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On Obama’s Neoliberal Heritage Foundation Bailout of the Health Insurance Industry

[ 130 ] February 15, 2017 |


Two good recent pieces by Sarah Kliff. First, on the importance of eliminating lifetime spending caps:

Six months before Timmy was born, President Barack Obama signed a sweeping health care law that would come to bear his name. Six days before Timmy’s birth, the Obama administration began to phase in a provision that banned insurance companies from limiting how much they would pay for any individual’s medical bills over his or her lifetime. At the time the Affordable Care Act passed, 91 million Americans had employer-sponsored plans that imposed those so-called lifetime limits.

That group included Timmy’s parents, whose plan previously included a $1 million lifetime limit. This Obamacare provision took effect September 23, 2010. Timmy was born September 29. On December 17, he surpassed $1 million worth of bills in the neonatal intensive care unit. He didn’t leave the NICU until he was 5 months old.

If Timmy had been born a week earlier, his medical benefits could have run out while he was still in the NICU. But that didn’t happen. His insurer covered everything. The NICU bills his parents save total just over $2 million (they come out to $2,070,146.94, to be exact).

“He would have lost his insurance at a million dollars,” his mom, Michelle Morrison, estimates, “which would have been about [halfway through] the NICU stay.”

Second, on the importance of the ACA to career freedom:

I spend a lot of time talking to Obamacare enrollees like Hoover: people who struck out on their own — left a job, started a business, went back to school — after Obamacare. They felt empowered to do this because in the reformed individual market, insurers had to offer everyone coverage — and couldn’t charge sick people more.

And now, many of them are already beginning to rearrange their lives around the law’s uncertain future.

There were 1.4 million self-employed people who relied on the marketplaces for coverage in 2014, recent research from the Treasury Department shows. That works out to one-fifth of all marketplace enrollees being people who work for themselves.

The Medicaid expansion is the most important part of the ACA, but the regulations that make insurance better and more accessible are also extremely important.

On balance, the Trump administration was the worst case scenario for a Republican presidency. But in this particular but critical issue, a Rubio or Cruz administration would be even worse. The always-imploding Trump administration does make it more likely that the most important liberal (not “neo”) legislation since the Johnson administration will survive.


But Her Etc.

[ 292 ] February 14, 2017 |

Well, well, well:

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time that they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them public.

The officials said the intercepted communications were not limited to Trump campaign officials, and included other associates of Mr. Trump. On the Russian side, the contacts also included members of the Russian government outside of the intelligence services, the officials said. All of the current and former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the continuing investigation is classified.

A study in contrasts:

And lest we forget:


Trump’s election was a coup d’etat — remember, Comey didn’t merely bury the Russian connection while doing everything he could to keep EMAILS! alive, he actively implied that there was no Russian connection — and Dean Baquet was a primary accessory before and after the fact. It’s nice we’re finally getting some journalism now but…

And needless to say:

Or if she didn’t release her tax returns. Or had settled a massive fraud suit based on her fraudulent “university.” Or…

Rand Paul, International Man of Principle and Integritude

[ 36 ] February 14, 2017 |
Photo via Christian Post.

Photo via Christian Post.

Where can we find a political figure as ridiculous as Paul Ryan, who actually conned some people on the left? I KNOW:

Flynn resigned Monday evening amid revelations that he misled Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had in December with Russia’s ambassador to the US about sanctions placed on Russia. Pence had defended Flynn on television and denied he discussed sanctions after initial reports of the conversations.

And while several other Republican senators have called for investigation of the incident, Paul said it would not make sense to have more investigations, especially of fellow Republicans.

I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.”

“Performing our oversight role against other Republicans would detract from our effort to take health care from 30 million people because freedom.” Besides, it’s not like this is something serious, like Hillary Clinton’s yoga schedule.

Still, because of his courageous stand against hypothetical drone attacks on white American gun owners, Rand Paul is truly a great and independent civil libertarian.

