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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Palin's classic Thanksgiving

by digby

Think about this whenever you ponder how GOP voters could have come to see the likes of Donald Trump as a viable presidential candidate:

She had just "pardoned" a turkey earlier. Such a Republican.



QOTD: politically correct protest behavior edition

by digby

Via TPM:
During a panel discussion on her show, Kelly interrupted when she saw an image of a man staring at a police officer in Chicago during the protests.

"I just want to jump in as we're seeing an extraordinary moment. Look what's happening here," Kelly said.

Former New York City police Commissioner Bernard Kerik told Kelly, "Listen, you're going to have guys like this. You know, they want to instigate."

Richard Fowler jumped in to protest Kerik's comment and said, "What is he instigating? Bernie, I'm sorry I've got to interrupt."

"But Richard look at him," Kelly responded. "This is a cop out there accused of doing nothing wrong, trying to keep the peace."

Fowler said that it was the protester's First Amendment right.

"This guy is having a silent protest with this police officer," he said.

"He gets right in his face and stares him down? This cop hasn't done anything wrong," Kelly replied.

"You think that's fine? You have no problem with this?" Kelly later asked Fowler after he maintained that the protester had a right to stare down the officer.

"This is his first amendment right. This biggest problem here is..." Fowler said in response.

"It's not a question of what his constitutional rights are. It's a question of what's appropriate," Kelly hit back.

Recall how Kelly covered the armed Bundy protests. Let's just say she wasn't all that concerned about the "appropriateness" of it all.

The birther is back

by digby

Trump was the King of the Birthers going back at least five years. He's back in the saddle:
We can’t close our eyes. I don’t know what’s wrong with Obama, he wants to close his eyes and pretend it’s not happening. Why is he so emphatic on not solving the problem? There’s something we don’t know about. There’s something we don’t know about.
This follows on a conversation he had with the reprehensible Michael Savage last week:
Yesterday, Donald Trump spoke with right-wing radio host Michael Savage about his plan to take on ISIS, bragging that he came up with the U.S. plan to attack the group's oil infrastructure, which he said only started "about two days ago." (The U.S. has actually launched hundreds of attacks against the so-called Islamic State's oil infrastructure since last August.)

"Does anybody say, 'Thank you Donald?" he asked. "Nobody. I've been the only one."

Savage went on to ask Trump what he believes is President Obama's "real reason for flooding America with Muslims from Syria," which Trump said was "hard to imagine."

"Obviously some people think it's evil intentions, I think it's incompetence, regardless, a lot of people think it's evil intentions."
He's being unusually cagey there. Normally he would just come right out and accuse someone of being a terrorist loving Muslim. I expect it won't be long before he does. He's getting there.


That pumpkin cake

by digby

Many years back on Thanksgiving eve I ran this recipe for Pumpkin Cake and received a very nice note from Washington Post journalist Karen Tumulty saying that she'd been tooling around the web for something to bake and tried it and liked it. Ever since then I've called it Karen Tumulty cake. And I run it every Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

It's easy even for non bakers and it really is very good.

For cake

* (3/4 cup) softened unsalted butter.
* 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting pan
* 2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* 3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
* 2 tablespoons crystalized ginger, finely chopped
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 1/4 cups canned pumpkin
* 3/4 cup well-shaken buttermilk
* 1 teaspoon vanilla
* 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
* 3 large eggs


* 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons well-shaken buttermilk
* 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar,
* 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
* a 10-inch nonstick bundt pan

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter bundt pan generously.

Sift flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together pumpkin, 3/4 cup buttermilk, ginger and vanilla in another bowl.

Beat butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, add eggs and beat 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add flour and pumpkin mixtures alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture, just until smooth.

Spoon batter into pan, then bake until a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes, then invert rack over cake and reinvert cake onto rack. Cool 10 minutes more.


Whisk together buttermilk and confectioners sugar until smooth. Drizzle over warm cake, sprinkle with chopped walnuts (keep a little icing in reserve to drizzle lightly over walnuts) then cool cake completely. Icing will harden slightly.

Easy as pie (easier, actually.)


"They're all gay!"

by digby

Brian Beutler at TNR catches National Review's Kevin Williamson calling Donald Trump names:

What is truly remarkable about the Donald J. Trump presidential phenomenon is the aesthetics of it, which are gay in a way that not even Trump’s own gilt-rococo/Louis XIV taste in interior decorating can quite match.

In other words, Trump's gay. Of course. Beutler sees this as a PeeWee Hermanesque rejoinder to the group of online Trump fans who like to insult Republicans who don't like Trump as "cuckservatives" --- an awkward melding of the words cuckhold and conservative.

But this is really just standard schoolyard stuff that's been part of GOP politics forever. This is actually nothing compared to my favorite example:


Deportation, beatings, torture, summary execution. What would you call it?

by digby

I wrote about Trump and "f" word today for Salon:

Over the past week or so, something unusual has happened in American politics: political figures, mainstream scholars and commentators are describing a leading contender for president of the United States as a fascist. Sure, people on barstools around the country have done this forever but it’s unprecedented to see such a thing on national television and in the pages of major newspapers.
For instance, take a look at this piece by MJ Lee at CNN:
[I]t it was after Trump started calling for stronger surveillance of Muslim-Americans in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks that a handful of conservatives ventured to call Trump’s rhetoric something much more dangerous: fascism.
“Trump is a fascist. And that’s not a term I use loosely or often. But he’s earned it,” tweeted Max Boot, a conservative fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who is advising Marco Rubio.
“Forced federal registration of US citizens, based on religious identity, is fascism. Period. Nothing else to call it,” Jeb Bush national security adviser John Noonan wrote on Twitter.
Conservative Iowa radio host Steve Deace, who has endorsed Ted Cruz, also used the “F” word last week: “If Obama proposed the same religion registry as Trump every conservative in the country would call it what it is — creeping fascism.”
Yes, this is a hard fought primary campaign with insults flying in every direction. But ask yourself when was the last time you heard Republicans using the “F” word against someone running in their own party? I can’t remember it happening in decades. It’s possible that some members of the GOP establishment called Barry Goldwater a fascist in 1964 (Democrats did, for sure) but that was half a century ago. In recent years this just has not been considered politically correct on left or right.
The CNN story goes on to interview various scholars who all say that to one degree or another Trump is, indeed, fascistic if not what we used to call “a total fascist.” Historian Rick Perlstein was the first to venture there when he wrote this piece some months back,
It’s hard to understand why this has been so difficult to see. On the day he announced his campaign, Trump openly said he believed that undocumented workers are not just criminals (that’s a common refrain among the anti-immigrant right which fatuously chants “they broke the law by coming here”) but violent rapists, killers and gang members. He said he wants to deport millions of people, including American citizens. In fact, he wants to restrict American citizenship to people whose parents are citizens, and thus are guaranteed citizenship by the 14th amendment.
For months Trump has been saying that we cannot allow Syrian refugees into the country and promising to send the ones who are already here back. He has indicated a willingness to require American Muslims to register with the government and thinks they should be put under surveillance.
He condemns every other country on earth as an enemy, whether economic, military or both, and promises to beat them to “make America great again.” Despite the fact that the U.S. is the world’s only superpower, he says he will make it so strong that “nobody will ever mess with us again” so that it was “highly, highly, highly, unlikely” that he would have to use nuclear weapons.
And he said quite clearly that he believes,
“we’re going to have to do things that we never did before. And some people are going to be upset about it, but I think that now everybody is feeling that security is going to rule… And so we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago…”
Does that add up to fascism? Yeah, pretty much. In his book, “Rush, Newspeak and Fascism” David Neiwert explained that the dictionary definition of the word often leaves out the most important characteristics of the philosophy, which are “its claims to represent the “true character” of the respective national identities among which it arises; and its mythic core of national rebirth — not to mention its corporatist component, its anti-liberalism, its glorification of violence and its contempt for weakness.” If that’s not Donald Trump I don’t know what is.

