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.

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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.

Get Your Government Hands Off My Trumpcare

Forgotten men and women all over the United States signed up for Affordable Care Act plans yesterday, the day after the transition to Trump began. HHS Secretary Burwell tweeted that it was over 100,000 people. This sounds more than a little like the flood of people buying their third or sixth or seventh firearm after President Obama was elected. If Obama was the greatest gun salesman ever, maybe Donald Trump will make America’s health care enrollment even greater than it is now. If a whole lot of folks who were back in the cut, avoiding buying health insurance, make it into the daylight and sign up, that’s a victory for all of us.  It could be that even, or especially, some Trump voters are suspicious enough to figure they better sign up right quick before that African Muslim usurper Obama rides off.  In any case, Trump owns American healthcare now.  And McConnell too–though that wily turtle will try to stay in the shadows if repeal of the individual mandate leads to collapse of the health exchanges.

Retirement Advisory: Forgotten Men And Women Forgotten Already By Trump?

CNBC, the Financial Times, and the Wall St. Journal all report President Trump may scrap the retirement advisory rule set to go into effect next April. Trump may hate rules and regulations, and his “forgotten men and women” may be ecstatic and delirious right now, but if they have retirement accounts, getting rid of a regulation that protects savers by imposing a fiduciary duty on people selling advice on 401K accounts is going to cause a boomerang effect. Whether Trump ever gets blamed for that, who knows. But governing is a whole new world for him. How much ammunition does he want to hand to Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Bernie Sanders?

Plenty Of The Truly “Forgotten Men And Women” Hope Trump Just Leaves Them Alone

If Donald Trump acts like a president of all the people, more power to him. If he acts like a vindictive tyrant, I only hope Americans cross divides, put country first, and resist.  His first public words as President-elect seemed nonthreatening and positive. I think he showed some self-awareness of his past by suggesting a while back that becoming president and succeeding was the only way he could make it into heaven. But he has also said, “I’m all about the hunt and the chase…then I lose interest.” If he is able to concentrate on American “forgotten men and women” in a much more inclusive sense (think FDR rather than William G. Sumner) than I expect, maybe he will make it to heaven. As Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said today, gotta give him his chance. That’s in spite of James Comey, Wikileaks, Russian interference, and Hillary’s lead in the national popular vote, bitter pills all.

P.S. Hat tip to Beverly Gage’s piece in the NYT, “Just Who Is the ‘Forgotten Man,'” in which she contrasts William Graham Sumner’s 1880s essay, “What the Social Classes Owe Each Other” (not much of anything) with FDR’s 1932 evocation of the “forgotten man” as “a reason to rebuild the economy from the bottom up.” Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Moore, and others have already put Trump on notice that their cooperation can be his if he truly wants to rebuild the U.S. economy on a more equitable basis than neoliberal technocrats and the big banks are expecting.

Why Was Alter Kocker Jeff Zucker Such A Trump Sucker?

Short answer: short-term amoral bottom-line mindset. Zucker was a Trump sucker this election, along with Les Moonves among others, because they did not put journalism first or even second.

If anything can be said in their defense, it’s that their sloth may have been an even bigger factor than their cynicism. Trump learned the rules of reality TV so well that he did almost all the work of framing for them.  The broadcast and cable shows hardly had to invest any resources in actual journalism. Giving Trump the amount of unfiltered air time they did was resistable, but only if media elites possessed more sense of civic obligation than they actually do.

I Used To Be Too Poor To Vote Republican; Now I Hope Loss Aversion Will Save Hillary

For a long while I used to feel I didn’t have enough money that voting Republican could possibly make any sense. Now, though not much wealthier or poorer, I feel I have just enough to lose that the very idea of voting Republican makes zero sense. Is that sensible? I sure hope that enough voters feel they have enough to lose that we can keep a choleric, petulant, hormonal man like Trump off Air Force One.

An economy with slow and unequal growth is not fun for people whose futures feel stagnant or precarious. Thus Trump has tried to make loss aversion work for him by claiming only he can set things right, “drain the swamp,” and restore the glory days. It’s no accident that Trump has tried to demoralize African-Americans by yelling at them that they have nothing to lose, implying at the same time to white voters that old hierarchies will be put back in place.

Despite the perhaps uncharismatic and uninspiring alternative to Trump, do we really feel safe taking what we have for granted? Do we really have so little to lose, are we so oblivious to risk, and so unable to value our own freedom that we would let ourselves be ruled by a guy who combines in himself the worst of Biff Tannen, Gordon Gekko,  Captain King Kong, and Stalin’s “useful idiot”?  Did I mention Alcibiades and Elagabulus?  Quite a ruler, that Elagabulus!  Think you have little to lose–search for Elagabulus and imagine President Donald E for Elagabulus Trump.  (Hat tip to Ross Cardinal Douthat of the NYT)

“Foul Precursor Of The Fiend” Coming Down The Pike Next? Or Passionate Progressive Pilgrim?

