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Worst Spenders Ever

California's money for nothing:The state is only somewhat below average total infrastructure spending on a per capita basis. Virtual Capitalist gave it an overall rank of 33 — but that was only because while it ranked lowest in state spending, it ranked highest in federal spending.

With California in desperate need of emergency infrastructure spending to repair its crumbling dams and flood control infrastructure, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gov. Jerry Brown submitted a $100-billion infrastructure wish list to the Trump Administration.

Although he did ask for some roads and bridges, Brown requested funds for several new rail projects.A pipe dream is only as good as its funding...

The Democrats Now Have Their Alternative

As expected:The pressure came after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, at the urging of President Donald Trump, withdrew the American Health Care Act, the House Republican leaders’ effort to replace Obamacare. The measure lacked the 218 necessary votes.

Local public radio station KQED reported:

“I extend my hand to the president if he wants to improve the Affordable Care Act,” Pelosi told a crowd of several hundred people gathered at a town hall meeting at Balboa High School in San Francisco.



The first audience question was more of a long argument for a socialized health system that some are calling “Medicare for all,” which would eliminate insurance companies.

Pelosi, unruffled by the at times unruly crowd, noted: “I supported single payer since before you were born.”Was that before or after her people crossed the land bridge?

No Gas Today

Venezuela runs dry:According to the newspaper El Nacional, one-third of Venezuela’s 24 states – Miranda, Aragua, Lara, Barinas, Anzoátegui, Nueva Esparta, Bolívar, and Monagas – have reported significant shortages in gasoline for sale in stations throughout their cities. Hundreds of cars have been stranded on long lines at gas stations or in the middle of streets on their way to gas stations, distorting traffic flows and generally preventing city traffic from flowing smoothly.

Venezuelans speaking to media outlets expressed confusion and frustration at their inability to find a properly stocked gas station. “I have been to four or five gas stations and it has been impossible to fill my car,” José Torres of Caracas told reporters after finally finding one open gas station.

“Yesterday, I went to three filling stations and I couldn’t fill my tank,” student Freddy Bautista said on Thursday. “I’ve been waiting 30 minutes here, and it seems like I’ll be able to fill up today,” he added, in …

Lost In the Wilderness

That moment when you learn your show was canceled:Over time, all but 10 contestants quit the show, The Press and Journal of Aberdeen, Scotland, reported. Those who left cited concerns about health and safety, boredom and swarms of tiny biting insects called midges.

The contestants were on an uninhabited private estate that the Ministry of Defense used as a training ground during World War II, The Radio Times of London reported. A six-foot fence was erected on three sides of the estate, with the fourth side bordered by the sea, it said.

The series was filmed with a crew of four embedded with the contestants, who also had personal cameras. A rig of 45 cameras, described by The Radio Times as a network of closed-circuit television cameras that could be controlled remotely, was also used.

Unlike American reality television shows, such as the “Survivor” series — in which contestants compete against one another — “Eden” had no winners or losers. It was intended to feature the making of a so…

The Other Side Blinks?

Democrats may be ready for one:Republicans, who hold 52 seats in the upper chamber, have the option of changing Senate rules so that a filibuster can be ended with a simple majority vote. Democrats, when in the majority during the Obama administration, made the rules change effective for all non-Supreme Court nominations.

Democrats are leery of pressing the ongoing confirmation process to the point Republicans invoke the so-called nuclear option, as it would make a subsequent Trump nomination a fait accompli. But on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed doubt that any Democrats would vote to confirm Gorsuch, a strong signal the Kentucky Republican is ready to change the rule.

“It does sound like he’s laying the groundwork for the nuclear option,” Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin said of McConnell. “Let’s wait and see how this evolves.”

Trump Adviser for the Supreme Court Leonard Leo scoffed at the idea Republicans could be pressured into withholding the nuclear …

Second Thoughts?

President Trump may have some misgivings:Mr. Trump has told four people close to him that he regrets going along with Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s plan to push a health care overhaul before unveiling a tax cut proposal more politically palatable to Republicans.

