Nov 16 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Charles M. Blow: Moore, Trump and the Right’s New Religion

I have lived my whole life with a Republican Party with which I disagreed, but at least understood.

The first election I can remember was the presidential election of 1980. I was 10 years old. I didn’t know much about politics or party platforms. I only knew that the former peanut-farmer president, Jimmy Carter, was running against a former actor, Ronald Reagan.

But it was in that election that Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority reintroduced religious activism into American politics. Speaking at a Dallas convention of Christian fundamentalists, Falwell proclaimed: “During the 1980s, preachers, we have a threefold primary responsibility. No. 1: Get people saved. No. 2: Get them baptized. No. 3: Get them registered to vote.”

The religious activism was in many ways a direct response to the strides made in the 1960s and 1970s on racial equality, women’s rights and gay rights.

In a way, their driving motivation was to make religious law into American law, really not so unlike the Shariah law they so fear and despise.

Eugene Robinson: Republicans: Enrage your colleagues

The GOP bill that should be called the Cut Taxes on President Trump and Other Very Rich People Act of 2017 always had a secondary purpose: to jack up the deficit so Republicans could later cry out in horror, “Look at that awful debt!” They would then use the pools of red ink they created to justify deep cuts in social programs.

But people who call themselves conservative are shoveling out so much money so fast to corporations and the privileged that they needed some health-care cuts upfront — at the expense of coverage for millions of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

And so on Tuesday, the Senate majority took an appalling bill and made it even more atrocious. To their ungainly concoction of tax breaks for the various interests that support them, they added the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, scrapping the mandate would reduce the number of Americans with health insurance by 13 million over a decade. To which the champions of redistributing money to the boardrooms and the yacht clubs say: Oh, goody!

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Nov 16 2017

The Breakfast Club (Don Quixote)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Dr. Sam Sheppard acquitted of murder in new trial; U.S. and U.S.S.R. form diplomatic ties; Second anthrax letter found sent to Capitol Hill; Actor William Holden dies; ‘Sound of Music’ hits Broadway.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.

Paul Valery

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Nov 15 2017

More Stupid Tax Tricks

You know, I bang my head on the desk trying to come up with an incredibly lucid explanation of some obscure point and then someone like Paul Waldman does it better in fewer words-

(T)he CBO also says that repealing the mandate will result in 13 million fewer Americans with health insurance — hence those savings, which won’t be spent on expanded coverage — and increases in premiums of an additional 10 percent a year. Some people won’t realize that they’re eligible for free or heavily subsidized insurance and, without the mandate to prod them, won’t get it, and as young and healthy people pull out of the market, the remaining pool will be older and sicker, leading to premium spikes, the exit of insurers from the market, and a potential “death spiral.”

Sigh, that’s ok, there are other important things in this piece.

The GOP tax plan will be a massive political nightmare for Republicans
By Paul Waldman, Washington Post
November 15, 2017

The Republicans’ theory about their tax-cut bill goes like this. We absolutely have to pass it, or else our base will be disgusted and our donors will abandon us. The substance doesn’t matter — we’ll get it past complex Senate rules, and even if some provisions look troubling, after it passes we can have a triumphal Rose Garden ceremony and proclaim we’ve delivered prosperity for all. In coming months and years, people won’t remember the details, as long as we keep saying “We cut taxes” over and over again.

That theory is going to be put to the test, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be proven wrong. That’s because this bill won’t just fail to deliver on its promise of riches trickling down to everyone; it’s actually going to be a disaster for millions of Americans. And there’s not going to be any doubt about who inflicted it on them.

But that’s just one element of this tax cut that is going to be incredibly unpopular. Remember that point about not being able to increase the deficit at all after 10 years? Because they want to make the corporate tax cut permanent — since it’s the real centerpiece of this whole effort.

In other words, if you happen to be one of the lucky people who come out ahead at first with all the complex changes to the tax code this bill makes, in 2026 your taxes will go up. It’s just getting better and better, isn’t it?

At this point there’s a handy review of all the ways the Cut Cut Cut Bill is going to screw taxpayers so you might want to bookmark it for future use. He continues-

If you had to sum it up simply — for instance, if you were writing a Democratic attack ad in the 2018 election — you could say that Republicans are raising taxes on millions of Americans and taking away health insurance from millions more, all to pay for a huge giveaway to corporations.

Of course, Republicans argue that giving corporations a tax cut will make us all enormously richer. This claim is laughable, since corporations are already earning near-record profits and unemployment is low; it’s not as though they’re starving for cash and once they get this tax cut they’ll rush to invest, create jobs and raise wages.

