Where to begin? In a nice bit of irony, Republican candidates for president were on the bill of a cage match last night at Greenville, South Carolina's "Peace Center." It was a good warm-up for the rumble in the Senate when President Obama nominates someone to fill Justice Antonin Scalia's seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Unless you were under a rock and missed it last night, Scalia died in his sleep Friday night in Texas. The announcement hit in the late afternoon, Eastern time.
Wingnuts had the skinny: Obama had Scalia whacked. (Hillary must have been at a fundraiser.)
Republicans immediately circled the wagons and by debate time insisted it would be inappropriate for the president to continue doing his job and nominate a replacement with a year still left in his presidency. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," he said in a statement. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President.”
Shorter McConnell: Elections have consequences except when they have Democrats. The American people who elected Obama in 2008 and 2012 must demur to the all-new, less old-and-white, 2016 American people, signalling that Republicans in the upper chamber will hold their breath until the Senate turns blue.
A real poker player, that McConnell. Did he even watch the debate? Here's just some of what we learned:
Ronald Reagan tore down the Berlin Wall. [Jeb! Bush]
The Constitution is not a living and breathing document. [Marco Rubio] (A friend observed that the older Talmud is still being interpreted.)
The way to hold Wall Street executives accountable for financial crimes is to eliminate the laws and reduce enforcement. [Ben Carson]
I find it hard to know quite what to say about this debate. It was chaotic and disordered. Lots of candidates called each other liars. Donald Trump used variations of the actual word numerous times. Our initial count from the rough transcript has Trump saying "single biggest liar" twice, "this guy lied" twice and "why do you lie" no less than three times. Rubes said Cruz "lies" a handful of times. And that was just the start of it. I don't think there's ever been a presidential debate where so many of the candidates have called each other liars so many times. At some moments the trash talking and chest-puffing and general drama got so intense I thought this might be a fair approximation of West Side Story if you'd written it about two battling country clubs, the plutocrats versus the plutocrat flunkies.
Donald Trump must have decided the way to score points in an anti-establishment election was to double down on conservative blasphemy. In Greenville, South Carolina, no less, Trump declared that Planned Parenthood actually does "wonderful things having to do with women's health." Then he attacked Jeb's mother and brother:
BUSH: And he has had the gall to go after my brother.
TRUMP: The World Trade Center came down during your brother's reign, remember that.
BUSH: He has had the gall to go after my mother.
Hold on. Let me finish. He has had the gall to go after my mother.
TRUMP: That's not keeping us safe.
BUSH: Look, I won the lottery when I was born 63 years ago, looked up, and I saw my mom. My mom is the strongest woman I know.
TRUMP: She should be running.
Ohio Governor John Kasich was gobsmacked, "This is just nuts, OK? Jeez, oh, man. I'm sorry, John."
That was moderator John Dickerson of CBS News, who at one point threatened bickering candidates that he might have to "turn this car around."
Candidates pretty much ignored Rubio, except Cruz:
CRUZ: You know, the lines are very, very clear. Marco right now supports citizenship for 12 million people here illegally. I oppose citizenship. Marco stood on the debate stage and said that.
But I would note not only that, Marco has a long record when it comes to amnesty. In the state of Florida, as speaker of the house, he supported in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. In addition to that, Marco went on Univision in Spanish and said he would not rescind President Obama's illegal executive amnesty on his first day in office.
I have promised to rescind every single illegal executive action, including that one.
(MIX OF APPLAUSE AND BOOING)
CRUZ: And on the question...
RUBIO: Well, first of all, I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish. And second of all, the other point that I would make...
CRUZ: (SPEAKING SPANISH).
In Spanish, Cruz challenged Rubio to debate him in Spanish. Rubio is done.
Best debate ever! They tell the truth about each other and lie about themselves.
Paper ring: The 10 worst date flicks for Valentine’s Day
By Dennis Hartley
To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.
-William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 5
You're breakin' my heart You're tearing it apart…so fuck you
-Nilsson, Son of Schmilsson, “You’re Breaking My Heart”
Alright, I’ve covered the “warm and fuzzy” angle for Valentine’s Day. But there are two sides to every coin. This “holiday” depresses some people. It’s just a corporate invention; a marketing ploy to push overpriced cards and chocolates, right? So I say, embrace your melancholia! I mean, I may be “alone”, but I’m not “lonely”, right? Right? Anyone? Bueller? Hello? (tap, tap) Is this internet working? Anyway…here you go, alphabetically:
Baby Doll- In 1956, this deliciously squalid melodrama (directed by Elia Kazan and written by Tennessee Williams) was decried by the “Legion of Decency” for its “carnal suggestiveness”. Granted, there is something suggestive about a sultry, PJ-clad 19 year old (Carroll Baker) sucking her thumb, while curled up in a child’s crib. This is how we are introduced to the virgin bride of creepy old Archie (Karl Malden), who is breathlessly counting down to Baby Doll’s nextbirthday. They married when she was 18, but Archie is beholden to “no consummation” until she’s 20. In return, Archie swears to renovate his rundown cotton gin so he can bathe her in luxury, ‘til death do they part. In reality, Archie is as bereft of coin as he is lustful in loin. This leads to an ill-advised act that puts him in hot water with his prosperous business rival (Eli Wallach). Instead of getting mad, Wallach decides to get even…by seducing Baby Doll. The seduction scene is a classic; it doesn’t “show” you anything, yet implies much (it is largely left up to your imagination).
