McConnell may not like Trump’s tweets, but he loves having a Republican president again

Mitch McConnell

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Credit: AP)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell R-Ky. is not a fan of President Trump’s tweets, saying in a Reuters interview he’d prefer a little “less drama” but he is still pleased to have a fellow Republican in the White House and is in staunch favor of the president’s agenda.

McConnell said he enjoys that Trump is approachable, and even said he has had made himself more available than George W. Bush, the last Republican in the Oval Office. He also says that they have a strong relationship, despite McConnell’s overt disagreements with some of Trump’s twitter sprees.

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“We have a good relationship. He’s never, as far as I can tell, gotten angry at me – in my presence, anyway. We have a good working relationship,” McConnell told Reuters reporters in a round table interview. “He knows, as you all know, that I’ve not been a fan of the tweets and the extracurricular comments. I said last week we could do with a little less drama.”

When it came to the recent reports of scandals as well as the investigation into Russian collusion, McConnell didn’t get into too much detail.

“I think all of that is going to be handled by the special counsel and the Senate Intelligence Committee, and I’m confident in their ability to do the job,” McConnell is quoted as saying. The Senate majority leader indicated that repealing Obamacare and rewriting the tax code were the top priorities of both he and Trump’s agenda.

While he agreed that Trump was not a Republican in the traditional sense, McConnell said he is happy with the direction of the president’s agenda. “What the administration is doing, not only am I comfortable with it, but I think the vast majority of Republicans in Congress feel that this is a right-of-center presidency, which is what we had hoped.”

“If you look at what the president is actually for, it strikes me as indistinguishable from what a President Jeb Bush or a President Marco Rubio would have been advocating: deregulation, tax reform, repeal and replace of Obamacare, judges like Neil Gorsuch,” he added.

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FBI homes in on Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner in Russia probe

Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner (Credit: AP/Evan Vucci)

On May 19, the Washington Post published an article citing anonymous government sources who said that the federal investigation into collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign had homed in on an unnamed “current White House official,” cited as a “person of interest.”

It turns out that person of interest may have been presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Today, the Washington Post published another bombshell report describing how federal investigators are “focusing on a series of meetings” between Jared Kushner and the Russian ambassador. Kushner “is being investigated because of the extent and nature of his interactions with the Russians,” the Post reported.

From the Post:

In early December, Kushner met in New York with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and he later sent a deputy to meet with Kislyak again. [Gen. Mike] Flynn was also present at the early December meeting, and later that month, Flynn held a call with Kislyak to discuss U.S.-imposed sanctions against Russia. Flynn initially mischaracterized the conversation even to the vice president — which ultimately prompted his ouster from the White House.

Kushner also met in December with Sergey Gorkov, the head of Vnesheconombank, which has been the subject of U.S. sanctions following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The Post’s source also mentioned that investigators were looking into “possible financial crimes,” but their source was not specific as to what that meant.

The web of ties between Trump’s confidants and the Kremlin is difficult to track. While many Trump officials (and former officials like Retired General Mike Flynn) appear to be on friendly terms with Russian officials like Ambassador Kislyak, there has yet to be criminal proof of collusion between the highest levels of the Trump campaign and the Kremlin — though it is known and confirmed that the Russian government actively meddled in the 2016 presidential election in an attempt to harm Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. Moreover, some of the leaked documents stemming from the Russian-linked hack into the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) were used by GOP operatives in smear campaigns against their Democratic rivals.

Yet Russian meddling is different from outright collusion, a charge that would imply that the Trump campaign actively knew, and perhaps even aided and abetted, the Russian attempts at interference. The focus on Kushner as a subject of inquiry in the investigation hints that contact between Russia and Trump’s people may have occurred even among Trump’s closest and most trusted advisors. If true, such a criminal scandal could have ramifications that could easily lead to Trump’s impeachment.

Today’s report comes on the heels of another bombshell revelation from the Wall Street Journal that a GOP operative openly worked with a Kremlin-linked hacker who was leaking secret internal documents from the DCCC.

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GOP strategist admits he colluded with Russian hackers to hurt Hillary Clinton, Democrats

President-Elect Trump And Vice President-Elect Pence Meet With House Speaker Paul Ryan On Capitol Hill

(Credit: Getty/Zach Gibson)

The U.S. intelligence community has long since concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 election, and it was reported shortly after the 2016 presidential election that a GOP superPAC linked to Paul Ryan used illegally hacked material to attack Democratic House candidates. But a bombshell report published on Thursday confirms that Republican political operatives were working with the Russian government to hurt Hillary Clinton and Democrats during the election — the first direct evidence of so-called collusion.

The Wall Street Journal reported that hacked information was posted on a blog run by Aaron Nevins, the political operative, and then passed along to top Trump adviser Roger Stone during the campaign. The Republican operative in Florida received a trove of Democratic documents from the allegedly Kremlin-linked hacker, Guccifer 2.0. For months, both Congress and the FBI have been scrutinizing evidence that associates of Trump may have colluded with Russia during the campaign.

