Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Trump Effect on EU-Iran Relations « LobeLog

The Trump Effect on EU-Iran Relations « LobeLog

by Eldar Mamedov
The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament has called today to uphold the nuclear agreement between Iran and the UN Security Council members plus Germany as “an important success of international and notably EU diplomacy.” It also called on the EU to “continue applying pressure on the US to fully deliver on the practical implementation” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
The relevant clause was tabled by the foreign affairs spokesperson of the Green group, German lawmaker Barbara Lochbihler, to the EP recommendation to the Council of the EU on the bloc’s priorities for the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly. It was backed, apart from the Greens, by the Social Democrats, liberals, and the far left. This coalition prevailed against the opposition of the conservatives, who agreed only to keep the part of the amendment that called to uphold the JCPOA, but voted against the second part related to the pressure on Washington.
Many American experts warned President Trump that his relentless hostility to Iran and the JCPOA, despite Iran’s certified compliance with the agreement, is likely to isolate Washington more than Tehran. In particular, they pointed to the commitment to the deal by the European partners of the United States, as long as Iran continues to abide by it, as has been the case. Tuesday’s vote in the EP’s Foreign Affairs committee proved Trump’s critics right. And it can be only a beginning.
Although the adopted language still has to survive the full floor debate and vote—and, in any case, is not binding for the EU’s executive and the member states—sends a number of strong political signals after Trump’s visits to the Middle East and Europe.
First, the EP puts the onus of the implementation of the JCPOA on the US, not Iran. That an EU body should reckon that yesterday’s “rogue state” is more reliable in upholding the international rule of law than a longstanding trans-Atlantic ally is in itself an extraordinary indictment of Trump’s foreign policy.
Second, by refusing to follow the US in taking a pro-Saudi, anti-Iranian side in Middle Eastern geopolitical power struggles, the EU shows its strategic autonomy and offers an alternative vision for the region: one where legitimate interests of all sides should be accommodated in a system of collective security.
Trump’s bizarre embrace of the Saudi regime raised not a few eyebrows in Europe. The EP has recently and repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia for human rights abuses, the war in Yemen and the promotion of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi creed, the extreme interpretation of which provides ideological ammunition to groups like the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
 Although the Islamic Republic of Iran is by no means an exemplar of respect for human rights, the sight of Iranians voting in elections, however imperfect, and handing a decisive victory to a moderate candidate advocating openness towards the West, has generated considerable good will in Europe. The vote in the EP’s committee thus becomes also a way to repudiate Trump’s demonization of Iran.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick: Vietnam’s Unhealed Wounds - The New York Times

Film maker Ken Burns's history of the Vietnam will come out on PBS in the fall.  We lost five classmates in the Vietnam war.  My memories and thoughts are the same as my classmate and fellow PCV Bill Byrne. I think Ken Burns nails it. The corrosion of trust which plagues us today ~ and which elected the cynic DJT ~ can largely be traced to the catastrophe we inflicted on Vietnam.
The tragedy of Vietnam is not just the 58,000 American dead in  an unnecessary war, but the horrific suffering we inflicted on the Vietnamese.

Same for the Iraq war, which, unlike Vietnam, was not fought by a conscript army.
Ken Burns and Lynn Novick: Vietnam’s Unhealed Wounds - The New York Times
by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick
On April 23, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford delivered an address at Tulane University in New Orleans. As the president spoke, more than 100,000 North Vietnamese troops were approaching Saigon, having overrun almost all of South Vietnam in just three months. Thirty years after the United States first became involved in Southeast Asia and 10 years after the Marines landed at Danang, the ill-fated country for which more than 58,000 Americans had died was on the verge of defeat.
“We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events in Indochina,” the president told the crowd. The United States could soon “regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam,” he said, but only if we “stop refighting the battles and the recriminations of the past.” The time had come, the president concluded, “to unify, to bind up the nation’s wounds” and “begin a great national reconciliation.” Just seven days later, North Vietnamese tanks smashed through the gates of the Presidential Palace in Saigon. The Vietnam War was over.
It’s been more than 40 years now, and despite Ford’s optimism, we have been unable to put that war behind us. As one Army veteran, Phil Gioia, told us, “The Vietnam War drove a stake right into the heart of America.”
For more than a generation, instead of forging a path to reconciliation, we have allowed the wounds the war inflicted on our nation, our politics and our families to fester. The troubles that trouble us today — alienation, resentment and cynicism; mistrust of our government and one another; breakdown of civil discourse and civic institutions; conflicts over ethnicity and class; lack of accountability in powerful institutions — so many of these seeds were sown during the Vietnam War.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Jennifer Rubin in complete despair over the GOP

