Monday, July 03, 2017

Where Chris Christie Goes, So Goes the Donald

Governor Chris Christie was the prototype for Donald Trump. Brash and unfiltered, he said what he thought and didn't care if hurt people's feelings. He was abrupt, impolite, arrogant, self-assured, and loud-mouthed. And the people loved it. For a while.

But when it became obvious that he was just another self-serving dickhead who didn't give a damn about who he hurt to get what he wanted (Bridgegate, for example), the luster wore off and his standing in the polls plummeted.

Now, with photos of Christie sunning himself on the same beach he closed to the rest of New Jersey's citizens, his popularity has fallen to new lows. He shut down the government -- and all state parks -- to force Democrats to pass a bill that would let him skim "excess" reserve funds from the state's largest health insurance company.

Donald Trump is following the same arc as Christie. His approval rating is deeply negative, though he still holds great appeal to the racist and misogynist elements of the American public. After Trump's sincerely stupid comments about Mika Brzezinski many Republican politicians have stopped defending him. Each time Trump shows what a total jerk he is, it becomes easier and easier for Republican politicians to defect from the Trump camp without fear of repercussions.

Trump likes to think that his followers would never desert him, not even if he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue. But that's false.

The thing that Trump voters really hate is that liberals think they're stupid. They hate politicians who think they know more than the voters. This was the big knock against Hillary: she thinks she knows so much.

But Hillary never said she knew more than they did. It's just that when she talks, they hated her voice. She just seems to know too much. She's got a lot of experience and knows there's more to health care policy and international affairs than jingoistic soundbites.

But Trump loves soundbites. They're easy for him to remember. And they get applause from Republican crowds that just want to hear their preconceptions reinforced.

While Hillary never said she was so smart, Donald Trump did. He constantly praised himself, saying he has a very good brain, he has the best words, and how stupid the other politicians are. He bragged about his uncle, as if had could inherit intelligence from his father's brother (maybe Trump knew something his father didn't?). “My uncle used to tell me about nuclear before nuclear was nuclear,” Trump said, clearly illustrating that he remembered nothing "nuclear" that his uncle told him.

To see what Trump really thinks about the people who support him, look at Trump University. Trump U depended on the fact that people who like the Trump brand are suckers. They were losers who had been conned by scam that gave them absolutely nothing for tens of thousands of dollars. They were lectured by phonies who knew zero about real estate and who had never even met Trump.

By settling with his victims, Trump admitted that the whole thing was a con. The settlement was an explicit acknowledgment that the people who attended his "university" were suckers and losers who would pay for any piece of crap that had "Trump" stamped on it.

Trump's fatal flaw is that he inevitably turns on everyone who has anything to do with him, because they will inevitably disappoint him by not stroking his ego hard enough.

It's hard to know when or how this will happen, but it'll probably start when Trump voters begin feeling the pain that Trump's reckless style of governing will inevitably inflict upon them.
Trump's voters will realize his promises to keep jobs in the United States are hollow, and his health plan will cost Trump voters much more and deliver much less than Obamacare does, while giving giant tax cuts to millionaires.

His poll numbers among core Republican constituencies will start to falter, and he'll lash out at them, the way he always lashes out when he thinks someone is being disloyal.

At that point Trump will write a Tweet that reveals what he really thinks about the suckers and losers that voted for him.

Or he might characterize coal miners in West Virginia and Kentucky as lazy, inbred heroin addicts sitting around watching TV while on disability.

Or he might run over some kid asking for an autograph with a golf cart, yelling, "Get off my lawn, you stinking little runt!"

Or he might get caught on video bragging to fellow billionaires at Mar-a-Lago about the idiots sending $10 checks to his 2020 presidential campaign: "I'm just using the money to pay back the loans I made to my 2016 campaign. And I made so much money -- so very, very much money -- off that election, just like I said I would!"

Whatever Trump does, he will blame it on someone else -- Jared, Ivanka, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Chris Christie, Pope Francis -- and then bitch about how terrible the media are for repeating everything he says verbatim.

Mission Accomplished, Conservatives Rejoice!

Check out this headline from NPR.

Americans Say Civility Has Worsened Under Trump; Trust In Institutions Down

From the article...

Seven in 10 Americans say the level of civility in Washington has gotten worse since President Trump was elected, while just 6 percent say the overall tone has improved. Twenty percent say it's stayed the same. For comparison, 35 percent in 2009 said civility in the country had declined in the U.S. following President Obama's election, per a Gallup survey. Eight years ago, 21 percent of Americans in that poll thought civility and the tone of discourse in the country had improved.