Paul Ryan, International Man of Principle and Integritude

[ 123 ] February 14, 2017 |
An outtake from the Paul Ryan photo shoot that was inspired by his Facebook photos showing him working out with P90X creator Tony Horton

An outtake from the Paul Ryan photo shoot that was inspired by his Facebook photos showing him working out with P90X creator Tony Horton

Paul Ryan is always serious, and never more so that when American national security is involved:

Republicans insist they do not support any probe of Flynn’s actions or what Trump may have known. “It’s taking care of itself,” insists House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz.

What about House Speaker Paul Ryan? Ryan is known for his fanatical belief in informational security. The Speaker once held such strong views on classified information that he demanded Hillary Clinton be denied access to classified briefings during the campaign because she had shown, by using a private email server, she could not be trusted with the nation’s secrets. “The consequences for the safety of our nation are grave,” he wrote solemnly. “Clinton’s actions may have allowed our enemies to access intelligence vital to our national security.” Ryan has learned from that episode to be far less judgmental. And now today, even the prospect that Trump allowed intelligence to be exposed to a staffer whom he knew to be potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail strikes him as unworthy of investigation.

Today, Ryan said, “I’m not going to prejudge the circumstances surrounding this.” And since Ryan is not forcing an investigation, he won’t post-judge, either. No prejudging, no post-judging, no judging of any kind, just moving on.

Ridiculous as it is, when oily hacks like Chaffetz and Ryan pretended to give a shit about Hillary Clinton’s EMAILS! they were acting in their own narrow political self-interest. The real question is why so many prominent editors and reporters dutifully followed these obvious snipe hunts and hyped one of them until it put an actual security threat in the White House. And a subsidiary question is whether anything can actually undermine Paul Ryan’s sterling media reputation.

Upping the Ante

[ 46 ] February 14, 2017 |


The stakes in the ACA war keep getting higher:

Conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus voted among themselves Monday night to band together and support only an Obamacare repeal that is at least as aggressive as a bill the House and Senate passed in 2015, putting GOP leaders in a bind with their conference and perhaps even threatening the possibility of passing a repeal.

The group of roughly 35 to 40 House conservatives voted to take this official position ― meaning it received the support of at least 80 percent of the members and is therefore supposed to be the position of all lawmakers in the group ― amid some GOP consternation that Republicans ought to focus more on repairing the law rather than repealing it, as well as amid heavy voter pressure in many districts to leave the law intact.

“If it’s less than the 2015 [bill], we will oppose it,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told a small group of reporters Monday night.

Meadows added that the Freedom Caucus would encourage replacing Obamacare at the same time Congress repeals it but that if GOP leaders put the same 2015 reconciliation bill gutting major parts of Obamacare on the floor, conservatives in the group would support it.

The 2015 repeal bill removed the Medicaid expansion that is popular in many red states ― including among many Republican governors ― and repealed the individual and employer mandates. The bill also removed the law’s subsidies and the taxes that helped to pay for them. In short, it would disassemble Obamacare.

On the one hand, this makes it more likely that the ACA survives largely unscathed, because unless Republicans are willing to blow up the filibuster repeal of the Medicaid expansion is DOA in the Senate, and it won’t be easy to pass in the House either. On the other hand, it means that if repeal does pass it will probably be a complete catastrophe.

One thing to add is that for all the credit John Roberts gets for not endorsing most of the neoconfederate claims against the ACA, the Medicaid expansion would almost certainly be safe had he not ineptly re-written it based on a transparently incoherent theory. The Freedom (sic) Caucus might inadvertently save it, but if most red states had taken the expansion it would be almost completely safe.

Out Like Flynn

[ 135 ] February 14, 2017 |



Embattled White House national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned Monday night, an abrupt end to a brief tenure.

His departure came just after reports surfaced the Justice Department warned the Trump administration last month that Flynn misled administration officials regarding his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States and was potentially vulnerable to blackmail by the Russians.

