Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Burning a Source ?

Who thinks that Trump is “in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion” ? That is the very hottest quote in the must read Phllip Rucker “analysis” of what is very wrong with the President.

I immediately tried to guess who had told Rucker that. The source is “One GOP figure close to the White House “. My first guess was Newt Gingrich (who can be relied upon to stab everyone close to him in the back). However, I now think Rucker made it very clear who is the “GOP figure”.

Later in the article I read

Robert M. Gates, a former defense secretary who informally advised Trump during the transition, criticized his handling of Comey’s ouster.

“Not terribly well done,” Gates told John Dickerson in a CBS News interview scheduled to air Sunday on “Face the Nation.”

Hmm Gates is a GOP figure close to the White House who Rucker might have asked to supply additional cutting comments.

The second to last paragraph in the article is

“Trump is so unsophisticated about government, and he lacks even basic knowledge about how the government functions, of what the unwritten but very important rules and traditions are. His attitude toward all those things is they don’t matter: ‘I’m going to drain the swamp!’ ” said a veteran of past Republican administrations who is close to the Trump White House and spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly critique the president.

That anonymous source is virtually identified as Gates (to the extent that I searched for the quote by searching for “Gates” and had to scroll down and find it by hand to remind myself that the name wasn’t, quite, spelled out.

In other transparent anonymity I read “a third person denied that Bannon first learned Comey had been fired from television news reports and said that he had actually counseled Trump to delay his decision to lessen the political backlash.” Uh what “third” person could be the one who claims that Bannon wasn’t out of the loop, is familiar with Bannon’s thoughts, and notes that they were prescient ?

How about Patrick Caddell (the most hacktacular hack in the world) later identified as “Pollster Patrick H. Caddell, a longtime confidant of Bannon who served in Jimmy Carter’s White House,”? Rucker couldn’t find a Republican to Ballance the general view that Trump is destroying his presidency, so he had to go to old reliable Caddell for the Democrats in disarray distraction.

It’s like reliving the Carter administration on steroids,” Caddell said. “This is an outsider administration being surrounded by Apache knives. Every inch of the political class and both parties are going after him. The president can’t afford in this type of environment to not execute these kinds of announcements better.”

Look at how far down the hack depth chart Rucker (et Costa et Paletta) had to go to find someone willing to say anything sympathetic about the Trump administration. Does anyone (but me) even remember who Caddell was 40 years ago when he was a somebody ?

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Where the ACA Should Go Next?

run75441: This is the first in a series of 3 posts written by Maggie Mahar discussing Medicare, what it covers, and what it lacks in coverage. Maggie touches on the Public Option and Medicare. I start to get edgy when people talk about the Public Option, Universal Coverage, Single Payor, Medicare-For-All, etc. as they do not really define it and who will control its funding. We have a Congress which is intent on cutting the PPACA/ACA/Obamacare, which many take offense to today, and leave us with far less. I am not so sure we can trust Congress and politics to insure our healthcare.

On Tue, Sep 9, 2014 at 1:47 PM, Dan <cdansplace2@aol.com> emailed:

Rortybomb, New Piece on Where the ACA Should Go Next Rorty touts the 2009 House Bill which calls for a Public Option and described here To improve ‘Obamacare,’ reconsider the original House bill

Maggie Mahar replies:

Originally I favored a public option, but in fact, at the time, no one really spelled out who would run the public option–or how it would be run.

One of the best things about the ACA is that lets both HHS and CMS make end-runs around Congress. I would never want a public option that was run by Congress.

Here is the comment I just posted in reply to the post “Where the ACA Should Go Next”

I would need to know far more about the public option—and how it would be different from Medicare– before voting for it.

Medicare is extraordinarily wasteful– 1/3 of Medicare dollars are squandered on unnecessary treatments that provide no benefit to the patient. Why? Because Congress is Medicare’s board of directors, and lobbyists representing various specialist’ groups, hospitals, device-makers and drug-makers control Congress.

Meanwhile, Medicare does not cover much needed care, ie. vision checks are just one example. This is why the vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries must buy separate private insurance (MediGap or Medicare Advantage) to supplement what medicare doesn’t cover.

