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Donald Trump Is A Terrible Candidate Running A Terrible Campaign

[ 31 ] August 24, 2016 |


Donald Trump is not raising as much money as a presidential candidate should be raising in 2016, and much of what he is raising he’s using to add a third layer of fake gold to plaster his toilets. If he were running a serious presidential campaign, this would make it all the more crucial that his remaining time and resources would have to be spent very efficiently. This is…not happening:

Donald Trump might be moderating his rhetoric, but he hasn’t adjusted a campaign strategy that has him spending valuable time in states that will not prove decisive on Election Day.

With fewer than 80 days to go and lagging in the polls, the Republican nominee will host a rally Tuesday in Austin, Texas, and another on Wednesday in Jackson, Mississippi. Both cities sit inside strongly Republican states that are safe and uncompetitive.

These visits follow a recent trip by Trump into heavily Democratic Connecticut, a choice that enraged and confused Republicans.

“I have never known a general election campaign in my adult life, a Republican campaign, to spend time in Mississippi outside of raising money,” said Austin Barbour, a Mississippi-based Republican operative. “Donald Trump’s going to win Mississippi by at least double digits.”

But Trump is behind, several polls show, in North Carolina, a state that has gone Republican in eight of the past nine presidential elections. Georgia, which hasn’t voted Democratic since 1992, is competitive, with the latest poll showing a tied race. And more traditional battleground states have moved away from Trump: Ohio, which polls showed was a tied race last month, is now tilting in Hillary Clinton’s direction. Meanwhile, he is up in Mississippi by double digits, one recent survey shows.

He has totally hacked and disrupted presidential campaigning!

Maybe Trump’s benefactor Woody Johnson can solve his logjam at QB by trading Christian Hackenberg to the Trump campaign. It’s hard to imagine that he could be worse at campaign consulting than he is at NFL quarterbacking.


Steven Hill, R.I.P.

[ 18 ] August 23, 2016 |


The great character actor has died. Somebody needs to make gifs of great Adam Schiff one-liners; my nominee would be “the only pattern here is that you have no facts.”

Elections Matter, Cot’d

[ 38 ] August 23, 2016 |


NLRB appointments are important:

Graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants at private universities are entitled to collective bargaining, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday.

The NLRB said that a previous ruling by the board — that these workers were not entitled to collective bargaining because they are students — was flawed. The NLRB ruling, 3 to 1, came in a case involving a bid by the United Auto Workers to organize graduate students at Columbia University. The decision reverses a 2004 decision — which has been the governing one until today — about a similar union drive at Brown University.

Many graduate students at public universities are already unionized, as their right to do so is covered by state law, not federal law.

The ruling largely rejects the fights of previous boards over whether teaching assistants should be seen primarily as students or employees. They can be both, the majority decision said.

Hmm, the NLRB under the neoliberal Barack Obama is substantially more progressive than it is under the neoliberal George W. Bush. What an amazing coincidence!

How Your Anti-Clinton Sausage Gets Made

[ 171 ] August 23, 2016 |


This WaPo headline is truly a masterpiece of bullshit:

Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton and her close aides at State Dept.

If you actually read the story, it shows is that Clinton Foundation donors would email Huma Abedin asking to meet with Hillary Clinton to ask for favors. They mostly didn’t get meetings and never got the favors — in other words, there’s not only not a scandal there’s not even a story. But since Hillary Clinton’s “close aide” did answer some emails and I suppose you could call that “access,” the headline is technically accurate. In conclusion, Donald Trump’s campaign is a massive grift operation and people email Hillary Clinton’s assistants so Both Sides Do It.

When Republican Donors Grow Up, They Will Attend Trump University

[ 77 ] August 23, 2016 |


The Trump campaign, as has long been obvious, the purest distillation of the contemporary Republican Party, a cycle of grift with no other real purpose:

After bragging for a year about how cheaply he was running his campaign, Donald Trump is spending more freely now that other people are contributing ― particularly when the beneficiary is himself.

Trump nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign, according to a Huffington Post review of Federal Election Commission filings. The rent jumped even though he was paying fewer staff in July than he did in March.

