Are You Proud to Be an American Today?

Esquire

Are You Proud to Be an American Today?

The Rose Garden’s dumbest moment on record.

Charles P. Pierce   Jun 1, 2017

It used to be the young bucks and their T-bones, or the welfare queen with her Cadillac, who were leeching off good, hard-working Real Americans. It turns out Ronald Reagan was modest. On Thursday, in a speech that was such a towering pile of complete horseshit that it may well reach the moon, President* Donald Trump told the country that the rest of the world is now the craftiest welfare queen of them all.

I didn’t think he could top his ghastly American Carnage inaugural address for sheer fact-free and paranoiac mendacity, but he managed to do it on Thursday. By announcing that the United States was withdrawing from the groundbreaking Paris Accords regarding the world climate crisis, the president* wallowed in rank, xenophobic victimhood while basking in the scattered applause of the otherwise unemployable yahoos whose self-respect is sufficiently low that they still work for him. Any doubt that Steve Bannon is running this White House now, either personally or through his finger-puppet, obvious anagram Reince Priebus, now has evaporated. The transformation of the American government into a Breitbart comments thread is complete.

It was appalling. It was condescending. It was awful content delivered by a dolt who wouldn’t know the Paris Accords from a baguette without the shoddy talking points that someone put in front of him. For example, he read off a fanciful list of “consequences” for adhering to the Paris Accords down through the next decades. Afterwards, Ali Velshi, a welcome addition to the MSNBC cast of regulars, pointed out that the president* was reading from a debunked report that presumed in its analysis that the U.S. would fulfill every one of its agreed-upon conditions while no other participating country would fulfill any of theirs. This is not surprising. The president* would have read a commercial for hair-replacement if someone had put it in front of him.

The least objectionable element of the speech was its utter internal incoherence.

The United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian economic and financial burden the agreement imposes on our country.

Paris was a non-binding and ineffective agreement, but it was “draconian” nonetheless. The economy is booming under his leadership, but the Paris Accord was destroying it at the same time. This was a speech written by a fool, to be delivered by a fool, with the presumption that a great percentage of its target audience is made up of fools.

But the really noxious stuff was the attempt at transforming a worldwide agreement to combat an existential threat to life on this planet into what he stupidly called a scheme to redistribute our wealth to China, as if we’re all not going to be buying our solar panels from China for the next 50 years because of this cluck. The really noxious stuff was all that simpering about how the rest of the world is playing us for suckers and laughing at us, as though the rest of the world doesn’t think we’ve lost our mind as a nation simply by electing a vulgar talking yam. The really noxious stuff was all his crocodile tears about the Forgotten People, as though a lot of them are not suffering through drought, or losing their houses to floods and to landslides, about which he and his people care nothing at all.

The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris agreement. They went wild. They were so happy, for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage. A cynic would say that the obvious reasons were for economic competitiveness and their wish to see us remain in the agreement is that we continue to suffer from this self-inflicted economic wound.

You see what’s happening. It’s pretty obvious to those who want to keep an open mind. At what point does American get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us at a country? We want fair treatment for our citizens, and fair treatment for our taxpayers and we don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us any more.

It was a speech written by an angry child, to be delivered by an angry child, with the assumption that its targeted audience was made up of angry children, too. And it was of a piece with that lunatic Wall Street Journal op-ed from Tuesday in which H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn pretty much decided that international diplomacy is nothing more than a larger-than-usual barrel of cannibalistic crabs.

Not content to have lined the United States up with the anti-science side of the most pressing global issue of our time, he brought up Scott Pruitt, the head vandal at EPA, after the speech, so that Pruitt could say great things about him, and actually talk about freeing the government from “special interests” without his tongue turning to sand. (Pruitt, you may recall, is the guy who, while Oklahoma’s attorney general, literally passed an oil company letter along to the EPA by signing his name to it. He also doesn’t believe that human activity causes the climate crisis.) The idea that these people put together a party in the Rose Garden to celebrate the withdrawal of American leadership in the world leads me to believe that they’d host a barbecue to celebrate a public execution.

None of that matters. While the president was speaking, as it happens, a huge chunk of Antarctica was preparing to break off. Meanwhile, Wednesday was the first day of hurricane season, and this president*, who cares so much about the duties of his office and the people of this great land, still hasn’t bothered to appoint a FEMA director yet. The nonsense he spewed on Thursday doesn’t matter, either, even if it continues to gull the suckers out in the sticks. The oceans are not listening to him.

Let’s understand why Illinois has the highest property taxes

Columnists

Let’s understand why Illinois has the highest property taxes

Phil Kadner, Columnists       June 1, 2017 

Chris Kennedy, a Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois, ripped this state’s property tax system as “corrupt” and “extortion,” joining a chorus that now includes just about every politician in Illinois.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected, in part, because he denounced this state’s property taxes as the highest in the nation.

Rauner has called for a property tax freeze and Democrats in the state Senate voted to do just that in the most recent session of the state Legislature, although the two-year cap they wanted wasn’t sufficient to gain Republican backing.

None of this posturing is new. Governors and state legislators have been screaming about high property taxes in this state for 30 years, and except for Dawn Clark Netsch, who ran for governor back in 1994, few have been willing to point out the real problem.

Property taxes are high because the state has failed to fulfill its constitutional mandate to fund public education.

This mandate was once considered so important that Article X of the Illinois Constitution is devoted to it. Netsch understood its importance because she was a member of the 1970 Constitutional Convention that wrote it.

“A fundamental goal of the People of the State is the educational development of all persons to the limits of their capacities,” the Article states.

“The State shall provide for an efficient system of high quality public educational institutions and services. Education in public schools through the secondary level shall be free. There may be such other free education as the General Assembly provides by law.

“The State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”

That’s a clear language. The goal is to educate every child in this state to their fullest potential and it is the state’s primary responsibility to fund that system of education.

Yet of all the money actually spent on public education in Illinois, this state contributes only 26 percent. Since state lawmakers have deliberately failed to adequately fund education, as directed by the Constitution, property taxpayers must pick up 67 percent of the cost.

At one point, under Gov. Jim Thompson, the state paid about 40 percent of the tab, but that was a long time ago.

Due to that reliance on property taxes, this state has the largest spending gap between poor and wealthy school districts in the nation.

Because property taxes are high, people who own homes and businesses in this state are pretty angry. Many of them don’t understand why property taxes have increased so much or how their property tax bills are calculated.

In the meantime, governors and state legislators continue to use property taxes as a campaign gimmick, while actually forcing them to skyrocket.

Democrats in the state Legislature pushed through a long-sought and needed school funding formula reform this spring, but failed to address the real issue: The lack of money for education.

The school funding mess in Illinois is a result of bi-partisan mendacity, which is another way of saying elected officials lie whenever they talk about education funding.

While they talk about freezing property taxes, they say nothing about adequately funding the state’s public schools. Relying on property taxes to finance education means the poorest communities in Illinois have less money to spend on their schools and suffer under the highest property tax rates.

It’s a system rigged to benefit wealthy homeowners and wealthy communities, while punishing the working class and small businessman. And it allows elected leaders to escape their constitutional obligation while spending your tax money on other things.

