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Pence is half a world away from D.C. drama

Vice President Mike Pence was at the Capitol, ready to cast the tie-breaking vote, when the Republican push to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed this past July. And he was there presiding when the Senate voted in December 51-48 to pass a massive package of tax cuts, giving President Donald Trump his first major domestic victory.

But now, as Trump faces his first major legislative crisis, Pence is half a world away.

He left Washington on Friday night for a trip to the Middle East, hours before the government shut down amid an impasse between Democrats and Republicans over extending protections to young undocumented immigrants.

On Saturday, as Trump worked the phones at the White House, the vice president was being welcomed to Egypt by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, kicking off a trip that will also include stops in Israel and Jordan.

“He is always in the right place at the right time, discreet, dedicated and freakishly absent from tumultuous events,” said Mary Matalin, a former counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Pence insisted on keeping his overseas appointments despite the shutdown after moving the trip once to accommodate the tax vote just before Christmas. The trip was billed as a national security exercise in part to avoid any shutdown disruption, White House officials said.

Pence’s task, like that of every senior aide in Trump’s administration, is to do more than just fulfill his responsibilities — it is to do so without ever overshadowing the boss, without ever releasing even a whiff of disloyalty and without causing the types of soap opera distractions that Trump himself so often creates.

But the vice president has demonstrated a knack for dodging some of the administration’s most controversial moments. He was, for example, in Nevada recently when Trump held the meeting in which he described countries in Africa and elsewhere as “shitholes,” setting off a chain of events that resulted in the shutdown.

His absence means one of the White House’s most trusted figures on the Hill is out of the picture — and that Pence is far from the blame game embroiling the Capitol.

The White House and Pence’s office did not respond to a request for comment about his absence might impact the negotiations to re-open the government.

Trump spent the anniversary of his inauguration speaking with congressional GOP leaders and top Cabinet officials. Legislative affairs director Marc Short and OMB director Mick Mulvaney pilloried Democrats from the White House briefing room. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders huddled with deputies in a closed-door meeting in her office, and many of the desks in the lower press office sat empty because a number of press aides were furloughed.

On the Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer exchanged barbs on the Senate floor, with Schumer comparing negotiating with Trump to negotiating with “Jell-O.”

Punctuating it all, anti-Trump protesters took to the streets across the country for the second annual women’s march.

Pence took a moment to tweet from a refueling stop in Ireland early Satuday: “It’s disappointing to every American that Democrats in the Senate would shutdown the gov’t when we have troops in harms way.”

But later, as he departed Egypt for Jordan, he turned the focus back to his own expedition, even giving himself a hashtag: “Productive discussion with Egyptian President @AlsisiOfficial on a range of issues. We are united not just in commerce and in prosperity, but most importantly in a commitment to security. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Egypt in the fight against terrorism. #VPinEgypt.”

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Today’s Counterculture Movements May Be Artificially Created by Big Business

Back in the 1960s it was easy to tap into a ‘counterculture’ because it was everywhere. There was an explosion of happenings that were tearing down mainstream, establishment institutions. It was rock music, the drug scene, or just living like a hippy – wearing tie-dye shirts, bell bottom jeans, long hair, flowers-in-hair and love beads.

But today in our seemingly sterile wealth-driven society just identifying a movement that might be “counterculture” is not so easy. Sure, one can get some tattoos – but just about everyone has “ink” nowadays, even grandmas and grandpas.

If you think music can make your counterculture statement, well, think aain. Music today is more about tribalism than social upheaval. You’re either into hip-hop or country, boy bands or what’s left of the guitar-driven rock. But a particular genre of music is no longer a social movement,or goes far in making a special statement.

Amazingly, the only sources that seem to be generating true counterculture movements today are the last entities you would expect to be doing so – profit-generating business models that are looking for new ways to promote their brands with norm-bending ideas.

A case in point is the snowboard manufacturer, Burton Snowboards. This company raised awareness of its brand by creating a kind of counterculture movement called “Sabotaging Stupid.” The purpose of this movement was to get snowboard enthusiasts everywhere to crash ski resorts that still holding out against allowing snowboards on their slopes.

The company offered cold hard cash — $5,000 – to the snowboarders who could make the best video of their attempt to invade some snooty ski resort. The idea caught on. A virtual counterculture of snowboarding activity arose. The counterculture identity formed around the common subversive goal of defiling traditional ski slopes with gnarly snowboarding grooves.

