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raysofcinema: INTERSTELLAR (2014) Directed by Christopher...

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raysofcinema:

INTERSTELLAR (2014)

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema

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jhamill
2 days ago
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Yes!
California
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The scandal over Health Secretary Tom Price's private charter flights, explained

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Pricey private flights raise new ethical concerns for HHS head.

Tom Price, President Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, entered his office under a cloud of ethics questions, dogged by a string of eyebrow-raising investments into pharmaceutical companies during his time as a Congress member.

Now the Georgia Republican is enduring a new round of inquiries about his unprecedented use of private jets for official travel since he joined the Cabinet.

According to a series of reports from Politico, Price has traveled by private plane at least two dozen times as HHS secretary, racking up a bill of $300,000. This was a sharp departure from his predecessors under the Obama administration, Politico noted, who usually flew commercial. Ethics experts have questioned the propriety of such trips.

“This wasteful conduct reflects disdain for the ethical principle of treating public service as a public trust,” Walter Shaub, who ran the US government ethics office under President Barack Obama, told Politico. “Public office isn’t supposed to come with frivolous perks at taxpayer expense.”

Price’s office has sought to defend the secretary, arguing he flew by charter when commercial flights were unfeasible and painting the travel as part of his efforts to reach ordinary Americans, including those ravaged by the hurricanes of the past few weeks. But, according to the Politico reports, Price has still flown privately even when there were viable commercial alternatives, and the charter flights started well before these recent natural disasters.

The HHS secretary is one of several senior Trump administration appointees who entered office plagued by ethical inquiries and who, while serving the president, have reignited those concerns. President Donald Trump came into office promising to “drain the swamp,” and Price is one of those Republicans who has a long record of urging fiscal responsibility.

These reports cast serious doubt on his stewardship of taxpayer dollars and the administration’s ability to deliver on those promises of good governance.

Tom Price’s charter flights, explained

The scandal started Tuesday, when Politico reported that Price had taken five private flights over the past week, costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. The outlet cited internal HHS documents. He traveled to Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, all for health care-related events.

In a general response to the report, an HHS spokesperson said: “When commercial aircraft cannot reasonably accommodate travel requirements, charter aircraft can be used for official travel.”

Politico readily disputed that explanation.

A few examples: Price took a charter flight from Washington Dulles International Airport to Philadelphia, departing at 8:27 am. A commercial United Airlines flight left at almost the exact same time. The United flight would have cost less than $750; the charter trip cost $25,000, according to Politico.

The Politico reporters Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan also noted that Price could have taken an Amtrak train to Philadelphia for less than $100 or been driven by SUV and potentially paid $30 in gas.

Both HHS secretaries under Obama, Kathleen Sebelius and Sylvia Mathews Burwell, flew commercial while traveling in the continental United States, Politico noted. And the Trump administration’s defense — that Price only flew privately when a commercial flight was infeasible — was undercut by further reporting.

On Thursday, Politico reported that Price’s private jet travel was even more extensive: The HHS secretary had taken at least 24 charter flights over the past year. The bill has grown to more than $300,000, the outlet reported, citing federal contracts and people familiar with the situation.

One charter flight from Washington to Nashville cost nearly $18,000, even though there were multiple nonstop commercial flights available that cost as little as $200.

HHS doubled down, arguing that Price was traveling to reach “the real American people,” as the department put it to the Washington Post, and the agency told Politico that Price went to see those devastated by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Then again, Politico noted that 17 of the flights it found occurred before the hurricanes made landfall in the United States. Price also took charter flights to events like the notoriously elite Aspen Ideals Festival and arrived nearly a full 24 hours before his scheduled appearance.

This isn’t the first time Price’s ethics have been questioned

The private flights would represent a sizable scandal on their own, but this isn’t the first time Price’s ethical compliance has been questioned.

After he was nominated to lead HHS, Price endured numerous reports about his investments in health care stocks while serving as a Congress member for Georgia’s Sixth District.

As Vox previously explained, Price bought and sold stock in more than 40 health care companies, stocks worth more than $300,000, as a Congress member. Despite appearances, most of those sales and purchases seemed to comply with House ethics rules.