Nevins confirmed to the Journal that he told hacker Guccifer 2.0 to “feel free to send any Florida based information” after learning that the hacker had tapped into Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) computers last summer. From the DCCC, Guccifer 2.0 released internal assessments of Democratic congressional candidates, known as “self-opposition research,” to GOP operatives using social media. Nevins told the Journal that, after receiving the stolen documents from the hacker, he “realized it was a lot more than even Guccifer knew that he had.” The stolen DCCC documents also contained sensitive information on voters in key Florida districts, breaking down how many people were considered dependable Democratic voters, undecided Democrats, Republican voters and the like. Nevins made a war analogy, describing the data he received to Guccifer 2.0 as akin to a “map to where all the troops are deployed.”

After Nevins published some of the material on the blog, using his own pseudonym, Guccifer 2.0 sent a link of the information to close Trump associate Roger Stone — who is currently under federal investigation for potential collusion with Russia.

“I just threw an arrow in the dark,” Nevins, who set up a Dropbox account for Guccifer 2.0 to transfer data, told the Journal. “If your interests align,” the operative concluded, “never shut any doors in politics.”

Stone told the Journal that while he did receive a link to Nevins’s blog from Guccifer 2.0, he didn’t share the stolen data published on the blog with anyone.

In addition to receiving hacked information about Democratic races in Florida, Nevins also received internal details about congressional districts in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with close ties to House Speaker Paul Ryan, eventually used the material that was stolen by hackers in attack ads against several Democrats.

Anthony Bustamante, a Republican campaign consultant for Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), told the Journal that he used the stolen information to plan ad buys and better target a mailer effort: “I did adjust some voting targets based on some data I saw from the leaks.”

Republicans ignored Democrats’ pleas not to use the hacked material for political gain.

After Guccifer 2.0 targeted the chair of the DCCC, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Paul Ryan arguing that “the NRCC’s use of documents stolen by the Russians plays right into the hands of one of the United States’ most dangerous adversaries,” and if the National Republican Campaign Committee continued using the materials, the GOP “will be complicit in aiding the Russian government in its effort to influence American elections.” Ryan never responded.

For his part, Trump has repeatedly denied any coordination with Russian officials. The Kremlin has also rejected any connection to Guccifer 2.0. But both the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence believe Guccifer 2.0 is tied to Russian military intelligence.

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“I don’t understand this situation at all”: Easter egg hunting in “Twin Peaks”

Twin Peaks

Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper in “Twin Peaks” (Credit: Showtime/Suzanne Tenner)

Spoiler alert: The following article discusses plot details from parts three and four of “Twin Peaks,” currently streaming online prior to their Showtime debut on Sunday at 9 p.m.  If you haven’t seen them yet, stop reading now.

“Albert, I hate to admit this, but I don’t understand this situation at all.”

Very funny, David Lynch. See, that line is delivered by Lynch’s character, Deputy Director Gordon Cole, at the end of the fourth hour of Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” revival. He says it after he’s met with a man professing to be FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). But the Cooper to whom he’s spoken not actually Agent Cooper, and Cole figures that out over the course of a conversation that, even if a viewer hadn’t seen all that came before it, felt noticeably off.

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“Do you understand this situation, Albert?” he asks his field partner Albert Rosenfeld (Miguel Ferrer).

Albert replies, “Blue rose.”

“It doesn’t get any bluer,” Cole says in agreement.

Welcome to the new “Twin Peaks.” Population: who can tell, what with all those cameos and Easter eggs. You know what those are, right? Secrets hidden in plain sight, relating back to previous episodes or in this case, maybe an entire feature film.

Before these episodes premiered, Lynch hinted that his cinematic follow-up to the original ABC TV series, 1992’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” is very important to the events of these new episodes. “Fire Walk With Me” introduces the blue rose at the beginning of the film as part of a code (delivered in a deliberately weird dance by a woman who meets Cole and two other FBI agents, played by Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Isaak, at the airport).

Laura Palmer’s murder, it is implied, is a “blue rose” case. What that means yet, we don’t fully understand. But that’s OK, because four hours of these new “Twin Peaks” episodes has left us baffled about a lot of things, not to mention wondering if there will be a point to all of this.

Ultimately this is the central question a viewer must ask herself – not, “what am I watching,” but “why I am watching and what am I expecting to get out of this show?” For what we’re seeing is another grand Lynch experiment in breaking form and creating a universe whose topmost purpose is to incite wonderment and visceral reaction.

Plot and linear concepts of storytelling, such as they are, are secondary to this aim. Of this the third hour left no doubt: more than half of the episode was devoted to getting the real Agent Cooper back to Earth after his long fall through space. Cooper lands with a thud, alive and unburnt, in a world rendered in grape. There he encounters a woman whose eyes have been sealed shut and can only communicate wordless whispers. Major Briggs (Don S. Davis)’s gigantic head floating through the cosmos muttering, you guessed it, “blue rose.”

There’s almost nothing but bewildering images such as these for almost 27 minutes, and they may simply exist to show what Lynch can come up with when he’s given a palette to play with. It’s as if Lynch gazed at Luis Buñuel’s 21-minute surrealist film “Un Chien Andalou” and scoffed to himself, “amateur,” pledging to top that madness by many more hours.

