Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Picking Pockets

The platform of Black Lives Matter lists six areas of "demands," which in their terms they group under: political power, community control, economic justice, invest-divest, reparations, and end the war on black people.

Amidst the hot, radical, and absolutist rhetoric are legitimate proposals- uh, er- demands including "an end to capital punishment," an "end to the criminalization and dehumanization of black people," and "an immediate end to the privatization of police, prisons, jails, probation, parole, food, phone and all other criminal justice related services."|

As it happens, the State of New Jersey (by statute) ended capital punishment several years ago, generally avoids the "zero-tolerance school policies and arrests of students" and placement of police in schools slammed by BLM, and has largely not privatized criminal justice services (the hideous Governor Christie, notwithstanding).

Nonetheless, even in the predominately Democratic and liberal state abutted by Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware, there are disturbing penal trends. Gannett-owned Asbury Park Press reports

The chairman of the Assembly's Judiciary Committee said Monday he wants state lawmakers to study municipal court reform after an Asbury Park Press investigation called the fairness of the system into question and showed how municipalities increasingly rely on court fines for revenue.

"(The story) gives cause to take a step back and think this is an area that we should study and look at to determine if there should be legislative fixes," said state Assemblyman John McKeon, D-Madison, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "Justice should be just that at all levels."

Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, R-Little Silver, said the Press report raised issues that should be a concern of every elected official.

"We have to stop looking at motorists as ATM machines," he said. "You want to remove any profit motivation from police enforcement of any kind. When tickets are written that don't improve safety, it doesn't help anybody. It's not a reasonable way to raise revenue."

The mountain west has the Rocky Mountains, South Dakota and Wyoming the Black Hills; Florida has Disney World and New Jersey has the shore or more popularly, "the Shore." However

The Press investigation found that municipalities often turn to the law for new revenue, especially in small Shore towns where municipal court revenues have nearly doubled in the last five years. Towns have the power to pass new ordinances or increase fines in old ones, enforce the fines through its police force and then send defendants to local courts headed by judges appointed by the town leaders.

Against this backdrop, municipal courts in Monmouth and Ocean counties raked in more than $26.2 million in 2015 — up $3.2 million, or 14 percent, from 2010. Municipal court revenue in 37 Monmouth and Ocean county towns increased from 2010 through 2015. The average increase was 39 percent.

"Our courts and police should not be seen as revenue generators," said O'Scanlon, who added that his staff has been discussing the municipal money grab for a while and exploring legal remedies. "That's not what they're there for."

Or at least that's not what they should be there for. Nonetheless, they are, as the north Jersey legislator recognizes:

"It's fair that municipalities and governing bodies get to appoint those who serve as judges and prosecutors, but on the other end, maybe part of the answer is to insulate the judiciary from that kind of pressure," McKeon said.

Municipal judges are appointed every three years by governing bodies of towns. And while they're sworn to follow the rule of law and judicial ethics, the pressure to bring in the money is potent in New Jersey, lawyers and former judges told the Press.

The New Jersey State Bar Association earlier this year assembled a panel to study the independence of municipal judges and whether the political pressure they face through their appointment impacts decision-making. The panel hasn't yet disclosed its findings.

That should be enough to energize an organization such as Black Lives Movement keen on wiping out the abuses of the law enforcement and criminal justice systems. If not, they might notice

New Jersey's municipal court fines are also regressive and have a negative impact on the poor, who often end up with more charges and fines if they fail to respond to a ticket or miss a payment on a past violation, Ramsey said.

"The fines are the same whether you're a millionaire or not," he said. "It kills (poor) people. It clobbers them. They can't pay the fines."

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey is studying the impact of the state's municipal courts on the poor, said Alexi Velez, a law fellow with the organization.

Velez said she's examining the hefty monetary fines and sanctions for traffic offenses and low-level non-indictable crimes heard in municipal court. She said much of the data that have been collected correspond to the findings in the Press' investigation.

"We're interested in how the shortcomings of due process impact all New Jerseyans," Velez said. "In particular, we are aware of the disproportionate impact on the 11 percent of those who live at or below the poverty line."

It's highly unlikely that this is an issue confined to New Jersey. Undoubtedly, there are municipal courts in states throughout the nation acting as a banker for municipal government. While the American Civil Liberties Union is providing air power, it could use some ground support from Black Lives Matter in the "war" it believes the American system of injustice is waging.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

She Knows Sexism!

According to NBC News

Two sources at the top of the Donald Trump transition team confirmed to MSNBC that they spoke to the president-elect today and that Donald Trump was "furious" at Kellyanne Conway's comments Sunday suggesting Trump "betrayed" his supporters by even considering Mitt Romney for a position in his cabinet.

"Kellyanne went rogue at Donald Trump's expense at the worst possible time," a source familiar with Trump's thinking told MSNBC. 

Trump's top aides said they were "baffled" by Conway's comments and suggested that it feeds into a growing concern inside the campaign that "instead of driving Donald Trump's message, she's pushing her own agenda." 

"It's dangerous," said a top transition aide. 

Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus have reportedly been growing frustrated by Conway's failure to become a team player in a transition process where the top players are forming a tight knit group around the president-elect.

Conway, responding to MSNBC via text early Monday, denied the report, saying, "It is all false. And sexist."

And sexist.

It seems that a clique led by Bannon and Priebus may be trying to put enough heat on Conway that she is forced out, voluntarily or otherwise. That may or may not have anything to do with gender, but the claim that the report of their displeasure is sexist would be bizarre were it not another example of the Trumpists whining about the media. They may yet raise the the "blame the messenger" approach to a new level.

It shouldn't be necessary, though, to remind Mrs. Conway that she remained arguably the top staffer in a campaign whose candidate has been accused by several women of sexual assault and spoke publicly of Megyn Kelly's menstrual period. Of Carly Fiorina he remarked "Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?! I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" And an audiotape revealed

“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump is heard saying. It was unclear when the events he was describing took place. The tape was recorded several months after he married his third wife, Melania.

“Whoa,” another voice said.

“I did try and f--- her. She was married,” Trump says.

Trump continues: “And I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, ‘I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.’”

“I moved on her like a bitch, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married,” Trump says. “Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.”

