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It Has Begun

On Friday, the office of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller issued a twelve-count indictment against former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Manafort’s close lieutenant Richard Gates. This indictment was released to the public today. Also released today is a four-week-old indictment against George Papadopoulos for providing false information to the FBI. Papadopoulos was a second-tier foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign. Sorry, but I’ve not a ton of time this morning to digest all the applicable law and write a thorough explainer. But here’s a few high points for you all to consider.

The name “Donald Trump” is not found anywhere in the Manafort/Gates indictment. The activities alleged in the indictment do not directly concern the Trump for President campaign; rather, they focus on Manafort and Gates’ involvement in providing political advice and assistance to Victor Yanukovych, former Prime MInister and President of Ukraine. Yanukovych is friendly to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his power base is in the east of Ukraine, which is the more heavily ethnically Russian portion of his nation.

Manafort’s involvement with Yanukovych has never been a secret from anyone. What has been a secret has been just how much money Yanukovych steered Manafort’s way to obtain his services — a staggering $75,000,000. Given that this is an order of magnitude more than campaign consultants legitimately make to elect Presidents of the United States, there was quite clearly more of value exchanged than political consulting.

Interestingly, another name that’s not in the indictments is Michael Flynn. The former National Security Advisor appears to have engaged in very similar activity as Manafort stands accused of — receiving money from a foreign power, in Flynn’s case Turkey, without making the required disclosures that he was attempting to influence the American government on behalf of that foreign power. There is also some smoke, but as far as I can tell not yet any visible fire, that smells like a connection of Flynn to Russian interests through Flynn’s consulting firm created shortly after his retirement from the military.

One of the items of relief requested is forfeiture of Manafort’s and Gates’ assets. This includes some rather nice real estate in New York City and Arlington, Virginia that Manafort owns, and of some interest to me, a universal life insurance policy. This is interesting because a universal life policy is a financial product likely to be protectable from collection in civil judgments, but can be borrowed against at favorable interest rates, and therefore used as a semi-liquid asset and repaid with apparently clean funds, providing further washing of the money.

The use of a raft of domestic and foreign entities1 to receive funds from Yanukovych and his constellation of associates to purchase real estate — in the United States — is a principal means described of laundering money. I wouldn’t ever give actual advice about how to launder illegally-received money, of course, but I can say that real estate in the United States is a pretty open asset: ownership of the asset and any loans secured by that asset are matters of readily-obtained public records.

It continues to at least appear to be the case that one does not get into legal trouble for what one does, but rather that one gets into trouble for lying about it, trying to cover it up, and not paying taxes. That’s true but also not true in this case. One of the purposes of sunshine laws such as Manafort and Gates are accused of violating is at least in part to deter people from engaging in corrupt transactions in the first place. Another point of these laws is to make it easier to punish such transactions when the underlying corruption is strongly suspected but there is difficulty involved in proving elements of subjective intent.

And charges like conspiracy, money laundering, and providing false information to law enforcement strongly imply that other criminal activity was afoot — and there are not yet charges or allegations involved there. Some of us might “want” the President to have been personally implicated in this as-yet-uncharged criminal activity, but it’s reading tea leaves to say that this indictment on Manafort is preliminary to accusing Trump of participating in, or aiding and abetting, or even contenancing, that illegal activity. Nor, of course, should anyone “want” the President to have engaged in criminal activity, no matter how much we dislike that person being President for any number of reasons.

Special Prosecutor Mueller’s mandate is to investigate attempts by the Russian government to influence elections in the United States, as well as related incidents. This is only a “related incident.” But it’s also coming well before Mueller or his team have made any substantial statement about the core of their mandate. The “relation,” however, is plain and obvious: Manafort had taken $75,000,000 from a pro-Russian political cause over the course of twelve years before becoming a significant figure in Donald Trump’s election campaign and therefore was already in the orbit of influence of Russia when he took over running that campaign.

It’s easy to overlook how the Papadopolous case fits in to the Manafort case. But Papadopolous has already pled guilty to lying about the extent of his involvement with apparent agents of or proxies for the Russian government as part of his involvement with the Trump for President campaign. There are also reports that Papadopolous is “cooperating” with Mueller and the FBI. Which means Papadopolous has been “flipped,” and will be expecting a lienient sentence in exchange for testimony about the extent to which he knew higher-ranking officials within that campaign — meaning Manafort — were aware that assistance to the campaign was coming from the Kremlin.

Finally, it’s worth noting that none of these indictments were leaked before today. Unlike, say, the White House, it appears that Robert Mueller is leading a team of people who are not interested in using the media as a tool to leverage some sort of result they desire. And there isn’t a whole lot more information coming out of the Special Prosecutor’s office, either. So this journey is not done yet. These indictments are a milepost, and don’t doubt for a second that their public release is intended to put pressure on other people.

If you ask me, it appears to be working as the person who seems to be the ultimate beneficiary of all of this illegal activity has returned to his very favorite gaslight:

So it looks to me like we’re reaching the point where real inquiry into how much the President actually knew about and participated in the influence from Russia was going on, and the opening of a formal public case against Paul Manafort is aimed at that very question. Doesn’t mean that President Trump is guilty of anything, although if the allegations in the indictment are proven, it would mean that at minimum, he was indifferent to and ignorant of some things that as a candidate, he should have known about and controlled for. It’s not looking to me like this minimum is going to be the ceiling of reasonable inquiry, either.

So I’ll leave you with a bit of poetry.

Jockeys go to the track,
And lawyers go to Court.
For the foreseeable future,
It’s gonna suck to be Paul Manafort.

Enjoy your discussion.

 

Image by DonkeyHotey Notes:

  1. It takes nearly three pages to list them all, on pages 4-6 of the indictment []

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Pseudonymous. Practices Law. Lives in Southern California. Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. Homebrewer. Atheist. No Partisan Preference. Likes: respectful and intelligent dialogue, good wine, and puppies. Dislikes: mass-produced barley pop, magical thinking, and insincere people. Follow him on Twitter at @burtlikko, and on Flipboard at Burt Likko.

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248 thoughts on “It Has Begun

  1. Matt Y had a rather cynical take on twitter yesterday. He predicted Mueller will be fired, blanket pardons, Republicans putting up all defenses possible (indeed Fox and Friends is already trying to make this about HRC). More darkly, he predicted Russian interference in 2018 and Democratic Party candidates winning a 7 point majority in the popular vote but that the GOP will still retain Congressional majorities.

    At this point, partisanship is so high that I think either the GOP doesn’t care about the legitimacy of their majorities or they do care but aren’t willing to give up power so they look for clever walk-arounds to maintain their majorities.

    September 1, 1939 by Auden has the following lines:

    I sit in one of the dives
    On Fifty-second Street
    Uncertain and afraid
    As the clever hopes expire
    Of a low dishonest decade

    I’m feeling this a lot. I don’t see the incompetence as proof that we are winning. I’m just seeing GOP partisans and their allies saying “Nyah Nyah we don’t care. Prepare to be occupied immediately.”

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    • “Matt Y had a rather cynical take on twitter yesterday. He predicted Mueller will be fired, blanket pardons, Republicans putting up all defenses possible (indeed Fox and Friends is already trying to make this about HRC). More darkly, he predicted Russian interference in 2018 and Democratic Party candidates winning a 7 point majority in the popular vote but that the GOP will still retain Congressional majorities.”

      Would your opinion change if these predictions don’t come to pass? The Mueller firing and blanket pardons seem like the easiest to measure and to connect to the Russian scandal. It’d be hard for us to agree on what constitutes too much Republican defense; there’s no good way for us to determine how much Russian interference may take place in 2018; particular splits on D/R voting and majorities are hard to pin directly on Russian interference. So would you feel better if the first two predictions don’t come true?

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      • I would feel massively better if the first two don’t come true. But unless they can get some state charges to stick early, I suspect they will. Donald Trump’s history is one with a lot of questionable associates and business operations, so I don’t think he can afford to have Mueller pulling on threads without putting himself at serious risk. A Saturday Night Massacre would probably be less risky.

        As for how much Republican defense of such a move is too much, I’d say any is too much. Anything more than minimal grumbling in defense of it followed by taking action against it is really nothing short of shameful. I also suspect that if Trump does pull the trigger, that’s exactly what will happen. Some Republicans will go so far as to have “grave concerns” about it and then move on to doing their sworn duty as members of Congress to eliminate the estate tax.

        The future election stuff just seems like venting. I can’t make much of a testable prediction here. I predict that foreign governments with an interest in what we do will try to interfere. It would be weird if they didn’t. It would just be a little less disturbing if our government officials weren’t quite as blatantly complicit as they’re probably going to end up being.

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  2. It seems to me that there are three ways that this can get even crazier:

    1. Start handing out bigger and bigger and bigger indictments to people close to Trump. Eric Trump! Don Jr.! Ivanka! Will Trump get indicted?
    2. Indictments of “both sides”. Wait, Tony Podesta gets indicted? Wait, Mueller was only supposed to investigate Trump!
    3. This crap is old news by Thursday and we’re all arguing about how Vanilla Ice or somebody just dropped a huge bombshell about sexual harassment in the music industry.

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        • Burt,
          It was Clinton money doing the coverup for Weinstein, classic tit for tat (he was a heavy Clinton donor).[And I say this with a friend who’s the type of Clinton Operative who knew the DC Madam quite well.]

          I don’t much care about getting Weinstein prosecuted, in particular.
          I’d rather we end the system of entitled assholes.

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          • I’d rather we end the system of entitled…

            If we’re going to send a message that society frowns on this behavior, prosecution is probably the way to go. It’s already illegal so passing a law seems pointless.

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            • Dark,
              Prosecuting the pennyante folks fixes nothing.
              Prosecuting the enablers and the defenders, and the people that put the FEAR of GOD into an entire fucking industry?
              That… might change… something.

              But, sure, if you really want a hill to go die on, go ahead and prosecute the Kochs. They’ll ruin you, but you can at least say you tried.

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    • 2. Indictments of “both sides”. Wait, Tony Podesta gets indicted? Wait, Mueller was only supposed to investigate Trump!

      I’ve seen quite a few mentions of that on the left, and the liberal response has been “If he broke the law, good“.

      I suspect, however, the Podesta Group and Mercury will just get fined. If nothing else, they clearly didn’t bother with due diligence. From what I read, while Manafort was happily playing “hide the source of the money” I don’t really think he was doing it particularly well.

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      • I have no idea what’s going on nor who is guilty of what. I’m just trying to figure out the ways that are most likely for things to get even crazier because that seems to me to be the way that this is most likely going to go.

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        • As best I can tell — and I’m probably wrong — the Podesta Group and Mercury are “Company A and Company B” in the indictment against Manafort. They are not indicted, at least at the moment.

          They’re both lobbying companies, both of whom have lobbied for everyone basically. You’re gonna find any given politician is like two degrees separation from them, tops. (Been lobbied by, worked for, hired, etc).

          As I understand it, Manafort hired both with dirty money.

