Thursday, September 21, 2017


The Kaiser Family Foundation has a new report on the likely winning and losing states if the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill is passed. Something jumped out at me in this Talking Points Memo story about the Kaiser report:
Overall, the report estimates, states would see $160 billion less in federal health care funding over the next decade under the proposed law, with 35 states and D.C. losing federal dollars. But Medicaid expansion states would bear the heaviest burden by far, losing 11 percent of federal support on average. Republican-controlled states that did not expand Medicaid, however, would get an average increase of 12 percent.

The biggest losers under the bill would be high population, progressive states. California, New York, and Pennsylvania would lose $56 billion, $52 billion and $11 billion dollars respectively.
California and New York, sure -- it's no surprise that President Trump and congressional Republicans would want to punish those bastions of liberal depravity. But Pennsylvania? One of the beacons of glowing red on the president's much-beloved electoral map?

A check of the Kaiser numbers also shows that Michigan -- another of Trump's red gems -- stands to lose nearly $5 billion between now and 2026.

Wisconsin didn't go for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, so it's expected to gain nearly $3.5 billion. But another state Trump won by an eyelash, Florida, stands to lose more than $7.5 billion. North Carolina -- another close one for Trump -- is expected to lose $5.7 billion. Minnesota -- which Trump nearly won and which he probably thinks he could win in 2020 -- will lose more than $8 billion.

All so solidly red states can get more, as TPM notes:
The biggest winners would be the deep red South: Texas would see $34 billion more, and Georgia, Tennessee, and Mississippi would see $10 billion, $7 billion, and $6 billion bumps respectively over the first decade.
And these changes start taking place in ... 2020.

However, Jonathan Chait has pointed out that the law allows for tinkering with the numbers:
... starting in 2020, the secretary of Health and Human Services is authorized to adjust the formula “according to a population adjustment factor developed by the Secretary.”

The bill says that adjustment must be based on “legitimate factors,” but otherwise places no specific limitations. So, if President Trump wanted, say, to reward a political loyalist or punish a political foe, he could order the secretary to come up with any facially plausible reason to shift around money as he sees fit.... A Republican senator who gets too nosy about, say, the Russia scandal might suddenly learn that his or her state’s health-care needs were less serious than previously believed.
So maybe this will all be tweaked in the interests of salvaging Trump's 2020 electoral map.


Democrats assume that the 2018 elections will be a referendum on President Trump's corruption, extremism, incompetence, ignorance, and coddling of Vladimir Putin. They assume it will be a referendum on Republican efforts to gut the Obama health care law, especially if those efforts are successful.

The right has other ideas. Portions of the right -- the same people who made major issues of the "Ground Zero mosque" in 2010 and Ebola in 2014 -- would like to make 2018 a referendum on how Democrats want all decent people killed by lawless thugs running amok in the streets. Did you know, for instance, that Hillary Clinton -- a woman many lefties decry as a neoliberal sellout -- is actually one of the principal sponsors of Antifa violence?

That's what Pam Geller told her readers yesterday:
Clinton Moved $800,000 From Her Campaign to Help Fund Antifa

Hillary Clinton — the same Hillary Clinton who spent her campaign months talking up the dangers of “dark money” in politics — was just outed for moving about $800,000 of the cash stashed for her presidential run to antifa groups.

Her source is Gateway Pundit -- and yes, I know all of you think of GP's Jim Hoft as "the stupidest man on the Internet," but he's made his site a very influential source of factually dubious propaganda, so he's not all that stupid:
EXPOSED: Hillary Clinton Moved 800K From Her Campaign To Help Fund ANTIFA

... It has been revealed that the failed presidential candidate’s Super-PAC, “Onward Together”, is heavily backing “resistance” and Alt-Left extremist groups such as ANTIFA.

In building investigations, Daily Caller first discovered that Hillary transferred a mass sum of money from her campaign over to Onward Together:
Clinton transferred $800,000 from her failed 2016 presidential campaign to Onward Together shortly before announcing the group’s launch in May, documents the campaign filed with the FEC reveal.
Now, today, it has been revealed by Offended America exactly where that money is going....
The Daily Caller story never says that Clinton is funding Antifa groups. All it says is that Onward Together announced in May that it "would be partnering with five left-wing political groups: Indivisible, Swing Left, Color of Change, Emerge America and Run for Something" -- all of which are decidedly non-violent -- but none have acknowledged receiving any money from Clinton's PAC. That's largely because four of the five groups wouldn't talk to the Caller:
The Daily Caller reached out to all five political groups, asking them to confirm that Onward Together has, in fact, been funding and supporting their groups. Only one group responded to the TheDC’s repeated requests: Indivisible, the Soros-backed “resistance” group.
A few paragraphs down, the Caller tells us that Onward Together was seeded partly with that $800,000 transferred from Clinton's campaign.

Offended America -- no, I'd never heard of it before, either -- made the Antifa connection (and the $800,000 connection) simply by asserting that all the cited groups are "Antifa linked," and by flipping the Daily Caller story on its head: While the Caller implies that Clinton is doing nothing for progressive causes, Offended America insists that the failure of left-wing groups to talk to the Caller proves that they're hiding something.
Hillary’s Dark-Money Super-PAC Looted $800K From Her Campaign to Support Antifa

Amid doubts that Hillary’s PAC was doing anything at all with the donations that it was receiving, Daily Caller reached out to five different Antifa linked groups, and only one was willing to deny donations from Onward Together. Soros-linked group, Indivisible, denied receiving financial support from Clinton or Onward Together.
There's fake news that's just made up out of nothing -- Pizzagate, the pope's endorsement of Trump -- and then there's fake news like this, which plays on the riled-up right-wing readers' assumption that all left-ing political organizations are indistinguishable from Antifa.

