Trump To New York Times (And All Of Us): Checks And Balances Are For Losers, Don’t F— With Me!

If President Trump ever paid hypocritical tribute to checks and balances or any other virtues of our constitutional republic, he gave them up today.  At lunch, he insulted Senators, which he is welcome to do, since they are a separate branch.  But when he attacked the independence of the Department of Justice, and the integrity of Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, Jeff Sessions, and James Comey, he stomped all over the checks and balances that keep tyranny at bay.

 

 

Why Did President Trump Just Declare That President George Washington Was A Crazy Loser?

Donald Trump tweeted this morning that “the Senate must go to a 51 vote majority instead of current 60 votes.  Even parts of full Repeal need 60.  8 Dems control Senate.  Crazy!”

He may be right that our system of checks and balances, and our tradition of separation of powers, is crazy.  It is certainly inconvenient right this minute for a Republican president and a Republican House and a Republican Senate.  The Republicans control the Supreme Court too.  But their control is apparently not yet solid enough to erase “Obamacare.”  (Their control over the hearts and minds of Americans is also apparently not solid enough for them to take a real stand against foreign hostile powers such as Russia hacking our next election.)  So Mr. Trump in effect calls George Washington a loser and a fool.  Really, you may say.  Yes, really: according to Moncure Conway, writing in 1872, “there is a tradition that Jefferson, coming home from France (after the Constitution had been drafted), called Washington to account at the breakfast table for having agreed to a second, and, as Jefferson thought, unnecessary legislative chamber.  ‘Why,’ asked Washington, ‘did you just now pour that coffee into your saucer, before drinking?’  ‘To cool it,’ answered Jefferson, ‘my throat is not made of brass.’  ‘Even so,’ rejoined Washington, ‘we pour our legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.'”

The Senate was not designed to achieve the rapid resolution of conflicts possible in a parliamentary system.  Our second legislative chamber’s “cooling saucer” has blockaded and obstructed plenty of social progress (civil rights being Exhibit A) but it has also slowed or stalled plenty of horrible ideas, as 2017 (so far) shows.

If the president is fed up with all the obstacles to absolute rule, and wants to toss the Resolute desk over and go home to Manhattan, I say let him go .  If, however, he can overcome his snowflake personality and offer any ideas whatsoever that would improve upon the many flaws in the delivery of health care in this country,  let him speak now.  Let him spell out in detail just how he proposes to reshape the American healthcare system, or else be judged as the shallow and vindictive blowhard he now appears to be.  George Washington is watching him–and the rest of us too.

P.S. Donald Trump on Twitter, September 26, 2012: “Obama’s complaints about Republicans stopping his agenda are BS since he had full control for two years.  He can never take responsibility.”

Is Mitch McConnell More Like A Slime Eel, Or A Turtle?

Getting tired of the McConnell-as-turtle memes? Me too.  Did you see the story about hagfish, aka slime eels, overturned on a highway in Oregon? Me too.  Did you read the link to a blog explaining that slime eels are, shockingly, not invertebrates but rather “degenerate vertebrates”?  Did you think, what a perfect way of describing the people who now hold power in the U.S. Congress?  Especially the Senate Majority Leader?  And perhaps even more so the so-called “Republican moderates” who are waiting for somebody, anybody other than them to kill off the new, even harsher version of the Senate tax-cut/healthcare bill.

 

https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/14/15969674/slime-eels-hagfish-oregon-highway-truck-accident-slime-mucus-goo

If Republicans Really Wanted To Stop Health Care Mooching And Taking And Scamming

Maybe we will never be able to stop health care mooching and scamming.  But if Mitch McConnell really wanted to cut down on the unfair way millions of Americans are getting over and leaving their fellow Americans in the dust, they could get rid of one of the biggest breaks of all.  That is the writeoff, which benefits wealthy elites the most, of employer-subsidized health insurance.  That’s right, people who get employer-provided health plans get a $300 billion a year (more or less) tax break.  In itself it’s not as big an annual benefit, or cost, as Medicare or Medicaid.  But those who get Medicare, and many who get Medicaid (especially nursing home care) have paid taxes for decades before they receive any benefit.  But the subsidy, or tax expenditure, that excludes health insurance from taxable income is immediate gratification.  And this immediate gratification is greater the closer you get to being part of the privileged 1%.  Who’s winning the class warfare?  Is Mitch McConnell looking out for you as he scrounges for something he and Trump can call a victory?  They seem to think anything they can pass and sign is a “win”–but maybe not for you.

By the way I do think there is just one good idea in what I’ve heard from McConnell: replacing the mandate with a “nudge” in which you don’t have to buy anything, but do have to wait several months to get re-enrolled if you can afford it but are pretending to yourself that you don’t need health insurance.

Junior Did Not Deny Telling Dad About The Meeting–Just Listen Again

Like many people I do not have time to watch TV.  But I do try to read sometimes.  I did not hear Donald Jr. say “no, I did not tell my dad about that meeting.”  I heard him say “why would I have?” and so forth.  I do not understand why some news organizations, mainstream or not, are so eager to jump to conclusions not actually based on careful sifting of evidence.

Also, Mike Pence’s spokesman, speaking today, did not deny that the Vice President may have met with Russians.

Finally, I do not need any more smoking guns.  It’s a political process, not a strictly legal process.  The president, if not an agent of a foreign adversary, is giving us a pretty good imitation of somebody who’s been turned.  Do we really need more than that–assuming we are putting country first, that is.

McConnell’s “Responsive Health Care Market” Not Good News For Actual Living Persons Or Their Bodies

Senator McConnell spoke a few moments ago on the Senate floor.  He wants to promote a more “responsive health care market.”  That might be good news for some corporate persons, and even some actual persons who stand to profit from health insurance company profits.  But a more responsive health care market may or may not mean more responsive health care.  Health for actual human beings does not and cannot function as a perfectly efficient “free market” in which an “invisible hand” guides us to “optimal” outcomes.  Yes, incentives can and should be set in better or worse ways.  But Senator McConnell’s and Paul Ryan’s vision of “responsiveness” and “freedom” does not take into account that actual health care is care for us, and we are all more or less “used cars.”  A more responsive bazaar for used cars is not reassuring.  Something like a buy-in to Medicare for all to cut down on overhead and middleman profiteering is looking more and more appealing to actual persons–will our representatives take note and be responsive to that?

Too Soon For A National Day Of Fasting And Humiliation?

If the president of the United States is about to go down, I hope that we, the people, do not lose track of our role in enabling him.  The English and New English Puritans may have overdone the hair shirt sometimes, but this is a moment when the Puritan custom of days of fasting, prayer, and humiliation might well be good for us.  Some of us might wish to skip straight to the Day of Rejoicing over the downfall of Trump, but today should not yet be that day.

Maybe a few of us are not to blame for the low-rent mobster government that is now in place.  But many if not most of us did too little to protect American democracy and our constitutional republic.  That goes especially for the Republican Party, which suffered a hostile takeover and an astonishing loss of dignity.  But the Democratic Party and the apathetic nonvoters and the many millions of political independents–can we really say we are not at least partly to blame for the Wrestlemania presidency?  Are we embarrassed?  Do we want to look away?  Yes, but we also need, for our own sake, to reckon with our own failure to do enough to promote and defend civilization and culture and decency.

P.S.  I am not saying that those who voted for Trump are necessarily more blameworthy than those who voted for Clinton or someone else or no one at all.  Trump was garish and bombastic and offensive to many Trump voters, who nevertheless believed him the lesser evil.  That was then, Hillary is not the issue anymore.  She is not next in line if and when Trump goes down.  That would be Pence.  I only hope he turns out to be no worse than a conventional rightist meathead.  And some victims of Trump’s seduction may not yet or ever be penitent.  But we as a people (or we as an electoral college) might all do well to consider ourselves penitent victims of seduction, as we try to rehabilitate our democratic constitutional republic.

Video Of Putin Laughing At Trump Is Not Fun To Watch, But How Else Are We Going To Become Penitent Victims Of Trump’s Seduction

There used to be homes for penitent victims of seduction.  The whole United States is, or probably will soon be, such a home–for just about all of us.  I am not sure what the true story behind Trump’s utter loss of dignity vis-a-vis Vladimir Putin really is.  I do know that Mr. Putin is openly laughing at Trump. H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn, and Steve Mnuchin did not deny Putin’s claim that Trump accepted Putin’s denials of election hacking.  Of course Putin is happy to pocket his victories and move on without “relitigating the past,” as Russian award-winner and U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson put it.  And of course no one wants needless confrontation much less war with Russia.  But when the president of Russia treats the president of the USA the same way Trump treats his own “lickspittle toadies” (as Josh Marshall writes) it is not a happy day for any American.  At least not any American not getting lots of Russian cash.

June 1987: “Tear Down This Wall”; July 2017: “We’re Moving Forward”

What if President Ronald Reagan had gone to Berlin and said “we’re moving forward” instead of “tear down this wall”?  “Not a lot of relitigating of the past,” reports Rex Tillerson about today’s meeting between the leaders of Russia and the United States. It’s hard to be at all sure about what happened today, but President Trump’s idea of how to represent America (and Western civilization?) is very different from that of Reagan and every other president in my lifetime.  Is our president an accessory after the fact (or worse) to Russian espionage and subversion of our constitutional republic?  Matt Yglesias has thoughts on that:

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/6/15928782/trump-accessory-after-the-fact

 

Meanwhile the best leader of the free world we have, Angela Merkel, rolls her eyes at Putin and Trump.

 

 

 

Someday My Fresh Prince Trump Will Come And Write A Symphony Defending Western Civilization

“We write symphonies,” said President Trump today in Poland.  Some headlines said he was “defending Western values.”  He began his “defense” of Western values by saying he was proud that so many Polish-Americans have enriched the United States and voted for him in 2016.  He named “radical Islamic terrorism” as a threat, as well as the “destabilizing activities” of Russia in Ukraine and elsewhere (is he afraid to just come out and say the Russians invaded Ukraine? why not have the courage to call things by their right names, Mr. Trump?).  He noted the “new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare.”  All true enough, and one can only hope Trump has paid attention to his aides when they tried to prepare him for his meeting with Putin.  The survival of Western civilization certainly depends partly on willpower, as Trump asserted, but maybe as much or more on the hard work of planning, the diligence it takes to study one’s adversaries as well as understand and promote values broader and deeper than one’s own advantage.  Western values, contra Trump, are not just the values of Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic.

According to Mr. Trump, “Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty.”  That might sound like boilerplate, but if you think about it for a few seconds there is an unresolved puzzle–what is in between individual freedom and sovereignty?  In classical terms, there is a “one and many” problem that I fear Trump, in his innermost tyrannical being, doesn’t really get.  Western values and Western civilization have an uncertain future, for sure; and they have a complicated history.  How do the “few” (our representatives) mediate between the one (monarch or executive) and the many (“the people”)?  Tough questions!  Back to Trump’s speech: “If we don’t forget who we are, we just can’t be beaten.  Americans will never forget…. We are the fastest and the greatest community.  There is nothing like our community of nations.  The world has never known anything like our community of nations.  We write symphonies…We celebrate our ancient heroes…We reward brilliance…We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success…And we debate everything.  We challenge everything.”

He may be onto something.  In fact I would be happier if Mr. Trump would devote himself to writing a symphony.  I would very strongly consider paying to download his first, second, and third symphonies, which will almost certainly take lots of time and undivided attention to write.  Mr. Trump, you possess the brilliance to write the greatest symphonies ever, symphonies that will defend Western civilization more than anything else you could possibly do.  I really mean that, believe me.  Do not let any Russian tricks and maskirovka fool you into doing anything else for the next three and a half years.  The time is gonna fly by.

