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House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., presides over a markup session on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., March 16, 2016. (Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The curious company Trump's HHS Secretary keeps

12/01/16 12:41PM

There's some disagreement among medical associations surrounding Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), Donald Trump's choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. The American Medical Association, to the consternation of many of its members, is backing the right-wing congressman, while the National Physicians Alliance is not.

But it's an entirely different medical organization that's generating headlines this week, and for good reason. New York magazine noted today:
[T]he bright-red warning flags go beyond Price's policy stances. The congressman also belongs to a truly radical medical organization known as the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. And when you look into the specifics of what that group espouses it's hard not to shudder a little bit extra hard.

Science Blogs managing editor David Gorski, himself a surgeon, summed up what he knows about the AAPS in a helpful blog post. The short version is that the organization stands at direct odds, in myriad ways, with some of very foundational beliefs of evidence-based modern public-health research. As Gorski explains, the organization takes what is basically an Ayn Rand-ian view of the medical world in which doctors are brilliant superheroes constantly undermined by government meddling in the forms of demands for evidence and accountability and things like that.
A Mother Jones piece from a few years ago added, "[D]espite the lab coats and the official-sounding name, the docs of the AAPS are hardly part of mainstream medical society. Think Glenn Beck with an MD."

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons last came up a few years ago when Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has all kinds of weird scientific beliefs, noted his affiliation with the group. It wasn't encouraging: the organization has expressed "doubts about the connection between HIV and AIDS and suggested that President Barack Obama may have been elected because he was able to hypnotize voters." The AAPS has also peddled discredited claims about vaccines and autism.
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Thursday's Campaign Round-Up, 12.1.16

12/01/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Hillary Clinton's lead over Donald Trump in the popular vote passed the 2.5 million mark this morning, and the Democratic candidate also surpassed the 65 million-vote threshold. In American history, only President Obama has received more (and Clinton may yet match Obama's 65.9 million votes from 2012).

* In North Carolina's gubernatorial race, Roy Cooper's (D) lead over Pat McCrory (R) is now over 10,000 votes. The incumbent governor nevertheless urged the State Board of Elections to order a recount votes in Durham County, which it did yesterday.

* The U.S. Senate runoff election in Louisiana is a week from Saturday, and state Treasurer John Kennedy's (R) campaign hopes to get a boost this weekend with a campaign visit from Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

* Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) was announced the winner of his re-election bid this week, but he's not done fighting: the far-right Republican has apparently filed a libel suit against his Democratic challenger, retired Marine Col. Doug Applegate. Issa, who's suing for $10 million, claims Applegate's campaign commercials damaged his reputation.

* The Congressional Black Caucus, which will have its largest-ever membership in the new Congress, elected Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) as its new chairman yesterday. Though the final tally wasn't released, Richmond defeated Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.).
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Gunman At Fort Hood Worked And Worshiped In DC Area

Neocon recommends fewer presidential visits to Walter Reed

12/01/16 11:08AM

President Obama made his 23rd visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this week, and given how little time remains in his second term, it was likely the last time Obama will spend several hours visiting with wounded servicemen and women who've returned from Afghanistan and Iraq.

A New York Times report on this noted that Obama considers meeting with the wounded and their families to be "among the most sacred duties of his presidency. He rarely talks about his trips to Walter Reed, but his aides say that they have affected him deeply."

That's not at all surprising. What was surprising was seeing someone criticize this on the record.
Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, wrote in his memoir "Duty" that seeing the wounded and attending funerals took such an emotional toll that he had to resign. Critics see another effect. Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Obama has become increasingly unwilling to commit troops to wars in places like Libya, Syria and Iraq.

Eliot A. Cohen, an official in the George W. Bush administration who is now professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, said that Mr. Obama's trips to Walter Reed may have been the reason, and that future presidents should avoid the visits.

"A president has to be psychologically prepared to send people into harm's way and to get a good night's sleep," Mr. Cohen said. "And anything they do that might cripple them that way means they're not doing their job."
I've seen the president criticized for all sorts of strange reasons over the last eight years, but I'll admit, it never occurred to me Obama would be encouraged to spend less time visiting with injured troops and their families.
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Then, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump holds a campaign rally in Cleveland, Ohio, on Oct. 22, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Hedge fund manager: Trump 'conned' voters

12/01/16 10:29AM

Americans who believed Donald Trump's populist-sounding campaign posturing received a wake-up call this week.
In a campaign commercial that ran just before the election, Donald J. Trump's voice boomed over a series of Wall Street images. He described "a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth, and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations."

The New York Stock Exchange, the hedge fund billionaire George Soros and the chief executive of the investment bank Goldman Sachs flashed across the screen.

Now Mr. Trump has named a former Goldman executive and co-investor with Mr. Soros to spearhead his economic policy.
It's not just Steven Mnuchin's Treasury nomination, of course. Trump, abandoning his "drain the swamp" vows, has chosen a series of billionaires, insiders, and powerful corporate-board members for his administration, giving them key posts.

