Nogales, a partial video of the 2012 killing showed Monday.

Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguezwas lying facedown on the ground and did not appear to be moving as Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz fired two of the three volleys that hit Elena Rodriguez in the upper back, upper arms and head, a video reconstruction by federal prosecutors showed.

The portions of the video, along with the video reconstruction, were shown for the first time Monday in a U.S. District Court hearing in Tucson. Swartz has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder in the teen's death.

Swartz's trial is scheduled to begin in October. Defense attorneys have asked the judge not to permit the video to be shown at trial, arguing the video evidence is unreliable. District Judge Raner C. Collins has not yet ruled.

Araceli Rodríguez, mother of Jose Antonio Elena-Rodriguez, who was shot to death by the Border Patrol in 2012, marches along the border fence in Nogales with family, friends and human-rights groups protesting the Border Patrol's use-of-force policies.
Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, died after being shot multiple times by one or more U.S. Border Patrol agents in Nogales. Sonora state police say they found Elena Rodriguez's body "with various gunshot wounds on different parts of the body." The body was found four blocks from the border crossing in downtown Nogales, at a spot where there is a roughly 20-foot drop from the base of the fence to the street below.

The video in question shows Swartz fired 16 times through the fence in three bursts:

First, he went to the fence and fired three times from the U.S. side to the Mexican side, where Elena Rodriguez was.

Swartz then moved west along the fence and fired 10 shots through the slats in the fence.

The agent reloaded and then fired three more times into Mexico.

It was during the second and third volleys that Elena Rodriguez appeared to be lying on the ground next to a building, barely moving, according to the video shown in court.

A reconstruction of the shooting by expert witness James Tavernetti showed that he believed Elena Rodriguez could have been shot once in the back while standing up, but the remainder of the shots hit him in the head, back and arms while he was still on the ground.

Tavernetti's video offered several potential scenarios of how Elena Rodriguez was stuck by the 10 bullets, but said the most plausible was that almost all of the bullets hit him while he was lying facedown on the ground.

Prosecutors also showed graphic photos of a deceased Elena Rodriguez taken during his autopsy.

The video viewed Monday was shot from two border cameras operated by the Border Patrol. One was was mounted on a pole near the scene of the shooting, just west of the primary port of entry in Nogales. The other was mounted about 2,500 feet away and east of the port of entry.

The video shown in court melded images from both cameras and showed that two individuals were climbing back into Mexico from theU.S. and got stuck for a period at the top of the fence. Later, two individuals — perhaps the same two people — are seen making six throwing motions, like they were throwing rocks. Seven rocks were found on the U.S. side, the video reconstruction showed.

In the very grainy and dark video, which was shot at night, Elena Rodriguez can be seen walking up to the two individuals on Calle Internacional from a distance away before Swartz starts shooting from the American side.

It is unclear exactly how close Elena Rodriguez got to the individuals throwing the rocks before shots were fired. The other two individuals ran behind the closest building, a doctor's office, while Elena Rodriguez was hit and went down.

Elena Rodriguez's mother, Araceli Rodriguez, held her head down for much of the hearing, either looking at the floor or holding her head in her lap as prosecutors showed detailed three-dimensional images of the crime scene. She left the courtroom with other family members as the video and pictures were shown.

More on this case here:

2 years later, teen's mom still waiting for answers
Experts: Pressure led to murder charges
Border Patrol agent pleads not guilty
Trial for border agent in shooting death delayed
Border Patrol rules 4 shootings justified
Agent: 'I shot and there's someone dead in Mexico'
7 times rock-throwing ended in deadly force by border agents
Defense attorney: U.S. doesn't have right to try agent
Supreme Court vacancy ripples through cross-border shooting case

A moving ad for a new Democratic majority

by digby

Randy Bryce is running for congress against Paul Ryan. I think the ad speaks for itself.

Blue America has endorsed him enthusiastically. If you'd like to donate to his cause you can do so here.

All these tech leaders kissing his ring

by digby

They're all making excuses about why it's important to lend their reputations to this monster.They don't hold water.

That picture reminds me of something. What is it?

