Friday Talking Points [454] -- Senator Cassidy Fails Jimmy Kimmel Test

[ Posted Friday, September 22nd, 2017 – 17:28 UTC ]

The zombie legislation attacks (again)! While much else was going on in the political world this week, the most important event was the reanimation of the Republican "repeal and replace Obamacare" effort: It's not dead! It's alive! And it's lurching around threatening millions!

We went with a different metaphor, earlier in the week, that of the Republicans as Sisyphus, pushing the same damn rock up the hill once again. But we could easily just have gone with Yogi Berra's famous: "It's déjà vu all over again." That might have fitted onto a tweet better, anyway.

Senator Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy have written yet another attempt to destroy the American healthcare system under the guise of "protecting everyone from the evils of Obamacare." We don't know precisely how many tens of millions of Americans would lose health insurance under this plan, because they are hustling it through the Senate faster than the Congressional Budget Office will be able to "score" it. But it is almost-universally seen as even worse than the last few Republican efforts to strip health insurance from their constituents. Republicans don't care, because this is the last chance they'll get to repeal Obamacare with only 51 votes in the Senate. Here's a good rundown of this hypocrisy, from Vox:

If you transport yourself back to the summer, there were two issues on which a critical mass of Republican senators were unwilling to bend: They refused to back deep cuts to Medicaid, at least not without a softer landing and a viable alternative for covering the program's current beneficiaries than the GOP's bills provided; and they would not roll back Obamacare's protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Graham-Cassidy, when you cut through the spin, would do both.

. . .

"I think this process with Graham-Cassidy is an embarrassment on top of the previous embarrassments -- the cherry on top, if you will," a second GOP health care lobbyist told me. "A sweeping revision of federal-state roles in and funding arrangements for health care, with one hearing, no markups, no CBO score. Good grief."

"I still believe conservatives and Republicans have strong ideas for improving how health care is financed and delivered," the lobbyist continued. "But will anyone listen to them after this debacle is finally and mercifully over?"

Let's hope not. The best (and snarkiest) reaction we saw all week was from a Huffington Post editor, who tweeted: "Trying to imagine GOP reaction if Dems were about to vote on Bernie's single payer bill without hearing, markup or info on deficits."

But that's exactly where Senate Republicans find themselves. Using only the fuzziest of math, most of them are ready to vote next week on a bill that they know is a horrible piece of legislation, solely because it is the last chance they'll have to "repeal and replace Obamacare."

As usual in such situations, individual Republican senators got to play the "Will I or won't I?" game with the press, all week long. Rand Paul actually refused to play, by stating from the start that he'd be a "No" vote. But then again, he voted for previous versions, so who knows if he'll actually stick to that or not?

John McCain teased everyone all week long, but this morning let it be known that he's also a "No" vote. This leaves the fate of one-sixth of the American economy in the hands of two women, both of whom are still having fun with the media by not taking an unequivocal stand one way or the other. Lisa Murkowski is being heavily courted with special kickbacks for Alaska, but at this point it seems like Susan Collins is likely to vote against Graham-Cassidy. If she does, she would be the third "Nay" vote, meaning the bill will not pass. Until it lurches from the grave in a few months, one assumes. None of this is certain at this point, however, so we'll all be on pins and needles waiting for the outcome into next week, it seems.

The American people are (to be polite) not sold on the Republican plan. A new poll out today spells this out:

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that more than half of Americans (56 percent) prefer Obamacare to the latest GOP plan. Only 33 percent prefer the bill that Senate Republicans, panicked by a month back home with their base and no Obamacare repeal to show, abruptly put on the table this month.

Worse for Republicans: Roughly twice as many people strongly prefer the current law to the Republicans' plan, 42 to 22 percent.

These aren't necessarily gut reflexes, either. The Post-ABC poll described three aspects of the Cassidy-Graham proposal to voters before asking what they prefer: its elimination of the requirement for nearly all Americans to have health insurance, the phasing out of federal funds to help lower- and moderate-income people buy health insurance, and letting states replace federal rules on health coverage with their own rules.

Perhaps Jimmy Kimmel is winning his battle of wits with Bill Cassidy? But we're getting ahead of ourselves... much more on that, later on.

As we mentioned, there was a lot of other political news this week as well. President Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly, and World War III did not immediately break out. So that's a relief, even if Trump did threaten to "totally destroy North Korea." He also called Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man" for some reason, used the term "loser terrorists," and said that some parts of the world are "in fact, going to Hell." So the speech, even if written for Trump by others, still had a certain Trumpian flavor.

Reviews of the speech weren't exactly kind. One of these pointed out two major hypocrisies in Trump's speech: (1) that while the theme was sovereignty, Trump didn't even mention the Russian attack on U.S. sovereignty in the past election, and (2) that while demanding North Korea enter into a nuclear-arms-limitation deal with America, Trump also denounced the nuclear-arms-limitation deal with Iran and threatened he'd pull out of it. Not exactly incentive for North Korea, eh? But the Washington Post review did have its amusing moments:

Beyond pragmatism, the speech will likely be remembered as one in which the president of the United States sounded more like a mob boss than a statesman -- think Robert De Niro as Al Capone in The Untouchables minus the baseball bat. This was a tough guy flexing his muscles so that all in the audience could see how tough he was.

But, judging on a curve, at least World War III hasn't broken out. Yet.

What else? While at the United Nations, Trump embarrassed himself in front of a group of African leaders, referring to the non-existent country of "Nambia" (he meant to say Namibia).

Other international events worth keeping an eye on: Russia and American-backed fighters are getting closer and closer to open warfare between them as the Islamic State is further pushed out of Eastern Syria. This is a tinderbox looking for another spark, folks.

The Kurds in Iraq will vote next week on a referendum to declare independence, which will not have any immediate effect even if passed, but which complicates the situation there as the fight against the Islamic State winds up. Eradicating the Islamic State is just going to mean another phase of the conflict in both Syria and Iraq, and not any sort of "end of the road," but few in this country have noticed this yet.

Angela Merkel is about to be re-elected to a fourth term in Germany, making her the most stable leader in Europe once again.

Oh, and Trump really, really wants a big military parade for July Fourth, just like he saw in France (on Bastille Day).