Your right-wing uncle will be sending out a link to at least one of these stories any minute now.

Of course, right-wingers already believe that there isn't an inch of daylight between Democrats and perpetrators of political violence in response to police brutality. They think every supporter of Black Lives Matter endorses rioting and cop-killing, so we get stories like this, from World Net Daily:

The St. Louis Young Democrats are working hand-in-hand with Black Lives Matter to organize protests in the city....

The Young Democrats tweeted Wednesday at about 12:20 p.m. that the next “protest” in response to the not-guilty verdict in the Jason Stockley trial was planned for Wednesday evening, instructing rioters where to show up and at what time, hashtagging #Black Lives Matter on the tweet....

While the Young Democrats can claim they are calling for peaceful protests, that claim is dubious at best, given their connections with Black Lives Matter, a known radical group that espouses violence and has been seen on video kicking in storefront windows, spraying unknown chemicals and throwing rocks at police.
And while we're on the subject of the right linking Democrats to violence, here's an ad Republican Ed Gillespie is running against Democrat Ralph Northam in the Virginia governor's race:

The Washington Post explains:
Ed Gillespie, who for years pressed fellow Republicans to make their party more welcoming to minorities, on Wednesday unveiled a hard-hitting TV ad that blames his Democratic rival for Virginia governor for the resurgence of the MS-13 street gang....

The ad was based on a tiebreaking vote Northam cast in the state Senate this year, against a bill that would have prohibited the establishment of sanctuary cities in the state.
Virginia actually has no sanctuary cities. And in any case, sanctuary cities pursue criminal cases against gang members -- they just won't routinely detain undocumented immigrants on the federal government's behalf beyond the time they're required to be in the local criminal justice system. But there's an election going on, so don't expect nuance.

In 2018, Democrats are going to be running against Trump and the GOP Congress. Republicans are going to be running against criminal gang members, looters, and cop-killers, whom they'll try to hang around Democrats' necks. And it might work.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


Breitbart pulished this piece by John Nolte yesterday:

According to the latest census figures, white people make up 61.3 percent of the American population. Rounding out those numbers, Hispanics (17.8 percent), blacks (13.3 percent), and Asians (5.7 percent), fill in most of the rest of our glorious melting pot. And yet...

The oh-so progressive left-wing television industry, the very same television industry that spent almost every minute of Sunday’s disastrously low-watched Emmy Award Show smugly blasting away at Trump and his supporters as unrepentant racists, looks nothing like America. Not even close.

In fact, the broad coalition of Trump’s “racist” supporters is much more racially diverse than the television industry.
It is? Do tell, John.
According to a just-released study, minority actors make up only 11.4 percent of the lead actors in television roles. Things are not much better for supporting non-white roles, where white actors “account for about three-quarters of the scripted roles on cable and broadcast.”
Yes, and a lot of non-whites and white liberals have criticized Hollywood for that over the years.

But you were talking about Trump. Tell us about his rainbow coalition of support.
Let us now compare Hollywood’s horrible record of racial diversity on television to the racial diversity of those Hollywood relentlessly blasts as racists, meaning: those awful Trump Supporters.

Only 58 percent of Trump supporters are white. Of that remaining non-white 42 percent, eight percent are black, while 29 percent are Hispanic.
John? No. You're absolutely wrong about this.

The statistics you cite (exit polling from the 2016 election) don't say that "58 percent of Trump supporters are white" -- they say that 58 percent of white voters voted for Trump.

Not the same thing at all.

Nolte repeats the error with the stats for blacks and Hispanics: They aren't, respectively, 8 and 29 percent of Trump voters -- Trump got only 8 percent of the black vote and 29 percent of the Hispanic vote.

According to one of Nolte's sources -- a table of exit poll results at the site of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research -- whites were 70 percent of all voters in 2016, while blacks were 12 percent and Hispanics 11 percent. The exit poll gives Trump 44.75 percent of the vote (he actually got a bit more than that) -- and Trump's white voters were 40.6 percent of the total vote.

Do the math: That means that nearly 91 percent of Trump voters were white.

Even Hollywood gives more than 9 percent of its lead roles to non-whites.

But your right-wing uncle will send you a link to this story anyway. Which means your right-wing uncle doesn't understand math either.


Last night, Jimmy Kimmel said that Senator Bill Cassidy lied to him:
Late night host Jimmy Kimmel ripped into Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), one of the coauthors of the GOP’s latest effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, on his show Tuesday night. “This guy, Bill Cassidy, lied right to my face,” Kimmel said, encouraging his viewers to call members of Congress.

During the earlier health care debate, Cassidy received a fair bit of attention for coining what he called the Jimmy Kimmel Test, urging fellow lawmakers to protect people with preexisting conditions. Kimmel had called on Congress to do this after his son was born with congenital heart disease.