Some say Hillary Clinton is already our next President, though opinion is divided on whether she will have the authority to appoint Supreme Court justices.  Therefore many worriers have moved on to the ugly possibility that Trump’s ugliness was no aberration, just part of our glide path down to lower circles of uncivil purgatory. Could 2016 turn out to be our green and innocent salad days?  Could Donald Trump soon be judged as no more than “foul precursor of the fiend,” as Shakespeare put it in “The Phoenix and the Turtle”? And hello there Mitch McConnell–do you miss Jon Stewart’s imitations of you as a turtle yet?  Are you going to pretend you don’t even notice Supreme Court Justices die off one by one as you while away your turtle years as Senate Majority Leader?  And why are swing voters and even Democratic voters apparently not focused on the Supreme Court?  As the executive and legislative branches check each other, judges become the deciders and rulemakers more and more. If Hillary Clinton wins college-educated white voters for the first time in forever, how many of these voters fancy that they can split their tickets to preserve their high-mindedness without paying the costs of gridlock in the judicial branch?  And then what incentive will the Republican candidates next time around have to acknowledge that their party went off the rails in 2016?  Will we get a Republican nominee smoother than Trump (low bar I know) or Pence, more clever and disciplined, who will persuade voters with his (or maybe her) vision of freedom and liberty (a potentially winning theme almost ignored by both Trump and Clinton this year)?  Will President Hillary Clinton be wise enough to heed those latecomer supporters (Elizabeth Warren et al) who are not Clinton lifers but who can give Hillary cover if she is willing to go down the non-triangulation, outside-comfort-zone route of post-Occupy, post-Obergefell progressivism? Hillary’s Methodistic goal of doing “all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the ways we can,” to succeed, will require lots and lots on non-apologetic Apologetics.  As well as attention to the legitimate grievances (and maybe even some dubious ones) of the many millions of pro-Trump and never-Hillary citizens. And probably elimination of the filibuster for all judicial nominations.

P.S. When my (passionate pilgrim) Trump swears that he is made of truth, I do not believe him, because I have found that he lies.

Now’s The Time To Seize The Moral High Ground On Liberty And Freedom

Democrats have seized quite a lot of moral high ground this year. But they could set a higher bar for themselves in the home stretch. This year is an unusually opportune moment to seize back the high ground from Republicans on liberty and freedom. The GOP has owned this issue for too long, and this year’s Republican presidential nominee does not show any sign of caring a fig for freedom–on the contrary, “I alone can fix it.” So much for limited government and ordered liberty!

Khizr Khan’s speech at the Democratic convention this summer, for example, was all about ordered liberty, but the freedom theme got submerged (for both pro-Hillary and pro-Trump people) in the back-and-forth about whether or not he should or shouldn’t be immune from criticism because Mr. Khan and his wife are Gold Star parents. There is a strong case that Trump was a fool, politically, to attack the Khans, but the substance of Mr. Khan’s message in defense of constitutional freedoms could and should be lifted up more by Democrats.

Democrats could and should say more about freedom as equal opportunity, equal economic opportunity, as described by FDR in his “Second Bill of Rights” speech of 1944. The freedom to be left alone is part of freedom, but not all of it by any means. Most of us are not living on the open range, however powerful the fantasy may be. Most of us really do not want government to mess with our Social Security and Medicare benefits–which nobody has a right to look down on as “entitlements” when we spent decades paying in.  Allowing Paul Ryan or the so-called Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget to get away with entitlement-shaming is political malpractice, not to mention wrong.

This year is a golden opportunity to reframe and reimagine freedom in ways that actually reflect our experience now. Not sure how many undecided voters are really left (or needed) in this year’s presidential election, but seizing the high ground on freedom will have far-reaching, long-lasting positive effects. As FDR said, “necessitous men are not free.” Lifting up that theme is the royal road to reaching swing voters–and beyond.

President Obama: I Came As A Mandarin, I Leave As A Mandarin

In a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi today, President Obama replied to a question about Middle Eastern refugees in Europe by speaking of the “distorting effects” on European politics of the crisis. He came as a mandarin and he leaves as a mandarin. By that I mean that Obama’s mindset is to posit a normative non-messy world. As head man of the men of the sacred bone, Obama has interpreted his mandate as maintenance and restoration of propriety and order.  Not an easy job in the midst of so many unruly Americans.

Our next president may or may not share the mandarin/yangban mindset. Hillary Clinton’s actual starting point on foreign policy, as well as domestic policy, is still pretty much a black box to me. Maybe I am just not paying close enough attention, or maybe she is staying vague on purpose–and why not? She is non-Trump, in any case. Can anyone imagine Trump even thinking, let alone saying, what Obama said today? Trump speaking about the “distorting effects” of any messy situation anywhere in the world is impossible to conceive. If you think I am starting to make a pro-Trump argument here, well, no. Trump’s MO seems worse than that of Mayor Daley’s Chicago police; that is, Trump creates and preserves disorder.  We survived eight years of mandarin rule, and we will, I hope, make it through the next four or eight, with or without a mandarin ruler. The risk-averse choice, though, is clearly the youngest woman ever, not the oldest and crybaby-est man ever.

P.S. President Obama’s reported plan to focus on the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to overcome Republican gerrymandering sounds like a potentially worthy act of political penance.

“I’ll Take A Drug Test If You Take An IQ Test”

Senator Ernest “Fritz” Hollings, Democrat of South Carolina (another era!) said that in 1986 (hat tip politicalwire.com).

And why not? Trump has “been to the best schools” and is “extremely smart,” so to speak, I mean that’s what he says about himself, to the extent he is in possession of a self, but I digress.

Polling indicates that American voters appear prepared to pass the emotional intelligence test on November 8.

Trump Residences and Airplane Said To Be Redecorated In Drunk Tank Pink–But Will It Do Any Good?