          As best I can tell, the charges involving them boil down to “Manafort hired both through a cut-out” — some shell company he or the Ukrainians he was working for — created and he’s being charged with hiring both companies through that cut-out.

          Whether or not Podesta and Mercury are in any legal trouble depends on whether or not it’s determined they knew (or should have known) that it was a cut-out.

          As of the moment, Mueller has not filed any charges against either company. Perhaps he doesn’t think there’s any culpability. Perhaps he thinks Manafort might roll and then he can determine culpability. Perhaps they’re just really tertiary to his investigation, and will be rolled up in due time.

          Gun to head, I’d say probably say something between “no charges” and “mild slap on the wrist for not doing due diligence”. (Probably the former. Call my cynical, but I bet the lobbying rules for due diligence are weak as hell.)

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        • Oh hey, I learned some details. Manafort took government (Ukraine) money and funneled it through a (fake) Ukraine private organization, and used that to pay for the Podesta Group and Mercury.

          Government money has to be registered as foreign lobbying, but private foreign organizations don’t. So the crime, in this case, is Manafort’s creation of a shell in order to engage in lobbying (or in this case, hiring people to lobby for him) without disclosure that the funds were from a foreign government.

          Any culpability on the part of the Podesta Group or Mercury would boil down to “Did they know it was a front or did they help set it up”. I’d think the former is possible, but no way at this point to tell how likely, and the latter highly unlikely, as it appeared the whole reason Manafort was making money off this was because he was setting up those fronts.

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          • Maybe Tony resigned for nothing, then. If so, he’ll probably be able to bounce back with a new company (that will probably have to be named something involving a Greek/Roman Deity or something off of the periodic table rather than involve his last name).

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            • Wrong or right, the way lobbying firms actually work — he’d have to resign. It’s all PR and personal relationships. If your lobbying firm has a black mark, then any lobbying they do is tarred by association.

              It’s like school, really — whether or not the unpopular kid has a good idea or not, nobody’s going to listen because nobody likes him.

              If no charges are filed, I suspect he’ll quietly resume his job sometime in the future. (Besides, it’s his group. I somehow doubt he sold his ownership stake).

              It really just depends on how good Manafort’s work is. It seemed to skate by everyone until the FBI took a long hard look, but….I’ve got no idea how hard any relevant regulators work. For all I know, whatever arm of the government is supposed to audit this stuff has like 2 employees and a 50 year backlog.

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                • Democrats seem to be operating as normal, you know, at whatever their normal level of rightness and wrongess is.

                  I think you’ll bias your predictions if you assume the Democrats are equal outliers, given they seem to be operating as usual.

                  Even most of the GOP organizations aren’t operating much outside their normal parameters, except where Trump breaks the mold.

                  I mean, no other GOP candidate would have put Manafort on their campaign, much less put him in charge. It’s not like he’s done it before. Or, for instance, had their Presidential candidate’s son go try to convince the Russians to let him use their secure line back to Moscow to have a chat, mere weeks after winning the election.

                  All the crazy stems from Trump, because Trump is a non-politician obsessed with ratings, surrounded by people with no relevant expertise and skills, who seems to have drunkenly stumbled into the Presidency.

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                • Oh, as for crazy: Mercury Public Affairs already has a nice accusation. (They’re the other Company).

                  Not content with lobbying, it looks like they funneled money from Manafort’s UK shell through some of their lobbyists as campaign donations. That’s flatly illegal (foreign citizens can’t donate, and American citizens cannot avoid campaign caps by donating through others).

                  And the best part is? you’ll recognize the person they were donating to. Rohrabacher.

                  You know, the guy Paul Ryan himself said was in Putin’s pocket.

                  (No idea if Rohrabacher knew, but if Mercury was funneling foreign money into campaign contributions, that were cheerfully p*ssing on the law and knew it)

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    • Hey, did ya hear what Kevin Spacey said, did, had happen to him?

      So much for #3; I think this is what you imply by #1, but it seems to me that either Manafort rolls *and* he has the goods to trade, or he doesn’t or hasn’t. Papadapolous seems to me a non-factor as I doubt he has anything useful to trade… perhaps he does, but I think it all hinges on Manafort.

      Until we hear what Manfort is willing to trade, all the causality arrows point to Manafort needing access to Trump to keep his sweet sweet Cypriot Lira flowing, not Trump needing Manafort. But I’m willing (nay, even hopeful) to be persuaded.

      My $.02 prognostication is that (absent any “real” collusion evidence) Manafort will trade the fact that he got the Republican platform changed vis-a-vis Russia/Ukraine. That’s something and depending on the details around how and why that was changed that could be enough to turn the worm. On the cautious side, though, there’s a good chance that it was [merely] a signal to his Sugar Daddies that he was In… please send money now…and that just shows he was manipulating an inept team.

      That’s surely enough to convict Manafot, but we don’t care about Manafort… in order for the political winds to change, Manafort has to provide the goods that he was trading present (or possibly future – it gets muddy if it is future) Russian benefits for this change and that Trump authorized the change. Manafort either has that (or something equivalent) or he doesn’t; salacious dirt alone about how inept and stupid the Trump organization is won’t do the trick, I suspect.

      Since everyone wants to compare it to Watergate, we have to remember that Nixon doesn’t get impeached for a failed break-in, he gets impeached for knowing about it, covering it up, and paying hush money, and the tapes to prove it. Manafort, right now, is a failed break-in… we’re waiting for the tapes, the quid-pro-quo, and/or the blackmail.

      As someone not on team blue, but who would like to see Trump removed from office, we have to remember that this is a political matter, not simply a legal one; Manafort has to demonstrate a betrayal of trust, proof that Trump doesn’t care about his constituents, but only Trump money and Trump prestige. I think Mueller gets this… its about breaking up the Romance, not the affair.

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  3. The reason I am cynical is partially because it does feel like we are living in ages of high disagreement, partisanship, and/or negative partisanship. I’m not sure what grounds for compromise exist on any policy issue these days.

    The point about legalized marijuana is here. Theoretically 2/3rds of Americans support marijuana legalization. It should be a no brainer to make marijuana legalization a bipartisan success story. Yet this is seemingly not going to happen because almost no one views marijuana as a die on a hill issue and the 1/3 against legalization is too powerful in terms of their interests (financial, moral, or otherwise).

    What I’ve discovered in the aftermath of 2016 is that there are a lot of people who might have Donald Trump but they still like the Democratic Party and liberals more. Their dislike of Donald Trump does not trump (intended) their massive opposition to even the smallest bits of welfare state legislation, regulation, they don’t like how the Democratic Party talks about racial issues (and remember the real base of the Democratic Party is largely African-Americans especially older African-American women so the Democratic Party needs to discuss race instead class), or they believe in us being “out of touch elitists.”

    So they might say they dislike Trump but other goals cause them to defend Trump directly and/or indirectly.

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    • I think you mean “what I’ve discovered in the aftermath of 2016 is that there are a lot of people who hate Donald Trump but they still hate the Democratic and liberals more.” Otherwise I agree with you and Matt Y. When Richard Nixon engaged in his Watergate shenanigans, there was still enough bipartisanism for most Americans to feel disgust at his actions even though the culture war was already starting. These days, everything is set harder and its going to take a lot to get Trump defenders to disengage.

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      • What does this have to do with the Democratic Party or regulations? If anything, this is where government is stepping in his good because without regulations, pharma companies would just market whatever drug they wanted to anyone regardless of whether they needed it or not.

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        • Insofar as it’s about regulations, it’s about the failure of the federal government to legalize a substance that helps with pain management better than opiates that are marketed and sold by corporations willing to bribe doctors. (And, hell, they’re selling fenatyl. This is a drug that is killing people daily.)

          I suppose it’s about the Democratic party for similar reasons (I assume that democratic legislators been captured) but this goes pretty much 100% for the Republican Party as well. (There might be a small handful of legit Baptists among the Republican Party legislators but not more than that.)

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  4. I saw the phrase “proactive cooperator” in the filings to have the arrest sealed.

    Anyone who had a conversation with Papadopolous after his arrest should be calling a lawyer right now.

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  5. 75m is a lot of cabbage. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out over the next few weeks. In general, I am guessing whatever happens, in the end, will be very, very inconclusive, with the left sure that this means collusion and the right talking about Obama and Hillary

    I bet Manafort gets a year in someplace like Lompoc.

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    • I hate to make a prediction but I suspect you’re right. The federal laws in question are broad enough that it probably won’t be hard to get a conviction or force a plea (so far we are just at the ‘indictment of ham sandwich’ phase). Even if that happens though I doubt that it will uncover the conclusive evidence people keep promising. Those who want to see this as evidence of a conspiracy will, those who want plausible deniability will have it.

      And now that I’ve said this in less than a fortnight tapes will surface of Trump promising to sell Alaska back in exchange for Putin’s help, all over salat Olivier and shots of vodka.

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  6. The thing I keep coming back to is that the FBI knows a bunch of things that it can’t use as evidence, because it was obtained via sources and/or methods that can’t be compromised. And there are a bunch of Senators and Representatives that were partial to some of this intelligence while it was happening. I don’t know where this is going, I’m not going to pretend to guess, but I do wonder how Mitch McConnell and Devin Nunes are going to look when we’re done with this.

    Meanwhile, the Trump administration has not kept the deadline imposed by the Russian sanctions bill passed by very large bipartisan majorities. I mean, how hard is this to do? The president is charged to “take care to faithfully execute the laws”, after all.

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  7. Burt,

    If it is found that campaign folks — with no Trump knowledge — colluded with Russia and engaged in illegal activities to tip the election his way, does that change anything retroactively? Or not? I assume not and would rather we not open up a Pandora’s Box of overturning election results. But in so many arenas, evidence of cheating leads to changing the results. Weird if something this important isn’t bound by the same ideas.

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    • The only mechanism for that is impeachment. And even if the GOP cared anything about the rule of law and in addition applied that to both Trump and Pence, the result would be President Paul Ryan.

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      • In theory there’s also the 25th Amendment but that seems even less likely than impeachment. Other than that, there’s no law on the books (to my knowledge) that permits reversal or nullification of the 2016 election.

        From time to time I come across talk of undoing the election and making Hillary Clinton President. Grief counselors call this behavior “bargaining.” It’s not going to happen.

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    • There is no way to change the results regardless of what is found. Impeachment is the answer if egregious problems are found and there is the political will to impeach.

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      • And this is what a lot of people (including the Founders probably) did not or do not get about impeachment. Impeachment is inherently a political act and not a constitutional one.
        So the only way Trump gets impeached with the current Congress is if he is really going to cause them to blow up.

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        • It is best kept political and not constitutional. If the voting public truly feels that he has crossed a line (high crimes and misdemeanors being quite vague) then they get the opportunity to vote in new Congressmen to move the ball along. There is a reason the reps are up for election every two years.

          Anything else is just partisan derp.

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        • The Framers didn’t envision political parties but a bunch of autonomous individuals entering politics for the public good. They couldn’t imagine a bunch pulling rank around somebody obviously doing harm to the country and not fit for office because they belonged to the same party because they didn’t believe in parties or factions.

