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Mark Begich Is Running on Obamacare, Just Without, You Know, Mentioning Obamacare



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David Axelrod likes a new ad by Alaska Democratic senator Mark Begich, who’s running for reelection this fall. “Democrats on offense on ACA with powerful ad,” he boasts. You’ll notice something:

As Stu Stevens, Romney’s 2012 campaign manager, points out: It’s a powerful ad that makes use of Obamacare — without mentioning Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, health-care reform, the law Mark Begich voted for, or anything. It basically sounds like Begich performed a random constituent service to resolve the woman’s insurance issues, which is a nice way to frame it, since constituent services tend not to have the deleterious effects on other constituents Obamacare does.

Sebelius Two Weeks Ago: ‘I’m in’ for ‘Round 2’ of Obamacare



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While many called for her to step down months ago, the timing of Kathleen Sebelius’s resignation comes a couple weeks after she assured HuffPost Live that she would “absolutely” be sticking around as Health and Human Services secretary.

“I’m in,” she responded when host Alyona Minkovski asked if she would remain as secretary. “​This is the most satisfying work I have ever done.”​ 

According to reports, Sebelius started discussing her future plans with President Obama last month and submitted her resignation last week, around the time of her appearance of HuffPost Live.

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Revolting Truth



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Check out Andrew Klavan’s brand-new video series, starting with “Obamacare: Lies or Crap?”

Web Briefing: April 16, 2014

A Small Cultural Moment



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I just saw a rather remarkable thing on NBC. At the very end of The Tonight Show, as the credits were about to roll, Jimmy Fallon was running up the steps of his studio, and he stopped when he saw a pregnant woman. He then bent over and said a few words to her belly.

I’m not trying to make a cheap pro-life point here at the expense of Jimmy Fallon; because I don’t know whether Jimmy Fallon is explicitly pro-life or pro-choice, and frankly I don’t really care (there are decent folks on both sides of that question). I’m just pointing out that what I saw there was a recognition on his part that there is something in that belly that can be meaningfully addressed as a “thou,” and therefore as a person.

Maybe that comports with Jimmy Fallon’s political views, maybe not. But this is yet another reason I think that once we get past the current political paradigm on abortion, as a pro- or anti-woman issue, we will recognize that these people (the unborn, whether they be male or female) should be recognized and protected in law.

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Rewriting Prop 8 History to Blacken Brendan Eich’s Name



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Writing on Slate, Mark Joseph Stern wanted to remind folks how “unprecedentedly cruel” was the Proposition 8 campaign to which ousted Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich donated.

The actual ads produced by the Prop 8 campaign were apparently not cruel enough, so Stern mixes one not-very-cruel ad from that campaign (the one featuring a Pepperdine professor on the religious-liberty consequences of gay marriage) with a spate of YouTube videos that were not produced by the Prop 8 campaign and never aired on TV.

Stern’s coverage was retailed by the Los Angeles Times, which called it “a reminder that the Prop 8 campaign Eich supported was odious.”  

Don’t rewrite the history. If what Brendon Eich donated to was so odious, perhaps its critics could content themselves by showing that with ads he actually helped fund?

UPDATE: Some in the comments sections are saying that I am wrong about one of these ads. I e-mailed Frank Schubert, campaign manager for Prop 8, on how to tell if an ad was produced by the Prop 8 campaign. He replied:

Here is how you can tell: First, it runs over a minute in length. No ad would ever run over 60 seconds and very few run more than 30 seconds. More importantly, there is no disclaimer. You cannot run a political ad without a disclaimer saying who paid for it. Television stations would be prohibited from running it. This was a video — a well produced one — and was not done by the campaign.

Obama’s Next HHS Secretary Doesn’t Really Have Health-Care Experience



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Sylvia Burwell, whom President Obama is expected to nominate to replace Kathleen Sebelius as the secretary of health and human services, has a long professional career in business and consulting, but lacks substantial professional or political experience with health care.

Her résumé​, according to Dan Diamond of the Advisory Board, only includes a stint as a board member at the University of Washington Medical Center. “Burwell’s track record in health care is not well-established,” Diamond writes in a briefing for the Advisory Board, a health-care consulting firm.

Her predecessor, Secretary Sebelius, served as Kansas state insurance commissioner for eight years, giving her control over, for instance, regulating health insurers and approving or rejecting the premiums they set.