Bob Mueller's Russia investigation is chugging along behind the scenes, and Paul Manafort seems to be in the crosshairs currently. Word is that Mueller is bringing all the pressure he can to bear in an attempt to get Manafort to flip and dish the dirt on Trump. Look for this to heat up in the next few months.

Speaking of people under investigation, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price is under the microscope for his lavish use of private jets to get around. So far, he's spent over $300,000 on such flights and he hasn't even been in his office for a year yet. This led to an astounding bit of chutzpah from his office, in a weak attempt at an explanation:

Price's office this week sought to justify his use of chartered jets, saying that the secretary's office evaluates the most effective way for him to travel and finds that it is sometimes necessary to charter planes to allow Price to both manage one of the largest executive branch agencies and stay grounded with voters.

"This is Secretary Price, getting outside of D.C., making sure he is connected with the real American people," said Charmaine Yoest, his assistant secretary for public affairs.

OK, first off: nice use of "grounded," there. But seriously, Price has to make sure "he is connected with the real American people" by choosing a method of transportation which is guaranteed to isolate him from the real American people (other than charter pilots, of course)? Is the H.H.S. irony detector broken, or something? You know where you can meet an interesting cross-section of real American people? At airports, and on planes.

Politico joined in with some prime snark as well:

In June, Price spoke at a physicians association conference in San Diego, where he vowed to wring out wasteful spending in the government's health care programs. Getting "value" for spending "is incredibly important," he said.

Price took a private plane to get to the meeting, which was one stop on a five-state sprint of charter travel that cost $50,420.

In other amusing political news, the Environmental Protection Agency is holding anti-leaking training for its employees -- and the news immediately leaked to the press.

Speaking of press leaks, two of Trump's personal lawyers held a meeting in a restaurant right next door to the New York Times Washington bureau, and were overheard by a reporter discussing confidential legal matters. Maybe it's that whole "attorney/client/entire-freakin'-restaurant privilege" thing?

Speaking of the unfathomable, Sean Spicer appeared at the Emmys, for some bizarre reason. Do they even have a "Biggest Liar Of The Year" award? We had no idea!


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Before we get to the main award, we have one notable Honorable Mention to hand out, to a Union leader, Alex Bastani, from the Labor Department.

This week, with a stunning amount of disrespect for the rank and file, the Labor Department inducted Ronald Reagan into their "Hall of Honor." Now, Reagan was head of the Screen Actors Guild before his political career, but he also busted PATCO, the air-traffic controllers' union, while president. This led to Bastani's reaction:

Oddly, officials of PATCO's successor, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, had no comment on the induction. But Alex Bastani, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 12 at the Labor Department, expressed his union's "shock and disappointment" in a letter to Acosta, urging him to reconsider. Bastani called Reagan's PATCO firings a "cruel act of industrial violence."

. . .

Bastani made a good point when he said the "temple honoring the work of men and women who sacrificed themselves to create an American middle class and who championed the causes of America's... working poor, is not the appropriate arena for Ronald Reagan."

Speaking of communism, Bastani also noted Reagan's connection, as a union president, to one of the shameful episodes in recent American political history: the Red Scare.

"It is a historical fact that he surrendered the names of dues paying members to the House Committee on Un-American Activities -- a Joseph McCarthy orchestrated witch hunt," Bastani wrote. "We recognize Mr. Reagan had the right to pursue his own personal political agenda. However, he did not have the right to take these actions while representing union members who were being harassed and bullied by the federal government simply for exercising their first amendment rights."

Reagan being inducted in a Labor Hall of Honor is a travesty. Breaking PATCO was a pivotal event in the history of Unions in this country. Ronald Reagan is not remembered fondly by anyone who was in a Union at the time, that's for sure. Which is why speaking out against such a slap in the face is so important.

When considering our award this week, we ran into a problem, because the recipient's political affiliation is unknown (at least as far as we could figure out in five minutes on Google). So we're just going to have to rename it the Most Impressive Late-Night Host Of The Week, to cover all the bases. Technically, this really should be the second time we are awarding the MILNHOTW, since all the way back in FTP [47] we gave the MIDOTW to Craig Ferguson, not knowing whether he was a Democrat or not. But the first-ever official MILNHOTW award goes this week to none other than Jimmy Kimmel, for being the most effective voice speaking out against the Graham-Cassidy bill in the entire country.

We'll explain all of this in further detail below, since we're turning over our entire talking points section to Jimmy Kimmel's monologues from the past week. Normally, Kimmel is seen as one of the least serious late-night hosts, but this issue is intensely personal for him and his family. Which is why his words carry such weight on the subject. But again, we'll get to all this in detail in a moment.

Comedians on late-night regularly make jokes about politics, of course. But they rarely influence the debate in such a major way -- to the point where what they say is intensely discussed on Capitol Hill and in the Washington media. Perhaps the most fitting tribute to Kimmel this week was when Al Franken appeared as Kimmel's guest. Franken wholeheartedly supported Kimmel's position, and while we have no way of knowing how long ago this appearance was scheduled, it certainly was a timely week for a Democratic politician to appear. Kimmel was leading the charge, so it was entirely fitting for Franken to support him with an appearance.

Of course, it was entirely fitting in another way, as well. Franken began his bit by deadpanning (in the way only he can) the following hilarious statement: "I don't like it when comedians get involved in politics." [If you didn't get the joke, then you need to spend some time watching some old episodes of Saturday Night Live, when Franken was a writer and cast member.]

Kidding aside, though, Kimmel would never have been our pick for "most effective voice against a Republican healthcare bill" before he began this campaign. But we have to admit, he's doing a bang-up job so far. We have no idea how long the term "the Jimmy Kimmel test" will be remembered in American politics, but even its existence points to how critical his voice has been this year. So we're awarding the first-ever Most Impressive Late-Night Host Of The Week award to Jimmy Kimmel, with our thanks for being so effective a spokesman on a very important subject.

[Congratulate Jimmy Kimmel via his Twitter page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

We're also not entirely sure Valerie Plame is a card-carrying Democrat, but she supported Hillary Clinton's campaign, so that's good enough for us.