People whine that Illinois has no budget, but this state has shirked its responsibility for decades and few cared because only disadvantaged children suffered. The property tax system is corrupt.

Email: philkadner@gmail.com

Green energy has a bright future — even without Trump

Yahoo Finance

Green energy has a bright future — even without Trump

Rick Newman June 2, 2017

President Donald Trump is trying to revive the coal industry and extend the lifespan of the oil business. But renewables like solar and wind power are still likely to thrive.

By withdrawing the United States from the 2015 Paris climate accord, Trump has made the United States the only advanced economy that lacks a commitment to curb carbon emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels. But many energy analysts think coal is doomed anyway, because businesses and governments are shifting rapidly toward cleaner-burning fuels that are coming down in price. Oil has a longer shelf life, due to its use as a transportation fuel, but will still most likely decline as alternatives like battery-powered electric vehicles become cheaper and more efficient.

While most of the press attention focuses on energy policies formed in Washington and other capitals, an arguably more important shift has been going on among investors who think renewable energy sources—especially solar and wind—are now viable investments likely to pay respectable returns.

“The consensus among asset managers is that prices are coming down and this is a technology play,” says Matthew Weatherley-White, managing director of investing firm the Caprock Group. “There’s a lot of smart money here.”

That distinction as a technology play is important, especially with regard to solar. That means cost is likely to decline indefinitely as usage increases, the same pattern consumers have gotten used to from microprocessors that get smaller, faster and better, even as the price drops. The famed “Moore’s Law”—the doubling of processing power roughly every 18 months—doesn’t necessarily apply to energy technology, but the general principle does. As the technology catches on, scale ratchets up, prices come down and capability improves.

Battery technology, which is essential for electric vehicles, is also improving, though perhaps at a slower pace than solar panels. Wind power follows a different paradigm, with larger blades being more efficient, but also more expensive. Yet all of these technologies have scaling advantages over commodities such as oil and coal, which by definition become more scarce, and more expensive, as consumption reduces supply. Fracking has changed the equation for oil, to some extent, because it has increased supply. But there’s still a cost to pulling it out of the ground.

The development of renewable energy has been subsidized by governments in the United States and other countries, and even by state and local policies, such as tax credits for electric vehicles and access to high-occupancy lanes for anybody with a car that meets stringent emission standards. And there are two important tax breaks Congress passed in 2015 that Trump doesn’t seem so bothered by—one for solar, and one for wind and other renewables. Before 2015, Congress had traditionally extended those incentives for just one year at a time, leaving investors unsure of their long-term benefit. But the 2015 law put them in place for 5 years, giving investors a stronger incentive to bet on renewables.

“The big spook was that Trump would rescind those credits,” says Weatherley-White. “But he hasn’t even talked about that.”

Government subsidies have undoubtedly helped establish a market for renewables, but costs have now dropped enough that in some instances they’re competitive with the cost of coal or natural gas. And if cost isn’t a factor, government officials and business leaders are much more keen to invest in energy facilities likely to pollute less, since that aligns with public opinion and provides better options if the need to curb emissions grows more acute in the future.

Trump loves to stick up for coal miners, even though solar workers in the United States now outnumber them by more than 2-to-1. In fact, there are now slightly more Americans employed in renewable-energy jobs (about 750,000) than in coal and oil (about 675,000). Natural gas, a cleaner-burning fossil fuel viewed as a bridge between carbon and renewables, accounts for about 400,000 US jobs.

Since 2010, the number of solar-panel installations in the United States has surged by more than 1,600%, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. At the same time, the average cost of solar energy to consumers has fallen by more than 70%. Wind-power capacity in the United States has doubled since 2010, according to the American Wind Energy Association, with prices falling by nearly the same proportion as solar. Natural gas and coal prices have dropped during the same time frame, though not as dramatically.

By some measures, renewables are now cost-competitive with fossil fuels, a trend that should intensify as renewables become more popular. It’s difficult to directly compare the cost of different types of energy, since there can be big regional variations and costs pop up all along the supply chain, from drilling well to power plant to residential outlet. Solar panels are more effective in some climates than others, for instance, and fossil fuels are usually cheaper when they’re closer to where they’re burned. But the World Economic Forum said recently that most nations will reach “grid parity” within a few years, with renewables matching or undercutting fossil fuels on price. Since that is likely to happen with or without government help, Trump’s fondness for the fuels of the last century won’t hold back the fuels of the next.

Confidential tip line: rickjnewman@yahoo.com 

Who really pays if Trump quits the Paris accord

Vox on CNBC Politics

Who really pays if Trump quits the Paris accord

Vox, Jim Tankersley  June 1, 2017 

No laid-off coal miners will get their jobs back if President Trump pulls the United States from the Paris accord on climate change. No extra oil rigs will sprout in the Gulf. There is no employment upside to an “America First” retreat from global leadership on one of the few issues that can accurately be described as a potentially existential threat to humankind.

There is only the profound immorality of abdication — of gleefully passing a mounting problem on to our children, and on to the poor.

Reports suggest Trump is set to fulfill a campaign promise and withdraw the US from the agreement, which aims to put the world on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he will announce a decision soon; when he makes it, he will almost certainly cast the departure in terms of job growth, particularly for the coal industry.

There is no evidence, though, to suggest the Paris deal is holding back coal or any other industry in America today. Trump’s position amounts to nothing more than a dollop of false hope for downtrodden coal communities, in exchange for a ton of additional risk heaped on everyone, particularly the poorest people in the world.

As more carbon accumulates in the atmosphere, and global average temperatures continue to rise, the odds of calamitous future environmental outcomes increase. Swamped cities, scorched crops, pandemics — nothing you would wish upon your children, or anyone else’s

“It is a decision made for domestic political purposes that puts the livelihood and lives of millions of people in developing countries at risk,” says Trevor Houser, a former climate negotiator for President Barack Obama who is now a partner with the Rhodium Group. “This is a craven, symbolic political move without any direct benefits for the constituents he’s targeting.”

The Paris agreement is only a step toward the reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions that scientists roundly agree is necessary in order to reduce the most catastrophic risks of climate change. But it is a crucial step, won through years of diplomatic grunt work, including a sustained effort to rebuild American climate credibility that had been torched by the Bush administration.

“It’s morally reprehensible to walk away from climate action.  It’s an act everyone will recall as kids gasp for air during heat waves, as homes are wiped out by larger storms, as larger fires displace homes, and as droughts lead to crop failure.” -Keya Chatterjee, US Climate Action Network executive director

The agreement will persist even if Trump pulls America from it, as he is reportedly set to do. But the accord will be weakened, and, much more importantly, so will the fragile international coalition to fight what Jason Bordoff, a Columbia professor and former climate adviser to Obama, calls “one of the most global problems.”

Ideally, the current administration would be pushing partner countries to strengthen their commitments under the agreement; instead, it is giving them an excuse to slack off.

The decision will punish the poor

For the global poor, the reduced ambition could prove disastrous. The World Bank estimates climate effects could push 100 million people worldwide into poverty over the next 15 years. A recent report from the Climate Impact Lab projects that the most damaging effects of climate change will be concentrated in “hot, poor countries” in regions such as Latin America and Southeast Asia, and in sub-Saharan Africa, where climate change is already associated with falling crop production due to record-setting drought.

