Republicans are the most disgusting…

In ramming a dangerous healthcare bill through the House without anyone having seen it – including their own congress members – and without the Congressional Budget Office having any time to score it – giving Americans no warning of what’s about to happen to them (…so long insurance…) – Paul Ryan and the Republicans have hit Peak Scum.

Congratulations jerks. I thought maybe Dennis Hastert, the former Republican Speaker of the House who turned out to be a serial child molester, had set the unattainable bar. But boy was I wrong.

House Republicans have scheduled a vote today on a mystery bill that will repeal Obamacare and replace it with…nobody knows. Which, I suggest, is not how anyone interested in public service should behave. Any time millions of people’s lives are at stake (and there’s no doubt about that) you would expect such people to understand their responsibilities and act accordingly.

But that’s not what we’ve got. Instead we’ve got a bunch of grown men and women knowing nothing about healthcare, caring nothing about the consequences of denying it to millions of people, and skulking around like a gang of thugs – a church-going horde of Reagan-n-Randites jacked up on adrenaline and operating by way of late night calls and back room huddles, in between the usual slapping of backs and praying for FREEDOM. And almost every one of them is ‘unable to comment on the bill’ (which would give Americans some warning) because ‘Well, I haven’t seen it’. Which of course is entirely by design.

With only hours to go, a few internet folks have gleaned a few details of what could soon become law. And it’s WORSE than what you’d ever guess. There’s little doubt why AHCA II (The Immiserating) is a more precious secret than our current nuclear missile deployments.

What’s the Rush? Sarah Kliff tells us that’s it’s all part of a Republican long game where tax cuts are king. They don’t care how much screeching and wailing the American public does after realizing their insurance has been reduced to a smoking crater. Why is that? Because the rich get massive tax cuts! AMERICA WINS.

You’ve got insurance through your employer? You’re getting screwed, too. You’re white, work hard, and you voted Republican. You think you’re safe? HAH. The Republicans threw in a provision to exempt your boss from having to pay for certain expensive illnesses. If you fall into that category, expect to pay thousands to hundreds of thousands more out of pocket.

Special Ed kids, too? The developmentally disabled? In order to tally up bigger government savings – meaning bigger tax cuts for the wealthy – Republicans have drastically cut Medicaid expenditures. This means that schools who provide education and therapy to our most vulnerable children will be hard-hit, and will likely abandon services unless the states pick up the rest of the costs. Given that most state legislatures are right-wing batcaves, good luck with that.

Finally, Jonathan Chait:

They are rushing through a chamber of Congress a bill reorganizing one-fifth of the economy, without even cursory attempts to gauge its impact. Its budgetary impact is as yet unknown. The same is true of its social impact, though the broad strokes are clear enough: Millions of Americans will lose access to medical care, and tens of thousands of them will die, and Congress is understandably eager to hasten these results without knowing them more precisely. Their haste and secrecy are a way of distancing the House Republicans from the immorality of their actions.

I will only add that if you ever happen to come across Rep. Paul Ryan, you should free to haul off and punch his face. (Oh I would like to say that but, because I am a decent guy, unlike him, I won’t…)

The unrelenting smartypants of Mark Penn

Don’t you just love it when a spectacular failure wants a no-backsies do-over as Wold’s Smartest Man? Mark Penn has re-surfaced with an op-ed in The Hill.

Today we live in a polling bubble …

How else can one explain that although many polls showed a close race last November, almost no one (myself included) predicted a lopsided victory for Donald Trump in the Electoral College.

…he asked? After running Hillary’s first-to-worst campaign in 2008, Penn has, uh – what has he done? Oh, that’s right, nothing. It’s the politics game: He effed up on a grand scale, now he’s a made man.

The Hill, of course, is in no mood to take any note of Penn’s epic incompetence, stupidity, or penchant for giving candidates sterling advice like this:

Penn advised Clinton not to apologize for voting for the Iraq War, insisting that “It’s important for all Democrats to keep the word ‘mistake’ firmly on the Republicans.” Clinton followed this strategy. She would only apologize six years later in 2014.

So, we get this editorial. And why shouldn’t we, when it’s JUST. THIS. HOT?

Why the polls are wrong about Trump. Again.

…except for being wrong about the polls being wrong, this is a great headline. After Comey dropped his last-minute bombshell, the voters shifted about a net 5 points away from Clinton. The few groups who were still polling picked up on it, but most the big names had already packed up. Gone home. Still – look out!

