Medicaid cuts versus slower growth!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28, 2017

The New York Times tries to explain:
Is human life a vale of tears? A mere entertainment arranged by the gods?

We ask for a very good reason. In this morning's hard-copy editions, the New York Times tried to explain the endless debate about those "Medicaid cuts."

The key word there is "tried."

Do journalists at our biggest news organs have any skills at all? You'd think the answer would have to be "yes."

The gods who rule this vale of tears may have a better idea.

The analysis piece to which we refer was written by Alan Rappeport—and no, he isn't a kid.

He graduated from Emory in 2001. One year later, he got a master's degree from the Columbia School of Journalism.

In 2006, he got a master's degree in economic history from the London School of Economics. After spending five years at the Financial Times, he started at the New York Times in April 2014.

Rappeport has a gauzy resume. He didn't have the slightest idea how to settle the endless dispute he'd been asked to resolve.

The scribe had been asked to settle a question. The basic question was this:

Does the Senate GOP health care bill involve cuts in the Medicaid program, as Democrats say? Or are Republicans simply slowing the rate at which the program will grow?

It's stunningly easy to explain this matter. Unless you work for the New York Times, in which case it can't be done.

Before we look at Rappeport's piece, let's settle this tiresome question. As a courtesy, we'll start with the rather silly but technically accurate claim the Republicans have been making. From there, we'll move to the Democrats.

When Republicans say there are no cuts, this is what they mean: They mean that total spending in the Medicaid program would continue to rise from its current level under their proposal.

(We can't swear that that is true. But that is what they claim and that is what they mean.)

X number of years from now, the federal government would be spending more dollars on Medicaid than it is spending this year. That's what the Republicans mean when they say they aren't imposing a "cut."

When Democrats say there very large cuts, this is what they mean: Among other things, they mean that spending won't rise quickly enough to keep up with inflation, or even to come close. More dollars will be spent as compared to this year, but those dollars will pay for fewer services.

In the case pf the GOP plan, it seems that those dollars will pay for far fewer services. But it isn't entirely easy to get clear on such facts, given the staggering lack of skill within our upper-end press corps.

Does the GOP plan involve Medicaid cuts? Or are they simply slowing the rate of growth? Rappeport was asked to untangle this endless conundrum. This is the way he began:
RAPPEPORT (6/28/17): Republicans, under fire for proposing health care legislation that would reduce Medicaid funding by hundreds of billions of dollars, have embraced an old argument that taking money from a program is not a “cut.”

At first glance, the new pitch to make their strategy more palatable seems at odds with the numbers. The Congressional Budget Office said on Monday that the “Better Care Reconciliation Act” would reduce Medicaid spending by $772 billion over a decade. By 2026, Medicaid enrollment would drop by 16 percent among people under the age of 65.

So, are there cuts or not?
Sigh. Right in his opening sentence, Rappeport has assumed the answer to his question. Republicans would say they aren't "taking money from [the Medicaid] program." Right from the start, Rappeport treats it as a given that they actually are.

Republicans would say they aren't "taking money from [the Medicaid] program?" Absolutely! They would say that they're spending more money, in future years, than was spent in the program this year!

On that basis, they would say that their proposal adds money to the Medicaid program. They'd also say, with obvious justice, they aren't "embracing" the claim that Rappeport puts in their mouths.

In his second paragraph, Rappeport again blows past the basic Republican claim, silly though it may be. Did the CBO really say that the Republican proposal "would reduce Medicaid spending by $772 billion over a decade?"

Sad! Rappeport provide no quotation of any such CBO statement. He also provides no link to any such CBO statement. But if the CBO made some such statement, they would have been comparing the amount of spending the Republicans propose to the amount of future spending which would occur under current law.

Should a person refer to some such proposal as a "cut," a "reduction?" We're sorry, but that's a semantic question to which there's no ultimate answer.

How should a journalist deal with a semantic dispute of this type? He should simply explain the facts of the case! Here goes:

Under the GOP plan, spending would rise by a small amount as compared to this year. But it wouldn't come close to keeping up with the rate of inflation, thereby causing significant cuts in nationwide Medicaid services.

Dollar spending would rise by a small amount. The number of Medicaid recipients would have to be substantially cut. Those are the basic facts of the case. How hard was that to explain?

For the nation's upper-end journalists, this amazingly elementary matter is much too hard to explain. It isn't just Rappeport who gets tangled today. On the next page in the hard-copy Times, Margot Sanger-Katz (Yale 2002, CSJ 2003)bungles the very same question:
SANGER-KATZ (6/28/17): Contrary to statements by Kellyanne Conway and other Trump advisers that the bill contains no overall cuts to Medicaid, the budget office offered a chart highlighting the spending reductions for the program. It says explicitly that “states would not have substantial additional flexibility” under the bill’s Medicaid reforms, a typical selling point for a plan that would push more fiscal risk to state governments. It says that a waiver program for state insurance regulations would increase the deficit and would not reduce the uninsured rate in every state. In addition, the analysts wrote, “waivers would probably cause market instability in some areas.”
Sad. Sanger-Katz doesn't link to the chart to which she refers, nor does she actually quote any statement by the CBO. That said, the "spending reductions" to which she refers will qualify as "reductions" only if she compares future spending under the GOP plan to future spending which would occur under current law. In the end, she is simply adopting the semantic framework preferred by one of these sides.

Unless you're an upper-end journalist, it isn't hard to explain the basic facts of this case. Year by year, spending will rise by a small amount under the GOP bill. But because those small increases won't come close to keeping up with inflation, major cuts in Medicaid services will be required.

Spending will rise a small amount. There will be large cuts in Medicaid services. It's amazingly easy to state those facts. They leave the semantic confusion behind.

A journalist should know how to do that. But over the years, we've come to see that our journalists have almost no skills.

They know how to stick to a story-line; that tends to be where the skill set ends. Perhaps the gods find this amusing.

We know of no way to tell.

Meanwhile, for extra credit: Emory, Yale, CSJ, LSE? What are they teaching these kids?

MANUFACTURED THEFT: The $1.5 trillion question!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28, 2017

Part 3—Amazingly, Rosenthal asks:
Right at the start of her widely-ignored new book, Elisabeth Rosenthal asks the question which virtually never gets asked.

She starts by describing the crazy way Americans get billed for medical procedures. "In no other industry do prices for a product vary by a factor of ten depending on where it is purchased, as is the case for bills I’ve seen for echocardiograms, MRI scans, and blood tests to gauge thyroid function or vitamin D levels," Rosenthal writes.

The passage appears on page 2 of her new book, An American Sickness.

"The price of a Prius at a dealership in Princeton, New Jersey, is not five times higher than what you would pay for a Prius in Hackensack," Rosenthal writes as she continues. "The price of that car at the very same dealer doesn’t depend on your employer, or if you’re self-employed or unemployed. Why does it matter for health care?"

At this point, we're still on page 2 of this book. On page 3, Rosenthal starts to resort to the language of corporate crime as she describes these peculiar billing practices.

As she does, she asks a fundamental, foundational question. It's a question which never gets asked:
ROSENTHAL (page 3): We live in an age of medical wonders—transplants, gene therapy, lifesaving drugs and preventive strategies—but the health care system remains fantastically expensive, inefficient, bewildering, and inequitable. Faced with disease, we are all potential victims of medical extortion. The alarming statistics are incontrovertible and well known: the United States spends nearly one-fifth of its gross domestic product on health care, more than $3 trillion a year, about equivalent to the entire economy of France. For that, the U.S. health system generally delivers worse health outcomes than any other developed country, all of which spend on average about half what we do per person.

Who among us hasn’t opened a medical bill or an explanation of benefits statement and stared in disbelief at terrifying numbers? Who hasn’t puzzled over an insurance policy’s rules of co-payments, deductibles, “in-network” and “out-of-network” payments—only to surrender in frustration and write a check, perhaps under threat of collection? Who hasn’t wondered over, say, a $500 bill for a basic blood test, a $5,000 bill for three stitches in an emergency room, a $50,000 bill for minor outpatient foot surgery, or a $500,000 bill for three days in the hospital after a heart attack?

Where is all that money going?
"Where is all that money going?" At this site, we've been asking that foundational question for years.

Already, on page 3, Rosenthal has asked that foundational question. Truth to tell, it's the most basic question in all of American governance.

That question lies at the heart of the basic problems our federal government can't seem to resolve. It's a question which, by common agreement, essentially never gets asked.

Warning! We're not saying that Rosenthal asks this question in the most skillful way. For our money, she presents that foundational question in a way which is hopelessly murky.

Speaking the language of corporate crime, she has already suggested that our health care systems is built on a foundation of "medical extortion." But she offers a clumsy account of the vast sum which is disappearing into the maws of this system every year.

Is our health care system really based on acts of "extortion?" As a doctor's kid, as a doctor herself and as a health care reporter, has Rosenthal really "had a lifetime front-row seat to a slow-moving heist," as she declares on page 4?

Do American hospitals constitute "an extractive industry" (page 24), whose behavior can be compared to that of bank robbers?
According to Rosenthal, that's where all that money is going! But on page 3, she does a fairly lousy job establishing her basic foundational question.