“In our benchmark estimate,” the authors write, “average income in the poorest 40% of countries declines 75% by 2100 relative to a world without climate change.” Richer, cooler countries in Europe tend to fare better, but, notably, not the United States. It would suffer economically — and on the international stage.

“It’s morally reprehensible to walk away from climate action,” says Keya Chatterjee, the executive director of the US Climate Action Network. “It’s an act everyone will recall as kids gasp for air during heat waves, as homes are wiped out by larger storms, as larger fires displace homes, and as droughts lead to crop failure.”

It won’t create jobs

Trump has said the agreement gives “foreign bureaucrats” control of America’s energy reserves. (It doesn’t.) He’s cast it as a job killer. (It’s not.) Many US corporations support the agreement, including some large oil and gas companies, like Exxon Mobil. Clean energy advocates worry that stepping away from the deal would hamstring renewables here, which are growing so fast that there are now twice as many solar jobs as coal jobs in the US.

“It’s the equivalent of a president saying, ‘There’s no future for the US in medical research,'” says Josh Freed, the clean energy vice president at the centrist think tank Third Way. “The president is purposely giving up on an entire sector that could drive global economic growth.”

The most notable corporate support for exiting the deal comes from the coal industry, which is hoping against hope — and the economics of low-cost natural gas — that a complete abandonment of emissions-reduction efforts will lead to an industry renaissance. It’s a last gasp, and unlikely to work, as Houser and Bordoff wrote in a detailed recent analysis.

And it will hurt American leadership

Once Trump quits the deal, he will inflict lasting damage on American foreign policy efforts, well beyond collaboration on environmental issues.

The agreement is in many ways emblematic of how leaders in Washington — on both sides of the aisle — have long viewed America’s role in the world. It does not commit the US to a go-it-alone effort. To the contrary: It leverages promised US emissions cuts to win pledges from the world’s fastest-growing carbon polluters, China and India, as well as other Western and developing countries.

By exiting, Trump would forfeit that leverage. He would return the US to its days of being distrusted by the international community on the issue, and further the belief, particularly in Europe, that America is an unreliable partner.

A future administration could take steps to rejoin the agreement — or to reengage in global climate talks, if Trump walks away from them entirely. But the damage would linger. In Copenhagen in 2009, efforts to forge an international climate deal were hampered, in part, by the deep-rooted suspicion Obama’s team (including Houser) faced from European, Chinese, and other negotiators in the wake of the Bush administration’s foot-dragging on emissions reductions.

It took years, and a batch of controversial regulations issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, to rebuild that credibility and pave the way for Paris. To now quit that agreement would, Houser says, “be the second time Lucy has pulled the football.” The world might not give us a chance for a third.

Commentary by Jim Tankersley, policy and politics editor at Vox.

Single-payer healthcare plan advances in California Senate — without a way to pay its $400-billion tab

Los Angeles Times Essential Politics

This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Ballot measures California Legislature. Reporting from Sacramento.

Single-payer healthcare plan advances in California Senate — without a way to pay its $400-billion tab

Patrick McGreevy June 1, 2017

A proposal to adopt a single-payer healthcare system for California took an initial step forward Thursday when the state Senate approved a bare-bones bill that lacks a method for paying the $400-billion cost of the plan.

The proposal was made by legislators led by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) at the same time President Trump and Republican members of Congress are working to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Despite the incredible progress California has made, millions still do not have access to health insurance and millions more cannot afford the high deductibles and co-pays, and they often forgo care,” Lara said during a floor debate on the bill.

The bill, which now goes to the state Assembly for consideration, will have to be further developed, Lara conceded, adding he hopes to reach a consensus on a way to pay for it.

Republican senators opposed the bill as a threat to the state’s finances.

“We don’t have the money to pay for it,” Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) said. “If we cut every single program and expense from the state budget and redirected that money to this bill, SB 562, we wouldn’t even cover half of the $400-billion price tag.”

Berryhill also said the private sector is better suited to provide healthcare.

“I absolutely don’t trust the government to run our health system,” he said. “What has the government ever done right?”

Lara’s bill would provide a Medicare-for-all-type system that he believed would guarantee health coverage for all Californians without the out-of-pocket costs. Under a single-payer plan, the government replaces private insurance companies, paying doctors and hospitals for healthcare.

The California Nurses Assn., which sponsored the bill, released a fiscal analysis this week that proposed raising the state sales and business receipts taxes by 2.3% to raise $106 billion of the annual cost, with the rest proposed to come from state and federal funding already going to Medicare and Medicaid services.

Sen. Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado Hills) called the plan “reckless” and said the taxes would hurt businesses and families while financially crippling the state government.

“It’s offensive to the people who have to pay for it,” he said.

Some Democrats felt the bill was rushed and undeveloped. Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) withheld his vote on the bill on grounds it does not provide enough detail of what a single-payer system would look like.

“This is the Senate kicking the can down the road to the Assembly and asking the Assembly to fill in all of the blanks,” Hueso said. “That’s not going to happen this year.”

Lara said action is required because of what is happening in Washington.

“With President Trump’s promise to abandon the Affordable Care Act as we know it — for one that leaves millions without access to care — California is once again tasked to lead,” he told his colleagues.

He said his father recently had heart bypass surgery but went through the emergency room for help after his insurance company initially turned him down.

Even if the bill is approved, it has to go to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been skeptical, and then voters would have to exempt it from spending limits and budget formulas in the state Constitution. In addition, the state would have to get federal approval to repurpose existing funds for Medicare and Medicaid

How Fox News dealt with CBO saying 23 million would lose coverage under the AHCA

Vox

How Fox News dealt with CBO saying 23 million would lose coverage under the AHCA

We watched every instance in which Fox News had to confront the number.

Updated by Alvin Chang    May 31, 2017

The morning after a nonpartisan analysts reported that the Republican replacement for Obamacare would cause 23 million people to lose their health insurance — many of them in the reddest states — Fox & Friends invited President Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, onto the show.

The exchange went like this:

BRIAN KILMEADE (host): 23 million will lose insurance. True or false?

MULVANEY: False. If you look at the methodology, they assume that folks who were on Medicaid, which is free, will choose to get off Medicaid when the mandate goes away. Now you tell me if this sounds like the real world.

STEVE DOOCY (host): Sure. And I know the [Congressional Budget Office] looked at it. Millions of Americans are not going to buy insurance if they don’t have to because they don’t want to.

It was one of the rare instances Fox & Friends mentioned the “23 million” number, but a quintessential example of how the Fox News Channel has often covered the devastating CBO analysis — by obscuring details and blaming the source, which is similar to how right-wing news sites cover this administration.

Mulvaney does both, saying CBO erred in saying people would voluntarily leave Medicaid. He (and the hosts) fails to mention that the bill kicks low-income adults without children off Medicaid and makes it easier for states to kick people off the program.

It’s part of a pattern on Fox News, which often framed the CBO score in two ways. The first was that the CBO analysis is wrong, or that CBO has been unreliable in the past. The second is that Obamacare is failing and this bill gives people the freedom to escape that failure.

Not thinking too hard about the human cost

As my colleague Jeff Stein writes, this bill is a bigger liability for Republicans than Trump’s scandals. It’s what Democrats are campaigning on and what seems to have the most resonance, perhaps because people don’t want to be in the traumatic situation of having to choose between financial ruin and medical treatment.