…several of the same organizations are using their polls to proclaim that he has had the worst start of any modern president and the worst ratings of a president at this time in his presidency. While Trump is no FDR when it comes to forming a political coalition, a fairer reading of the polls and the election results shows his performance is probably 5 or 6 points better than is being touted…

Mark’s a science-pollster, so he would know. Let’s get knee-deep in the varnish stripping and number crunching and regression analyses, shall we?

There are several reasons for this mismatch between likely reality and the interpretations we are seeing.

Wait. “Likely reality”? This is about your feelings? I thought you were a polls guy, Mark. Where are the data?

Most polls have moved away from voters or likely voters to U.S. adults with no screen for registration or even citizenship. And the questions often focus on storylines and narratives critical of Trump. Rarely are they written from the perspective of having missed the major swings and economic discontent that upended the election.

Screening? Storylines? Narratives?! What’s wrong with asking “Do you have a favorable view of Trump?” What’s so fuzzy about that? This apparently is the newer and wiser Mark Penn, the not-spectacularly-stupid genius. He’s going to sidestep facts and figures now, y’know, all that stuff that Trump made a mockery of, cough.

The current crop of stories also sets Trump ratings expectations, as though America went through the typical process of coming together around the winner.

Jesus Christ. Donald Trump is so divisive a figure that America couldn’t “come together” over his election. This is why polling can’t measure his true popularity, get it? Me neither.

Instead we had recounts, Russian conspiracies, investigations and rallies unlike any seen after any election.

Because of unforeseen events, acts of god, black swans and forces majeure, not that any of these is a crime perpetrated by one of the candidates – a well-known pillar of society – the perception of an unpopular president is seeping into the data. Now say my name! Mark Penn!

The country was sharply politically divided on Election Day and remains that way today. That is the backdrop of any realistic assessment of what is happening in America.

The country was deeply divided on Election Day, not that it was anyone’s fault, not by way of anything you could call relevant, and there’s certainly nothing to see here. But if Americans have known about and hated this Donald Trump for a long time, it only means they harbor a secret love for the guy. It’s just buried deep inside. ‘Wish I knew how to quit you, Adolf.’ THAT’S the hole that Mark Penn will be digging in for all eternity, Sisyphus in reverse. Hup – is that the phone?


YOU: Hullo?

MARK: Hi my name is Mark. I’m conducting a poll on people’s political opinions. I’d like to ask you some questions about President Donald Trump…

YOU: Fuck him.

MARK: Ah yes, I see. Of course. Then again, on second thought, you might saaay…

YOU: Fuck him.

MARK: GAH. Okay, fine, but what about this? What if, uuh, what if he….


Oh no one hundred days

I’d say Donny is in a bit of a pickle.

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday about the “ridiculous standard” by which he will be judged on his accomplishments during his first 100 days in office.

His 100 days will be up Friday. Which means everybody – even historians – will be staring at him. But friends, what could Ginger Augustus possibly have to brag about? He’s got no iron Muslim ban. He’s got no towering wall. He’s got no triple-A affordable Trumpcare. I can’t find a piece of legislation anyone can point to and cry out “Donald Trump!”

“This man is without experience, and it’s showing,” said Robert Dallek, the presidential historian and author of multiple books on presidents, from Roosevelt and Truman to Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan. “Particularly in his dealings with Congress, he’s been an utter failure in the sense that he’s gotten nothing passed. He’s issuing all sorts of executive orders, like immigration limits; they’re failing. The attempt to get health care reform failed. I’d give him failing marks for his 100 days.”

But – eep – wait. There are still a few days left. There might be – maybe – time enough to re-vamp the country’s whole health system.

Just in the last couple of days, the White House was raising stakes for another health care bill with talk of a potential deal between moderates and conservatives. Trump’s team wants another vote this upcoming week (while a government shutdown looms Friday).

He’s got 120 hours. That should be time enough to throw a trillion dollars at the rich and tens of millions of people off their insurance. Before his fellow Republicans pull the plug on the government, that is. HEY you haven’t heard the Chief talk much about that, have you? Being the CEO of a dead letter office? As of Saturday? Heck maybe he could use a break.

Meantime, experienced congressional leaders were trying to tamp that kind of talk down. Expectations-setting is a big part of success in politics, but that doesn’t seem to matter to Trump who appears to think the bigger the expectation, the better.

