Late Night B-Movie Open Thread: Giant Albino Amphibian vs. Zombie-Eyed Grannie Starver

Jim Newell, at Slate, on “the perfect running mate for Donald Trump”:

… Gingrich, in his trademark way of exuding unsubtlety in the execution of what he believes to be a stealth operation, is angling for the vice presidency even more aggressively than Trump is angling for the presidency. When Gingrich responded to a question about the inexperience of Trump’s foreign policy advisers by instructing Slate’s Isaac Chotiner to read both The Art of the Deal and The Art of the Comeback, such a shameless non sequitur could only be read as that day’s canned talking point in his campaign for the vice presidency. Gingrich was among the earliest bold-name political figures to liaise between Trump and official Republican Washington. Like Chris Christie, Gingrich may have realized that taking the plunge early with the party’s incoming standard-bearer was the best way to position himself for a sweet gig down the road—and perhaps persuade Trump to help retire lingering campaign debt.

Trump basks in what normals might consider uncomfortable levels of flattery, and so, by several accounts—including Trump’s own mouth—Gingrich has successfully implanted himself on his new master’s veep shortlist. Though Gingrich has said Trump would need “psychiatric help” if the presumptive nominee were to select him as his running mate, he definitely will not rule himself out. The former speaker of the House is now a ubiquitous force in the Trump effort, selling him in the media and advising him on policy and politics…

For all of his put-on suck-uppery, Gingrich is one of the few people on Earth who can understand what it’s like to be in Trump’s shoes. Gingrich, over a more gradual period of time and climaxing in the 1994 elections, blew up an existing political era—that of the Democrats’ supposedly permanent House majority. He knows what it is to have the world looking in horror at you for shattering their reality, much as they’re looking at Trump now. He can brief Trump about how to weather this and, should Gingrich cave to the sort of introspection that neither he nor his tutee are known for but which may exist somewhere deep inside, teach him from his own mistakes….

I’m old enough to remember The Rain Reign of Speaker Newt, and this is good news for Democrats. The Newt’s thin skin and enormous ego are indeed very reminiscent of a certain short-fingered vulgarian, and Gingrich’s inability to keep his eye on the prize (or his pecker in his pants) were largely responsible for the implosion of the GOP’s ‘new permanent majority’ twenty years ago. Putting him under the lights with Deadbeat Donald over the next five months would mean taking bets on which of the two would throw a total pants-soiling hissy-fit first… and whether it would be directed at the other half of the ticket. Read more



Open Thread: Staffing Up the DNC Party Platform

We are serious people here, or at least serious political junkies, so it’s probably worth discussing the latest news about picking the Democratic party platform committee. (The rights to which are either “fools gold” if you believe Ed Kilgore, or “how Hillary and Bernie will make peace” if you listen to Jim Newell.) Here’s Politico‘s report:

While DNC rules allow the chair to pick all 15 members of the national convention drafting committee, the organization struck a deal with the two campaigns so that Hillary Clinton will pick six members, Sanders will pick five, and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will appoint four, party officials confirmed…

Consultations between the DNC and the two campaigns were finalized last week and Wasserman Schultz began calling appointees over the weekend, a Democratic party official with knowledge of the process told POLITICO. The appointments to the drafting committee are being made from lists of about a dozen suggested by each campaign.

Rep. Elijah Cummings will serve as chairman of the committee and Andrew Grossman, former director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, will serve as platform executive director, the convention committee said Monday.

Sanders’ picks for the committee were: Arab-American Institute President James Zogby; Cornel West; Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison; Deborah Parker, an activist on Native American rights; and Bill McKibben, an activist on environmental issues…

Clinton named Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, former State Department official Wendy Sherman, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, Ohio state Rep. Alicia Reece, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union’s Paul Booth.

The committee also includes two non-voting members, one from each campaign. The Sanders team picked policy adviser Warren Gunnels alongside Maya Harris, who serves as senior policy adviser for Clinton.

Most of the discussion I’ve seen on my center-leftish rounds has concerned Cornel West, who is not one of President Obama’s biggest fans. (I think Rep. Cummings has more than enough experience with angry agitators to handle Dr. West.) It’s certainly an interesting and diverse bunch — a good showcase for both small- and big-D Democratic values.

Your thoughts?



Liking Their Way to Victory

I thought this was a parody at first, but now I think it’s actually real. (This election season has Poe’d even seasoned cynics):

like for victory

Found it by following a link from a post at Booman’s joint about the upcoming March on the DNC, which is totally gonna happen, y’all.

