Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cruising the Web

Well, congratulations to all those Alabama Republicans who thought they could send a message to Mitch McConnell for not authoritatively ramming bills through the Senate or whatever it is you guys blamed him for. You managed to nominate the one Republican probably in the entire state who could lose to a Democrat. If the Democrats take the Senate in 2018 by one vote, I hope you guys will be happy. But they aren't the only Republicans to blame for this embarrassing fiasco. Alex Burns of the New York TImes points out all the choices that were before Republicans and how the choices made worked to bring us to yesterday's election.


Unrolled thread from @alexburnsNYT

A lot of coulda, woulda, shouldas in that thread.

One hope from this is that voters will stop looking at Steve Bannon as some sort of deus ex machina who can bring them to a populist Utopia if they'll just vote down electable GOP candidates and support the swamp things that he likes. And maybe Donald Trump will realize that his endorsement isn't golden - he endorsed two candidates in Alabama and they both lost. If he doesn't hold sway in a state like Alabama by over 27%, then where will he have that influence?

Let's retire Steve Bannon as a kingmaker.
“Lesson for the GOP: if there is a bridge too far in Alabama, there is a bridge too far in every other state where Steve Bannon wants to run a fringy candidate,” National Review magazine editor Rich Lowry wrote on Twitter.

At least for now, the upset loss casts doubts over Bannon’s alleged influence and plan to recruit his own candidates in upcoming elections to help enact President Donald Trump’s agenda, as the Alabama loss weakens a sensitive Republican majority in the Senate, despite Trump winning the state by 30 points in the 2016 presidential election.
I wonder how Trump feels about Bannon now.

We can just hope that, after this week, we won't have to hear from Roy Moore anymore. Well, except for all the races in 2018 when Democrats throw his name at other Republicans. But just think how much more toxic that would be if he were in the Senate spewing forth his idiocies on a daily basis.

Perhaps McConnell can convince Doug Jones that, if he wants to ever get reelected, he might not want to vote down the line as the liberal Democrat he so clearly is, but I wouldn't hold out much hope for that. Maybe Joe Manchin can help him see how to be a popular Democrat in a red state. If he has any ambitions to last beyond 2020, he'll realize that his victory was a perfect storm. Without the write-in votes that might have gone to Moore otherwise, Jones could have lost. That should keep him a bit humble. Or he could celebrate with giddy Democrats who are thinking that, if they can win in Alabama, they can win anywhere and so don't need to modify their message at all. Hint to those Democrats - an extreme pro-abortion candidate isn't going to win in the deep South except against such a disastrous candidate as Roy Moore. And Republican incumbents in those states are not Roy Moores. Tyler O'Neil notes some of this Democratic triumphalism.
Indeed, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton seemed to encourage this mindset. She tweeted, "if Democrats can win in Alabama, we can — and must — compete everywhere. Onward!"

Tonight, Alabama voters elected a senator who'll make them proud.

And if Democrats can win in Alabama, we can -- and must -- compete everywhere.

Onward!

— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) December 13, 2017

Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee, agreed. "This puts the US Senate in play in 2018. NEVER EVER GIVE UP ON ANY STATE," Dean tweeted.

This puts the US Senate in play in 2018. NEVER EVER GIVE UP ON ANY STATE

— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) December 13, 2017


Roger Simon has some more on how Bannon is the big loser last night.
No, the big loser Tuesday is Steve Bannon, the sometime movie producer cum finance expert cum political strategist that some claim put Donald Trump in office and then left the White House to better support the president from without, or so he said. In this instance -- purportedly to do that, I guess -- he went against Trump, who originally backed the more establishment candidate Luther Strange, to back one of Bannon's own, Judge Moore.

Why?

Was it indeed to protect the president's agenda? I would bet my house that Strange and Moore would vote the same way in the Senate ninety-nine times out of a hundred, as would just about any other Alabama Republican candidate you can think of. No, it was about power. For Bannon, Strange bore a Scarlet Letter -- the support of Mitch McConnell.

While the mainstream media suffers from TDS (Trump Derangement Syndrome), Bannon suffers from MDS (McConnell Derangement Syndrome). He stomped around Alabama convincing anyone he could find that Strange was a shill for McConnell, whom Steve wanted out as majority leader at any cost. And any cost it was, because the result has been a hugely embarrassing and pointless defeat -- with a ton of substantive issues left to suffer for it, the Senate teetering in the balance.

