With all the horse shit in today’s news, there’s gotta be a pony somewhere…. (More)

The archetypal optimist is the young girl who smiles in delight when she finds a pile of horse shit on the floor at her birthday party, because “there’s gotta be a pony somewhere!”

Young squirrels don’t often ask for ponies on their birthdays, or any other time, come to think of it. But I really hope there’s a pony at the bottom of today’s news pile….

“Except for the purposes of applying section 1302(b) to sections 1252, 1301(a)(2), 1312(d)(3)(D)”

That legalese in the Senate Wealthcare Act translates to “We’ll keep ours and screw the rest of you,” as Vox’s Sarah Kliff explains:

Senate Republicans included a provision that exempts members of Congress and their staff from part of their latest health care plan.

This exemption could have the effect of ensuring that members of Congress have coverage for a wider array of benefits than other Americans who purchase their own coverage.

A Senate Republican aide confirmed that the exemption existed but was unable to comment as to the specific effect it would have. The aide said it was included to ensure that the bill hewed to the chamber’s strict reconciliation rules that limit the policies this health bill can include.

Uh huh. Right. The operative language is that bit quoted above. It says insurers can sell plans that don’t cover the ACA’s Essential Benefits … to everyone except members of Congress and their staffs. House Republicans put the same self-dealing crap in their original bill, and pulled it after public outcry. But Senate Republicans insist it has to be there for Byrd Rule reasons. Umm … nope. Not buying that excuse.

Ezra Klein summarizes the latest edition of the Wealthcare Act:

The revised Better Care Reconciliation Act was released today, and here’s the bottom line: It returns individual insurance markets to the bad old days when insurers competed on insuring the healthy and finding ways to avoid covering the sick.

There are a host of changes in the new BCRA, most of which leave the fundamental thrust of the legislation intact. But there’s one addition that genuinely changes everything.

Included in the new bill is a version of Ted Cruz’s amendment allowing insurers to offer plans that don’t comply with Obamacare’s insurance regulations so long as they also offer plans that do comply with Obamacare’s insurance regulations.

In other words, the bill would turn the existing ACA plans into an unsustainable high risk pool. More’s the point, while Republicans want to let you choose the coverage you want, life doesn’t let you choose what illnesses or injuries you’ll get. Klein explains:

The GOP’s answer to this problem is to try to quarantine sicker people off to the side in subsidized plans. But sickness is not a binary state. Yes, the sickest people, the ones who need health insurance most, will do whatever is necessary to get insurance, and the high-risk plans might work for them. But what about young women who insurers consider demographically likely to be pregnant in a few years? They’re not sick enough to be willing to pay the exorbitant premiums of the high-risk plans, but they’re also going to be up-charged by insurers scared of their future costs.

Or how about the 42-year-olds who aren’t sick now, but had health scares in the past? To insurers, they might be basically uninsurable outside a high-risk pool. But to the healthy-feeling 42-year-old, the cost of the high-risk pool may be exorbitant. And so they go uninsured, and then disaster hits.
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And what kinds of insurance will actually be subsidized? Will people with serious illnesses and low enough incomes to qualify for Medicaid now be looking at plans with $5,000 deductibles?

Back in May, President Donald Trump said protections for “preexisting conditions are in the bill. And I mandate it. I said, ‘Has to be.’”

Well, now the protections for preexisting conditions are gone. The GOP vision is of health markets where the very sick can buy unaffordable Obamacare-compliant plans that are, maybe, made affordable by subsidies, but most people are back in an insurance market where past allergies or future pregnancy or a history of knee problems will leave you basically uninsurable.

I hope Martin Longman is correct in his view that this bill is doomed:

In order for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to pass his health care bill, he must first clear a procedural hurdle on a motion to proceed to consideration of the bill. To accomplish this, he’ll only need fifty votes rather than the typical sixty because this is a budget reconciliation bill that can bypass all filibusters. Yet, according to the Washington Post’s whip count there are already three Republicans (Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and John McCain of Arizona) who are hard “nays” on affirming the motion to proceed. If this doesn’t change, the bill is dead because the GOP caucus only has 52 members and so can only afford to lose two votes.

I think we all know better than to rely on John McCain to back up his words with action, but the list of potential ‘no’ votes is quite a bit longer. There are twenty Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid, and only a handful of them are truly indifferent to the devastation the McConnell bill would do their states. Not only would millions upon millions lose their access to health care but rural hospitals would go out of business and state budgets would be gutted.

Longman thinks lots of those Republicans won’t want the bill to proceed because Senate Democrats will offer a laundry list of I-dare-you-to-vote-No amendments:

There’s another incentive for Republican senators to oppose a motion to proceed, and that is that if the bill is taken up on the Senate floor there will be a vote-a-rama on dozens of proposed amendments. And the Democrats are prepared to drive wedge after wedge into the divisions that already exist within the Republican caucus. The whole thing will fall apart if the Senate starts passing Democratic amendments, so the GOP members will be whipped relentlessly to say no to virtually all of them. This they will not want to do, especially because some of them actually will agree with those amendments. They won’t want to vote against things they support, particularly if they don’t think the bill will ever became a law. The best way to avoid that nightmare is to kill the bill in its crib.

So Longman thinks McConnell’s next task is to find a way to blame anyone but Republicans for a bill that was concocted entirely by Republicans. That shouldn’t be too hard….

“As a witness, I don’t control the seats in the hearing”

After all, the wingnut media and the God-King are peddling a conspiracy theory that Kremlin-backed Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya – the one who scored a meeting with the God-Prince by promising dirt on Hillary Clinton – is actually a Clinton-Obama-McCain plant:

Right-wing outlets, pro-Trump media personalities, and conspiracy theorists are falsely claiming that the attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign was a left-wing operative trying to torpedo a future Trump administration.

