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Carly Fiorina Just Burst Into Song and It Was the Weirdest Thing I've Ever Seen

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 5:06 PM EDT

There we were, as a nation, watching Sen. Ted Cruz attempt to gin up some momentum by announcing Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate, Wednesday afternoon. I was a bit bored. Then this happened, and oh, how I screamed with my mouth and with my keyboard:

Here is the full video for your enjoyment—and for any future horror show reel you want to produce:

We tried to warn him.

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Here's How Unprecedented Carly Fiorina's Nomination Would Be

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 4:48 PM EDT

Ted Cruz may be mathematically eliminated from clinching the Republican presidential nomination before the convention, but that didn't stop the Texas senator from announcing a running mate on Wednesday: Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Fiorina, who dropped out of the Republican presidential race after the New Hampshire primary and previously lost a US Senate race in California, is a notable pick not just because she is a woman, or because she previously criticized Cruz for saying "whatever he needs to say to get elected," but because of her past experience—she would be the first vice president in 76 years to have ascended to the post without previously holding elected office.

The last time a major party picked a vice presidential nominee without legislative or gubernatorial experience was in 1972, when Democrat George McGovern chose Sargent Shriver, who had previously run the Peace Corps and worked on President Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty." But you have to put an asterisk next to that, since Shriver was chosen only after McGovern's original running mate, Sen. Thomas Eagleton, resigned amid reports about his previous mental health treatments. Four years earlier, Alabama Gov. George Wallace selected as his running mate Air Force General Curtis LeMay, but Wallace, a longtime Democrat, had chosen to run (and lose) under the American Independent Party.

To find a running mate with no experience in elected office who actually won, you have to go back to 1940, when Franklin D. Roosevelt named Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace as his second vice president, following eight years of John Nance Garner. Prior to that, Calvin Coolidge tapped Charles Dawes, President Warren Harding's budget director, to be on his victorious ticket in 1924. Dawes had lost a Senate race 23 years earlier and written a hit song in the interim, before being dragged into the executive branch. Dawes himself seemed to recognize his lack of qualifications. "I don't know anything about politics," he said after being selected as Coolidge's running mate. "I thought I knew something about politics once. I was taken up on the top of a 20-story building and showed the promised land—and then I was kicked off."

But okay, both of those vice presidents had some experience in the executive branch. The last true outsider to win was in the 19th century. Prior to becoming James A. Garfield's running mate in 1880, Chester A. Arthur had no political experience other than stints as port collector of New York City and chairman of the state Republican Party. In a nice bit of symmetry with Cruz's campaign, Arthur's future presidential campaign was marred by allegations that he was ineligible because he was born in Canada.

Bernie Sanders Is Laying Off Hundreds of Campaign Staffers

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 4:45 PM EDT

A day after losing to Hillary Clinton in four of five primaries in the Northeast, Bernie Sanders announced his campaign will soon start laying off "hundreds" of its staff members, the New York Times reports.

"We have had a very large staff, which was designed to deal with 50 states in this country," Sanders said in an interview with the Times. "Forty of the states are now behind us. So we have a great staff, great people."

The cuts to his staff, however, do not signal he is planning to bow out of the race anytime soon, the Vermont senator said. Instead, Sanders maintained he would remain in the race for the Democratic nomination at least until the end of the summer, and he hopes to rehire laid-off staff members eventually.

Five people familiar with the cuts also confirmed the news to Politico, hinting that Sanders was preparing to shift gears and potentially focus the rest of his campaign on influencing Clinton's platform.

Ted Cruz Will Announce Carly Fiorina as His Running Mate, According to Reports

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 2:45 PM EDT

In an announcement scheduled for later this afternoon, Sen. Ted Cruz will name former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina as his running mate if he secures the Republican nomination, multiple outlets are reporting.

This is a breaking news post. We will update with more as information becomes available.

Trump's Foreign Policy Doesn't Improve When Read From a Teleprompter

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 2:31 PM EDT

I kinda sorta listened to Donald Trump's foreign policy speech this morning. You know, the one we were all looking forward to because it was written by an actual speechwriter and would be delivered via teleprompter. That's Trump being presidential, I guess.