More at the link.

He's also encouraging his followers to beat up protesters and routinely claims the military should have summarily executed Bowe Bergdahl --- which he says the country would have done in the past "when we were strong." Call him whatever you want but it doesn't change what he is.


Pastor Marco

by digby

He's sharing the good word:

“We are clearly called, in the Bible, to adhere to our civil authorities, but that conflicts with also a requirement to adhere to God’s rules. When those two come in conflict, God’s rules always win.

“In essence, if we are ever ordered by a government authority to personally violate and sin, violate God’s law and sin, if we’re ordered to stop preaching the gospel, if we’re ordered to perform a same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it, we are called to ignore that. We cannot abide by that because government is compelling us to sin.”

I'm glad he brought that up. Because tons of people are trying to stop good God-fearing Americans from preaching the gospel and trying to force them to "perform same-sex marriage as someone presiding over it" and he needs to draw the line.

Marco needs to practice his dog-whistling.
Blowback, money & the Washington War Party

by Gaius Publius

U.S. prisoner at Abu Ghraib in Iraq

In a provocative piece called, "Blowback -- the Washington War Party's Folly Comes Home to Roost," David Stockman asks, in effect — "Does America have the wars it seeks and deserves?"

Whatever your answer might be, or mine, I think Stockman's answer is Yes, and he details that answer in an excellent looking-back and looking-forward essay about the U.S. and its Middle East "involvement." I have excerpted several sections below, but the whole is worth a full top-to-bottom read.

Before we turn to Stockman's points, though, I just want to highlight two semi-hidden ideas in his essay. One is about money. What Stockman calls the "War Party" in Washington is really the bipartisan Money Party, since the largest-by-far pile of cash looted from the federal budget (in other words, from taxpayers) goes to fund our military and its suppliers and enablers. Which means that most of it is stolen and diverted in some way. Which means that those who do the stealing have a lot of "skin in the game" — the game that keeps the money flowing in the first place.

Recall that what's now called the Money Party was what Gore Vidal called the "Property Party":
“There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”
Which means the Washington War Party is a bipartisan gig. Thus our bipartisan wars, which for Stockman answers the first part of the imputed question above. Yes, America does have the wars it seeks.

But that's just the first part — what about wars it "deserves"? Do Americans really want these wars? Does the D.C.-based "war party" have popular backing? You've probably guessed the answer just reading the news, but for the most recent, post-Paris evidence, consider this:
Exclusive: After Paris, Americans want U.S. to do more to attack Islamic State - poll

A majority of Americans want the United States to intensify its assault on the Islamic State following the Paris attacks, but most remain opposed to sending troops to Iraq or Syria, where the militant group is based, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.
The poll makes clear that Americans don't want to send in troops (yet), at least most don't. But that just means we're happy with more bombs, drones and missiles fired into streets and villages filled with potential "collateral damage" — also knows as victims,  also known as "future U.S.-hating terrorists."

If the American war-making machine, both the in-government part and the out-of-government part, wants these wars ... and if the American people want our war machine to prosecute them ... well, these do seem to be wars that America both seeks and, sadly, deserves — because frankly, it doesn't fall to me to say my fellow Americans shouldn't have what they seek.

To be clear — I believe my fellow Americans should not have what they seek when they seek their own suffering and pain. I have that great a sense of compassion. But I would not say that, any more than I would say to my drunken uncle, "Time to stop." He's not going to stop, so why spend time asking him? It won't hurt less to watch, whether you ask or not. 

But you and I, we can talk about the truth. And the truth is, all of our Middle East involvement is a deadly exercise, deadly to us — and it will end in tears, our own. Now Stockman to say why.

Blowback & the Washington War Party's Folly

I called Stockman's essay a look back as well as a look forward. The look back produces this (Stockman's emphasis):
Exactly 26 years ago last week, peace was breaking out in a manner that the world had not experienced since June 1914. ...

As it turned out, however, there was a virulent threat to peace still lurking on the Potomac. The great general and president, Dwight Eisenhower, had called it the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address, but that memorable phrase had been abbreviated by his speechwriters, who deleted the word “congressional” in a gesture of comity to the legislative branch.

So restore Ike’s deleted reference to the pork barrels and Sunday afternoon warriors of Capitol Hill and toss in the legions of beltway busybodies that constituted the civilian branches of the cold war armada (CIA, State, AID etc.) and the circle would have been complete. It constituted the most awesome machine of warfare and imperial hegemony since the Roman legions bestrode most of the civilized world.

In a word, the real threat to peace circa 1990 was that Pax Americana would not go away quietly in the night.
Yes, there was a day, in the lives of many of us in fact, when peace threatened to break out. But that didn't last long:
Needless to say, the sudden end to 20th century history posed an existential threat to Imperial Washington. A trillion dollar complex of weapons suppliers, warfare state bureaucracies, intelligence and security contractors, arms exporters, foreign aid vendors, military bases, grand poobahs and porkers of the Congressional defense committ[e]es, think tanks, research grants and much more——were all suddenly without an enemy and raison d’etre.

As it has happened, Imperial Washington did find its necessary enemy in the rise of so-called “global terrorism”.

But the everlasting truth is that the relative handful of suicidal jihadi who have perpetrated murderous episodes of terror like 9/11 and this weekend’s carnage in Paris did not exist in November 1989; and they would not be marauding the West today save for the unrelenting arrogance, stupidity, duplicity and mendacity of Imperial Washington.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Stockman says plainly:
That the middle east and the Arab/Islamic world in particular is now a burned out zone of failed states and an incubator of barbaric religious and sectarian fanaticism is because Imperial Washington made it that way.

It did so under the banner of two stunningly false predicates. ...
Those "false predicates" are as illuminating to consider as they are surprising.

