Facing Down the T00b, II

Face the Nation was all about the Comey testimony Sunday.

I didn’t get to watch Sunday’s episode. Thank goodness for a written transcript.

When all is said and done, Mr. Comey went on record with what Mr. Trump had said all along: Mr. Comey admitted that he told Trump he’s not under investigation. Mr. Comey conceded that the nine one-on-one encounters with Mr. Trump were “uncomfortable, but not impactful.” Mr. Comey also made it very clear several times that Mr. Trump never asked him to stop the Russia investigation. Period. And Mr. Comey acknowledged that Mr. Trump only once said, “I wish you would let this go” about the Flynn investigation.

The investigations continued unimpeded. The conversations were no doubt unusual and likely inappropriate to a politician used to dealing in nuance and undertone and spin and politics as usual but not illegal. As I recall, the current President was elected to run Politics as Usual right out of town.

And how are the Democrats responding?

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told John Dickerson, “The cloud hanging over this administration has just gotten a whole lot darker.”

Uh huh.

Sen. Lindsey “Is this Watergate or Peyton Place” Graham (R-SC) actually talked pretty straight when on Face the Nation he told Donald Trump, “you may be the first president in history to go down because you can’t stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that, if you just were quiet, would clear you.”

And Mr. Graham had the line of the week:

Donald Trump “can’t [even] collude with his own government. Why do you think he is colluding with the Russians?”


Speaking of Mr. Schumer, he surely loves spin. “To have this issue, which affects a sixth of our economy, tens of millions of people’s coverage — millions would lose coverage, lose preexisting conditions, hurting the elderly, hurting women, to do this in private, without hearings, without amendments, it would be one of the most outrageous examples of legislative malpractice in decades.”

Taz, SpinningI guess he doesn’t remember “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it…”

I guess he doesn’t remember that the House passed the original Obamacare bill on November 7, 2009, on a 220-215 vote. Nobody knew what was in that bill. I guess he doesn’t remember that he and 59 other Senators rushed to pass a similar, although not identical Obamacare bill on Christmas Eve 2009 in a 60-39 vote. Nobody knew what was in that bill, either. I guess he doesn’t remember that when Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election, it left Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Obama in a dilemma. They had to have the House pass the Senate bill before Mr. Brown was sworn in because he would upset the Democrat’s supermajority. The House did that and Mr. Obama signed the Un-American Care Act, a law that was passed with not one Republican vote, two days later on March 23.


This turns out to be a story not of “he said, he said,” but of who can spin faster. Mr. Schumer may be ahead on points in a contest only a Tasmanian devil should want to win.

CBS News contributor Ed O’Keefe has it figured out. “Every week there’s probably going to be something like this, some public forum where it gets raised again and attention is put on it. Committee rooms and closed door meetings will be the centers of the drama on The Hill in the next few weeks.” Or months. Or years.

Congress is supposed to be building a budget, changing ObamaDon’tCare into actual health care, punishing Iran and Russia, passing the odd law or two, paying off the National Debt, and all its other duties but instead it chooses to pretend that political oneupsmanship is more important than statesmanship.

Margaret Chase Smith was the junior Senator from Maine in 1950 when she delivered a fifteen-minute speech known as the “Declaration of Conscience” on the Senate floor. She denounced “the reckless abandon in which unproved charges have been hurled from this side of the aisle.” She said McCarthyism had “debased” the Senate to “the level of a forum of hate and character assassination.”

I think she must have seen Face the Nation on Sunday because she was really talking about Congress today.

 

Lying Liars #2,749

Welcome to the first day of Spring, the day when day and night are the same length and politicians tell you one is the other.

“The affordable health care’s purpose was to lower costs, expand access, and improve benefits,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on Face the Nation yesterday. “It has succeeded in all three.”

It has succeeded? Succeeded? Really?

Let’s take how Ms. Pelosi knew the facts and said just the opposite. Out here outside the Beltway, we call that “Lying.”

• “[Its purpose was to] lower costs…
Health care cost Americans $2 trillion in 2008; ObamaDidn’tCare grew it every year so health care will cost Americans $3.6 trillion in 2017. Alabama premiums jumped 28% from 2015 to 2016 for individual plans purchased through the marketplace. They went up another 36% this year. The cheapest “Bronze” plan here in south Florida costs $4,660 this year, almost double the unsubsidized cost in 2013. A Bronze plan comes with a $6,000 medical and $500 prescription deductible and $12,500 out of pocket maximum costs. And your premium skyrocketed anyway! True believers can’t accept those facts but the NY Times does.
Nancy Pelosi - Pants on Fire
• “[Its purpose was to] expand access…
Enrollment tumbled in 2016 at a faster rate of decline than in 2015 as people got kicked off for not paying premiums. UnitedHealth Group dropped out of almost every ObamaDidn’tCare market.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2016 that ObamaDidn’tCare would leave 27 million uninsured through 2019.