One person who keeps smelling looking good amidst the American carnage is Sally Yates:

The acting attorney general informed the Trump White House late last month that she believed Michael Flynn had misled senior administration officials about the nature of his communications with the Russian ambassador to the United States, and warned that the national security adviser was potentially vulnerable to Russian blackmail, current and former U.S. officials said.

The message, delivered by Sally Q. Yates and a senior career national security official to the White House counsel, was prompted by concerns that ­Flynn, when asked about his calls and texts with the Russian diplomat, had told Vice ­President-elect Mike Pence and others that he had not discussed the Obama administration sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 election, the officials said. It is unclear what the White House counsel, Donald McGahn, did with the information.

We Don’t Need No Education

[ 233 ] February 13, 2017 |


Dr. Jill Stein, MD:

So can I assume that Stein will agree to move to a relatively poor country where she doesn’t know anybody with no money, in order to educate the public about the man she wanted to be president, and did whatever she could to make president? Or is it only people much less privileged than her who should be sacrificed and have their lives ruined so Stein can crow about shifts in public opinion? I think you know the answer!

Not Cowardly, Evil

[ 145 ] February 13, 2017 |


There’s no mystery about why Congress is not going to meaningfully check Trump:

After three weeks in the White House, Mr. Trump has made clear that he is going to continue promulgating conspiracy theories, flinging personal insults and saying things that are plainly untrue. And the Republican-controlled House and Senate seem to have made a collective decision: They will accommodate — not confront — his conduct as long as he signs their long-stalled conservative proposals on taxes, regulations and health care into law.

“There’s a widely held view among our members that, yes, he’s going to say things on a daily basis that we’re not going to like,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Senate Republican, “but that the broad legislative agenda and goals that we have — if we can stay focused on those and try and get that stuff enacted — those would be big wins.”

Such accommodation is coming at a price, attracting incredulous or angry constituents to town hall meetings, leaving members flat-footed when presented with the latest presidential provocation and testing the capacity of now perpetually clogged phone lines on Capitol Hill.

I’ve seen this behavior described as cowardice, but this is incorrect. The Republican conference isn’t too scared to stand up to Trump. They think it’s in their interest not to stand up to him, because he can facilitate their agenda of upward wealth distribution, deregulation of the powerful and regulation of the powerless.

And this is the central problem with comparing where the Republicans are now to where the Democrats were in 1977. The latter Congress picked all kinds of fights with Carter, and vice versa, because there was nothing remotely resembling a coherent governing agenda. That’s not the case here. They won’t succeed on everything — the Reagan Republicans have generally been unsuccessful at actually eliminating New Deal/Great Society programs, and they might not be able to kill the ACA (although I certainly wouldn’t count on that yet.) But as long as Trump will sign what they put on his desk and sign whatever executive orders Mike Pence puts in front of him and nominate the judges the Heritage Foundation tells him to, Congress with leave him alone to pillage the treasury and create diplomatic crises, and a lot of damage will result.

Maybe Next Time We Can Focus on the Steel Girders In the Eye Instead of the Motes?

[ 189 ] February 13, 2017 |


I feel this raises troubling questions about the Franco of Fifth Avenue:

The iceberg wedge salads, dripping with blue cheese dressing, had just been served on the terrace of Mar-a-Lago Saturday when the call to President Donald Trump came in: North Korea had launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile, its first challenge to international rules since Trump was sworn in three weeks ago.

The launch, which wasn’t expected, presented Trump with one of the first breaking national security incidents of his presidency. It also noisily disrupted what was meant to be an easygoing weekend of high-level male bonding with the more sobering aspects of global diplomacy.

Sitting alongside Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with whom he’d spent most of the day golfing, Trump took the call on a mobile phone at his table, which was set squarely in the middle of the private club’s dining area.

No editor who thought that Hillary Clinton’s EMAILS! were a major story should still be employed in the field of journalism.

