1. says

    Obamacare … here we go again.

    That federal Judge Reed O’Connor’s ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act—issued once the midterm election was over and just in time to screw up the last hours of open enrollment—was the shoddy work of a hyperpartisan, activist judge was clear from the get-go. That it took another two weeks for O’Connor to clarify his ruling to say that the law remains in effect pending an appeal.

    He had to issue the new ruling because he hadn’t bothered to address that two weeks ago, and recognized in his ruling that “many everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty during the pendency of appeal.” […]

    Seventeen states led by Democratic attorneys general had also asked O’Connor to “clarify the ramifications of his ruling so they would be able to file an immediate appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.” […]

    One conservative, Case Western Law Professor Jonathan Adler, who was an architect of the most recent lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act and called the initial ruling “pretty bananas” is
    no less impressed with this new ruling to stay. “I’ve been very critical of Judge O’Connor’s severability analysis, but the standing analysis in these opinions may be even worse—and that’s saying something,” he tweeted. “I will be gobsmacked if O’Connor’s opinion survives review in the Fifth Circuit.”

    Unless all those Republicans who brought the initial challenge have a change of heart, which isn’t impossible given the drubbing Republicans got in November, this is almost certainly headed to the Supreme Court.


  2. says

    As shutdown continues for second week, Trump demands Democrats return to DC to reach deal

    Trump continues to blame Democrats for a shutdown he caused.

    I campaigned on Border Security, which you cannot have without a strong and powerful Wall. Our Southern Border has long been an “Open Wound,” where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals would pour into our Country. Dems should get back here an fix now!

    From theThink Progress link above:

    […] Although they controlled both chambers of Congress for nearly two years, Republican lawmakers have been unable to deliver on Trump’s demands of $5 billion in funding for a border war along the U.S.-Mexico border, one that the president vowed Mexico would fund. GOP leaders in the House and Senate, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), have been largely absent over the past week and, according to the Washington Post, Republicans haven’t organized meetings to develop a strategy to defend the president.

    GOP lawmakers have attempted over the past year to rebrand the wall as a “security fence,” in an apparent effort to make the the structure more palatable to Democrats. On Sunday, after a meeting with the president, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters that the “wall has become a metaphor for border security” and that Republican lawmakers are merely pushing for a “physical barrier” that “makes sense.”

    Democratic leaders have said they support more than $1 billion in border security funding, but that they do not want any of the money to go toward building a wall.

    Despite Republican attempts to downplay the wall, Trump repeated his stubborn demands early Monday morning, tweeting that “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media.” […]

    The government shutdown is now in its second week.

  3. says

    Senator Lindsey Graham met with Trump yesterday. Graham says that Trump is now in a “pause situation” regarding withdrawing troops from Syria.

    I don’t believe either man. We’ll have to wait and see what they actually do, as opposed to what they say.

    If the “pause” is true, I still don’t see how that gives clear guidance to our allies (Kurds and others), or to military leaders.

    Also, it looks like it took a few weeks of serious backlash before Trump moderated (perhaps) his intention to immediately withdraw troops after he spoke with Erdogan. Too late to keep General Mattis or Brett McGurk as part of the administration.

    For more information, see comments 359, 362, 400, 414, and 456 in the previous chapter of this thread.

  4. says

    Migrant children were dragged, pushed, and slapped at the Southwest Key shelter in Arizona.

    […] One surveillance video shows a male staffer dragging and pulling a boy into a room, then slapping him and pushing him against a wall. The staffer then recoils when it appears the child strikes him. The staffer then leaves the room, and the boy is seen retreating to a corner, then pounding on the window in a door to an adjacent room.

    A second video shows a female staffer hustling a child through a conference room, then dragging the child into an adjoining room because the child had lain down and tried to block the doorway with their legs. It is unclear from the edited video if the child is a boy or girl.

    As that is happening, another staffer pulls a child with extended arms into the same room. All the while, workers doing other tasks in the conference room go about their business, with one seen adjusting her ponytail.

    A third video shows a disrupted classroom setting, but the exact actions are unclear from the blurry image.

    The state agency blurred the videos to protect the privacy of the children depicted. […]

    Arizona Republic link

  5. says

    John Kelly is departing as Trump’s Chief of Staff. Kelly is talking about all the things he prevented Trump from doing, which is an odd way for a chief of staff to exit the job.

    […] in an interview on Sunday, outgoing chief of staff John Kelly cast doubt on the president’s signature proposal, saying “To be honest, it’s not a wall.”

    Kelly, as head of the Department of Homeland Security and then chief of staff, has been an instrumental figure in enforcing the president’s hardline immigration policies. But he criticized the administration’s handling of those issues in an interview with the LA Times.