Since the summer, though, Cassidy has completely changed his mind, and is now sponsoring the GOP’s last effort to repeal Obamacare before a September 30 deadline. The bill Cassidy introduced earlier this month clearly fails his own test. It cuts billions in federal health spending and allows states to wipe out the vast majority of Obamacare’s rules protecting people with preexisting conditions....
Today Cassidy revised and extended his fact-challenged remarks:
Hours after a brutal takedown at the hands of late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) went on television Wednesday to respond.

But with literally his first sentence, Cassidy did the very thing that had drawn Kimmel’s ire: The senator made wildly misleading claims....

“There will be more people covered under the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson amendment than are under status quo and we protect those with pre-existing conditions,” Cassidy said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

That statement, similar to one Cassidy also made on CNN, is virtually impossible to defend.
Cassidy made a lot of statements today that can't be defended:

But is it fair to accuse Cassidy of dishonesty? Of lying?

He's a member of a party in which there are many adherent of the philosophy of Leo Strauss. As Andrew Sullivan wrote a few years ago, Straussians don't believe you and I deserve the truth:
Strauss argued that many critical texts in Western civilization were written with an esoteric teaching for the intelligent few, while presenting a less radical and palatable public doctrine for the masses. Hence the Straussian penchant for a noble lie – one that is good for the people to believe but which the elite knows is bullshit.
If you're a Republican, the need to cut people from the health care rolls is a necessity understood by "the intelligent few," while Cassidy's happy talk is "a less radical and palatable public doctrine for the masses." It's not dishonest! It's what's wise leaders must do in the interest of social cohesion!

So cut Bill Cassidy a break -- he's doing this for your own good.


BuzzFeed's Ben Smith is feeling a thrill up his leg:
Tomorrow, Bill Clinton will hand what used to be [Clinton Global Initiative]'s main event off to Mike Bloomberg. And Bloomberg is reviving part of the event’s original role as a kind of US government in exile....

Bloomberg’s move to take over the conference (renamed the Bloomberg Global Business Forum) hasn’t drawn much attention, but it’s worth seeing in that context: The former New York mayor is inheriting not a conference, but a platform for an alternative American diplomacy....

Bloomberg’s version has some of CGI’s trappings, with the added polish of the kind of government in exile he represents. This isn’t the former governor of Arkansas, balancing his pro-business policies with folksy populism. This is pure anti-Trumpism, globalist on the big issues of trade and climate, firmly progressive on social values....

Bloomberg's new stage is a sign that on the issues on which he's already begun to dog Trump — climate change, in particular — the former mayor is likely just getting started.
Last night's CBS Evening News devoted a full segment to Bloomberg.

Anchor Anthony Mason asked Bloomberg about subjects ranging from North Korea to immigration, ending with this:
MASON: Have you had any regrets at all that you chose not to run for president?

BLOOMBERG: Well, no. I think it would have been a great job. I would have loved the challenge. I don't think there's any question about that. But we did a lot of work and we in the end decided an independent can't win.

MASON: Does that mean you're never going to run again?

BLOOMBERG: Well, you know, I've joked that I'm gonna run for the president of my block association.
As 2020 approaches, I suspect you're going to see a hunger in the "liberal" media not for a Sanders or Warren or Harris or even Biden presidency, but for something that rids us of Trump without handing power to those icky Democrats. I think Bloomberg will be urged to run, and if not Bloomberg, then a dream "unity" ticket of Governors John Kasich and John Hickenlooper (with Kasich, of course, as the presidential nominee -- mustn't give those Democrats too much power!).

The 2020 Democratic primaries are highly unlikely to produce the daddy or dudebro candidate the media would prefer. (I'm an Obama fan, but he was a bit of both, which was part of the reason the media embraced him.) I think there'll be a lot of not-so-subtle rooting for Bloomberg and Kasich going into 2020 -- and a coldness toward most of the likely Democratic front-runners. I hope I'm wrong about this, but low expectations of the media are generally a wise idea.


... Also, I'm anticipating a certain amount of "Mitt Romney, save us!" talk from the mainstream media if Romney wins the Utah Senate seat next year. And no, I don't think Breitbart attacks on Romney will prevent him from winning this seat effortlessly.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017


I see that Vladimir Putin is performing masculinity again:

A statue of Mikhail Kalashnikov, the inventor of the AK-47 assault rifle, has been unveiled in central Moscow in a controversial ceremony that merged military pomp with religious ritual.

The nine-metre (30ft) monument depicts Kalashnikov clutching his eponymous automatic weapon. Tuesday’s event was attended by high-ranking Russian officials including Vladimir Medinsky, the culture minister, and Petr Biryukov, Moscow’s deputy mayor.

“This is Russia’s cultural brand,” said Medinsky, before a Russian Orthodox priest blessed the statue.

“He created this weapon to defend his motherland,” said Father Konstantin, shrugging off suggestions that it was inappropriate to sprinkle holy water on a statue of a weapons designer. Some members of the crowd crossed themselves as the priest blessed the monument.
Okay, Putin wasn't performing masculinity there personally. He was elsewhere, passing up UN ceremonies in New York to do this:
Vladimir Putin watches display of Russian firepower near EU border

A large-scale Russian military exercise that has spooked western countries has entered its final phase, with helicopters, fighter jets, missiles and tanks employed at a firing range close to Russia’s border with the EU.