Does Western Civilization Have The Will To Suppress The Freedom To Loot Artifacts (Or Tile Samples)?

The president may have a point, asking if Western civilization possesses the will to survive.  But Hobby Lobby reportedly has the will to loot the artifacts appertaining thereto and pass them off as “tile samples.”  So much maskirovka, as the Russians might put it.  This could be a two-Tum day.

Babyface Trump, Meet Babyface Kim

Some people still see a true babyface wrestler when they see President Donald Trump on TV.  Many others see a heel. But let’s assume for the moment that Trump is still a good guy, that is a “babyface.”  How will he get along with Kim Jong-Un, a true babyface.  Trump would like a script in which after some brief preliminary hype and posturing, somebody else (Xi Jinping, for example) does the hard work of negotiating with the young North Korean leader.  Then Babyface Trump gets all the glory, with little to no risk.  But Babyface Trump is not in a great position to leverage the Trump brand in this game the way he did in his previous lives in real estate, reality TV, and pro wrestling.  The kayfabe, the cheap heat, the dusty finish–are we Americans confident that Trump’s undeniable talents as BS artist and ratings machine are going to keep us safe from a North Korean missile?  In fairness, the past several presidents, from both political parties, failed to disarm North Korea.  Maybe Trump will succeed where others have failed.  But he is the first president I have seen actively provoke and insult the North Korean leader, as if it’s all a sporting match in which the outcome has been rigged in Trump’s favor.  I am concerned that Kim Jong-un has even more of a devil-may-care “sucks to be you” attitude than Chris Christie, and that we the people are in a more precarious position because Trump does not seem to realize that his life skills may not have prepared him very well for North Korea.

What Does The Federal Government Need To Know So Badly About States’ Voter Rolls?

So Republicans believe in “sovereign states.”  Right.  Unless Donnie and Kris and Hans want to poke their bloody noses into states’ voting records.  So they can “attaint” and target everybody who is not yet loyal to His Excellency Mr. Trump?  And only 24 states have flipped off the Voter Suppression Commission so far?  Shame on you, states who have not stood up for your voters yet.  If Mississippi can tell Trump and Company to go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, so can you!  If Kris Kobach qua Kansas Secretary of State can flip off Kris Kobach qua Vote-Suppresser-in-Chief, there is still hope.

Would it be too much to ask to look at the president’s 2017 tax returns?  Got something to hide, guy?

Update July 5: over 40 states have now said “hell yes, we have something to hide from the feds.”  President Trump has not yet threatened them with intracontinental ballistic missiles.

Whose Blood Is Really Corrupt In Washington?

There are several ways the Trump presidency may end, and not one of them is likely to be remotely normal.  How citizens should deal with a problem like him without becoming dragged down into his mess is a challenge.  Impeachment seems to me much too good for the 45th president. Beyond that it gets complicated.

Some people of good will (but who may not be paying close attention, perhaps because they have lives to live and problems to solve) may still say, give him a chance.  Yeah, I did that.  It has not gone well.  With his low-class tweets about the Morning Joe hosts, he may or may not have been trying to distract us from his voter suppression commission and the apparent flameout of the Senate tax-cut/repeal of Obamacare bill.  Or maybe he had no four-dimensional plan, and just flew into a rage at another rebellious, uppity woman on TV.  Whatever was in the president’s mind, it is hard to imagine that he is anywhere near prepared to represent the United States of America properly next week when he is scheduled to meet with Vladimir Putin at a G20 summit in Germany.  Trump seems far more interested in being a king or a czar than in serving the sovereign people of our country as the head of an executive branch constrained by checks and balances in our constitutional republic.  Whose interests is he going to be serving next week?  Has he any clue that he is standing up for values and traditions any different than, for examples, those of the Russian or Ottoman Empires, or is just going to act naturally and channel Caligula or Elagabulus?

Corruption of blood was outlawed by the United States Constitution over 200 years ago.  Bills of attainder were specifically forbidden.  We have a president who swore an oath to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution.  But he seems to inhabit a mental world where corruption of blood is more real than any fluffed-up enlightened notion of liberty and equality before the law.  Trump’s defenders, when he goes way off the deep end, resort to saying that he is a “counterpuncher” who “fights fire with fire.”  Maybe Trump should be given a taste of his own preferred medicine.  That is, maybe we should bring back the bill of attainder to restrain and neutralize the damage he has been doing.  Trump’s stance toward people in his way who are US citizens but whose ancestors were darker than his skin is often to attack them with attaint of otherness.  He has little to no feel for the spirit of the 14th Amendment, which granted equal citizenship rights to all persons born or naturalized in the United States.  Trump’s voter suppression commission looks to me much like a backdoor weapon to “attaint” voters who were disloyal and disobedient to the “I alone can fix it” man now occupying the presidency.  Why not resist his attainder with a “people’s attainder”?  How else can we restrain the entire Trump family from continuing to violate the clear words of the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution?  Fancy word, emoluments, but to break it down, it means corruption.  If you violate it over and over it means you are not a public servant but no better than a gangster and a thug.  In Blackstone’s Commentaries On The Laws Of England, we read (Chapter 7, Of The King’s Prerogative, section 241) that “in the king also can be no stain or corruption of blood; for if the heir to the crown were attained of treason or felony, and afterwards the crown should descend to him, this would purge the attainder ipso facto.  And therefore when Henry VII, who as Earl of Richmond stood attainted, came to the crown, it was not thought necessary to pass an act of parliament to reverse this attainder.”  Can we agree that our 45th president came to the presidency deeply attainted, and that he seems to have expected that ascending to the presidency should absolve him and purge him and make him clean; but that to many of us who live here the presidency feels horribly tainted and polluted?  Also that a minority of Americans, though many millions, feel that the president hasn’t been given a fair shot?  (May they take a closer look at what he is doing against much that has made America as great as it is?)  And by the way, Blackstone also comments (7:241) that “the law determines that in the king can be no negligence….Nullum tempus occurrit regi [no time runs against the king] is the standing maxim upon all occasions; for the law intends that the king is always busied for the good.”  If only!  If only we could recognize in Mr. Trump even a little fragment of this idealized picture of the monarch.

Is President Donald Trump guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors?  That is a political question more than a strictly legal question.  Should he be removed under the 25th Amendment?  That is also primarily a political question, though medical, psychological, and psychiatric expertise could be brought to bear.  I am ready to cry uncle and say I am ready for President Pence, rightwing meathead though he may be.  But first, why not ask the question, is our president guilty of misprision of treason if not treason itself?  I agree there is no conclusive proof of this now, but there are tantalizing hints and clues and circumstantial evidence all over the place.  Again, this is not a strictly legal question.  And we are not, thank goodness, at war with Russia today (though the climate is worse in several ways than during the Cold War).  But if misprision of treason is on the table as a live possibility, as I think it should be,  no effort should be spared to purify our country of the taint of corruption.

I seem to have woken up from a bad dream.  Was I really thinking that bringing back “bills of attainder” makes any sense at all?  Could bringing back accusations of “corruption of blood” serve any good purpose?  Confiscate President Trump’s property without judicial trial, and leave his wife, children, and grandchildren without any inheritance?  Seems crazy.  But crazier than a Trump-sponsored “voter fraud” commission getting states to hand over private information about 200 million voters?  Crazier than casual suggestions that if 22 million people can’t be tossed off their healthcare plans, why not strip 33 million of health insurance?

This thought experiment is not meant to draw any firm conclusions.  It is a snapshot of just how ominous the political situation in Washington seems to be today.

The Body Is With King Trump, But King Trump Is Not With The Body

President Donald Trump is quite willing to praise us and even offer us a measure of freedom–so long as we profess loyalty to him.  And his sexism, benevolent or hostile, is repulsive but predictable.  Trump does not, as some of his servants claim, treat men and women equally.  He is not, as Kellyanne Conway just claimed, just a “counterpuncher” who does not normally draw first blood.  If that were true, it would be, to give just one example, Carly Fiorina’s fault that she had the face she had.  Or perhaps it’s just that any woman who, while doing her job, finds herself in the path of what Donald wants is automatically asking for trouble in the form of shaming insults.

Scholars, playgoers, and readers have long puzzled over what Hamlet meant in Act IV, Scene II when he responded to Rosencrantz’s request (“my Lord, you must tell us where the body [of Polonius] is and go with us to the king”) by saying “the body is with the king, but the king is not with the body.”  Is Hamlet once again just speaking gibberish on purpose to feign madness, as G.L. Kittredge thought?  Or throwing out a riddle to distract us?  From what?  The very next lines, though, give a good clue: Hamlet: “the king is a thing–  Guildenstern: A thing, my Lord?  Hamlet: Of nothing.”  As Psalm 144 puts it, “man is like a thing of naught; his time passeth away like a shadow.”  Our president and would-be king, especially when he attacks women for their supposed physical frailties and bloodiness, seems to be calculating that he thereby wins approval from his most fanatical base, or that he thereby settles scores with the impenitent and seditious women, or–and perhaps most important–he puts out of mind for a little while his very own perishability.  Trump may believe that, having achieved kingship, he has become imperishable.  But the medieval theory of the “king’s two bodies” (one body as corruptible and transitory as that of every other person, but one body divine, unchanging, and incorruptible) applies to Trump just as well as it did to any of the Plantagenets or Tudors or Holy Roman Emperors, and with a twist most unflattering to Trump: his preferred forms of communication show him at his truest and most transient.  His tweets and campaign rallies are at best written in water, more often written in truly impure blood.  And if we turn to his potential policy achievements, Trump’s resemblance to the dead Polonius is almost literal: our president has been hiding his decaying self offstage, trying to avoid blame while Senator McConnell battles Schumer and the Democrats, not to mention recalcitrant Republicans.  Seems like a low-energy strategy at best, and it wouldn’t be surprising if Prince McConnell (though no Hamlet, to be fair) decided to stab whoever is lurking in the curtains, pity if it turns out to be the president.

President Trump’s denial of his own decrepitude and decay is even more worrisome in that he could take those of us fortunate enough to be younger and fairer and less obviously corruptible with him if he is still president when he feels himself truly falling apart.  I hope and believe our president is fast approaching his (political) sell-by date.  His attacks on anyone not subservient to him seem designed to ward off his consciousness of what seems close at hand: the country’s cancellation of his show.  Then and only then will Hamlet’s words make sense as: the body of the king, the external appearance of the monarch, belonged to “Donald J. Trump,” but the true and lawful kingship resided elsewhere, and has passed on to someone who will seek to restore the body politic of the United States to better health.

H/T Ernst Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies; Jerah Johnson, “The Concept of the ‘King’s Two Bodies’ in Hamlet‘”

Trump Seduced By Youthful Frenchman

Off to gay Paree for Bastille Day, that’s our Trump!  Seduced by that firm shaker of hands Macron, eh?  No shame in leaving the swamp behind for the salons of the City of Light, Mr. President.  You claimed you were the leader of the Country Party, and that you would stomp all over the swamp-dwelling Court Partiers.  But so far it has not worked out so well, has it?  Bon voyage, and please, don’t hurry back, enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells at a really, really leisurely pace.  Go to Versailles, where they actually knew how to set up a royal court and do absolutism properly.  Believe me, you’ll be sorry when you come back.