Where is all that money going? In the following passage, Rosenthal describes the money to which she refers—the money which is being looted out of our health care system. In our view, this is very murky work:

"The alarming statistics are incontrovertible and well known: the United States spends nearly one-fifth of its gross domestic product on health care, more than $3 trillion a year, about equivalent to the entire economy of France."

It would be hard to establish her basic question in a less compelling way. Let's note a few problems:

First, those alarming statistics are not well known among the American public. Go ahead! Stop a hundred pedestrians today. Ask them what portion of our "gross domestic product" is spent on health care each year.

Ask them how many dollars our nation spends on health care each year. Ask them to compare that amount to the entire economy of France!

You're going to get a lot of stares if you start posing those questions. Rosenthal does a terrible job describing the amount of money which is getting looted in the course of the "slow-moving heist" she admirably describes.

Rosenthal asks the foundational question: "Where is all that money going?" It seems to us that this would be a much better way establish the size of the problem:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Good God! Five thousand dollars per person per year is disappearing into the maws of that slow-moving heist! That's the mountain of missing money to which Rosenthal's question refers.

Those numbers dramatize Rosenthal's rather bureaucratic claim (see above): other nations' health systems "all...spend on average about half what we do per person." In the course of a 400-page book, Rosenthal never presents them.

At any rate, those remarkable data help us see why our nation has so much trouble providing health care to all its citizens. Because of all that looting, a year of health care costs more than twice as much in this country as it does everywhere else!

In our view, Rosenthal does a very poor job establishing the size of this looting. On the other hand, she aggressively asks the foundational question, the question which never gets asked:

Where's all that money going?

That is our government's foundational question. That question underlies our endless health care debacle and our federal deficit problems.

Rachel and Lawrence know not to ask it. Rosenthal asks the question straight out, right on page 3 of her book!

Having asked the foundational question, Rosenthal proceeds to an anecdotal answer. Her story starts on page 11, at the start of her Chapter 1.

Her story involves Jeffrey Kivi, a high school chemistry teacher in New York City with a potentially disabling condition called psoriatic arthritis. Absent treatment, the condition could leave Kivi "unable to work and even walk."

Enter our "extractive" health care system! Rosenthal starts her story in the fairly recent past:
ROSENTHAL (page 11): About fifteen years ago, important new arthritis drugs hit the market. His rheumatologist, Dr. Paula Rackoff, said he was a good candidate. The medicine worked wonders: every six weeks, a drug called Remicade was infused into his veins in an outpatient clinic at Beth Israel Hospital, where Dr. Rackoff practiced. The treatment cost $19,000 each visit, but Mr. Kivi, as a New York City civil servant, has excellent insurance under EmblemHealth. He paid nothing himself.
"The results were transformative," Rosenthal writes. Kivi was able to continue his life and his career.

For ourselves, we were already wondering, at this point, why a one-day, outpatient treatment would cost anything like that much. As it turns out, that shows how clueless we are.

In 2013, Dr. Rackoff moved her practice about fifteen blocks to NYU Langone Medical Center. Kivi began going there for the exact same treatments. Only one thing had changed:
ROSENTHAL (page 12): At first, [Kivi] was impressed by the Langone Center for Musculoskeletal Care, where services were distinctly more upmarket...

But the charges that started posting on his insurance Web site, as submitted by NYU, shocked him: the first three-hour infusion at the new hospital, in may, was billed at $98,579.98, the second in June at $110,410.82, and from July on they were billed at $132,791.04. It was the same dose as always, in the same form, prescribed by the same doctor.
Where was all that money going? Rosenthal describes what happened when she and Kivi tried to find out.

Why was a $19,000 treatment now being billed at $132,000? According to Rosenthal, "When Mr. Kivi complained to the NYU billing office, a patient-care representative offered a range of nonexplanations." She quotes Kivi describing the curious things he was told, then reports her own experience:
ROSENTHAL (page 13): When I tried to pick up the investigation where Mr. Kivi left off, the explanations got even less convincing. The public affairs department told me Mr. Kivi was an "outlier" because he was getting aggressive treatment and he is large. Remicade is dosed according to weight and, at over six feet and nearly four hundred pounds, Mr. Kivi does get a relatively large dose. But even so, the wholesale price of Mr. Kivi's dose of Remicade should have been about $1,200, a drug researcher at another hospital told me.

As we slid down the rabbit hole of medical pricing, things only got darker and darker...
The treatment had cost $19,000 fifteen blocks down the street. Fifteen blocks to the north, the billing price jumped to $132,000. The insurance company ended up paying $99,593.27 for each treatment.

According to Rosenthal, these are the types of "heists" which occur within our own homegrown "extractive industry." Presumably, she featured this heist because it's especially dramatic.

That said, when heist is piled upon heist, $5000 per person per year disappears within our health care system. As a result, our nation, alone among its peers, becomes a pitiful helpless giant.

We become a clownish society locked in clownish "health care debates" of the type we're currently experiencing. Clownishly, we can't provide universal health care, and we can't seem to get control of our federal budgets!

Despite their fiercely progressive views, Rachel and Lawrence won't talk about this on their popular "cable news" programs. Instead, they entertain us with a succession of chases, for example against a governor who once said that he enjoyed touching his girl friend's breasts.

Our darling Rachel won't talk about this. Does anyone understand why?

Tomorrow: Rosenthal ignored, disappeared

How to say what a "news channel" wants!

TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2017

Stoddard conquers death:
If 15 million fewer people are insured next year, will premature deaths occur?

To state the obvious, yes, some will. Insurance, and health care, are like that!

Still and all, the bosses at Fox don't want such things said on the air. A. B. Stoddard seemed to know that when she appeared on the channel last night.

Stoddard was part of "the all-star panel" on last night's Special Report. When guest host Bill Hemmer set her up, Stoddard knew how to play:
HEMMER (6/26/17): Nancy Pelosi had a stinging statement just about an hour ago, "People will die If Trumpcare becomes law. Trumpcare is a prescription for unspeakable suffering. We are in a life or death battle for families across America."

Loaded! A.B.?

STODDARD: It is her specialty this week, if you've been listening to her the last few days, fighting to retain her minority leader position.

The Democrats have done this, Chuck Schumer's Senate, there's a lot of dramatic—

Every single time the Republicans put votes up to repeal Obamacare during the Obama era, the Democrats used the same kind of language about their replacement plan, that repeal was going to kill people. It's really not new. The problem is for President Trump, no one believes that the Democrats are obstructing this.

They know that the Republicans are fighting amongst themselves, that they have created a partisan process, a narrow restrictive procedure that will give them a simple majority vote that Pence could break a tie with and become the 51st vote. And they are fighting among themselves. So it's really—

HEMMER: Do you think it's going to happen this week or not?

STODDARD: You know, I don't think it has to. I think they would prefer it. The leaders are trying to pretend it has to happen this week, but I think they would let it up. But it's not going to slip past August 1.
It was a skillful play.

"It's really not new," the cable guest said. The Democrats have always used that same kind of language!

It was a skillful cable news play. You'll notice that she never said that Pelosi's statement was wrong.

It's all part of being a "cable news" guest! Increasingly, the game is played this way on Our Own Cable Shows, as well as on shows Over There.

Sullivan, Maddow reject Lewis Carroll!

TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2017

Big star slimes Kushner, spares Bernie:
We're so old that we can remember when Alice's retort to the Queen of Hearts was considered instructive, perhaps even cutting edge.

It came by way of Lewis Carroll. Alice's historic push-back went exactly like this:
"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first—verdict afterwards."

"Stuff and nonsense!" said Alice loudly. "The idea of having the sentence first!"

"Hold your tongue!" said the Queen, turning purple.

"I won't!" said Alice.
Sentence first, verdict later? At one time, everyone learned that you don't do that, courtesy of Lewis Carroll!

In everyday life, related concepts have long been understood, even by Us Over Here. You're innocent until you're proven guilty! You aren't guilty of a crime just because you've been charged!

We're so old that we can remember when liberals believed such concepts. Now, thanks to the mental derangement of a major cable news clown, we're moving in a truly heinous direction.

Today, we liberals swear by Rachel in MaddowLand, where a person is guilty of a crime even before he's been charged! In MaddowLand, you're guilty if you hire a lawyer, depending on which tribe you're from.

Maddow continued her ongoing horrible conduct at the start of last evening's program. Jared Kushner has hired a new lawyer, she purringly said in a four-minute opening segment. By rather clear implication, that seemed to mean that he's guilty as charged—even though, at the present time, he actually hasn't been charged!

Kushner is guilty without being charged! Our multimillionaire corporate Rhodes Scholar now trains us to "reason" this way.

Guilty without being charged? Alas! Our Own Tribal Tool has the soul of a modern-day Tailgunner Joe. In truth, she's been playing this game for quite a few years. But we liberals love our tribe so much we can't seem to see what she does.

Yesterday, the disorder spread to this column by the Washington Post's Margaret Sullivan. The column started with a brief profile of Amy Siskind, our tribe's latest source of abject dumbnification.