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        • Saul Degraw:
          And this is what a lot of people (including the Founders probably) did not or do not get about impeachment. Impeachment is inherently a political act and not a constitutional one.

          Federalist 65

          A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused

          Etc etc

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          • It’s not quite correct to say the Founders/Framers did not see the rise of political parties. They did not *like* political parties and hoped to avoid them by ignoring them. (Which was their modus operandi for a lot of issues)

            Just as that generation was literally dying out itself they celebated the death of political parties in the so called Era of Good Feelings. But then Jackson took his (valid) concerns about a stolen election and built an ideological framework around it, giving birth to the Democratic party. (and everyone else not on board coalesced into another political party with even less ideological coherence, and died off in a generation because of that)

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    • I think that there are a lot of different ways to “tip the election” and some of them fall into “we really should start a nuclear war over this” and some of them fall into “hey, politics ain’t beanbag”.

      Did the Russians hack into election devices and, effectively, stuff ballot boxes and brute force the wrong outcome of the election?
      Did the Russians do the equivalent of making public a recording of a private conversation?

      Because these are two very, very different things. (And I imagine that there are a handful of things that fall somewhere between these two extreme examples.)

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      • Oh, let’s say the Russians really did hack into the voting computers in Wisconsin and Ohio and Pennsylvania and Michigan and change the resutls and Hillary really did win. We STILL can’t change it.

        When the Secretaries of State certify the election results, that’s it. However those results got obtained, they’re now certified and that’s all Congress either needs or gets to know. This appoints a slate of Electors to the Electoral College, who then do the actual voting for President.

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      • Jay,
        I know someone who’s capable of hacking elections (and has done so before).
        [Note: below shit is NOT him hacking boxes.]
        Minimal hacking was the order of the day last election (so, a nothingburger).
        So, better than 2004 when folks went to jail for touching the dials in Ohio.

        Russians? We don’t need no stinking Russians. The Russians don’t hack election devices any better than we Americans do.

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  8. …at minimum, he was indifferent to and ignorant of some things that as a candidate, he should have known about and controlled for.

    This is like saying today ends in a “y”. It’s not news, or a surprise. The Trump campaign was hardly a model of efficiency, organization, or professionalism.

    The whole “collusion” thing implies a level of organization that probably wasn’t there… and I’m not sure the Russians were taking Trump seriously.

    2nd, didn’t he fire these guys two months after he put them in? We may be learning “why”… although Trump would never admit it.

    3rd, as for Trump “benefiting” from “all of this illegal activity”… what benefit?

    The closest I’ve heard is “targeted facebook ads” which supposedly tipped the election, but that implies a breathtakingly high level of intelligence which our own media expressly lacked. There is a very high margin of error in this sort of information, and everyone knows that. In our after-the-fact arm-chair evaluations we know 538 did the best job, but even they were saying HRC wins about 66% of the time. Roll a die, on a 1 or 2 Trump wins, 3 to 6 HRC does. Expecting ANYONE to know which votes are critical is expecting FAR too much.

    IMHO at worst we’ll find out the Russians spent the equiv of a few million dollars for ads in a race where we burned through 6.8 Billions (google) (and that’s evaluating Trump’s “free” media exposure at zero which is obviously incorrect).

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    • As a hypothetical, since I don’t think this is how it happened, if the Trump campaign had asked the Russian government to steal the DNC emails, and the Russians had complied and then leaked them, that would be crossing a line, as far as I’m concerned. Hiring people to break and enter, particularly when the people in question are agents of a foreign, unfriendly power is way further than “politics ain’t beanbag”.

      And if that foreign government wanted, in return, the easing of sanctions against them, and if that was agreed to and acted upon, that’s crossing two more lines.

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    • Dark,
      You should talk with the Rabid Roo.
      When the CIA hackkit manages to predict the election better than meatface folks… well…
      Perhaps, just perhaps, there’s something different going on online.

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    • The whole “collusion” thing implies a level of organization that probably wasn’t there… and I’m not sure the Russians were taking Trump seriously.

      I’m going to guess that if we ever get to the bottom of it, “collusion” will look a lot more like “getting used.” The only real question is whether Trump thought he was using the Russians while they were using him or whether he was just totally oblivious to the whole situation and really just thought they were his friends who wanted to hang out with him after he won the election.

      I think Trump’s bigger concern is that this will unearth a lot of stuff that goes back before the election that has nothing to do with the election. Trump has continually recycled a core group of questionable associates for a very long time in his business and political ventures, and there’s a lot of suspicious stuff in that history. The people and associations Mueller is investigating now are likely a lot of the same people and associations from a lot of his pre-politics deals.

      It’s hard to run an international real estate empire that big without doing some dirty deals with organized crime or corrupt politicians if your’e trying to keep your hands clean, and it’s clear that Trump never put a lot of effort into keeping his hands clean. Having Mueller digging into money laundering by his associates is probably the most dangerous thing for him, not anything to do with the election specifically.

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      • It’s hard to run an international real estate empire that big without doing some dirty deals with organized crime or corrupt politicians…

        Or just stuff that looks bad even without the corruption. Say, some point where there was a cash flow crisis, the US and German banks wouldn’t touch him, and a Russian bank or two stepped up with favorable terms to keep him going. Their motivations may have been relatively harmless: having a bunch of money whose owners wanted it invested in large real estate projects, and were not in a rush for returns. But as so many have said about Clinton, if it comes to light the optics are horrible.

        Trump’s reputation reminds me a lot of John Malone’s reputation back when I was working in the cable/telecom business. John’s deals were large and complex, with lots of moving parts that other investors might not be aware of, and if things went wrong it turned out it wasn’t John’s personal money that was at risk. At one point, a joke in the business was that if John approached you with a deal, the correct response was, “Cash only, and nothing bigger than a twenty.”

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        • In this case, I think we should bear in mind two things:

          1) The person in question once started a fake university to con his TV fans into maxing out their credit cards to pay him for essentially nothing.

          2) This was not at all out of character for him at the time. Like, nobody who had watched him up to that point should have seen Trump U as anything other than a transparent scam.

          That makes the, “It’s hard to run a clean real estate empire when everybody scrutinizes you,” excuse a lot less effective for me. Donald Trump has never been concerned with even the appearance of propriety.

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      • This is a worthy point. And there is ample precedent for it having a pernicious political effect. An investigation into a shady real estate deal is what led to accusations of perjury and obstruction of justice against Bill Clinton, which in turn led to his impeachment (and disbarrment, though I doubt that was a financially material matter for him by then) and got the ball rolling on a generation-long investigation-and-accusation campaign against Hillary Clinton.

        For Trump, it looks like this:

        1. Trump associate did some shady stuff.
        2. Trump associate either tries to protect Trump from involvement with the shady stuff, or pushes Trump towards the front end of the moving bus.
        3. Either way, the paper trail and other available evidence makes it look like Trump either knew, obviously should have known, or willfully pretended not to know, about the shady stuff.
        4. Someone asks, “Trump, why did you not distance yourself from the shady stuff? And you not only kept this guy close in your business but took him along with you into politics?”
        5. Trump says, “Hey, it wasn’t me did that shady stuff!” throwing his associate under the bus.
        6. 30%+ of the electorate believes him and says all of it is a partisan witch hunt. The rest say, “Ick, that just plain looks bad.”
        7. Rinse and repeat.

        When the + portion of that 30%+ becomes negligible, Trump’s already-low ability to govern will diminish to the point he does something stupid himself. (N.b., Bill Clinton, a very smart and savvy political operator, couldn’t help but do this, because of his inability to govern the more mercurial aspects of his own personality. Trump is neither as smart nor as savvy as Bill Clinton, but appreciably more mercurial.)

        Alternatively and not mutually exclusively, when the electorate gives incumbent Republicans enough static for standing by a guy that is so surrounded by shady stuff that he can’t help but look intolerably shady himself, it creates a drag on other Republican races that starts to cost people their jobs.

        At that point, a sufficient mass of Republicans will reject Trump and conclude they’re better off with (the very conservative) President Pence. A conclusion I’d tell them is inevitable right now if they cared to ask me and I could get away with offering that opinion without being called a “concern troll.”

        The key to this happening is that the investigation not stop. The investigations into every facet of the Clintons’ lives provides the model. Once started, they didn’t stop and ultimately led to impeachment and permanently wounding their store of political capital.

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        • I think in this case, because of the constant reshuffling of the same shady associates and the relatedness of the financial dealings, it would be basically impossible for Mueller to dig into the Russia / election thing only without at least accidentally ending up with his hands in other criminal enterprises. And even if all he cared about was getting convictions on the Russia / election topic, using those other crimes as leverage to get witnesses to turn is just too good a strategy not to adopt. Our options seem to be to live with that or to drop the investigation entirely.

          I don’t think we can drop the investigation–it’s clear that even if Trump is an angel, there are members of his campaign who absolutely need to be charged with some crimes. So Trump is going to have to live with the fallout. The lesson here is if you’re rich because of a bunch of shady dealings, just enjoy your gold-plated toilets and don’t tempt fate by running for POTUS. Or if you do, don’t surround yourself with the same set of cronies and criminals that made your shady business deals work. Start fresh so you can put a firewall in in case this happens.

          Or just have the balls to pardon everybody and dare Congress to do something about it. Which Trump certainly has. And he’d probably win that bet.

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          • Or just have the balls to pardon everybody and dare Congress to do something about it. Which Trump certainly has. And he’d probably win that bet.

            With this Congress and this leadership, I’d pretty much agree with that. For all his obvious distaste for Trump, Paul Ryan sees that Trump shares his mania for cutting the taxes rich people pay. If Nancy Pelosi becomes Speaker again in 2019? I fully expect that she’d push articles of impeachment on over to the Senate even if Mitch McConnell were still the majority leader there and she knew full well that the Senate wouldn’t convict. Because politics.

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          • Also, I think the FBI’s playbook for white collar crime is literally “Follow the money”.

            That’s where you start, and often where you end. People lie. Their bank accounts, especially the ones they thought were secret, don’t.

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            • morat20,
              This is why exceptionally smart crooks just use the money for more crime, rather than putting it in their own bank accounts.

              It’s easy to lie with bank accounts — what’s not so easy is erasing tracks from Bank Account A to Personal Bank Account B.

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        • When the + portion of that 30%+ becomes negligible, Trump’s already-low ability to govern will diminish to the point he does something stupid himself.

          To quote Douglas Adams: There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

          The key to this happening is that the investigation not stop. The investigations into every facet of the Clintons’ lives provides the model.

          I think there are some pretty serious differences between the Clinton investigation and this one. I’ll type them up and put them in a post at the end of all this, because it’s not just you I’m responding to.

          Once started, they didn’t stop and ultimately led to impeachment and permanently wounding their store of political capital.

          LOL. Talking about Trump might run out of political capital is like talking about how the land of the blind might run out of light bulbs.