• “[Its purpose was to] improve benefits…
Slightly true. Some of the 20 million folks who never had insurance before ObamaDidn’tCare definitely got better benefits. Anything more than nothing is “better.” The rest got stuck with far less. And for the 75 million Americans who got their insurance through large companies in 2013, according to NBC News, ObamaDidn’tCare caused companies with the most generous plans to cut benefits.

Lying liars who lie a lot.

Ms. Pelosi’s definition of “success” seems a wee bit different than ours, I’m thinking.

“[The Unaffordable Care Act] should be respected for what it does,” she said.

We’ve seen what it does. In that, for once in the past nine years, Ms. Pelosi told the truth.


No matter what the true believers think, ObamaDidn’tCare — the original Unaffordable Care Act — is disintegrating. It’s collapsing politically. It’s collapsing financially. It’s collapsing medically.

As we learned last week, the new Unaffordable American Health Care Act doesn’t address the biggest issue: cost. It needs bring costs down and to do that it needs to address [wait for it] American Health Care. So far it doesn’t do that any better than what we had foisted on us in 2013.

 

ID10ts

Today is the deadline for the DOJ to turn over any evidence of wiretap activity at Trump Tower or of the Trump campaign.

CNN reports that Congress has pressed the Department of Justice to “provide any documents … that the Obama administration wiretapped his phones at Trump Tower during the campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee has set a Monday deadline for the DOJ to provide the evidence, a source familiar with the matter has told CNN, and has sent letters throughout the intelligence community this week to obtain records related to Russia.”

Most of us expect the answer to be “We found no evidence of legal wiretaps.”

Well, duh.

Why on this green Earth does anyone — inside the Beltway or out — think illegal wiretaps would have been done legally?

If NSA or Central Intelligence or the Plumber’s Union did break the law to surveil the campaign, there is absolutely no good reason they would obey the law to get a FISA (or any other) warrant.

Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides
 

Insurance Pawns, I

Here’s the column I was going to write today. It would use facts and data that have been reported for almost a decade to show, yet again, how the boosters of our current Unaffordable Care Act and the medical conglomerate it supports have become insurance pawns.

George Gobel was about six months older than my parents. He died at age 71 in 1991, shortly after undergoing heart surgery.

“Here’s the thing, Nancy Pelosi told George Stephanopoulis yesterday, “when we did the [Un]affordable Care Act, if everyone loved their care, if everyone loved it, which they didn’t, and their insurance, we would still have had to do it because the escalating cost of health care in our country were (sic) unsustainable to individuals, to families, to small business, to corporate America, and to the public sector…”


We “had three goals,” Rep. Pelosi continued. “One, to lower costs. The other, to expand benefits. And the third, to improve — increase access of many more people.”

Right.

Lower costs: In 2008, healthcare cost $7,889 per capita. In 2016 healthcare cost $10,345 per capita. In Rep. Pelosi’s world, jacking the costs by 31% is “lowering costs.”
In 2014, my own new plan cost 15% more (from $5,172 per year to $5,965) and covered less than my commercial, “substandard, predatory, and inadequate insurance.” In fact, my own individual premium was $2,502 at the beginning of the Obama Administration in 2009. Premiums soared to $7,239 on the Exchange in 2017.

Expand benefits: The Unaffordable Care Act added some coverage guarantees (you can buy insurance only during open enrollment) and premium guarantees (they will rise based on family structure, geography, the actuarial value of the benefit, age, and tobacco use).
Benefits don’t include bariatric (weight-loss) surgery, infertility treatment, alternative medicine including acupuncture, long-term care, foot care, eye exams, and more. And co-payments have skyrocketed. The co-payment for an asthma inhaler used to cost $7. Then it went to $30. Then $60. Now it’s $100, every month. Flexible spending account are limited to $2,500.

Increase access: 20.4 million people were forced at gunpoint to buy health insurance. My existing, commercial Blue Cross plan was dropped and I had to buy a new one on the Exchange.


For the record, the standard plan premiums on the Vermont Exchange were $6,880 for gold, up from $5,965 in 2014, $5,814 for silver, or $4,910 for bronze in 2016.

