Lies and Projection Open Thread

USA Today has decided to become the print regime propaganda organ, to complement Fox News’s video. They have printed an “op-ed” from Donald Trump that contains about as much truth and accuracy as any of his campaign appearances. I don’t want to give them the clicks, since that’s obviously part of their motivation, so here it is.

Donald Trump: Democrats ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors
Donald J. Trump Published 3:15 a.m. ET Oct. 10, 2018

The Democrats want to outlaw private health care plans, taking away freedom to choose plans while letting anyone cross our border. We must win this.

Throughout the year, we have seen Democrats across the country uniting around a new legislative proposal that would end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for their entire lives.

Dishonestly called “Medicare for All,” the Democratic proposal would establish a government-run, single-payer health care system that eliminates all private and employer-based health care plans and would cost an astonishing $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years.

As a candidate, I promised that we would protect coverage for patients with pre-existing conditions and create new health care insurance options that would lower premiums. I have kept that promise, and we are now seeing health insurance premiums coming down.

I also made a solemn promise to our great seniors to protect Medicare. That is why I am fighting so hard against the Democrats’ plan that would eviscerate Medicare. Democrats have already harmed seniors by slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years to pay for Obamacare. Likewise, Democrats would gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care.

The Democrats’ plan threatens America’s seniors

The Democrats’ plan means that after a life of hard work and sacrifice, seniors would no longer be able to depend on the benefits they were promised. By eliminating Medicare as a program for seniors, and outlawing the ability of Americans to enroll in private and employer-based plans, the Democratic plan would inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care. Doctors and hospitals would be put out of business. Seniors would lose access to their favorite doctors. There would be long wait lines for appointments and procedures. Previously covered care would effectively be denied.

In practice, the Democratic Party’s so-called Medicare for All would really be Medicare for None. Under the Democrats’ plan, today’s Medicare would be forced to die.

The Democrats’ plan also would mean the end of choice for seniors over their own health care decisions. Instead, Democrats would give total power and control over seniors’ health care decisions to the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

The first thing the Democratic plan will do to end choice for seniors is eliminate Medicare Advantage plans for about 20 million seniors as well as eliminate other private health plans that seniors currently use to supplement their Medicare coverage.

Next, the Democrats would eliminate every American’s private and employer-based health plan. It is right there in their proposed legislation: Democrats outlaw private health plans that offer the same benefits as the government plan.

Americans might think that such an extreme, anti-senior, anti-choice and anti-consumer proposal for government-run health care would find little support among Democrats in Congress.

Unfortunately, they would be wrong: 123 Democrats in the House of Representatives — 64 percent of House Democrats — as well as 15 Democrats in the Senate have already formally co-sponsored this legislation. Democratic nominees for governor in Florida, California and Maryland are all campaigning in support of it, as are many Democratic congressional candidates.

Democrats want open-borders socialism

The truth is that the centrist Democratic Party is dead. The new Democrats are radical socialists who want to model America’s economy after Venezuela.

If Democrats win control of Congress this November, we will come dangerously closer to socialism in America. Government-run health care is just the beginning. Democrats are also pushing massive government control of education, private-sector businesses and other major sectors of the U.S. economy.

Every single citizen will be harmed by such a radical shift in American culture and life. Virtually everywhere it has been tried, socialism has brought suffering, misery and decay.

Indeed, the Democrats’ commitment to government-run health care is all the more menacing to our seniors and our economy when paired with some Democrats’ absolute commitment to end enforcement of our immigration laws by abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. That means millions more would cross our borders illegally and take advantage of health care paid for by American taxpayers.

Today’s Democratic Party is for open-borders socialism. This radical agenda would destroy American prosperity. Under its vision, costs will spiral out of control. Taxes will skyrocket. And Democrats will seek to slash budgets for seniors’ Medicare, Social Security and defense.

Republicans believe that a Medicare program that was created for seniors and paid for by seniors their entire lives should always be protected and preserved. I am committed to resolutely defending Medicare and Social Security from the radical socialist plans of the Democrats. For the sake of our country, our prosperity, our seniors and all Americans — this is a fight we must win.

To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This is disgusting, and potentially very damaging. We need to make a stink about it.