Another example was an idea from a major brand, Ralph Loren. Stores started selling off-brand antique watches not designed by Loren. The idea paid off big for Ralph Loren because the exotic watch selection gave their locations a certain steam punk vibe that carried an aura of counter culture rebellion.

So if you notice a cool trend that smacks of an organic underground movement driven by counterculture types – it may be just another clever marketing ploy brought to you courtesy of an established corporate brand.

Congress, Trump down to the wire on shutdown

Washington is barreling toward a government shutdown at midnight Friday, with no apparent sign of a last-minute breakthrough and each party blaming the other for causing the crisis.

President Donald Trump met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) at the White House on Friday to try to broker an agreement. But the New York Democrat returned without one, saying he and Trump discussed “all the areas” on which the two sides disagree. And Congress went into a lull for much of the late afternoon and early evening Friday, as senators and aides alike waited around for any glimmers of a deal.

Senate Democrats scheduled a caucus-wide meeting for 8:30 p.m. The chamber will hold a procedural vote on the House-passed stopgap funding measure at 10 p.m., which currently does not have the 60 votes needed to advance.

“We had a long and detailed meeting,” Schumer said as he returned from the White House. “We discussed all of the major outstanding issues, we made some progress, but we still have a good number of disagreements. The discussions will continue.”

Republicans are still intent on making sure Democrats bear full blame if the government does shut down after midnight Friday. Senate Republicans emerged from a party lunch — in which senators chomped on barbecue from Rocklands, a local chain — waiting to see whether the Schumer-Trump meeting would bear fruit.

“I don’t know where Sen. McConnell is at. I know he’s a bit frustrated that he doesn’t know where the White House wants us to land,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a leader of the push for a bipartisan immigration deal.

House Republicans, satisfied they’ve done their job after passing a four-week spending extension Thursday night, had been preparing to leave town for the weekend, although lawmakers have been told to keep their Friday schedules flexible and stick around for potential late-night votes. Still, the government is set to shutter unless one side caves and agrees to something they’ve vowed not to.

“I think we let it soak in a little bit so that the Democrats are the ones that are shutting down the government and what their priorities are,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Friday. Those priorities, Cornyn said, are “clearly not the children’s health insurance program, clearly not the military. It’s … to get another short-term [continuing resolution], which hurts the military, and it’s all designed to build leverage for immigration.”

Still, Democrats are confident that voters will hold Republicans responsible since they control the White House and Congress. Republicans, backed by President Donald Trump’s bully pulpit, are accusing Democrats of siding with “illegal immigrants” over poor kids, since the stop-gap spending bill would extend a popular children’s health program for another six years.

For much of Friday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Schumer had not engaged in remotely substantive negotiations over how to keep federal operations running after midnight on Friday. And as Schumer was meeting with Trump, the White House quickly moved to assure congressional Republicans that the president merely wants to hear the New York Democrat out — not cut a deal, one person familiar with the discussions said.

“I wish for all of our sakes that the Democratic leader would figure out what he actually wants. I feel bad for his own members,” McConnell said Friday as the Senate came into session. “He’s painted them into a corner.”

Democrats appear unmoved. House Democrats held a private caucus meeting Friday afternoon that sounded like a pep rally to reporters outside. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) urged the group to remain unified as Congress teeters on the brink of a shutdown.

“Unity is the strongest weapon we have,” Durbin told the group, according to two sources in the room.

Durbin and the other three deputy leaders — Cornyn, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — had been scheduled to resume their immigration negotiations Friday after Schumer returns from the White House, although that was put on hold indefinitely, aides said. Some of the members and staff met Friday morning, though Republicans involved say the negotiators are still far from an immigration deal.

Schumer, taking a suggestion from Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), wants McConnell to take up a funding measure that lasts mere days, to inject urgency into negotiations on a deal to address 700,000 young immigrants facing potential deportation, and other matters that Democrats say are pressing.

But McConnell has no intention to do so. That’s despite the Republican leader’s antipathy for shutdown politics — he has flatly declared in the past there would not be one — particularly in a year when his Senate majority could be on the line. His chamber does not plan to take up any other bill than the House legislation on Friday, and may vote on it repeatedly in an attempt to inflict political pain on vulnerable Democrats, according to senators and aides.