So how did Trump do? That depends on your expectations. For a guy who never uses a teleprompter, not bad. By normal standards, though, he sounded about like a sixth grader reciting a speech from note cards. On content, it was the same deal. Compared with normal Trump, it wasn't bad. By any real-world standard, it was ridiculous.

Fact-checking his speech is sort of pointless, basically a category error. Trump is a zeitgeisty kind of guy, and that's the only real way to evaluate anything he says. In this case, the zeitgeist was "America First"—and everyone's first question was, does he know? Does he know that this is a phrase made famous by isolationists prior to World War II? My own guess is that he didn't know this the first time he used it, but he does now. Certainly his speechwriter does. But he doesn't care. It fits his favorite themes well, and the only people who care about its history are a bunch of overeducated pedants. His base doesn't know where it came from and couldn't care less.

So: America First. And that's about it. Trump will do only things that are in America's interest. He will destroy ISIS, crush Iran, wipe out the trade deficit with China, eradicate North Korea's bomb program, and give Russia five minutes to cut a deal with us or face the consequences. Aside from that, Trump's main theme seemed to be contradicting himself at every turn. We will crush our enemies and protect our friends—but only if our friends display suitable gratitude for everything we do for them. We will rebuild our military and our enemies will fear us—but "war and aggression will not be my first instinct." We will be unpredictable—but also consistent so everyone knows they can trust us. He won't tell ISIS how or when he's going to wipe them out—but it will be very soon and with overwhelming force. He will support our friends—but he doesn't really think much of international agreements like NATO.

Then there was the big mystery: his out-of-the-blue enthusiasm for 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and cyberwar. Where did that come from? In any case, the Pentagon is obviously already working on all three of these things, so it's not clear just what Trump has in mind. (Actually, it is clear: nothing. Somebody put these buzzwords in his speech and he read them. He doesn't have the slightest idea what any of them mean.)

So what would Trump do about actual conflicts that are actually happening right now? Would he send troops to Ukraine? To Syria? To Libya? To Yemen? To Iraq? Naturally, he didn't say. Gotta be unpredictable, after all.

But whatever else you take away, America will be strong under Donald Trump. We will be respected and feared. Our military will be ginormous. No one will laugh at us anymore. We will proudly defend the values of Western civilization. This all serves pretty much the same purpose in foreign policy that political correctness, Mexican walls, and Muslim bans serve in Trump's domestic policy.

And there you have it. Did he really need a teleprompter for that?

Cruz-Fiorina in 2016!

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 1:17 PM EDT

The rumor mill says that Ted Cruz plans to announce today that Carly Fiorina will be his running mate. Jim Geraghty comments:

Announcing Fiorina today would be a big gamble for Cruz. There’s a lot to like about Fiorina, but will this announcement help lock up Indiana and give Cruz a slew of delegates in places like California? If Fiorina is today’s big news, we may look back on this as a key moment where Cruz united the anti-Trump factions of the party... or we may look back on this as a Hail Mary pass.

Hmmm. Pretty sure I know which one of these it will be. In fact, it's even worse than it seems. Given Fiorina's popularity in California, it's more like a Hail Mary pass to the wrong end zone.

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Do Lucky People Feel Better About Paying Taxes?

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 12:08 PM EDT

Robert Frank thinks that we can get rich people to support higher taxes by reminding them of how lucky they are:

Underestimating the importance of luck is [] a totally understandable tendency....Most highly successful people are very talented and hardworking, after all, and when they construct the narratives of their own lives, the most readily available memories are the difficult problems they've been solving every day for decades. Less salient are the sporadic external events that also invariably matter, like the mentor who helped you during a rough patch in 11th grade or the promotion you got because a more qualified colleague had to turn it down to care for an ill spouse.

....I've seen even brief discussions of the link between success and luck temper the outrage many wealthy people feel about taxes....In my own recent conversations with highly successful people, I've seen opinions change on the spot. Many who seem never to have considered the possibility that their success stemmed from factors other than their own talent and effort are often surprisingly willing to rethink. In many instances, even brief reflection stimulates them to recall specific examples of good breaks they've enjoyed along the way.