At that point in the audio, Trump and Bush appear to notice Arianne Zucker, the actress who is waiting to escort them into the soap-opera set.

“Your girl’s hot as s---, in the purple,” says Bush, who’s now a co-host of NBC’s “Today” show.

“Whoa!” Trump says. “Whoa!”

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her,” Trump says. “You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

“Whatever you want,” says another voice, apparently Bush’s.

“Grab them by the p---y,” Trump says. “You can do anything.”

Kellyanne Conway stood by her man and finds a news report- not Trump's statements or behavior over a quarter century- "sexist." She and Donald Trump deserve each other.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Ramping Up Voter Suppression

At first, it seemed not only absurd, but purposeless, when on Sunday Donald Trump tweted “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."

He didn't win the Electoral College in a landslide, of course, as he garnered 306 electoral votes (pending recounts, which could lower the figure). In the six previos presidential elections, the victor was awarded more than 306 votes in four occasions, with the average in the last six elections 336 electoral votes.

But Trump's claim of an electoral vote landslide is no more an accident than the fabrication that he "won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally."  When he charged fraud

Trump offered nothing to back up his allegations of wrongdoing in the Nov. 8 election -- one that returned to his pre-election mantra of a “rigged” result. Although Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College, the former secretary of state leads Trump by more than 2.2 million votes in the nationwide popular vote, according to a running tally by the non-partisan Cook Political Report. A Trump spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cook shows Clinton with 64.65 million total votes to Trump’s 62.42 million, or a lead of 48.2 percent to 46.5 percent. Third-party and other candidates received 7.19 million votes, or about 5.4 percent. In 13 swing states, Trump won 48.4 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 46.6 percent.

On Nov. 13, Gregg Phillips, a former Texas Health and Human Services Commission deputy commissioner, tweeted about there being 3 million votes that were cast by noncitizens.

Attempting to con the masses, Trump is trying to insinuate the myth that there is a conspiracy. Phillip Bump of The Washington Post explains

Phillips claims in another tweet that his organization (it's not clear which organization, but it may be VoteStand) has a database of 180 million voter registrations and he confirms that 3 million of the people in that database who voted are noncitizens. He has been asked to provide evidence for that claim repeatedly, without having done so.

Regardless, the story was quickly picked up by the conspiracy-theory hawking site InfoWars, a story that was linked out at the top of the Drudge Report on Nov. 14.

When Matt Drudge qualifies something with "Claim:" it's worth treating it with skepticism.

The rumor-debunking site Snopes looked at Phillips' claim and found no evidence for it. (It also noted that Phillips has a history of implying that Obamacare will lead to the registration of millions of immigrants here illegally.)

(This is standard operating procedure among conservatives. A website makes something up and then rank-and-file conservatives pick it up and spread it as settled fact.)

"Worth saying," Jamelle Bouie tweeted, "that broad accusations of illegal voting were the first steps toward voter suppression laws in WI, NC, TX, etc."

And maybe elsewhere.  Four hours after the original remark, Trump tweeted "serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.  So why isn't the media reporting on this? Serious bias- big problem."

In addition to the standard- yet tactically wise- GOP tactic of whining about the media, this is setting the predicate for claiming a wide-ranging Democratic voter fraud conspiracy.

"The Trump voting tweet," David Frum observed, "may be more than an ego spasm. It may also be a warning that voting is about to be made more difficult for millions."  Donald Trump is no RINO. He recognizes, as does the entire Party, there is no way Republicans can consistently win races for national office without voter suppression, and their success on November 8 will only embolden them.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016

Populist In Image, Not In Substance

Many experts have cited the role of the media in enabling the rise and triumph of America's most famous demagogue.  Among them is the Shorenstein Center in Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Kennedy School at Harvard University, which published a study in June, shortly before the Republican and Democratic national conventions.

The Kennedy School found Trump had received overwhelmingly positive coverage, largely because his campaign could be framed as "gaining ground," rather than "losing ground," "trailing," or "leading" (chart from Media Tenor via Shorenstein Center, 1/1/15-12/31/15).

Failure to cover the Trump campaign adequately in the general campaign followed, though it was concealed by "hot topics" such as Trump's support of sexual assault and animosity toward Mexican immigrants.

In the end, obviously, the former played little role in the election, while the GOP candidate was boosted by the latter. Ignored was Trump's obeisance to special interest groups, manifested in an economic perspective that was radically pro-corporate and a cultural perspective that reflected pandering to the Christian evangelical and pro-gun violence lobbies.

This has not ended. In a recent Politico magazine article about Steve Bannon's love for both Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, Ruairi Arrieta-Kenna writes "years before the partisan provocateur of the 2016 cycle hitched himself to the upstart populist billionaire from New York..."  In late July, 2015 "Bannon made the Palin-Trump populist connection explicitly clear- with a dose of Reagan adulation for good measure."

Arrieta-Kenna, with no sense of irony, recalled that Palin a few days later wrote for Bannon's outfit, Breitbart News "Trump ha tapped into America's great populist tradition by speaking to concerns of working class voters..."  Building the myth of the man as a populist has taken him a long way electorally.

Donald Trump wants everyone to know he is the best, as a negotiator, in the education he has had, the money he has made, and the women he has seduced or grabbed.  His populism is anit-Establishment (in rhetoric) but hardly anti-elite.

Trump doesn't rail about the elite, instead bragging about having attended the elite Wharton School of Finance and of being "really rich,"  He knows "the best negotiators. I’m in New York.... I know people you’ve never heard of that are better than all of them.” He is truly special, and having claimed as President he will be above the law, wants you to know it.
He revels in his status as a wealthy celebrity, yet is portrayed as a "populist."    That "populist" is opposed to a federal minimum wage, wants Dodd-Frank repealed, has a tax plan which gives the 1% a $214,000 tax cut, and has nominated for Education Secretary a billionaire who wants to take public education out of the hands of the public and put it into the claws of private profit-seekers. He owns $120 million to Deutsche Bank, according to The Economist (from which the chart below is taken).

"His children," Jonathan Chait notes, "have taken roles on the transition team. Ivanka attended official discussions with heads of state of Japan and Argentina. The president-elect met with Indian business partners to discuss business and lobbied a British politician to oppose offshore wind farms because one will block the view at one of his Scottish golf courses."

