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Today in news of the weird.

In Wisconsin, an 82-year-old woman called the police on Sunday after supposedly hearing her neighbor shouting “ISIS is good, ISIS is great!” during sex.

That might have taken the title of weirdest news of the day, except that we all know the best weird news comes from FloridaLike this suspected burglar who was eaten by an alligator. Or, today, this woman who attacked her husband after he repeatedly farted in bed.

Thank you Florida for continuing to set such a sterling example for the rest of the country.

February 24, 2017

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Sean Spicer turns the White House into a safe space for conservative media.

At CPAC on Friday, President Donald Trump reiterated his belief that press outlets spreading “fake news” were “the enemy of the people.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took this to heart, blocking reporters from CNN, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, and other outlets from attending an off-camera press gaggle at the White House. Conservative outlets like Breitbart, the One America News Network, and The Washington Times were allowed to attend.

The Associated Press and Time have boycotted the gaggle in protest.

Trump’s war against the press keeps getting worse. It’s only a matter of time before Alex Jones and the National Enquirer get front-row seats at the daily briefing.

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Donald Trump’s CPAC speech was a message to the global alt-right.

The president made a series of odd remarks about European countries becoming increasingly unsafe due to immigration, citing “what’s happening” in Sweden, Germany, and France. He then regaled the crowd in a most un-populist way: Citing a friend of his, “Jim,” who used to take annual trips to Paris. But no longer, because “Jim” found that “Paris is no longer Paris.”

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, was quick to respond with this tweet, posted in both French and English versions:

Trump’s habit of picking fights and badmouthing longtime global allies may seem odd. But one thing these countries all have in common is the presence of vocal alt-right/pro-Russia political parties. There is the UK Independence Party, formerly headed by Trump’s friend and CPAC attendee Nigel Farage; Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France; Alternative for Germany; Geert Wilders’s Party For Freedom in the Netherlands; and the Sweden Democrats. There are even two different alt-right parties down under in Australia, One Nation and the Australian Conservatives.

Nigel Farage may have given the game away during his speech: “What happened in 2016 is the beginning of a great, global revolution. And this will roll out across the rest of the West. We’ve got some very exciting elections coming up: in the Netherlands, in France, in Germany, possibly even in Italy. And believe me, I don’t yet know whether the results in 2017 will be as dramatic as the results in 2016. But what I do know is that even if the challengers don’t get over the line this year, what they will do is shift the center of gravity of the entire debate.”

It sounds like Donald Trump is excited by the prospect, too.

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A draft bill to replace Obamacare contains terrible news for the sick and disabled.

Politico’s Paul Demko has published a draft House bill that outlines the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act. It largely reproduces HHS Secretary Tom Price’s Empowering Patients First Act:

The legislation would take down the foundation of Obamacare, including the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people’s income, and all of the law’s taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions.

The untitled bill also defunds Planned Parenthood, as well as any other publicly funded clinic that provides family planning services. It converts Medicaid to block grants to states, and allows states to determine which “essential benefits” those grants will cover. Insurers would be allowed to charge consumers more based on age, and women would have to purchase extra “abortion coverage” if they want insurance that covers a full range of reproductive health care options.

Its provisions are particularly dire news for chronically ill and disabled Americans. It replaces the ACA’s subsidies with age-restricted monthly tax credits. This assumes that young people are healthier than older people: that is true in a broad sense, but as a policy it excludes individuals with congenital or childhood-onset disease or disability.

The results would be deadly. An infant born with a hereditary condition usually requires extensive medical treatment after birth. That’s fine if it’s born into a wealthy family. But if it’s born into a low-income family, it’s in trouble: The monthly credit allotted for people under 20 won’t offset these expenses. And since the bill also allows states to determine which benefits it will cover, the credit allotted for people of child-bearing age also may not offset the cost of the high-risk pregnancy care and genetic counseling necessary to safely bring that child to term. Matters won’t improve much for the child as it ages, either: The bill relies on high-risk insurance pools to cover people with chronic conditions. In practice, these pools have proven insufficient to meet the needs of sick Americans.

Now take it further: Are you a poor teenager who requires medical equipment or a lengthy hospitalization? You’d better hope your state chooses to cover it, because your subsidy won’t be enough. Are you a female college student who needs family planning services? Better hope you can afford that too, because a party packed with zygote-obsessives has decided that your ability to control your reproduction is a luxury. Also hope there’s nothing wrong with the resulting baby, because you definitely can’t afford that either. Child with cancer? Parents will have to fire up the GoFundMe and hope for the best.