Oh yeah:

Banana Republic special

by digby

I'm not talking about 20% off on t-shirts. I'm talking about this embarrassing, creepy, oligarchic BS:
China has invited President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law to visit later this year, according to people familiar with the matter, in the latest sign of the first family’s growing influence over foreign affairs.

Details of the possible trip by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom have official jobs in the White House, were still under discussion, according to a U.S. official and a Chinese official who asked not to be identified. The visit may also help prepare for a trip by the president himself, said the Chinese official, who asked not be identified disclosing plans that haven’t been announced.

Kushner and Ivanka Trump hosted the U.S.’s newly sworn-in ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, for an introductory dinner Sunday at the Trump Hotel in Washington, according to the U.S. official, who asked not to be identified confirming a meeting that hasn’t been made public. The former Iowa governor, who has known Chinese President Xi Jinping since the 1980s, is expected to depart Friday and arrive in China next week after meetings in Honolulu.

The discussions highlight Trump’s reliance on the couple to manage some of the U.S.’s thorniest issues. Neither Ivanka Trump, 35, who has been an executive in her father’s company and started her own fashion line, or Kushner, a 36-year-old property tycoon, has any prior government experience. Kushner will to travel to the Middle East this week to push for a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He also visited Iraq in April.

It's mind-boggling that we're putting up with this. These two people are totally unqualified to do anything in government much less play this important role. It's an outrage.

To think people were freaking out that Chelsea Clinton hadn't promised to enter a cloister and never show her face while her mother served in the White House. There were demands from all sides that she resign from the board of the Clinton Foundation and any other charitable work and go back to school to become a pediatrician or a kindergarten teacher in order to ensure there was no conflict of interest. You can be sure that unless she completely withdrew from all public appearances, including going out to dinner or taking a vacation to a foreign land, we would have had multiple investigations into the outrageous nepotistic corruption on display.

But hey, par for the course. Republican presidents are now allowed to hire family to work in the White House and serve as high ranking government officials in foreign affairs while keeping their private businesses a secret. It's all good.

Mr Popular redux

by digby

New CBS poll:

President Trump's job approval rating has dipped in recent weeks, pushed down by negative reaction to his handling of the Russia investigations, and he's seen some slippage among Republicans as well. A third of Americans say his approach to the issue has made their opinion of him worse, and his handling of that matter gets lower marks than any of his others, like the economy or terrorism, for which he rates higher.

Americans of all stripes do seem inclined to want to get to the bottom of things: most believe that the Special Counsel Mueller's investigation will be impartial, and that the president should not do anything to try to stop it -- a view that also runs across partisan lines.

But divisions remain not only over what happened in the Russia matter, but whether it is serious or not. Most who approve of the President say it is not serious. Most Republicans feel the President is being criticized more than his predecessors and for some of them, that just makes them back the President even more.

Of the issues on which Americans evaluated President Trump for this poll, they give the president his most negative marks on his handling of the Russia matter -- just 28 percent approve, while 63 percent disapprove. A third say the president's approach to this issue has made them think worse of him.

Republicans approve of how Mr. Trump is handling the Russia issue, but in far lower numbers (at 57 percent) than their support for the job he's doing on the issues of the economy (80 percent) and terrorism (77 percent).

Even as some in their ranks disapprove of how the President is handling the investigation, most Republicans don't think the issue is serious. Just one in five Republicans thinks it is a critical security matter, and more than half call the investigations a political distraction that should be put aside. Even among Republicans who think it at least somewhat likely the Trump campaign had improper communications with Russia, just a third view the issue as critical to national security.

I would just like to invite you to imagine what Republicans would be saying if the show were on the other foot. It's unfathomable that they would be so sanguine about a Democratic presidential campaign having operatives involved with Russia.

More Americans say their opinion of Mr. Trump has grown worse, not better, because of his handling of the Russia investigations. Still, for most (including majorities of Republicans and independents), his approach to the issue hasn't caused their view of him to change.

The percentage of Americans who thinks it is at least somewhat likely that Mr. Trump's campaign associates had improper contact with the Russian government has also risen a bit in recent months -- from 59 percent in March to 65 percent today.