Now I'm not a huge McConnell fan. He has his pluses and minuses like everyone in and outside of Washington. He's accomplished some things (Gorsuch) and failed at others (healthcare). But I'm not even sure the healthcare debacle was entirely his fault. As of now, I blame John McCain.

On the larger issue of the Swamp, yes, it absolutely should be drained. But we have to be careful who's draining it -- otherwise you have a Revolving Swamp, a particularly unattractive ride for some future Disneyland. You might even name that the Robespierre Ride as the revolution spins on and on until your head flies off.

We're not quite there yet, but the tendency exists. The Tea Party had its problems with nominees in the past, that ditzy woman in Nevada who led to the reelection of Harry Reid being a notable example.
Yes, let's not repeat that fiasco. And stop listening to Steve Bannon as if the sole criteria for a Republican is how they feel about Mitch McConnell.
Guys, this isn't how it works. But expect more of such events.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has handed over fake documents which try to smear him with a concocted sexual harassment scandal to U.S. Capitol Police, Fox News has confirmed.

The documents about allegations toward the highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate were shopped around to multiple news organizations Tuesday.

“The document is a forged document and every allegation is false. We have turned it over to the Capitol Police and asked them to investigate and pursue criminal charges because it is clear the law has been broken,” Schumer’s spokesman, Matt House, told Fox News. “We believe the individual responsible for forging the document should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law to prevent other malicious actors from doing the same.”
Axios has more.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he was the victim of a fake news hit on Tuesday, and has turned over to Capitol Police a document that purports to detail lurid sexual harassment accusations by a former staffer.

Why it matters: This was an apparent effort to dupe reporters and smear a senator — both symptoms of an amped-up news environment where harassment charges are proliferating and reporters have become targets for fraud.

The former staffer told me in a phone interview that she did not author the document, that none of the charges ring true, and that her signature was forged.

She said she had never heard of the document before Axios took it to Schumer's office for comment on Tuesday....

A password-protected PDF of the 13-page document was shopped to Axios and other outlets. The document, which is dated 2012 and has the file name "Schumer_Complaint," looks like a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
One of many red flags: No lawyer for the staffer is named.

The woman named in the document was a legislative staffer for Schumer from 2009 to 2012, and is now a career employee of the federal government.

The former staffer said she took the matter to Washington, D.C. police on Tuesday. She said the police told her they were unsure of their jurisdiction in the case. She said she now plans to go to Capitol Police.

She told me in a statement: "The claims in this document are completely false, my signature is forged, and even basic facts about me are wrong. I have contacted law enforcement to determine who is responsible. I parted with Senator Schumer's office on good terms and have nothing but the fondest memories of my time there."

Axios agreed to her stipulation that she not be named, because she said she is the victim of a crime.

A source close to Schumer said the document is full of errors:

"The document contains an allegation of inappropriate behavior on September 16th 2011 in Washington, but Schumer was in New York City."

"It contains an allegation of inappropriate behavior by Schumer on August 25th 2011 in Washington, but Schumer was in France."

The source tells Axios that reporters from the Washington Post, CNN, BuzzFeed, The New Yorker and ABC all inquired about the document Tuesday.

Al Franken now won't have an excuse to hang around the Senate grumbling that, if the Republicans could have Roy Moore, he should be allowed to stay. He must be so bitter about his fellow Democrats throwing him under the bus so they could have more leverage against Moore and Trump on sexual allegations.


This is a hilarious spoof
of all the sexual allegations against prominent people based on the story of how Karl Marx reportedly slept with his maid and fathered a son whom he then fostered out and ignored the rest of his life.
The father of scientific socialism and an inspirational figure to many leading Democrats, Karl Marx has announced that he is resigning as a seminal thinker and is asking all his followers, especially women, to forgive him and forget his doctrine of class conflict and communist internationalism due to allegations of sexual abuse of his female aide and a criminal conspiracy to cover it up.

In his remarks, the author of the Communist Manifesto stated, "This decision is not about me. It's about the workers of the world. It's become clear that I can't both continue to deal with my history of sexual misconduct (some of which I remember differently) and at the same time remain an effective messianic leader of the oppressed in their struggle against capitalist exploitation."