I've long wondered how it is that so many people are completely clueless about how lucky they are. Off the top of my head, here's the story of my life:

I was born in the richest state in the richest country in the richest era of human history. I was born white, male, straight, and healthy. I was born with a high IQ and an even temper. My parents loved me and took care of me. We weren't rich, but I never wanted for anything important. I attended good quality state schools free of charge for 17 years. I never had any catastrophic money problems after I left home. By a rather unlikely chance, I ended up marrying the most wonderful person in the world. I had a great mentor at one job who helped me make an improbable move into high-tech marketing. Later I found myself working for a guy I happened to click with, and ended up vice president of marketing. Our company eventually got acquired and I made a bunch of money. After I left, I just happened to start blogging as a hobby right at the time blogging became big. A couple of years later I got a call out of the blue asking if I wanted to blog for pay. A few years after that I got another call out of the blue and ended up at MoJo.

There's more, but that's enough for now. And of course, recently I've had some bad luck. But even that hasn't been so bad. Thanks to all the good luck I had before, I've received hundreds of thousands of dollars of top-notch medical treatment at practically no cost.

Does any of this mean I didn't work hard and diligently? Of course not. But lots of people work hard and diligently. In fact, most people do. If I had worked hard and diligently but been born in a small village in Pakistan, I'd be...living in a small village in Pakistan right now. All the hard work and diligence in the world wouldn't have done much of anything for me.

I can easily believe that most people give short shrift to all this stuff. Hell, I've known people who were smug about their real estate acumen because they happened to buy a house in 2002, and then cried about their terrible luck when they failed to sell it in 2007. We all like to fool ourselves into believing that good things are due to our smarts while bad things are all down to bad luck. But for most of us, there's an awful lot of good luck involved in our lives too.

But here's the thing I'm interested in: is it really true that pointing this out to a rich person is likely to turn them into a tax-loving supporter of the welfare state? That hasn't been my experience, but then, I've never gone whole hog on the luck argument. Maybe it works! But if it does, we liberals have sure been remarkably negligent for the past few decades. This is a pretty easy argument to make, after all.

So: has anyone (other than Robert Frank) tried this? Ideally with a rich person, but even an upper-middle-class Republican will do. Did it work? Inquiring minds want to know.

Hillary Clinton Wants All Millennials to Feel Free to Use Her Lawn

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 10:51 AM EDT

I guess I'm finally curious enough about something to write a post about it. The subject is The Kids Today. Here are a couple of recent posts from Atrios:

I know I keep returning this subject, and I probably don't have anything especially new to say about it, but I guess support for Bernie by The Kids Today has brought a lot of it out recently. I'm increasingly amazed that The Kids Today seems to include anyone under 40, and that the olds (#notallolds) hate them with white hot passion. The Kids Today are Generation Screwed, and the Old Economy Steves of the world really should shut their pie holes.

And:

Hope to be wrong, but suspect that team Clinton (very broadly defined) will still be talking about Berniebros in September. I'm quite happy for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, as I always thought she would be. I'm not happy with the months of "we would have won it easy if not for these meddling kids who won't vote in November" rhetoric. Better figure out how to appeal to them. Stop calling them immature and stupid. The goal is to win, not to make early excuses for why you're going to lose.

I realize that our personal takes on this subject are strongly influenced by which blogs/tweets/etc. we happen to read, and Atrios and I are probably reading different stuff. But I still wonder where this is coming from. Do older folks really hate millennials with a white hot passion? Is Team Clinton obsessed with Berniebros? I just don't see it. What I've seen is a competitive primary where both sides have been sniping at the other, just like 2008. And now that it's over, the sniping will fade away. Just speaking personally, my Twitter feed and general reading list has been about equally full of rancor aimed at both sides. The youngs are starry-eyed idealists; the olds are corrupt sellouts. Berniebros are disgusting; Hillarybots are cutthroat. Bernie is clueless about how to get things done; Hillary is a warmonger. Etc.