This bill, if ever implemented, would enforce life-shortening discrimination against the disabled and the chronically ill. It’ll reduce the number of Americans who can access health care, and it’ll penalize anyone who suffers from the traditionally deadly combination of poverty and illness.

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The whiff of anti-Semitism at the White House just got stronger.

Sebastian Gorka, deputy assistant to President Donald Trump, was already a controversial figure as a key ally of Steve Bannon in the administration’s nationalist, Islamophobic wing. But now Gorka is controversial for another reason. Lili Bayer reports at the Forward that Gorka has extensive ties with anti-Semitic politicians and journalists in Hungary, the land where his parents were born and where he lived in for many years:

[A]n investigation by the Forward into Gorka’s activities from 2002 to 2007, while he was active in Hungarian politics and journalism, found that he had close ties then to Hungarian far-right circles, and has in the past chosen to work with openly racist and anti-Semitic groups and public figures.

Gorka’s involvement with the far right includes co-founding a political party with former prominent members of Jobbik, a political party with a well-known history of anti-Semitism; repeatedly publishing articles in a newspaper known for its anti-Semitic and racist content; and attending events with some of Hungary’s most notorious extreme-right figures.

In a normal administration, these revelations would be scandalous, and might force a review of Gorka’s security clearance. But given all the other scandals engulfing the Trump administration—not to mention the president’s weak condemnation of anti-Semitism, plus Bannon’s continued use of anti-Semitic dog whistles—this story might not cause more than a ripple.

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Donald Trump thinks all the humiliating things about him should be classified information.

In implicitly confirming that, yes, his chief of staff Reince Priebus did in fact interfere in the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia, the president suggested the disclosure, first reported by CNN, somehow broke the law.

Any attempt to squash an FBI investigation is wildly inappropriate and possibly illegal, but telling a reporter that the White House is trying to squash an FBI investigation is not. At least not yet. This is all amusingly pathetic, but it’s also a dark depiction of a the fantasyland Trump inhabits, where embarrassing him is or should be illegal. And now he has the power to make it so.

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Trump’s CPAC speech shows that conservatism isn’t an ideology. It’s a tribe.

A year ago, then-candidate Donald Trump canceled his planned appearance at CPAC, amid accusations from activists and GOP primary rivals that he was not a true conservative. But this year, President Trump had conservatives at CPAC eating out of the palm of his hands, even when trampling on longstanding pillars of conservative doctrine. The First Amendment? Trump shrugged off its importance. Evoking God? Trump did it, but in his usual insincere way.

In addition to continuing to be fascinated by Bernie Sanders, he hated on free trade. “Not that I’m a fan of Bernie, but a lot of Bernie people voted for Trump,” he declared. “You know why? Because he’s right on one issue: trade. He was right about trade—our country is being absolutely devastated with bad trade deals.”

One of Trump’s biggest standing ovations came in response to an abdication of over 70 years of American global leadership: “Global cooperation—dealing with other countries, getting along with other countries is good, it’s very important. But there is no such thing as a global anthem, a global currency, or a global flag. This is the United States of America that I’m representing. I’m not representing the globe. I’m representing your country.”

How is this possible? Because Trump railed against a reliable set of enemies. The “fake news” media, for example, dominated the early part of his speech. And when he revisited Hillary Clinton’s line last year about Trump supporters being “deplorables,” the crowd broke out into a new round of “Lock her up!”

Kellyanne Conway predicted yesterday that they would rename the yearly conservative conference “TPAC.” She was basically right. Trump has taken over the conservative movement along with the Republican Party, which has been reduced to a loose confederation of people who don’t like liberals. Trump has shown that it’s not really about what you stand for. It’s whom you stand against.

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The GOP’s emerging Obamacare replacement is a horror show.

The latest Bloomberg Politics report on the House GOP plan is an eye-opener. Instead of treating health care as a social responsibility, as the Affordable Care Act does, the bill would make it a luxury service for just the right kind of people.

Most notably, while repealing the dreaded individual mandate, the plan would still penalize people for going without insurance. That is, it would punish them when they get insurance, by allowing insurers to charge higher premiums to people who had a gap in coverage. In addition, subsidies for premiums would be based on age, rather than income—practically guaranteeing that poorer people are left out.

Republican lawmakers aren’t even pretending to care. “Not everybody is going to have health care—some people just don’t care enough about their own care,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL), adding that “whether they take it or not is like trying to legislate responsibility.”

Of course, “responsibility” is legislated all the time, including in the GOP’s own plan to backload the punishment on people for needing insurance later on. But what if the whole point of this is to make sure people don’t have insurance?