He even added this wrinkle Friday: “We’ll be having a big announcement on Wednesday having to do with tax reform,” Trump said, vowing to release his tax reform plan ahead of the artifice of the 100-day mark. “The process has begun long ago, but it really formally begins on Wednesday.”

Oh, I forgot – he’ll be re-writing the federal tax code. Yuppers, might as well take a swing at that while you’re on a roll. Keep an eye out for that, folks, that’ll be Wednesday. That’ll be in between raiding the Deep State pantry for supplies and building an ark.

[100 days] was part of his stump speech in the final week of the campaign — he asked his crowds in Minnesota, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and elsewhere to “imagine what we can accomplish in the first 100 days of a Trump administration.”

I’m betting John Q. Public will actually remember Donny talking about his glorious first few months. Because Johnny was standing right there in front of him, at one of those endless rallies, when ‘100 days!’ made its unfortunate way past his slurving lips. Now what?

One man’s view of Bill O’Reilly

After twenty long years of cable TV supremacy, the king of right-wing news has been fired by 21st Century Fox.

“After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O’Reilly have agreed that Bill O’Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel.”

The empire takes another hit. Not too long after the world caught up with Fox impresario Roger Ailes, the bald round disgusting 76 year-old, it turned on his favorite employee: The bald tall disgusting 67 year-old, Bill O’Reilly. Between the two of them, boss and pal sexually assaulted some shocking number of thirty-something News Babes. Everyone had finally had enough.

For a lecture of well-actually on O’Reilly’s sustained success, you might try this piece at Breitbart.

MSNBC’s Chuck Todd called O’Reilly a “leader” in the conservative movement, which is more wishful thinking than reality.

In truth, the secret of O’Reilly’s success was that he was a centrist. He hit the elusive sweet spot that many media outlets covet, but few actually bother to pursue.

Ask a true conservative: Bill-O wasn’t successful because he spouted the sort of populist racism, paranoia and misogyny that reminded high school football players of their coaches [jealous, Breitnerds?]. He was a ratings hit because he was a middling presence. He was your comfy Boise-Buffalo news personality, like Tom Brokaw. Or Tim Russert.

And while your head plays out the cartoon of the Cable King going network mainstream, you can peruse Media Matters’ list of his broadsides leveled at “Gender, Race and Ethnicity, Low-Income People, The LGBTQ Community, Muslims And Refugees, and Immigrants“. Such was his disdain for people who weren’t FOBs [white male, aging, conservative] that Bill-O’s broadcast assaults can’t at first be appreciated – only cataloged and indexed, like a baseball card collection. As media people might say, you can see how closely his “fundamentals” mirrored somebody like Charles Kuralt.

But let us not forget perhaps Bill’s greatest asset: He was exactly as he appeared. Unlike Brian Williams, who tried so hard to come off as the aw-shucks Jersey fireman gone large, O’Reilly was no fake. When Big Bill appeared to be faux-bragging about being a war correspondent, it was true: He was lying about being a war correspondent. Williams was decent enough to feel bad about telling people he’d been shot down over Iraq. But when O’Reilly got caught telling everybody he’d been right there in the Falklands War, his reaction was “Yeah? Fuck you.” He was such an authentic bully that when you called him on his bullshit, he wheeled around and poked a finger in your chest: This is on you, pal. You could probably chisel that on his tombstone.

He was equally authentic with women. He both believed and acted as if they were his de facto handjobs. If you were unfortunate enough to be one in his presence, he laid on thick the Fox Boi charm to make it clear: I’ll hump you in a heartbeat. This was no accident. Ailes knew this was what the FOBs wanted to see and hear [see Media Matters for the many cringe clips].

Luckily for everyone involved Bill needed no coaching. Young women were his masturbatory targets, especially if they worked there at Fox News. Any suitable employee within reach soon became his hand lotion and washcloth.

…the at-times “tyrannical and menacing” O’Reilly would masturbate while on the phone with Mackris, at other points suggesting she purchase a vibrator; engage in phone sex or a threesome with him; and listen to lurid details of his alleged sexual encounters with a cabana masseuse, airline stewardesses, and Thai sex-show workers.

Perhaps most famously, O’Reilly fantasized to Mackris how he’d like to shower with her and fondle her with a loofah, which he mistakenly called a “falafel thing” later in the call, according to a transcript.

