Two Tragic Fires That Sparked Major Changes

Today we mark the anniversary of two tragic fires that occurred in New York City. In 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire claimed 146 lives and 79 years later, in 1990, the Happy Land fire killed 87 people, the most deadly fire in the city since 1911.

The Triangle Factory fire lead to major changes in fire safety and building codes. In New York State alone there were sixty laws passed. Those laws mandated better building access and egress, fireproofing requirements, the availability of fire extinguishers, the installation of alarm systems and automatic sprinklers, better eating and toilet facilities for workers, and limited the number of hours that women and children could work. The fire also gave rise to two important organizations the American Society of Safety Engineers and the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU).

This is an excerpt from an article I wrote in 2011 on the 100th anniversary of Triangle Factory Fire:

Some of the most important changes that resulted from the tragic deaths at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire were the reforms to work place health and safety conditions. Modern buildings now must conform to fire safety and occupancy standards. The Asch building loft were 500 women labored at overcrowded worktables did not have a sprinkler system, the exits were inadequate and locked, the passages were narrow and blocked and the fire escapes were unsafe. The fire compelled New York City to create the Bureau of Fire Prevention, which required stairwells, fire alarms, extinguishers and hoses be installed in all buildings and regularly conducts building inspection to insure compliance. The Bureau also determines maximum occupancy. The year after the fire the NY the legislature passed eight bills addressing workplace sanitation, injury on the job, rest periods and child labor. In 1913, the Factory Investigating Commission recommended that 25 new bills be passed mandating fireproof stairways and the safe construction of fire escapes, that doorways be a certain number of feet wide, and that older multi-storied buildings be inspected. In 1916, smoking was also outlawed in factories.

Frances Perkins, who would later become Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s Secretary of Labor, witnessed the women jumping from the windows that day. She would later comment that it was “the day the New Deal began.” In the ’30s, the New Deal included many of these provisions on the federal level. In 1933, Congress passed the National Industrial Recovery Act which also protected collective bargaining rights for unions.

The Happy Land fire led to a crack down on illegal social clubs, greater building and fire code inspections, and enforcement of occupancy regulations.

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March Madness: 2017 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Regional Semifinals (Round of 16)- Day 2

11:30 ESPN Maryland-Oregon

Dangerous. You should root for Oregon.

1:30 PM ESPN UConn-UCLA

UConn. You know who to root for.

4:00 ESPN South Carolina-Quinnipiac

The biggest underdogs in the Tournament, Women or Men. You should root for Quinnipiac.

6:00 ESPN Oregon State-FSU

Oregon State because Florida.

The Breakfast Club (Gender Equality)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led 25,000 marchers to the state capitol in Montgomery, Ala. 146 people were killed when fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Co. in New York. Aretha Franklin, Elton John born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.

Gloria Steinem

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March Madness: 2017 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Regional Semifinals (Round of 16)- Day 1

Women are stealing the show during March Madness, but the NCAA continues to neglect them
by Lindsay Gibbs, Think Progress
3/24/2017

When most people think about March Madness, they only think of the behemoth men’s tournament, which generates over $1 billion in advertising revenue alone, more than even the NBA playoffs. When they do think about the women’s game, often they only go as far as the University of Connecticut, which is partially understandable: the UConn women have won the last four NCAA tournaments (and six of the last eight), and are currently on a history-smashing 109-game win streak that extends back to 2014.

But as impressive as that is — and there really aren’t enough superlatives — there is much more to women’s NCAA basketball. This year alone, two double-digit seeds (№ 12 Quinnipiac and № 10 Oregon) made it to the Sweet 16 (only one on the men’s side), and there were nine games decided by one possession, compared to only seven in the men’s opening weekend. And still, there were those complaining about the lack of competitiveness in the women’s game.

That’s endlessly frustrating for those close to the sport. “For people crying for parity in the women’s game, that’s exactly what we saw across the board in the first two rounds,” freelance sportswriter Gabriella Levine told ThinkProgress.