    As head of DHS, Kelly said he was not consulted beforehand about the administration’s disastrous Muslim ban. “I had very little opportunity to look at them,” he said. “Obviously, it brought down a greater deal of thunder on the president.”

    He also blamed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the administration’s widely-condemned policy of separating migrant children from their parents along the US-Mexico border. “What happened was Jeff Sessions, he was the one that instituted the zero-tolerance process on the border that resulted in both people being detained and the family separation,” Kelly said. “He surprised us.” […]

    Kelly took credit for stopping Trump from national security decisions he viewed as reckless, such as threatening to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. “When I first took over, he was inclined to want to withdraw from Afghanistan,” Kelly said. “He was frustrated. It was a huge decision to make…and frankly there was no system at all for a lot of reasons—palace intrigue and the rest of it—when I got there.” But after Trump announced Kelly’s departure, the president abruptly decided to pull half of US troops out of Afghanistan and all of them out of Syria, which led Defense Secretary James Mattis to resign.

    Though Kelly paints yet another picture of a dysfunctional and fractious White House, other top Trump aides have been far more critical of the president. Kelly said Trump had never ordered him to do anything illegal and, if he had, he would have resigned. But other top administration officials said that Trump had routinely attempted to circumvent the law.

    “So often, the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do, and here’s how I want to do it,’” former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in early December, “and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.’”


    Kelly’s description of his time in the White House is, in part, self-serving. For example, Kelly helped with the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. He said that the policy would be “a tough deterrent.”

  6. says

    This is the last day in the White House for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He had planned to stay through February 28 in order to allow for an orderly transition. But then Trump finally read his resignation letter, (or had someone read it to him), and realized that Mattis was dissing him big league. Then Trump tried to fire him, having Pompeo tell Mattis to leave by the end of today.

    Here is part of Mattis’ exit memo, which was released today by the Pentagon:

    On February 1, 1865, President Lincoln sent to General Ulysses S. Grant a one sentence telegram. It read: ‘Let nothing which is transpiring, change, hinder, or delay your military movements, or plans.

    Our Department’s leadership, civilian and military, remains in the best possible hands. I am confident that each of you remains undistracted from our sworn mission to support and defend the Constitution while protecting our way of life. Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult. So keep the faith in our country and hold fast, alongside our allies, aligned against our foes.

    It has been my high honor to serve at your side. […]

    The bolding is mine.

    Notice that there is no mention of it having been an honor to serve Trump. Mattis focused on U.S. military personnel in his exit memo.

    “Secretary Mattis prefers that today, like every day, the focus remain on the mission and those who carry it out,” said Dana White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman.

  7. says

    Oh, good. Laura Ingraham’s radio show has been cancelled in response to an advertiser boycott.

    The world will be a better place in 2019, if for no other reason than Laura Ingraham has lost one of her platforms for hatemongering […] But before you get too excited, she’ll be replacing it with a podcast and she’s still a fixture on Fox News. Media Matters did a lengthy article on the lowlights of Ingraham’s show. If you find yourself wondering for even a moment why the [Trump followers] think like they do, here is the mother lode of their dogma, 17 years of it.

    Ingraham fawned over Donald Trump’s bigoted rhetoric on immigration; she defended his calls for a ban on Muslims entering the United States, and even argued that the ban was “not broad enough,” claiming that she would “go farther” and be “even worse than Trump.” […]

    She fearmongered about Muslim immigrants as “people who have dual loyalties … whether it’s the Quran, or the Quranic way of thinking, versus the loyalties to the United States.”

    Ingraham claimed that Trump’s assertion that Mexico is “sending rapists” is true, and stated that Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people.”

    She parroted Trump in claiming that “nobody has a right to be here except the people who are born here,” and said the United States should shoot deported immigrants if they try to re-enter the country. […]

    Before the 2016 election, Ingraham implied that Hillary Clinton may try to kill then-FBI Director James Comey if she won.

    Ingraham pushed a discredited conspiracy theory that a Democratic National Committee staffer was murdered for leaking the hacked 2016 DNC emails.

    After Christine Blasey Ford accused then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, Ingraham argued that “George Soros is involved” because Ford’s “social media was scrubbed.” She also claimed — without offering any evidence — that Ford’s accusations were “a left-wing conspiracy.” […]

    She accused U.S. judges of “aiding and abetting” human traffickers and drug cartels by granting due process to immigrants. […]

    The boycott of sponsors of the radio show was a direct result of the efforts of David Hogg and other student activists in the wake of the Parkland shooting […]


  8. says

    Another one of Trump’s weird lies, one that is easily proven false:

    President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security. The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!