Any thoughts on how much that kind of crap might help the Orcs capture the White House? My guess is that it will be a fart in a whirlwind like the PUMA phenomenon. Just wait until President Obama weighs in…

Open thread!



Wednesday Evening Open Thread: Hostile (to Reality) Takeover

It’d be funnier if Deadbeat Donald didn’t have a minimum 40% (very) base vote for the taking…

Psychological research suggests that people, in general, suffer from what has become known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. They have little insight about the cracks and holes in their expertise. In studies in my research lab, people with severe gaps in knowledge and expertise typically fail to recognize how little they know and how badly they perform. To sum it up, the knowledge and intelligence that are required to be good at a task are often the same qualities needed to recognize that one is not good at that task—and if one lacks such knowledge and intelligence, one remains ignorant that one is not good at that task. This includes political judgment…

This syndrome may well be the key to the Trump voter—and perhaps even to the man himself. Trump has served up numerous illustrative examples of the effect as he continues his confident audition to be leader of the free world even as he seems to lack crucial information about the job. In a December debate he appeared ignorant of what the nuclear triad is. Elsewhere, he has mused that Japan and South Korea should develop their own nuclear weapons—casually reversing decades of U.S. foreign policy.

Many commentators have pointed to these confident missteps as products of Trump’s alleged narcissism and egotism. My take would be that it’s the other way around. Not seeing the mistakes for what they are allows any potential narcissism and egotism to expand unchecked…

***********
Apart from acknowledging that too many of our fellow citizens think Idiocracy was a documentary (or an instruction manual), what’s on the agenda for the evening?



The Ad That Will Win the Election

I can see it now:  Testimony of parents who have contracted Zika virus and given birth to babies with microcephaly, overlaid with comments by Republican Members of Congress, explaining why they delayed the vote on Zika funding by 3 months, and underfunded it by 1/3.

Isn’t this the Daisy ad of this election, or am I missing something?








Some Mostly Stolen Thoughts On That Old Politics Vs. Revolution Thang

So this morning I’m reading a diary on the Great Orange Satan about political doings over in Bagdad By The Bay.  Though I grew up in the San Francisco area, I’m not really current on what’s happening, aside from the fact that I couldn’t afford a shack in SF itself anymore — notamidst all those Twitter-, Apple-, and Google-erati.  So I gobble down the story, assume/accept the big-city, big-money corruption narrative, and move on.

Sucker!

I do have friends and relatives back by the Bay, as it turns out, and one of them has worked in city government for a long time.

Turner_-_Dido

He’s got first hand knowledge of San Francisco’s allegedly lost progressive mindset as it works within local government, and he weighed in.

I’ll excerpt his comment below, but first I just want to say this was an object lesson for me, a reminder of how easy it is trip up in the way that I’ve criticized some of the most extreme of the Bernie camp for doing.

That is: there’s a ton wrong with our politics, our society, and our engagement with each other.  It’s so tempting to leap from a clear problem — the impact on middle and low income residents of the gentrification of San Francisco (and elsewhere!) driven by extreme income inequality — and assume that political actors are obviously complicit.

The reality?  Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t, and it takes some effort to figure out the five Ws and the H in each case.  Worse yet — if the problem is truly complex, then political action is at best an incomplete tool to deal with the issue.

Which is why, in the end, I think Obama is a truly great president: he gets all of that.  The need for policy and politics; the insufficiency of politics on its own; the agonizing difficulty of addressing any truly major problem — which translates into rage-inducing slowness to see the change take shape; and the need to keep plugging away.

I feel that rage often enough, and I know that I don’t have the qualities of character our president does, the off-the-charts focus and persistence required to make sh*t happen, and to wait — years if necessary, decades — to see the results.

I have high hopes for Hillary on this score.  Not that I’ll agree with her on everything — I don’t and won’t, just as I haven’t always with Barack Hussein Obama.  But I trust her (yes, that word) to pay attention, to know her stuff, to hire good, smart folks, and to soldier on and on and on — as the job and the world requires.

Here the sermon endeth…and an excerpt from my old Bay Area companion’s comment takes over:

I’ve worked on the financial administration side for the City of San Francisco for many years, and the truth is that under successive mayors and Boards, San Francisco has put more money behind progressive goals than almost any other city in the country.