Republicans believe the Democrats’ demands for an even shorter stopgap measure makes no sense, and insist that the minority party needs to tell the GOP what exactly they want in order to keep the government open. Democrats say Republicans won’t reach out to them about a deal.

“The only path to keeping the government open is the bill in front of us,” said a senior GOP aide.

Republicans elsewhere in the Capitol are also preparing for a public relations battle against Democrats to paint them as the instigators of the first federal government shutdown since October 2013.

House leaders don’t support a “very short-term” stopgap measure either, which would but Congress a few more days to reach a deal, McCarthy said.

“We’ve passed our CR,” McCarthy said, referring to a continuing resolution, in an interview following an hour-long House GOP leadership meeting. “Sen. Schumer needs to decide if he wants a shutdown.”

Acknowledging the urgency of the impending shutdown, Trump’s weekend jaunt to Mar-a-Lago has been canceled, the White House said Friday afternoon.

Earlier Friday, Senate Democrats circulated a counter-proposal that would fund the government through Feb. 16, pass the DREAM Act, extend the expired Children’s Health Insurance Program, deliver $90 billion of disaster aid and increase defense and non-defense spending by more than $50 billion apiece, according to sources in both parties. Republicans scoffed at the proposal and do not view it seriously.

John Bresnahan contributed to this report.

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Indie Bookstores’ Most Stolen Books

Who steals a book? Why not shoplift a couple of Wal-mart donuts or booze, instead? (Books are stolen largely in part due to their content; people generally risk prosecution for books they actually like to read. This reveals more about the thief than the book they’re stealing. Afterall, one must desperately love a book in order to break the law and steal a book.
Electric Literature recently compiled stories from major players in the indie bookstore market. Owners, managers, and booksellers alike all dished on what they believed were the most stolen books from their respective independent bookstores. Among the list are, of course, pieces of work by popular anti-establishment authors, such as Kurt Vonnegut and Jack Kerouac, but there are also plenty of self-help books and those of sexual nature which otherwise paying customers were simply too embarrassed to rightfully buy. Then there are books that imply certain personality traits which teenagers typically buy to post on their social media accounts to attain some sort of superficial gratification. Most of them do not plan on actually reading the books they steal.

Before getting into the most stolen books from indie bookstores, consider the act of stealing books. Free, public libraries have been around for decades, there doesn’t seem to be any real reason to steal a book. However, stealing from an independent bookstore is a crime against books as a whole. Indie bookstores are often small and struggling. They’re local and cultured. If you must steal a book, at least steal from some big corporate entity!

“I’d say [Jack Kerouac’s] On the Road and [Kurt Vonnegut’s] Slaughterhouse 5 are probably the titles we’ve noticed disappearing the most over the years,” claims Massachusetts’ Harvard Bookstore’s marketing and events manager, while the owner of the Astoria Bookstore in Queens, New York says Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem and all of Bukowski’s work are the books she reports stolen most often. She goes on to say, “We’ve also lost a lot of Wimpy Kid at book fairs over the years, but that’s not the same kind of issue.”

House poised to pass spending bill, but shutdown threat remains

Updated, 6:31 p.m.: The House Freedom Caucus said it would support a stop-gap funding bill to keep the government open, likely ensuring Republicans will have the votes to pass the measure on Thursday night. The proposal, however, still faces significant opposition in the Senate. Lawmakers need to pass a funding bill by midnight Friday to avoid a government shutdown.

Original story:
The possibility of a government shutdown grew dramatically Thursday as House and Senate GOP leaders struggled to round up the votes to keep the government open past midnight Friday.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) predicted that the House would pass a short-term funding measure on Thursday night. GOP leaders are gambling that rank-and-file Republicans won’t want to risk being blamed for a shutdown and will end up supporting the short-term spending bill, which would keep the government open until Feb. 16.

But on the other side of the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears to have a serious problem.

Senate Democrats said they’re confident they have the votes to block the stop-gap spending bill that the House is taking up, according to two Democratic senators and a senior party aide. And top Senate Republicans are openly worried about the situation as they struggle to keep their own members in the fold.

“I’m concerned that we, yeah, we may not have 60 votes in the Senate,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said Thursday morning. “And I think that’s obviously problematic.”

After a lively party lunch on Thursday, the vast majority of the Senate Democratic caucus emerged in opposition to the GOP proposal.