And few people have a high level of trust in many of the institutions that are the backbone of American democracy. Only intelligence and law enforcement agencies like the CIA and the FBI engender much goodwill, with 60 percent saying they have some degree of trust in them.

I can practically hear the cheers from conservatives. They want people arguing and they want faith in the government low. Mission Accomplished!

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Why No State Should Send Trump Voter Data

Trump's "election fraud" commission recently sent a request to all the states for detailed information on voters, including birthdates and partial Social Security numbers. This is a terrible idea, precisely because this information could be used to commit fraud on a massive scale:
Digital security experts say the commission’s request would centralize and lay bare a valuable cache of information that cyber criminals could use for identity theft scams — or that foreign spies could leverage for disinformation schemes.

“It is beyond stupid,” said Nicholas Weaver, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
And don't belittle the idea that the Republicans in charge of this would let hackers get at this information. Because Republicans already have done exactly that:
Detailed information on nearly every U.S. voter — including in some cases their ethnicity, religion and views on political issues — was left exposed online for two weeks by a political consultancy that works for the Republican National Committee and other GOP clients.

The data offered a strikingly complete picture of the voting histories and political leanings of the American electorate laid out in an easily downloadable format, said cybersecurity researcher Chris Vickery. He discovered the unprotected files of 198 million voters in a routine scan of the Internet last week and alerted law enforcement officials.
Trump's commission is itself based on a fraudulent premise: in-person voter fraud is nearly nonexistent. The Republicans want this data so they can cherry-pick a few egregious cases to make the case for even more voter suppression.

And the craziest thing about the commission's request: the secretary of state for Kansas, the man who made the request, won't honor it:
Multiple states plan to buck Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s request for personal information on voters on behalf of a presidential commission.

Kobach said Friday that Kansas, at least for now, also won’t be sharing Social Security information with the commission, on which he serves as vice chairman. The state will share other information about the state’s registered voters, including names and addresses, which are subject to the state’s open records laws.
It looks like most states will refuse to fully comply with the request, though some will furnish information that's already publicly available.

This will royally piss Trump off. Do you think he'll ask the Russians to get the information for him?

Jordan Klepper Solves Gun

Here are my takeaways from Jordan Klepper's amazing special on guns.

1. Gun right activists use fear to keep the status quo which includes the insane law that states that the federal government can't use computers to track guns, even homicides. They have to do it by paper!!

2. In addition to being batshit nuts, militia members aren't going to defend anything in a forest. Worse, they are horrible shots.

3. The Michigan gun owners in this segment are the ones that Democrats have to focus their message on. Great, honest people who seem very open minded!

4. Finding common ground can be hard...especially when you can't speak the language.

5. Contrary to what gun bloggers/commenters will tell you, we have much more in common than we think. This includes a majority of support for universal background checks, waiting periods, and updating federal law in terms of tracking guns.

6. More dedicated people! More America!!

Check out the show!

Earn Big Bucks at Home Retweeting Garbage Spewed by Nincompoops!

They call Twitter and Facebook "social media," but they have become increasingly anti-social. Online harassment is rampant. One guy was murdered for writing "damm" in response to a woman who posted a photo of herself in a swimsuit.

The Internet is packed with fake accounts and bots (half of Donald Trump's Twitter followers are fake), paid Russian trolls who create fake news and web brigades that fill comment sections with state-sponsored propaganda.

Now Politico reports that pro-Trump political operatives are trying to cash in:
From the moment he declared his candidacy, President Trump commanded legions of online followers. Now, having helped win the White House, factions of self-made social media operatives are redirecting their skills and infrastructure to promote other candidates nationwide.

Some are even vying to spin their experiences from the presidential race into new business models, seeking to promote other candidates by paying pro-Trump Twitter users to tweet and retweet scripted messages.
One of these operatives, Robert Shelton, has already suckered someone into his scam, but it doesn't seem to be working:
Chris Chamberlin, a gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota, was not impressed with his test run, particularly not given Shelton’s proposed fee of $6,000. Shelton did not remember if that was the figure, but Leigh, who was working as press secretary for Chamberlin at the time, confirmed it.

For a couple weeks in April, the @RobertsRooms network coordinated retweets of Chamberlin’s posts and distributed memes, including one claiming a Minnesota state legislator is “pro-jihad.” None of this material took off in the way Chamberlin expected.

“That’s kind of a concern if you’re boasting as part of the reason Trump got elected,” Chamberlin said in an interview.