This week, Plame tweeted a link to a virulently anti-Semitic article. She has apologized, after a fashion, but she's still getting the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award all the same. Here's the full story:

On the first full day of Rosh Hashanah, unmasked CIA officer Valerie Plame tweeted out an article entitled, "America's Jews are driving America's wars." As if the headline weren't bad enough, the essay appeared on a website featuring such pieces as "It's time to re-think David Duke." Its argument mirrored a classic anti-Semitic conspiracy theory: Jews run everything in America, and because of their irrational love for Israel they're running us into foreign conflicts, too.

It is nigh impossible to argue that the article was anything but vile. It called for identifying Jewish Americans as such when they appear on television (much as, it said, one might affix a warning label to a bottle of rat poison). That didn't stop Plame from trying, at first -- protesting that "many neocon hawks ARE Jewish." Finally, she progressed to the last of the all-too-predictable stages of post-Twitter meltdown grief and issued a full-throated mea culpa. She has since deleted her initial tweet.

It's also pretty clear that Plame's apology was insufficient. Perhaps, as she said, she simply "skimmed" the piece before posting it. But did she make the same mistake with the other anti-Semitic musings she has shared over the past few months? "I never heard this story about 9/11: The Dancing Israelis," reads one.

More interesting than the painfully obvious, though, is how the second Plame affair played into a broader debate about anti-Semitism in the United States. Conservatives crowed over Plame's fall from grace because her unmasking in the 2000s and her antiwar advocacy in the years since have made her a hero in the eyes of many liberals. In their eyes, the left's favorite member of the CIA had outed herself this time -- as a bigot.

Nothing more really needs to be added to that. Except Plame's MDDOTW award. You can make the argument that Israel has too much influence over American foreign policy without being anti-Semitic, but Plame didn't do so. Instead, she linked to an article that definitely crossed that line. Apologizing after the fact is fine, but it doesn't erase the original misjudgment.

[Valerie Plame is not a current politician or in public office, and it is our policy not to provide contact information for such persons, so you'll have to search for her online yourself if you'd like to let her know what you think of her actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 454 (9/22/17)

Jimmy Kimmel definitely won the week in the talking points category. Now, granted, he's got a nationally-televised late-night comedy show, which is a bigger microphone than most politicians have access to on a regular basis. But he used his position this week to hammer on the Graham-Cassidy bill harder and more effectively than anyone else, which includes all Democratic politicians.

Kimmel has a very personal history with the Republican healthcare debate. His son was born with a congenital heart defect, and he movingly spoke out on his show earlier this year for the right of all parents to know that their child would be fully covered in such a circumstance. Senator Bill Cassidy, a physician himself, responded to Kimmel's plea, which he called "the Jimmy Kimmel test." So Kimmel had Cassidy on his show.

When Cassidy became co-author of another Republican healthcare bill, Kimmel felt he had to respond. His first monologue is reproduced in full below, because it contains better talking points on the subject than we could hope to write. His facts, for the most part, are entirely correct (as the Washington Post helpfully pointed out, complete with the video clip of Kimmel speaking). Here's the transcript of what Kimmel had to say to Bill Cassidy:

I know you guys are going to find this hard to believe. But a few months ago, after my son had open heart surgery. A senator named Bill Cassidy from Louisiana was on my show, and he wasn't very honest.

It seemed like he was being honest. He got a lot of credit and attention for coming off like a rare, reasonable voice in the Republican Party when it came to health care for coming up with something he called -- and I didn't name it this, he named it this -- the Jimmy Kimmel test, which was in a nutshell: No family should be denied medical care, emergency of otherwise, because they can't afford it. He agreed to that. He said he would only support a health-care bill that made sure a child like mine would get the health coverage he needs no matter how much money his parents make.

And that did not have annual or lifetime caps. These insurance companies, they want caps, to limit how much they can pay out. So for instance, if your son has to have three open heart surgeries, it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece. If he hits his lifetime cap of, let's say, a million dollars, the rest of his life, he's on his own.

Our current plan protects Americans from these caps and prevents insurance providers from jacking up the rates for people who have preexisting conditions of all types. And Senator Cassidy said his plan would do that, too. He said all of this on television many times.

(Clip of Senator Bill Cassidy on CNN: "I ask, does it pass the Jimmy Kimmel test? Would the child born with a congenital heart disease be able to get everything she or he would need in the first year of life? I want it to pass the Jimmy Kimmel test.")

So last week, Bill Cassidy and Senator Lindsey Graham proposed a new bill, the Graham-Cassidy bill. And this new bill actually does pass the Jimmy Kimmel test, but a different Jimmy Kimmel test. With this one, your child with a preexisting condition will get the care he needs -- if, and only if, his father is Jimmy Kimmel. Otherwise, you might be screwed.

Now, I don't know what happened to Bill Cassidy. But when he was on this publicity tour, he listed his demands for a health-care bill very clearly. These were his words. He said he wants coverage for all; no discrimination based on preexisting conditions; lower premiums for middle-class families; and no lifetime caps. And guess what? The new bill? Does none of those things.

Coverage for all? No. Fact, it will kick about 30 million Americans off insurance. Preexisting conditions? Nope. If the bill passes, individual states can let insurance companies charge you more if you have a preexisting condition. You'll find that little loophole later in the document after it says they can't. They can, and they will.

But will it lower premiums? Well, in fact, for lots of people, the bill will result in higher premiums. And as far as no lifetime caps go, the states can decide on that, too, which means there will be lifetime caps in many states. So not only did Bill Cassidy fail the Jimmy Kimmel test, he failed the Bill Cassidy test. He failed his own test. And you don't see that happen very much.

This bill that he came up with is actually worse than the one that, thank God, Republicans like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and John McCain torpedoed over the summer. And I hope they have the courage and good sense to do that again with this one, because these other guys who claim they want Americans to have better health care -- even though eight years ago they didn't want anyone to have health care at all -- they're trying to sneak this scam of a bill they cooked up in without an analysis from the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office.

They don't even want you to see it. They're having one hearing. I read the hearing's being held in the Homeland Security Committee, which has nothing to do with health care. And the chairman agreed to allow two witnesses, Bill Cassidy and Lindsey Graham, to speak.

