Tuesday Morning Open Thread: The Kleptocracy

It used to be third-world shiteholes and banana republics where the ruling autocrat was brought low by the thieving ways of his inept relatives. Thanks, GOP, for making this comic trope AMERICAN!

Within the warped internal logic of the Trump presidency — where it is taken as a given by essentially everybody around him that the president is impulsive and grotesquely ignorant — his shocking actions and statements have a more understandable basis.

A week ago, it appeared that the probe would center around the activities of a handful of figures who are now marginal within Trumpworld: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, and deposed National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. That has changed. The Washington Post reported Friday that investigators have identified a current White House official as a person of interest in its financial probe. (The story hinted, and New York Magazine contributor Yashar Ali confirmed, that the person is Jared Kushner.)…

All this implies that the probe is scrutinizing the financial aspects of Trump’s business, which is a family operation. While some Trump advisers opposed the firing of Comey, Kushner reportedly advocated for it. That fact may seem strange if one thinks of Kushner as a voice of pragmatism. But it is easier to understand if you think of him as a figure sitting near the heart of a financial scandal, who harbors a strong interest in suppressing the investigation…
 
The official White House line maintains — or has tried to maintain — that the administration welcomes special prosecutor Robert Mueller and sees his work as a chance to dispel the cloud of suspicion needlessly hanging over the presidency. Their actions suggest a very different calculation. From Trump’s campaign to ensure the loyalty of his FBI director, to his subsequent firing of him, to his tweet-rages against the special prosecutor as an unfair witch hunt — all of this indicates high levels of panic in the Oval Office. Trump has almost certainly engaged in obstruction of justice for the simple reason that there is a lot of justice to obstruct.

Of course, like every other aging crime family capo, the old man can’t resist going back to his known accomplices…



Open Thread: Social Media Privacy Update, Maybe?

I don’t actually have a twitter account, because I’m fortunate enough not to need one, and I’m barely tech-competent enough to lurk there. But I’m seeing messages about the company’s latest “improvements”. Per Marketing Land:

When you visit a site that features a tweet button or an embedded tweet, Twitter is able to recognize that you’re on that site and use that information to target you with ads. And now it’s going to hang on to that information for a bit longer but give you more control over it.

Twitter updated its privacy policy on Wednesday so that it can use the information it collects about people’s off-Twitter web browsing for up to 30 days, as opposed to the previous 10-day maximum, according to the updated document that takes effect on June 18. The extension could help Twitter when it comes to making sure its ads are aimed at enough of the right people, which could aid its struggle to attract direct-response advertisers and reverse its advertising revenue declines…

While Twitter will no longer support Do Not Track once its new privacy policy takes effect on June 18, the company still offers options for people to disable ads targeted based information collected off Twitter. People can pull up Twitter’s settings menu, select “Privacy and Safety,” then “Personalization and data” and then toggle off “Personalize ads.” That menu also includes an option to disable Twitter from being able to see when a person visits a site that features a tweet button or an embedded tweet as well as a nuclear option that also prevents Twitter from sharing a person’s data with other companies, using location-based data to personalize content on Twitter and connecting data across the different devices a person may use to log in to Twitter…

More at the link. By all means, feel free to explain what I’ve gotten wrong in the comments.



Oscar’s strategy change goes Meh

Zachary Tracer at Bloomberg recently reported on Oscar’s first quarter results. They are mixed. They are only losing $25 million dollars this quarter instead of almost $50 million dollars.

The privately held health insurer, created to sell plans under the Affordable Care Act, lost $25.8 million across three states in the first three months of this year, compared with a loss of $48.5 million a year earlier, according to regulatory filings Tuesday. The company is beginning to get a handle on its medical costs, as the premiums it collected exceeded what it spent on health services…
The company’s membership fell this year to 90,171 people as of March 31 from 106,000 across the three states a year earlier, weighing on revenue. The decision to exit markets including New Jersey and part of Texas also slowed growth. Here are the company’s results in its three states:…

Let’s look at what the financials are telling us. All are first quarter 2016 and 2017 with my own calculations.