However, there were a number of specific transactions and accompanying actions by Price that raised eyebrows:

  • In March 2016, according to CNN, Price bought up to $15,000 worth of stock in Zimmer Biomet, a medical device company that specializes in hip and knee implants. Two days later, he introduced legislation to delay a regulation that would have hurt the company’s business by changing how Medicare and Medicaid reimburse those procedures. Zimmer Biomet then donated to his campaign. (Price says he was not aware of the purchase, which was made by his broker.)
  • Price also bought shares in six pharmaceutical companies a week after a federal regulation was proposed that would lower reimbursements for doctors who prescribe expensive drugs for cancer and arthritis, according to Time magazine. The regulation was meant to help control health care costs by encouraging doctors to prescribe generic drugs and cheaper alternatives instead, and would have hurt pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines. The companies lobbied against the regulation, and Price sponsored legislation to block it. It was never enacted.
  • Price was able to take advantage of a special deal in another biotech firm, Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian company developing a multiple sclerosis drug, according to Kaiser Health News. Price was offered discounted shares for “sophisticated investors” in summer 2016 after making a smaller investment in the company in 2015. (A fellow member of Congress, Rep. Chris Collins, is on the company’s board; members of the Collins family own about 20 percent of the company.)

Though there was no definitive evidence that Price broke the law, Democrats sought to stop his confirmation amid the controversy. Price was confirmed 52 to 47 — with all Republican votes — in February.

These ethical scandals don’t sound like “draining the swamp”

Price, as a Congress member, very specifically criticized the private travel that he is now reported to have undertaken as HHS secretary. Bloomberg’s Steve Dennis pulled this clip:

“This is just another example of fiscal irresponsibility run amok,” Price said at the time.

There are also the icky optics of HHS Secretary Price spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on private flights while at the same time lobbying for a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare that would cut federal Medicaid spending by hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 10 years, versus current law.

Aisling McDonough, who helped oversee Medicaid during the Obama administration, noted that $300,000 — the reported price tag for Price’s flights — is equal to the cost of covering more than 50 people through Medicaid.

But setting aside Price’s own history of claiming fiscal responsibility, such a dubious use of federal funds seems to contradict Trump’s supposed fixation on draining the Washington swamp — as have other actions by other Trump administration officials.

“Drain the swamp” was a core pledge from Trump as a candidate: a blanket promise to pull up the weeds of corruption and ethical compromise in the nation’s capital.

“For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost,” Trump said in his inaugural speech. “Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth.”

But the Trump administration has been plagued from the start, and from the top down, with ethical compromise. There are, of course, the allegations of Trump using the presidency to create profits for his own businesses. Then there are the scandals, like that of Price’s charter flights, that suggest at the least negligence of taxpayer dollars and, at worst, their willful mismanagement.

It seems hard to believe this is what Trump voters believed they would be getting. Private flights, on the federal dime, while the rest of us fly coach.

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jhamill
2 days ago
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TL:DR

He is spending way too much fucking taxpayer money on travel.

Fixed it for you.
California
skittone
1 day ago
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Just Go Fucking Do It

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‘I wish you luck, and stubbornness, and the absence of the need for a permission slip from anybody. Just go fucking do it.’
– Elizabeth Gilbert

Via this interview with Rachel Khong on okreal.co

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jhamill
2 days ago
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Yes.
California
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The ACA *is* a bipartisan solution to healthcare

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Arizona Senator John McCain has publicly come out against the latest Republican attempt to repeal the ACA. His statement begins:

As I have repeatedly stressed, health care reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate. Committees of jurisdiction should mark up legislation with input from all committee members, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amendment. That is the only way we might achieve bipartisan consensus on lasting reform, without which a policy that affects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority.

I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of September 30th budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.

Many opponents of the ACA repeal are hailing McCain as a hero for going against his party leadership on this issue. I don’t see it — he’d still support a bill like Graham-Cassidy that would take away healthcare coverage from millions of Americans if only it were the result of proper procedure — particularly because of what he says next (italics mine):

We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009.

This is false. The NY Times’ David Leonhardt explained back in March during another Republican repeal effort:

When Barack Obama ran for president, he faced a choice. He could continue moving the party to the center or tack back to the left. The second option would have focused on government programs, like expanding Medicare to start at age 55. But Obama and his team thought a plan that mixed government and markets — farther to the right of Clinton’s — could cover millions of people and had a realistic chance of passing.

They embarked on a bipartisan approach. They borrowed from Mitt Romney’s plan in Massachusetts, gave a big role to a bipartisan Senate working group, incorporated conservative ideas and won initial support from some Republicans. The bill also won over groups that had long blocked reform, like the American Medical Association.

But congressional Republicans ultimately decided that opposing any bill, regardless of its substance, was in their political interest. The consultant Frank Luntz wrote an influential memo in 2009 advising Republicans to talk positively about “reform” while also opposing actual solutions. McConnell, the Senate leader, persuaded his colleagues that they could make Obama look bad by denying him bipartisan cover.