“I am convinced that between Republicans who publicly said they’re [voting] no and Democrats who said they’re a ‘no,’ there are not enough votes in this chamber” to pass the House plan, said a Democratic Senator, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely.

The sentiment was confirmed by a Democratic aide and another senator.

McConnell told his members in an email obtained by POLITICO that he intends to keep the chamber in session through the weekend if a shutdown occurs. Republican senators also discussed the possibility of a much shorter spending bill at a Wednesday lunch, hoping to keep the pressure on Congress to hammer out a large agreement rather than punt on contentious spending and immigration issues.

Democrats and some Republicans appear willing to back only a spending bill lasting several days, hoping the small window would kickstart negotiations on a plan to protect hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from being deported.

“That would allow us to get a compromise, get a deal done. If we wait a month there’s little likelihood we’re in a better position than we are now,” said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas.), who made the case to his colleagues that funding bills for as short as one or two days are preferable to allowing the government to close.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney acknowledged the possibility of a “Plan B” in case the CR fails to pass. Mulvaney, a former House member, told reporters in the Capitol that the administration is considering a shorter-term spending bill if needed.

But Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) dismissed the idea of a spending plan that only lasts days. “No, we’re not going to do that,” he said.

Yet Senate Democrats — furious with Trump for his reversal last week on a bipartisan Senate plan to protect 700,000 young immigrants from deportation — have signaled a new willingness to take a harder line. A handful who previously supported short-term funding measures have declared they will not this time around, including Tom Udall and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats.

“This CR can’t get the job done… We’re going to have to go in a different direction,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor. Schumer didn’t declare that Democrats would vote against the bill, but he noted that momentum was clearly heading in that direction.

Schumer mocked President Donald Trump and McConnell for an “unending flow of chaos from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue,” including the prolonged fight over the Dreamers, which has dragged on for months now.

“The president is like Abbott, the majority leader is like Costello,” Schumer said, referring to the famous comedy duo.

Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Senate Democrats are “very unified” in opposition to the House bill. Still he could not say for sure the bill would fail in the Senate. “It’s very close at this point,” Durbin said.

As McConnell and Schumer traded barbs on the Senate floor, Democrats who voted for the previous CR in December, including Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, remain undecided. And Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), a centrist Democrat that Republicans thought they could win over, has signaled he is opposed as well.

“It’s another patch,” Tester told reporters. “I think it’s a bad proposal. I’ll just tell you that. And it has nothing to do with DACA.”

McConnell tried to stop the bleeding in a Thursday email to his conference by warning other Senate Republicans against siding with Democrats: “This is an irresponsible position… I hope not a single Republican is inclined to join them.”

Meanwhile, House GOP spent Thursday morning doing damage control after Trump tweeted criticism of their spending bill — all while trying to whip the GOP votes needed to pass the text through their own chamber.

In a Twitter broadside that rattled Republican nerves, Trump blasted the GOP congressional leadership’s decision to attach tens of billions of dollars in funding for a popular children’s health program to the spending bill. That money is a key part of the GOP’s effort to pick up Democratic votes.

“CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!,” Trump said, referring to the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Speaker Paul Ryan and other House GOP leaders had attached the funding to the spending package in a — so far failed — effort to win Democratic support.

Ryan spoke with Trump about the matter afterward. And by lunchtime, the White House issued a statement clarifying that the president supports passage of the stop-gap measure.

“The President supports the continuing resolution introduced in the House,” White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah said in a statement. “Congress needs to do its job and provide full funding of our troops and military with a two-year budget caps deal. However, as the deal is negotiated, the President wants to ensure our military and national security are funded. He will not let it be held hostage by Democrats.”

House GOP leaders now believe the must-pass temporary spending bill will clear their chamber “by the skin of their teeth,” as one Republican leadership source put it. Ryan and his whip team used the hours before the scheduled Thursday vote to continue arm-twisting their own party to back the bill.

Ryan’s biggest problem, unsurprisingly, is the House Freedom Caucus, which is threatening to vote no unless they get a concession from leadership. Freedom Caucus leaders Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jorden (R-Ohio) told reporters Thursday that they had yet to strike a deal with Ryan’s team to deliver their votes.

“What we want to do is do what’s right by the military, so we offered a couple different things,” he said. “We said, ‘Look, if you can’t [agree to] the full year [of defense spending]— which is where the conference is — you can do something smaller than that but something that is going to break this pattern.”

