Our own Tim Murphy, in a triumph of data journalism, reports that if Bernie Sanders "can beat Hillary Clinton in Kentucky's Clinton County, he will have defeated Clinton in all nine of the Clinton Counties in the United States." I have to admit that would be pretty awesome.

But! If Hillary Clinton can beat Bernie Sanders in Montana's Sanders County on June 7, she will have defeated Sanders in all of the Sanders Counties in the United States. Also awesome. Though perhaps not as awesome as the fact that Montana has two counties right next to each other named Phillips and Petroleum.

Jesus. I knew this was happening, but I guess I didn't really know it was happening:

The House Judiciary Committee’s decision to hold hearings a week from today on whether to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is a victory for the chamber’s far-right caucus, still smarting over the agency’s treatment of conservative groups.

....One of the biggest questions now is whether the 76-year-old tax commissioner will show up for the grilling. IRS officials said Monday they have made no decision on whether Koskinen will accept the Judiciary committee’s invitation to appear May 24 and at a hearing in June.

They're really and truly going forward with this farce? Somehow this stuff continues to surprise me even though it certainly shouldn't by this point.

I think it must absolutely enrage Republicans that Barack Obama has very plainly run one of the cleanest, least scandalous administrations in recent history. Not mistake free, but scandal free. Nonetheless, they keep trying and trying and trying to find something that proves he's the Chicago thug they keep saying he is, and they keep coming up empty. They've spent collective decades investigating Fast & Furious, Benghazi, Solyndra, the IRS, and anything else they can think of, and they keep coming up empty handed. There's never anything there aside from a bit of the usual bureaucratic bungling you can find anyplace in a gigantic organization if you look for it.

So now they're going hold pointless impeachment hearings on an IRS commissioner who only has eight months left to serve anyway? What a bunch of loons.

Prescription Drug Ads on TV Are Horrible

Here's the latest from Pollville:

Robert Blendon, the Harvard professor of health policy who oversaw the poll, was surprised. "There’s something about these ads that bother people a lot more than we would have thought," he said.

I think Blendon needs to watch more TV. Then he'd understand. In any case, I figure that I should always have at least one purely selfish cause that's unsullied by either principle or rational analysis, so maybe this will become my new one. I can't say that I'm especially persuaded by any of the actual policy arguments against drug ads, but damn, they sure are annoying. After watching most television programs these days, I feel vaguely crushed by the miasma of terrible diseases that have been assaulting me for the past hour.

On the other hand, I also figure that cell phone companies and the pharma industry are probably keeping TV afloat almost single-handedly these days. Take away pharma, and it might just collapse completely.

OK, wait. What really happened today with the Supreme Court's non-decision in the contraceptive mandate case? I based my post this morning on a Washington Post story by Robert Barnes that said the court "declined Monday to decide challenges" to the case and quoted the court's order confirming that it "expresses no view on the merits of the cases."

(Not sure you remember what this case is all about? Long explainer here. Short explainer here.)

But David Savage of the LA Times scores it a win for the government: "The Supreme Court on Monday announced a compromise ruling on contraceptives that clears the way for women working for religious organizations to receive the free birth control promised by President Obama's healthcare law."

Conservative David French disagrees: "Although the Court didn’t rule on the merits of the case, the Little Sisters won a significant victory....The Supreme Court vacated the lower court ruling holding that the Little Sisters had to facilitate access to contraceptives....Speaking as a person who’s argued a few cases in courts of appeal — when the court vacates the ruling you’re challenging, that’s a win."

Dahlia Lithwick, it seems, called this one right: "Both sides will claim victory Monday. Women will not lose the right to contraception and the Little Sisters will not pay massive fines."

What accounts for this? Well, eight out of nine appeals courts had ruled in favor of the contraceptive mandate. So by doing nothing, the government temporarily wins 89 percent of its cases. Not bad! On the other hand, the Supreme Court did also vacate the Tenth Circuit ruling against the Little Sisters of the Poor, so they temporarily won their case too. The Lord taketh away, and then the Lord giveth.

So now what? I'm confused. The court had vaguely suggested a compromise that wouldn't require the Little Sisters to affirmatively notify the government that their insurance plan didn't cover contraceptives—something that amounted to a tacit collaboration with evil since it would kick off a process that ended up distributing contraceptives. Instead, all they had to do was buy an insurance plan that didn't include contraceptive coverage, and that was that. Their insurance company would then inform the feds and arrange for separate contraceptive coverage without involving the Sisters in any way. "Both petitioners and the Government now confirm that such an option is feasible," the court's order says.