Many of those who stand to lose insurance live in states that voted heavily for Trump. The bill hurts a host of demographic groups that support Trump — including older Americans, those who live in more rural areas, and areas suffering most from the opioid crisis.

The CBO scores get at the heart of these fears.

So the injection of these numbers into the AHCA debate caused a dissonance on several Fox News shows. When Fox & Friends had to confront these numbers, the reaction was to minimize the CBO analysis. For example, in March, after the first CBO report, Kilmeade acknowledged that Trump voters would be hurt but assured them this was part of a larger plan:

They say the people that are going to be hurt most under the current plan, the way the calculus is done by the CBO, are Americans between the age of 50 and 64. Right before Medicare, the older part and last leg of their career. That translates into mostly Trump voters.

But then you factor in the fact that this is a three-phase plan. The second phase is when [Health and Human Services Secretary] Tom Price is supposed to theoretically sit there and put in regulations that’ll make this more of a conservative project.

Host Ainsley Earhardt questioned the CBO, saying:

Here’s the thing. Donald Trump says the Democrats are the ones that put us in this mess. They are complaining about this.

Can you really trust the CBO? Can you trust the report?

Jonathan Gruber, the architect of Obamacare, he said blatantly — we played the sound bites for you yesterday — he said we can trick the CBO, call them mandates and not taxes, and they will pass this thing through.

Then on May 4, the House prepared to vote on the second version of the AHCA without a CBO score showing the policy’s impact. That morning, Doocy confronted the “24 million” number by saying it’s better because it “reduces taxes and stuff like that”:

When you saw that figure a month or two ago, where something like 24 million would wind up losing their health care: That is a great political ad for the Democrats, whoever is going to run against any of the Republicans coming up in 2018.

But here’s the thing: What if it’s — the hope for everybody is this is actually better. Reduces taxes and stuff like that.

And ultimately, when it comes to politics, this is going to redeem Speaker Paul Ryan. Plus, it’s going to give President Trump his first big — and it is big — legislative win.

I’m largely focusing on Fox & Friends because it has one very important viewer — President Trump — who has praised the show multiple times, and even thanked them for helping him win the presidency. It is the inner monologue of a president who has aggressively criticized most other media outlets for their reporting of his presidency.

Some shows on the network were slightly more nuanced, saying that people will choose to be uninsured because Obamacare will no longer mandate people to have insurance.

The bottom third also suggests the new version of the bill protects people with preexisting conditions. It does not.

There was little talk of why the mandate existed in the first place, and the mechanism the AHCA uses in its place: a penalty for people who want to buy insurance on the marketplace after a lapse in coverage.

Painting the CBO — and subsequently the media — as biased

Occasionally a guest would be on a Fox News show to represent the opposing viewpoint, and they would defend the 24 million number, though almost immediately a conservative guest or the host would reframe the discussion around CBO’s credibility or Obamacare’s failure. But it was this inherent conflict — between left and right, between “them” and “us” — that framed the coverage around the CBO report.

After watching the nearly 100 times people on Fox News confronted these numbers, the CBO report stopped feeling like a number describing humans. Rather, it felt like a political concoction — a number whipped up to make Obamacare repeal harder.

In fact, media outlets and experts who cited the CBO score were also treated with contempt. Below is a screenshot of a segment on how unfairly the mainstream media is treating the AHCA after the CBO score:

It’s cruel to disorient people like this

American health care is complicated. This AHCA debate is complicated. Yet it’s these complicated details that determine the cost and quality of care for our bodies.

So when nonpartisan analysts say that a bill will cause 23 million to lose insurance in 10 years and make costs skyrocket for older and poorer Americans, it should clarify our political opinions.

But Fox News has taken advantage of television as a medium to try to convince its viewers that “23 million” is a partisan tool, not an evidence-based projection. It’s basing its rhetoric on personality, on partisanship, on tribalism, and insisting that people trust them, not the mainstream media or the nonpartisan analysts who are desperate to take down Donald Trump.

Let’s put it this way: When our satellites tell us a powerful hurricane is headed toward us, it’s irresponsible not to tell everyone to get out of the way. But convincing the people that the tools are malfunctioning, that the hurricane isn’t coming their way, that the rest of the news reports are wrong? That’s cruel.

Renewable Energy Growth, 40 Years Ahead of EIA’ s Forecast

EcoWatch

Renewable Energy Growth, 40 Years Ahead of EIA’ s Forecast

By Sun Day Campaign     May 30, 2017

The latest issue of the U.S. Energy Information’s (EIA) Electric Power Monthly (with data through March 31) reveals that renewable energy sources (i.e., biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar—inc. small-scale PV, wind) accounted for 19.35 percent of net U.S. electrical generation during the first quarter of 2017. Of this, conventional hydropower accounted for 8.67 percent, followed by wind (7.10 percent), biomass (1.64 percent), solar (1.47 percent) and geothermal (0.47 percent). Combined, non-hydro renewables accounted for 10.68 percent of total generation.

Yet, just five years ago, in its 2012 Annual Energy Outlook, EIA forecast: “Generation from renewable sources grows by 77 percent in the reference case, raising its share of total generation from 10 percent in 2010 to 15 percent in 2035 … The share of the total electricity generation accounted for by non-hydropower renewable generation increases from about 4 percent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2035.”

If one assumes growth continuing at about the same annual rate as during the 25-year EIA forecast period (2010-2035), renewables would not be expected to reach 19.35 percent until roughly the year 2057—40 years from now.

EIA’s 2012 report further forecast: “Wind [electrical generating] capacity increasing from 39 gigawatts (GW) in 2010 to 70 GW in 2035.” A corresponding chart illustrates that projection and also shows solar reaching 24 GW of capacity in 2035.

In reality, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s latest Energy Infrastructure Update, with data for the first three months of 2017, wind generating capacity already totals 84.59 GW while utility-scale solar has reached 25.84 GW (and this does not include distributed small-scale systems such as rooftop solar). *

“Thus, not only has renewable energy’s share of total domestic electrical generation nearly doubled in the past seven years, it has reached a level of output that EIA—just five years ago—did not anticipate happening for another four decades,” Ken Bossong, executive director of the SUN DAY Campaign, noted.

“While one might conclude that EIA’s methodology is seriously flawed, it is also safe to say that renewables—especially solar and wind—are vastly exceeding expectations and breaking records at an astonishing pace.”‘

This is clearly evidenced by comparing 2017 to 2016 year-to-date. During the first quarter of 2016, renewables provided 17.23 percent of total generation versus 19.35 percent in 2017. Actual generation by renewables is 9.70 percent greater than just a year ago. In particular, solar (i.e., solar thermal, utility-scale PV and distributed PV) has ballooned by 34.1 percent, wind has expanded by 11.4 percent, conventional hydropower has grown by 7.7 percent and geothermal has increased by 3.2 percent. Only biomass has declined year-on-year—by 1.6 percent.