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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Where Is Waldo? Where Is Hillary?

Asked about prosecution of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump replied "It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about. I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”

That was interpreted by friends and enemies, supporters and critics, alike as nearly a rejection by the President-elect of prosection of his former rival.  It may, however, have been something more- brilliant political positioning in which the incoming President signals flexibility but avoids committing himself.

Election security expert J. Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, writes

Were this year’s deviations from pre-election polls the results of a cyberattack? Probably not. I believe the most likely explanation is that the polls were systematically wrong, rather than that the election was hacked. But I don’t believe that either one of these seemingly unlikely explanations is overwhelmingly more likely than the other. The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence — paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts.

The New York Times notes "Uniting around the social media hashtag #AuditTheVote, the campaign-after-the-campaign has picked up momentum among grass-roots activists still mourning Mr. Trump’s victory," though results would have to be reversed in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan (in which the final vote is not in, but Trump is in the lead) for Clinton to claim victory.

Nevertheless, as Politico reports, a certain presidential candidate has set up a fundraising website to acquire the $2 million required to pay for filing fees and the recount for Wisconsin (deadline Friday), Pennsylvania (deadline Monday) and Michigan (deadline Wednesday).  Her statement reads "After a divisive and painful presidential race, reported hacks into voter and party databaes and individal email accounts are causing many  Americans to wonder if our election results are reliable."

Presumably, the cash would be readily available- but the candidate is Jill Stein, not Hillary Clinton.

This is not out of a sense of guilt. If all of Stein's voters had instead opted for Clinton (extraordinarily unlikely, obviously), the Democrat still would have fallen short in Pennsylvania and therefore been unable to deny Trump the needed 270 electoral votes.

However, this has been a presidential election in the most powerful nation on earth. Although it is very unlikely a recount would overturn Trump's victory in each of the three states, Stein is doing the right thing,  and probably for the right reason. Hillary Clinton, though, is silent, which should give rise as to whether the possibility of  prosecution by Donald Trump's Justice Department trumps her interest in a final, definitive count in an election, in which, she said, she was "the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse."

Update: The Michigan Secretary of State has declared the state a win for Trump, by 10,704 votes.

                                                 HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Exit The Populist

Question: what do public education, public roads, and earned benefits have in common with each other?

Answer: They all are in danger in the upcoming presidency of the great populist and (white) working-class hero, Donald Trump.

Trump has announced that he is nominating Betsy DeVos, a member of the DeVos family of Michigan, which rivals the Koch family of Kansas in its wealth and dedication to right-wing, corporatist causes.  Tierney Sneed of Talking Points Memo reports

Much of DeVos’ political activity has been focused on the expansion of charter schools and school vouchers, putting her selection in line with Trump’s campaign proposal to shift $20 billion in federal education funding into state block grants to enroll children in charter and private schools.

The DeVos family bankrolled a failed 2000 Michigan ballot initiative that would have required that students enrolled in failing public school districts be offered vouchers for private school tuition.

Though the measure was rejected soundly by voters, the DeVoses doubled down on the issue and formed a political action committee to support pro-voucher candidates nationwide, according to ChalkBeat, a nonprofit news organization focused on education. They also operate philanthropic organizations known for giving to entities aligned with the charter school movement, including faith-based schools and conservative think tanks, Inside Philanthropy reported.

Charter schools usually are not good for students, but generally profitable for the private companies sponsoring them- with taxpayer money.  That sounds like the motivation for Donald Trump's transportation plan, under which as currently written

the federal government would offer tax credits to private investors interested in funding large infrastructure projects, who would put down some of their own money up front, then borrow the rest on the private bond markets. They would eventually earn their profits on the back end from usage fees, such as highway and bridge tolls (if they built a highway or bridge) or higher water rates (if they fixed up some water mains). So instead of paying for their new roads at tax time, Americans would pay for them during their daily commute. And of course, all these private developers would earn a nice return at the end of the day.

At least Trump was less antagonistic during the primary campaign toward earned benefits than were most of his rivals. Now that he has been elected, however, that is beginning to change.   Jonathan Chait observes that in a Fox News interview with Brett Baier

“Your solution has always been to put things together, including entitlement reform,” says Baier, using Republican code for privatizing Medicare. Ryan replies, “If you’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. … Medicare has got some serious issues because of Obamacare. So those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare.”

Chait notes, however, "The Medicare trust fund has been extended 11 years as a result of the passage of Obamacare, whose cost reforms have helped bring health care inflation to historic lows. It is also untrue that repealing Obamacare requires changing traditional Medicare."

Ironies abound. Trump has gotten cold feet about deporting illegal immigrants, now asserting instead that his Administration will get tough on those who have committed crimes, which bears a curious resemblance to President Obama's policy.   He speaks now of his signature wall on the Mexican border as part wall, part fence, not unlike the current structure.

But Trump was portrayed as a different kind of Republican candidate, and expected to be a different kind of Republican President. Guess again.  While focused on squeezing from the presidency as much income for his businesses as he can, Trump is embarking on a plan to intertwine the federal government with the market to enrich the private sector at the expense of the American public and make crony capitalism the hallmark of his Adminstration. (WARNING: Video below is from a conservative libertarian legal outfit.)  The campaign cry of "Crooked Hillary" should now be seen as a case of a plutomaniac with a serious case of envy.

                                              HAPPY THANKSGIVING

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

It's Even Worse

On October 10, Politico reported

when GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was asked about Trump’s remarks on both appointing the prosecutor and jailing Clinton, the Indiana governor called them one of the highlights of the debate.

“I thought that was one of the better moments of the debate,” Pence said. “I’m old enough to remember a day when a president of the United States erased 18½ minutes and they ran him out of town. She used high technology to erase 33,000 emails. ...[She] really hasn’t been held to account for that. What Donald Trump said is no one is above the law.

Evidently, the big guy wasn't really serious about that. Apparently, some people are believed to be above the law, given that

President-elect Donald Trump conceded Tuesday that he probably won’t make good on his campaign pledge to pursue a new criminal investigation into his political rival, Hillary Clinton.