Movement here is driven primarily by Republicans: 40 percent now think it is at least somewhat likely that Trump associates had improper contact with the Russian government, up from just a quarter in March.

More than six in 10 Americans now believe Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, an increase from March when only half believed this, but less than half think this interference was in order to help Donald Trump get elected. Republicans are also more likely now than they were in March to think Russia interfered in the 2016 election (though most remain skeptical that it was in order to help the Trump campaign).

By a margin of more than two-to-one, Americans think Donald Trump is more interested in protecting his administration from investigation (64 percent) than protecting the United States from Russian interference (30 percent). Here, most Republicans break with Democrats and independents in defending the President, but one-third do feel the President is more concerned about his own Administration.

They believe all this about him and it's fine with them. They don't care.

A majority of Americans think at least something improper occurred in those meetings with James Comey, though just over a quarter think his actions rise to the level of illegality. Most Republicans don't think the president did anything wrong at all.

Of course not. If he'd gotten a consensual blow job, that would have been an impeachable offense. If he'd had private email server they would have wanted him locked up in jail.

It's just partisanship. But still, this stuff is different than anything I've seen in my lifetime. We've never had a counter-intelligence investigation inside the oval office and we've never had a president who failed to take something like the intrusion in the election by a foreign power seriously.

The good news is that we'll never have to take their flag-waving, USA! USA!, "these colors don't run" crapola seriously ever again.

The GOP will kill to get their tax cuts

by digby

I wrote about the health care atrocity coming down the pike for Salon this morning:

A few days ago a Republican Senate aide was asked by a reporter why the GOP leadership felt the need to keep all the discussions for the health care bill completely under wraps and he replied, "we're not stupid." They know that what they are planning is so poisonous to the voters that if they were to let anyone see the monstrosity they are constructing before the bill is hurriedly voted on and signed by President Trump into law, it would cause riots. After all, only 17% of the American people approve of the bill as it currently stands.

The fact is that Republicans are willing to destroy the health and financial security of millions of Americans so they can give massive tax cuts to Ivanka and Jared and others like them who are lucky enough to be vastly wealthy already. This is their first real chance to enact permanent tax cuts since 1986. (See this Vox explainer as to why this is.)They've been chasing this dream a very long time. It is their white whale, so important that even the prospect of millions of people suffering and going bankrupt is not enough to make them think better of it. They are willing to hold hands, jump over a cliff and commit political suicide for it, that's how important it is to them.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is insistent that they get this hugely unpopular piece of legislation done as quickly as possible, preferably before the Fourth of July recess when Senators would have to go home and face their desperate and horrified constituents. The Wall Street Journal reported last night that he plans to release the text later this week then have the Congressional Budget office release its estimate of the cost and the devastation to human lives early next week followed by an immediate vote and then a quick getaway out of town so they can spend the holiday counting up all the money they've just voted to give themselves and their rich friends.

In the meantime, the GOP leadership is dealing with the avalanche of criticism they're receiving the way their puerile president has taught them. Here is Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas:

None of it is "fake news." It's all true.

And here is Cornyn in 2010, tweeting about the ACA:

Unlike the current Senate process the ACA went through dozens of hearings and amendments (many of them offered and accepted by Republicans.)

If they manage to get this passed in the Senate, presumably they will hammer out some kind of compromise in conference with the House where they will pretend to have a big fight over some details that they will then "fix", telling the public that the bill is now going to provide everyone who needs it with cheap, excellent health care. It will be a lie but it won't matter because they'll hurriedly get it to Trump's desk so he can declare that it's no longer a "mean" "son of a bitch" and stage his greatest, signing photo op show on earth.

And then, according to the Wall Street Journal, they will immediately pivot to the next item on their bucket list, you guessed it:  tax reform.

That's the plan anyway. At this point it's unknown whether McConnell can pull it off. He only has two votes to spare and it looks like Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska have called dibs. (It was nice of them to give those to two of the five GOP women Senators since they didn't bother to invite even one of them into their boys only health care club.) We'll have to see if there is even one other Republican Senator with any empathy for the people they are going to make suffer or any sense about the terrible risk they are taking with the American economy. Since they have done virtually no research, held any hearings or consulted with experts (according to health care industry leaders) they may just manage to destroy the entire health care sector, which comprises one sixth of the US economy. But they'll have their tax cuts.