Look, it makes sense why the men’s game is more popular than the women’s right now — it did get quite a head start, after all. The NCAA debuted a men’s basketball tournament in 1939, it didn’t host a comparable women’s tournament until 1982. (From 1971–1982, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women held a championship.) In fact, for most of last century, the women’s game was limited to six-on-six basketball, in which three players from each team remained on each side of the court. Running the full court was simply deemed to be too much work for the women. (This rule changed on the collegiate level in 1971, but didn’t change in many states until much later — Oklahoma didn’t abolish the rule until 1995.)

In 1996, the women’s tournament moved from CBS to ESPN to help its scheduling issues — CBS demanded that the Final Four and championship games be played on back-to-back days — and so that the earlier rounds of the tournament could get more coverage, since CBS would often only nationally broadcast the Final Four. That bet ultimately paid off — ESPN produces all 63 games, and they can be watched online if they are not being shown in your local market.

But being on ESPN has its drawbacks as well, as the games are still sometimes bumped from television for other ESPN sports programs, be it tennis or even the men’s NIT tournament, a showcase of teams not good enough to make it to the Dance.

Ultimately though, the biggest challenge that women’s basketball faces is that the men’s is still seen as the default, especially in March.

“When it comes to choosing between the men’s and women’s games, the media always chose the men’s,” Levine said.

ESPN might have the rights to the women’s game, but its website still features the men’s tournament much more prominently. At a bar on Saturday night, there were televisions turned to three blow-out men’s college basketball games; an NBA game where the starters were sitting; and an early-tournament World Baseball Classic game, despite the fact that there was a close women’s game coming down to the wire. Even the media center at the University of Maryland early on Sunday was showing the Michigan vs. Louisville men’s game instead of the battle on ESPN2 between the women of Kentucky and Ohio State, one of only two teams to beat the Terps this year.

It’s a shame, because people not tuning into the women’s tournament are missing out on a chance to enhance the madness — to see more upsets, more nail biters, and more incredible stories unfold in real time. And really, isn’t that the whole point?

There are initiatives in place to help develop the women’s tournament more — including hosting the first two rounds at the home courts of the top four seeds in each region as a way to boost attendance and cater to passionate local fans. (Hence Maryland’s home-court advantage.) And ESPN does devote significant resources into producing its games and pushing the women’s bracket challenge on its website, and the talent and care involved in the productions are notable.

But Levine says that it’s key that women’s basketball fans not fall in the trap of just being happy that women’s basketball games are being shown somewhere, and to continue to push for more thorough, consistent coverage — particularly in the form of beat reporters who spend week in and week out with the teams. Others are thinking even bigger than that. College basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli is a fierce advocate for moving the women’s Sweet 16 to Las Vegas, particularly as a way to cater to the male 18–34 demographic.

It’s a firm balance between pushing the sport to get bigger and better, while also understanding and embracing the historical and practical reasons why the women’s game is currently less popular than the men’s. After all, it has come a long way in the past couple of decades, and nobody is more aware than that than Elon head coach Charlotte Smith, who won the NCAA championship for the North Carolina Tar Heels when she hit a game-winning buzzer beater in 1994.

She said in the past 25 years she’s seen the crowds get bigger and the fans grow more passionate and diverse.

“There’s a lot more guys following women’s sports .. to hear them say, ‘We’re watching women’s basketball,’ that’s a great thing because basketball is basketball,” Smith said after Elon’s first-round loss to West Virginia in heartbreaking fashion in the program’s very first NCAA tournament appearance.

“I think [the women’s NCAA tournament has] grown in terms of popularity, attendance, and people respecting the game for what we do. A lot of us may not play above the rim, but we play a beautiful game below it.”

Besides, it’s a foul to hang on the rim except to prevent injury.

Actually I’d be very disappointed if the games moved out of Gampel and Harbor Yard before I go a chance to see them in person (what about incredibly busy are we not understanding?).