“Not to say Robert isn’t talented,” he added. “But being charged dollars for a service that may or may not work is at best a risky option.”
Part of the reason this may fail is that, ultimately, real people will get bored with this crap. Getting paid nickels and dimes to retweet garbage some nincompoop in Minnesota is spewing out is just tedious. It worked for Trump because he was famous and was such a dickhead that he really stood out. But if everyone is a dickhead echoing other dickheads, all the dickheads will just drown each other out.

Americans claim that there are way too busy and there are never enough hours in the day.  Yet. Americans spend over two hours a day on social media. Worse, social media makes people unhappy. And it makes them feel isolated.

Sooner or later real people will tire of the moral cesspit that anti-social media has become, and the only users left will be bots and stiffs getting paid to be there.

Get out before some whack-job kills you for commenting on his girlfriend's swim suit! Plus, you'll get 12.5% of your life back.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Buzz Aldrin Is the Man

On Friday Donald Trump signed an executive order reinstating the National Space Council at a ceremony that had Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, in attendance.

In his comments Trump said the same sort of nonsensical gobbledygook that he always does:
It’s a little hard to make out what Trump says right as he opens up the folder containing the E.O. (and the White House transcript left those words out), but it sounded like, “We know what this is, space. That’s all it has to say, space.” Then, to Aldrin, he joked, “There’s a lot of room out there, right?”

Buzz Aldrin: Infinity and beyond. (Laughter)

Donald Trump: This is infinity here. It could be infinity. We don’t really don’t know. But it could be. It has to be something, but it could be infinity, right?
Space has one thing in common with Trump: the vacuum between his ears.

Aldrin's reaction to Trump's burbling babble is hilarious, speaking volumes about what a nimrod the American president is:

The Trump administration also emphasized how little they respect women, yet again:
Vice President Pence, who will chair the new space council, introduced the president and others gathered in the Roosevelt Room.

“Especially the three American astronauts,” he said, listing NASA's Alvin Drew, former astronaut David Wolf, and “the second man on the moon: the legendary Buzz Aldrin.”

“Welcome to the White House,” Pence said.

But he didn't mention [the fourth astronaut present, a woman], former astronaut Sandy Magnus, standing about five feet away.

Trump would also name the three male astronauts without mentioning Magnus — an omission quickly noticed in the wider space community.
I'm not sure why Trump is doing this. He put Mike Pence in charge of the council. Pence was the guy who chaired a 2005 Republican study group that recommended that NASA end all space exploration.

I like the space program, but it's going to get nothing but bad PR with Trump pushing it. The story will be that Trump wants to cut everyone's health care so he can send men (and it has to be men, because women are so bloody) to Mars to open the Trump Interplanetary Hotel.

How Does It Feel To Be Played?

To Facebook Users in Swing Districts Across the United States,

How does it feel to be fucking played by the Russians?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Trump Wants Your Social Security Number!

The Star Tribune has a piece up about Trump's plan to root out and stop the imaginary voter fraud that he and his supporters believe is running rampant around the United States. It can't possibly be that people don't like them. It has to be those gol durned illegals!

So, he has sent Mike Pence out to get everyone's Social Security numbers to make sure that we are all legit. Yeah...riiiiiight...I'm giving my SS number to a well known con man! How well has that worked out in the past? And talk about BIG government. I guess it's when they do it, it's OK.


Trump and his allies have said the commission’s work is necessary to prevent what they contend are widespread instances of voter fraud. Evidence for that claim is exceedingly thin. Kobach has made it a central issue of his tenure and has achieved a total of nine voter fraud convictions. Most of the people convicted were older Republican voters, and at least one claims he was targeted for an “honest mistake.”

Who called that from a mile away?


Again, for those who have trouble accepting reality.

Academics who have studied the issue for decades say voter fraud — particularly of the type that strict ID laws championed by Kobach and others are intended to combat — is vanishingly rare, and that voter ID requirements are a burdensome solution. A federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.”

Our National Enquirer President


Thursday, June 29, 2017

How Right Wing Blogger/Commenters Run Our Country

President Trump is indeed the dear leader of right wing bloggers and commenters. Thank god he shows those smug liberal elites like Mika Brezezinksi whose boss rather than...oh, I don't the country, fix our problems, you know, that minor stuff that gets in the way of baby's twitter time!

No wonder the guys I kicked off this site love him so much. He's the same insecure, childish, misogynistic pile of shit that they are.

How do you guys like your president now? 