Is the U.S. Military the Cure for High Oil Prices?

The first false predicate is one that goes back to Henry Kissinger, that the Fifth Fleet, guarding the Persian Gulf, is necessary to free the world from high oil prices.
One of these was the long-standing Washington error that America’s security and economic well-being depends upon keeping an armada in the Persian Gulf in order to protect the surrounding oilfields and the flow of tankers through the straits of Hormuz.

That doctrine has been wrong from the day it was officially enunciated by one of America’s great economic ignoramuses, Henry Kissinger, at the time of the original oil crisis in 1973. The 42 years since then have proven in spades that its doesn’t matter who controls the oilfields, and that the only effective cure for high oil prices is the free market, not the Fifth Fleet.

Every tin pot dictatorship from Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to Saddam Hussein, to the bloody-minded chieftains of Nigeria, to the purportedly medieval Mullahs and fanatical Republican Guards of Iran has produced oil—-and all they could because they desperately needed the revenue.

For crying out loud, even the barbaric thugs of ISIS milk every possible drop of petroleum from the tiny, wheezing oilfields scattered around their backwater domain. So there is no economic case whatsoever for Imperial Washington’s massive military presence in the middle east, and most especially for its long-time alliance with the despicable regime of Saudi Arabia [emphasis Stockman's].
There's much more about this, going back to our 1953 CIA coup against Iran's democratically elected leader Mosaddegh, which "installed the monstrous Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on the Peacock Throne and thereby inaugurated 25 years of plunder and Savak terror." Stockman then ably traces the history through the First Gulf War to today.

If you read this section, note that the justification for the First Gulf War, and indeed for the existence of the "state" of Kuwait itself, makes no sense. A taste: "Kuwait wasn’t even a country; it was a bank account sitting on a swath of oilfields surrounding an ancient trading city that had been abandoned by Ibn Saud in the early 20th century."

The bottom line about "high oil prices" is this — because every greedy SOB sitting on an oil field wants to monetized it, the market will float on a sea of oil and never be starved of it. For a climatologist, that's a disaster, but for oil prices, not so bad. It's why oil — not gasoline, but oil — is so cheap today. The Saudis won't, or can't, stop selling it, nor can anyone else (like ISIS).

Is Regime Change in America's Best Interest?

The second predicate Stockman fingers as a perp in our constant addiction to Middle East adventurism is the (hubristic, in my view) belief that regime change is in our best interest:
Right then and there came the second erroneous predicate. To wit, that “regime change” among the assorted tyrannies of the middle east was in America’s national interest, and that the Gulf War proved it could be achieved through a sweeping interventionist menu of coalition diplomacy, security assistance, arms shipments, covert action and open military attack and occupation.

What the neocon doctrine of regime change actually did, of course, was to foster the Frankenstein that became ISIS. In fact, the only real terrorists in the world which threaten normal civilian life in the West are the rogue offspring of Imperial Washington’s post-1990 machinations in the middle east.
While that may seem obvious, Stockman includes a stunning particular, the fact that the remnants of the out-of-work Saddam-era Iraqi officer class, and countless others, were being actively radicalized by the U.S. itself:
[E]ven as Washington was crowing about the demise of Zarqawi, the remnants of the Baathist regime and the hundreds of thousands of demobilized Republican Guards were coalescing into al-Qaeda in Iraq, and their future leaders were being incubated in a monstrous nearby detention center called Camp Bucca that contained more than 26,000 prisoners.
Here's part of a quote from a U.S. military officer who visited Camp Bucca (emphasis mine):
"You never see hatred like you saw on the faces of these detainees," [former US Army officer, Mitchell] Gray remembers of his 2008 tour. "When I say they hated us, I mean they looked like they would have killed us in a heartbeat if given the chance. I turned to the warrant officer I was with and I said, 'If they could, they would rip our heads off and drink our blood.'"

What Gray didn't know -- but might have expected -- was that he was not merely looking at the United States' former enemies, but its future ones as well. According to intelligence experts and Department of Defense records, the vast majority of the leadership of what is today known as ISIS, including its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, did time at Camp Bucca. ...
Camp Bucca was an American terrorist factory. America has a number of terrorist factories around the world.

A U.S. terrorist factory in Cuba (source)

Note that this isn't an indirect connection to current ISIS leadership, but a direct one. These men aren't connected with current ISIS leadership. They are current ISIS leadership. Stockman discusses how L. Paul Bremmer, Bush's "proconsul" in Iraq, threw them out of work when he disbanded the Iraqi army (almost on day one), guaranteeing an era of Shiite revenge-taking against Saddam's former Sunni-led secular regime. These men were the victims of both U.S. punishment and Shiite vengeance. They were, and are, also well trained military leaders. Not the best combination, if you're interested in a peaceful outcome.

Why Are We Fighting in Syria?

Which leads to the last piece of this puzzle. ISIS — for now, but not forever — occupies the terrorized towns of Sunni Iraq, kept there because we keep them supported and in power with our relentless hate-inducing attacks. But why are we in Syria? The answer has to do with, yes, our addiction to "regime change," but also our "friends" in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It turns out that what we want isn't what they want. Are they helping us, or are we helping them?

The newly proclaimed Islamic State also filled the power vacuum in Syria created by its so-called civil war. But in truth that was another exercise in Washington inspired and financed regime change undertaken in connivance with Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The latter were surely not interested in expelling the tyranny next door; they are the living embodiment of it. Instead, the rebellion was about removing Iran’s Alawite/Shiite ally from power in Damascus and laying gas pipelines to Europe across the upper Euphrates Valley.
I'm afraid this will not end until the major players stop financing and prosecuting it — meaning us.

How Will This End?

It's easy to see that this ends in either of two ways. It will end when we stop sending money and arms into the region — i.e., when we impoverish our wealth-drunk arms industry and starve the fighting — or it will not end.

Which means, it will lead to continuous tears, American ones. And when, again, you factor in the continuing spiral toward chaos guaranteed by continuing global warming, we may look back and say, "Paris was our generation's Sarajevo." It's hard to stop a war when only a nation's people don't want it. It's almost impossible to stop a war when the people unite with the wealthy to promote it.

Which brings me to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, war, and speeches each gave recently. But that's for later.

(Blue America has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President. If you'd like to help him, click here. This page also lists every progressive incumbent and candidate who has endorsed him. You can adjust the split in any way you wish.)



Powderkeg America

by Tom Sullivan

Disturbing and unsurprising events are still unfolding in Minneapolis and Chicago.

In Chicago last night, police released a dash-cam video of the shooting last year of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by then-Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke. A judge's order forced the release, which the department fought. The video is here. McDonald went down and Van Dyke just kept shooting until he'd emptied his gun. It's sickening:

Hours after a Chicago police officer was ordered held without bond on a first-degree murder charge, the city released a shocking police dash-cam video that captured the white officer opening fire on an African American teen on a Southwest Side street, striking him 16 times and killing him.