Vladimir Putin was among those watching the 45-minute display of firepower on a cold and rainy Monday afternoon at the Luga firing range, about 70 miles (113km) from the border with EU member state Estonia. The Russian president, joined by the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, and a number of army generals, watched through binoculars from a viewing platform.
This is one of the biggest Russian military exercises since the end of the Cold War:
From September 14 to 20, the Russian and Belarusian militaries are holding a joint war game to simulate fending off an attack from Western powers. Russia says only 12,700 troops — as well as 70 planes and helicopters, 280 tanks, 200 artillery weapons, and 10 ships — are participating in the drills.

But foreign officials, including German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, believe the number is closer to 100,000. That’s significant because if a military exercise involves 13,000 troops or more, then foreign officials must be formally invited to watch, according to an international agreement — and the 12,700 number is suspiciously just under that mark.

Western leaders are especially worried about the exercise. NATO accused Russia of using the last Zapad drills in 2013 to prepare for its invasion of Ukraine the following year. Now some leaders, such as Lithuania’s Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis, fear having Russian troops amassed near NATO territory. "We can't be totally calm. There is a large foreign army massed next to Lithuanian territory," Karoblis told Reuters.
Meanwhile, our president just addressed the United Nations and scared the crap out of much of the world:
President Donald Trump threatened Tuesday to "totally destroy" North Korea and its "Rocket Man" leader, warned the "murderous" Iranian government that it cannot endure, and declared that much of the world is "going to hell."

In his first speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Trump also urged nations to band together to fight "evil" — even as he extolled the virtue of respecting national sovereignty and insisted that America isn't looking to impose its "way of life" on others.

The at-times contradictory remarks were filled with soaring rhetoric that touched on everything from "God" to "chaos," and the dark tones were reminiscent of Trump's inaugural address, in which he promised to bring an end to "American carnage."
Trump is also planning to increase the number of CIA drone strikes, while lifting restrictions intended to prevent civilian casualties. Oh, and of course he wants to have a huge military parade in Washington on July 4.

We have decapitation- and torture-happy drug gangs. We have ISIS losing territory and responding by urging followers to commit random acts of violence that get the Islamic State no closer to a caliphate, but mostly shed blood for the sake of shedding blood, publicly and very visibly, as if just being the most badass terrorists on the planet is ISIS's only goal now.

I don't know if we have a more dangerous world today than we've had in recent decades, but the world certainly seems to be more full of men who beat their chests and say, "Look! I'm dangerous! I'm really incredibly freaking dangerous! Pay attention to me! Respect my dangerousness!" Adult-bodied eleven-year-old boys acting out, in other words, with very dangerous weapons.


I know we're all enjoying the Robert Mueller news. But if we're waiting for the 34% to 40% of America that backs Donald Trump to come to its senses, the news makes that less likely, not more. Imagine being a Fox-watching, Limbaugh-listening, Breitbart-reading conservative and learning about this:
Paul J. Manafort was in bed early one morning in July when federal agents bearing a search warrant picked the lock on his front door and raided his Virginia home....

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, then followed the house search with a warning: His prosecutors told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him, said two people close to the investigation.

The moves against Mr. Manafort are just a glimpse of the aggressive tactics used by Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors....

“They are setting a tone. It’s important early on to strike terror in the hearts of people in Washington, or else you will be rolled,” said Solomon L. Wisenberg, who was deputy independent counsel in the investigation that led to the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999....

“They seem to be pursuing this more aggressively, taking a much harder line, than you’d expect to see in a typical white-collar case,” said Jimmy Gurulé, a Notre Dame law professor and former federal prosecutor. “This is more consistent with how you’d go after an organized crime syndicate.”
If you're a Trumper, this (plus the leak of this) confirms everything you've ever believed about the ruthlessness of the "deep state" campaign to take down Trump. Even many Republicans -- yes, Roger Stone excepted -- eventually acknowledged that Richard Nixon was unfit to be president. The Trumpers, by contrast, will never come around. Certainly not after this.

They already believe that they were right about wiretapping, even though it was Manafort, not Trump, who was the target of a FISA wiretap warrant. I'm sure they'll never believe the timing of the Manafort wiretap warrant's renewal was anything but suspicious:
US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN....

The government snooping continued into early this year, including a period when Manafort was known to talk to President Donald Trump....

A secret order authorized by the court that handles the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) began after Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. It centered on work done by a group of Washington consulting firms for Ukraine's former ruling party, the sources told CNN.

The surveillance was discontinued at some point last year for lack of evidence, according to one of the sources.
The FBI then restarted the surveillance after obtaining a new FISA warrant that extended at least into early this year.
It was reinstated during the year when Manafort ran the Trump campaign for a few months, and it continued after Trump was elected? No Trumper is ever going to believe that that was anything other than Obama vindictiveness against Trump.

Trump's fan base, of course, has already claimed vindication:

Richard Nixon resigned in the summer of 1974. Throughout that year, he had job approval ratings in the mid- to high 20s, according to Gallup. Shortly before he left office, he was at 24% approval. In the fall of 2008, George W. Bush had job approval ratings in the 20s, according to most polls; some showed his disapproval rating in the 70s.

I don't think Trump will ever go that low, even if he's impeached and convicted. Not even Charlottesville could push him past a Gallup floor of 34% approval; he's mostly been at 36% to 38% for the past several months. I think he'll leave office right about there. For about a third of the country, he'll remain a hero, in a way Nixon never was (except to Roger Stone) after Watergate, and in a way Bush wasn't by 2008. America is going to be living with Trump cultists for the foreseeable future.

