Two great philosophers for the next four years

Okay, now it’s real so let us rely on two great philospophers for the next four years:

And it looks like America agrees with Ron Burgundy


CBS News:

It has been 10 weeks since Donald Trump was elected president, and more Americans disapprove (48 percent) than approve (37 percent) of the way he has handled his presidential transition. They are split on his cabinet picks. Views divide heavily along party lines.

Just days before his inauguration, Donald Trump’s favorable rating (32 percent) is the lowest of any president-elect in CBS News polling going back to Ronald Reagan in 1981, when CBS News began taking this measure.

Well we’ll have to survive being “governed” by the Brietbart comment section so we can either laugh or cry while we bang our heads into our desks today.



Early Morning Open Thread: Brace Yourselves

Figure I put this out there, for completeness, after which I’m gonna ignore the whole thing. I usually sleep from 6am-2pmEST, so by the time I get up, the ceremony will be over, Murphy the Trickster God willing. I’m sure someone will alert us if the old man actually drops trou and takes a dump on the podium, or if Steve Bannon attempts to Oswald Jared Kushner while all eyes are on Chief Justice Roberts…

The NYTimes, does, incidentally, include the Women’s March as the capper of the weekend. Complete with interactive graphic of the Sister Marches all over the world!

Friday in DC it’ll be… pissing down rain:



Open Thread: Always Be Grifting, Donnie!

The spin — “Surprisingly, Trump inauguration shapes up to be a relatively low-key affair“:

President Obama’s first inaugural festivities stretched over five days. Donald Trump is spending barely three on his.

Bill Clinton hit 14 official balls on the day he was sworn in. Trump plans appearances at three.

And while other presidents have staged parades that lasted more than four hours, Trump’s trip down Pennsylvania Avenue is expected to clock in at 90 minutes — making it among the shortest on record.

In a word, the 45th president’s inaugural activities will be “workmanlike,” said Boris Epshteyn, communications director for the Presidential Inaugural Committee, a pop-up staff of about 350 people scrambling to put together the proceedings from the second floor of a nondescript government building just south of the Mall.

The notion of a relatively low-key inaugural bereft of many ­A-list entertainers may come as a surprise, given the president-elect’s flair for showmanship and his credentials as a reality TV star. Epshteyn said that Trump settled on a less flashy approach, however, including keeping the ticket prices for the inaugural balls at $50 apiece so that ­working-class Americans who helped fuel Trump’s victory can take part…

The old man wants to get home in time for his Matlock Apprentice reruns. Also, there’s that whole “can’t get any entertainers, or sell many tickets” problem.

But it’s not that he doesn’t have the funds! McClatcheyDC, “Big money names behind Trump inaugural start to come out despite his secrecy plan“:

Donald Trump is trying to keep the names of the people and companies donating millions of dollars to his inauguration festivities this week a secret — a break from his Republican and Democratic predecessors in the White House.

At least the last three presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, all disclosed names of donors before they were sworn into office .

A federal law passed when Bush was in office required presidents to reveal names of contributors, but only 90 days following the inauguration.

Some names have been leaked out or been released by the donors themselves. Chevron gave $500,000 and will sponsor additional events and Boeing pledged $1 million, according to the companies. AT&T and JPMorgan Chase also donated, according to the companies. Other corporate donors include those who donated to Obama’s inauguration or had declined to contribute to the Republican National Convention last summer, including UPS, Bank of America and Deloitte, according to the New York Times.

“It is all about access and influence,” said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for the nonpartisan public advocacy group Public Citizen. “Donations come in very large amounts and from those who almost always want something from the new administration.”…

John Wonderlich, executive director for the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for more openness in government, called Trump one of the most secretive candidates in modern history. “This trend is continuing through the pre-presidency and likely the presidency,” he said.

Trump is expected to raise more than $90 million — a record amount — from people and corporations to pay for days of activities, including receptions, balls and the parade surrounding the 58th inauguration celebration. Taxpayers will spend millions more on the official swearing-in ceremony, security, construction and cleanup…

Am I the only one who suspects some large portion of these ‘donations’ will go straight into Trump’s pockets, while the usual party preps get skimped?



Late Night Open Thread: Hail, Glowryus Leeder

If only it were as lazy easy as trademarking someone else’s slogan!

