First Column of Today’s NY Times Tells a Story

  1. Sluggish economic growth in Trump’s economy (Obama’s fault no doubt); 2. Trumpcare flail (again, thank goodness); 3. Trump crazy aggression towards crazy North Korea (tactical or impulsive? how about nutsy cuckoo?); 4. Trump tax plan redistributes wealth up to the tippy-tippy-top (what’s new?); 5. the normally crazy House is the rational actor in the room now and keeps us open for business for another week; 6. GOT A CONFIDENTIAL TIP? ‘Cause our future sanity may depend on whistleblowers.

Capture

Hard to Say What’s Crazier – He Thought This Would Be Easier or “Major, Major Conflict” With NK

This is a toughie.  I thought that AP interview was enough to invoke the 25th Amendment. This interview with Reuters is mind blowing.  But he also said there’s the possibility of a “major, major” conflict” with the crazy kingdom of North Korea making millions of South Koreans and Japanese shit their pants.

Ya know, I’m beginning to think people are just stupid.

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Some Days There’s Too Much Outrage Not Enough Energy

So we can continue to go through the many outrageous actions, flip flops, the stupidity, etc.  And there’s been a bunch in the last 24 hours.

Michelle Goldberg put it very well – and this fits in with the sad Everybody is Afraid of Republicans, Nobody is Afraid of Democrats analysis – he’s actually being normalized by the press.  The outrages don’t mount up, they seem to counteract each other.  The investigations continue (slowly), many journalists do a great job.  Many continue to be predictably asleep or at least unhelpful at times.  When consistency matters they’re consistently inconsistent.

Because I was sentient 100 days ago, I’m old enough to remember a time when American presidents were expected, as a matter of course, not to have paid foreign agents among their senior staff. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened if Barack Obama’s national security adviser were revealed to have recently been on the payroll of Turkey’s Islamist government, as Donald Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was. And what if we’d learned that a onetime campaign manager of Obama was a foreign agent of pro-Russian political interests in Ukraine, like Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort? And that he appeared to have kept this entanglement secret, in violation of the law? How about if one of Obama’s foreign policy advisers had admitted to passing documents to a Russian spy, like Trump campaign adviser Carter Page? We’d either have an impeachment, armed right-wing militias marching on the capital, or both. Quotidian political life would, at the very least, have ground to a halt.

The resistance is not going to get any help from the GOP, the 27% of the country that voted for him will continue to support him, and the media is, well, see my previous comment about inconsistency.

Of course he’s doing everything he accused Clinton of doing, is way more corrupt than she could have every dreamed of being and is a shit for brains to boot.

But I am actually starting to tire of the completely appropriate comparisons of some stupid, highly inappropriate action taken by Trump or his administration to what would happen if it was Clinton who did it.  Yes, we get it, you’re right, if Clinton or anybody in her orbit did any one of the things these morons do, the GOP and the media would be up their asses 24/7 and asking for impeachment.

It just doesn’t work that way with Republicans, even Trump.  And that is wrong, frustrating and has to change.

 

Tax Reform Gets People Excited

Wall Street has been excited all week thinking about Trump’s tax proposals like I get excited about the NFL Draft.  They love the idea of a repatriation so they can bring all that boodle back to the states to sit on it here instead of there.

Theoretically, I have no problem with a 15% corporate tax rate.  So long as they’re getting rid of the thousands of pages of exemptions, loop holes and specific industry sweetheart deals that allow massive companies to pay little to zilch in taxes.  If GE paid 15% of its profits in taxes this year that would mean millions more in the coffers rather than the millions that they actually received back from us in a tax refund despite making billions in profits. Likewise, can we stop subsidies for some of the most successful businesses on Earth, that also pay no taxes?  I have no problem with all of that reform.

But if they were proposing that kind of reform so companies would actually pay more they wouldn’t be so excited, so I’m going back to bed.

Oh and the cutting the individual rates and eliminating brackets, that’s completely wrongheaded shit.

And getting rid of the Estate Tax is absolutely ridiculous, if anything the Trump family proves how necessary that is.  It was created after the Gilded Age as America had developed a generation of idle rich heirs and heiresses that alarmingly resembled a European-like landed gentry, living off trust funds and giving nothing back to society. Imagine the excesses of the worst rock stars, without the music.  The massive income suck up to the 1% of the last 30 years has created another generation much like that in the early 20th century.  So much money just sitting in bank accounts, passive investments or tied up in luxury goods does nothing for the economy; moreover, that generation represented what early 20th century leaders considered an un-American form of royalty that had to be disincentivized.  Funny, how we stopped thinking like that.

