Commentary, News

Senate will vote today on right-wing blogger nominated by Trump for court of appeals

The full U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote today at 12:15 pm ET, on the nomination of John K. Bush to the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

As readers will recall, Bush has recorded his extremist views in a blog full of rhetoric so inflammatory as to call into serious question his ability to serve as an impartial judge. Among other personal diatribes, he posted a photo with a message to those who vandalized a McCain-Palin sign: ‘Do it again and you will find out what the 2nd Amendment is all about!!!’ In another post, Bush likened abortion to slavery, calling them the ‘two greatest tragedies in our country.’ The blog is full of personal attacks on those with whom he disagrees. He has no particular qualifications for the bench besides his right-wing views.

This is from court watchers at the nonpartisan Alliance for Justice:

“Paperwork submitted by John K. Bush, President Trump’s nominee for the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, reveals that Bush has spent a decade writing inflammatory and, often, offensive blog posts for the website Elephants in the Bluegrass.

Writing under a pseudonym, G. Morris, Bush authored more than 400 entries for the ultraconservative blog run by his wife Bridget Bush. While Bush pontificates on a broad swath of issues, one common theme runs throughout his writings: Bush displays a remarkable contempt for any issue he deems liberal or progressive, often launching into personal attacks on individuals he disagrees with. Bush’s writings should disqualify him for a lifetime seat on the federal bench for two reasons. First, Bush’s writings raise serious concerns about whether, as a judge, he will be able to approach the issues presented to him with an open mind, applying the law to the facts of the case without regard to his personal ideology. Second, Bush’s distasteful rhetoric demonstrates that he lacks the judicial temperament necessary to serve as a federal judge.”

As Supreme Court expert Ian Millhiser of the Center for American Progress explains in an excellent post, “this is not normal.” What’s more, Bush’s legal views are extreme on an array of issues:

“In any event, Bush’s public statements and writings do not simply reveal political views that place him very far to the right. They also reveal legal opinions that are widely out of step with well-established law accepted by Democrats and Republicans alike. That’s not something that presidents typically look for in judicial nominees.”

At last report, both Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis were expected to vote “yes” on the nomination.

Commentary

Scathing letter to the editor calls out Phil Berger as his hometown hospital goes bankrupt

Winston-Salem Journal reader and letter to the editor writer Wendy Marshall had some powerful words for North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem and Medicaid expansion opponent Phil Berger (pictured at left) today. Marshall’s pointed comments came in response to a recent WRAL.com editorial (rerun by the Journal) entitled “The cost of not expanding Medicaid.” As the editorial notes, the hospital in Berger’s hometown of Eden is now on “life-support” as the result of North Carolina’s failure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Here’s Marshall’s letter:

Failing hospitals

Like his Republican companions in the state legislature, Senate leader Phil Berger was willing to let his hometown hospital in Eden go bankrupt rather than expand Medicaid under Obamacare (“The cost of not expanding Medicaid,” journalnow.com, July 17).

The hospital is the largest employer in Eden. Jobs will be lost, bills will go unpaid and it’s likely that people will die, largely because of the legislature’s insistence on letting our federal tax dollars go to people in other states, all so they can say they fought Obamacare.

I wish I could ask Berger to his face: Is it worth it?

Several rural hospitals in the state have closed since the legislature refused to expand Medicaid. And yet the legislature complains that rural areas aren’t getting enough resources. We also know that the opioid crisis has hit rural areas hard. Refusing to expand Medicaid makes no sense.

I can’t shake the feeling that there’s some underlying motive behind today’s conservatives’ insistence on undermining government on every level and sacrificing every common good we share, all for the holy cause of more tax cuts for the rich.

Is there? Is there something they’re not telling us?

How much evidence do conservatives need before they understand that their elected representatives mean them no good?

Wendy Marshall, Winston-Salem

Commentary

When will the Right realize it has lost the healthcare debate?

At some point, you’ve got to think that congressional Republicans will finally understand that they’ve done enough damage to the country with their repeated failed efforts to hose up the nation’s flawed but improved healthcare system. Unfortunately, we still may not be there yet. There’s even talk of simply repealing the Affordable Care Act without replacing it all given that Republicans can’t come up with anything better.

But make no mistake, a “repeal without replace” bill is probably the worst possible result. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explained last night:

“By reviving a version of a vetoed 2015 bill to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement, Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pursuing legislation that would cost even more people their health coverage, raise premiums in the individual market even higher, and inflict even more damage to insurance markets than the ACA repeal bill that just died in the Senate because it lacked the votes to pass….

The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO’s) January analysis found that a repeal-without-replace bill would cause 32 million people to lose coverage, double premiums in the individual market, and cause the individual market to virtually collapse”

Meanwhile a new editorial in the Charlotte Observer rightfully blasts Republicans for their serial dishonesty and failure to recognize defeat on the matter. This is from “The last big Republican lie on health care”:

“Don’t believe Republicans about Obamacare, because the GOP has been wrong again and again – often intentionally so – about the Affordable Care Act. It’s not dying, as lawmakers insist. It’s stabilizing, and it could be made stronger if Republicans worked with Democrats to fix its flaws.

Don’t believe Republicans about their health care solutions, because they have too often misled Americans about what their legislation would accomplish. That includes the White House encouraging Americans to ignore dire estimates about Republican bills from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. That also includes McConnell secretly telling moderate Republicans last week that Medicaid cuts in the Senate health care bill would never actually happen.