Conservatives, who sources say are eager to back the bill but need a small win to save face, have floated another request: A vote on a conservative immigration bill authored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte. Leaders worry the legislation could upend bipartisan talks to shield Dreamers from deportation, but rank-and-file members say that’s not reason enough to withhold a vote.

House Republicans are hopeful they can also pick up a few Democratic votes, which is why they opted to keep the six-year CHIP funding despite Trump’s tweet. But Democrats seem to have only become more emboldened after Trump’s recent comments about immigrants from Africa, El Salvador and Haiti coming from “shithole countries.”

Those remarks have hardened Democrats’ position against backing any funding bill without a deal on DACA. Despite Ryan’s efforts to entice Democrats with provisions to fund a popular children’s health insurance bill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) caucus appears unified in opposition, forcing Republicans to rely on their own members.

House GOP leaders recognize they may have to go to the floor and dare their members to vote “no.” In the meantime, Ryan used a press conference Thursday to blame Democrats for the situation on Capitol Hill.

“They continue to hold military funding hostage over unrelated issues and deadlines that don’t exist,” he said, blasting Democrats for refusing to back a long-term spending deal until DACA is fixed. “Now they’re threatening to shut down the government altogether because of these unrelated issues. It is unconscionable.”

Even if the measure passes the House Thursday, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate. With only a 51-49 margin of Republican control in that chamber — and Sen. John McCain absent due to cancer treatment —McConnell has a small margin for error and has already lost two Senate Republicans.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) have come out against the provision because they— like many defense hawks — say it cripples the military. And GOP Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Mike Lee (Utah) also may oppose the package, meaning McConnell would have to get at least 13 Senate Democrats to vote for it to avoid a shutdown.

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Democrats hold the line as GOP scrambles to avoid shutdown

House Democrats are holding firm in opposition to a short-term spending bill, even as Republicans in both chambers struggle to round up enough votes to keep the government open beyond Friday.

House Democratic leaders have been preaching a message of unity to their members all week, emphasizing that sticking together is their biggest leverage point to force Republicans into serious negotiations to protect Dreamers.

“This is like giving you a bowl of doggy doo, put a cherry on top and called it chocolate sundae,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), referring to the GOP spending bill, told reporters Thursday.

Lawmakers remain at an impasse over the fate of the roughly 700,000 young undocumented immigrants facing deportation, with enough members in both chambers threatening to withhold their votes on a spending bill that a government shutdown is a very real possibility.

“We’ve had plenty of time to address the Dreamers; now’s the time,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), whose northern Virginia district is heavily populated with government employees.

Connolly said given the demographics of his district, he would vote for the continuing resolution only if he were the “last vote standing” between a government shutdown or not.

A significant number of Senate Democrats have publicly said they will vote against the spending bill, upping the chances for the first government shutdown since 2013.

House Democrats say they’re cognizant of how the vote affects their colleagues in the Senate. If many House Democrats supported the spending bill — even after Republicans had enough votes to pass the measure — that could make it harder for Senate Democrats to stand firm in their opposition.

“I think we understand the connections between the two; they’re not separate standalone actions,” Connolly said. “What we do here does have an impact there, and what they do there does have an impact. So we need to be mindful of that.”

About a dozen vulnerable Democrats voted for the last two stopgap funding bills in December — but only after Republicans had enough votes for passage.

Now Democratic aides say they don’t expect that many members to cross the aisle if Republicans round up 218 votes, saying even vulnerable members are livid that GOP leaders seem to be stalling on immigration talks.

Republicans had hoped adding a few policy riders to the stopgap spending bill — particularly a long-term reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program — would woo enough Democrats to support the bill to ensure passage.

As of Thursday afternoon, the 194-member Democratic Caucus is intent on holding together in opposition as Republicans double- and triple-check their whip count before an expected vote later Thursday.

Multiple lawmakers said a tweet from President Donald Trump on Thursday morning questioning why a reauthorization of funding for CHIP was attached to the short-term bill.

“They were thinking that was a sweetener to get Democratic support,” Connolly said of House GOP leaders. “And the president has just given Democrats the talking point they need. Well, we agree with the president.”

Meanwhile, Democrats continue to exert public and private pressure on Republicans to negotiate on immigration.

Pelosi called Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) earlier this week and urged him to bring two immigration bills to the floor for a vote — a hard-line conservative measure sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and a bipartisan proposal from Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).