Crazy Love - For the benefit of readers unfamiliar with the Bizarro World “love story” of Burt and Linda Pugach, I won’t risk spoilers regarding this 2007 documentary. Suffice it say, if you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to obsession and dysfunction in romantic relationships, you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet. One thing I will tell you, is that despite the shocking and odious nature of the act that one of these two people visits upon the other at one point in their life together, it’s still not so cut and dry as to whose “side” you want to be on, because both of these people got off the bus in Crazy Town a long time ago. This film is the antonym for “date movie”. Dan Klores and Fisher Stevens directed.
Happiness - If you’re OK with network narratives populated exclusively by emotionally needy neurotics, this 1998 Todd Solondz film is your ticket. There are bold performances all around in this veritable merry-go-round of modern dysfunction, as you watch a sad parade of completely hapless individuals make desperate, cringe-inducing stabs at establishing meaningful connections sometime before they die (the human condition?). Standouts in the huge cast include the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lara Flynn Boyle, Jane Adams, Dylan Baker and Camryn Manheim. Keep a pint of Ben and Jerry’s handy.
The Honeymoon Killers - Several decades before Natural Born Killers was even a gleam in Oliver Stone’s eye, writer-director Leonard Kastle made this highly effective low-budget exploitation film (based on a true story) about a pair of murderous lovebirds. Martha (Shirley Stoler) and Ray (Tony Lo Bianco) meet via a “lonely hearts” correspondence club and find that they have a lot more in common than the usual love of candlelit dinners and walks on the beach. Namely, they’re both full-blown sociopaths, who cook up a scheme to lure lonely women into their orbit so they can kill them and take their assets. Stoler and Lo Bianco have great chemistry as the twisted couple. The stark B & W photography and verite approach enhances the overall creepy vibe. Martin Scorsese was the original director, but was quickly fired (!). This was Kastle’s only film.
The Night Porter - Director Liliana Cavani brilliantly uses a story of a sadomasochistic relationship as both an allusion to the horrors of Hitler’s Germany and an examination of sexual politics. Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling are broodingly decadent as a former SS officer and a concentration camp survivor who become entwined in a twisted, doomed relationship years after WW2. It’s disturbing and repulsive…yet still compelling.
Sid and Nancy - The ultimate love story…for nihilists. Director Alex Cox has never been accused of subtlety, and there’s certainly a glorious lack of it here in his over-the-top 1986 biopic about the doomed relationship between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb chew all the available scenery as they shoot up, turn on and check out. It is a bit of a downer (then again, that’s tonight’s theme), but the cast is great, and Cox (who co-scripted with Abbe Wool) injects a fair amount of dark comedy (“Eeew, Sid! I look like fuckin’ Stevie Nicks in hippie clothes!”). The movie also benefits from outstanding cinematography by Roger Deakins.
Smash Palace– Dramatic films about the disintegration of a marriage aren’t exactly a romp in the fields to begin with (and as date movies…it’s safe to say that they are right out), but can be particularly heart-wrenching when children are involved (e.g. Kramer vs Kramer or Shoot the Moon). Few genre entries I’ve seen are as raw and emotionally draining as this nearly forgotten 1981 gem from New Zealand. An early effort from writer-director Roger Donaldson (The Bounty, No Way Out, Thirteen Days), it features a tour-de-force performance by Bruno Lawrence as an eccentric race car driver/salvage yard owner who neglects his wife (Anna Maria Monticelli) to the point where she has an affair. The cuckolded hubby (already a walking time bomb) does not react well. Donaldson sustains an incredible sense of tension. Riveting and unpredictable to the end.
Swept Away - The time-honored “man and woman stuck on a desert island” scenario is served up with a heaping tablespoon of class struggle and an acidic twist of sexual politics in this controversial 1975 film from Italian director Lena Wertmuller. A shrill and haughty bourgeoisie woman (Mariangela Melato) charters a yacht cruise for herself and her equally obnoxious fascist friends, who all seem to delight in belittling their slovenly deck hand (Giancarlo Giannini), who is a card-carrying communist. Fate and circumstance conspire to strand Melato and Giannini together on a small Mediterranean isle, setting the stage for some interesting role reversal games. BTW, in case you are curious about the Guy Ritchie/Madonna remake? Here’s a two-word review: Stay away!
Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? - If words were needles, university history professor George (Richard Burton) and his wife Martha (Elizabeth Taylor) would look like a pair of porcupines, because after years of shrill, shrieking matrimony, these two have become maestros of the barbed insult, and the poster children for the old axiom, “you only hurt the one you love”. Mike Nichols’ 1966 directing debut (adapted by scripter Ernest Lehman from Edward Albee’s Tony-winning stage play) gives us a peek into one night in the life of this battle-scarred middle-aged couple (which is more than enough, thank you very much). After a faculty party, George and Martha invite a young newlywed couple (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) over for a nightcap. It turns out to be quite an eye-opener for the young ‘uns; as the ever-flowing alcohol kicks in, the evening becomes a veritable primer in bad human behavior. It’s basically a four-person play, but these are all fine actors, and the writing is the real star of this piece. Everyone in the cast is fabulous, but Taylor is the particular standout; this was a breakthrough performance for her in the sense that she proved beyond a doubt that she was more than just a pretty face. It’s easy to forget that the actress behind this blowsy, 50-ish character was only 34 (and, of course, a genuine stunner). When “Martha” says “Look, sweetheart. I can drink you under any goddam table you want…so don’t worry about me,” you don’t doubt that she really can.