But the part of Trump’s plan that makes it absolutely awful, surprise, surprise, is expanding instead of eliminating the kind of tax give away like the hedge fund loophole. While saying on the stump that he’d end that, he’d actually expand it to other professions.

Beyond cutting the tax rate to 15 percent for large corporations, which now pay a rate of 35 percent, Mr. Trump also wants that rate for a broad range of firms known as pass-through entities — including hedge funds, real estate concerns like Mr. Trump’s and large partnerships — that currently pay taxes at individual rates, which top off at 39.6 percent.

 

Obama Makes Bank and Keyboards Light Up

Well, it’s a debate.  I mean to the extent that it’s a somewhat hotly discussed issue that has no right or wrong answer because no matter what pundits and people say President Obama will do what he thinks is right.  And thusly, the debate over whether it’s okay or unseemly (nobody really applauds it, interestingly enough) that he accept a $400,000 speaking gig from Wall Street powerhouse Cantor Fitzgerald.

Matt Yglesias makes the case that it’s counterproductive and liberals need to raise their ethical game.

The election in France earlier this week shows that the triumph of populist demagogues is far from inevitable. But to beat it, mainstream politicians and institutions need to shape up — not just with better policies, but with the kind of self-sacrificing spirit and moral leadership that successful movements require.

 That means some people are going to have to start making less money and raising the ethical bar for conduct, rather than leveling down to the worst acts of their predecessors.
That is certainly a case to make.  And lest we forget that if not for the universally panned Goldman Sachs speaking engagements, the fees and not public transcripts of said speeches, HRC might be president.  The impulse on the leftier left to detach the Democratic Party from Wall Street is not a bad one.  They have a case when they can shake their fist at the progressive center and ask, “really?”

The political right is supposed to be pro-business as a matter of ideological commitment. The progressive center is supposed to be empirically minded, challenging business interests where appropriate but granting them free rein at other times.

This approach has a lot of political and substantive merits. But it is invariably subject to the objection: really?

Did you really avoid breaking up the big banks because you thought it would undermine financial stability, or were you on the take? Did you really think a fracking ban would be bad for the environment, or were you on the take? One man’s sophisticated and pragmatic approach to public policy can be the other man’s grab bag of corrupt opportunism.

This came to a fever pitch in the primaries as the taint of all that money on the Clintons was a vote too far for many on the left.  (They still should have voted for her against Trump, but the Democratic circular firing squad stupid is strong and I’m feeling very frustrated with what I see on the Twitter lately.)  If Obama wants to taint his legacy, which is fairly strong even on the far left (although nobody there really thought he was one of them after he didn’t go after the banksters), he can keep doing things like this and watch the good will erode.

Obama should do himself and the circular firing squad a favor and give the money to charity.

Like Scott Lemieux at Lawyer’s Guns and Money says :

Obama is in a position to set a new precedent for liberal elites, and he should.

‘Cause it’s bad enough right now with women calling all Bernie supporters “Bernie Bros” and screaming that he can’t lead a party that he doesn’t belong to.  When the far left starts calling Obama a sell out the Joy L. Williams and Joy Reid’s will go nuts.

Democrats need to be a distinct choice on these issues of ethics, opposite of the GOP’s everything goes in business/greed is good/Jesus wants you to be rich mantra.

Comey Was Afraid of Republicans Nobody’s Afraid of Democrats/General Public

Have to go back to the NY Times piece from last Saturday about Comey and the thinking that went into never revealing the investigations into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign but throwing the last 10 days of the election into the toilet with the Comey letter revealing the supposed Clinton e-mails on the Wiener laptop (a phrase that makes me feel dirty already).

If you haven’t go ahead – Comey Tried to Shield the F.B.I. From Politics. Then He Shaped an Election.  But the bottom line is pretty familiar:

Because the Republican Party has taken to politicizing absolutely everything and has cowed pretty much everybody in the Beltway to respond to their coordinated tantrums, the Director of the FBI threw out the FBI manual and acted to keep Republicans off his back rather than the proper, nonpartisan and ethical thing.

