erik lundegaard

Thursday July 27, 2017

'Mr. Lizza? Anthony Scaramucci on Line 1'

In a year of scoops, The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza has the scoop of the year.

It came about, ironically, because the new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was trying to plug leaks and find leakers, and in doing so leaked all over the place—including mostly on himself. It's comical, nuts, and definitely NSFW. The fact that Scaramucci didn't ask for the conversation to be off-the-record made it all possible and shows that you probably shouldn't trust such important positions to amateurs. At the same time, it makes you wonder what those off-the-record conversations around D.C. are really like. Do they make “Veep” seem tame? As this does? Seriously, Scaramucci has done something no one thought possible: He has made Sean Spicer, who resigned rather than work with Scaramucci, seem smart. 

I particularly love examples of Lizza's journalistic due diligence, often in parenthetical form, in the midst of this insanity:

“They'll all be fired by me,” [Scaramucci] said. “I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus—if you want to leak something—he'll be asked to resign very shortly.” The issue, he said, was that he believed Priebus had been worried about the dinner because he hadn't been invited. “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: “ 'Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.' ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.)

On the plus side, no one will ever be able to look at Steve Bannon again without imagining a certain onanistic maneuver. 

Stay classy, Trump admin.

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Posted at 03:21 PM on Jul 27, 2017 in category Quote of the Day
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The Skinny on the Skinny Repeal Bill

John Cassidy parses what Mitch McConnell is up to with his run-it-up-see-who-salutes approach to remaking the health insurance industry in America. Most the time, of course, a majority of senators don't salute (57 here, 55 there), but McConnell may be able to pass a “skinny repeal” bill that would remove the individual and employer mandates of Obamacare, and those are the things that help control costs.

Then there's this:

The other, even bigger, problem with the “skinny repeal” bill is that it likely won't be designed to be the final version of the Republican legislation. Practically everybody on Capitol Hill believes that McConnell is putting it forward as a ruse to toss the ball to a House-Senate conference, which could then come back with a much broader bill that would torpedo the insurance exchanges, roll back the Medicaid expansion, and get rid of the taxes on the rich.

I can't imagine what the soul of Mitch McConnell is like. Or the souls of the Republicans who keep voting for these abominations. That's the astonishing thing: the number of Republicans willing, wanting, chomping-at-the-bit to cut Medicaid in order to fund a tax break for the super-wealthy. This doesn't get enough attention. It deserves more. Drag it into the light. Drag them into the light.

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Posted at 06:42 AM on Jul 27, 2017 in category Politics
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Wednesday July 26, 2017

M's Game: Sale Sails, M's Mum

Rafael Devers gets his first Major League hit, a homerun, at Safeco Field

The youngest Red Sox homerun since 1965.

It was a beautiful day for a crappy ballgame, but I kind of expected that. Pitching for the Mariners was Andrew Moore, whom I'd seen make his not-bad Major League debut a month ago against Detroit. Since then he'd started four games and gone 1-3, while his ERA ballooned to 5.70. Going for the Red Sox was ... Chris Sale, currently leading the AL in innings pitched, strikeouts, wins, WHIP, WAR, and ERA. So not exactly a fair fight.

Worse, once again, Safeco Field was a coven for opposition fans who had no fear of making noise. I don't do well with this. I want to say, “This is our house!” as Felix said, “This is my house!” last year to Blue Jays fans, but it feels like I'm the only one saying it. But it's the Red Sox, right? I can get along with those guys. We have our mutual hatred of the Yanks. I mean, on the way into the park, I had a good conversation with a Sox fan. It was all gonna be good. 

Except sitting a seat away from me in Section 327 were two chuckleheads in Sox gear and they turned out to be all noise, no signal. During routine pop flies by Mariners players, they would chant, “Practice practice.” Seahawks QB Russell Wilson threw out the first pitch and they actually stood up and booed. I stood up, too, and warned them, “Yeah, you don't do that here. Not in Seattle. Cheer your team, but you don't boo Russell Wilson.” I said it all with a smile. That smile soon went away. 

