Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Do be sure to watch this video news clip on CNBC, folks

The first part of the video news clip (h/t Paul Waldman), by CNBC correspondent Eamon Javers, is smoking-gun stunning.  And sickening.  Just watch the video or read the accompanying article.

The second part of it, which is a clip of White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, sure seems to me that for all his hesitation and careful wording, Earnest hints that Obama will fire Comey right after the election.

As for me, I want to forcefully retract my suggestion in this post yesterday that NYC FBI agents working on the Weiner case may have planted the emails of Weiner’s computer.

When I wrote that post, the reporting was that the emails at issue numbered about 1,000.  Today it is reported that they number in the tens of thousands—a number almost certainly not within the capacity of investigative FBI agents who are not computer forensics experts to gain access to and put onto a hard drive without it being obvious that that is what happened.  And it’s also now been reported that the agents knew of the emails on the laptop shortly after they took custody of it; the emails were on the hard drive shortly after the FBI took custody of it.

I wrote that post in reaction to the report early yesterday that Abedin has told friends and colleagues that she does not know how the emails came to be on Weiner’s personal computer–something that rings awfully likely to be true, given the enormous number of her personal emails that are now on Weiner’s personal computer.

I wrote here today that in light of today’s information, it appears far more likely that it was Russia that pulled this off than that it was an FBI-agent job.

The Oct. 7 report issued jointly by the NSA and Homeland Security Department stating their conclusion that Russia is responsible for the massive hacks of emails of the Democratic Nationals Committee, Clinton campaign officials and other organizations connected to Clinton or the Democratic Party, and was done with the intent to disrupt the national election—which is the focus of the CNBC report and is quoted in the video—has received almost no attention from the press.

That, I trust, will change now.  Oh, the irony.

Although, of course, you never know.

So Clinton and the Democrats should run ads showing that CNBC clip.  Big ad buys for it on the internet and TV would be good.

And BTW, the CNBC little bombshell nails it that Harry Reid was right about Comey and the Hatch Act, in my opinion.

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Here’s what’s missing from reports that “[t]he FCC just passed sweeping new rules to protect your online privacy” by a 3-2 vote: That the three who voted for the Rule are Democrats and that the two who voted against it are Republicans. And that the president’s party gets the majority of board members, from which the chairman is selected.

Federal regulators have approved unprecedented new rules to ensure broadband providers do not abuse their customers’ app usage and browsing history, mobile location data and other sensitive personal information generated while using the Internet.

The rules, passed Thursday in a 3-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission, require Internet providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, to obtain their customers’ explicit consent before using or sharing that behavioral data with third parties, such as marketing firms.

Also covered by that requirement are health data, financial information, Social Security numbers and the content of emails and other digital messages. The measure allows the FCC to impose the opt-in rule on other types of information in the future, but certain types of data, such as a customer’s IP address and device identifier, are not subject to the opt-in requirement. The rules also force service providers to tell consumers clearly what data they collect and why, as well as to take steps to notify customers of data breaches.

“It’s the consumers’ information,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. “How it is used should be the consumers’ choice. Not the choice of some corporate algorithm.”

The fresh regulations come as Internet providers race to turn their customers’ behavioral data into opportunities to sell targeted advertising. No longer content to be the conduits to websites, social media and online video, broadband companies increasingly view the information they collect on users as they traverse the Web as a source of revenue in itself.

With its move, the FCC is seeking to bring Internet providers’ conduct in line with that of traditional telephone companies that have historically obeyed strict prohibitions on the unauthorized use or sale of call data.

But the Internet era has brought new challenges, in some cases creating different categories of personal information — and ways to use it — that did not exist in the telephone era. And as the line increasingly blurs between traditional network operators and online content companies, regulators have struggled to keep pace.

For example, Verizon’s acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo are both aimed at monetizing Internet usage beyond the straightforward sale of broadband access. With greater insights into customer behavior, the company could market additional services or content to its wireless subscribers as part of a bundle, policy analysts say. That arrangement could allow Verizon to effectively earn money twice from the same subscriber — once for the data plan, and then again when the customer consumes Verizon-affiliated content.

Although Thursday’s vote by the FCC requires companies, such as Verizon, to obtain explicit permission from consumers when it shares sensitive personal data with outside firms, it does not require broadband providers to ask permission before using the data themselves.

For instance, Verizon would be able to use a wireless subscriber’s usage history to recommend purchasing a larger mobile data plan. It could also use the customer’s information to market its home Internet service, Verizon FiOS, even though FiOS is a separate product operated by a different part of the company. In neither case would Verizon have to ask for the subscriber’s affirmative consent.

But Verizon would have to allow consumers the chance to opt out of having their usage history shared with other Verizon businesses that do not sell communications services, such as AOL or Yahoo, according to the rules.

Consumer advocates say it’s a step in the right direction, even if they would have preferred stricter requirements.