“It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about,” he said Tuesday afternoon in an on-the-record discussion with reporters from The New York Times.

Trump cast his reversal as a unifying move that, contrary to some of the early backlash, he believes won’t upset his supporters.

“I don't think they will be disappointed. I think I will explain it that we in many ways will save our country,” he said, adding that prosecuting Clinton “would be very, very divisive for the country.”

Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, however, tweeted "That's not how this works. In our democracy, the President doesn't decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn't." (Trump's democracy, though, might be different.)

If not the prosecution of Hillary Clinton, at least we'll always have Paris... or at least The Wall.

Except that we may not, because when Lesley Stahl asked the President-elect on Sunday whether there would be "part wall, part fence," Trump responded "yeah, it could be- it could be some fencing."

Nevertheless, all illegal immigrants- or at least all who can be detained- will be deported.

Maybe not, however, for when Stahl asked "what about the pledge to deport millions and millions of undocumented immigrants?" Trump responded

What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate. But we’re getting them out of our country, they’re here illegally.

There are constitutional limitations. Yet, if the 45th President will not retaliate against political rivals by throwing them in jail and will stress deporting illegal immigrants who have broken the law- as has the current President- couldn't we merely have kept Barack Obama in office another term and avoided the expense and aggravation of the presidential campaign?

But given that building the wall and prosecuting Clinton were arguably the most assertive (and controversial) promises of the Trump campaign, it shouldn't be surprising that the Liar-in-Chief is starting to walk back those pledges. In its place, however, President Trump is likely to pull what Talking Points Memo contributors identify as a bait-and-switch in which

The Koch policy agenda of tax cuts for the rich, union busting, Medicare privatization, business deregulation, and evisceration of environmental and global warming measures is ripe to be rammed through a GOP-dominated Congress and sent to the desk of a president who needs Koch-affiliated personnel, understands very little about policy issues, and will be looking for victorious bills to sign into law. The stage is perfectly set to advance the core Koch ultra-free-market agenda, even though the brothers avoided endorsing Trump and the candidate himself discussed almost none of the relevant policy shifts in his appeals to voters.

As has been expected, Donald Trump will be a radically right-wing President. It's unlikely, however, that it will be in the manner expected and promised, but rather in the mold of the Koch brothers and allies Mike Pence and Paul Ryan.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Poor, Poor Me

Interviewed by Fox News' Howie Kurtz Sunday, Megyn Kelly maintained

One of the purposes of writing the book was to take issue with this so-called "cupcake generation." That's what I've dubbed them, who believe they're entitled to their safe spaces , they're entitled to never being offended. 

They're all about PC culture and having grown up in a different era. I really have a  problem with this because I believe we are wussifying our children and that does not comport with real life. We're not letting them build the muscles they're going to need to function in real life, where there is upset, there is offense. These are people who behave badly at times . 

They are not encouraged to build the muscles they're going to need to function in real life. Then they get elected President of the United States of America.

Kelly had begun talking about Donald Trump, then transitioned into commenting about his supporters (about whom she is ambivalent). Asked about personal attacks upon her, she criticized young people in general, those "having grown up in a different era," as well as their parents, who are "wussifying children."  As far as we know, she wasn't, but should have been, addressing the President-elect who, The New York Times' Patrick Healy reported Saturday

demanded an apology from the cast (of Hamilton) for making a rare, politically charged appeal from the stage on Friday night to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who was in the audience, urging him and Mr. Trump to “uphold our American values” and “work on behalf of all of us.” Mr. Trump’s response significantly escalated an unusual protest inside a theater into a furor on social media and cable news.

Mr. Trump, who has stirred bipartisan concern over his habit of attacking those who challenge him, said on Twitter that the actors had “harassed” Mr. Pence, and he issued a battle cry to his supporters by saying that the musical’s cast had criticized “our wonderful future VP Mike Pence.” He continued to assail the show on Twitter on Saturday night, writing that the actors had been “very rude and insulting” to Mr. Pence and claiming that they “couldn’t even memorize lines” — though he offered no evidence and then deleted the message.

Presumably, part of not being "wussified" is to accept (as Kelly says she has) that "there is upset, there is offense" in life and "people who behave badly at times."  But that would not be Donald Trump, who

framed the cast's appeal as a violation of "a safe and special place"- borrowing a favored phrase of the left and of campus protesters; it was not clear whether he  did so derisively or in earnest.

That's a fair analysis but it's not an either/or. Trump probably intended his remark to be both a jab at the "safe zones' movement which his supporters believe is sweeping the nation's campuses and an argument that he is entitled to "a safe and special place."

During the campaign, Robert Kagan noted that Trump had chosen to "denigrate the parents of a soldier who died serving his country in Iraq" and to "keep it going for four days;" labeled retired Marine General John Allen "a failed general" after Allen criticized him, and fiormer New York mayor Michael Bloomberg "a very little guy" after the latter slammed the candidate.

As a candidate, he denied media credentials to media outlets he does not like and threatened to change the law so that news organizations can be more easily sued for libel. Frightened by coverage, the President-elect has chosen to travel without the press pool.

He is a guy who whines about comedy sketches, called unsupportive GOP officials "traitors," complained about the microphone at a debate, and interjected "what a nasty woman" when Hillary Clinton barely criticized him at another debate.

What a sensitive soul. "Many of Trump's supporters admire him," Kagan acknowledged, "for his bold challenge to political correctness." But in fact, the President-elect, as demonstrated by his recent hysterics about the cast of Hamilton, is far more sensitive than most of those youth Megyn Kelly sees as unable to "build the muscles they're going to need in real life." Donald Trump is not only the most sensitive of any individual elected to the office of President, he is the living, breathing embodiment of the political correctness most of his supporters are convinced they were voting against.

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

And The Winner Is: Donald Trump

Once upon a time, presidential candidate Donald J. Trump criticized Judge US District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, assigned to handle the federal lawsuit against for Trump's Fraud University. Trump slammed Curiel- who was born in East Chicago, Indiana- for being a Mexican and "a hater of Donald Trump."  He is "a hater," who is "a very hostile judge," Trump contended.