Finally, I favor narrow networks. They keep costs down. The doctors and hospitals that are not included in the networks are those that refuse to negotiate  prices.  By excluding them we remind doctors and hospitals that we can no longer afford letting providers charge whatever they wish. No other developed nation allows doctors and hospitals to simply set prices.

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Declinable medical conditions

Lifted from Alternet:

Which ailments are on the list of preexisting conditions that can drive up prices for coverage? The Kaiser Family Foundation catalogs “so-called declinable medical conditions” before the ACA.

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Alcohol or drug abuse with recent treatment
  • Alzheimer’s/dementia
  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Bulimia
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery/heart disease, bypass surgery
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes

More listed below the fold.

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Messing Up Badly In Korea

by Barkley Rosser

Messing Up Badly In Korea

In many areas where many were worried that President Trump would do this that or the other crazy thing he has held back for one reason or another.  But one very serious location where he has recently made a total botch of things has been in Korea, a series of unforced errors.  Of course before he got into it in Korea it looked like he might get in a shooting war with China, but then he decided that Xi Jinping is a great guy after the Chinese paid his family gobs of money and Trump realized that he needed to make nicey nice with Xi in order to deal with unquestionably serious problem of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, possibly the most dangerous situation in the world right now.

So then he proceeded to talk tough on North Korea, making noises about starting a war with them if they tested a nuclear weapon (which they did not, making a failed rocket test instead) with this supposedly being backed up by him supposedly sending the USS Carl Vinson to back up his threats, only to have it come out a few days later that the Vinson was sailing off into the Indian Ocean.  I gather it has finally shown up in the neighborhood, but now Trump has messed up with longtime US  ally South Korea, the only party involved in this arguably more important than China even.

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Social media and document dumps

Via NYT comes this follow up to the document dump story last night in France:

Yet within hours after the hacked documents were made public, the hashtag #MacronLeaks began trending worldwide, aided by far-right activists in the United States who have been trying to sway the French vote in favor of Ms. Le Pen.

Jack Posobiec, a journalist with the far-right news outlet The Rebel, was the first to use the hashtag with a link to the hacked documents online, which was then shared more widely by WikiLeaks. Mr. Posobiec remains the second-most mentioned individual on Twitter in connection with the hashtag behind WikiLeaks, according to a review of the past 100,000 Twitter posts published since late Friday.

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Censorship and money?

Via the NYT comes this major dilemma as a next step in the “money is speech” campaign:

The head of President Trump’s re-election campaign accused CNN of “censorship” on Tuesday afternoon after the broadcast network refused to run the group’s latest advertisement.

CNN said it would run the 30-second television spot, a celebration of Mr. Trump’s first 100 days in office, only if the campaign removed a section that featured the words “fake news” superimposed over several TV journalists, including Wolf Blitzer of CNN, and others from MSNBC, PBS, ABC and CBS.

CNN defended the decision in a statement on Twitter.

“The mainstream media is not fake news, and therefore the ad is false,” the network said. “Per our policy, it will be accepted only if that graphic is deleted.”

In response, Michael Glassner, the executive director of Mr. Trump’s campaign committee, called the decision “censorship pure and simple.”

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Our Treasury Secretary

Larry Summers on Treasury Secretary Mnuchin (via WP), to put it mildly:

Last week I suggested that I felt sorry for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He found himself forced by circumstance and his president to say and do things that undermined his and Treasury’s credibility.

I wish there was an external force that could be blamed for the secretary’s comments on Monday, but they look from the outside like unforced errors.

At Michael Milken’s annual conference for investment professionals, he crowed to the bankers present that “you should all thank me for your bank stocks doing better.” I cannot conceive of any of the 11 other secretaries I have known making such a statement. Leave aside the question of whether whatever credit is to be claimed should be claimed on behalf of the president. Since when is the stock price of banks the objective or the standard of success for economic policy? And when, as will inevitably occur, bank stock prices decline, will the secretary accept the blame?

It was quite a day.

(Dan here…More in the article.)