Your Friends & Neighbors – With friends and neighbors like these…oy. A very dark social satire from the Prince of Darkness himself, playwright-writer-director Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Nurse Betty). As in most LaBute narratives, there’s nary a sympathetic character in sight in this study of two unhappy couples and their circle of unhappy friends. Everybody makes bad choices and generally treat each other like shit. Cynical, appalling, and perversely funny. You’ll love it! Aaron Eckart, Jason Patric, Amy Brenneman, Catherine Keener, Nastassja Kinski, and Ben Stiller make a crack ensemble.
Some of us have recognized for a while that the GOP race for president is between Cruz and Trump. (Not that it matters, the "alternatives have been pushed so far to the right that they are all terrifying.) This Politico article is only talking about South Carolina, but I believe it is probably true across the board. Maybe on of the others can still break through if a miracle happens but even if they do it will be a delegate free-for-all and there's no telling how that will come out with the GOP's freaky system
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump enter Saturday's debate locked in a two-man race for South Carolina, and to prepare, both have gone full negative.
After splitting the first two votes, the New York billionaire has relentlessly hammered away at Cruz on everything from his campaign's tactics to what Trump sees as the Texan's character flaws. And on Friday, Trump warned that he has standing to sue Cruz over questions of his birth and constitutional eligibility to serve in the White House.
“If @tedcruz doesn’t clean up his act, stop cheating, & doing negative ads, I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen,” Trump tweeted of his rival, born in Canada to an American mother.
Asked about the threat, Cruz did not back down. "There's more than a little irony in Donald accusing anybody of being nasty given the amazing torrent of insults and obscenities that come out of his mouth on any given day," he told reporters. "Suddenly every day he comes out with a new attack."
Trump is expected to carry these attacks onto the stage on Saturday at the final candidate forum before South Carolina votes. It’s a fight Cruz’s allies say they are ready for, as they prepare to assault Trump's Republican credentials with an eye on the conservative, religious and security-focused voters throughout the south.
ain of evidence out there that Donald Trump is not a conservative,” said Charlie Condon, a former South Carolina attorney general and a Cruz surrogate, pointing to Trump’s past positions on issues including abortion, health care and Wall Street bank bailouts. “I’m confident that everything I’m telling you will be discussed at the Peace Center.”
Condon said that the more Trump attacks Cruz on Saturday, the more the Texas senator will come across as the Trump “alternative.”
“It’s a recognition of what we think the reality is: This is becoming a two-man race,” he said. “So if you’re not comfortable with Donald Trump being president, whether for temperament reasons or judgment reasons or the fact that he really is a campaign conservative—he’s been a Democrat almost his whole life…if you’re uncomfortable with that…Cruz is the alternative.”
Conservative legislators in Kentucky, emboldened by the election of Gov. Matt Bevin (R), are moving swiftly to pass numerous new restrictions on women’s access to abortion. Bevin has already signed into law a stricter “informed consent” bill that requires a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, while a forced ultrasound bill sailed easily through a Senate committee this week. (Jezebel notes that though women would be required to receive an ultrasound before an abortion, the bill does allow them to avert their eyes.)
One lawmaker, however, is trying to turn all of these restrictions on women back on men. Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D) has filed a new bill (HB 396) creating numerous restrictions for men to access medication for erectile dysfunction, such as Viagra or Cialis. HB 396 adds the following four steps a man would have to undergo:
He must have two office visits on two different calendar days before the health care practitioner prescribes a drug for erectile dysfunction to him.
He can only be prescribed the drug if he is married.
He must produce a signed and dated letter from his current spouse providing consent for the prescription.
He must make a sworn statement on a Bible that he will only use the prescription when having sexual relations with his current spouse.
Marzian, one of only three House members who opposed the informed consent bill, knows that her tongue-in-cheek bill likely won’t go anywhere, but she hopes it will help raise awareness among lawmakers about the way abortion laws intrude on a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.
In an interview with WDRB Friday, she explained her thinking, “How would this body of men feel if the government was injecting into their private medical decisions?” The intent of her legislation is to “have government insert itself into the personal, private decisions of men — since we have already inserted it into our personal, private decisions of women.”
I would add the necessity of an anal ultrasound just because.
This isn't the first time women have brought this up God knows. And it never changes a thing. But it should focus the minds of any progressive types who don't think there's any chance that women will lose their right to self-determination. These extremist wingnuts are relentless and no matter how much time passes these ridiculous proposals keep coming up, unchanged and without any sense that they are antediluvian throwbacks. They're out there and they have political power. If they get the chance to do this, they will.
This democracy thing "isn't working" so I'm guessing this red white and blue lion will be his new coat of arms when he becomes America's king.
Lions have a longstanding association with monarchy. Very long.
There's this guy, who symbolized so many victories they were coming out of their ears for centuries!
