Category Archives: Ethics

CBO: Trump sabotage of ‘Obamacare’ would send premiums and the deficit skyward

The Trump administration is going to have to file a status report in House v. Price regarding its position on the continuation of cost-sharing subsidies to insurance companies under “Obamacare.”

On August 1, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the motion for leave to intervene filed by several state attorneys general and the District of Columbia. As part of that order, the Court ordered “the case shall continue to be held in abeyance. Appellee, appellants, and intervenors are directed to file status reports at 90-day intervals.” A status report was due on or about August 22 after a continuation in May.

[T]his bizarre lawsuit could still blow up the ACA insurance markets:

A pending court case, House v. Price (née House v. Burwell — and so much turns on the name change), has given the administration a bomb it could use to blow up insurance markets across the country. At stake is the legality of the payments the federal government makes to insurance companies to help cover the medical expenses of low-income people.

If Obama’s appeal continues, then the payments continue. But if President Trump or Attorney General Jeff Sessions were to decide not to continue the appeal, that’s a game changer.

By moving to defuse House v. Price, the Trump administration could signal that it means to make the best of Obamacare. At the same time, however, the case may represent the last best chance to rip the statute up from the roots. Skittish insurers are watching closely to see what the administration will do. Time is short: Insurers will have to decide very soon whether they want to participate on Obamacare’s exchanges in 2018.

Without the subsidies, insurance markets could quickly unravel. Even more insurers could withdraw from the public marketplaces where more than 10 million Americans obtained coverage last year.

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Pandora’s Drone

By Michael Bryan

Note: This is a think piece that has been languishing in my drafts for some time. I am publishing now in order to see what, if any, feedback readers may have, not in response to any current events, although it does briefly touch upon the terrorist attack in Charlottesville in my last revision.

In a complete reversal of American norms before 2001, Americans have come to expect that our foreign, sub-state political foes will be dealt with by assassination. That might seem a shocking assertion, but the policy of targeted killings of those identified as enemies of the United States by drone can only be euphemized, not denied. Bush and Obama placed such assassinations at the heart of our military strategy against those groups and individuals seen as a terrorist threat to America, and regardless of who the President might be, that tool will not be disposed of unless its use is wholly rejected by Americans. Given that no great outcry or mass movement has yet denounced the continued use of drone assassination in our foreign policy, it seems very likely to continue. In fact, Donald Trump has re-authorized the CIA to carry out its own drone strikes, lowering accountability and reporting requirements in place under Obama, when only the military was empowered to carry out lethal drone operations.

Our desire for the perception of safety and demand of bold action by our leadership against possible terrorist threats has swamped any scruple we may once have held against merely murdering our geo-strategic enemies. We have always killed in war, but killing specific people, and all persons believed to be members of designated organizations, anywhere they may found, even in countries we are not hostile to, is a new thing entirely. But no modern politician will run the risk of being accused of not having done everything possible when the next mass casualty attack on American soil comes, as it inevitably will, therefore a tactic that began as an expedient use of a new technology in a crisis seems to have become the centerpiece our de facto anti-terrorism strategy.

Americans seem to have decided that extra-judicial state murder, even of some American citizens, is justified in our fight against terrorism. Despite the fig-leaf of “due process” of review within the executive branch that was constructed around the practice by the Obama administration, targeted drone strikes and so-called signature strikes on suspected terrorist activity are extra-judicial executions, pure and simple. We may hide behind the fiction that we are “at war” with some ill-defined terrorist organizations and thus those killed are “enemy combatants,” and any innocents killed as a result are unfortunate “collateral damage”, but this only semantics. Since we are not going invade Pakistan, or Somalia, or Yemen, or Syria, or (re-re-re-invade?) Iraq, or any of the other failing or weak states where terrorist cells might find sanctuary, in order to end the threat of these sub-state organizations pose to our security, we are going to continue to fight these “wars” with proxies, intelligence assets, and drone strikes. We will continue to make targeted killings, i.e. murder, a key component of our foreign policy.

My point is not to suggest an alternative, or even to suggest that the policy is necessarily wrong or immoral. There may be no more effective, more politically acceptable, or more morally inoffensive alternative. My point is to question what effect this will have on the evolution American political culture, and on the normative behavior of governments visa-vis their own citizens – including our own toward us.

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President Trump considering pardon for Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio

The Washington Post reports,  Trump says he’s considering pardon for Joe Arpaio:

President Trump told Fox News he is “seriously considering” issuing a pardon for former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted last month of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants.

Trump told the news outlet during a conversation in Bedminster, N.J., that the pardon could come quickly, perhaps in a matter of days. The news outlet reported the conversation on its website Monday.

“I might do it right away, maybe early this week. I am seriously thinking about it,” Trump said, according to Fox News. He said Arpaio was a “great American patriot” who had “done a lot in the fight against illegal immigration.”