In June, Politics USA observed 

Legal scholars said Trump could face consequences for slamming the judge, although many speculated that Curiel was unlikely to sanction him formally.

“Mr. Trump’s conduct could be subject to sanction for indirect criminal contempt of court,” said Charles Geyh, a legal ethics expert at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.

Sanctions? Trump has gottena hug, a pat on the rear, and an "atta guy" from the man he condemned because of the latter's ethnic heritage.   Judge Curiel recently encouraged the litigants to seek a settlement, and it has paid off, at least for the president-elect. Trump is ordered to pay $21 million to settle the two class action-suits from California and $4 million from the suit filed by New York State attorney general Eric Schneiderman, for a total of $25 million to be apportioned to the 7,000 students involved.

The settlement still must be approved by the Court.  However, given that Judge Curiel recently had urged the parties to work matters out and has lauded the agreement as "a healing process that this country very sorely needs," it is a done deal.

In consideration of the implication of  the case, let's fire up the wayback machine and go to 1973 when

The Justice Department sued Donald Trump, his father, Fred, and Trump Management in order to obtain a settlement in which Trump and his father would promise not to discriminate. The case eventually was settled two years later after Trump tried to countersue the Justice Department for $100 million for making false statements. Those allegations were dismissed by the court.

Fred Trump had signed a consent order which, a Trump biographer explained,

required the Trumps to place ads in newspapers saying that they welcomed black applicants. It said that the Trumps would familiarize themselves with the Fair Housing Act, which prohibited discrimination. So it also specifically said they don't admit wrongdoing, but they did have to take several measures that the Trumps had fought for two years not to take.

Criticized by his opponent, presidential candidate Trump boasted "We settled the suit with zero, with no admission of guilt."

In separate depositions, a sales executive had labeled the Trump University "a facade, a total lie" and another manager described it as a "fraudulent scheme."  However, Trump's lawyer pointed out the case was settled "without an acknowledgment of fault or liability."

"Let the healing process begin," pleads Judge Curiel. Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo, Jeff Sessions, and Steve Bannon.  Trump wins again.

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Friday, November 18, 2016

No Similarity Whatsoever

In November, 1922, when Adolf Hitler had been Nazi party chairman for a little more than a year but had not yet gained much political power, the New York Times published an article which was re-released in February, 2015. It reported

But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler's anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.

A sophisticated politician credited Hitler with peculiar political cleverness for laying emphasis and over-emphasis on anti-Semitism, saying: "You can't expect the masses to understand or appreciate your finer real aims. You must feed the masses with cruder morsels and ideas like anti-Semitism. It would be politically all wrong to tell them the truth about where you really are leading them."

Noting that Snopes has confirmed publication of the story, Digby snarked "He (Donald Trump) was just playing a part, right? And even if wants to do the things he says he wants to do, he can't really do them. So relax folks. He's no worse than anyone else."

Really, though, there is little reason to accuse Donald Trump of being another Hitler, especially because his anti-Semitism is quite limited.   In July, his campaign re-tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton awash in dollar bills with the words "most corrupt candidate ever" within a Star of David. However, when it was identified as anti-Semitic, the campaign substituted a tweet with the same message inside a circle instead of within a Jewish star. Further, he does have a Jewish son-in-law married to a daughter who has converted to Judaism, which means little but which at least provides window dressing.

Moreover, Trump has attacked a Judge born in Indiana for being a "Mexican," suggested the possibility of shutting down mosques, maintained the Federal government must "secure and patrol" Muslim neighborhoods (as first proposed by Ted Cruz), falsely contended he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks, repeatedly raised the possibility of the President being a Muslim, suggested the possibility of detention camps for Muslim citizens as were used during World War II for Japanese-Americans, and of course, The Wall.  By contrast, the Nazis and Arab Muslims often collaborated with each other and there is no record of Adolf Hitler being particularly anti-hispanic.

Donald Trump was the most fervent birther, even claiming that he "would be revealing some interesting things," having sent an investigator to Kenya to research Barack Obama's birth. He re-tweeted inaccurate and scurrilous statistics wildly inflating the incidence of black-on-white crime, all the while aiming to stir up the emotions of supporters.  Similarly, he charged "our great African-American President hasn't exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and destroying Baltimore," as if there aren't white and hispanic thugs, street crimes elsewhere, and is not- as worded decades ago- "a credit to his race."

Mr. Trump at one time reportedly maintained "laziness is a trait in blacks" and during the campaign channeled slaveholders by pointing out "my African-American over here."  By contrast, Hitler's animus toward blacks was eclipsed by his hostility toward Jews.

The President-elect has criticized veterans with PTSD and demeaned American prisoners of war- such as John McCain- because "I like people who weren't captured." (Later, he bragged about the statement.)   This does not remind anyone of Adolf Hitler.

And women, of who he has said "you have to treat 'em like s_ _ _."   Megyn Kelly had "blood coming out of her whereever" and for Carly Fiorina "look at that face, would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next President?"    There were not four women who accused Adolf Hitler of assault or attempted assault, nor did he ever advise wealthy men to "grab them by the pussy. You can do anything." No, sir- there is no such record and no evidence Hitler ever did such things.

Some people have noted the similarity between Trump's "we're going to win so much" and Hitler's "Sieg Heil," translated as "hail victory." Nonetheless, the President-elect has never said "heil" anything.

The amateur anthropologist and head of the Third Reich branched out from genocide of Jews to oppression of other minorities, anyone he did not consider the "Aryan" ideal.  Donald Trump's anti-Semitism, though, is minimal compared to bias against other groups. He is no Hitler, and any such comparison is fallacious. Say that over and over again, and you may be as convinced as I that the President-elect doesn't believe any of the things he has said and done.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

But Congratulations On Defeating Hillary Clinton

It'a not as if we weren't warned.  Last November, professor of entrepreneurship and finance Luigi Zingales explained

As a businessman Mr. Trump has a longstanding habit of using his money and power aggressively to obtain special deals from the government. For example, his Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan was built with the benefit of a decades-long tax abatement obtained through government connections.

