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.