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Thursday, July 20, 2017

What Trump Does Not Know

At New York, Jonathan Chait:
In his bizarre New York Times interview, Donald Trump expresses his characteristic assortment of fever-dream assertions. The president believes Hillary Clinton “was totally opposed to any sanctions for Russia,” that a properly amortized health-insurance plan would cost “$12 a year,” that Napoleon’s “one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities,” and that Trump has somehow either carried out or reversed sweeping land reforms (“I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things”). Yet a consistent idea manages to poke through the delirious rambling. Trump repeatedly affirmed his conviction that the entire federal government ought to be operated for his personal benefit.
Sarah Kliff at Vox:
Of course, anyone who has purchased health coverage, let alone studied the health insurance market, knows that a $12 monthly premium is unheard of. The numbers Trump cites seem to come from the universe of life insurance rather than that of health insurance. Life insurance premiums are significantly lower and a completely different benefit program than health coverage.
This isn’t the first time Trump has so dramatically underestimated the costs of health insurance. In a May interview with the Economist, he estimated that health coverage ought to cost $15 per month.
“Insurance is, you’re 20 years old, you just graduated from college, and you start paying $15 a month for the rest of your life and you really need it, you’re still paying the same amount and that’s really insurance,” Trump told the magazine.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sessions Expands Asset Forfeiture

Christopher Ingraham reports that Sessions wants to seize property of people not convicted of any crime:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said he'd be issuing a new directive this week aimed at increasing police seizures of cash and property.
“We hope to issue this week a new directive on asset forfeiture — especially for drug traffickers,” Sessions said in his prepared remarks for a speech to the National District Attorney's Association in Minneapolis. "With care and professionalism, we plan to develop policies to increase forfeitures. No criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime. Adoptive forfeitures are appropriate as is sharing with our partners."
Asset forfeiture is a disputed practice that allows law enforcement officials to permanently take money and goods from individuals suspected of crime. There is little disagreement among lawmakers, authorities and criminal justice reformers that “no criminal should be allowed to keep the proceeds of their crime.” But in many cases, neither a criminal conviction nor even a criminal charge is necessary — under forfeiture laws in most states and at the federal level, mere suspicion of wrongdoing is enough to allow police to seize items permanently.

Additionally, many states allow law enforcement agencies to keep cash that they seize, creating what critics characterize as a profit motive. The practice is widespread: In 2014, federal law enforcement officers took more property from citizens than burglars did. State and local authorities seized untold millions more.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Governors and Health Care Reform

Today, a bipartisan group of governors issued this statement in the wake of Trumpcare's collapse:
Congress should work to make health insurance more affordable by controlling costs and stabilizing the market, and we are pleased to see a growing number of senators stand up for this approach. The Senate should immediately reject efforts to ‘repeal’ the current system and replace sometime later. This could leave millions of Americans without coverage. The best next step is for both parties to come together and do what we can all agree on: fix our unstable insurance markets. Going forward, it is critically important that governors are brought to the table to provide input, and we stand ready to work with lawmakers in an open, bipartisan way to provide better insurance for all Americans.
The list of the eleven governors who joined this statement is below.
  • Bill Walker, Governor of Alaska
  • John W. Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado
  • John Bel Edwards. Governor of Louisiana
  • Larry Hogan, Governor of Maryland
  • Charles D. Baker, Governor of Massachusetts
  • Steve Bullock, Governor of Montana
  • Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada
  • John R. Kasich, Governor of Ohio
  • Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania
  • Phil Scott, Governor of Vermont
  • Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia
The best next step is for members of both parties to ignore the fear of criticism that can come from reaching across the aisle and put pencil to pad on these and other ideas that repair health care in real, sustainable ways. America needs it, and I know that a bipartisan group of governors, including myself, stands ready to help in any way we can to provide an affordable, sustainable and responsible system of health care for the American people.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Trump's Bills

Michael D. Shear and Karen Yourish report at The New York Times:
At rallies, in speeches and on Twitter, Mr. Trump repeatedly boasts of the bills he has signed — 42 as of this week. He has said no president has “passed more legislation,” conceding once earlier this year that he trails Franklin D. Roosevelt, who he notes “had a major Depression to handle.”
...
In fact, as he approaches six months in office on Thursday, Mr. Trump is slightly behind the lawmaking pace for the past six presidents, who as a group signed an average of 43 bills during the same period. And an analysis of the bills Mr. Trump signed shows that about half were minor and inconsequential, passed by Congress with little debate. Among recent presidents, both the total number of bills he signed and the legislation’s substance make Mr. Trump about average.
President Jimmy Carter signed 70 bills in the first six months, according to an analysis of bills signed by previous White House occupants. Bill Clinton signed 50. George W. Bush signed 20 bills into law. Barack Obama signed 39 bills during the period, including an $800 billion stimulus program to confront an economic disaster, legislation to make it easier for women to sue for equal pay, a bill to give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate tobacco and an expansion of the federal health insurance program for children.

Mr. Truman and Franklin Delano Roosevelt both had signed more bills into law by their 100-day mark than Mr. Trump did in almost twice that time. Truman had signed 55 bills and Roosevelt had signed 76 during their first 100 days.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Incompetence, Again

The son’s response to the invitation, “I love it,” will become the iconic summation of the Trump apparat’s attitude toward the assistance the president received from Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Almost as instructive were the number of outright lies the Trump camp concocted to try to disguise the motivation behind the encounter. Their story changed as New York Times reporters developed more information as to what happened. The White House initially seemed to think it could get everyone to buy its fiction that the conversation — which also involved Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul J. Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — had focused on policy toward Russian adoptions.

The administration’s marriage of incompetence and corruption was captured with a popular refrain on Twitter that may someday become a book title: “The Gang That Couldn’t Collude Straight.”
At Foreign Policy, Ian Volner writes about the Trump Wall:
The other finalist, who asked that his name be withheld, is more blunt. As he puts it, “It’s been a real mess.” In more than three decades of soliciting and executing large-scale government construction projects, including multiple structures along the southern border, the contractor says he has never seen a bidding process so chaotic and rudderless as this one. “The lack of coordination, the lack of funding — they’re just not ready for prime time,” he says.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Incompetence, Continued

Many posts have described the incompetence of the Trump administration.

The latest:


Russian Swamp


At Buzzfeed, Chris Geidner reports on Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian-American lobbyist who took part in the infamous Trump Tower meeting.
Akhmetshin, 49, is a longtime DC operator. Since the Associated Press first reported his attendance at the June 2016 meeting the Donald Trump Jr., later confirmed by BuzzFeed News, he has been widely reported as having ties to Russian intelligence. But he has denied an ongoing relationship with the Russian government — though he did tell Politico that he had been drafted to work as a Soviet counterintelligence officer.
Akhmetshin’s work in the US has covered a range of largely unregistered work to influence the US government. In 2011, he arranged a series of meetings with Congress and the State Department meant to undermine political opposition in Kazakhstan. In 2015, he was working to undermine the asylum application of Ashot Egiazaryan, a former Russian parliament member who was facing fraud charges in his home country.

Many of the events of June 2016 dealt, at least in part, with complicated lobbying or legal proceedings related to the Magnitsky Act — a US law imposing sanctions on those responsible for the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the United States, various American lawyers and lobbyists have taken up work related to defending or dismantling the Magnitsky Act, as well as similar laws — and Russians like Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin are a frequent presence on matters like this, showcasing just how active Russian interests are, and how enmeshed they are in New York and Washington culture, when it comes to US sanctions.