So, listen, health care is complicated. It's boring. I don't want to talk about it. The details are confusing, and that's what these guys are relying on. They're counting on you to be so overwhelmed with all the information you just trust them to take care of you, but they're not taking care of you. They're taking care of the people who give them money, like insurance companies. And we're all just looking at our Instagram accounts and liking things while they're voting on whether people can afford to keep their children alive or not.

Most of the congresspeople who vote on this bill probably won't even read it. And they want us to do the same thing; they want us to treat it like an iTunes service agreement. And this guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied right to my face.

(Clip of Kimmel and Cassidy's interview from May:

JIMMY KIMMEL: Do you believe every American regardless of income should be able to get regular checkups, maternity care, etc., all of those things, that people who have health care get and need?


So "yep" is Washington for "nope," I guess. And I never imagined I would get involved in something like this. This is not my area of expertise. My area of expertise is eating pizza, and that's really about it. But we can't let them do this to our children, and our senior citizens, and our veterans, or to any of us.

And by the way, before you post a nasty Facebook message saying I'm politicizing my son's health problems, I want you to know: I am politicizing my son's health problems because I have to. My family has health insurance. We don't have to worry about this. But other people do, so you can shove your disgusting comments where your doctor won't be giving you a prostate exam once they take your health-care benefits away.

Senator Cassidy, you were on my show. You seem like you're a decent guy. But here's the thing: Nobody outside of your buddies in Congress wants this bill. Only 12 percent of American supported the last one, and this one is worse. Right now, there's a bipartisan group of senators working to improve the health-care system we have. We want quality, affordable health care. Dozens of other countries figured it out.

So instead of jamming this horrible bill down our throats, go pitch in and be a part of that. I'm sure they could use a guy with your medical background. And if not? Stop using my name. Okay? 'Cause I don't want my name on it. There's a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you; it's called the lie detector test. You're welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime.

Senator Cassidy was not amused, and went on television the next morning to counter Kimmel's claims. He didn't do a very good job, since Kimmel has the facts on his side. This prompted another Kimmel monologue, the next day:

It was a bad morning for Senator Cassidy. He and his co-sponsor, Lindsey Graham, spent the morning defending the indefensible. This morning, the senator sat for an interview with Chris Cuomo, CNN, and pulled the "all comedians are dummies" card.

(Clip of Cassidy saying: "I'm sorry he does not understand.")

Oh, I get it, I don't understand because I'm a talk-show host, right? Well, then help me out. Which part don't I understand? Is it the part where you cut $243 billion from federal health-care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having preexisting conditions? Maybe I don't understand the part of your bill in which federal funding disappears completely after 2026? Or maybe it was the part where the plans are no longer required to pay for essential health benefits like maternity care or pediatric visits?

Or the part where the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, Lung Association, Arthritis Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, ALS, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the March of Dimes, among many others, all vehemently oppose your bill? Which part of that am I not understanding? Or could it be, Senator Cassidy, the problem is that I do understand and you got caught with your G-O-Penis out? Is that possible? Because it feels like it is.

When Sen. Cassidy was on my show in May, he told me that he believed that every American family, regardless of income, should be able to get quality health care. And I believed he was sincere. Sadly, the bill he unveiled last week with Senator Lindsey Graham indicates that he was not sincere. It is, by many accounts, the worst health-care bill yet.

But the final commentary was perhaps the most brutal. Kimmel ridiculed the bill and tried to "make it simpler" with an edition of "Barista Theater." Kimmel and a barista in a coffee shop:

BARISTA: Hi there, what can I get you?

KIMMEL: I'd like a black coffee, please.

BARISTA: Sure thing. Your name?

KIMMEL: My name is Jimmy.

BARISTA: All right. (Pours coffee directly through a cup.) There you go. That'll be $3.50.

KIMMEL: What -- what are you doing -- what was that?

BARISTA: You asked for a black coffee.

KIMMEL: Yeah, but it's all over the table.

BARISTA: Oh, sir, I'm sorry you don't understand. I provided you with coffee. Now it's up to the individual cup to decide whether you get it or not.

KIMMEL: What? What the hell are you talking about? A cup is a cup.

BARISTA: Is it, though? We believe each cup is capable of making its own decision on whether to hold coffee or not.

KIMMEL: But your job is to serve coffee. Shouldn't I for sure be able to drink it?

BARISTA: Oh, no. I'm sorry, no. Putting bottoms on all the cups would be too expensive. So anyway, that will be $3.50, Timmy.

KIMMEL: I'm not paying it. It's Jimmy, by the way. And this is exhausting. I want no part of this at all.

BARISTA: You're exhausted?


BARISTA: That's a preexisting condition. Your new total is... $387.50.

KIMMEL: That's ridiculous. I'm not paying $387.50.

BARISTA: Ridiculous? Actually, it is adequate and affordable.

KIMMEL: You know what? I'll just go to another coffee place, thank you.

BARISTA: This is how all coffee shops are now. If you want your coffee in a cup, go to Canada.

KIMMEL: Fine. You know what? Their president is cuter anyway.

-- Chris Weigant


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Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: The Huffington Post


42 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [454] -- Senator Cassidy Fails Jimmy Kimmel Test”

  1. [1] 
    John M wrote:

    It's so ironic how right wing Christians in America are so afraid of the nonexistent threat of Sharia law being imposed in the U.S., but at the same time are just fine with their Christian law being imposed on everybody else.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The Kurds, in an apparently shrewd move, hired Manafort to help them with their referendum.

    Yes, THAT Manafort.

  3. [3] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Alt-Orange: Get that uppity son of a bitch off the field and fire him. And, BTW, be kind to those very fine Nazis, Confederates, and Russians.

  4. [4] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    While I'm happy to see that John McCain can hold a grudge, I can never forget that he inflicted Word Salad Palin on us.

  5. [5] 
    neilm wrote:

    Word Salad Palin

    Show some respect JFC, that is Ambassador Palin for Nambia to you!

  6. [6] 
    neilm wrote:

    Well it is a win for both sides in America with the results of the German election. The sane and Patriotic majority can be glad that Merkel kept her position of power and 45 and his minions can be happy that the German Nazi Party (AfD) is now represented in the Bundestag. Both the Nazis and the Confederacy are rising again - Fox News is working like a charm for history's biggest losers - Nazis and Friends will be happy tomorrow morning for sure!