          As I’ve mentioned before, I think a huge weirdness of this presidency, the thing that confused everyone at the start of this until we sorta figured out what they were doing, is that Trump literally does not understand political capital. I don’t mean he disregards it, or ignore it. I mean he doesn’t seem to understand it exists as a thing, that he is supposed to take popularity and turn it into legislation or regulations, which in turn make him more popular, etc.

          He not only doesn’t understand ‘capital’ in the political context, he doesn’t understand it in the non-political universe. He doesn’t understand the concept of ‘get people to like you, use that likeability to accomplish your goals, which hopefully even more people like, etc’.

          Instead, he functions, and has always functioned, by inserting himself into deals where he makes money regardless of how the deal works out, or how legal the deal is, or what the deal is at all…and threatening people who do not play along. But this is not some sort of choice that he’s making, it’s literally how he thinks all power plays work, hell, it seems to be how he thinks all human interaction works.

          People have joked that he seems to think politics works like the mafia, and they are not entirely wrong. He basically doesn’t understand the _premise_ of politics.

          How he thinks it works might be a workable business model in New York real estate. (1) It is not any sort of workable political model.

          1) Spoiler alert: It is not actually, at least not for more than a few years, which is why he was reduced to playing a real estate mogul on TV instead of actually being one. Specific point of failure: There are a limited number of banks that will keep giving loans to such people.

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      • Yeah this is on the mark.

        Lett’s suppose for a moment that there’s no collusion, but what Mueller really has is a link via Manafort to the Trump Empire financiers. The threat isn’t really that there was Russian election collusion, but that Mueller can begin to investigate Trump’s global financial dealings. Which, much worse than impeachment, would financially ruin Trump and his family.

        Question: How do you play this hand?
        A) Ruin Trump, Ruin his Family, Ruin the Party, and Rain Ruin (perhaps) on the Republic in the process?
        B) Allow Trump to resign over his unintended “mishandling” of the Manafort affair and the appearance of impropriety.

        President Pence can even give him a pre-emptive pardon as a gift for playing.

        Personally I think the Republican Party is already ruined (Gobry’s piece today touches on this tangentially) already, but I’d place a quiet and orderly removal of an incompetent president above all; let us not practice the political malpractice (and ineptitude) of the Never-Trumpers twice.

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        • I’m not sure the Trump can be financially ruined in the short term – exactly because he won.

          The conventional wisdom was that he was taking a big hit during the campaign as the ‘brand’ of his campaign was bleeding into his ‘brand’ as a businessman and causing assets under perform.

          This all reversed in November 2016 – and while some domestic assets are still below their historic average revenue stream, others are not, and the international assets got a significant bump.

          And you’re not going to be able to unpack that Trump global money sloshing around with going after the systemic global money sloshing around which provides a not insignicant fraction of the global economy.

          (I.e. why we weren’t able to do big systemic reforms after the 08 crisis)

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      • it’s worth noting that, if nothing else, it’s pretty clear a number of Trump’s campaign staff — and frankly, Trump himself (he did it in public, in a speech!) were flat out soliciting foreign contributions to his campaign.

        Asking the Russians to drop dirt on his opponent? That’s a campaign contribution from a foreign source, which is illegal as hell.

        Papadapolous was seeking the same thing — not to purchase opposition research, but flat-out soliciting donations from foreign sources.

        Donations obtained illegally to boot.

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      • I think Trump’s bigger concern is that this will unearth a lot of stuff that goes back before the election that has nothing to do with the election.

        Fully agreed.

        I’m not sure whether that’s dirty pool or not. The mandate is to research the election, supposedly that’s what we’re caring about… if this investigation morphes into “get Trump for whatever by whatever means” then that seems like a problem.

        And yes, I know it was more or less done that way for the Clintons, and it was a problem then too. Bill was disbarred for a “crime” that was “created” by the investigation, as was (if memory serves) Libby.

        We live in a world where it may not be possible to function above a certain level without breaking the law. Trump, for all his misdeeds, as far as I can tell has yet to abuse his office and it’s looking like he didn’t “abuse” the election (he’s hardly the first politician to lie or use slime).

        Trump ran on what he is and was elected because of that. It’d be a crime against Democracy to remove him from office for things he’s already been vetted on by the American people.

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        • I’m certainly not in favor of creating new crimes in the process of investigation (although lying about something that’s actually material to the case wouldn’t fall into that category), but if past crimes come up in the course of the investigation, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Like I said, it’s not easy to detangle the Trump campaign’s foreign dealings with the Trump financial operation in general, so some of that history is going to come out. My guess is that there may not be anything to prosecute Trump himself, a lot of the mid-level grifters who have worked for him in various grifting capacities are unavoidably going to have crimes come to light, and it would be wrong to bury those crimes even though they don’t necessarily fall under Mueller’s mandate.

          If, for example, they stumble across evidence that Trump or one of his associates is actually a serial killer with dozens of victims, that’s something that should reasonably be investigated by *someone* if not Mueller specifically. Even if Mueller doesn’t deal with it because it’s out of his purview, it should be referred to a prosecutor somewhere instead of being dropped.

          Trump ran on what he is and was elected because of that.

          I’ve been inclined to agree with this, but I’m starting to notice that it seems like a lot of people are ending up surprised that Trump is a self-dealing con man with a bunch of sleazy associates. I assumed that everybody knew in November, but apparently it has taken the past nine months for a lot of people to figure it out.

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          • …surprised that Trump is a self-dealing con man with a bunch of sleazy associates…

            :Bangs Head: The guy has been under a media microscope for 40(?) years, he was successful in no small part because he was a media name, it’s amazing to me anyone failed to notice.

            As for the rest… I think it’s possible or easy to run an “investigation” so it creates crimes. Bill Clinton is a great example, but asking someone under oath what they did 30 years ago probably just works in general. If you’re wrong it’s a crime, human memory doesn’t work like computer memory.

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        • The real crime against democracy was when the electoral college went with the person who got 3 million less votes.

          Yes, that is how the dumbass founders wrote the system.

          No that doesn’t negate the fact that he is democratically illegitimate.

          Yes, I think the constitution is trash and causing Americans huge problems.

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  9. Here’s all I got.
    -It looks like Mueller is running a tight ship. Reassuring.

    Mueller could be at one of two stages right now:
    -He’s explored everything and netted a couple medium to small fish and that’s all she wrote or…
    -He’s still exploring his leads and is methodically constructing a drag net around a whole school of big fish.

    Thing is that whichever of those possibilities it is it’d look the same to us at this stage. So I’m going to presume there’s nothingburger there in hopes of lending my cursed predictive luck to the cause.

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    • Over on the Twitters popehat says that Mueller got a judge to waive manaforts attorney – client privilege. This is apparently a very rare and very big thing. I didn’t know this was possible.

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      • I thought that only happens if the lawyer is party to the crime. (Or like, if the client died or waived privilege himself, or something)

        But don’t we have lawyers here who would know?

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      • Are you sure he used the word “waive,” because the privilege belongs to the client who can waive it. A judge can be asked to determine whether specified communications are for the purpose of securing legal advise, which is all the privilege covers. It’s not a cloak of invisibility over all communications btw/ attorney and client.

        The other relevant point might be that typically in a corporate context, the client is the corporation, not the individual. Perhaps a corporation waived the privilege over Manafort’s objection and the judge ruled that the corporation could waive it?

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          • If you’re actually interested in my thoughts about the crime-fraud exception, I’ll take mercy and spare you the baseball meme tweet I posted above.

            https://twitter.com/burtlikko/status/925115900092485632

            This tweet is about law, and will lead you to the tweet stating that the judge found the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege applies. And it’s just that: an “exception” to an otherwise pretty ironclad rule.

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          • OK, I see the judge’s ruling and just skimming it, he made two separate conclusions:

            The communications with the attorney are not attorney-client privileged because there is some evidence they are in furtherance of a crime. Alternatively, the client implicitly waived the privilege because the client selectively provided some attorney-client privileged communications and thus waived all related communications.

            The attorney was ordered to testify and will be required to answer seven questions (an eighth was found to be inappropriate based upon the evidence at the time)

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        • From Politico:

          Lawyers for Manafort and Gates fought the prosecution’s drive to intrude on attorney-client communications. But Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that an exception, which involves using a lawyer to commit crime or fraud, applied to contacts with an attorney who helped respond to inquiries about why the pair had not filed foreign-agent lobbying registrations with the Justice Department.

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  10. Ultimately this entire mess will be left to the American people to resolve.

    We drift into wishful thinking that somehow a deus ex machina of the 25th Amendment or a sudden insurrection of “principled Republicans” will materialize to impeach.

    Like Saul, I have periods of pessimism where I can clearly envision our nation sliding into a 2nd World authoritarianism and kleptocracy.

    The most damaging effect isn’t that laws were broken, its that we are being groomed to accept that our leaders can accept bribes and use their office to enrich themselves, as a normal and expected course of events.
    I’ve read accounts from Russian ex-pats comparing Trump to Yeltsin, the buffoonish drunk who created a power vacuum that was swiftly filled by figures who were much darker, more clever and ruthless.

    The narcotic that numbs the Republican base to this is white resentment, the intoxicating hallucination of a world in which white Christian men once again rule things while going back to work in the steel mills. They know he is corrupt; they know he is incompetent. They just crave the next jolt of white identity revanchism even more.

    We’re being tested now, to see where our values are.

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    • The most damaging effect isn’t that laws were broken, its that we are being groomed to accept that our leaders can accept bribes and use their office to enrich themselves, as a normal and expected course of events.

      Are you talking about Trump or HRC? Is Trump even accused of using his office to accept bribes?

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      • If you define “bribe” extreeeeeeemely narrowly, no.

        But he’s certainly not shy about having various interested parties stay at expensive suites in his various properties, and making it clear that they have thereby transferred considerable money into his pocket. Emolumenters gonna emolument.

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        • There’s this which, if true, would be a violation of the Constitution and get anyone else impeached.

          Arturo Sarukhan, who served as Mexico’s ambassador to the United States from 2007 to 2013, tweeted on Tuesday that a former U.S. diplomat told him the U.S. State Department’s protocol emphasizes to world leaders that they should use Trump’s D.C. hotel for official visits.

          Not that State even needs to tell them. By remarkable coincidence, Trump’s DC hotel has seen a booming business since he’s been elected.

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    • Ultimately this entire mess will be left to the American people to resolve.

      The American people have resolved it, by the standards of governance in America for most of our lifetimes. Unfortunately it is the corruption of the libs that that is insufficient now and therefore I suspect Chip is right, in a sense. Ie, I suspect and fear that we’re going to move to a one-party state operationally (though I don’t know exactly which party that will be). Libs have poisoned the well enough so that shared governance will be difficult or impossible. Eg, imagine the situation now if the D’s had one or both houses of Congress. Therefore, the American people are going to have to comprehensively disempower at least one of our two major parties, or at least that’s my fear.