The essentials-

7:00 ESPN Notre Dame-Ohio State

Muffet, who has a name like Muffet? I can’t root for Ohio State either since they are the anti-Christ.

7:00 ESPN2 Mississippi State-Washington

Mississippi State is dangerous, therefore Washington. Besides Huskies Huskies would drive the announcers nuts.

9:00 ESPN Baylor-Louisville

Baylor are bullies, therefore Louisville.

9:00 ESPN2 Stanford-Texas

Well, Stanford would set up a sibling rivalry match, besides- Texas.

March Madness: 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Regional Semifinals (Round of 16)- Day 2

Meh, who cares? Except for this-

The Kentucky Wildcats are the only honest team in college basketball
DJ Gallo, The Guardian
Friday 24 March 2017 06.00 EDT

The NCAA tournament field is down to the Sweet 16 weekend of games, featuring 15 collegiate programs and the Kentucky Wildcats, a D-League team that is still officially unaffiliated with the NBA.

John Calipari’s team will take the court on Friday night featuring three freshmen starters in De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Edrice Adebayo – all of whom are expected to go in the first round in June’s NBA draft, with Fox and Monk slated to be selected among the first few picks. This one-and-lottery-pick approach is the way it’s been at Kentucky since Calipari arrived in 2009. He had sim players taken in both the 2012 and 2015 drafts, and five in 2010. Eighteen freshmen have left Lexington after a single season since his debut season, including some of the biggest NBA stars today: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns. Five more players were a bit slower to develop and suffered the unique Kentucky humiliation of only being able to go pro after two years in college.

“Coach Cal tells all his recruits – he told me – ‘I get guys to where they want to go. I like to make their dream come true,’” Davis said before the 2012 NBA draft when he went No1 overall. “He runs this program as if it were an NBA team. He lets us run up and down the floor … teaches us a lot of things that players in the NBA do. I would say we’re kind of getting a head start on what’s going to happen at the next level.” Today Davis is a four-time NBA All-Star and makes more than $30m a year on and off the court.

Kentucky is college basketball’s one open and unabashed NBA factory and recruits keep rewarding the program for its honesty. Five of the top 32 players in the 2017 class as rated by ESPN have committed to come to Lexington next year to replace Fox, Monk and Adebayo, and that many more will undoubtedly roll on through in 2018, as well.

The kids that go to Kentucky are signing up because they want careers as professional basketball players. Calipari isn’t forcing them away from their desired futures as school teachers or astronauts, demanding they don’t receive four-year educations. These are players who have worked their whole lives to be NBA-quality and are going to the college that gives them the best chance to go pro. It’s the same way the nation’s top-rated flute recruit is probably going to pick Juilliard over Kentucky.

This is exactly what I hate about NCAA Men’s Basketball and Throwball. The NBA and NFL should pay for their own damn development leagues just like Baseball does. Nothing but a bunch of freeloaders sucking at the public tit.

The essentials-

7:09 CBS North Carolina-Butler

7:29 TBS Baylor-South Carolina

9:39 CBS Kentucky-UCLA

9:59 TBS Florida-Wisconsin

Actually I do care about this one. Wisconsin should win.

Trumpcare Is Dead

We did. We the people sent the message to our representatives not to mess with our healthcare. People called their offices by the tens of thousands to tell them not to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We saw through the GOP scam to take health insurance away from people who need it most by making it even more affordable. Let’s be honest, the repeal and replace bill was nothing more that a nearly trillion dollar tax cut for the wealthy.

This afternoon House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) pulled the American Health Care Act from consideration because the Republicans could not get the 215 votes needed to pass it. The bill was so bad that even Republicans couldn’t support it.

The president and GOP congressional leadership continue to lie about the ACA. The biggest lie is that it is collapsing or “imploding.” It is not. MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid debunks the GOP lies about the ACA in this article at The Daily Beast

Obamacare is not imploding. Nor is it collapsing. Nor is it a “ticking time bomb” that Obama ordered B613 to set to go off the moment he left office and he and Michelle arrived in New York City looking younger than you.

