Just your average lie of the day

You know, it could be a full time position for a team to counter Trump’s lies, but I think some lies are particularly worth calling out.  And, given the all-around Republican war on the federal government and the federal workforce, today’s is definitely worth calling out.  So, today’s #alternativefact, the growing federal workforce.  Drum:

A bunch of little things happened this afternoon. They’re not really big enough for a full post each, so here’s a little roundup. First up, President Trump signed an order freezing the federal workforce. This is part of the standard conservative playbook, and I doubt it means much in the long run. However, press secretary Sean Spicer—who moments earlier had said he would never lie to us—explained that Trump’s order “counters the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.” Just for the record, here’s that dramatic expansion:

If you look closely, you can see the dramatic expansion at the far right of the beige line. Do you see it? No? Look harder. Use your browser to zoom in. See? There it is! The federal workforce increased from 2.09 million in 2014 to 2.12 million in 2015. And it probably went up to 2.14 million or so in 2016. That’s less than it was at the end of the Reagan administration.

And, it’s not even stable, but losing if you look at share of the workforce:

Another day, another (dozen or so) empirically verifiable lie.

Map of the day

Roughly 1 in 100 Americans (and a good 20% of my FB feed 🙂 ) participated in protests on Saturday.  Cool.  And a nice map from Vox:

Map of protests across the US

Also… how sad to be a Democrat in Montana.

Photo of the day

I semi-randomly just came across this one.  Wow.

The atmospheree does an amazing job of turning water into fire. Photo: Steve Arklay

How the press should respond to an Alternative Facts world

Great piece from Jay Rosen:

Trying not for elegance but for accuracy, I would call this event a “relationship message delivery vehicle,” operating on three levels.

First, it told staffers who work for Trump: this is what we expect. If The Leader is reeling from a narcissistic wound (crowd figures too small) you will be expected to sacrifice dignity and best practice to redress that wound. That’s what you bought into when you agreed to work for President Trump. This is a stark statement. No wonder Spicer sounded tense…

A second message was to the press. You will be turned into hate objects whenever we feel like it. We can do that to you without providing right of reply because… what are you going to do about it? Small mistakes quickly corrected will be treated as evidence of malicious wrong doing by the entire group. (And you deserve that.) We are not bound by what you call facts. We have our own, and we will proceed to put them out regardless of what the evidence says. It’s not a problem for us if you stagger from the room in disbelief. We’re not trying to “win the news cycle,” or win you over. We’re trying to demonstrate independence from and power over you people. This room is not just for briefings, announcements and Q & A. It’s also a theater of resentment in which you play a crucial part. Our constituency hates your guts; this is the place where we commune with them around that fact. See you tomorrow, guys! …

A third “relationship” message went to the listeners, in tripartite.

* To the core Trump constituency — and an audience primed for this over years of acrid ‘liberal media’ critique — two things were said. “We’re going to rough these people up.” (Because we know how long you have waited for that.) But also, and in return, you have to accept our “alternative facts” even if your own eyes tell you otherwise. This too is a stark message. The epistemological “price” for being a solider in Trump’s army is high. You have to swallow, repeat and defend things that simply don’t check out…

When I say #sendtheinterns I mean it literally: take a bold decision to put your most junior people in the briefing room. Recognize that the real story is elsewhere, and most likely hidden. That’s why the experienced reporters need to be taken out of the White House, and put on other assignments.

Look: they can’t visit culture war upon you if they don’t know where you are. The press has to become less predictable. It has to stop functioning as a hate object. This means giving something up. The dream of the White House briefing room and the Presidential press conference is that accountability can be transacted in dramatic and televisable moments: the perfect question that puts the President or his designate on the spot, and lets the public see — as if in a flash — who they are led by. This was always an illusion. Crumbling for decades, it has become comically unsustainable under Trump. [emphasis mine]

Please note: I am not saying that as a beat the White House is unimportant, or that its pronouncements can be ignored. I’m not saying: devote less attention to Trump. Rather: change the terms of this relationship. Make yourself more elusive. In the theater of resentment where you play such a crucial part, relinquish that part.

Yes, yes, yes!  Though, we’ve been heading towards this, Spicer’s “press conference” as presidential press secretary represented something new, different, and bad.  And, hopefully something that will truly shake the press out of business as usual.  The time for “both sides” false equivalence journalism and access journalism is long gone.