Arpaio was also “America’s most corrupt sheriff” who abused the powers of his office and who demonstrated contempt for the court, traits that Donald Trump shares in common with his friend.

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A failure of moral leadership

Franklin D. Roosevelt on the presidency: “It is preeminently a place of moral leadership” (quoted in The New York Times, Sept. 11, 1932).

I watched an interview with Bill Kristol of the conservative Weekly Standard, who said that he has “given up” on Donald Trump ever being capable of moral leadership. Donald Trump has no interest in providing moral leadership. Kristol called on Republican governors, mayors, civic and religious leaders to fill the void of moral leadership lacking from Donald Trump.

Kristol, as well as many Republican elected officials and political pundits, have been highly critical of Trump’s failure to condemn White supremacist groups for their violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday.

Trump’s reticence was because these white supremacist groups are a key constituency of his base. It was a crass political calculation.

Former Ku Klux Klan imperial wizard David Duke appeared at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, saying that the event represented fulfilling the promises of President Trump. David Duke: Charlottesville protests about ‘fulfilling promises of Donald Trump’.

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back, we’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we gotta do,” Duke said.

Trump condemned the violence on Saturday without specifically calling out white nationalist groups during a press conference Saturday afternoon. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sideson many sides,” Trump said.

Duke responded to Trump’s weak tweet on Saturday:

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 2.16.38 PM

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White supremacists riot in Virginia, President Trump blames violence ‘on many sides’

I made the point a little more than a week ago that “if Ret. General John Kelly, Trump’s new chief of staff, really wants to right the chaos in the Trump administration, he should dismiss the nativists Steven Bannon and Stephen Miller. He will not, because Trump caters to his nativist racist base.” White nationalists making immigration policy in Trump White House.

This weekend, white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Neo-Fascists, Neo-Confederates, Ku Klux Klan and various and sundry other white nationalist organizations — key constituencies of the Trump political base — held a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the planned removal of a statute of General Robert E. Lee.

Hundred showed up for a Friday night rally with Tiki torches ablaze that called to mind images of Ku Klux Klan cross burnings in America, and Hitler propaganda rallies in Nazi Germany (really the point they were trying to make).

Alt-RightRally

The Washington Post reports on the horrific events in Charlottesville, Va.:

Chaos and violence turned to tragedy Saturday as hundreds of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members — planning to stage what they described as their largest rally in decades to “take America back” — clashed with counterprotesters in the streets and a car plowed into crowds, leaving one person dead and 19 others injured.

Note: If the driver had been identified as a Muslim, Trump would have been tweeting about Islamic terrorism as he watched it live on cable TV. Domestic terrorism from a white supremacist … silence.

Hours later, two state police officers died when their helicopter crashed at the outskirts of town. Officials identified them as Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Va., who was the pilot, and H. Jay Cullen of Midlothian, Va., who was a passenger. State police said their Bell 407 helicopter was assisting with the unrest in Charlottesville. Bates died one day before his 41st birthday; Cullen was 48.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who had declared a state of emergency in the morning, said at an evening news conference that he had a message for “all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today”:

“Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you. You pretend that you are patriots, but you are anything but a patriot. You want to talk about patriots, talk about Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, who brought our country together. Think about the patriots today, the young men and women, who with wearing the cloth of our country.

“Somewhere around the globe they are putting their life in danger. They are patriots. You are not. You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear, we are stronger than you. You have made our commonwealth stronger. You will not succeed. There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”

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Follow the money: Probable cause Paul Manafort committed a crime

It appears that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is pursuing the lesson of Watergate: “follow the money.”

Remember how Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort said that he would work for free?

Yeah, that probably didn’t happen. He appears to have been paid in ways that may involve money laundering, possibly through Russian oligarchs.

Back in May, federal investigators subpoenaed records related to a $3.5 million mortgage that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort took out on his Hamptons home just after leaving the campaign. Feds Subpoena Records for $3.5M Mystery Mortgage on Manafort’s Home:

On August 19, 2016, Manafort left the Trump campaign amid media reports about his previous work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine, including allegations he received millions of dollars in payments.

That same day, Manafort created a holding company called Summerbreeze LLC. Several weeks later, a document called a UCC filed with the state of New York shows that Summerbreeze took out a $3.5 million loan on Manafort’s home in the tony beach enclave of Bridgehampton.

Manafort’s name does not appear on the UCC filing, but Summerbreeze LLC gives his Florida address as a contact, and lists his Bridgehampton home as collateral.

A review of New York state and Suffolk County records shows the loan was made by S C 3, a subsidiary of Spruce Capital, which was co-founded by Joshua Crane, who has partnered with Donald Trump on real estate deals. Spruce is also partially funded by Ukrainian-American real-estate magnate Alexander Rovt, who tried to donate $10,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign on Election Day but had all but the legal maximum of $2,700 returned.

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