First, it can never be overstated that all of the post-election recriminations and Democrat circular firing squad infighting notwithstanding, it’s hard to look at the results of 11/8/16 and not come to the conclusion that the Comey letter and that last gasp of e-mail nonsense just exhausted the last nerve of some voters – and all it took was around 100,000 in MI, WI and PA to flip the script.

Mr. Comey’s plan was to tell Congress that the F.B.I. had received new evidence and was reopening its investigation into Hillary Clinton, the presidential front-runner. The move would violate the policies of an agency that does not reveal its investigations or do anything that may influence an election. But Mr. Comey had declared the case closed, and he believed he was obligated to tell Congress that had changed.

“Should you consider what you’re about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?” an adviser asked him, Mr. Comey recalled recently at a closed meeting with F.B.I. agents.

He could not let politics affect his decision, he replied. “If we ever start considering who might be affected, and in what way, by what we do, we’re done,” he told the agents.

But isn’t that exactly what he did?  He only went public because of politics as is revealed later in the piece.

And that thinking, that he had an obligation because he had declared the investigation closed, caused many to excuse Comey for this otherwise obvious thumb on the scales action.  Not me.  I’m a what have you done for me lately guy, so the very stand-up thing that Comey did during the Bush administration, that his entire reputation is based on, was cancelled out by the cowardly public announcement that we found more e-mails and we know nothing about them, but we have to look and just pay no mind that there’s an election in 11 days.

Cowardly, because even without knowing at the time that Comey could also have revealed to the public the Trump investigation, just to be fair (I mean as long as we’re throwing the manual out the window, at least be fair about it), my thinking was that the public announcement was made because of fear that the leaking like a sieve FBI, full of Trumpster agents would have leaked the information to camera happy Republicans, who seeing an opportunity, would have gone on air and riled up the Republican base against Comey (and of course Crooked Hillary).

The bottom line is yes, those Republicans did take Comey’s news and run with it to destroy Hillary, but Comey was redeemed in their eyes.  He got out of their dog house, which he was in by not pushing their phony criminalization of e-mails in the first place.

He sent the letter to Congress, which was then promptly leaked to the media and all hell broke loose.

Conservative news outlets had already branded Mr. Comey a Clinton toady. That same week, the cover of National Review featured a story on “James Comey’s Dereliction,” and a cartoon of a hapless Mr. Comey shrugging as Mrs. Clinton smashed her laptop with a sledgehammer…

Congressional Republicans were preparing for years of hearings during a Clinton presidency. If Mr. Comey became the subject of those hearings, F.B.I. officials feared, it would hobble the agency and harm its reputation. “I don’t think the organization would have survived that,” Mr. Steinbach said.

Comey was always between a rock and a hard right place, everybody understands that. He chose the path of least resistance because everybody is afraid of what Republicans will do, both the elected and the rabid constituency.  What if a right wing flame thrower said that Comey was involved in a child sex ring in a pizza shop?  He had to avoid that.

Since then he’s been too quiet on the Russian investigation, feeling no compulsion to go public on that until March!  Even the silly Trump assertion that Obama wiretapped him, could have been more forcefully shot down by Comey.  But once again Comey’s first consideration seems to be “what would the Republican base think about that?”

He asked the Justice Department to correct the record. When officials there refused, Mr. Comey followed orders and said nothing publicly.

His actions betray his pretty painful awareness of the politics he tries to stay above. And his actions show that he doesn’t actually avoid political decisions, he avoids decisions that will piss off his party.

Trump Interview with AP (Unintelligible) Craziness, (Unintelligible) So Much (Unintelligible) Do You Want a Coke?

Trump gave an interview to the Associated Press and it was amazing (and I use that word believing it to be one of the most overused and misapplied words in the modern lexicon, but with the complete conviction that it does in indeed apply in this case).

Full Transcript – Trump Interview

There are some truly wacky word salad parts where it feels like a mini-stroke, some flights of fancy where he claims stuff that is just not true and other times it’s those jaw dropping moments of self-reflection where he states the obvious about something, that only he didn’t really grasp until now. Like thus:

AP: Can I ask you, over your first 100 days — you’re not quite there yet — how do you feel like the office has changed you?

TRUMP: Well the one thing I would say — and I say this to people — I never realized how big it was. Everything’s so (unintelligible) like, you know the orders are so massive. I was talking to —

AP: You mean the responsibility of it, or do you mean —

TRUMP: Number One, there’s great responsibility. When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria. I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like, 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area — you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away — and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet …. every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. (unintelligible) … This is involving death and life and so many things. … So it’s far more responsibility. (unintelligible) ….The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency. This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world. The second-largest company in the world is the Defense Department. The third-largest company in the world is Social Security. The fourth-largest — you know, you go down the list.