So total was his self-appreciation for dominance, he never thought Mackris might not be interested in pleasing him. The idea he might try and conjure up the word ‘loofah’ – instead of ‘falafel’ – lest he be considered an idiot was laughable. What, does she really think he might not remember her name? After he wipes himself on her face? He’s Bill O’Reilly, Q.E.D.

If you guessed he might react badly to the protestations of such ‘things’, you’d be right.

Around the same time, former regular Factor guest Juliet Huddy received a $1.6-million settlement, over complaints that O’Reilly had pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011 while in control of her airtime, according to the Times. Her lawyers told Fox News that at one point the O’Reilly tried to kiss her, and when she pulled away and fell to the ground, he refused to assist her. He then allegedly worked to “blunt her career prospects,” the Times added.

In light of that anecdote, this isn’t unexpected:

According to court documents from his vicious custody battle with ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy, O’Reilly may have engaged in domestic violence. As Gawker reported at the time, the ex-couple’s teenage daughter told a court-appointed forensic examiner that she witnessed O’Reilly “choking her mom” as he “‘dragged her down some stairs’ by the neck.” O’Reilly had told his daughter that her mother was an “adulterer,” according to court transcripts, and that he struggled to stop himself from “going ballistic” around his family.

Dragging his wife around like a rag doll – that’s pretty much Tom Brokaw in a nutshell. Or is the NBC anchor nothing like what we saw on TV? Who knows, maybe he’s really a nice guy.

Taking the entirety of the O’Reilly story in, you might appreciate him, somewhat, in a perverse way. You could say he was something of a real life anti-hero. In some hot place deep within the American conservative Id, Bill-O was conceived to knock down growing threats to white male supremacy.

If post-1980s television were to be the medium whereby non-white-males got mainstreamed, so be it. If immigrants were going to be accepted, he’d be there to beat them back. If blacks were going to be normalized, he’d be there to pick and choose. If Muslims were going to be Westernized, he’d be there to re-Orient them. Bill would be the man to stand athwart multi-channel momentum, yelling ‘Stop!’

He did what he could for as long as he could. In the end though, it was his most personal and vicious campaign that did him in. If women were going to meddle in national politics, and the boardroom, and the workplace (particularly his workplace) then he’d be there too. And they’d either have to embrace their proper roles as women, as he saw fit – as sexual subordinates – or be destroyed. The money trails and lawyers’ claims testify to it: O’Reilly was a lawless patriarch in an enterprise that desperately begged for one.

That’s how one of the world’s biggest assholes rode low-born resentment to cable’s highest ratings. That’s how he was glorified and gushed over, given too much power and credibility, then quietly and consistently covered up, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.

That’s also how Fox News’ women were mistreated. That’s how they were cracked-wise and kidded, how they were babe’d and short-skirted, harassed and sexually assaulted in the front offices – or otherwise cast aside – in one of America’s massive media corporations, year after year. While totally normal man Bill O’Reilly reigned supreme.

The most insufferably Ross Douthat thing ever

Jesus Christ, the stupid.

…I’ll be proposing — yes, I’m that predictable — that many of this newspaper’s secular liberal readers should head en masse to church.

Ross Douthat has no idea whatsoever that he’s Ross Douthat.

…I have theories about how this [congregational] collapse reveals the weaknesses of liberalism in religion. But my theological-sociological vindication isn’t worth the cost of mainline Christianity’s decline. For the sake of their country, their culture and their very selves, liberal post-Protestants should find a mainline congregation and starting attending every week.

Why do fewer and fewer people go to church? Because all you liberals. And so what’s happened? Your country and your culture are now collapsing. Your own selves are coming apart at the seams – or haven’t you noticed? Douthat’s personal Bible is printed on hemp, which is a lot chewier than he thought. Amazing how comfortable a large man can get so far up his tiny ass.

This may be the stupidest thing ever written by anybody, ever. Back when America was a far more church-going nation, America was far more evil. It was less tolerant, less diverse and certainly less likely to see justice meted out in any way that wasn’t predictably wealth and color-obsessed. It was more frightening, more arbitrary, more violent, and run by The White Man for the benefit of white men. And they damn sure all called it Glorious! and Godly! and Free! and it was entirely bullshit.

The wider experience of American politics suggests that as liberalism de-churches it struggles to find a nontransactional organizing principle, a persuasive language of the common good…

So what if Ross’ Catholicism has a “language of the common good”? What good is it when it’s meaningless? Who cares if someone has actually written a Vulcan Language Dictionary?