Insiders say that Trump’s wife and children insisted on redecorating the Trumps’ penthouse apartment and the interior of Trump’s plane in Baker-Miller pink, colloquially known as “drunk tank pink.” But behavioral scientists and clinicians alike are nearly unanimous in despairing that this radical step will get Trump to settle down. #trumpneversleeps

Update: Reports that a lowland silverback gorilla escaped from a zoo today and was subsequently tranquilized are completely unrelated to US 2016 election coverage.

Hey Pence, Trump May Have Found Jesus, But I Still Believe He Would Be A Terrible Cyrus And An Awful Magistrate

Pence may be sincere but if so he is nowhere near the mark as far as Presidential fitness. I have never expected political leaders to be faultless or saintly. Plenty of saints were irascible and possibly a few were as colicky as Trump. I vote based on the shortest odds that a candidate will protect and serve the people. Trump is no way nohow a smart bet. He may or may not be infused with supernatural grace, or be born again, or become an observant Jew or Muslim. I wish him well on his pilgrimage.

Trump Announces His Spiritual Rebirth: “The Shackles Have Been Taken Off Me”; But His Sickness Unto Death Abides

Trump actually seems more shackled than ever to his own self. But what is Trump’s self? Is it, as Kierkegaard wrote in the first paragraph of Sickness Unto Death, “a relation that relates itself to itself”? If so, have the shackles really been “taken off” Trump? If Trump really is a self, that is “a synthesis of the finite and the infinite…of freedom and necessity,” must we not acknowledge that so understood, Trump does not yet appear to be a self.

At least not a self seemingly inclined in any way toward spiritual renewal or repentance or rebirth, though I should never say never about anyone, including Donald Trump. But if he believes that he has just now been “unshackled,” implying that his ego and superego have until now been firmly in charge of his id  and that his “apology” video was really just a hostage tape made against his free will, one has to wonder what worms are now going to come out of his mouth.

Think Hillary Probably Ought To Be In Prison? Here’s Why You Should Probably Vote For Her Anyway

Even if I believed that Hillary Clinton should be prosecuted for…whatever, I would still be inclined to vote for her. Here is why: I prefer to live in a democracy, though flawed, rather than a dictatorship. I would rather live in a country with limited government rather than personalized tyranny, which is what Trump promises us when he says “I am your voice…I alone will…restore law and order.”

It might well be, though I do not feel confident either way, that Hillary’s deletion of emails crossed into criminal behavior. It might very well be that Donald Trump has committed sexual assault and should be imprisoned for it.  That we have two very flawed candidates is unsettling and sometimes depressing. But only one candidate, Trump, has shown absolute disrespect for the bedrock of American democracy, which is peaceful transfer of power after elections. The last president who systematically corrupted the federal legal and surveillance apparatus was Richard Nixon, who was reelected in a landslide but two years later resigned in disgrace.  Nixon remains the only president ever to be forced out of office.  Trump is more frightening than Richard Nixon, which is saying something.  Nixon was brought down, and it looks as if Trump has disgusted enough voters that he will not get close to wielding executive power. It is disturbing, though, that if not for a video that revealed Trump’s casual abusiveness vividly enough to shake some undecideds, Trump might now have a 40 or 50 percent shot at the presidency. It may not be so viscerally disgusting as the “Days of Our Lives” video, but Trump’s threat to imprison his political opponent seems to me even more dangerous to our fragile experiment in representative democracy. As Ben Franklin said, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

Update 10/10: in a pitch aimed straight at moderate suburban undecided voters, Maine Governor Paul Le Page said this morning that this country needs a “slimeball” (his word, not mine) to wield “authoritarian power” (CNN, via WVOM radio)

Update #2: Glenn Beck called Hillary Clinton a “moral, ethical choice” for President.  One response: “ice cream now being served in hell.”

Beautiful Compromise! Hillary To Be President But Under Constant Video Surveillance!

You heard it here first–Hillary Clinton will serve as our 45th President, but will be constantly under surveillance. Sounds fair? Well, fair or not, that’s how it’s gonna be. If you have been feeling Fox News is too polite, too restrained, too cuckservative and RINO-ish, your wish will be granted: Ailes, Bannon, and Trump will be running the virtual reality show of your very most feverish dreams.

P.S. Also, there will be 51 Democratic votes in the Senate, and the filibuster will be gone, at least for Supreme Court nominees. Ruth Bader Ginsburg will retire next June and be replaced by a 15-year-old Wiccan priestess.

Trump May Skip Debate For Snout Crawl

Sources extremely close to Donald Trump indicate that he is lukewarm on debating tonight but red hot for snouts. As the afternoon wears on and Trump rides back and forth between Smoki O’s and Big Mama’s BBQ, it is becoming less and less likely that he will express humility and contrition tonight, or in fact bother to show up at all.

Update: Snoots, not snouts. I apologize. I promise to be a better person in the future, not the immature jackass I was a couple of weeks ago when I was still 59 years old.

Don’t Be Gaslit By That Fake Trump Apology Video

Obviously that Trump apology video put out last night is fake. He is so clearly a hostage. And so obviously subjected to repeated electric shocks. Don’t let yourself be a victim of gaslighting yet again.

Did I really even see Trump apologize? Is that even possible? Maybe he said “I apologized,” and since his previous “apology” was so insincere, maybe it’s all not really happening.

Mormons Dump Trump, “Christians” And Pagans Still Hesitating, Heathens Still All In

A bunch of Mormon Republicans freed themselves from captivity to Donald Trump yesterday. They may or may not be disgusted with Trump, but they showed no particular political courage, since Mormon voters were already lukewarm at best. So no disrespect intended to Mike Lee or Mitt Romney or Jason Chaffetz, but their disavowals are all in the way of business.