The video is about six minutes long and appears to show 17-year-old Laquan McDonald running down the middle of Pulaski Road near 41st Street when Officer Jason Van Dyke, standing next to his SUV, opens fire.

It was released to the media after a late afternoon news conference by Superintendent Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

That took over a year and multiple FOIA lawsuits.

Via Think Progress, the police union described events to the Chicago Tribune this way in October 2014:

“He’s got a 100-yard stare. He’s staring blankly,” [Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Pat] Camden said of the teen. “[He] walked up to a car and stabbed the tire of the car and kept walking.”

Officers remained in their car and followed McDonald as he walked south on Pulaski Road. More officers arrived and police tried to box the teen in with two squad cars, Camden said. McDonald punctured one of the squad car’s front passenger-side tires and damaged the front windshield, police and Camden said.

Officers got out of their car and began approaching McDonald, again telling him to drop the knife, Camden said. The boy allegedly lunged at police, and one of the officers opened fire.

McDonald was shot in the chest and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:42 p.m.

The video, shall we say, differs somewhat from that account. NBC News in Chicago reports that after the shooting police arrived at a nearby Burger King to review surveillance footage from the restaurant:

After the shooting, according to Jay Darshane, the District Manager for Burger King, four to five police officers wearing blue and white shirts entered the restaurant and asked to view the video and were given the password to the equipment. Three hours later they left, he said.

The next day, when an investigator from the Independent Police Review Authority asked to view the security footage, it was discovered that 86 minutes of the video were missing.

In a statement, a spokesman for the IPRA said: "We have no credible evidence at this time that would cause us to believe CPD purged or erased any surveillance video."

But according to Darshane, both the cameras and video recorder were all on and working properly the night of the shooting.

"We had no idea they were going to sit there and delete files," Darshane said. "I mean we were just trying to help the police officers."

Protests continue in Chicago.

In Minneapolis, police have three men in custody in the shooting of five Black Lives Matter protesters on Monday. #BLM was protesting another police shooting of a black man:

Minneapolis police said Tuesday that they have arrested three men in connection with the shooting. Allen Lawrence “Lance” Scarsella III, 23, was arrested in Bloomington. Sources said Nathan Gustavsson, 21, of Hermantown, and Daniel Macey, 26, of Pine City, were taken into custody after they turned themselves in. All three suspects are white. Earlier Tuesday, police arrested a 32-year-old Hispanic man in south Minneapolis, but he was later released because, police said, he was not at the scene of the shooting.

The Star Tribune also reports on a YouTube video police have not confirmed shows the suspects. The video shows the interior of a vehicle and masked men, one identified as “SaigaMarine":

“We are locked and loaded,” he says, holding up a black 1911-style pistol. As he flashes the gun, he explains amid racial slurs that the men are headed to the Black Lives Matter protest outside Minneapolis’ Fourth Precinct police headquarters. Their mission, he says, is “a little reverse cultural enriching.”


The second man in the YouTube video turned to the camera, while another masked man snickered.

“All these folks here should get the justice and peace that they deserve. And what we really need to do here is reach out to our communities, especially our melanin-enriched communities,” the second man said.

To borrow a riff from Dean Wormer, racist, armed and stupid is no way to go though life, son.

Charlie Pierce, author of Idiot America, describes the cultural milieu "since the country had the audacity of electing a black man to be its president":

There is a wildness in our politics that goes back beyond this administration. But the election of this president—​and his stubborn insistence that he be allowed to act like a president—​has brought a focused volatility to that wildness that is unprecedented in the years since the turmoil of the 1960s. The lost illusions of American exceptionalism, and the loss of the dominant postwar American economy, make the results of that poll sadly unsurprising. But that basic disillusionment has been percolating around American politics for decades. There is something different about it now that is the result of years of exchanging history for desperate propaganda, a yearning for a past that never was, at least not for all Americans. In the 1960s, protests like those going on at various universities, and like the one that's ongoing in Minneapolis, would have been completely unremarkable.

Now, though, thanks to 50 years of steady drum-beating about how it was in the 1960s in which the country began to slide into decline, and how it was in the 1960s that the power drained away from You in the direction of Them, a culture of victimization has arisen despite all the data proving that the victims in question have not been victimized at all, at least not in comparison to their fellow citizens, anyway. What has victimized them are economic and trade policies that have drained the country of decent paying jobs, the decline of organized labor, and a lot of sleight-of-hand political jibber-jabber that continues to this day. It's just easier to get people to blame each other. And that's what's coming to a head in the country now.

I will have much more to say about the state of policing in this country over the weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

They shot him down

by digby

You've probably watched that notorious Chicago police execution video by now. If not, here it is and it's sickening.

By contrast, here's a different incident of police confronting and armed citizen I wrote about for Salon a while back:

It was a Sunday afternoon about 4 p.m. when Kalamazoo 9-1-1 got several calls from citizens concerned about an intoxicated man with a gun walking around a coin laundry and “stumbling around a little bit and kind of bumping into some stuff” on the street. The police arrived shortly and confronted the man by saying, “Hey, partner, how you doing? Can you set that down real quick and talk to me?” (The officer didn’t have his gun drawn.) The armed man refused to set it down. The officer told him that he was jaywalking and was being detained. At that point the officer radioed that the armed man would not drop the weapon. He tells the man again that he just wants to talk to him and says, “You’re walking around here scaring people, man.”

A second police car arrives at the scene. The man refuses to identify himself and demands to know if he’s free to go and the officer says no, that he is resisting and obstructing, a misdemeanor, for jaywalking and failing to identify himself. The man says, “Why don’t you fucking shoot me?” The officer gently replies, “I don’t want to shoot you; I’m not here to do that.”

This back and forth continues, with the man refusing to give up his gun and the cops patiently trying to talk him down from his position. The whole time he’s rambling about revolution and accusing the cops of being “gang members.” It becomes clear that he has conceived this drunken episode as an “open carry” demonstration. He’s proving to the community how important it is that “good guys” be allowed to carry guns on the street to protect themselves.

Soon 12 police are on the scene, including a supervisor and SWAT negotiator. The street is shut down in both directions. Police recordings describe the man as agitated and hostile and although he is holding his gun at “parade rest” he’s switching it back and forth and fumbling in his pockets for chewing tobacco. After much discussion, he finally agrees to give up the weapon.
Do the police then instantly swarm him and wrestle him to the ground? Do they handcuff him, throw him in the back of the police car and arrest him for the trouble he’s caused? Did he get roughed up or put in a chokehold for resisting arrest and being uncooperative?