      The Russia (and Nazi-era Germany) metaphors are misplaced. Argentina is much more topical example, for me at least, and the history there is plenty bad enough to serve as a warning for us if we hear it. The way out of this problem is for the libs to quit doing what they’re doing and attempt to earn some actual legitimacy instead. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have any interest at all in doing that.

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      • You’re echoing the Flight 93 narrative.

        What would be your worst nightmare, if liberals were to take power across the board in America?

        What injustice would occur, what awful things would happen?

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        • There’s a lot of things that would be very unpleasant, but nothing apocalyptic in the spirit of your question. At least in policy terms. After all, O sucked but we still survived.

          But you’re greatly missing the point to go this direction. Your question is flawed as a hypothetical because there’s no way to get from here to there. We have explicitly, though statute and the Constitution and implicitly through tradition have standards and procedures to resolve who gets to act with legitimate authority in America. And America’s problem is that libs have internalized the mentality that all those things are great unless it’s Trump. Or they’re great unless they’re conservatives, or ok unless they’re Republicans. In which case, we get and exercise some kind of unwritten veto power in our own minds.

          And that’s just not going to fly, not only with nationalists, conservatives, Right-populists or anybody who would typically be Left adversaries. That’s not going to fly with with otherwise apolitical Americans who are largely propelling Trump and the GOP into office right now.

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          • I notice your comment is not a defense of Trump, so much as a critique of liberal thought.
            Is Trump’s behavior something America should be proud of?
            Should we want to see more of it?
            How should the American people react?

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            • 1. Welcome back.

              2. I’m not sure if Trump is going to be President forever. But there are lots of comments here that illuminate my concerns. They sort of go to my points above and points I have been making for the last year. There is a strong sense of “Epartier Le Bourgeois” which animates Trump defenders and if not Trump-defenders, the defenders of Trump-defenders. So much of this is built on people stating that they dislike Donald Trump in principal but then going on to talk about how horrible upper-middle class liberals are.

              3. The complaints about liberalism are rather inchoate to me and they often seem to revolve around liberals having too much power. Even though for most of my life, the GOP has controlled the Presidency (1981-1993, 2001-2009, 2017-2021 at least) and/or at least one house of Congress, usually both. Yet conservatives and/or anti-liberals have this great ability to complain that liberals have too much power. As far as I can tell, they won’t be happy until liberals are dead and gone. And even then, they might need to reinvent liberals.

              4. As far as I can tell, the hatred of liberals is based on pure cultural resentments and how dare liberals like that largely in the United States.
              GOP politicians have been running against out of touch liberal elites for as long as I have been alive. Some of them more successfully than others. Bush I and Romney were too patrician to pull it off. Palin is quite good at it despite her wealth, same with Trump.

              5. Various liberals have tried to analyze this without much success but there is always a core of anti-intellectualism and anti-cosmpolitanism in anti-liberal resentment. The idea that no one can really like to talk about modern art or want to see theatre over NASCAR and how dare you say you do.

              6. Trump’s approval ratings are low and getting lower. Every time this happens, he doubles down on cultural war stuff. The optimistic view is that the majority of Americans see him as a clown and 2018 will be a landslide. The pessimistic view is that this stuff works and combined with Gerrymandering, structural issues, and voter oppression will let the GOP keep their Congressional majorities and allow Trump to be reelected in 2020
              despite clear losses in the electoral college.

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              • This is what both depresses me and gives me hope.

                Resentment and inchoate rage are great for gathering the tribe, but they can’t craft a vision of a future which can entice anyone who isn’t already a member into joining.

                So long as liberals can avoid falling into a mirror of that same nihilism, we can present a vision that is far more appealing.

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              • Yet conservatives and/or anti-liberals have this great ability to complain that liberals have too much power.

                Rather than measure things by the “D” or “R” by someone’s name, I prefer to look at percentage of GDP spent by the Gov and other “math” based metrics. Measured over lots of decades, percentage of GDP spent by gov is way up, economic growth is way down.

                Trump’s approval ratings are low and getting lower. Every time this happens, he doubles down on cultural war stuff. The optimistic view is that the majority of Americans see him as a clown and 2018 will be a landslide.

                People saw him as a clown before but that didn’t stop him. It’s a mistake to confuse “approval of Trump” with “won’t vote for him”. Trump runs as a strong man, being the biggest ass in the room is a “good” thing for him. Trump is the uncouth thug who is on “your” side. Strongly disliking (disapproving of) his behavior isn’t as big a political handicap as we want to think.

                The pessimistic view is that this stuff works and combined with Gerrymandering, structural issues, and voter oppression will let the GOP keep their Congressional majorities and allow Trump to be reelected in 2020 despite clear losses in the electoral college.

                Worrying about “voter oppression” (“suppression”) is making excuses ahead of time.

                What is really comes down to is you can’t beat something with nothing. How do you intend to make my life better? Proclaiming Trump is Vile isn’t enough. Taking my money from me and then giving it back isn’t a good answer. Identity politics is fine but expect Trump to do it too.

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              • 5. Various liberals have tried to analyze this without much success but there is always a core of anti-intellectualism and anti-cosmpolitanism in anti-liberal resentment. The idea that no one can really like to talk about modern art or want to see theatre over NASCAR and how dare you say you do.

                Comments like this are frustrating. There is something to be said for this but less than you suppose. Nowhere in this half-size DavidTC wall of text is anything about ACA or immigration.

                We’d still have the same cultural resentments without them, but the power and focus would be much weaker, and our politics would be roughly what they were, say 2005. But ACA on the D side and immigration on the GOP side changed that.

                It became clear to the Trump base that the political class was substantially unwilling to be held accountable to the political process. Ergo Trump.

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            • Is Trump’s behavior something America should be proud of?
              Should we want to see more of it?

              No, though I think that concern is overblown. What is more important, I think, is Trump’s character and the vulnerabilities placed on America as a consequence of that.

              But even that is something that we could work around, if Americans of good will were motivated to do so. America’s real problem is what I mentioned above, the lack of legitimacy among our political class in general, and specifically libs’ wholesale repudiation of the concept. That’s a much bigger deal than Trump.

              How should the American people react?

              They, specifically the political class, should make Trump unnecessary as much as possible. That is truly the biggest disappointment of the Trump Administration so far. Trump is as necessary now as he’s ever been. I think you’ve read enough from me to know that I don’t typically blame Republicans for things but this one is truly a bipartisan failure.

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              • koz,
                I wish to stab a knife through the Imperial Presidency too, for what it’s worth.
                Trump… seemed like a decent idea to further that goal.

                Hasn’t worked, but if we’d had Clinton, she’d be doing more of the evil (and less of the flim flam), and we wouldn’t have a chance in hell of Congress taking back it’s proper place.

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          • We have explicitly, though statute and the Constitution and implicitly through tradition have standards and procedures to resolve who gets to act with legitimate authority in America. And America’s problem is that libs have internalized the mentality that all those things are great unless it’s Trump.

            What a cruel irony.

            I’m old enough to remember when a billionaire gameshow host with no experience in office or public service attracted a lot of attention by advocating an insane conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was ineligible to serve as President because he’d been secretly born in Kenya, but it had been covered up for reasons. It got so out of hand that even the almost-terminally-staid Mitt Romney sought out that gameshow host’s endorsement for President in 2012.

            Fortunately the GOP pulled back from that abyss, and—

            :touches earpiece:

            What?! They did did what?!

            Are you fucking kidding me?!

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            • I don’t know what this is supposed to imply. Whatever the complaint about Trump, we have well-understood mechanics to describe the process of assuming office that well pre-date him.

              There’s primaries a general election, the House, the Senate, Governorships, SCOTUS, etc., etc, and the way that you get those jobs is well understood. As far as the Presidency goes, Donald Trump did the things a person does to go from a candidate to a President.

              It’s up to libs to defer to those procedures. They want to think that for some reason their complaints are above those things. They’re not.

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              • Dude, Trump emphatically rejected those procedures for years, and the GOP made him the de facto leader of the party for it, and now it’s up to “the libs” to defer to them?

                No.

                You don’t get to pretend that those things matter to you now.

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                • My guess is the assumptions of premise in your comment are knee-jerk and not thought through.

                  I’m talking about things like primaries, the Electoral College, etc, the mechanics of our republican (lower-case r for emphasis) sovereignty in America. Trump did not reject those things. He utilized them in order to get where he is.

                  What exactly are you thinking?

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                  • No, he rejected those things by saying that they did not validate Obama as President, based on bizarre racist argle-bargle about Kenya and birth certificates. The GOP played footsie with him, and the bizarre racist argle-bargle he was associated with, for years, and then nominated him for President.

                    Either that’s procedurally legitimate [1], in which case the “the libs” aren’t doing anything wrong, or it’s not, in which case fobbing off primary responsibility onto “the libs” is transparent partisan nonsense.

                    [1] Bizarre racist argle-bargle is bad for other reasons, of course.

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        • Liberals have been taking too much power in this country for decades.

          The constitution was not to regulate the individuals as much as it was to regulate the government.

          Nearly every source of liberal thought comes out of recycled Marxist analysis, which in the end leads to collectivist authoritarianism using government force.

          If there is nothing better the modern liberals can bring to the table their position is forever doomed.

          Maybe it is a good time to rehash whether order or freedom should come first.

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          • Nearly every source of liberal thought comes out of recycled Marxist analysis, which in the end leads to collectivist authoritarianism using government force.

            The core commitment of modern liberal thought in the US revolves around the social safety net, which lots of libertarians agree with in principle. The following is from a Bryan Caplan post.

            Will Wilkinson rightly points out that many well-known intellectuals in the libertarian camp – including Friedman, Hayek, and Buchanan – didn’t share the abolitionist position [of the welfare state], and suggests that it might be time for libertarians to drop their extremism and get real:

            “The death of socialism as a viable competitor to the liberal-capitalist welfare state makes continued slippery-slope-to-socialism thinking look densely anachronistic. Other liberal welfare states, like the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, etc., have moved in a rather more market-liberal direction, becoming rather less of a soft-socialist middle-ground between the American model and full-on economic socialism… In this context, the negative income tax looks much less like a dangerous concession to the world-historical forces of evil.”

            It’s worth a read.

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            • As Friedman went into at length, and many times, the only marginal support he saw in providing welfare was in a voluntary system. I have no problems with people setting up voluntary welfare systems that aren’t a mechanism of state force.

              The problem I see in modern liberalism and the Marxist analysis, is there first has to be this problem, a problem of grouped people supposedly in dire need of saving by the collective, and the only means of saving those people in dire need is through government forced redistribution.

              Basic Marxism 101, the problem is, modern liberals are in zones where the the redistribution needs to come from the most. Yet if that redistribution happens the marginal infrastructure will not be sustainable. So the only places left to harvest resources are outside that zone.

              A lot of folks outside that zone are pretty much done with that particular ideology, and the negative effects it leads to.

              Government force when applied to someone not doing anything subjectively wrong is a harm. The welfare state driven by taxes is harmful. If not by means of social objectivity, then by subjective value.