Then there's thins which cuts a little bit closer to home:
Dieu et mon droit (meaning God and my right) is the motto of the Monarch of the United Kingdom outside Scotland. It appears on a scroll beneath the shield of the version of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom used outside Scotland The motto is said to have first been used by Richard I as a battle cry and presumed to be a reference to the divine right of the Monarch to govern. It was adopted as the royal motto of England by King Henry V with the phrase "and my right" referring to his claim to the French crown.
I'm sure Trump would have a coat of arms. In fact he already does. A nice heraldic lion could be added with no problem:
Those are real, folks. This is how he sees himself.
Keep in mind three points. First, you have to understand that we’re talking here primarily about Latino Republicans, many of whom might live in red states such as Arizona or Texas. Those Latinos who are Democrats (as about 80 percent of them are, according to surveys) are busy dividing up their support between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, with most of it going to Clinton.
Also, when you look at the slate of Republicans running for president—which recently got shorter with the departures of several candidates after Iowa and New Hampshire—you have to consider what is behind Door No. 2. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush can be expected to do well with Latinos. Ted Cruz might even do better than expected with those voters. Beyond that, it’s slim pickings, and so Trump might not look so bad.
Finally, if it’s true that Trump is inspiring voters who feel alienated and abandoned by the political process, then the fact that there might be Latinos who support Trump makes sense. America’s largest minority knows about alienation and abandonment. So they are no more immune than other voters to what South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley described as Trump’s “siren call.” What he’s saying and how he is saying it may be resonating with many Latino voters.
A new poll confirms it. In the national survey, which was conducted by Beck Research on behalf of the American Federation for Children, 38 percent of Latinos favor Trump. Ted Cruz got 15 percent. Jeb Bush pulled in 14 percent. And Marco Rubio, the guy who’s supposed to be the one who could unite the party and win? Just 8 percent.
There is also anecdotal information, including conversations I’ve had in recent months with Latino friends who are leaning toward voting for Trump.
There are also the emails I receive from readers like Ernesto Villareal, a Texas Latino who referred to himself as an “Orgulloso Tejano Americano.” Villareal wrote the following: “I have voted Democratic all my life. However, it will be a cold day in hell if I will vote for Mrs. Clinton. I strongly believe that Mr. Trump is the one to turn this great country of ours in the right direction.”
Ok. And yes, remember that this article is mostly about Latino Republicans of which there are very few. Still, I honestly don't understand anyone who would think that what Trump's unleashing in this country could possibly result in anything good for Latinos. It's not just him. It's the millions of white Americans who think he's speaking for them and that being a bigot is nothing more than "political incorrectness" and therefore perfectly acceptable.
But those folks are a lot less representative than these, hopefully:
A group of Hispanic celebrities have signed an open letter denouncing Donald J. Trump and many of the Republican presidential candidates for “capitalizing on negative stereotypes” about Latinos to galvanize the party’s base.
The letter, put together by the People for the American Way and signed by celebrities including the actors Benjamin Bratt, America Ferrera and Zoe Saldana and the musician Carlos Santana, is one of the strongest denunciations to date by high-profile Hispanic figures of the current tone of the presidential race.
“In trying to win the nomination, every one of the leading candidates dug themselves into a deep hole pandering to the anti-immigrant base of the Republican Party that idolizes Donald Trump,” the letter says.
“There’s no coming back from this. We’ve seen clearly that all the leading Republican candidates have sided with the far-right at the expense of the Latino community,” the letter says. “They’re capitalizing on negative stereotypes and inaccurate information” for political gain.
The writers seek to prevent other Republicans from hiding their anti-immigration positions. Democrats consider Hispanic voters to be a key part of what they see as an emerging national coalition, as the party’s support from white voters has shrunk.
“This downward spiral began with Trump,” the letter says, adding, “We must not, though, let Trump’s xenophobia overshadow the extreme policies being pushed by every single one of the G.O.P.’s leading presidential candidates.”
“Trump is certainly an outlier for his racist remarks. But the rest of the Republican presidential candidates went off the deep end with him,” the letter says, also condemning the language of Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump did not respond to an email seeking comment.
I'm glad they're going after Bush and Rubio as well. If, for some reason, Trump finally collapses and one of the rest of the field wins, it's important that they are not allowed to pretend that they are "moderate" by comparison. I'm glad to see them getting out in front of that.
[In] a campaign that has seemingly tested every political rule, Mr. Trump’s opponents hope his latest provocation will be too much for well-mannered voters in this heavily evangelical Christian state to bear: his use of a vulgar word this week to describe one of his rivals, Senator Ted Cruz.
Mr. Trump’s raunchy language has become unsurprising at his rallies. And the slur against Mr. Cruz was largely overshadowed by the coverage of the next day’s New Hampshire primary.
But in voicing the crude term, Mr. Trump has further polarized a Republican Party already deeply divided about his candidacy, particularly across class lines.
His backers, who polls indicate include many without a college degree, see his willingness to speak coarsely as yet another refreshing example of his resistance to political correctness.
His critics, many of them more affluent, view his language as a particularly vivid sign that he lacks basic decency and is ill suited to the nation’s highest office.
The differing reactions are already playing out on the campaign trail.
Rebecca Sardella, who attended a rally for Senator Marco Rubio this week in Myrtle Beach, said she was offended by Mr. Trump’s language.
“The way he speaks — that doesn’t sound like somebody who really believes in God that much,” said Ms. Sardella, who works for a nondenominational church in North Myrtle Beach. “You want your children to look up at the president of the United States.”