Mikhail’s Blackstone breakthrough: Emoluments meant private benefits – SHUGERBLOG

Mikhail’s Blackstone breakthrough: Emoluments meant private benefits – SHUGERBLOG
by Prof. Jed Shugerman (Fordham Law School)

For background: The “foreign emoluments” clause of the Constitution states, “[N]o person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” Art. I, Sec. 9, cl. 8. The “domestic emoluments” clause states: The President “shall not receive … any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them [any state].”  I have written before about how President Trump is receiving both foreign and state emoluments.  I am working with Mikhail, Jack Rakove, and Gautham Rao on an historians’ amicus brief on the legal meaning and context of the word “emoluments” in the eighteenth century.
Trump’s lawyers have argued in a white paper that the original public meaning of “emolument” was “payment or other benefit received as a consequence of discharging the duties of an office.”  They suggest a narrow reading excluding the payments to Trump’s businesses for market transactions. I have argued that such market transactions should be considered “office-related,” but Mikhail’s research shows that emoluments are not limited to “office related payments.”  In Blackstone’s Commentaries, the primary usage of the term included private benefits and advantages. As most judges and legal scholars probably know, Blackstone was one of the most important legal sources for the Founding generation. Founding-era Americans cited Blackstone far more than any other English or American legal scholar.  Mikhail also adds a poignant reference to emoluments by the executor of Blackstone’s will, using “emoluments” in reference to the benefits from Blackstone’s estate.
I excerpt Mikhail’s post on the Balkinization blog summarizing his findings:
“Blackstone does not support such a narrow reading [by Trump’s lawyers].  … The majority of Blackstone’s usages of “emolument” involve benefits other than government salaries or perquisites.  They also reflect the broader meaning of the term—“profit, “gain,” “benefit,” or “advantage”—one finds in the principal eighteenth-century English dictionaries.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sally Yates Tells Harvard Students Why She Defied Trump - The New York Times

Sally Yates Tells Harvard Students Why She Defied Trump - 
The New York Times CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —

In a fierce, sometimes personal speech, Sally Q. Yates, the acting attorney general fired by President Trump for refusing to defend his travel ban, told the graduating class at Harvard Law School on Wednesday that her decision was a surprising but crucial moment when “law and conscience intersected.” Ms. Yates has become a hero to many Democrats for standing up to the president on one of his first and most contentious policy initiatives. Mr. Trump’s supporters regard her as just one of many holdovers from the Obama administration who have publicly and privately tried to sabotage his agenda. Her tenure as acting attorney general was supposed to be uneventful, Ms. Yates said during ceremonies the day before commencement. “Everything was to stay status quo.” Her former chief of staff had jokingly told her there would be time for, in her words, “a lot of long, boozy lunches.” But “the defining moments in our lives often don’t come with advance warning,” she said. “They can arise in scenarios we would have never expected, and don’t come with the luxury of a lot of time for you to go inside yourself for some serious introspection.”

