Open Thread: GOP Has-Beens for Trump

From The Hill:

GOP White House hopeful Donald Trump huddled with Washington, D.C., Republicans in the shadow of the Capitol on Monday, an attempt by the political newcomer to appear more presidential as he zeroes in on his party’s nomination…

Not a single member of House or Senate GOP leadership attended the two-hour confab, however. Most attendees, like Hunter, were backbencher lawmakers who have already endorsed Trump. They include GOP Reps. Tom Marino (Pa.), Scott DesJarlais (Tenn.), Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) and Chris Collins (R-N.Y.).

Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) were on hand as well. Sessions has endorsed the real estate mogul, while Cotton not backed a candidate.

Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), now president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, also attended, as did former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a failed presidential candidate in 2012, and his wife, Callista.

The Gingriches were later swarmed by reporters and TV cameras. Asked by The Hill for his main takeaway from the meeting, Gingrich replied: “The lunch was pretty good.”

Trump did pick up one endorsement after the gathering. Former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.), who resigned from Congress in 1999 over an extramarital affair and is now a lobbyist, said he voted for another unidentified candidate but now is going all in for Trump…

The businessman also said he’ll release a list of seven to 10 potential choices for the Supreme Court to push back against concerns that he might not nominate a conservative — a charge made repeatedly by his main rival, Ted Cruz…

The Heritage Foundation is helping to draft the list of potential court picks, Trump said.

In case you’ve forgotten the details, Bob Livingston fled congress when Larry Flynt turned up evidence that he’d been calling for Bill Clinton’s impeachment while carrying on his own adulterous affair. I guess he admires Trump as a more successful hypocrite…

(Okay, it was a SurveyMonkey web poll… but I couldn’t resist.)

Another CPAC, Another Show

And it’s time for one of their Big Annual Events, as described by Jim Newell in Salon:

The frigid Washington, D.C., metropolitan area is going to get a blast of hot air this week as the annual Conservative Political Action Conference begins. This is the big one, where every conservative entertainer/politician descends on the fake shopping town of National Harbor, Maryland, to give the same speech about how Barack Obama sucks. Hundreds and hundreds of pathetic political reporters, myself included, inexplicably make the choice to go cover it year after year instead of just watching it on CSPAN, because sometimes there are weird parties afterward. On the last day there is a straw poll that Rand Paul wins…

The American Conservative Union, which puts on the event, may have finally recognized the tedium of an uninterrupted procession of repetitive red-meat speeches. So, bless them, they’ve added some spice to the mix this year to make things more worthwhile for the paying customers. (It’s true: Outside of the media, there are real-life humans who pay actual American dollars to go to this thing. They travel for it. It is their vacation!)

This year, every speaker who’s considering a run for president will have to answer questions from the audience. “The horde of likely presidential contenders expected at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference,” Politico reported late last month, “will be asked to deliver speeches about specific policy issues — rather than campaign-style stemwinders — and they’ll also face audience questions.”…

Speakers even have a choice for how awkward they’d like to make it on themselves. If they’d prefer, they can eschew the speech altogether and just do 20 minutes of Q&A. Yikes! One candidate who’s surprisingly taken them up on that offer is Jeb Bush, King of the RINO establishment devils. Yup: Jeb Bush spending 20 minutes taking questions from foot soldiers in the conservative movement…

And it would be pure entertainment for the rest of us, if not for the moneymen behind the curtain

… This year’s gathering also will have a stronger focus on training activists to go home and engage in politics, whether that’s running for office or becoming a tracker of Democratic candidates. The theme is “Conservative Action Starts Here.”

Groups involved in facilitating those trainings include the youth-focused, Koch brothers-backed group Generation Opportunity; the Republican research-focused super PAC America Rising; Young Americans for Liberty; and American Majority, a conservative organizing group…

Open Thread: Car Talk

Volkswagen says the last of the Bugatti Veyron supercars it made has been sold, meaning all 450 have been accounted for at an average price of $2.6 million a piece.

