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Memorial Day 2017

War Dead Honored On Memorial Day Weekend

I just recently read Eugene Sledge’s memoir “With the Old Breed”. It’s not a new book but it comes with my strongest recommendation. It covers the oft-overlooked horror that was Peleliu and Okinawa. What crossed me reading it was the omnipresence of death — not just people dying but their bodies remaining on the battlefield due to intense enemy fire and horrible weather making retrieval impossible. Sledge survived without even a wound. But so many thousands saw their stories come to an end there, in the mire and blood.

Free Stuff Don’t Come Cheap

California has a tough financial future. Their employee pension program is underfunded by tens of billions. Their business environment has gotten increasingly poor. They have one of the highest ratios of inequality in the country. So what to do?

Triple the budget, apparently:

The latest stop on this magical mystery tour of progressive health care plans is California, where U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has been campaigning on behalf of a proposed state-run single-payer system. On Monday, state lawmakers in Sacramento got their first look at the price tag for the proposal, which rings in at a whopping $400 billion annually.

The Sacramento Bee notes that, even after accounting for an estimated $200 billion that could be saved by replacing current state-run health programs with the single-payer program, the state would still need to come up with $200 billion annually.

This year’s state budget in California, by the way, is about $180 billion. That means that implementing a single-payer health care system would require doubling (at least) the state’s current tax burden. The analysis of the health care proposal presented to lawmakers on Monday suggests a 15 percent increase to the state’s payroll tax to provide the necessary revenue.

Even accounting for the money employers would “save” by not having to buy insurance, they would still have to come up with $50-100 billion more.

California’s system would be beyond what even the most socialized countries on Earth do. Most “single-payer” systems have some out-of-pocket expenses or private co-insurance. This has a way of keeping costs down. California’s proposed system would pay everything for everyone including illegal aliens. Considering how the costs on … well everything … have been beyond expectations, I would put the cost at more $500-600 billion.

Colorado and Vermont voters overwhelmingly rejected single-payer schemes because of the cost. This one is being put out by California’s state legislature, which is controlled almost entirely by Democrats. So it has a chance of passing. Which means California has a chance of being bankrupt even sooner than expected.

Today’s Trump Drama

Today in Trump, we learned that his trusted son-in-law may or may not have tried to set up a communications line to Russia outside of normal channels that American intelligence services couldn’t monitor. This comes on the heels of Trump pissing away what turned out to be a pretty good visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel by dumping all over Europe and NATO.

The last few weeks have been exhausting with revelation after revelation, ranging from the banal to the dramatic. This is precisely what I feared when Trump won: that we’d have non-stop drama and bullshit. It would be like the 2016 election itself only every day and for four years.

Gianforte Attacks Reporter

I have a few long-form posts cooking. But a quick hit tonight: Montana Republican candidate Greg Gianforte reportedly attacked a reporter tonight. Grabbed him by the neck and body-slammed him after being a question about the CBOs score of the GOP healthcare plan. The local Fox News affiliate has confirmed the account and audio tape released sure sounds consistent with the reporter’s account (and not the candidate’s statement).

Gianforte is an unexpectedly close race and the Democrats are hoping to pick this up on the way to a 2018 landslide. We’ll see (their fundraising has been poor of late). Gianforte could still win since most ballots have been cast and it may take a while for this to sink in. But we can’t have politicians literally assaulting reporters for asking routine questions. If Gianforte wins and is later charged for his actions tonight, he should resign.

Update: Gianforte has been charge with misdemeanor assault.

The Case for Patience

In August of 1867, President Andrew Johnson fired Edwin Stanton in violation of the Tenure of Office Act. Johnson was a terrible President and had been in conflict with Congress for a long time. They began working on impeachment almost immediately but it dragged out until, nine months later, the Senate acquitted him.

On June 17, 1972, four men were discovered breaking into the DNC headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. It took over two years for the scandal to grind through an opposing Congress until Nixon resigned. Had he fought impeachment, it might have dragged out even longer.

From November of 1995 to March 1997, Monica Lewinsky had a series of encounters will Bill Clinton. The coverup began later that year and the scandal broke on January 17 of 1998. It took almost a year for the scandal to develop until a hostile Congress voted on impeachment that December. And this was really the culmination of years of scandal with the Clintons.