“It’s not so far off the mark that it guts the provision,” said Harold Feld, a senior vice president at the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge. “It still provides sufficient protections for consumers to regard this as a positive step.”

A trade association for the cable industry criticized the regulations Thursday as “profoundly disappointing.”

“Today’s result speaks more to regulatory opportunism than reasoned policy,” said the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

The FCC just passed sweeping new rules to protect your online privacy, Brian Fung, Washington Post, 10:41 a.m. today

Here’s what Wikipedia’s summary of how commissioners are selected under the Federal Communications Act, which established the FCC:

The FCC is directed by five commissioners appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate for five-year terms, except when filling an unexpired term. The U.S. President designates one of the commissioners to serve as chairman. Only three commissioners may be members of the same political party. None of them may have a financial interest in any FCC-related business.

Okay, look, folks.  The big news story today is Washington Post reporter Rosalind Helderman’s report on a 13-page memo from 2011 by Clinton Foundation and “Bill Clinton Inc.” impresario Douglas Band (the term “Bill Clinton Inc.” is Band’s, in the memo).

A lot of what’s detailed in there has been out there for a while, but has not penetrated virally during the general election—and did not during the primary season possibly because Sanders limited his attacks on Clinton mainly to her record as senator and to her post-Secretary of State speaking-circuit career.

But it will penetrate now, almost certainly.

Which is why it is even more important now than it has been for voters to distinguish between Clinton the person and the Democratic platform and Democratic agency and judicial appointees, which Clinton is now, finally, campaigning on.

Among last weekend’s (I think; I’ve lost track specifically) WikiLeak’s hacked Podesta-emails dump, there were two that just took my breath away.  Both were from early 2015, shortly before Clinton deigned to finally formally announce her candidacy.

One involved intense efforts by her newly hired campaign manager and Podesta and longtime Clinton surrogate and Podesta protégé Neera Tanden to convince Hillary Clinton that Bill Clinton badly needed to not give a scheduled paid speech to Morgan Stanley days after Clinton’s long-anticipated announcement of her candidacy.  Clinton was adamant that this paid speech not be cancel, and agreed finally to its cancellation only when told that Bill Clinton agreed it should be cancelled.

The other concerned equally fraught attempts by the same players plus Human Abedin to persuade Hillary Clinton that she should not fly off to Morocco shortly after that scheduled announcement, to attend gaudy festivities paid by the Moroccan government and accept a large donation to the Foundation from the Moroccan king.  The particular difficulty in her cancelling this was that she herself had solicited it.  Ultimately Clinton agreed to have Bill substitute for her.

I held my fire here on these, because it was a matter of first things first.  All that matters to me now in this election is seeing her win and seeing the Democrats recapture the Senate and do as well as conceivably possible in House races.

But what angered me intensely about these two revelations—the Morgan Stanley speaking fee even more that the Morocco trip—was the unmitigated lack of concern by this couple for the immense harm to so many people if the Republican nominee won the White House and Republicans retained control of the Senate.  It appeared at the time that the nomination was Clinton’s simply for the asking; she would have no real competition for it.  And the fact of the exorbitant speaking fee from Morgan Stanley would become known with the release of the Clintons’ tax returns in mid or late April 2016—too late for a primary challenge, but nicely available to the Republicans in the general election.

Granted, the Republican contest back then appeared likely to be between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, both of whom were profoundly compromised candidates. Rubio is a wholly owned subsidiary of one of the two major national private-prison companies and some Miami financial industry billionaire who effectively supported Rubio and his wife for several years.  Bush was making millions as a member of a yuge number of corporate boards and also as a hedge fund executive whose value came from his last name.

But the bottom line (so to speak) is that Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential nominee only because so much that would have mattered, pre-nomination, was not publicly known until now. Had they been known by late 2014 the primary field would have included a progressive Democrat who unlike Sanders would have been taken seriously by the news media. Had these things come out during the primaries, Sanders would be the nominee, despite Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s and the Clinton apparatus’s best efforts.

Instead, we have a Democratic presidential nominee so hamstrung by her own and her husband’s profound disregard for norms of conduct by pre-presidential and presidential contenders, and by their spouses, that she is unable to mention even the identities and backgrounds of the four billionaires who are funding her opponent’s campaign and who are determining his proposed policy agenda and his planned agency heads and court appointees who would carry out this agenda.

What matters now—all that matters now—is getting this candidate over the line, and getting down-ballot Democrats elected.  And the way to do that is to focus on the Democratic platform, and on Democratic agency and judicial appointments.  And on the Republican platform and Republican agency and judicial appointments.  Because Clinton’s belief notwithstanding, the majority—probably the large majority of voters—supports the Democratic agenda and opposes the Republican one.

To wit: The composition of the FCC, and today’s 3-2 vote by the board.  It should be noted that FCC Chairman Wheeler originally leaned toward the internet providers on the hot-topic net-neutrality issue last year, but he changed his position after the outcry that ensued.  But a Republican chair would have pressed right ahead with the providers’ agenda.