Burwell’s private-sector experience has been with McKinsey, where she did consulting for financial services firms, and the Gates and Walmart Foundations, where she held executive positions. In the public sector, she’s worked on the budget and economics side of things, working for the National Economic Council in the Clinton White House and, most recently, running the Obama administration’s Office of Management and Budget. There, she’s been widely praised, and the OMB does of course have to deal with the implementation of federal health-care programs.

To be fair, neither of George W. Bush’s HHS secretaries had private-sector health-care experience, but both of them were governors, and each state administers its own Medicaid program, which makes of the largest single expenditure in every state (I think). Moreover, they had experience implementing significant health-care reforms of their own: Tommy Thompson created BadgerCare while governor of Wisconsin, which expanded that state’s Medicaid system; Michael Leavitt did something similar as governor of Utah, implementing a reform program in 1994 called HealthPrint. Bill Clinton’s HHS secretary, Donna Shalala, doesn’t seem to have had health-care experience. None of them, one notes, had to implement a sweeping reform of the United States’ health-care system.

Kathy, We Knew Ye Too Well: Sebelius Resigns Five Years Too Late



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Completing a tenure that has reviewers raving, “difficult,” “stormy” and “troubled,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced her resignation tonight.

In a rare bit of evidence that the former Kansas governor may actually be a human being capable of shame, ABC says Sebelius has been looking to leave her perch at HHS for some time. She certainly had plenty of reasons to want to disown her signature accomplishment: the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Although she has made clear, in the course of many public appearances over the last six months, that she brought her own share of incompetence and ineptitude to the Obamacare debut, Sebelius may be able to say one thing in her own defense: She was given command of the health-care equivalent of Operation Market-Garden, a seemingly attractive but bad plan that was composed almost entirely of high-risk variables, that was executed with a minimum of intelligence-gathering and a maximum of hubris, that took an enormous toll in human and material costs, and that despite its manifest failure will almost certainly be known to history as “90 percent successful.”

President Obama has headed off panic over Sebelius’s departure by reassuring the nation that he has another unqualified failure to take her place.

Sebelius Resigns as HHS Secretary



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Several media outlets are reporting that Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius has resigned, and her potential replacement has already been selected. Per the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.

The departure comes as the Obama administration tries to move beyond its early stumbles in carrying out the law, persuade a still-skeptical public of its lasting benefits, and help Democratic incumbents, who face blistering attack ads after supporting the legislation, survive the midterm elections this fall.

Officials said Ms. Sebelius, 65, made the decision to resign and was not forced out. But the frustration at the White House over her performance had become increasingly clear, as administration aides worried that the crippling problems at HealthCare.gov, the website set up to enroll Americans in insurance exchanges, would result in lasting damage to the president’s legacy.

Even last week, as Mr. Obama triumphantly announced that enrollments in the exchanges had exceeded seven million, she did not appear next to him for the news conference in the Rose Garden.

Sebelius’s resignation is sure to weigh in on the upcoming midterm elections, where Obamacare is already a central issue. Republicans, including House majority leader Eric Cantor, are already using her departure as further evidence of the embattled health-care law’s failures.

France Says Non to After-Work E-mails



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French employees will no longer be expected to check e-mails from their bosses when they leave the office, according to a new trade-union deal. After-hours correspondences, including phone calls, will now legally be off-limits for employers.

The deal will affect employees in the technology and consulting sectors in the country, which the Guardian reports include France’s Google, Facebook, Deloitte, and PricewaterhouseCoopers branches.

Employers will also be prohibited from pressuring their workers to check in on work-related communication after hours.

“We can admit extra work in exceptional circumstances, but we must always come back to what is normal, which is to unplug, to stop being permanently at work,” said General Confederation of Managers chairman Michel De La Force.

The measure is an extension of the nationally mandated policy of limiting employees to a 35-hour work week.

A Divisive Attorney General



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Attorney General Eric Holder must be suffering from a sort of amnesia. He is upset at supposed divisiveness and rudeness directed at him when testifying before Congress, and suggests not too subtly that he and President Obama have been accorded inordinately harsh treatment (fill in the blanks why). Aside from the fact that he seemed to have relished the combat with Representative Gohmert in quite unprofessional tones (“you don’t want to go there, buddy, alright?”/ “good luck with your asparagus”), he seems to forget what former attorney general Alberto Gonzales once endured both in the liberal media and before Democrats in Congress, not to mention the films, comic routines, novels, and op-eds that focused on the idea of assassinating President George W. Bush, a shameful chapter in our history, which I think Eric Holder was largely mum about at the time.