He said ruefully this week that he should have done tax reform first when it became clear that the quick-hit health care victory he had hoped for was not going to materialize on Thursday, the seventh anniversary of the act’s passage, when the legislation was scheduled for a vote.

Two of his most influential advisers — Stephen K. Bannon, his chief strategist, and Gary D. Cohn, the National Economic Council director, who had a major role in pushing the bill — came to agree, and did not like the compromise that was emerging. So on Thursday night, Mr. Trump delivered an ultimatum.

He dispatched his budget adviser, Mick Mulvaney, to a conference of House Republicans and told them they had to vote on Friday. And if the bill fails, he said,…

Web Control

The regulators are still at it:Using the "altFEC" twitter account, one of several "alt" sites set up by government workers in agencies resisting the new Trump administration, the proponents reference Ravel's critical report.

"It means that the @FEC's disclosure rules have not been updated for the era of YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter," it said, reiterating charges from Ravel and others that the FEC rules are outdated. She led the effort to change them and Republicans on the commission said that her goal was only to regulate right-leaning websites, like Drudge, and online campaigns of Republicans.
....

"altFEC is attacking the GOPers' original vote to apply the internet exemption to a conservative organization," said an insider, noting that Republicans pushed to keep regulations from internet sites in order to maintain its free-wheeling style.Which I kind of thought was the point of the Internet...

Et Tu, Obama

Two investigations for the price of one:Whether Barack Obama ordered the surveillance of Donald Trump during the transition is not the question. He would never have had to. In fact, he would have been highly unlikely to have done so for obvious legal and practical/political reasons. Instead, supporters of the then president in a position to authorize or activate such surveillance would normally know or assume his wishes anyway without having to be told and could act accordingly.

That is the way of the world since there was a world.

The operative question is whether these recorded conversations then ever wound up on Obama's desk or whether he knew about them in some other manner... and, if so, when. If the worst is true, it is a scandal that makes Watergate seem like a child's prank. Even Watergate's own Bob Woodward seemed to acknowledge as much on The O'Reilly Factor on Wednesday night.

This is why any legitimate investigation by a congressional committee or anyone…

Pushing The Button

The Democrats go there:Democrats, with Schumer’s support, will force a procedural vote which requires 60 senators to vote in favor of taking up consideration of Gorsuch’s nomination. The maneuver, called a filibuster, could temporarily stymie the nomination, as Republicans control only 52 seats in the Senate, eight short of the 60-vote threshold
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The announcement comes just one day after Gorsuch’s appearance before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary concluded. The judge took questions from members of the panel over several days.

The decision now raises the prospect of the so-called “nuclear-option,” by which Senate Republicans would abolish the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Democrats abolished the 60-vote threshold for judicial nominees at former Sen. Harry Reid’s direction in 2013, but preserved the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.Turnabout is fair play...

Her Major Award

It's her participation trophy moment:The former first daughter will be honored at a “Power of Women” luncheon on April 21, Variety announced. Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, Blake Lively, Audra McDonald and Shari Redstone will also receive the awards.

Clinton, a 37-year-old mother of two, is receiving the award “for her work with Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which empowers kids to develop lifelong healthy habits,” Variety says in a statement.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, which helps fight childhood obesity, is affiliated with the Clinton Foundation, where Clinton serves as vice chair.

Clinton’s other achievements include being born to one of the most skilled politicians in American history, growing up in the White House, landing a $600,000 contract with MSNBC, marrying a hedge fund millionaire, and tweeting constantly about President Trump.Barack Obama got a prize for less...

The Steps To Irrelevancy

Donald Trum versus...stairs?

Take Our Money, Please

Paying their fair share?“Now is the time to invest in the long-term economic viability of New York,” the letter reads. “We need to invest in pathways out of poverty and up the economic ladder for all of our fellow citizens, including strong public education from pre-K to college. And, we need to invest in the fragile bridges, tunnels, waterlines, public buildings, and roads that we all depend on.”

