Flynn Cuts His Deal

ABC News is reporting that in exchange with “only” being charged with two counts of lying to the FBI during its investigation of him, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn will “testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.”

I’ve said before that the only reason for Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller to cut a deal with Flynn would be if Flynn could help Mueller reel in an even bigger fish than himself. And there really could be only one fish matching that description.


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

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442 thoughts on “Flynn Cuts His Deal

  1. Yeah big boom. A few thoughts. This admin is already epically corrupt. One major and one minor official have already plead guilty and his former campaign manager has been indicted. There people are corruption prodigies.

    It depends a lot on when Flynn was directed to contact the russians. Big difference between during the transition and during the campaign. Also there is no way we are hearing all about what Flynn is spilling at this point. Kushner and the minor Trump’s are also going to a be a focus of what ever they are getting out of Flynn.

    I’ve had the revelation a few times with Flynn, but he is at the same time, a highly decorated and successful soldier and a comically greedy, arrogant and loose cannon doofus. Not that i ever thought all those things were separate but man this guy is a wing nut.

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    • This scandal is like an onion, if each layer of an onion was more mystifyingly moronic than the last.

      I think it’s much more likely that there’s hard evidence of serious illegality reaching all the way to Trump, not because I think he’s more corrupt, but because I think the people around him are so clownishly arrogant that they’d generate the evidence without needing to.

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      • I think it’s much more likely that there’s hard evidence of serious illegality reaching all the way to Trump, not because I think he’s more corrupt, but because I think the people around him are so clownishly arrogant that they’d generate the evidence without needing to.

        This, a thousand times over.

        Basically all the people involved in this thing are people who are used to committed crimes with complete impunity. They don’t have the slightest inclination to cover them up. And, in the rare instance they do want to hide them, they have no knowledge at all how to.

        For example, Jared Kushner asking the Russian embassy ‘Hey, can we use your secret communication equipment to talk to Moscow?’, which a) he asked in a stupid enough way that we learned about it, b) isn’t something that Russia isn’t going to let a American do, and c) that means, to ‘secretly’ talk to Russia, he would have to sneak to the Russian embassy, which I assure everyone that US intelligence services closely monitors the entrance to.

        So apparently he was fine with everyone knowing he was in constant contact with the Russian government _as long as_ they were unable to figure out what he was talking about? He thought we’d all be fine with that? What the utter hell?

        There are ways to secretly make contact with foreign governments and set up a secret communication with them, and by ‘secret communications’ I mean ‘communications no one know about’, not ‘communications that everyone knows about but does not know the contents of’. What Kushner did is stupid from top to bottom…I could figure out a better way to do it!(1)

        I mention this not because it is important, but because it is pretty indicative of the quality of intelligence and skill we’re dealing with here.

        1) Of course, I know that if I volunteer be an asset of a foreign power for some idiotic reason, I would have to communicate with them via dead drops and other signals until I prove myself. That’s how that works. Granted, Kushner is so stupid he wouldn’t realize that ‘members of the government secretly in communication with a foreign power’ is basically the definition of an intelligence asset.

        Pssst, Jared: If a foreign powers knows secrets about you that you would rather the world not know, especially if those secrets include agreements and communications with them, and you also have agreements with them to do things in exchange for other things…you’re an intelligence asset. You’re a ‘spy’, in the correct sense of the world. (People tend to misuse spy to mean ‘intelligence operative’, but it actually means the human assets that those operatives use to gather information.)

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        • Don’t forget ditching his SS detail for a week, right around when Manafort’s indictment dropped. Then getting it back.

          Or Rorabacher, whom even Paul Ryan thinks is on the Russian payroll.

          But especially — they wouldn’t have tried to cover things up until, oh, around inauguration at the earliest. But the Feds were watching Manafort all the way back to 2014, and the Feds were watching the Trump campaign by the summer of 2016.

          I’d put down money that not only does Mueller have solid evidence of the initial crimes, they watched the amateur cover-up and obstruction attempts in real time.

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      • Flynn’s apparently planning to testify that he was ordered to go ahead with contacting the Russians by Trump personally.

        Furthermore, it’s also come out that Trump has personally leaned on pretty much every Congressmen involved in the House and Senate investigations to “shut it down” and that Sessions curiously won’t answer whether or not he’s been told to interfere with it.

        Trump is acting guilty as hell. By itself, that might just be because Trump is — let’s say “Not used to being questioned”. However, Mueller acts like he has a tiger by the tail. And he’s staffed up like a man going after big game, and some of the people working for him — they wouldn’t have joined if Mueller hadn’t shown them something to indicate there’s a beast at the end of the trail.

        I think the question isn’t “Who” is guilty — it’s “how many besides Trump?” How many people are in Mueller’s crosshairs? Jarod, who still lacks permanent security clearance and likely can’t ever get it without Presidential fiat because he keeps forgetting to add contacts with Russians?

        Sessions, who also seems to have a real memory problem with Russia? Pence, who was involved in the campaign and the transition, and was a backer of Flynn? Rorabacher, because even the GOP thinks he’s owned by the Russians?

        That’s the question. Not “how bad” — it’s bad, you can tell just by who is working the case — the question is “How far”.

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        • We know that Assange/WikiLeaks personally contacted Trump Jr via a DM on Twitter. The whole thing is a huge nihilistic exercise by sexists, knee-jerk anti-Americans plus Russian meddling with the one country that can take them down.

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      • There is a giant bucket of repubs who hated the Soviets but have jumped on the Russia train big time in the last few years.

        You could make a spy thriller less outrageous then Red Dawn where a small cabal of KGB officers concoct the greatest scheme to keep power and covertly take down the US by collapsing the Soviet Union and using various indirect means and moles to neuter us. No i don’t think that has happened fwiw.

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        • There is a bucket of suprising size to me* but the norm is still more like McCain/Graham/Romney who when they tried to paint Russia as an adversary, were told LOL The Eighties Called.

          *though mostly its just Rohrabacher. I don’t even think there are even any actual paleocons in Congress anymore.

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          • The thing about Romney’s russia stuff is that he isn’t all that right that Russia major strategic adversary. China is the big player. They actually have a powerful economy and growing military. Russia is weaker economically and militarily. They have been very effective in using propaganda and non-military means to enhance their power. They are certainly aggressive in the local sphere of interest and Syria. Russia is more of a concern to project power in eastern and central europe now than a few years ago. So Romney can get a high five on that but China is a more serious power player at least in all the conventional ways.

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  2. This is going to be interesting. Flynn’s testimony could lead to some very damning evidence against Trump, impeachable evidence. This puts Republicans in the House in a bind. Impeach and convict Trump than you piss off his most loyal fans, who are a big part of the Republican voting base. Not impeaching Trump if Trump is clearly guilty of doing some very bad and illegal things during the 2016 Election could lead to an electoral blood bath for the Republicans in the 2018 mid-terms even with their very gerrymandered map. The fact that they are going to pass a hugely unpopular tax bill is not going to help things. Republicans in Congress still need Trump or at least a Republican in the President’s Office because a Democratic President won’t do what they want.

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    • The House isn’t’ going to impeach Trump unless there is a mega fish ton more evidence then whatever Flynn says and even then i doubt they’ll do it. I can’t see the R’s in the House having been taught any lessons in the last decades about why they should do the heavy lifting of impeaching Trump. If anything they have been taught to ramp up the bluster and go into hyper bitter campaign mode with all the dirty tactics they can muster. Trump is certainly going to do that.

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        • Yeah. Trump is a winner who isn’t held back by dumb bureaucrats and their regulations. He is rebel cop who doesn’t play by the rules. He does what needs to be done and what is right. Your petty lawyer bs laws and paper work don’t matter.

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        • I think Greg is mostly on track… it matters whether this is a false start penalty – which at the moment it is. Or whether Pillsy is right that the onion peels back and reveals something more than a false start.

          The indictment is for events that happen after Trump is elected President…

          So the optimist could say that there are pending indictments for what happened [long] before he was elected president and [immediately] after… but the pessimist points out that the thing that gets him *impeached* is clear proof of electioneering with the Russians. Or at least that’s how I would read the political calculus.

          Even the Obstruction of Justice matter – i.e. “Hey, can you leave Flynn alone [for stuff he did during the Transition]” – as it is currently reported, and absent any Flynn/Mueller booms – isn’t going to change the political calculus. (I suspect).

          So there might be a boom in the Flynn indictment, but I think this one is a little premature.

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          • The indictment is for events that happen after Trump is elected President…

            Just something to consider: Burt would know best, but I’m pretty sure that what he was indicted for *after* agreeing to cooperate is only a subset of lesser charges he could have been indicted for had he not. Lots of stuff we still don’t know.