When did it go away? Maybe in the top of the second when the Sox scored a run, threatened more, and Sox fans at Safeco, including the chuckleheads, began chanting, “Let's go, Red Sox!” In my house? I felt the rage, and was chanting, “Shut up, Red Sox!” right back. Then I reminded myself to relax. You can't control it. You're not responsible. Breathe deep. I noticed their No. 9 hitter was a guy named Devers. Rafael Devers. Third base? Who was normally third base for the Sox? Not him. According to the Safeco scoreboard he had played exactly zero games this year, with zero at-bats. “Was it his Major League debut?” I wondered. “Or just his 2017 debut?” At 2-0, he fouled off to left with some pop. “Kid's got strength,” I thought. Next pitch wound up in the centerfield bleachers. 2-0, Sox. I watched him round the bases, get congrats in the dugout. “Do you know this guy?” I asked the chuckleheads. “Is he a prospect?” They didn't know. “Because he hasn't batted this year. And if he'd never batted in the Majors, well, he just hit a homerun in his first at-bat. And that's a rare thing.” 

Turns out it wasn't his first at-bat. Devers' ML debut was last night against the M's when he went 0-4 with two walks. Had I read the scoreboard wrong the first time? Nope. The M's scoreboard was simply wrong again

Indeed, when Devers came up again in the top of the 4th, just after catcher Sandy Leon made it 4-0 with a 2-out, 2-run homer, the Safeco scoreboard credited him with a 1.000 OBP, a 4.000 slugging percentage, and an unreadable OPS. For a few seconds. Then it corrected itself. But that homer was his first hit. He's also, at 20 years, 275 days, the youngest BoSox player to homer since Tony Conigliaro did it at 20 years, 265 days in 1965.  

Meanwhile, Chris Sale sailed. Tall and lanky (6'6", 172), he didn't even look like he was trying hard until Jean Segura roped a one-out double in the third. Then he seemed to take it up a notch—striking out Ben Gamel on three pitches, Nelson Cruz on four. He went 7 innings, gave up 3 hits, no runs, walked one, struck out 11. No Mariner got past second. Just another day at the office. 

There was a bit of excitment in the 9th—by which time I was sitting in the sun next to the left field foul pole—when, with one out, off reliever Blaine Boyd, Kyle Seager singled and Guillermo Heridia walked. So they called for Craig Kimbrel, the best closer in baseball. I looked at his stats: 42 IP, 18 hits, 6 runs, 76 strikeouts, 7 walks, 1.29 ERA. Oy. He faced two guys, threw 9 pitches, got two more strikeouts, walked off with an easy save. I walked out of the park. 

On the plus side, the win kept the Red Sox a game ahead of the Yankees in the AL East. Ya gotta like that. Chuckleheads notwithstanding.

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Posted at 05:39 PM on Jul 26, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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Trump's Trans Ban, the Rebuttal

Posted at 09:21 AM on Jul 26, 2017 in category Quote of the Day
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An American Travesty, Worn with Pride

John Cassidy, New Yorker, “The Senate Health-Care Vote Is a Travesty,” before the Motion-to-Proceed vote yesterday:

When future historians look back on American governance during the early decades of the twenty-first century, they will have many tragic and troublesome episodes to dwell on: the hanging chads of Palm Beach County, the invasion of Iraq, the passage of the Patriot Act, the Citizens United ruling, the Republican-controlled Senate's refusal to grant Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland a hearing, and the election of Donald Trump and his subsequent dumbing down and demeaning of the Presidency.

In this chronology, Tuesday's health-care vote may also figure prominently: it could well be remembered as a historic abuse of the legislative process that the Founders spent so much time and energy constructing. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, is asking his colleagues to vote blindly and authorize consideration of a health-care-reform measure that could dramatically affect the welfare of tens of millions of Americans and shake up roughly a sixth of the U.S. economy. ...

It is a ludicrous situation, and one that makes a mockery of the idea of the Senate as a highfalutin deliberative body. No major bill in recent history has been railroaded through the upper chamber in such a manner—conceived of and written in secret, and subject to no markups or committee hearings. If McConnell were to succeed in getting some sort of bill passed, it would be a travesty.

About the only thing that can be said for the lawmakers who brought things to this juncture is that they have been pretty open about their intentions. Indeed, they appear to wear their cynicism with pride.