Last week, Ezra Klein wrote a piece that made a "heightening the contradictions" case laying out the probability that this repeal will end up pushing the Democrats to fight for Medicare For All in the future. And why not? They tried to do a nice market based plan that would preserve many of the features that Republicans insist they care about and it was met with fierce resistance from the start. There is little margin for Democrats to try to appease them in the future.

But it's a mistake to see this as a silver lining. For one thing, there is no guarantee that this will be successful. American politics of the last half century are littered with the dead political careers of people who tried to reform it. This may be a turning point but there are no guarantees and it could take years before a new plan is passed and implemented. And there's no telling what the Supreme Court would do to it even if Democrats had full control of the congress and the presidency. So it's very important to remember that in the meantime the human cost of this repeal would be devastating to millions of our fellow citizens.

If the final plan follows the general contours of the House bill, the list of various categories of your fellow Americans who will be hurt is very long. Via Vox, here's a partial list of those negatively affected starting with working poor people who gained Medicaid under Obamacare, seniors, disabled people, and others who qualified for Medicaid even before Obamacare, states hard hit by the opiate crisis, pregnant women and new mothers, people with preexisting conditions, families with chronic conditions, low-income Americans not on Medicaid, older people on the exchanges, children in special education programs, people in states that take a Medicaid “block grant,” who could see dramatic cuts in coverage and Planned Parenthood patients. These people aren't simply collateral damage on the road to a better program down the road.

If the Democrats have finally reached a consensus that they must run on and deliver guaranteed universal health care, that's great. Let's hope they won't have to do it on the backs of all those people whose lives will be ruined by what Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are planning to do next week.


Georgia 6th: Fresh out and blue

by Tom Sullivan

Photo via Ossoff campaign Facebook page.

The polls are open for the special election runoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District. Recent surveys show the most expensive congressional race in history between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel too close to call. If Ossoff pulls out a win in this red, suburban Atlanta district, it won't be simply the money that won it, but an army of really pissed off women:

“I tell people that I am fresh out of fucks,” says Tamara Brooking. “Seriously. I’m done. I’m done pretending that your hateful rhetoric is okay. I’m done pretending that people like us must be quiet to make you feel comfortable.”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution summarizes what is at stake:
The race is much more than a vote to fill out the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Tom Price’s term after President Donald Trump’s tapped him to be health secretary. Both parties have poured unprecedented resources into the race — the cost now tops $50 million — and both see it as a chance to send a message to the American electorate.

Democrats hope an Ossoff victory could deal a blow to Trump’s presidency and the GOP agenda, while giving other candidates a path to flipping more conservative strongholds. Republicans see a Handel win as a chance to bolster incumbents in competitive districts who are nervous about allying with Trump.
Ossoff's post-Trump, post-Women's March foot soldiers are nervous no more. The campaign reports 12,000 volunteers. “There’s something of a renaissance of civic engagement and political activism afoot, and it’s being led by women,” Ossoff told New York magazine's Rebecca Traister. Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb Counties (LMRC) and Pave It Blue sprang up once the shock of November 8 began to sink in:
Especially surprising is that the closeness of the race can largely be attributed to the obsessive energies of the sixth district’s women, an army of mostly white, suburban working mothers who had until now lived politically somnambulant lives. In the wake of Donald Trump’s November defeat of Hillary Clinton, many of these Georgia women have remade their lives, transforming themselves and their communities through unceasing political engagement. To visit Georgia’s sixth in the days before the runoff is to land on a planet populated by politically impassioned women, talking as if they have just walked off the set of Thelma & Louise, using a language of awakening, liberation, and political fury that should indeed discomfit their conservative neighbors, and — if it is a harbinger of what’s to come — should shake conservative America more broadly.
And in finding their voices, Traister writes, women like Ann White, 63, found each other:
“My favorite slogan,” she said, trying to keep from crying as she spoke, “is ‘You are not alone.’ I found my people.” Like almost all of the Ossoff women I spoke to, White described her political awakening as a coming out. “I am no longer in the closet,” she said. “I am out, I am out blue. Everybody knows now that I’m a Democrat, that I’m liberal. And they’re kind of tired of it, but that’s okay. I’m not done. I’m just getting started.”