The claim, which was first published Tuesday evening on a website that often circulates inaccurate information, gained significant traction and pickup the following day from more mainstream right-wing outlets. By Thursday, President Trump himself had parroted parts of the conspiracy theory at a news conference in Paris.

The whole flim-flam started with a photo from a 2016 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing:

McFaul was, at the time, the Obama-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Russia. Wingnuts morphed “sitting behind” into “sitting with” or “hanging around with,” as if McFaul had invited her. He didn’t:

The hearing was public, and its topic was US policy toward Russia, an issue that Veselnitskaya would have likely been interested in given her reported ties to the Kremlin and her public outreach against the Magnitsky Act, which was signed by President Obama and reportedly infuriated President Vladimir Putin. The act punishes Russian officials accused of human rights abuses.

(The hearing also was the day after an anti-Magnitsky film backed by Veselnitskaya was screened in DC at the Newseum.)
Although she is sitting in the front row of the hearing behind McFaul, there is no indication that she was there with McFaul.

McFaul told BuzzFeed News that he does not know Veselnitskaya.

“I have never met her. I did not know who she was until a few days ago,” he said in an email. “As a witness, I don’t control the seats in the hearing. (She was sitting right next to my sons).”

Add to that a few other nuggets – such Veselnitskaya tweeting criticism of a Russian human rights protest, wingnuts either not translating or ignoring the Russian text and instead saying she was there with the protesters – and you end up with wingnuts convinced she’s a “Deep State mole” who was working for the Clintons to undermine the God-King by meeting with the God-Prince.

And yeah, most Trump voters will believe that. So like I said, McConnell shouldn’t find it hard to blame Democrats for the failure of a Republican-written Wealthcare Act.

“We write with some concern that the two events may be connected”

Also, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee want to know why Klanmaster General Jeff Sessions abruptly settled a money laundering case involving Veselnitskaya, just two days before the trial was set to begin:

Last summer, Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected attorney in an attempt to obtain information “that would incriminate Hillary.” Earlier this year, on May 12, 2017, the Justice Department made an abrupt to settle a money laundering case being handled by that same attorney in the Southern District of New York. We write with some concern that the two events may be connected – and that the Department may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts.

Over at Lawyers, Guns & Money, dnexion offers important caveats:

We’ve spent decades being flooded by pseudo-scandals driven by right-wing media and politicians. We’ve seen the GOP base become convinced that the Obama Administration – which will likely be recognized as the cleanest administration in modern American history – was a wretched hive of scum and villainy. There’s reason to believe that the left is increasingly vulnerable to hucksters and conspiracy theorists when it comes to the Trump Administration. So I think we need to be careful about getting ahead of what we actually know, or can reasonably surmise.

Yes, as dnexion notes, a “set of dots here, and a set of dots there, connect up.” But we shouldn’t fly off with our hair on fire until the Justice Department responds to that letter and reveals the details of the settlement. It may turn out this was routine, or it may turn into a whole ‘nother can of worms.

“Tomorrow is my last day”

Speaking of conspiracy theories, here’s the genesis of yet another one:

[T]he Chicago Tribune obtained a Minnesota state death record filed in Olmsted County saying Smith committed suicide in a hotel near the Mayo Clinic at 1:17 p.m. on Sunday, May 14. He was found with a bag over his head with a source of helium attached. A medical examiner’s report gives the same account, without specifying the time, and a report from Rochester police further details his suicide.

In the note recovered by police, Smith apologized to authorities and said that “NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER” was involved in his death. He wrote that he was taking his own life because of a “RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017” and timing related “TO LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION EXPIRING.”

He had been staying at the hotel for several days and had extended his stay at least once but was expected to check out on the day his body was found. “Tomorrow is my last day,” Smith told a hotel worker on May 13 while he worked on a computer in the business center, printing documents, according to the police reports.

To a reasonable person, that reads like a suicide case. But to a partisan:

At this point, the Clinton emails have a higher body count than The Ring. It’s like watching a political horror movie.
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That doesn’t sound suspicious at all. I’m only surprised that it wasn’t found that he committed suicide by shooting himself three times in the back of the head before being run over by a train on an abandoned railroad track.

No evidence needed. Just the name “Clinton” and the word “suicide” in the same article is enough to invoke the decades-long conspiracy meme.

Fortunately, only right wingnuts fall for such tripe, right? Wrong:

Two weeks ago, Wall Street Journal reporter Shane Harris broke an explosive story that received relatively little attention in the national media. Harris found that Peter W. Smith, a Republican operative with a history of partisan skullduggery going back years, sought to obtain hacked Clinton emails on behalf of the Trump presidential campaign. (Smith told people he approached he was working for Michael Flynn.) Smith died shortly after speaking to Harris. Now the Chicago Tribune reports that Smith died of an apparent suicide.

Smith’s suicide note declares, “No foul play whatsoever,” “recent bad turn in health since January, 2017,” “life insurance of $5 million expiring.” It is entirely possible this is true. But there is at least some reason to doubt that Smith decided to take his own life to claim an expiring life-insurance payment due to a sudden turn in his health.

That’s Jonathan Chait at New York Magazine, hinting that maybe the God-King or the Russians had Smith murdered so he couldn’t talk to Robert Mueller or Congress.

Umm. No. Don’t go there, Jonathan. Right wingnuts are already dumping more than enough horse shit into the public dialogue. We don’t need left wingnuts doing it too.

If there’s a pony under that pile, it probably already suffocated.

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Photo Credit: Applewood Farms

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Good day and good nuts