The motion to proceed passed. Now they're voting on all kinds of versions of a health care bill to see which one sticks. The GOP can do this because it has its own propaganda machine (Fox News, Breitbart, Drudge, Rush, Alex Jones), and can spin this travesty as a victory. 

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Posted at 09:03 AM on Jul 26, 2017 in category Politics
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'A Final Vote You'll Be Stuck With. Forever'

Yesterday sucked. The Republican party is awash in bastards and weak-kneed quislings. They're cowed by a bully who is despised around the world, and beloved only by toadies, racists and rich bastards.

Does the GOP have anyone worth a damn? Here's former U.S. Senator David Durenberger (R-MN), who, the day before, in USA Today, urged Republican Senators to vote against the Motion to Proceed on Mitch McConnells' unknowable and immoral health care bill:

This week, the Senate once again is set to vote on a health care bill that will radically change how people get coverage and who can afford their care. But unlike normal times, Senators, you are being asked to approve a Motion to Proceed to a vote:

  • Without knowing what will be in the bill you would vote on.
  • Without knowing what the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office will say about the impact of major amendments and the final bill on coverage and premiums.
  • With full knowledge that the Senate parliamentarian, who rules on what can and can't be allowed in a budget bill, has said that the Senate must remove provisions intended to prevent an insurance market death spiral of sicker patients driving up costs.
  • Without knowing the details of the secret state Medicaid waivers the Trump administration insists will make the bill work.
  • Without knowing how your own state budget will be impacted.
  • Without knowing how you will defend the provisions you will only learn about later, including the payoffs and other things that will be sneaked into the bill at the last minute.
  • Without even knowing which bill you are being asked to vote on, what the defining amendments will be and how much time you will have when being pressed for a final vote you'll be stuck with. Forever.

They did it anyway. John McCain, rushed from the hospital where he was receiving medical treatment via taxpayer dollars, voted to approve a motion that might soon (today?) lead to medical treatment being taken away from tens of millions of taxpayers. Then he went on the Senate floor and lambasted the entire process ... which he'd just voted should proceed. This to aid a president who has shown him nothing but contempt. The mind reels. 

On Facebook, Rick Perlstein quoted writer Scott Timberg, whose father, Robert, a Marine who was badly wounded in Vietnam, became McCain's first biographer:

My old man could never make sense of the Sarah Palin choice or his '08 campaign. ... 'How could a man who wouldn't let a Viet Cong jailer break him ... get broken by the Republican party?'

And again. Now the Senate is doing nothing but voting on shitty health care bills. They keep tossing them up and voting on them. I think of Cheney's line about how terrorists have to be right, or victorious, only once. That's the GOP with health care. The GOP is our terrorists.  

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Posted at 07:27 AM on Jul 26, 2017 in category Politics
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Psst: New York Times, NPR, Et al.

From “Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign against Joseph McCarthy” by David A. Nichols:

Sensing the chance to gain more headlines, [Joseph] McCarthy terminated his honeymoon and rushed back to take charge of the Monmouth investigation. Once back, he rolled out sensational charges every day. He was free to emerge from closed-door hearings and tell the press anything he wished, accurate or not, knowing that reporters would report whatever he said.

And it's still going on, Danny. In today's newspaper, it's still going on. 

Last night, for example, this was a headline on The New York Times' website:

Trump says Session recusal was bad for the presidency

This turn of events is astonishing. Sessions was Trump's first ally on the national stage, the man who backed him from the beginning, and who was rewarded with the power of the office of the U.S. Attorney General. And now? Most suppositions, mine included, is that Trump wants special counsel Robert Mueller fired for extreme competence, but Mueller's ostensible boss, Sessions, can't, since he recused himself from the Russian investigations. So Trump wants Sessions gone and a new USAG in his place—one who will fire Mueller. The brazenness and lawlessness of it all is astonishing.

And yet that's the hed. Here's the question every media outlet needs to ask itself when dealing with such matters: How does the above differ from what you would get from state-run media? How are we better than state-run media? If the answer is we're not, then work needs to be done. 