In 1985, Mr. Trump circumvented New York State campaign-finance laws by making a $30,000 donation, through several Trump companies, to Andrew Stein, the Manhattan borough president who was running for president of the City Council. Mr. Stein was also a member of the New York City Board of Estimate, the body then responsible for land-use decisions in New York.

Finally, Mr. Trump has a long history of promoting eminent-domain abuses to expropriate private land he wanted.

He is, in short, the essence of that commingling of big business and government that goes under the name of crony capitalism.

In short, in long, and in every way.  Yet, in her primary race against Bernie Sanders and even in the general election struggle against Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton was dogged by an alleged attachment to the fiancial industry.  One year ago, those concerns were cleverly crystallized by an uncommitted superdelegate from Florida who remarked "My parents had a saying in Spanish- 'Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres'- which means 'Tell me who you're hanging with and I'll tell you who you are.'"

If the saying is widely applicable, the media should begin speculating about what that tells us about Donald Trump, due to become in two months arguably the most powerful person in that same financial industry. Ben White in Politico magazien reports that the Trump era already is starting to represent

a restoration of Wall Street power — and a potential flip in the way the industry is regulated — perhaps unparalleled in American history.

“You would have to go back to the 1920s to see so much Wall Street influence coming to Washington,” said Charles Geisst, a Wall Street historian at Manhattan College. “It’s the most dramatic turn-around one could imagine. That’s the truly astonishing part.”

Evidence of Wall Street’s improved prospects is everywhere.

The Dodd-Frank financial reform law that bedeviled the industry for years and cost banks untold billions could soon get burned to the ground. Bank stocks are soaring. Trump is going around Manhattan promising to lower rich people’s taxes. And industry critics led by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — long in ascendance — are seeing their populist power deflate.

The anti-banker culture of Washington has been turned on its head in an instant. And the industry can barely believe its good fortune. “Those of us who have been around D.C. for a long time, are we relieved that we are not going to be subpoenaed every week? Of course we are,” said Richard Hunt, head of the Consumer Bankers Association.

The smart guys and gals of Wall Street know who represents their interests as

Bank stocks are up by around 10 percent since Trump’s win, according to the KBW Bank Index, as investors contemplate an agenda tailor-made for the industry including deregulation and potentially higher interest rates sparked by significant deficit spending. Bankers themselves also stand to make a killing.   Massive tax cuts including an elimination of the estate tax and big reductions for top earners seem like slam dunks in Trump’s Washington.

They can barely contain their glee now that the Democratic nominee has gone down swinging:

Wall Street bankers and their Washington lobbyists are quietly celebrating. They went from expecting fresh crackdowns from a Hillary Clinton administration with Warren wielding heavy influence to the cusp of a deregulatory bonanza with Republicans in complete control of Washington.

They may as well be laughing at those blue-collar, working-class Trump voters as

“There is a joke going around here that if I’d have known how good Trump was going to be for Wall Street, I’d have campaigned for him,” said one Goldman Sachs executive who declined to be identified by name speaking about the incoming president. “What people are reacting to is this incredible cultural shift. People thought it might be 10 or 15 years until regulators stopped demanding heads and now all of a sudden you can envision it happening overnight.

Writing in The New Republic after a Clinton-Sanders debate, Elizabeth Bruenig- citing Clinton's effort "to downplay her relationship with Goldman Sachs and to win trust for her (inadequate) plans for Wall Street regulation"- actually questioned her commitment to overturning Citizens United, a court decision HRC is as fond of as Jared Kushner is of Chris Christie. However, we were warned by Zingales, and Bruenig and others should not be surprised, now that the Democratic nominee has been swept aside, that big bankers can barely contain their glee:

Wall Street bankers and their Washington lobbyists are quietly celebrating. They went from expecting fresh crackdowns from a Hillary Clinton administration with Warren wielding heavy influence to the cusp of a deregulatory bonanza with Republicans in complete control of Washington

They may as well be laughing at those blue-collar, working-class Trump voters as

“There is a joke going around here that if I’d have known how good Trump was going to be for Wall Street, I’d have campaigned for him,” said one Goldman Sachs executive who declined to be identified by name speaking about the incoming president. “What people are reacting to is this incredible cultural shift. People thought it might be 10 or 15 years until regulators stopped demanding heads and now all of a sudden you can envision it happening overnight. 

A CEO of a financial reform group notes "candidate Trump understood the American people's disgust with Washington's bipartisan business-as-usual corruption where the biggest corporations nd Wall Street's too-big-to-fail banks in particular buy access and influence to promote their special interests."

Surely, Candidate Trump understood it.  President-elect Trump is just fine with it.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Resentment, The Real "R Word"

"If you looked only at the exit polls, you might conclude that 2016 was a "change election,'" Vox's Lee Drutman wrote Tuesday.

Those would be the polls and, at least to some extent President Obama, who on the same day claimed "last I checked, a pretty healthy majority of the American people agree with my worldview on a bunch of things." He suggested that Donald Trump was elected because American voters wanted to "shake things up" much as those in the United Kingdom did by opting for the British to exit the European Union.

Emphasis on polls has spread, even to this Washington Post reporter, who actually believes that the 17% of Trump voters who said they approve of the President were being truthful. He probably believes that a full 56% of the American people approve of the job Obama is doing.

Let's review.  It is now widely and legitimately speculated that there was a significant "silent vote" for Trump, in which voters were afraid to admit to pollsters they were going to vote for him.  Pre-election surveys indicated Hillary Clinton would win a majority of the electoral vote and probably out-poll the Republican by 3-4 points. And that was without including the vaunted Clinton voter turnout operation, which could be expected to add approximately one point to her net advantage.

Clinton fell approximately two-and-a-half points behind what should have been expected, implying that not all likely voters were truthful with pollsters. And yet we are to assume that 55-60% like what President Obama is doing and that a large number of  individuals opting for Trump really are quite satisfied with Obama's job performance.  And it is actually less difficult to fib about supporting the President than it is about one's upcoming vote, because in the latter instance the voter would in fact be acting contrary to  her stated wishes.

Maybe, nonetheless, it was primarily a change election.  Drutman notes,  however, that roughly 50 percent of voters in any election will want change because they want the in party to be thrown out. Moreover

Considerable political science evidence shows that voters pick the candidates they like and then decide on the issues that are important to them based on what the candidate prioritizes. The survey might as well have substituted "Can bring needed change" with "Make America Great Again." It would tell us about as much about what voters actually wanted.