The Trump campaign paid Trump Tower Commercial LLC $35,458 in March ― the same amount it had been paying since last summer ― and had 197 paid employees and consultants. In July, it paid 172 employees and consultants.

“If I was a donor, I’d want answers,” said a prominent Republican National Committee member who supports Trump, asking for anonymity to speak freely. “If they don’t have any more staff, and they’re paying five times more? That’s the kind of stuff I’d read and try to make an (attack) ad out of it.”

Given the targets of the grift, in a way I almost admire this one. And, in fairness, some other people are getting in on it:

Donald Trump’s campaign paid Texas-based web design and marketing company Giles-Parscale $8.4 million in July. The Trump campaign spent nearly half of its money in the month trying to reach small donors with a digital firm that has little background working in politics or really doing the kind of outreach work that is essential to presidential campaigns. But the firm had ties to Trump’s businesses for years, according to a Wired profile on the company’s owner Brad Parscale.

But at least what money isn’t going back into Trump’s pockets is being spent with ruthless efficiency:

From mugs to hats to campaign stickers, the Trump campaign spent $1.8 million in July on campaign memorabilia, an amount that eclipsed even what it was spending on payroll. The focus on merchandise instead of building out a ground game continues to defy the logic of traditional politics.

If the primary objective of his campaign were to become president, this would all be quite irrational. But…

Against the Voter-As-Consumer And Politics-As-Soap-Opera

[ 389 ] August 22, 2016 |


For reasons previously stated I disagree with several of the assumptions about the direction of the Democratic Party that underlie Adolph Reed’s essay on the 2016 election. But in this context, that’s not important — indeed, it makes his unsentimental argument about what voting can and can’t accomplish all the more powerful:

By contrast, Jill Stein and Greens typically proceed from a quite different view of electoral politics, one that has much more in common with bearing witness or taking a personal stand on principle than with seeing it as an essentially instrumental activity. The Greens’ approach generally, and Stein has shown that she is no exception, is that all that is necessary to make a substantial electoral impact is to have a strong and coherent progressive program and to lay it out in public. That view is fundamentally anti-political; it seeks to provide voters an opportunity to be righteous rather than to try to build deep alliances or even short-term coalitions. It’s naïve in the sense that its notion of organizing support reduces in effect to saying “It’s simple: if we all would just…” without stopping to consider why the simple solutions haven’t already been adopted. This is a politics that appeals to the technicistic inclinations of the professional-managerial strata, a politics, that is, in which class and other contradictions and their entailments disappear into what seems to be the universally smart program, and it has little prospect for reaching more broadly into the society. And Stein and her followers have demonstrated that this sort of politics is tone-deaf to what a Trump victory would mean, the many ways it could seriously deepen the hole we are already in. I get the point that Clinton and Trump are both evil, but voting isn’t about determining who goes to Heaven or choosing between good people and bad people. Indeed, that personalistic, ultimately soap-operatic take on electoral politics is what set so many people up to be suckered by Obama. (And does anyone really believe that a President Trump, who routinely spews multiple, contradictory lies in a single compound sentence, would actually block the Trans Pacific Partnership or retract the imperialist war machine?)

This opposition to voting as consumerism and politics as soap opera is beautifully put. One striking thing about the vast majority of the #NeverHillary crew is how quickly they retreat into “vote for Stein: it won’t make any difference whatsoever!” when challenged — they live in a deep blue state, Trump is going to lose anyway, Economics 101 tells you that your individual vote doesn’t matter, etc. It’s an argument that’s almost too lazy and self-regarding to refute itself. I mean, say what you want about the tenets of heighten-the-contradictions, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.

I’ll let these grafs speak for themselves:

Often enough, the “never Hillary” stance is blinded by a demonization of Clinton that frankly seems irrational. In fact, it is difficult to imagine that it is often not at least tinted with sexism. From the standpoint of fealty to Wall Street and corporate interests, or for that matter imperialist bloodlust, she’s no worse than Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, or Bill Clinton. Some of that tendency to demonize her reflects the high emotions generated during the campaign among some of the Sanders faithful, as well as perhaps a reaction to having their outsized dreams dashed. It is understandable that in the high intensity of the campaign activists could be swept up in exuberance about possibilities. But even though winning the nomination and then the presidency was the primary objective all along, from the very beginning it was a longshot because the deck was stacked against the insurgent campaign. That’s what challenging entrenched power means. Making the race as close as it became was an important victory, one that encourages optimism about movement-building possibilities. I fear, however, that some of the exuberance tended to slide into seeing the campaign as a messianic crusade, or to see it as a social movement itself. (That’s the reason I never much cared for the “political revolution” slogan; it too easily left room for the impression that struggling to advance the campaign was tantamount to making a revolution. It wasn’t; it wasn’t even close to generating a revolutionary movement. It did create conditions that, with considerable focus and effort, could facilitate the sustained political organizing and action necessary to influence the terms of national political debate.)

To the extent that for some people Bernie v. Hillary became a Manichaean morality play, it simply repeated the wrongheaded good guys/bad guys understanding of politics that has underlain feckless left electoralism for more than a generation. And this points up an important limitation of the critique of lesser evilism. There is a significant difference between, on the one hand, making pragmatic choices in given instances among a range of more or less undesirable options that are available and, on the other, defining, as a matter of course, what we want only in terms of what we think can get. The former is what we have to do in life generally, across the board, as an artifact of living in a society in which we as individuals cannot define the matrix of options solely to suit our preferences or desires. The latter bespeaks a defeatist orientation, a politics with no rudder and one that flies in the face of what it should mean to be a left. Lesser evilism, that is to say, is a structural problem not an individual one. It is a pathology of opinion-shaping institutions—unions and others—that refrain from attempting to intervene in shaping the matrix of options and the terms of political debate. Only if one accepts, as many Greens do, a civics-text version of democracy in which it is the actions of free-agent citizens that determine the political agenda is it possible to assume that individual electoral statements can have any impact on the drift of lesser evil politics. An analogy with environmentalism may sharpen this distinction. My scrupulous attention to closing the refrigerator door or turning off lights whenever I leave a room may permit me to feel righteous in my commitment to curtail environmental degradation. They have absolutely no substantive impact on the phenomenon, however. Worse, as Andrew Szasz has argued forcefully in Shopping Our Way to Safety, my righteous behavior, especially if I convince others to adopt it, can fuel the dangerous illusion that I am doing something meaningful and relax my sense of urgency to demand structural reform.

Pharma Gouging: This Time It’s Personal

[ 156 ] August 22, 2016 |


I have no way of knowing if an EpiPen has ever saved my live, because the counterfactual is eternally unknowable. But it may well have on multiple occasions. Even if you’re very conscientious, it’s very difficult to avoid triggering nut allergies, and I’ve averaged roughly an EpiPen use a year for a decade. So I can assure you that this is a big deal:

The extensive price hike for a vital, life-saving drug for many with allergies is causing concern among doctors, patients, and politicians—along with a guy responsible for an extensive price hike himself.

Mylan pharmaceutical, the maker of the EpiPen—a portable epinephrine injector that can potentially save someone having a life-threatening allergic reaction—is being accused of raising the price of the product from around $100 in 2008 to $500 today. In all, that’s an increase of over 400 percent.

This is especially worrying because Mylan has a near monopoly in the business, especially after one of its competitors issued a recall last year. Doctors have likened its brand dominance in schools to that of Kleenex. Many schools have emergency epinephrine in stock and there are states pushing for legislation to make that mandatory.


“The drug industry’s greed knows no bounds,” Sanders said. “The only explanation for Mylan raising the price by six times since 2009 is that the company values profits more than the lives of millions of Americans.”

NBC stated that while there isn’t a House committee investigation in the works, there is a lawsuit on the way.

“I’ve been looking at EpiPen for years,” said Ari Kresch, CEO of 1-800-LAW-FIRM. “It’s a very cheap drug but I haven’t been successful in getting any experts to tell me why the price has gone up as much as it has.”

The insurance I have until December at least has pretty good pharma coverage, so will the co-pay for an EpiPen is much higher than for any other prescription I’ve ever had to fill it’s not hard to afford on a middle-class salary.  But for people with worse insurance and/or more strained circumstances this could be a serious hardship, and I can see people taking the risk of going without one. It’s a serious problem.