Move Over, Mr. President! Meet Mitch McConnell, The New King Of Debt

Clever Senator Mitch has front-loaded “all the sweet stuff and delay[ed] all the painful stuff,” says Nicholas Begley in the Washington Post (quoted by Greg Sargent, Plum Line blog).  Tax cuts happen right away, even retroactively, while the deep cuts to Medicaid don’t begin until 2021.  Thanks, Mitch, for all the “Better Care.”  You are piling up debts no honest man could ever pay off.  Whether the harsh Medicaid cuts ever fully go into effect or not, the tax cuts for the rich are designed to be permanent.  You have just made our glaring inequalities even worse.  Do you really believe this bill increases liberty and freedom–of course you don’t.  You know full well from seeing Obamacare work in your own state of Kentucky that, as Josh Marshall summarizes, the ACA “took a pot of money and plugged it into the system to provide secure coverage for a large number of Americans who were neither destitute nor solidly in middle class or who had medical statuses which made it onerous or impossible” to get coverage.  “Take away the money and those people all lose their care.”  Your version of freedom–or the version you cynically pretend to believe, more likely–is a truly sickening fantasy.  Compared with “other” advanced and civilized countries, our taxes are not crushing.  The real snowflakes: your greedy donor class.

And against all kinds of evidence, many people still say “give Trump a chance.”  I get that trolling “snowflakes” and “elites” is a thrill, but if this bill means Trump is delivering for them, our Country is devolving even faster than I thought, and not in a good way.  Trump will not abide blame for any of the carnage and premature death that follows.  I do hope that enough people will be hurt or embarrassed or shocked by GOP rapaciousness to bother to vote next year, when everybody, not just the folks in Georgia or Montana or South Carolina, gets a chance to express buyer’s remorse over our sorry bunch of legislators.

Will King Trump Protect Us From Oligarchy And Ochlocracy? And Escape Blame Yet Again?

Shall we skip all the fake news and go straight to the Senate healthcare–and-by-the-way-big-tax-cut–bill?  Will Trump sign this bill, even though it is probably just as “mean” as Paul Ryan’s House bill?  Trump managed to appeal in 2016 to both the pro-oligarchy voters and the pro-ochlocracy (endless demands from the plebes) voters.  Now he will have to choose.  Master brander that he is, he will try to distract and evade blame no matter what, but the McConnellCare bill guts Medicaid in the name of freedom.  The struggling Trump voters, and even relatively well-off Trump voters, who think Medicaid only benefits THOSE people are in for a surprise.  Maybe not right away, McConnell is figuring not on his watch, but sooner than many voters think, they are going to find their parents kicked out of nursing homes and into their spare rooms, or worse.  Will Trump realize before he signs a bill that presidents do get blamed for the consequences of their actions?  (Not to mention stuff that they really shouldn’t get blamed for.)

Republicans have persuaded millions of fairly prosperous but more-insecure-than-they-may-know voters that the real governmental problem is “ochlocracy,” or never-ending-demands from the masses of “other” and undeserving people.  In fact, the US stands alone among advanced economies in its stingy-and-inefficient-at-the-same-time healthcare system.  A universal risk pool could really cut down on overhead costs, but we just aren’t ready to go there yet.  Obamacare took several right-of-center (Heritage Foundation before Jim DeMint) ideas and some technocratic ideas and made giant steps toward access to health care, but did not create a robust public option, let alone move toward a Medicare-for-all system.  Now the Republicans are on the verge of a huge cutback of healthcare access, and at the same time a huge tax cut for the wealthy.

If you believe we do not have enough inequality of wealth and opportunity, McConnell and Ryan are your guys.  If you thought Trump would usher in a golden age of terrific healthcare for everybody, you may be out of luck.  Ciao ciao sayonara ochlocracy, hello even-more-rock-solid oligarchy.  And Mr. Trump, will he be blamed?  I thought he was toast when he disrespected POW John McCain, so what do I know?  Prince Harry may say nobody wants to be king, but he doesn’t know our Trump.

You May Not Be A Snowflake, John Dowd, But How Do You Like Representing One?

I believe John Dowd, 76-year-old lawyer and ex-Marine, when he says in a Reuters interview that he is not a snowflake.

And yet, he is representing a world-class snowflake, our president.  How do you feel about that, Mr. Dowd?  When snowflake Trump yells at you and blames you and tells you to get off his lawn, will you go quietly like the tough guy you say you are?  Good, because I don’t want to hear you or any other servants of Trump whining about how badly he treats you.  And I sure don’t want to hear you covering for Trump when his snowflakeness goes even further over the top than it has already.  You may not think you are a snowflake, but you lie down with one and you are not going to escape waking up covered with icy white Trump poop.

Even The Queen Has Abandoned “Keep Calm And Carry On”

Among the innumerable parodies of the “keep calm and carry on” slogan are several variations on “keep calm and realize you’re not good enough.”  But now, after the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington, London, the keep calm slogan itself doesn’t seem good enough anymore.  Since a copy of the World War II propaganda poster was rediscovered by a bookseller in Northumberland in 2000, “keep calm and carry on” has become an all-purpose meme, seemingly infinitely adaptable.  It felt, to many, particularly appropriate and even uplifting last month after the suicide terror attacks in Manchester and London.

The quasi-official voice of establishment Britain, The Times, points out today that while “keep calm” has “served as a self-consciously British summary of what to do when times get tough,” and that “Theresa May seems to have adopted it as her mantra in the worst week of her career,” “the mantra is not equal to the moment.”  And after the tower fire keeping calm and carrying on has become, seemingly even to Queen Elizabeth, an inadequate response to the grim reality of avoidable mass death in a high-rise abutting the wealthiest  parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom.  “The Queen’s Official Birthday 2017” statement, published today, says that “today is traditionally a day of celebration.  This year, however, it is difficult to escape a very sombre national mood.  In recent months, the country has witnessed a succession of terrible tragedies….During recent visits in Manchester and London, I have been profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need….we are…determined, without fear or favour, to support all those rebuilding lives so horribly affected by injury and loss.”  The queen’s birthday statement also claims that “put to the test, the United Kingdom has been resolute in the face of adversity.”  She is of course not suggesting that the British replace calm with panic.  Instead, her statement lifts up the importance of responding to adversity “without fear or favour,” a phrase with ancient Latin roots (“sine timore aut favore”) that is part of the British oath of allegiance .  She does not single out any particular politicians of opportunism or cowardice, but she (or her advisers) do not need to.  The shockingly urgent tone of the birthday message resounds more without specific accusation, at least for today.  But the spirit of “without fear or favor” will demand reckonings before long.  As an American, I say all this knowing that we are probably in even direr need of acting without fear or favor if we are to save our own institutions, liberties, and culture from the barbarisms resulting from inequality and neglect.  We Americans (like the Scottish police, by the way) do not take an oath of allegiance to the sovereign, but we surely need to honor the substance of that oath, to “do right to all manner of people…without fear or favour,” that is, we need to learn and relearn the impartiality that our current regime seems to want desperately for us to forget and abandon.

 

Why Invoke Executive Privilege When You Can Just Flip Off The Constitution And The People Too

Of course Attorney General Sessions, while obfuscating, didn’t invoke executive privilege while testifying today before the Senate Intelligence Committee, because of course President Trump (whose name  it is an honor and blessing simply to be allowed to mention, as we all learned yesterday) did not and will not invoke executive privilege.  That is because Trump is no mere ordinary U.S. President.  His grandiloquent eminence precludes any stooping to invocation of privilege. More to the point, Trump already knows all the details, all the Russian connections.  No need to inquire or investigate as far as he cares.  David Simon’s June 8 Twitter thread lays out the case for Trump’s guilt as well as anything I have read or heard.  When an innocent person would look toward the door in expectation, Trump looks only at his nails, never at the door…

Jeremy Corbyn High-Fives Ruth Davidson, Nicola Sturgeon, And Arlene Foster

So Jeremy Corbyn walks into a pub and sees three politicians standing together at the bar: Ruth Davidson, Nicola Sturgeion, and Arlene Foster.  He senses the opportunity to form a government.  He approaches the three and starts to high-five Ruth Davidson…

For an all-expenses paid scholarship at Oxford University’s PPE (Philosophy, Politics, and Economics) program, finish the sentence above; state who the Prime Minister will be in three months time; finally, compare and contrast the manifestoes of Lord Buckethead and that imminent PM.

Since Trump Won’t Stump Up He’s Sure To Get Rumped Up

Our U.S. President showed again this week that he refuses to stump up for anything or anyone.  Every problem is someone else’s fault.  His problem isn’t really James Comey.  His problem is that he never acknowledges he owes anybody anything.  That is a big part of why he had, according to some reports, to turn to Russian banks to fund his schemes and/or bail him out–because, reportedly, American banks got tired of his repeated refusals to stump up.  No, we don’t know all, or most, of the details yet.  Maybe we never will.  But we do have the big picture, if we are willing to face up to it.  We have a legitimate but apparently deeply compromised president.  Better to admit that than to wish it away.  Exactly how Trump is going to get rumped up is quite unclear, but best to prepare as best we can by defending the checks and balances that Trump fails to respect–but that have made the US as great as it is.  You want a smoking gun?  Really?  If you cannot smell all the smoke already you might need some nose work.  Furthermore, impeachment is too good for our 45th president.  At this point the 25th Amendment (incapacity) seems more poetically just, no?

hint re rump up: try “rump up cheshire”

The Real Reason Trump Is Visiting Rome–It’s All About The Baths

Popes come and go but Trump is forever.  Of course the imperial visitation on May 24 is all about the great infrastructure project that will be announced upon the return of Air Force Numero Uno.

As you may not know, because very few people know this, the Roman baths were not just waterparks, they had bookstores, barbershops, brothels, nail salons, and lots more.  America will really become great just as soon as Trump the master builder creates millions of great jobs building our very own American “House of Trump” bathhouses.  As a bonus, due to the benevolence of our President, there will be religious freedom around the baths.  Anyone opposed to the construction of these bathhouses on moral or Biblical grounds, and who has not yet been enslaved due to unpaid medical bills, will be humored with meaningless executive orders.  Circus Trumpus Maximus, here we come!

Caesar J. Trump: Only I Can Inform You That “Freedom Is A Gift From God”

Our president has signed an executive order, fatuous and largely redundant (because current law already protects what Trump asserts needs new protection), claiming to support religious liberty.  Setting aside the obvious absurdity of such an unrepentant heathen dilating on this topic–whoa, whoa, God can make use of even the worst abusers, OK, and I should know (please sit back down, Mr. President)….

Freedom, to be sure, is not a gift from government; at least if by freedom we are speaking of spiritual freedom.  And, furthermore, ordained and other religiously motivated persons may well have much of value to say about politics and even about school bond issues and tax assessors.  Speaking of whom, however, if churches want to keep the assessor away from their door, and maintain their status as tax-exempt entities, they should think several times before expecting political dominion to come cheap.  To their souls, if not their tax-averse selves.

Republicans Glowing Over Glorious Repeal Victory–Glowing In The Dark, That Is

Hat tip to Nancy Pelosi for naming the fate of Republicans who voted to trash, not repair, Obamacare today.  Now it is up to friends of actual affordable healthcare for Americans to reject rightwing “framing” and “narratives” and tell the American people plainly what just happened.  Republicans voted for this bill without any clear idea of its cost, without any budget estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, but when those numbers are released the ugly realities will become clearer.  “Framing” or no framing the nasty impact of this bill, if it becomes law, will hit many millions of citizens who have benefited from coverage through the Affordable Care Act, and many more millions of their family and friends.

Regarding the “freedom” Paul Ryan and his fellow zombies say we are about to enjoy, I would ask them to let go of their childish libertarian dreams and acknowledge that they are leaders of a government that got involved in the provision of health insurance because the human toll of destitution and premature death became unacceptable.