If you yourself are a millennial, I suppose it's only natural to pay special attention to every single op-ed ever written on the subject of millennials. But I don't think this particular genre is any more prevalent today than op-eds about young Gen Xers a couple of decades ago or op-eds about young boomers back when I was graduating from college. They're no more critical, either. Just the same old stuff about middle-aged folks trying to understand younger folks, sometimes with sympathy and sometimes without.

I guess I'm doing that annoying oldster thing where I use my personal experience to shrug off what's happening today as just more of the same. But honest, I wouldn't do it if I saw endless streams of criticism of Bernie and Bernie supporters—and millennials in general—that truly seemed way out of proportion to what I've seen before. But I just haven't.

As for Hillary, I can guarantee that the only thing she and her team want from millennials is their support. That's been crystal clear from the start, and the fact that there are some assholes on her side doesn't change that. There are always assholes on all sides. But Team Hillary itself, even broadly defined, has no greater desire than to prove itself to millennials and get their votes in November. Just wait and see.

This Guy Had the Worst Idea for How to Spend $13 Million

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 9:26 AM EDT

State Sen. Jamie Raskin won Tuesday's Democratic primary in Maryland's eighth congressional district. But the bigger story is who lost—that would be David Trone, a wine retailer who spent $12.7 million of his own money in the hopes of winning the seat.

Trone, running in a district that includes the affluent Washington, DC, suburbs in Montgomery County, set a record for most money spent by a self-funding congressional candidate to win a House seat. (The previous record was $7.8 million, and that included both a primary and a general election; as of early April, Raskin's campaign had spent a little more than $1 million.)

The irony is that Trone was running as a campaign finance crusader. Much like Donald Trump, who cites his $35 million investment in his campaign as proof he can't be bought, Trone believed his enormous personal wealth would insulate him from charges of corruption. "I certainly could have raised enough money to fund a competitive campaign," he said in a full-page Washington Post ad two weeks ago, when he had only spent a pedestrian $9.1 million. "But the PACs, lobbyists and big dollar donors who give money would expect special attention. No matter how well-intentioned, those contributions and the candidates who take them are part of the reason Washington is broken."

That message carried him to the brink of success—or maybe it was just the deluge ads—but in the end, money alone didn't cut it. Trone won by large margins in the two counties that comprise a smaller portion of the district, but Raskin held a sizable edge in his home county, Montgomery. Trone's final receipt: a little more than $400 per vote.

Obamacare's Competitive Markets Are Starting to Work Pretty Well

| Wed Apr. 27, 2016 12:43 AM EDT

The decision last week by United Healthcare to drop out of Obamacare got a lot of attention, but the truth is that UH was a pretty small player in the exchanges. What's more important—but hasn't gotten much attention—is the fact that more and more Obamacare insurers are getting close to profitability. Richard Mayhew comments:

2014 was a year where there were only guesses about both the Exchange population, the market structure, and federal policy structure (specifically the risk corridor revenue neutrality restrictions. 2015 had a bit more clarity on who was coming into the market, what was working and what was not working, and what federal policy on risk corridors would actually be. 2016 is the first year where the policies are priced on functionally decent real information and some of the amazingly dumb strategic decisions have been unwound through either course changes or through exiting the market.

As a simple reminder, competitive markets should see some companies make money and some companies that offer more expensive and less attractive products lose money. I would be extremely worried if everyone was making money after three years, just like I would be extremely worried that everyone was losing money after three years of increasingly better data.

Obamacare critics have spent a lot of energy trying to pretend that premiums on the exchanges have skyrocketed, but that's never been true. What is true is that premiums started below projections and have since risen moderately as insurers get a better grasp on their customer base. This is how competitive markets work: players enter the market with prices designed to attract market share; customers pick winners and losers; prices adjust over time; and some companies are successful while others drop out. Eventually you reach a rough equilibrium, which we're getting close to with Obamacare.

It's ironic (or something) that the problems conservatives are making such a fuss about are the result of precisely what they say they want: competitive insurance markets. Apparently Obamacare has produced a little more competition than they're comfortable with.