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          • The only thing i would add or change is that the political calculus and actual criminal wrong doing are very different in this case. Some “minor” obstruction of justice is not going to change the politics since plenty of Trumpets have already gone hard on defending and excusing it. That doesn’t mean it may not lead to charges, a shift in perception by non-trumpet’s who aren’t D’s and be actually horribly corrupt.

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          • I agree with your analysis of the evidence on hand. “False start penalty” is a cute way to put it, but you’re right, that doesn’t seem all that serious. I can’t see an impeachment going forward on that.

            The thing is, the intel community knew a lot more was going on before the election, but can’t say exactly what they knew or how without compromising sources and methods. So a lot of this campaign is about figuring out the right maneuvers that will expose admissible evidence about those things that they already know happened.

            It’s not clear that Flynn has all of these pieces. I rather expect he doesn’t have all of them, but he has some. We might see Kushner targeted next. Or maybe Donald Jr.

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            • I guess at the moment I’m more in the camp that what the Intelligence Agencies know is that Trumps finances are an embarrassing mess with [legal] but embarrassing ties to people and situations that might or might not hurt Trump’s Brand and Fortune. And possibly that is Mueller’s “I am not a Crook” strategy for Trump to exit. Pull back the onion and show him that the cost of staying is greater than the cost of leaving.

              Or maybe there was deeply coordinated electioneering on behalf of Russian interests of which Trump is willing collaborator or at least a pawn.

              At the moment, I’m still in the first camp.

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              • I somewhat doubt that the Intel agencies know that much about Trump finances because of the restrictions on them looking at US persons.

                I mean sure, there’s probably some dangly ends of a diagram on a whiteboard focused on a person of interest that lead to Trump affiliated organizations. But there’s no network analysis that ties the Trump dangly bits together because that analysis would be illegal for a Intel agency to do.

                (It’s not for people in the Treasury or Justice departments though)

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                • But not for Mueller to connect the dangly bits with the bits from Treasury?

                  Presumably Mueller is methodically following protocol, so A has to happen for him to request B files from Treasury… but we have no idea whether Mueller is on A, B or L.

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                • The Intel agencies don’t, but if Mueller hasn’t already subjected everything Trump has ever even thought of to a full forensic audit he’s planning to. Far deeper than the IRS goes, even under audit.

                  Among the folks he’s hired are the top-tier folks for money shenanigans, and Mueller is approaching the whole thing almost like a mob case.

                  The indictment against Manafort showed exactly how deep into someone’s finances he’s prepared to go.

                  Now intel agencies might have given him some pointers on where to look — after all, Manafort’s dirty money was flowing in from overseas movers and shakers, and we know Trump is deeply in debt to the Russians and a lot of Russian money travels through his properties.

                  I’m not sure when the CIA or NSA has to stop following a trail, but I suspect they’re on solid enough ground tracing, say, a target’s money into a US bank or property. They might have to turn it over to the FBI on where it goes from there, but the FBI has some good people for that. (One of my DM’s is, in fact, one of those guys….)

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              • It’s a fair reading of what is known by you and me. I think there’s more than that, but that’s my intuition at this point, not evidence.

                I think Trump is weirdly naive, and probably agreed to things that didn’t seem like a big deal to him, but are actually a big deal. Naivete is not a valid excuse, though.

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          • Before today I never actually knew her name. I knew that a woman in San Francisco had been shot by a guy who had re-entered the country after having previously been deported.

            You’re on to something that the actual facts of that case are not politically relevant.

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            • Once I learned the facts of this case I was shocked that it was… a tragic, stupid, possibly negligently homicidal, accident. This substantially lowered my already low opinion of the right-wing reaction to it.

              The problem with the Internet is that it breaches bubbles, not that it maintains them.

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                • So not being a lawyer, I was curious if it’s common for the lesser included charges (like involuntary manslaughter in this case) to depend on a completely different theory of the crime, and if so whether that usually works.

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                  • Prosecutors, even prosecutors in liberal areas, still have prosecuting spirit and make the same decisions as prosecutors every where.

                    SF is not as super-liberal as everyone imagines much of the time. The Chinese community is active, fairly socially conservative (not to fundie levels but they are not raging social liberals either. A large chunk of the Chinese community in SF does not want recreational marijuana and is doing their darndest to make it hard to open recreational marijuana stores.) There could still be pressure politically including from slightly more conservative suburban voters (though Bay Area suburbs are super-blue as well).

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                  • It would have been. has been explaining that a lot has to do with what the prosecutor argues to the jury. It’s a tough thing to make an “in the alternative, here’s the lesser-included charge” without seriously endangering the prime cause of action. “You should vote guilty on the murder charge! But even if you don’t, you should vote guilty on the manslaughter charge anyway!” It’s a needle’s eye that needs threading and not all lawyers are good at it.

                    But on my own behalf, I think that maybe charging him with murder was the mistake. The facts of the case look like manslaughter: he finds the gun, picks it up to check it out, and it discharges into a crowd, killing Ms. Steinle.

                    From my own admittedly limited experience out at the gun range, this suggests to me that he did several things wrong: he didn’t assume the gun was loaded, he didn’t confirm that the safety was off before putting his finger in the trigger guard, he “tested” the gun with his finger in the trigger guard, he did all this while pointing the barrel towards an area where there were people, and so on. Guns don’t “accidentally discharge” all on their own; rather, they are carelessly handled.

                    There’s no intent, but there is negligence in pointing the gun towards an area where there’s people, and that’s a pretty classic sort of distinction between murder and manslaughter. So the mistake was going for murder at all.

                    Why the prosecutor did that is always going to be murky. It’s likely politics had something to do with it. How much, we likely can’t ever really know.

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                    • Somehow, I think the outcry would have been considerably muted if this had been a white guy who accidentally fired his CC weapon and killed a woman he wasn’t aiming at, and any suggestion that he be prosecuted for murder one would have prompted outrage over the overcharging from a lot of people on the Right.

                      And seriously, they’d have a good point.

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                      • A “CC weapon”, by definition, is legal. This guy was a drug dealer who wasn’t legally supposed to have weapons at all, much less be “shooting at a sea lion” (one of his claims).

                        At best we’re looking at a guy with a history of (sometimes criminal) incompetence who’s already lost his right to bare arms and then, through incompetence, accidently killed someone. How many felonies is he supposed to be able to wrack up before society gets serious about taking a gun out of his hands?

                        And that’s “at best”. He’s clearly not cooperating with anything so there’s a ton of unresolved issues that very likely don’t reflect well on him (like whether or not he stole the gun).

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                        • So your argument is that he killed someone though criminal incompetence?

                          That’s quite plausible!

                          It’s also not anything like premeditated murder. Charging him with premeditated murder, when he killed someone through criminal incompetence, was stupid. And generally speaking, DAs shouldn’t be ridiculously overcharging people with crimes they obviously didn’t commit.

                          He actually was convicted on the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which makes the whole “jury nullification” angle look ridiculous, and suggests a degree of seriousness about taking the gun away from him.

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                          • So your argument is that he killed someone though criminal incompetence?

                            No, I’m saying that’s the most favorable view of what we’ve got… which includes him “finding” the gun under his seat (which I don’t believe. More likely is he’s either the guy who stole the gun or he bought it).

                            Other possibilities are he was threatening someone with it or did something else in theme for a drug dealer. I think he’s telling self serving lies and the case against him could have easily bloomed into something “drug trade” related.

                            a degree of seriousness about taking the gun away from him.

                            So now the number of felonies on his ticket has gone from 5 to 6, and it’s double triple illegal for him to have a gun.

                            Yep, he’ll respect that!

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                            • Maybe he found the gun, or maybe he bought it, or stole it.
                              Maybe he shot at an enemy, or maybe he mishandled it.
                              Maybe he was threatening someone, or maybe it was a drug deal.

                              Man!
                              That’s a lot of possibilities!
                              Y’know here’s a thought.

                              Maybe they should like, have an investigation to gather evidence, then hold a trial where all of those possiblities can be examined and cross examined, and get a bunch of disinterested citizens to make a ruling.

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                              • Well, he’ll be in jail or deported, so I don’t know why you’re so worried about that. He was, after all, convicted of illegal possession. And it sounds like the feds will take their own steps to deport him.

                                I live very far away from this to “worry” about it.

                                Trump’s big point here is California was supposed to deal with this before he started killing people. Instead what California did was prevent the Federal government from doing anything… well that and announce your first murder is free if it’s only your 6th felony.

                                The optics of this are really bad for good reason. It’s handing Trump an easy victory.