But, more to the point, is this not the same Attorney General Holder who once called the nation collectively “cowards” and referred to African Americans as “my people” — not to mention a president who has called for some “to punish our enemies”? All that sounds pretty divisive and ugly.

And wasn’t Holder making his allegations of unprofessionalism while speaking before the demagogic Mr. Sharpton’s group? This is the same Al Sharpton who is on record inflaming the Crown Heights riots, provoking violence at the fatal Freddie Fashion Mart riot, helping to invent the Tawana Brawley caper, defaming and attempting to destroy the career of Duchess County prosecutor Steven Pagones, and with a long history of racist outbursts and threats (“white interloper,” “white folks was in caves . . .”, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house”), homophobic outbursts (“We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it”), and religious bigotry (“As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don’t worry about that; that’s a temporary situation”).

That Holder made these allegations at Sharpton’s invitation and at a time when Sharpton is back in the news as a former FBI informant offering information about Mafia criminals, and whose relationship with both the Mafia and the FBI is still unclear, is, well, again divisive and, to quote Holder yet again, ugly.

The Next Target: Condoleezza Rice



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Having won a victory against one brilliant black woman, the Tolerance Brigade is now moving onto another. Enter the “Drop Dropbox” campaign:

Condoleezza Rice should not be on the Board of Directors of Dropbox and her selection shows that Drew Houston and the senior management at Dropbox are ethically short-sighted.

Tell Drew Houston: unless you remove Condoleezza Rice from the Dropbox Board, I, and/or my organization, will stop using Dropbox and move to an alternative cloud storage provider.

This campaign makes pretty much no sense. The authors start out by explaining that “Condoleezza Rice is both an “accomplished, high-level, well-connected individual” and “an extremely brilliant and accomplished individual, having obtained her Masters degree at only age 20 (and a number of other impressive accomplishments).” Then they ask, rhetorically, why they are trying to have her removed:

Because she was a part of the Bush administration? Because she is a Republican and we should hate Republicans? I mean, come on, isn’t Al Gore on Apple’s Board? He’s no saint!

No, they insist. This is “not an issue of partisanship.”

But it clearly is political. Apparently, Rice can’t serve on a board because Dropbox has a “commitment to freedom, openness, and ethics” and Rice ”helped start the Iraq War,” “was involved in the creation of the Bush administration’s torture program,” “not only supports warrantless wiretaps” but “authorized several,” and “was on the Board of Directors at Chevron.” In other words, because Rice holds political positions that the campaign doesn’t like — and which she has shown no evidence of having disavowed:

Condoleezza Rice could have resigned from the Bush Administration if she believed these actions — all of which she was deeply involved with — were wrong. She did not. It’s naive to believe she was simply going along with orders and was powerless to speak out or resign. Until 1982, Rice was a registered Democrat and voted for Jimmy Carter. Shortly thereafter, she changed her party affiliation because “in part because she disagreed with the foreign policy of [the President].” To deny her agency over her own actions is to dismiss her own intelligence and history. She may be backpedaling now, but this is crystal clear:

Time for a wholesale purge of the nation’s institutions, methinks.

MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Confuses the NCAA with the NAACP



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​Ronan Farrow, the young celebrity who premiered on MSNBC earlier this year with much fanfare, confused the NAACP with the NCAA today in a segment following President Obama’s speech on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.

He made the mix-up while introducing a member of his panel, the former president of the organization: “. . . And also Ben Jealous, former head of the NCAA . . . tell me, gentlemen . . . NAACP, I apologize,” a visibly flustered Farrow said.

As the Washington Free Beacon notes, Fox News host Heather Childers was made fun of for confusing the two organizations following the University of Connecticut’s tournament championship win earlier this week, including by left-leaning Mother Jones and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

Farrow has struggled seriously in the ratings since his debut, and the rookie host’s delivery hasn’t always been impeccable.

Limbaugh Blasts Colbert Hire: CBS Declaring ‘War on the Heartland’



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CBS’s decision to replace David Letterman with comic Stephen Colbert is an open act of contempt toward ordinary Americans, Rush Limbaugh says.

“What do I think of Colbert getting Letterman’s gig? I’ll give you the short version: CBS has just declared war on the heartland of America,” Limbaugh said on his radio show today, after CBS announced its decision to replace Letterman with Colbert in 2015.

The mainstream media is no longer waging a “covert assault” on conservative American values with comedy, he said — “now it’s just wide out in the open.”