None of that happened to this man. The police took his gun and then said he could have it back immediately if he agreed to take a breathalyzer test on the spot. (You can be arrested for carrying a firearm while intoxicated in Michigan if you blow a .08 or above, the same legal limit for DUI.) The man refused. They carried on for a while longer with the man objecting to having his gun taken away even as the police explain that he is free to walk home and retrieve it at the police station the next day. They spar over whether he’s mentally unstable and if it’s a good idea for him to “demonstrate” this way, particularly being hostile to the police. He finally apologizes and leaves the scene without his gun. No charges were filed. Nobody was hurt. He got his gun back.

In that article I contrasted that with the way the police treated John Crawford the young man who was executed by police inside Walmart for carrying a pellet gun while chatting on the phone. Same with Laquan McDonald.

This scene showing UK cops dealing with a disturbed man wielding a machete and managing to take him down within 5 minutes is instructive.

HE WOULDN'T HAVE SURVIVED IN AMERICAHOLD YOUR FIRE: This is how UK Police deals with a distraught man wielding a machete.  How would this have played out in North America?
Posted by Ade Jones on Thursday, October 22, 2015

Refugee scorecard

by digby

Via Vox:

There is a column missing though for those who promise to deport Syrian refugees who are already in the country. That would be Trump.

On the "F" word

by digby

This CNN segment features interviews with various scholars and experts on the question of whether Trump is a fascist. It seems obvious to me but there are evidently nuances in the definition in ways that some of these people say Trump doesn't fit. But any idea that he isn't dictatorial or authoritarian is just wrong. No, hoe doesn't come out and say that he will disband congress. But his entire argument rests on the idea that he, and he alone, will "get things done." This is what his followers want him to do, as well.

Remember, these people hate the Republican establishment and all Democrats. They believe Washington is dysfunctional because politicians and judges are refusing to take the necessary steps to fulfill the mandate that the conservative right wing sent them to Washington to fulfill. They have no respect for the democratic process because it often means they do not get their way.
Trump's not going into detail about how he will do all the things he says he will do. He just says, "trust me" I'll get it done. That's what these people want --- they don't need to know how, just that he'll do it.

You can call it whatever you want but Trump's running on nationalism, militarism, corporatism, nativism and authoritarianism.

They're already "Boehnering" Ryan

by digby

So everyone assumed that Ryan had appeased the right wingers by bringing the refugee "reform" bill to the floor so they and unprincipled timorous Democrats could register their fear and loathing of Syrian orphans in the wake of Paris. Surprise. It doesn't seem to have been enough for the wingnuts after all:

Nearly one-third of the Republicans in the House of Representatives signed a letter calling on party leaders to ensure that a must-pass spending bill block any use of federal funding to resettle refugees from Syria and nearby countries, the bill's sponsor said on Tuesday.

Seventy-four of the 246 House Republicans signed the letter, which was circulated by Republican Representative Brian Babin.

It urges Speaker Paul Ryan and other House leaders to include a provision in an upcoming appropriations bill that would block President Barack Obama's plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year.

Passage of a bill with such language by the Republican-controlled Congress could set up a showdown with Obama, who has promised to veto a standalone bill passed by the House last week setting tighter controls on refugee resettlement.

Congressional aides are negotiating the $1 trillion-plus spending bill, facing a Dec. 11 deadline for it to pass the House and Senate and be signed into law by Obama to avoid a government shutdown.

It's unlikely (although no sure thing!) that Democrats would join this effort. And there are plenty of Republicans who don't want a government shutdown right now. So it appears that Ryan is already being "Boehnered" by the right wing, fueled by talk radio xenophobes who are working themselves into the same anti-immigrant frenzy over Muslims in our midst at their ongoing froth about undocumented migrant workers from Mexico and Central America.

Let's see if he can deal with them any better than Boehner did. I doubt it.


That anti-Trump ad will make them love him more

by digby

Is it just me or is this supposedly hard-hitting Kasich Super-PC ad against Trump rather limp?

I don't know at whom it's aimed. Do Republicans really care that he said "the blacks"? Do most of them even know what's wrong with saying that? (Or maybe I'm misreading it and they think Republicans will object to his saying that he has a great relationship with them.?) I doubt they're offended that he said "somebody's doing the raping" and frankly, the whole John McCain thing would only upset them if a lily-livered liberal had said it.

This ad misreads the Trump phenomenon completely. They love the fact that he says the things they are thinking without regard to what they consider "political correctness." It's the whole point.


It happened in Bizarroworld

by digby

So Trump's campaign manager says that the liberal media is covering up the story of the thousands of New Jersey Muslims cheering 9/11. He was interviewed by Breitbart and had this to say. Via Right Wing Watch:
For the mainstream media to go out and say that this didn’t happen is just factually inaccurate. We know it happened. They should go back and check the FBI records. Mr. Trump has provided them local media outlets that have covered this coverage that they don’t want to go and talk about. He’s provided many opportunities for them to go and see it but they have their own agenda, the media has their own agenda. They want to try and discredit as many people as possible so they can have an establishment candidate come in and think that everything is going to be the same because they are all controlled by the special interests and they are all controlled by the media and it is what the American people are just so tired of.
You really should listen to the whole interview. It perfectly illustrates the alternate universe in which the right is living.


The wingnut grifter analysis of the race

by digby

In case you were wondering. This is from Richard Viguerie's web site:

Are you feeling upset?

Turn to most news outlets these days and you hear a lot about Republicans being “angry.” Democrats are always portrayed as concerned and caring, but Republicans and conservatives are just mad – at least Ted Cruz busaccording to the media.

Those feelings are played out in a new poll, too. Nick Gass of Politico reports, “Republicans are nearly three times as angry at the government as their Democratic counterparts, according to the results of the latest Pew Research Center study out Monday…

“The divide between Republicans and Democrats is even deeper among those who said they were politically engaged, with 42 percent of Republicans expressing anger toward their government, while just 11 percent of Democrats said the same.”

The results of the survey are easily explained. Democrats aren’t angry at the government because government gives them everything they ask for – free food, unpatrolled borders, free education, free this, free that… the list is endless. And regarding the “anger” among the politically engaged – if you’re paying attention to what’s going on of late, you should be stark raving mad.

Gass continues, “And among those who are angry, the most popular candidates are Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Donald Trump and Ben Carson. The least popular candidate among those angry: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.”

I’m puzzled by Rubio’s lofty place with the angriest Republicans. I would think his leadership in the Gang of Eight would get people steamed up at him alone. But I guess there’s still plenty to learn about Marco’s record.

Time will tell.

Jeb and Marco’s dreams fall flat from lack of substance

Lost in all the talk about who’s up and who’s down in the national polls is the practical reality that any candidate who hopes to win the Republican nomination next year must do well in the early states to survive.

It is true that a big campaign war chest might allow someone to stay afloat as long as they have the desire to remain in the race, but people often forget about how momentum surges or stalls after the first few contests.

If you still doubt, please ask “President” Rudy Giuliani. Rudy didn’t put much effort into trying to win in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in 2008 and his campaign was dead in the water by the time Florida came around. His was a shining example of what not to do in running for president.