The City spends billions of dollars a year on its amazing public health programs, including a universal health access program for City residents that predates and goes well beyond Obamacare, and many hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to help the poor and homeless, including thousands of units of housing for the poorest of the poor and people with severe mental illness and other health problems.  The City spends hundreds of millions a year subsidizing its transit system and setting aside funds for children.  The City spends hundreds of millions a year subsidizing its transit system and setting aside funds for children. 

Mayor Lee …supported not just measures to attract and keep higher-paying tech jobs but also continued one of the largest and best City subsidized jobs programs in the country…

These are great progressive achievements….

You can read more at the link. The writer goes on to acknowledge that despite all this, the reality is that San Francisco’s housing costs put enormous stress on too many, and argues that the drivers of that are at best barely subject to direct political control — and that policy responses offer very tricky alternatives.  The challenge for progressives, among whom he numbers himself is thus to..

examine what housing policies we should we be pushing for that can help the most people of different income levels that need housing (not just the poorest of the poor).

TL:DR:  electioneering — and definitely punditizing —  is easy.  Governating is damn hard, which is something to be mindful of at this and every season.

Over to y’all.

Image:  J. W. M. Turner, Dido Building Carthage, 1815.



“Small, Insecure Money-Grubber”

Senator Elizabeth Warren takes a break from skewering Donald Trump on Twitter to eviscerate him in long form via a speech yesterday:

Words like “small” and “insecure” get under Trump’s skin because they contradict the grandiose image of himself Trump markets so industriously. But I like what Warren has done with “money-grubber” angle here to frame Trump’s conduct as a vulture real estate developer eager to pick clean the bones of regular folks who lost their homes.

Trump has carefully crafted a brand as a fabulously wealthy, self-made winner, and Warren paints him as a rich man’s heir who grew up to be a twisted greedhead like Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It’s a brilliant way to turn an opponent’s strength into a weakness, and I hope Senator Warren keeps it up from now to November.

[H/T: TPM]



Peter Thiel Makes The Case For Confiscatory Taxation On Billionaires

This broke over at Forbes and is bouncing around the ‘nets today:

Peter Thiel, a PayPal cofounder and one of the earliest backers of Facebook FB +0.49%, has been secretly covering the expenses for Hulk Hogan’s lawsuits against online news organization Gawker Media. According to people familiar with the situation who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, Thiel, a cofounder and partner at Founders Fund, has played a lead role in bankrolling the cases Terry Bollea, a.k.a. Hogan, brought against New York-based Gawker. Hogan is being represented by Charles Harder, a prominent Los Angeles-based lawyer.

Whatever you think of Gawker, Hulk Hogan, or Thiel himself, this is yet one more way in which extreme income inequality destroys civic life. It’s actually worse than many, given the clandestine way it deepens the corruption of the system that could (in theory) provide a check on the damage that purchased legislative and executive branches can do.

Lazarus_in_Heaven_and_the_Rich_Man_in_Hell_LACMA_M.88.91.91

Here’s a take on the poison here revealed from Caterina Fake:

Champerty, as third-party litigation funding used to be called (and should probably be called again!) was formerly a crime, but the commercial litigation finance industry has been growing in recent years.

Fake notes that much of such litigation is actually a form of speculation, in which rich folks gamble on the possibility of significant payout.  One can imagine the “free market” argument that such funding levels the playing field, allows those who’ve suffered real harm to recoup, and thus makes the legal system a more efficient and effective dispute-settling and behavior-changing engine. But Thiel’s pursuit of Gawker illuminates what this leads to in the real world:

Generally, people avoid frivolous lawsuits because it often exposes them to as much scrutiny as those they sue, so what is significant about this case is that by funding Hogan behind the scenes, Thiel could get his revenge, escape exposure, and influence the outcome of the case.

For the very rich, this is a win however it goes, and damn the collateral damage.

Hogan’s lawyers made decisions against Hogan’s best interests, withdrawing a claim that would have required Gawker’s insurance company to pay damages rather than the company itself–a move that made Nick Denton, Gawker Media’s founder and CEO, suspect that a Silicon Valley millionaire was behind the suit.

I leave it to the actual lawyers to weigh in on the ethics (and consequences, if any) for such a litigation approach. For myself, I’ll note that what you have here is an insanely rich guy gaming the legal system to destroy a media outfit that pissed him off.

And with that, one more thought:  Franklin Roosevelt created the social welfare state in the US as an alternative to revolution.  Today’s plutocrats might want to think about that.  In plainer terms: to remain democracies, modern democractic states need to tax polity-buying wealth out of individual hands; income taxes and a levy on inheritances.  A 90% rate that kicks in well below an estate value of a billion bucks seems a good place to start.

