March 10, 2017 Last Updated 9:42 am

House Republicans struggle with the concept of ‘insurance’; Scandal involving Samsung claims South Korean president

Morning Brief: Could the results of a soccer match boost independence chances for Catalonia? Nah, but it sure had Barcelona fans jubilant (PSG fans despondent)

When one of the journalists on my Twitter timeline said that he could not imagine that the quality of political debate could not get any lower, I was not quite sure if he was talking about the debate in the US or the UK?

I suppose it doesn’t matter, the English world is going to hell in a handbasket, so if you say “our politicians are fools” one doesn’t actually have to agree about what your talking about, everyone will agree, nonetheless.

Yesterday House Speaker Paul Ryan stood in front of a Powerpoint presentation and tried to explain why the ACA was a disaster. The problem, you see, is that most people are healthy, so it is unfair when they have to pay for insurance which helps pay for those that are sick.

It was left to observers to say that this, in fact, is how insurance works. One buys auto insurance and for the vast majority of the time drive without having an accident. Meanwhile, someone else has an accident and makes a claim. If we all only bought car insurance after an accident, and the insurance company paid the claims, it would be out of business immediately. Same goes for health insurance, most of the time we are well and don’t need to take advantage of its benefits, yet still pay.

Then there was Rep. John Shimkus (R-Illinois) who asked why men should have to pay for prenatal care as part of their insurance premium?

Of course, these were not the only ridiculous statements about health insurance made yesterday.

The Washington Post, Kristen Phillips:

The poor ‘just don’t want health care’: Republican congressman faces backlash over comments

“Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us,’ ” Rep. Roger Marshall, (R-Kan. said in response to a question about Medicaid, which expanded under Obamacare to more than 30 states. “There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

He added that “morally, spiritually, socially,” the poor, including the homeless, “just don’t want health care.”

…The comments immediately drew criticism from Medicaid advocates in Kansas, with some saying that Marshall mischaracterized and misunderstood people who are in the program.

“These are people who are out there, working hard, paying their bills, and to have their elected member of Congress pointing their finger at them I’m sure is disappointing,” David Jordan, executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, told the Kansas City Star.



The debate on health care, as well as the ongoing Russia scandal(s) are masking other news.

For instance, just how many are aware that the US has been bombing the shit out of Yemen – and to such a degree that Trump’s air campaign has already dropped more ordinance in the past week than in any year of the Obama administration?

Foreign Policy, Dan de Luce and Paul McLeary:

Trump’s Ramped-Up Bombing in Yemen Signals More Aggressive Use of Military

After a week of punishing airstrikes loosed on al Qaeda in Yemen that saw 40 targets go up in flames and smoke, American pilots took a breather the past two nights, watching the dust settle.

The weeklong blitz in Yemen eclipsed the annual bombing total for any year during Obama’s presidency. Under the previous administration, approval for strikes came only after slow-moving policy discussions, with senior officials required to sign off on any action. The Trump administration has proven much quicker at green-lighting attacks…

…President Donald Trump’s readiness to order military action stands in contrast to the previous administration. When Obama’s national security advisor Susan Rice ran the policymaking process, “stuff moved like molasses through the National Security Council,” much to the frustration of military planners at U.S. Central Command, a former senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Foreign Policy. The interagency discussions allowed plans to languish for weeks while debates swirled over when and how to act.

The Intercept, Iona Craig:

Death in Al Ghayil: Women and Children in Yemeni Village Recall Horror of Trump’s “Highly Successful” SEAL Raid

According to residents of the village of al Ghayil, in Yemen’s al Bayda province, the first to die in the assault was 13-year-old Nasser al Dhahab. The house of his uncle, Sheikh Abdulraouf al Dhahab, and the building behind it, the home of 65-year-old Abdallah al Ameri and his son Mohammed al Ameri, 38, appeared to be the targets of the U.S. forces, who called in air support as they were pinned down in a nearly hourlong firefight.

With the SEALs taking heavy fire on the lower slopes, attack helicopters swept over the hillside hamlet above. In what seemed to be blind panic, the gunships bombarded the entire village, striking more than a dozen buildings, razing stone dwellings where families slept, and wiping out more than 120 goats, sheep, and donkeys…

…Although some details about the mission remain unclear, the account that has emerged suggests the Trump White House is breaking with Obama administration policies that were intended to limit civilian casualties. The change — if permanent — would increase the likelihood of civilian deaths in so-called capture or kill missions like the January 29 raid.



In South Korea, eight justices of the Constitutional Court ruled unanimously that Park Geun-hye, the nation’s first female president, had committed “acts that violated the Constitution and laws” – reaffirming the legislature’s impeachment vote.

The ruling comes after massive street protests demanding her removal, partially for being caught up in a scandal involving Samsung, the nation’s largest business.

“South Koreans are now coming to grips with a tale of corporate power and family intrigue. It includes a mysteriously ill patriarch, a Rasputin-like confidante of the country’s president, a shadowy Samsung office that has disappeared and reappeared before, and an alleged bribe in the form of a horse,” the NYT said in a report last week which attempted to explain the scandal.

The New York Times, Choe Sang-Hun:

South Korea’s Leader Ousted as Asia Faces a Realignment

A South Korean court removed the president on Friday, a first in the nation’s history, rattling the delicate balance of relationships across Asia at a particularly tense time…

…Ms. Park’s powers were suspended in December after a legislative impeachment vote, though she continued to live in the presidential Blue House, largely alone and hidden from public view, while awaiting the decision by the Constitutional Court. The house had been her childhood home: She first moved in at the age of 9 and left it nearly two decades later after her mother and father were assassinated in separate episodes.

Eight justices of the Constitutional Court unanimously decided to unseat Ms. Park for committing “acts that violated the Constitution and laws” throughout her time in office, Acting Chief Justice Lee Jung-mi said in a ruling that was nationally broadcast.

The New York Times, Jonathan Soble:

Jay Y. Lee, Samsung Leader Facing ‘Trial of the Century,’ Denies Charges

Five executives at Samsung, including the conglomerate’s de facto leader, Lee Jae-yong, formally denied bribery charges against them on Thursday, in a preliminary hearing for a trial with the potential to shake South Korea.

Mr. Lee, who also goes by the name Jay Y. Lee, and the other executives face charges that strike at the heart of the deep ties between the South Korean government and powerful family-controlled businesses, a source of growing public resentment. Parliament voted in December to impeach President Park Geun-hye over accusations of corruption and other abuses of power, and she could be formally removed from office soon…

…Mr. Lee is accused of funneling $36 million in bribes to a secretive confidante of Ms. Park’s, as well as a range of other crimes: embezzlement, illegal transfer of property abroad and perjury before Parliament. He and the other executives, who are accused of aiding Mr. Lee, did not appear in court for the preliminary hearing on Thursday, but they denied the charges through lawyers.

Prosecutors say Mr. Lee sought a particularly South Korean favor in return: Approval for a merger that cemented his family’s hold over the sprawling Samsung group, a vast and complex network of companies whose interests range from cellphones to shipbuilding.



The ‘Barcelona Miracle’ – have you heard of it? Some seem to think that it might help the Catalan independence movement. I think that is a stretch. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Parisian soccer fans jumping from the Eiffel Tower over it.

What the “miracle” is all about is an incredible comeback by Barcelona in the second of two games against the French team PSG. In the first game, PSG routed Barcelona 4-0 and only needed to not lose by five goals in the return match to move on in the Champion’s League tournament. Barcelona scored three first half goals, which made it look like it might just pull off its miracle. But then PSG scored a second half goal and that left the Catalan team needing three more goals to advance.

With only minutes left to play PSG suddenly turned into the US Men’s National Team and gave up those three goals. It was an amazing comeback. Or amazing choke job, depending on your point of view.

Whether it has any effect on the Catalan independence movement… well, that might be going too far.

Live Radio, Gareth Platt:

Catalan leaders use Barcelona Champions League miracle to push for independence

The leaders of Catalonia’s separatist movement were quick to seize on Barcelona’s incredible Champions League last night, suggesting it can inspire the region’s push for independence.

Carles Puigdemont, the leader of the regional Catalan Parliament, tweeted after Barca’s incredible 6-1 victory over PSG in their second-round, second-leg tie that he had been present at the Camp Nou, and suggested the victory – which overturned a 4-0 defeat in the first leg – showed anything could be achieved.

Puigdemont wrote, in Catalan, “Nothing is impossible. Barca have just demonstrated this playing football. And Catalonia will demonstrate this deciding its future. And we will shout! #Iwasthere.”

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