* Note that generating capacity is not the same as actual generation. Electrical production per MW of available capacity (i.e., capacity factor) for renewables is often, but not always, lower than that for fossil fuels and nuclear power. The total installed operating generating capacity provided by utility-scale renewables in 2017 is now 19.5% of the nation’s total for the first three months of 2017 (according to the latest U.S. FERC figures) whereas actual electrical generation from renewables for the same period is roughly 19.4 percent. However, both of these figures understate renewables’ actual contribution because neither EIA nor FERC fully accounts for all electricity generated by smaller-scale, distributed renewable energy sources. FERC’s data, for example, is limited to plants with nameplate capacity of 1 MW or greater and thereby fail to include distributed sources such as rooftop solar.

Two Scientists, Two Different Approaches To Saving Bees From Poison Dust

NPR

Two Scientists, Two Different Approaches To Saving Bees From Poison Dust

Dan Charles May 27, 2017

A tractor pulls a planter while distributing corn seed on a field in Malden, Ill. Two scientists agree that pesticide-laden dust from planting equipment kills bees. But they’re proposing different solutions, because they disagree about whether the pesticides are useful to farmers.

Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s planting time in America. Farmers are spending long days on their tractors, pulling massive planters across millions of acres of farmland, dropping corn and soybean seeds into the ground.

Most of those seeds have been coated with pesticides known as neonicotinoids, or neonics for short. And despite attempts by pesticide makers to reduce this, some of that coating is getting rubbed off the seeds and blown into the air. That dust is settling on the ground, on ponds, and on vegetation nearby.

Honeybees and wild bees, looking for food, will encounter traces of the pesticides, and some will be harmed. They may become disoriented and bring less food back to their colony. Many may die.

Several years ago, Christian Krupke, an insect specialist at Purdue University in Indiana, became one of the first researchers to discover that rogue dust was wiping out bee colonies. At first, Art Schaafsma, an entomologist at the University of Guelph, in Canada, didn’t believe it was true.

“Unfortunately — myself included — in the early days there was a lot of skepticism,” Schaafsma says. He regrets that reaction now. “We do have a problem, and we’ve got to fix it,” he tells me.

There are a lot of things that Krupke and Schaafsma disagree about when it comes to neonicotinoids. Krupke believes — while Schaafsma does not — that bees may also be harmed by exposure to smaller quantities of neonicotinoids that show up in the leaves and pollen of plants grown from coated seeds, or even in wildflowers that grow in or near fields where the crops are planted.

They do agree that the dust is a problem. They just have different ideas about how to fix it.

Schaafsma’s solution is sitting in a garage on the Ridgetown Campus of the University of Guelph. It’s a shiny new piece of farm equipment, a seed planter that Schaafsma has taken apart and re-engineered.

Like most modern planters, it uses air pressure to move the seeds from a storage bin through tubes and into the soil. Schaafsma points to the end of one pipe. “This is the air intake, OK? See the problem already?

That pipe is close to the ground. When a tractor pulls this planter across a field, dust will get sucked into this opening, along with air. Inside the planting mechanism, “the air is rushing past that seed, it’s laden with dirt, and it’s acting like a sandblaster,” Schaafsma says. That dirt grinds a little bit of the neonicotinoid coating from the seed, and then carries the pesticide dust with it as it exhausts from the planter, straight up into the air.

That’s normally how the planter works. But Schaafsma has made some changes on this one, outfitting it with special dust traps, similar to high-quality vacuum cleaner filters. “We’re probably filtering 99 percent of what comes out of the exhaust,” he says.

Schaafsma thinks that this equipment, if installed on all seed planters, would eliminate most of the risk to bees from neonicotinoid-treated seeds.

Schaafsma has been testing his theory by setting up honeybee hives near corn fields that were planted using his filter-outfitted equipment, monitoring these hives and measuring their honey production. “We just want to demonstrate that it can be done — that bees and corn can co-exist,” he says.

Schaafsma wants co-existence because he wants farmers to be able to use neonicotinoid-treated seed. “I see them as valuable tools, which should be handled with care,” he says.

This, however, is where Schaafsma and Christian Krupke part ways. Krupke is not convinced that farmers are getting much benefit — if any — from the seed coatings. In most cases, Krupke says, the pesticides don’t appear to be worth the money that farmers are spending.

So his solution is even simpler: Stop using them so much. At the very least, he says, seed companies should give farmers the option of planting seeds without neonicotinoids on them. Right now, it’s often difficult to find such untreated seeds.

This month, Krupke and some colleagues published two scientific papers with evidence to support his case. The first study, conducted by researchers at seven Midwestern universities, concluded that neonicotinoid-treated soybean seeds performed no better than untreated seeds in fending off aphids, one of the major pests that the seed treatments are supposed to control. According to the study, farmers would be better off leaving their seeds untreated, monitoring their fields, and resorting to conventional spraying of pesticides when the aphids attacked.

In another study, Krupke found that the seed treatments weren’t of much benefit to corn yields, either. In some fields, pesticide-treated seed performed better, in other fields it did worse. Combining the results from all the sites, the average yield from the treated seed was about 2 percent higher, but Krupke says that difference is not statistically or economically significant — certainly not the kind of clear effect that would justify its use on nearly all the corn in the country.

Companies that sell seeds and neonicotinoid pesticides have attacked similar studies in the past, arguing that farmers clearly do see benefits from the seed treatments, because they’re happy to pay for them. Other researchers, including Schaafsma, have reported that treated seed has produced higher yields, with the increase ranging from 1.5 to 5 percent.

Krupke says he’d like to do more extensive studies comparing treated and untreated seed, but companies that control the seed now are refusing to provide samples for him to use.

Krupke says that there’s growing interest among farmers in plant seeds that are not treated with neonicotinoids — if only they could find such seeds.

Schaafsma, for his part, thinks it will be easier to stop dust pollution from seed planters than to convince farmers not to use pesticide-coated seeds. This is something that farmers clearly would like to do, he says, and it’s technically feasible. Bayer CropScience, the big chemical company that sells most of the neonic seed coatings, has developed its own version of a dust trap that could be installed on planters.

The problem is, none of the big farm-equipment companies are offering the dust traps for sale. These companies that make planting equipment, such as Case, Kinze, and John Deere, have installed shields that direct the neonic-laden exhaust down toward the ground, rather than into the air, but Schaafsma says that’s not good enough.

“The only people who don’t recognize [the problem] well enough yet are the equipment manufacturers,” he says.

Trump Wants To Defund Programs That Help Small Farmers Survive

Trump Wants To Defund Programs That Help Small Farmers Survive

Joseph Erbentraut   HuffPost    May 28, 2017

When Marshall Bartlett describes Como — the northern Mississippi town of 1,200 where he lives and operates a farm that’s been in his family for 150 years — he says the statistics speak for themselves.

Among the Panola County town’s residents, 35 percent report income below the poverty line, far exceeding the statewide poverty rate — which itself has been cited as the highest in the nation. And the county’s unemployment rate of 6 percent outpaces state and national numbers.

“It’s all pretty grim,” Bartlett admitted.

Bartlett says his father had encouraged him and his siblings to not pursue careers in agriculture, and he initially heeded that advice — earning a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies at Dartmouth College and working with AmeriCorps to rebuild the homes of Hurricane Katrina victims in neighboring Louisiana, among other pursuits.

But about four years ago, the now-28-year-old returned to the farm with a lofty aim: to not only keep the farm in the family but also bring economic opportunities back to the place where he grew up.