Then again, every single moment could be laden with meaning, too. Numbers play prominently through the third and fourth episodes, with plaques on what appear to be the interior of electrical outlets reading three, or 15, large digits on a watch letting us know what time Cooper falls to earth (2:53, a recurring combination), and a junkie screaming “one one nine!” to nobody but her young son as they sit in their house, which happens to be across the street from where doppelganger Dougie Jones diddles a prostitute named Jade.

Did we mention Dougie? Oh yes. Recall that evil Cooper, aka Mr. C., declared in the second hour that he wasn’t going back. When the clock struck 2:53, Mr. C and Dougie began barfing up creamed corn swirled with blood (and in Mr. C’s case, dark sludge). Mr. C, in the midst of driving down a highway, used his hand to hold back as much as he could as he steered into a crash. Dougie, post-coitus, disappeared only to be replaced by Agent Cooper. The agent’s wits, however, have yet to be found.

Got it? That’s three, 15, 253, 119 — and oh, yes, the room number on Cooper’s key to his room at the Great Northern Hotel happens to be 315.

Another very important number is four, as in hour 4.  For its final moments, when Cole has the aforementioned exchange with Albert, effectively announcing the last stop on this Lynch train’s local line. From this point forward it’s nothing but the express, a ride for diehard fans of the filmmaker only and for professional viewers required to stay in their seats.

Heaven help you, pop culture completists, you can feel free to come along too. Don’t forget that you can exit any time, but be warned that the longer you stay on, the faster it goes and the nastier the post-jump bruises will be. (Tuck and roll, friends — tuck and roll.)

Because these initial hours of set-up leave the nagging sensation that “Twin Peaks” is artfully constructing a path toward no place in particular. That perhaps  its purpose is to take the obsessing television hobby it created —  the sifting of clue and debates over hidden messages — to the next level and then pull back the curtain to reveal, surprise, that we’ve been chumming red herrings under our spinning wheels all along.

Maybe we will find that said version of no place in particular explains the Black Lodge and the Owl Cave symbol. But is that really what we want? The beauty of the Black Lodge as a concept is that it simply is, and many viewers accept that. Unexplained weirdness is an admirable distraction. Not enough of it exists on television, and much of what does can be traced back to this series in its original incarnation.

Or maybe it helps to view the show as an absurdist comedy in which the joke may ultimately be on us, like that sign that reads “disturb” on the closed door of the conference room of the Twin Peaks sheriff’s department. Michael Cera’s appearance as Lucy Moran and Deputy Andy Brennan’s son, dressed like the lead in “The Wild One” and doing his best imitation of Marlon Brando by way of Chris Elliott, extends the joke for a few beats too long. But it was impossible not to laugh at the outrageous pointlessness of it. (Naomi Watts’ role as Dougie’s wife, on the other hand, is much more straightforward.)

And this is one of many innocuous details that make me wonder if Lynch and “Twin Peaks” co-creator Mark Frost are simply doing this to take advantage of cable’s blind enabling of auteurs. David Milch did it, pulling the plug on the brilliance of “Deadwood” to bring us the inscrutable dreck that was “John from Cincinnati.” We’re all waiting for Noah Hawley to creatively collapse at some point, since from outward appearances nobody seems to be saying no to him either (although, truthfully, he’s hasn’t failed us yet). We’ve seen premium cable nonsense before. It’s fair to wonder whether we’re being hoodwinked all over again.

Then again, the stakes are relatively lower in this case. We’re only talking about 18 parts, after all — child’s play.

For all of the hype leading up to its premiere, viewers appear to be content to take their time in discovering the new “Twin Peaks.” The two-hour premiere’s initial airing averaged 506,000 viewers on Showtime. (Factoring in the ratings for encore airings, streaming and on-demand viewing, that number swells to 1.1 million.)

Modest, but it also inspired a record number of streaming service sign-ups in a single day, no doubt because of Showtime’s online release of the third and fourth parts across the streaming service and on-demand immediately following the linear premiere of hours 1 and 2. Enough of us want pick apart the mystery of “Twin Peaks,” petal by petal, it would appear, even if there’s no way of knowing whether we’ll be left with anything better than a messy scramble.

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Newsweek’s “Bachelorette” fiasco: Twitter leads online attack against black reporter for writing about interracial dating

Rachel Lindsay

Rachel Lindsay (Credit: ABC)

More than 50 years after Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage nationwide, it would seem that the subject of people of different races dating, marrying or having sex would not provoke controversy. But the furious reaction to a story Newsweek published this week about the popular dating show “The Bachelorette” has certainly proved otherwise.

In a short piece filed Tuesday, Newsweek staff reporter Janice Williams used the start of the ABC program’s 13th season to remark on how the long-running show’s casting of a black woman in the title role was a milestone for African-American women.

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Williams also argued that the casting of Rachel Lindsay in the title role was noteworthy because the “Bachelorette” star is among the relatively small group of black women who date outside their own race. Citing data from a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, Williams noted that black women are significantly less likely to marry a person of another race than black men are. In the Pew survey, 24 percent of black male newlyweds were married to someone of another race, compared to 12 percent of black women.