Not quite. The government made it clear that the court's proposed compromise would work for organizations with outside insurance plans. But what about organizations that are self-insured? The government had this to say:

The order correctly anticipated that the alternative process it posited would not work for the many employers with self-insured plans....Accordingly, to relieve self-insured employers of any obligation to provide contraceptive coverage while still ensuring that the affected women receive coverage without the employer’s involvement, the accommodation establishes a mechanism for the government to designate the employer’s TPA as a “plan administrator” responsible for separately providing the required coverage.

....The government’s designation of the TPA must be reflected in a written plan instrument. To satisfy that requirement, the accommodation relies on either (1) a written designation sent by the government to the TPA, which requires the government to know the TPA’s identity, or (2) the self-certification form....Self-insured employers could not opt out of the contraceptive coverage requirement by simply informing their TPAs that they do not want to provide coverage for contraceptives.

When it comes to the court's proposed compromise, it looks to me as if the government decidedly didn't "confirm that such an option is feasible" in the case of self-insurers. One way or another, self-insurers still have to notify somebody that they don't want contraceptive coverage, and that means the notification comes from the organization itself. But if they have to do that, why not just fill out the form they've been complaining about from the start? Notification is notification.

In the end, I suppose I go back to the whole "punt" view of this case. A bunch of appeals courts will now spend years hashing this out, with access to free contraceptives available in some places but not in others. Then, sometime down the road, this whole mess will end up back at the Supreme Court. So I guess the question of which side won depends on who you think is going to win November's election. A continuation of Obamacare and the confirmation of a liberal justice to replace Scalia would certainly make the feds a winner. A repeal of Obamacare and the confirmation of a conservative justice would make the Little Sisters a winner. Place your bets.

Oklahoma has been resisting expansion of Medicaid for years, but they might finally be ready to cave in:

A bust in the oil patch has decimated state revenues, compounded by years of income tax cuts and growing corporate subsidies intended to make the state more business-friendly. Oklahoma's Medicaid agency has warned doctors and other health care providers of cuts of up to 25 percent in what the state pays under Medicaid.

....In the poverty-wracked south­eastern corner of the state, where 96 percent of babies in the McCurtain Memorial Hospital are born to Medicaid patients, most health care would end, said hospital CEO Jahni Tapley. "A 25 percent cut to Medicaid would not put my hospital in jeopardy, because we are already in jeopardy," Tapley said. "A 25 percent cut would shutter our doors for good, leaving 33,000 people without access to health care."

....Under the proposal, which would be funded in part with a $1.50-per-pack tax on cigarettes, Oklahoma would shift 175,000 people from its Medicaid rolls onto the federal health exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.

Oklahoma's governor is calling this "Medicaid rebalancing," but her constituents are too sharp for her. They know what's going on: "They can call it Medicaid rebalancing, but there's only one federal program that offers a 9-to-1 federal match, and that's Obamacare," said Johnathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs. There's just no fooling some people.

Anyway, it's good to see that they're not planning to fund this with, say, an increase in the income tax or the oil tax or the corporate tax. That might actually hit rich people, and God knows that would be the wrong way to pay for indigent services.

Let's be fair at the outset. British PM David Cameron has called Donald Trump's Muslim ban proposal "divisive, stupid and wrong." On Monday, a spokesman confirmed that Cameron stood by his comments. At the same time, newly elected London mayor Sadiq Khan said Trump's views were "ignorant, divisive and dangerous."

So: stupid, ignorant, dangerous, wrong, and divisive x 2. You have to figure that Trump won't let that stand. You'd be right:

Asked about Cameron's remarks, Trump said he didn't care, but then added, "It looks like we're not going to have a very good relationship. Who knows, I hope to have a good relationship with him but it sounds like he's not willing to address the problem either."

He continued: "Number one, I'm not stupid, okay? I can tell you that right now. Just the opposite. Number two, in terms of divisive, I don't think I'm a divisive person, I'm a unifier, unlike our president now, I'm a unifier."

....Trump also had words for Sadiq Khan, who became the first Muslim to hold the office of mayor of London when he was elected earlier this month...."Let's take an I.Q. test," Trump said Monday, adding that Khan had never met him and "doesn't know what I'm all about."

"I think they're very rude statements and frankly, tell him, I will remember those statements. They're very nasty statements."

I recommend the Wonderlic test. It's nice and short, and will also provide some idea of which man would make a better NFL quarterback.