One of the current oddities of political punditry is an effort by a couple of high-profile baby boomer progressive pundits to sell the idea that the fact that Democrats are finally solidifying behind Clinton because, contrary to conventional wisdom, she’s actually been an excellent general election candidate and so voters now like her.

Polls are now showing that largely millennials, including black millennials, and Latinos are now plan o vote for her rather than for a third-party candidate and rather than now vote.  And that these polls showing that Democrats in large numbers are now finally saying that they are voting for her not just because her opponent is Trump but because they support her.

Notably missing from these pundits’ analysis, though, is mention of, say, policy positions.  Instead, it’s that Clinton hasn’t made any serious gaffs during the general election campaign, and that voters—presumably millennials and Latinos—who harbored hostility toward the idea of a woman president, are now losing that sexist hostility sufficiently to vote for Clinton and like it.  Or to vote for her at all.  The millennial generation really hated the idea of Elizabeth Warren as president, too.  But see?  They would have come around two weeks before election day.

What these pundits haven’t noticed, apparently because neither of them can read graphs, or neither of them recalls the Democratic Convention, is that Clinton led by double digits in the polls only during two periods.  She led in the aftermath of the Convention—which famously adopted a whole lot of Bernie Sanders’s policy agenda, and at which Clinton touted that platform in her acceptance speech.  And she led in the last week, after Sanders and Warren began aggressively campaigning for her, and in which she, finally, is campaigning on the most progressive parts of the platform.

And there actually are pundits—no, not just me; real, professional punditswho are making that point.

If Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren campaign, say, at college campuses throughout Florida, for Rubio’s opponent Patrick Murphy, who apparently many voters have never heard of but who, according to polls, is running only two to three points behind Rubio, Murphy probably will win.  If Bernie and Warren remind voters that they’re choosing or opposing a slew of policies, agency heads and judicial appointments, when they vote for president, Clinton and Murphy and Dem congressional candidates probably will win.

Nothing else—nothing else—should matter to Democratic-leaning voters.   But no one should mistake support for the Democratic Party platform and for the agenda of the ascendant progressive wing of the Democratic Party as support for Hillary Clinton in the abstract.

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Hillary Clinton was NOT right to separate Trump from the GOP on racism, xenophobia, and sheer meanness.*

She was wrong to separate him from the GOP on fiscal and regulatory policy and on court and administrative-agency appointees. It wasn’t a package deal, or rather, it should not have been. She could have made the distinction, but she didn’t; not with specifics and not even generically on any regular basis, anyway.

Washington Post blogger Paul Waldman yesterday posted a lengthy post titled “Why Hillary Clinton was right to separate Donald Trump from the GOP” in which he makes the same mistake that Clinton herself has made since she secured the nomination in early June: conflating the five-decades-long Republican racial/xenophobic/culture-wars Southern-and-blue-collar-white strategy with economic, fiscal and regulatory policy.

For Clinton this explains her decision to highlight to the Democratic Convention delegates her embrace of so much of Bernie Sanders policy agenda by agreeing to incorporate it into the Party platform—and then never mention most of it again.  And to never mention (until very recently, and then only generically and only very sporadically) that Trump’s fiscal and regulatory policy is Paul Ryan’s on steroids, that that his economic advisers are the Koch brothers’ and other Republican donors’ dream-come-true, as will be his Supreme Court and lower-bench nominees and key federal-agency heads.  Trump is the far-right-libertarian billionaire’s Trojan Horse.**

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Trump is wrong. Hillary Clinton didn’t start the birther claim. New Jersey Muslims standing on rooftops did.

Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it. I finished it, you know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.

— Donald Trump, today

I took that quote from Paul Waldman’s post at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog titled “Donald Trump just summed up his entire despicable campaign in 30 seconds.”  Waldman then says, “Neither Hillary Clinton nor her campaign ever questioned Obama’s birthplace in 2008, as Trump claims. Every fact-checker has verified that. Trump is lying.

Lying?  Nah.  I think, instead, that Trump just has Clinton and her earlier presidential campaign confused with one of the groups of New Jersey Muslims on rooftops, and the year 2008 with 2001.  I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that the Obama-birther claim originated back in 2001 in New Jersey by people standing on rooftops and cheering as the Towers fell.

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Charlie McCarthy Gave a Speech Today to the Detroit Economic Club

Today Donald Trump gave a speech in Detroit describing some economic policies he’d like to pursue if he became president, and like with his other periodic “policy” speeches, he sounded as if he was encountering the speech, and the substance therein, for the first time as he sleepily read it off a teleprompter. But that doesn’t mean that the speech doesn’t tell us something important about how Trump would govern if he were to become president. Quite the contrary; in fact, this speech is an important window into Trump’s governing style, or as it might be better understood, his non-governing style.