Don’t believe Republicans about just letting Obamacare die because being inattentive – or worse, sabotaging the bill by cutting off subsidies to insurers – could result in a health care (and political) disaster. Insurers want stability; without it, premiums will spike and millions will lose coverage.

Most of all, don’t believe Republicans about finding a viable replacement for the Affordable Care Act, because if the last six months have shown us anything, it’s that the party in power is incapable of doing so.”

The editorial warns that GOP leaders risk making their party extinct if they blindly plow ahead with repeal. It ends with this plea:

“Repeal or not repeal, they’ve lost on Obamacare. It’s time to stop lying – to themselves.”

Commentary, News

Leaked Trump administration document undermines assault on renewable energy, support for coal and nukes

Image: Natural Resources Defense Council

There’s a fascinating story emerging from the Trump administration’s Department of Energy — you know the agency headed by that dancin’ fool and fossil fuel cheerleader Rick Perry. According to a leaked DOE draft report obtained by Bloomberg, many of the administration’s claims about renewable energy and fossil fuels are all wet. Here’s Think Progress climate policy expert, Dr. Joe Romm in a post from late yesterday:

On Saturday, we reported that a leaked draft of Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s grid study obtained by Bloomberg debunks his attack on renewable energy.

ThinkProgress has now obtained a copy of that draft, and it has many more surprises?—?or, rather, findings that are fairly well known to energy experts but may come as an unpleasant surprise to Perry and the White House. For instance, a large fraction of America’s aging fleet of coal and nuclear plants are simply not economic to operate anymore.

The July draft, which ThinkProgress received from multiple sources, is here, so the public will be able to compare the final “politically-approved” version with the draft prepared by Department of Energy (DOE) staff. It is widely feared Perry’s team of Trump appointees will simply erase the the study’s inconvenient truths before it final report is released to the public.

The release of the study has been delayed several weeks?—?and the findings in the draft might explain why. The study was specifically requested to back up Perry’s claims that EPA regulations, along with renewable power sources like solar and wind power, were undermining the U.S. electric grid’s reliability by forcing the premature closure of “baseload” (24–7) power sources like coal and nuclear.

But the leaked July draft concludes the grid is as reliable than ever….

The bottom line is that “as long as natural gas prices stay down and there is an oversupply of energy in many hours of the day and year [because of zero-marginal-cost renewable power] the typical nuclear plant will lose money on every kWh produced, and not be able to make it up on volume.”

As an aside, if existing nuclear power plants are unprofitable, it should be pretty obvious that building a new nuclear power plant, which costs many billions of dollars?—?makes no economic sense at all.

Similarly, coal is also hurt by its high marginal cost: “[Coal] plants that have retired are old and inefficient units that were not recovering their operations and fuel costs, much less capital cost recovery….”

It’s really no surprise that DOE staff would conclude renewables are not threatening grid reliability. After all, many countries around the world, such as Germany, have integrated far higher percentages of solar and wind than we have, while maintaining high reliability.

The only surprise remaining is how many of these findings Trump’s political appointees will erase.

Commentary

Editorial blasts Superintendent Mark Johnson’s bizarre Putin-like blackout

In a story broken by NC Policy Watch reporter Billy Ball last week, it was revealed that the state’s new conservative schools superintendent has placed a virtual gag order on information sharing within his department. As Ball reported:

“Multiple sources within the department, past and present, say the edict will slow or stop the dispersal of vital information in the summer months as the agency prepares for the 2017-2018 academic year. Some of those sources wished to go unnamed, fearing reprisal.

‘In the past, we’ve been trusted as professionals to go ahead and communicate,’ one longtime staffer told Policy Watch. ‘This is a political control move, and it’s just blatant. I don’t know you can interpret it any other way.’

Over the weekend, the editorial page of the Wilmington Star News weighed in on the controversy by blasting Johnson, whom it likened to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Here’s the conclusion:

“Just recently, he ordered his department’s staff to stay off their email server for the entire month of July, saying they would ‘take a break in the distribution of information to the field and to other lists for stakeholders.’

This struck lots of former employees — and members of the N.C. Association of Educators — as more than a trifle odd.

July is normally a busy month for the Department of Public Instruction. These might be the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, but at this point the opening of the fall school term is only six weeks away.

State education officials have to sort through all sorts of new rules that The Honorables, in their wisdom, just imposed upon them, including 24 mandatory reporting requirements.

Johnson says the staff will communicate as necessary in other ways — by quill pen, perhaps, or carrier pigeon?

And besides, he’ll still email out public meeting notices required by law and updates to the student information system, which includes end-of-year requirements for the schools.

Otherwise, with the department’s communications director just retired, and the office vacant, all communications have to pass directly through Johnson’s office to be approved.

Vladimir Putin would be impressed.

Why the security crackdown? There are some possibilities.

A darling of the Republican faction running the state Senate, Johnson will be enforcing changes in the department required under the newly adopted state budget.

This will include budget cuts, even as the state’s total school enrollment grows, and the elimination of several specific posts in the department’s hierarchy.

By coincidence, many of these happen to have been filled by known associates of ex-Superintendent Atkinson and of state Board of Education chairman Bill Cobey, a Republican ex-congressman who has run afoul of the party’s current flavor of orthodoxy.

Apparently a lot of work needs to be done in the dark when nobody’s watching and cowed employees aren’t talking. It’s hard to see how any of this will do much good for North Carolina’s students.

Maybe Johnson could muster a tweet.”