              Some, but not all libertarians are clear about that notion. One could almost parse libertarians between how they choose freedom or order as the primary.

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              • I made it about halfway through ‘A Brief History of Neoliberalism’, and the first half of that book gives a pretty good account of where the liberal-capitalist welfare state came from. I didn’t finish the last half because it was sounding a lot like the ending of ‘Listen, Liberal:’ with that singular familiar solution.

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              • Friedman, although dated, he appears to be consistent. Some predictions of the problems we see today he pretty much nailed it. Also there is a lot leaning towards what Jay says about high trust societies being relevant.

                (while I don’t agree with everything in Friedman’s position, I often think he sets the parameters pretty well)

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                          • This is from Reuters:

                            Among Republicans surveyed, 63 percent said deficit reduction should take priority over tax cuts for corporations, while 75 percent said deficit reduction should take priority over tax cuts for the wealthy.

                            If the GOP passes a massive tax cut for the wealthy which explodes the deficit they may be in trouble for other reasons. The number I’ve been hearing is $5.5 trillion.

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                          • See, here’s what gets me about tax reform. The GOP is hiding it’s bill from everyone, including it’s own members. It’s pushed back unveiling it a day. Including to it’s own members.

                            What sort of sane politics involves creating a bill in total secret, hidden even from your own party?

                            Especially when the justification for that is, basically, “It’d be really unpopular and people wouldn’t like it if they knew what was in it”. Then why are you proposing it?.

                            If you can’t even sell your own party on it, and are having to rely on speed and surprise to pass it, doesn’t that mean it’s probably a bad idea?

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                            • Absolutely.

                              It’s like they got a message of “who votes for you” vs. “who gives you money” and they picked “who gives you money”.

                              Which, I suppose, makes some small amount of sense in theory if the main thing you’re hoping for is to cash in and get out, but they want to keep playing.

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                              • The people who give you money are paying attention to what you substantively do, because they have a lot of money at stake. Plus, they actually give you some of that money.

                                The people who voted for you are not paying attention to what you do, because, boring! Plus, you can always lie to them about what you’ve done later and they’re either not going to understand that you’ve lied, or not care, because, boring!

                                The voters care a lot more if you affirm their generalized sense that it’s somehow awful that NFL players don’t stand for the national anthem.

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                                • I think that we’re in a place where a huge number of people are saying something to the effect of “neither party really represents me but as much as I hate (Party), I *REALLY* hate (Other Party)”.

                                  Trump managed to get half of the people who say stuff like that to vote for him enthusiastically… and the people with money are saying “neither party really represents me but as much as I hate (Party), I *REALLY* hate Trump”.

                                  Which is almost a recipe to get the other half of the people who say stuff like that to vote for him.

                                  Trump is bringing The Stupid Party back.

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                                  • That was pretty much me. Think I said it too here somewhere.

                                    Never was gonna vote for HRC.
                                    Never was going to vote for any of the Repub candidates.
                                    Liked Bernie’s personality and his principles. Disagreed with his politics. Wasn’t going to vote for him either.

                                    When everyone who is running sucks, you stay home.

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                              • It’s okay. Trump is helping. He suggest the GOP should, as part of tax reform, get rid of the individual mandate to help offset the tax cuts.

                                That’s right. The President of the United States, ostensibly to help his own party, suggested that the GOP struggling for votes, revisit a topic they’ve already failed to pass, in order to cut taxes to pay for cutting taxes.

                                Not in the “Unlike Kansas, this will work” voodoo economics way. He simply doesn’t know what the individual mandate is or how it works.

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                                  • In all fairness, I think that a CBO score of repealing the mandate does save a few hundred billion, due to various side-effects (like people not going on Medicaid).

                                    Of course, if you’re doing that, then suddenly your tax reform kicks a bunch of people off insurance, which isn’t the sound bite you want.

                                    And also they’re still trying to square a 5 trillion dollar tax cut with 1.5 trillion in spending reductions which is problematic in terms of making it 10 year deficit neutral. (Required to be passed with just 50 votes). Two or three hundred billion just isn’t worth the headaches.

                                    Of course, the answer to that is, of course, you raise taxes. Not on the wealthy or corporations, as that’s where all your tax cuts are. There’s no point in just shuffling chairs. You gotta raise it on the people who didn’t get a tax cut. Hence the 401k changes, SALT deductions, etc.

                                    Which is where today’s GOP is veering from Dubya’s GOP. They knew they had to actually cut taxes on everyone, and they could tap-dance around disparities. You can sell that.

                                    Selling a tax hike on the middle class, especially such an obvious one? Tough job.

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                                    • then suddenly your tax reform kicks a bunch of people off insurance,

                                      Just to make sure I understand — are you equating “no longer twisting people’s arms to buy health insurance” with “kicking people off insurance”, or is there some other mechanism that’s actually denying it to people that I’m not seeing in this context?

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                                      • Here is seemingly where ideology changes interpretation of what a law does and facts on the ground.

                                        You and others seem to be assuming that people were making conscious choices not to buy insurance. Perhaps this is true for some.

                                        The argument on the left is that a variety of factors prevented people from getting access to health insurance and the ACA was an attempt to fix that. It is far from perfect and is borne of political compromise like all major legislation but it did a lot to allow access. This probably also true for people.

                                        The issue then becomes why should group #1 have more importance over group #2. What is group #2 was much larger than group #1? What if they were equal in size?

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                                        • I’d phrase it a different way. Ken is right that current law “twists people’s arms” to buy insurance. That’s just a fact. But you’re also right that part of Ken’s argument relies on viewing things thru an ideological filter. Fact is, almost everyone *will* want insurance, as they age, to cover the inevitable breakdown of bodily tissues, and primarily because most people will not be able to afford out-of-pocket prices for remedying those eventualities. Insurance is, by definition, the socialization of costs.

                                          So the mandate can be viewed thru two competing filters, one ideological the other pragmatic. The ideological one focuses on the coercive nature of the mandate. The pragmatic one focuses on the efficacy of a system in which people voluntarily pay premiums entirely determined by their level of risk, one which would – if not for employer based pooling and Medicare/Medicaid – price-out almost everyone who needs insurance thru no fault of their own.

                                          Obviously, opinions on those two approaches differ.

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                                          • The mandate is not my preferred mechanism towards universal health coverage but it was borne of political compromise and the best option at the time sadly.

                                            But the ACA attempted to off-set the mandate through subsidies and required coverage levels and rebates from insurance companies.

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                                            • I hear you, but there is no affordable insurance to folks without something equivalent to a mandate, otherwise people only get insurance when they require healthcare or are at a stage in life where the probability of needing it is very high. So the issue isn’t really about whether the mandate is coercive or not (it is!) but how to construct a system of healthcare where people who need it can actually afford it.

                                              Shorter: If healthy people who don’t consume insurance dollars don’t pay into the system then only the sick or inform are paying, which increases premium price along a curve approaching fee-for-service.

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                                              • All of these issues go away if we make health care itself cheaper.

                                                For that we can trust that yet another layer of bureaucrats will do it, or markets. Since there’s no price signalling, medical care markets basically don’t exist at the moment.

                                                :Sigh: And neither party has even hinted they’d force providers to publish their prices.

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                                                  • To be honest publishing their prices wouldn’t change a damn thing, in my opinion. Insurance companies negotiate their contracts with in-network providers on a “take it or leave it” basis. I know this from personal experience. It’s irrational, irritating, and counterproductive in lots of cases. The picture it paints is that the left hand not only doesn’t know what the right hand is doing, it doesn’t know where the feet are walking.

                                                    Well, it may change things marginally, at the edges. But that’s about it.

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                                                • Basically every other developed country does this with bureaucrats,[1] and it works much better than you might expect naively, as well as much better than what we have here. Some of the problems with the US market and the lack of real prices comes from lack of transparency, but not all of it.

                                                  That being said, if we aren’t going to have that, this…

                                                  And neither party has even hinted they’d force providers to publish their prices.

                                                  …really is a legit good idea in the interim. And I’ve made the same complaint about neither party picking it up.

                                                  [1] That’s really what they have in common, much more than being socialized (only a few are) or single-payer (many are but many aren’t).

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                                          • part of Ken’s argument relies on viewing things thru an ideological filter

                                            I’m confused here — what argument do you think I’m making? I’m just objecting to how this potential policy change is being presented as if Republicans were taking away people’s insurance, when it’s not doing that at all. My “ideology” in this case is just “Make your case, but make it honestly.” Anything else you think I’m saying is something you’re bringing in.

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                                            • I’m just objecting to how this potential policy change is being presented as if Republicans were taking away people’s insurance, when it’s not doing that at all.

                                              I thought I already covered that in the comment. Depending on how you view healthcare and insurance markets it takes away people’s healthcare because as healthy people don’t pay in sick people’s premium price approaches fee-for-service. Which isn’t insurance at all.

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                                      • Allow me to rephrase the way this would come out in a CBO score.

                                        Eliminating the individual mandate will save roughly 300 billion dollars over 10 years. It will also result in roughly 15 million fewer Americans with medical insurance.

                                        Now sell that to America as a good sacrifice to lower Warren Buffet’s taxes.

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                                        • I still find this phrasing pretty misleading, because it sounds like the “actor” in this case is the government, when really it’s the 15 million Americans who left to their own devices would prefer not to spend their money on health insurance and who are being pushed into it under current law. This is independent of whether one thinks that that push is a good thing or not.

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                                            • I never said it wasn’t technically accurate, just misleading. You’re misleading yourself, as a matter of fact — note that you said “Now sell that to America as a good sacrifice“. There’s no sacrifice here — nothing would be taken away from anyone by this change. People would have the same choices as before, but they just wouldn’t be pushed into buying.

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                                                • The topic is the 15 million people electing not to buy coverage once the mandate is gone and how that’s presented. I definitely don’t see the removal of the mandate all by itself as good policy, and of course there would be additional consequences, but that’s not what my part of the conversation has been about.

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                                                    • free-riders on a system they’ll avail themselves of later in life.

                                                      Not if we price insurance to reflect the actual risk someone brings to the pool.

                                                      Further, while there’s some attraction to claiming you can balance your lifetime risk, that seems more rhetoric than reality. The system you want to set up is pay as you go. The future costs of medicine are unknown, the actual treatments don’t exist yet so can’t be priced.

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                                                      • Not if we price insurance to reflect the actual risk someone brings to the pool.

                                                        If you price things according to actual risk then people who are actually in need of medical care won’t be able to pay for it. The whole idea of private insurance is to socialize the cost (risk) across all payers.

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                                                      • Hell, Dark, you pull the rent seeking out of it, the current cost of medicine is unknown. Why is the stuff so expensive to start with? Not reflecting on the priors leads to why I hate-hate-hate the socialist-statist-liberal position.

                                                        I dislike it enough to look at that type of thing and say ‘that’s a pretty expensive social construct you have there, it would be a shame if something happened to it’.

                                                        (this is not pointed at you, just agreeing with your position and making the point the first thing socialism does is break the leg, then they start selling crutches at a premium)

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                                        • Now sell that to America as a good sacrifice to lower Warren Buffet’s taxes.