In New Hampshire on Monday, Mr. Trump shared with an audience a supporter’s comment about Mr. Cruz. “She said, ‘He’s a pussy,’ ” he told the crowd.
On Thursday, at a rally in an arena in Baton Rouge, La., Mr. Trump’s supporters treated his remark about Mr. Cruz like the hit song of a touring rock band, pleading with him to let it rip again. “They’re all saying, ‘Do it! Do it!’ ” he told a clamorous crowd of nearly 10,000, acknowledging their chants.
Savoring the response, Mr. Trump prolonged the tease but ultimately prompted jeers from his supporters by declining to repeat the word.
“Because,” he explained, “even if it’s not a bad word, if it’s a little bit off, they kill me.” He vowed he would never repeat the remark again, prompting a cry of “No!” from somebody in the audience.
Whether Mr. Trump holds to that promise or not, his opponents are trying to use his language against him here, where the next Republican presidential primary votes will be cast next Saturday.
I'm sure you noticed that what these people are upset about is that he used a vulgar word. What is left out is that he used that vulgar word to criticize his opponent for being insufficiently enthusiastic about torture. Nobody has a problem with that, not even the genteel Southern Republican ladies of South Carolina.
The New Age movement was in full flower when I arrived in what was then touted as "a New Age Mecca." It seemed every other person I met was a seeker — seeking ways to monetize their spiritual journey. I theorized that there was actually only $50 in circulation, and it went from massage therapist to jewelry maker to energy healer and back. I marveled at all the "internationally recognized" healers sporting an alphabet soup of certifications for this and that who put up workshop flyers at health food stores around town. Having only university degrees myself, being out of work, and with time on my hands, just for grins I created and posted a few flyers of my own. See the modest example above. The first, actually, was for a transformational trepanation workshop offered by Dr. Berndt Synapse. The collection eventually found its way into an unpublished, faux New Age business magazine I titled Mantra-preneur from Barnum Was Right! productions.
"Let the record reflect: the American people are a bunch of suckers," author Ben Fountain begins this morning in the Guardian. He looks at Americans' propensity to fall for hucksters of the political kind. He offers a few not-so-exemplary specimens, writing:
In the arsenal of the phony, the politics of God is one of the deadliest punches to the sweet spot of the American mind. Citizens capable of the most acute analysis in other areas of their lives – regarding finance, say, or electronics, or the infinitely complex variables of fantasy sports leagues – are reduced to blithering dupes when exposed to the Christian pitch. Something spooky happens to that excellent American mind that brought us moon landings and the silicon chip and the wonderful stuff that saves our kids from polio. No matter if the candidate has had three or four wives or fired thousands of workers or dropped biblical plagues of bombs on rice farmers and sheep herders, merely saying the magic words makes it so. Christian values. Strong for Jesus. In God we trust, and all the rest. Incantations that render large chunks of the electorate as dazed and vulnerable as pre-contact tribesmen from the deepest Amazon hearing a transistor radio for the first time.
Needless to say, like Fox Mulder we still want to believe. Fountain's piece on American suckers and phonies, like Richard Hofstadter's on America's paranoid style, is the kind of people ought to read periodically as a refresher just to make sure they are not slipping. He concludes:
If 2016 is any indication, it seems fair to say that the phony, like the rich, will always be with us in American politics. Hairstyles and clothes may have changed, and the enemy goes by a different name, and technology has pushed the political message system into every crease and capillary of waking life, but the schtick remains the same. The celebrity, the man of God, and the national security bully are still at it, trying to separate us from our brains and our better angels.
It's Saturday. Here's another flyer, just for fun:
I've been curious about Trump's "health care plan" for a while since he basically sounds like he's just throwing about a bunch of incoherent gibberish when he talks about it. The other night in the debate he promised not to let people die in the streets though, which I thought was nice.
At a Monday night rally I attended in Manchester on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, Trump went on an extended rant about healthcare that made little sense and was filled with misinformation. You'll have to forgive the extended quotes, but it always takes awhile for Trump to get to his point.
He said, "So, my friend calls me up — a great doctor. He says, 'You know Donald, you're running and you're doing great and I'm so proud of you.' I love to hear it. I say, 'Say it again.' And he said, 'But you know, with the medical, and with the drugs, the United States is the largest purchaser — and they don't negotiate price.' It's almost as if you wanna go, and you wanna buy drugs, these drugs to make you feel better, right? Drugs to make you feel better. You wanna buy drugs, you have to get drugs, you go to the drug store, you buy it off the counter.
"The United States is paying like a price like that. I said, you have got to be kidding. He said, 'I don't know why.' I said, 'I do. I do.' Because the drug companies have an unbelievable lobby. And these guys that run for office, that are on my left and right and plenty of others, they're all taken care of by the drug companies. And they're never going to put out competitive bidding. So I said to myself wow, let me do some numbers. If we competitively bid, drugs in the United States, we can save as much as $300 billion a year."
A few things jumped right out at me. Trump says he'd save as much as $300 billion a year on drug costs through negotiation. And yet in 2014, Medicare spent about $78 billion on prescription drugs — and if you combine all of the spending on prescription drugs both by government and private sector you only get $297.7 billion. So in other words, Trump is suggesting that by negotiating drug prices through Medicare, he'd somehow negotiate all spending on prescription drugs in the U.S. — both inside and outside Medicare — down to zero.
