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Frank Kieviet
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Awesome! Schlieren photography in your garage!


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"""The Republican position on health care is unsustainable

One thing we have learned during the Republican Party’s repeal-and-replace process is the true bottom line of GOP health policy, and it’s this: Money currently being spent to buy insurance for the poor should be redirected to tax cuts for the rich. That is, at its core, what the American Health Care Act does — it moves $600 billion from insurance subsidies to tax cuts — and there’s no sign the Senate bill will be different on this score.

The problem is this is a horrifically unpopular health policy. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found only 20 percent of voters approve of the Republican bill. Republicans might be able to pass this proposal, but they can’t protect it afterward. There’s a reason the Senate health bill is being written in a closed-door process with no planned public hearings or serious debate. The hope is to finish it fast and move on forever, as the GOP knows defending it publicly is a losing proposition.
"""
A very well-written piece on why the Republican health care plan increases the probability of a single-payer option in the near future.

If Republicans wipe out the Affordable Care Act and de-insure tens of millions of people, they will prove a few things to Democrats. First, including private insurers and conservative ideas in a health reform plan doesn’t offer a scintilla of political protection, much less Republican support. Second, sweeping health reform can be passed quickly, with only 51 votes in the Senate, and with no support from major industry actors. Third, it’s easier to defend popular government programs that people already understand and appreciate, like Medicaid and Medicare, than to defend complex public-private partnerships, like Obamacare’s exchanges.

Obamacare was the test of the incrementalist theory, and, politically, at least, it’s failed. Democrats built a law to appeal to moderate Republicans that incorporated key ideas from Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts reforms, and it nevertheless became the single most polarizing initiative of Obama’s presidency. All the work Democrats did to build support from the health care industry has proven to be worth precious little as Republicans push their repeal plan forward. And the complex public-private design of the Affordable Care Act left the system dependent on the business decisions of private insurers and left Democrats trying to explain away premium increases they don’t control. The result is a Democratic Party moving left, and fast, on health care.

Mitch McConnell may prove the best friend “Medicare for all” ever had.

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A Resolution Condemning White Supremacy Causes Chaos at the Southern Baptist Convention

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But to many in the denomination, any progress was significantly undermined by the 2016 election. With 81 percent of white evangelicals supporting Trump, African Americans in particular felt like they had been betrayed. As Anyabwile said of his fellow Christians in an interview with me shortly after Trump was elected, “I feel like they haven’t understood any of my concerns as a racial minority and an African American.”
"""


https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/06/the-southern-baptist-convention-alt-right-white-supremacy/530244/


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A disturbing look at the Religious Right… and their disdain for the “undeserving poor”. Particularly disturbing, the cult of “Dominionists” who preach that they have a mandate to reclaim country and government and impose biblical law – who seek an end to all democracy, freedom, argument, ambition, science, independent human thought…

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Not a bug: working as intended

"""Had Brownback's policies not been enacted, poor Kansans could expect to pay the state about 9.8 percent of their income on average in taxes, while the very rich would be paying about 5.5 percent. Now — after this year's tax increase — the richest will pay 4.8 percent, while the poorest will owe 11.8 percent."""

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Cabinet confirmation redux, 25th Amendment edition

Just one of the earliest "this is not normal" moments of the Trump (pre-) presidency was his perfectly astounding lineup of Cabinet picks. They violated the norms of a presidential cabinet in nearly every conceivable way:

• They were nearly to a person unqualified for the job.

• They had less prior governmental experience than any cabinet in modern times.

• Many (perhaps most) of the nominees were actively hostile to the missions of the departments they were selected to head.

• Even fewer nominees had prior executive experience than usual—always an important consideration given that almost every cabinet secretary—if their department was considered a separate private company—would be a CEO of one of the top 100 employers in the country, and in the Fortune 500 if you considered their budgets. (Note that the largest employer in the world, the Department of Defense, is headed by former general James Mattis, who, as commander of CENTCOM, did have experience commanding a very large subset of the DoD, but he's the exception.)

• The Cabinet has been accused of being a vehicle for administration tokenism for decades, but Trump's crusade against "political correctness" resulted in his nomination of the most white (only one secretary is black, one Latino, and one Asian American) and male (only two are women¹) cabinets since the 1960's.

• Several nominees' only reason for consideration (not even "qualification", just any reason for selection) was their being major donors to Trump's election campaign.

• Trump's cabinet has at least twice the number of ultra-wealthy (billionaires and hundred-millionaires) of any prior cabinet.

• Leaks came out from the beginning showing that the vetting process relied, to a much heavier extent than in prior administrations, on seeking what might be called pseudo-ideological purity: not purity in the normal ideological sense, but purity in never having shown Donald Trump public question or disrespect.