In fairness, Siskind has done everything right in her life. She spent twenty years on Wall Street, making oodles of Wall Street dough, before she retired to Larchmont, from which location she now devotes herself to dumbing our tribe way down.

At present, that involves her "Weekly List." Yesterday, Sullivan described this offering in her column while committing a ripe journalistic offense.

Let's start at the beginning of Sullivan's column. Last year, Siskind seems to have been one of the savants who didn't realize that Candidate Clinton actually might lose. The aftermath went like this:
SULLIVAN (6/26/17): Shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, Amy Siskind took one of her occasional trips to Val-Kill, the Upstate New York home of Eleanor Roosevelt.

“I needed a Zen moment,” Siskind, who had campaigned for Hillary Clinton, told me. “And that is a place that inspires me.”

Soon afterward, Siskind began keeping what she calls the Weekly List, tracking all the ways in which she saw America’s taken-for-granted governmental norms changing in the Trump era.

The project started small, read by friends and with only a few items a week.

By Week 9, though, the list had gone viral.
Poor Siskind! Stunned by Candidate Clinton's loss, she started compiling a Weekly List. As our tribe's heroic resistance grew, her weekly hand-wringing took off.

In yesterday's column, Sullivan quoted three examples from a recent Siskind list. Sullivan had 85 items from which she could choose. The fact that she included the item we highlight is journalistically astounding:
SULLIVAN: As time went on, the list grew much longer and more sophisticated. Here are three of her 85 items from mid-June:

*“Monday, in a bizarre display in front of cameras, Trump’s cabinet members took turns praising him.”

*“AP reported that a company that partners with both Trump and (son-in-law) Jared Kushner is a finalist for a $1.7bn contract to build the new FBI building.

*Vice President Pence hired a big-name “lawyer with Watergate experience to represent him in the Russian probe.”

Now, in Week 32, every item has a source link, and rather than just a few items, there are dozens.
Good God! With 85 items from which to choose, Sullivan chose the item built upon this concept:

You're guilty even before you've been charged! If you merely hire a lawyer, you'll get slimed by our righteous tribe, with a Watergate reference thrown in.

It's bad enough that an amateur like Siskind would include an item like that on her list. It's astounding to think that, with 85 examples to choose from, Sullivan would decide to run that item in the Washington Post.

Like millions of Democratic officials before him, Vice President Pence had hired a lawyer. According to Sullivan, Pence's action represents one of "the ways in which she saw America’s taken-for-granted governmental norms changing in the Trump era!"

When Pence hired that lawyer, CNN's Jeffrey Toobin made the world's most obvious point. Hiring a lawyer at a time like this is a "non-event," he said. When a large investigation is underway, you'd be crazy not to do so.

Lewis Carroll understood such ideas; we modern "liberals" do not. Incidentally, Siskind links that item back to Maddow's increasingly disordered TV show. Maddow's destroying many brain cells in our sad post-liberal world.

Last night, Maddow was at it again, opening her program with a four-minute rant about the fact that Kushner has hired a lawyer. Every possible insinuation was offered as part of the tribal stew.

Might we note another hire—a hire Maddow has chosen to skip? We refer to the hire described in this report in yesterday's Washington Post:
WEIGEL (6/26/17): Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has retained counsel as the FBI investigates whether his wife, Jane Sanders, committed fraud to acquire a 2010 loan for a now-shuttered Vermont college, predicted Saturday night that the probe would be a political fizzle.

“This was a story that just, amazingly enough, came out in the middle of my presidential campaign, initiated by Donald Trump’s campaign manager in Vermont,” Sanders said in an interview, between rallies in Pennsylvania and Ohio organized to defeat Senate Republicans’ health-care bill. “That’s about it. I don’t think it’ll be a distraction.”
Bernie Sanders has hired a lawyer! Maddow fans, let's lock him up!

You won't hear this outrage described on the Maddow Show, nor is there any reason why you should. That said, Maddow increasingly seems deranged. For years, she has longed to lock them all up. Increasingly, she is dumbnifying the liberal world as she pursues this Queen of Hearts impulse.

Increasingly, Maddow seems to be dragging others down. Sullivan had 85 items from which to choose, and she chose that slimy denunciation of Pence—because he hired a lawyer!

Long ago, Alice knew this was wrong. Today, in our badly declining tribe, we self-impressed, utterly hapless liberals are walking away from such norms.

Don't let the children watch: Last night, Maddow opened her show with four minutes of her trademark McCarthyism.

Escort the children from the room. After that, brace yourself and just click here. Insinuations 'R her!

MANUFACTURED THEFT: Elisabeth Rosenthal channels Russell Mokhiber!

TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 2017

Part 2—The language of corporate crime:
We met Russell Mokhiber in the fall of 1994.

Displaying admirable prescience, Mokhiber attended our award-winning show, Material World, at the Washington Improv.

Later in the run, he returned for additional edification, Ralph Nader and Joan Claybrook in tow. The upshot?

Among the three major contenders in Campaign 2000, only George W. Bush had failed to laugh—and of course to learn—at the award-winning exposition!

Who is Russell Mokhiber? Then, as now, he was one of Washington's leading chroniclers of "corporate crime." In 1999, Diana Henriques actually wrote a whole column about him at the Washington Post:
HENRIQUES (9/26/99): What the police blotter is to the world of street crime, Russell Mokhiber's weekly newsletter is to corporate America.

For the last 13 years, the Corporate Crime Reporter has been itemizing misdeeds committed by highly esteemed members of the Fortune 500: antitrust violations, environmental crimes, Medicare fraud, financial swindles and the neglect of workplace hazards.

After so many years on the mean streets, Mr. Mokhiber's opinion of the nation's most admired corporate citizens is somewhat jaundiced.

''Corporate crime is crime without shame,'' said Mr. Mokhiber, who works in a one-man office in the National Press Building here. ''It's gotten to the point where when a corporation pleads guilty to some criminal act, the stock goes up.''

[...]

A lawyer and a longtime follower of the consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Mr. Mokhiber first drew a bead on the corporate world in 1988 with his book, ''Corporate Crime and Violence: Big Business Power and the Abuse of the Public Trust.''
The New York Times also profiled Mokhiber that year. Did something get into the water?

We thought of Mokhiber a few weeks back as we perused a new book. The book was written by Elisabeth Rosenthal, a well-informed person who generally lacks Mokhiber's street-fighting profile.

Who is Elisabeth Rosenthal? Her publisher, Penguin Random House, profiles her at her book's site. For twenty-two years, she was a reporter, correspondent, and senior writer at The New York Times.

Today, Rosenthal is editor in chief of Kaiser Health News, an independent journalism newsroom focusing on health and health policy.

She wasn't always a journalist. Rosenthal started out as an MD from Harvard Medical School, trained in internal medicine. Her new book, An American Sickness, "is a shocking investigation into our dysfunctional healthcare system," Penguin Random House accurately says.

Rosenthal is a deeply experienced person who isn't a street-fighting radical from the Nader school. As we started reading her book, we thought of Mokhiber because of the way, in her opening pages, she adopts the language of corporate crime in describing our health care system.

This very week, the health care "system" her book describes will be all over the nation's front pages. On our corporate "cable news" channels, top stars will pretend to discuss it.

As this happens, Rosenthal's horrific book is withering on the vine. Despite its author's unassailable pedigree, the book is producing zero public discussion, a point we'll consider all week.

Rosenthal's book is being widely ignored. That may be because of the way its author adopted the language of corporate crime in discussing our "health care system."

In what ways does Rosenthal channel Mokhiber? Right on page one, in her opening sentence, the dignified author says this:
ROSENTHAL (page 1): In the past quarter century, the American medical system has stopped focusing on health or even science. Instead it attends more or less single-mindedly to its own profits.
"The American medical system...attends more or less single-mindedly to its own profits?" Can Elisabeth Rosenthal say that?

We think you're asking a very good question. But trust us, that's barely a start.

As she continues, Rosenthal repeatedly describes the working of our health care system in the language normally used in the description of crime. This may help explain why wealthy corporate employees on cable channels will never, not in a million years, discuss the things Rosenthal says.

In what ways does she talk Mokhiber's talk? "Faced with disease, we are all potential victims of medical extortion," she says on page 3. By page 4, she's offering this:
ROSENTHAL (page 4): Part 1 of this book, “History of the Present Illness and Review of Systems,” charts the transformation of American medicine in the last quarter century from a caring endeavor to the most profitable industry in the United States—what many experts refer to as a medical-industrial complex. As money became the metric of good medicine, everyone wanted more and cared less about their original mission. The descent happened sector by sector: insurers, then hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and so on.

First as the child of an old-fashioned doctor—my father was a hematologist—then as an MD, and finally during my years as a health care reporter for the Times, I’ve had a lifetime front-row seat to the slow-moving heist.
She's had a front-row seat at a slow-moving heist? She's speaking the language of crime.

In her very next paragraph, Rosenthal adopts the language of corporate insult. She says the "big players" in our "medical-industrial complex" "spend more on lobbying than defense contractors."

In the process, they persistently "default to the most expensive treatment for whatever ails you," she says, describing a process which almost sounds a small tiny bit like fraud.