Every candidate looks to plot a path to victory early on. For the establishment’s former best hope, Jeb Bush, that road begins in New Hampshire – the only problem being he lingers in fifth place there with a measly 7.6 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average.

Undeterred by history, Bush soldiers on in the Granite State, seeing it as his only chance to realistically stay alive (at least in an electoral sense) into the delegate rich spring primaries. And certainly by appearances, Jeb is going after the geriatric vote in New Hampshire.

Tim Alberta of National Review reports. “Polling this year — in New Hampshire, in other early-primary states, and nationally — has shown Bush regularly performing better among older voters than with the broader electorate.”

Alberta’s story pits Bush versus Rubio in New Hampshire, with Jeb stumping about the past at a gathering of older folks while Marco offers the future to Millennials. The contrast is striking for more than just the demographics of the audience – and the candidates – the content of the sales pitch was decades apart as well.

New Hampshire does have the third-oldest population of any state and 69% of its 2012 Republican primary voters were 45 or older -- but will statistics alone be enough to revive Bush’s flailing candidacy?

Not necessarily, according to Alberta. “There are two dangers…in Bush’s banking on older voters to put him over the top. First, the 65-and-older bloc doesn’t always cast the decisive vote. John McCain, for example, won every age group except that one in New Hampshire’s 2008 primary (losing it to Mitt Romney), though he still won the state. Second, older voters like Bush, but not as much as they like some of his rivals — especially Rubio.”

Therein lies the problem in targeting one voting bloc and molding your campaign around it. What appeals to one group may not fly with another and Jeb has a hard enough time connecting with people as it is.

True, Marco Rubio does look like he could still be in college, but if anything, Rubio’s youth and lack of experience could work against him with any particular age group.

But beyond demographics, it’s Bush’s and Rubio’s lack of a real message that would eventually sink their campaigns. Jeb can call up the ghosts of the past and Marco can fantasize about the future, but platitudes aren’t what people want these days. They want leaders with ideas that address the issues.

Both Bush and Rubio are weakest on the key issue in the 2016 campaign, immigration. All the lofty sounding rhetoric in the world isn’t going to get them past that fact with the conservative base. Once voters start paying attention, they’ll find much better alternatives in the field.

And there’s nothing either one of them can do about it – except maybe to reminisce or dream.

Carson’s job interview answer doesn’t impress Rush Limbaugh

Similar to Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, Ben Carson has a message problem. He’s based his campaign on a fabulous life-long resume of personal triumph over adversity and professional success, but beyond those things, he’s lacking in chewable sustenance.

Such is true especially in foreign policy, where he’s struggled with basic facts and in articulating an overall strategy to handle the key aspects of his new “job,” if he should win the presidency.

Carson says it isn’t a problem…he has the capacity to learn foreign policy, just like anything else. Thomas Beaumont of the Associated Press reports Carson said on Sunday, "[W]hat is really needed is a clear understanding of what the problems are and the ability to work with very talented people that we have. The world is changing very quickly. We have to be willing to continually update our knowledge and adjust to the things that are going on in our country."

It’s the same common sense answer Ben’s been giving all along when asked about foreign affairs. In essence, he’s saying, ‘When a problem arises, I’ll listen to the facts, solicit opinions from advisors and decide what’s best under the circumstances.’

Carson is merely restating what every candidate should say when asked about a particular issue in foreign policy, where technically there is no right or wrong answer. It’s all hypothetical.

That’s not the case on all issues, of course. On tax policy, for example, you can bring out pie charts and long-term calculations from think-tanks to argue your point. But on foreign policy, you’re addressing problems that either don’t exist at present or are often too nebulous to give a yes or no answer.

It’s kind of like being in a job interview when the interviewer asks you, “What would you do if….?” If you admit that you just don’t know how you’d react without more information, you won’t get the job.

And Ben’s up against a collection of competitors who seem very self-assured when quizzed on the world. Donald Trump says he’ll bomb the s—t out of ISIS. Carly Fiorina says she’ll establish a no-fly zone in Syria. Jeb Bush says he’ll put in troops back in Iraq… and on and on.

The truth is, none of the candidates knows what they’ll do at the time because they aren’t privy to all the facts right now. It’s pure speculation. Carson knows this and provides a process for decision-making – and he’s heavily criticized for it. It’s not really fair, but it’s also understandable.

Another Carson critique came over the weekend from none other than Rush Limbaugh. Making a rare appearance on Fox News Sunday, Limbaugh discussed Ben’s qualifications to be president.

Joel Gehrke of National Review reports Rush told Chris Wallace, “Ben Carson equipped to be president? Um — probably not at this stage. But any of these Republicans running would be better than Hillary or better than anything we’ve got now, so on that, based on that comparison, yes. I would vote for him if it was up to him and Hillary. Absolutely, without a doubt.”

Rush prides himself on being “right,” but in this case, I think he’s wrong. Disqualifying Carson because of his present grasp of foreign situations is premature and unreasonable. You can say Ben is weak on the matter, but to deem him “unequipped” to be president goes a little far.

But it’s one man’s view and that’s what Rush is paid to do – offer opinions.

For his part, Ben is fighting back against the critics. With the wealth of other qualities Carson brings to the Republican race, he deserves an opportunity to show he can handle it.

To give him less would not be fair.

Ted Cruz, the electable conservative

Finally today, Ted Cruz has often portrayed himself as the candidate most ready to take on the “Washington cartel,” but now he’s saying he’s the most electable, too.

Steve Peoples of the Associated Press reports, “As Carson's support appears to soften, and Trump struggles to say with precision what are his exact plans for increasing surveillance of potential threats in the wake of the Paris attacks, Cruz is ramping up his pitch and trying to cast himself not just as an outsider - but an electable outsider at a time of widespread mistrust of Washington.”

In doing so, the Texas Senator is merely executing his strategy of confidently promoting his credentials while quietly playing down his opponents. Ted knows he needs to draw support from Trump and Carson – otherwise he’s got little chance to advance.

As the smartest candidate in the Republican field, Cruz has proven masterful at deflecting criticisms while appealing to conservative groups within the party. As the days go on, he’s certainly demonstrating that he’s a candidate to be reckoned with.

You'll notice somebody missing? Yes, I noticed it too.

These folks don't like the Republican establishment, that's obvious. They've been making money off of complaining about them for nearly half a century. They love to portray themselves as being the true outsiders. But in reality, these people are the establishment too, aren't they? The right wing establishment. And Trump isn't one of them either. They don't control him.

This is very interesting. I had assumed the old bull wingnut would rally around him --- and maybe they will.

The GOP's Days of Rage

by digby

My Salon piece takes a look at right wing rage --- and where it's coming from.