• Following from the prior point, it appears that the president (-elect) considered personal loyalty to him a major factor in his decision-making.

• We have evidence that several appear to have lied in their pre-confirmation security or financial paperwork, and several more gave what most charitably could be called "problematically dissembling" testimony in the confirmation hearings.

• Almost every member of the Cabinet has had one or more ethics waivers, some "retroactive"².

• Most of the nominees were singularly unprepared and unqualified for their jobs, and had Senate hearings that in prior administrations would have been considered disastrous for nominee and president alike.

• Prior administrations extended an olive branch of bipartisanship by choosing at least one cabinet executive from the opposing party. None in this cabinet are Democrats.

Despite this breathtakingly strange crop of nominees, every single one who received a committee vote was confirmed (though a few initial nominees did pull out before that point for various reasons, mostly ethics-related).

But this, too, showed a way in which this cabinet is not "normal": the number of no votes (almost entirely from Democrats) were several times higher than for any previous administration's cabinet.

At the time, this was cause for tut-tutting from both Republicans and self-anointed "centrists", arguing that the new president needed to be "given a chance" with the people he wanted to work for him as his lieutenants.

In retrospect, though, I think this Senate GOP and beltway pundit-class "go along to get along" caucus may be taken by historians to have been a catastrophe for the Republic.

Here's why: the Constitution's Twenty-Fifth Amendment, best known for setting up a codified line of succession for the presidency and making it possible for the President to hand off power to the Vice President temporarily when, for instance, the President must undergo surgery. This provision has been used multiple times since the amendment's ratification in 1967.

But it's the amendment's as-yet-uninvoked fourth and final section that is crucial here. Section 4 states that the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet may transmit a letter to the House and Senate declaring the president unable to discharge his duties—not just for physical incapacity, but for any reason the cabinet may so decide. Once they transmit the letter, the Vice President becomes Acting President immediately.

There's then a process for the President to object and for the cabinet to appeal to the Congress (a period, during which the VP continues to serve as Acting President).

But it now seems that no matter how explosive the revelations yet to come, we'll never get there, and that's my point. The President's nomination of such a motley crew, and the Senate Republicans' decision to go along with it, means we have a Cabinet comprised almost entirely of people who wouldn't have had the slightest chance of securing their jobs under any "normal" president.

This in turn means that Section 4 is effectively useless, as—to a much greater degree than in prior administrations—the cabinet's members are personally loyal to Donald Trump.

Following a hypothetical exercise of Section 4, would an (Acting) President Mike Pence keep them in their posts? Possibly. but few would have been picked by Pence had he been president-elect, and they know it.

This year's Senate confirmation process should serve as a stark lesson to future Senators: giving the president wide berth to nominate whomever to the cabinet he sees fit, and only stepping in to deny consent when a particular nominee has particularly egregious and idiosyncratic disqualification, puts the continuation of our republic in dire danger.

These confirmations could, in retrospect, be seen as a violation of Senators' oaths to the Constitution.

Even though Section 4 has never before been exercised, it's an important check on power, a way for the executive branch to remove a president who's behaving erratically and whose mental state may be questionable.

Confirming a cabinet filled with members who, clearly, have a tie to the president himself stronger than any tie to their department or to the Constitution was an abrogation by the Senate of their duty to uphold the Constitution.

It's far too late now, but—assuming we ever have another new president-elect—future Senates must seriously take their advice and consent role to include an implicit requirement that they confirm a cabinet whose members' loyalty to the person who nominated them does not outweigh their loyalty to the country.


¹ Four, if you include the Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, two Cabinet-level posts that are not part of the 25th Amendment's Section 4 "principle officers" provision.

² Which, incidentally, is not a thing; as several political ethics experts, legal scholars and former prosecutors have noted this past week, a "retroactive ethics waiver" is either an oxymoron, or a pardon by another name.


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Is Trump Fighting Terrorism?
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/06/04/is-trump-fighting-terrorism-215225

As most of the time, if the title of an article is a question, the answer is usually negative.


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Greg Gianforte's Tribe Rewards Him For Assault On The Press
"What I personally find most depressing is the tribalism. People on the right are defending Gianforte because he’s on their 'team' and Jacobs is on the 'other' team. Their reaction would have been exactly the opposite if it had been the other way around. If you want to see how commonplace this is, check out social media — or, indeed, the likely comments below this article.

"But such thinking is the logic of soccer hooligans. It should have no place, zero, in public debate. To witness people in public life incorporating this into their reasoning and behavior is more than ominous."

[snip]

"The point about a stable country is that it has the rule of law, and the point about the rule of law is that, above all, it is impartial. This is why the traditional figure of justice is blindfolded. Assault is assault. There aren’t 'teams' or sides.

"Partisan justice is not a feature of a civil society. It is a feature of a civil war."
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