If we’re considering the politics of this bill, it’s also important to understand that very few people buy the Republican argument. In fact, most Americans think corporate taxes should be raised, not lowered. So not only are the details politically damaging, but also the core of the bill is something the public doesn’t want.

None of this means the bill won’t pass. Republicans have convinced themselves that no matter how bad the bill is, not passing anything is worse, so the chances that they’ll allow it to fail are small. But when that day comes, Democrats will know that Republicans just gave them yet another powerful issue to run on in 2018. Expect to hear them say, “Republicans have had complete control of Washington for the past two years — and all they did was raise your taxes and yank millions from health coverage so they could lard another giveaway on corporations.” Something tells me that might be a pretty effective message.

Republicans, not just racists, bigots, xenophobes, and misogynists.

Also thieves.

Nov 15 2017

About that $300 Billion “Savings” from repealing the Individual Mandate

If you’re like me you’ve heard on the Cable TV and in the newspapers that repealing the Obamacare Individual Mandate will save $300 Billion and asked yourself, how does that work exactly?

Should you find a semi-reputable source, like say The New York Times for instance, you’ll find a paragraph similar to this-

If it becomes law, the repeal would save more than $300 billion over a decade but result in 13 million fewer Americans being covered by health insurance by the end of that period, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Republicans said on Tuesday that they would use the savings — which stem from reduced government spending to subsidize health coverage — to pay for an expansion of the middle-class tax cuts that lawmakers had proposed.

Well, that is kind of ok I guess. You have the fact that it will “result in 13 million fewer Americans being covered by health insurance”, you have “which stem from reduced government spending to subsidize health coverage”, alright.

Then you also have the flat out lie (presented as neutral fact) that these are “middle-class tax cuts” (you know, Krugman publishes in your own damn paper moron and he has a Nobel Prize in Economics, try reading it sometime) which counts against but that’s not my main point.

My main point is this- what connects the two? How do you get $300 Billion in savings from simply removing the penalties for not having health insurance?

The answer is that without the mandate young, healthy, idiots invulnerables will leave the market.

That will make the pool (everybody else) sicker and older which will raise premiums (hey, insurance companies don’t do it for charity you know) and drive even more people to not have insurance because they can’t afford it. It is because less people will be insured therefore reducing the Government subsidy that money will be saved.

The solution to all of this is to raise taxes on everybody, eliminate Health Insurance Companies (filthy leeches the lot of them) and their premiums, and institute a Single Payer System that can reduce Health Care costs by negotiating directly with providers and reduce their profits to close to what the rest of the civilized world pays.

Not surprisingly-

In a letter on Tuesday, groups representing doctors, hospitals and insurers urged congressional leaders to keep the individual mandate in place. The groups, which included the American Medical Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans, wrote that “eliminating the individual mandate by itself likely will result in a significant increase in premiums, which would in turn substantially increase the number of uninsured Americans.”

We have to keep our phony baloney jobs!

To be protected from a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, the tax bill can add no more than $1.5 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, and it cannot add to the deficit after a decade. Eliminating the mandate starting in 2019 would reduce federal budget deficits by a total of $338 billion by 2027, the Congressional Budget Office said last week.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Republican leadership who also serves on the Finance Committee, said the savings from repealing the mandate would be “distributed in the form of middle-income tax relief.”

Mr. Thune said he was confident that the tax plan, with the mandate repeal as part of it, could pass the Senate.

But not all senators were as sanguine about its passage and Republicans will need to carefully calibrate votes, given that they hold a narrow 52-seat majority in the Senate.

“I personally think that it complicates tax reform,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine.

There’s that lie about “middle-income tax relief” again but fortunately Sue Collins does not appear to be deceived. Even if it did deliver the expected $500, how long do you think that would take to be eaten up by your 10% premium increase? Months?

This is simply a vehicle to give $1.5 Trillion to Multi-National Mega Corporations and the wealthiest 1% Plutocrats (who control a full 50% of the world’s wealth by the way) while picking your pockets to service their illusionary deficit and debt fetish.

Nov 15 2017

The Breakfast Club (Endless Wire)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Sherman begins ‘March to the Sea’ in American Civil War; Zebulon Pike spots namesake mountaintop; Anti-Vietnam War protesters gather in DC; Joey Buttafuoco gets jail time; Actor Sam Waterston born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

The bad guys don’t always get punished and the good guys are not necessarily pure.

