Thursday Morning Open Thread: Some Dare Call It Treason

As perceived by the ex-CIA, #NeverTrump candidate in 2016:

There’s an old political story about LBJ deciding not to run for reelection once the major news media started reporting unvarnished details about the ongoing war in Vietnam: “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Trump has only been in office for two months, but he’s already lost at least two Very Serious Media Voices. Thomas Friedman, aka ‘the Moustache of Understanding’:

The last time our country faced such a cancer on the presidency, the Republican Party’s leadership stood up and put country before party to get to the truth. But today’s G.O.P. is a pale imitation of that party. With a few exceptions, it has declared moral bankruptcy and abdicated its responsibility to draw any red lines for President Trump…

If you say and do nothing when the nation’s leader smears his predecessor — and then maintains his fantasy as fact — not only will he never have the credibility to call on any other country to uphold the highest standards for rule of law, democracy and human rights, but neither will all of you. We will become a lesser country and the world a more dangerous place.

Friedman’s fellow NYTimesman Nick Kristof:

The greatest political scandal in American history was not Aaron Burr’s shooting of Alexander Hamilton, and perhaps wasn’t even Watergate. Rather it may have been Richard Nixon’s secret efforts in 1968 to sabotage a U.S. diplomatic effort to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon’s initiative, long rumored but confirmed only a few months ago, was meant to improve his election chances that year. After Nixon won, the war dragged on and cost thousands of additional American and Vietnamese lives; it’s hard to see his behavior as anything but treason.

Now the F.B.I. confirms that we have had an investigation underway for eight months into whether another presidential campaign colluded with a foreign power so as to win an election. To me, that, too, would amount to treason…
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Late Night Open Thread: All the Right Enemies, All the Wrong Friends


I am not, in general, a big fan of the ‘Trump’s using this as a distraction’ theory — flinging all the crap he can find to see what sticks is not advanced strategery. But when it comes to their golly-gosh SCOTUS nominee, the Repubs are sure making a valiant, all-out effort to turn the slightly steaming pitcher of vodka-scented yellow liquid of this week’s Trump/FBI revelations into something that could plausibly be sold as lemonade…

Open Thread: You Know It’s Bad for the Repubs, Because They’re Already Trying to Cover It Up

Aaaand here comes Rep. Trey ‘But Her Emails’ Gowdy… Per USAToday:

Rep. Trey Gowdy used Monday’s House Intelligence Committee hearing to cite Obama administration officials, including the former president, as potential sources for leaks.

The South Carolina Republican was questioning FBI Director James Comey during the House Intelligence Committee’s hearing as part of its investigation into Russian interference with the U.S. election.

Like many of his Republican colleagues, Gowdy used his time to focus on recent leaks of classified information to journalists. But he went a step further by raising specific names of people from the former administration to show they had access to leaked classified material, implying they might have been sources of the leaks…

Gowdy argued that “unmasking” Flynn’s name was a felony because it was part of a confidential intelligence gathering and had previously been “masked” to protect his identity.

“I’m not going to get either that particular case, that matter, or any conversations I had involving the president. So I can’t answer that question,” Comey responded.

But Obama wasn’t the only one. Gowdy also rattled down a list of people who had held high-ranking positions in the Obama administration and asked whether each would have had access to the “unmasked” name. He included former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director John Brennan, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former White House adviser Ben Rhodes, former attorney general Loretta Lynch and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates.

“In the universe of possible motives of felonious dissemination of classified material, we could rule out wanting to help the intelligence communities and the law enforcement communities. Those are two motives that are gone now, that leaves more nefarious motives,” Gowdy said…

How dare those filthy Democrats try to expose our treason on behalf of the higher cause! Do they not understand that targeted leaking is only permissible by OUR party?


Open Thread: The GOP Manufacturing Its Healthcare Sausage

… if by ‘sausage’, you mean ‘used tube sock full of dog turds and broken glass.’

The Washington Post Wonkblog rebuts (in case you need a link for your low-info social media contacts):

Chaffetz’s remarks comport with messaging from Republican leadership that frames their health-care proposal as a victory for consumer choice… But framing the consumer “choice” as one between an iPhone and health coverage ignores the massive gap between the price of an iPhone and what Americans spend on health care…

…[A]cross the typical life span of an iPhone, we’re spending 12 times as much on health insurance as we are on the phone.

But this, too, is an overly rosy scenario for many of us. Those individual market plans don’t just involve monthly premium payments, they also have high deductibles, too — $4,328 in a year, per eHealth. That represents out-of-pocket spending you need to cover before your plan even starts kicking in.

So let’s say we get sick. We break a leg. We have to get lab work done. Our health isn’t great, so we need a lot of medical care and max out on our deductible each year. Under the standard individual plan referenced above, that works out to about $18,000 in premiums and out-of-pocket expenses over two years. Or, for that span, the price of 23 iPhones.

This all involves a lot of speculation because we don’t really know yet how the GOP plan would reshape the out-of-pocket expenses landscape. But it seems pretty clear that, by virtue of the huge disparity in pricing, smartphones and health care don’t really fall within the same decision-making framework for most of us.