  7. [7] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey CW

    Back from nowhere, I decided to go back and check out your comments on the massive Pentagon budget supported by Democrats.

    I failed to find any columns where it was mentioned.
    Can you direct me to where you addressed the topic please?

    As for today's column, I have a little trouble taking any debate about GOP health care bills seriously at this point.
    Sorry Kimmel.

    Big Money Dems didn't accomplish anything of substance for labor in Obama's 8 years, unless making unions even smaller and no increase in the minimum wage counts, but Raygun being honored amounts to a farce for sure.
    Maybe that explains why Obama considered him a transformative president worthy of praise?

    I'm not sure what part of "the left" you were referring to about Plame.
    She's basically been a non-entity in the circles I keep tabs on... and since you mentioned her support for Hillary, I think I know why.


  8. [8] 
    Paula wrote:

    Jared Kushner used a private email server.

  9. [9] 
    Paula wrote:

    All hail the folks today who "took the knee" or linked arms or sat or otherwise supported their black teammates. I'm with Kap! (Or Kaep!) And it was something of a glorious f.u. to Blotus. Yay.

  10. [10] 
    altohone wrote:


    I'm not sure why you're cheering Merkel's win.
    The German equivalent of the Democrats lost badly... though Merkel is to the left of Hillary.
    If the bar is being set at "better than neo-Nazis", it portends a race to the bottom.

    There's actually quite a bit of grumbling from the left in Germany... and not just about the gains by the AfD.
    The Left party, the Greens and the SPD are all supporting the increased military budgets, austerity social budgets, anti-immigrant policies, mass surveillance and a resurgent Realpolitik internationally... all moves to the right politically.
    The abandonment of long held liberal principals (which has worked out so well for Dems in the US) has increased inequality greatly and created an ever growing class of working poor in Germany... a relatively new phenomena in post-war Germany and one of the factors at the core of Trump's ability to win.
    Dangerous games they are playing.
    A German version of Trump could be on the horizon.

    I saw your comment about the economy in a previous post... your mortgage broker slowdown comment.
    Quite a few people are noticing the signs.
    As you pointed out months ago, we are due for another recession going by the historical record.
    I think the declining car sales and just announced layoffs at GM and Ford are indeed indicators.

    Considering that a huge slice of the US population never saw any recovery from the Great Recession (aka Wall Street fraud bubble implosion) I believe there will be more vocal discontent than is usual.
    And with economic Darwinians still in charge of our government, I believe their response will make that discontent grow.

    What are your feelings on the economics given that the Fed is basically still using the tools available to them after the last recession... not much in the way of an ability to cut interest rates for example?


  11. [11] 
    Kick wrote:


    I have a question for you (or anyone else for that matter): How is a silent protest any worse than that thing on BLOTUS' head? [not the pathetic orange "hair" situation, the ignorant cap]

    Explain me this: Where do the right-wing whiners wearing their "MAGA" attire get off saying that athletes who take a knee to silently protest are showing disrespect to America? I mean, really! It's not like the athletes are wearing hats with a logo that insinuates our country isn't great and encouraging others to wear it also. If small hands/small mind honestly believes that people who disrespect our country should be fired, then he can make an example of himself for wearing, selling for a profit, and encouraging other Americans to wear a stupid ______ <--- [insert expletive here] hat that disrespects America IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.

    If I said it once, I said it a hundred times over the weekend. If I was one of those athletes standing at a podium being asked about kneeling, I would have simply stated in response: "Our silent protest has nothing whatsoever to do with disrespect for our country. If we had wanted to show disrespect for America, we could have simply worn those stupid Trump campaign hats."

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Please stop cutting and pasting old comments into new ones.

    I mean, seriously!?

  13. [13] 
    neilm wrote:


    I work for a German company. I'm very proud to and regard them as an excellent employer - they basically offer us European-style benefits in the U.S.

    I also work with a lot of Germans in a German business culture. There are strengths and weaknesses to the German business culture. On the plus side for employees, it is almost impossible to fire anybody, seniority is strong, and there is a "Worker's Committee" that have to approve certain decisions that involve German workers. On the minus side, there is a lot of very talented people who are have been working for the company for decades and are in positions and are being paid way below their potential from a Silicon Valley perspective. Plus the general salaries are about 1/2 to 2/3 what an equivalent U.S. employee would be paid.

    My point is that socialist ideals are strong in Germany, and the likes of Merkel are not looking to undercut the system. The political philosophy is more citizen centered than our business centered philosophy. Frankly I think they have the right balance.

    The AfD are a knee jerk reaction to the large wave of immigration and their support is most strong in the old East Germany which is still significantly poorer. I see this as a one-off unless there is another humanitarian crisis and Merkel decides to repeat the open door policy of 2014/5 - which I doubt because I think she is pragmatic enough to realize that this will only help the AfD.

  14. [14] 
    neilm wrote:

    I'm sort of getting fed up with the internecine pettiness starting up. As Bill Mayer repeated again this week, we have to remember who are our imperfect friends and who are our deadly enemies and treat them appropriately.

    I'll never be a Bernie-Bro, but I admire and understand his vision - I just don't think it is feasible because I'm an "art of the possible" type. Thus I'm wide open to purity tests that I'll fail reliably for your entertainment, but I'm still on your side.

  15. [15] 
    neilm wrote:

    Note: the above comment was a general statement and not directed at any one person or post - and I'm not saying I'm the victim, just putting myself forward as an example.

  16. [16] 
    neilm wrote:

    Considering that a huge slice of the US population never saw any recovery from the Great Recession (aka Wall Street fraud bubble implosion) I believe there will be more vocal discontent than is usual.
    And with economic Darwinians still in charge of our government, I believe their response will make that discontent grow.

    I'm amazed, but then shouldn't be based on experience, at the level of economic innumeracy in the general public. There are two simple facts that just about every American living in a household with an income below $250K should know and want changed:

    1. Just about all the wealth and income gains since for the last three decades have gone to the top 5-10% of Americans - everybody else has flatlined.

    2. Currently the GDP per person is about $54.6K but the income per person is only $17.5K - a 3x difference is ridiculous*

    Why is this not a pitchfork and torches issue in this country?