The letter endorses a plan called the “1 Percent Tax Plan for Tax Fairness,” which would create new, higher income tax brackets for the state’s wealthiest individuals to raise a projected $2 billion.

The left-leaning Fiscal Policy Institute, a think tank focused on economic policy, and the Responsible Wealth project, a group of America’s wealthiest individuals who support “fair taxes and corporate accountability,” helped formulate the proposal

Ron Deutsch, executive director of the Fiscal Policy Institute, called it “refreshing” that the state’s wealthiest were willing to pay more.Well, as t…

Robot Minister

They really are after everyone's job:The study found that 42 percent of UK consumers believe their job is likely to be replaced by a robot in the next 30 years, while 25 percent think that this could happen within the next 10 years.

However, the surprising, or not-so-surprising (depending on your opinion of politicians) findings from the report reveal that consumers would entrust the running of the country to robots. 66 percent of UK citizens expect that robots will be working within the government by 2037, with 16 percent believing this could happen in the next one to two years.

A further finding which may cause concern for Number 10 is that one in four think robots will make better decisions that elected government representatives, mainly in regards to the economy. However, a further 35 percent of UK citizens say robots would not be able to assess the cultural aspects when it comes to decision making.A rational politician? It'll never happen...

Leader Wanted, No Experience Necessary

Who wants to run the Democratic Party:“There is a vacuum now in the Democratic Party in terms of leadership and a 2020 candidate, so it’s the Democrats who might have a raft of candidates next time, especially if the voters are searching for someone new,” said Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn.

When Clinton was taken out of the list of potential 2020 candidates, Sanders’s support went up to 18 percent, followed by Michelle Obama at 14 percent and Warren at 10 percent. No other candidate received more than 4 percent support, and 44 percent of respondents said they want someone not on the list.

“Michelle Obama has some potential as a future candidate if she was interested in politics,” Penn said.

Barack Obama has said his wife “will never run for office,” though she remains hugely popular among Democrats.

The party is in the midst of a full-scale rebuilding project after the 2016 elections, in which it lost control of the White House and failed to win majorities in either the House o…

Not So Huge

The Trump tax cuts may not be quite what you hoped for:The House is set to vote on the Republican health-care plan on Thursday, and even with the tweaks lawmakers have been making to it, passage looks iffy.

Moreover, if it does pass, the bill’s prospects in the Senate aren’t good. But before Senate Republicans can come up with their own version of the health-care legislation, they have a Supreme Court nominee to approve.

Then, if the Senate can pass a bill of its own, there will be a House-Senate conference to resolve differences.

It is a process that would come with significant hurdles even in normal times, much less today’s distraction-riddled political climate. At the least, the health-care bill could be sitting on Capitol Hill for a long time.Granted, it can take a long time to get anything done in Washington. But not as long to mess up a good idea...

Uranium Man

John Podesta's Russian friends:Podesta — best known as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign chairman and former President Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff — first made contact with the Russian firm in 2011, when he joined the boards and executive committees of three related entities: Boston-based Joule Unlimited; Rotterdam-based Joule Global Holdings; Joule Global Stichting, the company’s controlling interest. All are high-tech renewable energy enterprises.

Three months after Podesta’s arrival, Joule Unlimited accepted a 1 billion ruble investment from Rusnano, amounting to $35 million in U.S. currency. The firm also awarded a Joule board seat in February 2012 to Anatoly Chubais, Rusnano’s CEO, who has been depicted as a corrupt figure.

Podesta has attempted to downplay his relationship with Joule and Rusnano, but it could come to haunt him.
Russian ghosts can be notoriously hard to get rid of...

Almost Live

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RIP Chuck Barris:Barris died of natural causes Tuesday afternoon at his home in Palisades, New York, according to publicist Paul Shefrin, who announced the death on behalf of Barris' family.

