Friday, March 17, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Story Isn’t The Story

Rachel Maddow came in for some criticism yesterday for, in the words of one totally not-jealous pundit, “overselling” her story on getting hold of two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax returns.  I saw more headlines about how she allowed the White House the chance to bigfoot her scoop and release the documents (and give Trump the bizarre opportunity to tweet that what the White House said was his real return was actually “fake news”).  The result was that more folks were talking about what Rachel Maddow did than the real story: Trump still hasn’t released all of his taxes, and those that he has paint him in a false light.

Actually the real story should also be that the press, either through laziness or fear of an early-morning tweetstorm, isn’t doing its job, and when one member of the press does what closely resembles her duty, she gets cat-called for it by members of her own profession.

This is ridiculous.  In this country where the press is one of the few human endeavors that is specifically protected from government intrusion in the Constitution, there should be an awareness of the duty the press has in our democracy.  It isn’t just reporting the news, it’s holding us — all of us — accountable regardless of the person or personality delivering the news.

Charlie Pierce:

There is a line of thought, beloved of the clergy of that which Jay Rosen calls The Church of the Savvy, that holds that this whole thing was a clever scam by the White House—and, indeed, that the administration may have been the source of the leak. But overrating the cleverness of this crowd has become reflexive. A lot of what they’ve done is just stupid, their efforts at spin control an insult to the memory of Michael Deaver, and their strategy roughly on the level of, as President Jed once put it, “Hey, your shoe’s untied!” Chief among these explanations is the notion that this was meant to be a distraction from the other bad news engulfing the White House on the subjects of healthcare and whatever-the-hell James Comey is going to say next.

However, if the distraction argument is true, then it is a massive dereliction of duty on the part of the members of the media who make it true. In essence, coming from anyone in this business, the distraction argument denies that the media has any agency in what it covers. If you are an editor—or a reporter—and you decide that a story is a shiny object, then don’t cover it. Or, at the very least, don’t emphasize it. The decision by the elite political media to make Hillary Rodham Clinton’s email server a central issue in the campaign was a deliberate choice. It wasn’t forced on them by anyone or anything. If you can choose to emphasize something, you can choose not to do that. If you can choose to concentrate on HRC’s email practices, you can choose not to concentrate on what you judge to be obvious diversions from the White House.

Do your freaking job.

The idea that the safety and security of our country — and the reporting of the state of the union — is devolving to middle-school-level squabbling and preening is not just alarming.  It’s dangerous.

School Safety Zone

Via CBS Miami:

The Miami-Dade School District took up the immigration debate Wednesday.

The district reports undocumented students are worried sick for themselves and their parents. And the school board issued what is essentially a “stay away” order to federal agents.

[…]

“It should never be at a school. They have that ability to come in other parts of our community, but the school should never be a place where any child is questioned or taken from our schools,” said board member Lubby Navarro.

Miami-Dade County Public School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho hugged little Jasmine coach, and issued and unbending declaration.

“On behalf of every single kid in this community, over my dead body will any federal entity enter our schools to take immigration actions against our kids,” Carvalho said.

Good for them.  Good for us.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Worse Numbers

The White House disputed the CBO scoring of the GOP tax cut masquerading as a healthcare bill, saying that the headline of 24 million people losing their health insurance is way wrong.

They’re right; their own estimates are that even more people will lose out.

A White House analysis of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare shows even steeper coverage losses than the projections by the Congressional Budget Office, according to a document viewed by POLITICO on Monday.

[…]

White House officials late Monday night disputed that the document is an analysis of the bill’s coverage effects. Instead, they say it was an attempt by the OMB to predict what CBO’s scorekeepers would conclude about the GOP repeal plan.

“This is not an analysis of the bill in any way whatsoever,” White House Communications Director Michael Dubke told POLITICO. “This is OMB trying to project what CBO’s score will be using CBO’s methodology.”

According to documents viewed by POLITICO, the OMB analysis intended to assess the coverage and spending outcomes of the legislation.

The analysis found that under the American Health Care Act, the coverage losses would include 17 million for Medicaid, 6 million in the individual market and 3 million in employer-based plans.

A total of 54 million individuals would be uninsured in 2026 under the GOP plan, according to this White House analysis. That’s nearly double the number projected under current law.

So when the White House ran the numbers using the CBO methods, it made it worse.  Oops.

At some point even they will have to admit that this attempt at repeal-and-replace for Obamacare is a bomb that won’t make it through Congress.

The much-maligned Obamacare replacement bill will face its biggest test so far on Thursday, as a House of Representatives committee filled with conservatives could derail the legislation backed by Speaker Paul Ryan before it gets to the House floor.

If four Republicans join Democrats in voting against the bill in the House Budget Committee, the legislation will fail.

Okay, fellas, what’s Plan B?

No News Taxes

After a big build-up and a long lead-in, Rachel Maddow released two pages of Trump’s 2005 federal tax return.  The White House actually scooped her by releasing it first.  It shows he made a lot of money and paid 25% in taxes after a bunch of write-offs, which anyone with a lot of money and a decent accountant would do.

Trump’s defenders are saying “nothing to see here, move along,” and they’re probably right.  But if Trump had followed the lead of every other president in the last forty years and released all of his taxes without making up flimsy excuses like “I’m under audit” or “the dog ate them,” then there would be no news about no-news taxes from twelve years ago in the first place.

Short Takes

Snow pummels Northeast.