The overall picture is still Meh. But looking deeper there are two distinct stories. Texas is a pretty good story for Oscar.
Read more








The door’s open but the ride ain’t free

First thing’s first: let’s reach our goal for district funds against that asshole from New Jersey who got a woman fired to resign under duress from her job for being part of the resistance.

Goal Thermometer

That asshole’s name is Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11) and he’d be a prime target even if he weren’t such a piece of shit: he’s a powerful Republican chairman (Appropriations) in a barely red district (R+3). Let’s give him the boot.

Here’s my plan for fundraising: I want to put together something where we can give equally to district funds for challengers in all districts currently held by Republicans. How does that sound? If people like it, I’ll contact ActBlue about trying to put it together.

I’ll also do regular one-offs to raise funds against particularly noxious vulnerable Republicans. The rough overall goal for the blog will be 1K a week (for the blog) in the rest of 2017. That’s about what we’re at per week so far this year.

Is everybody in? Let me know what you think.








Cry, cry if it makes you feel better

We are ruled by WATB:

One of the most powerful House Republicans — Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), the new chair of the House Appropriations Committee — got a constituent in trouble by writing a letter to her employer that called out her progressive activism.

The employee — Saily Avelenda of West Caldwell, who’s active in the progressive NJ 11th for Change group — ended up resigning from her job as senior vice president and assistant general counsel at Lakeland Bank, according to a report from WNYC.

Frelinghuysen’s letter, sent on campaign letterhead to bank board member and Frelinghuysen donor Joseph O’Dowd, appears to be correspondence he sent to other contributors as well.

Fuck Frelinghuysen, fuck O’Dowd, and fuck Lakeland Bank.

Let’s raise money to get this jackass out of office. You can give money here to the eventual Democratic nominee from NJ-11 — it’s a swing district, just +3 R.

Goal Thermometer








Open Thread: The Noble Professor Is SHRILL!

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)
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Credit where due: The NYTimes is where most of us who aren’t econ majors first heard about Paul Krugman. “Judas, Tax Cuts and the Great Betrayal”:

The denarius, ancient Rome’s silver coin, was supposedly the daily wage of a manual worker. If so, the tax cuts that the richest 1 percent of Americans will receive if the Affordable Care Act is repealed — tax cuts that are, obviously, the real reason for repeal — would amount to the equivalent of around 500 pieces of silver each year.

What inspired this calculation? The spectacle of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, defending Donald Trump’s firing of James Comey.

Everyone understands that Mr. Comey was fired not because of his misdeeds during the campaign — misdeeds that helped put Trump in the White House — but because his probe of Russian connections with the Trump campaign was accelerating and, presumably, getting too close to home. So this looks very much like the use of presidential power to cover up possible foreign subversion of the U.S. government.

And the two leading Republicans in Congress are apparently O.K. with that cover-up, because the Trump ascendancy is giving them the chance to do what they always wanted, namely, take health insurance away from millions of Americans while slashing taxes on the wealthy.

So you can see why I find myself thinking of Judas.

For generations, Republicans have impugned their opponents’ patriotism. During the Cold War, they claimed that Democrats were soft on Communism; after 9/11, that they were soft on terrorism.

But now we have what may be the real thing: circumstantial evidence that a hostile foreign power may have colluded with a U.S. presidential campaign, and may retain undue influence at the highest levels of our government. And all those self-proclaimed patriots have gone silent, or worse…



Open Thread: “What Did the President Know, and When Did He Know It?… “

This answers, this time around, are probably “Not very much” and “He never remembered for more than 48 hours, no matter how often the information was repeated.” But still!

“With few exceptions,” clause doing a lot of work in that sentence:

Of course, when Nixon got busted, he’d just achieved a landslide 49-state win. This guy?