    So in answer to your question, I don't think this time will be different because American voters seem to be acting like battered spouses who just keep coming back for more. I grew up in Scotland and there was always grumbling discontent about the rich getting more than their "fair share" - "Bolshie" was the word that described that attitude, and it was felt that sometimes the regular people had to be a bit "bolshie" otherwise they'd be getting ripped off by the rich. We could do with more of that here.

    * Paper that covers median household income and per capita gdp for the U.S. and compares it to other countries:

  17. [17] 
    neilm wrote:

    What are your feelings on the economics given that the Fed is basically still using the tools available to them after the last recession... not much in the way of an ability to cut interest rates for example?

    I think that the last recession was the first economic crisis of modern times where the fiscal policy players decided to opt out, and so only monetary solutions were on the table. For that fact, I hold the White House, the House and the Senate in utter contempt - but at least the WH tried with the auto bailout and the propping up the financial system. However the seeds for a repeat are not in place because Frank-Dodd was a band-aid that the current regime is trying to remove anyway, and the Justice Department didn't put 50-100 Wall Street "names" in long term jail sentences to send a message that we won't put up with a repeat. So lots of blame to go around there.

    This put the Fed in the position of trying to address the economic situation using only monetary means, and the primary tool, lowering interest rates, quickly ran out of ammunition (difficult to go below 0% although Germany has succeeded to a limited degree). Thus the Fed invented a new tool (not that new - really it is just called "printing money" but they couldn't call it that), Quantitative Easing, that effectively lowered rates below zero. This had the effect of pumping money into the economy, but the problem was, without any fiscal policy, the money went anywhere it wanted, and it wanted to go to the stock market, which has boomed since 2009.

    (I'm going to put in a separate post some thoughts about effective interest rates, and relative risk, because that would bog this down, but it explains why this happened.)

    So now the Fed are trying to reload their "Interest Rate" weapon by raising rates (so they have the ammunition to lower them in a future crisis) but due to fiscal policy failures they are fighting the economy (inflation is stubbornly low, and despite high employment, there is little wage pressure).

    Thus the Fed have lost one weapon, and now only have their new one, that is far from perfect, can't be aimed (fiscal policy provides that targeting - directing the money to e.g. middle class programs, more money into the hands of people who will spend it instead of putting it in their 401K, etc.).

    I hold out little hope for any significant growth until the wealthy realize it is in their interest to get their paid politicians to put money into the 95%'s pockets so they can spend more, and thus grow the economy from the bottom up (trickle down has failed beyond count). However with globalization, I think they oligarchs will just let the EU and Asian governments create the next "American" middle class instead.

  18. [18] 
    neilm wrote:

    Risk and Return:

    I think there is a simple ladder between risk and return. I'm going to describe the capital markets using a ridiculously simple model to make a point - you have been warned. Note: this model ignores inflation assuming that everything is done in constant dollars.

    Let's assume there is a country with only three capital markets instruments:

    1. Government bonds - utterly safe - you will get your principal and interest back guaranteed because the government can print money - your only risk is hyper inflation and for our purposes we will value that at below 0.01%

    2. Corporate/other bonds - pretty safe, but a 2% chance of default where you might lost 50% of your money (i.e. a net risk of 50% of 2% = 1%)

    3. Stocks - historically, as an index, volatile with a risk curve that decreases based on holding time - i.e. if you only want to invest your money for one year the risks are high, but if you want to invest for 10 years the risks are about 10% that you might lost 50% of your money, thus net risk for 10 year holding is 50% of 10% = 5%)

    So we have a ladder:

    Gov't Bonds: Completely safe - 0% risk
    Corp Bonds: Somewhat safe - 2% risk
    Stocks: Least safe - 5% risk

    To invest in the "somewhat safe" vehicle you need to get more than 2% return. To invest in stocks you want more than 5% return over 10 years

    So, if Gov't Bonds pay 5%, you'd expect Corp Bonds to pay over 7% and the stock market to pay at least 10%.

    Let's look at the stock market. We measure returns based on two parts: dividends (EPS) and stock price rises. Some companies pay no dividends so you expect all your returns in higher share prices, some provide dividends and higher prices. To simplify this this model I'm going to assume no dividends are paid, you get all your returns through higher share prices, thus the key number is the P/E ration - price to earnings ratio - i.e. how much do you have to pay for a share (Y) to get earnings of X. In our simple model, the P/E ratio would need to be at least 10 (to give the 10% returns).

    So what happens when Gov't Rates drop to 0%?

    1. Gov't return: 0%
    2. Corp Bonds: 2%+
    3. Stocks: 5% = P/E of 20. Thus as Gov't rates decrease and if earnings remain constant, P doubles and everybody who has a 401k is happy.

    This is what is happening at the moment, and in the earlier post I showed that complacency in the voting public is allowing the owners of our politicians to keep the lid on pay and this inflation.

  19. [19] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Came late to this party, but enjoyed Neil's posts this morning! Good work, dude.

    Also, agree with WAPO columnist in Chris' article who compared Trump's attitude during UN speech to that of a Mob boss. Not 'Gansta', actual gangster. Like Joe Pesci after being rudely awakened, but without the charm.

    And Paula, watched with fascination as team after team protested yesterday. Particularly pleased to see two singers of the Anthem take a knee.

  20. [20] 
    Paula wrote:

    [12] Kick: "Our silent protest has nothing whatsoever to do with disrespect for our country. If we had wanted to show disrespect for America, we could have simply worn those stupid Trump campaign hats."


    Also: if we wanted to show disrespect we could fly a confederate flag.

  21. [21] 
    altohone wrote:


    You may just be trying to be funny again, but I have no idea what you're referring to... as you didn't specify which comment or which portion of a comment.

    In any case, if I repeated myself, it was typed anew... and heartfelt.
    So, I don't appreciate the falsehood even if it was somehow meant in jest.


  22. [22] 
    Kick wrote:


    Also: if we wanted to show disrespect we could fly a confederate flag.

    Exactly! Truth be told, they're not even flying the flag of the Confederate States of America; that's the battle flag of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia that was used in battle against the Army of the United States of America. The original official flag of the Confederacy was the "Stars and Bars," designed by a German... go figure... the same German who designed the confederate uniform.