Monday, September 18, 2017


I'm no fan of "Ten Commandments judge" Roy Moore, who's probably going to be the next U.S. senator from Alabama, but I'm inclined to let this slide:
While making the case for unifying the electorate, a candidate for Alabama's open Senate seat ended up saying something pretty divisive.

Roy Moore, a former chief justice on the state Supreme Court, was speaking against racial, political and other divisions at a rally in Florence, Ala., on Sunday when he inserted two words that have been historically used as slurs.

“We were torn apart in the Civil War — brother against brother, North against South, party against party,” he said. “What changed?

“Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting,” Moore added. “What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.”
"Reds and yellows" is not what we should be calling Native Americans and East Asians these days. On the other hand, as Ed Kilgore notes, this is, in all likelihood, a phrase Moore conjured from a non-racist memory:
As perhaps the vast majority of adults in Alabama understood immediately, Moore was alluding, consciously or unconsciously, to this timeworn children’s song...

Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight / Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Ed's a Georgian, and I'm betting he was raised knowing that hymn. I'm a lapsed Catholic originally from Boston, but I knew it as the introduction to "Everything Is Beautiful," one of the more serious songs performed by the musical comic (and now right-wing crank) Ray Stevens. This song was a plea for racial harmony, and it was a big hit during my childhood. Only later was I informed that the first few lines were from a Protestant hymn.

I'm also going to cut Moore some slack because I recall the benediction delivered by the Reverend Joseph Lowery at Barack Obama's first inaugural in 2009. Lowery, a hero of the civil rights movement, was 87 years old at the time; near the end of the benediction, he said this:
Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.

Roy Moore has angered me many times. He'll anger me many more times. He'll do it deliberately -- his religiosity is clearly, in large part, an effort to induce liberal tears.

I don't think he said "reds and yellows" to offend anyone -- which makes the phrase a rare utterance for him. So I'm going to take more offense at his call for theocracy than I am athis racial language.


This was not a good moment for the otherwise Trump-skeptical Emmys last night:
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer got a turn on one of Hollywood's glitziest stages Sunday night. And he used it to laugh about the falsehoods he told the American people in an attempt to rehabilitate his image.

... inherent in Spicer's appearance Sunday night was an acknowledgment that he sold the American people a bill of goods from the White House lectern. He essentially admitted to blatantly misrepresenting President Trump's inauguration crowd size, and he and those assembled all had a good laugh at it.

CNN's Brian Stelter asks, "Why did the Emmys help Sean Spicer rebrand?"
... he is hitting the speaker circuit, landing consulting gigs and looking for a potential TV commentator job. He will be a visiting fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics this fall.

Many Democrats and some anti-Trump Republicans are offended that Spicer -- who peddled misinformation on behalf of his boss -- is being embraced by institutions like Harvard.

"Harvard and the Emmys based on 7 months lying in the WH," former Obama foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted. "America is not exactly a meritocracy and false equivalence trumps reality."

... The MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell commented that the Emmys "helped Spicer pump up his 'lecture' fees, which is all that matters to him now."

While many of the objections came from liberals, some conservatives also made arguments against the skit.

"I know people who were offered opportunities to lie for Donald Trump and quietly declined. Harvard & The Emmys calling the wrong folks," former Jeb Bush spokesman Tim Miller tweeted.
And Spicer wasn't just warmly embraced during the broadcast:
Both sources who spoke with CNN on Monday morning marveled at the way Spicer was mobbed by Emmys attendees both at the awards show and at the parties afterward.

"He could barely eat at the Governor's Ball, he was so popular," one of the sources said.
As you can see:

But why should we be surprised? Yes, the entertainment industry has been harshly critical of the Trump administration -- but at the same time, entertainers, especially comedians, seem to imagine that individuals in Trump World are no more harmful than the fictional versions of themselves.

Melissa McCarthy's impersonation turned Spicer into a harmlessly absurd bully -- and then the Emmys turned Spicer into Melissa McCarthy. The Saturday Night Live version of the odious Kellyanne Conway portrays her, in the words of one culture critic, "in a weirdly sympathetic light," as "one part put-upon mother figure, and one part victim of Stockholm Syndrome. As a viewer, you’re set up to feel bad for how Conway has to put up with this blowhard, as if she didn’t a choice."

Melania Trump is regularly portrayed as her husband's victim, or even as his prisoner. Candice Bergen was on Bravo last week wearing a "Free Melania" sweatshirt -- a now-widespread comic trope that's also essentially the message of "The Arrangements," a short story by the novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which was published in The New York Times Book Review last summer. I might have sympathy for Melania myself if I hadn't watched her defend her husband's birtherism:

Trump is reckless, ignorant, vicious, and dangerous -- but, for some reason, his underlings are often treated as worthy of sympathy, especially if they seem to have been mistreated by him.

Also, Trump doesn't wield his power in predictable ways, so media figures want to cozy up to anyone who seems capable of decipher his thinking. Thus, while Steve Bannon is so nasty and unlikable that no one feels sorry for him, he was mostly deferred to by Charlie Rose on 60 Minutes earlier this month, apparently because Rose wanted Bannon to solve the mystery of our new political order.

On Spicer, I'll give Lauren Duca the last word:


This showed up at the Daily Caller last night:
Tucker: Trump Thinks TV More Accurately Reveals The Public’s Beliefs Than Polls Do

Fox News host and Daily Caller co-founder Tucker Carlson says President Trump told him that television programming is a more accurate reflection of the public’s beliefs than polling is.