Dutch vote puts populist support to the test.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson used an e-mail alias when he was head of ExxonMobil.

Female senators fiercely question Marine commandant over nude photos scandal.

Canadian Girl Guides cancel trips to U.S. because of Muslim ban.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

24 Million

That’s a big number no matter how you slice it.  It’s about 90% of the population of Canada.  It’s also the number of people who are estimated to lose healthcare coverage if the GOP has their way.  (Not to worry, Canada; you have a real healthcare system that works.)

The Congressional Budget Office on Monday released its long-awaited analysis of the Republican plan to replace Obamacare — and it contains some very bad news for supporters of the American Health Care Act.

CBO projects that the Republican plan would cause 24 million Americans to lose coverage by 2026. This is a much bigger drop in coverage than experts had expected. Republican legislators will now be forced to answer questions about why tens of millions of Americans will lose coverage and how those people will fare under the new system.

The CBO projections also show that a promise President Trump and his advisers have made multiple times — that Trump would draft a bill that covered everyone, or that no one would lose coverage under his plan — to be flatly false.

Just this weekend, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said, “We don’t believe that individuals will lose coverage at all.” CBO says this is not the case whatsoever.

The Republican bill offers less help to people who buy their own insurance than Obamacare currently does. It also hugely pares back the Medicaid expansion, which covers millions of low-income Americans.

The CBO report lays bare that, taken together, those changes mean million fewer Americans would have coverage.

Or, to paint a picture of it:

The initial response to this news from the GOP is “well, everybody knows that the CBO is partisan.”  Except it’s not; and the head of the CBO is a Republican appointed by Tom Price, the Secretary of HHS.

The next thing that will happen is that the Republicans will come out and tell us how much money this will save the country by getting rid of Obamacare, especially by giving tax cuts to rich people because we all know that they will invest it in jobs to hire people.  Except they never do, and the people that they say they’re going to hire will either be too sick to get a job or dead.

I thoroughly expect Trump to go around the country saying how wonderful this new plan is and telling his base that this is why they voted for him; to free them from the tyranny of having affordable healthcare and that no one within the sound of his voice will be burdened with freedom-crushing Obamacare, and only the other guy will be sick, but then he deserves it because he voted for Hillary.

The sad part — aside from the 24 million people who will lose their healthcare insurance — is that no matter what happens, the Republican base will still keep churning out the votes for the Republicans.  Because that is the most important thing to them.

No Sympathy

Set it to music, Pat.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory says the backlash against House Bill 2 is making some employers reluctant to hire him but he’s currently doing consulting and advisory board work.

McCrory has been appearing frequently in interviews with national media outlets to defend the controversial LGBT law, but he hasn’t announced what’s next for his career. In a podcast interview recently with WORLD, an Asheville-based evangelical Christian news website, McCrory talked about his challenges on the job market.

The former Republican governor says HB2 “has impacted me to this day, even after I left office. People are reluctant to hire me, because, ‘oh my gosh, he’s a bigot’ – which is the last thing I am.”

Pro tip: If you have to tell people you’re not a bigot, you probably are.

Helpful Household Appliances

Via USA Today:

The White House is offering yet another wrinkle in its attempt to support President Trump’s allegation — unfounded, so far — that his campaign headquarters in Manhattan was wiretapped by the Obama administration. The latest comes from Trump’s senior counselor Kellyanne Conway.

She says the “surveillance” may be broader than even Trump suggested.

[…]

“What I can say is there are many ways to surveil each other,” Conway said as the Trump presidency marked its 50th day in office during the weekend. “You can surveil someone through their phones, certainly through their television sets — any number of ways.”

Conway went on to say that the monitoring could be done with “microwaves that turn into cameras,” adding: “We know this is a fact of modern life.”

I just asked the microwave where I left my car keys, and my cell phone told me to check in the bedroom.  The dishwasher said I left them on my desk.  The refrigerator was no help at all; it was too busy reading my e-mail.

Short Takes

UK Parliament passes Brexit bill.

UNICEF says Syrian children experiencing “unprecedented” levels of suffering.

Thousands of flights canceled ahead of Northeast snowstorm.

Department of Justice wants more time to produce “wiretap” evidence.

Beware: U.S. Border Patrol can search your cell phone.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Prairie Fascist

He’s at it again.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has gained notoriety for his often contentious — and, occasionally, almost overtly racist — comments about immigration and the demographics of the United States. On Sunday, in a tweet about the nationalist Dutch politician Geert Wilders, King again appears to have crossed the line.

“Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny,” King wrote. “We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.”

The formulation of “our” civilization being at risk from “somebody else’s babies” is a deliberate suggestion that American civilization is threatened by unnamed “others” — almost certainly a reference to non-Westerners. The idea that national identity and racial identity overlap entirely is the crux of white nationalism; King’s formulation above toes close to that line, if it doesn’t cross. American culture, of course, was formed in part over the past two centuries by the assimilation of immigrants from a broad range of nations — first mostly European but later a broader diaspora. Iowa, the state King represents, remains one of the most homogeneously white in the United States.

Calling Steve King “almost overtly racist” is like saying it gets a little chilly at the South Pole.  This is his regular gig.

You have to wonder if he’s doing this just to represent a particular mind-set in his district (although I can say from my own experience that the people and the part of the country he represents are by and large not at all like him or think this way) or that he’s just a fascist and a racist by his own stunted growth and stupidity.  The reason he’s re-elected time and time again is because of inertia and a lack of competition.