Of course there are sometimes tradeoffs between security and liberty.  In the case of health, however, most people experience health, security, and freedom as mutually reinforcing.  There is a loss of freedom, perhaps, if you are forced to acknowledge that you are part of a giant risk pool when you feel fine, or that you may face a day when, if you opt out of acknowledging your membership in that risk pool otherwise known as “society,” you are going to need healthcare at any price right now, and you might not have $150,000 on hand.  Oh, well, that’ll surely never happen.

Healthcare is not a “good” that can be subjected to simple free-market logic without causing massive unnecessary suffering, partly because the market for healthcare does not and cannot operate with the benefit of an essential precondition of efficient Pareto-optimal “perfect competition,” which is “perfect information.”  Perfect information is sometimes almost the opposite of how the healthcare market works.  Think of the market for used cars.  Think of all the very imperfect information,  not to say unrepentant lying, that occur during the sale of a used car.  Now think of yourself as a used car and of trying to “sell” yourself to an insurance company.  You tell them that you have very low mileage, excellent maintenance record, and all kinds of fibs.  They squint at you and want you to pay more than you can afford.  Depressing scenario, isn’t it?  But it gives some idea of what the rightwing framers and narrative-spinners are going to be up against and why the majority of Americans, if polls be believed, are feeling warmer and warmer about Obamacare as they realize their safety net or plan B, or maybe just plan C, could actually be taken away.

Now it is time for Democrats and others sickened by the new regime to make those who voted to mess with the Affordable Care Act pay the price and glow in the dark next year.

Could We Please Get Some Nonviolent Resistance to Bullshit Today? Happy Loyalty Day/May Day!

In his Loyalty Day proclamation for 2017, the president claimed that “the United States stands as the world’s leader in upholding the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice.”  In other news today, Trump suggested in a radio interview that Andrew Jackson could have cut a deal to prevent the Civil War.

Before I say anything, let me say I feel like the dumbfounded Aflac duck, or goose, or whatever.  The CEO of the Hermitage Museum suggested that he, Trump that is, might have been referring to Jackson’s “disunion is treason” remark during the nullification crisis of the 1830s.  I don’t think so–and even if so the Tenth Amendment fundamentalists must be having a conniption fit at the equation of disunion with treason.  Let me not be either too loyal or too disloyal to Trump here.  He went to Tennessee recently to relive his election victory, and he apparently thinks that he learned something worth sharing.  I can sympathize, but let’s not fall for the idea that Jackson might have been the “tough but fair” big man with big heart who could have cut a great deal almost as great as the ones Donald Trump would have cut had he been there.  To be fair to the president, he did use the locution “had he been” very beautifully and correctly in the interview, at least as it was transcribed.  Also, to be really really fair, the causes of the American Civil War are complex.  But for an American president to claim in 2017 that Andrew Jackson, slaveowner–and enthusiastic, unapologetic slaveowner–could have been an honest broker in the conflict between slave states and free states is way off-base and reflects willful ignorance.  Trump’s Loyalty Day proclamation reminds us how important freedom, justice, and equality are.  Loyalty to those values sometimes mean repudiating and rejecting, sad to say, the utter BS pouring out of the White House.

Frederick Douglass Releases Pamphlet Explaining That Andrew Jackson Could Not Have Prevented Civil War

Contrary to our president’s assertion in a Sirius XM/Washington Examiner interview, Andrew Jackson was not “really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this.'”  And Frederick Douglass, who really is becoming better and better recognized, explained this to the president in a previously secret briefing, just search for it and you’ll surely find it under “causes of U.S. Civil War, real,” as opposed to “theories of the Civil War, fake and gratuitously offensive.”  Jackson died 16 years before the war began.

 

Nobody Knew It Would Be So Hard To Keep Trump Out Of The Uncanny Valley

As day 100 nears, I am doubting the president can maintain the “kayfabe” much longer (h/t to Nick Rogers in NYT).  His affirmations are seeming half-hearted, perfunctory; the “100 percent, believe me” suddenly lacks verisimilitude.  He is also slipping into the “uncanny valley,” that is, we are starting to be able to see him as the almost-but-not-quite-human he really is, and it is an awful shock.  He was, for some of us, just a hideous cartoon villain; then he became, unthinkably, president–still pretty cartoonish, but sometimes seemingly capable of learning.  Now, to me, his appearance is appallingly and sickeningly nearly-human, but even more truly that of a robotic puppet (whether Putin’s puppet or not, I am still not quite sure, which is part of the sickening feeling).  In fairness, it must be very hard work for him, at his age, to keep pretending that he has one fig to give about policy, conservative principles, our constitutional republic, our democratic traditions, in short what actually makes us as great as we are, however great that is.  The strain is showing.  Our job as citizens is to stay watchful, and not let ourselves be gaslit.  That, at least, seems easier than it was in January, as Trump, unwilling to discipline himself, breaks kayfabe more often.  No “march for science” can really touch Trump’s appeal to his base, but if he can’t or won’t work hard enough to keep the kayfabe going, he’s most likely going down.  It is up to the opposition, or resistance, or whatever you want to call it, to take advantage by showing us–especially the persuadable swing voters–the small but scary imperfections in  that are making President Trump ever more repulsive.

Blame Canada! But What Took The President So Long?

Hey Trump, why all the farting and cursing?  Why didn’t you just cut to the chase on day one?  Made us wait almost 99 and one half days before you dropped the big one on Canada.  I coulda told you years ago how rough they are on Americans.  The least you can do, because you made us wait so long, is give your loyal base the “thumbs up, thumbs down” thrill of deciding whether to let Canada survive or not.  After the bears and lions (I mean the milk inspectors and the softwood inspectors) tear them up a little, that is.

BTW do the Canadians have nukes or not?  I think the French do, but not real sure.  Better ask Xi Jinping for the true historical history before you make any sudden moves.

Sativa Got Attorney General Sessions All Riled Up Again?

General Sessions says nobody has a sense of humor any more.  Not true.  Says folks oughta give him a break.  Also not true.  If he would lay off the sativa, which apparently riles people up, and tried some mellow indica, he might settle down and quit disrespecting places and preferences that make him say “ick.” Some of us laugh and also say “ick” the minute we see Jeff Sessions’ face, but do we make a big fuss about it and try to lock him up?

Who Cares About 100 Days, Trump? Think About Burning In Hell Sooner Rather Than Later

As President Trump rightly noted, “the first 100 days” is a ridiculous standard.  Nobody with any sense could possibly expect somebody like Trump to measure up to FDR.  I don’t feel any fake urgency for Trump to notch “successes” that might blow up my world or make my health insurance unmanageable.  Stay strong, Trump, don’t let anybody gaslight you into reaching for transient “wins” that will boomerang on your sorry rump come next election day–unless you think you can suppress 24.1 million votes.  So relax, you will burn in hell soon enough, don’t rush it.  You did say that the only way you could ever possibly make it to heaven was to become president.  What exactly is your plan now?  Because you seem to have forgotten about getting into heaven.  Keep your eyes on the prize, or suffer the fate of slobbering for eternity in the lowest circle.  Maybe if you joined your good buddy Bill-O in Rome it would help you FOCUS.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions Surprised That Judicial Review Still A Thing

You would think that a little dude from Baja Alabama who became Attorney General of the whole dang United States would have just a little bit of inkling that in our beautiful constitutional republic we have judicial review of executive and legislative actions.  You are maybe not ready for the new world of 2017 in which some states and some federal circuit courts are more equal than others.  Would federal judicial review be less surprising if it came from a big ol’ judge in Texas?  Or Alaska?  Would that be big enough?

 

Update: Not gonna give you a break, Mr. Pepe Beauregard Dingleberry Sessions.  Lost my sense of humor a while back.  How about you?  Sativa got you all riled up, little dude?  Try some mellow indica next time.

Why Would Theresa May Toss Head Of EU Parliament In Clink?

Antonio Tajani, head of the EU Parliament, said today, yes you little Englanders can turn back and we would all jump up and down with pleasure if you do turn back from leaving.  Prime Minister Theresa May was quite terribly tempted to toss him in the Clink–had the Clink not been repurposed into a frou-frou hostel, so I am told.  Throw ‘im into the Tower then!

Why do so many little Englanders seem to believe both 1) life stinks because we are being taken advantage of by millions of horrid unruly Europeans from places far away that we have never heard of, and also 2) we will surely be able to continue going on holiday to southern Spain and Portugal and Slovakia and the Croatian coast without any fuss or bother, but they are not going to be allowed in to take our jobs and pollute our beautiful land.  Somehow it is not going to work out.  Twenty-seven European countries are not about to agree unanimously to set a precedent making it painless for any one of them to opt out of the bothersome parts but keep the freebies, especially free trade and movement.

Even if plenty of the English–the Scots and Welsh are plenty pro-EU already–wake up to the need for loss aversion pronto, what and whom would they want to vote for?  (This was, sadly, a big problem last fall in the US.)  Jeremy Corbyn has had the luxury for decades of seeing the EU as a club for capitalists, but now it’s for real, and I have no idea what he wants to do should he find himself empowered.  Maybe Nicola Sturgeon could emerge as the leader of a coalition bloc, and seize the Prime Ministership!  Then we have a new script for saboteur-crushing, would we not?  Prorogation could take a surprising turn; new prerogatives could emerge.  There could indeed be back-turning and turning back, 500 years after Luther said that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

Is 1000 Times No-President Overseeing No-Ship No-Armada From His No-Room?

The U.S.S. No-Ship No-Armada may be headed toward No. Korea, or not.  But our president is most definitely no-madman, he just sits on his golden chair in his no-chamber and, whenever he feels like it, wanders from no-room to no-room, presciently knowing where the no-applause is loudest.  No I have never read any science fiction, this is real news.

Out-Crazying Kim Jong-Un–What Could Go Wrong?

Trump’s apparent use of “madman theory” logic to get his way (whatever that is on any given day) on healthcare probably won’t intimidate Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer.  Will Trump-as-madman succeed any better on the Korean peninsula?  Are we the people ready for an American president who can actually out-crazy Kim Jong-un?  We elected him.  We knew that no-drama-Obama was getting old.  We wanted a little excitement.  How much excitement?  That’s what China is wondering!  Their foreign minister just put our president on the same level as Kim by urging “all parties” to stop “provoking” each other. Should we blush with embarrassment?  Trump, who says he comprehends very well, listened to Xi Jinping explain thousands of years of Korean history in ten minutes (or less, believe me) and now grasps very very well how to put America first by using the craziest words and threatening to use the biggest bombs.  And why worry that Kim might be even more unpredictable than our president?  North Korea has an excellent system of checks and balances, many people say.  Their National Security Council is far more fully staffed than ours, so I hear.  Their family dynasty, as Mr. Xi no doubt explained to his U.S. counterpart, is much more experienced than ours.  So they will surely do the right thing.  Oh right, we still have to worry about Trump–oops.

Unquiet Flow The Policies Of The Don

For example, let us consider the unplanned non-obsolescence of NATO.  In the same breath, the president reminded us that he had said NATO was obsolete and informed us that NATO was no longer obsolete.  Don’t even get me started on trying to figure out where the United States as such stands on Russia, let alone Syria, China, North Korea…  I believe I grasp that the important point to remember is this: my president is the big strong man who tells me what is true and what is fake, and when he decides that there is a new, different, and probably opposite truth it is on me to avoid whiplash.

