Archives for: February 2016

The Oscars and The Lying Ground

A few thoughts from last night’s Oscars:

First, I thought Chris Rock’s opening monologue was quite good. He lampooned the boycotters and the self-righteous while still making some great jabs at Hollywood’s genteel racism.

Hollywood is sorority racist. It’s like, “We like you Rhonda, but you’re not a Kappa.” That’s how Hollywood is.

It isn’t unusual for Rock to take on race issues head on from both sides. He’s always had a bit of a conservative and contrarian streak in him. He recently talked about how he won’t play college campuses because of political correctness run amuck. His routine last night reminded me of this spot on How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police (language):

The worst moment of the night was Joe Biden coming out to thunderous applause to lecture the rest of the country about how to prevent sexual violence. I don’t object to the message. I do, however, object to it coming from a Vice President known for unwanted touching of every woman in reach, a party that happily overlooked sexual predation by a President and the message being cheered by the same Academy that gave Roman Polanski a standing ovation.

Clean up your own house, guys. Then you can talk to the rest of us about what we should do.

Joe was out there because Lady Gaga was about to perform her song from The Hunting Ground, a supposed documentary about sexual violence on college campi. But The Hunting Ground represents everything wrong with the debate, from getting basic facts wrong to threatening their critics. I’m glad it didn’t get any awards.

As for the ceremony itself, it was way too long and self-indulgent. I only had it on as useful background noise while I wrestled kids into bed and processed gamma-ray burst data. The only Best Picture nominees I had seen were The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road, both of which were very good.

John Oliver Nails It; So Does Rubio; And So Does Cruz

So John Oliver broadcast this epic takedown of Trump last night:

In addition, Rubio has been hitting him hard as had Cruz. I’ve especially been impressed by Ted Cruz. Rubio is getting all the attention right now and becoming the default non-Trump (at least tin the media). But Cruz is being a team player, staying on message and refraining from attacking Rubio. He’s slowly putting Texas out of reach for Trump (and not-Trump’s should vote for Cruz in Texas, rather than Rubio. If Cruz gets 50% of the vote, Trump gets zero delegates). It’s made me much more sanguine about a potential Rubio-Cruz alliance.

However, a part of me thinks this is too little too late. Trump is still leading the polls and this morning’s CNN poll indicated that he may be surging toward 50%. And I think a part of that blame for this goes to the media. Where was this John Oliver takedown months ago when it might have made a difference? Right now, the media are castigating Rubio for making jokes about Trump’s hands. But they paid no attention to him when he talked policy (and he’s still talking policy; the jokes are a couple of lines in 30-45 minute speeches).

The media were happy to play along with the Trump show when it looked like it was just going to hurt the Republican Party. But now that he might the nominee, suddenly they’re realizing what kind of person he is? I’m glad to have them along, finally. But this is not because they want the best Republican nominee possible. This is because they’re starting to ramp up for a general campaign and they’re suddenly realizing what they’ve helped create.

Flirting With Disaster

I’ll say one thing about this election cycle, nothing is as it is or as it should be, up is down, circles are squares, the literal anchors, the bollards and cleats we use for grounding are missing and no compass today points to the north star. The comforts of falling back on opinions of trusted (in the past) pundits, those that validated that little voice in your head and gave you clarity, they are now spouting utter nonsense. Time after time, I read opinion pieces by folks who had never let me down in the past, now they are all speaking Mandarin, telling me that every instinct I had for conservative thought has now been placed on it’s head, I just don’t get it.

It drives me absolutely nuts that valued sources, many used in the past to calibrate my own right-thinking, have abandoned every conservative principal known to man and drank the kool Aid of Trump. I can’t say it hasn’t been amusing, but disconcerting to the nth degree, like that old movie Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, who is real and who is a pod taking on that new identity.

And because my political world has become unmoored I will link to the unthinkable;

Maher is still a cockmonkey (some realities still exist today) but General Hayden is right out of the Petreaus mold, an honorable patriot who walks the walk. Water boarding will not be brought back, and nobodies family will be targeted. Trump blusters, says stupid non practical and highly illegal things almost daily, this “torture” rant was one of them. But note the clear distinction between candidate Trump and President Trump, I would place the actions Trump wants done to those actually feasible at less than 10%.