Colbert has attracted a devoted young liberal following with his Comedy Central show, on which he satirizes a conservative news host. Letterman, who has held his late-night slot with CBS since 1993, was known for having a subtle liberal slant to his comedy.

“What this hire means is a redefinition of what is funny and a redefinition of what is comedy,” Limbaugh said. “They’re blowing up the 11:30 format under the guise of ‘the world is changing.’”

Don’t Make Me Laugh, Mr. Holder



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Fitting as it was to find Eric Holder speaking in front of a “No Justice” sign, his whining about how poorly he’s been treated compared to other attorneys general, and therefore that there must be some racism involved, is pathetic, even by his lowly standards. (Imagine complaining about “divisive” tactics while sitting next to Al Sharpton!)

Andrew has already covered some of this, but back in January 2009, when I was trying to convince people that Holder should not be confirmed because he was unfit to be attorney general and would prove to be a disaster, I asked how he would have fared under the Democrats’ Gonzales standard — the “if he’s not dishonest, he’s incompetent” test — on the basis of which they ran Alberto Gonzales out of town. It’s still a question worth asking. If the Gonzales standard had been applied to Holder, he would not have gotten the job, much less kept it as long as he has.

A Moral Victory on ‘Equal Pay’



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For the first time ever, the Left has encountered wide-spread skepticism on the bogus “equal pay” statistic it has been trotting out for years. I wrote about it today in my Politico column:

For all that the left still invests in the 77-cent factoid, the number is losing some of its potency. When gently asked in an MSNBC interview about the reliability of the pay-gap number, White House economist Betsy Stevenson confessed, “I agree that the 77 cents on the dollar is not all due to discrimination. No one is trying to say that it is. But you have to point to some number in order for people to understand the facts.”

There you have it: For people to understand the facts, you have to give them an easily misunderstood statistic with none of the necessary context and spin it in the most inflammatory, partisan fashion possible. Otherwise, how is anyone to understand the complex dynamics at work in interpreting disparities in pay between men and women?


 

Stephen Colbert to Replace David Letterman



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CBS officially announced Stephen Colbert will replace Late Show host David Letterman when he steps down next year. Colbert had been speculated to be one of the immediate front-runners to replace the late-night legend thanks to his near-decade of serving as host of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report.

On his Comedy Central show, Colbert embodies a persona satirizing conservative cable-news hosts. One would think Colbert will drop the shtick when he moves to broadcast television in an effort to appeal to a wider audience.

CNN’s Brian Stetler reports that Colbert will get a five-year contract with CBS.

“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said in a statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth,” he quipped.   

Meet Sergey Karaganov



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From the Toronto Globe and Mail:

Sergey Karaganov breaks into a broad smile when asked why his two-decades-old ideas about Moscow “protecting” Russian speakers abroad are suddenly the centre of his country’s foreign policy.

“Because almost everything I have said, happened,” Mr. Karaganov said in an interview in his high-ceilinged office in the historic Kitai-Gorod district of Moscow, a short walk from Red Square.

…It’s Vladimir Putin who has made defending the rights of Russian-speakers wherever they live into a foreign-policy principle for the Kremlin. But in setting this interventionist new course, the Russian President borrowed heavily from the ideas of Mr. Karaganov, whom Mr. Putin has frequently consulted regarding foreign affairs.

…In Mr. Karaganov’s telling, the doctrine that bears his name came about almost by accident. He was invited at the last minute to speak at a conference in 1992. With only a short time to prepare, he jotted down some ideas about how policy makers, rather than mourning the fact that millions of Russian speakers were left outside Russia’s borders when the Soviet Union dissolved, should see these people as assets – tools that could be used to retain Moscow’s influence over its former colonies.

They were often the wealthiest and best-educated citizens in their new countries, Mr. Karaganov argued. By protecting their rights to speak Russian in public, to watch Russian-language television and to have their children educated in Russian, Moscow would keep their loyalty and gain access to the economies and governments of their new states.

“We must be enterprising and take them under our control, in this way establishing a powerful political enclave that will be the foundation for our political influence,” reads an online transcript of the 1992 speech.

Read that, and the increasing insistence of the Latvian and Estonian governments that Estonian and Latvian should be the primary language of instruction in even their countries’ Russian schools makes sense beyond the obvious national need to ensure the survival of their languages, languages that are the principal repository of  the cultures of two numerically small peoples that have had to struggle to survive in the face of centuries of foreign domination.