Work needs to be done. He was free to emerge from closed-door hearings and tell the press anything he wished, accurate or not, knowing that reporters would report whatever he said. McCarthy then, Trump now. 

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Posted at 06:34 AM on Jul 26, 2017 in category Media
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Monday July 24, 2017

M's Game: All Good Things

Ben Gamel

Ben Gamel after his seeing-eye single plated two. He looks a little like Treat Williams, doesn't he? 

On Sunday, June 11th, the New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles to sweep the three-game series in the Bronx, then won the next day against the Angels in Anaheim to run their record to 38-23—15 games over .500. They looked to be a lock for the AL East title. Yankee fans were already talking 41st pennant and 28th world championship.

That Sunday was also the day I returned from 2+ weeks in Europe. Just sayin'.

For the next six weeks the Yanks didn't win another series. They played 10 series and went 0-8-2. Last Thursday night they limped into Seattle with a 48-45 record, barely hanging onto the second wild-card spot. A good blow could end their season.

Instead, the Yanks won the first two games, then lost the third in extra innings Saturday night. My friend Jim and I went to Safeco yesterday for the finale. With a victory, we could keep their winless series streak alive. 

Staring for the Yanks was 25-year-old Caleb Smith, making only his second Major League appearance. Last week against Minnesota, he'd pitched 3 innings in relief, giving him 4 hits and 2 runs and getting stuck with the loss. This would be his first Major League start. That was the good news. 

The bad news? We were starting Yovani Gallardo and his 5+ ERA and he didn't exactly look sharp. On the second pitch Brett Gardner rocketed the ball into the right-field stands for a 1-0 Yankees lead. An inning later, Didi Gregorious did the same for a 2-0 Yankees lead. Every ball the Yankees hit (with the exception of catcher Gary Sanchez) seemed well-struck, sailing toward the stands. Most died on or by the warning track. A few were tracked down by centerfielder Guillermo Heredia. After 3 1/2 innings, we were down 3-0 but it seemed like we should've been down by more.

Then, in the bottom of the 4th, Danny Valencia singled for only our second hit of the game. Cano followed with a bloop single over the second baseman's head, and Nellie Cruz walked to load the bases. With no outs. This was our chance. 

But Seager struck out and Mitch Haniger fouled out. 

“We can't load the bases with nobody out and come away with nothing,” I said to Jim. 

We didn't. Ben Gamel poked the ball to the right-side that seemed almost comically out of reach of both the first and second basemen. That plated two. Then Herredia lined a double into the left-field gap to plate two more. And just like that we had the lead. 

And just like that we sat on it. 

In the top of the 6th, with one out, reliever James Pazos lost control, walking two batters. Then he gave up two singles, and the game was tied and the bases were loaded. Tony Zych came in and promptly gave up a double to Clint Frazier, and it was 6-4 Yankees. And who was coming to the plate? 6' 8" phenom Aaron Judge, who nearly hit one out, literally nearly out of the park Friday night. He was given a pass, of course. The Yankee fans around me thought it was a dumb move, since now they faced Sanchez, but I argued it was smart. Sanchez hadn't looked good, and Judge was getting out of his post-HR Derby slump. Plus it set up the double play.

We didn't need it: Zych got Sanchez to pop out and Matt Holliday to ground out to end the inning. Still, we were down by two. 

We didn't get another hit until the 9th, by which time Jim had left and Yankee closer Aroldis Chapman was on the mound. First man up, Nellie Cruz, lined a shot that went off Chapman's thigh for an infield single. Manager Scott Servais then removed Cruz for pinch runner Taylor Motter, who promptly got picked off. Of course Kyle Seager followed that debaccle with a double, then Sanchez allowed a passed ball. So it could've been 6-5, nobody out, tying run on third. Instead, with one out, we were still down by two. Of course Seager died on third. A pop out and strike out ended the game. File home, everyone. File home. 

So after six weeks the Yankees finally got their series win. They're now 5 games over. 500 and in the lead for the wild card race by one game. They have new life thanks to my team. Apologies to Yankee haters everywhere. Which, as recently confirmed, is most of us. 

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Posted at 10:46 AM on Jul 24, 2017 in category Seattle Mariners
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