Barris made game show history right off the bat, in 1966, with "The Dating Game," hosted by Jim Lange.

The gimmick: a young female questions three males, hidden from her view, to determine which would be the best date. Sometimes the process was switched, with a male questioning three females. But in all cases the questions were designed by the show's writers to elicit sexy answers.

Celebrities and future celebrities who appeared as contestants included Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steve Martin and a pre-"Charlie's Angels" Farrah Fawcett, introduced as "an accomplished artist and sculptress" with a dream to open her own gallery.Chuck Barris warped a lot of young minds with The Gong Show. And of course who could forget Gene Gene the Dancing Machin…

The River Runs Free?

Rivers are people too:"We consider the river an ancestor and always have," Gerrard Albert, the lead negotiator for the Whanganui iwi tribe, told Britain's The Guardian. "We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that from our perspective treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as in indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management."

"Te Awa Tupua will have its own legal identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person," Chris Finlayson, minister of the treaty of Waitangi negotiations, said in a statement to the New Zealand outlet NewsHub. "The approach to granting legal personality to a river is unique."

"I know some people will say it's pretty strange to give a natural resource a legal personality, but it's no stranger than family trus…

Blocking Interception

Can they really stop Obamacare Lite?Top House Republicans hunting votes for their health care overhaul are proposing amendments aimed at providing more help for older people, curbing Medicaid and accelerating the repeal of some tax increases.

The bill would let people deduct more medical costs from taxes. It would repeal many tax increases boosted by President Obama's 2010 statute this year instead of 2018. Older and disabled Medicaid recipients would get more generous benefits. But states could impose work requirements on the program.

The bill would let the Senate approve tax credits more generous to people age 50 to 64. Congressional analysts say the current GOP legislation would hit many with big cost increases.

GOP leaders released the changes late Monday, three days ahead of a planned House vote on the bill.Of course, the real issue is Obamacare itself, which seems to have become awfully hard to get rid of...

March Of The Russian Bots

More collusion claims:The FBI-led investigation is focused on Russia’s use of social media “bots” to amplify stories that put Donald Trump in a favorable light when he appeared to be struggling during the campaign, two anonymous sources told McClatchy. Part of the investigation involves working to determine whether any of the sites whose stories the bots often amplified were cooperating in some way with the Russian operatives.

The bots were apparently strategically timed computer commands, which would spread links to stories from right-wing and Russian propaganda sites all over social media. The bots could operate without any help from the sites involved, but the FBI is nevertheless exploring the possibility. McClatchy’s sources said the federal agents are looking into Breitbart, InfoWars and the Russian propaganda outlets Sputnik and Russia Today, although it’s unclear if other sites are involved in the probe.Does it matter? Witch hunts usually cast a wide net...

The Ties That Don't Bind

It's now official:The FBI director testified alongside National Security Agency head Michael Rogers before the House Intelligence Committee Monday.

“Our practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations, especially those that include classified matters,” Comey said. “But, in unusual circumstances, it may be appropriate to do so. This is one of those circumstances. I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. That includes any links between the Trump campaign and Russian government, and whether there was cooperation.”

“This will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed,” he continued. “Because it’s classified, I can not say more about who we are investigating.”Who should be more wirried-President Trump, or the media if they're embarrassed yet again?

Here Comes The Judge

It was his big day, or was it?The nominee himself, Judge Neil Gorsuch of the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seemed almost an afterthought at times, sitting alone at the witness table, occasionally nodding or taking notes, as the 20 members of the Judiciary Committee took turns delivering lengthy and partisan opening statements.

Gorsuch will get his turn to speak at the end of the day Monday, when he will deliver his own opening statement, and questioning will begin on Tuesday. Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, announced the panel would vote on Gorsuch’s nomination April 3, with a vote on the Senate floor expected later that week.

It’s all unfolding fully 13 months after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death created a vacancy on the Supreme Court.Mr. Gorsuch goes to Washington, but did anybody remember he was there?