How about self-identified “Christian” politicians? John McCain said of Trump’s predatory video, “he alone will bear the consequences.” Probably wishful thinking, and certainly not a profile in courage from McCain. McConnell and Ryan are still struggling to send nuanced smoke signals, tut-tutting without actually lifting themselves out of their particular circle of purgatory. Come to think of it, the togas on McConnell and Ryan are becoming more visible. They have now made themselves into classic pagans, for whom repentance is a category mistake.

Finally, the heathens. In very late-breaking news, they seem to be wavering, possibly because Trump made the mistake of apologizing–though in Trump’s defense, the “apology” was followed immediately by deflections, projections, and threats. And the actual words “I…apologize” were uttered as Trump appeared to twitch, some say caused by electric shocks.

Update October 8 pm: Tic Tac piles on, denouncing Trump.

Update #2: To McCain’s credit, when he finally withdrew his endorsement of Trump Saturday afternoon (10/8), he did mention Trump’s “outrageous statements about the innocent men in the Central Park Five”–which few if any other Republican officeholders bothered to mention as they sought to escape Trump’s toxic effect on the votes of (mainly) white married women.

So, 50-64 Year Olds, You Like A Big Side Order Of Anarchy With Your Tyranny?

Today’s Quinnipiac national poll shows Clinton way ahead with 18-34 and 35-49 cohorts; even with Trump among 65+ voters, but Trump ahead by 5 with 50-64 year olds.

Please accept my apology, millennials–just keep eating your fruits and vegetables and thinking what you’re thinking.  And good morning,  my fellow 50-64 year olds! What kind of boneheads are we?  Of course in a better world we would have better choices this year. But grow up! Trump showed that he was a clear and present danger the minute he disrespected John McCain last year. Yeah, four years of Hillary on our TVs or VR headsets or whatever may not be inspiring, but how are we going to explain the damage Trump does to our grandchildren and our assisted-living neighbors? Do you think Trump will improve your retirement account? Really? You think a jackass reality-TV guy with zero attention span is going to reassure investors around the world that the U.S. dollar is a safe haven reserve currency? You think Trump is going to get rid of the estate tax when he needs your tax dollars to buy more gold-plated toilets in the White House?  And get real, you are not going to win the Powerball and have to pay estate tax, anyway.  Try betting the short odds for a change!  Do you realize the downside of living in a giant banana republic with thousands of nuclear warheads a fingersnap away from psychologically damaged goods like Trump?

Ammon Bundy, who probably has a bright political future after he gets out of federal prison, finished testifying yesterday in Oregon. He said at one point that “the only thing worse than tyranny is anarchy. We want to be in the middle.” And that’s where we would be with President Trump: a big side order of anarchy to go along with the main course of tyranny.

Update: Since this post, Danielle Allen published a piece in the Washington Post on Trump as a classic tyrannical soul.

Trump Is Not A Ragged Dick, Even If He Pretends To Be One On TV

Ragged Dick, the literary creation of Horatio Alger, “was not a model boy in all respects.” But he did try hard to become ‘spectable, which is more than we can say for Donald Trump. Trump’s “street life in New York” seems to have included losing over nine hundred million dollars in one year. Trump plays at being a blue-collar billionaire, but he might well have been better off if he had taken the loans and inheritance from his father and parked the money in a basic index fund.  What the heck would Ragged Dick make of Donald?

2016 Voter Information Manual: Logic Section

Hello voters!

There are four presidential candidates this year.

Voting for Hillary Clinton is necessary. Of course is not necessarily sufficient. But we can start discussing “sufficient” right after November 8, and we should keep on talking about what is sufficient for at least the next four years, and organizing and protesting and voting in midterm elections to get it.

Regression To The Trump Resumes

Give up, Megyn Kelly! Forget about it, false-equivalence fetishists!  Trump is gonna regress to his very own mean, no matter how many times you tell him to stop talking smack about women and stay within the bounds of normal political behavior. This morning, between 5:14 and 5:30, Trump seems to have found his own bottom–and then topped himself, as it were, by complaining that “some people say…many people say” is unfair and wrong! Ya don’t say.

So much so that “regression to the Trump” could become a new scientific term, sorta kinda like “regression to the mean” but sloppier and meaner.

“Gary Johnson’s White House Bid Suffers Setback”? Au Contraire, Financial Times

I used to think that reading the Financial Times would help me “seek alpha,” and become even more hugely, fabulously rich. No more. Their headline today evinces (a favorite word of theirs) not a whit of comprehension of their American cousins’ presidential contest. Gary Johnson’s voters are asserting their moral supremacy over and against the system that has emitted Hillary Clinton and disgorged Donald Trump. Whether Gary Johnson thinks Obi-Wan Kenobi is his favorite foreign leader (as The New Yorker sniffed–BTW their sniff is unlike TrumpSniff) or not is of no consequence whatever. The Mexican army could invade New Mexico–with the help of drones made in China, of course–and neither Gary Johnson nor many of his voters would even notice, stoned to the gills as ever.

Millennials and burned-out boomers who are looking to Johnson and vaccine-denier-Stein may be disheartened by what they perceive as the low bar in our politics, but they may as well acknowledge that voting defensively for a lesser-evil candidate is the best and only real option this time. Maybe next time will be more fabulous? In the meantime, don’t forget to learn about and vote for down-ballot candidates so that next time may actually become more fabulous.