Furthermore, Trump throws around the term "competitive bidding" to make it sound like he knows what he's talking about, but in reality Medicare already does use "competitive bidding" in the prescription drug program. Insurers negotiate with drug-makers, then offer bids for how much drug plans will cost, and then Medicare pays 75 percent of the average plan on behalf of the beneficiaries. The term "competitive bidding" doesn't make much sense in the context of the government negotiating directly with drug companies.
In reality, there's actually a great dispute over the potential savings from direct negotiation of drug prices. The CBO has suggested only limited potential savings if any from direct price negotiation. One problem is that unlike insurers, the Department of Health and Human Services would be under political pressure to include certain drugs — from AARP and other pressure groups — and that would reduce their leverage. The issue of drug negotation has long been pushed by liberals, and even then, liberal advocacy group Public Citizen estimated it would only save about $16 billion a year, or about one half of 1 percent of the $3 trillion the U.S. spends on all healthcare.
But Trump's rant didn't end there. He continued, "We need really smart, really tough, really fair people with great hearts that wanna take care of your healthcare, wanna take care of your people that can't afford healthcare. You know, it's interesting. We're going to bring down the price of healthcare. We're going to bring it down big league. Big, big league. Because President Obama lied — 28 times. He said you keep your doctor, said you keep your plan. 28 times. I kept saying, why doesn't anybody get sued for fraud when you do that? 28 times. And even Democrats went because of what he said. And they wish they weren't in that position. So he lied."
Okay, so Trump is arguing that Obama lied, and yet he's the one going around telling people he's going to reduce all spending on drugs to zero through his awesome negotiation process and say he's going to extract massive savings on healthcare — a policy puzzle that has vexed experts for decades — without saying how.
More Trump: "But, you know what? A lot of people are giving me heat, because I say, we gotta take care — there's a group, there's a small group relatively, of people at the bottom that are not going to be able to be taken care of — and I say, we have to, as Republicans, we to have to take care — does anybody not want to take care of them?"
Trump is being a bit vague by saying a "small group relatively." What does he mean by small group? What income level would be the cutoff to obtain Trumpcare? Remember, in the '60 Minutes' interview cited above, Trump said, "Everybody's got to be covered." Not just, "the lower 25 percent that can't afford private." Yet now he's saying he's talking about a "small group." Even before Obamacare, Medicaid existed and covered 56 million people living in poverty — not exactly a "small group." So is his "small group" greater or lesser than that?
Trump did not stop there: "I said, we're not gonna have people dying on the streets. We're going to get them into a hospital and take care of them, we're gonna — because we're not going to have people dying in streets. And I say that, and all the times I get applause and then they say, 'Oh, he wants to do this, he wants to do that, that's not the public —' let me tell you, the Republican way is, people can't take care of themselves, we have to help them. We're not going to let 'em die. And I say it all the time. We're not going to let 'em die on the sidewalk. We're not going to let 'em die on the street."
This is a total non-sequiter. The idea of not letting people die on the streets is not relevant to the current healthcare debate. Even before Obamacare, as I noted, people living in poverty had access to Medicaid and over 50 million seniors were enrolled in Medicare. And in 1986, Congress passed the Emergency Medical Treatment & Labor Act, which required hospitals to treat people who had medical emergencies regardless of ability to pay.
Then Trump went on, "And it's not even a lot of money. We have hospitals doing no business. We gotta get them fixed up. But we're going to save tremendously on healthcare. It's going to be private. We're going to take the lines out of play. We're going to have so many different options. It's going to be so much better. It's going to be less expensive."
A few points there. He says "it's not even a lot of money." What is he talking about? Before Obamacare's 2014 implementation, the U.S. government was already spending nearly $900 billion on health programs. He said hospitals are going to get fixed. Well, who is going to pay for that? Who is "we" in that statement? How is government paying for private hospital repairs consistent with the guy who said he's going to take on the drug lobby? How is he going to save "tremendously" on healthcare? And how is it going to be "private" when he just said government has to take care of people — and on '60 Minutes' said government has to provide healthcare for everybody?
I can only assume "we're going to take the lines out of play" is some sort of reference to allowing for interstate purchase of insurance, but it's clear he doesn't have a particularly firm grasp of that concept. He promises more choices and less expensive insurance with more coverage, yet he doesn't explain how that will come to fruition.
He went on, "You looked at your deductibles, not only are your rates going up, but you look at deductibles right now, unless you get hit by a tractor, you'll never, ever, ever be able to use your healthcare ... We're gonna take care of it folks, and we're gonna have so many great things. And by the way, we're going to competitive bidding. And I'll tell you what, we're going to save so much money those drug companies are gonna hate me so much."
The issue is, however, that many free market proposals hinge on the idea of encouraging the use of higher-deductible plans. This tends to reduce medical spending by making individuals more conscious of the cost of care and avoiding unnecessary treatment. He's talking about bringing down both deductibles and costs at the same time.
So, to sum up, Trump wants to get rid of high-deductible plans and improve coverage, yet still bring down rates, yet still make healthcare private, while repealing Obamacare, and covering a small group of people, or everybody, through government spending, or through the private sector, by using Canada as a model — but he's going to take those damn lines out of play. Makes perfect sense.