The New York Times report added, "While that approach has been cheered by investors (the stocks of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have been on a tear since the election), it stands in stark contrast to the populist campaign that Mr. Trump ran and the support he received from working-class voters across the country."

Bloomberg Politics spoke to hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson, who said of Trump's working-class voters, "I think Donald Trump conned them. I worried that he was going to do crazy things that would blow the system up. So the fact that he's appointing people from within the system is a good thing."

But this got me thinking about the exact nature of Trump's "con."
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Trump's Treasury pick faces accusations that can't be explained away

12/01/16 09:47AM

When Donald Trump and his team introduce a new cabinet pick, they're technically announcing a nomination: each of the president-elect's selections will need Senate confirmation before taking office. With a Republican-led Senate, that shouldn't be much of a problem.

But after reading this new Politico piece on Trump's proposed Treasury Secretary, it's hard not to wonder how GOP senators are going to defend supporting Steven Mnuchin.
Donald Trump wasn't the only person to see opportunity in the 2008 housing collapse. As the economy recovered from the rubble of failed banks, foreclosed homes and government bailouts, Steven Mnuchin emerged a winner.

That success is coming back to haunt the hedge fund manager and Hollywood producer who is Trump's choice for Treasury secretary. OneWest, a bank Mnuchin and his partners established during the collapse, has taken steady fire from regulators and consumer advocates for myriad failures ever since.
The article added, among other things, that Mnuchin foreclosed on a 90-year-old Florida woman "after a 27-cent payment error."

The list keeps going:

* Mnuchin "played hardball" with federal officials to profit from the 2008 global economic crash.

* Two housing advocacy groups alleged to U.S. regulators that Mnuchin's OneWest Bank "broke federal laws by keeping branches out of minority neighborhoods and making few mortgages to black and Latino borrowers."

* Mnuchin's OneWest Bank was also accused of squeezing Hurricane Sandy victims.

* When public interest groups balked at Mnuchin's sale of OneWest, "a parade of community-based nonprofits stepped forward to testify" in support of the bank. Politico found that those same nonprofits "received tens of thousands of dollars each from the bank's foundation, which was run by Mnuchin."
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (Photo by Matt Rourke/AP)

Trump has 'bizarre' conversation with Pakistani leader

12/01/16 08:50AM

A week after the presidential election, Donald Trump spoke via phone with British Prime Minister Theresa May, though it seems no one prepared the president-elect on the basics of diplomacy. Trump apparently told May, for example, "If you travel to the U.S., you should let me know."

The casual invitation "left civil servants amused and befuddled." In Trump's mind, the British prime minister might have plans to swing by America for a visit, in which case, the president-elect hoped May would give him a heads-up. What Trump doesn't realize is that May would only come if invited.

Yesterday, the Republican had another chat with a foreign leader, and as the Washington Post noted, no one prepared Trump for this conversation, either.
Pakistan's Press Information Bureau on Wednesday released a readout of a phone call on Monday between Pakistan's prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and the U.S. president-elect, Donald Trump. The readout is unusual in that it focuses almost entirely on Trump's contributions to the conversation, and reproduces them in a voice that is unmistakably his.
The report from the Pakistani government is online in its entirety here, and it really must be read to be fully appreciated: "President Trump said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif you have a very good reputation. You are a terrific guy. You are doing amazing work which is visible in every way. I am looking forward to see you soon.... Your country is amazing with tremendous opportunities. Pakistanis are one of the most intelligent people. I am ready and willing to play any role that you want me to play to address and find solutions to the outstanding problems."

Of particular interest, the readout added, "On being invited to visit Pakistan by the Prime Minister, Mr. Trump said that he would love to come to a fantastic country, fantastic place of fantastic people. Please convey to the Pakistani people that they are amazing and all Pakistanis I have known are exceptional people, said Mr. Donald Trump."

Oh my.
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Snow begins to gather on a statue outside the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, Dec. 10, 2013.

Key Republican wants to investigate Clinton, not Trump

12/01/16 08:00AM

For much of the fall, House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) made no secret of his plans for 2017: the conservative congressman was eager to put the White House under a microscope, investigating everything Republicans could think of. This, of course, came at a time when Chaffetz assumed, like nearly everyone else, that Donald Trump would lose and Hillary Clinton would be the next president.

After Trump became president-elect, the Utah Republican found it difficult to change gears. On Nov. 9, literally the day after the election, Chaffetz said he intended to keep going after Clinton and her email server management anyway. Yesterday, as The Hill noted, he doubled down, saying he wants to keep investigating Clinton.
"We can't just simply let this go," Chaffetz told host Martha MacCallum on Fox News's "America's Newsroom" Wednesday.