“I know that he watches a lot of television. I know because I’ve talked to him about it at length, that he’s really interested in television, both the mechanics of it — he knows a lot about ratings and lighting, and producing and guest booking,” Carlson said on “The Jamie Weinstein Show.”

... Carlson told Weinstein that Trump “believes that television is a pretty clear window into what people care about.”

“He believes that television producers, especially of highly rated shows, understand what the public is interested in — what it fears, what it wants, what it loves. And so TV programming in some ways is a more accurate reflection of the public mood than polling,” Carlson said. “That’s his view, he said it to me. And that’s one of the reasons he watches a lot of television. Whether that’s true or not is an entirely debatable point, but he believes if you want to know where the country is, watch TV.”
Oh, okay -- Trump isn't just an old man addicted to his TV remote. He's doing research! As president of the United States, he's staying in touch with the pulse of the people by ... um, watching TV along with them. And not top-rated sports and entertainment programs, but, y'know, Morning Joe, which ordinary people don't watch. He's doing this to become better informed about regular Americans, the same way guys used to say they read Playboy to become better informed about politics and jazz.

Are we going to start hearing this on a regular basis? That Trump's TV addiction is really a populist's attempt to stay populist, and a media professional's attempt to stay on top of trends in his old field? Is this going to be like all the talk we heard during past Republican presidencies about how Reagan and George W. Bush weren't stupid at all, as snooty elitists insisted, but in fact had a unique, intuitive populist genius developed through non-elite means?

It would also seem that Trump's interest in "highly rated shows" is a tad selective. Saturday Night Live and Stephen Colbert got big ratings boosts when they began attacking Trump. American Horror Story got excellent ratings after suggesting that Trump's election would be one of the horrors depicted in the current season. MSNBC passed Fox in prime time ratings this year on the strength of anti-Trump coverage. (The lack of mentions in Trump's Twitter feed suggests that he rarely watches Maddow at all.)

Trump isn't staying connected to the public via TV. He's slacking off. He's half-learning things that he should be learning from briefing books. And he's hoping to get a fix of his favorite drug -- good publicity about himself.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


The New York Post's Page Six claims that women are flocking to a Manhattan plastic surgeon in order to be transformed into the president's favorite daughter.
A New York plastic surgeon says that since the 2016 Republican primaries, he has seen a deluge of patients who want to look like Ivanka Trump.

Dr. Norman Rowe says that since last summer, up to 50 clients have asked him to give them the Ivanka look — which he describes as widened cheekbones, a slender nose and large eyes.

Dr. Rowe says that patients can spend between $30-40,000 to achieve the look with temporary fillers and Botox, or $45-50,000 for what he calls the “Permanent Ivanka” — a version achieved with cheek implants and rhinoplasty. “I never saw [anyone drawing inspiration from Ivanka’s face] before the primary,” said Rowe, “since the summer of ’16 . . . [it’s been] maybe four a month; one a week.”
It's odd that Dr. Rowe is saying this now, because in March, when Allure asked him to comment on a report that Ivanka surgery is popular in China, he denied seeing a similar trend in his practice:
While there haven't been any recorded reports of Ivanka Trump–inspired cosmetic enhancements Stateside, New York City–based plastic surgeon Norman Rowe says he's seen a number of clients request procedures to create Westernized-looking features. "I don't see too many patients, including Asian clients, asking for cosmetic procedure to make them appear like a celebrity—except for patients who want noses like Megan Fox or lips like Khloé Kardashian, for example," Rowe tells Allure. "I do have Asian patients who see me for the creation of Westernized eyelids, though. This is a very popular procedure that is requested."
But now he says Ivankaplasty has been a trend since last summer. Go figure.

Rowe is pretty good at getting his name in the papers. Here he is in the Post talking about women who get plastic surgery before going to Coachella. Here he is telling the local ABC affiliate about one of his specialties, a procedure that gives women enhanced breasts for 24 hours -- he calls them "Instabreasts." If that doesn't suit you, according to ABC, Dr. Rowe can give you "vacation breasts" that are augmented for two to three weeks. The Daily Mail interviews Dr. Rowe about a penis enlargement technique that he claims can be done in ten minutes -- it involves an injection of the patient's own blood. Yeah, this guy knows how to get attention.

He's also been the subject of this New York Daily News story about billing practices:
Ann Winters got what she considered was a crazy medical bill the day her three-year-old son Brendan needed stitches to his lip after taking a fall at home.

The entire procedure took 60 minutes in the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital. The “explanation of benefits” that arrived soon after showed the doctor had charged $50,000....

Then she got a second “explanation of benefits” showing that her insurer had actually paid the entire $50,000. The insurer had initially pegged the customary cost for the procedure at $2,660....

... the physician in question — Dr. Norman Rowe — says the $50,000 the insurer paid him for three stitches was just a billing error.

“My billing staff caught the error shortly after the insurance company paid my office $50,000,” Dr. Rowe wrote in an email. “My office returned the $50,000 to the insurance company and has only been paid the customary amount for the patient’s care.”

But according to a March 2011 letter to Winter from Winter’s carrier, Healthnet, Rowe initially refused to accept the $2,660 as full payment and said “he was going to bill you for the unpaid balance.”

Stating that its policy is “to pay any additional amount as necessary,” Healthnet paid the rest.