New, Improved Philosophy of History: “I Inherited A Mess,” And Good Luck Holding Me Accountable For Anything

Renowned philosopher of history Donald J. Trump enunciated his cardinal principle today in a press conference with the King of Jordan.  “The world is a mess; I inherited a mess.”  This all-purpose hermeneutical key to interpreting Mr. Trump’s non-accountability for all subsequent events was delivered with a straight face.  Yet one cannot help wonder why the man bothers to continue waking up in the morning and being president for yet another day.  If all his predecessors made such a hash, missed so many opportunities, and in general FAILED, and Mr. Trump consequently cannot possibly be responsible for today’s disasters, what exactly is his job description?  Breaking Update: Trump: “I do change. I am flexible… I now have responsibility…it is now my responsibility.”  How about that.  We should probably get ready for the Obliviate Memory Charm.  P.S.  Obama did also say “I inherited a mess,” but those who can recall the financial crisis of 2008 know that he did in fact inherit a big mess.

Jaw-Jaw With Our “Island Monkey” President

Among the many insulting labels Germans attach to the British is “island monkeys,” according to today’s London Times. Donald Trump, despite being half-German, might perhaps have in him just a touch of the island monkey .  Fresh off his exuberant welcome of Egyptian tyrant al-Sisi yesterday in the Oval Office,  President Donald J. “Island Monkey” Trump heads to Mar-a-Lago to jaw-jaw with Xi Jinping.  Does Trump believe he needs anyone other than Jared Kushner to brief him on the issues?  I don’t wish to misunderestimate Mr. Trump’s brain at all.  And maybe he is listening in private to some people with actual up-to-date and historically informed knowledge of our economic and military relationship with China and East Asia.  I don’t care if he doesn’t even read the one-page memos, so long as he listens and adapts.  In an interview with the Financial Times published last weekend, Trump said that with respect to China, “our country hasn’t had a clue…. the past administration hasn’t had and many administrations–I don’t want to say only Obama; this has gone on for many years–they haven’t had a clue.  But I do.”  Hope Trump’s hubris works out better than I expect.  Trump may be quite right that some previous presidents did not make the most of our leverage vis-a-vis China.  But nostalgia for the glory days of America’s imperial zenith (which just happen to coincide with Trump’s own youth) is unlikely to be the winning formula for cutting great-for-America deals with China.

General Michael (aka “Mikhail,” “General Misha”) Flynn: Guilty Rightwing Snowflake? Or Victim of Witch-Hunt?

President Trump says give General Mikhail “Misha” Flynn immunity.  Witness-tampering by a sitting president?  Does that even count as “breaking news” anymore?  And Flynn, poor little fellow,  though in fairness he did say way back in 2016 that anybody who gets immunity is guilty.  What of deviance–has it been defined down so much we can’t even feel it anymore?  And wouldn’t a witness be given immunity if and only if they are going to implicate somebody higher up?  Who is the only person higher up than National Security Adviser?

Did God Punish Poor White Trump Voters By Leaving Their Healthcare Untouched?

Could the Almighty have such a refined sense of irony that poor white Trump voters were punished this week by G-d leaving their health benefits intact?  Maybe G-d does not really believe in karma?  It was real problematic for a lot of folks to have to take healthcare entitlements and handouts from a skinny black dude.  But times change, and now we have a really rich, old, large, obnoxious white man in the White House.  It would be awful if everybody who needed to get low-cost care got cut off now.  Thank goodness the Freedom Caucus understood all this and preserved our Obamacare just when we were starting to think of it as the Affordable Care Act (surprise!).  Just hoping the

Is It Wrong To Give The Republicans The Benefit Of The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations?

Answer: yes, it is wrong to give the president and the Speaker of the House the benefit of the soft bigotry of low expectations for failing to enact the agenda they have promised lo these last seven years.  I urge them to stop blaming one another.  Personal responsibility is a virtue.  Without virtue where are we as a constitutional republic.  This is no time for spin.  This is the time to accept accountability.  Rather than whining that “who knew x, y, or z was so complicated,” why not take as a starting point, “my previous career as a con artist was supposed to be a transferable skill, but the rules sure are different down here in the swamp.  They actually like to read the fine print.  Every goddamn last one of them is a lawyer and a future lobbyist.  And they might be even more mendacious than me.”

The Buck Never Stops With Me And I Will Not Have Your Back

Does Donald J. Trump realize that he is president?  Is he saying he is going to actively sabotage the Affordable Care Act so that we the people will be reduced to begging for relief?  Does he realize that one of the men standing next to him today, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, has plenty of regulatory discretion over the health exchanges.  Price can undermine the health of Americans in many ways.  Or help make things easier for people trying to get health care via sensible and flexible administrative rules and regulations.  Trump is never willing to be blamed, for anything, but from today forward controlling the “narrative” and deflecting accountability is going to get harder.

Finding A Trout In The Milk

“Circumstantial evidence” is in the news today.  As I heard it, Congressman Adam Schiff, Democrat of California, says he has evidence, not just circumstantial, of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians.  Henry David Thoreau wrote that “some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”  I would say where we are right now re Trump/Russia is that we have seen the trout in the milk.  Some people are anxious or eager for even more evidence.  I imagine Schiff is sitting on evidence even stronger than trout in the milk.  Not sure if it will impress or convince everybody who needs to be convinced and impressed, but there is already more than enough smoky milky trout for me.

Could Meals On Wheels Make Any Good Use Out Of Mick Mulvaney, Paul Ryan, or Steve Bannon?

Other than cooking up a very pale and thin bone broth, that is (hat tip Jordan Weissmann of Slate)?  Mick Mulvaney channelled Lord John Russell’s laissez-faire ideology (hat tip to Charlie Pierce’s Esquire blog) during the Irish potato famine, on the day before St. Patrick’s Day!  He did not actually say that the poor should be boiled into bone broth.  Paul Ryan did not say that his legislative agenda owes even more to Lord Russell than to latecomer Ayn Rand.  Mulvaney, Ryan, and Bannon did not say that they are white and that that makes all the difference as far as immigration goes.  God apparently has not yet taught these sons of Ireland enough of a lesson about their history.  But until then their Anglo-Teutonic overlord Trump is making good use of them.

Trump Doth Not Wrong But With Just Cause

Congressional Republicans eager to “walk the plank” and vote for the House repeal-and-rejoice health bill should take note: Trump did never wrong.  Trump will never do or be wrong.  You will be sacrificed.  Many of your constituents will be sacrificed.  Trump will always act with just cause.  You may or may not be a loser.  But Trump will not and cannot ever be blamed.  Paul Ryan may say whatever he wants, on tape or not.  Trump doth not wrong but with just cause.

Republican Plan To Suppress 24.1 Million Votes Following CBO Report 24 Million Losing Healthcare

Paul Ryan said he was “excited” and “encouraged” by the CBO report that Trumpcare/Ryancare will cause just 24 million Americans to lose their healthcare insurance.  Ryan is said by some to have planned to suppress 24.1 million votes in the midterm elections.  So it’s all good.  Cost-benefit analyses that a Koch group may well have carried out show that the cost of voter suppression, even on the grand scale needed to invalidate 24.1 million votes, is far cheaper than the cost of allowing Americans to feel that they are not serfs any longer.

If Trump Wants To Be As Popular As Obama And Obamacare, He Has A Way Forward

Well-known philosopher Donald J. Trump, who is a master of comprehending life and human nature, may have found a path to popular acclaim.  Mr. Trump, let’s be real: you crave popular approval, and former president Obama’s approval ratings have clearly gotten under your thin skin.  Also Obamacare’s approval ratings have shot up.  Human nature, as you say–we are already missing our water.  As you yourself said today: “the press is making Obamacare look so good suddenly.  I’m watching the news.  It looks so good.  It’s a little bit like President Obama.  When he left, people liked him.  When he was here, people didn’t like him so much.  That’s the way life goes.  That’s human nature.”

There is a way out of your low popularity, sir.  It is simple: the way out is the exit door, which for your convenience is marked “EXIT.”  I for one am totally prepared to miss you, and even to speak fondly of the many great things you could have accomplished, had you only stuck it out, and matured, and experienced a radical conversion, all of which was possible, if wildly improbable.  But no need to hesitate over hypotheticals.  Sky-high approval numbers are yours for the taking, Mr. Trump.

Take The Ribbon From Your Hair, President Trump

Didn’t you promise you were going to help us make it through the night, Mr. President Trump?

“I am going to take care of everybody.”

“There will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.  Huckabee copied me.”

“Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now.”

I don’t care who’s right or wrong, Mr. Trump.  You could even copy Huckabee and put a squirrel in your White House microwave and if you liked it a lot I would not judge you for that.  But keep your promises.  Or at least try.  Don’t complain about how complicated healthcare is.  That’s a precious snowflake excuse.  And don’t listen to Paul Ryan.  He’s a zombie moocher who lived off Social Security for two years after his daddy died when Paul was just sixteen.  He is probably still ashamed of it.  Don’t mind him, and for heaven’s sake don’t think he’s a “policy wonk.”  He doesn’t even understand insurance at all if he doesn’t realize it’s about healthy people paying for sick ones.  Because even you, Mr. Trump, are going to get old and sick and dependent and vulnerable.  So let the devil take tomorrow, Mr. Trump.

P.S. So glad your man on health care, Dr. Tom Price, said yesterday “no one will be worse off financially” when Trumpcare kicks in.  I am making a note of how much I paid in premiums in 2016 and putting it in a safe place, and you can be sure that I will not pay any more while you are president, sir.  And I know you won’t put me in debtors’ prison.  Plus I can keep thinking what I’m thinking and drinking what I’m drinking–no more no less so I won’t be any worse off.  Feeling pretty good now.  Would hate to see you mess up my good feeling.

Feeling The Fresh Air Of Freedom To Fall Through The Cracks In The Floor Of Our Healthcare System

The House Republican talking points pamphlet this morning has me feeling the fresh breeze of freedom.  The freedom of a free market in health care being restored.  The House Speaker, Paul Ryan, says over and over that Obamacare stinks.  I get it.  It was no good at all to take handouts from a black Democrat.  Now our brand new Trump president will provide us with wonderful care for everybody, and it will be cheaper, and so much better.  I don’t even want to hear the details because that might mess up how I feel right now, which is great.  As a happy serf.  Did I mention that Obamacare stinks?  Funny that the Republican talking points don’t even mention the Affordable Care Act at all.  But don’t mess with my Affordable Care Act, it’s working real well.

Good Or Bad?–That Trump Does Not Know We Are Not Yet Ruled By Personal Dictatorship

“How low has President Obama gone to tapp {sic} my phones during the very sacred election process,” tweeted the President today.  “Bad…sick…McCarthyism…is it legal” and so forth.

President Trump does not seem afraid to up the ante.  Is he ready for a discovery process involving an independent counsel with subpoena power?  (Yes the independent counsel law expired, but all things are possible–including presidential declassification of anything or everything involving Russian interference in the 2016 election.)

President Trump appears to think that presidents act by fiat, via personal dictatorship, not constrained by other independent and coequal branches of government.  Presidents do not themselves order wiretaps.  We have executive branch lawyers who seek warrants via judges–last I heard.

Does President Trump have a problem with McCarthyism?  If so, how exactly does he object to Senator Joe McCarthy’s playbook, which included guilt-by-association tactics and anonymously-sourced smears?  Does President Trump accuses President Obama of acting like “Nixon/Watergate” but does not elaborate or provide any evidence.  What exactly about Richard Nixon or Watergate does President Trump condemn?

