Wall Street Journal

A Whiff of the Racket

#extortion | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump, joined by HHS Secretary Tom Price (left) and Vice President Mike Pence (right) explains his intention to eliminate the Affordable Care Act, 24 March 2017, at the White House, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by The Washington Post)

The setup, here, is not particularly complex. We can start with blaming Democrats after the collapse of #Trumpcare, which apparently failed to be #SomethingTerrific. It seems a reliable first instinct for Republicans; that is, as Steve Benen notes:

When Donald Trump’s Muslim ban failed miserably in the courts, the president was quick to assign blame—to everyone but himself. Now that the health care plan Trump wanted has also collapsed, he’s desperate to avoid responsibility, though he seems unsure who to point the finger at first.

Trump’s first instinct, evidently, was to call the Washington Post to blame Democrats.

And if the president seems to be engaging in that weird Republican sense of sport by which one simply says enough wrong that there is no reasonable way to address every problem, well, right, he is. That is to say, here we all are a few weeks later, and Mr. Trump is still upset that Democrats won’t do Republicans’ jobs for them. Again, Benen:

The confused president was nevertheless convinced that Democrats should’ve helped him destroy the most significant Democratic accomplishment since Medicare—because Trump said so. Indeed, despite the White House’s previous claims that Republicans would shift their attention towards tax reform, Trump told the Wall Street Journal yesterday that he not only remains focused on health care, he’s also considering a new hostage strategy to force Democrats to give him what he wants.

In an interview in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he was still considering what to do about the payments approved by his Democratic predecessor, President Barack Obama, which some Republicans contend are unconstitutional. Their abrupt disappearance could trigger an insurance meltdown that causes the collapse of the 2010 health law, forcing lawmakers to return to a bruising debate over its future.

“Obamacare is dead next month if it doesn’t get that money,” Trump said, referring to cost-sharing reductions. “I haven’t made my viewpoint clear yet. I don’t want people to get hurt…. What I think should happen and will happen is the Democrats will start calling me and negotiating.”
In other words, when the president says he doesn’t “want people to get hurt,” he means he will start hurting people by sabotaging the American health care system unless Democrats take steps to satisfy his demands.

This is a terrible habit. That is, we all know Donald Trump likes a bit of the tough-guy, wannabe mafioso bluff, but he is President of the United States of Amerca, and should not be seen threatening extortion over legislation, full stop.

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What They Voted For: Repeal & Replace

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference [CPAC], 6 March 2014, at National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Who: Steve Benen (msnbc)
What: “Trump hedges on health care, points to ‘amending’ ACA”
When: 11 November 2016

Via msnbc:

Donald Trump doesn’t have any background in health care policy, and throughout the presidential campaign, he never demonstrated any interest in learning the basic details. The Republican knew he hated “Obamacare”―though it was never altogether clear why―and committed to the law’s repeal, but beyond that, Trump’s position was largely hollow.

At one point, pressed on his specific position, Trump vowed to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with “something terrific”―without making any effort to explain what that “something” might be or how it’d be “terrific.”

Today, Trump talked to the Wall Street Journal, where the president-elect said something about health care that’s quite a bit different from his previous rhetoric ....

.... Specifically, Trump talked about keeping protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions and allowing young adults to remain on their family plans until they’re 26.

The president-elect told the Journal, “I like those very much.”

Trump went on to say that, as part of his lengthy meeting with the president, Obama pointed to specific provisions of the ACA that are worth preserving. “I told him I will look at his suggestions, and out of respect, I will do that,” Trump said, adding that the law “will be amended, or repealed and replaced.”

You’ll notice that “amended” is a new addition to Trump’s health care vernacular.

We might wonder, when it turns out that President Trump is not simply just another disappointment, but, rather, a stellar failure compared to any pretense of expectation his voters might have been stupid enough to believe, whether those people will be unable to countenance their own failures or simply blame others for the mere fact of a Trump administration.