A blogger can dream…

Image: Cornelius Bos, Lazarus in Heaven and the Rich Man in Hell, 1547.



Zika and Medicaid

I want to focus on the probable consequences of a potential Zika outbreak on Medicaid as a continuation of the discussion that Anne started last night.

Zika could be a significant push to rejigger parts of the Legacy medicaid system away from state based funding to a national reinsurance model because of who has high cost persistent conditions, where Zika infections are more likely to be concentrated and who pays for a significant number of births.

Medicaid is a significant payer for maternity, labor and delivery care in the United States.  In 2010, Medicaid paid for 44% of the births in the country.  These births are paid for via Legacy Medicaid where the states are paying between 30% and 50% of the total cost of the service.  The Southern and Southwestern states are more likely to have higher than national average percentage of births paid for by Medicaid than cooler climate states.  This means that all else being equal, the impact of Zika will be borne by more Southern and Southwestern states than states that fought for the Union or in the Mountain West.

Southern states tend to have far skimpier Medicaid plans and more importantly, they are generally poorer with less public health capacity and less economic ability to absorb significant economic and medical shocks.

The most notable impact of Zika is microcephaly.  Children born with too small heads are extreme medical risks.  These children will have lifelong medical costs for additional surgeries, drugs, treatments and rehabilitation therarpy compared to kids.  Having a child with life long medical needs is a significant constraint on earnings for parents and caregivers.  I would project that Medicaid and CHIP will cover a disproportionate share of children who have Zika related birth defects.

So we would have very expensive cases concentrated on publicly provided insurance rolls in states that stingily fund their safety net.  A state that has several hundred covered lives with Zika related birth defects on their Legacy Medicaid plans will be in significant financial trouble.  They either can’t or won’t raise taxes enough to cover the cost of catastrophic illnesses that are outside the normal variance.

There is a viable policy tweak.  It would require Congressional action.  Zika related birth defects would be carved out as  as a separate eligibility category with a distinct federal funding stream.  We already do this with end state renal disease (dialysis) and three years of immunosuppressent payments for transplants.  People who have those diseases and conditions are enrolled into  Medicare and Medicare pays for them as either the primary public insurer or as a secondary insurer for people with private insurance.  Carving out Zika would be fairly straightforward and it distributes the risk nationally.  Alaska and Montana would pay their share for public health.

The other alternative would be to have Medicaid pay kick payments to the states on a capitation basis for individuals with Zika related birth defects.  The kick payment would act to bring the total cost of treatment onto the Federal books instead of the state’s books.  This would be a narrower intervention  as it would only nationalize Zika treatment costs for individuals on Medicaid.








Long-Legged Bird (Open Thread)

Here’s a great blue heron:

image

Or at least a very good one. It was quite tame, hanging around some fishermen at sunset hoping for leftover bait, but it gave me the stink-eye when I got close.

This beach doesn’t allow dogs (fascists!), but as soon as the sun goes down, the dogs come out to frolic in the surf.

Tonight there was a Coast Guard helicopter crossing back and forth on the horizon. Lost tourist, maybe. Hope he/she/they are recovered.

My sleep schedule is all screwed up, so I’m wide awake, sitting outside slapping the zika-squitos away. Why are you up?








Late Night Horrorshow: Zika Is Coming, Ready or Not

I’m probably gonna get dinged for chicken-littling, because hey, no Ebola outbreak happened in America, right? And yet… “White House Ebola response coordinator from 2014 to 2015” Klain’s Washington Post article:

The good news is that both the House and Senate have finally passed bills that would provide some funding to combat the Zika virus. The bad news is that this action comes more than three months after President Obama requested the aid. Moreover, the House bill provides only one-third of the response needed; pays for this limited, ineffective response by diverting money allocated to fight other infectious diseases; and necessitates a conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate bill, meaning we still do not know when any money will finally get through Congress to fund the response…

As befuddling as Congress’ refusal to approve funds for the Zika response is, perhaps even more of a mystery is why such approval is needed in the first place. If nature was threatening us with serious injury and evacuations via fire, flood or hurricane, the president could use his authority under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to provide immediate aid without waiting for Congress to act. The fact that epidemic “natural disasters” are the result of disease and not an earthquake or tornado should not constrain the federal government’s ability to provide a timely, comprehensive response…

Speaking of those damaged babies? Once the Zika virus gets established in “our” mosquitos, microcephaly is going to become yet another standard prenatal test for women in the afflicted areas. Or who’ve visited those areas. Or whose male partners were exposed to Zika, even months before the pregnancy. And by the time microcephaly can be diagnosed, it’s too late for a quiet ‘medical abortion‘ — women will need full surgical services, and most will have been visibly pregnant. It’s not going to be easy for ‘fundamentalist’ anti-choicers to find reasons to blame good married Christian white ladies in the Sunbelt for having been bitten by the wrong mosquito… but I’m sure they’re gonna try their damndest.
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Hockey open thread

For those not interested in a Tbogg unit down blog, here is an open thread for hockey.