Could President Trump have a point, in the midst of his unsupported allegations, that the United States has a problem with “deep state” subversion of our “very sacred election process”?  Maybe so–all the more reason to get going on a truly independent investigation.  A partisan, politicized, ostrich-like, paralyzed Congress does not seem up to the task.  Jeff Sessions’ deputy is unlikely to be credible and authoritative.  That leaves an independent counsel (possible downside that non-criminal but horrible actions could end up being bypassed) or an independent commission (typically very slow-moving).  Maybe there are other, better options.

Of Course Everyone Should Take A Deep Breath…And Then Jeff Sessions Should Admit He Spoke Falsely, And Resign

I have followed the advice of many talking heads and taken a deep, deep breath.  Then I exhaled.  Now Jeff Sessions should give it up.  Zero tolerance for lawbreaking , and zero tolerance for whatever he thought deviant, have been Sessions’ way of life.  Just roll the tapes from the late 1990s of Sessions fanning himself over Bill Clinton’s turpitude.  So, see you later, you bad dude, you’ve maxed out your moral credit and exhausted the tolerance and patience of sensible freedom-and-justice-loving Americans.

Why The Attorney General Is A Bad Dude And Must Self-Deport

Attorney General Sessions, we now know, is a bad hombre.  If he is a true Southerner and has any sense of honor, recusing himself from investigations of Russian ties with the Trump campaign is not enough.  He must self-deport pronto.  Senator Al Franken did not force then-Senator Sessions to be a lying liar by asking him questions about Russia.  Sessions’ false statements are all on him, and to say otherwise buys into the kind of permissive relativism that Mr. Sessions has attacked for many years.  The happiness and perhaps even glee of Democrats here is nevertheless not relevant to the problem: if an Attorney General is not believable as the champion of impartial justice, the jig is up.

If A Performance Artist Complains That The Job Is Too Complicated Does That Make Him A Snowflake?

Just wondering–and BTW in this case the “performance artist” in question is a “he”–if the artist complains the art is too complicated, could it be he didn’t put in the ten thousand hours of practice practicing to do the actual job?

Could the performance artist walk away now without his snowflakes leaving a trace?  If only.  Are the original intentions of the Framers, including the Framers of the 25th Amendment, enough to cope with our situation?  If a tyrannical soul announces in advance that he cannot possibly be blamed for any outcomes, is the “laugh test” still apropos?  The SMFH test, perhaps?

Trump Tries And Fails To Make Us Think Health Care Is Complicated

Trump, Trump, Trump, why are you trying to fool us with your fake story that health care is complicated.  It is so easy to understand that anybody who pays any attention at all to details figured it out a long time ago.  Lemme break it down for you, in little pieces you oughta be able to chew:

  1. Your body is a lot like a broken-down used car.  Not a fine-tuned mass-produced brand-new car.
  2. The market for health care is like the market for repairs of broken-down used cars, and not much like the market for new cars.
  3. For “free markets” to work “perfectly” everybody buying and selling has gotta have “perfect” information about the product being bought and sold.
  4. Thus a “free market” system to provide health care is not gonna be perfect.  This is called “market failure.”  Sometimes government regulation does not make everything perfect, but it is often worth a try.
  5. You, as President, have all kinds of power (via the administrative state your strategist says he wants to deconstruct) to negotiate good prices on drugs and the delivery of health care services–on behalf of all 320 million Americans.
  6. The word for your power is “monopsony.”  Look it up, and then use it.  You can become the greatest monopsonist ever!

Paul Ryan Announces Dates For 2017 Freedom And Carnage Tour

Speaker Paul Ryan, in the wake of his announcement that he will give us freedom by abolishing Obamacare and replacing it with freedom, all freedom all the time, has announced his Summer 2017 Freedom and Carnage tour schedule.  See his twitter feed for details, but the gist of it is, if he takes away your healthcare coverage, shut your mouth and be grateful for all the freedom you have to “access” the free market of medical services.  You are free to enter into a voluntary transactions with any and all providers of care.  You and only you have the freedom to negotiate with Humana or Aetna or Kaiser and don’t be a begrudger about it because you are just as free and big and powerful as your corporate negotiating counterparty.  You are also free to ignore the carnage by plugging your ears and shutting your eyes and pretending the protesters you see are all zombies paid by George Soros and French socialists.  You are free to enjoy the “deconstruction of the administrative state” because you know that they are going after those other elite people, they are not coming for you.

trump switches to lower case: sorry we won’t see you in court, or recognize taiwan either

settle down mr. president.  a lot of the indivisible folks are even older than you, and you seem super energetic now, but pace yourself.  i hope you read the financial times article by david allen green today that explained why “see you in court” made lots of sense in your old world of commercial litigation in which your “aggressive shout of ‘see you in court’ would…be a standard prelude to cutting some sort of a deal….the problem with this approach is that public law litigation–legal disputes over whether a public body has the power to do a thing or not–is not like commercial litigation.  going to court is the very point of public law litigation….only a court can hold an act or a decision…to be lawful or not….public law litigation is about decision-making, not deal-making.”

likewise with china.  the one china policy, as paul haenle, a former national security council china specialist, explained, “is not a card on the bargaining table–it is the table itself.”  you reversed your previous position, which some say you never do.  but china is special.  with special prices on all the cheap stuff with which we like to fill our homes.  time to move on to the next distraction.

going to all lower case does not come naturally to you, mr. president, but maybe a golfing weekend with the japanese prime minister will help you settle yourself.  if not, maybe he will explain to you a very amazing and noble and beautiful japanese exit strategy you can achieve all by yourself, with no court or congress or anybody getting in your way.

Deleted Judicial Branch Returns to Whitehouse.gov Site, But…

Though the “judicial branch,” which once was lost on whitehouse.gov, has now been found, it has been compromised, not in a beautiful way.  For example, court-packing might be just around the corner.  The number of Supreme Court justices is not specified in the Constitution, as the site notes correctly.  It also notes that the current number of nine justices, established by act of Congress, has “only been in place since 1869.”  Only? Ominous?

And regarding the Supreme Court, “since justices do not have to run or campaign for re-election, they are thought to be insulated from political pressure when deciding cases.”  “Thought to be”–that was then.

Could Trump Deport All The Second And Third Cousins Of McVeigh And Roof?

I believe it would be wrong and illegal and unconstitutional to deport all the cousins of Timothy McVeigh and Dylann Roof and the Unabomber.  But if President Trump decided that taking that tack would be “just common sense,” and that anybody who disagreed with him is to blame for any ensuing acts of terror, where would we be?  Would any Republicans begin to dissent from such an unconstrained claim of executive authority?

Should President Trump Have “Unconstrained Discretion” To Blame Everyone But Himself?

Constrained discretion vs. unconstrained discretion: that is the issue in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today re the “ban” or whatever alternative term you like.  Presidents have “wide authority,” the media tell us, and they are not lying about that.  (However, few if any TV heads have emphasized that there is already extended vetting before foreigners are allowed into the U.S. from the countries in question.  Newswatchers could easily get the impression that there was little if any filtering during the Obama administration.)  But unconstrained presidential discretion is another matter.  Giving any president,  even Mr. Trump, unconstrained discretion over anything has big league downsides.  The only possible upside would be that Trump’s blame-shifting, which is already unconstrained by common sense or facts or shame, would be even less believable.  But the price is far too high.  If Trump manages to fool courts as well as Congress that his whims are unreviewable and that any oversight is unpatriotic and dangerous–game over.

Will the KGB/FSB Administer the 2018 Midterm Elections Fairly And Impartially?

Will any Congressional Republicans pull themselves away from celebrating the nomination of Neil Gorsuch and take note of President Trump’s easing/”I am not easing” of sanctions on Russian intelligence agencies?

If somebody offered me 19 or 19.5 percent of the Russian petrostate and sent it to a Cayman Islands shell company, I might be tempted to do something nice for them.  Is that what is happening here?  Did President Trump acknowledge it by speaking of finding a “pretext” for lifting sanctions?  Hard to be at all sure, but it’s not a question I expected to need to ask.

Gorsuch Threat Assessment: Ask Not Whether He Is “Mainstream,” Ask Whether Trump Is A Tyrant

Senate Democrats do have a tricky choice re Neil Gorsuch: to filibuster or not.  I can see the merits both ways.  Setting aside for a minute the plentiful hypocrisy regardless of party, Mitch McConnell’s refusal to consider the merits of Judge Garland was a new low.

Moving on.  Democrats cannot prevent Gorsuch from receiving a hearing, as McConnell prevented one for Garland.  Before, during, and after the Gorsuch hearing, Democrats should focus their questions on the new dangers that everyone, regardless of party, ought to recognize are in play.  That is, ask about the meaning and reach of the emoluments clause.  Ask what constitutes treason.  Ask about the Tenth Amendment–it’s a new day, Democrats.  Ask about the Congressional war power.  Ask about the Voting Rights Act and voter suppression.  Ask about the scope of valid executive orders.  Ask whether Senator Ted Cruz’s law review article on Obama’s “lawlessness” made valid points that still apply now.  Ask about the Supreme Court’s capacity or incapacity to counteract declarations of emergency powers and martial law.  Some of these questions have not been asked in recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings, but the “threat assessment” needs to be rethought.

“Risk Aversion Builds As Trump Trade Fades,” That Is, Run For The New Zealand Hills!

“Risk Aversion Builds” was a headline in today’s Financial Times.  I had just enough to feel Hillary was the risk-averse or loss-averse choice last November.  I am still not completely sure that the American people, via the Electoral College, made a bad choice last year or any year in my lifetime, but the people who said last fall “oh, don’t take Trump literally” were not worth betting on then or now.

Even though I believe Trump is entitled to his choice of advisors, and was within his rights to replace the acting attorney general, and that progressives ought to focus less on process issues and 99% on holding Trump responsible for what helps or hurts the “forgotten men and women” who voted for him after, in many cases, voting for Obama at least once–despite all that, I do think the malicious, vindictive, and incompetent administration taking shape is bad news for our economy, security, democracy, and constitutional republic.  Bad news for people who have anything to lose.  Republican elected officials who are pining to deregulate and cut taxes are not likely to be remembered well ten or twenty years from now.  Progressives who seek only the moral high ground and don’t acknowledge that many people voted for Trump out of real grievance and frustration and desperation are not going to be remembered well either.  If we are going to have a country to remember and enjoy at all, we all need to imagine and uphold a country focused on liberty and security and fairness and dignity.  Running for the New Zealand hills is not an option available to very many of us, appealing though it might be.

Making The Charm Firm And Good

Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble… My bubble is so impermeable I do not hear Stephen Bannon telling me to shut up and bow down and be humiliated.  But I have read and seen Macbeth, so I know that the witches’ charm does not become “firm and good” until the wool of bat and lizard’s leg and all that have been stirred into the hell-broth, and even after that there is a final step–“cool it with a baboon’s blood.”  Does America need Mr. Bannon to give us a couple of pints?

More Deletions At Whitehouse.gov

No Spanish language version any more.  404 hasta la vista baby.

No judicial branch.  Seriously, the section was deleted.  Replaced with Constitution.  Which is apparently so transparent and self-interpreting it doesn’t require any mediators or interpreters, just enforcers.  Of course that was the original intent, all you freedom-obsessed haters and losers.

No need for climate change section, let alone “warming.”  Sea levels now falling.  That’s the alternative fact, don’t let the horrible dishonest media fool you.

Liking Trumpcare More After Winning The Powerball

About that executive order Pres. Trump signed his first day, the one that “eased the regulatory burdens” of the Affordable Care Act, soon to be rebranded Trumpcare–I am thinking I will not mind the impending collapse of the health exchanges so much as soon as I win the big Powerball in a couple of days.  In my glorious future the downsides of letting insurers take back all the bargaining power won’t bother me at all, because I will have so much money that I won’t need to negotiate prices with anybody, I don’t need any picky regulations to protect me, no sir.  I’ll just bring the spa treatments to me in my beautiful mansion that is…oops, sliding down a cliff into the sea.  Huh, I could swear Trump said the seas would stop rising and the carnage would end.  Oops.

Easing The Burdens? Really? For Whom?

New President Trump’s first day included an executive order to “ease the…burdens” of the Affordable Care Act.  I hope journalists will ask “for whom.”  The reality is, easing a burden somewhere probably places a burden on some “forgotten men and women” without lobbyists to smooth their path.  Easing regulatory burdens sounds great if you do not weigh the costs and benefits.  Journalists, could you ease up on rehashing every tweet and every impediment to your access.  The real issue is, where will the burdens shift with the new regime.  None of us really knows yet where they will shift, but let’s focus on explaining real issues that are going to help or hurt real people.  Trump’s first executive order is about “incidence,” which in economics refers to where burdens lie–who pays?  “Cutting red tape”–that’s gaslighting.  Let’s dig deeper.  Trump is getting ready to rebrand the health care system.  Real journalism will not take any of it at face value, in fact really real journalism will cut out Trump’s propagandizing middlemen/salespeople/gaslighters and go straight to explaining who benefits (Cui Bono) and who gets it on the nose.

New Whitehouse.gov Website Deletes Judicial Branch

As of 1pm today, the new official whitehouse.gov site omits the judicial branch in the “our government” section.  Curious.  The government begins with The Executive Branch, then The Legislative Branch, then The Constitution, but no mention of any court system, no word on how this “constitution” is to be interpreted by the “government.”    Moving on…

Preserving And Creating Disorder

Reverend Franklin Graham and President Trump are right, of course, that Trump did not create America’s divisions.  The question is, will he perform works of healing.  The words of his campaign speech, oops, inaugural address today promised unity, but the “music” playing in my head was from yesterday’s inaugural concert, when Trump’s walk-on theme song was, no kidding, Mick Jagger singing “Heart of Stone.”  Old Mayor Daley said in Chicago in 1968 that the police were “not here to create disorder, they are here to preserve disorder.”  Here’s hoping against hope that Trump is less disorderly and divisive than he looks now.

Talking Points About John Lewis and Donald Trump

  1. Congressman John Lewis’s biography gives him great moral and civic stature, but no special authority to say who is or is not a legitimate president.  The issue is, does his accusation against Trump have merit and substance.
  2. Trump responded to John Lewis with misdirection and non sequiturs.  Trump did not challenge the substance of Lewis’s charge that Russia’s efforts to elect Trump damage Trump’s legitimacy.  Lewis did not deny that Trump won 300+ electoral votes.  He did question the legitimacy of a victory won in part with Russian cyberattacks, hacking, disinformation, and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign.  Trump maligned Lewis and his district (crime infested? really, Trump? no crime problems in your own backyard?) but did not address what John Lewis actually said.
  3. Lewis hit on one of the main reasons Trump could be perceived as illegitimate, and this past week revealed more about others: e.g. James Comey’s thumb on the scale.  Something in his classified briefing yesterday enraged congressional Democrats.
  4. Michael Flynn’s reported five phone calls with the Russian ambassador while President Obama was announcing the expulsion of 35 Russian spies/diplomats (not to mention contacts between Russians and Paul Manafort and Carter Page and, perhaps, Michael Cohen) look suspicious if not illegal if not traitorous.
  5. If President Obama had good reasons to not go public in a strong and decisive way about all this during the campaign, that is between him and the co-authors of his memoirs.  I do not know enough to condemn or approve of Obama’s silences.
  6. Trump, weighing all the evidence as best I can, is susceptible to Russian (and perhaps Chinese or Iranian?) blackmail as long as he is president.  His best defense is that we elected him knowing full well who he is.   He was elected despite openly inviting Russia last summer to commit espionage against his political opponent.  And that is a big problem.

Why Paul Ryan Is Right That Obamacare “Is Collapsing As We Speak”

Speaker Ryan is right that “Obamacare is collapsing as we speak.”  That’s because his Republicans are voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  Thus it is collapsing.  Platitude solved.

Personally, I am happy to see that horrible Obamacare law go down.  That’s because my coverage, which is great so far, is with the ACA.  Oh, really?  You don’t say.  Hmmm… where did you say that protest march is next week?

No Opting Out Of The Trump Risk Pool

Repeal or no repeal of the Affordable Care Act, we are all captives in the Trump America Risk Pool.   Sure, there are problems with Obamacare’s risk pool dos and don’ts, but they are pretty much limited to health care.  The Trump risk pool is a wider, deeper problem.  For example, the news that we may well have a suborned and blackmailed president next week: that puts all Americans in a scary risk pool, even if it is of our own devising.  (Scary enough that Trump is almost halfway right that his tax returns are a minor concern now.)  As Charlie Pierce put it today, “everybody is waiting for somebody else to do something.  It’s like we’re all the crew of the Pequod, waiting for the mad captain to emerge from his cabin for the first time to explain how his obsessions should be ours as well….the president-elect may, in the words of Bruce Springsteen, have debts no honest man can pay.”

P.S. if you are ready to see Obamacare go down the tubes, because your own terrific health care is the Affordable Care Act, I have some bad news for you.

Defiant Wall Street Journal Misses The Point, Which Is Not Whether Trump Is “Lying”

WSJ editor Gerald Baker is welcome to be “careful” about “using the word ‘lie.'”  But really, Gerard, many of us are past that point.  Has Donald J. Trump really not bellowed sickening racist lie after disgusting sexist lie long enough for you to realize that you need not throw caution to the winds when you call Trump a lying liar?  Hideous indeed the sight when you finally snap and scream that Trump is a “lying bastard lying to” you, Gerard Baker of the Wall Street Journal?  When Kellyanne Conway asserts yet again that we cannot judge Mr. Trump on what comes out of his mouth, but must instead look to what she claims is in his heart, you do realize that you and your ilk have been tossed aside.  Your cautious “standards” mean–what, exactly?

Reset button: why not refer to the President-to-be as Unreliable Trump for short, or, to give his full formal title, POTUS and Unreliable Narrator Donald Trump.  I certainly can’t keep up with the veracity of lying liarness of Trump’s tales, but I do feel certain that he is not reliable.  Anyone who says otherwise at this point has a high burden of proof.  Unreliable does not, however, necessarily mean all bad.  “Unreliable narrators” include many fascinating if not charming characters–think Humbert Humbert; think the Wife of Bath; think the narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”  You could even exercise your overabundant caution, Gerard, quibbling whether Trump is a dissonant or consonant self-narrator (hat tip to Dorrit Cohn, Transparent Minds).  

Live a little, Gerard.  And relax.  It’s not the beating of Trump’s hideous heart that you can’t get out of your ears, is it?  Is it not the hideous drumbeat of unreliable narration?

 

Unreliable narration update re Meryl Streep vs. Trump: Hollywood is surely vilified by some, but living in Malibu is not victimhood; meanwhile, do I trust my own lying eyes when I rewatch the video of him mocking a disabled reporter, or has he successfully anchored and gaslit me so that I can no longer perceive his abusive lying?

Re Monica Crowley: do you, Gerard Baker, plan to cover the story of alleged plagiarism of your own newspaper’s stories?  Does plagiarism of your own newspaper count as lying?

Hey GOP, Don’t Let Trump Bully You Into Making Political Correctness Great Again

Should I be grateful that the President-elect is trying so hard to make political correctness great again by urging Republicans–twice in one day–to “be careful.”  Being careful has been so not-Trump-brand, but that was then.  Now is all Trumpcare, all the time.  Thus does caution–and what is political correctness, after all is said and done, but prudence and caution–weasel its way into the calculations of the manly and strong new sheriff in town.  Not necessarily sad, but true.  Parenthetically, the Democrats’ signage needs work: “Make America Sick Again” needs “DON’T LET TRUMP” in big red letters before “make,” for starters.  But that is a sideshow.  Everybody knows that Trump owns American health care and the American economy and the American military in two weeks.  Setting aside GOP hype and cherry-picking and distortion, most people know full well that Trump is not inheriting anything like the kind of crisis Obama did eight years ago.  So Trump and McConnell and Ryan have a luxury Obama didn’t: they can repeal and nullify a whole lot of Obama’s horrible/feckless/foreign/takers over makers/pro-linecutters/failed/not-Trumpy-great legacy, or they can wise up and slow walk the hard stuff.  Many people will say that that kind of squishiness would give the last laugh to political correctness.  As Trump might say, “that’s called life.”

But if Trump says “be careful” twice in a row, the good news may be that he might not blow us all up for a while.

It’s Not Like This Is 1937, Yet–So Choose Battles Wisely

Of course Trump is “not normal.”  Not even close.  But progressives and liberals will do well to turn away now, for the most part, from process issues and focus on the pain that most Americans, including many if not most Trump voters, are about to feel.  That’s assuming that China and Russia do not take immediate advantage of chaos in the changeover, throwing us into foreign policy confrontation that distracts from all domestic issues and even perhaps serves as pretext for extraordinary executive powers.

Trump made a lot of promises to the “forgotten men and women” he invoked over and over, and those forgotten persons, whether “poorly educated” or not, are likely to take Trump’s promises seriously and literally.  Trump may (as he did in the Carrier case) act surprised, and even actually be surprised, at such literalness.  That is likely to be one of his biggest weak spots.  His “truthful hyperbole” is not likely to wear well among those who voted for him if he goes along with Speaker Ryan’s agenda of shredding the safety net.

Protests against Trump and Trumpism are least effective when they implicate Trump voters as fools or worse.  That way leads toward a nightmare of mutual treachery (as in Stalin’s 1937 purges–no, we are not there yet, neither is Russia today, but…).  Any vote for a president is an educated guess about the future, and we would not have elected either Trump or Obama if Americans were not prepared, maybe too prepared, to take a flying leap into the unknown.  Thinking that our Constitution and our “system” will save us from bad consequences may or may not turn out very well this time, and hope isn’t enough of a plan and never was.  In any case, best to keep some powder dry for the day, coming soon, when Trump gores the ox of actual regular Americans (some but not all of whom will be black or Muslim or Mexican or gay).  Trump will provide spectacle and circus; if he provides enough bread and does not use his presidential power to sow hate, that would be wonderful.  But more likely, there will be ample opportunity and need for protest and assembly and nonviolent resistance before long.  As talented as Trump is as exploiting our biases (see Michael Lewis’s Undoing Project and the work of Kahneman and Tversky; also Robert Cialdini’s Pre-suasion) he did not succeed in gaslighting all of us or even a majority of us.  Staying woke in 2017 will be a challenge–but it’s always a challenge.  Fake news is not new–Thucydides wrote in his History of the Peleponnesian War (Book 1: 20) that “most people expend very little effort on the search for truth and prefer to rely on ready-made answers.”  Resisting Trumpism will require punchy, compelling, clever storytelling as well as tenacious focus on the real-world harms his regime is imposing on real people, including but not limited to us.

Gotta Admire The Guy Sitting In The Middle Of The Swamp On His Gold-Plated Toilet

Who among us does not aspire to sit on a gold-encrusted toilette, surveying the swamp that one has just filled with…but let me not descend into unseemly details.  Details about exactly how the next bubble will be inflated.  The right wing has whined and quibbled and moaned about the supposed monetary manipulations that have kept asset prices bubbling these last few years.  Will they object to the humongous deficit-spiking stimulus on tap in 2017?  Insufflate me?  No, insufflate you!

David Runciman addresses the hypocrisy to come: “the heart of {Silicon Valley investor Peter} Thiel’s case for Trump is that the generation of Americans represented by the Clintons–the baby-boomers–had inflated one bubble after another in their desperate desire to avoid facing hard truths and continue their own soft existence.  There hadn’t just been equity bubbles and housing bubbles: there were humanitarian bubbles and political correctness bubbles–anything to keep the wolf of how-things-really-are from the door.  Yet the idea that Trump, who…has been as cosseted as anyone, offers something different is laughable.  The Trump bubble is likely to be the biggest of all” (London Review of Books, 1 Dec. 2016).

If the Trump bubble bursts soon, he might be able to blame Obama, but I think it’s more likely that we will see an ugly spectacle of blame and retribution, especially if another financial crisis is accompanied by millions getting shut out of health care by insurance market chaos caused by the uncertainty of “repeal and delay.”  (And watch out too for when the “Putin Hearts Trump” bubble bursts.)  Remember when Republicans beat Obama over the head over the business “uncertainty” he supposedly caused?  Isn’t the new Trump uncertainty exhilirating?  Maybe not, if you were discounting some of what Trump said as innocuous boasting or joking, particularly if it was directed at others, but took him very literally when he promised something that would benefit you.  

How to play (or just survive) the Trump bubble?  That’s a question to take seriously and literally.

Is Trump Drilling The Swamp Because He Was Hypnotized By The KGB?

It could just be accidental, all this drilling of the swamp.  Maybe it’s not the result of KGB hypnosis administered years ago, maybe decades ago.  Right–and Rick Perry might possibly remember the name of the federal department he is nominated to lead.  As Jennifer Rubin points out in her Right Turn column in the Washington Post, if Trump had in fact been turned by Russian intelligence, what would he be doing differently than he is in fact doing?

Of Course I Love The Beautiful Tenth Amendment

There’s a headline in today’s National Review Online: “Trump: An Opportunity For Federalism,” and let me say, have I ever “mocked anyone who invokes the Tenth Amendment”?  Of course not.  Have I ever even thought to myself that “any discussion of federalism [was] code for Jim Crow or even slavery”?  Hmm, maybe, possibly, I may have thought that.  But no matter.  Have I mentioned lately how the Tenth Amendment is a great amendment?  It is the last but not least of the first beautiful ten amendments otherwise known as the Bill of Rights.  We are going to need every single one of those ten amendments real quick.  Subsidiarity, great Catholic and catholic principle.  It doesn’t just apply, as National Review author points out mockingly, just to “stinky cheeses, raw milk, microbrews, and weed.”  He is right.  Let a hundred flowers of progressive federalism bloom, along with the reactionary Keynesianism I expect from the new administration.

Swampy Drainy Thing Not Going Well

Don’t give up already, before you have even inaugurated, you lazy wuss of a Trump! Some people took your promises seriously AND literally. Probably because we are too poorly educated to tell what’s a “euphemism.” You have plenty of power if you just pick your battles with a tiny bit of intelligence, Mr. Big. Don’t tell us “the whole place is one big lobbyist.” Sorry, but you said you “alone can fix it.” You said you are our voice. And be real sure you keep your little government hands off of my Trumpcare.

Donald (The Chairman) Trump Swims In Potomac; Sarah Palin Sent To Re-Education Camp

Thinking that normalizing Trump will work just by pretending he’s getting more sensible? That swim Trump is said to have taken in the Potomac today might give you pause. Remember Mao’s swim in the Yangtze exactly 50 years ago? That ended well, didn’t it? Expect Steve “Lin Piao” Bannon to keep applauding from the wings, and don’t worry too much about Sarah Palin being sent to a detention camp near Yucca Mountain. Free speech wasn’t meant for incorrigibly ignorant crazies like her, as you know.

Snowflake-Elect Trump Demands Politically Correct Apologetics. Here Goes.

Dear Mr. Snowflake-In-Chief-Elect Trump:

The cast of “Hamilton” broke the fourth wall last night in the presence of Vice President-elect Pence. You demand an apology. Let’s recap what Aaron Burr/Brandon Dixon said: “We have a message for you, sir…We are the diverse America…alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not…uphold our inalienable rights. But we truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.” Before reading his statement, Dixon asked the audience to stop booing Pence: “there’s nothing to boo, ladies and gentlemen. We’re all here sharing stories of love.”

You say “the Theater must always be a safe and special place.” How, my poor snowflake-elect, are you going to get through your term as president of 320-plus Americans?  Mr. Dixon, on behalf of the cast, said to Mr. Pence “we are scared of you (based in part, Dixon might have said, on your history of active hostility toward LGBTQ Americans) but we hope you do right in your new position representing the whole country. How you, Trump, can say that Mr. Dixon, by owning his own alarm and anxiety, is guilty of harassing Pence is beyond me. You might try something that your detractors are supposed to be unable to do in response to you: that is, take Mr. Dixon “seriously but not literally.”  Doing so might give you some good ideas about making the USA an even more safe and special place than it is right now.

So far you, soon-to-be Snowflake-in-Chief, have communicated some signals of generosity and some of score-settling. My advice is to take the high road whenever you can, or you will consume yourself–which would be just your problem if you were not about to become president of the whole United States.

Trump Will Cut Taxes For Forgotten Men And Women At Midtown Manhattan Cracker Barrel

It’s on video. Last night President-elect Trump told astonished diners “we’ll get your taxes down.” He had ditched reporters, so the video is from somebody’s cellphone at the midtown Manhattan Cracker Barrel–oops, very sorry, it seems to have been the 21 Club. Sorry about that, forgotten men and women.

Snowflake-In-Chief Donald J. Trump

You say you woulda coulda won the popular vote and bigly?  Maybe you will–next time.  The campaign is over, dude, and you have a lot of actual work to do if you really want to drain the swamp.

And taking the easy way out of keeping the two most popular parts of Obamacare and skipping away from the unpopular mandates and penalties–that’s a real snowflake move that will make the whole system crash.  Reality bites.

Trump Announces Refilling Of Swamp/Someday My Prince Will Come But It Ain’t Trump

Trump on 60 Minutes:

“Lobbyists, lobbyists and special interests…I don’t like it, no”

And yet:
“That’s the only people you have down there”
“Everybody’s a lobbyist down there”
“Everything down there…I mean, the whole place is one big lobbyist”
“I’m saying that they know the system right now, but we’re going to phase that out”

Also, having your children run your businesses is not in any way a blind trust.  And requesting top secret clearances for them right now?  While they run his businesses?

Someday my prince will come, but it doesn’t look like Trump is it.

Obama Sees Some Things And Says Some Things

The President, still Barack Obama, was diplomatic in his news conference today, but he has seen some things about the incoming president, and he said some things to warn Trump and to give heart to steadfast progressives. Obama did not say, “I used to be a rock star celebrity newbie President and now you people just elected the same old same old thing.”  He did not predict that Trump is fated to act like a narcissistic rock star celebrity president who flies off the handle. Instead he let Trump and the rest of us know that millions of real American citizens are going to be hurt unless Trump thinks long and hard and reconsiders much of his stated agenda.

Democrats Should Extend At Least The Same Courtesies To Trump That Mitch McConnell Gave Obama

And I am trying to remember just what Senator McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, said about President-elect Barack Obama in January 2009. Some words about making sure he would be a “one-term president,” among other words, if I recollect.

So the Senate Democrats should be at least as courteous to President Trump. Concerned that Senate Republicans will abolish the filibuster altogether? If McConnell turns the Senate into the House, and no cooling of the saucer remains, that will be on him. Trump and McConnell and Ryan own the economy along with all three branches of government. Constructive cooperation where it benefits the whole country is one thing; acquiescence, however, is not the answer, especially with the Supreme Court. Trump said women in some states will just have to drive to another state if they want an abortion.

Some have asserted that Trump in his campaign avoided insulting American citizens unless they stepped into the arena and opposed him. That’s very dubious, but be that as it may, now Trump has announced, on 60 Minutes, that he is right and millions of women are wrong–that is, women who decide to seek an abortion, depending on where they live, must go in many cases hundreds of miles out of their way. Hundreds of thousands if not millions of those women were definitely not in the arena and many of them voted for Donald Trump. It could be that some will say “Father Trump knows best” and vote for him again anyway in 2020. But if Democrats won’t filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court pick (or try to, and let McConnell be the one to go nuclear if he wants) what would they resist?

How’s That Swampy Drainy Thing Workin’ Out For Ya, Trump?

It is early days in Donald J. Trump’s new swamp-draining reality adventure. Let’s chill just a little bit and give him enough running room–I mean rope–and see what happens. I think the best protesting is likely to happen if and when Trump starts pissing people off. And in fairness to Trump or any president (missing you already, Obama, despite your mandarin tendencies) there are not too many easy win-win decisions that a president gets to make. If Trump increases the swamp gas fumes by hiring the oiliest of the lobbyist crowd, and shafts the “forgotten men and women,” the disgruntled “Carrier voters” of the rust belt who put him over the top, then the opportunity for successful protest will ripen. If Trump follows Paul Ryan’s lead and proposes privatizing Medicare and cutting off Trumpcare health exchange subsidies, solidarity against Republicans will be a much easier lift than if people disrupt highway traffic now and piss off ordinary people. Trump and the Republicans are about to take control of all three branches, and they will own the economy. They will either own the Affordable Care Act, or try to displace and dismember it. The hard choices are theirs, let them stew over it.

Nigel And Kellyanne Work The Refs; Merkel Flips The Script Big League On National Stereotypes

Nigel Farage says it’s up to British politicians to “mend fences” and Kellyanne Conway says Obama and Clinton are obliged to talk protesters down. Don’t be gaslit: they are just working the refs. Obama and Clinton already acknowledge Trump as a legitimately elected president, while Trump all but promised disruption if he had lost.  And Trump has said plenty about what he feels are the shortcomings of political leaders in Europe and elsewhere. Those leaders are now obliged, on behalf of their citizens, to deal with Trump. But Angela Merkel and Nicola Sturgeon, among others, felt the need to lay down markers. It was stunning to read this from Chancellor Merkel: “Germany and America are bound by common values–democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of each and every person, regardless of their origin, skin color, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. It is based on these values that I wish to offer close cooperation, both with me personally and between our countries’ governments.” That is flipping the script big league on national stereotypes.

I say Trump should be watched very closely, given the chance to pivot away from his own nastiness, and encouraged to make choices on behalf of everyone he represents–which, for better or worse, is all Americans. We the people always need to be vigilant toward our political representatives. With Trump, just as with a young person, we need especially to be firm, fair, and consistent.  Melania knows as well as anyone that we are likely to hear quite a bit of “boy talk”; keeping a watchful grownup eye on our Elagabulus-like boy-emperor is shaping up to be a challenge

Eager-To-Please Warlord Trump Abolishes Limited Liability Laws

How long will President-elect Donald J. Trump last before he breaks down and admits he was all about the hunt and the chase, but that actually becoming the president is his worst nightmare? Some advice to Mr. Trump: announce that on day one, before you even eat your inaugural lunch, your first executive order will, in honor of  risk-loving entrepreneurial capitalists everywhere, nullify all of our limited liability laws. All these anti-competitive, soul-killing limited liability regulations do anyway is protect weak, corrupt corporations from the forgotten men and women they rip off day in and day out. The forgotten men and women sure don’t have much “limited liability” any more, do they?

And then watch and see how long this new president lasts.