Woman after woman shared this sentiment. “I never even put a sign in my yard because I wasn’t sure how it would be received if it wasn’t a Republican sign,” said Cherish Burnham, 43, of her life as a Democrat, growing up in the red sixth district. On the morning of November 9, she said, consumed by hopelessness, she went to volunteer at her triplet sons’ elementary-school science class, where she saw two other mothers who also looked stricken. After tentative inquiries, the trio realized they were all upset about the same thing; they stood outside the school in conversation for an hour; they told her about LMRC. The expression of primal, agonizing anger that followed Trump’s election meant that for the first time, some women — even those who’d been living in proximity to each other for years— could hear each other for the first time.

“Every time I see an Ossoff sign I feel like I have an ally,” said Tamara Brooking, a 50-year-old research assistant to a novelist.
"Signs don't vote" is received wisdom in the campaign world. Clinton supporters last fall (and Obama supporters before them) were mystified that their candidates' signs were unavailable at our local Democratic headquarters — even to buy. I apologized repeatedly to Hillary Clinton supporters upset at the proliferation of Trump signs along the roadside. Statistic-spouting campaign professionals refuse to spend money on them, I explained. Signs are expensive. And they just get stolen, run over, and defaced. The pros prefer to focus on direct voter contact.

Grassroots volunteers are unimpressed. Signs are about territory for them, like gang symbols. But what yard signs can do is create buzz for candidates lacking name recognition. What their presence has done for Democratic women in Republican north Atlanta is make it safe for them to come out of hiding, find each other, and amplify their voices.
Many women have put LMRC magnets on their cars; if they spot a magnet on the parked car, they turn it 180 degrees as a kind of greeting. “It’s to let each other know, ‘my sisters are here,’” said Jennifer Mosbacher, 42. “It’s this feeling of camaraderie in an area where you have often felt very isolated and disenfranchised. But now you can go to your neighborhood grocery store and get flipped, and you’re like cool, someone else is here.”
Today they have to deliver. They have to, as one unofficial slogan says, "vote your Ossoff."

A former congressional staffer, Ossoff has run a very un-Bernie-Sanders-like, middle-of-the-road campaign as a technocrat who wants to cut wasteful spending. Handel is an anti-choice, former Georgia secretary of state with a penchant for vote suppression and a reputation for nearly destroying the Komen breast cancer charity. While the anti-Trump sentiment has garnered Ossoff ground troops among suburban women, what counts is turnout. Can the bland, 30 year-old inspire people, especially young people, to carry him over the finish line? Early voters have cast 140,000 ballots, including over 36,000 who did not vote in April.

Politico reports:
“It’s showing in the early vote that Ossoff may not be exciting the young leftists that he got last time since his tone has changed,” Rountree said, pointing to Ossoff’s strategy of appealing to moderates as an explanation for a Democratic drop off. “His messaging in the runoff has been very bland and neutral.”

However, it could pay off in crossover votes: A source familiar with the Ossoff campaign said their modeling shows that 10 to 15 percent of Republican voters could break to Ossoff, who is also winning virtually every Democratic voter. Analysis by a GOP analytics firm after the April primary showed that Ossoff was already attracting a small but significant share of cross-party support at that point.

Democrats noted that 33,000 new voters have participated in early voting, a group that is trending “more diverse, so more likely to be African-American by a significant margin, and more likely to be women,” said Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist and CEO at TargetSmart, a data-analytics firm.
Nate Silver believes the race is a tossup, and any "takes" on the outcome will likely be overblown unless the margin of victory is greater than 5 points. By Silver's reckoning, Ossoff leads by a "not-very-safe" 2 point margin, adding, "You’d rather be 2 points ahead than 2 points behind, however." He continues:
As I said, however, the vote comes at a critical time for Republicans — and extracting any signal at all from Georgia might be enough to influence their behavior. Republicans really are in a pickle on health care. The AHCA is so unpopular that they’d have been better off politically letting it die back in March, at least in my view. But I don’t have a vote in Congress and Republicans do, and they’ve tallied the costs and benefits differently, given that the bill has already passed the House and is very much alive in the Senate. The central political argument Republicans have advanced on behalf of the bill is that failing to pass it would constitute a broken promise to repeal Obamacare, demotivating the GOP base. That argument will lose credibility if a Democrat wins in a traditionally Republican district despite what looks as though it will be high turnout.