 



Russiagate Open Thread: Peter Smith, “Rob Tyler”, and General Flynn

Clintonphobia must be a helluva drug, because it does not seem these were stupid people — unlike the Putin pawn they helped install in the Oval Office. But it sounds to me like these staunch Republicans knew they were getting played by the GRU and didn’t care, as long as That Woman was properly punished for the crime of being a Democrat, and uppity.

A veteran Republican operative and opposition researcher solicited and raised at least $100,000 from donors as part of an effort to obtain what he believed to be emails stolen from Hillary Clinton, activities that remain of intense interest to federal investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller’s office and on Capitol Hill.

Peter W. Smith, an Illinois businessman with a long history of involvement in GOP politics, sought and collected the funds from at least four wealthy donors as part of the plan to obtain Mrs. Clinton’s stolen emails from hackers just weeks before election day in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Smith’s effort to find what he believed were some 33,000 deleted emails Mrs. Clinton said were personal was first reported by the Journal in a 2017 story, but the extent of his planning went far beyond what was previously known. Mr. Smith died 10 days after describing his efforts to a reporter for the Journal…

Mr. Smith went to extraordinary lengths to ensure the privacy and secrecy of his projects, according to emails and court records reviewed by the Journal and a person familiar with the matter.

One email showed the anti-Clinton funds referenced as donations that were to be sent to a Washington, D.C.-based scholarship fund for Russian students.

[Was one of them named ‘Maria Butina’?]
Read more



The Big Bamboozle

In a bizarre interview with The Hill last night, Trump bragged that he is doing the country “a great service” by declassifying documents pertinent to an ongoing investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia. What he is actually doing, of course, is trying to further undermine the Mueller investigation and influence the news cycle.

I hope and believe that Adam’s prediction about that effort will come to pass — that it will make Trump and his toadies in the House look like idiots. In The Hill interview, Trump said the declassification could become one of his “crowning achievements” because it will reveal that the FBI was out to get Trump all along when they surveilled Carter Page. The Atlantic covered this odd strategy here:

But it’s looking more and more like House Republicans have chosen to die on a hill that’s shifting below their feet. “Be careful what you wish for,” Democratic Senator Mark Warner, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Tuesday. He was indicating, according to an aide, that “it’s simply impossible to review the documents” on Page and conclude anything other than that the FBI “had ample reason” to investigate him. It’s not only Democratic Senators who believe that: Republican Senator Richard Burr, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN in July that he believes the FISA judges had “sound reasons” for issuing the Page surveillance warrant to the FBI. “I don’t think I ever expressed that I thought the FISA application came up short,” Burr said at the time.

But Reps Nunes, Gaetz, Meadows, et al, are doubling down on the Page-as-martyr strategy. It may make sense to people (like Trump) who marinate in Fox News 24/7, but it’ll likely fall flat with everyone else because believing all the Deep State conspiracy crap is a prerequisite of buying the Page-as-victim angle. It would be as if you or I showed up at a city council meeting and started babbling about lost mustard and naked mopping. Any jackals in the audience might find it amusing, but the rest of the crowd would look at us as if we’d lost our goddamned minds.

Anyhoo, there was also this piece of supreme weirdness from Trump in last night’s interview with The Hill:

Trump also said he regretted not firing former FBI Director James Comey immediately instead of waiting until May 2017, confirming an account his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, gave Hill.TV earlier in the day that Trump was dismayed in 2016 by the way Comey handled the Hillary Clinton email case and began discussing firing him well before he became president.

“If I did one mistake with Comey, I should have fired him before I got here. I should have fired him the day I won the primaries,” Trump said. “I should have fired him right after the convention, say I don’t want that guy. Or at least fired him the first day on the job. … I would have been better off firing him or putting out a statement that I don’t want him there when I get there.”

Trump has offered different reasons in the past for his firing of the FBI chief, blaming Comey’s handling of the Clinton case but also linking it to Comey’s actions in the Russian investigation.

