TOWOIT #50

March 7, 2017… Day 47

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I showed up on the TV news, behind the woman being interviewed about ACA repeal. That’s me in the black and white jacket, at Pramila Jayapal’s town hall. I’m not sleeping.

Only 7% of the Marine Corps are women. And some of the men have been sharing nude photos of female recruits. Everything is terrible.

I am still wending my way through the long New Yorker article on the new Cold War. I’ve only been reading a few paragraphs a day, but I’ll get there.

While I was waiting for Jayapal’s town hall to start, I saw a Masha Gessen article online, saying that the Russia-Trump story is just a web of delusional thinking by Democrats. It sort of crushed me. Glenn Greenwald says the same thing all the time, but I stopped trusting him quite a while ago. Gessen, I’ve had more respect for. It’s not specific to the Trump-Russia issues, necessarily. It’s not that I thought everything was going to be magically cleared up if the investigation went through. I’d been halfway assuming that the whole thing would be successfully buried and would blow over, and Trump would go on to make it through his term just fine. But after all the shit we’re going through psychologically, to have someone I trust tell me now, at this point, that I’m delusional for thinking Russia is worth investigating–I don’t know, this is just more cruel shit.

Anyway, I’m a Russophile, not a Russophobe. I grew up loving Russian novelists, and the idea of Russian soul. My grandparents went to the Soviet Union in the mid-1980s as tourists and brought us back Russian books and toys. I grew up in what used to be Russian-America, on an island named after a Russian. I nerded out in middle school on the history of the fur trade and the eastward adventuring of the promyshlenniki. My friend’s aunt ran off to Vladivostok with a Russian sea captain. I took Russian language classes in my 20s just utterly for the hell of it.

On a separate but related note, I saw this sandwich board outside of a Russian bakery today, and it seemed extra touching to me.

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Although I regret that they bowed to pressure to use a “ya” as a cutesy backward R.

Wikileaks — CIA — hacking tools. I don’t know, man. I don’t know. I suppose I’ll care less about privacy violations when climate change really starts closing in.

Rosenstein & Brand hearings for deputy and associate (assistant?) attorney general. Freighted with importance because of Jeff Sessions. Brand won’t answer on climate change — she repeatedly and pointedly wouldn’t say that there is a public interest in combating climate change. Franken and Grassley back and forth on Jeff Sessions, which took on a life of its own. Franken was really upset and kept saying that Sessions needs to come back to the Senate and explain himself.

Jason Chaffetz iPhone gaffe. That people might just have to prioritize health care over personal electronics. Republicans to poor people, essentially “hurry up and die already.” WTF.

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At Sean Spicer’s press briefing, he showed that he has figured out how to sound consistently regretful about hate crimes. At least against Jews. All 100 Senators calling for Trump to take some kind of action against anti-Semitism.

Questions for Sean Spicer at his first on-camera press briefing in 8 days:

  • Sean, it’s been a full three days since the President said that President Obama had his wires tapped at Trump Tower. In those three days has the White House come up with any evidence?
  • Can’t the President just ask the FBI Director?
  • Has he asked him?
  • Do YOU believe that President Obama ordered wire taps?
  • One follow up on what Secretary Price said earlier. For people who like their doctor, like their health care plan, can he commit today that those people will be able to keep their doctor, keep their plan? And secondly, just radical change of gears, China overnight issued some strong rhetoric promising consequences for the missile launch by North Korea, do you have a comment on that?
  • Thank you, Sean. How concerned is the President with the situation between North Korea and Malaysia right now?
  • Hey Sean, I appreciate it. So two questions. One on health care. If the CBO scores this bill and it does not provide the amount of coverage that Obamacare did, will the President still support it?
  • Is there something that’s preventing the White House from submitting the nominations of Sunny Purdue for agriculture and Alex Acosta for labor?
  • First, will the President offer a correction for his tweet this morning that states that 122 prisoners were released from Gitmo by the Obama administration and returned to the battlefield?
  • Is the White House concerned about this new information that came out in wikileaks today that U.S. intelligence agencies are purposely exploiting vulnerabilities in tech products here in the U.S.?
  • I have a question on branding. The President in the past has put his name on buildings and different products–when it comes to healthcare, does the White House feel that the bill being presented today should be known as Trumpcare from here on out? And at what point do you think the transition should go from Obamacare to the new administration?
  • Sean, DHS reportedly considering separating families who come across the border. How does the President feel about that?
  • A question on Obamacare. One of the criticisms on this is that there is still a defect individual mandate because it allows insurance companies to increase premiums up to 30% if there is a gap in coverage.
  • You don’t think it’s a de facto mandate in the sense that there’s a penalty in place?
  • The President has blamed the Democrats in the Senate for blocking the cabinet. Last Thursday the Republicans adjourned early. Does the President have any plans to call for the Senate to remain in session until they approve the nominees?
  • Sean, thank you very much. Obviously today there was a big emphasis on Obamacare, which is profoundly important to the American people. But it seems like too often in the last few weeks, the President has gotten distracted and the media has been distracted, by talk of wiretapping at Trump Tower, or the President calling his predecessor a bad or sick guy, or criticizing the ratings of Celebrity Apprentice. Do you think the White House could do a better job of focusing on the issues that matter to the American people rather than getting distracted by these subsidiary conversations?
  • Conservatives have called this “Obamacare lite” and President Trump has promised to fully repeal Obamacare — but this bill leaves a lot of the structure of Obamacare intact. Is President Trump confident that in the future he can say that he fully repealed Obamacare?
  • Just want to ask you, you had Health and Human Service out here, you talk about the Republicans bill, the Democrats bill. Is that the President’s bill?
  • Just one quick follow up on Jon Karl’s question. Because the President made a very serious allegation over the weekend, and I think we would all be remiss if we went through this briefing and did not try to get you on camera to at least offer us some evidence. Where is the evidence, where is the proof, that President Obama bugged President Trump?
  • But since yesterday, since yesterday–
  • Will the President withdraw the accusation? Does he have any–
  • No regrets then about raising this accusation?
  • Sean, to follow up on the follow up. You were given an opportunity on air to say if the President still supports Director Comey. Does the President still support Director Comey?
  • Have you seen any evidence yourself? Has the evidence been shared with you or any senior members of the President’s staff as to why he made this particular accusation?
  • Did he share it with, uh–
  • But I’m sure that his national security advisors–
  • Just to follow up on the follow ups, does the White House feel that it’s appropriate–you say you want it to be adjudicated by the Congressional committees. But the President made declarative statements on Twitter. So, I guess–is the White House position that the President can make a declarative statement that a former President basically committing a crime, and then the Congressional committees should look into that and basically PROVE it? I mean…
  • So, but–but–so, President Trump’s Twitter statement shouldn’t be taken at face value…?
  • So, on the Obamacare replacement. So, you said that it will be in phases and you need additional legislation. Just to clarify–the cost-savings that you’re projecting, is that dependent on Phase 3, on the national competition plan, because–
  • Sean, in the replacement plan, it says that the states that accepted the Medicare expansion money will continue to be funded. So what is the message you have to Republican state legislatures who thought they were fiscally responsible for rejecting the Medicaid expansion int heir state and now they didn’t get the federal dollars on either end?
  • Sean, I want to ask you two communications questions. Because the President gave himself a middling grade on communication, let me ask a question about the experience the previous administration had when Obamacare was going through its own phases. President Obama said the opposition was able to seize the opportunity as it was being legislated, to create public perceptions. So my question is, what is the President gonna do to improve his communications, to be out there explaining what is in the bill, to work with lawmakers–that’s the first question.
  • My second question has to do with the President’s assertion on the wire tap. Because the White House wants this now to be handled by the legislative branch and in confidence and classification, can we count on the President to seize and desist using Twitter or any other public venue to make accusations that are in public but he will not respond to in public?
  • Sean, right now you’re two votes short of passing repeal and replace in the Senate because right now you have four Republican senators who can’t support the bill because of rolling back the Medicaid expansion. What do you say to those senators who say this does not provide the stability for people who rely on Medicaid?
  • One other piece of this. You could bring down the cost of the insurance itself through new efficiencies in the system, selling across state lines, but the biggest driver of the increase in health insurance costs is the skyrocketing cost of medicine. What in this overall plan, do you plan to do to cap the rise or even bring that down–
  • That’s one small–
  • But when you’re paying $50,000 out of pocket to get a STENT–
  • Drugs are one part but procedures are another part–
  • But there’s plenty of competition between hospitals–
  • Can you give us an update on the regulatory rollbacks? Has the task force identified any regulations to repeal?
  • Just bear with me, I’m trying to get some clarity on something my colleagues have tried to follow up on as well. You’ve said the President stands by his tweets from Saturday morning, that President Obama ordered this wire tap. You’ve also said that the President wants Congress–let me be clear, he said he FOUND OUT this information–you’ve also said that the President wants Congress to investigate. So, bottomline, why would the President want Congress to investigate for information he already has?
  • But you talked about resources and time–why waste that?
  • But if the President has the info–he’s sitting on this info–he’s found out–he’s now directing intelligence committees to look at it, and you’re talking about resources and staff–why expend those resources and staff–if the President found out this information and has it.
  • Ok, second question then. Millions of Americans are working on their tax returns right now. Will the President commit to releasing his tax returns for this year, and is he still under audit for his past returns?
  • How do you understand what we’ve seen on the growing number of cases of Canadians with valid passports being stopped at the border and told just to go back, not let into the U.S.
  • Do you think there might be misunderstandings in the messages sent–
  • Is the White House going to keep its promise to withdraw from the Paris Climate agreement? And our understanding is that there’s some division of opinion–Rex Tillerson wants to stay in, Steve Bannon wants to get out. What’s going on? Will you keep the promise? If not, why not?
  • She talked about the communications strategy. Will the President play a public role in selling this bill? Will he take questions about it, will he talk to the public about it?
  • Congressman Cumming’s meeting with the President tomorrow–
  • And answer mine after that please–
  • Will the Trump administration continue the Obama administration’s practice of releasing publicly the visitor logs?

 

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