Mexican Peso Has Stamina And Excellent Temperament Today

Whyever did the Mexican peso go up during and after last night’s Clinton-Trump debate? Trump sniffled but the peso was robust and happy. As the Wall Street Journal reported this morning, “Peso’s With Her.”

We are all the Mexican peso today! (“We are all Keynesians” is so 1970s) The Mexican peso has stamina and an excellent temperament, it seems.

P.S. Mexican coke may no longer be hip, though, now that can be associated with Trump Sniff.

Staying Woke This November Means Holding Your Damned Nose, Not Setting Your Own Rump On Fire

Some election seasons, staying woke does not include utopian dreams. This is one of those years.

Staying woke sometimes means playing defense and voting against a nightmare candidate. Staying woke sometimes means voting for the lesser (this year, much lesser) evil. And then following up to make the best of the situation next winter and spring. It sometimes means not being hypnotized by the mainstream media’s hardcore addiction to false equivalence that is designed to narcotize you.

Charles Blow laid it all out in his op-ed on “The Folly of the Protest Vote” today. In sum–don’t mix up casting a ballot with endorsing a candidate’s shortcomings. Don’t pretend somebody other than Clinton or Trump will be President next year. Don’t forget that federal courts are “where police tactics are challenged and where precedent is set.” Don’t march for Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin or Sandra Bland or Tamir Rice and yet do nothing to keep Trump from picking the next attorney general. Don’t let the man who attacked the Flint pastor who interrupted him pick the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

For young people this year, a protest vote does not make you a better person than any of the impure candidates. It just makes you somebody who just set his or her own rump on fire.

Political Herd Immunity For Millennials

Yet another worry lately for folks sickened by Trump and either pro-Hillary or hold-nose-and-vote Hillary is the possibility that millennials will insult the legacy of Barack Obama and vote for Johnson or Stein. The upside of this is asserting one’s moral purity. The downside is President Trump. Rallying behind the Libertarians or the Greens gives the feeling of political herd immunity–but not the reality. The real vaccine is to take your castor oil and vote for the least destructive option. Too young to vote for the lesser evil, you say? You need to be inspired, you say? Breaking news courtesy of President Obama: don’t boo, vote! Hillary, trust me, will subsidize your adult coloring books next year.

The Best Way To Hold Your Nose On Election Day

The best way to hold your nose on Election Day, November 8–or earlier, if you vote early–is the usual, everyday method: just hold your nose and vote.

The worst way to hold your nose this election season is like the kid locked in the outhouse in Slumdog Millionaire did it, but much worse: you hold your nose, then you jump into a giant toxic waste dump of radioactive slime, and you vote for Donald J. Trump.  No doubt, Hillary shouldn’t have used fancy Latin words like “deplorable” to talk about Trump or his supporters. Plenty of Trump supporters have very real frustrations. And “deplorable” barely begins to express how sickening Trump himself is.

“Undecided” Suburban Whites Cry Tears Of Joy That Trump Is Officially No Longer Racist “Birther”…oops, oops, there he goes again!

Purportedly undecided suburban white registered voters were able to cry unashamed tears of joy for a brief while today that they could now officially vote for an officially nonracist Trump, after Trump officially ended all race-based doubts about President Barack Obama’s birthplace by making it crystal clear that Obama was in fact a natural-born American citizen. Trump’s false claim that Hillary started it and that “I know you are but what am I?” do not count as racist lies for the simple reason that Hillary Clinton is a white woman. Trump’s boastful claim that he, High Sheriff Donald J. Trump, “ended it” is also not a racist lie because we are all obligated to move on now to making America strong and great again. Any quibblers? … oopsie, hold up, he seems to have lost his teleprompter script again… A retired “birther” lieutenant general introducing him (wink) today?  And now Hillary was the founder of birtherism?  Really?  And, again, her Secret Service detail should let her and themselves get shot at?

Suicide By Politician?

Hat tip to Gaye Brown of Portland, Maine (NYT letter today) for the title. Yes, Hillary Clinton has real and serious flaws–but we voters often have to choose the lesser evil, just as we do in daily decisionmaking. Nothing to complain about.

But just in case we do, heaven forbid, commit national suicide by politician, here’s my investment tip: go long on the Russian ruble and your November 9 may well be a little less deplorable. See today’s Newsweek story by Kurt Eichenwald on Trump’s foreign business entanglements. How many millions does Trump personally owe Putin? Who knows?

Crippled Brain-Damaged Habitual Liar–Or Hillary. Take Your Pick!

If I told you I had “instructed my long-time doctor to issue, within two weeks, a full medical report–it will show perfection,” you might take me for a brain-damaged habitual liar. But I was quoting, of course, from a December 3, 2015 Trump tweet. Do you know any 70-year-old taco-bowl-loving men who exhibit “perfection”?

And David Axelrod is surely right to wonder that while “antibiotics can take care of (bacterial) pneumonia, what’s the cure for an unhealthy penchant for privacy that repeatedly creates unnecessary problems?”

We’ll soon see in the debates who seems most fit to be president. Iff Hillary (or her body double!) manages to be more cautious and sensible than Trump yet less overcautious than her usual public self, she’ll be good to go.