Nervous Republicans in Congress will watch this race for a sign it is safe to "come out," much as Democratic women did in Georgia's 6th. Should Handel lose, it may encourage them to begin standing up to Donald Trump and his legion of Republican doom. Then again, they may wait until they've secured their tax cut bill to do it. If even then.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Newt whining about partisanship is like the sun whining about being hot

by digby

I wrote earlier about how the Republicans are trying to play by the Ken Starr playbook by defaming Robert Mueller as a Democratic artisn (which he isn't) and explained why it won't work.

Joe Conason explores their overwhelming hypocrisy:

Such deep concern over the partisan affiliation of a special counsel or an independent counsel is something new for the Republicans. None of them voiced any qualms when, under the old Independent Counsel Act, a panel of three Republican judges consistently appointed Republican prosecutors to investigate a Democratic administration, as they did several times when Bill Clinton was president.

Blatantly biased against Clinton, that judicial panel — headed by an intemperate, outspoken, and extremely rightwing jurist named David Sentelle — was caught rigging the appointment of Kenneth Starr to replace the first Whitewater independent counsel, Robert Fiske. Although Fiske too was a Republican, he was an experienced prosecutor and a straight arrow who was disposing of the Whitewater charges against the Clintons too swiftly and dispassionately to serve his party’s purposes. Frustrated Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the media demanded his removal.

As Fiske’s successor, Starr had no prosecutorial experience but his partisan credentials were certainly in order: a former Republican judicial appointee and solicitor general, active in the Virginia GOP and the Federalist Society, adviser to right-wing nonprofits and counsel to the tobacco industry and many other Republican-oriented corporations. He was perfect, if perfection meant an independent counsel who would squander tens of millions of dollars, prosecute irrelevant defendants, and instigate a wholly unrelated probe of Clinton’s sex life, all in order to bring down the Democratic president.

Starr himself had no idea how to conduct an investigation. But he immediately hired a thoroughly ideological Republican staff that did — including deputy independent counsel Hick Ewing, a former U.S. Attorney in Memphis renowned for his right-wing fundamentalist zeal; and deputy independent counsel Jackie Bennett, a former federal prosecutor in south Texas, where he pursued cases against Democratic officeholders with mixed success and came to be known as “the Thug.”

Starr’s operation reflected the political orientation of nearly all of the independent counsel investigations under Clinton. And when Starr left, his replacement was Robert Ray, who actually ran for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in New Jersey in 2002, only months after he filed the Office of Independent Counsel’s final report on Whitewater.

With few exceptions, every independent counsel or special counsel since the Reagan era has been a Republican, whether the investigation involved a Democratic or Republican administration. If a Democratic judicial panel had appointed a series of Democratic prosecutors, the Republicans would still be screaming two decades later.

Mueller is a Republican too. They wouldn't have let him be confirmed for FBI director if he hadn't been.


What would Gianforte do?

by digby

Montana Republican Gianforte was right to attack a reporter for no good reason because he was throwing him out of God's house. Or something. 

Regarding June 9 letter by Polly Pfister, Helena ("OK with Christians to assault some?": 
Jesus assaulted and bodily threw the money changers out of the temple who were trespassing in Gods’ house. 
Greg Gianforte emulated Jesus by assaulting Ben Jacobs, who was trespassing and invading his privacy. He also proved to be a real Montanan to his supporters who are not self-proclaimed Christians but abide by the teachings and actions of Jesus. 
Peter Linzmaier, 
Thompson Falls

Jared speaks

by digby

This is the first time he's spoken publicly. Behold the man who holds the keys to Middle East peace in his hands:

Trump is the guy whose known for hiring people via central casting, whether Pence, Tillerson or Mattis. Somehow I don't think he would have normally cast Justin Bieber for the role of most important adviser to the leader of the world's only superpower. But what else could he do? Ivanka married him and the whole scam depends on putting his family in the White House to consolidate power and ensure the family business is well taken care of.