As you might expect, the speech was full of falsehoods and nonsense, such as the idea that the unemployment rate is a “hoax” and that Hillary Clinton “said she wanted to raise taxes on the middle class.” Like every other Republican in memory, Trump argues that the only thing keeping our economy from rocketing into the stratosphere are the chains that government has locked around it. “I want to jump-start America,” he said, “and it can be done, and it won’t even be that hard.” Also, everyone gets a pony.

It’s tempting to dismiss Trump’s policy suggestions out of hand. But it’s important to understand what he says he would like to do, whether he himself understands it or not. Let’s take a look at what Trump proposed:

Rebellious outsider Donald Trump details standard-fare Republican economic plan, Paul Waldman, the Washington Post, this afternoon

Well, you already know what he said.  You knew what he said before he said it.  Long before.  Months before.  So I won’t bother with the bullet points.  After Waldman runs through them, he says this:

I’m pretty sure that if tomorrow you asked Trump what was in the plan he discussed today, he wouldn’t be able to remember most of it. But that’s just the point: Trump isn’t about the details. If he becomes president, he’ll be outsourcing all that boring wonky stuff to the people around him — who will be most of the same people who would staff any Republican administration. Does anyone think Trump will be deep in the weeds figuring out whether the Labor Department’s budget should be cut by 26.3 percent or 26.4 percent, or whether this corporate subsidy can stay but that one has to go? Of course not.

If you’re a Republican, that’s good news, and it gets to the heart of why it’s still rational for so many Republicans to support him despite all the despicable things he says and does. Trump’s economic plan may contain a new idea or two somebody on his staff tossed in, and it does differ with the standard Republican fare on trade. But at its core, it’s what every Republican wants: lower taxes and less regulation for businesses. And if he were president, Trump would pretty much sign whatever legislation a Republican Congress sent him and let the people who care about policy take care of policy.

What would that leave him to do? As he said in Detroit, “When I’m president, we will start winning again. Bigly.” So there you go.

Clinton’s campaign has announced that she will give a response speech in Detroit on Thursday.  The speech will be the easiest her speechwriter has ever written.  Or should be.  He should just lift parts of Trump’s speech.  Verbatim.  With attribution, of course.  Not just to Trump, but also to Edgar Bergen.

That should take care of it.  Bigly.

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The most important endorsement of Clinton other than Sanders’ and Warren’s came today … from Al Gore

Paul Waldman has a lengthy post today at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog titled “Despite what you’ve heard, Democrats aren’t in disarray. Their party is under attack from the outside.”   He argues that the Democratic Party itself isn’t that divided, and that the divisions really are between Democrats and the outsider Sanders supporters who are trying—Sanders’ efforts to thwart it, notwithstanding—to thwart Clinton’s election.

I agree with most of what he says, but not the ultimate point that the Democrats themselves are really very divided.  Yes, he says, there certainly are many Democrats who supported Sanders and who are dissatisfied with Clinton’s level of progressiveness, but they will vote for her anyway, and that means that the party itself is not very divided.  He lists the many platform positions that were forced by Sanders, and says that is insufficient to gain the support of many Sanders supporters, but only the ones who aren’t Democrats.

He’s right about the latter point, for the most part, but not about the former.  As an ardent Sanders supporter and a Democrat, who is no Clinton fan but who nonetheless wouldn’t be caught dead not voting for her in this election, I can attest that the party is quite divided—between Clinton fans and Bernie supporters who nonetheless, like me, wouldn’t be caught dead not voting for Clinton in this election.

Sanders is one of them, although I guess he’s not really considered a Democrat.  But Elizabeth Warren is a Democrat, who clearly favored Sanders but who will do all she can to help Clinton in this election.  And Al Gore is a Democrat who, I’m guessing, favored Sanders, and who today endorsed Clinton.

He knows that earth really is in the balance in November.  And he is the most powerful living symbol imaginable of the abiding harm that the Sanders supporters who are trying to undermine Clinton want to do, and can do.

But Waldman is wrong about something else, too: his dismay that the many major platform concessions to Sanders and his supporters doesn’t satisfy the hostile Sanders supporters.  It doesn’t satisfy them not because they feel the concessions don’t go far enough—they do feel that, but then so do I—but because most of these folks fear that Clinton will backpedal on the policy concessions once in office.

But Sanders and Warren are current senators.  So is Jeff Merkley.  And Sherrod Brown.  And Dick Durbin.  And Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed.  And Tammy Baldwin.  And so, hopefully, will Russell Feingold and Tammy Duckworth, and three or four others, be.  They’re revolutionaries.  And they will have real power.  But only with a Democrat in the White House.

This is one of the unremitting messages that they need to drive home.  Another is Trump’s genuine fascism.  They need to educate the public about the specifics of that—what Trump has actually said.  What he’s referring to.  What he plans.  As well as what his fiscal and regulatory plan is.

I would love to see Bernie Sanders campaign with Al Gore, and together run down the many ways this country and the world would be profoundly different had Gore rather than Bush been the one inaugurated in January 2001.  They can begin with the Supreme Court, and move on to environmental regulations.