The two-faced America is the America that earnest white man Ross Douthat would have us all return to. How exactly are we supposed to manage that? Well, he’s asking you to pretty please Go Back To Church. Because once you take your old seats in your old pews, POOF the gawd-magic will happen and all that stuff about black lives and driverless cars and mp3 buffering will disappear. Fuck him.

On national haxx day, Olivia Nuzzi

Oh how very Pulitzer.

Steve Bannon is a devout Catholic who believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it’s the story of Christ’s descent into hell that occupies his mind most this Easter weekend…

If they can give a tipsy Sunday schoolmarm awards for penning odes to Reagan’s feet, then what’s to stop Olivia Nuzzi? I see no reason not to hack up a column by pretending to know what a hermetic paranoid racist is really thinking. No harm done seeing as how Olivia, unlike the rest of us, is a spoon-bending psychic.

It’s what the kewl kidz do. They go and crawl inside the heads of the movers and shakers – in their own heads, of course – and then deign to tell you What’s Going On. Nothing beats total access, right folks? Mental masturbation is the hack’s way of giving the reader a tingle. Steve Bannon may be a devout Catholic, but he’d rather be drinking Manishewitz right now. Whoa! A drunk?! Steve Bannon believes in Jesus Christ, it’s just the rest of us he’s not so sure about. What, me?! The nerve! Mental wanking is also a good way to get yourself a paycheck slopping swill for the likes of Politico…New York Magazine? Oh fuck me.

But fittingly given the holiday, in this week’s carnage was a miracle of sorts for Bannon. The president, according to multiple sources, has been distracted at least a bit by the military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan…

No, Olivia hasn’t talked with Steve Bannon. No, she hasn’t messaged, or emailed, or texted him. No, she has no idea what he’s thinking. She doesn’t even bother to quote him.

Whatever Trump does in Syria will not be courageous

I wanted briefly to follow up on the previous post regarding Trump’s tough-talking on the chemical weapons attack in Syria.

I think it’s on foreign policy where Trump will likely be most vulnerable to universal criticism over the next four years (shorter, I hope). There are many reasons to believe this:

1.) Republican administrations tend to be nightmares internationally.
2.) Donald Trump knows virtually nothing. This is especially true when it comes to matters unrelated to pop culture, real estate and/or golf.
3.) Trump is happy to play lapdog to President Putin. That Vlade opposes almost all of the United States’ global goals vis-a-vis supporting free speech, democratic institutions, etc. is well-known and bodes much of the world ill.

But perhaps most of all:

4.) Trump is a narcissist.

This means that Donny will be extremely wary about engaging in the usual 24-hour right-wing fearmongering in order to start a war somewhere. Why? Because shooting and killing people will make Americans hate him. And being despised is something he just can’t stand.

Donald Trump’s brand of narcissism lends him to think “Everybody Loves Me.” He believes he can be all things to all people, which is why (he thinks) he’s become so tremendously popular.

It’s not too surprising an attitude to come from someone whose ‘political teeth’ were cut in a populist medium like reality TV. In contrast, there are no conservative politicians we know of capable of being tolerated, ratings-wise, in such a forum. They’re creepy, mechanical and off-putting – not to mention ready and willing to kill thousands of people in far-flung places like Iraq for fun and profit.

The simpler way of saying this is, when it comes to foreign policy, Donald Trump is not really a Republican. He is a populist, which is to say an idiot. Because when the usage of chemical weapons in Syria rears its hopeless and ugly head, any sober populist would run for the exits.

Unfortunately for him, the facts are that Trump is a Republican president, and that he’s surrounded by the GOP’s usual murderers and psychopaths. So there will be expectations of tough talk and making good on ‘promises’ with something like missile strikes and high fives.

But Trump just isn’t that guy. Others have noticed. The Atlantic:

Trump’s newfound horror at slaughter in Syria, and his apparent realization that Russia is enabling Assad, are puzzling, since both go back years. What his awakening might mean for U.S. policy is unclear. Speaking alongside Abdullah, Trump said he wouldn’t say what he was going to do lest he tip his hand. But this has been a frequent excuse for the president when he actually has no plan on hand.

This is a polite way of saying “Yeah, right pal.” Trump’s persona demands the bluster and brash talk, but then what’s next? WaPo:

The big question was how long Trump’s sense of outrage would last and whether it would lead to substantive action.