According to the latest Pew poll, Republicans are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. They are, as usual, deeply confused about what government does and what they want it to do, but whatever it is, they’re very angry about it. Thirty-two percent of GOP voters say they are mad at the government, while only 12 percent of Democrats say the same. According to Pew, among the truly engaged (like those, say, who go to a political rally a year before an election), 42 percent of Republicans are angry compared to 11 percent of Democrats.
Both sides say you cannot trust the government, but Democrats’ views don’t change depending on who is in the White House while Republicans are far more trusting of government when one of their own is president:
In Barack Obama’s six years as president, 13% of Republicans, on average, have said they can trust the government always or most of the time – the lowest level of average trust among either party during any administration dating back 40 years. During George W. Bush’s presidency, an average of 47% of Republicans said they could trust the government. By contrast, the share of Democrats saying they can trust the government has been virtually unchanged over the two administrations (28% Bush, 29% Obama).
It doesn’t appear, then, that despite their constant bleating about the predations of big government, this mistrust is truly a matter of principle with Republicans. Republican voters simply believe that government is the enemy unless Republicans are in charge of every bit of it. This famous quote by Grover Norquist in the wake of the 2004 GOP victory perfectly expresses how they believe government is supposed to work:
“Once the [Democratic] minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they’ve been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don’t go around peeing on the furniture and such.”
And while one might think that having majorities of governors and state legislatures, running both houses of Congress and a majority on the Supreme Court would make them hate the government less, without having control of every branch, they are convinced that they are an aggrieved minority who are losing at every turn: “large majorities of both conservative Republicans (81 percent) and moderate and liberal Republicans (75 percent) say their political side loses more often than it wins.” And heaven forbid they might compromise to get some of what they want. If they can’t have it all, it’s not worth anything.
None of this is really news to anyone who’s been watching the presidential race unfold this year. The Trump phenomenon alone is enough to convince observers that while a large chunk of the Republican base is ticked off at just about everything — especially immigrants, Muslims and President Obama. But what really makes them see red, and what Trump (and to some extent Carson) articulates the best, is the visceral loathing for what they call “political correctness.” (That’s what what people used to call “good manners” or “basic human decency.”) The social disapprobation against being rude and demeaning completely enrages them.
Some conservatives openly defy any restriction on their God-given right to be puerile jerks:

(Helen Keller jokes were considered gross and out of bounds even when I was a kid and that was long before the term “political correctness” existed.)
Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham come to mind as similarly infantile and crude. But mostly they are screaming mad. They are the leaders of the angry right who have been stoking the discontent of their audiences for many years, creating the subculture of right wing rage that is finding its political expression in the candidacy of Donald Trump.
No less than the Wall Street Journal made note of their influence and how they’ve managed to turn it against the very establishment that helped create them:
Consider the folks who regularly tune in to conservative talk radio. These listeners expect a steady diet of Obama-bashing, so it’s hardly surprising that not one surveyed for a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in late October approved of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.
That anger translates to how these Americans view the country as a whole. Some 98% think the country is headed in the wrong direction, a view regularly reinforced on the airwaves by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and other talk-radio hosts who don’t have much nice to say about GOP leaders in Washington, either.
A decade ago, Republicans touted conservative talk radio as a foolproof medium to communicate directly with their most ardent supporters. Democrats and liberal groups tried to replicate that success by building their own left-leaning television and radio stations, with far less success.
Now, the tables have turned. Republican leaders in Washington are under siege from their own activists, in part, because conservative radio hosts are almost as likely to rail against the party brass in Congress as they are to lament Mr. Obama’s failings in the Oval Office.
This is a switch from the days when Rush would have the whole Bush family on his show in 2008 so they could kiss each other’s rings:

There's more at the link.

UnitedHealth may quit the Obamacare market

by Gaius Publius

Thanks to the Democratic primary, there's been a lot of discussion on the left about the benefits and ills of ACA, the Obamacare public health law, versus single-payer and "Medicare For All," which Bernie Sanders is advocating. Clinton is a strong defender of the ACA and a strong, if disingenuous, critic of Sanders' Medicare For All.

From the second debate, here's Clinton defending Obamacare over Medicare For All (h/t Lambert Strether at Naked Capitalism for quotes and analysis):
NANCY CORDES: Secretary Clinton, back in– (CHEERING) Secretary Clinton, back in 1994, you said that momentum for a single-payer system would sweep the country. That sounds Sandersesque. But you don’t feel that way anymore. Why not–

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, the revolution never came. (LAUGHTER) And I waited and I’ve got the scars to show for it. We now have this great accomplishment known as the Affordable Care Act [ACA]. And– I don’t think we should have to be defending it amount [sic] Democrats. We ought to be working to improve it and prevent Republicans from both undermining it and even repealing it. [...]

I’ve looked at the legislation that Senator Sanders has proposed. And basically, he does eliminate the Affordable Care Act, eliminate private insurance, eliminates Medicare, eliminates Medicaid, Tricare, children’s health insurance program. Puts it all together in a big program which he then hands over to the state to administer. [...]

And I have to tell you, I would not want, if I lived in Iowa, Terry Branstad administering my healthcare. (APPLAUSE) (CHEERING) I– I think– I think as Democrats, we ought to proudly support the Affordable Care Act, improve it, and make it the model that we know it can be–
The middle paragraph in Clinton's reply above is disingenuous; it makes people fear what they're losing while mischaracterizing what they get in exchange. Here's Sanders on his proposal:
BERNIE SANDERS: We don’t– we don’t eliminate Medicare. We expand Medicare to all people. And we will not, under this proposal, have a situation that we have right now with the Affordable Care Act. We’ve got states like South Carolina and many other Republican states that because of their right-wing political ideology are denying millions of people the expansion of Medicaid that we passed in the Affordable Care Act. Ultimately, we have got to say as a nation, Secretary Clinton, is healthcare a right of all people or is it not?
As I said, the debate has been reignited on the left. It's also been reignited among the populace, as more and more people are finding they don't qualify for subsidies but can't pay the premiums without signing up for large deductibles:
Many Say High Deductibles Make Their Health Law Insurance All but Useless

Obama administration officials, urging people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, have trumpeted the low premiums available on the law’s new marketplaces.

But for many consumers, the sticker shock is coming not on the front end, when they purchase the plans, but on the back end when they get sick: sky-high deductibles that are leaving some newly insured feeling nearly as vulnerable as they were before they had coverage.

“The deductible, $3,000 a year, makes it impossible to actually go to the doctor,” said David R. Reines, 60, of Jefferson Township, N.J., a former hardware salesman with chronic knee pain. “We have insurance, but can’t afford to use it.” ...
That's just a taste; much more at the link.

You can see the controversy, which in truth started the day the ACA was proposed and which has more or less never stopped, even on the left. The problem for single-payer (Medicare For All) advocates is, what to do? Has the failing private insurance industry, which the ACA was designed to prop up, fully and permanently occupied the space that should have belonged to a public program like Medicare? How can we "fix" ("improve" in Clinton's framing) the ACA in a way that gives us what, frankly, most citizens would support — again, Medicare for all of us?