"But," he continues, "there's an even larger problem with the 'change election' narrative," which is

that these same voters who allegedly wanted "change" overwhelmingly sent their career politicians a strong "change" message by reelecting them to Washington. That'll teach them!

Of 393 House incumbents who sought reelection, only five lost in the primaries, and only eight lost in the general election. For those of you keeping score at home, that's 97 percent of incumbents reelected. Only two incumbent senators, Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), lost. And Kirk, a Republican in a deep blue state, was always a long shot to win reelection.

Of 466 seats up in both the House and the Senate, 445 stayed in the same party. Again, for those of you keeping score at home, that's 96 percent of congressional seats staying in the same party.

And once all the votes are counted, Hillary Clinton will have won the national popular vote by only a little less than Barack Obama won it in 2012.

For a so-called "change" election, this is a whole lot of status quo.

There are powerful forces which  want us to believe that Hillary Clinton was rejected by an American electorate which is quite happy with the first black President.  It falls to Henry Louis Gates to explain that the President's

54 percent approval rating was completely undermined by the result of the election. Hillary hitched her wagon to him; she clearly identified herself with Obama. But it didn’t work. There was a shocking amount of resentment that a black family had been in the White House for two terms.

I think it would be naive to overlook it — the irony that one of the legacies of Obama’s presidency was an enormous amount of resentment. And not his fault at all. I don’t think a Donald Trump could have emerged without a black president. Donald Trump tapped into and fueled and stoked an enormous amount of racial resentment. And Obama symbolized it.

As Gates understands, this is only part of the explanation for Trump's victory. However, it is largely ignored because if we were generally to acknowledge it, we would be forced to look inside the American psyche and find things considerably disqueting. As one of Albert Camus' characters put it, "For the plague-stricken their peace of mind is more important than a human life. Decent folks must be allowed to sleep easy o' nights, mustn't they? Really it would be in shockingly bad taste to linger on such details."

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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An Activist He's Not

Jonathan Chait argues

And so the man who thought he was through with politics has, it turns out, one more essential role left: Beginning next year, Obama needs to rally the opposition, to community-organize his coalition, and to exploit his celebrity to make the case for saving his legacy. His visibility alone would serve a vital function.

He adds

Obama is a powerful symbol of rationalism, thoughtfulness, and pluralism -- the ultimate anti-Trump, both ideologically and symbolically. Women, religious minorities, immigrants and prospective immigrants, transgender people, young Africans with iPhones, the beat-down opposition in places like Russia and China, and the people who bully all the preceding groups and more -- the whole planet, really -- need reminding that Obama’s version of America has prevailed before and will prevail again.

A much more than skeptical Steve M. responds

But we see how Obama is reacting to Trump's election. He's trying to ensure a smooth handover of power -- and I don't believe that's just in order to show that he's a better man than Trump. I think Obama genuinely believes that peaceful transitions are a hallmark of American democracy. I also think he learned a long time ago how not to be the angry man who rocks the boat, and he's reverting to that mode of behavior now.

If Obama is acting this way after the election of a man who's treated him with utter contempt (and whom he clearly despises), why should we expect him to to cast aside the tradition that an ex-president shouldn't criticize a sitting president?

Only time will tell. But wait- we already know.

The "most undercovered story of 2016," Ari Berman tweeted on Election Day, is that "today is 1st presidential election in 50 years without full protections of Voting Rights Act."   Mrs. Clinton reportedly has noted "There are lots of reasons why an election like this is not successful … our analysis is that Comey’s letter raising doubts that were groundless, baseless, proven to be, stopped our momentum.” And then there is the matter of the electoral college system.

Meanwhile, back at the office of Please Don't Notice That Mrs. Clinton Ran for a Third Obama Term, the President told reporters

You know, I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa. It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW hall, and there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points. There are some counties maybe I won that people didn’t expect because people had a chance to see you and listen to you and get a sense of who you stood for and who you were fighting for.

"It would be nice to have him leading the battle," Steve M. concludes, "but we really shouldn't count on it."  Not count on it? We can bet the ranch against it.

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Advice From Donald Trump

Two nights after the election, Bill O'Reilly commented

Is there a civil war brewing in the U.S.A.? That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo. As we mentioned last night, the voters rebelled and Donald Trump won the presidency because of that rebellion. Just a few hours after the election was called though, some anti-Trump protesters took to the streets. Nothing major but the spectacle got intense in Oakland.

After video was shown, O'Reilly continued

The main beef seems to be that left-wing protesters don't respect an honest election. By the way, that's a hallmark around the world. Every communist and socialist takeover from Cuba to Venezuela to Soviet Russia back in the early 20th century featured violence and assaults on freedom. Here in the U.S.A. We honor protests, but increasingly we are seeing people who want our system destroyed. 

Since the election, there have been marchers throughout the nation who could take comfort from tweets arguing "we should march on Washington and stop this travesty' because "the world is laughing at us" as the "electoral college (has) made a laughingstock out of our nation."  "We should have a revolution in this country" goes one tweet, noting the candidate "lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election."

There is a problem, however. The tweets (now deleted, but preserved) are from 2012, not 2016 and were all made by one individual, Donald J. Trump, when according to Digby "he thought Obama was going to win the electoral college and Mitt Romney was going to win the popular vote." At the time, he saw the possibility of an Electoral College defeat coupled with a popular vote victory, concluded "we are not a democracy," and advocated revolution because "our country is now in serious and  unprecedented trouble... like never before."

Perhaps Bill O'Reilly can ask Donald Trump whether he still believes revolution is the answer when a presidential candidate with the greatest number of votes is denied the presidency. It would make for great television we'll never get to see.

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Prescription For Staying Out Of Power

Steve M. quotes Stephen Carter, who has written for Bloomberg View

But whether or not the president-elect does what he should, the lesson for liberals is that they have to get serious again -- not just about winning elections but also about taking opposition as a mark of an energetic politics rather than the Manichean manipulations of the forces of evil. The mark of a healthy democracy is the preference for argument rather than invective. Those are the roots the left must reclaim. True, we live in an era when serious debate isn’t much valued. Perhaps a Democratic Party that spends a few years out of power can find its way back by reminding all of us how it is done.