I can’t fathom the point of trying to help elect Trump in order to bring down Wasserman Schultz’s candidate.  Least of all in the name of Bernie Sanders’ revolution—which if Clinton is elected is positioned to march through Georgia, with or without her push.  Okay, well, through Washington.

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Paul Waldman conflates two entirely different things about media coverage: media coverage of and about Trump himself and media coverage of Republican congressional policy proposals. He’s right about one of those things, but clearly wrong about the other.

[The left’s] belief that Trump’s success is primarily a media failure has a parallel in the way conservatives have always explained their own defeats. We would have won, they insist, if only the media hadn’t been against us! If only they had told the voters just how much Barack Obama hates America, or if only they had explained what a reprobate Bill Clinton is, then of course we would have won, because the truth is so irrefutable.

It’s now becoming clear that this kind of thinking is rampant on the left as well. “I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for,” Bernie Sanders said in March, “It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.” That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how Americans think and what they believe. There are plenty of critiques you can make of how Republican policies are described in the press while still granting that they have substantial support. Conservatism isn’t going to disappear once Bernie Sanders has the opportunity for a full airing of his views, any more than Donald Trump’s support will fall to nothing once he’s “exposed.”

Here’s the truth: journalists are exposing Trump every day. How do you know about what a scam Trump University was? Because journalists told you. How do you know what a liar Trump is? Because journalists explained the difference between the truth and what he says (and yes, they need to do it more often and more quickly). Want to know more about the extent of his business shenanigans? Here’s an article on how he stiffs his contractors and workers, and here’s an article on how he bled investors for millions while mismanaging his Atlantic City casinos into bankruptcy. It’s solid investigative journalism, and it’s vitally important to the public understanding who he really is.

The media isn’t going to save the country from Donald Trump. Here’s why., Paul Waldman, Washington Post, today

I like Paul Waldman.  And I certainly agree with his basic critique of the premise that the media hasn’t exposed Trump himself—his utterances—sufficiently.  That’s pretty much all cable news and many other media outlets have covered, apparently.  And he’s clearly right that journalists have exposed Trump’s business frauds and business-failures-cum-profit-makers-for-only-him.

But what does that have to do with whether or not the media has covered Republican congressional policy sufficiently—which is what Sanders was talking about?

It’s not simply a matter of the New York Times or the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal reporting on the Ryan budget or the legislation to kill Dodd-Frank or the separate legislation passed by both houses of Congress to repeal the Obama administration’s rule under Dodd-Frank making financial advisers legal fiduciaries.  In a story last week titled “Obama vetoes legislation to thwart financial adviser rule,” the Associated Press summed it all up:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has vetoed legislation designed to nullify Obama administration rules that will require financial professionals to put their client’s best interest first when giving advice on retirement investments.

Obama says that some firms have steered clients into products that had higher fees and lower returns, which he says costs families about $17 billion a year.

Republicans say the regulations will make it more expensive for smaller businesses to provide retirement savings plans to their employees, resulting in less advice and fewer choices for many consumers.

Under the “fiduciary rule,” advisers who charge commissions will be required to sign a promise to act in the client’s best interest and disclose information about fees and conflicts of interest.

The rule will take effect next April.

Paul Krugman writes today that Paul Ryan includes repealing that rule in his “anti-poverty plan.” Lewis Carroll ghostwrites for Ryan, something I already knew but most people don’t.

I regularly read the New York Times, the Washington Post, and blogs that cover this type of thing, so I knew of the legislation to repeal the fiduciary rule.  But even I didn’t know that the legislation had actually been passed and had reached Obama’s desk.

What percentage of voters knows any of this, do you think?  Was it covered on the cable stations?  Was it on the front pages of any newspapers?  What about the nightly network news shows that are watched mainly these days by seniors?

For that matter, did our presumptive Democratic Party nominee for president mention it?  Not that I know of.  Then again, she became the presumptive nominee early last week and that made her the first WOMAN presumptive major party nominee.  And Donald Trump doubled down on his the-judge-is-biased-because-he’s-of-Mexican-descent tack.  And had Clinton not mentioned these things again and again last week, the public never would have known.

Unless, of course, the news organizations hadn’t saturated print, internet, network and cable media with them.  Which they did.

Mr. Waldman, most voters don’t know what’s in the Ryan budget.  And most don’t know that financial advisers aren’t legal fiduciaries and that their business model is conflict of interest.  Much less do they know that the Obama administration has used its authority under a financial-industry regulation statute passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Obama to end that, beginning shortly after either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is sworn in as president.

And it’s a safe bet that few people know that the repeal of that new rule is part of Paul Ryan’s poverty, I mean anti-poverty, legislative proposal.  And they don’t know what’s in Ryan’s budget plan, and they don’t know that Donald Trump’s budget plan posted since last October on his campaign’s website is the Ryan plan on steroids, and they don’t know that the Heritage Foundation folks wrote it, and they don’t know what the Heritage Foundation is, and they don’t know that Ryan says Trump has assured him that Trump will be Ryan’s puppet.  And the Heritage Foundation’s.  Which is redundant, I know.  But they don’t.