Emphasis mine. Of course, Comey served at the pleasure of President Obama when Trump won the primaries and was nominated at the convention. But I suspect Trump was just indulging in mindless superlatives as usual during that interview but was otherwise faithful to talking points created as part of an evolving legal/PR strategy — to claim that he was onto this Deep State conspiracy even before day one and, therefore, Trump fired Comey for the Clinton email investigation rather than to shutdown the Mueller probe.

But believing that dog’s breakfast of a post-hoc justification requires going down rabbit holes within rabbit holes. For instance, recall that the memo Trump ordered Deputy AG Rosenstein to produce to justify firing Comey rightly claimed that Comey’s actions at the conclusion of the email investigation were unfair to Clinton. But now we’re supposed to believe that Clinton was colluding with the Russians to take out Trump, either with the active participation of Comey or via his negligence? Come on, man.

It’s nonsense. But so is everything else Trump says, like the claims this morning that the economic recovery began the day he was elected. You can plot unemployment rates, GDP growth, etc., on a chart that represents a gradual upward trajectory from the Great Recession to the present day and wave it in Trump supporters’ faces, but they won’t believe their lying eyes or lived experience. Nope, the USA was a Dickensian hellscape until 11/9/2016 and the ascension of the Golden Calf.

Will the con work again? I don’t think so. One thing successful con artists know is that you have to move on because the bamboozle only works until it stops working. Ironically, being POTUS is the first real job Trump has ever had. And it looks like the first performance review is going to be all kinds of ugly.



Downward Spiral (Open Thread)

Until my luck ran out almost two years ago, I’d never been party to an abusive relationship with a narcissist, at least not on a long-term basis. I had a sociopath boss with narcissistic qualities once, and I solved that problem by quitting the job. But I can’t quit America.

Now, thanks to Vladimir Putin, anti-democracy Republican lawmakers and 62.98 million assholes, we’re all getting a crash course in what it’s like to have a malignant narcissist in our fucking grill every day. Everything about it is intolerable, but surprisingly, I find Trump’s neediness among his most personally irritating and repugnant traits.

The bottomless pit of need that is Trump has been on full public display since the 1980s, of course, but it’s worsened in the last week (month? year? century?) since excerpts of Woodward’s book began dribbling out in The Post and the anonymous op-ed appeared in The Times.

It’s no mystery why Marmalade Mugabe’s panicky handlers keep him tucked away at self-branded private clubs or shuttle him off to hinterland hate rallies so he can soak up the adulation of his brain-dead MAGA hordes. It’s the only way to keep him from completely losing his fucking mind in ways that might endanger the production of tax cuts for the rich and wingnut judges.

But President Obama’s speech late last week seems to have driven Trump around a fresh bend of lunacy. He has always told boastful lies and amplified sycophants, but there’s a noticeable increase in volume and decrease in quality just in the last 72 hours or so. For example, this is a real thing the president of the United States retweeted yesterday — some random, servile schmuck’s badly ‘shopped idolatry:

Remember when pundits used to count the number of times President Obama said “I” or “me” in a speech and present the total as evidence that Obama is self-absorbed? I mean, they’d offer this word count bullshit as if it were a brilliant piece of analysis.

Trump has tweeted a dozen or so boastful lies and retweeted or quoted worshipful material from sycophants like the above in the last 48 hours, but you probably won’t hear about it from Ron Fucking Fournier or anyone else. We’re used to this shit now, and it’s getting worse.

Not only has Trump been sucking his own dick at hate rallies and on social media platforms all weekend and well into Monday’s “executive time,” he’s enlisted hapless flunkies to attempt to bolster his lies in laughable ways at more traditional venues. Behold:

Yep, in the first White House press briefing in nearly three weeks — a time period during which we were informed that an unelected cabal of sanctimonious wingnuts is actually running the country! — the Trump administration trotted out “Dow 36,000” guy Kevin Hassett to demonstrate that yes, Trump is better than Obama at the economics — by showing this startling “break in the trend” of job growth in a specific sector after Trump was elected.

Can’t see it? Maybe fetch your magnifying glass. That’s all they got. Oh, and at the briefing, Hassett was obligated to walk back Trump’s stupid lie from earlier today about the GDP being higher than the unemployment rate for the first time in 100 years — turns out Trump was only off by an order of magnitude or so.