Tuesday Morning Open Thread

(Jeff Danziger’s website)

Apart from protesting Ryan’s pathetic attempt to destroy the ACA… and the President-Asterisk’s administration’s second attempt at a Muslim ban — what’s on the agenda for the day?

Professor Krugman, on “A Party Not Ready to Govern“:

It goes without saying that Donald Trump is the least qualified individual, temperamentally or intellectually, ever installed in the White House. As he veers from wild accusations against President Obama to snide remarks about Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s doing a very good imitation of someone experiencing a personal breakdown — even though he has yet to confront a crisis not of his own making. Thanks, Comey.

But the broader Republican quagmire — the party’s failure so far to make significant progress toward any of its policy promises — isn’t just about Mr. Trump’s inadequacies. The whole party, it turns out, has been faking it for years. Its leaders’ rhetoric was empty; they have no idea how to turn their slogans into actual legislation, because they’ve never bothered to understand how anything important works…

The story of Obamacare repeal would be funny if the health care — and, in many cases, the lives — of millions of Americans weren’t at stake.

First we had seven — seven! — years during which Republicans kept promising to offer an alternative to Obamacare any day now, but never did. Then came the months after the election, with more promises of details just around the corner…

Sure enough, the new plan reportedly does look like a sort of half-baked version of the Affordable Care Act. Politically, it seems to embody the worst of both worlds: It’s enough like Obamacare to infuriate hard-line conservatives, but it weakens key aspects of the law enough to deprive millions of Americans — many of them white working-class voters who backed Donald Trump — of essential health care.

The idea, apparently, is to deal with these problems by passing the plan before anyone gets a chance to really see or think about what’s in it. Good luck with that…

But whatever the eventual outcome, what we’re witnessing is what happens when a party that gave up hard thinking in favor of empty sloganeering ends up in charge of actual policy. And it’s not a pretty sight.

Sunday Evening Open Thread: Prime PBS Totebagger Viewing Time

Of course it’s seriously tragic that the So-Called Leader of the United States (#SCROTUS) is threatening our democracy this way. On the other hand, if we’re gonna re-litigate you-know-what (Waterbedgate?), then at least us aging totebaggers should be able to get some entertainment out of it, yes?

Open Thread: Caveats on Trump’s “Tapping” Accusations

Because it’s never as easy as Now we’ve got him cornered, the vile miscreant!”… Two (IMO) important posts, one from Marcy Wheeler (EmptyWheel) and another from what I understand to be a respected security blog, on the limits and the dangers of what “we” know about Trump’s Waterbedgate so far.

If it were true that President Obama had ordered the intelligence community to “tapp” Trump’s phones for political reasons, that would of course be a serious scandal—and crime—of Nixonian proportions. Yet there’s nothing in the published reports—vague though they are—to support such a dramatic allegation…

…[C]ontrary to what many on social media—and even a few reporters for reputable outlets—have asserted, the issuance of a FISA order does not imply that the FBI established probable cause to believe that any Trump associate was acting as an “agent of a foreign power” or engaged in criminal wrongdoing. That would be necessary only if the court had authorized direct electronic surveillance of a United States person, which (if we credit the BBC report) the FISC apparently declined to do. Assuming the initial applications were indeed for full-blown electronic surveillance orders, then the fact that the FBI supposedly did name the Trump associates at first would suggest they may have thought they had such evidence, but one would expect the FISC to apply particularly exacting scrutiny to an application naming persons associated with an ongoing presidential campaign. An application targeting only foreign corporate entities—especially entities openly controlled or directed by the Russian government—would require no such showing, even if the FBI’s ultimate interest were in communications concerning those U.S. persons…

In short, both Breitbart and Trump have advanced claims far more dramatic than anything the public evidence can support. That said, intelligence monitoring—whether direct or indirect—of persons connected with a presidential campaign inherently carries a high risk of abuse, and as Congress moves to launch its own inquiries into the Trump campaign’s Russian ties, it would be entirely appropriate to further scrutinize both the FBI’s initial surveillance and applications and the surveillance that was ultimately conducted for any signs of impropriety. In the meantime, it might behoove the Commander in Chief to refrain from issuing serious and inflammatory accusations based wholly on “intelligence” gleaned from Breitbart News.

And Marcy Wheeler, at Emptywheel, lays out “The Conspiratorial Game of Telephone in Bannon’s Rag that Made Left, Right, and POTUS Go Crazy“:

The story starts with this Louise Mensch story. For those who don’t know, Mensch is a former Tory Member of Parliament turned American rock promoter wife. Since quitting Parliament to spend more time with her family, she has become a pundit known for taking reasonable observations, injecting just a bit of whack, and turning them into fairly unhinged theories… At a time when Hillary’s team was furious that the FBI had been publicly discussing her emails rather than Trump’s Russian ties, Mensch reported that the FBI got a FISA order in October, after having been denied a more broadly drawn order earlier in the year.

The timing of the October FISA order has been backed in subsequent reporting. It is Mensch’s explanation for the basis of the order that is the problem, as it relied on the dodgy Alfa Bank story

Amid a treatment of the Mike Flynn resignation, the release of the dossier (Breitbart sort of tweaks the timeline of these two, though I get that capturing the timeline is tough), and the Sessions’ disclosures, Breitbart discusses the expansion of information sharing and preservation of evidence…
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