Why do I bring these up? To remind everyone that we have only turned to impeachment three times in our nation’s history. In each case, the President faced a hostile Congress. In each case, there was specific law-breaking. In each case, it was the culmination of years of conflict. And in each case it took months or years to resolve.

So why are all of the sudden in such a rush to impeach Donald Trump?

Look, Donald Trump has had a poor four months. His Muslim ban was rolled out with all the skill of the Marx brothers. His budget went nowhere. His healthcare imploded. He hired Mike Flynn — a man compromised by multiple foreign entanglements — and then fired him reluctantly. He fired the FBI director because he didn’t him poking around his Russia ties. He has serious conflict of interest and infuriating temperament problems. I’ll be second to few in my criticism of him.

But it is way too early be talking impeachment and way too early to be calling Congress — held by his party — “cowards” and “partisans” for not beginning impeachment proceedings immediately.

Let’s look at some facts here:

  • There is zero evidence, at this point, that Donald Trump directly collaborated with the Russians to win the election.
  • There is zero evidence that anyone in his campaign did. There are some indications that some of them had worked for Russia and one may have contacted the DNC hacker. But there’s no smoking gun yet. Not even on Michael Flynn.
  • Even if someone did work with the Russians, this is not “treason” in any legal sense. Treason is defined very narrowly in our laws to avoid it being used to go after political opponents. We’re not at war with Russia.
  • It is highly questionable whether Trump’s business interests violate the law. They’re slimy, sure. But corruption? No proof yet.
  • Firing the FBI director is not illegal nor is it obstruction of justice. Firing Sally Yates is not illegal nor is it obstruction of justice. Firing Preet Bharara is not illegal not is it obstruction of justice. Asking Comey to lay off Flynn is not illegal nor is it obstruction of justice. These things may be part of a pattern of behavior that could be said to constitute obstruction. You would introduce these as elements of a crime. But none of them are crimes in and of themselves.
  • (And while we’re on the subject, why the hell are the liberals making a hero of that overzealous Constitution-shredding prosecutor Bharara? He is no friend of theirs. His “resistance” to Donald Trump has consisted entirely of refusing a perfectly legal and routine request to resign because … he didn’t want to. Bharara is only in this for himself.
  • Trump’s executive orders are not illegal. In fact, the precedent for most of what he’s done was set by … Barack Obama.

Look, I’m not saying there will never be a case to impeach Donald Trump. I’m just saying that case does not exist yet and may not for years. People who are talking impeachment — or worse using the 25th Amendment — are way ahead of themselves. Hell, let’s be honest. Some of them were talking about impeachment the day he won the election.

Let’s all take a deep breath here. Donald Trump is President of the United States. I’m not fond of that fact but he is. Screaming impeachment every time he swats a fly is not going to get us anywhere. And frankly, it make the “resistance”, after all of four months, sound more insane than the worst Tea Partiers ever did. For four months, the courts, the Congress and the media have held Trump in check. Concentrate your efforts there. And when he does do something right, admit he’s done something right.

Post Scriptum

For the record, I think it’s likely that Donald Trump will not finish his first term. But I don’t think it will have anything to do with Russia and I don’t think he will be impeached. My opinion is that while Russia tried to influence the election, their contacts with the Trump campaign were limited at best. And Trump’s behavior does not cross me as someone trying to cover up a huge scandal. It crosses me as the behavior of a petty inexperienced man who is convinced the Russia thing is a bunch of garbage and wants to end it, not understanding the political ramifications. This is Trump’s inexperience showing — a smart man would let the Democrats gasbag themselves to death over it. But we’ll see what comes out of the investigation.

If Trump quits early it will be because he’s frustrated with the limit on the office and wants to do something else. I don’t think he ever really wanted to be President. And while I think he enjoys talking to crowds and sparring with the media, I don’t think he likes the slowly frustrating hamstrung grind of the office itself.

Post-post Scriptum

Note that with impeachment on the brain, a lot of Democrats are unveiling their, “actually Pence is worse” lines of BSery. The line of thought is that Pence is less personally obnoxious and could therefore get a lot more of his agenda through. Well, that and that Pence is such a religious maniac, he’s going to turn the country in the The Handmaid’s Tale.

In unveiling this argument, the Left is revealing that a huge fraction of their opposition to Trump is pure partisanship. You can’t make the argument that Trump is uniquely unsuited to the office and then claim that Pence (or Ryan) is worse. That’s just foolishness as well as an abuse of the English language.