And don’t think for a minute that The Donald gives 2 shits about civil liberties;

“One of the things I’m going to do if I win… I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said during a rally in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We’re going to open up those libel laws so when The New York Times writes a hit piece, which is a total disgrace, or when the Washington Post, which is there for other reasons, writes a hit piece, we can sue them and win money instead of having no chance of winning because they’re totally protected,” he said. “We’re going to open up libel laws and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”

Write a press item critical of Trump and you will get hauled into court to divine your “purpose” for the article, analogous to Hate Crime legislation where thoughts can be criminal.

I know, it’s all rhetorical since the closest Trump will ever get to the WH is when Hillary invites him over next year to bring his check book.

Those that still trumpet America’s greatness must ponder this unsavory fact; in a few short months the people will choose the next president………..from 2 of the most disgusting, dishonest, unlikable, bereft and devoid of any honor, courage, or character befitting the most powerful person in the world. Not that it would alter our course over the cliff, but I am rooting for a brokered convention, just for the theater of it.

If only they had applied this level of scrutiny to..

Maybe, the presidential aspirations of the unqualified Obama candidate, their positive analysis of that terrible monster referred to as Obamacare, or the criminal activities of Mrs. Clinton and company as they did to their attempt to undermine that moron Sanders’ idiotic and ludicrous claims, we wouldn’t be here as a country today.

Seriously, these leftists are shameless. The NYT has abandoned all objectivity to shill for their boss Hillary, and the fact that not just Hillary, but the neanderthals that comprise the voter base for the democratic party, believe most of the same shit as crazy Sanders, seems to escape them. Of course it will also escape the idiots that keep pretending the problem with socialism is that we have not put the right people in charge yet or gone far enough down the road to emulating the socialist greats such as USSR, Cuba, North Korea, or Venezuela. Bernie’s promise of a free-for-all ar not viable, but those from Shillary or other criminals in the democratic party will work!

We are being sold out by our media to crooks and villains, and the sad thing is too many people are just cool with it as long as they get to believe that they somehow are picking people that will stick it to those they are jealous and envious of. How sad.

Rubio and Cruz Go After Trump

So last night’s debate was … something else. Rubio and Cruz both came out swinging, hitting Donald Trump at every turn on his support for Democrats, his lack of policy detail, his shady business dealings and his refusal to release his tax returns. Trump got the most flustered I’ve ever seen him and hit back, but futilely. His attempt to hit Rubio on the latter’s meltdown at a previous debate backfired when Rubio pointed out that Trump repeats himself all the time. It was like watching a WWE match with Trump playing the heel and Cruz and Rubio taking turns whacking him with folding chairs. For someone who despises Trump, it was beautiful.

(Although the line of the night went to Ben Carson. Carson, even more than Kasich, was sidelined by the Rubio-Cruz-Trump show, going something like half an hour between speaking. Blitzer lost control of the debate, letting the three front-runners constantly demand a chance to respond to attacks. This promoted Carson to quip, “Can someone please attack me?”)

This is what the candidates should have been doing for months. It’s what the Democrats will do should Trump be the nominee. It may be too little, too late. It probably won’t peel voters off of Trump, who seem immune to any failing on his part. But at least if Rubio and Cruz go out, they went out on their shields.

It Might Be Trump

So Donald Trump won the Nevada caucuses last night and seems on ihs way to wins on Super Tuesday. I’ve made no bones about my feelings about Trump. Here’s Bill James, putting it succinctly:

Of all of the people who are running for President or have now dropped out of the race, Donald Trump is absolutely the last one that I would vote for. I could summarize the reasons for this in five bullet points:

(1) I believe that Trump is more interested in what is good for Donald Trump than in what is good for America, not that the same could not be said about many of the other candidates, but it seems to me that this has to be more of a concern in the case of a man who has spent 30 years plastering his name to everything he could put his name on

(2) I don’t think Trump’s background in business prepares him for the challenges of the Presidency

(3) I think Trump’s hard-ass approach to problems, in the Presidency, would be very dangerous for our nation, and might have terrible consequences for all of us

(4) I dislike self-promotion. I intensely dislike self-promotion. Donald Trump is the nation’s most notorious self-promoter—and was, before he decided to run for President.