    Nope, not true.

    […] “There’s a fence that goes along the front of the house, but it’s the same as the other neighbors have. It’s tastefully done,” one neighbor, who was kept anonymous, told the newspaper.

    Another neighbor also told the Post that the home is completely visible from the street.

    “There is no 10-foot wall in the front, back or sides of the house — and no wall is going up,” the neighbor said. […]

    The Hill link

    Washington Post link

    Photo available at the Washington Post link. There are some bricks, (a low brick foundation), and some open metal slats in the front, with a break for the driveway. There’s also an open walkway leading to the front door.

  9. says

    Trump: I’m Not Flip-Flopping!!! 100 Percent Concrete Wall! … sort of. … mostly … maybe … kind of.

    Talking Points Memo link.

    […] “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED,” tweeted Trump, whose demand for congressional funding to construct one has caused a budgetary standoff. “Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides).”

    Trump’s comments on Monday came after officials, including his departing chief of staff, indicated that the president’s signature campaign pledge to build the wall would not be fulfilled as advertised. […]

    White House chief of staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that Trump abandoned the notion of “a solid concrete wall early on in the administration.” […]

    Along the same lines, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called discussion of the apparent contradiction “a silly semantic argument.”

    “There may be a wall in some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements,” Conway told “Fox News Sunday.” […]

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is close to the president, emerged from a Sunday lunch at the White House to tell reporters that “the wall has become a metaphor for border security” and referred to “a physical barrier along the border.” […]

    In August 2015 during his presidential campaign, Trump made his expectations for the border explicitly clear, […]

    “Jeb Bush just talked about my border proposal to build a ‘fence,’” he tweeted. “It’s not a fence, Jeb, it’s a WALL, and there’s a BIG difference!”

    Trump suggested as much again in a tweet on Sunday […]

    Democrats maintain that they have already presented the White House with three options to end the shutdown, none of which funds the wall, and insist that it’s Trump’s move.

    “At this point, it’s clear the White House doesn’t know what they want when it comes to border security,” said Justin Goodman, Schumer’s spokesman. “While one White House official says they’re willing to compromise, another says the president is holding firm at no less than $5 billion for the wall. Meanwhile, the president tweets blaming everyone but himself for a shutdown he called for more than 25 times.” [….]

  10. says

    General Stanley McChrystal said:

    […] It’s important for me to work for people who I think are basically honest, who tell the truth as best they know it.

    I don’t think he [Trump] tells the truth.

    Trump’s response was to fully engage his schoolyard bully mode:

    General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!

    McChrystal has also criticized Trump’s decision to send troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. He did not formally endorse Hillary Clinton for president. He criticized then Vice President Joe Biden in a Rolling Stone article, after which he resigned—an outcome President Obama supported.

    Trump used the “Hillary Clinton fan” slur before. When speaking about Adm. William McRaven, the man who oversaw the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden, Trump called him a “Hillary Clinton fan.” Trump has a limited vocabulary, and a limited stock of insults.

  11. says

    Trump’s tweet from today indicates that the government shutdown will be prolonged:

    The Democrats, much as I suspected, have allocated no money for a new Wall. So imaginative! The problem is, without a Wall there can be no real Border Security – and our Country must finally have a Strong and Secure Southern Border!

    One thing has now been proven. The Democrats do not care about Open Borders and all of the crime and drugs that Open Borders bring!

    From commentary by Brett Samuels:

    Trump, who said he would be “proud” to shut down the government over wall funding in an Oval Office meeting in December, tweeted on Monday that Democrats’ offer of money for technology and equipment upgrades along the border amounted to “meaningless bells & whistles.”

    “Throughout the ages some things NEVER get better and NEVER change,” Trump tweeted. “You have Walls and you have Wheels. It was ALWAYS that way and it will ALWAYS be that way! Please explain to the Democrats that there can NEVER be a replacement for a good old fashioned WALL!”

  12. says

    One result of Trump’s shutdown: piles of garbage and human waste in National Parks.

    National parks are grappling with overflowing garbage and human waste as visitors continue to arrive despite limited staffing amid a partial government shutdown, according to an Associated Press report.

    The Trump administration left many parks open to visitors even as park rangers and others who staff campgrounds have been furloughed. Officials have expressed concerns that the parks may be damaged because of the excess waste.