For the record, the standard plans on the Vermont Exchange had a $750 individual medical deductible for gold, a $2,000 individual medical deductible for silver, and a whopping $4,000 individual medical deductible for bronze in 2016, with additional deductibles for prescriptions and other services. The so-called standard “High Deductible” plans are worse.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is beating the horse again. “20 million people are about to lose their health insurance as the GOP ‘destroys’ the [Un]affordable Care Act,” she says.

Right.

Remember the flat out lies about the Unaffordable Care Act?

Caduceus• Mr. Obama said, Like your plan, keep your plan.
• Mr. Obama said, Like your doctor, keep your doctor.
• Ms. Pelosi said, Premiums will decline.
• Mr. Obama said, Premiums will drop on average $2,500.
• Mr. Obama said, Deductibles will go down.
• Ms. Pelosi said, We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.
• Kathleen Sibelius said, The Exchange website will work.
• Jonathan Gruber said, The Exchange website was secure.
• Ms. Pelosi said, Emergency room visits would decline.
• Ms. Warren said, Obamacare is the best thing that ever happened to this country.

Mr. Obama and the Congress knew the public wouldn’t buy this gift to the insurance companies, so they forced mandates and regulations and false guarantees on us. The only real guarantee was to drive up the cost of health care.

We’re going to make people buy it, Mr. Obama decreed about the false promise of the Unaffordable Care Act, and if they don’t buy it, they’re going to get penalized.


I simply do not understand why so many people, from insurance pawns like Ms. Warren to my liberal friends who support her, don’t get how bad this thing is. The news, the statistics, the facts have shown over and over that Obamacare is accelerating the demise of a system that has failed us.

“Make America Great Again!” Presidential candidate Donald Trump, 2016.
“America never stopped being great.” Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton February 27, 2016.
“The average American is actually economically in a lot of economic desperation, insecure. We have parts of this country that are — really, desolate…” Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, February 26, 2017.

Apparently the American protesters want their unaffordable premiums to climb more and more and more. American protesters want their unaffordable prescription drugs to cost more and more and more. American protesters want to their healthcare system to kill more patients than Iraq, the Maldives, Mexico, and 126 other countries. Apparently the American protesters want to buy the lies.

Those inconvenient truths, of course, don’t fit Ms. Warren and Ms. Pelosi’s story.


That’s the column I was going to write, until I realized the futility of using facts to counter the religious belief in Obamacare. I’ll just repeat a joke instead.

Squares Day…
True or false, George: experts say there are only seven or eight things in the world dumber than an ant.
George Gobel: Yes, and I think I voted for six of ’em.

Busted

I don’t get it. What is wrong with it if I talk to the Russian ambassador? I’m a private citizen now and should be able to associate with anyone I want. And if I were confirmed as an appointee, my conversations would be called “diplomacy.”

And yet, we managed to drum Gen. Michael Flynn out of a job.

Anybody smell some jealous politicians running scared again?

Turns out there is a law. The Logan Act states, in part:

“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

Huh.

So no private person can try to conduct foreign policy without the permission of the gummint. Specifically, I’m forbidden to talk with a foreign government or its representative and try to influence foreign policy.

“Is true!” Liz Arden said.

It came about after the French Revolution when the new United States didn’t help France because of a treaty with England. The French were upset and began robbing American ships and jailing our sailors.

“They should have been upset because they helped us.” Ms. Arden reminds us.

We're Here to HelpOfficial envoys tried unsuccessfully to patch things up and it looked as if we’d end up at war with France. I reckon we’re lucky they didn’t gang up on us with England.

That’s when Dr. George Logan, a Quaker Republican lawmaker from Pennsylvania, set off for France. He succeeded, but when he got back to the U.S., then-President John Adams, George Washington, and the rest of the gang were furious over his interference. Congress pushed the law through to stop lone wolves like Dr. Logan from doing it again.

“Cuz jealous?”

80% of our laws are.

And here I wanted to talk with Kim Jong un!

Anyway, the Logan Act feels like a violation of the first amendment. Freedom of association is both an individual right and a collective right, guaranteed by all modern and democratic legal systems, including the Bill of Rights, article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and international law. Be interesting to test that.

“Well, freedom to associate, sure. But with the intent to influence policy?” she asked.

It’s an interesting line.

Assuming I could even get in to talk with an opponent’s ambassador, how much influence would I have? Or would Gen. Flynn, before the election? And should we prosecute Rex Tillerson? Look how many times he’s talked to Mr. Putin directly, before the election.

After the election is a different story. I’m thinking we want a new Administration — any new Administration, left or right — to get its ducks in a row.

Gen. Flynn lied and deserved to be fired but so should the politicians who put him in that position.

And, for the record, we haven’t seen Dennis Rodman prosecuted yet.