“Excuse me, nothing, you be as cold as you want, but you just fucked a good man out of six thousand dollars and his goddamn bonus ’cause you didn’t know the shot”

[ 51 ] February 12, 2017 |


Kyle Shanahan ne regrette rien:

If Kyle Shanahan lies awake every night thinking about his play-calling down the stretch for the Falcons in Super Bowl LI, it wouldn’t be hard to blame him. The Falcons ran the ball five times after taking a 25-point lead, one of which was wiped out by a holding penalty.

They remained aggressive but ultimately it cost them because they left too much time on the clock for Tom Brady and the Patriots, who came back to win the game 34-28. Call it whatever you want — and it’s totally fair to call it a choke — but it was not good execution or decision-making down the stretch.

Shanahan, who accepted the head coaching gig with the 49ers almost immediately after the game, says he wouldn’t do anything differently despite the outcome.

“We played that game how we played the entire year,” Shanahan said at his introductory Niners press conference, via “I called plays in that game the way I have the entire year. Doesn’t mean I’m always right. Doesn’t mean they’re always going to work. But I promise you I prepare as hard as I possibly can. I always do what I believe is right, with our coaching staff and with the players, and then you live with the consequences.

I guess you would expect Shanahan to rationalize here, except that I think that he’s telling the truth about his thinking: his playcalling had been AGGRESSIVE all year, and he wasn’t going to change based on minor details like the specific game situation he was in. It’s crazy, but it’s not uncommon.

I’ll even say that Shanahan and Quinn have probably gotten too much grief for the pass call on 3rd-and-1 that led to the Hightower strip sack. You can second-guess that, but it’s within a reasonable range of play calls — a first down there is yoooge, and it’s not ridiculous between the quality of Atlanta’s passing game and the fact that Atlanta’s center was into his 50th minute of playing on a broken leg to think going to the air gives you a better shot. That play is more on Freeman’s failure to pick up the rusher than the coaching staff. But passing after the Jones catch when two runs into the line give you a better than 9-in-10 shot of a game-sealing field goal? (And even if you miss the field goal, burning clock or forcing the Patriots to burn timeouts is still pretty big, given that while outstanding the New England offense was operating with a distinctly Andy Reid-like pace.) That’s just flat stupid, unforgivable on the part of Shanahan and Quinn. It’s the job of the coaching staff to give their players the best chance to win, and Shanahan pissed the game away because that’s how he would coach a regular season game against Jacksonville and you gotta dance with the ones what brung ya in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, and Quinn — an exceptional defensive coach and apparently a good motivator, but a ghastly in-game tactician — inexplicably let him. Sometimes coaches get blamed unfairly for a bad loss, but not this time. It’s 100% on them. And I’m beginning to better understand why Shanahan decided to take what might be the worst head coaching job in the NFL. He probably thinks he’s so good he can win with no talent, a green-as-a-pool-felt GM and horrendous ownership, and again he’s about to learn the hard way.

And what’s even worse is that for all the Shanahan’s guff about bring aggressive, with 52 seconds left and a great passing attack, he…pretty much played for overtime, knowing what the rules are and that his defense was completely out of gas. Quinn deserves a lot of the blame for getting As from the Rex Ryan College of Timeout Preservation, of course, but getting conservative at exactly the point when the game situation called for aggressiveness makes his decision to give away the game look even worse, if that’s possible.

It goes without saying that the coach on the other sideline owes his success in large measure to being focused on specific situations and matchups rather than abstract theories of how his team is supposed to play. But this also shouldn’t be forgotten:

9. While few may remember the call, Belichick’s decision to go for it on fourth-and-3 from his own 46-yard line with more than six minutes left in the third quarter might have saved the game. I’m not sure exactly how many coaches would have punted in that situation, but I’m willing to bet that it’s more than a few. Brady’s 17-yard strike to Amendola on that play kept New England’s drive afloat and, in the end, was one of the primary reasons that a comeback was even possible.