“The president just made a statement on Assad that looks 180 degrees different from his actual policy,” said Kori Schake, a research fellow at Stanford University and former official in the George W. Bush administration. “This may be a scattershot administration with a president that responds to near-term stimulus rather than long-term planning or strategy.”

Yep, that’s it. Trump is at first a loudmouth know-nothing who on second thought would prefer to do…nothing.

There’s only one thing I’ve read that goes beyond that initial question, “So what is he gonna DO?” And that was a Twitter rant by an Army veteran.

Jason Kander, a former Army intelligence officer and the former Missouri Secretary of State, reacted angrily to Trump’s decision to outsource more military decision-making powers from the White House to the Pentagon.

The reason this is bad, Kander wrote in a Thursday morning tweet storm, is that it allows Trump to evade responsibility for military actions that go wrong.

Kander isn’t just guessing about the net results of Trump’s ‘streamlining’ military decisions (which is more like ‘outsourcing’. Or, perhaps, ‘Hell I don’t know, General – you tell ME.’). Dodging responsibility is exactly what Trump did after the clusterfuck strike in Yemen that killed a Navy Seal and a number of civilians: “This was something that was, you know, they wanted to do. They came to see me, they explained what they wanted to do…” He told everybody it was the Navy’s idea, and it was their execution. And it was their mistakes: “[T]hey lost Ryan, and I was at the airport when the casket came in, the body came in, and it was a very sad… There’s nothing worse. But again this was something that they were looking at for a long time…” He practically made a show of shrugging his shoulders for the world to see.

This is unprecedented cowardice, frankly.

“If POTUS chooses to streamline the mission approval process, it is morally wrong to be so dismissive of civilian casualties,” Kander said. “Civilian casualties will cost us working relationships with friends. That makes it nearly impossible to fight bad guys.”

Kander then tore into Trump’s general unwillingness to accept responsibility for bad things that happen on his watch, despite the fact that he’s all too willing to take credit for any positive news.

“He is ducking responsibility,” Kander wrote. “It is a disgusting level of selfishness. He’s putting lives at risk, but he’s not willing to risk looking bad.”

This, for narcissists, is like, exactly. Duh. Make the Pentagon tell the President what military ‘solution’ THEY like best, then go with that. Thank everybody for their input, then sit back and see what happens. If it kills a hundred civilians, tell America that the Army screwed up. Make it clear they promised POTUS such a thing wouldn’t happen. The President is very disappointed, he expected they’d do better! It’s the same game that middle managers play everyday.

On the other hand if the operation actually works, congratulate everyone for providing top-notch planning and execution. Then let Sean Spicer go before the press and sing the President’s praises as a steadfast leader and foreign policy genius, of course.

I think this is likely the Trump strategy we’ll see going forward. If he’s already been sufficiently cowed by the hawks, we may even see it in Syria as soon as next week. Let’s hope it hasn’t gotten to that (yet).

Breaking: The President’s latest comments.

As Politico’s Shane Goldmacher reports, Trump issued a new assessment of the Syrian situation on Thursday…

“I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity, and he’s there, I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen,” Trump said.

There’s a man who clearly enjoys being president.

The farce awakens: Trump’s shoulder-shrug foreign policy

After Bashar al-Assad’s regime yesterday bombed civilians in Idlib province with chemical weapons (including perhaps Sarin gas) our commander-in-chief could not have been more steadfast rock steady and resolute:

Statement from President Donald J. Trump

Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world. These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.

How dare Obama do this to the people of Syria! Bravo, Brass Donny. He certainly knows how to take the fight to the bad guys. Other than preening cowardice, are there any problems with Trump’s ‘statement’?

Well there’s the unlikelihood that Barack Obama would be capable of mounting a proper counter-strike from a Hawaiian beach armed only with a Mai Tai and a copy of Golf Digest.

There’s also the fun fact that if the Syrian regime were now pointing and laughing at anyone it would be the current president – the guy who’s most capable of having a say in the matter by perhaps starting a war there on a moment’s notice. But then that would involve bloodletting and dead bodies, and some of those would certainly be children. There’s a couple of really icky things the famously cooties-and-dirty-hands phobic billionaire would like to avoid.

We might also recall that, with regard to Syria, a survey of America’s most famous politicians would show the most strongly non-interventionist to be Donald Trump.