Marx continued, "As a white cisgendered heterosexual male, I have cheated on my wife, sexually assaulted my subordinate, and otherwise abused my power and privilege to hurt and victimize women. I therefore feel that I no longer have the right, nor the moral authority to defend my philosophy of class victimization, to incite class hatred, provoke violent anti-bourgeois revolutions, and establish proletarian dictatorships."
It's quite funny, but it's also based on the revealing history of how Karl Marx, a man who didn't work but lived off his friend Friedrich Engels' money from his father's manufacturing business, abused his own employee and abandoned his son. But Marx's theories are still regarded as the work of a genius by too many. Even, apparently, Nancy Pelosi according to this satire.
Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tried to defend Mr. Marx by blaming the attacks on Prussia's meddling, adding that "Karl Marx is an icon in our academia." Even if some of it is true, she said, "this episode only shows us how essentially human Marx is. He has the same fears, despairs, and guilts that afflict everyday Americans. That doesn't mean, of course, that we can equate Karl Marx with Donald Trump or Roy Moore."

On Monday, however, more than half of the Democrats in the Senate, including party leadership, called for Marx to step down, fearing that "creepy" evidence of his duplicity and hypocrisy might tarnish their political futures and weaken efforts to unseat President Trump.

"I consider Karl Marx a beacon of progress and greatly respect his accomplishments, but he has a higher obligation to his followers, and he should step down immediately," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement.

In a change of heart, Pelosi later clarified her position. “Zero tolerance means consequences for everyone,” she said at Tuesday’s news conference. "No matter how great the legacy, it is no license to harass or discriminate. In fact, it's even more disappointing."

Oh, geez! This is so 2017. People spent the day arguing on Twitter and in the White House briefing room whether Trump's tweet that Senator Gillibrand would "do anything" for a donation was a sexist slur. Elizabeth Warren called it "slut shaming" which seems a bit as if she's calling Gillibrand a slut and chastising Trump for shaming her. This is what we've come to. Jonah Goldberg argues that it's hard to give Trump the benefit of the doubt since he does say a lot of dumb and insulting stuff on Twitter.
So here’s my middle of the road position: I think it’s entirely possible that Trump had a cheap sexual innuendo in mind, and I think it’s entirely possible he didn’t. He has used somewhat similar language about men in the past.

This is one of the problems with the way many liberals always want to make Trump’s rudeness and crudeness about racism or sexism. I’m not saying such a case can never be made. But the truth is the president is fairly “equal opportunity” in his rudeness and crudeness. He attacks critics and inconvenient people, regardless of their race, creed, sex, and religion. Some attacks may cross certain lines and be particularly offensive (Judge Curiel, Megyn Kelly, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, et al), but the animus pretty much always derives primarily from his ego and not his bigotry, as far as I can tell.
He has said that male politicians and others who have criticized him would "do anything" as this thread indicates. But the man who has said some really nasty sexist things in the past shouldn't whine about people jumping to that conclusion. Just wait until 2020 when the Democrats nominate another woman and every word out of Trump is taken as a sexist slur. It's a game that Democrats have been playing for years with female or minority candidates. With Donald Trump, they have the perfect foil. And, as Goldberg says, even people skeptical of such accusations don't find it unreasonable to think that Trump had sexist motivations in the back of his mind.

The WSJ reports on how out-migration from Illinois continues apace. It turns out that people who can leave are willing to move to lower tax states.
The Prairie State lost a record $4.75 billion in adjusted gross income to other states in the 2015 tax year, according to recently IRS data released. That’s up from $3.4 billion in the prior year. Many of the migrants were retirees who often flock to balmier climes. But millennials accounted for more than a third of the net outflow in tax returns.

While Florida with zero income tax was the top destination for Illinois expatriates, the Illinois Policy Institute notes that Illinois lost income and people on net to all of its neighbors—Wisconsin (6,000 people based on claimed exemptions), Indiana (8,200), Iowa (1,900), Missouri (2,000) and Kentucky (1,100). What’s the matter with Illinois?