Democrats think the Goodlatte bill would fail on the floor while the Hurd-Aguilar proposal, which has more than 50 bipartisan cosponsors, could pass. Members of the House Freedom Caucus have also been pushing Ryan to bring the Goodlatte bill up for a vote, threatening to withhold their votes for a spending bill if he doesn’t do so.

Ryan responded to Pelosi’s request by saying he “couldn’t do that,” according to two Democratic sources. Ryan’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Separately, the deputy leaders in the House and Senate — Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) — will huddle again on immigration Thursday afternoon.

The group met Wednesday with White House chief of staff John Kelly, but lawmakers made little progress in the talks. The Thursday meeting will focus specifically on Dreamers, according to a source with knowledge of the plans, and not the other policy changes under consideration, including border security.

DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will also attend Thursday’s meeting.

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Trump: 'CHIP should be part of a long term solution'

President Donald Trump said Thursday the Children’s Health Insurance Program should be part of a “long term solution,” creating confusion around the efforts to prevent a government shutdown.

“CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!” Trump tweeted.

Funding for the program lapsed as of Sept. 30, 2017. House Republicans’ plan to keep the government funded until Feb. 16 includes a six-year extension of the popular program.

The White House later clarified that the president supports the stop-gap measure under consideration in the House, but he wants a longer-term spending deal and would prefer the children’s health program be funded separately from a continuing resolution to keep the government running.

“We do support CHIP funding,” deputy press secretary Raj Shah told reporters during Trump’s trip to Pennsylvania on Thursday afternoon. “The president has been clear he supports CHIP funding. But as a matter of how Congress legislates, if there need to be other items attached to CRs on a routine basis, that’s not good governing and that’s our point of view. We’re very clear that we do support this CR. But as a matter — we would prefer clean continuing resolutions.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) appeared to try to explain the bill to Trump on Twitter, noting that “the current house Continuing Resolution package has a six-year extension of CHIP, not a 30 day extension.”

While Trump has in the past called for a “good shutdown,” he also tweeted on Thursday that letting government funding lapse would be “devastating to our military … something the Dems care very little about!”

Speaking at the Pentagon Thursday, Trump told reporters a shutdown “could happen.”

The children’s insurance measure was included in the funding extension bill as a way to pick up votes. Republicans have argued that if Democrats oppose the spending bill, which they are threatening to do because it does not address a separate immigration issue, they would be blamed for not protecting children’s health.

“We need to shut down the government and not fund children’s health insurance? That’s a pretty bad argument,” House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden said Wednesday. “They know in their hearts that a ‘yes’ vote is the right vote.”

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Has the government shut down yet? And 8 other questions.

The deadline is looming for Congress.

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Why 'Girthers' Are the Biggest Losers

Why have Democrats become so prone to conspiracy theorizing about Donald Trump? Even though Trump is said to be in fine health by his doctor, many of the president’s detractors believe the doctor is lying and that there is a conspiracy afoot to conceal the president’s true deteriorating condition. To cite just one example: After David Axelrod called Ronny Jackson, the White House doctor, a “very good guy and straight shooter,” Keith Olbermann asserted that Trump must have refused a presidential weigh-in and instead ordered Jackson to “just guess my weight.” Can we not accept even the findings of the presidential doctor?

The conspiracy theories about Trump—which include “Pie-Gate,” an accusation that Sarah Huckabee Sanders faked baking a pie—may seem well-deserved. Trump’s conspiracy theories about President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz’s dad, Mexicans, Muslims, refugees, voter fraud and the news media have cost him the moral high ground from which to denounce the conspiracy theories about himself. Trump’s use of the birther conspiracy theory against Obama has given way to a girther conspiracy theory about his health.

That’s because there is a strategic logic to conspiracy theories: They are for losers. Conspiracy theories bind groups closer together, focus attention and motivate action. Electoral losers have a strong incentive—consciously or not—to motivate their co-partisans with a unifying narrative of a terrifying enemy. After their devastating loss in 2016, Democrats have accused a wide range of domestic and international actors of conspiring to cause their defeat.

Yet Democrats spent the Obama years scolding Republicans for being conspiracy theorists. And Democrats did not simply defend their leaders against charges of conspiracy. They painted Republicans as overtly prone to wild-eyed conspiracy theories. Many on the left declared that there is something unique to conservatives’ personalities that makes them believe ridiculous stuff. This, of course, involved selective amnesia, given all the conspiracy theorizing that Democrats had done during the Bush years.