Yes, Obamacare affects you too!

As for people thinking, “Well, Obamacare repeal will hurt those on the individual market.  I’ve got a large employer and a good plan.  It’s all good.”  Actually, not so much.  There’s lots of stuff in Obamacare that benefits pretty much everybody with health insurance.  NPR summarizes:

Nonetheless, as tensions grow in Washington over the future of the health law, it is important to understand some of its effects on large-group plans.

No copays for preventive services

The health insurance offered by big companies is typically pretty comprehensive, the better to attract and keep good employees. But Obamacare broadened some coverage requirements. Under the law, insurers and employers have to cover many preventive services without charging people anything for them. The services that are required with no out-of-pocket payments include dozens of screenings and tests, including mammograms and colonoscopies that are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force; routine immunizations endorsed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices; and a range of services that are recommended specifically for children and for women by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration…

No annual or lifetime limits on coverage

Even the most generous plans often had lifetime maximum coverage limits of a few million dollars before the health law passed, and some plans also imposed annual coverage limits. The health law eliminated those dollar coverage limits.

Annual cap on out-of-pocket payments for covered services

The health law set limits on how much people can be required to pay in deductibles, copayments or coinsurance every year for covered care they receive from providers in their network. In 2017, the limit is $7,150 for individuals and $14,300 for families.

“Many employers often had an out-of-pocket limit anyway, but this guarantees protection for people with high needs,” said JoAnn Volk, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, who has written on this issue

No waiting periods for coverage of pre-existing conditions

Prior to the ACA, employers could delay covering workers’ chronic and other health conditions for up to a year after they became eligible for a plan. Under the ACA, that’s no longer allowed. As a practical matter, though, coverage of pre-existing conditions was rarely an issue in large-group plans, say some health insurance analysts.

Repeal could reopen the door to that prohibited practice, however.

If you or someone in your family has a serious medical condition (like, oh, I don’t know, at random, I’ll just pick “rare genetic disease“), those lifetime limits really matter (as do the waiting periods on pre-existing conditions).  Or, say my good friend anxiously awaiting a new kidney.  But, I guess in Paul Ryan’s world, we’re all just takers.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Saletan on Trump and his speech:

On Friday, a morally empty man gave a morally empty speech. There was no talk of humility, no acknowledgment of enduring prejudice, no plea for decency. Instead, Trump railed against foreigners and “a small group in our nation’s capital” that “has reaped the rewards of government.” In place of Bush’s praise for mosques, Trump spoke of Islam only as a source of terrorism. The man who ran on a platform of “take the oil” fumed that American wealth had been “redistributed all across the world.” He accused countries of “stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.”

This is why Trump is unworthy of your respect. It’s not because he didn’t win the popular vote. It’s not because of his party or his policies. It’s not because of Russia. It’s because of who he is. For all his faults, even those that turned out to be disastrous, Bush was a decent man. He believed in something greater than himself. Trump doesn’t.

2) This sentiment from Bryan Caplan (author of my oft-cited Selfish Reasons to have more kids) makes a good point:

3) Running might actually be good for your knees.

4) Dana Milbank’s favorite signs from the DC Women’s March.

5) Jack Shafer argues that Trump has actually liberated journalists to produce better journalism.

6) Don’t usually read sponsored content, but this piece on middle school versus junior high (which I attended) was pretty good.

7) Extreme picky eating has made the DSM V.  I don’t think Evan is quite there, but not too far off:

At age 12, after Brendan started showing signs of malnourishment, the family took him to Walden Behavioral Care, an eating disorder treatment center in Waltham, Mass., where he was given a diagnosis of avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, or Arfid. The eating disorder was added to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s reference manual, in 2013.

While many kids go through periods of being picky, or selective, eaters, Arfid is picky eating taken to the extreme. A Swiss study of 1,444 children ages 8 to 13 found that 3 percent were affected by the condition, which often starts in childhood.

Those with Arfid avoid specific colors, textures, tastes or smells of foods, or are afraid of choking or vomiting. Others may have no interest in eating at all.

8) Great NYT photo essay on an innocent bystander improbably killed by a bullet shot a good distance away.

9) On a highly-related note, Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court’s next gun battle.