The other argument is that they want Trump to be truly awful and, thus, destroy the Republican Party. Apart from the reality that truly awful candidates never wreck a party, this is putting politics ahead of country. Are you seriously hoping that Trump wrecks the country so that Democrats get to power? Is that really what this is all about?

Then don’t call yourself “the resistance”. You’re not resistance. You’re just wearing a different shade of uniform.

A Planet of Cops

Freddie deBoer, one of the few liberals I genuinely enjoy reading, has a great post on how our country has turned into a nation of tattle-tales. Money quote:

The woke world is a world of snitches, informants, rats. Go to any space concerned with social justice and what will you find? Endless surveillance. Everybody is to be judged. Everyone is under suspicion. Everything you say is to be scoured, picked over, analyzed for any possible offense. Everyone’s a detective in the Division of Problematics, and they walk the beat 24/7. You search and search for someone Bad doing Bad Things, finding ways to indict writers and artists and ordinary people for something, anything. That movie that got popular? Give me a few hours and 800 words. I’ll get you your indictments. That’s what liberalism is, now — the search for baddies doing bad things, like little offense archaeologists, digging deeper and deeper to find out who’s Good and who’s Bad. I wonder why people run away from establishment progressivism in droves.

This has now reached overdrive with Trump in power. Now granted, Trump is ineffective and possibly corrupt. But the tendency over the last four months has been to go nuclear about everything. Even harmless little jokes are made into the Outrage of the Hour.

Liberals aren’t the only ones becoming Constant Guardians of Morality, of course. But the tendency in our culture to mind everyone else’s business is alarming and ultimately destructive. At some point, we have to start leaving each other the hell alone.

The Last 48 Hours Of Trump

It’s hard to keep up with everything but here’s what we know:

  • A number of media outlets are now reporting that Jim Comey took copious notes of his meetings with Donald Trump. On at least one occasion, the reports say, Trump pressured him to lay off Mike Flynn. This is a very serious allegation and both the House and Senate Oversight Committee are demanding copies of the memos and testimony from Comey by next week.
  • The DOJ has now appointed a Special Counsel — Robert Mueller — to investigate Russia’s influence over the election. This is very good news, whether there’s something to it or not. Mueller is highly respected and will be very thorough. If he finds nothing, the Democrats … well, some of them won’t accept it but some will. If he finds something … well, then it does get interesting.
  • We’ve found about that the leaked intel came from Israel. I’m a little bit of two minds about this since it seems to me that the press is now getting this information out there as much as Trump is.
  • Putin, possibly trolling Trump, offered to provide transcripts of the Russian meeting with Trump.
  • Rumors abound of chaos in the White House. Hard to know how seriously to take those, of course.

So … a mess. But this is exactly what all of us Never-Trumpers predicted would happen if we elected this buffoon. I suppose there are some people out there pleased because it’s “pissing liberals off” (this being what Limbaugh has been saying for the last few weeks). I’d just as soon we have a President who could, you know, do stuff beyond raging on Twitter.

Trump Burns Intel Sources?

I hesitate to post this because it’s early hours. But it’s a bombshell if true.

President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.

The information the president relayed had been provided by a U.S. partner through an intelligence-sharing arrangement considered so sensitive that details have been withheld from allies and tightly restricted even within the U.S. government, officials said.

The partner had not given the United States permission to share the material with Russia, and officials said Trump’s decision to do so endangers cooperation from an ally that has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State. After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency.

It’s anonymous sources. The White House has issued a denial, but it’s a carefully worded one. At this point, I am still awaiting confirmation, which may never get. But if it is true, it is a serious and egregious mistake by an increasingly bumbling and lost President. The President may have exposed a vital source of intelligence so that he could boast to a Russian foreign minister. (Note: Reuters and Buzzfeed are claiming confirmation from other sources, also anonymous).

A lot of people are rallying around the President but a lot more than usual are criticizing him. As I said — we should be cautious about spectacular anonymously sourced stories. But veterans of the blog may remember Lee’s invention of the phrase Brownie Moment. I think there a lot of Brownie Moments happening right now.

Comey Fired

Trump has apparently fired James Comey, the head of the FBI. Comey has been a lightning rod lately with allegations that he “threw” the election to Clinton, a (possibly false) claim that Huma Abedin forward classified e-mails to her husband and an ongoing investigation into Russia. But it is apparently his failure to file charges in the e-mail scandal that precipitated this.

Updates to follow.