We Stop Building The Airplane Runways Now. The Trump Plane Is Not Bringing Cargo Ever

August is nearly over. It is getting colder already. And it is time to give up my dream that a new heaven and new earth (H/T Kenelm Burridge) is coming soon, that big man Donald J. Trump will land his airplane in our midst and bring us a new era of traditional morality and commodity fetishism.  Which would really be some trick, honestly.  Some say I should be grateful I do not live in a swing state, but I am not consoled.  He landed his plane in Texas, and even Mississippi.  Why there and there, and not here?  Is Texas a swing state since I checked last?  Still, the plane is not coming.

Is Trump’s Failure To Pivot Caused By Brain Damage?

Or, is the mainstream media, to the extent it still exists, failing to realize that their beloved trope of “general election pivot” is completely beside the point this year?

By the way, is Putin secretly enjoying Trump’s pivot from “deep state” to very shallow state?

Could  Trump be pivoting away from the center, toward the “alt-right,” because he wants to throw the election and start a new chapter as frontman of Trump Pravda News Network?

Without a doubt, there is no new Trump. No Manchurian Trump, no Siberian Trump. Trump isn’t pivoting toward fascism or away from fascism. If he resembles Il Duce or the Generalissimo or Trudeau’s cartoon version of himself, it is because he remains self-same Trump. And if Hillary isn’t calling him out for flip-flopping, there’s a reason for that too.

If Trump does manage to pivot, backwards and in high heels and all, he is a nimbler man than I realize.

Did Trump Really Need To Self-Deport Today?

Some say–Senator Harry Reid, for example–that Donald Trump, before he does any “extreme, extreme vetting” of other people, ought to take a naturalization test his own self. But Trump, believe me, just trust me, has as usual gone beyond the norm and flat-out self-deported. Some, actually many, thought he wanted to lose, just secretly. But few (because we are mostly losers) predicted that Trump would scram completely out of the country in the middle of summertime and into the frozen zone (per Vladimir Putin) of Transtrumpistan. Have a very, very nice, very long vacation, Mister.

Trump Colors Inside The Lines

OK maybe that was sarcasm; or not, trust me.

Many say Trump made a fool of mainstream media this week by getting them to take seriously his “sarcastic” remarks about Second Amendment “people” assassinating Hillary Clinton or her judicial appointees, as well as his “sarcastic” accusation that President Obama “founded” ISIS. Maybe he did make a fool of some “senior correspondents.” But I am not voting for best media personality, nor for Jackass-in-Chief. I like to believe I am still voting for a president of the United States. Not for somebody who controls the nukes, drones, soldiers, ships, and fighter jets–and who just hasn’t shown he can color inside any lines for more than a few minutes at a stretch. I certainly don’t have time or energy for four years of worry about his issues. Hillary has issues but I hope to be able to ignore them most of the time.

Radical Stochastic Terrorism

“Using language and other forms of communication ‘to incite random actors to carry out violent or terrorist acts that are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.” That is “stochastic terrorism” (see David S. Cohen at RollingStone.com yesterday) and it is not just Trump doing it. ISIS and Al Qaeda got there before Trump, and the Israeli right wing before that (with vicious verbal slurs that inspired Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin).   Many reasonable people have said Fox News makes a specialty of more or less deniable stochastic terroristic rhetoric.  American politics ain’t beanbag, and plausibly deniable racist dog whistles are nothing new, but Trump’s race to and beneath the bottom is startling and truly unsettling.  There is little plausibility to denying that Trump is responsible for what people hear him saying, as former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said yesterday.

Speaking of the “deep state,” I think it is a positive development that so many of its mandarins, unlike the older couple behind Trump at the Wilmington rally, are not at all amused by his thinly veiled threats.  The deep state may be helpful in a pinch, heaven forbid.   More decisively, the voting public in swing states seems up to the challenge of holding its collective nose and voting defensively. If voters act in a truly conservative way, Trump is political toast and will only utterly delegitimize himself when he refuses to concede defeat.

I Am Totally Ready For A White Male President–Just Not That One

And furthermore, forget about Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. The embers of his hash pipe are still warm, I hear. And his VP Bill Weld has the party animal spirit, but please.

Otherwise, what are my choices if I am pining for a white male president? Right, so I’ll check back in with my fellow mortified white males in four years, or eight, depending on who’s available–aren’t there fifty million or more eligible fellows?

Defiant Comeback For Horrific Political Correctness?

Wondering if just maybe political correctness isn’t so horrific after all we’ve seen so far in 2016.  Do we have Trump to thank for opening our eyes to the feeling that there are worse things in the world than being “PC”? Could it even be that sometimes political correctness is just another way of saying “politeness”?

“If the alternative to political correctness is Trumpism, then most people of good will are likely to pick the former,” writes Ilya Somin in the Washington Post (Volokh Conspiracy blog). Somin equates the “zero-sum identity politics” of the “PC far left” with Trump’s “zero-sum identity politics for whites.” I agree with Somin and other rightist libertarians to the extent that some universities have failed in their mission and opened themselves to ridicule by favoring “safe spaces” over free speech rights. Nevertheless, the spectacle of Trump with nuclear codes is a far clearer and more present danger.

American culture has its strengths, but decorum, civility, and politeness are not always among them. Even so, we do not have to race all the way to the bottom this November.

Paul Ryan: “Putin Is A Devious Thug”–Yes, We Knew That Already, But How About Trump?

Trump is a big strong man who is also begging Vladimir Putin to help him beat Hillary Clinton. Republicans from Mike Pence to Speaker Paul Ryan have responded to Trump’s remarks today by condemning Putin. We know plenty about Putin already. Could you brave defenders of freedom show some courage and say Trump’s words amount to treason? If Hillary Clinton asked for political help from Russian military intelligence, how long would it take for Republicans to call for her imprisonment–oh, they did that already, eh?

How Strong Can Trump Be If He Needs Putin’s Help To Beat Hillary?

Not strong at all. I thought it was a sign of weakness and derangement when Trump disrespected John McCain for becoming a war prisoner. I expected stronger pushback from actual conservative Republicans running against him over Trump’s ignorance of the Constitution and complete lack of interest in liberty or freedom or limited government. That was then. Now Trump has gone full “Siberian candidate,” (hat tip Paul Krugman) and Hillary Clinton is the only obstacle left to a Trump presidency. There are no Republican elites with enough national constituency or credibility to oppose Trump. That leaves the donor class and the owners of Fox, CNN, CBS, NBC, ABC, the AP and NYT to get over their bothsiderism and show some news judgment about where the threat to democracy lies.

Will Mitch McConnell Write The Foreword To The 2017 Reissue Of Franz Von Papen’s Memoirs?

Senator Mitch McConnell does seem to be channelling the chancellor of Germany circa 1932, Franz von Papen. Von Papen was confident that Hitler could be contained and manipulated. Hindenburg and von Papen gave Hitler’s Nazi party control over only three ministries, so how much could go wrong? McConnell has looked down his nose at Trump, and fidgeted a bit over a few of the more openly bigoted outbursts and retweets, but has spent more effort excusing and minimizing.  Fritz Stern, who lived through “Five Germanies,” condemned von Papen as “the frivolous gravedigger of what was left of German democracy” in the early 1930s.  Does McConnell want to be judged as a 21st-century American von Papen?

McConnell made light a couple of days ago of Trump’s remarks to the NYT undercutting NATO.  A “rookie mistake,” said the senator, who went on to say that Trump was not unfit to be commander-in-chief because his implicit invitation to Putin to expand Russia’s hybrid warfare into NATO territory would be contrary to the views of “anybody he might make secretary of state or secretary of defense” (source: Greg Sargent, Washington Post Plum Line, July 21). Sargent comments: “We’ve reached a new level of absurdity. Now we are basically being told that the check against the threat Trump poses will come from his own cabinet officials.” Richard J. Evans wrote in The Coming of the Third Reich that “the complacent belief of Franz von Papen and his friends that they had Hitler where they wanted him did not last long” (p. 316). I wonder if Mitch McConnell is as complacent as von Papen? Maybe not, but he is so far nowhere near dropping Trump “like a hot rock,” as he is reported to have promised his Republican Senate colleagues earlier this year. If and when McConnell does take a look at Franz von Papen’s Memoirs, I hope that he can do so without the impediment of a President Trump whose Minister of Propaganda has “opened up the libel laws.”

Transylvania Vants “Valiant” Trump

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gave lots of love to “valiant” Donald Trump today in Transylvania, and why not? I am not saying that Donald Trump was actually in Transylvania himself yesterday, nor that Trump sustains himself as an undead vampire. Not at all. Even if the National Enquirer flipped positions and published a story that Trump kept himself alive in an unnatural way, I would want to fact check that before believing it.  If you prefer reliable sources, see the Financial Times for details.

Why I Am Not Going To Worry About Totalitarianism For The Next Few Days

Yes it is OK to take a break from totalitarianism-angst. It will still be there on Friday. Polling has been quite stable. Hillary still doesn’t have a compelling theme but I am not waiting to exhale about it. Reminder to self: reading Hannah Arendt or Plato’s Republic or a biography of Mussolini or Richard J. Evans on The Third Reich in Memory and History does not count as a break from worrying.

Will Our Next President Be Capable Of “Masterly Inactivity”?

Even the birthers are likely to miss Barack Obama by this time next year, in part because we are unlikely to have a president capable of masterly inactivity. Obama’s motto, “don’t do stupid s–t” is a vulgar way of expressing the modus operandi. Masterly inactivity can certainly be overrated and fetishized (as J. Peter Scoblic points out in a recent Washington Post opinion piece on Trump’s incapacity for inaction).  Examples of this include Obama’s Syria flipflops, and perhaps Abraham Lincoln’s almost complete silence for months in 1860 and early 1861, wishing to keep his options open and not to inflame tensions–see Harold Holzer’s “The Sound of Lincoln’s Silence,” NYT Disunion blog, 11/23/2010, and his 2010 book Lincoln: President-Elect, which explores in depth the pros and cons of Lincoln’s refusal to “open his mouth, save only to eat,”  as one of his political allies put it.  But there is some real danger, I believe, that a President Hillary Clinton will feel compelled to prove her toughness in ways that won’t serve the nation well. The much greater danger is that we could easily, out of a misplaced faith in his “law and order” rhetoric, elect Trump, who seems utterly incapable of inaction, even when it’s most called for. “Watchful waiting” is a critically important capability of 21st-century presidents, and it is about the last thing that I associate with “Trump.”  Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy in the mid-20th century were capable of watchful waiting.  I hope our next president will study their example.