10) A FB friend recently posted about the principal about her kids’ middle school being way over-punitive.  Sadly, we don’t take good principals very seriously and principal quality really matters.

11) German Lopez’s headline gets it, “Trump: crime and gangs are ruining the country. Actual statistics: that’s not remotely true.”

12) Fallows:

The message will be stated and restated this day: For the 58th time, the system has worked, and power has smoothly transferred from one heir of George Washington to another. The truth is not so happy. With full advance notice, and despite the failure to gain a plurality of the nation’s vote, the United States will soon inaugurate someone who owes his office in some large part to a hostile foreign intelligence operation. Who is, above and beyond that, a person whose character that leaves him unqualified to hold the presidency, and threatens the country with an impending sequence of financial and espionage scandals—a constitutional crisis on two legs.

The real message of today is that the system has failed. The challenge of the morrow is to know what to do to save the remainder.

13) Concussion is, obviously, very serious, yet quite difficult to accurate diagnosis.  Now, technological advancement means we may be able to accurately diagnose with a finger prick.

14) Samantha Bee takes on Kellyanne Conway. Oh man is this good.

15) Alvin Chang with a nice chart and comic look at how white America is increasingly self-segregating.

16) Trump’s putative EPA head cannot even admit lead is bad for children.  Ugh.  Drum:

If Pruitt had been asked about the effects of zirconium dioxide on Alzheimer’s disease or something, then sure. Nobody knows everything, after all. But lead paint has been in the news for something like 50 years now and Flint’s water pipes have been in big, bold headlines for the past two. You’d have to work pretty hard not to be aware of what lead does.

 Still, if you’re bound and determined never to regulate anything, no matter how dangerous, then I suppose it pays to aggressively shut your eyes to environmental dangers of all kinds. Welcome to the New Model EPA, folks.

17) Chait on yesterday’s marches:

It matters that Trump drew a sparse crowd to inaugural festivities that he had billed beforehand as a historic, Jacksonian uprising of The People. And it matters much more that millions of Americans came out on a Saturday to register their protest. It is not only catharsis, though catharsis is better than depression. The message has been heard by the political class, Republican and Democratic alike.

It might be easy to assume that Trump and his allies feel insulated from accountability. It is not quite so simple. Republicans in Congress have thus far given Trump near-total cooperation of the assumption that they could move quickly and with little resistance to implement their agenda. Democrats did not really wake up from their late-Clinton slumber until the middle of Bush’s term, after which a lot of legislation had already passed. Republicans assuming they could rush through Paul Ryan’s agenda, while allowing Trump to obliterate long-standing governing norms, will rethink. The kind of backlash Democrats eventually mounted against Bush, which drove landslide victories in the 2006 midterm and the 2008 election, is a plausible possibility. In those elections, many seemingly safe red states turned blue.

One of the great weaknesses of American liberalism is a congenital tendency toward depression when their party holds power. The demobilization of the Democratic base is over. The prospect of a Democratic wave may not stop Republicans, and it may not even give them pause. But the governing party had probably assumed the clock would not start for months on the liberal backlash. Now the clock is ticking already.

18) My favorite sign at the protests:

19) And love this NYT photo feature of protests around the US and the world.

20) Yglesias argues that the GOP is sabotaging itself by confirming such weak nominees like Betsy Devos:

But while trying to hide DeVos from public view may be a service to her personally, it’s a disservice to both the Trump administration and the larger Republican Party. Presidents, after all, need Cabinet secretaries who can be effective public spokespeople for administration policy. The education secretary represents the administration on Capitol Hill, in the media, to university administrators and state and local officials, and as an interface with civil society groups that care about education. Even the heads of the second-tier agencies are important people in American politics and society, and having good people fill the roles is important.

In some ways this is especially true when the secretary deals with an issue that isn’t an important personal priority of the president, like education. State and local governments employ more than 10 million education workers who collectively teach more than 50 million kids. That Donald Trump’s coal-and-steel vision of American prosperity is relatively indifferent to educators’ work only heightens the responsibility that will fall on DeVos as she acts as the administration’s face on an issue that matters to many people, even if it doesn’t matter that much to Trump…

At the end of the day, there is going to be an education secretary, and that person is going to be a member of Trump’s administration. It’s in the Republican Party’s interest, more than anyone else, that that person be an effective member of the team. Shielding DeVos’s flaws from public scrutiny by scheduling an unusually brief hearing with limited questions at an odd time works well if your goal is to spare her embarrassment. By the same token, nobody can stop congressional Republicans from hustling Tom Price into office before anyone’s taken a rigorous look at his stock trading. The obviously unqualified Ben Carson seems to be a shoo-in at HUD.