Keep in mind the automaker may have ended up losing twice that per car, but hey, Volkswagen’s a big company.

Open thread.

News and notes

Just a couple of non-healthcare related things that interested me this week:

John Robb on the Pakistan black-out:

 the attackers found a systempunkt. A systempunkt is the node in any network (physical or social) where it is the most vulnerable. An attack on a systempunkt can generate cascades of failure that take down the entire network….

we know, when a complex network is operating at or near its capacity, it is many times more vulnerable to collapse and thereby much easier to attack.

As a side note, we know that there are significant large scale single points of failure in the American regional electrical distribution grids.

Syriza won big in Greece on a platform that they’ll stop the austerity pain.  That makes sense, and the only thing that surprised me was that it took this long for a political party to prosper on a platform that it would stop kicking the public in the balls.  Here is a reminder of what the current Greek governing elite agreed to from March 2011:

We outline here what we think will be a very large 18-month IMF program, which will come with a set of draconian policy measures as a conditionality. Whether the effort will lead to a restoration of debt sustainability will depend on the willingness and ability of Greece’s political leadership to undertake (and for its population to accept) some very substantial cuts in living standards during the next three years.

The drop in living standards for the Greeks was far greater than what the IMF projected.  Syriza is properly identifying the problem and are offering a reasonable and plausible solution once you take the implications of a Grexit as real.  This is a far better outcome than Golden Dawn who have identified scapegoats rather than problems.

Proper blizzard prep should also include a note on how many rolls of toilet paper are needed:

Open thread

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Say Goodbye to 2014

plot twist is nigh non seq

(Non Sequitur via

Some good news to end this less-than-stellar year, from the Washington Post:

President Obama’s job approval rating is the highest it has been since 2013, according to Gallup.

According to the firm’s three-day tracking, Obama’s approval rate stands at 48 percent, ticking up 3 percentage points since Monday. Respondents were polled from Dec. 27-29. It’s the highest rating Obama has seen since August 2013.

The latest numbers for Obama are part of a weeks-long upward swing in his approval ratings. All were measured this month; during the week of Dec. 21, his approval ratings stood at 45 percent, and they averaged 44 percent for the week ending Dec. 28…

Apart from preparing for this evening’s celebrations (or not), what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the year?

Good News, Everybody

Good news, there is no need this year for the Independent Payment Advisory Board to meet. IPAB is an entity created by Obamacare that is designated to make payment reforms to Medicare to bring down the rate of Medicare spending inflation to the general rate of growth in the economy. Congress can overrule IPAB’s recommendations if they come up with a seperate plan that saves as much or more than IPAB’s plan. 

However IPAB is not needed when medical inflation for Medicare is beneath the rate of economic growth. And that is what is happening.

The White House brags:

Prices for personal consumption expenditures (PCE) on health care goods and services rose just 1.1 percent over the twelve months ending in May 2013, the slowest rate of increase in nearly 50 years. The slowdown in PCE health care inflation has been widespread…

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Employer Costs for Employee Compensation survey indicate that for private sector employers offering health insurance, the annualized growth rate of real (inflation-adjusted) costs for workers’ health insurance has slowed from 2.2 percent a year from 2006:Q4 to 2009:Q4 to 1.8 percent a year from 2009:Q4 to 2012:Q4

What this means, if it is a sustainable trend, is systemically, health care is going from a red alert, going to destroy the federal budget, apple pie and day/night doubleheaders to a medium size problem that needs consistent monitoring, tinkering and experimentation. CBO is figuring federal Medicare/Medicaid committments in 2020 are $200 billion less than what they projected a few years ago. As the saying goes, a few hundred billion here, a few hundred billion there, and sooner or later we’re talking about real money.

“Nothing wrong with being a tax and spend Republican!” is how I’ll greet her

I wrote here about helping with a campaign to pass a public school bond issue.

This is a majority Republican town, and this is the first time I’ve worked with the same group of people we usually work against in elections. I think The Committee for the school levy is made up almost entirely of Republicans because the leader of the effort is an executive at a manufacturer here and he’s a Republican donor, voter and GOP Party person. His employer has given him as much company time on this as he needs because it’s a genuinely local company, they’re privately held and they believe the school issue is important to their ability to attract sales people and managers. The (now-retired) CEO of this company asked the school board to request an evaluation by the state public school facilities commission on the feasibility of renovating versus replacing our schools in 2009 and the state came back with all but the high school as “replace” so that drove their decision to head up a new school building campaign rather than a renovation.

We meet in the company conference room. It’s nice to have this big local employer behind something I support (for once) with all these fabulous resources. I could get used to it. I now understand the lure of wing nut welfare.

I’m finding that the Republicans involved in the campaign bring up the fact that I’m a Democrat a lot more than is strictly necessary. I’m not clear why this is. My sense is it’s to let me know that while we may be working together on this there will be no concessions as far as Conservative Principles. After they tell me I’m a Democrat they bring up the Kasich tax cuts. I think they keep hitting on this with me to let me know that while they’re for this particular tax increase, they’re still solidly in the “job creators get huge income tax cuts so as to grow the economy” camp. Their argument is that Kasich cut income taxes so therefore people should support increased property taxes for schools. It’s a wash!

I don’t agree with it as a practical matter and I also think it’s a lousy campaign tactic. This is a school district where 40% of the kids qualify for free or reduced lunch. Income tax isn’t a huge issue for the younger, lower income “sporadic voter” parents we need to reach if we want a winning turnout, although it’s clearly a huge issue for the Republicans on The Committee. The fact is Kasich’s income tax cut won’t benefit those families at all and Kasich increased sales taxes, so the parents I hope to reach will pay more taxes, not less. In addition, we have lost 1.6 million a year in state operating funding for our public school system under the Fox News personality-turned-governor. Despite my concerns, they’re in love with this “it’s a wash!” idea, so hopefully it flies with higher-income Republicans like them because they’re not budging.

Although I think their tax argument is dumb and based more on partisan fervor than facts or voter demographics or persuasiveness, I don’t hate all of their campaign ideas. One thing they’re saying that appeals to me is that the schools we use now were built beginning in 1917, someone paid for them, and it wasn’t the people who use the schools now. “It’s Our Turn” is the slogan.

One thing I hate about modern conservatism is what I see as the dead-beat, moocher nature of the Republican approach to replacing or maintaining public assets. I’m baffled by people who rely on a public asset like a public school (or park or swimming pool or road or library) yet seem to believe those things spring from the ground spontaneously the day they arrive and then disappear the moment they personally and individually no longer need a 2nd grade classroom or a walk in a park or a swim or a route to work or a library book. I like this slogan. Harkening back to citizens of yore is also a good approach because local history is a hobby here. The newspaper does a monthly feature with photos from the Olden Days and there is a section of the public library devoted to town history.

I asked for suggestions on the campaign in the last post and The Committee picked up one of the suggestions I made (given to me by a commenter here) that goes to the It’s Our Turn idea, and it’s this:

scav says:
August 9, 2013 at 12:23 pm
Is there anything interesting to be gained from looking into, publishing past efforts the community made into building schools? When was the first one built, how many since, old photos of ground-breakings, graduations, etc. Schools did provide built foci for communities etc and emphasizing that historical and ongoing effort might help with some people. Might pull one or a few short priming newspaper articles out of it. An effort, a commitment rooted in the past and builing toward the future, that sort of thing. Dick and Jane through the periods and generations?

It’s about to get weirder because I’ll be working on GOTV with the woman who was the local volunteer lead for Romney’s campaign. I meet with her next week. I know her (slightly) and she’s a bona fide wing nut, so we’ll see how that goes.