Too much for us to distill in one editorial, but suffice to say that exorbitant property and business taxes have retarded economic growth. Illinois’s corporate tax rate is 9.5%, and pass-through business owners pay 6.45%. Though Illinois’s flat 4.95% income tax rate is relatively low compared to its neighbors, Democrats have found other ways to clobber their citizens.

Property taxes in Cook County and Chicago’s “collar” counties are the highest in the country outside of California and the Northeast. The average homeowner who moves from Lake County, Illinois, across the border to Kenosha County, Wisconsin would receive an annual $3,200 annual property tax cut. Taxes may increase as Democrats scrounge for cash to pay for pensions. Fitch Ratings reported this week that Illinois’s unfunded pension liabilities equalled 22.8% of residents’ personal income last year, compared to a median of 3.1% across all states and 1% in Florida.

This helps explain why Illinois’s economy has been stagnant, growing a meager 0.9% on an inflation-adjusted annual basis since 2012—the slowest in the Great Lakes and half as fast as the U.S. overall. This year nearly 100,000 individuals have left the Illinois labor force.
And, as Illinois politicians keep doing the same thing - raising taxes - and expecting a different result, expect more people to flee the state.

City Journal reports on how provisions of the Affordable Care Act are affecting the quality of medical care patients receive in an emergency.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government adjusts reimbursements to health-care providers up or down based on the quality and cost-effectiveness of their services, as measured by a set of standards established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The standards use metrics such as how long emergency-room patients must wait to be seen and how long it takes heart-attack victims to get stents placed in their blocked arteries. The intention is to encourage savings and sound practices and enhance patient satisfaction.

The problem is that these requirements have not only increased costs but also may promote poor practices. For example, the CMS goal of stenting a blocked coronary artery within 90 minutes of a heart attack has not been shown to decrease mortality. Moreover, rushing a chest-pain patient to surgery to meet an arbitrary time goal may increase the odds of misdiagnosing other life-threatening conditions such as tears in the aorta, the main artery carrying blood from the heart. Before the imposition of the 90-minute rule, doctors routinely took x-rays of patients with chest pain looking for an aortic rupture. Its presence is a contra-indication to the blood thinners routinely given to heart attack victims. Chest x-rays are no longer recommended by some cardiologists because they prolong the work-up by a few minutes, making it more difficult to meet the 90-minute goal. “Sometimes I just need five more friggin’ minutes,” said one presenter at a medical conference.

Said another practitioner, “It is likely that these CMS quality metrics of . . . door-to-balloon times less than 90 minutes have physically harmed patients and dramatically increased costs for unnecessary cath lab initiations.” Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program assumes that hospital readmissions within 30 days are evidence of poor care somewhere in the system and that the hospital should be the responsible party. Hospitals at the top of the curve for readmissions are penalized financially. No allowance is made for underserved areas that generally have sicker populations, with fewer options for outpatient care. “Many readmissions occur because hospitals are extra-vigilant when patients who’ve had scary episodes, such as heart attacks or severe pneumonia, have setbacks and turn up again in the emergency room,” according to a 2016 report in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Following introduction of the ACA guidelines, readmissions did go down, but mortality went up, according to a study published in November in JAMA Cardiology.
I thought the point of the law was not to come between patients and their doctors' best judgment for care.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court declined to take a case regarding whether discrimination against someone based on sexual orientation violates federal law. The reason this is surprising is because there have been differing rulings coming out of appellate courts. That's usually a reason for the Court to take a case in order to regularize differences in interpretations of federal law in two regions of the country. The 11th Circuit has ruled against a woman who says that she was fired from her job because of her sexual orientation, saying that federal anti-discrimination laws doesn't cover sexual orientation. The 7th Circuit, however, has said that it does. There is also a case before the 2nd Circuit. Perhaps the Supreme Court is waiting for that case, but I wouldn't think that they'd want to leave a situation where people in one part of the country are regarded as violating federal law, but in another part of the country are not at risk of violating the law.

The estimable Justice Don Willett has advanced to a vote in the Senate. It was shameful that the Democrats all voted against him. All they had against him was their lame attempt to paint some of his tweets as bigoted instead of rather benign Twitter humor. Al Franken chastised him for making jokes that weren't funny. I guess Willett's tweets weren't as funny as pretending to grab a sleeping woman's breasts.