Comparisons to the military-industrial complex don't literally entail the use of the language of crime. That said, they come rather close. And at the start of Chapter 2, still on page 24 of her book, Rosenthal lets it fly.

She approvingly quotes a health care expert who compares the operation of American hospitals to the work of our nation's most famous bank robber. Then she quotes another expert making an ugly allusion.

Why do hospitals charge so much? This is what Rosenthal says:
ROSENTHAL (page 24-25): "It's like asking Willie Sutton why he robs banks; that's where the money is," said Dr. David Gifford, a former director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. Market economists I've spoken with variously refer to hospitals as "sharks" or "spending machines."...

A longtime finance executive with major American hospitals describes his field as an extractive industry...
Rosenthal doesn't identify that longtime finance executive, who she proceeds to quote. The executive goes on to describe an array of players who are "at the trough" as hospitals execute their various heists.

"This is not a healthcare system, it's an industry," this longtime executive says, "and at every point there's away to make money."

Some of this language is simply the language of corporate denigration. But some of this is, quite clearly, the language of corporate crime.

We thought of Mokhiber as we read it. Beyond that, we pondered the fact that you will never hear these topics discussed by your favorite TV stars on the partisan entertainment channels billed as "cable news."

Rosenthal hails from Harvard Medical School and the New York Times. She hails from the very top of our major elites—and she speaks the language of corporate crime when she describes our health care system, which she calls "An American Sickness."

Its practitioners are staging a rolling "heist;" they engage in repeated acts of "extortion." They are compared to Willie Sutton, one of our most famous criminals.

Rosenthal makes these statements from the highest peaks of our modern elites. That said, she won't be speaking with Rachel or Lawrence this week. All week, we'll ponder the reasons for that.

We'll also ponder the startling data you won't be seeing on your favorite cable programs this week. You won't be asked to marvel at these data, or to ponder the extent to which your nation is a helpless, pitiful giant in thrall to a large group of extractive players:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Miraculous Finland: $3984
Those are among the world's most remarkable data. According to those remarkable data, $5000 per person per year disappears into the maws of our "health care system."

Especially in a week like this, those are among the world's most instructive data. But how strange! All this week, as in all other weeks, our big news orgs will refuse to present or discuss them!

To Rosenthal, those numbers portray the fruit of a widespread heist by an extractive industry. At this site, we've long said that those data represent a matter of widespread "looting."

This week, we'll also say that those numbers are the fruit of manufactured theft. That said, you won't be seeing those numbers this week. Why doesn't Rachel present them?

We've been trained to adore her and trust her. Why won't she stop aping Tailgunner Joe and tell us about this instead?

Tomorrow: Rosenthal disappeared

Rosenthal's first seven pages: To read the Introduction to Rosenthal's book, you can just click here.

You'll be reading pages 1-7 of her book, including the passages we've posted.

Fiddling while Obamacare (possibly) burns!

MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2017

Who's delusional now:
In our view, Margaret Sullivan's column in this morning's Washington Post is little short of remarkable.

That said, it's so remarkable that it's depressing to contemplate. Let's leave it for tomorrow, even as we lump it in with this remarkable column at the new and improved Salon.

We'd have to say that Sullivan's piece is tragically, cataclysmically tribal. We had a somewhat similar reaction to this new post by Josh Marshall.

Marshall discusses the latest attack/claims by Donald J. Trump. He then quotes someone explaining, in a fully plausible way, why Trump behaves as he does.

Why does Trump behave as he does? Marshall's explanation makes perfect sense. But then, he ends his piece this way. Who's semi-delusional now?
MARSHALL (6/26/17): The only real addition to the story is that this [kind of aggressive behavior] is a lot easier to pull off with other real estate developers than it is to powerful players in Washington, especially after they’ve seen the swindle a few times. Trump’s inability to get the same results as he’s used to with this approach is basically the story of his presidency so far.
"Trump’s inability to get [good results] with this approach is basically the story of his presidency so far?"

Consider:

On the day that assessment appears, Trump is amazingly close to getting Obamacare disabled. He has also largely been affirmed by the Supreme Court, which is acting in the face of the tribal insistences we have uniformly pushed concerning the matter at hand.

(The only complaints came from three conservative Justices, who think the Court's lenient action today was too hard on Trump.)

What Marshall says makes perfect sense, except to the extent that it doesn't. We may be days from a truly horrific defeat (or not) but, if we might borrow from Dylan, we still think we're on the side which is hugely winning!

Tribal certainty can conquer all! Who seems to be possibly ever-so-slightly out of touch with reality now?

People, we're just saying: This TPM headline sits mere inches from Marshall's report:

"The vote could come down to just a handful of lawmakers"

To us, that says we could be close to an era-defining, ginormous defeat. Or not! But when does this perilous state of affairs harsh our delusional mellow?

Stephanopoulos battles with Kellyanne!

MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2017

The press corps' low skill levels:
Would the Republican Senate's health care bill produce large Medicaid cuts? Or would it simply slow the rate at which the program would grow?

Last Wednesday, we spotted the New York Times' Robert Pear reverting to "slow the growth." He did this above the fold on the Times' front page. To review our post, click here.

As always, your Daily Howler keeps banging out results! Two days later, Pear flipped. Front-page headline included:
PEAR AND KAPLAN (6/23/17): Senate Unveils Health Bill With Deep Medicaid Cuts, Similar to House Version

Senate Republicans, who for seven years have promised a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, took a major step on Thursday toward that goal, unveiling a bill to make deep cuts in Medicaid and end the law's mandate that most Americans have health insurance.
We're not even saying which formulation was preferable! But Pear couldn't seem to pick one.

At any rate, how about it? Is the Senate GOP cutting the Medicaid program? Or are they simply slowing the rate at which the program will grow? The nation's leading journalists have been flummoxed by this rhetorical structure since at least 1995, when they spent a year being bollixed by this same question with respect to Newt Gingrich's Medicare plan.

Our press corps has few analytical skills. Yesterday, no one was more buffaloed than George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's This Week.

We haven't partied with Stephanopoulos since July 4, 2000. Still, when you've partied with someone on such an occasion, you always feel like a friend.

We'd like to say that George came through. This time, he actually didn't.

Stephanopoulos was speaking with Kellyanne Conway. She banged Obamacare around, but George then asked her this:
STEPHANOPOULOS (6/25/17): So you've laid out the problems with Obamacare. A lot of senators have questions about the Senate bill, particularly those cuts in Medicaid. More than $800 billion.

I want to show the president's first speech, when he announced for president.

TRUMP (videotape): Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The president, right there, said no cuts in Medicaid. He has several Tweets on that same subject.

This bill has even more Medicaid cuts than the House bill. Why is the president going back on his promise?
He thought he had Kellyanne over a barrel. But sad!

She said there were no Medicaid cuts—that they were just slowing the rate of the program's growth. In reply, this was the best George could do:
CONWAY (continuing directly): These are not cuts to Medicaid, George. This slows the rate for the future and it allows governors more flexibility, with Medicaid dollars, because they're closest to the people in need.

Medicaid's imperative, its founding was meant to help the poor, the sick, the needy, the disabled, children, some elderly, women, particularly pregnant women. We are trying to get Medicaid back to its original moorings and—

STEPHANOPOULOS: Kellyanne, I don't see how you can say that the cut, more than $800 billion in savings is not cuts. And don't do— You don't have to take my word for it. It's the Republican senators you're facing right now who have that problem, led by Senator Dean Heller in Nevada. He said he's voting no. Also, Senator Susan Collins.

Here was, here's what they said:

HELLER (videotape): First, it doesn't protect Nevadans on Medicaid. Second, the cuts to Medicaid threatens critical services in Nevada, services that a lot of Nevadans depend on.

COLLINS (videotape): I cannot support a bill that's going to make such deep cuts in Medicaid that it's going to shift billions of dollars to our state government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So these senators are the ones saying these are Medicaid cuts. Is the president prepared to put more money back into Medicaid?
Even after all these years, he couldn't explain his own claim. Instead, he pointed to Heller and Collins, saying they called it a cut.

There's a term for that—missing in action.

Back in the 1990s, it was easy to explain the claim that the GOP was proposing "Medicare cuts." For future years, their bill proposed levels of Medicare spending which fell far short of the spending required to maintain the existing level of Medicare services.

Inevitably, that would require cuts in Medicare services. In that way, the Gingrich Congress was proposing "Medicare cuts."

Is the McConnell Senate proposing Medicaid cuts? Stephanopoulos said it was, then failed to explain his statement. Kellyanne tossed some gorilla dust around, and George was soon moving on (text below).

Our upper-end press corps has almost no skills. They display this fact again and again, but just keep rolling along.

Tie goes to the spinner: Did Stephanopoulos ever explain his claim about those "Medicaid cuts?"

We'd have to say he didn't. He and Conway wrestled around for a while. Eventually, he quit on this:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Again, it's the Republican senators calling this "cuts." It's the experts calling this "cuts." There's no way you can say—

CONWAY: And you know why that is?

STEPHANOPOULOS: —$800 billion in savings are not cuts.