“We’re not going to send an IRS agent out to chase you down and make you buy health insurance,” said Rep. Michael Burgess (R-FL), who would apparently celebrate the prospect of lower insurance coverage in America. “If the numbers drop, I would say that’s a good thing, because we’ve restored personal liberty in this country.”

Yes, the liberty for people to not afford health care, and to be guaranteed even higher price tags when they need it.

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Trump can’t stop the flood of Russia stories. And it’s driving him nuts.

In the latest chapter of the sordid narrative of Trump’s ties to Russia, CNN reported last night that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked FBI officials to deny stories of the Trump campaign’s alleged contacts with Russian sources—in violation of longstanding regulations regarding White House communications on pending investigations. The FBI rebuffed him.

The president’s response? Enraged tweets.

Last night, Press Secretary Sean Spicer also told CNN: “We didn’t try to knock the story down. We asked them to tell the truth.”

For an administration that got into office thanks in part to FBI actions that kneecapped Hillary Clinton, the Trump White House’s outrage at leaks is a marvelous display of situational morality. But perhaps even worse than that, they don’t understand that their efforts to stop the story make it seem as if they are protesting a tad too much.

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Ed Schultz hits a new low at CPAC.

It wasn’t entirely surprising that the former progressive talk radio host and MSNBC personality agreed to speak at annual conservative conference this year. Once a self-styled “prairie populist,” he signed on last January with RT America, where he anchors the nightly news for the state-run Russian network. He’s changed his tone on President Vladimir Putin, whom he used to deride as “Putie.” “Schultz, who once said on MSNBC that Putin is ‘crippling’ his country, now has a Russo-friendly, or perhaps American-skeptical, viewpoint on any number of issues,” The Washington Post reported in December.

Schultz has done an about-face on Trump, too. After calling him a racist and ridiculing his presidential ambitions in 2011, he praised Trump’s political skills during the campaign and downplayed Russia’s role in his election. Still, none of that quite compares to the praise Schultz heaped on the president on Thursday, talking with reporters on CPAC’s radio row. “I think he’s pragmatic, and I think he wants to win—he wants to win for the little guy,” Schultz said.

Schultz predicted Trump “will go with the people” on healthcare, speculating that the president might slow Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and criticized Democrats’ opposition strategy. “They ought to be focused on saving healthcare,” Schultz said. “They ought to be focused on making sure we don’t privatize Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. That’s where the Democrats ought to be. Instead, they’re chasing down scandals or they’re making them up. I’m just—I’m a little disappointed in them right now.”

Rather, Democrats are probably disappointed in Schultz. He used to be a warrior for the working class—cable’s biggest critic of union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who also spoke at CPAC on Thursday. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews even once told Schultz he should run the AFL-CIO. But like a disconcerting number of white-working class Democrats, Schultz found common cause with Trump after supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primaries.

“I don’t agree with Trump on everything,” Schultz said on the radio row. Though he insisted his personal politics haven’t changed, he embraced Trump’s moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. Asked about the president’s remark to Fox News host Bill O’Reilly that America has “a lot of killers” and is “not so innocent,” he said, “I think the president was spot on saying that. I mean, could we say that Barack Obama was a killer? Let me just state the facts. The rest of the world is a little mad at America right now for the civilians that have been killed in drone strikes.”

Schultz praised liberal commentator Alan Colmes, who died Thursday, as “a prince of a person” and “a great radio talent.” He saidthe fact that Fox News had him in prime time was a real statement of how good Alan was and how much he was respected.” Schultz’s apparent opportunism isn’t likely to bring him the same respect. He was a talk-radio conservative before he was a liberal, and his latest political persona is awfully convenient.

Schultz insisted that Russia has never told him what to say on air, and that he’s never even slanted a story to be more favorable to the nation. “The perception is that we’re propaganda, and we simply are not,” Schultz said. Which is worse: that he might be taking direction from the Kremlin, or that he’s doing their bidding freely?

February 23, 2017

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Betsy DeVos seems confused about what “civil rights” are.

The education secretary, who reportedly opposed President Donald Trump’s reversal of Obama-era federal guidelines for transgender students, defended her eventual support for the move during an appearance at CPAC on Thursday. “This issue was a very huge example of the Obama administration’s overreach,” she said.

And yet, DeVos also cited civil rights protections as a key part of her agency’s mission. “I think the role of the federal government should be as light a touch as possible,” she said, but added that “the areas in which the Department of Education has an important role are really around the needs of special needs students and around some of the civil rights issues.”

LBGT students, under greater threat thanks to the Trump administration, can only hope that reports are true about the education secretary’s private advocacy for their cause. Yet her public remarks on Thursday suggest something less hopeful: that her conservative fealty to “states’ rights” overrides her nominal tolerance.