Why the Republicans Are So Bad

Seth Meyers' A Closer Look segments are always interesting. This one has a clip from MSNBC which is extremely revealing about little the Republican-led congress has accomplished in five whole months, and how totally oblivious Republican congressmen truly are (the segment of interest starts at 5:07):

Florida congressman Francis Rooney was being interviewed by Chris Hayes on MSNBC about the Senate's version of the health care bill.
Hayes: They're going make you vote on the Senate bill. You realize that, right? They're gonna bring that thing over and they're gonna jam it down the House caucus's throat. And this process is then going to be you're process, because you in the House are gonna have to own it.

Rooney: Well, I don't know. Isn't there something called a, like a ... compromise committee or something, when two different bills are different and they come together to...

Hayes: Yes, the conference committee. They're going to bypass it and they're going to make you, sir, they're going to make you vote for this thing.

Rooney: Oh, I don't know about that. I'll have to check into that.
Rooney has been in office since January, and he's still doesn't know at all how the legislative process works. That's because this Republican congress has done essentially nothing since taking office in  January. He doesn't know about the conference committee because the Republican congress hasn't gone through process yet.

It is obscene that Rooney doesn't even know what the conference committee is called. This is Rooney's job, and he's completely unfamiliar with it. A tenth grader knows more about how the government works than a Republican member of congress!

(I don't fault Rooney for being out of the loop on the Senate's dirty tricks, though you'd think Republican representatives would be leery about getting shafted again by the health care bill after Trump called the bill Rooney voted for "mean".)

The conference committee is isn't some arcane point of parliamentary procedure. It's the guts of the legislative process: how bills get passed.

Rooney was previously the Vatican ambassador under George W. Bush, and looks to be a fourth-generation know-nothing heir to a large construction corporation that sucks on the government's teat, building all kinds of government buildings, presidential libraries, public universities and various Pentagon contracts.

This is why the Republican Party is so bad. It's run by a clique of Washington insiders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, who lead a bunch of ignorant rich boys (or rich boys' puppets) from the boondocks of the South and West (whose granddaddies and daddies got wealthy off the government), while bitching about how terrible the government is.

Because these zeroes are totally oblivious about how the mechanics of government works, they can pass themselves off as "authentic" and "outsiders" and get suckers who always vote Republican to vote for them. But in the end they're just representing their own interests or the interests of the billionaires who bought the election for them, and damn the people who voted for them.

Rooney and Trump are peas in a pod: they know nothing about the jobs they were elected to perform, and apparently have no interest in learning about them.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Opioid Epidemic Starts in Our Back Yards

Last summer I was at a backyard volleyball party, comparing our various injuries and ailments (yeah, we're old).

One man, we'll call him "M," told us about how the time his toe hurt so much that he was seriously considering shooting it off. He went to the doctor, but his regular guy was on vacation.

M was certain he had gout, but the substitute doctor scoffed. M asked for something more potent than Tylenol or ibuprofen to relieve the pain, but the doctor refused, making M quite angry.

I pointed out that doctors are very leery about handing out opioids these days because addiction and overdose deaths have become an extremely serious problem in the United States. One doctor was just charged for murdering five patients after prescribing lethal amounts of painkillers.

Eventually M saw his regular doctor, who confirmed that he did in fact have gout, and with proper medication and diet the pain was resolved.

One woman at the party, we'll call her "W," said that she had a prescription for OxyContin, one of the major villains in the opioid epidemic. She had been prescribed the drug for an injury, which she said had long since been resolved. But she still had a prescription, and she would go to the pharmacy to pick it every month when they called to tell her it was ready. Her insurance was still paying for it, so why not?

Of the two stories, W's is the one that encapsulates everything that's wrong with health care in America.

First, insurance companies paying for expensive opioid prescriptions that people don't need jacks up insurance rates for everyone.

Second, what kind of quack issues a long-term OxyContin prescription for someone who no longer needs it? Why isn't there any follow up for patients on this highly additive drug?

Third, what kind of person essentially steals drugs they don't need or even use from the insurance company, jacking up insurance rates for the rest of us?

Fourth, if W has kids, what kind of mother puts them at risk of drug addiction by keeping a huge stock of what is essentially legalized heroin around the house? Kids get introduced to prescription drugs at parties and then start looking for a supply at home.

Fifth, what kind of person makes herself a target of criminals by talking about her large stash of oxy in a public place? I'm sure no one there would break into her house, but people do talk, especially when people say such stupid things.

This isn't an isolated incident: it's part of huge problem that's killing Americans much, much faster than the rest of the world.

According to CBS, in 2015 OxyContin and Vicodin killed 17,000+ Americans, more than one and a half times the number of gun homicides. Heroin "only" killed about 13,000 people. Illicit fentanyl (the drug that killed Prince) took almost 10,000 lives.