Mitch Landrieu’s Speech on the Removal of Confederate Monuments in New Orleans - The New York Times

Facebook permits Holocaust denial sites

How Facebook flouts Holocaust denial laws except where it fears being sued

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Facebook Immune from Liability Based on Third-Party Content - Lawfare

Facebook Immune from Liability Based on Third-Party Content - Lawfare

By Russell Spivak
 Tuesday, May 23, 2017, 1:45 PM

Monday, May 22, 2017

Scapegoating Iran Will Not Resolve Middle East Challenge « LobeLog

Scapegoating Iran Will Not Resolve Middle East Challenge « LobeLog
by Shireen T. Hunter (Georgetown University)
During his Middle East trip, President Donald Trump is reportedly planning to pursue an ambitious list of objectives. Paramount among these is to strengthen regional cooperation in defeating the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) and Islamist terrorism in general. He will also try jump-starting the effort to build peace between Israel and the Palestinians that, if successful, could eliminate a major source of tensions in the region. He wants to convince those Arab states that so far have not established political and trade relations with Israel to do so, to reassure the Persian Gulf Arab states of America’s continued support, and to forge tighter regional military ties that some observers see as a sort of Middle East version of NATO.
Most if not all of these are worthy goals, consonant with US interests. Defeating Islamist terrorism is a common objective. It is also past time that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were resolved and that all Arab states acknowledged the reality of Israel by establishing diplomatic and trade relations with the Jewish state. There is value in reassuring the Gulf Arab states of continued US commitment to their security—provided that this does not include accepting wholesale their narratives about regional politics or helping them to achieve their own narrow interests where incompatible with US requirements. And the idea of greater Middle East defense cooperation, under the right circumstances, can help to promote regional security and stability.
A key difficulty, however, is that President Trump and leaders of his administration clearly seek to achieve these ambitious goals by (mis)representing Iran as the world’s leading exporter of terrorism and a threat to Israel and Arab states, especially those in the Persian Gulf. Indeed, Washington’s focus on Iran has become a fixation, far beyond anything that evidence of Iran’s actual behavior can support. Furthermore, a major element of this effort is to try building on the current “alliance” between Israel and some of the Sunni Arab states. This effort focuses not only on Iran but on achieving an outcome in the Syrian civil war that marginalizes Iran and, for the Arabs, creates Sunni primacy there over the ruling Alawite minority.
For several reasons, however, making opposition to Iran a mainspring of American efforts in the Middle East, in effect scapegoating it, will not help the US to achieve its regional goals.
Viewing Iran Clearly
The terrorism that deeply concerns the United States and other Western states is Sunni-based, emanating from Arab states, not Iran. Thus, efforts to contain Iran might help meet the political objectives of some regional states, but it will do nothing to defeat IS or al-Qaeda. Likewise, even if Iran were marginalized in Syria and President Bashar al-Assad were deposed, the resulting Sunni primacy over the Alawites would not bring that conflict closer to resolution or offer any promise for broader stability, either in Syria or in the region more broadly.
Moreover, Iran’s impact on the Arab-Israeli conflict is minimal. Stymying its resolution for so many years have been the conflicting aspirations of Israel and the Palestinians. The latter want an independent, even if truncated, state with its capital in East Jerusalem. They want an end to Israel’s settlement-building in the West Bank and permission for the return of at least a symbolic number of Palestinians (or their immediate descendants) who were expelled in the course of Arab-Israeli wars.
But these objectives are precisely what Israel or at least its more hardline politicians do not accept, and that would still be true even if Gaza, dominated by Hamas, were left out of the equation. For example, these hardline Israelis argue that the issue of Jerusalem, as Israel’s undivided capital, is non-negotiable, which also means that there can be no option for two capitals in the one city. Further, Israel’s continued building of settlements in the West Bank makes establishment of an independent Palestinian state politically impossible, since dismantling even some of them would be extremely costly to any Israeli government.
In reality, the best the Palestinians can hope for is some form of autonomous entity, even if it were called a state. It would have a flag and a president, but its disconnected territory would be dotted with Jewish settlements.***

Sunday, May 21, 2017

‘This Wasn’t a Speech About Islam’ - The New York Times

‘This Wasn’t a Speech About Islam’ - The New York Times
Two of our opinion writers, Mustafa Akyol in Istanbul and Wajahat Ali in the Washington, D.C. area, watched President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia this morning and discussed what they thought it means for the Middle East, American foreign policy and Muslims around the world.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Robert Mueller's Mandate is Narrow - Congress still has a role to play