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                                • California didn’t do this. A jury acquitted him, not any political actor within the state’s governmental apparatus. California charged the guy with murder, which is seemingly exactly what Trump would have wanted a prosecutor directly under his control to have done.

                                  As with a lot of things that come out of the justice system, it’s easier grandstanded about for political gain than actually understood, so your point about the optics should survive this quibble.

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                        • You’ll be happy to know that the civil suit for wrekless negligence against the Bureau of Land Management is continuing.

                          After all, if the BLM Ranger had stored his service weapon in a secure manner instead of in a backpack under the seat of his car, Katie Steinle would be alive.

                          I wonder if we can charge the Ranger with a Murder 1? It makes as much sense as charging someone who fired a gun in a completely different direction with the premeditated intention of killing a certain specific person via a Jim West (*) worthy shot

                          (*) Wasn’t SF (TV’s) Jim West’s home base? Perhaps there’s something in the air that makes ordinary people amazing marksmen?

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                          • It makes as much sense as charging someone who fired a gun in a completely different direction with the premeditated intention of killing a certain specific person via a Jim West (*) worthy shot

                            Your intentions follow the bullet… so what was he doing firing the bullet to begin with? Was he shooting the sea-lion who no one claims actually existed, or was he mishandling the gun that fairies left for him after stealing it from a car…

                            …or maybe he was shooting it at one of his fellow dealers? Killing the wrong person while attempting murder is still murder.

                            Everything up to the gun going off was illegal. It was illegal for him to have the gun. It was illegal for him to use it. His job (dealing drugs) was illegal. The gun was stolen. His being in the country was illegal.

                            If he pulled the trigger in the commision of a crime, then I’m guessing the laws being thrown at him get a lot heavier.

                            And yes, unfortunately we get deep into “we don’t know” territory so we have to accept the changing word of a 5 time felon who is heavily motivated to tell the best lie he can so it’s not his fault.

                            The gun he magically “found” under his seat had nothing to do with his extensive criminal history of this sort of thing. His extensive criminal history had nothing to do with him pulling the trigger.

                            With that as the public line, I can very much see why people are upset.

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                            • You’re asking the wrong question for a murder conviction. Specifically, the phrase “beyond a reasonable doubt” does a lot of work you’re eliding.

                              My personal reaction, as a SF liberal who didn’t follow the case pre-verdict, is that none of the evidence removes all reasonable doubt he intended to kill her. I could easily imagine finding the lesser-included, but popehat’s point on how that’s a hard pitch to juries is exactly right.

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                            • And yes, unfortunately we get deep into “we don’t know” territory so we have to accept the changing word of a 5 time felon who is heavily motivated to tell the best lie he can so it’s not his fault.

                              Yeah, this. This is why I’m not really that invested in blaming the prosecutors. I don’t think that jurors are usually that interested in coulda shoulda woulda regarding secondary evidence when the prima facie evidence is as clear as it is. And, low level criminals who make mistakes that kill innocent parties are not (usually) sympathetic defendants.

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            • I believe the argument goes:

              “The real threat to America is undocumented immigrants who break laws in America, get deported, return, and are protected by a sanctuary city from being re-deported until after they accidentally kill an American.”

              I still find it supremely unconvincing as a generalized threat, but from what I’ve seen the sanctuary city bit is important to those making the argument.

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              • While it doesn’t necessarily matter if the spin masters get their spin going, but do we know if his presence in a sanctuary city actually made a difference? Was he someone they were trying to re-deport but couldn’t because he was in SF? Or was he simply operated under the radar and this could have happened anywhere regardless of sanctuary city-status?

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                • Somewhere in the middle, but the sanctuary city approach did matter, apparently.

                  From CNN: “Before the shooting, officials in San Francisco released Garcia Zarate from custody instead of turning him over to immigration authorities.”

                  He’s also been deported 5 times, so add that to the spin machine.

                  Again, I think this is a really non-convincing argument.

                  But the spin masters are in love with it already, as far as I can tell.

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            • Yes. The real threat to America is undocumented immigrants who break laws in America, get deported, return, and accidentally kill Americans.

              That’s just a part of it for this case, and not really the most important part.

              For citizens or aliens either one, whose criminal recklessness results in the death of another person, that’s exactly what manslaughter charges are for. In terms of the cultural health of America at large, it’s the jury’s actions which are far more ominous.

              I hope it turns out different but for now it looks like the San Francisco jury absolved the defendant of all criminal responsibility for an innocent person’s death for the purpose of giving the middle finger to Donald Trump.

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                • argues here that the jury applying the law as written could not possibly have reached a verdict other than a conviction, but exercised its so-called “sovereign right” to not apply the law in a situation that the jury found unjust.

                  I have strong feelings about this subject in what I suspect is diametric opposition to here, because allowed to run rampant, jury nullification removes jury trials from the realm of the rule of law. It is not for a jury to decide when a particular law applies to a particular case. It is for a jury to resolve disputed issues of fact, not determine questions regarding the applicability of the law.

                  And that’s what it looks like the jury did here, finding a reasonable doubt that there was intent to kill or even reckless disregard for safety. Now, I agree with that there is a pretty strong-looking claim for reckless disregard based on the facts of this case. It’s likely what I would have argued had I been the prosecutor. But I’m also hesitant to say the jury acted “irrationally” and with “willful disregard of the evidence” such that a “miscarriage of justice” has occurred, because I wasn’t in the courtroom to see and hear the evidence that was actually presented. (Those quoted words were not randomly selected, as you might imagine.)

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                  • Being the frothingly angry Team Blue Trooper that I am, I get regular FB alerts from my gun control groups, almost every single day, about accidental shootings wounding or killing people.

                    Guns discharged by toddlers, children playing army men, women fishing thru their purse, guys playing around while drunk, or stupid people deliberately shooting at the ground during stupid angry encounters.

                    I don’t seem to recall a lot of spin from the right or the left about how these people should all be prosecuted for manslaughter.

                    If this guy was a Florida Man who fired a pistol, and the bullet ricocheted off the ground and struck a woman, I suspect the national media would file it in the News Of The Weird column next to the Flat Earth Rocket Guy.

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                      • In fairness to Koz’s point… the Jury did have the option of taking one of the “Lesser Included” charges.

                        So, the *jury* also decided it wasn’t Involuntary Manslaughter or assault with a deadly weapon. He was convicted of possession of a firearm.

                        After six days of deliberations, a jury on Thursday convicted Garcia Zarate for unlawful possession of a firearm, which carries a sentence of up to three years. He was found not guilty of murder, as well of the lesser charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon.

                        I’m not sure I have a strong opinion on what the proper punishment should be for the accidental firing of a weapon by a homeless man which ricochets and kills a woman – if those are indeed the “true” facts of the case. But it seems a story of prosecutorial failure more than anything else.

                        Unless the members of the jury make it about something else; but I don’t see how you can go to nullification without the Jury making it about nullification.

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                  • It will be interesting to see what comments the jurors make. Usually in a situation like this, there’s at least a couple who will make some public comments. If they were trying to flip the bird to Trump, you gotta figure they’ll want to get their money’s worth.

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            • If this is true, it’s hard to think of a more damning indictment of a country that already elected Trump once.

              I don’t why this should be an indictment of America, it seems to me that it would speak well for her. It’s becoming quite plausible that Americans are going to defend their prerogatives for self-determination, the point where the libs and the Establishment or the Deep State can’t maneuver around it, and they’ll have to quit trying.

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                • I have a much stronger view of nullification than most lawyers, and almost all judges. But the acquittal on all manslaughter charges, which is what happened here, is simply an outrage. There’s just no other way to put it.

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                  • The DA should have tried to just go for the charges they had a decent case for, instead of going with, “Maybe this guy is a reckless moron or maybe he’s a cold blooded killer who meticulously planned to randomly shoot someone he wasn’t aiming at.”

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                      • I thought the addendum to the Popehat tweets was useful to explain how they failed even on the “lesser includeds”

                        As a Sales pro, we would see it in a totally different light… we’d build a ladder to show that you definitely want involuntary manslaughter … and then start walking the customer, er, jury up the ladder towards the best deal you have – Murder 1. I mean, we know that we only get Murder 1 if the customer wants/needs Murder 1… but don’t screw your deal going for Murder 1 when Invol Manslaughter is a perfectly reasonable get.

                        They went for the big deal and screwed all the other deals on down the line. I’ve done that before; once.

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        • Not even that. I can totally see McCain and Graham saying the house should back off and let the voters decide in 2020 whether they’re troubled by Trump’s choices, and that it really isn’t fair to deprive them of that opportunity.