But I don't want to dwell on that, because there are other important issues we have to focus on here as well.

The president has made a big effort on opioid addiction. He says he really wants to do something about it, including in his address to Congress earlier this year. Let's take a look at that...
For the record, the analysts screamed when Stephanopoulos turned to the always useless "savings v. cuts" formulation.

George didn't want to dwell on his claim about the Medicaid cuts. In the end, all he had is what two Republican senators (out of 52) had said.

Kellyanne volunteered to explain why they said what they said. That's when George said, "No mas."

In our modern journalism, there's a term for a wrestling match like that: "Tie goes to the state of constant confusion." A major journalist should be able to explain his seminal claims. Yesterday, George couldn't do it.

You saw us explain those old "Medicare cuts." Why wasn't ABC's biggest star—he's entirely bright—prepared to be more like us?

MANUFACTURED THEFT: Birds' eggs yes, health care $$$$ no!

MONDAY, JUNE 26, 2017

Part 1—Chomsky's thesis in action:
We humans!

Despite embarrassing limitations observable through the annals of time, we can develop a ton of information— though only in situations where the sharing of facts and information is culturally allowed.

This noteworthy fact came to mind as we read Friday morning's Washington Post. On page A3, the Post reported the latest facts about the various shapes of the eggs laid by different species of birds.

Youngish Ben Guarino had received the assignment, and he had hammered it out. He seemed a good choice for the task.

No, we don't do name jokes here. But before arriving at the Post, Guarino had been an associate editor at a news org named The Dodo!

Now, his editors had assigned him the task of keeping the public informed. In reaction, Guarinoa had produced a clean, crisp, highly informative, fact-festooned news report.

Why do the eggs of various birds display so many different shapes? According to the Post's report, scientists have aggressively studied the question and have acquired some good solid facts.

Banner-width headline included, the Post was now reporting those facts:
GUARINO (6/23/17): Why are birds' eggs shaped like eggs? Scientists say they've figured it out.

If a Hollywood exec dreamed up an egg, it would look like a chicken's: immensely popular, with an unblemished complexion. But the universe of wild bird eggs is far weirder and more diverse than the oval products on the supermarket shelf. Hummingbirds lay eggs shaped like Tic Tac mints—"perfect little ellipses," per ornithologist and evolutionary biologist Mary C. Stoddard. Sandpiper eggs come to peaks, in the manner of teardrops. Owls plop out tight spheres not unlike table-tennis balls.

A team of evolutionary biologists, physicists and applied mathematicians says it knows why eggs come in so many different models. In a report published in the journal Science on Thursday, the scientists linked egg shapes to birds' flight behavior. Stronger fliers, like swallows, had elongated or pointy eggs. Birds that couldn't fly so far or fast had rounder, more symmetric ones.

"Eggs are not just something we buy at the grocery store and cook up in an omelet," said Stoddard, an author of the new research and a professor at Princeton University. The story of eggs is the story of vertebrate life on land, she explained...
Hummingbird eggs are like Tic Tac mints? We pictured our favorite, the late Ed McMahon:

"I did not know that," he surely would have said.

Guarino presented a full-length report about the various shapes of eggs. After citing a howler by Aristotle, he described what we humans frequently do, though only in situations where knowledge and information are culturally allowed:
GUARINO: Stoddard and her colleagues took a more refined approach than dead Greek philosophers. They photographed 50,000 eggs representing 1,400 bird species, all specimens housed at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley.

They mapped the bird eggs on a spectrum, from the spherical and symmetrical to the elongated and pointy. If there exists a Platonic ideal of a bird egg, an ovum shaped most like all the others, it is not laid by a chicken but by a small warbler called the graceful prinia. Prinia eggs, Stoddard said, are slightly more oblong but "substantially more asymmetric."

What's more, egg shapes really aren't about the shell, she and her colleagues found. Rather, the filmy membrane just beneath the shell dictates the overall shape of the egg. When a bird begins creating an egg, the animal pumps the egg through an oviduct, a passageway of glands like a factory line.

[...]

Armed with the knowledge that organ shape played a crucial role, the scientists scoped out the relationship of eggs across the bird family tree. "In this final mega-analysis, we were able to test for the first time, on a global scale, these different hypotheses," such as the effect of flight ability or cliff-dwelling behaviors.
The Post's report continued from there. All in all, Stoddard's team had busted its ascots compiling this flotilla of facts. The Washington Post now reported those facts, just as a paper should so.

This is what big newspapers do—but only in the types of cases where knowledge of facts is allowed.

The Post was sharing all the facts about the shapes of eggs. That said, there are major topics concerning which the Post won't perform this way.

Neither will your favorite stars on corporate liberal cable. By apparent common consent, there are certain topics concerning which the most basic facts will be disappeared, in accordance with the group dynamic which lays the egg known as Hard Pundit Law.

Way back in 1988,
Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky described this counterintuitive process through their use of the term "manufactured consent." Presumably, this helps explain why you rarely see Chomsky quoted in the Post.

In what areas will the Washington Post work to conceal basic facts? One such bill may come due this week. We refer to the general topic of American health care and, more specifically, to the question of health care spending and "costs."

By way of background, we liberals face a possible embarrassment of historic proportions this week. As Kevin Drum explained last Friday, the Republican Senate may pass a bill which would, with the assent of the House and Donald J. Trump, dismantle Obamacare.

This giant embarassment may not occur, but it certainly could. If it does, it will mean that the liberal world has been left for dead by the craziest person who ever got within a hundred miles of the Oval Office, and by his helpmates in Congress.

You're going to see many pseudo-discussions of this matter this week. On your favorite cable channels, your favorite corporate stars will offer endless speculations about the way some Republican solons may vote.

Rachel will be mugging and clowning, helping you learn to adore her more fully. But on cable news, and in the Washington Post, you won't be exposed to the data shown below, which underlie ever syllable uttered in this gong-show pseudo-debate:
Per capita spending, health care, 2015
United States: $9451
Canada: $4608
Australia: $4420
France: $4407
Japan: $4150
United Kingdom: $4003
Finland: $3984
Those data are among the most striking found anywhere in the world. They're among the world's most revealing data—and they're among the least reported.

They form the background to everything occurring this week. Presumably for that reason, you aren't allowed to see those data, or to hear them discussed.

In all the discussions of health care this week, you won't encounter those data. According to Herman and Chomsky, public consent is being manufactured with respect to health care spending. On that basis, discussion of those remarkable data isn't allowed to occur.

Peculiar, ain't it? In Friday's Washington Post, you were buried beneath a pile of facts about the shapes of eggs. The newspaper told you what we've learned from the latest "mega-analysis."

But how strange! All last week, you didn't see those remarkable data about health care spending. Over the course of the past many years, presentation of those astonishing data hasn't been allowed.

The liberal world may absorb one of the most appalling defeats in American political history this week. (Or not. If we do, we will remain serenely sure of the brilliance of our own side.)

As we stare down the barrel of that debacle, those basic data about health care spending are kept from public view. Chomsky explained this long ago, which explains why he isn't allowed.

Why aren't we being shown those data? Why doesn't Rachel share them with us, along with her repeated complaints about the fact that Governor Bentley liked touching his girl friend's breasts?

If we're allowed breasts and the eggs of birds, why can't we get those astonishing data? We'll be exploring that question all week.

Spoiler alert:

To all appearances, Noam Chomsky—he isn't "Chomsky the God"—answered that question decades ago. In this case, the process Chomsky described has served to enable a giant, massive and very large case of manufactured theft.

Tomorrow: Elisabeth Rosenthal and the language of corporate crime

We don't know if the health bill will pass!

SATURDAY, JUNE 24, 2017

But Kevin Drum may well be right:
We don't know if the GOP health bill will pass the Senate next week.

It may not pass the Senate at all! Sadly, though, we have to say that Kevin Drum's assessment could be right.

Yesterday, Drum offered a set of predictions and possibilities. Every part of this could turn out to be right:
DRUM (6/23/17): This is just a note about the Senate health care bill. Do not believe any prattle about Mitch McConnell “being OK with a loss.” Or about “moderate Republicans” who will vote against it. Or about conservatives who are “revolting.” Or about “desperate attempts” to hold the Republican caucus together.

Next week the CBO will release its score of the bill. They will confirm that it doesn’t increase the deficit. The Senate will debate for a day or two; pass a few minor amendments; and then pass the bill. The vote will be 51-50, with Vice President Pence breaking the tie.

If Paul Ryan is smart, he will simply bring up the Senate bill for a vote and be done with it. It will pass because everyone will understand that this is their only chance. Either vote yes, or else give up on repealing Obamacare and give Democrats a big win.
It may not work out that way at all. On the other hand, those predictions could well be right. The bill will pass the Senate, then pass the House in identical form.

We'll offer one small caveat. It concerns that 51-50 vote.

Why is Drum predicting that Pence will have to break a 50-50 tie in the Senate? Presumably, he thinks McConnell may grant "free passes" to two Republican senators. He'll let them vote against the bill for political reasons involving their standing in their (blue-leaning) home states.

That used to be the way it was done, but a problem arose. When an unpopular or controversial bill passes on a tie vote, or by a one-vote margin, that means that everyone who voted yes has "cast the deciding vote."