… The slogan itself was not entirely original. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush had used “Let’s Make America Great Again” in their 1980 campaign — a fact that Trump maintained he did not know until about a year ago.

“But he didn’t trademark it,” Trump said of Reagan…

The trademark became effective on July 14, 2015, a month after Trump formally announced his campaign and met the legal requirement that he was actually using it for the purposes spelled out in his [2012] application…

“It actually inspired me,” Trump said, “because to me, it meant jobs. It meant industry, and meant military strength. It meant taking care of our veterans. It meant so much.”…

Halfway through his interview with The Washington Post, Trump shared a bit of news: He already has decided on his slogan for a reelection bid in 2020.

“Are you ready?” he said. “ ‘Keep America Great,’ exclamation point.”

“Get me my lawyer!” the president-elect shouted…

“I never thought I’d be giving [you] my expression for four years [from now],” he said. “But I am so confident that we are going to be, it is going to be so amazing. It’s the only reason I give it to you. If I was, like, ambiguous about it, if I wasn’t sure about what is going to happen — the country is going to be great.”…

Or at least that’s what Trump’s personal media will tell us! Remember Jeff Gannon?

Other journalists would be grilling [[press secretary] McClellan over the Bush administration’s activities. McClellan would call on Gannon for a question. And Gannon would bail McClellan out, frequently with a leading question laden with false assumptions.

In August 2004, for example, after taking several questions from a reporter about whether American forces had killed any innocent people in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and another seeking President Bush’s opinion of the disgraced Ahmad Chalabi, McClellen turned to Gannon. And Gannon came through: He asked McClellan about a new “piece of evidence showing the direct terror ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda” and followed up by asking “how damaging” a New York Times story had been “to our war on terror.”…

Trump has already deployed the Gannon strategy as president-elect. During his press conference last week, he pivoted away from a series of questions about the intelligence community’s fears about his interactions with Russia to take one from Matt Boyle from Breitbart, the conservative website previously run by his chief strategist and that spent the election pushing his candidacy. Boyle’s softball sought Trump’s opinion of what “reforms” the media industry should undertake to avoid the “problems” of its election coverage. We should expect Trump to continue to use his platform to lift up such supportive outlets…



Cynicism confirmed

Balloon Juice in August:

Aetna was profitable in 2015 in the individual market in Pennsylvania. It is projecting to be profitable in 2017. The filing memo was drafted in late May and submitted to the Pennsylvania regulators in early June. Conditions have not changed enough to make Pennsylvania a money loser in under two months.

My wee bit of cynicism bears fruit. Aetna is trying to logroll an anti-competetive merger with on-Exchange political consequences. If it works for Aetna/Humana it burns a bridge to get the merger, and if it fails, it puts Aetna on the shitlist of any Democratic administration. That is a very interesting strategy when it is highly likely that there will be another Democratic administration…

So in all years Aetna’s individual market operations in Pennsylvania were either profitable or projected to be profitable. Something stinks worse than a wrestling team’s locker room after two-a-days.

USA Today on Sunday afternoon:

When Aetna announced in August that it was leaving the exchanges in 11 of the 15 states it sells in for 2017, it said it had a pretax loss of $200 million on its individual insurance plans in the second quarter of this year and total pretax losses of more than $430 million since January 2014 on its individual insurance plans. Nearly all of these policies are sold on the ACA exchanges. At the time, CEO Mark Bertolini said the move would “limit our financial exposure moving forward.”

But Aetna made nearly $12 million on individual ACA plans in Texas and more than $8 million in Pennsylvania, according to financial filings with state regulators, and is exiting the Healthcare.gov exchange in both states anyway. Asked to comment on decisions to leave states where it was making money, Aetna spokesman T.J. Crawford said, “We don’t discuss performance at the state level.”

Nice to know that I am occasionally cynical enough.



Late Night Open Thread: Trump’s Conned the Banksters, Too

No mark so doomed as the mark who thinks he’s in on the long con. From the Bloomberg article [warning: autoplay]:

Mnuchin, 53, the son of a Goldman Sachs partner, thrived at the institutions Trump mocked during the campaign. He was tapped into the Skull and Bones secret society at Yale, joined the bank and became a top executive, ran a hedge fund and invested in Hollywood blockbusters. When he saw TV news shots of customers lined up outside a branch of California bank IndyMac trying to pull their money in 2008, he spotted an opportunity.