AP: Right.

TRUMP. It’s massive. And every agency is, like, bigger than any company. So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility. You know, the human life that’s involved in some of the decisions. (emphasis added)

It’s big.  No doubt.

Check out this amazing discussion of “heart” by which I guess he means compassion, thoughtfulness, caring for human beings, which he says you don’t need in business, “In fact, you’re better off without it.” So you can screw your opponent in business, not pay on contracts, renege on promises to workers, etc.  And then he segues to his press.

TRUMP: Well in business, you don’t necessarily need heart, whereas here, almost everything affects people. So if you’re talking about health care — you have health care in business but you’re trying to just negotiate a good price on health care, et cetera, et cetera. You’re providing health. This is (unintelligible). Here, everything, pretty much everything you do in government, involves heart, whereas in business, most things don’t involve heart.

AP: What’s that switch been like for you?

TRUMP: In fact, in business you’re actually better off without it.

AP: What’s making that switch been like for you?

TRUMP: You have to love people. And if you love people, such a big responsibility. (unintelligible) You can take any single thing, including even taxes. I mean we’re going to be doing major tax reform. Here’s part of your story, it’s going to be a big (unintelligible). Everybody’s saying, “Oh, he’s delaying.” I’m not delaying anything. I’ll tell you the other thing is (unintelligible). I used to get great press. I get the worst press. I get such dishonest reporting with the media. That’s another thing that really has — I’ve never had anything like it before. It happened during the primaries, and I said, you know, when I won, I said, “Well the one thing good is now I’ll get good press.” And it got worse. (unintelligible) So that was one thing that a little bit of a surprise to me. I thought the press would become better, and it actually, in my opinion, got more nasty.

You have to love.  But my press is terrible and it keeps getting worse.  He doesn’t get that his press is connected to his actions.  If you win you should get good press.  When you win the presidency you should get the best press, because you’ve earned it.  I think he believes that if he says A the press should just report A and if they report that the truth is B, that’s dishonest coverage because he said A.  The truth of A or B does not really enter into it as far as he’s concerned.  The only truth is he said A, so just report that.

This is just weird:

TRUMP: But things change. There has to be flexibility. Let me give you an example. President Xi, we have a, like, a really great relationship. For me to call him a currency manipulator and then say, “By the way, I’d like you to solve the North Korean problem,” doesn’t work. So you have to have a certain flexibility, Number One. Number Two, from the time I took office till now, you know, it’s a very exact thing. It’s not like generalities. Do you want a Coke or anything?

AP: I’m OK, thank you. No. …

I guess it’s nice he cares about the interviewer’s beverage, but…

Then there’s the usual denial of responsibility for things said, for example about NATO. He asserts that he really didn’t know what he was talking about when he was first asked and it’s the press’s fault for asking him – but it turns out (as it always does) that he was right about it afterall!

TRUMP: They had a quote from me that NATO’s obsolete. But they didn’t say why it was obsolete. I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn’t in government. People don’t go around asking about NATO if I’m building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf … asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO’s obsolete — not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO — NATO is obsolete, and I said, “And the reason it’s obsolete is because of the fact they don’t focus on terrorism.” You know, back when they did NATO there was no such thing as terrorism.

AP: What specifically has NATO changed?

TRUMP: (Cites Wall Street Journal article) … I did an interview with Wolf Blitzer, and I said NATO was obsolete — I said two things — obsolete, and the country’s aren’t paying. I was right about both. I took such heat for about three days on both, because nobody ever criticized NATO. I took heat like you wouldn’t believe. And then some expert on NATO said, “You know, Trump is right.” But I said it was obsolete because they weren’t focused on terror. …

He didn’t know much about it but offered a critique.  Now he knows a lot!  But he still has a very shallow understanding of their mission and a complete lack of historical context. There’s ALWAYS been terrorism, but no, NATO was created to counter the threat from the Soviet bloc.  A threat that is unfortunately as relevant as the post-war era because of Putin’s adventurism and threatening stances towards the old Soviet bloc nations like Ukraine and Poland.

Let’s talk about Wikileaks

TRUMP: When Wikileaks came out … never heard of Wikileaks, never heard of it. When Wikileaks came out, all I was just saying is, “Well, look at all this information here, this is pretty good stuff.” You know, they tried to hack the Republican, the RNC, but we had good defenses. They didn’t have defenses, which is pretty bad management. But we had good defenses, they tried to hack both of them. They weren’t able to get through to Republicans. No, I found it very interesting when I read this stuff and I said, “Wow.” It was just a figure of speech. I said, “Well, look at this. It’s good reading.”

AP: But that didn’t mean that you supported what Assange is doing?

TRUMP: No, I don’t support or unsupport. It was just information.

Trump said “I love Wikileaks”  But I guess that doesn’t mean he supports them.

And on Iran:

AP: On Iran, you also talked about it quite a bit on the campaign trail. And you said in the press conference yesterday that you think that Iran is violating the spirit of the agreement. When you say that, do you mean in terms of the actual nuclear accord, or do you mean what they are doing in the region?

TRUMP: In terms of what they are doing all over the Middle East and beyond.

AP: So you believe that they are complying with the agreement?

TRUMP: No, I don’t say that. I say that I believe they have broken the spirit of the agreement. There is a spirit to agreements, and they have broken it.

AP: In terms of what they are doing elsewhere in the Middle East?

TRUMP: In terms of what they are doing of all over.

AP: When you talk to European leaders, when you talk to Merkel, for example, or Teresa May, what do they say about the nuclear deal? Do they want you to stay in that deal?

TRUMP: I don’t talk to them about it.

AP: You don’t talk to them about the Iran deal?

TRUMP: I mention it, but it’s very personal when I talk to them, you know, it’s confidential. No, they have their own opinions. I don’t say that they are different than my opinions, but I’d rather have you ask them that question.

So they are complying, but not in the spirit of the agreement, which he’s never read, come on, we all know that – until they come out with a pictorial version of the agreement he won’t read it.  He doesn’t know anything about the agreement.  But they’re Iran, so how could they be complying?  And the other parties to the agreement, their opinions on the matter are personal.  Which means he either has never spoken to them about it (because he didn’t know there were other parties) or he doesn’t want to say what they said.

This is just crazy.  Starting about Isis strategy, then segueing all over the map.  I swear this could be an Alec Baldwin sketch.

(An aide talks about the president’s address to Congress.)

TRUMP: A lot of the people have said that, some people said it was the single best speech ever made in that chamber.

AP: You seem like you enjoyed it.

TRUMP: I did. I did. I believed in it and I enjoyed it. It was a great feeling to introduce the wife of a great young soldier who died getting us very valuable information. Have you seen the tremendous success? … That’s another thing that nobody talks about. Have you seen the tremendous success we’ve had in the Middle East with the ISIS (an abbreviation for the Islamic State group)? When (current Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al) Abadi left from Iraq, he said Trump has more success in eight weeks than Obama had in eight years. … We have had tremendous success, but we don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about it.

AP: Do you mean you don’t talk about it personally because you don’t want to talk about it?

TRUMP: I don’t talk about it. No. And the generals don’t talk about it.

___

AP: You had put a request into the Pentagon to put forward an ISIS plan within 30 days. I know they have sent that over. Have you accepted a plan? Are you moving forward on a strategy?

TRUMP: We have a very strong plan, but we cannot talk about it, Julie.

AP: So you have decided on a plan?…

AP: Can you say generally what the strategy is? Should people —

TRUMP: Generally is we have got to get rid of ISIS. We have no choice. And other terrorist organizations.

AP: Should Americans who are serving in the military expect that you are going to increase troop numbers in the Middle East to fight ISIS?

TRUMP: No, not much.

AP: In terms of the strategy, though, that you have accepted, it sounds like, from the generals —

TRUMP: Well, they’ve also accepted my strategy.

AP: Does that involve more troops on the ground, it sounds like?

TRUMP: Not many.

AP: So a small increase?

TRUMP: It could be an increase, then an increase. But not many more. I want to do the job, but not many more. … This is an important story. I’ve done a lot. I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days and I think the first 100 days is an artificial barrier. And I’m scheduled … the foundations have been set to do some great things. With foreign countries. Look at, look at President Xi. I mean …

His strategy, which the generals have accepted, is to get rid of Isis.  Why couldn’t Obama have come up with that?  Obama and his generals were terrible.  Trump and his generals (the same generals) are wonderful.  And we’ve had great successes that we don’t talk about.  Although I love to talk about successes!!!

He’s just off that boy, he’s just off.