    “It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I’ve seen in my four years living here,” Dakota Snider, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley near Yosemite National Park, told the AP. […]

    The Hill link

    Associated Press link

    Human feces, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading and other damaging behavior in fragile areas were beginning to overwhelm some of the West’s iconic national parks, as a partial government shutdown left the areas open to visitors but with little staff on duty. […]

  13. says

    New Year’s message from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un:

    If the United States takes sincere measures and corresponding action to our leading and pre-emptive efforts, then (U.S.-North Korea) relations will advance at a fast and excellent pace through the process of implementing (such) definite and groundbreaking measures.

    It is the unwavering position of our party and the republic’s government and my firm will that the two countries as declared in the June 12 joint statement … take steps to establish a permanent and stable peace regime and push toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, we have already declared domestically and internationally and took various actions showing our commitment that we will no further create or test nuclear weapons and will not use or spread them.

    From commentary by The Associated Press:

    […] However, he said the North will be forced to take a different path if the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges the patience of our people by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushes ahead with sanctions and pressure.”

    Kim also said the United States should continue to halt its joint military exercises with ally South Korea and not deploy strategic military assets to the South. He also made a nationalistic call urging for stronger inter-Korean cooperation and said the North is ready to resume operations at a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and restart South Korean tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain resort. Neither of those is possible for South Korea unless sanctions are removed.

    Some analysts say North Korea has been trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul while putting the larger burden of action on the United States. Pyongyang over the past months has accused Washington of failing to take corresponding measures following the North’s unilateral dismantlement of a nuclear testing ground and suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests.

    Washington and Pyongyang are trying to arrange a second summit between Trump and Kim […]


  14. says

    Why doesn’t Trump just order them to make the wall from see-through concrete? It’s as reasonable as many of his decrees. MAKE IT SO!

  15. says

    Kip @16, yes! A new take on the “emperor has no clothes” theme. And see-through concrete would fit all of Trump’s criteria. I’m sure Mexico would pay for it in invisible money.

    In other news, Trump said this about Senator Elizabeth Warren’s announcement that she was exploring a run for the presidency in 2020:

    […] Trump expressed excitement Monday at the prospect of running for president next year against Sen. Elizabeth Warren but told a Fox News interviewer that “you would have to ask her psychiatrist” if the Massachusetts Democrat believes she can beat him.

    Earlier Monday, Warren (D-Mass.) announced she would launch an exploratory presidential committee, making her the highest-profile entrant in what is expected to be a crowded 2020 Democratic primary field. Trump, who has regularly targeted Warren for criticism and ridicule, salivated at the possibility that she might win the Democratic nomination.

    “We’ll see how she does. I wish her well, I hope she does well, I’d love to run against her,” the president told Fox News in an interview during the network’s New Year’s Eve coverage.

    Asked if he believes Warren thinks she can unseat him, Trump replied, “well, that I don’t know. You’d have to ask her psychiatrist.” […]


  16. says

    Trump can’t brag about this, (well, he probably can, but he would have to lie to do so): Stocks in the U.S. Close Worst Year Since 2008.

    Wall Street enjoyed some solid gains on New Year’s Eve but the day of low-volume trading was certainly not enough to reverse the trend: 2018 was the worst year for U.S. stocks since 2008. That is notable considering that 2008 was the height of the financial crisis. The year looked promising for a bit but in the end uncertainty about everything from tariffs, interest rates, and shrinking profits suddenly moved stocks to sell territory.

    The S&P 500 index ended 2018 with a loss of 6.2 percent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average decreased 5.6 percent and the Nasdaq composite narrowed 3.9 percent. Although things were already looking bad, December was the month when stocks really took a dive. The S&P 500, for example, suffered the worst December since the Great Depression. […]

  17. says

  18. says

    Good news. “We have a healthy spacecraft.”

    NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has survived humanity’s most distant exploration of another world.

    Ten hours after the middle-of-the-night encounter 4 billion miles (6.4 billion kilometers) away, flight controllers in Laurel, Maryland, received word from the spacecraft late Tuesday morning. Cheers erupted at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory, home to Mission Control.

    “We have a healthy spacecraft. We’ve just accomplished the most distant flyby,” announced Alice Bowman, mission operations manager. […]

    More at the link.
    Talking Points Memo link

  19. KG says

    So, in the YooKay the New Year has brought no obvious change. May is still threatening to torch the economy if MPs reject her Brexit deal, Corbyn still has his head just as far up his arse, and the government has contracted a company which owns no ships to make emergency deliveries from continental Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit, while screaming about the threat posed by a handful of desperate people crossing the Channel in small boats to claim asylum.

  20. KG says

    Oh – and the police have still failed to catch anyone who was flying an unauthorised drone near Gatwick Airport, or produce any video evidence that there ever was such a drone.