If the Republicans pass this bill on a 50-50 vote in the Senate, all fifty Republicans could be attacked that way in a future general election campaign. But hold on! If the bill passes the Senate on a 51-49 vote, that means that no one has "cast the deciding vote!"

For this silly rhetorical reason, the tactic has shifted away from passing an unpopular bill by the narrowest possible margin. In this case, that would mean that McConnell would grant only one "free pass," and the bill would pass the Senate, 51-49.

Pence wouldn't have to break the tie. He could continue to travel all over the country, nefariously raising buckets of money for his "legal defense," the way he's been doing of late in the fever dreams of our resistance.

(It's also possible, of course, that two Republicans will insist on voting no, producing that rhetorically unhelpful tie.)

Drum's predictions may all turn out to be right. Unfortunately, the rest of his post is accurate too—accurate and darkly illustrative:
DRUM (continuing): The only way to break this cycle is to generate some new opposition. Senate Republicans already know that Democrats oppose the bill, AARP opposes the bill, hospitals oppose the bill, and so forth. They don’t care. The Democrats won’t vote for them no matter what they do and the others aren’t threatening to withdraw campaign support. They oppose the bill, but only on paper. They also know that their bill will take away health coverage from millions. They don’t care about that either. They never have.

This is it. There’s a week left. Lefties need to generate some new opposition to the bill that wavering senators are actually afraid of. Any ideas?
There you have it. With one week left, Drum says we lefties need to generate new opposition to the bill.

What he says may well be right. But it's much too late for our brilliant resistance to accomplish any such task. Who can we recruit, after all? We already have Johnny Depp!

This call for help is much too late. It's thirty years too late.

Over that stretch of time, we lefties have diddled and clowned and partied and played and let ourselves be endlessly conned by our putative intellectual leaders.

In truth, we just aren't especially bright. Our attention span? It doesn't exist. Gnats feel sorry for us!

Except within our own sweet dreams, we're remarkably ineffective. Making matters worse, we're almost insanely self-impressed and defiantly self-deluded.

According to U.S. officials, we're among the least savvy people who ever drew breath on the planet. Scientifically, this fact has been proven within the past year. But as proof of our general haplessness, we're unable to process this fact about Ineffectual Us.

We plan to return to the topic of health care next week, reviewing decades of liberal/progressive ineptitude. We'll also peruse this remarkable text at the new and improved Salon.

Truly, it's a seminal text. It portrays the self-defeating soul of the group known as Ridiculous Us. That remarkable text is built upon the rock of our tribe's self-delusion.

Fox & Friends, the dumbest show ever!

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2017

Look who's catching up:
Long ago and far away, we first discussed the massive dumbness of the morning show, Fox & Friends.

At the time, it struck us as the dumbest news program ever broadcast. It was while we were watching Brian Kilmeade on the Fox & Friends of that era that we were first struck by an unfortunate thought:

Performers on these programs are being paid amounts of money they would never receive in any other walk of life. For that reason, these people never rock the boat on such shows. In large part, they're being paid for their obedience to the corporate mission.

In this piece by Adam Raymond, the world-class dumbness of this program is back today in full flower.

Today's dumbness involves Steve Doocey, who may have created more dumbness by now than anyone else in the history of TV news. Ainsley Earnhardt is also involved. Also, dear God, Ed Henry!

You'll have to read the piece by Raymond to see how vast the dumbness was in the incident he describes. Having said that, though, we'll also say this:

Rachel Maddow's recent segments about Mike Pence's legal fees were every bit as dumb. Assuming minimal emotional agency,
Maddow was talking down to the rubes, just as the Fox & Friends gang has always done.

Assuming minimal emotional agency—and we don't make that assumption with Maddow—she was showing her ultimate disrespect for the people who watch her program.

There's an obvious difference here. Maddow was originally peddled to us as Our Own Rhodes Scholar. She would score very high on an IQ test. Assuming minimal emotional competence, the dumbness she displayed in those segments was entirely deliberate. It can't have happened because she herself is dumb.

Meanwhile, if it's The Big Tribal Dumb you like, just consider this second report, in which Raymond discusses Trump's recent interview with the Fox & Friends gang. In this chunk shown below, Raymond accuses Trump of "witness intimidation" due to his suggestion last month that he might have tapes of his conversations with Comey the God:
RAYMOND (6/23/17): The President also addressed the nonexistent tapes of his conversations with Comey. Thursday he admitted that the tapes don’t exist. He reiterated that in the interview—“I didn’t tape, and I don’t have any tape, and I didn’t tape.”—but [Trump] added that he concocted the ruse to keep Comey honest. And he thinks it worked.

“When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there—whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else and who knows—I think his story may have changed,” Trump said. “You’ll have to take a look at that because then he has to tell what actually took place at the events. My story didn’t change—my story was always a straight story, my story always was the truth. But you’ll have to determine for yourself whether or not his story changed, but I did not tape.”

Earhardt then complimented Trump, saying the ruse was “a smart way to make sure [Comey] stayed honest during those hearings.”

“It wasn’t very stupid, I can tell you that,” Trump said. “He did admit that what I said was right.
And if you look further back before he heard about that, I think maybe he wasn’t admitting that.”

And with that, Trump can add “witness intimidation” to the ever-growing list of crimes he’s being accused of committing in his short five months in office.
For starters, let's get clear on what Trump is saying. He's saying that Comey was forced to tell the truth because of the bluff concerning the tape. Otherwise, Trump is saying, Comey might have dissembled or lied.

That may or may not be the case. Based on the published record, we'd have to say that Trump's bluff may have had that sort of effect on anonymous Comey "associates." It seems possible that certain claims by some "associates" may have been tempered after Trump issued his bluff.

At any rate, that's what Trump is saying. Now, try to fathom what Raymond is saying in the text we've posted. (As a general matter, we mentioned the peculiar reasoning in which he's engaged in our first post today.)

Raymond is saying that, by forcing Comey to be honest in his testimony, Trump engaged in "witness intimidation!" He describes this as a crime.

Let's go over that again:

In the imagined scenario, Trump's bluff forces Comey to tell the truth in his Senate testimony. He can no longer lie under oath because a tape might exist.

According to Raymond, Trump was thereby committing the crime of intimidating a witness! He was robbing Comey of the freedom to lie under oath.

Desire to maintain faith with the tribe can make people say many things. All over cable last night, scripted pundits were voicing softer versions of this manifest tribal lunacy.

This morning, his lizard apparently barking, Raymond served the lunacy straight. With The Crazy running wild on all sides, we live in dangerous times. A major nation can't survive when the tribes start playing like this.

That said, will your lizard let you consider our original point?

The ludicrous Doocey = Maddow? Will your lizard let you see it?

The New York Times joins the fact-checking game!

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2017

Who is Linda Qiu:
Recently, the New York Times got into the fact-checking game.

They were rather late to this trend.

At present, their fact-check presentations are being done by Linda Qiu. We'll admit that we've occasionally thought her work falls short of the mark.

This morning, Qiu has a high-profile FACT CHECK piece in the hard-copy Times. She fact-checks Donald J. Trump's recent speech, the one he gave Wednesday night.

Qiu starts like this, hard-copy headline included:
QIU (6/23/17): An Adoring Crowd, And a Dozen Things That Aren't True

President Trump returned to familiar rhetorical territory during a raucous campaign-style rally in Iowa on Wednesday night, repeating exaggerations and falsehoods about health care, jobs, taxes, foreign policy and his own record.

Here’s an assessment.
Sure enough—twelve fact-checks follow. That's an even dozen.

Qiu's third fact-check is very significant. She offers this brisk report:
QIU: He falsely claimed the United States is “the highest-taxed nation in the world.”

In 2015, the United States ranked in the middle or near the bottom compared among 35 advanced economies in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by the typical metrics: No. 28 for total tax revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product, No. 22 for corporate tax revenue as a percentage of G.D.P. and No. 13 for tax revenue per capita.
That's exactly the kind of fact-check a major newspaper should stress. It reviews a major, gong-show claim—a major claim which gets made all the time. Through this standard claim, millions of voters get disinformed about a very basic topic.

That was an excellent fact-check. By way of contrast, it seems to us that Qiu's sixth fact-check isn't:
QIU: He falsely claimed Gary Cohn paid “$200 million in taxes” to serve as his economic adviser.

Mr. Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs, was required to divest company shares under ethics laws, and sold about $220 million worth of Goldman stock. He also received a cash payout of about $65 million. The nearly $300 million payout is, of course, eventually subject to taxation but characterizing it as money paid to the I.R.S. is not accurate.
All of a sudden, we're off in the weeds, and we seem to be splitting an extremely fine hair. This is the kind of nit-picking point which will convince many people that they're dealing with a partisan, and that they should therefore ignore all her points.

Other fact-checks were hard to follow, or made minor small points, or seemed to take us toward the land of difference of opinion or emphasis. At one point, we experieneced major puzzlement. Because of certain claims we heard last night, we were especially interested in this topic:
QIU: He said he would bar immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for five years, but they already are prohibited.