The result was Home Place Pastures. Bartlett and his team grow and process pasture-raised pork, beef and lamb with a keen eye on humane handling and environmentally friendly practices. The farm now processes about 25 hogs, five steers and 20 lambs and goats a week, bringing in about $30,000 in revenue. And Bartlett has 12 farm employees, about half of whom live right in Como.

“We’ve gotten here in a little over three years, which is pretty crazy,” Bartlett told HuffPost. “I’m really proud to have built this here.”

Though a lot of hard work contributed to that success, Bartlett also credits two U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development grants that helped make the farm’s steady growth possible.

In 2014, Bartlett applied for and received a USDA value-added producer grant (VAPG) of about $50,000 to help finance the farm’s expansion of its pork business, allowing it to supply products to area restaurants, retailers and consumers by helping to finance refrigerated delivery equipment. A year later, the farm received a second $50,000 grant to help establish its free-range lamb operation.

Bartlett doubts the farm would be in the position it is today without the federal help.

“We were able to handle these upfront expenses without borrowing a ton of money,” he said. “Without that injection of those grants, we wouldn’t have been able to do all this.”

The VAPG program was created under the Clinton administration in 2000 to reward farmers, particularly beginners, who were working to diversify farm income streams by creating products and marketing opportunities that added resilience against volatile commodity prices. The program awarded $45 million in grants to 325 producers last year.

This kind of support, advocates say, is especially important when many U.S. farmers are struggling with falling income and rising debt, as well as the extreme weather challenges associated with climate change.

And yet the program is on the chopping block.

As part of a proposed 21 percent reduction in the USDA’s overall spending, President Donald Trump’s budget plan calls for eliminating the funding for VAPG and other rural development programs under the department’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service.

The programs were deemed “duplicative and underperforming” in the president’s skinny budget. Neither USDA nor Office of Management and Budget officials responded to a request for further explanation of the proposal.

Wes King, policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said the elimination of these programs could be devastating for many smaller farmers.

“If this were to go away, I think you would have a number of farms that would probably end up closing up shop,” King told HuffPost.

Anna Johnson, a policy program associate at the nonpartisan Center for Rural Affairs, described the RBCS cuts as particularly alarming when combined with massive cuts proposed for other initiatives aimed at rural communities, like zeroed-out funding for the Rural Economic Development Program as well as the USDA’s water and wastewater loan program, which helps fund rural infrastructure projects.

“Economic opportunity in these rural areas is a really big issue, and these areas face higher levels of poverty,” Johnson said. “These are really important programs. For the administration to propose eliminating these supports is troubling for rural communities.”

Criticism of the proposed USDA cuts has come from all sides of the agriculture sector ― including the conservative-leaning Farm Bureau Federation, which said the plan “fails agriculture and rural America” ― as well as members of Congress from both parties.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue appeared to be distancing himself from the president’s spending plan this week. Perdue attempted to assure lawmakers that he is elevating rural development concerns at the USDA, but his reorganization has eliminated the undersecretary for rural development.

Some farmers appear willing to give Perdue a chance to make good on that pledge.

In 2015, William Powers, who owns and operates Darby Springs Farm in Ceresco, Nebraska, alongside his wife, Crystal, was another recipient of a $50,000 VAPG grant. The federal money helped finance the farm’s construction of a creamery that will allow them to make and sell ice cream using milk from their pasture-grazed dairy cows.

“The program is crucial for young entrepreneurs with a cash-flow situation,” Powers explained. “We’re not independently wealthy, so that grant helps us make up some of those upfront payments.”

While Powers believes the proposed cuts to the VAPG and other USDA rural development programs would be detrimental to farms like his, he thinks it’s unlikely Congress will move forward with them.

“But who knows?” he added. “I’m an optimist.”

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.

Fox News journalist gives eyewitness account of Greg Gianforte allegedly assaulting reporter

Good Morning America

Fox News journalist gives eyewitness account of Greg Gianforte allegedly assaulting reporter

Morgan Winsor,  Good Morning America May 25, 2017

Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna says she was among a handful of journalists who witnessed Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate in Montanta’s special House election, slam a reporter to the ground Wednesday night.

In a Fox News report summarizing the alleged incident, Acuna said she and two members of her production crew — field producer Faith Mangan and photographer Keith Raily — had a scheduled interview with Gianforte at the candidate’s office in Bozeman, Montana, on Wednesday. Gianforte entered the room and “exchanged pleasantries and made small talk about restaurants and Bozeman” with Acuna and her team, she said.

“During that conversation, another man — who we now know is Ben Jacobs of The Guardian — walked into the room with a voice recorder, put it up to Gianforte’s face and began asking if he had a response to the newly released Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act,” Acuna wrote in the Fox News report. “Gianforte told him he would get to him later. Jacobs persisted with his question. Gianforte told him to talk to his press guy, Shane Scanlon.”

The encounter suddenly took a violent turn, she said.

“Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” Acuna wrote. “Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!'”

“Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer,” Acuna continued. “Jacobs then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.”

Gianforte, a former technology executive, left the scene after providing statements to local sheriff’s deputies, according to Acuna.

Gianforte has been charged with misdemeanor assault, according to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

“Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement on its website Wednesday night.

The statement added that the “nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault.”

At a press conference Wednesday, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said that four people were present for the alleged incident.

As a result of the citation, Gianforte is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7.

In the Fox News report, Acuna said she and her crew are “cooperating with local authorities” and will have to appear in court.

Before the charges were filed, Gianforte’s spokesman Shane Scanlon issued a statement, placing the blame on Jacobs and claiming the candidate’s actions were a response to Jacobs pushing a phone in his face during “a separate interview in a private office” that he entered “without permission.”

“Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined,” according to the statement. “Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

In the Fox News report, Acuna wrote that she and her production crew “at no point” saw Jacobs demonstrate “any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte.”

ABC News’ Adam Kelsey contributed to this report.

 

ThinkProgress

GOP candidate’s attack on journalist is an extension of Trump’s violent, anti-media rhetoric

The alleged assault of Ben Jacobs did not happen in a vacuum.

Lindsay Gibbs,  Sports Reporter at ThinkProgress     May 25, 2017

Wednesday, on the eve of Montana’s special election for its congressional seat, Guardian political reporter Ben Jacobs approached Republican candidate Greg Gianforte. Jacobs wanted to know if Gianforte supported the American Health Care Act, which the Congressional Budget Office had just revealed would cause 23 million Americans to lose insurance.

Gianforte dodged the question, but when the reporter persisted, the candidate “grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him,” according to an eyewitness account by Fox News reporters who were on the scene. Then Gianforte began punching Jacobs, who released audio of the incident.

Jacobs was taken to the hospital, Gianforte was charged with misdemeanor assault, and the special election is proceeding as previously scheduled, with no prominent GOP figures rescinding their support of Gianforte.

It’s appalling, but ultimately not surprising, that a politician allegedly assaulted a reporter who was merely doing his job. This is the result of the violent, anti-media rhetoric that President Trump has been spewing since early in his campaign. It’s a progression of — not an exception to — the current climate of the Republican Party under Trump’s leadership.

