What We're Reading

Daily Reads: “Dangerous Times” as Trump Declares War on the Media; Neil Gorsuch Is an Ideologue

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Daily Reads: "Dangerous Times" as Trump Goes to War on Media

CBS Chief White House Correspondent Major Garrett asks a question during a White House daily briefing at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House June 27, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Political Kryptonite –> The GOP’s tax cut bill, financed by sharp reductions in public spending on health care, is historically unpopular, according to three new polls. Aaron Blake writes for The Washington Post that “support for the bill is languishing between just 1 out of every 8 Americans and 1 out of every 6 Americans, according to the Marist (17 percent), Suffolk (12 percent) and Quinnipiac (16 percent) polls. In each case, a majority opposes the bill. That’s a level of popularity so low that it’s difficult to believe the bill is even being entertained.”

Despite that, Vox’s Sarah Kliff warns that we shouldn’t “be fooled: the Senate’s Obamacare repeal effort remains very alive.” Kliff says the passage of the House bill last month — after it had been yanked from the floor for lack of majority support — is instructive. “It is clear,” she writes, “that McConnell and his fellow Republican senators view this delayed vote as a temporary obstacle, not a death knell for Obamacare repeal. Senate leadership has reportedly set a Friday deadline for a new draft of the bill. The Congressional Budget Office could score it next week, setting up a mid-July vote.”

Several of the GOP’s more moderate senators signaled on Wednesday that it had been a mistake to try to pass such a bill without input from Democrats, and some Democrats seemed at least somewhat receptive to the idea of starting over in a bipartisan fashion, but Josh Barro writes at Business Insider that while the bill could be softened, and the pain it would inflict on lower-income people might be ameliorated to some degree, there is no way that it will ever be popular because the fundamental assumptions behind the effort are just wrong.

In any event, there’s a lot at stake. Ryan Lizza writes at The New Yorker that “the GOP has adopted a major — even radical — agenda: transforming a massive sector of the economy, slashing taxes and rewriting the entire tax code, passing a budget that would dramatically reduce the size of government… but if health-care reform goes down this summer, the rest of the plan may sink with it.”

Related –> A sad longread by Anna Maria Barry-Jester for FiveThirtyEight shows how broad swaths of the southern “Black Belt” — “predominantly rural counties where a large share of the population is African-American” — have largely been cut off from the American health care system. What’s more, “since most Southern states chose not to expand Medicaid, there’s no clear way to dismantle that barrier. And a GOP push not only to roll back the expansion but also to shift costs onto states for the long standing parts of the program could leave even more people uninsured or with access to fewer services.”

Top 10 percent of US households now own 75 percent of our wealth –> That stunning number and a remarkable chart come to us via Pedro Nicolaci da Costa at Business Insider.

Very dangerous times” –> At The American Prospect, Adele M. Stan weighs in on the escalating war of words between Trump and his supporters and the mainstream press, writing that when regime officials “lie to the American people — for the purpose of obscuring behavior by administration figures that is, at best, of questionable ethics, and at worst, egregiously corrupt—the exercise of a free press can be fairly said to be impaired.”

And Brad Reed at Raw Story writes that James O’Keefe’s latest “sting” amounts to getting Van Jones to say stuff on a hidden camera that he often says quite openly on CNN and claiming it’s a big scoop.

Intrigue –> At Washington Monthly, Nancy LeTourneau says that a number of signs suggest that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, may have “flipped” and is now working with Kremlingate investigators. “Given reports about Manafort’s participation in money laundering and his connections to Russian mafia figures, it is possible that [Robert] Mueller’s team now has enough evidence to threaten criminal charges unless he cooperates,” she writes.

And it looks like Senate investigators have struck a deal to get their hands on the memos that former FBI Director James Comey prepared after each of his contacts with Trump. Austin Wright has the details at Politico.

In the lower chamber, House investigators want to “interview Keith Schiller, President Donald Trump’s longtime bodyguard-turned-White House aide,” in what ABC’s Cecilia Vega and Benjamin Siegel call “a new phase in the investigation” that’s now “touching Trump’s inner circle.”

And on Wednesday, Nicholas Burns, who served as undersecretary of state under George W. Bush, “blasted” the Trump regime for its lack of interest in Russian interference in the 2016 election. “Russia’s going to do this again,” said Burns in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, “and if [Trump] continues to refuse to act, it’s a dereliction of the basic duty to defend the country.” Patricia Zengerle and Dustin Volz have that story for Reuters

Meanwhile, Sara Murray and Dana Bash report for CNN that “Trump’s own advisers are struggling to convince him that Russia still poses a threat.”

Eat your vegetables (while you can still afford to) –> Tom Philpott writes at Mother Jones that “Trump’s crackdown on immigration” is “bad news for farmers” and “terrible news for anyone who eats food.”

Protecting “white men from hate speech but not black children” –> Facebook certainly has a tough challenge balancing its two billion members’ ability to speak freely while also protecting them from threats and various forms of harassment. But Julia Angwin and Hannes Grassegger report for ProPublica that some of the giant social media company’s “secret censorship rules” make a mockery of the concept of “protected classes” of people.

Grand Theft SCOTUS –> Noah Feldman writes at Bloomberg that while “it’s customary for new Supreme Court justices to ease into the job,” Neil Gorsuch “has flung himself into his truncated first term like a whirlwind” and clearly “wants to establish himself as the new leader of the court’s conservative wing.”

And Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern shredded Gorsuch’s dissenting opinion on an LGBT rights case this week, writing that it was “legally incoherent and factually inaccurate — an amateurish effort to justify anti-gay discrimination through deeply dishonest analysis and an outright untruth.”

Grand Theft Police –> Earlier this month, an investigation by Reason found that Illinois’ asset forfeiture law — which allows police to confiscate property without due process and places the burden of proof that it wasn’t involved in criminal activity on the person they took it from — was disproportionately impacting poorer neighborhoods. Now Reason’s C.J. Ciaramella reports that “the Illinois legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill… tightening the state’s civil asset forfeiture laws and shifting the burden of proof onto the government to show why it should be allowed to keep seized property.” Good job.

The ACLU’s watching closely –> “Public schools in Kentucky can soon teach reading, writing and the book of Revelation,” reports Lawrence Smith at Louisville’s WDRB. “At the Capitol on Tuesday, Gov. Matt Bevin gave his public ‘Amen’ to a bill allowing Bible courses in public schools.” The courts have long held that the Bible may be taught as a historical artifact or in comparative religion classes, but not used to preach or evangelize or otherwise privilege Christianity over other religions. The ACLU “said it’s concerned about how the law might be used in schools” and “will monitor the law closely.”

An Anti-1994 Crime Bill –> Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are proposing a bill called the “Reverse Mass Incarceration Act of 2017” that would “push back against Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ ‘tough on crime’ policies” by “incentiviz[ing] states through grant funding to decrease their prison populations,” according to Lydia Wheeler at The Hill.

We could have told him that wouldn’t work –> Last week, a Minnesota man was pulled over and then arrested for outstanding warrants. But before police could slap the handcuffs on him, he pulled out a “get out of jail free” card from a Monopoly game and tried to use it to get off the hook. According to a local NBC affiliate, the cop gave him an A for effort but hauled him in nonetheless.

Daily Reads was compiled by BillMoyers.com staff and edited by Kristin Miller.

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