It’s not clear exactly when Rowe paid back the insurer, though the recalibrated bill doesn’t show up in Winters’ Sept. 30, 2010 explanation of benefits.

In the months in between, she’d complained to the state Insurance Department (now the Department of Financial Services), which looked into the matter.
As my late mother would say, this guy's an operator. Forgive me if I don't trust him when he says Ivanka surgery is all the rage in Manhattan.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


So I assume you know about this story from The Wall Street Journal:
A U.S. congressman contacted the White House this week trying to broker a deal that would end WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s U.S. legal troubles in exchange for what he described as evidence that Russia wasn’t the source of hacked emails published by the antisecrecy website during the 2016 presidential campaign.

The proposal [was] made by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.), in a phone call Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly....

The possible “deal”—a term used by Mr. Rohrabacher during the Wednesday phone call—would involve a pardon of Mr. Assange or “something like that,” Mr. Rohrabacher said. In exchange, Mr. Assange would probably present a computer drive or other data-storage device that Mr. Rohrabacher said would exonerate Russia....

A Trump administration official confirmed Friday that Mr. Rohrabacher spoke to Mr. Kelly about the plan involving Mr. Assange. Mr. Kelly told the congressman that the proposal “was best directed to the intelligence community,” the official said.
This is a big deal. Alert the president!

Actually, no -- the president wasn't alerted:
Mr. Kelly didn’t make the president aware of Mr. Rohrabacher’s message, and Mr. Trump doesn’t know the details of the proposed deal, the official said.
Amazing -- not only is the president of the United States so easily excited, so easily led astray by pro-Russia fifth columnists, that his chief of staff believes he has to be shielded from information like this, as if he's a giant toddler, but the staff openly acknowledges to a major newspaper that this information has been concealed from the president.

Do Kelly and his subordinates think they can conceal the concealment from Trump? Do they think he'll never find out that he was never told about this?

Who knows? We recently read this:
... Mr. Trump does not have a web browser on his phone, and does not use a laptop, so he was dependent on aides like Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, to hand-deliver printouts of articles from conservative media outlets.

Now Mr. Kelly has thinned out his package of printouts so much that Mr. Trump plaintively asked a friend recently where The Daily Caller and Breitbart were.
So maybe Kelly won't include any stories about this in Trump's press packet. But wait -- what about TV? Kelly has acknowledged to the media that he can't prevent Trump from watching copious amounts of television.

I imagine this as a bad sitcom episode -- Kelly urging a White House maid to vacuum in front of Trump's TV as the Fox & Friends weekend crew begins talking about the Rohrabacher story. I don't think it'll work, though, and that also seems like a sitcom -- "Lucy! Why didn't you tell me Dana Rohracher was here?" Hilarity ensues -- or maybe John Kelly's resignation.

Friday, September 15, 2017


This is amusing:
The California State Assembly on Thursday passed a bill that would require all presidential candidates to release their tax returns prior to being placed on the state’s ballot.

The bill, called the Presidential Tax Transparency and Accountability Act, passed the state Assembly on a 42-18 vote and will now head to the state Senate for a concurrence vote before being sent to the governor for his signature.
You'd think this would force President Trump to come clean, assuming it passes the state senate and is signed by Governor Jerry Brown. But there's less to the bill than this summary suggests.

If you take a look at the text of the bill, you'll see that it specifically limits this requirement to presidential primaries:
SB 149, as amended, McGuire. Presidential primary elections: ballot access....

6883. (a) Notwithstanding any other law, the Secretary of State shall not print the name of a candidate for President of the United States on a primary election ballot, unless the candidate, within a reasonable timeframe established by the Secretary of State, files with the Secretary of State a copy of every income tax return the candidate filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years.

(b) If the candidate has not filed his or her income tax return with the Internal Revenue Service for the tax year immediately preceding the primary election, he or she shall submit a copy of the income tax return to the Secretary of State within five days of filing the return with the Internal Revenue Service.
Donald Trump is an incumbent president with extremely high approval ratings within his party. How likely is it that he'll even have a serious primary challenger in 2020, assuming he's still in office and decides to run?

And if he does have a primary challenger and still has no intention of releasing his tax returns ("Sorry, folks, this audit is taking forever!"), he just needs to obtain ballot access for a stand-in candidate who does release his or her tax returns, and who promises to ask any delegates he or she wins to vote for Trump at the convention. This candidate could be anyone -- it could be someone who's legally changed his name to, say, Ronald J. Trump, just to be sure the voters understand the "vote for me if you want to vote for him" premise.

The bill doesn't cover the general election, presumably because, as Ballotpedia notes, "California state law stipulates that 'the secretary of state shall cause the names of the candidates for president and vice president of the several political parties to be placed upon the ballot for the ensuing general election.'" In other words, California doesn't claim the right to bounce the major parties' general-election candidates from its ballot. I imagine there'd be a GOP lawsuit if the state tried.

And would it matter? Trump's not going to win California anyway. Of course, the GOP would want someone running in his place, in the hope of turning out voters for any winnable downballot races. Ballotpedia notes that California has a "sore loser" law, which says that a candidate who runs in a primary and loses can't run under a different party banner in the general election. However, sore loser laws have generally been seen as not applying in presidential elections; Roseanne Barr, a failed candidate for the Green Party nomination, appeared on the 2012 California ballot as the presidential candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party.

