Lunchtime Photo

These two lovebirds are our favorite ducks. They are inseparable. Literally so: I don't think I've ever seen them more than a few yards apart for more than a few seconds. They are totally dedicated to each other. Mating for life has definitely worked out well for them.

Donald Trump has now admitted on national TV that he directly asked James Comey three times if he was under investigation. I will allow my attorney pal bmaz to comment:

I failed to take bmaz seriously enough when he told me that James Comey's July 5 press conference about the Hillary Clinton investigation was way out of bounds, and it's time to make up for that. The president of the United States cannot call the director of the FBI and ask if he is under investigation, especially when the threat of firing the FBI director is obviously hanging in the air. This is indeed fucking bananas.

Believe it or not, this headline isn't clickbait. Sarah Kliff reports that Nevada has figured it out:

Nevada made one policy decision that made selling marketplace coverage way more financially appealing (kudos to Louise Norris at HealthInsurance.org for reporting this first): It gave insurers that wanted to manage the state's Medicaid program an incentive to sell on the marketplaces too.

....Medicaid is a way bigger program than the Obamacare marketplaces....Nevada knew these were contracts insurers would want. So it told the health plans that Medicaid applications would get preferential treatment if the insurance plan committed to selling marketplace coverage in 2018.

And that is exactly what the Medicaid health plans did. Two insurance plans, Silver Summit and Aetna, bid for and won new Medicaid contracts. As a result, both are expected to join the marketplace next year.

This is, admittedly, not a long-term solution. Eventually the Obamacare exchanges will have to become profitable on their own. But as a short-term way of riding out the next couple of years while Trump and Congress do their best to screw everything up, it should work a treat.

Jonah Goldberg points out the following Trump timeline:

2016: “Well, sometimes you have to prime the pump,” he says. “So sometimes in order to get jobs going and the country going, because, look, we’re at 1% growth.”

Late 2016: "We are also going to lower our business tax rate from 35 percent all the way down to 15 percent. That’s going to be big. Going to prime the pump. Got to prime the pump."

Today: "We have to prime the pump....Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just...I came up with it a couple of days ago."

This is not good. "What is the right way to interpret Trump’s statement that he coined the phrase 'prime the pump' a few days ago?" asks Goldberg. Unfortunately, I think we all know the answer: Trump is 70 years old and his cognitive skills are deserting him. The evidence for this is becoming scarily abundant.

Behold our commander-in-chief making the tough decisions on weapons procurement for our newest trio of aircraft carriers:

You know the catapult is quite important. So I said what is this? Sir, this is our digital catapult system. He said well, we’re going to this because we wanted to keep up with modern [technology]. I said you don’t use steam anymore for catapult? No sir. I said, "Ah, how is it working?" "Sir, not good. Not good. Doesn’t have the power." You know the steam is just brutal. You see that sucker going and steam’s going all over the place, there’s planes thrown in the air.

It sounded bad to me. Digital. They have digital. What is digital? And it’s very complicated, you have to be Albert Einstein to figure it out. And I said—and now they want to buy more aircraft carriers. I said what system are you going to be—"Sir, we’re staying with digital." I said no you’re not. You going to goddamned steam, the digital costs hundreds of millions of dollars more money and it’s no good.

The Ford-class carriers use an electromagnetic catapult that goes with an entirely new shipwide electrical system: "Together, AAG and EMALS will not only reduce maintenance costs, Moore said, they’ll improve operations, allowing 30 percent more sorties per day — making a Ford the operational equal of 1.3 Nimitzes."

Needless to say, it's too late to switch back to steam since the Ford is basically finished and will begin acceptance trials shortly. This means that somebody in the Pentagon has to figure out how to quietly ignore the president's ramblings. Maybe someone should tell Trump the Chinese plan to use EMALS in their future carriers. We can't let ourselves fall behind the Chinese, can we, Mr. President? No, of course not. Now how about a nice nap? That's good. You just rest, Mr. President, while we take care of things for you.

Your Evening Zen

We've gone through a lot today, and you deserve a break. So here it is: the Huntington Beach pier at sunset on Wednesday. Just stare at it and relax for a while. Tomorrow will erupt soon enough.

Here's a quick evening roundup of Trump fuckuppery. First up, I'm sure you remember that the original White House story behind James Comey's firing was that deputy AG Rod Rosenstein had recommended it and Trump just went along. Well, it turns out there was a reason this story was abruptly retracted and revised today:

Second, poor old Sean Spicer is once again in the crosshairs:

Every few weeks we hear that Trump is sounding out replacements for Spicer, but somehow Spicer always seems to ride out the storm. But I have to say that being fired now, before things really descend to Ron Ziegler level, might be the best thing Spicer could hope for.