Resonant conspiracy theories in the United States tend to emanate from the party out of power and be aimed at the party in power. Because the White House is the most visible, unitary, and powerful position in government, the party that controls the White House acts as a lightning rod for the nation’s conspiracy accusations. The transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration makes a great example: Until 2009, conspiracy theorists villainized George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Halliburton, Blackwater and other members of the Republican coalition. Many of these theories suggested that 9/11 was an inside job, or that the country went to war in Iraq for oil. As soon as Obama won the presidency, these theories became inert. The villains were out of power.

With the transfer of the presidency from Obama to Trump, the Republican Party has taken control of not only the executive, legislative and judicial branches, but also of the conspiratorial imagination. Without control over any major visible institution, Democrats are relatively powerless, but more important, emotionally they feel powerless. These feelings have consequences.

When Obama was in office, Democrats had one of their own at the helm and felt in control. As a consequence, they had a positive outlook. With Trump’s election, Republicans are now the ones feeling good about the direction of the country. And Democrats’ lowly status has made them feel anxious, out of control, and prone to conspiracy theorizing. That Republicans and Democrats could change outlooks so quickly appears driven by the change in power. After all, if one were to shut off the news, very little has changed for the average person since the election.

Just as actual power moves in the United States, so do people’s perceptions of power. These perceptions of power drive a whole host of other perceptions, which include views about the fairness of outcomes and who represents a threat. Conspiracy theories are theories about power: they accuse and villainize groups and individuals who are (at least perceived to be) powerful. For this reason, conspiracy theories tend to track actual power very well.

Even so, powerful people, even presidents, will try to use conspiracy theories from time to time. It doesn’t usually work very well because it’s hard to see the most powerful people in the world as the victims of shadowy forces. The powerless make more believable victims. Think about Hillary Clinton’s claim that “a vast right-wing conspiracy” was the cause of her husband’s troubles, or the opening salvo of the Obama reelection campaign that “secretive oil billionaires” were out to get him.

The Trump presidency is different: He is a political outsider who came to power by building a coalition of conspiracy theorists. Even though Trump is presumably the most powerful person in the world, he will continue to use conspiracy theories to keep the coalition he built motivated and together. Yet Trump’s conspiracy theories gain little traction, as they convince only those who support him already. Conspiracy theories by the Democrats, on the other hand, have captured the national attention.

No matter their party affiliation, partisans fall victim to their biases. What counts as conspiracy theory and what counts as facts are determined by our partisan biases as well. Who we view as smart, sane and tethered to facts also depends largely on our party. It looks as though the left will become exactly what they spent the past eight years railing against: a bunch of conspiracy theorists.

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Joining Avaaz Makes Gives ‘Ordinary’ People ‘Extraordinary’ Power To Change The World

Consider that the Arkansas State Plant Board recently voted to severely restrict the use of a harmful agriculture chemical called dicamba in 2018. The substance is manufactured by the agri-chemical giant Monsanto. Lawyers for Monsanto fought hard to keep their poison flowing across the beautiful countryside of Arkansas.

But this time powerful lobbyists and lawyers were defeated by the people with the help of an organization called Avaaz. The tens of millions of people who belong to this Internet-based social activist group banded together and demanded that Arkansas officials make decision that protect the health of the people and environment.

The Arkansas case is a classic example of the kind of work Avaaz does every day. Established in 2007, Avaaz has become the world’s largest and influential agent for positive social change.

Avaaz is composed of some 50 million people in countries all over the world. The Avaaz website acts as a central rallying point where people can sign up, make a donation, or network with other people to strategize on ways to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, an learn more about Avaaz.

That might be poverty, helping refugees from war-torn countries, countering corporate misbehavior of many kinds, fighting pollution, battling climate change, cleaning up oceans and rivers – the list goes on.

The Guardian called Avaaz (a Sanskrit-derived word which means “voice) the “globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network.” After 10 years of solid results and victories, Avaaz continues to go strong and plans to keep up the good fight in the 2018 new year and beyond.

Any “ordinary” person can join Avaaz in just minutes by signing up on the group’s website at https://secure.avaaz.org/page/en/. Doing so proves that no one is truly “ordinary,” but “extraordinary” when they join millions of others to help change the world.