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      • That’s my prediction to Trump is more useful to Republicans in office than out of office because of tax cuts and judiciary appointments. They won’t do anything against Trump and will try to shift the focus to the Democratic Party in any way, shape, or form possible. As mid-terms approach they will invoke all dirty tricks and culture war tactics possible to stem off or even prevent a blood bath.

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        • I’m sure some R’s in congress see Trump’s legal troubles as very good leverage over him. The more compromised he is the more power they have to help and protect him. I’m sure they want Trump needing cover from them and owing them favors. A weakened Trump gives them power and leverage.

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    • Just remember that impeachment is a political process, not a legal one. It has some legal trappings. Don’t let that fool you. It isn’t fooling Mueller, for instance.

      The rule of law exists only if there is political will behind it. That is the lesson of John Yoo and torture. Or of Andrew Jackson, for that matter. What’s behind the phrase “popular sovereignty” is the idea that if enough voters don’t care about rule of law, the President doesn’t have to pay any attention to it.

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      • This raises an interesting question for me, what happens if Trump is arrested, but not impeached? For that matter, what if he’s convicted of a crime but not impeached? Can he be President in prison, or is there a non-political mechanism for removing him?

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        • [W]hat happens if Trump is arrested, but not impeached?
          Absolutely no one knows. With this President, I think he pardons himself.

          [W]hat if he’s convicted of a crime but not impeached?
          Then shame on Congress, but you know they’ll still enjoy a 95% re-election rate anyway.

          Can he be President in prison…
          There’s no Constitutional impediment to this. As a practical matter that would be an amazingly difficult thing to do and holy crap would we look ridiculous to the rest of the world. At that point, I think we’re looking hard at the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.

          …or is there a non-political mechanism for removing him?
          There is one that is not necessarily political but which is definitely not legal. I hesitate to even mention it because no one, not even the most frothingly angry Team Blue Trooper, ought to want it. Nor should anyone advocate it. The disruption and damage such a thing would wreak upon the nation would be incalculably greater even than an impeachment.

          He should resign, or be lawfully removed from office through impeachment, or lawfully removed from office through the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. All three of those things are strictly political. But not the other thing. We are not Rome.

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            • My first, gut-level, reaction to this is that I don’t see a problem with a rule that presidents are immune from state statutory charges not recognized in federal law. I know nearly nothing about criminal law, so maybe I’ve just done something nutty, but I don’t see why California should be allowed to pass a law against–say–ownership of name-brand real estate by federal politicians then hold Trump accountable.

              Anyway, interesting question that would require a LOT more thought.

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          • I think the underlying question here is, what happens to America if about half of us decide that there is no crime or behavior whatsoever that would cause us to tolerate sharing power with the opposing power?

            I would say what happens then is the American experiment in self governance has failed, and we become merely another authoritarian regime.

            Because as much as we go on about authoritarianism and tyranny, what gets overlooked often is how wildly popular that is.

            All dictatorships draw their power from a large enough group of people who supply them with enough troops and money and support to remain in power.

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            • Semi-off topic:
              This is How Every Genocide Begins

              It happened this way in Germany, Cambodia, Rwanda, and countless other sites of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and mass persecution. The pamphlets, megaphones, and radio broadcasts came before the pogroms, murders, and forced relocations.

              When a large enough group of people decide that anything is acceptable so long as the other side doesn’t get power, then anything is possible.

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              • So rather than needing to defend himself against charges of sexual harassment (which he’s probably guilty of), Trump with one tweet now needs to defend himself against “genocide”… and in a week or year or whatever when the body count is “zero” this will look like hysteria.

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            • On my pessimistic days, I suspect we’re already there. And the only reason it hasn’t all hit the fan is that 35% are in one party and 15% are in the other, so they (we? – I did say it was on pessimistic days) can’t dictate terms. Yet.

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            • This is my fear. Our current legislative style (i.e. 60-votes for everying) makes governance impossible, which leads to hyberbolic legislative nonsense and no progress made on anything that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders don’t agree on. So there’s no pressure release when things get out of sync, and instead the nonsense and dysfunction keep building.

              Either a really good engineer or an explosion seem necessary. And I don’t see the engineer, even though the explosion is unthinkable.

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              • Our current legislative style (i.e. 60-votes for everying) makes governance impossible, which leads to hyberbolic legislative nonsense and no progress made on anything that Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders don’t agree on.

                I’m not entirely sure this is a problem. Most of the big issues have already been solved, a lot of what could be done now comes down to “politicians justifying their own existence”.

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                • Look at the way the UK generally (maybe Brexit excluded) governs: parties form policies they actually want to have enacted, because if they win they’ll have the power to actually do them. Here, we have almost exactly the opposite style, because the governing party can’t really achieve anything legislatively.

                  The assertion that everything big has been solved suggests you and I are too far apart to discuss this productively.

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                  • The assertion that everything big has been solved suggests you and I are too far apart to discuss this productively.

                    Possibly.

                    But it’s not so much “everything big has been solved” as it is “there is no consensus on what to do about lots of issues”. Global warming, gun control, entitlement reform, etc. Yes, one side could get enough of a majority to ram through some “solution” in the teeth of the other, but our system is designed to make that hard for good reason.

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                    • That I agree with, with two caveats. First, it implies the GOP has a global warming solution other than denial, which I do not accept. Second, “the system” was not designed this way. The system was designed to allow majority rule in the Senate.

                      Filibusters are a historic accident as a result of Aaron Burr’s rule changes (yes, the guy featured in the best got milk commercial of all time) that was used for almost nothing except preservation of slavery/discrimination until the Gingrich era and is now used for literally everything permitted (by both sides).

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                      • …it implies the GOP has a global warming solution other than denial…

                        Doing “nothing” and handling the issues piecemeal as they come up while we wait for the technology to improve is a perfectly fine solution. Thankfully Congress is well equipped to do nothing. Denial is simply part of that “solution”.

                        Second, “the system” was not designed this way.

                        The system was designed to prevent one side from resolving contentious issues (specifically slavery) without the consent of the other side.

                        A side effect of the gov being so big, and so important, is lots and lots of stuff is “contentious”.

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                        • Doing “nothing” and handling the issues piecemeal as they come up while we wait for the technology to improve is a perfectly fine solution.

                          There’s a difference between saying:

                          “something is happening but we don’t have yet the tools to address the problem, and we will continue closely monitoring the issue, and developing the tools”

                          and saying:

                          “There is no such thing as Climate Change”

                          while lobbing snow balls in the Chamber and forbidding, or attempting to, to spend money in Climate Change research.

                          (redacted for unnecessary speculation about motives. was something that is pretty close to “You should acknowledge that difference.” – maribou)

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                          • Oh I know the difference, but we’re talking about politics. I’m great with having logical, data driven arguments which make math based evaluations… however that’s NOT what the GW debate is about.

                            The science of GW is all fine and rational. What to do about it is highly emotional and comes down to SOMETHING MUST BE DONE! (smbd) rather than economic evaluations of cost/benefit and sensible impact.

                            The SMBD people insist malaria coming back to America is a serious problem. The SMBD people insist hurricanes via GW is the major problem of hurricanes, as opposed to putting cities in harm’s way on every inch of the coast. The SMBD people insist the planet is in danger but we can’t build dams because it kills fish and we can’t build nuke plants because… well just because.

                            My general conclusions are…
                            1) Burning carbon has been an absurdly great net “good” for mankind
                            2) The planet isn’t really in danger
                            3) If it were we have on-the-self technology which works (nuclear)
                            4) The most economically rational thing to do at the moment is wait for technology to improve and tell people reassuringly “no, nothing needs to be done”.

                            We’re not actually arguing about the facts of GW, we’re arguing about the emotional response and how to deal with it. And “it doesn’t exist” is a fine emotional counter to SMBD’s overly emotional statements.

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                        • (*cough* no – Maribou)

                          The leader of the party controlling Congress says that climate change is a Chinese hoax. One of the Senators from that party wrote a whole book about who climate change is a hoax.

                          That’s not “handling issues piecemeal as they come up”. That’s a bunch of idiotic paranoia and lies aimed at preventing us from even dealing with issues piecemeal as they come up.

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                          • That’s not “handling issues piecemeal as they come up”. That’s a bunch of idiotic paranoia and lies aimed at preventing us from even dealing with issues piecemeal as they come up.

                            So if Malaria comes back to the US, you think we’re just going to ignore it? How about the recent round of hurricanes, are we pretending they never happened?

                            Having a local doctor spend a few hundred dollars a pop to cure immigrants or travelers who pick up Malaria in Africa is much cheaper and more effective than dialing back the temperature of the planet.

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                        • You and I are talking about different things.