(5) I don’t believe that Trump is sincere in 99% of what he says. I think almost everything he says is either an outright lie, or something he is merely saying because it is convenient for him at the moment

I’ve heard versions of that from a lot of Republicans. Hell, National Review ran an entire issue on the subject. And yet, Trump continues to win. Why is that?

Well, first, I think he is capitalizing on a general dissatisfaction with the party. A lot of people see the GOP as feckless and constantly caving into Democrats. Trump gives them a hope of a GOP that stands for something.

I understand this impulse. I’ve been frustrated with the GOP as well and left the party in 2004 (although that had less to do “fecklessness” and more with their very feckful decisions to turn to the Religious Right, support torture and spend like Democrats on a bender). But I think people massively underestimate what establishment conservatism has accomplished. Charles Cooke:

Not only have the vast majority of the stands that have been taken against Obama been futile from the outset (the president really isn’t going to sign a repeal of his major achievements, and the public really isn’t going to force him to do so at the point of a shutdown), but to focus on their failure is rather to miss the point, which is that the Right’s consistent willingness to block progressive change before it can be put into law has kept a parade of horribles from ever intruding upon the scene. Had the conservative movement not held the line since 2008, Americans would have seen the quick death of the Bush tax cuts; the introduction of a growth-stifling cap-and-trade regime on carbon dioxide emissions; sweeping gun control, including both an “assault weapons” ban and a federal firearms registry; the provision of a “public option” within Obamacare, if not a move toward full-blown single-payer; the false promise of “free” college; union “card check”; an unabashed de facto amnesty for illegal immigrants; wildly increased legal-immigration levels, with an emphasis on importing the unskilled; a host of religious-liberty violations, with no Religious Freedom Restoration Act to counteract them; and overall spending levels that would make today’s look modest.

Elsewhere — where no national veto is possible — things would have been dramatically different, too. At the state level, there would have been no marches toward right-to-work or liberalized concealed carry; no progress on school choice or eminent domain; no restrictions on late-term abortion or state-constitution amendments defining marriage; and none of the regulatory and fiscal reforms that are coaxing Americans out of the blue states and onto the red horizon. Despite voting unanimously against the bill, Republicans could not stop Obamacare. But they have managed to prevent Medicaid from being expanded universally, and they have mostly forced the federal government to own its messy system of insurance exchanges. That was no walk in the park. And in the courts? Well, without the two judges that George W. Bush appointed to the Supreme Court, we would have had no Heller, no McDonald, no Citizens United, no Harris, no McCullen, and no Hobby Lobby. Moreover, we would have read only two disgusted dissents in both Windsor and Obergefell, and, backed by a 7–2 cushion, the ruling justices might have been able to establish a more sweeping set of precedents than they did.

Cooke does admit that there are reasons to be unhappy with the GOP: the 2015 budget is a particular thorny point with me. But the “burn the whole thing down” crowd seem to miss what has been accomplished and what has been prevented by the GOP. How soon we have forgotten how bad things were when it was Obama and a Democratic Congress.

Another reason for Trump’s surge is a pushback against political correctness. Bill James again:

Also, Donald Trump is advocating real democracy in a way that the other candidates are not, and in a way that is too subtle for most of the Talking Head class to understand. We have in this great nation, blessed by God but not uniquely blessed by God, and not chosen by God to stand ahead of other nations. . . .we have a class of professional do-gooders who have made a lot of rules for the rest of us, and who have, with the knowing co-operation of the media, forced the rest of us to comply with their rules. These rules were never voted upon, and were never agreed to by most of us. Some of these rules are good and proper, and some of them are useless and counter-productive. I will explain a little better what rules I mean in just a moment, but first my main point.

Donald Trump is saying “screw you” to the professionally self-righteous, and he is saying “screw you” to those people who are trying to force him to obey these rules that the nation has never really agreed to, but has been forced to accept by leaders who lacked the courage to stand up to the professionally self-righteous.