Throughout his campaign — and since his victory — Trump told his supporters the story of a crooked, “liberal media” conspiring to spread lies to take down him and his supporters. Trump has, in no uncertain terms, said that the media is the enemy and the “opposition party.”

And at Trump’s campaign rallies, where violent incidents grew to be quite common, anger was often targeted at this agreed-upon enemy: the media.

In October, Paul Farhi of the Washington Post reported that the disdain for reporters at Trump rallies had turned into “outright hostility.” Members of the press contingent were met with boos, abusive slurs, and obscenities as they were merely trying to do their job.

“Reporters are now concealing or removing their press credentials when leaving the pen to avoid confrontations with Trump’s supporters,” Farhi said. “The atmosphere is particularly threatening to female reporters and to female TV reporters whose faces are well known, reporters say. (‘The camera draws the hate,’ as one put it.) Some reporters have wondered aloud about the need for more security, or at least more barriers to separate them from the crowd as they enter and exit Trump’s events.”

Trump sometimes even singled out reporters on the campaign trail, leading to targeted abuse and even death threats.

“MAYBE A FEW JOURNALISTS DO NEED TO BE WHACKED. MAYBE THEN THEYD STOP BEI[N]G BIASED HACKS. KILL EM ALL STARTING W/ KATY TUR,” one Trump supporter tweeted at NBC reporter Katy Tur after Trump repeatedly called her out during campaign rallies.

Tur wasn’t the only reporter who felt unsafe on the campaign trail.

“He was unhappy with some story I had done and he did a little impression of me on stage, and started talking about this terrible CNN reporter,” CNN’s Sara Turner said during the campaign. “Then he called me out by name. The next thing I knew, I had thousands of Trump fans turning around [and] jeering at me.”

In February, Paste Magazine published an article examining Trump’s impact on the media entitled “Should American Journalists Fear for Their Physical Safety?”

The lede summed it up: “Probably.”

It’s important to note that Trump himself has never body-slammed any reporters to the ground for asking a simple question about health care (though he did defend his then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was arrested and charged with simple battery of former Brietbart reporter Michelle Fields in March).

But the environment he cultivates around himself, and the casual rhetoric he uses —Trump once thanked his supporters for being “vicious” and “violent” in the lead-up to the election — has consequences.

As ThinkProgress has previously reported, Trump’s rhetoric fits into a pattern of what researchers refer to as “stochastic terrorism” —using suggestive language rhetoric to inspire radicals to carry out violent acts. In other words, it’s possible to spur others to violence without explicitly instructing them to do so.

And it’s not a coincidence that Gianforte was an ardent Trump supporter who went hunting with Donald Trump Jr. and campaigned beside Vice President Mike Pence. The Guardian’s Jacobs, who had covered the Montana special election extensively, reported before the alleged assault that Gianforte was “eager to embrace Donald Trump … and regularly talks about ‘making America great again’ and ‘draining the swamp.’”

It’s certainly not a surprise to see that Gianforte himself has “joked” about violence against the media in the past.

At one campaign event earlier this year, the Missoulian reported that a Gianforte supporter asked the candidate, “Our biggest enemy is the news media. How can we rein in the news media?”

After asking the question, the supporter turned to the reporter beside him and mimed strangling him. Gianforte reportedly smiled, before responding: “We have someone right here. It seems like there is more of us than there is of him.”

Ultimately, Gianforte might face zero political consequences for his actions.

Over half of registered voters in Montana cast their ballots before Wednesday. Gianforte’s opponent, Democrat Rob Quist, is still an underdog. Even though the race was tightening before Gianforte slammed a reporter to the ground, Gianforte could still win this election. And if he does win, it appears he’ll also be welcomed to Washington with open arms.

GOP leaders, including House Majority Leader Paul Ryan, are all stillsupporting Gianforte. Trump and Pence have not commented. Conservative pundits are spinning the story away.

Jacobs, who has also reported on Gianforte’s financial ties to Russia, approached a politician at a campaign event and asked a crucial policy question, one that Montana voters deserved to know the answer to.

In Trump’s America, that’s now viewed as a threat.

From Montana Public Radio

On Eve Of Election, Montana GOP Candidate Charged With Assault On Reporter

Jessica Taylor and Eric Whitney   May 24, 2017  Updated on May 25th

The Montana special congressional race was roiled on the eve of Thursday’s vote after GOP nominee Greg Gianforte allegedly “body slammed” a reporter and was subsequently cited by local authorities.

The Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office announced they were charging Gianforte with misdemeanor assault:

Following multiple interviews and an investigation by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office it was determined there was probable cause to issue a citation to Greg Gianforte for misdemeanor assault (MCA 45-5-201). The nature of the injuries did not meet the statutory elements of felony assault. Greg Gianforte received a citation on Wednesday night and is scheduled to appear in Gallatin County Justice Court between now and June 7, 2017.

According to audio posted by Ben Jacobs, a political reporter with The Guardian, he was attempting to ask Gianforte a question, ahead of a campaign event in Bozeman, about the Congressional Budget Office’s scoring of the Republican health care bill, which showed that 23 million more people would be uninsured in 2026 if the bill were enacted.

In the recording, Jacobs can be heard asking Gianforte about the CBO score. Gianforte says he doesn’t have time and directs Jacobs to talk to his spokesman, then there is a scuffle and a crash.

“I’m sick and tired of you guys!” Gianforte can be heard yelling. “The last guy did the same damn thing. Get the hell out of here.”

Gianforte’s campaign spokesman claimed in a statement that Jacobs interrupted an interview “without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions.”

“After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground,” Gianforte spokesperson Shane Scanlon said. “It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

That account from the campaign, however, appears to be contradicted by three Fox News journalists who had been in the room setting up for an interview with Gianforte:

At that point, Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of “I’m sick and tired of this!”

Jacobs scrambled to his knees and said something about his glasses being broken. He asked Faith, Keith and myself for our names. In shock, we did not answer. He then said he wanted the police called and went to leave. Gianforte looked at the three of us and repeatedly apologized. At that point, I told him and Scanlon, who was now present, that we needed a moment. The men then left.

To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.

Jacobs tells Gianforte he broke his glasses and that he was going to report the incident to the police. He later called into MSNBC and said that he was getting his elbow — which may have been injured during the altercation — X-rayed at a nearby hospital.

In his statement on the Gianforte’s misdemeanor assault citation, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin, who has previously donated $250 to Gianforte’s congressional campaign, said that his “contribution has nothing to do with our investigation which is now complete.”

Shortly after the assault charges against Gianforte were announced, both the Billings Gazette and the Missoulian newspaper rescinded their endorsement of Gianforte Wednesday evening.

The incident comes less than 24 hours before voters in Montana were set to head to the polls in a race that is seen as a potential bellwether for the 2018 congressional midterm elections.

The race between Gianforte and Democratic nominee Rob Quist had already tightened in a state that President Trump won by 20 points last November. It’s unclear what effect the altercation might have on the contest, but at least one-third of voters have likely already cast their ballots early. The contest is to replace former GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who Trump named his Interior secretary earlier this year.

Spending looks likely to reach $18 million in the fast moving, 85-day shootout, a record for the seat and double what was spent in the 2016 race. The candidates have each raised about $5 million, with more than $7 million being spent by outside groups.