The interview has much within it to consider, not least Karaganov’s view that Ukraine should be a neutral country, neither in the EU or NATO, and his suggestion that the country’s constitution should be rearranged into a federal system on Bosnian lines (I discussed that option recently here)

Above all, note how the interview ends:

“We are in a pre-World War situation, but because of nuclear weapons we will not descend into it,” he says, pausing to thank the Soviet scientists who left modern Russia with its atomic deterrent. “But there could be a military, or a quasi-military, situation.”

Sanctions, Mr. Karaganov said, will not push Russia in the direction Western leaders are hoping.

“They show our Western colleagues don’t understand anything. They think Putin and his colleagues are out for money. They’re not. They’re out for power and pride.”

There are obvious reasons for Karaganov to talk down the impact of sanctions (although count me skeptical as to how effective sanctions will turn out to be)  and there are obvious reasons to talk up a potential military threat (Karaganov knows his audience, particularly in Western Europe). But the real point that counts is his last. The Putin of a few years back was an essentially, if unprettily, pragmatic, figure primarily interested in the accumulation of wealth and power for himself and for his coterie, something that involved first the restoration of  domestic stability and the development of a functioning economy (helped, of course by a high oil price) followed by a tightening of internal control. Foreign policy was, for the most part, theater, designed to rally support at home by conjuring up enemies or triumphs abroad. There was also plenty of room for maneuvers that had the effect of keeping the oil price high..

But priorities seem to have changed. Their cash safely in the till, the regime’s leaders are dreaming of greater things. To be fair, power has always been on their agenda, but the word ‘pride’ hints at something broader, something less rational, and something much less easy to deal with.

Manchin: Reid’s Koch Obsession ‘Does Not Help Us Move This Country Forward’



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At least one Democrat isn’t a fan of Harry Reid’s obsession with attacking the Koch brothers on the Senate floor. West Virginia’s Joe Manchin said he’s “always disappointed” when the majority leader relapses in his Koch dependency.

“You don’t beat up people,” he told Fox News on Thursday. “I mean, I don’t agree with [the Kochs'] politics or philosophically, but they’re Americans — they’re paying their taxes, they’re not breaking the law, they’re providing jobs.” (He did not, however, provide evidence that the Kochs have paid their taxes; perhaps Senator Reid has heard otherwise.)

He pushed back against the notion that the strategy helps fire up Democratic voters, saying that both parties’ bases are already enthusiastic.

Congressional leadership should be more focused on America’s ailing economy, Manchin argued. “This type of rhetoric does not help us move this country or move the agenda forward,” he said.

Re: Independent Senator Signals Etc.



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I very much doubt that Senator King would ever give Republicans control of the Senate, John, as opposed to joining a clear GOP majority. He seems more comfortable ideologically with the Democrats, for one thing. For another, the 2016 Senate-race map looks a lot less friendly to Republicans than the 2014 map. King would have to factor in the possibility that a 50-seat-plus-him Republican majority would disappear after two years, and that he might not have much bargaining power with annoyed Democrats in 2017.

You and Your Times



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Among the items in Impromptus today, I have one on “green beans,” as Karl Rove calls them: environmental activists. One of the things I say is the following:

I have a beef with the “environmental movement”: I am pro-environment, and anti-pollution, and think we ought to be “good stewards of the earth.” But, in my lifetime, the environmentalists have been so extreme, I have been forced to be “anti-environmentalist.”

You know?

I thought I would expand on that for a second here on the Corner. The other day, Boris Johnson — the brilliant writer who moonlights as the mayor of London — had a column on air pollution in his city. He is a conservative, and he thinks the air ought to be good. Who doesn’t?

And, of course, there’s the old chestnut that “conservation” is a cousin of “conservatism.”

But, to an amazing degree, a person is defined by the age in which he lives. If you’re not an earth-worshipping, economy-destroying nut — you’re “against the environment.”

I think of the terrible issue of race as well. Time was, if you favored equality and colorblindness, you were nobly liberal. Two seconds after that, colorblindness was out, and color-consciousness was in. Race preferences were very much in. If you still favored the old liberal values, you were — you know: Starts with “r” (and ends with “ist”).

Do you recall Al Gore speaking — yelling, demagoguing — before the NAACP? “I’ve heard the critics of affirmative action. They talk about a colorblind society. Give me a break! Hel-lo? They use their ‘colorblind’ the way duck hunters use their duck blind: They hide behind it and hope the ducks won’t figure out what they’re up to.”

Nice, Al.

Well, here’s the bright side: It’s better to have him as a Nobel-bearing zillionaire than as a political officeholder.

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