The news of the appointment of Robert Mueller is good.  But his is a criminal investigation: not a commission.  He will not issue a report.  He will not describe the scope of Russian interference. that requires Congress to investigate and report.
- gwc

(b) The Special Counsel is authorized to conduct the investigation confirmed by then-FBI Director James B. Comey in testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on March 20, 2017, including:(i) any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump; and(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation; and(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).(c) If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters. (d) Sections 600.4 through 600. l 0 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations are applicable to the Special Counsel.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Criminal President? - The New York Times

The Criminal President? - The New York Times
by Richard Painter and Norman Eisner
After the revelations of the past 24 hours, it appears that President Trump’s conduct in and around the firing of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, may have crossed the line into criminality. The combination of what is known and what is credibly alleged would, if fully substantiated, constitute obstruction of justice. It is time for Congress and a special counsel in the executive branch to conduct objective, bipartisan inquiries into these allegations, together with the underlying matters involving Michael Flynn and Russia that gave rise to them.
First, the facts. On Jan. 26, Sally Yates, then the acting attorney general, informed the White House that Mr. Flynn had apparently lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador. The next day, President Trump hosted Mr. Comey for a private dinner, during which he allegedly asked Mr. Comey repeatedly whether he would pledge his “loyalty” to him, which Mr. Comey declined to do.
On Feb. 14, the day after Mr. Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor, President Trump allegedly held Mr. Comey back after a meeting to say that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong and that, “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Mr. Comey declined to drop the investigation, going on in March to confirm before Congress that it was ongoing, and later requesting greater resources from the Department of Justice to pursue it.
Finally, on May 9, President Trump fired Mr. Comey. We were first told he did so because Mr. Comey bungled the F.B.I.’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email. Two days later, President Trump changed his story: “In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.’” The day after that, President Trump threatened Mr. Comey on Twitter, warning him against leaking to the press.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lawyerly Integrity in the Trump Administration - Lawfare

Lawyerly Integrity in the Trump Administration - Lawfare
by Professor Jack Goldsmith  (Harvard Law School; Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel from 2003-2004, and Special Counsel to the Department of Defense from 2002-2003.)

The New York Times’s story on “What It Means to Work for Trump,” on top of Jim Comey’s firing last week, got me thinking again about how difficult it is for a lawyer who is a political appointee to act with integrity in the Trump administration. (I limit my comments here to government attorneys, and do not analyze the situation of other political appointees.)

Trump, Comey, and Conflicts of Interest

Image result for model rules of professional conduct
Every law has both a letter and a spirit.  Upon taking office each of our Presidents has sworn to “ faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and … to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”.  More particularly the President is obligated to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”.  There is little to guide us as to the meaning of “faithfully”.  Is it subjective good will?  Compliance with the general penal laws?  Inspired by faith in God?
The President has discharged the Director of the FBI who has continued an investigation into how, why, and with what consequence the Russian Republic intervened in our Presidential election.  Such a violation of our sovereignty is unprecedented and disturbing.  Mr.  Trump has repeatedly denounced the press for following the story – calling it “fake news”.  We have no doubt that the President has full control over the executive branch. But his choice of who shall be chosen is subject to constraints.  The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation serves at the pleasure of a President. But the choice of that officer can be made only with the consent of the Senate.  And the term of office is limited to ten years – a time period intended to divorce the FBI from the election cycle.
The President is, thus constrained in only limited ways.  How, then should he be guided in the exercise of his discretion and his ultimate control of the results of the investigation.  During the Federal Convention of 1787 the executive was routinely referred to as the Magistrate.  That implies disinterest – or interest only is what faithful execution requires.  The President – and the Congress -  would do well to look at two reference points to determine how their authority should be exercised.
The first is the Rules of Professional Conduct governing lawyers.  It provides in RPC 1.7 Concurrent Conflicts of Interest that a concurrent conflict of interest exists if:
“(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.”
The personal interest of the President is certainly present in an investigation which could affect how the legitimacy of his victory is viewed.  The Attorney General of the United States has already recused himself.  So should the President.
A similar result is implied by reference to the Coode of Conduct of United States Judges.  Canon Three provides:” A Judge Should Perform the Duties of the Office Fairly, Impartially and Diligently”.  The same principle should govern the conduct of the chief Magistrate.  When his own interests – political or personal – present an appearance of impropriety a President, like a judge, should recuse.  Although the Independent Counsel law expired, there is a known path:  appoint special counsel to complete the investigation and recommend any reforms and pursue any charges that are warranted.