Don’t believe me? Ask the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which concluded in its report on the Trump-Ryan replacement plan that the “non-group” market, the individual insurance market in which people sign up on state or federal exchanges, “would probably be stable in most areas under either current law or the legislation.” In other words, it can survive whether or not Republicans “repeal and replace” Obamacare, because even when premiums spike, as they did in 2016, in large part because of Republicans in Congress and 19 states actively sabotaging the law, those increases are offset by the federal subsidies people get under Obamacare, which rise as premiums rise, according to people’s incomes. In fact, of the new signups this year, 84 percent were eligible for subsidies which covered 73 percent of the price of their premiums.

So while Republicans really want Obamacare to collapse, and indeed they’ve tried very hard to make it collapse so they could have an excuse to repeal it; the law is not, in fact, collapsing.

Nor is it in a “death spiral” – which actually has a specific meaning, which Politifact defines as “… a cycle where shrinking enrollment leads to a deteriorating risk pool (that is, healthy people leave the plan due to the cost). That leads to higher premiums, which causes enrollment to shrink even further, continuing the cycle.”

Well, that’s not happening, either.

According to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal government agency that keeps track of these things, 12.2 million people enrolled in health plans during this year’s open enrollment period. That’s less than the 13.8 million people the Department of Health and Human Services projected, but by definition, if millions of people are still signing up for insurance under the ACA, rather than dropping it, Obamacare cannot be in a death spiral.

On the contrary, thanks to Obamacare, roughly 22 million people have gained insurance, between the exchanges andsubsidies, the Medicaid expansion, and those remaining on their parents’ plans. As a result, the uninsured rate is at a record low of below 11 percent. It would be even lower, and the CBO would not have been so wrong in its estimate of how many people would be covered by now, had 28 Republican-led states refused to set up their own exchanges, and had 19 Republican-led states not refused to accept the Medicaid expansion. You’ll recall, they went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2012 to establish the fact that they could keep millions of their own people from accessing Medicaid through Obamacare. Roughly half of those who are uninsured by Republican fiat live in just two states: Texas and Florida.

Ryan himself bragged about the Republican-led congress withholding money from Obamacare’s risk pools in order to help elect a Republican president and cripple the law. When the Trump administration took over, they went so far as to cancel the TV commercials urging people to sign up.

Meanwhile, there’s another lie that Republicans have used to try and sell their “repeal and replace” boondoggle: saying Aetna is one of many insurers pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges because the exchanges don’t work, and the insurers can’t make money. Not true. Aetna did indeed drop out of 11 state exchanges. But a federal judge ruled that they did so because ++ the federal government wouldn’t let them merge with Humana (which then largely dropped out too, after both companies had announced plans to expand their ACA offerings once they combined). The judge also ruled that Aetna lied about why it quit.

It’s no secret that lots of insurance companies hate Obamacare, even though some of them have made quite a bit of money on it. Obamacare prevents them from excluding sick people from coverage; or cutting off the checks when their customer is in mid-treatment because she’s reached her lifetime cap; or charging older people much more than younger ones. Insurers did like the idea of potentially getting a flood of new, young, healthy customers who were required to buy insurance due to the mandate, and many are unhappy that they haven’t gotten more. Meanwhile, the law also made the junk policies they used to sell those younger, healthier customers illegal.

Republicans’ “repeal and replace” plan is a giant gift to those insurers, letting them bring back some of those awful – but profitable – practices; specifically, allowing them to charge older people five times more than younger customers, and restarting the junk policy machine, while also scrapping Obamacare’s limit on how much of their extravagant CEO pay packages insurers can write off on their taxes. As a bonus, Trumpcare would swap out the individual mandate that makes people pay a fine to the IRS if they go uninsured for a fine they pay directly to the insurance company when they do choose to sign up. Ka-ching!