“The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria,fix U.S.A.”

In more than a dozen messages on Twitter in 2013 and 2014, Mr. Trump repeated his advice, emphatically stating that “Syria is NOT our problem,” appealing directly to Mr. Obama to “not attack Syria” as “there is no upside and tremendous downside” and telling him to “stay out of Syria.”

There’s also a certain well-heeled despot slash 60 Minutes ‘stablemate’ whose exotic adventures Trump would want to avoid crashing.

Mr. Trump shrugged at calls to use force against Mr. Assad’s government and endorsed Russia’s support of the Syrian leader.

“You have Russia that’s now there. Russia’s on the side of Assad, and Russia wants to get rid of ISIS as much as we do, if not more, because they don’t want them coming into Russia,” Mr. Trump said in a September 2015 interview with CNN. “Let Syria and ISIS fight. Why do we care?”

But you say surely, blog guy, once candidate Donald pivoted to the mainstream or the general or the grey-haired gravitas, he came around to standard GOP ‘KILL’ orthodoxy? Isn’t that where he is now? Naw.

So emphatic was Mr. Trump’s stance on Syria that he disavowed the stance of his own running mate. After the October 2016 vice-presidential debate, when Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana, backed strikes against Mr. Assad, Mr. Trump stated, “I disagree.”

So what we have in the ‘President’s statement’ on the chemical weapons attack is our most famous non-interventionist strangely criticizing the past president for doing the right thing. For doing exactly what Donald Trump told him to do. Does anyone have a portmanteau for ‘nuclear’ and ‘hypocrisy’?

Anyway, you can imagine now the President’s problem. The smartest man in the world, who also happens to be the toughest man in the world, who of course has the world’s biggest balls, is now in charge of coming up with some sort of response to a horrific war crime. This is essentially the same crime from 2013 in the same hopelessly messed up place that Trump said we shouldn’t be too concerned with.

Let’s see what happens next. And let’s hear what his fans have to say. My money’s on muted calls of disappointment giving way to talk of cough-cough cowardice from America’s dithering commander-in-chief.

Devin Nunes, the stupidest man alive

This Devin Nunes thing is almost too bizarre for words. It’s as transparent and contrived as any “Real Housewives” episode.

Let’s review.

On March 20, a “senior White House official” told the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza to “watch Nunes” at a House hearing because Nunes was going to raise the issue of “backdoor surveillance” having potentially been used against Trump and/or his advisers…

Slate goes through it day by day. I’ll just cut to the nougat center, here we go:

Some time in March senior members of Trump’s administration, and likely Donald Trump himself, became aware that White House staffers had documents detailing how Trump campaign members may have been [maybe] collaterally surveilled.

Someone within the administration then contacted Devin Nunes and asked if he would like to see the documents. He said ‘yes’ and a meeting was arranged for him in a secure room…at the White House. This would be Trump’s own White House – either with Trump’s knowledge (which is on its face normal, but actually bizarre) or without his knowledge (which is both seemingly and totally bizarre).

Nunes then came to the White House, saw the documents, and felt they were substantive and germane somehow (not speaking to his rationality here, only to his motivation).

After this hush-hush document perusal, in Trump’s residence, in front of Trump’s people, arranged by more of Trump’s people, he felt the urgent need to tell somebody about what he saw. Devin Nunes then briefed Donald Trump about Donald Trump’s own documents, disclosed by Donald Trump’s staffers, in a meeting arranged by senior members of Donald Trump’s administration, in Donald Trump’s White House.

Am I missing anything? I don’t have the slightest idea if any laws were broken here. But the President sure as fuck needs to be impeached.

Hugh Hewitt and the nothingness of being (conservative)

Obamacare “is in a death spiral.”

— Hugh Hewitt on Sunday, March 26th, 2017 in comments on “Meet the Press”

So began Politifact’s de-mythologizing yet another zombie lie about Obamacare. There are so many of these falsehoods flying around, it’s hard to know where to begin. If bullshit were shoes, then the discussion over repeal and replace looked a lot like one of those Bush-era foreign press conferences.

The debunk:

“Death spiral” is a health industry term built around three components:

Shrinking enrollment;

Healthy people leaving the system;

Rising premiums.

Specifically, a death spiral occurs when shrinking enrollment leads to a deteriorating risk pool (or when healthy people leave the plan due to the cost).