Which is why this news is so intriguing...

UnitedHealth may quit the Obamacare market

The industry that ACA was designed to prop up may be starting to abandon it. Bloomberg:
UnitedHealth May Quit Obamacare Market in Blow to Health Law

The U.S.’s biggest health insurer is considering pulling out of Obamacare, a month after saying it would expand its presence in the program.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. is scaling back marketing efforts for plans it’s selling this year under the Affordable Care Act, and may quit the business entirely in 2017 because it has proven to be more costly than expected. It’s an abrupt shift from October, when the health insurer said it was planning to sell coverage in 11 new markets next year, bringing its total to 34. The company also cut its 2015 earnings forecast.

A pull-back would deal a significant blow to President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. While UnitedHealth has been slower than some of its rivals to sell Obamacare policies since new government-run marketplaces for the plans opened in late 2013, the announcement may indicate that other insurers are struggling, said Sheryl Skolnick, an analyst at Mizuho Securities.

“If one of the largest and presumably, by reputation and experience, the most sophisticated of the health plans out there can’t make money on the exchanges, then one has to question whether the exchange as an institution is a viable enterprise,” Skolnick said.

UnitedHealth said it suspended marketing its individual exchange plans and is cutting or eliminating commissions for brokers who sell the coverage. ...
There's quite a bit more. For example:
Insurers have struggled to profit from the government-run marketplaces created by Obamacare. About a dozen non-profit “co-op” plans created under the Affordable Care Act have failed, after charging too little to cover the cost of patients’ medical care, and because an Obama administration fund designed to stabilize the market paid out just 12.6 percent of what insurers requested. And Anthem last month said some rivals were offering premiums too low to provide the coverage patients require and book a profit.
If the industry that ACA was supposed to benefit won't offer policies, and if policies that are offered are unaffordable for those who fall "in the cracks" of the population that was supposed to benefit, what's next for ACA?

Letting the blackmailer kill the hostage

The argument all along for Obama's health care proposal, minus his never-intended-to-be-enacted public option, was the number of uninsured Americans combined with the lack of alternatives the administration would support. If you wanted to insure uninsured Americans, you could take ACA as offered, or take nothing. For progressives in the House, who insisted on a public option (though most supported single-payer), this was a very tough vote. Would they bend to administration blackmail — "Vote for the ACA or millions go without health insurance" — or would they tell the blackmailer, "You're the one with the power. You're the one with the gun. It's not my fault you didn't give us a bill we could vote for."

Ultimately, the entire House progressive caucus took "Dennis Kucinich's plane ride" and enough let the blackmailer win, thus passing the ACA into law. They couldn't, in our blackmail metaphor, let the blackmailer kill the hostage. Perhaps the right decision, perhaps not, but it's why we're here today.

Will health insurers kill the ACA?

But the ACA's holes, its inadequacies, its dependence on the private health insurance industry to "do the right thing," remain. UnitedHealth is not "doing the right thing," if the right thing is serving the public. They are doing the right thing if the right thing is serving themselves and their CEO compensation package:
UnitedHealth CEO Stephen Hemsley made more than $66 million in 2014

CEO Pay Watch UnitedHealth Group Inc.
Stephen Hemsley, CEO
Total compensation: $66,125,208 for the year ended Dec. 31, 2014
Salary: $1,300,000
Non-equity incentive pay: $3,949,000
Other compensation: $107,479
Exercised stock options: $45,569,049
Value realized on vesting shares: $15,199,680
New stock options: 83,918
Keep that in mind the next time someone talks about a CEO's "salary." Hemsley made $66 million with a base salary of just $1.3 million. Nice multiplier. His "non-equity incentive pay" alone was three times that. Tell me he's not a predator.

The broader point though may be more important than one man's predation. If progressives weren't able to replace the ACA with Medicare for All, will the insurance companies inadvertently do the job instead, by killing the ACA themselves and clearing space for a rewrite?

Is this the end of the ACA? Stranger things have happened.

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(A version of this piece appeared at Down With Tyranny. GP article archive here.)



The iCondemn® for Republicans

by Tom Sullivan

Donald Trump's brand of 21st-century McCarthyism rolls on unchecked by a Republican party fearful of taking him on, and giving tacit approval through its silence.

When challenged, Trump doubles down, citing vague sources he fails to name. He has a “pretty good source.” He is “hearing … from other people” something no one else has heard. Trump got "hundreds of calls" from people who imagined they saw what he imagined he saw. James Downie writes at the Washington Post:

It’s all eerily similar to a claim made by a U.S. senator in Wheeling, W.Va., 65 years ago: “I have here a list of 205 [State Department employees] that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party.” Sen. Joe McCarthy never revealed where he got that list; the number changed from 205 all the way down to seven, and he never provided any concrete evidence. But, as Trump knows, McCarthy’s lack of evidence was no hindrance to tapping into the fears of a portion of the U.S. electorate. In those days, communists were coming for you; now, Muslims and immigrants are, and in both cases, the U.S. government won’t stop them. The message remains: Be afraid. The more that people buy into the message, the worse off America is.

Dana Milbank has no sympathy for Republican cowardice in not calling down Trump:

Trump gets ever more base in his bigotry — and yet, with few and intermittent exceptions, rival candidates, party leaders and GOP lawmakers decline to call him out. So he continues to rise, benefiting from tacit acceptance of his intolerance.

Or more than tacit. Carson, taking questions from reporters Monday afternoon, said that he, too, had seen nonexistent “newsreels” of the supposed cheering by New Jersey Muslims on 9/11. (His spokesman said later that Carson had been mistaken.)

Did they both see the Clearwater Virgin in window stains, too?

Milbank continues, "Yet no matter how far Trump goes, most of his competitors stay silent, or mild, or deferential."

You know, it's too bad there are not Republican Muslims cheering Trump from New Jersey rooftops. Maybe then the GOP leadership would find the cojones to demand someone in their party condemn Trump — the way conservatives demand random Muslims publicly condemn every act of terrorism by a lunatic fringe that claims Islam as justification. We could even make it easy. Perhaps with a Republican version of the iCondemn® app for Muslims:

With the iCondemn®, Muslims can say “not in my name” at the speed of life!™ And non-Muslims no longer need to wonder whether 1.6 billion Muslims around the world feel the guilt and sincerely apologize for that latest reprehensible crime some idiot carried out while shouting “Allahu Akbar!”

The iCondemn® for Republicans would make it easy and quick for Republicans to apologize for every offensive, nativist comment from Trump or any other conservative spokesperson, as well as for any act of domestic terrorism. The iCondemn® for Republicans would leave no doubt in anyone's mind that they are not Trump coddlers just giving lip service to American principles. Hell, Trump probably would put his name on the thing.

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