Another lie on offer from the GOP: that Obamacare is driving up health costs. The fact is, Obamacare isn’t doing that. Insurance companies are, by charging more money each year, just like they always have. And statistics show that states that refuse to run their own exchanges have seen the biggest premium hikes.

What we do know is that Trumpcare (or Trump-Ryancare, or whatever it’s being called today) would mean 24 million fewer people with healthcare by 2024. Republicans like Ryan and Price want you to believe that’s because once the individual mandate is gone, 24 million people would deliberately drop their insurance to live a life of healthcare “freedom.” Well, you won’t be surprised to hear, that too is horse puckey. Most of the newly uninsured would lose their insurance by having the Medicaid expansion stripped away or see their subsidies slashed so much that they could no longer afford a policy; all so that Ryan, Trump, Price, Mulvaney and Co. can hand the richest Americans a $600 billion tax cut.

When asked about the horrors that would ensue for the newly uninsured, Ryan and friends make the argument that the only thing that matters is that you have more choices of insurance companies and plans in your market; not that you have enough money to pay for them. The genius of the free market, Ryan gleefully keeps telling interviewers in between lies about Obamacare, is going to make America great again.

And if a few tens of millions of people lose their coverage? Well, freedom.

It’s an ethos not unlike the one that produced a Trump budget that hacks away at everything from mine safety to Big Bird to Meals on Wheels. What you’re seeing in Washington today is exactly what you think you see: a bunch of rich men; modern-day robber barons, giddily drawing up plans to pull off a giant reverse Robin Hood—transferring billions of dollars from the poorest Americans to the richest, just because they can. All that matters is that the wealthy make a profit; and to hell with everyone else.

You want a dose of truth? Donald Trump—the supposed “populist” president; the all-gold everything, New York penthouse-dwelling, Mar-a-Lago every weekend on your dime golf-hopping, wannabe Russian oligarch—is one of them.

Don’t get me wrong, the ACA is not perfect and health insurance is still too expensive for many Americans. The premiums and deductibles are too high making it difficult for the insured to use it. There are solutions but killing the ACA was not one of them. America needs to move to a government run single payer or better control of the insurance industry like other industrialized countries where health care costs are much cheaper, everyone is covered and the population is healthier.

Be sure that Republicans will try to find ways to mess with healthcare but for nos Where this goes is anyone’s guess. For now, though, Trumpcare is dead.

Now From Our Friend Wendell Potter

TMC and I had the good fortune to meet Wendell Potter at one of these Internet conventions we sometimes attend during the height of the debate over Single Payer/Medicare For All, Public Option, and (ugh) Obamacare which hardly did anything except impose some new regulations (minimum coverage that does not eliminate junk insurance, scope out a Bronze Plan), expand Medicaid (actually good), and guarantee 20% profits in perpetuity to Health Insurance Companies (a very bad thing).

Gratifyingly enough Potter was straight Single Payer/Medicare For All even though at the time that was an extremely unpopular position with the dominant Obamabots. I doubt he remembers us but I sure remember him. Oddly enough though it was the most “hot button” issue at the time his forum was poorly attended. We later went to a session on data mining your readership for money (Umm… needless to say we don’t do that here) and it was SRO.

Priorities I guess.

Why Big Insurance Adores the American Health Care Act
by Wendell Potter, Common Dreams
Thursday, March 23, 2017

There’s been a lot of talk about just who was hurt and helped by Obamacare and who will profit or be imperiled by the next phase of health care legislation. Yet health insurance executives have been curiously silent about the House GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. While the American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, among many others, have come out against it, insurers have clearly made a strategic decision not to show their hand.