So if California were able to keep Donald Trump off the general election ballot, Ronald Trump could probably run as an independent -- and his electors, in the unlikely event he won any, could agree in advance to give the Electoral College votes to Donald.

So I think we'll have to find another way to get at those tax returns.


Oh jeez, not this again:
Senate Republicans are trying to build momentum for a last-gasp bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, swearing that they are once again just a few votes short of delivering on their seven-year pledge.
Could this really happen? New York magazine's Margaret Hartmann thinks it's possible:
... something shifted on Thursday. After making a presentation at the GOP caucus lunch, Graham said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “encouraged everybody to jump onboard,” adding, “I can tell you this if we had a vote right now we would get 47, 48 votes.”
If they want to do this, it has to happen by the end of the month, after which they'll need 60 votes, not 50, for repeal. It's a tight squeeze. But they're going for it.

This is about more than Obamacare. In the near term at least, it's also about control of the president. He's cheating on Republicans with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, largely because he can't manage to cut any deals with Republicans and he wants to be with a party that will do the things for him that his party won't do.

How bad is the bill? This bad:

GOP voters still want it to happen:
According to the latest POLITICO-Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health poll, a key finding shows the Trump administration's messaging on health care is clearly resonating with the party's base.

The poll asked 1,016 U.S. adults to review and score 10 top priorities for Congress through the end of the year. Fifty-three percent of Republican respondents said taking action to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act should be an "extremely important priority," while 26 percent of Republicans said it should be a "very important priority." Only 16 percent of Republicans said ACA repeal should not be a priority for Congress....

Among Republican respondents, repealing Obamacare was the most critical priority, outpacing other concerns like tax reform (34 percent said that the issue was "extremely important") and building a border wall (28 percent thought it was "extremely important").
Will this be the extra motivation Republicans need to inspire them to put aside their differences? Will they do it to win Trump back? Don't assume it can't happen.


Yesterday I speculated that there might be anti-DACA protests during President Trump's upcoming tax-overhaul publicity tour. I still think that's possible -- but it's probably unlikely. I suspect Joe Scarborough is correct:
[Sean] Hannity, [Steve] Bannon and [Steve] King are about to learn the same lesson that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Hillary Clinton, Jeff Zucker, Mika Brzezinski and I discovered in 2016: With Trump, it is never over. His base will stick with him no matter what — no matter how loudly and how often the other self-styled leaders of that base take to Twitter or talk radio or any other platform to bleat that Trump has betrayed them....

If Trump’s political career is ever brought to an abrupt end, it won’t be because a few right-wing carnival barkers found themselves unable to pressure the president into adopting a policy position....

... that Trump base is not going anywhere now.... Trump’s base is Trump’s base, period....
As Thomas Edsall noted yesterday, Republicans are particularly likely to stick with a politician they like after a deviation from partisan orthodoxy:
Many Republican voters, including self-identified strong conservatives, are ready and willing to shift to the left if they’re told that that’s the direction Trump is moving.

Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope, political scientists at Brigham Young University, reported in their recent paper “Does Party Trump Ideology? Disentangling Party and Ideology in America,” that many Republican voters are:
malleable to the point of innocence, and self-reported expressions of ideological fealty are quickly abandoned for policies that — once endorsed by a well-known party leader — run contrary to that expressed ideology.
Those most willing to adjust their positions on ten issues ranging from abortion to guns to taxes are firm Republicans, Trump loyalists, self-identified conservatives and low information Republicans.

The Barber-Pope study suggests that for many Republicans partisan identification is more a tribal affiliation than an ideological commitment.
(Which might also explain why Ronald Reagan cultists -- i.e., all Republicans -- forgive the Gipper for legalizing undocumented immigrants, raising taxes, running up huge deficits, and selling arms to Iranian ayatollahs.)

To win this kind of GOP voter loyalty, I think you first have to perform Republicanism effectively -- you need to embrace Jesus and guns and the flag and the military and white farmers and white blue-collar workers and traditional gender roles and the notion that the South really should have won the Civil War. You need to denounce "political correctness" and multiculturalism and professors and big cities and people who buy at Whole Foods and drive Priuses. In defining this dichotomy between good people and evil people, you can add a few personal touches -- well, a lot of personal touches if you're Donald Trump.

Or if you're Kid Rock. I've been mildly obsessed with Kid Rock's possible Senate run, and this is why I think attention is justified: If Barber and Pope are right, Republicanism is primarily performance -- do the act and you win. Trump does a supercharged version of the act -- and so does Kid Rock. I don't know if he can get elected, but he's going to win the primary in a landslide.

But isn't hatred of liberals and Democrats a significant part of the act? Trump is palling around with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Why is he getting away with it?

I think it's because we see Pelosi and Schumer at the White House. They're not pressuring Trump on their turf -- they're seen as supplicants invited to his house. He's not caving to them! He's practicing -- say it with me, boys and girls -- the Art of the Deal!

And if there are any doubts about Trump's ultimate loyalties, he can just do a gaggle with the media, as he did yesterday, and play all the hits: bothsidesism in response to neo-Nazis, climate change denial, Iran-bashing, attacks on Susan Rice for unmasking. Ul.timately, Trump won't cooperate with Democrats on very many issues, but he theoretically could if he continued to beat his chest every day or two in a pleasingly Republican way.

Republicanism: It's largely an act. You can hold the base forever if you put on an effective show.