It’s a market collapse. Insurance companies lose their healthier low-risk buyers, so the product they’re selling becomes costly. Too expensive to buy. It ain’t that hard to understand, Hugh.

I’m picking on the ‘moderate’ winger here from the Sunday morning shows in order to demonstrate how stupidly contrarian conservatives become when confronted with facts. Even when precisely targeted by high velocity steel jacketed dum-dum facts, coming right for their stupid fat heads.

Hugh responds:

Glad to see they covered their rear end…

With his own pants around his knees, Hewitt waddles over to the boys at Powerline to stitch himself a new pair of bloomers from non-sequiturs and prickly defiance. In summary, to wit:

1.) They only gave my booker [and me] three hours to respond via e-mail. But there I was on Twitter the whole time. The underhandedness of Politifact here is startling.
2.) All I did was quote the President of Aetna saying Obamacare was in a ‘death spiral,’ okay? SHEESH.
3.) Let’s not forget that I also said someone might actually fact check him, and that other people disagreed with him, and that he said it in your New York Times. Even they say – the Times! – that Obamacare has problems, okay?
4.) Taken together, you can’t hold me responsible for stating categorically that Obamacare is in a ‘death spiral.’
5.) Since we’re on the subject, you must admit that the President of Aetna is an insurance expert. HA HA.
6.) Did I mention the President of Aetna? He is correct, by the way, Obamacare is in a ‘death spiral.’

For your perusal:

My primary piece of evidence after Aetna’s president’s statement was also omitted by PolitiFact: single-plan counties have gone from 7 percent of the country to 33 percent in one year. This represents a death spiral.

As Politifact wrote, NO. When the pool of people willing to buy insurance at the going rate evaporates, that’s ‘death.’ Young and healthy buyers walk away, premiums go up, and the cycle repeats until the market seizes. Or is a ‘spiral’ just too darn complicated?

What we have here is the opposite: Plenty of people willing to buy, but fewer insurance companies willing to sell.

Hewitt would have us believe that any insurance company that pulls out of any locality for any reason is spinning the market, but no. That would just be a ‘business decision.’ In Obamacare’s case, sometimes a ‘tantrum.’ Or, specifically, in the case of Aetna (surprise!), ‘an attempt to bully both the government and its citizens,’ hallmarked with perjury:

U.S. District Judge John Bates concluded this week that Aetna’s real motivation for dropping Obamacare coverage in several states was “specifically to evade judicial scrutiny” over its merger with Humana.

Whaddyaknow! Laissez un-faire.

Bates said it’s clear that “Aetna tried to leverage its participation in the exchange for favorable treatment” from regulators…”

This critique was buried in a 158-page ruling issued by Bates on Monday, in which he blocked Aetna’s merger with Humana due to anti-competitive concerns…

Last summer, Aetna explained its decision to withdraw from most Obamacare exchanges by saying its individual policies business had lost $430 million since the exchanges opened in January 2014.

However, the judge noted that Aetna kept its support for exchanges in money-losing states like Delaware, Iowa and Virginia — but dumped Florida, even though that big state was projected to be profitable in 2016.

Aetna said they had to pull out of health insurance because they were losing money on Obamacare. But they’re still selling insurance in [cough] ‘unprofitable’ places like Delaware while pulling out of a massive market like Florida – where they were raking it in. Thank you, Judge Bates. And thanks, Aetna, for demonstrating what really goes on behind the scenes in these mega-corporations: conspiratorial shenanigans and strategic scumbaggery. Or, as we econbloggers like to call it, the “Visible Hand.”

The ruling quoted an email from Christopher Ciano, president of Aetna’s Florida market, to Jonathan Mayhew, head of Aetna’s exchange business, showing how stunned he was by the decision to leave Florida.

“I just can’t make sense out of the Florida decision. Never thought we would pull the plug all together,” Ciano wrote, adding that Aetna was “making money from the on-exchange business.”

Mayhew responded by requesting to discuss by phone “instead of email.”

Ix-nay on the ofits-pray, dude (…we’ll have to go to court someday). It’s all so surprising, isn’t it?

I just can’t imagine why Aetna’s CEO would want to lie about the viability and profitability of Obamacare. Or why Hugh Hewitt would want to quote him, apart from all the other ‘experts’ in the field. Or why a sixty-one year old man would be so thoroughly confused as to what constitutes a ‘spiral’…