But the GOP is only sabotaging itself by allowing Trump to draft this C-list roster. The president can’t be everywhere simultaneously — an effective Cabinet is how he extends his reach, influences more people, and gets more done. Rushing weak candidates through is a good way to put points on the board, but only weakens their own administration in the long run.

 

 

 

 

 

This is truly scary

I’ve never been one to think that Trump would somehow change as president.  It’s pretty clear that Trump is Trump is Trump.  And who he is is an emotionally immature, extraordinarily think-skinned, disinterested, bragaddocious, bully.  I thought he would like be a pretty horrible president.  Just, hopefully, not a disastrous one.  A couple days in, it is very, very clear, he will be a pretty horrible president.  Again, not a surprise– we’ve been given every reason to see this coming– but pretty damn sobering to experience, nonetheless.

First off, it is so predictable (and funny) how much his lame inauguration crowds would pique him.  But do completely obsess over it the next day and to send his press secretary out to lie unabashedly and unashamedly to the press?  Slate’s Daniel Politi:

 On Day 2 of the Trump presidency, a screeching red-eyed man declared war on the media and reality itself.

The proximate causes of the tantrum were the media’s estimates of the size of the crowd at the inauguration and a journalist’s incorrect report about the removal of an Oval Office bust of Martin Luther King Jr. It turns out the bust had not been removed, after all, a mistake the reporter acknowledged and apologized for. But Spicer, calling it “irresponsible and reckless,” was trying to score some cheap points in order to take on the bigger target—the accurate reporting on the thin crowds at Friday’s inauguration.

 “Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting,” Spicer said as he was gradually swallowed by his suit. He added that photos “were intentionally framed in a way to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the National Mall.”

But, anyone might say, the photographs are pretty clear, aren’t they? Kind of hard to argue with the side-by-side photos that compared the crowds from a previous inauguration.

Ezra:

But it soon came clear that this wasn’t an off-the-cuff comment from the new president. Trump then had press secretary Sean Spicer call an impromptu briefing in which Spicer lashed the press for estimating crowd size. “Nobody had numbers, because the National Park Service does not put any out,” he insisted. Seconds later, he said: “This was the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, both in person and around the globe.”

This, along with much else Spicer said, was plainly untrue. But there’s a strategy at work here. The Trump administration is creating a baseline expectation among its loyalists that they can’t trust anything said by the media. The spat over crowd size is a low-stakes, semi-comic dispute, but the groundwork is being laid for much more consequential debates over what is, and isn’t, true.

Delegitimizing the institutions that might report inconvenient or damaging facts about the president is strategic for an administration that has made a slew of impossible promises and takes office amid a cloud of ethics concerns and potential scandals.

It also gives the new administration a convenient scapegoat for their continued struggles with public opinion, and their potential future struggles with reality. This kind of “dishonesty from the media,” Spicer said, is making it hard “to bring our country together.” It’s not difficult to imagine the Trump administration disputing bad jobs numbers in the future, or claiming their Obamacare replacement covers everyone when it actually throws millions off insurance.

Spicer ended the statement on a warning. “There has been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility of holding Donald Trump accountable. I am here to tell you that it goes two ways. We are going hold the press accountable as well.”

And, of course, there’s photos.  Anybody can see that damn photos and that Trump is lying and delusional.

Image result for inauguration crowd size comparison

 

The NYT knows how to cover this, “With False Claims, Donald Trump Attacks Media on Crowd Turnout”

Meanwhile, Fox might as well rename itself Pravda.  They simply report Spicer’s false and outlandish comment without an iota of effort to share the actual truth.  Putin would be proud (as would Stalin).

And those of you who remember the early days of the Iraq War will not be surprised to learn that a google search on Sean Spicer and Baghdad Bob is already approaching 50,000 links.  Yglesias nicely captures it:

Finally, I’m so glad I re-read 1984 this past year.  Scary and shocking how on point it is right now.

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