The Shape of the NFL 2016

[ 163 ] August 21, 2016 |


A certain commenter from what is a swing state in presidential elections on involving Donald Trump and produces America’s best-named barleywine requested an NFL thread. As it happens, I’ve been enjoyment my August ritual of reading the Football Outsiders Almanac, which I assume you know is essential if you’re into that kind of thing. Not every writer can be Schatz or Tanier, but you’ll learn something from every chapter’s combination of careful statistical analysis and film review. Anyway, I won’t do a predictions post until September, but the projections are a good basis for discussion. The Seahawks have the highest mean win projection and playoff odds, closely followed by the Cardinals, Pats, Steelers, and Packers on the 10+ win level. Bascially, the teams that have excellent-to-great QBs and credible-to-excellent defenses. You will notice one obvious omission from this list — the defending Super Bowl champions. Their mean win projection is 8.2, tied with the Bills and Chargers. A couple of things should be noted about this. First, because of high variance and because injuries can lead to a catastrophic season like the Ravens and Cowboys had last year, the win projections are compressed: no team has a mean over 11 or under five, although there will almost certainly be multiple teams in both categories. So I would probably bet the Broncos over 8, and I’d also probably bet their win total over Buffalo or Los Angeles San Diego.

But are they a top contender? I agree with the projection and the analysis (Chief Justice Schatz assigned the chapter to himself) that they aren’t, and I would be surprised to see them in the conference finals. The case for the Broncos is straightforward: they won 12 games and the Super Bowl despite using a QB in the playoffs who shattered every previous minimum standard for QB play, and figure to have an easier schedule this year. But the case against them is equally straightforward. It starts with this: they didn’t really play at a 12 win level last year. They were a 9 or 10 win team that enjoyed an incredible run of luck (and, in the case of the Chiefs and Pats wins, massive opposition coaching blunders) in close games. To stay at an 11 or 12-win level they will need to improve substantially, and if they regress at all they’re headed towards .500. And while it’s tempting to think that their offense has to improve, it’s not true. Remember that “Manning” started only 9 games last year; their offense was weak (-8.7% DVOA) but not among the very worst in the league. There’s definitely room to fall. So should we expect the Bronocs to improve or regress overall?

Probably the latter. The first problem is that it would be unprecedented for the defense not to decline. Of the top 10 defenses since 1989, every single one declined the following year, and only the 2013 Seahawks remained the best defense in the league the following year. Basically, what happens to historic defenses is that 1)defense varies more year-to-year than offense and 2)in the cap era teams inevitably lose depth (as the Broncos have with Jackson and Trevathan.) It’s true that the Bronocs have kept their most crucial talent together and have an outstanding track record of evaluating and developing defensive talent under Elway, but you can say exactly the same thing about Seattle under Carroll and Schneider and they weren’t able to maintain their dominance of 2013. It’s more a question of how much Denver’s defense will decline than if.

Still, the defense is not the biggest reason the Broncos don’t project as a top-tier team. Both the projection formulas and Schatz’s subjective analysis sees the most likely outcome for the defense as being like the post-peak teams of Buddy Ryan’s Eagles and the Legion of Boom: not as great but still pretty great. And I agree. They still have formidable talent and one of the best defensive coordinators ever. Barring injury, it’s a terrific defense — probably not as good as last year, but really good.

The real problem for the Broncos is that the 2015 Broncos notwithstanding it’s nearly impossible to win in the NFL with weak QB play. As Schatz put it, while the question for the defense is where it will fall on the spectrum of good-to-great, on offense “the most likely outcomes range from bad to atrocious that is as low as the ceiling is high” and “the situation at quarter back is more well-defined; for example, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘horrendous’ as ‘very bad or unpleasant.” Here are your potential Broncos starters, comprising one of the vert worst set of QBs in the league:

  • The Sanchize. The definition of a replacement-level QB, he was bad every year he was a starter in New York and while his raw numbers picked up a bit in Chip’s system, he was distinctly worse than Nick Foles, whose current job is doing Alex Smith’s laundry and being Andy Reid’s point man to ensure that every play in the 2-minute drill takes 40 seconds to the snap.
  • Paxton Lynch, straight outta Memphis. He will probably end up with most of the starts, and should: he has the best chance of eventually being a viable NFL QB in the long-term, and it’s not like Sanchez has a high ceiling. But it will be hard for him to go from the cupcakes he was playing last year to the NFL. There is some precedent for QBs from programs like this being viablish NFL starters immediately, in Flacco and Dalton, but they’re the exception rather than the rule and you certainly wouldn’t want to be counting on it. (And as for his good pre-season start, I have two words: “Sam Bradford.”)
  • Trevor Siemian. He finished his career at Northwestern with a 58.9 comp% and a 27-24 TD-INT ratio. He is, in other words, a non-prospect. I’m not sure I would trade Christian Hackenberg for him straight-up. The fact that there’s any discussion of him playing this year illustrates how dire the situation is.

So the best bet the Broncos have, by far, is a 22-year old coming from the AAC with good tools but serious questions about his accuracy and ability to read progressions at an NFL level. Even if the Broncos only slip a little on defense, that’s not a team you should bet on to be in the conference finals.

This Analysis Is A Game-Changer, On Steroids

[ 63 ] August 20, 2016 |


I talk a lot about how terrible Maureen Dowd is because I am an old person who still reads the version of the Sunday Times that is printed with ink on paper, so she’s harder to avoid. But to be Scrupulously Fair, she probably isn’t the most vapid and inept political analyst with a six-figure income and a rep as long as Mark Halperin remains in the business:

Back when Donald Trump was winning primaries, Mark Halperin, the famously well-compensated political journalist at Bloomberg, went on TV and said Trump is a terrific politician.

“He is one of the two most talented presidential candidates any of us have covered,” Halperin opined. “He just is.”

Trump’s skill, he explained, exceeds Barack Obama’s because, unlike Trump, Obama “had David Axelrod and David Plouffe and a squadron of people around him who knew what they were doing.” Trump flies solo, ergo every supporter he counts, every stadium he packs, is somehow more rightfully his.

Halperin has also defended Trump from accusations of racism on the grounds that “Mexico isn’t a race,” and posed for this notorious picture, so unspoken affinities may be affecting his analysis. But to this day, as Trump is losing to Hillary Clinton in every poll, it is still commonly suggested that Trump has mysterious political powers. No matter what he says, his supporters love it! If he’s losing, it might be because he’s “deliberately trying to avoid winning.”

The idea that Barack Obama is a less talented politician than Donald Trump because he hires talented, competent people to run his campaigns really CLOSES THE DEAL and throws the conventional wisdom UNDER THE BUS!

While we’re discussing inadvertently hilarious political “analysis,” I can’t resist telling you about the Mickey Kaus temp gig at Breitbart that Erik alluded to earlier. The most comic gold is to be found in his assessment of Bill Clinton’s speech at the DNC.

The introductory film on Bill doesn’t highlight the 1996 welfare reform bill. That seems a miscalculation. The people in the hall would hate it, but Dems are trying to appeal to people outside the hall, where I suspect welfare reform remains popular, and not just because many single moms improved their lot.

Mickey sure has his finger right on the political zeitgeist! It’s not just a minority of self-defined Real Leftists who think that in political time it’s always 1996. It’s these shrewd political instincts that allowed him to get 5% of the vote in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary! He should have gone all the way and suggest that Clinton appear holding a copy of Mickey’s book like Khizr Khan holding the Constitution, though.

OK. I forgot. Bill’s charming and sensible! I’d probably vote for him again. But he’s not running.

Bill>Trump>Hillary is an…interesting preference order.

7) Glosses over the crushing failure of Hillary’s health plan, and Hillary’s role the single biggest mistake of Bill’s first term (his failure to pull the plug on Hillarycare and shift to passing a welfare reform bill so Dems would not lose Congress in the 1994 mid-terms).

1)Yes, it is highly unusual that Bill Clinton would not dwell on his wife’s role in a failed health care initiative at a convention devoted to making the case that she should be president. 2)Hillary’s role in the failure of health care reform was, in fact, negligible. There are no magical actions Clinton could have taken that could have gotten Republican support or caused Daniel Patrick Moynihan to give a damn about health care reform. 3)Anybody who thinks that passing welfare “reform” in 1994 could have staved off a Republican midterm win that was the inevitable culmination of long-term partisan realignment doesn’t understand how politics works.