    I never quite understood why the same people who claim to be "patriots" and insist that America is a "Christian nation" (have they even read the United States Constitution?) are the same ones who fly the battle flag of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and worship graven images of General Lee. Isn't NOT doing that one of their "Big Ten" commandments?

    And just to be clear here, that paragraph above is spoken with a Southern accent with tongue in cheek... mostly. ;)

  23. [23] 
    altohone wrote:


    I'm half German and still have family there, and I follow events there with only some occasional lapses.
    I'm glad you have a good employer, and that you benefit and recognize the positives, but you didn't address most of the issues I raised.
    From comment 7-
    "increased military budgets (as Trump demanded btw), austerity social budgets, anti-immigrant policies, mass surveillance and a resurgent Realpolitik internationally"
    Of course, their political spin is that they want to chart their own course due to disagreement/disgust with Trump, but even the blind can see they are essentially following the same course as the right wingers in both parties in the US.
    Quite a coincidence.

    "My point is that socialist ideals are strong in Germany, and the likes of Merkel are not looking to undercut the system."

    The massive growth in the numbers of working poor and the increasing inequality are the result of the weakening of socialist ideals generally, and government policies specifically.
    Just going by memory (I'm in no mood for refresher research), I believe it was either Schroder or the SPD, CSU/CDU coalition that began/implemented Hartz4, and other neoliberal economic policies like austerity budgets and social cuts, and other trickle downesque emulation... which is why that part of my comment was about Merkel but included the supposedly more liberal parties as well.

    In other words, the "balance" has changed fairly recently with negative results, and they continue to move in the direction of more business friendly/worker unfriendly policies... and I think the previous balance was the right balance.
    But, my original point wasn't just about economics.
    Long held ideals about privacy inspired by the horrors of the Stasi are now being violated using the terrorism boogeyman excuse (just like unconstitutional US surveillance policies), and SPD, the Left, and Green party politicians are embracing a more militaristic policy and even scapegoating immigrants like the AfD and Trump.

    I hope you're right about the AfD.
    But if you happened to catch the post-election BBC article, Merkel is vowing to "win back" the right wingers who abandoned her party for the AfD.
    Time will tell, but that sounds like a plan to move even further right to me, and that is essentially rewarding the right wing extremists, rather than addressing the root causes that resulted in their growth in popularity and power.

    And, just for context, the regime change wars in Libya and Syria which were embraced by the supposedly liberal ruling coalitions for "humanitarian" reasons are the cause of more than two thirds of the flood of immigrants into Germany which the AfD used to great effect in the election when their anti-EU approach fizzled.
    So, the increasing militarism and the consequences is a relevant subject to this discussion.

    Sorry for going on and on.


  24. [24] 
    Kick wrote:


    I'll never be a Bernie-Bro, but I admire and understand his vision - I just don't think it is feasible because I'm an "art of the possible" type. Thus I'm wide open to purity tests that I'll fail reliably for your entertainment, but I'm still on your side.

    Very well said, sir. All things being equal and if Saint Bernard were actually the POTUS, how much of his "purity agenda" do you think Bernie could actually deliver? Exactly right.

    As anyone who knows history can tell you, it was quite simply drawn up that way purposely. The founders had already been through a revolution and wished to avoid it again at all costs. The words of our Constitution were carefully chosen, hotly debated, and finally ratified. It's actually a feature of our country and not a bug that a revolution is not likely possible.

    "...for good legislation two houses are necessary..."
    ~ Thomas Jefferson in a letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, 1789

  25. [25] 
    altohone wrote:

    Kick, Paula, Balthy

    Glad to see the support for the protesters against racism...

    ... but, unless I missed something, isn't Kaep still looking for a job because of hypocritical NFL owners "offended by Trump"?

    Doesn't the "we're with him, but won't hire him" shtick jump out as a glaring omission in the media frenzy?


  26. [26] 
    Kick wrote:


    ... but, unless I missed something, isn't Kaep still looking for a job because of hypocritical NFL owners "offended by Trump"?

    Hey, Punk!

    The beauty of America is that Kaep is free to exercise his right to free speech, and the owners are free to exercise theirs. The sword of democracy cuts both ways.

    Doesn't the "we're with him, but won't hire him" shtick jump out as a glaring omission in the media frenzy?

    I've heard some talk of it... not nearly enough, though. It sucks. Same thing seemed to have happened with Michael Sam.

    I suspect there are three things at issue:
    *Some of the owners aren't hiring him because of his activism.
    *Some of the owners are not hiring him because they have no need of his skills.
    *Some of the owners quite simply lack the courage of their convictions... which these athletes certainly do not.

  27. [27] 
    altohone wrote:


    Once again, I'm going to set the record straight even though this isn't what your comments were actually about.

    Bernie supporters do not call themselves "Bernie-Bro's"... so I wouldn't expect anyone to embrace that moniker.
    The name was created as a smear by the Hillary campaign in an effort to tarnish all Bernie supporters.
    Glenn Greenwald and company investigated the claim, and the "examples" of offensive misogyny in online comments offered by Hillary Inc. turned out to be... bum bum bah... Republican Trump supporters.
    That is a simple fact.

    Now, I'm sure that a tiny percentage of Bernie supporters actually are misogynistic asshats, but the stereotype smear campaign tactic was never representative of Bernie supporters, and if you want to be factually accurate, the term deserves to be relegated to the dustbin, not repeated.

    As CW and Don have both pointed out recently and above, what is actually politically possible CAN change, and HAS changed.
    Single Payer is now politically possible because it has the support of the majority of Americans... and yes, I know it will require a change in both Congress and the WH and may still take several positive election seasons to accomplish.
    (again, for the record, 8 out of 10 of Bernie's top policy proposals had majority support among all Americans... not just Democrats... so the "purity/pragmatism" arguments were always just an excuse to maintain the status quo... but whatever).

    In any case, neil and kick, both of you have expressed strong support for Single Payer (unlike "it's never going to happen" Hillary), and neil, in your comments above you embraced the more socialistic "right balance" from Germany, condemned the trickle down neoliberal response to the Great Recession, and have previously expressed support for other policy changes which are all far more like Bernie than the current and recent Democratic establishment...

    ... so, whatever you want to call yourselves, I would hope you recognize you're part of the actually viable solution.