“I’ve seen this game before,” he recalled saying in an interview earlier this year. “This bank is going to end up failing, and we need to figure out how to buy it.”

Mnuchin gathered billionaires including George Soros and John Paulson and assembled a $1.6 billion bid to buy IndyMac. They rebranded it OneWest and sold the bank in August 2015 for $3.4 billion. It carried out more than 36,000 foreclosures during Mnuchin’s reign, according to the nonprofit California Reinvestment Coalition, which accused OneWest of shoddy foreclosure practices and avoiding business in largely black or Latino neighborhoods, claims the bank has denied.

Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who leads the Financial Services Roundtable, a bank lobbying group, thinks any rage over Mnuchin’s pedigree will fade if he does his job well. “If those results are really good for everyday Americans, it will be ‘mission accomplished,” Pawlenty said. “The public’s focus will soon shift.”…

Another former Goldman Sachs banker, SkyBridge Capital founder Anthony Scaramucci, is said by analysts to be under consideration for a job as a top Treasury deputy. He’s well known for once asking President Barack Obama when he’d stop bashing Wall Street. Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, worked at Goldman Sachs, too…

Trump’s throwing open the gates to the worst of the predators, and the Wall Street herd is too busy making fun of ‘blue-collar workers’ to remember that those predators will chew up their tidy little portfolios, too.

At least the guy quoted in the top tweet has the excuse of being a Hillary voter:

… Tilson, who was relieved Trump picked an industry veteran instead of a wildcard, still has concerns, especially because Trump promised to dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted after the financial crisis almost toppled the global economy.

“I’m a fan of Dodd-Frank, I think banking should be boring,” said Tilson, who voted for Hillary Clinton. “I worry about Wall Street returning to being a casino.”

Because, yeah, TRUMP IS A YUUUGE FAILURE WHEN IT COMES TO RUNNING CASINOS, banksters!

At least my senior Senator didn’t waste the last two years on a crusade to appeal to the Alt-Left purity ponies, so she’s got her place on the barricades prepped…

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is worried, too. “Mnuchin is the Forrest Gump of the financial crisis — he managed to participate in all the worst practices on Wall Street,” the Democrat said in a statement. “His selection as Treasury secretary should send shivers down the spine of every American who got hit hard by the financial crisis.”



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Rot All the Way Down

Professor Krugman, in the NYTimes, “Why Corruption Matters“:

…[W]e could be talking about a lot of money — think billions, not millions, to Mr. Trump alone (which is why his promise not to take his salary is a sick joke). But America is a very rich country, whose government spends more than $4 trillion a year, so even large-scale looting amounts to rounding error. What’s important is not the money that sticks to the fingers of the inner circle, but what they do to get that money, and the bad policy that results…

… I’ve already written about the Trump infrastructure plan, which for no obvious reason involves widespread privatization of public assets. No obvious reason, that is, except the huge opportunities for cronyism and profiteering that would be opened up.

But what’s truly scary is the potential impact of corruption on foreign policy. Again, foreign governments are already trying to buy influence by adding to Mr. Trump’s personal wealth, and he is welcoming their efforts…

Destruction of democratic norms aside, however, think about the tilt this de facto bribery will give to U.S. policy. What kind of regime can buy influence by enriching the president and his friends? The answer is, only a government that doesn’t adhere to the rule of law.

Think about it: Could Britain or Canada curry favor with the incoming administration by waiving regulations to promote Trump golf courses or directing business to Trump hotels? No — those nations have free presses, independent courts, and rules designed to prevent exactly that kind of improper behavior. On the other hand, someplace like Vladimir Putin’s Russia can easily funnel vast sums to the man at the top in return for, say, the withdrawal of security guarantees for the Baltic States…

As Charlie Pierce reminds us, last time the spoils-seeking got this blatant, then-President Harding was hustled off on a strenuous nationwide publicity tour from which he did not return. I can imagine Mike Pence looking in the mirror and imagining himself the next Calvin Coolidge… if only because the fewer words he can say, the less of an idiot he will look.
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