If so, that would be breaking the mold of recent years.  The GOP held down its losses in the House of Representatives, improbably maintained control of the Senate, and won a presidential race which the left, mainstream media, and even the Republican Party itself believed highly unlikely unless it became friendlier to hispanics.  You might have noticed that it didn't. Steve M. rhetorically asks

And you do know that the victorious Republican presidential candidate this year was Donald Trump, don't you, Professor? Someone who portrayed his opponent as (in your words) a "force of evil" throughout his campaign? Someone whose campaign was fifteen straight months of invective? And you realize that in four straight elections -- in 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 -- Republicans have vowed to "take our country back" from Democrats, as if Democrats are usurpers rather than fellow citizens who've won elections?

Carter wrote

What I hope happens ... is that liberals of the present day rediscover the virtues of the ascendant liberalism of the 1950s through the 1970s that Democrats seem to want to emulate. These virtues included a toleration for disagreement, an effort to avoid reducing complex issues to applause lines, and a fundamental humility as they went about governing. This doesn’t mean the old-style liberals didn’t believe, earnestly, that they were right on the issues. But they accepted that their nation was a diverse place, that their opponents were entitled to their say, that government should not try to do everything at once, and that policy should be made in a way that could create a working consensus.

Appropriately incensed, SM responds

Professor, you do know that the Democratic nominee this year was Hillary Clinton, don't you? A woman who's always been eager to reach across the aisle? A woman who avidly pursued Republican votes throughout the general-election campaign? A woman who bragged about many endorsements from Republicans?

In the good old days, liberals accepted "that their opponents were entitled to their say... and that policy should be made in a way that could create a working consensus.  That sounds a lot like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which proved unpopular and has been an albatross for Democratic congressional candidates and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Matt Grossman and David A.  Hopkins note

As many frustrated Democrats pointed out, the ACA was far from the exercise in single-payer socialized medicine implied by Republican critics. In fact, the law's structure is striking for the many ways in which it attempts to avoid conservative accusations of "big government" liberalism.

Republicans favor federalism over nationalization. The ACA creates state-based insurance exchanges and uses state Medicaid partnerships to deliver services.

Republicans favor private sector implementation over increasing government bureaucracy. The ACA delivers benefits mainly through private insurance companies.

Republicans favor free market incentives. The ACA uses internet-based shopping marketplaces, which allows consumers to compare prices and requires insurers to compete for their business.

The GOP was remade by and for the Tea Party, which encouraged extremist polictics and a confrontational approach, attacked the Republican establishment, and laid the groundwork for the Trump candidacy.  Health care reform was famoulsy one of the movement's original targets and despite its (modest) success has been an albatross around the neck of congressional candidates and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Spurred by Tea Party activism, the Republican Party became "ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unmoved by convetnional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."  And extremely successful.

Now Stephen Carter and others want liberals to play nice and recognize diversity of opinion. If  they do so, they may have the satisfaction of always having the adult in the room, pointing the way to consensus opinion and compromise, giving them a warm feeling all over when they subsequently get their heads handed to them again.

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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Very Excited Paul Ryan

Centrist Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp is getting that warm bipartisan feeling all over and remarks

It’s time to move forward. We must work to unite a country that has been so divided throughout this long election, and that will be President-elect Trump’s primary task. As I said back in May, if Donald Trump is elected president – as he was – there will be an opportunity to sit down and have a conversation about what that agenda looks like. We’re going to have disagreements, but we better all figure out how to come up with an agenda for the American people.

After the second presidential debate, Trump had tweeted "'it's a good thing Trump isn't in charge of the law in this country'- Hillary Clinton;  'yeah, because you'd be in jail'- Donald Trump."  Good luck, there, Senator Heitkamp.

The North Dakota Democrat probably is pleased there are indications President Trump might accede to the advice of more sober members of his party not to appoint a special prosecutor to target Clinton. If so, he may be even more anxious to implement their policy agenda, and quickly.

On Thursday, the Speaker of the House held a private meeting with the President-elect (alternatively, and misleadingly "the President-elect held a meeting with the Speaker of the House").  As Charlie Pierce would note: "the usual disclaimer: Paul Ryan is the biggest fake in American politics." Salon's Taylor Link writes that afterward

“What people don’t realize is that Medicare is going broke, that Medicare is going to have price controls. Because of Obamacare, Medicaid is in fiscal straits,” Ryan said in an interview with Fox News Thursday. “So you have to deal with those issues if you’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare. Medicare has got some serious problems because of Obamacare. Those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare.”

However, the major portion of Medicare Part A, the Medicare Hospital Trust Fund, is now solvent until 2028.  Jonathan Chait explains

The Medicare trust fund has been extended 11 years as a result of the passage of Obamacare, whose cost reforms have helped bring health care inflation to historic lows. It is also untrue that repealing Obamacare requires changing traditional Medicare. But Ryan clearly believes he needs to make this claim in order to sell his plan, or probably even to convince fellow Republicans to support it.

One of those fellow Republicans is Donald Trump, whose transition website now pledges the incoming President to "modernize Medicare, so that it will be ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation- and  beyond." "Modernizing" is GOP shorthand for privatization, and being "ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation" fosters the myth that without cuts, Medicare will become extinct.

The Ryan-Pence Administration has not even begun, and the warning signs already are there.  The Trumpists are reticent to prosecute their biggest political enemy but Paul Ryan is pleased that his agenda to eviscerate the social safety net will find a friendly reception.  Once Trump was declared victor, Ryan wasted no time in exulting

"The House majority is bigger than expected, we won more seats than anyone expected, and much of that is thanks to Donald Trump. Donald Trump provided the kind of coattails that got a lot of people over the finish line so that we could maintain our strong House and Senate majorities. Now we have important work to do.

Ryan is from Wisconsin and as the poor, the sick, the aged, the disabled, and others are likely to find out, he isn't just whistling Dixie.

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This  is a reasonable question. If going to a predominantly Jewish neighborhood to harass and intimidate Jewish people at a synagogue is no...