Montana’s contest pits a wealthy businessman — Gianforte, who narrowly lost the race for governor last year — against Quist, a locally famous singer-songwriter and political neophyte.

Democrats were already hopeful that negative headlines from Washington, D.C., would give the Stetson-wearing crooner Quist the momentum he needs to score an upset — and that was before the altercation between Gianforte and the reporter on Wednesday evening.

But Republicans have held Montana’s House seat since 1996. The GOP is confident that Treasure State voters will stick with the party of Trump, who won Montana by 20 points in November.

Quist was slow out of the gate, taking a month to get a campaign ad on TV, and he didn’t get financial backing from the national Democratic Party until halfway into the 12-week race.

By contrast, Gianforte quickly won millions in support from the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund, the NRA and allied national groups. Gianforte had campaign ads on TV days before he even secured his party’s nomination.

Gianforte has paired himself with aspects of the president’s agenda in this race — promising “to fight back against Washington, D.C.’s war on the West” — after distancing himself from then-candidate Trump last fall. Gianforte was the only Republican statewide candidate in Montana to lose in November, receiving the fewest votes of any GOP candidate in what was otherwise a party sweep.

In that campaign, Democrats successfully painted Gianforte as a “New Jersey millionaire” trying to buy the governorship.

Gianforte moved to Montana 24 years ago from Pennsylvania, starting a software company that Oracle purchased in 2011 for $1.5 billion. Gianforte spent $6 million of his own money running for governor, and has loaned his House campaign $1.5 million this time around.

(His former employee Steve Daines, also a Republican, won Montana’s U.S. House race in 2012 and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014.)

Quist has attempted to demonize Gianforte for his wealth and out-of-state origins. In early ads, Quist defended himself against NRA attacks by polishing a vintage Winchester rifle, which he says he’s owned since “long before Greg Gianforte showed up from New Jersey.”

Late in the race, Quist pivoted to emphasizing Gianforte’s support for the House health care bill. On the day it passed, the Republican told reporters he would have voted against it. But on the same day, in a recorded phone call to party backers that was leaked to the New York Times, Gianforte said he was “thankful” that it passed.

Republicans attack Quist for a history of personal financial troubles. But the Democrat has attempted to turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse by saying his money problems are related to a botched surgery that rendered him indebted and uninsurable. Quist’s final TV ads say that he, like half of all Montanans, could lose health coverage due to pre-existing medical conditions if the Affordable Care Act is repealed.

There’s no reliable public polling, but this week Gianforte is telling his backers, “this race is closer than it should be.” Both his and Quist’s volunteers have fanned out across the state in advance of an unusual election day that falls on the Thursday before the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Montana’s Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock picked the election date, the earliest allowed by law.

“The biggest hurdle for us has been trying to combat voter confusion,” said Rebecca Connors, clerk of Missoula County, the state’s second most populous, on Monday.

Just weeks before absentee voting began May 1, a bipartisan bill to conduct the election solely by mail-in ballot failed in the Republican-controlled state legislature.

“I feel like a lot of voters never found any resolution of how that outcome came, so we’re getting lots of calls,” said Connors.

Connors also notes that many traditional polling places won’t be open, they’re either already booked for school graduations, or too expensive to staff for county governments which struggled to meet 2016 election expenses.

Prior to Wednesday’s altercation, University of Montana political science professor Rob Saldin said Quist’s best shot hinges on a big Democratic turnout combined with low enthusiasm from Republican voters. But given the GOP’s superior numbers in Montana, “Gianforte has a much bigger margin of error,” Saldin said.

The Montana polls close Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.

Eric Whitney is a reporter with Montana Public Radio.

Behind the Montana special election “body slam” story is an important point about the AHCA

Updated by Tara Golshan  May 24, 2017

Republican Greg Gianforte is up for election tomorrow in a special House race in Montana — and he, allegedly, decided to body-slam Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs after a question about the projected effects of the health care bill Republicans passed earlier this month.

And there’s a way to almost make sense of it. Let’s walk through this:

Jacobs, according to the audio the Guardian released of the incident, asked Gianforte what he thought about the new report from the Congressional Budget Office on the House’s health bill. It’s a pretty innocuous question. (I asked about half a dozen Republican politicians the same question earlier in the day — though none of them had quite the reaction Gianforte did.)

But for Republicans like Gianforte, the answer is complicated. As it turns out, the updated CBO score looks bad — it estimated the number of uninsured would increase by 23 million in the first 10 years and make it much harder for those with preexisting conditions to obtain coverage — barely an improvement on the first draft of the bill Republicans considered.

Gianforte has publicly come out against the American Health Care Act, saying he would not have voted in favor of the version that passed the House, and, as Jacobs pointed out, that he was waiting to make further judgments after the CBO’s score. Privately, Gianforte expressed (in a leaked audio tape) that he was happy the Obamacare repeal and replace process is in motion, which Democrats took to mean that the House passed the bill.

There is no explaining why Gianforte allegedly chose to physically assault Jacobs, but the context around it clarifies just how high the stakes are with health care for Republicans in vulnerable districts.

The Montana special election is proving to be a much closer race than expected in such a deeply red state. And as Vox’s Jeff Stein explained, it’s not only President Trump’s scandal-soaked White House that’s gaining Democrats some ground. It’s policy — and specifically, health care:

Trump may be increasingly unpopular nationally, but Speaker Paul Ryan’s American Health Care Act — which Trump has backed but the conservative vision for which entirely predates his rise — is far more politically toxic. The evidence is mounting in ongoing congressional campaigns. In the upcoming special elections in Georgia and Montana, Democrats’ closing pitches have had far more to do with defending Obamacare than attacking Trump, while the Republicans in those races look to the president for political cover.

Gianforte’s opposition, Democrat Rob Quist — a banjo player with no prior political experience — has been hitting Gianforte hard on health care. Stein explains:

There’s a good reason for Quist to go after the AHCA rather than Trump: The president remains popular in Montana, a state he won by 20 points. (Quist’s opponent, tech millionaire Greg Gianforte, is hugging Trump about as closely as possible.) The Medicaid expansion under Obamacare covered 70,000 Montanans, and the AHCA is polling in the mid-20s nationally, while the approval rating of Obamacare skyrockets.

This is also why House Democrats keep jeering that the American Health Care Act is going to lose Republicans the majority in 2018. (They literally sang “na na na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye” at House Republican as the AHCA passed.)

Democratic and Republican congressional campaign operatives will tell you it’s far too early to know what will actually happen in the midterm elections, but moderate Republicans who are concerned with coverage loss and represent districts that like Obamacare, but still voted for the AHCA, are already showing signs of just how hard this health care vote was for them.

Take Rep. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, who sits in an extremely vulnerable seat in 2018 — he called the new CBO score a “moderate improvement” and said he hopes the progress continues in the Senate.

Other Republicans, like moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, who was one of the Republicans who helped get the AHCA over the House finish line in May, resigned himself to just questioning the validity of the CBO report. Earlier this week, MacArthur said he would resign as co-chair of the Tuesday Group, the moderate Republican caucus, because they were just too “divided.”

The AHCA still has a long way to go — but it’s already on shaky ground. And apparently, as we saw in Gianforte’s case, it means Republicans are getting pestered with questions they don’t know how to answer.