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?