    Whatever the ability of Bernie to deliver, purity was never Bernie's thing... it was another campaign tactic from Hillary Inc... and I still think he would have beaten Trump and been positive for the country.

    Don, yup... just to acknowledge why I included you in this comment.


  28. [28] 
    altohone wrote:


    Good answer.

    I think several teams are in dire need of Kaep's skills... as he is very skilled... but that's just my opinion, not even a quibble with your wisdom.


  29. [29] 
    altohone wrote:


    BTW, Hillary (in her new book) and right wing corporatist Dems are still attacking Bernie.

    Those internecine squabbles cut both ways.

    I personally agree with Don here that neoliberal Dems are part of the problem, and that the fight is necessary not problematic, but I doubt that shocks anyone.


  30. [30] 
    altohone wrote:


    First off, thanks for all your responses.

    Fully agree with almost everything in this comment.
    My pitchfork is ready and eager, but lonely.

    I truly do think anger and understanding about the causes are growing, and the combination of pissed off left and "damn, we were duped" right will have an effect.

    If a free trader like you (just to acknowledge how you do indeed differ from Bernie) is pining for some "Bolshie", there is hope.


  31. [31] 
    altohone wrote:


    This time I agree with everything in this comment.

    "I think they oligarchs will just let the EU and Asian governments create the next "American" middle class instead."

    But that is a mind-numbingly depressing prediction.

    And, something worthy of fighting against to ensure it is not allowed to happen.
    I think our middle class is worth fighting for too.


  32. [32] 
    altohone wrote:


    What a nice explanation.

    But isn't the average PE about 35 right now?


  33. [33] 
    altohone wrote:




  34. [34] 
    Paula wrote:

    altohone: Yes, it is terrible Kaep is being blackballed and yes it is annoying that not all media is bringing that up.

  35. [35] 
    Paula wrote:

    Although I think Kaep is going to end up as quite the inspiring figure -- he certainly inspires me. I suspect the NFL's loss will be a gain for the rest of us if he continues on his current path.

  36. [36] 
    neilm wrote:


    Firstly, if "Bernie-Bros" is an insult, my apologies - I thought it was the movement's own, proud, term for their supporters. My bad.

    Re: P/E ratio

    Correct, it currently is 35, my very simple model was showing the effect of QE lowering interest rates and thus raising the price (P) of stocks, not explaining the current market in detail. The P/E of 35 reflects about a 3% "return", but it is expected that the "E" (earnings) will grow in the future and that is priced in. Also, dividends add another e.g. 2% or so, bringing the long term implied returns up to about 5% + priced-in future growth.

    re: Germany

    For the most part, the Germans are very pleased with their lot, and most of their neighbors agree (

    The AfD took a lot of Merkel's support in Bavaria, and it is perceived that this is not because a lot of old, rich Germans are pining for Adolf, but that they feel Merkel is diluting German culture, to which the separate party in Bavaria (the CSU part of the CDU/CSU alliance) has always been sensitive to - they definitely put the "Christian" part more prominently and Merkel was importing a lot of non-Christians. I still believe that in a few years the mass immigration event will be forgotten, unless the Germans create ghettos similar to the ones the French have with their minority populations.

    FYI: I know I'm just cherry picking a few replies to all the points you raised. Sorry.

  37. [37] 
    neilm wrote:

    My point about the "art of the possible" is based on my reading of the "Overton Window" in American society. I've lived here for 25 years, moving here from Thatcher's Britain and found America to be dramatically to the right of even that. I was living in Surrey County in England (Thatcherland Central) before I moved to Marin Country, California (regarded as almost Trotskyite by Americans I met). Thus I came from a strongly right wing county of Britain to what I was told was a strongly left wing county in American and still felt I was moving sharply to the right politically.

    I also believe that to make dramatic changes in the American system you need either a supermajority (White House, House, plus 60+ seats in the Senate) or you need to compromise. Since supermajorities are rare, finding compromise is the way to go. The Republicans denounced compromise in the last 10 years, and it is so ingrained that they can't even compromise with themselves (proof point: repeated failures to repeal the ACA).

    Thus I'm of the opinion that large steps away from the center-right norms of this country, even with supposed public support* are unlikely and that an incremental approach is simply more likely to deliver results.

    In the British system a simple party can exercise almost unfettered power and lurch the country in larger steps, and frankly I think that is a better system of government that the loudly praised "checks and balances" system in the Constitution.

    * The problem with saying "65% of people want X" is that when the opponents of "X" suspect that policies promoting "X" are likely they engage their propaganda and the public support for "X" drops. I regard polls showing the popularity of unlikely outcomes as accurate reflections of general public opinion, but not manipulated public opinion during the heated debate of a topic in this country when political decisions are made. Plus, Don is right, money dictates outcomes in American politics at the moment.

  38. [38] 
    altohone wrote:


    Well, anti-Single payer propaganda and bribery of politicians to reinforce it has been about as intense as the war on drugs... and both are failing.

    The times they are a changing.


  39. [39] 
    altohone wrote:

    42 again

    The two most popular government programs in history, Medicare and SS, are not center right, and the government is already paying 7 out of every 10 healthcare dollars through Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, Obamacare subsidies, research, tax breaks, state programs, etc.

    So, Single Payer just requires dealing with the 3 out of 10 dollars remaining.

    That's closer to "incremental" territory than most recognize.


  40. [40] 
    altohone wrote:


    No worries... just had to set the record straight.

    P/E- isn't 35 traditionally considered bubble territory?

    Germany- yeah, inequality and the plight of the working poor get whitewashed here too.

    The issues you are not picking is where my interest mostly lies... maybe next time.


  41. [41] 
    altohone wrote:

    37, 38


    I like your positive outlook.


  42. [42] 
    neilm wrote:

    P/E- isn't 35 traditionally considered bubble territory?

    Yes - and if short term treasuries were near 3% I'd say a "pop" is long overdue, but with treasuries at basically 0%, the numbers are still in the nosebleed territory, but not ludicrous. I've moved to a far more traditional 60/40 balance for my portfolio over the last couple of years, with at least half of the 60% in stock overseas.

    However I am almost always wrong about the markets, so please do not regard this as smart or anything like that.

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