But know this: They love it. Their fingerprints are all over what the Republicans are calling the American Health Care Act. Arguably the only thing they don’t like about House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Ayn Randish creation is the way the plan would slash funding for the Medicaid program. That’s not because insurance executives are more compassionate for the poor than they’ve been in the past; it’s because a growing percentage of their profits now comes from Medicaid. In fact, more than half of the big insurers’ revenues is now coming from the government, not the private sector. And they’re fine with that.

Make no mistake, health insurance lobbyists also helped shape the Affordable Care Act. Most notably, they were able to get a provision stripped from the bill that would have created a government-run insurance plan (the “public option”) to compete with private insurers. But they didn’t get everything they wanted.

Over insurers’ objections, the ACA was enacted with important consumer protections. Thanks to the ACA, insurers can no longer charge older people more than three times as much as younger people for the same policy, and they can’t allocate more than 20 percent of what we pay in premiums to profits and administrative activities like sales and marketing. It’s also now illegal for insurers to deny people coverage because of a pre-existing condition. And policies sold now must cover several “essential benefits,” a provision that outlawed junk insurance.

Now that the insurance executives have more friends in Washington than during the Obama years, they smell an opportunity to get rid of most of those pesky new rules. Don’t think for a minute that the ACA’s regulations have been a big drag on profits. Even with those consumer protections, most insurance companies have reported record profits during the Obamacare years, and their investors are considerably richer.

I saw that coming. When I testified before a House committee during the health care reform debate in 2009, I warned that if Congress passed a reform law that did not create a public insurance plan, they might as well rename their bill the Health Insurance Profit Protection and Enhancement Act.

And boy, have those profits been protected and enhanced. Here’s just one example: The share price of the biggest health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, has increased more than 1,000 percent since the early days of the Obama administration.

Obama himself had said that a public option was needed “to keep health insurers honest.” He was right. Insurance company executives cannot be trusted to put the interests of their customers first. The evidence before Obamacare was abundant, especially in the individual market, where people who can’t get health insurance through an employer must go to buy coverage.

It is a myth that the big for-profit insurers like the ones I worked for have an interest in providing all of us with access to affordable care. That would conflict with their top priority, which, as I quickly learned in my corporate job, is to “enhance shareholder value.” That is why several of the big insurers started bailing from the Obamacare exchange markets last year after congressional Republicans eliminated the additional payments the ACA had set aside for insurers while the individual market was becoming more stable, predictable and fair. Never mind those same insurers were reaping big profits from the government’s Medicaid and Medicare programs, thanks in large part to the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid.

It is also a myth that the for-profits are even still in the insurance business in a significant way. Over the past several years, employers and the government have assumed the risk of insuring most of us. While you might see the name Cigna on your insurance card, if your coverage is through your job, chances are your employer is technically your insurer and Cigna just administers your benefits (for a hefty fee, of course). It’s not unusual for more than 80 percent of a big for-profit’s revenues to come from these “administrative services only” contracts with employers.

These companies had relatively little interest in the individual market pre-Obamacare because they — not an employer or government — would have to assume the risk of paying medical expenses for individual market customers. To reduce the risk of having to pay medical claims, insurers went to great lengths to avoid selling coverage to people who might need it. In my home state of Tennessee, even the big nonprofit BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee refused to sell policies to more than a third of applicants before the Obamacare rule prohibiting that practice went into effect. And once you were turned down by one insurer, the chances of getting coverage from another company were slim to none. If you had a pre-existing condition pre-Obamacare, the insurance industry could declare you “uninsurable.” They might as well have said, “You’re dead to me.”

The bill would also allow insurers to once again discriminate against older people by allowing them to charge five times more than younger people. And it would give them more “benefit design flexibility” — an industry euphemism for allowing insurers to once again sell policies with sky-high deductibles and skimpier benefits.

The bill would also allow insurers to spend a smaller percentage of our premium dollars on medical care, freeing up more for profits. And to put a bow around the whole package, the bill would repeal a provision of the ACA that limits to $500,000 the amount of executive pay insurance companies can deduct on their federal taxes.