But even riding the economic recovery that began under President Obama, Trump is still sinking in the polls. A CNN poll released today shows a drop to a 36% approval rating, down six points from last month. And this with no new wars, economic chaos or hurricane relief failures — just the endless, embarrassing fail parade that is the Trump presidency.

That’s going to drive him even more bugfuck insane, and even Rasmussen oversampling Republicans won’t provide a strong enough balm for that level of butt-hurt. So brace yourselves, fellow citizens. The compulsive public masturbation is about to get a lot worse. And you know what? I’m not sure I can fucking take it anymore. Seriously, this black hole of need that tries to suck up everyone’s attention all the fucking time is intolerable.

Thanks for listening. Just had to get that off my chest. Because it’s all about ME. Open thread!



Who Wrote the Op-Ed: Text-Mining Edition

When the cowardly “Resistance” op-ed came out, my first thought was, Gee, I bet we could get some insights on authorship by doing an automated textual analysis. Because of course that was my first thought. Well, somebody was kind enough to do one for us. Specifically, Michael W. Kearney, a journalism and informatics professor at the University of Missouri. Here is the result; I’ll do a layperson’s explanation below, and then some technical links for those so inclined.

https://twitter.com/kearneymw/status/1037700388617629696

Executive summary: This analysis suggests that it was somebody from the office of the Vice President, the State Department, or the Department of Commerce.

What is this?

  • The y-axis is various Twitter accounts, labeled on the left.
  • The x-axis is the textual correlation.
  • Kearney took up to 3,200 tweets from each of the accounts listed, and ran an analysis on those corpuses. He then compared the resulting numbers to the results of the same analysis run on the text of the op-ed.
  • The line at the top shows, of course, a 1.0 correlation with the op-ed itself. The next-highest are the Twitter accounts for the Vice President, Trump (who we can discount), Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Ross, and the State Department.
  • The analysis includes figures for things like comma usage, sentiment, politeness, word choice, first- and second-person preference, and so on.
  • It probably wasn’t somebody at the Department of Transportation.

Caveats

  • Update: I assumed this went without saying, but obviously tweets are not an ideal data source; just most-readily usable with what Kearney had laying around, and within a very short time period. 
  • We know from reporting on the Wolff book that anonymous sources sometimes intentionally steal other staffers’ phrasing when providing quotes.
    • This could explain the use of ‘lodestar,’ a strongly Pence-affiliated word.
    • However, it is harder to fake things like comma usage.
  • Higher-ranking officials are likely, in their Twitter communications, to try to sound more like Trump, or in general use more homogenous language.
    • This could explain the ~0.7 cluster of the most important officials and departments.
  • These are not huge volumes of text, and thus the figures are potentially not representative.

Technical Details

Read more



One Dragon at a Time

I despise Meghan McCain’s smug, shallow millennial-con shtick. But that doesn’t mean I was unable to appreciate the spectacle of Ms. McCain shitting all over Trump while eulogizing her father and hurling a MAGA-mocking cow-pie right in the faces of funeral crashers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump this weekend.

That’s not a universally held opinion, if my Twitter feed is any indication. Some folks are insinuating that those who relished Ms. McCain’s denunciation of Trump are in effect enrolling her in the Resistance. Read more



Chillin’ with Villains

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is notorious for going on camera and defiantly declaring that up is down and black is white. That’s pretty much her job. But she won’t say unequivocally that there’s no tape of Trump using a racial slur because she’s knows there’s a distinct possibility the tape will surface:

The Trump people must be shitting themselves, wondering what bit of audio Omarosa Manigault Newman will drop next. She already caught Katrina Pierson in a big fat lie today.

Meanwhile, Manigault Newman claims she’s been interviewed by Mueller and says Trump definitely knew in advance about the hacked emails from the Clinton campaign:

It would be hilarious and fitting if an ugly beef with his former reality TV villain — plus an association with living comic book villain Roger Stone — is what finally brings Mango Mussolini down. I don’t say it will — just that it would be both hilarious and fitting.

In related news, the Manafort trial is almost over — the defense rests without calling any witnesses, and Manafort declined to testify, so only closing arguments are left (I think). Any predictions?

Open thread.