Sam Waterston

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Nov 14 2017

Hitting On Eighth Graders

You know, maybe it’s ok if you’re in the 9th Grade and you have a Junior High School (7th, 8th, and 9th Grade) / High School (10th, 11th, 12th) Educational System.

My second girlfriend (I wasn’t fast enough for my first one, a classmate) was a Junior (High School, get your filthy minds out of the gutter) and I was a Senior. I couldn’t beg a date (and believe me I tried) with my contemporary object of desire (also a classmate), and the girl I ended up dating was charming and intelligent. She’d been raised in Europe (Dad was an executive in a multi-national) and knew 4 languages including English. She was new to school, a little odd for most of the students (though she fit right in with my crowd) and looking for a friend. When she asked me to Junior Prom I could hardly say no, nor would it have been fair to ditch reciprocation for Senior Prom.

We liked each other a lot, I think, and we had other dates together, but even then age was an awkward thing.

I went away to College and she was stuck in High School which she basically hated. We saw each other as often as we could. I did her Senior Prom too but when she picked a school it was a continent away and though we promised to stay in touch of course we didn’t. I hope she’s had a fine life, she was a wonderful person.

Since then I’ve usually ended up with women a little older than I (starting to get hard to find them) and I think that’s just great because they get most of my jokes, or at least pretend to.

If you’re 30+ though, dating teenage girls is not normal. It’s super creepy. He was banned from a Mall!

Doesn’t remember? He had to ask their parents for permission!

“Love. Roy Moore, D.A.”

Too Alabama? I guess… maybe.

Actually some kind of procedural sleight-of-hand is about the worst of all possible outcomes. Moore could lose. He could get all deficit hawk if he wins. If Sessions vacates it opens the possibility to pick a new AG who won’t have to recuse and will fire Mueller which will draw roars of outrage and exactly no action.

Nov 14 2017

The Russian Connection: Don Jr. and Julian Affair

Yesterday in The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe discussed the private messages that were exchange between Donald Trump Jr. and the head of Wikileaks, Julian Assange that started during the campaign last Summer and continued until this past July. The messages, which The Atlantic obtained, were turned over to Congress as part its investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election.

It’s not clear what investigators will make of the correspondence, which represents a small portion of the thousands of documents Donald Trump Jr.’s lawyer says he turned over to them. The stakes for the Trump family, however, are high. Trump Jr.’s June 2016 meeting with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with connections to Russia’s powerful prosecutor general, is already reportedly a subject of interest in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, as is the White House statement defending him. (Trump Jr. was emailed an offer of “information that would incriminate Hillary,” and responded in part, “If it’s what you say I love it.”) The messages exchanged with WikiLeaks add a second instance in which Trump Jr. appears eager to obtain damaging information about Hillary Clinton, despite its provenance.

Though Trump Jr. mostly ignored the frequent messages from WikiLeaks, he at times appears to have acted on its requests. When WikiLeaks first reached out to Trump Jr. about putintrump.org, for instance, Trump Jr. followed up on his promise to “ask around.” According to a source familiar with the congressional investigations into Russian interference with the 2016 campaign, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, on the same day that Trump Jr. received the first message from WikiLeaks, he emailed other senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, telling them WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner then forwarded the email to campaign communications staffer Hope Hicks. At no point during the 10-month correspondence does Trump Jr. rebuff WikiLeaks, which had published stolen documents and was already observed to be releasing information that benefited Russian interests.

WikiLeaks played a pivotal role in the presidential campaign. In July 2016, on the first day of the Democratic National Convention, WikiLeaks released emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s servers that spring. The emails showed DNC officials denigrating Bernie Sanders, renewing tensions on the eve of Clinton’s acceptance of the nomination. On October 7, less than an hour after the Washington Post released the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump bragged about sexually assaulting women, Wikileaks released emails that hackers had pilfered from the personal email account of Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta.

On October 3, 2016, WikiLeaks wrote again. “Hiya, it’d be great if you guys could comment on/push this story,” WikiLeaks suggested, attaching a quote from then-Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton about wanting to “just drone” WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

“Already did that earlier today,” Trump Jr. responded an hour-and-a-half later. “It’s amazing what she can get away with.”

Two minutes later, Trump Jr. wrote again, asking, “What’s behind this Wednesday leak I keep reading about?” The day before, Roger Stone, an informal advisor to Donald Trump, had tweeted, “Wednesday@HillaryClinton is done. #WikiLeaks.”