                          Constitutional checks and balances are designed to slow down change. That’s why the senate has longer terms and (initially) wasn’t even elected.

                          The filibuster is a different animal, and makes a HUGE difference because it often prevents EITHER party from having the ability to run the Senate (without which, no laws can get passed). That’s not in the constitution, nor is it intended.

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              • Either a really good engineer or an explosion seem necessary. And I don’t see the engineer, even though the explosion is unthinkable.

                My guess is, that contrary to Chip’s apocalyptic intuitions, that the American people will give up on bipartisan governance. There’s going to be too much obstruction (in the non-criminal sense) to indulge too much support for political minorities.

                I have thought for a while that the GOP would be the beneficiary of this, though now I’m not so sure.

                In any event, this is dependent on our political tribalisms continuing in the direction they are currently going. But this is in no way inevitable.
                It’s never too late for libs to start to do the right thing.

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          • There is one that is not necessarily political but which is definitely not legal. I hesitate to even mention it because no one, not even the most frothingly angry Team Blue Trooper, ought to want it. Nor should anyone advocate it. The disruption and damage such a thing would wreak upon the nation would be incalculably greater even than an impeachment.

            Yeah, that definitely doesn’t sound good. I was think more like the rule in New Zealand where a Member of Parliament who is convicted of a crime with a maximum sentence of at least 3 years automatically lose their seat, but that’s a legal, non-political method.

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        • This raises an interesting question for me, what happens if Trump is arrested, but not impeached?

          Yeah. It’s a funny fact: Everyone assumes the president has some sort of immunity to Federal prosecution, but there is literally no such impediment in the constitution, except for the fact he can fire people who try to prosecute him.

          Except…can he really fire _everyone_ who can prosecute him? I don’t mean as a practical or political manner…I mean that question literally: Is everyone who could move the process forward fire-able by the president?

          Let’s imagine some sort of hypothetical world where the entire executive branch under the President agrees the President had committed a crime, and the courts agree also, and Congress refuses to do anything. Let’s also say the courts have held that the President cannot pardon himself. The president can fire the AG, he can fire deputy AGs, he can fire the US Attorneys…

          …but the thing is, it’s grand juries that indict. And they are secret. Also the president cannot fire those, nor does that really matter anyway, because the indictment already happened by the time he learned of it. Maybe a Federal judge also needs to then sign off on an arrest warrant (I think maybe that’s only needed if there isn’t an indictment?) but that hardly matters, as the President can’t fire Federal judges anyway.

          So there’s no way for the president to keep from being indicted and or to stop the courts system from issuing a warrant for their arrest, except to maybe fire literally everyone who can convene a grand jury well in advance of that. (Which is totally insane and would mean the US couldn’t prosecute Federal felonies.)

          Once that happens, would the US Marshals to enforce it? Can the president fire individual US Marshals? Can he fire them in _real time_, like when they show up to arrest him? (I bet their union contract says they can only be fired after a specific process.)

          Can he fire the people holding him in Federal prison? Maybe, but what would that accomplish?

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          • Let’s also say the courts have held that the President cannot pardon himself.

            I don’t want to get in the way of a fun thought experiment… but I think you play the game by *daring* him to pardon himself; which then fits the bill for impeachable overuse/abuse of power. That’s exactly the fig-leaf/positioning that you give congress to act. Trump takes the dare to protect himself, and in doing so, discredits himself – not to everyone, of course, but to enough that his exit can be engineered. Or, if it even gets to that point it is quite likely he resigns, Pence pardons and you get Democratic Jimmy Carter Redux in 2020.

            The idea is to envelop and force the surrender… not force a fight to the death.

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          • Yeah. It’s a funny fact: Everyone assumes the president has some sort of immunity to Federal prosecution, but there is literally no such impediment in the constitution, except for the fact he can fire people who try to prosecute him.

            I forget that’s an option available to him, our police don’t work like that.

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        • That is an interesting question. I had actually assumed that executive privilege meant he can’t be prosecuted for any act he takes as President. Though he can be impeached as such.

          But maybe he will be charged with things that came before that. We’re already in uncharted territory, given the Comey firing.

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    • I think Greg is right. The House isn’t going to impeach Trump. I and a million other people have written about how amazing it is that the GOP Congress is rushing this tax bill to pass. A tax bill that goes to cartoon levels of villainy and trolling.

      The only thing I can think of is that the GOP Congresscritters are taking the threats of their donors seriously and they know the spigot turns off unless they pass something. There is also the revolutionary vanguard and contempt for democracy that you have noted. The GOP has adopted a Property Rights above all attitude and if democracy is a threat to property and business rights, democracy has to go.

      Moore has pulled ahead again in Alabama and it looks like he is going ton win. The Democratic tide in Virginia was not enough to beat gerrymandering for the House of Delegates, the GOP still holds a bare majority.

      Plus the 2018 map is still extremely favorable for the GOP and Trumpistas. So doubling down on culture war and eww Democrats might save them in 2018 despite the massive unpopularity of Trump and the tax bill.

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        • Under normal conditions, yes, but we are not in normal conditions. Senators are not protected by gerrymandering in the same way that House members are. The entire state elects them and if the Democratic voters in every state are motivated and anger towards the Republicans is big enough, even a favorable map for the Republicans in the Senate might not end that favorable.

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          • Oh i agree, that is true. However the map isn’t favorable to the D’s. That is a basic fact. The D’s or R’s, depending how you look at it, could still turn that around to lead to big D victory in the Senate.

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        • I concur but even then I suspect the GOP will take dent but maintain a slim majority. I hope I am wrong but we shall see. Though the resignations of people like Flake give me some hope that the map is more playable depending on how events turn out. Perhaps some red-state Dems will manage to hold on and Arizona will elect its first Democratic Senator in a while.

          The whole of 2017 is producing a lot of conundrums. I’m still largely a believer that politics is the art of the possible and good governance requires compromise and long boring of hard wood.

          Yet nearly the entire GOP has been acting in bad faith and with such contempt that I wonder if the Democrats would just be suckers to engage in good-faith negotiations and compromise? I want the GOP to know a taste of their own medicine. What good would it do for Democrats to reinstate the blue slip tradition that Grassley just chucked?

          What Franken and Conyers did was horrible but I question whether they should resign while Trump and Moore just double down on denials and survive. I’ve wondered about a world where each and every Democrat is forced to resign at the slightest hint of wrong-doing while GOP polls act with impunity, deny, and thrive.

          People have suggested to me that it is better for the Democratic Party to keep its integrity but I am not so sure. Frankly you need to be in power to change and influence policy and the idea of just maintaining integrity as the far right destroys the American economy and rolls back the last sixty years of social progress is risible. “We might be starving, sick, and freezing in dystopia because the GOP gutted the welfare state and instituted the Great Depression 2.0 and a new Gilded Age but hey, we have our integrity.”

          There is no value to integrity if it means privation and death.

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          • If over election cycles enough of the populace don’t ever vote for integrity then the American experiment has failed. That is possible.

            However the escalating “they are bad dudes so we need to go lower or we’ll always lose” is a highway to hell. The voters have to been given choices and if both sides are in a race to the bottom on low integrity then we’re sporked in the long and short run. There is always a new low to be found. You can’t out scum a real scum bag. That never works.

            Just speaking about the politics the D’s have an opportunity to go high on integrity. Some people have been looking for that for years. That was part of O’s appeal and the draw to Bernie. Heck even Trump tried to milk that with his drain the swamp stuff. People want that. The D’s have a giant opening to try to be the party of good, or at least significantly better, integrity. We’re going to have all the Trump morass and guilty pleas and trials and Moore’s mega ick factor and the swamp that is Trump. Dump Franken and Conyers, which does hurt, and bite the bullet on other D’s who might get hurt. But then go full throat on the R’s. That is a viable and i would strongly suggest a winning tactic in 18 and 20.

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            • Perhaps but I still think that the left in general has a purity pony problem. Look how many people said they just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for HRC because she gave speeches to Goldman at the going rate and went for a loon like Jill Stein. Look at Susan Sarandon’s op-ed in the Guardian which insisted that we would be at war if HRC is President.

              I do sort of admire the tactical voting abilities of the right at times even if grudgingly. Perhaps a lot of righties hate Trump’s vulgarity but they knew he would give them the judiciary he wanted and went for it. On the left we have people who say, “I just can’t bring myself to vote for someone I disagree with on 10 percent basis.”

              And frankly I am getting tired of the purity ponies on my side.

              Conyers should resign and his seat is probably safe. Franken should stay in for now pending investigation. He seems to be the only sincerely contrite person with a scandal.