Adam Jentleson, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Harry Reid, said basically the same thing on Twitter:

The votes were party-line, but that was a front manufactured by McConnell. He bragged about it at the time. McConnell rarely gives much away but he let the mask slip here, saying he planned to oppose Obamacare regardless of what was in the bill. Those who worked on and covered the bill know there were GOP senators who wanted to support ACA — but McConnell twisted their arms. On Obamacare, Democrats spent months holding hearings and seeking GOP input — we accepted 200+ GOP amendments!

For reference, here was the Senate vote, straight down party lines. Hence the “ramming” charge…if you didn’t know any better. Luckily, Snopes does know better.

According to Mark Peterson, chair of the UCLA Department of Public Policy, one easy metric by which to judge transparency is the number of hearings held during the development of a bill, as well as the different voices heard during those hearings. So far, the GOP repeal efforts have been subject to zero public hearings.

In contrast, the ACA was debated in three House committees and two Senate committees, and subject to hours of bipartisan debate that allowed for the introduction of amendments. Peterson told us in an e-mail that he “can’t recall any major piece of legislation that was completely devoid of public forums of any kind, and that were crafted outside of the normal committee and subcommittee structure to this extent”.

The Wikipedia page about the ACA tells much the same story.

Tags: Adam Jentleson   David Leonhardt   John McCain   healthcare   politics
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wreichard
2 days ago
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This is really the ultimate insult of repeal and replace...that it was already for all intents and purposes an extreme compromise for anything remotely "liberal."
Earth
jhamill
2 days ago
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In a 24 hour news cycle, memories are short, which is less than ideal.
California
satadru
1 day ago
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New York, NY
Technicalleigh
2 days ago
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SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
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thejadedtongue: Young black woman being taught not to react to...

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thejadedtongue:

Young black woman being taught not to react to smoke being blown in her face, in a Civil Rights class in 1960.
I think too few people realize that these people needed to be trained to take the abuse they received. It’s all that much more powerful to realize how much work actually went into it.

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bibliogrrl
2 days ago
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Chicago!
jhamill
2 days ago
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California
Technicalleigh
2 days ago
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SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
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White Evangelicals Believe in Nothing

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These people are nihilists. by Rich Smith

Except for that whites are the best. And boyz rule. And America is #1.
These people are nihilists. Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Nice bit of eye-popping, soul-crushing, but ultimately predictable data journalism in The New York Times from Thomas B. Edsall this morning. According to a recent poll, during Obama's second term an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals thought immoral politicians couldn't do their jobs, but now an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals think immoral politicians can do their jobs.

Here's a nice little graph to illustrate that claim, which would serve perhaps just as well to illustrate the capriciousness of the Republican moral conscience:


I wonder what changed? Oh yeah, the President is white now.

So it's not that they believe in nothing, they just don't believe in what they say they believe in. As Edsall mentions, "all politics is identity politics," and American politics is tribal, not policy-based. So it follows that a largely segregated, majority Christian, and geographically isolated country would contain a number of voters who think that whites are the best, boys rule, and America's #1. As writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Claudia Rankine have pointed out in recent articles, those racist, sexist, nationalist beliefs constitute the foundation of American ethics. However wittingly, Trump and his ghouls ran on them, and Republican politicians followed along because, again as The Times notes, Trump still enjoys high approval ratings among those who consider themselves staunchly Republican.

Another illuminating fact from Edsall: according to three recent studies, the people who identify as most strongly Republican hold the most fluid political beliefs. "For many Republicans partisan identification is more a tribal affiliation than an ideological commitment," The Times writes, citing a Brigham Young University study by Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope. Thus a "Republican" belief is whatever the guy at the top says it is. Democrats elect Presidents; Republicans crown kings.

These numbers provide some support for what may seem obvious to even casual observers of the news: The people who purport to be the guardians of morality are actually mindless lemmings with daddy issues who are leashed and led by the rich.


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satadru
2 hours ago
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"Democrats elect Presidents; Republicans crown kings."
New York, NY
Technicalleigh
2 days ago
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``As Edsall mentions, "all politics is identity politics," and American politics is tribal, not policy-based. So it follows that a largely segregated, majority Christian, and geographically isolated country would contain a number of voters who think that whites are the best, boys rule, and America's #1.``
SF Bay area, CA (formerly ATL)
jhamill
2 days ago
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I wish there was a follow up study to see if Republicans know that they changed their beliefs so much in such a short time frame.
California
wreichard
3 days ago
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This period will be looked back upon with great shame.
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mareino
2 days ago
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"For many Republicans partisan identification is more a tribal affiliation than an ideological commitment."
Washington, District of Columbia
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