                                          Warren’s expensive tax accountants have set things up so he pays less taxes than his secretary.

                                          Lowering his rates might increase, by a lot, the amount of tax he actually pays.

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                                  • Hey, details are leaking. The GOP is gonna cut 401k contributions by only 50%, instead of 90%.

                                    You can deduct your property tax — but not your state and local income taxes. The estate tax is gone, completely. Immediately.

                                    That’s the GOP’s own compromise with itself — without any budget scoring to really tick off the deficit hawks.

                                    As for the public at large? I don’t see it being very popular. The big, obvious tax cuts are all aimed at the rich and corporations. But the deductions they’re eliminating are the ones most commonly used by the middle class (especially the state income tax ones), and the 401k changes….

                                    Well, most Americans don’t put in nearly enough. Many don’t put in any at all. Of the ones who do, who will be hit by this? Incandescent rage. They’ll notice it immediately, and every paycheck thereafter.

                                    Moreover, the little quirk where Americans often think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires is likely to kick in. Even people who won’t hit the new cap, many are likely to think they eventually would.

                                    And, demographically, people who really care about their 401ks and approach 9k or more a year in savings are both very likely to vote reliably, and skew conservative.

                                    So in the end, the GOP is floating “tax reform” that seems to be all about tax cuts for the rich, while getting rid of things that ordinary Americans use.

                                    Yeah, I can see why they kept it secret. I can’t see how they think it’s gonna play well in Peoria.

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                                    • “the little quirk where Americans often think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires is likely to kick in”

                                      Won’t it also kick in for no more estate tax though? And possibly more strongly?

                                      I’d like to THINK it’s not gonna play well in Peoria, but I suspect Peoria is full of people who think the estate tax is robbing their children of the inheritance they’ve worked so long to put by for them…

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                                      • I think there’s a distinct difference in how many people think they might put make six figures and this be able to save more for retirement, and people who think they’re gonna die worth 6 million or more.

                                        Plus, like I said, there’s some serious negative changes to the sorts of taxes the average Joe uses… SALT and 401ks…and the big positive changes are for the kind they don’t.

                                        That’s gonna hurt politically.

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                                      • I suspect Peoria is full of people who think the estate tax is robbing their children of the inheritance they’ve worked so long to put by for them…

                                        I doubt it, but Peoria may be full of people who think they are Oh.So.Close to becoming the type of person who the estate tax effects. Well, they would be if only we, as a society, could just unrig the system holding them down, ya know?

                                        I think Frank Luntz created the term “death tax”, or at least introduced it into the political lexicon. In a just world he’d still be receiving payment from The Rich for it.

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                                    • They’re going to lie about it, .

                                      “It’s a middle-class tax cut! After all, we’re repealing the death tax!”

                                      “We’re closing all the loopholes! So it’s going to make things simple and you won’t need a lawyer to do your taxes!”

                                      “It’s a pro-jobs measure! When you cut taxes, the economy grows, everyone knows that!”

                                      You knew this already.

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                                      • They can lie all they want. But I’ll see the lower paycheck or less retirement savings.

                                        Every week.

                                        And I’m one of the demographics they’re struggling to hold onto, in a state they rely on.

                                        That’s the problem they face. They’ve got to be too blatant to hit the numbers they need.

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                                        • Biggest tax cut in American history! Most jobs added by any President ever! Manufacturing in the Midwest is going to absolutely explode.Believe me!

                                          Why do you work so hard to hurt America, ?

                                          And here’s the best part: it’s deficit neutral!

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                                            • Seriously, that’s the plan. They’re going to do a combination of

                                              1. Lie about what they’re doing,
                                              2. Distract with cultural bullshit,
                                              3. Blame Obama and Clinton for diminishing paychecks, and
                                              4. Gerrymander & legislatively vote-suppress.

                                              And in that fashion, they’ll keep their power. History suggests they have a better than realistic chance of success.

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                                              • Yeah I know they’re gonna lie about it, but they’ve got the following problems.

                                                1. They’re restricted to 1.5 trillion in deficit spending over 10 years, and have 5 trillion in cuts. (This is via their budget bill, for a 50-vote pass in the Senate. They can’t change that).
                                                2. They have 10 days.
                                                3. Every trial balloon they’ve floated has been incredibly unpopular.
                                                4. They’re facing defections from Blue State Republicans over the SALT changes.
                                                5. They’re facing defections from deficit hawks over allowing 1.5 trillion in new deficit.
                                                6. They still haven’t released the plan, and they’re already having to hit their own baby — 401ks.

                                                That doesn’t even get into the numbers — they’re already trying to compromise on 401ks, they’re already compromising on the property tax and mortgage deductions — and they don’t have the money to do so.

                                                They’re gonna try, but my prediction? The will either fail OR succeed with cuts that are wildly unpopular, even with their own most hardcore voters. No matter how they spin it, it’ll be unpopular.

                                                Now I couldn’t say which, but they’ve only got thee votes to play with in the Senate. Two, as I’m guessing Collins is a hard no on the SALT changes alone.

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                                                • 1. Pedantic, but it’s a budget resolution. They’re writing the budget bill now.

                                                  7. Under Senate reconciliation rules, the final bill has to be scored by the CBO. They don’t get to make up “then a miracle happens” stuff. Unless they install a new CBO head who builds that miracle into the base model.

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                                                        • Oh, i hear ya on that. McConnell is all about transgressing the norms. 49 of the 52 members of his Senate caucus are willing accomplices. If McConnell had his way they’d be voting on a bill that wasn’t even written yet.

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                                                          • Still, I think they’ve got an uphill climb. Collins is a no because of the loss of SALT, and they can’t afford it at all without ditching that.

                                                            And the bill is being created in the dark, from their own party, they’re locked into the numbers they chose before writing the bill, and they have a wing of deficit hawks AND a wing of Tea Party types already winding themselves up to repeal the ACA via this. (Yes, Trump didn’t come up with that idea alone).

                                                            They can only lose one more Senator as it stands, and I’m kinda wondering how big a middle finger McCain wants to give to Trump right now.

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                                                            • Policy-wise I agree with you, about the process and more as well. But politically McConnell sees this bill as the final frontier: it has to pass or the GOP as McConnell knows it is done. He’s taking a very big risk, for the reasons you say. McCain (at least) is an unreliable ally. As are Collins and Murkowski (to their much deserved credit). The “coalition” of folks who believe, as McConnell said a few days ago, that Republicans are unified about the objective of tax reform, as McConnell understands that term, is joke. McConnell wishes that were true – the the GOP was a party of people unified around the idea of tax cuts for the rich – but it’s painfully obvious, and shamefully obvious, that it’s just not true.

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                                                              • The failures on the ACA might not have helped. They had three, incredibly unpopular votes about it — and lost. And that was with something supposedly popular with the base.

                                                                But the polling on tax reform shows that the public wants the opposite of what they’re doing — the public sentiment is “tax the wealthy more, and pay down the deficit”.

                                                                To increase the deficit, cut taxes on the wealthy, and make very obvious, impossible to really obscure, tax hikes on the middle class?

                                                                They can spin all they want, but if they pass it it’s gonna hurt — at least what they’re floating.

                                                                Which means cold feet are going to magnify. If they can’t convince their caucus they have the votes from the get go, people are going to want to ditch — they don’t want to be stuck with an unpopular vote that didn’t even pass.

                                                                Lastly, closed doors or not, they’re gonna have to bargain with their own caucus here and I suspect anything they give one wing will infuriate the another.

                                                                Maybe Ryan and McConnell can square the circle, but so far this Congress has been a litany of failure.

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                                                                • They had three, incredibly unpopular votes about it — and lost. And that was with something supposedly popular with the base.

                                                                  The GOP is best (in its contemporary form) running as an oppositional party. Nothing earth-shaking in that observation, I don’t think. But governing requires more then mere opposition. And that’s where the GOP broke down on the ACA repeal/replace jingoism. Yes, lots of people were primed to hate the ACA because it was Evil Obama who signed a bill passed by Neo-Marxist Democrats. But the vast majority of people, including conservatives, actually *like* the substance of the bill. Not perfect, better than the contemporaneous alternative.

                                                                  The problem the GOP needs to solve is that hating Democrats and liberals isn’t enough to pass tax cuts for the rich. Contra what Burt was saying somewhere on this thread, podunk rednecks can smell bullshit. They’ve prolly got the best bullshit detectors of us all. And the GOP Establishment has been feeding em bullshit for decades.

                                                                  They also hate liberals. :)

                                                                  Trump, for better or worse, is the antidote.

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                                                  • Unless they install a new CBO head who builds that miracle into the base model.

                                                    That’s not outside the realm of possiblilty, to be honest. The EPA chief just cited the Bible to justify changing EPA protocols.

                                                    Miracle, mystery and authority, baby. History has demonstrated that’s a potent combination.

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                                      • They’re going to lie about it

                                        Preach it. It’s the only card they have to play right now given their commitments.

                                        Seriously tho, I wonder how much longer McConnell can maintain his lock on Powah. He’s a transparently lyin schemer to Dems and Indies, and increasingly so the Bannon/Trumpist wing of conservatives. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone express and retain political power so ruthlessly and morally corruptly as he has, at least in my lifetime. He would make Nixon and LBJ blush.

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                            • doesn’t that mean it’s probably a bad idea?

                              Actually no. It means there are so many special interests around Washington that any widespread Bill like this has to be secret to prevent it from being Demagogued to death.

                              It’s going to gore many special interests. In terms of lobbyists around Washington, there will be FAR more losers than winners even (or especially) if the American people as a whole win.

                              If you’re a lobbyist then you’re looking at multiple decades of your work being set on fire. This is a good thing. It’s how we move from a tax code that’s NOT humanly comprehensible to one that is.

                              Which doesn’t mean that the tax bill itself is good, just that any good bill would have to do this.

                              Ideally the political powers that be are trading a short, sharp political pain in exchange for the long term good thing called economic growth.

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            • It is from a post by someone responding to Bryan Caplan responding to Will Wilkinson. Caplan is still keeping the anti-welfare state hardline and the author of the post you linked to is critiquing him for it.

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        • What would be your worst nightmare, if liberals were to take power across the board in America? What injustice would occur, what awful things would happen?

          The dismantlement of due process if the results/facts doesn’t follow the “narrative”.
          Getting rid of free speech if it offends various groups.

          It’s a problem that the party of government doesn’t seem to have interest in good government, for example (over) empowering public unions.

          The current flirting with delegitimizing elections is extremely dangerous.

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            • I have occasionally contemplated keeping a running tally of how many times I have bitten my tongue to keep from saying “You Americans and your…” on this website or in real life. I’m sure it’s in the hundreds, if not the thousands. I’m sure I’ve failed to bite my tongue at least dozens of times.

              (And I’d mostly be saying it fondly and I’m not complaining about your comment above. Just… yeah. You think it’s funny reading the website, you should try living here :D.)

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          • This all sounds very bad. How nice for us that the Republican Party saved us from this parade of horribles by nominating and electing Trump.

            The dismantlement of due process if the results/facts doesn’t follow the “narrative”.

            “When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over?” Trump said, miming the physical motion of an officer shielding a suspect’s head to keep it from bumping against the squad car.

            “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”

            Getting rid of free speech if it offends various groups.

            Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!

            It’s a problem that the party of government doesn’t seem to have interest in good government, for example (over) empowering public unions.

            Despite Wynn’s flagrant conflict of interest, Trump was reportedly considering deporting Guo until aides talked him out of it—including informing him that Guo happens to be a member of his Mar-a-Lago resort (a privilege that costs $200,000 in initiation fees plus $14,000 in annual dues).

            The current flirting with delegitimizing elections is extremely dangerous.

            Days after being sworn in, President Trump insisted to congressional leaders invited to a reception at the White House that he would have won the popular vote had it not been for millions of illegal votes, according to people familiar with the meeting.

            Trump has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that widespread voter fraud caused him to lose the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, even while he clinched the presidency with an electoral college victory.

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            • If you’re trying to prove libs as a whole are less nasty than Trump, that’s fine (and true) but it’s passing a low bar… especially if you’re treating everything Trump says is policy.

              I don’t mind (or treat seriously) some liberal somewhere proclaiming sex crimes shouldn’t have due process because victims never lie; There are idiots/fanatics everywhere for all issues. But that’s vastly different than putting someone like that in charge of creating policy and forcing colleges to treat this ideology as fact.

              All of the other issues I pointed out are similar and seem to be problems with libs as a whole as opposed to (for example) just HRC.

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              • It may be a low bar, but it’s the relevant one. If Trump is worse than liberals on these issues, putting him in charge is worse for those issues than putting a liberal in charge. This is especially true since a liberal would have been contending with divided government, and while that isn’t great at checking those sort of abuses, it’s considerably better than unified government.

                As for issues being “problems with libs as a whole”, the way partisanship works will rapidly ensure that they become problems with cons as a whole too, to the extent already. The reactions to the terror attack in NYC yesterday suggests that there isn’t a great deal of interest in due process even among the GOP “establishment”, in case we’d forgotten that since the W years.

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                • It may be a low bar, but it’s the relevant one.

                  Given that Trump says everything on all issues? No, what he’s said isn’t relevant.

                  Obama’s person/administration actually did successfully lean on colleges to get rid of due process. Trump’s administration is Betsy DeVos and she isn’t trying to redirect that lack of due process against the administration’s picked foes, she’s trying to bring back due process.

                  That’s the relevant comparison. Even if you want to bring in their ham handed efforts on immigration, you’ll notice the administration isn’t ignoring judges’ edicts even if they disagree with them, and even if the judges’ edict amounts to “Trump, unlike other Presidents, can’t do that”.

                  We could do other comparisons for the other issues.

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                  • Trump has repeatedly and loudly criticized the courts including saying some judges aren’t fit due to their ethnicity. There are valid gripes about the way colleges have handled allegations but they also aren’t cops/courts. The justice system is not being twisted there though i agree the way colleges have handled due process is wrong. So if the comparison is not the justice system vs. the actual justice system including miranda rights then that doesn’t really show Trump in all that good a light.

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                    • Given the Weinstein, Fox News, etc scandals I think he had the right policy, to be honest.

                      If “he” means “Obama”, then consider we never jumped to “he must be guilty” when the man was powerful.

                      A lack of due process is a disaster for the weak, not only because they’ll have the system unjustly pointed at them, but because the system will protect insiders.

                      What are we supposed to think Weinstein’s HR department has been doing for the last 30 years?

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                      • A lack of due process is a disaster for the weak

                        Dark, that’s the whole point of taking women’s voices seriously. They’re structurally weak, from culture down thru the criminal justice system. It’s all been tilted towards the dudes, and with Trump it remains that way.

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                  • Yeah, I’m sure President Grab ‘Em by the Pussy, who had to a pay huge settlement for defrauding students, and still insists the Central Park Five are guilty, is really doing all of this out of an interest in due process for people who’s well-being he’s deeply concerned with.

                    Or he’s just interested in making it easier for the right people (i.e., people like him) to get away with sexual assault, and for college administrators to protect their revenue streams by covering it up.

                    I know which possibility I have my money on.

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                    • If the CIA had done their job, the Russians would have never stolen the election from HRC. Or maybe you think the CIA intentionally didn’t intervene so she wouldn’t be elected?

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                      • I have absolutely no idea what this has to do with what I just said, but I certainly think the Obama Administration, and the intelligence and law enforcement agencies it directed, failed to do their jobs and deal effectively with Russian interference in the election.

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                        • I was just throwing out random bullshit. Why?

                          Because your claim that “he’s just interested in making it easier for the right people (i.e., people like him) to get away with sexual assault, and for college administrators to protect their revenue streams by covering it up.”

                          Right. The kool aid cup is getting close to your mouth.

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                                • That’s because you’re “conclusions” were complete BS.

                                  If only because you conclude that “he’s just interested in making it easier for the right people (i.e., people like him) to get away with sexual assault,”

                                  I’d have more tendency to agree with you if you said “just making it easier for HIM to get away with sexual assault”. You’d have at least nailed correctly his narcissism. But you gotta go all “he’s part of some pervo cabal out to protect all his other buddies”.

                                  Right…..

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                                  • I don’t think he’s part of some pervo cabal.

                                    But I really, really don’t believe that he thinks that due process is in any way important, and that he does believe that some people—“stars”, to use his phrasing—are entitled to commit sexual assault because he came just shy of saying so in as many words.

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              • There are idiots/fanatics everywhere for all issues. But that’s vastly different than putting someone like that in charge of creating policy and forcing colleges to treat this ideology as fact.

                This is an important distinction, because I see a lot of people on both sides freaking out over the weirdos at the wings rather than looking at what the political candidates themselves actually stand for. A lot of people voted for Trump not because Hillary Clinton was for some sort of crazy leftist policy that upset them, but because somebody who would vote for Clinton is for some crazy leftist policy that upsets them.

                The problem I see is that the people who believe the crazy things on the left that the right is always freaking out about aren’t generally on the ballot. The people on the right who say the crazy things that makes the left freak out are actually the people in power. The Democrats’ version of Roy Moore is out protesting somewhere and trolling Twitter.

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                • My in-process-theory is that collectivism has slowly crept from the left to the center. When the left and center escalate authoritarianism, the only recourse escalation the right has is to go extreme right. When the pendulum swings that direction, it really has to swing far.

                  This appears to be a repeating theme. The only thing new is how the right can defect out of authoritarianism, and at the same time undermine the over reaching authoritarians of left and center.

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          • As Pillsy demonstrates below, your list isn’t exclusive to liberals.

            But I will go ahead and say that political ideology isn’t some magic incantation that wards off tyranny.

            America could become the worst sort of dictatorship under any political banner, provided the people want it that way.

            Everything you note as a hypothetical fear has actually happened in America, at various places and times.

            Which brings me back to my point, that the American people are going to have to sack up and decide how to respond to the self-dealing corruption in our system. I would make that challenge to liberals as well.

            If its just “I’m OK with it so long as it goes in my direction” then we probably deserve to become a kleptocracy.

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            • (Side note: Welcome back!)

              Everything you note as a hypothetical fear has actually happened in America, at various places and times.

              None of my examples were hypothetical, they were all implemented recently by the previous administration or in/by/on some lib stronghold. So they’re more or less where the liberal “mainstream” is.

              I was tempted to include HRC’s corruption because the Left’s mainstream was so determined to claim it was acceptable and/or wasn’t happening. On a side note about Trump, he’s not held up as an example of good behavior, and if you first have to have a Billion dollar international empire to be corrupt that’s a reasonably high bar, high enough that we may never see it again.

              America could become the worst sort of dictatorship under any political banner, provided the people want it that way.

              Yes, agreed. I’m worried we’re on that path… and I suspect it’s part of the “have gov do everything” package and is a process. Turning to a strongman dictator is just the last step.

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              • I notice that in your expression of fears, you don’t focus on policies or laws, but on the character of people.

                Like, you keep asserting that liberals are malign and illiberal, almost intrinsically.

                Is that deliberate on your part, do you actually believe that?

                Alternatively, in your mind, how could an honorable liberal behave, such that you could forge a compromise on something?

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                  • morat20,
                    Well, my liberal friends are evil (who else scams the right with “Obama’s jackbooted thugs R Gunna TAke Yur Gunz” — and uses this to grab names and addresses of Fine Republican Pollywogs). They’re just unlikely to send mailbombs unless the shit already has hit the fan.

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      • koz,
        You are pointing the finger at the wrong person.
        You should point the finger at George W Bush.
        “You are either with us or agin us.”

        And, need I really say it? Yes, GWB did manage to poison most of the millenials. You see a real change in ability to work with ideological opponents between Gen X and Millenials.

        Humans are nearly 99% software, after all, and this particular bit got set early.

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      • Eg, imagine the situation now if the D’s had one or both houses of Congress.

        The GOP wouldn’t think they could sneak through ACA repeal or tax “reform” with bare majorities voting on bills that are still being written the day of the vote. That would be awful.

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    • Trump apparently tweeted

      NYC terrorist was happy as he asked to hang ISIS flag in his hospital room. He killed 8 people, badly injured 12. SHOULD GET DEATH PENALTY!

      He’s clearly working to convert the undecided middle of the electorate.

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        • Politicize the Vegas shooting? Ha, how? There was no politics there. Any good marksman in the crowd wouldn’t have been able to carry a rifle there to shoot back. The NRA peeps would have ostracized anyone open carrying a rifle to a concert. It’s not like the shooter was backlit and had a constant muzzle flash indicating where he was firing from. At 300 yards, bullet drop is around 9″ on a good rifle with a slippery round, wind and spin drift were less than 2″ if I remember correctly.

          The politics of that night were done long ago. A people died without anyone having the means to shoot back, even the ones capable of making shots like that.

          Thank the gods of terrible accuracy that the final tally wasn’t a lot more, must of been someone who didn’t know how to use a rifle, but was miraculously good it not producing those little hick-ups you get with a bump fire stock.

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          • The always hilarious mass-shooting take is when people more proficient in the means of killing ridicule the perp’s casualty numbers because he was incompetent or stupid.

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            • I apologize, i didn’t intend for it to read as ridicule. I just find the parameters don’t match for some unknown reason. If the perp knew enough to shoot a rifle instead of a pistol, or machine gun from that position, why didn’t he know the effects of a bump stock from that position.

              There is more unknowns than knowns there, but the political action is to demonize the thing that probably made the process terribly inaccurate. Just postmodernism i guess.

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  11. I’m closing this post for comments, not because I think things are utterly out of control or anything, but because many of you are spun up to the point where things could get out of control, and I just don’t have the energy to address the issues individually today.

    Best to all, continue the discussion productively when it arises elsewhere.

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