We urge our legislators – and our President – to choose that course: appoint special counsel to conclude the investigation “fairly, impartially, and diligently.

-      George Conk
-      May 11, 2017

Rule 1.7 Conflict Of Interest: Current Clients
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:
(1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or
(2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.

The Nightmare Scenario: Trump Fires Comey, the One Man Who Would Stand Up to Him - Lawfare

The Nightmare Scenario: Trump Fires Comey, the One Man Who Would Stand Up to Him - Lawfare
by Benjamin Wittes and Susan Hennessey (The Brookings Institution)

Make no mistake: The firing of James Comey as FBI director is a stunning event. It is a profoundly dangerous thing—a move that puts the Trump-Russia investigation in immediate jeopardy and removes from the investigative hierarchy the one senior official whom President Trump did not appoint and one who is known to stand up to power. One of the biggest dangers of Comey’s firing is that Trump might actually get away with it, ironically, because of Comey’s unpopularity among Democrats and on the political left.
We warned about this danger immediately after the election.
On November 10, we wrote that that Trump’s firing of Comey would be a “a clear bellwether to both the national security and civil libertarian communities that things are going terribly wrong.” At the time we wrote those words, Comey was deeply unpopular with both the Left, which blamed Hillary Clinton’s defeat on his eleventh hour letter to Congress, and the Right, which criticized his decision to recommend that Clinton not be charged over her handling of government emails. Whatever the merit of Comey’s actions during the campaign, the fact that he managed to anger both sides of the political spectrum demonstrated his storied political independence. And that political independence, we argued, would serve as a critical check against any efforts on the part of President Trump to trample the rule of law.***

Saturday, May 13, 2017

SPC Puts National Appellate IP Court On Its Agenda | China IPR - Intellectual Property Developments in China

SPC Puts National Appellate IP Court On Its Agenda | China IPR - Intellectual Property Developments in China

At an IP symposium held this Wednesday, May 10, 2017 in Chengdu, it was revealed by a senior Chinese academic (Prof. Wu Handong) in response to a question raised by former [Federal Circuit] Chief Judge Randall Rader, than the Supreme People’s Court has decided to recommend to the National People’s Congress that China should establish a national appellate IP court, similar to the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Prof. Wu also noted that this court would be in addition to new intermediate level IP courts being established in Chengdu, Nanjing, Suzhou and Wuhan and would be part of the recommendations regarding continuation and expansion of the existing (and successful, in my opinion) IP court experiments in China (Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou).
 The new Court’s jurisdiction, if approved by the NPC, would be similar to that of the existing specialized IP courts, and would focus on technology-related IP issues. Prof. Wu noted that the court would likely be a circuit court that would be based in Beijing. He also said that he would present Judge Rader’s views supporting a national appellate IP court to the SPC for inclusion in its recommendations to the NPC. Prof. Wu’s comments drew applause from the audience.