Yes, it can happen here

by digby

The scariest thing you will read today. Maybe ever. It's piece by David Frum explaining how Trump can build an autocracy in America. It's all very plausible:
It’s 2021, and President Donald Trump will shortly be sworn in for his second term. The 45th president has visibly aged over the past four years. He rests heavily on his daughter Ivanka’s arm during his infrequent public appearances.

Fortunately for him, he did not need to campaign hard for reelection. His has been a popular presidency: Big tax cuts, big spending, and big deficits have worked their familiar expansive magic. Wages have grown strongly in the Trump years, especially for men without a college degree, even if rising inflation is beginning to bite into the gains. The president’s supporters credit his restrictive immigration policies and his TrumpWorks infrastructure program.

The president’s critics, meanwhile, have found little hearing for their protests and complaints. A Senate investigation of Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential campaign sputtered into inconclusive partisan wrangling. Concerns about Trump’s purported conflicts of interest excited debate in Washington but never drew much attention from the wider American public.

Allegations of fraud and self-dealing in the TrumpWorks program, and elsewhere, have likewise been shrugged off. The president regularly tweets out news of factory openings and big hiring announcements: “I’m bringing back your jobs,” he has said over and over. Voters seem to have believed him—and are grateful.

Most Americans intuit that their president and his relatives have become vastly wealthier over the past four years. But rumors of graft are easy to dismiss. Because Trump has never released his tax returns, no one really knows.

Anyway, doesn’t everybody do it? On the eve of the 2018 congressional elections, WikiLeaks released years of investment statements by prominent congressional Democrats indicating that they had long earned above-market returns. As the air filled with allegations of insider trading and crony capitalism, the public subsided into weary cynicism. The Republicans held both houses of Congress that November, and Trump loyalists shouldered aside the pre-Trump leadership.

The business community learned its lesson early. “You work for me, you don’t criticize me,” the president was reported to have told one major federal contractor, after knocking billions off his company’s stock-market valuation with an angry tweet. Wise business leaders take care to credit Trump’s personal leadership for any good news, and to avoid saying anything that might displease the president or his family.

The media have grown noticeably more friendly to Trump as well. The proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner was delayed for more than a year, during which Time Warner’s CNN unit worked ever harder to meet Trump’s definition of fairness. Under the agreement that settled the Department of Justice’s antitrust complaint against Amazon, the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, has divested himself of The Washington Post. The paper’s new owner—an investor group based in Slovakia—has closed the printed edition and refocused the paper on municipal politics and lifestyle coverage.

Meanwhile, social media circulate ever-wilder rumors. Some people believe them; others don’t. It’s hard work to ascertain what is true.

Nobody’s repealed the First Amendment, of course, and Americans remain as free to speak their minds as ever—provided they can stomach seeing their timelines fill up with obscene abuse and angry threats from the pro-Trump troll armies that police Facebook and Twitter. Rather than deal with digital thugs, young people increasingly drift to less political media like Snapchat and Instagram.

Trump-critical media do continue to find elite audiences. Their investigations still win Pulitzer Prizes; their reporters accept invitations to anxious conferences about corruption, digital-journalism standards, the end of nato, and the rise of populist authoritarianism. Yet somehow all of this earnest effort feels less and less relevant to American politics. President Trump communicates with the people directly via his Twitter account, ushering his supporters toward favorable information at Fox News or Breitbart.

Despite the hand-wringing, the country has in many ways changed much less than some feared or hoped four years ago. Ambitious Republican plans notwithstanding, the American social-welfare system, as most people encounter it, has remained largely intact during Trump’s first term. The predicted wave of mass deportations of illegal immigrants never materialized. A large illegal workforce remains in the country, with the tacit understanding that so long as these immigrants avoid politics, keeping their heads down and their mouths shut, nobody will look very hard for them.