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              • I agree about leftie ponies. However a person like Trump, or even being out of power like D’s are now, has a real way of clarifying issues to lefties who don’t like D’s. It’s one thing to not vote for Clinton after 8 years of O. It’s another thing when presented with Generic Non-Clinton D after 4 years of Trump. The lefties who won’t vote D then are an irrelevantly small number or are in safe D areas so the loss of vote wont’ hurt. Heck i voted Nader in 2000 but was here in AK at the time.

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              • Look how many people said they just couldn’t bring themselves to vote for HRC because she gave speeches to Goldman at the going rate….

                The going rate? Lol.

                I don’t know which would be worse, the idea that there’s other people paying six figures for the privilege of ladling more money to the Clintons, or that Goldman’s payments were a one-off.

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                • You do know those 10,000 a plate dinners that politicians are fond to throw collect more than one million in one evening?

                  For as long as presidential campIgns are a billion dollars affair, and it takes several millions to run for the Senate, all politicians of all denominations will, no, must, do the same.

                  Most Western democracies tackle this problem through very short, and mostly publicly funded campaigns. But we can’t, or won’t, do that here.

                  Like in many things, there are problems, there are possible solutions to the problem, and there are plenty of people that deny that there is a problem at all.

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                  • For as long as presidential campIgns are a billion dollars affair, and it takes several millions to run for the Senate, all politicians of all denominations will, no, must, do the same.

                    Whatever could be said of this, it’s not really relevant here.

                    The money Goldman paid went to HRC personally, and certainly not a campaign, illustrating perfectly the lack of legitimacy for HRC relative to Trump.

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            • I think the problem with the Democratic Party going high on integrity is that it requires a Party of Saints and we are never going to have a Party of Saints. Democratic inclined voters are going to need to decide what flaws they can live with in politicians and what flaws are deal breakers. Its going to have to be a fairly unified on this because each liberal faction can’t have its own deal breakers. There are lots of liberals that find Corey Broker’s tendency to seek public adulation too much for them. I really think that the ideal politician for too many liberals is a serious and self-effacing public servant that never tries to enjoy any perk of office.

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            • I mean part of it is everybody seems to be willing to say it isn’t enough, left, right, and center.

              They say Conyers should resign. The reaction isn’t, “Well, good.”

              It’s, “Why not Franken?”

              I mean, I’m not even saying it’s not a legitimate question, but the refusal to take the win is bizarre and useless.

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  3. One other thing about the Flynn indictment: by flipping is Flynn demonstrating that he has little-to-no confidence that Trump would pardon him and his son after the investigation is completed? If so, that’s a pretty big deal, seems to me, since it implies that even Trump’s inner circle view his demands for loyalty as one directional and see him as an unreliable partner. I wonder if that will be a more prominent consideration for others going forward.

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    • I like that Flynn agrees to participate in any “covert law enforcement activities” so bear that in mind if he invites you over for tea.

      The agreement is also perfectly clear that Flynn is on the hook for anything and everything not related to the two charges… plus, by my reading, those two charges can change to become more and other charges…

      so, here’s my Burt Likko question: Am I right in seeing this as a no-deal deal? Flynn get’s nothing except reduced sentencing recommendation (from “6” to “4” and not even a guaranty) and Mueller gives him nothing else?

      My other question is that this seems very narrowly tailored to events surrounding his indictment, no? He’s waiving the 5th as regards his plea deal, obviously, but he doesn’t have to confess to shop lifting in the 8th grade?

      I’m assuming Mueller is holding all the cards and the agreement reflects that, but basically Mueller is pinky-swearing he might not indict him for something else? Without any sort of immunity, why would Flynn talk about events outside of the two he’s indicted on?

      To my untrained eye this looks like a ratfucking… is it?

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      • A prosecutor can’t bind a Court. A prosecutor can promise to advocate or not advocate certain things to the Court. He can also promise to not bring certain charges. Mueller agrees to advocate a lower sentencing reccomendation and the perjury charge that he brought was also part of the negotiation. He makes a point of noting that there were other charges that could have been brought, but he’ll accept just the perjury charge.

        No, he doesn’t have to confess to unrelated crimes. But the definition of what constitutes a related crime is going to be pretty broad, which cuts against both parties to the deal — it limits what Mueller can later prosecute upon, but it also requires sincere, earnest cooperation from Flynn.

        As for whether it’s a “ratfucking” or not depends on whose ox gets gored by the deal. If it turns out Flynn’s extra information really isn’t good for anything or anyone else, Mueller is screwed. If not, yeah, I think Trump & Co. are going to call it a ratfucking because they’re the rats what gonna get fucked.

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      • I like that Flynn agrees to participate in any “covert law enforcement activities” so bear that in mind if he invites you over for tea.

        The question to ask yourself is when did he agree to this.

        He pled today, but for all we know, he came to an agreement in principle with Mueller six months ago, and has been wearing a wire/making phone calls on a tapped phone/etc for months, deliberately fishing for incriminating statements.

        This is a really, really good deal for Flynn because,there’s lots and lots of things that we already know he’s guilty of that aren’t mentioned. Like not filing as a foreign lobbyist. And IIRC, he’s on the hook for potential military crimes — he’s high enough ranked that he not only was supposed to file FARA, he was supposed to go through military channels as well, retired or not!

        Mueller’s timing is impeccable.He had Kushner up to answer questions just a few days ago, and then casually releases the fact that Flynn clearly made a deal right after. Kushner, who has a real history of “forgetting” meetings with Russians.

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      • so, here’s my Burt Likko question: Am I right in seeing this as a no-deal deal? Flynn get’s nothing except reduced sentencing recommendation (from “6” to “4” and not even a guaranty) and Mueller gives him nothing else?

        I don’t know for sure obv, but my guess is that Flynn’s lawyers have some tricks up their sleeve that we haven’t seen yet. It could be something that effectively immunizes him against prosecution for other charges, something that will help him with the regular DoJ when Mueller’s people are gone, or something that will open up other legal avenues for him. Eg, the FBI agent that interviewed Flynn was just fired for bias. Depending on what was disclosed when, Flynn may have rights that a typical guilty plea doesn’t.

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    • The next time I see a handwringing article somewhere about how the young people have declining faith in democracy, I will laugh and point to this bill and its process.

      The oligarchs phoned up their servants in Congress and ordered them to loot the Treasury.

      What the American people want is irrelevant at this point, compared to the 0.1%.

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      • The oligarchs phoned up their servants in Congress and ordered them to loot the Treasury.

        If we don’t get growth, then expect the GOP to be (rightfully) thrown out of office.

        On the other hand if we do get the promised growth at the “expense” of sacrificing some liberal sacred cows, will that generate 2nd thoughts on how sacred these cows should be?

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        • Their own “dynamic scoring” says they’ll get 0.8% extra growth out of this. That’s with all the pixie dust they could scatter on the model.

          Which makes sense, as they’re focused on cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. How’s that going to drive the economy? Has any business ever said “Well, we’re staffed up to meet current demand, but my taxes went down 15%, let’s just hire some people to twiddle their thumbs?”.

          This is literally Kansas writ large, with bonus stupidity tacked on. (The bill to give a tax break to a single school — DeVos’ of course, college funds for fetuses while making sure grad students go bankrupt, and lastly passing a bill that’s covered in hasty scrawls.).

          It says a lot about the GOP that every legislative push they’ve made required bills that weren’t released to even their own rank-and-file until a few hours before the vote, and passed in darkness.

          (I think the DeVos college amendment may have died. It was a little hard to keep track)

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          • Their own “dynamic scoring” says they’ll get 0.8% extra growth out of this.

            You say that like it’s a bad thing. Taking the economy from something like 2% to something like 3% is akin to the (reversed) wrath of god.

            An extra point of growth on a $15 Trillion GDP is $150 Billion just popping into existence every year… except it actually much better than that because next year you get more than that. Without more growth we don’t have the money to pay for entitlements without crazy levels of pain.

            If this works then the GOP will soundly deserve re-election. This is a REALLY big deal.

            Has any business ever said “Well, we’re staffed up to meet current demand, but my taxes went down 15%, let’s just hire some people to twiddle their thumbs?”.

            I think it’s more “our taxes went down to 15%, let’s not flee the country and move our headquarters (and lots of taxable dollars of economic activity) to Ireland”.

            To look at what good things we can expect, just look at what bad things are already happening.

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            • If this works then the GOP will soundly deserve re-election. This is a REALLY big deal.

              If the gains are uniformly — more or less — distributed across the wage-and-salary spectrum, then yes. If it all accrues to the hedge fund managers, or foreign owners of US stocks and bonds, not so much.