Fairbanks Declaration of the Arctic council

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trump's Constitutional Crisis | by David Cole | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books

Trump's Constitutional Crisis | by David Cole | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
by Prof. David Cole (National Legal Director - ACLU)
James Comey is no saint. But thanks to Donald Trump, he is now a martyr. On May 9, in a twist that would have seemed far-fetched even on House of Cards, President Trump fired Comey as director of the FBI on the recommendation of Jeff Sessions, his attorney general. According to the administration, Trump did so not because Comey was investigating the possible collusion of Trump campaign officials with the Russian government but because of how Comey mishandled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server. 
This nakedly concocted justification has caused deep alarm among leading members of both parties in Congress. If the president and his attorney general are firing the FBI director because of the FBI’s investigation into the campaign that got the president elected—a campaign in which the attorney general had a direct part—it amounts to an obstruction of justice and an attempt to place the president above the law. 
This is a constitutional crisis. The only way forward is to ensure an independent and credible investigation—whether by a special prosecutor or a select congressional committee or both—into the Russian meddling and the administration’s efforts to obstruct the inquiry into the Trump campaign’s ties to it. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

An enormous entitlement in the tax code props up home prices — and overwhelmingly benefits the wealthy and the upper middle class. - The New York Times

One of the consequences of housing segregation in America - particularly in the mass migration to the suburbs in the post-war 1950's - is that  Black people were excluded from buying houses.  As massive suburbs like Levittown became mature communities they became the source of much wealth.  By the time of the Fair Housing Act of 1965 the damage was largely already done.  It would be followed by accelerated white flight from cities like Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Bronx. 
The wealth building mechanism receives government support via the mortgage interest deduction which subsidizes upper middle income families like the Asares, pictured above.  
- gwc
How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality - The New York Times
by Matthew Desmond
***Almost a decade removed from the foreclosure crisis that began in 2008, the nation is facing one of the worst affordable-housing shortages in generations. The standard of “affordable” housing is that which costs roughly 30 percent or less of a family’s income. Because of rising housing costs and stagnant wages, slightly more than half of all poor renting families in the country spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs, and at least one in four spends more than 70 percent. Yet America’s national housing policy gives affluent homeowners large benefits; middle-class homeowners, smaller benefits; and most renters, who are disproportionately poor, nothing. It is difficult to think of another social policy that more successfully multiplies America’s inequality in such a sweeping fashion.***
An enormous entitlement in the tax
code props up home prices — and
overwhelmingly benefits the
wealthy and the upper middle class.

Palestine and the New Peacemakers « LobeLog

Palestine and the New Peacemakers « LobeLog
by Paul Pillar

President Trump’s expressed desire to resolve, somehow, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is welcome, but the grounds for skepticism about this outweigh the reasons for hope.  The principal reason for skepticism is the lack of evidence that Trump has distanced himself politically from the position, embodied in the right-wing Israeli government and its most ardent American supporters, that favors perpetual Israel control of the occupied territories and, despite occasional lip service to the contrary, sees no room for Palestinian self-determination or a Palestinian state.  As a presidential candidate, Trump assumed this position after coming to terms with Sheldon Adelson and adopting AIPAC’s talking points as his own.  As president, this position was manifested in his appointing as ambassador to Israel his bankruptcy lawyer, a hard-right supporter of the Israeli settlement project in the occupied territories.  This week, in a joint appearance at the White House with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, Trump talked in general terms about working together to reach an agreement to live in peace, and in more specific terms about defeating ISIS and security cooperation with Israel, but said nothing at all about Palestinian self-determination or a Palestinian state.
One might also wonder whether this issue will be another one that gets the amateur hour treatment, in which the president comes to admit that, gee, this task is harder than he expected it to be.  With his bankruptcy lawyer having been sent off as ambassador, Trump has turned the Israeli-Palestinian policy portfolio over to his son-in-law and his real estate lawyer.  Of course, given the many years of meager results on this subject when in the hands of supposedly experienced professionals, it might not hurt to see what the amateurs and some fresh eyes might accomplish.  The real estate lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, received favorable marks from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides during a recent listening tour he made to the region.
But with the learning process for this president and this administration starting almost from scratch, Trump’s effort may already be behind the times. ***