Trump's plan sounds awesome. No wonder people like it so much. Maybe Trump won't be so bad after all. I'm sure he'll be able to do the whole impossible thing he promises. Because well, Trump.
So Joe Scarborough is causing the MSNBC honchos some heartburn for being completely in the tank for Donald Trump. Go figure:
Last November, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough sat on stage at the 92nd Street Y in New York and recounted the various times he had given Donald Trump political advice.
"I've actually called him up and said, 'Donald, listen, you need to speak in complete sentences at debates," Scarborough said. "After the second debate ... I walked into his office, I said, 'Donald, do you know how to read? ... I said, 'You should read before a debate! ... Read a paragraph on Syria, read a paragraph on education reform!'"
The anecdotes, which were meant as a testament to Trump's off-the-cuff political savvy, drew laughter from the audience. But today, at NBCUniversal's headquarters at 30 Rockefeller Center, Scarborough's relationship with the Republican presidential frontrunner has become a subject of frustration among staff, and an increasingly problematic issue for the network's top brass.
In background discussions, NBC News and MSNBC journalists, reporters and staffers said there was widespread discomfort at the network over Scarborough's friendship with Trump and his increasingly favorable coverage of the candidate.
"People don't like that Joe is promoting Trump," one MSNBC insider said. Others described Scarborough's admiration for Trump as "over the top" and "unseemly."
Four of those sources also said that the growing media scrutiny over the two men's relationship has caused the network's leadership to more closely monitor Scarborough's comments. "The higher-ups are definitely aware about what's going on," said another person within MSNBC. "It's an issue."
Scarborough and NBC News declined to comment for this article. "Morning Joe," which airs weekday mornings, is followed closely by Washington and New York's political and media influencers, and is seen as a key platform for political figures.
Both Scarborough and co-host Mika Brzezinski are close friends with Trump and members of his family. Scarborough, a former four-term congressman from Florida's 1st district, has often stayed at Trump's Mar-A-Lago Club, in Palm Beach, Florida, with his family and was there during the week between Christmas and New Year's, two sources at the hotel during that time said.
On the night of the New Hampshire primary, Scarborough and Brzezinski visited Trump's hotel room for what MSNBC described as background discussions with the candidate's senior staff and a conversation with Trump that "lasted less than five minutes."
In recent weeks, Scarborough has spoken about Trump in increasingly glowing terms, praising him as "a masterful politician" and defending him against his political opponents and media critics. The Washington Post has noted that Trump has received "a tremendous degree of warmth from the show," and that his appearances on the show, in person and over the phone, often feel like "a cozy social club."
Scarborough has always been opinionated and outspoken, and he has never made any secret about his political opinions. Nevertheless, some of his colleagues believe that his coverage is influenced by his friendship.
Some MSNBC insiders also cringed at an on-air exchange Scarborough had last month with radio host Hugh Hewitt, who pressed Scarborough on whether he would serve as Trump's vice president. Scarborough ruled out the possibility but not before saying he would do "just about anything to try to get the White House back."
Trump, meanwhile, has also spoken in glowing terms about Scarborough.
"He's a great guy, and he has a great show ... and we have a lot of fun," Trump told Howie Carr, the Boston talk radio show host, in January. "Joe's doing well. You know, he's making money for the first time in his life, really making some pretty good money."
That's sweet. The article goes on to point out that Trump hyimself has openly called Joe and Mika supporters on the air and they got flustered and had to explain that they had actually been critical of The Donald a time or two, really!
One wonders if the Village rumor mill that's breathlessly poring over Clinton emails which show reporters agreeing to demands from the State department to shape stories in a certain way is similarly shocked by this.
"If you're the Urban League, isn't the question who would help black voters the most?" he asked Morial. "Whose policies would actually break away the ongoing vicious cycle we have where the rich get poorer, the poorer—I mean the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, isn't that what's critical? Because it's black Americans who share the disproportionate burden of those numbers."
Morial said his organization wants to know which candidate would give African Americans the "opportunity" to be a part of the country's policy discussions.
"I would frame it this way, who offers to African-Americans an opportunity to be a significant part of their governing coalition once they become President? That's the issue," Morial said.
Scarborough continued to press Morial on what would be the most important issue for African-American voters.
"Is that more of the issue than jobs?" he said. "Getting black teenagers back to work? Black Americans back to work instead of who is going to give me a job in the administration."
Morial said that being involved in how "policies are shaped" was critical.
"You don't understand what I'm saying," he told Scarborough. "Being a part of a governing coalition means you will have a seat at the table to be a participant as policies are shaped."
They really should listen to Scarborough. If anyone knows the best way for African American leaders t5o achieve their goals it's him. digby 2/12/2016 03:00:00 PM
Ted Cruz’s campaign has pulled its most recent ad, “Conservatives Anonymous,” after learning one of the actors in the spot is also a softcore porn star.
The ad, which was set at a group therapy session of conservative voters who feel betrayed by Marco Rubio on immigration, featured actor Amy Lindsay, who played a woman telling another group member, “Maybe you should vote for more than just a pretty face next time.”
Lindsay has appeared in several softcore porn films, including Erotic Confessions, Carnal Wishes, Secrets of a Chambermaid, and Insatiable Desires.