It’s one thing to get people to stop hurling racial slurs or sexist remarks. But the media has turned us into a nation of thin-skinned lunatics. You can’t use the phrase “illegal immigrants” to describe … foreigners who are in this country in violation of the law. Students erupt in protest because a dorm supervisor treats them like adults who can deal with mild racism on their own. And God forbid we should act on the international stage without making sure France thinks its OK.

There is a backlash against this and people are eager for politician who disdains political correctness. The problem is 1) “saying it like it is” makes you feel good but can burn political bridges that you need; 2) the Trumpers are more than happy to get all offended when someone says something they don’t like; 3) people are mistaking Trump’s rudeness for a principled stance against political correctness rather than just Trump being an asshole.

The biggest factor in Trump’s rise, however, has been the divided GOP field. When we started out, there were 17 candidates, the largest field ever. Pundits praised the field’s depth, saying it reflected GOP strength. It didn’t. It represented weakness because with so many candidates, it was hard for any particular candidate to stand out.

Trump was able to stand out. He simply said outrageous things and let the media do his work for him. He would bash Mexicans, bash McCain, make sexist remarks … and the media would go into their politically correct outrage cycle. But the public didn’t care. The media were the boy who cried wolf. They had spent so long describing Republicans as racist for even mentioning illegal immigration than when a Republican said racist things, the public shrugged.

And so the cycle began — Trump says something crazy, the media have a frenzy, the attention brings him a surge in the polls. A huge amount of Trump’s rise is because of the perpetual media outrage machine that has surrounded him, giving him free publicity, making him stand out of the crowded GOP field. People who favored abortion restrictions or tax cuts or a strong defense had a variety of choices to pick from. Their vote was divided. But the anti-establishment, anti-PC crowd? They had their guy. And with every CNN fainting spell, every spittle-flecked 2000-word Vox article, every hand-wringing Slate pitch, he became more their guy.

They media has yet to cotton onto this. Every time Trump’s poll numbers stall, he says something vile. And every single God damn time, they take the God damn bait and give him hour after God damn hour of free publicity. They think, because they are so wise and erudite, that the American public shares their outrage. And some do. But there are many who are gleeful about it — who see the intelligentsia’s outrage as amusing and deserved. How many times have we hoped for a GOP candidate who would tell the media to pee up a rope?

And this is what has allowed him to surge. With 17 candidates, anyone who stood out for any reason was going to surge to the front of the pack. Not only would they build a base of support, the other candidates would divide what was left into a dozen pieces. Ask yourself, who has this primary season been about? Can you even name all the GOP candidates we started with? It’s been Trump and Not-Trump.

The GOP’s response has been too little too late. At first, they didn’t take him seriously. And then they avoided him. Non-Trump candidates spent the debates attacking each other. What we needed at the debates was, as Jesse Walker Matt Welch put it, a Murder on the Orient Express situation where they all stabbed him instead of waiting for someone else to do it. They all needed to call him a liar, a charlatan and a liberal (and he is all three). But they didn’t want to do that. They were so concerned with being the consensus candidate when Trump fell that they didn’t actually bother to make sure Trump fell. Instead, they tore each other down.

Trump does have a ceiling. His negatives among the GOP are very high. Usually, a candidate who had won three of the first four primaries would be running away from the field by now. If you look at past elections, Bush, McCain and Romney all began to take off at this point. Romney was in the lead at the end of February and took off by April. McCain had exploded at the polls by this point, surging past the field to become the clear winner by Super Tuesday. Trump has not taken off like that. He may yet. But he hasn’t so far. I think that reflects a deep distrust of him.

Unfortunately, Trump’s advantages still remain. He still dominates the news cycle because our stupid media still hasn’t caught on to his game. And the field is still divided. Rubio is surging but unless Kasich and Cruz drop out (and most of their supporters go to Rubio), he’s not going to catch Trump. And neither has indicated that he will drop out. Trump is in an unprecedented position — he could win the nomination while never having more than about a third of the party behind him.

(Carson hasn’t dropped out, but he’s not really relevant to this. Carson’s supporters would probably either drop out or split relatively evenly between Rubio and Trump).