Waldman is right that conservatism isn’t going to disappear once Bernie Sanders has the opportunity for a full airing of his views, any more than Donald Trump’s support will fall to nothing once he’s “exposed.”  But Sanders is right that conservatism will disappear if the public finally learns what it actually is.  Instead, mainly they’re learning how many times Trump’s latest racial or ethnic or religious or gender slur can be mentioned in a given time period.  And they’ve probably stopped counting.

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President Chauncey Gardiner: ‘Being There’ at the Bait-and-Switch [Updated]

But one of Trump’s campaign advisers suggested Wednesday that Trump might indeed change Social Security and Medicare — but only after he has been in office for a while. “After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Sam Clovis said during a public forum, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Has Donald Trump stolen Paul Ryan’s party out from under him?, David Fahrenthold, Washington Post, today

As the above quote illustrates, Donald Trump hasn’t stolen Paul Ryan’s party out from under him.  Fahrenthold didn’t write the headline; he just wrote the article, and the headline writer missed its point, reversing the puppet and the puppeteer.

Unlike Chance, Trump knows he’s being coopted by the Republican establishment and that he is perpetrating a coup-like bait-and-switch on a sizable swath of his primary voters.  The most dangerous thing about Trump isn’t even the breadth of his ignorance but instead the casualness with which he has decided to simply front the Club for Growth agenda.

But he does have this in common with President Chauncey Gardiner: the sheer depth of his dumbness.  And therefore the completeness of his manipulability.  He’s switched entertainment genres, from reality TV to puppet theater.

____

UPDATE: Last weekend after reading an article or two about Trump’s statement to Chuck Todd on Meet the Press that he would like to see the minimum wage increased but wanted it left up to the states, I recognized that Trump was parroting the leave-the-minimum-wage-up-to-the-states standard Republican line, which one of his campaign officials had fed him.  I assumed that he knew this was the standard Conservative Movement invocation of “federalism”—a.k.a., states’ rights!—in the service of the Chamber of Commerce/Club for Growth anti-regulatory agenda.  These folks, after all, don’t put Republican state legislators and governors into their elected positions for the fun of it.

But I was wrong.  The articles I read didn’t quote enough of Trump’s answer.

I just finished reading a post by Paul Waldman on the Washington Post’s Plum Line titled “Trump is waging an assault on the entire structure of our democracy. Now what?”, in which Waldman uses as an illustration Trump’s statements about the minimum wage last fall and his several statements about it within the last four days.   Waldman writes:

Speaking [to reporters after his meeting with Trump today, Paul] Ryan said, “It was important that we discussed our differences that we have, but it was also important that we discuss the core principles that tie us together,” and that “Going forward we’re going to go a little deeper in the policy weeds to make sure we have a better understanding of one another.”

This is a fool’s errand, not just for Ryan but for us in the media as well. And it poses a profound challenge to democracy itself.

Just in the last couple of days, something has changed. Perhaps it should have been evident to us before, but for whatever reason it was only partially clear. The pieces were there, but they didn’t fit together to show us how comprehensive Trump’s assault on the fundamentals of American politics truly is….

The foundation of democratic debate is policy, issues, the choices we make about what we as a nation should do. That’s what the government we create does on our behalf: it confronts problems, decides between alternatives, and pursues them. That’s also the foundation of how we in the press report on politics. Yes, we spend a lot of time talking about the personalities involved, but underneath that are competing ideas about what should be done. Should we raise taxes or lower them? Spend more or spend less? Make abortions easier or harder to get? Give more people health coverage or fewer? How do we combat ISIS? How should we address climate change? How can we improve the economy? How can we reduce crime? What sort of transportation system do we want? Which areas should government involve itself in, and which should it stay out of?

We all presume that these questions (and a thousand more) are important, and that the people who run for office should take them seriously. We assume they’ll tell us where they stand, we’ll decide what we think of what they’ve said, and eventually we’ll be able to make an informed choice about who should be the leader of our country.

Donald Trump has taken these presumptions and torn them to pieces, then spat on them and laughed. And so far we seem to have no idea what to do about it.

Let me briefly give an illustration. On the question of the minimum wage, Trump has previously said he would not raise it. Then Sunday he said he did want to raise it. Then in a separate interview on the very same day he said there should be no federal minimum wage at all, that instead we should “Let the states decide.” Then yesterday he said he does want to increase the federal minimum wage.

I clicked on one of the links, which was to the transcript of the Meet the Press interview.  Here’s the full exchange between Todd and Trump on the minimum wage:

CHUCK TODD:

Minimum wage. Minimum wage. At a debate, you know. You remember what you said. You thought you didn’t want to touch it. Now you’re open to it. What changed?

DONALD TRUMP:

Let me just tell you, I’ve been traveling the country for many months. Since June 16th. I’m all over. Today I’m in the state of Washington, where the arena right behind me, you probably hear, is packed with thousands and thousands of people. I’m doing that right after I finish you.