Friday, May 5, 2017

California Blue Cross CEO Renounces GOP Health Care Bill

Kaiser Health News - Repeal and Replace Watch:
  Blue Cross CEO Denounces GOP Healthcare Bill
by Craig Terhune
The chief executive of Blue Shield of California, the largest insurer on the state’s insurance marketplace, issued a blunt critique of the Republican health care bill, saying it would once more lock Americans with preexisting conditions out of affordable coverage.
In an interview with California Healthline on Wednesday, Paul Markovich said the GOP’s American Health Care Act is “flawed” and “could return us to a time when people who were born with a birth defect or who became sick could not purchase or afford insurance.” The bill is set to come up for a vote in the House of Representatives on Thursday. (California Healthline is produced by KHN.)
Paul Markovich (Courtesy of Blue Shield of California)
An amendment to the bill would allow states to roll back key consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, including the popular provision that prohibits discrimination against patients with a history of illness. Some Republicans say that flexibility will help lower premiums overall and expand coverage choices for consumers.
Markovich, however, said “it’s a moral imperative” to guarantee coverage regardless of medical history. “The discrimination, whether on price or just on the ability to access insurance at all on preexisting conditions, is unconscionable. As a country, we are better than that,” he said.

Former Medtronic CEO: GOP bill will cause decline in Americans' health, transfer wealth to the wealthy

Here’s the real loser in the GOP health-care reform plan—commentary

Bill George

Bill George, Senior Fellow at Harvard Business School.
Senior Fellow, Harvard Business School and Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Medtronic, Inc.

Thursday's 217-213 vote in the House to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the Republicans' new health-care plan constitutes one of the largest wealth transfers in history from the poor and middle class to wealthy Americans. This will further exacerbate economic disparities in our country. Even worse, the health of our nation will likely decline from its already perilous state, as far fewer Americans will have adequate health insurance.
The "repeal and replace" vote represents an enormous political win for President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, coming on the heels of a previous attempt in March that failed. They can justifiably take credit for following through on their campaign pledge, but will also face the wrath of the American public if the new health plan causes further health problems for the American people. The health-care debate now shifts to the U.S. Senate, where a vastly different bill is expected to emerge as skeptical senators focus on the implications of the House plan.
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) poses significant risk for many of the 300 million Americans who will face disruption in their health-care insurance for the second time in the past decade. Most of the recent debate in the House focused on the lack of coverage for pre-existing conditions. The bill includes just $23 billion as support for up to 110,000 people with pre-existing conditions, or 5 percent of the 2.2 million Americans in this category. But the greater issue is whether millions of Americans will have any affordable coverage at all.
"All the bill accomplishes is to shift the burden of paying for health care from the wealthy and healthy to middle class and unhealthy citizens."
In spite of significant changes in the March bill to win support from the right-wing Freedom Caucus and modest concessions for moderates, Republican House leaders intentionally did not ask the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to analyze its financial impact — which will have to be done before the Senate votes. Using the most recent CBO projections, 24 million fewer Americans will have health insurance under AHCA than Obamacare, and wealthy Americans, health plans and pharmaceutical companies will receive an $885 billion tax cut. These projections will likely get worse under the House-approved plan.
To be clear, this bill does nothing to improve the health of Americans. Nor does it reduce the staggering cost of health care, or lessen its inexorable rise. The likelihood is that the overall health of our citizens will get worse, especially among those who cannot afford the full coverage they have today, including a large proportion of Trump voters. All the bill accomplishes is to shift the burden of paying for health care from the wealthy and healthy to middle class and unhealthy citizens.
It also changes the focus of health care from the federal government to the states, many of whom will design their own plans. This is consistent with Republican principles, but it will lead to greater health disparities between the states. Having a state and local focus is not a bad thing per se, as states may be better able to design plans for their residents than living with the "one size fits all" plans under Obamacare.

The Trumpcare Butcher Block Celebration in Photos, Annotated – Talking Points Memo

Only in of opportunity.
Promises made, promises broken.