A UN study just released has found that Americans have the highest overdose death rate in the world, dying at six times the global average:

Infographic: America Has the Highest Drug-Death Rate in North America - and the World | Statista

We're number one!?

And the death rate is still climbing: there were at least 59,000 to 65,000 drug overdose deaths in 2016. The real number is in all likelihood much higher because not every overdose death is tagged as such, because it takes time and money to run the tests to determine cause of death.

Drug companies, doctors and insurance companies are all complicit in these deaths, pushing drugs on people who don't need them and shouldn't have them. Ohio has sued five drug companies for their roles in the opioid epidemic.

People have to exercise some common sense: Percocet, OxyContin and Vicodin are the same as heroin. If you take these drugs for any length of time, you run a significant risk of becoming addicted.

If you get addicted eventually your insurance company will cut you off, and you'll have to get your drug elsewhere: buying pills off teenagers who steal them from people like W, finding an illicit supply of fentanyl manufactured in Mexican drugs labs, or resorting to heroin, which funds the Taliban in Afghanistan.

It seems crazy, but the trail of American overdose deaths runs from the board rooms of the pharmaceutical giants, the drug labs of Mexico and the poppy fields of Afghanistan, directly into our back yards.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Everyone Stands to Lose Their Health Care with the Repeal of Obamacare

When people think of Obamacare, they think of the insurance exchanges where individuals can buy policies, or the expansion of Medicaid for people who can't afford to buy their own policies.

But both the House and Senate bills would eliminate a little-known Obamacare requirement: that large employers provide affordable coverage for their employees (the last point in this article).

Most people in the United States get their health insurance from the companies they work for. In the 1940s and 1950s companies started providing health care as a little extra perk that was relatively cheap. Medical care was mostly provided by non-profit hospitals, and mom-and-pop single-doctor practices. It was cheap because it wasn't very advanced.

But over the years the medical industrial complex got bigger and bigger. Organ transplants became possible. In many cases cancer became a chronic disease instead of a death sentence. Drugs could completely cure certain diseases (hepatitis C). Arthritic knees and hips could be replaced. Many types of blindness could be completely cured.

These treatments were expensive to develop and expensive to deliver. Health insurance companies got bigger and bigger, and medicine became a huge part of the economy, now more than a sixth of United States GDP.

Companies used to completely subsidize employees' health care, but as it became more expensive they made employees pick up more and more of the cost. The biggest sticking point in union contract negotiations has now become health care, not wages.

But Obamacare slowed that down: companies were required to provide affordable health care to employees.

But if the Republicans succeed in repealing Obamacare, that will no longer be the case: everyone, whether they buy their own insurance or get it through their employer, will be facing drastically increasing premiums and eventually the loss of their health insurance. Only the wealthy will be able to afford health care.

Courtesy of Donald Trump and the Republicans.

When Trump was running for president he blathered endlessly about how he'd provide great care for everyone at a fraction of the cost. This was total nonsense: where would the cost savings come from?

Was he going to eliminate insurance companies? These companies are highly profitable but all they do is shuffle paperwork, deny treatment, and suck up larger and larger percentage of our health care dollar every year.

Was he going to cut doctor salaries? Four years ago even the most poorly paid doctor -- family practitioners -- made $189,000. Cardiologists and orthopedic surgeons rake in over $500K a year. But do you really want to have heart surgery by a doctor who's bitter about having his income cut to a meager $100K?

Was he going to cap drug prices? Drug prices in the United States have skyrocketed, even for generic drugs that have been off-patent for decades.

Was he going to regulate prices for medical devices such as knee replacements? These cost as much as ten times more in the US than they do in Europe.

The answer to all these questions is no. The main thing the Republican health care bill does is eliminate the investment income tax on the wealthy that finances Medicaid and the premium assistance that low-income.

The Republican "health care" bill is actually a gigantic tax cut for the wealthy.

Republicans have been selling a lie about health care for the last 20 years, pretending that it's just another consumer product.

People can't shop around for medical care based on price: you can't go to Consumer Reports and find the best deal on triple bypass operations -- you never know what anything will cost until you get the bill in the mail.

And people don't want to know, anyway: since their lives depend on it, they just care about the outcome, not how much it'll cost.

The most irksome thing about this is that the people who are making these decisions -- President Trump and congressmen -- are either extremely wealthy or have their health care provided for free by a generous government-funded health plan.

But whatever decision they make, it won't affect their health care at all. That is, we can only hope, until 2019, when all these bums are thrown out of office.

So Now The Russians Did Hack The Election?

Here's a great series of twitter squirts which essentially admit that the Russians hacked the election.
    He is truly his own worst enemy.