The requirements sought by Mr. Trump have largely been in place for two decades since the passage of welfare reform or the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.

Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country. States have the option of waiving the Medicaid rule for pregnant immigrants and children.

Refugees, asylees and victims of trafficking can collect some benefits, and immigrants who’ve served in the military are eligible without a time requirement.
"Legal permanent residents who haven’t worked in the United States for 10 years are not eligible for food assistance or Medicaid within the first five years of entering the country?"

Are we missing something here? Has any such person "worked in the United States for 10 years" "within the first five years of entering the country?"

There may be a way to exit this maze, but we'd have to guess what it is.

We've been frustrated by Qiu's presentations in the past. For that reason, we finally decided to check her background.

She's three years out of college (University of Chicago, 2014). We're just wondering:

Reducing labor costs can be great if that's what we're looking at here. But at a newspaper like the Times, does fact-checking seem like a major beat for someone of such tender years?

Presumably, a person that young could do that job. That said, we've often thought that Qiu's work isn't quite up to snuff at this point in a very important field.

Is this the best the Times can do? Youthful scribes to the side, we find ourselves asking that question a fair amount of the time.

RIDICULOUS US: Our own rogues gallery of prime-time hosts!

FRIDAY, JUNE 23, 2017

Part 4—Much loved by Ridiculous Us:
All around the globe, wherever such groups have performed, lynch mobs have sometimes stampeded off in pursuit of a guilty party.

That doesn't mean they weren't lynch mobs, with all the moral and intellectual squalor which serve to distinguish such groups.

At present, a group of this type is chasing Donald J. Trump around. In our view, they're chasing a deeply disordered, dangerous party who shouldn't be where he is.

That doesn't mean that they aren't a mob conducting an old-fashioned chase.

Our press corps has staged several such chases in the past twenty-five years. This time, they're chasing a "guilty party." But they're still behaving like a mob, as they did when they were chasing Clinton, Clinton and Gore.

Case in point—our own "cable news," last night.

Yesterday, the Republican leadership in the Senate released its health care proposal. By common assessment, tens of millions fewer people will have health care in the future if the bill ends up passing, as it very well might.

Last night, on liberal cable, this rather large problem took a back seat to an entertaining chase. We'll call it The Hardy Boys and the Case of the Grandfather Clock. In that title, we refer to the conversation which took place in the shadow of that grandfather clock.

When he testified before the Senate last month, James B. Comey kept referring to the grandfather clock, which is found in the Oval Office. Pundits praised him at that time for his magnificent narrative skill. They said his inclusion of such detail suggested that he was right about pretty much everything else.

That foolishness was part of the chase. So were some of the conversations on liberal cable last night.

Before the pundits could talk about health care last night, they had to talk about Donald J. Trump's newest revelation. No, he didn't have audiotape of his conversations with Comey the God, the president had finally said.

This distraction returned the pundits to The Case of the Grandfather Clock. Nancy Drew was also present, in the person of Nicolle Wallace, guest-hosting for Brian Williams on The 11th Hour.

Wallace opened the show with a segment about Trump's non-existent tapes. After a panel of hanging judges all said all the mandated things, she went to her first break at 11:13, saying this:
WALLACE (6/22/17): Thank you Jeremy Bash, Michael Crowley and Mieke Eoyang.

Coming up, reaction to all this from a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Jeff Merkley joins us in studio, next.

And later, the Republican health care bill is out and there's already enough resistance to kill it, from Republicans. The 11th Hour is back after this.
Yay yay yay yay yay! The health care bill was already on the way down! But first, we were going to discuss Donald Trump's tapes some more! The tapes were entertaining and fun. As every overpaid pundit knows, health care discussions are boring!

That's the way our own cable works in the hands of a Republican host. (Wallace was communications director in the Bush White House. She's long been excellent as a cable news guest, is improving as a host.)

In fairness, Wallace turned to health care fairly quickly when she spoke with Merkley. That said, the Case of the Grandfather Clock came first. It was the lead on The 11th Hour, and it produced a scripted conversation, part of the ongoing chase.

Needless to say, the conversation involved speculation about Trump's original motives for suggesting he had those tapes. Also, the conversation involved the chance that Trump's suggestion meant that he had maybe perhaps committed obstruction of justice.

Yay yay yay yay yay yay! Wallace's trio of pundits wondered whether Trump had meant to intimidate Comey the God by suggesting he had tapes, or whether he meant to threaten him. We liberals were given those choices on Our Own Partisan Cable. No other possibilities needed to apply.

Here on our sprawling campus, our analysts were somewhat puzzled. They wondered how Comey could have been kept from making accurate statements about his conversations with Trump by the possibility that a tape of those conversations might exist.

Of one thing the youngsters could feel quite sure. They would hear no suggestion that Trump's suggestion about the tapes kept Comey, or his "associates," from making inaccurate statements about those conversations.

As we noted last week, it can almost seems that some such thing actually may have occurred. Before Trump made his remark about tapes, "associates" of Comey were insisting that Comey had never told Trump that he wasn't under investigation. These insistent, false statements came to an end after Trump suggested he might have tapes.

We liberals aren't forced to hear such facts on our own partisan channel. The channel exists to make us feel happy at night, and to make plenty of money for the corporate owners, just like over on Fox.

Last night, on liberal cable, we were thereby enjoying the fun of the chase. On The 11th Hour, facts about health care took second place, just as it ever has been, for the past dozens of years.

Meanwhile, over on Fox, people were hearrng different topics discussed. As we flipped back and forth, in sheer boredom, to Tucker Carlson Tonight, we were struck by the topics our fellow citizens were hearing discussed Over There.

The first time we flipped over, Joe Concha was telling Tucker that MSNBC and CNN had refused to broadcast Donald J. Trump's speech the previous night. We think their decision made perfect sense, but Concha was bringing some heat.

They talk about Trump almost all the time, Concha said, offering data which are garbled in the Nexis transcript. But they refuse to air him live! He then offered these remarks:
CONCHA (6/22/17): So when you are so myopic on a particular person, in this case the president, why wouldn't you cover him live to actually hear what he has to say? Unless that unfiltered version of Trump doesn't allow for commentary, punditry, or maybe speculation around their latest bombshell that came via unnamed sources.

So then we talk about the business end of this...How did the ratings work out? Was this a good editorial decision by CNN and MSNBC not to cover this rally live as Fox did?

I have the numbers in front of me. Fox more than quadrupled CNN's audience during live coverage at 8 PM Eastern last night.

Total audience: Fox 3.3 million, CNN 821,000. Against MSNBC: Fox 3.3 million, MSNBC 1.53 million.
Fox had conquered again, the channel's viewers were told. They were also told that MSNBC won't cover Donald J. Trump except to speculate about their latest anonymous bombshell.

Sadly, there's an element of truth to that.

The next time we flipped over, Carlson was battering an immigration attorney about the claim that immigrants can't receive welfare benefits in their first five years in the country.

Carlson said this liberal claim is grossly misleading, to the point of basically being wrong; he seemed to go into some detail. We can't tell you if he was right, but neither could the attorney!

We flipped again, and Fox viewers were being told about a professor at Trinity University, Carlson's alma mater. Let's just say that this professor may have gone Kathy Griffin one better:
CARLSON: Several days ago, shortly after House majority whip Steve Scalise and four others were shot down on a baseball field outside of D.C., a sociology professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut went onto social media to applaud the violence.

His name is [NAME WITHHELD]; he is a professor there. He linked to an article on Facebook that argued Congressman Scalise should have been left to bleed to death on the field. Here's part of what he wrote:

Quote, "It is past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be white will not do. Put an end to the vectors of their destructive methodology of whiteness in their white supremacy system."

And then [NAME WITHHELD] added this. "Let them EFFING die." He spelled that out. In a later post, Williams referred to white people as, quote, "inhuman." Whoa!

He still works there. Forced by news reports to respond to all this, the president of the college, Joanne Berger-Sweeney, issued a statement saying the school will look into [his] post...
We haven't researched the incident, but let's face it. Someone within our liberal tents is always creating a moment like this. Over on our own cable channel, we aren't required to know or think about this.

The last time we flipped, Tucker was discussing Kamala Harris with Asra Nomani, the very sane-seeming co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement. That segment started like this:
CARLSON: Just last week, California Senator Kamala Harris became a feminist mantra by persisting in her questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But the day later, Harris had an actual chance to help actual women and she took a big pass on that.

Asra Nomani and Ayaan Hirsi Ali appear before the Senate Homeland Security Committee to testify about the dangers of Islamic extremism, particularly for women. They have experience those dangers, first hand, both of them.

Senator Harris, who sits on the committee, didn't have a single question for them, nor did Senators Heidi Heitkamp and Claire McCaskill, the other Democratic women on the committee. Why the silence? Asra Nomani joins us tonight.

NOMANI: Thank you, Tucker.

CARLSON: Thank you for coming on. You wrote a powerful piece today in the New York Times in which you said that not only did these purported feminists in the Senate ignore you, an actual woman who has suffered under Sharia law. But one of them, Claire McCaskill questioned the reason for the hearing in the first place and in effect scolded you by implication for complaining about it.