For many years, my Aussie wife has disparaged the primary system. She sees it as destructive because the candidates spend time bashing each other instead of concentrating on building the party behind a candidate, like they do in a parliamentary system. She has a point. But I think we’ve now seen another problem. For a long time, I’ve been saying the GOP wouldn’t nominate Trump because they don’t nominate crazy. They will flirt with crazy. They will fool around in the back of a car with crazy. But, in the end, they will go with a sensible candidate like Romney. But now we’re seeing that the primary system can cough up a crazy person given the right circumstances.

The way I see it, we’re looking at three possible scenarios, all of them bad for the GOP. I rank them by how likely I see them.

1. Trump Wins a Plurality but Not a Majority of Delegates. Brokered Convention. The rules of delegate assignment are rather opaque and difficult to project. Nevertheless, it looks like Trump could keep winning primaries but split the delegates enough to not get a majority. The result would be a brokered convention where the candidates try to form alliances to build a majority.

Trump could still win in that scenario, since he’d control the largest block of delegates. But even if he didn’t, it could be a disaster for the GOP. If Trump wins a plurality of the delegates but a Rubio-Cruz ticket takes the nomination, the Trumpers might tear the party apart. It might make 1968 look like a picnic. And Trump would cite it as justification to break his promise and run as an independent, splitting the vote and putting Clinton into the White House.

2. Trump Wins the Nomination Outright. This would be almost as bad. It would tie the GOP to Trump for a generation, shattering any progress they’ve made building the party toward minorities and women. It would also, as Dan McLaughlin pointed on Twitter last night, undo everything conservatives have been building for 40 years. The GOP would nominate a supporter of Obamcare and an advocate of trade war, an obnoxious big-government hypocrite who has, in the past, supported massive taxes, gun control, wealth confiscation and single-payer healthcare. In combination with a Clinton win — or even with a Trump win in the general, it would be the inverse of the Reagan Revolution, turning this country back to big government in a way none of us have seen since Carter was in the White House.

And it would very likely come with a Clinton win. As big as Trump’s negatives are among conservatives, they are even higher in the general public. In the Bill James essay, he argues that Trump could win the nomination but get slaughtered in the general because you can get 1/6th of the country to act like idiots and nominate Trump. But getting the half the country to do it is much harder. And while it’s true that there are lot of idiots out there, many vote Democrat.

(On a side note, I am certain that many of the conservative pundits currently attacking Trump will fall in line should he be the nominee. The fell in line behind RINOs McCain and Romney and, faced with another Clinton presidency, I’m sure they will fall in line this time. Allahpundit thinks so too. In fact, I’m already seeing pieces on conservative websites that are basically, “Well, actually …”. Almost all of the the pundits will support him if he’s the nominee.)

3. Rubio surges and takes the nomination. This is what I’m hoping for. Regardless of whether I support the GOP or not — and I could this year — I want each party to have the best nominee possible. I’ve always despised Democrats voting in Republican primaries to nominate the worst Republican or vice versa. Because you never know what’s going to happen. I’m sure there are a lot of Democrats who would love Trump to be the nominee because they think it would make it easier for Clinton to win. But even though they are right that Trump would be an easier opponent, they are thrice-damned fools. Because Hillary Clinton could have a stroke tomorrow. Or she could just … not win. And the next you know, Donald Trump is in the White House.

You always want the least bad option to be on the table, whether you’re Democrat, Republican or The Rent Is Too Damned High. And Marco Rubio is a lot better than the least bad option. I could actually vote for him.

But … I think a Rubio win is very unlikely at this point. We keep getting told that Rubio can win this. And we keep waiting for him to actually win anything. Cruz and Kasich draw off enough support that it will be hard for him to catch Trump. And it would be unprecedented for someone to win three of the first four primaries and not win the nomination.

Even if Rubio did surge, the path to the White House would still be fraught with peril. Trump has shown that he is a sore loser. He might cry foul and either wreck the convention or run as a third party candidate.

The more I turn this over, the more I think this ends with Hillary Clinton in the White House. And I hate the thought of Hillary Clinton in the White House. Not because she’s a woman but because she’s a petty spiteful woman who has shown very little skill in either foreign or domestic policy. She’s the author of our disastrous Libya intervention, supported the collapsing Obamacare and has proposed ever more spending. She would nominate Scalia’s replacement (assuming the GOP sticks to their guns with Obama) and likely replace two retiring liberal justices with two younger ones, cementing a liberal majority on the Court.