Postal Contraceptives Are the Future

When we last met, both the federal government and the Little Sisters of the Poor had submitted their homework assignments to the Supreme Court on the issue of health coverage for contraceptives. Should the Sisters be required to fill out a form saying they declined contraceptive coverage? That would be cooperating with evil. Should they be required to do nothing, with only their insurance company required to provide notification? That has problems too. Still, the briefs had been submitted and the court now had its second chance to do its job and decide the issue for good. Instead we got this:

The court punted the issue back to lower courts, and said its unanimous ruling “expresses no view on the merits of the cases.” In the unsigned opinion, the court emphasized: “In particular, the Court does not decide whether petitioners’ religious exercise has been substantially burdened, whether the Government has a compelling interest, or whether the current regulations are the least restrictive means of serving that interest.”

They have decided nothing. Nothing! Without Anton Scalia around, they're flailing helplessly. Either they're hopelessly deadlocked 4-4 and are buying time, or else they really need a foil to inspire them.

I do sort of wonder what's going on here. I suppose it all has to do with self-insured entities, just like the feds warned. If, say, a Catholic hospital self insures and chooses not to provide contraceptive coverage, then it really doesn't matter if they fill out a form or not. Who's going to provide the contraceptives? There's no separate entity to do it.

I'm curious: how does this work in other countries? They have Catholic hospitals, don't they? And Catholic charities. And so forth. And health coverage is universal, and I imagine some (most?) countries cover contraceptives in their universal coverage. What's the Catholic Church's take on all this? Is the United States the only country they're mad at?

So what's my solution? The Post Office. Hear me out. There are lots of fans of postal banking out there. I keep asking why anyone thinks the Post Office is especially well suited to the task of banking, and the usual answer is that they have lots of buildings all over the country. I guess buildings are the main qualification for providing banking services. So why not postal contraceptives too? We could train some postal workers in each Post Office to become specialized contraceptive nurses, and then provide everything free of charge right there. Pills, IUDs, implants, whatever. Are you with me on this?

Here in California it's not hard to run for a Senate seat. It costs $3,480, which you can pay for in money or in signatures at the going rate of 34.8 cents per signature. This year, 34 people are competing for the seat opened up by Barbara Boxer's retirement.

The favorite to win the Democratic nomination—and therefore become our future junior senator since the California Republican Party is a hopeless wreck—is Kamala Harris. But Harris is a serious politician, which means that her statement in the voting pamphlet is serious too. And boring. Others are far more interesting. Here are my favorite half dozen:

Massie Munroe
Finally, someone will put a stop to mind control slavery and saturate our job markets for five more centuries. Also: she's a big Bernie Sanders fan.

AKINYEMI OLABODE AGBEDE
Rescue America!

PRESIDENT CRISTINA GRAPPO
I don't know what she's president of, but she's mainstream Facebook.

JASON HANANIA
The robots are here, and one of them is running for the Senate. However, his campaign slogan is cryptic. Is Hanania a fan of 101 Dalmations? Is he promoting use of the lower case e? Is his brain constructed of mendelevium? Does he like driving from Los Angeles to Seattle?

HERBERT G. PETERS
Peters is apparently one of the few remaining admirers of Franklin Pierce, thanks to Pierce's 1854 veto of a bill for the support of mentally ill indigents. Pierce issued his veto on the basis of states rights, which fit well with his support of slavery on the same grounds. Bygones.

LING LING SHI
We must fight the 10 giant chaos.

Well, here's an interesting headline from the Trump worshippers at Breitbart. "Renegade Jew" is probably not an attack that Bill Kristol gets often. But maybe Breitbart can back up the charge?

The article, it turns out, is by prolific nutcase David Horowitz, who finally has this to say in the final paragraph about the Iran deal:

Hillary Clinton and all but a handful of Democrats have supported this treachery from start to finish. Kristol is now one of their allies....To weaken the only party that stands between the Jews and their annihilation, and between America and the forces intent on destroying her, is a political miscalculation so great and a betrayal so profound as to not be easily forgiven.

Normally I'd say that writers don't write their own headlines, but in this case I suspect that Horowitz's only complaint is that it's a little too milquetoast.

Donald Trump Is a Dick, Part 874

Crain's has a story up today saying that Donald Trump received a $302 benefit on the property-tax bill for his Trump Tower penthouse, which is interesting because you can only get this deduction if you have an income under $500,000. Now, I'm skeptical of Trump's wealth, but I don't believe that he has an income under $500,000. That makes this the most humorous part of the story:

Trump's campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said the tax benefit was "an error on the part of the city of New York" and that Trump received the benefit over the past three years even though he hadn't asked for it since 2009, when tax authorities began checking on applicants' income.

So Trump applied for this piddling $302 tax credit for years even though he didn't qualify for it, and stopped only when they began checking income. What a dick.