WikiLeaks didn’t respond to that message, but on October 12, 2016, the account again messaged Trump Jr. “Hey Donald, great to see you and your dad talking about our publications,” WikiLeaks wrote. (At a rally on October 10, Donald Trump had proclaimed, “I love WikiLeaks!”)

While there are questions as to how these exchanges would be pertinent to the investigation, TMP Editor Josh Marshall points out an article written by former Obama White House Counsel Bob Bauer at Just Security on the potential criminal case

A charge of illegal coordination is consistent with a conspiracy, aiding or abetting, or “substantial assistance” source of liability. It is the campaign finance law equivalent to what has been referred to in the public debate as “collusion.” In other words coordination is a legally prohibited form of collusion: spending by Russia, if coordinated with the campaign, is a contribution to the campaign. The contribution, of course, would be illegal. It is important to underscore here that this area of law applies to any and all coordinated spending beneficial to the campaign, not only to coordination with Russians, the Russian government, or other foreign nationals (think: Wikileaks). [..]

A question clearly raised by the new information is whether the Trump campaign’s communications about the hacked emails–through both public statements and private contacts–constituted in effect, for legal purposes, a request or suggestion that funds be spent to acquire the stolen emails. The candidate certainly requested this assistance in his public remarks. Now, in a meeting scheduled with a Russian national with ties to the Putin regime, the campaign made clear that it was actively interested in having this kind of information.

Investigators will presumably explore whether the campaign was interested specifically in the stolen emails. Press reporting suggests that a) the campaign was interested in the emails, because the candidate had said so, and supporters like Mr. (Peter W.) Smith was engaged in a concerted effort to find them; and b) both the campaign and Mr. Smith were dealing with Russian nationals in the search for negative information on Mrs. Clinton. At any rate, any support coordinated with the Russians constitutes an illegal contribution from a foreign source.

Nov 14 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: Republican Class Warfare: The Next Generation

The other day, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, admitted to The New York Times that he “misspoke” when he declared that his party’s tax plan wouldn’t raise taxes on any middle-class families. But he misspoke when he said “misspoke”: The proper term is “lied.”

McConnell was forced into his sort-of-kind-of admission by a new report from the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s own scorekeeper, which found that millions of middle-class families would see higher taxes under the Senate Republican proposal. But this wasn’t some kind of narrow, technical mistake on his part.

Both the Senate proposal and the similar proposal from House Republicans offer huge tax cuts to corporations and the wealthy, then try to limit the impacts of these tax cuts on the budget deficit by clawing back tax credits and exemptions that mainly benefit the middle class. Of course many in the middle class would see their taxes go up.

But focusing on how many would face tax increases gets at only a small part of what’s going on here.

Eugene Robinson: What happens when you replace the president with a clown?

We are running a terribly unwise experiment: What happens when you replace U.S. presidential leadership with the slapstick antics of a clown?

On Saturday, President Trump issued the following statement: “Why would Kim Jong Un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend — and maybe someday that will happen!”

There is a natural tendency to become inured to Trump’s gushing stream of nonsense. Resist the urge. Read that statement again. The president of the United States, in the midst of a trip to Asia, taunted the nuclear-armed dictator of North Korea in a manner most sixth-graders would consider juvenile.

There was a time when the world looked to the U.S. president to speak clearly in defense of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. I refer to the entirety of modern U.S. history before January, when Trump assumed the high office he now dishonors.

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Nov 14 2017

The Breakfast Club (Human Rights Duty)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:00am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

 photo stress free zone_zps7hlsflkj.jpg

This Day in History

Nazi Germany bombs English town of Coventry during World War II; ‘Moby-Dick’ published; Nellie Bly begins globe-trotting trek; Leonard Bernstein makes conducting debut; Composer Aaron Copland born.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.

P. J. O’Rourke

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Nov 13 2017

John Oliver : The Lasting Consequences of the Troll President

Last night John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” gave an insightful dissertation on the
techniques that Trump and his followers have used to undermine norms of governing and how Americans talk about ideas. Allowing Trump’s techniques to spread to other politicians and media outlets so that it becomes the pervasive doctrine of the land poses a serious threat to the U.S. as a democracy and a culture. Seeing how it spreads, he said, is evidence of how we’re already “seriously and lastingly f*cked.”

“The natural endpoint is the erosion of our ability to decide what’s important, have an honest debate and hold one another accountable,” he warned.

John Adams once said “Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either aristocracy or monarchy. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”

We should be truly worried about our democracy.

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