And … I have to wonder if maybe that’s the entire point of Trumps’ candidacy.

Pelosi Watch: Highmark Jumps

Remember when Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass the healthcare bill to find out what was in it? Well, we’re finding out ever more:

Citing an estimated $500 million loss last year on health insurance plans sold on the Affordable Care Act marketplace, Highmark Inc. said Friday it plans to reduce what it pays doctors who treat patients with the plans.

Highmark plans to reduce payments to the physicians by 4.5 percent starting April 1 as part of a broad effort to stem losses related to the federal marketplace, said Alexis Miller, Highmark’s special vice president of individual and small group markets.

Miller estimated the insurer paid about $500 million more for patients’ care in 2015 than it collected in premiums for the plans sold on the federal marketplace, resulting in the loss. Highmark officials have said the people who signed up through the health law’s marketplace were sicker than the insurer expected.

This is precisely what was feared. Guaranteed issue would mean lots of sick people would sign up for insurance, costs would soar and insurance companies would either have to raise rates (triggering a possible death spiral) or cut what they pay doctors (driving some out of the system).

Keep something else in mind: Bernie’s Sanders absurdly optimistic single payer plan depends on cuts to reimbursement that are at least four times what Highmark is considering.

One Pro, One Con

In keeping with the old adage that ,”If I didn’t laugh, I would cry”, I present the work of some very creative people;

Winter Is Coming, that’s an understatement.

And now, something from the king of comedy, apologies to all you youngsters who missed out on Gleason’s genius;

I’ve said it before, I have never been this apathetic about an election, or the clowns running in it, so I will enjoy the show and hope that either a criminal indictment or a fist fight on stage makes the price of admission worth it.

More Election Results

So, we had some more voting last night.

In Nevada, Clinton barely edged Bernie Sanders in a state she once led by forty points. Naturally, this was spun by the pro-Hillary media as a huge victory for her. And naturally, they mindlessly repeated baseless claims that Sanders supporters were chanting, “English only!” at Spanish speakers.

The latter is good illustration of why the likelihood of another Clinton presidency makes me ill. When Bill was President, this stuff went on all the time. They were constantly sliming their opponents: making hay out of Alma Powell’s depression, spreading false rumors about Newt Gingrich divorcing his wife while she was in a hospital bed, leaking info from Linda Tripp’s confidential FBI file. Just this month we’ve seen baseless accusations of racism and sexism, wild inaccurate claims about “Bernie Bros”, their allies claiming Sanders wasn’t involved in the Civil Rights movement and now this. And all eagerly lapped up by the media.

This is what the Clintons do. This is who they are. And with Hillary in charge, it will be worse than it was under Bill. Is this what you really want, Democrats? Apparently it is.

On the Republican side, Trump won South Carolina with about a third of the vote, with Rubio and Cruz finishing in a virtual tie for second. Afterward, Jeb dropped out, giving a classy speech that was a reminder that the Bush Family, whatever their political failings, are basically decent people. Carson and Kasich seem ready to stay in, but neither really has a chance. It’s not even clear that Kasich can take his home state, let alone anywhere else.

Last night was a big problem for Ted Cruz, who had hope of winning South Carolina as the evangelical vote coalesced behind him. It didn’t and it isn’t. A lot of evangelicals voted for the twice-divorced social liberal. And Trump maintains leads in the southern states that Cruz is hoping to win, with the exception of Texas.

Rubio has a path to the nomination. He’s done well in urban areas, is getting endorsements and is trying to broaden his appeal. But Cruz is a problem. Without the evangelicals solidly behind him, he doesn’t really have a path to the nomination but he’s not going to drop out either. So unless they both start polling better than Trump, this means Trump could keep winning primary after primary with a third of the vote and eventually take the nomination with about two-thirds of the party uncertain whether they’ll vote for him.

(It’s clear that Trump now sees Rubio as the bigger threat. This morning, he was questioning Rubio’s citizenship based on … his being Latino, I guess.)

In short, while the field is narrowing, we’ve taken another step toward a calamitous Trump-Clinton showdown.

Yeah, the worst of all possible worlds. It’s February 21 and I already hate this year.