I have seen what’s going on. And I don’t know how people make it on $7.25 an hour. Now, with that being said, I would like to see an increase of some magnitude. But I’d rather leave it to the states. Let the states decide. Because don’t forget, the states have to compete with each other. So you may have a governor —

CHUCK TODD:

Right. You want the fed– but should the federal government set a floor, and then you let the states–

DONALD TRUMP:

No, I’d rather have the states go out and do what they have to do. And the states compete with each other, not only other countries, but they compete with each other, Chuck. So I like the idea of let the states decide. But I think people should get more. I think they’re out there. They’re working. It is a very low number. You know, with what’s happened to the economy, with what’s happened to the cost. I mean, it’s just– I don’t know how you live on $7.25 an hour. But I would say let the states decide.

Trump wants to leave minimum-wage legislation entirely up to the states so that the states could compete with each other on how low the wages of their fast-food workers, Walmart employees, hospitality industry workers and home-healthcare aides can go, folks.  This would be his aim as president.  Because he thinks these workers should get more because they can’t live on $7.25 an hour.  And because less is more.  And more is less.  More or less.

What’s happening here is that Trump hears terms, phrases, lines, clichés that people who talk about policy use, and since he doesn’t understand anything, he just says a memorized policy bottom line—the minimum wage should be left to the states, for example—fed to him from the Republican policy playbook.  And then, when asked to elaborate, he starts spewing terms, phrases, lines, clichés that he’s heard people who talk about policy use.  And—voila!—we have … non sequiturs.

Popcorn, anyone?

Update added 5/12 at 6:58 p.m.

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The critical point that Paul Waldman highlights, perhaps unwittingly, about the healthcare debate between Clinton and Sanders

Back when I was in college, a professor in one of the science courses I took in order to fulfill the Liberal Arts Science requirement made the point—maybe specifically in refutation of Creationists, although I don’t remember—that it is scientists, not those who contest and try to interfere with scientific discoveries, who will ultimately prove or disprove scientific theory.

A blog post this morning by Paul Waldman in the Washington Post about the healthcare insurance debate between Clinton and Sanders, which I just read, reminded me of that professor’s observation.  Waldman says:

Clinton’s theory of change is practical, realistic and born of hard experience. But it’s also not particularly inspiring. It takes opposition from Republicans as a given and seeks to avoid direct confrontation with certain powerful interests. It’s essentially the same theory Obama operated on in 2009, when his administration set about to co-opt the insurance and pharmaceutical industries instead of fighting them. And it worked — after half a century of Democratic failure on health care, they passed sweeping reform.

Sanders’s theory of change starts from the unspoken presumption that the ACA was in its own way a failure, because it didn’t change the system enough — there are still people left out, and though costs have been reined in, we still spend far more than countries with single-payer systems, and always will as long as we have a system based in private insurance. The problem with Sanders’s theory, however, is that it’s vague on getting from where we are to where he wants to go. He talks about the need to “stand up” to special interests and create a “revolution,” but standing up isn’t a plan.

Lest any of my friends supporting Sanders call me a squish, I’d note that I’ve been touting the benefits of single payer for years. In various forms it has been tried and worked far better than our system in every other advanced country in the world. In places like France or Germany or Japan, everyone is covered, the quality of care is as good or better than what Americans get, and it costs dramatically less than our bloated, inefficient system. But — and it’s a big “but” — moving from our current system to a single-payer system would be an extremely complicated endeavor, both practically and politically. If you tried to do it all at once, the opposition from both Republicans and the affected industries would make the fights over Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s health-care plans look like nap time at the preschool.

But that doesn’t mean Sanders’s ideas about health care should just be dismissed. It’s no accident that he’s getting the support of millions of idealistic Democrats. He’s a radical, in the traditional sense of the word as one who gets to the root of things.

A real primary debate needs the elements that both Sanders and Clinton provide: on one hand, a fundamental examination of what drives the system and a vision that speaks to the party’s essential values, and on the other hand, a realistic assessment of what the next president can accomplish. That’s why even though they have a profound disagreement on health care, both of them are right.

Sanders, though, isn’t really vague that major restructuring of how political campaigns are financed in this country is a prerequisite to enactment of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system, and that a prerequisite to that in turn is massive involvement in our electoral system by people who want these.

But Waldman’s post illustrates exquisitely that the point my long-ago professor made about scientists is true also about Bernie Sanders’s candidacy.

I’m not a scientist, man. But I applaud and support them.  As I do, now, Bernie Sanders.  For similar reasons.

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The REALLY ANNOYING Don’t-Wanna-Subsidize-Wealthy-Kids’-College-Tuition Canard [With fun update!]

Hillary Clinton’s performance wasn’t as clean or as crisp as her last one. Among other things, she invoked 9/11 in order to dodge a question about her campaign donors. But she effectively made the case that, though Sanders speaks about important questions, his solutions are ultimately simplistic and hers are better. Instead of railing about breaking up the big banks, focus on identifying and moderating the biggest risks to the financial system. Instead of making college free for everyone, increase access to those who need it and decline to subsidize wealthy kids’ tuition.

Can anyone really imagine Bernie Sanders in the White House?, Stephen Stromberg, Washington Post, Nov. 15

Stromberg, a Washington Post editorial writer who also blogs there, is an all-but-official Clinton campaign mouthpiece who last month, in a blog post and (unforgivably) a Post editorial (i.e., commentary with no byline, published on behalf of the Post’s editorial board) baldly misrepresented what Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon on Tuesday misrepresented about Sanders’ single-payer healthcare insurance plan, but from a different angle: Stromberg said that the cost of the single-payer plan would be in addition to the cost of healthcare now.  Actual healthcare, not just insurance premiums.

According to Stomberg and the Post’s editorial board then, hospitals, physicians and other healthcare provides would receive full payment from private insurers and also full payment from the government.  And employers, employees and individual-market policyholders would continue to pay premiums to private insurers while they also paid taxes to the federal government for single-payer—double-payer?—insurance.

A nice deal for some but not, let’s say, for others.  Also, a preposterous misrepresentation of Sanders’ plan.

Fast-forward a month and Stromberg, this time speaking only for himself (as far as I know; I don’t read all the Post’s editorials) and for the Clinton campaign, picks up on Clinton’s invocation of the horror of the public paying college tuition for Donald Trump’s kids.  But since he probably knows that Trump’s kids no more went to public colleges than did Clinton’s kid, he broadens it.

Instead of making college free for everyone, increase access to those who need it and decline to subsidize wealthy kids’ tuition.  Good line!  At least for the ears of voters who are unaware that public universities, like private ones, quietly skew their admissions processes to favor the kids of parents who likely can pay full tuition simply by switching the funds from a CD or other savings account into a checking account at the beginning of each semester, thus removing the need for the school to dig into its endowment fund to provide financial assistance.  Or to worry about whether the student will have that loan money ready at the beginning of each semester.

Which is why Jennifer Gratz, salutatorian at her working-class Detroit suburb’s high school, whose extracurriculars included cheerleading but probably not a summer in Honduras assisting the poor, was denied admission to the University of Michigan back in 1995.  And why she sued the University in what eventually became a landmark Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality under the equal protection clause of UM’s affirmative action program.

She did not challenge the constitutionality of the U’s almost-certain, but unstated, admissions policy that would ensure that the freshman class had a substantial percentage of students from families wealthy enough to pay the full tuition.

Y’know, the ones wealthy enough to pay for SAT tutoring, SAT practice course and if necessary more than one SAT exam.

What especially angers me about this let’s-not-subsidize-wealthy-kids’-college-canard is that it uses disparities in ability to pay the tuition as a clever way to ensure the admissions status quo.  Or something close to the status quo.

In her and her campaign spokesman’s statements in the last several days—most notably her “Read My Lips; No New Taxes on the Middle Class, Even $1.35/wk to Pay for Family and Medical Leave” declaration, but other statements too—she’s overtly declaring herself a triangulator.  And some progressive political pundits are noticing it.  Yes!*  They!**  Are!***  And Sanders needs to start quoting these articles, in speaking and in web and television ads.

I said here yesterday that Clinton is running a Republican-style campaign.  But it’s not only its style–its tactics–that are Republican. Watch her edge ever closer on substance as well.  Which is the way she began her campaign last spring and early summer, until it became clear that Sanders’ campaign was catching on.

——

*Hillary Clinton Attacks Bernie Sanders’ Progressive Agenda: Why is she talking like a Republican?, Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent, Huffington Post, Nov. 17

**Hillary Clinton Hits Bernie Sanders on Taxes, Paul Waldman, Washington Post, Nov. 17

***Under attack at the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton plays EVERY POSSIBLE CARD, Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post, Nov. 14

——

Edited for clarity, typo-correction–and the addition of the last sentence.  11/19 at 8:23 pm.  [Oh, dear.  That’s addition, not edition. Can’t seem to avoid the typos.  I need an editor!]  Corrected 11/20 at 9:52 a.m, after Naked Capitalism linked to the post.  Damn!  

Oh, well.

FUN UPDATE: Yves Smith was kind enough to republish this post on Naked Capital this morning, and there are a few terrific comments to it there.  But I can’t resist reprinting this one, from rusti, as an update the post here at AB:

rusti November 20, 2015 at 5:07 am

We can’t, in good conscience, continue to pay for public works projects knowing that The Donald’s kids are driving on these roads, getting their electrical power from these lines, sourcing water from the same pipes and so forth. A few (moderate) tax rebates to impoverished families to allow them to build out their own infrastructure ought to do the trick.

Perfect.  Question to self, though: Why didn’t YOU think of that, Beverly??

Added 11/20 at 10:18 a.m. 

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