The subject of interracial dating has been a continuous topic within magazines and websites that cater to black women, especially in recent years. There was even a 2006 romantic comedy called “Something New” that featured an interracial relationship between characters played by African-American actress Sanaa Lathan and Australian actor Simon Baker, who is white.

While “Something New” was generally well received, Williams’ look at interracial dating was immediately attacked — on both legitimate grounds and unbelievably petty grounds.

Many Twitter users appeared to be offended at the article’s headline: “Unlike new ‘Bachelorette’ Rachel Lindsay, single black women rarely date outside their race.”

The magazine’s tweet about the article was even more inflammatory: “New ‘Bachelorette’ Rachel Lindsay is proving black women actually do like men outside their race.”

Perhaps the most salient critique was that the Newsweek writer had failed to mention research about online dating which indicates that black women are less likely to receive responses when they attempt to contact potential matches. (A similar dynamic appears to work against men of Asian ancestry who try to connect with people of other races.)

“We are least likely to get responses/initial contacts yet most likely to respond,” wrote a Twitter user named TheBADCounelor.

While Williams received some substantive criticism, many of her critics didn’t appear to have read past the headline or even bothered to register the fact that the story that had upset them was written by a black woman speaking to her own experience, though not directly citing it. Several of her online antagonists appeared to assume she was white.

Journalists often receive complaints about their work on Twitter as readers complain about typos, differences of opinion and factual errors. What set this particular incident apart from others is that Twitter as a company decided to lend its corporate weight to Williams’ critics by creating a “Twitter moment,” meaning a tweet-based article about the controversy it then presented to millions of users.

The attention from Twitter HQ and the backlash from readers likely played a role in getting Newsweek’s editors to completely remove Williams’ article.

“Newsweek has removed a story posted on May 23 about the Bachelorette. We apologize for any offense it caused,” the magazine wrote in a Wednesday tweet.

Salon reached out to Newsweek’s editor in chief for further comment but has not received a response.

At some point following the retraction of Williams’ article, Twitter actually removed the “moment” dedicated to criticizing her essay.

Before doing so, however, it edited the mini-article to remove erroneous tweets Twitter had previously promoted that implied that Williams was not black and had provided no data for her assertion that black women are less likely to be married to people of another race. A Twitter representative would not comment about why the moment was modified and subsequently removed.

(Cached versions of Williams’ essay as well as the revised Twitter moment are still available.)

In a Wednesday interview with Salon, Williams said she was shocked and dismayed that so many of her critics seemed not to have read the article before responding to it.

“I feel like when it comes to these kinds of topics, of love between people of different races, people just automatically get defensive about it,” the Newsweek writer said.

Williams also argued that her Twitter detractors overlooked one of her main points, which was that despite historical discrimination that makes it more difficult for some black women to date outside their race, the ones who do are sometimes subjected to second-guessing from their family members or friends. As a result, she said, some black women decline to pursue potential partners that might otherwise interest them.

“My own dad has, somewhat in a joking but serious way, said that I can’t ever bring a white man home,” Kristan McCann, a New York-based music talent scout, told Salon in an interview.

“It’s very much ingrained in black families in general that sometimes it’s not OK to bring home a person of another race. And that’s not fair and that does need to change,” she added.

While some of the intra-racial pressure on black women has a negative motivation, in the case of Rachel Lindsay and “The Bachelorette” there’s also a natural impulse among many black Americans to want to see a positive portrayal of black love in popular culture. General-interest media rarely depicts normative, two-parent black families unless their last name is Obama.

Lindsay spoke out about the pressure in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “I’m not choosing a man for anyone else,” she told the entertainment industry publication. “I have to be selfish. I have to do what’s best for me. I’m the one who has to love and spend the rest of my life with this person, if I’m lucky to find that one.”

The reality star’s reaction might seem off-putting to some people but it needs to be seen in the proper context, argues Jamia Wilson, a black feminist writer who heads up Women, Action, and the Media, a nonprofit organization that fights for gender justice in media.

“Would we expect the same type of commitment from a black man who had reached a similar height of notoriety?” Wilson said in an interview. “I think some people would, but honestly, I think as a black woman that there’s more of a responsibility and burden placed upon [Lindsay] to make choices on others’ behalf instead of for herself.”

Instead of expecting a single black woman to somehow embody all black women, Wilson argues that pressure should be put on the entertainment industry to feature more black-centered stories and black characters.

“What we should be pushing for is lots more portrayals of us in our full humanity,” Wilson said. “People are right to be against reductive representations of women of our community. But it does more harm than good to expect a single, private individual to be accountable to millions of people. That’s reductive, too.”

While there are other important aspects of the story of black women and interracial dating — how the media and fashion industries have systematically downgraded and ignored black beauty, for instance — Williams said the primary motivation behind her Newsweek article was to get the attention of black women who have considered interracial dating but aren’t doing it.

“What should be happening when you read a story like that, it should encourage you to want to explore more,” she said. “The numbers are rising but they’re still very small and it’s still very slow to catch on. But it is changing. And this [season of the “Bachelorette”] is something that could help fuel that … If you actually read the story, you’d see that this was a celebration of that.”

For Wilson, the controversy over Williams’ “Bachelorette” article is a missed opportunity.

“Just as we need more diverse representations of black women in the media like Rachel Lindsay, women of color are underrepresented in journalism — especially at the highest levels,” she said.

“Although I don’t find fault with Williams’ critics, who made some valid points, I would have loved to see more commentary focused on how Newsweek could have told a more complex story about black women’s lives.”

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Montana GOP congressional candidate accused of body slamming reporter — one day before special election

Greg Gianforte

Greg Gianforte (Credit: Fox Business)

One day ahead of a special election to fill a Montana congressional seat left vacant by former Republican congressman Ryan Zinke, who left to head the Department of Interior, the Republican running in the closer-than-expected race stands accused of body-slamming a political reporter.

The Guardian’s Ben Jacobs tweeted on Wednesday that Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate in Thursday’s special election, bodyslammed him and broke his glasses at an event in Bozeman. In audio of the incident published by The Guardian, it appears that the alleged attack came after Jacobs asked Gianforte about the newly released Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Jacobs claimed that Gianforte repeatedly yelled at him to “Get the hell out of here.”

“I’m sick and tired of you guys. The last time you were here you did the same thing,” Gianforte is allegedly heard saying on audio posted by the Guardian.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Jacobs was evaluated in an ambulance at the scene. The local paper also reported that Gallatin County deputies had spoken to Gianforte before letting him leave — ahead of his scheduled campaign event.

“He took me to the ground,” Jacobs told his paper, The Guardian. The national political reporter had previously reported on Gianforte’s financial ties to U.S.-sanctioned Russian companies.

Gianforte, a tech millionaire originally from New Jersey who has been accused of being a carpetbagger, is locked in a closely contested battle with Democrat Rob Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks ahead of tomorrow’s special election.

In a statement, Gianforte’s campaign claimed Jacobs entered a private office “without permission” and attributed the incident to “aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist.”

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Congressional Budget Office estimates GOP “fixes” to Trumpcare will leave 23 million uninsured, increase premiums

Health Care Spending

(AP Photo/Jon Elswick, File) (Credit: AP)

A newly released report of the impact of Republicans’ revised plan to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act calls into serious question President Donald Trump’s decision to publicly celebrate the American Health Care Act (AHCA) with House Republicans in the Rose Garden last month.

According to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Wednesday, so-called Trumpcare would destabilize significant portions of the insurance market and leave millions without health insurance coverage.

“In 2026, estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law,” the Congressional Budget Office’s report read.

The highly anticipated estimate came almost three weeks after House Republicans rushed through their revised healthcare plan, too quickly for the CBO to estimate how much it would cost and how many people would be affected. The CBO had scored an earlier version of the Republican bill back in March and estimated that 24 million more people would become uninsured by 2026. The prior version of the House bill was also projected to lead to premium increases in 2018 and 2019 that are higher than prices under Obamacare would be.  

But both the hard-right and the more moderate wings of the House Republican Caucus rejected that iteration of the bill. The “moderate” Tuesday Group initially balked at the 24 million more uninsured under the first version of Trumpcare, but evidently considered only 1 million fewer uninsured people to be good and reasonable. The big concession the conservative House Freedom Caucus got in the revised bill was giving their states the freedom to destabilize their own insurance markets.

The current bill includes an amendment that would allow states to obtain waivers from Obamacare rules barring insurers from charging higher prices to people with preexisting conditions. In states that pursue AHCA waivers, CBO says average premiums would fall but “less healthy people would face extremely high premiums” because many sick people would opt for community-rated plans.

CBO estimates one-sixth of the population will be in states that use AHCA waivers to substantially alter benefits and community rating. The CBO concluded: “Over time, it would become more difficult for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly.”

In the short-term, Trumpcare would also make individual premiums go up 20 percent more than expected. The CBO did estimate, however, that by 2026, individual premiums under Trumpcare would be 10 percent lower than Obamacare premiums are expected to be by that year.

For families on employer-sponsored health insurance plans, premiums under Obamacare rose less (20 percent) than in the previous 5 year period (31 percent), according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study. CBO estimated that in states requesting AHCA waivers, premiums for low-income elderly enrollees would go up 800 percent.

Furthermore, states that allow insurers to drop so-called essential health benefits would face hikes of “thousands of dollars” a year for services including “maternity care, mental health and substance abuse benefits, rehabilitative and habilitative services, and pediatric dental benefits,” the CBO predicted.

And while the Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare would reduce federal support for health coverage by $993 billion over 10 years,  it will cut taxes by $874 billion and reduce the deficit by $119 billion — $32 billion less than the first version of the bill.

Reportedly the Senate is only making tweaks to the House bill — with little to no input from medical or insurance experts.


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Why does he do it?

Fred Trump; Donald Trump

Fred Trump; Donald Trump (Credit: AP/New York Military Academy)

I was a boy once, a long time ago, and I had a real SOB for a father, which makes me an expert on Donald Trump. If Trump suffers from some form of arrested development, as many assessments of his behavior and character contend, I know where he stopped and why. It’s not enough to observe that Trump behaves like a 14-year-old boy. I’m certainly not the first to observe that Trump acts compulsively, inappropriately, self-destructively, apparently unable to calculate consequences or indeed care about them, but the question is why? What was going on back when the rest of us moved on, and Trump screeched to an adolescent halt?

By most accounts, Trump’s father was a frightening, domineering, demanding, overwhelming force in his life. So was mine. I can’t recall a moment of my childhood when I felt that I was measuring up to his demands on me. Whenever I carried out the duties I was given, it wasn’t good enough. This kind of stuff sounds petty now, but when I was a boy, it wasn’t just the biggest thing in my life; it was my whole life.

Spots might be found on a glass I had washed: Don’t just rewash the glass; wash all the dishes again. Two minutes late for my 9 p.m. curfew on a Friday night I had spent with my friends at Teentown drinking 5-cent Cokes and dancing to the jukebox and playing pool: Confined to my room for the next two weekends. Bed made improperly: Tear everything off and make it perfectly. House not clean, ashtrays not emptied, trash not taken out by the time he and my mother got home from an evening out: Restricted for the rest of the weekend. The one word I recall saying to my mother over and over and over again as I pleaded with her to talk to him for me was “unfair.” It’s unfair that I’m the one who’s always in trouble! He doesn’t treat me fairly! It’s unfair that I can never do anything right! He’s unfair! Unfair!

Sound familiar?

What was a boy to do, especially when you’re a 10, 11, 12 years old and you just flat-out worship your father? In my case, Dad was a graduate of West Point, an Army officer and a really fine one. Watching him go off to work in the morning in his starched fatigues or his dress uniform was like watching a movie star make an exit. He was outrageously handsome, regal in bearing, put together as if he had attendants — and in his case, he did: my mother. He had been decorated for bravery in combat, and in fact, there is a scene in David Halberstam’s book about the Korean War “The Coldest Winter,” depicting the event for which he was decorated. I grew up wanting nothing more than to be just like him — like the best parts of him, that is. The rest of him was “unfair,” and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why.

Well, what a boy did in my case, and probably Trump’s case as well, was to misbehave, to find ways of breaking the rules the father imposed. I didn’t understand it then, but this was the way a boy begins to separate from a suffocating, overbearing father. You start out by breaking rules Dad hadn’t bothered to impose, getting away with stuff he would have no way of knowing about. I remember being about 12 or 13 in Leavenworth, Kansas, when my friends and I would ride our bikes downtown on Saturday mornings to play pinball machines at a place on Cherokee Street. On the way was a classic old junkyard quite literally stuffed with everything boys loved — wrecked ’36 Fords and piles of rusted tools and tractor parts and stacks of junked bumpers and wooden boxes of carburetors.

An old guy lived in a small trailer on the place and looked after it for the owner. We used to stop at the junkyard and nose around. He would come out of his trailer and yell at us and run us off, so naturally we took to climbing over the fence and sneaking into corners of the place where he couldn’t see us and stealing stuff. We were riding our bikes, so we couldn’t carry much. I remember taking a rusted wrench one time. We weren’t stealing stuff because we needed it or could use it. And I doubt they ever discovered anything was missing, it was so insignificant. The thing was to do something you knew your father would punish you for — and get away with it.

As we grew older, we misbehaved closer to home, and it was more dangerous because of that fact. We could drive at 14 in Kansas, and Dad set a limit on how many miles I could drive the car on Friday and Saturday nights. So I learned to unscrew the speedometer cable. My friend Ricky Kettler and I would unscrew the cable, gas up the car and drive down to Kansas City and shoot pool at a hall right out of “The Hustler” and drive back to Leavenworth. Several miles out of town, we would hook up the cable so the speedometer would rack up enough miles to be just under the 10-mile limit. In later years I would get home by curfew at 10 p.m. or whenever it was, wait until my parents were asleep and push the family Volkswagen out of the garage and down the street, start it up and drive into Washington, D.C., and hang out at a coffee joint called the Crow’s Toe and listen to beatniks recite poetry until the wee hours.

But the tastiest, most satisfying stuff to get away with always involved girls. A lot of it was mutual because the girls were making their own moves to separate from their parents. In Leavenworth, we used to have teenage dance parties, usually in some girl’s basement. We would drink Cokes and play 45s and dance and then several times a night someone would turn off the lights and yell “60 seconds of heaven!” and boys and girls would find one another and kiss in the dark. It was supposed to be so dark you wouldn’t know whom you were kissing because at least for the boys, we didn’t want a girl to know we “liked her.” But it was never that dark, and the girls knew and we knew. And most of all, we all knew we were getting away with something down there in the basement that our parents would disapprove of. A couple of years later, we devised strategies to drive to secret spots on the edge of town and “go parking,” the back seats of cars transformed into places of illicit exploration and wonder.

But not all of it was mutual. Some of it was just nasty adolescent boy behavior. For about a year right after girls started wearing bras, we tried to figure out ways to come up behind them and pop their bra straps without getting caught. Same with pinching their asses. There were frequent attempts to catch glimpses of girls changing into their gym clothes in the junior high locker room. We discussed various strategies to brush up against girls’ breasts without seeming to be copping a feel. And we talked about girls behind their backs, about their “reputations” or lack thereof, comparing notes about how best to have our way with them. Being naughty. The very essence of adolescence, right?  

Any of this sound familiar? Kissing? Grabbing? Sneaking peeks? Always trying to get away with it? Talking about them afterward? You’d have had me at 14 if you had an open mic and a motor home.

What does any of this have to do with a domineering SOB of a father, you might ask? Well, it has to do with separating yourself from him. If you can violate his rules and get away with it, you at least have the feeling that you’re moving away from him. But the problem is, misbehaving behind your father’s back doesn’t work. There is little satisfaction in getting away with something a father doesn’t even find out about; thus there was no chance of precipitating the kind of reaction that would establish a real separation, a real drawing of a line.

In my case, my relationship with my father got so bad that I tried to run away when I was a senior in high school. I had made a list of everything I needed, including how much money I had saved, and one night it fell between the wall and my bed. My mother discovered the list when she was cleaning my room and realizing what it was and talked me out of it, convincing me that I should wait until I learned whether I would get a congressional appointment to West Point. Yes, even with everything else about my father, I still wanted to follow what I saw as the best in him, and a month or so later Rep. Patsy T. Mink appointed me to West Point and the rest is history, as they say.

I got in one last symbolic dig. A friend of mine was having the same sort of father problems I was, so we decided we wouldn’t wait even a minute to leave home once we graduated from high school. We constructed a canvas camper-style cover over the bed of his ’54 Chevy pickup, threw in a mattress and several cases of beer and our suitcases, and the night we graduated at 8 p.m., we jumped in the truck and headed for Virginia Beach. I didn’t go back home until two weeks later on the day I had to leave for induction at West Point, and then all I did was drop off my suitcase, pack my toilet kit and get a ride from my mother to the Greyhound station in Washington (you were told not to bring anything more than the clothes on your back, a toothbrush and a razor to West Point because you wouldn’t be needing anything else).

I didn’t see my parents until Christmas. It was my middle finger to Dad. You think you can push me around? No more. I had made up my mind even then that I wanted to be an Army officer just like him, but I would never be the kind of father he was. In ways large and small in the coming years, I tried to do exactly that. I don’t think we ever had what you would might call a normal father-son relationship as adults.

In fact, many years later, at the Thanksgiving table in my house in Los Angeles, he was verbally abusive to my 4-year-old daughter, just like he had been not only with me but also with my brother and sisters when we were kids. I once saw him sit at the table with my brother for four hours until he was made to finish his peas, and that kind of thing wasn’t going to happen again, especially not with my daughter. As soon as the other guests left, I told him he wasn’t welcome in my house anymore. I threw him out the next morning. We didn’t talk for over a year, and he died two years after that.

It’s a sad story, isn’t it? But I would say a far sadder story is never actually cutting the cord with a father who was so abusive and controlling and domineering. I don’t think Trump ever really left home when he moved across the East River from Queens to Manhattan. His brother, who by all accounts was even more intimidated by their father than Trump was, drank himself to death at 42, and even that sad event didn’t cause Trump to change. All he did was continue doing the same kind of stuff he did as a kid. I’d be willing to bet a month’s pay that every time he got in trouble as a boy, he lied about it and blamed someone else. If that didn’t work, and he got caught, it would be “unfair.”

I look back at the way things were when I was a kid and give thanks I was lucky enough to have the mother I had because she saved me not from my father but also from myself. She was my example for the kind of parent I wanted to be. I’ve already written elsewhere about her teaching me how I should treat girls. She wasn’t a rock or an anchor. She showed me the way out, and she helped me to grow up enough that I could get there. Sadly, I think we are suffering the consequences of Donald Trump not having the same kind of luck. He never grew up. He’s still 14 years old. He tries to get away with stuff, and when he gets caught he lies, and whoever catches him is unfair. Just like Dad.

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Going for funny without sacrificing sexy “Baywatch” beaches itself


Dwayne Johnson, Ilfenesh Hadera and Kelly Rohrbach in “Baywatch” (Credit: Paramount Pictures/Frank Masi)

The bodies were dead before they hit the water,” observes Mitch Buchannon (Dwayne Johnson) in “Baywatch,” the big-screen version of the popular TV series. And like those bodies Mitch describes, this film is strictly dead on arrival.

The TV show may have been mindless, but the film is mostly a barrage of puerile, unfunny dick jokes. An early scene involves Ronnie (John Bass) getting his junk stuck in a wooden beach chair after CJ (Kelly Rohrbach) gives him the Heimlich maneuver — in glorious slow motion, to best emphasize the jiggle of her pert buttocks. The extended gag, which involves various folks commenting on Ronnie’s imperiled penis, however, feels rehashed from a Farrelly brothers’ movie.

In the film’s signature gross-out scene, Mitch commands disgraced Olympic medalist turned lifeguard trainee Matt Brody (Zac Efron) to inspect a nude male corpse’s genitals, which Matt does with his bare hands. Mitch, of course, makes this a Kodak moment. Ha ha.

But wait, there’s still more below-the-belt humor. In one scene, Matt dons drag to go undercover, looking ri-dick-ulous with all his muscles bulging. Efron might generate a smile as he adjusts his manhood in his too-tight dress, but the disguise is superfluous. Moreover, when Efron uses a girlie voice as he pretends to be his own balls talking to Mitch’s balls in another scene, “Baywatch” just gets downright desperate.

Curiously, despite the R-rating and all the cock teasing, there is absolutely no female nudity, which will disappoint teenage boys, almost as much as this film disappoints anyone expecting to be entertained. The two credited screenwriters, Damian Shannon and Mark Swift, consistently flail in most of their attempts at humor. Even a throwaway line mistaking J. Edgar Hoover for “the vacuum guy” lands a groan, rather than a guffaw.

The film’s plot is certainly stupid. As lifeguards Mitch and Stephanie (Ilfenesh Hadera) train Matt, Ronnie and Summer (Alexandra Daddario), they uncover a dastardly scheme — which could have been lifted right out of “Scooby Doo” — where club owner Victoria Leeds (Priyanka Chopra) is dealing drugs to drive down real estate prices and bribing officials so she can take over the bay.

And she gets away with it as long as Mitch and Matt are distracted fighting with each other to see who is the biggest dick, er, who gets to be the lifeguard in charge. The guys’ rivalry consists of name-calling as well as strenuous physical endurance tests — none more difficult than sitting through this lousy film. Even when “Baywatch” gets around to having Mitch and Matt kiss, it is actually far less satisfying than anyone with lowered expectations might imagine.

Perhaps the only area where the film distinguishes itself is underwater. There is exactly one visually interesting scene of Mitch and Matt swimming in the water to reach a boat on fire. Shots of flames are seen overhead while the characters are immersed in the bay. Even if the images are CGI, it is kind of impressive.

But so much of “Baywatch” is tired and uninspiring. The supposed sexual tension between Matt and Summer is nonexistent; a scene of her catching his ogling of her breasts goes on too long with no real payoff. Likewise, the running gag of Ronnie’s being embarrassed in front of the beautiful, nonjudgmental CJ grows tiresome. And the macho dude-bro bullshit between Mitch and Matt is more annoying than amusing.

One of the most offensive lines in the film describes Matt as the “Stephen Hawking of swimming,” which only shows how far the screenwriters will go for a crummy joke. In fact, one of the screenwriters’ favorite phrases (it is uttered several times in various iterations) is “Not a single fuck was given.” And apparently, that seems to be the case. The actors mostly phone in their performances.

Dwayne Johnson appears to have been cast more for his beefy body than his charisma. The actor generally has an easygoing presence on screen, but he comes across very stiff here. Even when Mitch fights a criminal in a young child’s bedroom, the action is forced and unfunny.

Efron also wears out his welcome. Whereas the heartthrob has recently made his career all about taking off his shirt, his pumped-up physique is actually too extreme; he actually looks better with his shirt on now. As for Efron’s recent spate of lowbrow comedies, he seems to have hit rock bottom with “Baywatch,” playing up his arrogance rather than his appeal.

The only performer who seems to be in on the joke is Kelly Rohrbach, who embraces her character CJ and does not take the film too seriously. She seems to be having a good time. If only the film was as infectious.

Sadly, the anticipated cameos by “Baywatch” icons David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson are anticlimactic, adding nothing to an already underwhelming film. The biggest disappointment of this feature is that it’s not even so bad it’s good.

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WATCH: Author Jill Filipovic envisions a feminist future — even in the age of Trump


The surprising upset of November’s election set back the work of a lot of people, especially the authors who were writing books that anticipated a Hillary Clinton win instead of a Donald Trump victory. Feminist writer Jill Filipovic admitted as much during a Salon interview, noting that she was quite taken aback.

“The truth is the book was done before the election, and luckily it hadn’t gone to press yet,” Filipovic said about her new book, “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness,” which pushes the boundaries of feminist discourse. “When I was writing it, I wrote it with the assumption that we were moving forward,” she said. “In hindsight now, that was a very sort of stupid assumption to have.”

While initially composing the book, “I was thinking, OK, we’re making such progress on so many of these issues,” she recalled. “Paid parental leave is probably a thing that is going to happen in the next four years. . . . A lot of the debates that we’ve been having around abortion rights and birth control — those things are still animating and they still exist, but we may be able to move on to other things on the feminist wish list. And then Trump won the election, and obviously that whole set of assumptions got upended.”

Filipovic ended up revising some parts of the book but still feels that projecting an overall vision of a better future for women is crucial.

Her thinking has shifted to this: “How does this sort of anti-Trump resistance and this sort of firewall that we’re trying to build against encroachments on women’s rights, how do we keep ourselves from being purely reactive and keep our eye on what the ultimate prize is.”

It’s about “keeping our own moral vision really on the front lines,” she said. “Not just saying that what Trump is doing is bad but also saying, here’s the world we want. Here’s our counter narrative.”

Watch the video to see Filipovic explain how feminists and others can keep focused on their outlook for a more inclusive world.

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