“The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”

African Americans, young people, and the recently naturalized encounter increasing difficulties casting a vote in most states. But for all the talk of the rollback of rights, corporate America still seeks diversity in employment. Same-sex marriage remains the law of the land. Americans are no more and no less likely to say “Merry Christmas” than they were before Trump took office.

People crack jokes about Trump’s National Security Agency listening in on them. They cannot deeply mean it; after all, there’s no less sexting in America today than four years ago. Still, with all the hacks and leaks happening these days—particularly to the politically outspoken—it’s just common sense to be careful what you say in an email or on the phone. When has politics not been a dirty business? When have the rich and powerful not mostly gotten their way? The smart thing to do is tune out the political yammer, mind your own business, enjoy a relatively prosperous time, and leave the questions to the troublemakers.

In an 1888 lecture, James Russell Lowell, a founder of this magazine, challenged the happy assumption that the Constitution was a “machine that would go of itself.” Lowell was right. Checks and balances is a metaphor, not a mechanism.

Everything imagined above—and everything described below—is possible only if many people other than Donald Trump agree to permit it. It can all be stopped, if individual citizens and public officials make the right choices. The story told here, like that told by Charles Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is a story not of things that will be, but of things that may be. Other paths remain open. It is up to Americans to decide which one the country will follow.

No society, not even one as rich and fortunate as the United States has been, is guaranteed a successful future. When early Americans wrote things like “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” they did not do so to provide bromides for future bumper stickers. They lived in a world in which authoritarian rule was the norm, in which rulers habitually claimed the powers and assets of the state as their own personal property.

The exercise of political power is different today than it was then—but perhaps not so different as we might imagine. Larry Diamond, a sociologist at Stanford, has described the past decade as a period of “democratic recession.” Worldwide, the number of democratic states has diminished. Within many of the remaining democracies, the quality of governance has deteriorated.

What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example—and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country.

Read on there's a lot more more and it's powerful. This stuff is happening all over the planet. This is the conclusion:
Trump and his team count on one thing above all others: public indifference. “I think people don’t care,” he said in September when asked whether voters wanted him to release his tax returns. “Nobody cares,” he reiterated to 60 Minutes in November. Conflicts of interest with foreign investments? Trump tweeted on November 21 that he didn’t believe voters cared about that either: “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!”

What happens in the next four years will depend heavily on whether Trump is right or wrong about how little Americans care about their democracy and the habits and conventions that sustain it. If they surprise him, they can restrain him.

Public opinion, public scrutiny, and public pressure still matter greatly in the U.S. political system. In January, an unexpected surge of voter outrage thwarted plans to neutralize the independent House ethics office. That kind of defense will need to be replicated many times. Elsewhere in this issue, Jonathan Rauch describes some of the networks of defense that Americans are creating.

Get into the habit of telephoning your senators and House member at their local offices, especially if you live in a red state. Press your senators to ensure that prosecutors and judges are chosen for their independence—and that their independence is protected. Support laws to require the Treasury to release presidential tax returns if the president fails to do so voluntarily. Urge new laws to clarify that the Emoluments Clause applies to the president’s immediate family, and that it refers not merely to direct gifts from governments but to payments from government-affiliated enterprises as well. Demand an independent investigation by qualified professionals of the role of foreign intelligence services in the 2016 election—and the contacts, if any, between those services and American citizens. Express your support and sympathy for journalists attacked by social-media trolls, especially women in journalism, so often the preferred targets. Honor civil servants who are fired or forced to resign because they defied improper orders. Keep close watch for signs of the rise of a culture of official impunity, in which friends and supporters of power-holders are allowed to flout rules that bind everyone else.

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

That's quite a call to arms.

He doesn't mention it but it's worth saying that part of the public apathy stems from the right wing's cynical assertions of dishonesty and malfeasance where none existed (think Whitewater, Monica, "I invented the internet", Swift-boats, Birtherism, Benghazi, emails) and the media's unwillingness to sort out real corruption from partisan opportunism. Too many people believe the system is irretrievably iniquitous and so when a real corrupt leader like Trump comes along they see it as business as usual.

It's an old story --- the boy who cried wolf. Well, we have real wolf now.