Finally, in non-Comey fuckuppery, Trump refused to let US photographers into the Oval Office for his meeting with the Russians this morning. However, he did allow a TASS photographer in, apparently under the impression he was just taking snapshots for Vladimir Putin's grandkids:

Trump (a) didn't know that TASS is a news agency, (b) didn't realize that letting a TASS photographer into the Oval Office might not be a great idea from a security point of view, and (c) didn't realize that publishing pictures of this meeting was the whole point Vladimir Putin had asked for it in the first place. Putin wanted evidence to show that Russia was back, baby, and this was it. It's scary how easily Trump was played on all this. It's also scary that apparently none of his advisors had the courage to tell Trump any of this stuff.

UPDATE: I have been informed that the correct spelling is fuckuppery, with two p's. I had no idea this was even a word, let alone one I could misspell. However, it's now corrected. I hope this acts as a lesson to you all.

Comey Comey Comey Comey. Let's catch up. Why exactly did Donald Trump fire the guy, anyway?

Right. Yesterday's official narrative was that, out of the blue, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein recommended Comey's termination, and Trump was like whatevs. Let's do it. Today the story has changed:

Last Wednesday was the day Comey falsely testified that Huma Abedin had forwarded "hundreds and thousands" of emails to her husband. But Trump didn't know it was false at the time, so obviously that had nothing to do with his "strong inclination" to fire Comey. What's more, this new timeline was released only after McClatchy posted an account of Monday's meeting, which forced the White House to make up a new story. So what exactly was it about Comey's testimony that bothered Trump so much?

Those FBI guys are pretty sharp! Yeah, it was Russia. And not just since last Wednesday, either. Here is Maggie Haberman in the New York Times:

By Monday, capping off months of festering grievances, Mr. Trump told people around him that he wanted Mr. Comey gone....Mr. Trump was adamant, denouncing Mr. Comey’s conduct in both the Clinton and Russia investigations, and left aides on Monday with the impression that he planned to take action the next day.

....The hostility toward Mr. Comey in the West Wing in recent weeks was palpable, aides said, with advisers describing an almost ritualistic need to criticize the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation to assuage an anxious and angry president....Roger J. Stone Jr., a longtime informal adviser to Mr. Trump who has been under F.B.I. scrutiny as part of the bureau’s investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, was among those who urged the president to fire Mr. Comey, people briefed on the discussions said.

The Washington Post confirms all this in interviews with "more than 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants and other senior Republicans":

Every time FBI Director James B. Comey appeared in public, an ever-watchful President Trump grew increasingly agitated that the topic was the one that he was most desperate to avoid: Russia....At his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., Trump groused over Comey’s latest congressional testimony, which he thought was “strange,” and grew impatient with what he viewed as his sanctimony, according to White House officials. Comey, Trump figured, was using the Russia probe to become a martyr.

....Trump was angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. He was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists.

....George Lombardi, a friend of the president and a frequent guest at his Mar-a-Lago Club, said: “This was a long time coming. There had been a lot of arguments back and forth in the White House and during the campaign, a lot of talk about what side of the fence [Comey] was on or if he was above political dirty tricks.”

And it turns out there was something else gnawing away at Trump:

Trump, angered by press coverage of the Russia investigation and Gen. [Michael] Flynn, has asked senior staff and the White House counsel’s office multiple times if it was appropriate to reach out to the fired National Security Adviser, according to a source close to Flynn and a Trump administration official with direct knowledge of the exchanges.

Needless to say, Trump has been forbidden from talking to Flynn since Flynn is under investigation by Trump's Department of Justice, and talking to him could be construed as witness tampering. So Trump is cut off from Flynn and growing more and more "isolated" within the White House, according to increasingly Nixonian press reports.

And how is the public responding to all this? We'll know in a few days. But Trump is already suffering in the polls, and Quinnipiac adds insult to injury by asking people the first word that comes to mind when they think of President Trump:

This is a trickier question than it seems. I myself tend to gravitate toward idiot, but I'm not happy with it. Nor is Trump quite a prototypical asshole. But what exactly is he? What single word best describes him? I just can't come up with one.

Just kidding. The real title is "Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2016: P20 Tables." Basically, the tables show that every natural Democratic Party constituency turns out to vote at low rates. For example, the young:

And the poor:

And the non-white and non-native:

There's nothing new here, and of course it's even worse in midterm elections. This reality has been the bane of the Democratic Party for decades. The natural base of the Democratic Party may be bigger than the GOP's, but they just don't turn out to vote. If Democrats ever figure out how to address this, they'll rule the country for the next century.

Lunchtime Photo

This is a wild radish, a common wildflower here in Southern California. It doesn't look much like a radish to me, but what do I know? If mom says it's a wild radish, it's a wild radish.

Please feel free to zen out and forget all about Donald Trump and James Comey for a few minutes. You're welcome.