He also cherry-picked the good parts of his wife’s career, languishing in the early years of promise, fast-forwarding through the rest and completely failing to address the obvious problems (including cattle futures, the Rose law firm billing records, the Russian “reset,” the Libyan mistake, etc. That’s not what my old boss, Charlie Peters, would call “playing Notre Dame.” And it’s why Bill’s re-re-re-introduction of his wife wasn’t as effective as it needed to be.

Yes, it is highly unusual that a politician trying to make a case for electing someone would highlight the positive aspects of this person’s record. And, in particular, Clinton should have devoted more time to addressing trivial pseudo-scandals from 20 years ago. Clinton should have PLAYED NICK SABAN by just reading passages from Doug Henwood’s book for the whole speech. But he’s just not a gifted natural politician like Donald Trump.

UPDATE: Halperin’s Republican “report cards” were amazing.

Today in the Kansas Economic Miracle

[ 74 ] August 19, 2016 |


The rewards of Sam Brownback’s PRO-GROWTH tax and spending cuts just keep coming:

The new July jobs report released Friday is an utter disaster for Kansans and embattled Gov. Sam Brownback.

Here are the lowlights.

▪ The state lost 5,600 jobs from June to July.

▪ The unemployment rate jumped to 4.1 percent from 3.8 percent in June.

▪ Over the last year, Kansas has actually shed 4,500 jobs.

▪ The Sunflower State’s “growth” rate over that 12 months is a minus 0.3 percent — 5th worst in the nation. Only Wyoming, North Dakota, Louisiana and Oklahoma were behind Kansas.

▪ Kansas had employment of 1,395,700 in July 2016 — or a stunning 600 fewer jobs than when Brownback’s second term started way back in January 2015.

▪ Finally, Kansas is nowhere close to adding the 2,000 jobs a month that Brownback had pledged during his re-election campaign in 2014.

As DeLong says, the fact that metro Kansas City straddles the border with Missouri created the possibility that the policies would appear to “work” by attracting wealth across the border, and they haven’t even been able to attain that phony level of success. Hopefully Steve Moore will find some time off from his “work” with the Trump campaign to write an op-ed explaining why his supply-side policies have actually been a yooge win for Kansas and besides it’s too early to judge. We could all use a good laugh right now.

Note: Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell want to take the Kansas miracle national.

Hobby Lobby‘s Inevitable License to Discriminate

[ 26 ] August 19, 2016 |


In 2014, the Supreme Court interpreted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as allowing to employers to interfere with the federal rights of their employees based on a trivial burden on their religious beliefs.  Not surprisingly, the decision is now being used by a federal judge to trump the Civil Rights Act. The opinion is a marriage of two bad Republican tastes: an implausibly expansive interpretation or RFRA combined with an artificially narrow interpretation to Title VII. And we’ll be seeing more of this until Hobby Lobby is overruled, as the next Democratic-majority Court should.

Hiltzik has more.



Trump/Breitbart ’16!

[ 138 ] August 19, 2016 |

trump kfc

With the Republican Lanny Davis relieved of his responsibilities of giving inevitably ignored advice to the candidate, the changing of the Trump campaign’s power structure is now official:

Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort, hired in April because someone decided they needed an adult in the office, has resigned amidst incredibly damning reports of his sketchy political work in the Ukraine.

Manafort has been around the GOP a long time; he’s also been in Russia, where, as the Associated Press reports, he was part of coordinating a “covert Washington lobbying operation” to make American politicians sympathetic to the pro-Russian government installed in the Ukraine. It was apparently a lucrative business; secret ledgers listed Manafort as receiving over $12 million in cash payments between 2007 and 2012 from the Party of Regions, the pro-Russian party of deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Making tyrants look sympathetic is a cornerstone of Manafort’s career; installing a burbling ochre reality TV baby into the highest office in the United States should’ve been a snap. But the persistent reporting on his Ukraine ties weakened his position in the campaign the Washington Post says, along with Trump hiring two new staffers: former Breitbart executive Stephen K. Bannon and GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway.

Trump’s statement called Manafort a professional. As Olivia Nuzzi observes, that was presumably the last straw.

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