BuzzFeed News, after learning of Lindsay’s prior filmography, requested comment from the Cruz campaign. Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler told BuzzFeed News in a statement that the campaign is taking the ad down and replacing it with a different one.
“The actress responded to an open casting call. She passed her audition and got the job. Unfortunately, she was not vetted by the production company. Had the campaign known of her full filmography, we obviously would not have let her appear in the ad,” Tyler said.
Prior to the Cruz campaign pulling the ad, Lindsay told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview on Thursday that she’s a Christian conservative and a Republican. While she emphasized that she did not do hardcore porn and that she also appeared in non-erotic films, Lindsay said she thinks it is “cool” that an actor who has appeared in softcore porn could also appear in Cruz’s ad.
I'd love to know which campaign's oppo person recognized her...
So it looks like John Kasich, the latest great hope for GOP establishment sanity, found himself a benefactor, and none too soon. (He’s down to his last two million.) This would be one of the benefits of former great hopes dropping out of the race, as Christ Christie did this week, leaving one of his billionaires shopping for someone else to buy. That billionaire is Home Depot co-founder and investment banker Ken Langone.
In the first half of 2015, Langone gave $250,000 to the pro-Christie super PAC America Leads. “Would I write a check for $10 million? No, no I wouldn’t. But I do something better than that,” he said last year in an interview with National Journal. “I go out and get a lot people to write checks, and get them to get people to write checks, and hopefully result in a helluva lot more than $10 million.”
“I’m relentless. I’m not going to stop. I put a mirror under your nose. If I see mist, I ask you for money. If there’s nothing there, I’m talking to a stiff.”
This is a big get. Jeb Bush was in the hunt too and Langone was said to have been a fan. But Jeb doesn’t need money so Langone would just have jumped on top of a big pile of billionaires who are throwing away their cash, which doesn’t sound like much fun. If Kasich were to pull it off, he’d have Langone to thank for it.
Langone is known, for some reason, as an establishment guy but it’s hard to understand why. In a recent interview with CNBC he expressed a lot of admiration for Donald Trump because “he’s saying what the American people are thinking” and took the Tea Party view of Congress:
Last year, I can’t tell you how many times I got calls on how much money, how many checks I wrote. We’ve got to get control of the Senate. If we get control of the House and the Senate, we can get things done. Well, we’ve had control of the House and Senate since January and we’ve gotten nothing done.
I am absolutely — first of all, if I was John Boehner and I was Mitch McConnell I would resign as the leaders right now. I’d say somebody else take a shot at it. I am not getting anything done…they are being led around by their nose by the President of the United States. It’s almost as if the legislative branch doesn’t matter. And this is what is wrong. I think the American people are fed up.
Like so many right-wingers he seems confused about how government works. Apparently, he expected that the House and Senate could somehow force the president to do their bidding without offering any compromise or cooperation. It’s so interesting how differently they see things when a Republican is in the White House though.
His view of President Obama is pure Tea Party too:
He’s not bringing us together. He’s willfully dividing us. He’s petulant. Ronald Reagan would never go into the Oval Office without his jacket on — that’s how much he revered the presidency…
Divide us and we all lose. And this has got to stop. And if [Obama’s] listening, or one of his people are listening, and you can quote me exactly for what I say, he is not acting presidential, he is behaving in a way designed, in my opinion, to divide us and make us look at each other with skepticism, with suspicion.
That’s the end of America as we know it when that happens.
This guy [Obama] worked like hell to be president . . . Behave like a president. Let me look at you as a model to how we should behave. What does he say? Fat cats, jet airplanes. What is the purpose? Us versus them.
It’s an article of faith among many on the right that Barack Obama misbehaved so badly that he forced them to take extreme measures to obstruct all of his proposals and do everything in their power to keep the country from functioning normally. Langone obviously signs on to that view, and people nonetheless persist in believing that he’s moderate based solely on the fact that he’s previously supported guys like Rudy Giuliani and his old friend Ross Perot. (And yes, he’s occasionally thrown some money at New York Democrats like Andrew Cuomo and Chuck Schumer.) But his own views are not moderate in the least.
“They got the wrong fucking guy…I’m nuts, I’m rich, and boy, do I love a fight. I’m going to make them shit in their pants. When I get through with these fucking captains of industry, they’re going to wish they were in a Cuisinart–at high speed.”
Despite his profane rhetoric, Langone is a devout Catholic. But he does part ways with the Pope on one important issue. He doesn’t care for the pontiff’s statements on market capitalism and complained to Cardinal Dolan of New York that big donors were balking at pitching in for a 180 million dollar renovation for St Patrick’s cathedral unless the Pope changed his tune. He suggested that the Pope would “get more with honey than with vinegar” and said he thought he was probably just confused because he had spent so much time with crony capitalists in Argentina and hadn’t been exposed to the higher caliber of billionaires we have here in America. Cardinal Dolan hastened to explain that the pope is “very grateful for the … legendary generosity of the Catholic Church in the United States.” Langone was presumably appeased by the Church’s reassurance of his superiority and goodness, because the renovations of the cathedral are proceeding apace.
There's more at the link. The issue that probably pushed the harsh anti-choice Langone in to Kasich's arms was Kasich's promise this week to sign one of the most draconian anti-Planned Parenthood laws in the nation. They are on the same page.