NOMANI: Yes. We were shocked.
We don't know what actually happened, but the segment proceeded from there. Again, Nomani seemed extremely sane. Her New York Times column is here.

This was occurring on Fox. Over on our own cable channel, we were enjoying the chase. Over There, on Carlson's show, The Others were hearing the types of things we rarely hear discussed.

At issue, on each channel, was our nation's greatest current challenge. That's the challenge of dealing with the Us-and-Them which is being created by corporate cable, by talk radio and by the partisan Net.

At present, each team is making millions of dollars offering the pleasing porridge one group or the other enjoys. On our pwn liberal channel, a rogues gallery of cable hosts is conducting the chase in prime time.

Their names are shown below. One party has been excused:
Our own prime-time rogues gallery:
6 PM: Greta
7 PM: Chris Matthews
8 PM: [Excused absence]
9 PM: A certain unnamed cable star
10 PM: Lawrence O'Donnell
11 PM: Brian
For several years, when she worked at Fox, Greta was the prime enabler of Donald J. Trump's birtherism. A certain unnamed cable host swears by Great's manifest greatness, says she's her drinking pal.

In the late 1990s, Matthews was perhaps the craziest, most influential player in the hunt against the Clintons and against Candidate Gore, the crazy chase which sent George W. Bush to the White House.

Matthews' behavior was crazy and crazily dishonest for years. A certain unnamed cable host tells us how great he is, and how great a friend!

Lawrence and Brian also played key roles in that crazy, death-dealing chase after Gore. They were being paid at the time by their zillionaire conservative corporate owner, General Electric CEO Jack Welch.

Night after night, Bran ranted and complained about Gore's deeply troubling clothes. Years later, he got canned for making stupid shit up. Lawrence has had to apologize to virtually everyone on the face of the earth, not excluding Donald J. Trump.

The gods must rock with laughter each night, watching this gang of corporate con men hosting on liberal cable. People are dead all over the world because of what Matthews, Williams and O'Donnell did in the twenty-month War Against Gore. Greta played the fool for years, helping Donald J. Trump pimp his birther madness.

An unnamed cable host praises them all. When Trump announced in June 2015, she weirdly assured us that she had nothing against him.

At the same time, she has run from every consequential tribal fight during the eight years of her multimillion-dollar corporate employment. When Comey went after Candidate Clinton last July, he had little to fear from the likes of this car salesman clown.

Last night, we liberals enjoyed the porridge this rogues gallery served. So it has gone for twenty-five years among the pitiful hapless group known as Ridiculous Us, a group best known for spectacular dumbness and, of course, for its tribal certainty that the very dumb and stupid ones can all be found Over There.

Tomorrow: Wonderfully unintentional humor: Completely Ridiculous This

Bloomberg's anonymous source nailed it first!

THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 2017

Or then again, maybe s/he didn't:
Bloomberg had it first.

Whatever those Russkie hackers were trying to do with our voting systems, they tried to do it in 39 states, Bloomberg reported last week:
RILEY AND ROBERTSON (6/13/17): Russia’s cyberattack on the U.S. electoral system before Donald Trump’s election was far more widespread than has been publicly revealed, including incursions into voter databases and software systems in almost twice as many states as previously reported.

In Illinois, investigators found evidence that cyber intruders tried to delete or alter voter data. The hackers accessed software designed to be used by poll workers on Election Day, and in at least one state accessed a campaign finance database. Details of the wave of attacks, in the summer and fall of 2016, were provided by three people with direct knowledge of the U.S. investigation into the matter. In all, the Russian hackers hit systems in a total of 39 states, one of them said.
Bloomberg had three anonymous sources. They said the Russkies were active in 39 states, "almost twice as many states as previously reported!"

Well actually, one of Bloomberg's anonymous sources made that assertion. Bloomberg apparently built its lead around the claim by that one source.

For all we know, that statement may have been accurate. On the other hand, here's the way the Washington Post reported yesterday's hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, hard-copy headline included:
ZAPOTOSKY AND DEMIRJIAN (6/22/17): Hacking attempts on 21 states are tied to Russia

People connected to the Russian government tried to hack election-related computer systems in 21 states,
a Department of Homeland Security official testified Wednesday.

Samuel Liles, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting director of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Cyber Division, said vote-tallying mechanisms were unaffected and that the hackers appeared to be scanning for vulnerabilities—which Liles likened to walking down the street and looking at homes to see who might be inside.

But hackers successfully exploited a “small number” of networks, Liles said, likening the act to making it through a home’s front door.
According to this official source, the actual number was 21 states—roughly half as many states as Bloomberg reported.

At this point, it doesn't matter what the number was. What matters is our ability to stave off some future Election Day disaster.

Does anyone think we'll be able to do that, given the way the culture is descending into tribal division and all-around full-blown nuttiness?

On the other hand, there could be a lesson here about reporting based on anonymous sources. Bloomberg went with what one person said.

Should Bloomberg have done that? To what extent should such reports be trusted?

Final question: Final question, while we're at it, and while we're working the numbers:

How many meetings did Sessions have? That was all entertainment, wasn't it? Entertainment and the exciting tribal chase.

(Based on an unreliable source? By the name of Comey the God?)

The health care confusions that just keep giving!

THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 2017

What Pelosi actually said/Watching Medicaid grow:
Everyone knows it! The Republican health care bill would cut Medicaid badly.

Everyone knows it until they read front-page reports in the New York Times. Yesterday morning, Robert Pear's front-page report started off like this:
PEAR AND STEINHAUER (6/21/17): A growing rift among Senate Republicans over federal spending on Medicaid and the opioid epidemic is imperiling legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act that Senate leaders are trying to put to a vote by the end of next week.

President Trump had urged Republican senators to write a more generous bill than a House version that he first heralded and then called “mean,” but Republican leaders on Tuesday appeared to be drafting legislation that would do even more to slow the growth of Medicaid toward the end of the coming decade.
According to the highlighted passage, Medicaid will continue to grow under the Republican plans. They're just slowing the growth of the program!

This is one of the horses we rode in on. In part, we started building this site in 1997 because of the ludicrous Medicare discussion of 1995-1996. During that ludicrous pseudo-discussion, reporters were completely unable to handle this basic question:

Was Newt Gingrich proposing cuts to the Medicare program? Or was he simply reducing the rate at which the program would grow?

That basic question was too hard for the upper-end press corps to handle. Today, major reporters are experiencing the same problems with the GOP Medicaid plan.

This is part of what we mean when we say that our upper-end press corps seems to have virtually no analytical skills at all. People think we're speaking hyperbolically. But actually no—we aren't.

In another highlight, consider Karen Tumulty's report in this morning's Washington Post.

We happen to like the reporter in question. But dear God! This very day, discussing the passage of Obamacare, Tumulty seems to quote "an infamous declaration" by Nancy Pelosi:
TUMULTY (6/22/17): In the end, Democrats got their bill [in 2010], but the legislative maneuvering it took to get it over the finish line was not pretty.

There had been special deals for individual senators that became known as the “Cornhusker Kickback” and the “Louisiana Purchase.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made an infamous declaration that spawned a legion of attack ads: “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”
Pelosi's famous "infamous declaration" has been ridiculed forever. According to the standard interpretation, Pelosi, and Democrats generally, didn't even know what was in the mammoth Obamacare bill!

In this morning's report, Tumulty puts a bunch of words inside quotation marks. You'd almost think that she was quoting what Pelosi actually said.

As far as we know, she isn't. There is no link from Tumulty's report to any actual statement by Pelosi. Meanwhile, it has been explained, a million times, that Pelosi's actual statement was different.

Unless Tumulty has some other statement in mind, Pelosi's "infamous declaration" was made in a speech to the National Association of Counties. Speaking about the disinformation being spread about the bill, this is what she said:
PELOSI (3/9/10): You've heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention—it’s about diet, not diabetes. It’s going to be very, very exciting.

But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
"But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."

You can watch her say that here.

As usual, Pelosi was less than sharply articulate, even in these prepared remarks. But she was saying that we had to pass the bill so the American people could learn what was in it, aside from all the dissembling—aside from "the fog of controversy" which was being generated by all the partisan dissembling.

In fact, the dissembling never stopped. And this very morning, Tumulty seems to have misquoted Pelosi's actual words, dropped a key phrase, and omitted the basic context.

"Slowing the rate of growth" is one of the horses we rode in on. (The Lincoln Bedroom was another.) Soon after arriving, we spent years watching the press corps misquote and misparaphrase Candidate Gore, with disastrous consequences for the U.S. and entire world.

Ridiculous Us were too dumb and compliant to complain about these things when they were actually happening. We've been too lazy and dumb to establish the history of these events in the years since. We'd rather spend our time dropping R-bombs on Them. That's easier and more fun.

Today, twenty years later, we still live in the journalistic land of "slowing the rate of growth," and in the land of the massaged pseudo-quotation. On cable, our biggest stars mug and clown and entertain us, then stuff millions of dollars into their pants.

We tell them how great we think they are. It's all part of the way we lose. It's the soul of Ridiculous Us.