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              • If the gains are uniformly — more or less — distributed across the wage-and-salary spectrum, then yes. If it all accrues to the hedge fund managers, or foreign owners of US stocks and bonds, not so much.

                1st, if in 10 years Wall Street has managed to capture all the gains, then that’s an extra +10% of the economic pie going there which seems unlikely.

                2nd, reducing the complexity of the business tax code to something humanly understandable really should reduce economic inefficiencies. I find that hard to square with the idea that Wall Street takes everything.

                3rd, if we have to choose between not paying entitlements and tolerating more inequality, then that should be an easy choice.

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        • Supply side economics at this point is in the same dustbin as Marxism, Lysenkoism, or young earth creationism.

          Sure, they still have their fervent adherents, but its not worth arguing with them.

          Because it isn’t an actual belief formed by reason and empirical evidence, its a faith formed by other concerns, maybe cultural or personal. The actual theory is a proxy for intuitive feelings which can’t be articulated any other way.

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            • The highest individual income bracket was taxed at 91% when Reagan took office. Also, iirc, Reagan opened up trade by devaluing US currency which created more export demand. Not sure how economists break down the contributions each policy played in generating economic growth but I’d suspect the lions share is attributable to the latter.

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              • We’ve had multiple Fortune 500 companies openly flee the US and take their taxes+jobs with them. We have… what… are we into the Trillions of dollars parked off shore yet?

                Politicians have openly talked about “disloyalty” to distract from the truth which is the tax code incentivizes this behavior (i.e. it’s a political/economic failure).

                I don’t understand looking at that and then claiming the tax code is just fine as it is and there are no economic distortions worth fixing.

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                • Here’s the really weird thing, :

                  You are sorta right about the tax code.

                  Mostly because it is full of problems and loopholes.

                  In fact, a few years ago, Democrats were urging to the corporate rate down from 35% to 28% while closing loopholes, which would have raised revenue! Republicans were urging the same thing, but to 25%, which would have kept revenue the same.

                  If the Republicans had merely stuck with the 25% number, they would have been able to write an entirely reasonable tax reform that everyone liked. They probably would have gotten some Democrats on board. And, while they were at it, they could have thrown in all sorts of little Republican things that would have gone unnoticed. They could have even gotten away with some income tax cuts. (Or even gone with 26% and put some real personal income tax cuts in there.)

                  But, as they are infected with self-destructive brain parasites (1), they decided to try for 20%, which hasn’t ever been suggested as a corporate income rate, and in fact the 20% number is literally from that giant import/export tax restructuring they were thinking about doing a year ago but couldn’t get off the ground, aka, from an entirely unrelated thing.

                  Because of that moronic foundation, they wrote a moronic bill, having to do all sorts of things to make up the lost revenue. SALT deductions cut, all sorts of deductions cut, then trying to fix that by doubling the standard deduction, one mess on top of another.

                  And due to the aforementioned brain parasites, they also had to greatly reduce the ‘pass through’ rate for no reason at all, resulting in more nonsense to make it balance. Moreover, they did it in a way that blatantly helped monied interests.

                  ‘Oh, so if I own a company and don’t work there, I pay less taxes than if I do work there?’ I’m sure there’s all sorts of justifications where politicians think that makes sense, but actual voters are going to disagree.

                  It’s amazing how much of tax reform bill is a Republican own goal. The Republicans had absolutely no way of making a functioning health care bill that the American people liked and yet still conformed to conservative principles, so were always going to fail there. But they did have a chance of doing that with the tax reform, and they completely screwed up, in almost every possible way.

                  We’ll see if they manage to screw up even further by leaving the revocation of the insurance mandate in the bill and other dumb things, or if they will fail in an even dumber way by failing to get this thing through committee, so everyone is on record as having voted for horrible stuff and they have nothing to show for it.

                  1) I am just guessing, but it seems to be a reasonable guess.

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                  • because it is full of problems and loopholes.

                    Agreed.

                    Democrats were urging to the corporate rate down from 35% to 28% while closing loopholes, which would have raised revenue! Republicans were urging the same thing, but to 25%, which would have kept revenue the same.

                    These proposals were in the context of Obama trying to make a deal with the GOP. The bulk of the GOP was elected to not raise taxes, cosigning 28% would (rightfully) get them thrown out of office. 25% would indeed be the sane level. Obama wasn’t willing to sign off on tax reform unless it also included a tax increase.

                    As for now, I can’t see the “resist” crowd allowing 25% (or even 28%) if Trump gets credit for signing it. If we’re going to have a Trump tax reform then the GOP needs to make a deal with their loony right, which means 20%. There’s talk of “automatic” taxes if growth doesn’t appear so maybe it won’t be 20% in reality.

                    However, even if tax reform requires one party to have control over the Prez and both seats of Congress, then Obama had the chance to do tax reform (presumably at 28%), and position the Dems as the party of growth. I can even think of other progressive-friendly pro-growth reforms that were left on the table during his rule (directing the stimulus to infrastructure for example).

                    Growth really is the best measure of “goodness” to the nation, imperfect tax reform will be way better than no tax reform.

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                    • Obama wasn’t willing to sign off on tax reform unless it also included a tax increase.

                      You can hypothetically say that he would have fought it if it had gotten to him, but the reason tax reform did not move forward is that Congress fell into Republican hands and they made it clear they would not do _anything_.

                      Obama proposed 28%, Romney proposed 25%, a few other Republicans said 25%, and then the Republican Congress literally did nothing at all.

                      However, even if tax reform requires one party to have control over the Prez and both seats of Congress, then Obama had the chance to do tax reform (presumably at 28%), and position the Dems as the party of growth.

                      When? The Democrats barely got the ACA through before they lost their fillibuster-proof majority, in fact, they technically didn’t. (They had to pass the last technical correction under reconciliation.) Thanks to the Franken recount and the illness and death of Kennedy and loss of that seat, they had 60 votes for slightly over four months total.

                      And by the time they got to the next budget, it was Republicans in control of the House.

                      As for now, I can’t see the “resist” crowd allowing 25% (or even 28%) if Trump gets credit for signing it.

                      Yes. Which is, like I said, the Republicans are being astonishingly dumb here. They could have done tax reform at 25%, signed it into law, and had a bunch of bunch of people defending it, and even a bunch of the left going ‘Eh, it’s not completely unreasonable.’, and others screaming bloody murder.

                      It was the perfect chance to cause a split in the left, to cause a divide between the ‘oppose everything Trump does’ people and the ‘oppose the stupid things Trump does’ people.

                      But, nope. Blatantly stupid GOP proposal time!

                      If we’re going to have a Trump tax reform then the GOP needs to make a deal with their loony right, which means 20%. There’s talk of “automatic” taxes if growth doesn’t appear so maybe it won’t be 20% in reality.

                      I read somewhere, although I can’t be bothered to find it, that Trump has now indicated he’s willing to sign at a rate of 22%.

                      Which is hilariously stupid planning. All the Republicans got on record voting for what they voted for, automatically creating Democratic campaign ads, and then, oh, it turns out they didn’t need to do some of the most stupid things anyway. I mean, it’s still too low a rate, but some of the most horrible cuts could have been left out.

                      I can even think of other progressive-friendly pro-growth reforms that were left on the table during his rule (directing the stimulus to infrastructure for example).

                      I do not understand why you think the stimulus was not directed to infrastructure. Pretty much all the spending in that (As opposed to the tax cuts that the Dems had to jam in to get it passed.) was infrastructure or education.

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                      • When? The Democrats barely got the ACA through …they had 60 votes for slightly over four months total.

                        The GOP doesn’t have 60 votes right now. The Dems had 2 years to do this before they lost the House.

                        It was the perfect chance to cause a split in the left, to cause a divide between the ‘oppose everything Trump does’ people and the ‘oppose the stupid things Trump does’ people.

                        With Trump in charge “splitting” the Left is a moot point. He’s a “burn things down” kind of guy and there’s a lot of pressure to “resist”.

                        Trump has now indicated he’s willing to sign at a rate of 22%.

                        Trump is willing to sign whatever they put on his desk.

                        I do not understand why you think the stimulus was not directed to infrastructure.

                        Infrastructure investment: Total: $105.3 billion (wiki)
                        However that includes things like
                        “High Speed Rail” (aka Boondoggle): $8B
                        Various IT projects, improvements to gov buildings…

                        I read a report once that claimed useful infrastructure was only 1% of the stim, reading the wiki I’d peg it closer to 10%. It’s possible some of those “useful” lines are pretty boondoggle-ish but whatever, at best it was 10% of the stim.

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                        • The GOP doesn’t have 60 votes right now. The Dems had 2 years to do this before they lost the House.