____________________

Image note: Photo by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call.

Benen, Steve. “Trump hedges on health care, points to ‘amending’ ACA”. msnbc. 11 November 2016.

A Trivial Question About Your Coffee Cup

A coffee cup at Terra Vista. Detail of photo by B. D. Hilling, 2013.

Cari Romm explains, for Science of Us, a few details about why “It’s Okay to Never Wash Your Coffee Mug”:

As Heidi Mitchell wrote in a recent Wall Street Journal column, it’s fine to never wash your mug, as long as you’re not sharing it with anybody else. Better than fine, in fact: It may actually be the most sanitary option.

There are two caveats to that statement, infectious-disease expert Jeffrey Starke, a pediatrics professor at Baylor College of Medicine, told Mitchell: One, it only applies if you’re not sharing the mug with anybody else. And two, “if you leave cream or sugar in your mug over the weekend, that can certainly cause mold to grow”―in which case, wash it out.

The bottom line, Romm suggests, is that “letting your mug live in its own filth may be a safer bet than the alternative: scrubbing it with the disgusting communal sponge in the office kitchen”.

And, yes, there is the bit about putting the sponge in the microwave, but this still begs a question.

Who says you absolutely must use a sponge?

____________________

Romm, Cari. “It’s Okay to Never Wash Your Coffee Mug”. Science of Us. 3 November 2016.

The Dance (Trumping the Line Fantastic)

Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 9 December 2015.

Vicki Needham of The Hill offers this glimpse:

A top Senate Republican called Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States a “huge mistake” that would fuel terror recruitment in the United States.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the move could damage vital alliances in the region.

“I think this sends the wrong message to people that have to be part of our partnership for a solution,” Burr said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“Yes, it does serve as fuel [for recruitment].”

Indeed; it’s a point Lalo Alcaraz made quite clearly last week.

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The Carly Fiorina Show (Next Level)

Former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina speaks during the WSJ/FBN Republican presidential debate, 10 November 2015, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo: Morry Gash/AP)

“Yes she met him in a green room, but not in a green room before a show. It was before a conference.”

Anna Epstein

The Carly Fiorina Show really does distinguish itself according to strange rules forged in some alternate universe. Then again, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is a Republican, and running for president at that. And this year the conservative market licks its lips for lies, as Dr. Ben Carson so aptly reminds. Ms. Fiorina, for her own part, works hard to keep up.

Which brings us to the WSJ/FBN debate; Steve Benen observes:

Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, reminded Carly Fiorina, “In seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you’ll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?”

If anything, Baker’s numbers were tilted in the GOP’s favor, since Obama’s totals are dragged down by including the early months of his presidency, when the economy was in free fall. Nevertheless, the point is accurate―since World War II, more jobs are created under Democratic presidents than Republicans―prompting Fiorina to reply, “Yes, problems have gotten much worse under Democrats.”

She’d just been reminded of the opposite, which made the exchange a little unnerving. I kept waiting for one of the candidates to drop the pretense and declare, “I reject this version of reality and replace it with one I like better.”

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The Ben Carson Show (Reality Curve)

Dr. Ben Carson spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 8 March 2014, in National Harbor, Maryland.  (Photo: Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

This is why it matters:

During the aftermath of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, for example, Carson―then, a junior at Detroit’s Southwestern High―claims to have heroically protected a few white students from anger-fueled attacks by hiding them in the biology lab, where he worked part time. But The Wall Street Journal could not confirm the account through interviews with a half-dozen of Carson’s classmates and his high school physics teacher. All of the students remembered the riot, but none could recall white students hiding in the biology lab.

It’s one of several biographical claims upon which Carson has relied in an effort to appeal to evangelical voters, who value the retired neurosurgeon’s personal journey from troubled youth to pious doctor. As Carson has shot to the front of the Republican presidential pack, however, parts of that narrative have been called into question.