"If the president or president-elect wants to pardon Secretary Hillary Clinton for the good of the nation, that is their option," Chaffetz added. "But I have a duty and an obligation to actually fix the problems that were made with Hillary Clinton."
This is bonkers for a variety of reasons, but let's focus on just two. The first is that Clinton, a private citizen who hasn't held public office in nearly five years, didn't actually commit any crimes. I realize that we're all supposed to pretend clumsy I.T. practices in 2012 represent the year's most critically important issue, and the political world's obsession with email server management helped put an unqualified television personality in the Oval Office, but the reality remains that there is nothing of interest to be learned from an ongoing congressional investigation.

The second angle, which is arguably more important, is that while Chaffetz is eager to conduct oversight of a former official who left office years ago, the Republican congressman has no interest in conducting oversight of the man who'll actually become president next month.
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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 11.30.16

11/30/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* A North Carolina officer "who fatally shot a black man in September, prompting days of violent protests, 'acted lawfully' and will not be charged, prosecutors announced Wednesday. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Brentley Vinson, who is also black, shot Keith Lamont Scott, 43, in a parking lot as officers were preparing to serve an arrest warrant against someone else."

* Tennessee: " Seven people have died as wildfires raging in and around Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee continued spreading, authorities said Wednesday."

* Good call: "Christmas has come early for the thousands of vets who were being forced to pay back the money they got for reenlisting to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lawmakers reached a compromise on Tuesday that allows the Pentagon to forgive the enlistment bonuses of $15,000 or more and student loan benefits that were improperly awarded to thousands of soldiers, mostly in California."

* On this, John Brennan is absolutely right: "The director of the CIA has warned US President-elect Donald Trump that ending the Iran nuclear deal would be 'disastrous' and 'the height of folly.'"

* Kris Kobach's lying: "The top election official in Kansas asserted without evidence that millions of non-citizens voted in the presidential election moments after he certified the state's election results Wednesday."

* Debt forgiveness: "The federal government is on track to forgive at least $108 billion in student debt in coming years, as more and more borrowers seek help in paying down their loans, leading to lower revenues for the country's wider program to finance higher education."

* This probably won't turn out well: "More than 2,300 scientists, including 22 Nobel Prize winners, have issued an open letter to President-elect Donald Trump and the 115th Congress, urging them to 'adhere to high standards of scientific integrity and independence in responding to current and emerging public health and environmental health threats.'"
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi answers questions during her weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 8, 2016 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty)

House Democrats stick with Nancy Pelosi for another term

11/30/16 12:59PM

The last time House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) faced a serious challenge from one of her own caucus members, it was 2010, when then Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) received 43 votes, mostly from the Blue Dog Caucus.

Six years later, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) put up a better showing, though he still came far short.
Rep Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was re-elected as leader of House Democrats Wednesday with the support of a majority of her colleagues after a high profile, serious challenge from Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, who promised a more inclusive Democratic Party.

This was the most serious challenger to Pelosi's leadership, a post she's held since 2003.
In a secret ballot in which no one would know who supported whom, Pelosi prevailed with 134 votes to Ryan's 63. The latter is a significant figure, especially given that Ryan's total number of public commitments, as of yesterday, wasn't nearly this large.

It suggests there are more than a few House Dems ready for a leadership change, even if they're reluctant to say so officially.

But in the end, the 43-year-old Ohioan, wrapping up his seventh term on Capitol Hill, was never seriously in contention for the leadership post. Ryan offered fresh blood in the wake of a difficult election cycle, but he struggled to compete with Pelosi's established track record.
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 11.30.16

11/30/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Mitt Romney apparently wants to be Donald Trump's Secretary of State so badly that he praised the president-elect -- contradicting everything he's said with conviction for months -- after dining with Trump in New York last night.

* A big court ruling in North Carolina: "A federal court on Tuesday ordered North Carolina to hold a special legislative election next year after 28 state House and Senate districts are redrawn to comply with a gerrymandering ruling."

* Trump still isn't draining the swamp: "The committee raising money for President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural festivities is offering exclusive access to the new president, Cabinet nominees and congressional leaders in exchange for donations of $1 million and more."

* Former Sen. Scott Brown (R), apparently hoping for a Trump cabinet post, suggested this morning that voters in Massachusetts illegally voted in New Hampshire, which is why Hillary Clinton won the state. Brown offered no proof and all available evidence suggests the former senator was brazenly lying.

* Former Vice President Al Gore, who has some relevant electoral experience, said this week he supports eliminating the Electoral College.

* There are a fair number of Democrats still hoping First Lady Michelle Obama will become a political candidate, but in a new interview, President Obama said with confidence, "Michelle will never run for office."

* Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) grew quite agitated with reporters yesterday who dared to ask him about his party's president-elect. "I'm not talking about President-elect Trump," McCain declared. "I will not talk about Donald Trump.... Do not ask me again about Donald Trump."
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