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Climate of Complete Incomprehension

by Peter Dorman   (originally published at Econospeak)

Climate of Complete Incomprehension

I finally got around to reading the NY Times new “responsible conservative”, Bret Stephens’, call for skepticism and moderation on climate change.  He adopts an attitude that exudes reasonableness and rejection of hubris.  Complicated modeling is an uncertain business and often fails; just look at Hilary Clinton’s Big Data campaign gurus.  Climate change is such a difficult, uncertain business, so why don’t liberals just back off and stop invoking a “scientific consensus” to bludgeon common people who don’t think decarbonization is the be-all and end-all?
If this is the outer limit of right-wing sanity, we’ve really got our work cut out for us.
First off, the guy seems to live in a binary, pre-probability universe.  At least, that’s the only sense I can make of a paragraph like

Anyone who has read the 2014 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change knows that, while the modest (0.85 degrees Celsius, or about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit) warming of the earth since 1880 is indisputable, as is the human influence on that warming, much else that passes as accepted fact is really a matter of probabilities. That’s especially true of the sophisticated but fallible models and simulations by which scientists attempt to peer into the climate future. To say this isn’t to deny science. It’s to acknowledge it honestly.

Well, yes.  I’ve read the latest assessment reports and the ones that preceded it, and it’s true that each claim is assigned a rough probability.

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Democrats Win One

The US Federal Government isn’t shutting down. Also it seems that Republicans almost totally caved to Democrats in the deal

Kelsey Snell at the Washington Post

Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) boasted that they were able to force Republicans to withdraw more than 160 unrelated policy measures, known as riders, including those that would have cut environmental funding and scaled back financial regulations for Wall Street.

Democrats fought to include $295 million to help Puerto Rico continue making payments to Medicaid, $100 million to combat opioid addiction, and increases in energy and science funding that Trump had proposed cutting. If passed, the legislation will ensure that Planned Parenthood continues to receive federal funding through September.

Manu Raju and Ted Barrett at CNN

In the proposal, there are no cuts to funding for Planned Parenthood, a demand from Democrats.
Funding for the National Institute of Health is increased by $2 billion and there is additional money for clean energy and science funding.

Negotiators also agreed to make a permanent fix for miners health insurance and to provide $295 million for Puerto Rico Medicaid. There is also disaster aid package that includes funding for California, West Virginia, Louisiana, North Carolina. There is increased funding for transit infrastructure grants and to fight the opioid epidemic, and year-round Pell Grants were restored.

Also no money for the wall.

Note that Democrats fought (and won) for the people Trump falsely claimed he would represent — for miners, Opioid adicts (now very many are rural Whites) Louisiana, West Virginia and North Carolina. Republicans, who are only populists during election campaigns, tried to deregulate Wall Street.

This looks like a (half year) budget better than I could have hoped.

Bullies fold when challenged, and Donald Trump is a pathetic negotiator.

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Is Authoritarian Nationalism Mostly A Rural Phenomenon?

by  Barkley Rosser

Is Authoritarian Nationalism Mostly A Rural Phenomenon?

Offhand it looks like maybe it is.  In the US Trump won overwhelmingly in rural areas while losing all of the largest cities.  Yes, he took some mid-size declining industrial ones like Youngstown, OH and Erie, Pa, while losing some rural areas in places like Vermont as well as areas with minority groups the majority of the population.  But in general it holds, he won the countryside and lost the big cities.

In France, Marine Le Pen is also leading in some declining industrial cities of the Northeast for the upcoming presidential second round, but she loses in the larger growing cities such as Paris and Toulouse.   Recently The Economist reported a study showing that as one goes from downtown Paris outward there is a linear and substantial increase in support for her.  Again, the countryside is her base.

The Brexit vote was more for nationalism than authoritarianism, but in England it was the same pattern, countryside and declining industrial cities for Exit while London was strongly for Remain.  Of course in Scotland, every county was pro-Remain, but that is a special case.

In Russia, where Putin apparently remains very popular, his base is also  the countryside.  The main location where one finds open opposition to him?  Moscow, the largest, richest, and capital city.

So it looks like there is a pattern here, but there are some exceptions.

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