Political Barbarism Watch: Hopeless But Not Serious

That old Russian saying that the situation is “hopeless but not serious” appeals to me in the midst of Trump’s bumbling rollout of his most important pre-election decision, picking a running mate. I’m glad that he refuses to be, or can’t stand to be, normal and boring the way he promised he would. That makes it clearer that we the people would be quite a bit nuts to elect him. He shows most every day that he is a barbarian at the gate, not the one to protect us against the other barbarians. He’s right about this, though–we voters do have to be smart and tough–which to me means we have to hold our noses if need be and make the binary choice that is (too much some days) right in front of our faces. Trump is not the answer to the Goths and the Vandals, he is the rude barbarian. He doesn’t say much at all about freedom or liberty for a reason: he has little if any feeling for their value.  To speak his ancestral tongue,  Herrschaft means a lot more to Trump than freiheit.  I say things are hopeless but not serious because even though this summer’s drumbeat of ugly news is demoralizing, I do not believe we are going to fling ourselves over a cliff by electing a man who understands less about what makes our country great than any presidential candidate I have ever seen.

Did Defiant Notorious RBG Start New Twitter Feed “Nolo Cholo Trump” Or Not?

Did Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg go too far by starting up a new anti-Trump Twitter account? Is it “Nolo Cholo Trump” or “Nolo Cholo Anglo Trump”? Only the justice knows, and despite her recent public candor re Trump, she has not confirmed or denied anything, that I know of.

“We Have Never Been Held Together By Blood Or Background”

So said former President George W. Bush at the memorial service in Dallas, Texas today for the five police officers killed last week. George W. Bush should be–though he is sometimes not–credited with scrupulous avoidance of anti-Muslim rhetoric after September 11, 2001. President Obama also addressed the memorial in a realistic and uplifting spirit.

We are burdened as a country this year with a presidential candidate who has, through insinuations and barely coded messages of exclusion if not through outright bigotry, has almost succeeded in normalizing white nationalist rhetoric. He, Donald Trump, has been abetted by our mainstream media’s addiction to false equivalence, as if politics was purely tactical and completely separated from morality and ethics.

George W. Bush’s words today did not, of course, mention his party’s nominee, but his comments stand as an implicit rebuke to the fantasy of restoring our lost greatness by building a giant wall to keep out otherness. We have had just one non-churched president, Abraham Lincoln. Trump would be our first openly, frankly heathen president.

The “Dream Ticket” According To Trump

That’d be Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama–according to the real 2008 version of Trump, according to today’s Wall Street Journal. And Hillary Clinton would make a “good president,” said Trump on his own radio program, the one that started with the “money, money, money, money” jingle. So we really have no choice. We cannot possibly vote for a chaos and disorder candidate like Donald Trump unless and until he explains why Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Once he does explain, then we can vote for Hillary. I have, quite frankly, qualms about Hillary, but if Trump thought she would be good, I guess I can set my suspicions of her aside.

The Chaos And Disorder Candidate

Seeing a new shiny object, “law and order,” Trump proclaims himself its candidate. I had been thinking that most of his appeal was chaos and disorder. If you want a president who has zero regard for our constitutional protections, Trump seems to me to be the guy for you. If you could care less about freedom of the press, government neutrality regarding religion, protections against government searches and seizures, and independent judges following the rule of law rather than executive whims, Trump has a lot to offer, at least as entertainment.

If I actually felt President Trump could reduce the temperature, reduce violent killings, increase respect for authority and government, and deliver law and order within constitutional limits, I might see him as an attractive candidate. But Jeb Bush was right–Trump stands for chaos and disorder. Here’s hoping that’s not what 51% of voters are looking for.

We Have No Choice

Until we understand what the hell is going on with Donald Trump running off to Scotland, we have no choice but to vote for Hillary Clinton. We simply cannot take a chance that Trump is applying for Scottish citizenship right now.  We cannot take a chance that we have an agent of a foreign power running our country and especially our borders. Not if we want our country to start winning again.  I do not know for a fact that Trump is eligible for German citizenship either, but he sure looks and sounds like one of them, and I love bratwurst but we cannot take a chance on a President Brat Wurst. That would be sad!  We are not going to be great again that way.  We won’t have tremendous winning success if we don’t figure out why Trump said “Scotland is going wild over the vote” to “take their country back” when Scotland actually just voted huge to stay in the EU and and voted two years ago to stay part of the United Kingdom. I don’t know whether Trump is really German instead of Scottish, but there’s something going on with him. I wish we could be politically correct and say that it doesn’t matter if Trump is taking orders from Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, but we have no choice, we just don’t have a choice any more.

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Is That Muslim Ban Still “Just A Suggestion”?

First Trump was going to ban all Muslims until we figured out what the hell is going on. Then it was just “a suggestion.” Now we seem to be back to a new improved expanded ban.

I could not agree more that the U.S. government, and the American people, should be smart, tough, and vigilant. But that is completely empty talk without the details.  Would bringing back the lapsed assault-weapons ban be not smart, not tough, or not vigilant?

They Were Both Born In Queens–What Might Trump Know?

Donald Trump and the Orlando killer/hater/terrorist were born in the same place: Queens, New York. Trump falsely claimed that the man was “an Afghan.” Trump insinuated that President Obama and Hillary Clinton were somehow to blame. The man was born in Queens during the Reagan presidency. Is Ronald Reagan to blame for letting him and his family into this country? Not a big Reagan fan, but I doubt it. He got his job as a security guard, with clearances, during the George W. Bush presidency. Was President Bush asleep at the wheel? Can’t really say that with a straight face. But he and Trump are both Queens boys. Does cholo anglo Trump know something he isn’t saying? I hate to say that if we elect Trump, we will deserve him.