Just three weeks earlier, Pete Carroll uncharacteristically give up on a playoff game against Atlanta, kicking to win like Mike McCarthy himself rather than maximizing his team’s chances to win. Do I think there was any way in hell that Seattle was coming back against Atlanta with a secondary reduced to Sherman-and-another-double-bourbon and an offensive line featuring players who weren’t good enough to be regulars on Seattle’s offensive line? Of course not. But, then, it didn’t look like the Pats had any real chance either. Coach to give your team the best chance to win, because you never know. Atlanta gave away the game, but most teams wouldn’t have taken the gift. Give enough free shots to the greatest dynasty in NFL history, though, and they’ll beat you.

Trump Henchman Emulates Trump

[ 129 ] February 12, 2017 |


Jason Chaffetz, a few dozen pounds of well-used fry grease molded into the shape of a weasel, asserted that the constituents angrily questioning him about his refusal to investigate even the most egregious Trump misconduct after years of Hillary Clinton snipe hunts were PAID OUTSIDE AGITATORS. You will be shocked that this claim has exactly as much evidence as his Clinton snipe hunts:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) says paid protesters were among the thousand-plus people who gave him a raucous, negative reception at a town hall in Salt Lake City on Thursday. The crowd chanted “shame!” and “do your job.”

It was “more of a paid attempt to bully and intimidate” than a reflection of the feelings of his constituents, Chaffetz told the Deseret News.

“Chaffetz said he will continue to make himself available to voters but may now avoid providing a venue ‘for these radicals to further intimidate,’” the paper adds.

But reporters who were at the event and interviewed attendees say they found no evidence anybody was paid to be there.

Anyway, if anyone can find one of these PAID PROTESTORS, let me know because I want in on this racket.

As always, the deeper question is why a cartoonish partisan supervillain who would be way too on-the-nose for a House of Cards character was able to set the agenda for the mainstream media’s coverage of Clinton for 2 fateful years.


The Ballad of Rand Paul, International Man of Principle and Seriousity

[ 77 ] February 11, 2017 |

Photo via Christian Post.
Above: Not a nickel’s worth of difference

The nomination of Jeff Sessions would presumably be intolerable to any actual libertarian. Then there are Republican hacks who sporadically cosplay as libertarians:

“In some ways, the Democrats made it much more certain that I would vote for him by trying to destroy his character,” Paul said Thursday in an interview with The Washington Post and Roll Call for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” series. “I think it’s very upsetting that they didn’t choose to go after him on particular issues, like civil asset forfeiture, where they might have been able to persuade someone. They chose to go after a man’s character.”

“The Democrats could have gotten my vote [sic]. But they chose instead to point out that a Republican Senate refused to confirm Jeff Sessions as a District Court judge because he was too racist, as evidenced by his extensive history of racism.  I am a man of serious principle who will totally stand up to the Trump administration next time, just you watch.” Ah, yes, one of the central themes of the Republican Party: “racism is no longer a thing, but being accused of racism is the most horrible thing imaginable.”

But in Thursday’s conversation, Paul repeatedly emphasized that any discussion of Sessions’s views got lost in the Democratic attacks. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s viral, short-circuited speech against Sessions, in which the Democrat from Massachusetts quoted Coretta Scott King’s 1986 letter of opposition to Sessions as a judicial nominee, struck Paul as “personal” and not based on “principle.”

Right, there’s no “principle” in involved on the part of people who oppose vote suppression or support the Civil Rights Act, it’s just “personal.” Conversely, voting for someone because you know him as a Senate colleague is principled, not personal. This is all obvious.

In fairness, his evidence is pretty compelling:

“The thing is, I’ve seen pictures of him marching for voting rights with [congressman] John Lewis,” Paul said of Sessions.

“Jeff Sessions did not personally attack John Lewis in Selma, so there can be no principled opposition to his record on civil rights suck it libtards.”

And, now, the punchline:

And Paul hadn’t given up hope of influencing the president, as a senator from a state that he won handily.

Sure, he’s bound to settle down and start treating you right anytime now.

Remember when there were people on the left who took Rand Paul seriously? That was really pathetic.

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