(Margolin; boldface accent added)

It just seems that in this time of religious identification and public displays of piety in order to be seen by others, the degree to which false witness has helped Dr. Carson’s fame becomes significant. Launching his campaign, Ben Carson would have had us believe that he is “not a politician”. Watching his campaign try to fashion a response to the cracking and crumbling of the superficial Ben Carson myth, one might be tempted to suspect otherwise.

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The One About When the Pope and the Adulterer Walked Into a Bar

Pope Francis adjusts his glasses in front of his chair, which has an image of the Shroud of Turin woven into the red fabric, as he leads a mass during a two-day pastoral visit in Turin, Italy, June 21, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino

A whiff of scandal always helps grab the interest:

Williams is a vulnerable messenger for such a critique: He was a priest of a secretive and influential religious order, the Legionaries of Christ, a longtime favorite of the Catholic right, which the Vatican has been trying to overhaul after revelations of lurid sex and money scandals.

He later left the priesthood to marry a woman — the daughter of Mary Ann Glendon, a conservative Catholic law professor and ambassador to the Holy See under President Bush — with whom he’d secretly had a child while he was still a cleric.

(Gibson)

Okay, that’s not the real scandal, except it probably should be, and there is no actual, real scandal.

So here’s how it goes. Among those invited to a very large reception for Pope Francis are some gay Catholics, gay advocates, and even a gay Episcopal bishop. Oh, and a nun who apparently doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut, or something, because we’re all supposed to be really, really upset about the lot of them, or something like that.

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Far Out

Suntory labels: Hibiki 12, and The Yamazaki 18 and 12. (Detail of undated AP Photo)

And then there is this:

Japan Real Time (WSJ)Not content with having the best whisky in the world, Suntory Holdings Ltd. plans to take its whisky out of this world and into space.

The Japanese brewing and distilling company said this week it would send a total of six samples of its whiskies and other alcoholic beverages to the International Space Station, where they will be kept for at least a year to study the effect zero gravity has on aging.

According to a spokesman at the company, the samples, which will be carried in glass flasks, will include both a 21-year-old single malt and a beverage that has just been distilled. Research has shown that whisky aged in an environment with little temperature change, convection of fluids and shaking tends to be become “mellower,” he said.

(Hongo)

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Hongo, Jun. “Suntory Plans Space-Aged Whisky”. Japan Real Time. 31 July 2015.

The Red Balloon

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), ca. 2015, in Associated Press photo.

This is a question:

As recently as Tuesday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) sounded very much like he was moving towards the 2016 presidential race. Just one day later, however, Politico reported that the Republican governor had decided to bow out ....

.... So, that settles that? Oddly enough, no. Late last night, the MLive Media Group that covers Michigan news confirmed with the governor’s spokesperson that Snyder “has not made any decisions” about the presidential race, pushing back against the Politico report, which cited unnamed sources.

The governor’s press secretary specifically said that when it comes to Snyder’s possible national plans, nothing has changed. “On 2016, he’s watching the presidential race closely and hoping a common sense problem-solver emerges,” press secretary Sara Wurfel said. “He has not made any decisions about entering the field at this time.”

What’s left is a confusing picture.

(Benen)

Why doesn’t everyone just say, “trial balloon”, and get on with it?

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Just Another Day in Conservative Insanity

Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) in undated photo by Susan Walsh/AP.

Sigh.

A brief summary, via Steve Benen:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) looked a little silly when he argued Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) may face criminal charges because he disagrees with the White House on Iranian policy. Yesterday, however, he quickly discovered he had some company among Republicans who were equally eager to appear foolish.

Yesterday morning, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested he’s sympathetic to the conspiracy theory, too ....

.... By yesterday afternoon, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) went even further ....

.... Conservative media figures from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal are on board, too.

The point-by-point is actually kind of excruciating, but mainly in the context that someone actually needed to say it.

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