                          I don’t know if you’ve forgotten about the ACA, or have decided that doing two giant economy-changing bills at once is possible, but, no, they did not have two years. Congress finished working on the ACA, at earliest, late December 2009. (It didn’t actually get completely passed until March 2010, but Congress wasn’t really doing things after December.) That means they had pretty much exactly one year until the House changed hand…except, as it was an election year, it was more like six months and then everyone spends all their time campaigning for four, and then two months being lame ducks.

                          But, anyway, Congress actually _did_ spend alot of time in 2010 discussing tax reform. There even was a major bipartisan plan introduced called ‘The Bipartisan Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2010’.

                          This bill attempted to set the corporate tax at 25% by, of course, removing most deductions. Heh.

                          And because the Democrat Congresses actually talk about bills and have them go through committees and get discussed instead of scribbling them on the back of cocktail napkins and voting on them before anyone notices, they basically ran out of time to do anything.

                          The bill was then re-introduced in the Republican House (Same name with 2010 changed to 2011.), and…went nowhere, thanks to mostly to, of all people, tax prep companies and Grover Norquist.

                          Not because it actually raised taxes, mind you. It didn’t. It was pretty clear he as upset for the same reason tax prep companies were…because the bill would have the IRS do the taxes for everyone and just tell you what you owe, and only a few people would have to counter-file to change that. (Why does Grover Norquist want taxes to be complicated? So people hate them. If he could figure out a way to make people file taxes while laying on a bed of nails, he would.)

                          Also, somewhere around that time, Republicans figured out it was more fun to pretend to repeal Obamacare than actually pass bills.

                          Trump is willing to sign whatever they put on his desk.

                          Or forget to sign it and just walk out of the room. *rimshot*

                          More seriously, Trump is willing to sign whatever they put in front of him if, and only if, he feels like it that day. But he got 20% in his head for some reason, and they clearly were worried he might balk if they ignored him. Now someone has convinced him that 22% is fine, and he probably thinks it’s his own idea.

                          It’s possible some of those “useful” lines are pretty boondoggle-ish but whatever, at best it was 10% of the stim.

                          Well, yes, but that’s because they really _did_ need 60 votes for that, and the Republicans made like third of it tax cuts and incentives.

                          Another large amount of it was necessary spending to keep states from going bankrupt or cutting back services ($87 billion to Medicaid, $54 billion to schools) or just the fact the Federal social programs were utterly out of money due to record demand ($40 billion to unemployment, $20 billion to food stamps, $25 billion to subsidize CORBA insurance)

                          Once you remove the tax cuts the Republicans forced in there, and the emergency ‘holy crap both federal and state services are having record demands by the suddenly-poor, and also record tax revenue decreases, and we have to fill in the shortfalls or this entire thing is going to fall apart’ part, infrastructure is literally most of the stimulus. There’s a bit of additional education spending, and a bit of additional research spending, and some random things that total nothing, but’s mostly infrastructure.

                          There was actually a lot of criticism from the left at the time that just handing poor people money, which they would then spend, would do a lot more to increase economic activity than having infrastructure projects that could take a year to get off the ground.

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                          • The two big possibilities I see are…

                            1) Growth policies weren’t a priority. Although it’s great to talk about your 3rd or 5th or 8th priority as though it’s going to happen, in reality it isn’t and didn’t.

                            or 2) The ACA and the Stim were thought to be growth policies (they were certainly sold as such at the time). If you believe making new entitlements is going to stimulate the economy, then odds are good your next “growth” policy will be similar.

                            In any case the Dem super majority (and the Dem majority) wasn’t used for growth. Whether that was because it wasn’t a high enough priority or because they just don’t understand how to do growth doesn’t matter.

                            and he probably thinks it’s his own idea.

                            Now that’s a useful skill.

                            Once you remove… infrastructure is literally most of the stimulus.

                            If you need to remove 90% of the total, then “most” of the remaining is a tiny amount of the original’s total. Let’s repeat, the Stim wasn’t an infrastructure bill.

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                            • Dark,

                              Can you provide, roughly if you need to, what growth numbers in, say jobs, stock market and/or GDP you’d need to see to confirm your belief that Trump is good for the economy. Or which numbers, if we fail to reach them, will convince you you were mistaken? Say by Nov ’18 or ’19?

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                              • GDP is where it’s at.

                                Off hand, +0.5% over Obama would be ‘success’, and +1% over Obama would be ‘outstanding success’, and +3% is into walking on water territory.

                                +1% would take us from roughly 2% to roughly 3%, so a 50% increase… except that 2% includes a 0.7% to 1.0% increase just from population growth. Subtract that (which we arguably should if we want to measure the change in the average “goodness” of people in the US) and Obama’s record looks a lot worse and increasing it would look a lot better.

                                Times are short, these are big icebergs with lots of noise in the data, if Nov of ’19 is as long as you’re willing to go then we’ll use that. Ideally (if that’s the word) we’d have 8 years of Trump and then after the fact slap down graphs.

                                My impressions thus far…
                                (good) Trump thus far has (amazingly consider how he ran on a cult of personality) regulation/administration reform, and tax reform.

                                (bad) Anti-free trade. Anti-immigration.

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                                • Thanks, Dark. Got called out of town almost immediately after asking the question, but did want to express my appreciation for your response.

                                  Trying to parse your answer; fair for me to read that an average annual GDP growth of 3.5% during Trumps term is the pass/fail line?

                                  Given all you’ve said about what you’ll excuse in the name of economic efficiency, is it safe to assume that Bill Clinton is your favorite president since Johnson?

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                                  • …that an average annual GDP growth of 3.5% during Trumps term is the pass/fail line?

                                    Obama set the bar really low here, his average growth per year was 1.5%, if we want to exclude the recession and only count his “recovery” years, then his average was 2.1%

                                    Plus 0.5% (which is actually more like a 50% increase for reasons I outlined) would be 2.6%, which I’ll call a “pass”, but just barely. 3.6% would be outstanding success.

                                    …Bill Clinton…

                                    Bill Clinton gave us Welfare reform (notice the lack of people dying in the streets) and NAFTA (sharing credit with the previous Bush but Bill signed and pushed it through), and also “pursued numerous trade agreements, most notably with China” (wiki).

                                    Economically I’m great with Bill Clinton. “A+” in effort, performance, and effect. His “third way” showed a focus on growth. He had to fight his party but (to his great credit) he made the case, and the country was better off for it. I fully agree with Bill’s statement that his numerous trade agreements were the equiv of a massive tax cut.

                                    Wiki claims that he’s ranked “average to above average” in terms of history, but that’s his outstanding economic performance being averaged with his impeachment and other scandals.

                                    The one quibble I have is how much of 911 (serious economic effects there both in itself and the wars afterwards) was his doing? There’s an argument his scandals stopped him from doing anything about Bin Laden and AQ. But that’s just a quibble.

                                    Most Presidents are mix-bags (Trump certainly is), but Bill appears to have been on the side of economic sanity and growth at every turn. I’m not sure I’d put him above Reagan (who had different challenges) but whatever.

                                    On a side note, it’s hard to picture Bill doing this in today’s Democratic party. They’ve gotten a lot more focused on inequality and Bernie Sanders style solutions.

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          • I think the lie that this tax bill is about “economic growth” and that “the tax cuts will pay for themselves” will be exposed when (as is almost a certainty from what I gather) the Fed increases interest rates to slow down *current* economic growth. The question I keep hearing from financial/market analysts is “why cut taxes during a growth cycle?”. As if they don’t already know the answer.

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            • The word “lie” is important.
              I don’t see any good faith in this bill, or even this Congress.

              Nothing they have done is a good faith attempt to make things better for all Americans, and they barely seem to hide it anymore.

              I can be tolerant and respectful of earnest if misguided beliefs, but not this. This deserves indignation and condemnation, not in its effect, but its intent.

              This gets back to the discussions here about compromise and reaching across the aisle.
              This bill was written with the assumption that anyone who wasn’t a member of the 0.1% is a lesser being, unworthy of equal treatment.

              There is no place to compromise here. If they can’t view me as a full citizen equal to their donors then I have nothing to say.

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              • The weird thing about all this, Chip, is that the McConnell-led GOP expended a ton of energy developing a narrative – that tax cuts will pay for themselves, that this is a middle class tax cut, etc – that effectively no one believes. Only something like 15% of the population supports this bill, even with all the effort to make bullshit smell like roses. No one bought it. McConnell and the others didn’t care. They might as well have just been honest about what they were doing: rewarding their donors, throwing some targeted bones to Christians and home-schoolers, punishing the liberal academic elites, etc. And offering nothing for the middle class (as even Rubio said yesterday on the floor).

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