Today in Bernie Bullshit

bernie

Ole Bernie has decided to force Kentucky to recanvas the entire fucking state, when at most he will gain one delegate, but probably none at all:

According to the Associated Press article, there is only one delegate remaining to be assigned in Kentucky. That’s in the sixth congressional district, where Clinton currently holds a slim 500 vote lead. Certainly, they should get that count right and assign the delegate accordingly, but otherwise the two candidates split the delegates evenly, 27 to 27. Sanders doesn’t stand to gain any delegates by forcing a recount of all 120 counties in Kentucky. He isn’t fighting for every last delegate. He’s just making up a controversy to throw sand in everyone’s eyes.

This isn’t adult behavior. I hate to say it, but it’s just not.

I wish Clinton could just release a statement that says “If Sanders is going to be such a giant WATB, just give him a fucking delegate and save the money.”

Fucking asshole.



Tuesday Evening Open Thread: It’s Always About Human Dignity

Lest we forget.

Apart from SLDE (Same Lies, Different Era), what’s on the agenda for the evening?



Excellent Read: “It Is Hillary Clinton’s Destiny to Defeat Donald Trump”

Tom Junod, in Esquire“The modern, extremist right was pretty much invented in opposition to her (and her husband). Now it’s up to her (alone) to stop it”:

Of course, she sounded paranoid back when she first said it—participants in apocalyptic battles always sound paranoid when they first say they’re participants in apocalyptic battles. They sound especially paranoid when they answer a question in apocalyptic terms when the question was really about, well, blowjobs. This was a long time ago. This was back in 1998. Bill Clinton was the president of the United States of America. Hillary Clinton was the First Lady. He’d offended people by being a resourceful rascal. She’d offended people by saying something about cookies. They’d both offended people by trying and failing to bring about universal health care and by trying (and sort of failing) to allow gays to serve openly in the military. They’d been under investigation for years for something they’d supposedly done in Arkansas when, really, everyone knew the investigation was about sex—and secrets. He’d been accused of rape in the nascent right-wing press; she’d been accused of murder; and now they were finally caught. He had a secret, indeed—he’d had sex with a young woman in the White House and he’d testified, under oath, that he hadn’t. He had sinned all right; he had sinned against her, his wife, so that now even she couldn’t defend him. But she did. And she defended him by inveighing against them—against the “vast right-wing conspiracy.”

She sounded a little crazy. She sounded guilty of, at the very least, bad faith. Except that what she was saying turned out to be true—there really was an obscurely wealthy man, Richard Mellon Scaife, bankrolling the attacks against her and her husband; there really was a right-wing media spawned by structural changes overtaking the news business, and it had found, in the Clintons, the template for every story that was to follow. Her only error was a matter of language. She used the word vast to describe what she faced. It wasn’t vast, yet—

It is now. Nearly 30 years later, Richard Mellon Scaife has evolved into the Koch brothers, the then-fledgling right-wing media now claims the biggest and most powerful cable-news network among its ranks, and the money unleashed by the Citizens United decision has conjured a ring of super PACs organized specifically against her candidacy. The vast right-wing conspiracy is still here, and yet—and here’s the thing—so is she. The vast right-wing conspiracy has outlasted everybody but her. From the start, the attacks on her have had a tendency to resolve themselves in the most mundane terms—the Whitewater investigation turned out to be about a husband lying about infidelity; the Benghazi investigation turned out to be about, of all things, Sidney Blumenthal. But that doesn’t mean that both sides haven’t known the stakes all along. She’s always chosen to fight on metaphysical ground; she’s always defended herself cosmically because she’s been attacked cosmically, and so she’s lived to fight another day. But now that day is here. She helped create the modern right wing; the modern right wing helped create her; and now there is no place for them to go except at each other. The 2016 election is nothing less than the climactic event of the last three decades of American politics, and—it’s an amazing and scary thing to be able to write these words without irony—the future of the Free World lies in the balance…
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