Now you know why insurers haven’t joined doctors and hospitals and many others in condemning the American Health Care Act. Overall, it would be a big win for health insurance companies, the big for-profits in particular. And, of course, their top executives and shareholders.

The Breakfast Club (Confusion)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

NATO launches airstrikes over Yugoslavia; Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska; Elvis Presley inducted into US Army; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof opens on Broadway.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

People everywhere confuse what they read in newspapers with news.

A. J. Liebling

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March Madness: 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Regional Semifinals (Round of 16)- Day 1

I have this someplace but I can’t find it at the moment. Here are the essentials-

7:09 CBS Oregon-Michigan

You should root for Michigan because I was born there and they are underdogs, but Oregon is ok too.

7:39 TBS Gonzaga-West Virginia

You should root for Gonzaga because TMC likes their name.

9:39 PM CBS Kansas-Purdue

You should root for Purdue because they are not Kansas. Oh, and underdogs.

10:09 TBS Arizona-Xavier

You should root for Xavier because I like their name. Also underdogs.

The Russian Connection: Surveillance and Incidental Collection

Yesterday, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), went to the White House to disclose classified information that he was given by an unknown source with regards to the investigation into the Trump administration’s Russian connection. To say this was highly irregular is an understatement. Nunes has absolutely no experience in the intelligence community or military. He is not a lawyer; he has degrees in agricultural business. While Nunes has access to classified information, he does not have declassification authority, no one in congress does. There is a process for that. What is even more questionable is Nunes briefed the president who he is supposed to be investigating. As Eugene Robinson put it yesterday during a MSNBC panel discussion, that was like “Law and Order”s Lennie Briscoe telling the perp his fingerprints were on the weapon and you’d better leave town. he even held a press conference. Nunes did this without discussing this with any other members.

Adam Silverman at Balloon Juice explains further:

And that may, perhaps, explain why this morning Congressman Nunes disclosed, without authorization, classified information pertaining to US SIGINT collection. Congressman Nunes does not have declassification authority in regard to that information. He then went and briefed the President on what he had just leaked because he thought the President needed to know it. This is curious for two reasons. 1) This is not the job of a Congressman who is chairing a committee that oversees executive branch agencies and activities. 2) The President, as the President, has the ability to know anything he wants to know that is being done, or has been done, by the US Intelligence Community. That he did not seem to know this, that he does not seem to have been briefed on it, means that he and his subordinates either couldn’t be bothered knowing or, because of the counterintelligence investigation – its scope and who may be its targets – this information had been compartmented from the President to protect sources and methods. If it is the former, it shows how inept the President’s advisors and staff are. If it is the latter then Congressman Nunes has dug his hole even deeper. Interfering with and obstructing a Federal counterintelligence investigation is not something that the FBI looks kindly upon.

Moreover, the real takeaway for today is why the President and so many of his people were in ongoing contact with Russians and other foreign targets of both routine and specifically targeted US SIGINT collection.

Moreover, the real takeaway for today is why the President and so many of his people were in ongoing contact with Russians and other foreign targets of both routine and specifically targeted US SIGINT collection.

It is routine for the intelligence community to conduct surveillance of known bad actors. the surveillance that Nunes revealed was routine and the president’s team got caught because they were communicating with known bad actors. That isn’t surveillance; that’s called “incidental collection.” Nor does it vindicate Trump or validate his fake, malicious claim that Pres. Obama had Trump Tower “wire tapped,” a diversion from the real issue of Russian interference in last year’s election. Nor does it mean that Trump or his team were under surveillance. It just means they were talking to people who were.

This is supposed to be a non-partisan investigation, it long past obvious that it is not. It is time for a Watergate-like investigative panel of qualified outsiders and special prosecutor.

As for Nunes the ranking Democratic member of the Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, said, Nunes is either the chair of the committee or he the president’s surrogate. He cannot be both. This was a massive breach of protocol and security, an apology will not suffice. Nunes should resign as committee chair and from the committee.

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