The Trumpcare Butcher Block Celebration in Photos, Annotated – Talking Points Memo

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Balkinization: The further decay of our constitutional order: Reflections on the passage of Trumpcare

Why should California stay in the U.S.?  Nine states have less than 1 million people.  They have 18 members of the United States Senate.  California has two Senators.  Trump lost the state by 30%.  Now he wants to take away federal health care support.
Prominent Constituional law scholar Sanford Levinson suggests that secession is better than civil war....
Balkinization: The further decay of our constitutional order: Reflections on the passage of Trumpcare
by Sanford Levinson (U. of Texas - Austin)
***As always, the key question facing us is “what is to be done” as we realize, more and more, that our political system is a clear and present danger to us all.  I wish I knew, though I continue to find secession a thinkable option (certainly preferable to civil war).  But that is surely the most important question facing us as a country.  We are simply lightyears from the political system that was, more or less accurately, described by John Marshall in McCulloch.  Madison, Hamilton, Jefferson, and Washington were indeed giants who took their role as leaders of the fragile new nation with the utmost seriousness, even if one pays full attention to their more human-all-too-human aspects set out in Michael Klarman’s magnificent study.  We are instead currently governed by people who make Aaron Burr look admirable.  Sad.

President Trump Is the Enemy of Their Enemies - The New York Times

Trump's fumbles don't hurt him because his voters think he is he enemy of their enemies - so he is their friend no matter what he does. - gwc
President Trump Is the Enemy of Their Enemies - The New York Times
by Thomas Edsall
**The political system is not equipped to resolve these social and cultural conflicts, which produce a gamut of emotions, often outside our conscious awareness. Threatening issues — conflicts over race, immigration, sexuality and many other questions that cut to the core of how we see ourselves and the people around us — cannot be contained in ordinary political speech, even as these issues dominate our political decision-making.

It is Trump’s willingness to violate the boundaries of conventional discourse that has granted him immunity to mainstream criticism. Pretty much everything he does that goes overboard helps him. He is given a free hand by those who feel in their gut that he is fighting their fight — that he is their leader and their defender. As the enemy of their enemies, President Trump is their friend.

Balkinization: Why Did We Have to Have a Civil War?

Gerard Magliocca, Indiana law professor, - and a political conservative - is the author of a very good biography of John Bingham (principal architect of the 14th Amendment), and a biography of Andrew Jackson's constitutional views.
Balkinization: Why Did We Have to Have a Civil War?
by Prof. Gerard Magliocca 

President Trump offered some commentary on the Civil War in an interview today:

"I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn't have had the Civil War," he said. "He was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War, he said 'There's no reason for this.'" 
"People don't realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"
As the author of a book on Andrew Jackson's constitutional philosophy, I want to point out that this utter nonsense. Jackson was against secession. He was also for slavery and owned many slaves.  (Maybe "big-hearted" means that he only whipped his slaves every once in a while--I'm not sure what the President is talking about. Big-hearted is a term I would definitely not associate with Jackson.)

Sure, Jackson would have worked things out to avoid a civil war.  And government of slavery, for slavery, and by slavery would have taken much longer to perish from the Earth.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Study Shows Trumpcare’s Damage - The New York Times

Freedom lovers:
Republican representatives Fred Upton, Michael Burgess, Greg Walden and Billy Long after meeting with President Trump
The New Study That Shows Trumpcare’s Damage - The New York Times
by David Leonhardt

When Massachusetts expanded health insurance a decade ago, state officials unknowingly created an experiment. It’s turned out to be an experiment that offers real-world evidence of what would happen if the House Republicans’ health bill were to become law.
The findings from Massachusetts come from an academic paper being released Thursday, and the timing is good. Until now, the main analysis of the Republican health bill has come from the Congressional Budget Office, and some Republicans have criticized that analysis as speculative. The Massachusetts data is more concrete.
Unfortunately for those Republicans, the new data makes their health care bill look even worse than the C.B.O. report did. The bill could cause more people to lose insurance than previously predicted and do more damage to insurance markets. The $8 billion sweetener that Republicans added to the bill on Wednesday would do nothing to change this reality. President Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan are continuing to push a policy that would harm millions of Americans.
Here are the basics of the new study, and why it matters: