​The Graham-Cassidy reform-and-perhaps-replace-but-not-really-repeal plan has earned praise from a fair amount of analysts on rightish side of center, and it does indeed use a vigorous federalism as it’s guiding principle, kicking the debate down to the individual state level.

This is really chasing the emerging reality. Texas already delivers health care in ways that are different from New York or California. Graham-Cassidy would give states more room to work out their own solutions by block-granting money that would have gone to Medicaid expansion or premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. You want single-payer and high taxes? Move to California. You want affordable premiums and higher-deductible plans that mean you pay more for day to day health care but you’re covered for the larger expenses you may face? But lower taxes and more jobs? Move to Texas.

Their plan is a reasonable solution to what is becoming an unbridgeable gap between Democrats who now increasingly pledge their allegiance to single-payer systems (until they find out what rationing is like when it comes to healhcare) and Republicans who want real choice and real competition in the health insurance market.

Ah, the health INSURANCE market. Yes, insurance industry lobbyists have been a constraint on innovation you might say. But, health CARE is so much more than just insurance premiums. That is not a clarion call for big spending, by the way. It’s merely to point out that a major factor in increasing premiums is often lost in the current debate:

Hospitals in America are producing very high-cost products and services and are a supported by powerful lobbyists that do their share of whispering and bending ears to ensure that innovative competitive solutions do not threaten their cozy, coast-to-coast oligopoly.

One reason for this is the employer-based plans where customers don’t see the true cost and thus the true price of the health services they select. So the big and fat and getting fatter hospital networks can keep raising prices far beyond what almost any other industry is able to get away with. And if money from employer-based plans is not enough to cover the increases, why there’s always the federal government.

So let’s hope that if Graham-Cassidy can get passed into law – and it perhaps just might – then the next step would be to look at freeing up healthcare in America from the welter of self-serving regulations that keep competitors at bay. And maybe the state level is indeed the best place to attempt those types of innovations

​It seems we were all hasty, according to Byron York. In a cautionary tale, he gives a warning well worth listening to in his recent piece in The Washington Examiner. Despite the AP headlines about an imminent deal between the White House and Pelosi, Schumer & Aides Inc. it may be that the tweeting was hasty, as tweeting is wont to be.

Here’s the statement or note Pelosi passed to her Democrat colleagues in Congress the morning after the infamous dinner:

“We agreed to a plan to work out an agreement to protect our nation’s DREAMERS from deportation.”

Ok. So they agreed to a plan to work out an agreement. That’s at least 3 degrees of separation from an actual, bona fide, signed in soya sauce on a linen napkin agreement.

You agree. To a plan. To work out. An agreement. To protect. DREAMERS from deportation.

Pelosi, Schumer & Aides Inc. couldn’t have covered their alleyways any better. But neither AP, nor NeverTrump’ers, nor Angry Trump supporters, nor the rest of us, got that detail right. The point being that the suspicion that a deal with Democrats on anything on the part of the president, might be possible after the initial pivot is what triggered much of this reaction.

Here’s the thing. Trump doesn’t need to stop tweeting. That’s impossible. He needs to have someone helping him to get out in front with his tweeting. You do dinner with Nancy and Chuck, you have a few options on what you tweet. And you tweet before they do. Or you put up with their tweets. Rather than chase their tweets from behind, like a angry Top Gun chasing a Chinese surface to air missile, which is what President Trump was forced to do.

So after the big UN week in Manhattan. And after the speculation about whether UN Ambassador Haley is already gunning for Tillerson’s job at State. And after Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico and the island territory demands billions more in aid. After all that, we will still have the White House and Congress with a packed agenda this fall. And both sides of the aisle matter in whatever deals get done and whatever bills get passed. Even if it’s to ignore one side or the other on any specific issue.

President Trump needs to weaponize his tweeting impulses. No he hasn’t done that yet. They have been more like loose ordinance so far, causing smoke and debris to scatter around. He needs instead to target his tweets like well-aimed missiles, aimed straight at the narrative media groups like AP or Democrat Senators construct on a daily basis.

​It won’t be single-payer! It won’t be single-payer!

Sorry for shouting at Senator Sanders out here on the sidewalk. Here’s what I mean.

Like in the case of gay marriage or de facto open borders, the Democratic Party is shifting hard to the left on health care, and dragging some moderate or RINO Republicans with them.

Yes, this has to do with Bernie Sander’s surprisingly successful campaign, which ignited millennial interest and brought Scandinavian-style socialism to the doorstep of American politics in a way that previous hard left groups were unable to do. And attitudes are shifting. Whether attitudes are following or leading Sanders’ efforts to introduce single-payer health care in America is something that perhaps the wonks at 538.com can figure out.

But today we hear about Sanders’ plan. And here’s why it will never be truly single-payer.

To achieve single-payer it’s not Trump supporters whose corpses you will have to bulldoze out of the way. They tend to be open to entitlement goodies including government healthcare which in America mostly means Medicare.

It’s the wealthy and solidly upper middle class blue voters in places like NYC and San Francisco that will never, ever, ever give up their employer-based health insurance. To let go of a system that allows them a wealth of choices with regards to their daily health care needs and that their employer mostly foots the bill for, is asking far too much of righteous, well-paid lawyers, accountants, techies, and managerial level workers. They won’t do it, and people like Pelosi and Schumer know this perfectly well because they feel exactly the same way, because that’s also who they are.

So, if over the next few years single-payer becomes a real possibility, how do you preserve employer-based insurance and how the heck do you pay for single-payer? Goodbye corporate tax-cuts? Goodbye tax cuts period, is more like it.

And what model does America look to to consider ideas for Medicare-for-all-except-us-wealthy-liberals?

Here’s a suggestion that President Trump can use in his bargaining with Canada over the northern neighbor’s terms for a revamped NAFTA:

You want to preserve some form of NAFTA up in Canada, on which your wealth greatly depends? You get to send us a committee describing how your single-payer system works. Wait. Wait. Don’t smile. AND. We get to set up employer-based insurance policies for all of you (fairly) wealthy, liberal Canadians. Think of it this way:

Ivanka gets photo ops with their Prime Minister. Smiliing about her universal daycare policy with a rainbow of adorable little kids scattered around them on the White House lawn.

Jared gets photo ops with the CEO’s of Unitedhealth, Wellpoint Inc., Kaiser Foundation Group, Humana, and Aetna. In Ottawa. Smiling next to whoever is in charge of leading Canada’s brave new revamping of it’s creaking government healthcare system.

So Medicare for all can smooth Canadian feathers by asking for their wisdom on how to let government run health care. And American enterprise can uproot Canada’s government monopoly on healthcare and give Canadians something magical … choice of healthcare plans. All in exchange for preserving some form of NAFTA.

And Senator Sanders? He gets to work away in committees on the Hill, arguing over how much to raise taxes on wealthy liberals to pay for his scheme. Unfortunately those raised taxes won’t just be on wealthy liberals, will they?

​”It comes from a recognition that the country largely hates the GOP.”

Who said that and why?

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist and The Transom newsletter. Not a Democrat. Possibly populist leaning in some areas. Accused visciously by NeverTrumpers of being racist in the aftermath of Charlottesville because he said the same as what about 2/3’s of America thinks about pulling down statues across the country. And which he has been saying for years.

Just to be clear about who it is who wrote those words above.

Why those words? Because it seems that Trump Triangulation is a real – if uncertain – possibility. Yes, after his ambush of Ryan and McConnell on Wednesday, the president has the possibility of focusing on issues like infrastructure and trade and NOT on small government. And yes, the GOP is even lower in the polls than the president. Whether Trump has the discipline to triangulate between Democrats and moderate Republicans remains to be seen.

But it’s about more than discipline. Trump seems to need a policy framework. Bannon is gone and Jared and Ivanka are hardly going to provide him with a populist but centrist style of nationalism. And his increasingly establishment qua military White House is hardly the kind to provide him with a recognizable, independent view of America’s and the World’s political issues.

But the question is: does the lack of a consistent policy framework really matter? To his base, the president is a man of character – THEIR kind of character. They don’t need policy frameworks. They are more concerned about results. But the president needs more than his base and thus triangulation.

Here’s where a fascinating article in American Affairs written by Rob Ford’s ex Chief of Staff, G. Mark Towhey, is so relevant. Yes, THAT Rob Ford – Toronto’s ex-mayor.

Here’s the gist of it. A growing number of people are results oriented (a majority has arguably always been) and not ideologically oriented. Think of it this way:

Imagine on the x-axis (horizontal) of a graph you have ideology – to the left is the Left. To the right is … you, guessed it! The Right. Now look at the y-axis. Towards the top of the graph along that vertical line are the ideologically inclined. Towards the bottom of that line are the pragmatists. Now imagine all sorts of little dots scattered around all 4 quadrants of the graph. Upper Right Hand are Right Wing Ideologues. Lower Left Hand quadrant are Left Wing Pragmatists. I will assume you are more than capable of filling in the remaining two quadrants.

Now … draw a long elongated stretched-out circle at the bottom of the graph that gathers in tiny dots on a portion of the Left and much of the Right side, but both sides being pragmatists who want results in their daily lives and don’t give much thought to ideology. You’ve just corralled Trump’s base. Congratulations!

While we raise a storm about a few hundred fascist Neo Nazi’s in Virginia, the real Trump supporters are not about those sort of positions. Does anger at America’s changing and uncertain economic and social fabric matter to them? Of course it does. Are there a small, bigoted minority who want to use Trump to push their agenda? Of course there are. Should Trump have been a little clearer after Charlottesville (and I don’t mean about statues)? Of course he should have.

But if Trump can somehow expand that circle and stretch it out to the left (think of ex Obama voters who voted for him) by achieving measurable, concrete results (no he hasn’t done much yet thanks to Congress mostly; but yes there have been shifts due to executive orders undoing some of Obama’s orders) then triangulation could really work for Trump.

And Towhey’s model also explains the behavior of Trump-supporting evangelicals. They know full well of Trump’s behavior, but they feel his methods – his lack of politically correct hostility – will give them breathing room to live and worship as Christians in America. They are pragmatic when it comes to Trump in order to live as their faith prescribes. That is, they play the top and the bottom of the y-axis.

In other words, behind the theatrical tweets, the president might just prove much more of a centrist pragmatist than either Republicans or Democrats or most of the media give him credit for.

Oh yes. There’s Trump’s policy framework, by the way. A centrist pragmatist who uses populism to keep his base fired up. But who needs to triangulate to get things done. It’s about the y-axis stupid!

​Let’s say that climate alarmists are mostly right and that their meteorological models are reasonably accurate and that after Irma another huge storm hits the Gulf or East coast. So that 3 large storms hit the USA including Harvey in a matter of weeks.

Would the Senate use Irma and Benjy (the name of our theoretical third storm) as excuses to pass otherwise controversial or at least debatable legislation? Amost certainly yes.

Because that’s what they’re doing with Harvey. The Senate has just attached an increase to the debt ceiling to the House bill providing aid for Texas, an aid package that passed in days if not hours in the lower chamber. You want to provide an aid package for Harvey’s victims? Raise the debt limit please. It is thought that the amended bill will be approved anyway by House Republicans when it lands back on their front porch in a day or two.

But it doesn’t stop there. Democrats are insisting that action on DACA accompany any relief package for Texas. You can imagine the language:

The administration will tear these hard-working young Americans from their homes and dump them in countries they don’t know where life is hard and often dangerous!

Democrats can’t stop the aid package, but they sure can ride it for all it’s worth.

In other words an opportunity for avoiding debate on the debt ceiling increase in the case of Senate Republicans, or an oppotunity for provoking partisan name-calling rather than real constructive debate on the part of Democrats in both houses, is what a devastating storm has provided for them.

Now imagine that Congress gets to work – grumpily, divisively, and chaotically – on some sort of revised DACA that deals with these 800,000 young residents who were brought to the counrty illegally. Imagine Hurricaine Irma is as bad as the predictions are saying it will be and that, say, South Florida is hit as hard as Texas, with perhaps more lasting damage because … well they’re not quite Texas and they might not quite have the engineering in place to handle Irma. But then again, South Florida knows hurricanes like almost no other place in America.

More tragic photos. Young kids clinging to parents. Boats with grim looking first responders. Cuban Americans helping elderly retirees from say NYC. Stories of heroic efforts by young Americans who just happen to be DACA beneficiaries.

How does Senator Cotton shoehorn his RAISE Act into the DACA reform process now? He has to give way and live to fight another day, most likely. And that would hold – in this theoretical – for any modest enforcement of immigration law presented as a quid pro quo for giving DACA beneficiaries permanent residence.

Finally, imagine Huricane Benjy (our theoretical third storm) hits the mid-Atlantic seaboard during a mild spell in late October and the photos are of the Potomac overflowing and Trump fleeing in a helicopter to his golf course in New Jersey. Finally after a few days, he tours the still-wrecked Mar a Lago (thanks to Irma) and rambles about how:

A lot of good people … you should them, they’re just great. I mean they are so strong …. this is a disaster … we’re going to get together and solve this, they’re such good people. We have to fix this …

And the president – helped by Ivanka and Jared – proclaims climate change to be the greatest threat ever to mankind and promises a 2 trillion infrastructure bill to build dams, highways, bridges, and everything else under the sun.

And the bill passes both houses with LOTS of pork handed out across the land, as Time Magazine runs a cover of the president looking worried but almost statesmanlike with a title something like:

Trump Turns Against his Deniers.

Doesn’t it seem that Congress loves a good disaster? That every perceived or (in the case of Harvey and most likely Irma) very real disaster is an opportunity that can’t be left to waste. If you’ll forgive the metaphor if you’re shoveling out wet drywall from your home in Houston.

When you paint the world in apocalyptic terms – as climate change narratives tend to do – then a complete lack of deliberation is one consequence – whether untintended or intended. Suddenly we’re all Noah, and everyone’s got climate change religion and a monstrous mega-Ark made by the government is our only last living hope.

Yes, Congress loves a good disaster.

​Donna Carol Voss makes a good point in The Federalist. Sheriff Arpaio was about to go to be sentenced this coming October for defying a judge’s order that set limits on the Arizona police chiefs practice of sweeping up Latinos in traffic stop and searches. He was judged by most people on both sides of the aisle as having broken the law. Specifically for having ignored a judges ruling on what local police can do with respect to immigration law.

Joe Arpaio disagreed with the law, or the judge’s interpretation of the law (which is the same thing really) and refused to obey it. He was roundly condemned by many on both the left and the right.

Sanctuary City Police Departments in places like San Francisco and New Orleans, and Chicago, mandate clearly and specifically against any local police or other official assisting the enforcement of federal immigration law. Section 1373 of the U.S. Code states that local officials may not prohibit or restrict communication with federal immigration officials.

Sanctuary city officials disagree with the law, and they refuse to obey it.

Has anyone charged San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee?

Hardly, but there is talk in Washington DC – especially by AG Sessions – of trying to cut funding for policing for some sanctuary cities. But not even President Trump has as of yet (I think) openly spoken of trying to have, say, Rahm Emanuel charged. Or any of his staff or local police chiefs.

And if one uses the idea of devolving power back to the local and state level as a justification for sanctuary cities’ rejection of parts of the federal law they don’t like, then logically you could use that same reasoning to justify Joe Arpaio’s behavior.

Yes, some matters definitely should be moved closer to home, as it were. Taxation (high, low, any way a state sees fit) and healthcare seem to be candidates for devolution. But immigration?

Let workers and voters decide what state they want to live and work in based on that state’s taxes and healthcare system. But have them decide based on a state’s immigration system? Based on a city’s immigration system? That’s the de facto result of sanctuary cities. And the problem of how to move around inside America becomes a nightmare in an America where immigration policy is decided locally.

So while the left sees sanctuary cities as heroic, they are really just beneficiaries of unstated, rolling pardons. Whether by a President (Obama) or not (Trump).

​Is engineering a moral endeavour? Does good engineering require as a pre-condition, good morals? This may seem a rather odd question, but it is has been explicitly raised by some resignations from the National Infrastructure Advisory Council this past Monday. Eight of 28 members of the NIAC resigned, many of them former Obama appointees. Here’s what the letter said (in part):

“The moral infrastructure of our nation is the foundation on which our physical infrastructure is built”.

And this:

“Your actions have threatened the security of the homeland I(sic) took an oath to protect.”

The letter accused Trump of paying “insufficient attention” to the nation’s cyber vulnerabilities, and especially accused him of not supporting efforts to ensure that America’s electoral system is viewed as critical infrastructure. It also listed the president’s reaction to Charlottesville, and the administration’s withdrawing from the Paris Climate Deal.

What this letter does is shift our understanding of the term ‘infrastructure.’ Under this new, fairly radical view, policies that are not progressive (which nowadays means that you’re therefore a white supremacist, climate-change denier) will undermine the nation’s power grid, electoral systems, homeland security, and perhaps even damage America’s bridges and highways.

Is this true? Does infrastructure depend on morals? Specifically on currrent left wing views of economics, and society? And even science?

America’s transcontinental railroad was planned, legislated and had key construction goals achieved during and after the Civil War. And was completed as the Jim Crow system of apartheid was being put together.

Speaking of apartheid, the famous tourist attraction called the Blue Train that runs from Pretoria to Cape Town was built during the 70’s with much of the engineering done in-house because of growing restrictions and sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nelson Mandela sat in a cell while passengers enjoyed the apparently splendid scenery.

America’s highway system was initially conceived and built during the 50’s and 60’s when segregation was still in place, or civil rights were still being fought for in the South and elsewhere. And the satellite system that powers communications around the world, was intially a military response to the Soviet Union. And the interenet was a way to maintain to communications between various government departments and the military, in a post-nuclear attack America.

Various infrastucture projects were built with slave labor (real or indentured like Chinese laborers).

So you can get infrastructure done with violent, discriminatory policies in place. Should you get engineering done in conjunction with values that embrace tolerance and diversity? Hard to argue with that. But the resigning members of the NIAC seem to be saying that because they find President Trump’s morals objectionable, they cannot advise or participate in managing America’s infrastructure.

If you take their objections a step further so they fit with much of the hard left post-Charlottesville commentary it’s easy to take the next step and say:

You cannot participate in infrastructure projects if you’re a Republican, because that means you’re a Nazi. And then the final step (solution?) is to say:

You cannot govern if you’re a Republican. Say like in Mexico at the height of the PRI. Or Argentina in any one of it’s Peronista periods. Or even in Eastern Europe a generation ago. Or in modern communist China. If your views are not politically acceptable to us, you will not govern. So while Trump may use populism as a style, those who wish to use one-party state rule are in fact Trump’s most vocal opponents.

And that’s where they want to take things.

​In America Free Speech can be expensive. What the Founding Fathers rightly put in the First Amendment – freedom of expression – has changed in its details over the past two hundred odd years. But that doesn’t change the essential and vital necessity of their understanding of freedom of thought and expression contained in those 45 words.

So while media pundits and internet trolls rage over freedom of expression in events like Charlottesville, and while the ACLU flogs itself for defending the rights of white supremacists to march, there is another battle going on in Washington. This one is a little more under the radar, but it is fascinating and reveals the true workings of the separation of powers as envisioned and constructed by the framers of the constitution.

It’s about the Johnson Amendment – named after then Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson who proposed the amendment to the tax code. Essentially what the 1954 ruling does is force certain charitable organizations – including religious ones – to choose:

You can be tax-exempt. OR
You can engage in political speech.

But you can’t do both.

Last May, the president signed The Presidential Executive Order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty, which promises to fight for freedom of religious expression. In other words, clergy who promote or criticize political candidates or officials will not have their tax-exempt status removed by the IRS.

But an executive order is not a law, and the Johnson Amendment is. So the DOJ is caught between being asked not to enforce a law that many DOJ officials clearly agree with, and being asked to reveal how and who at the IRS threatened or slowed down the applications for tax-exempt status on the part of conservative organizations and charities. The DOJ is apparently a hotbed of progressive, Obama-appointed wonks, so no surprise that they’re slow-walking the IRS probe.

And taxes are with us through death. So no surprise there either. But think about this:

The IRS controls freedom from taxation. And freedom of political expression, or at least effective political expression. Because to be effective you need to reach people, and that means buying media time. And that is expensive.

Thanks to the Johnson Amendment, among other causes, the IRS controls your freedom of speech. That’s some powerful reach they have. Even more effective than terrorizing taxpayers by breaking down their doors at dawn.

So getting Congress to repeal the Johnson Amendment (unlikely to happen anytime soon unfortunately) isn’t just about allowing clergy to openly express political views and preferences for candidates and policies. It’s about deciding who has to pay for their free speech.

And it’s the progressives ensconced at DOJ that are the gatekeepers of this legislative and philosophical struggle.

​The Pacific Ocean is huge. Just go back in time and ask Magellan’s starving crew as they sailed across what he would call the “horrifying” length of the new sea they had discovered. And some 500 odd years later, it’s true that the shipping lanes in the Pacific are a touch busier. But it seems strange that 2 collisions involving U.S. warships, both part of the same fleet, have occurred within weeks of each other.

Almost the same type of accident occured to the USS McCain as to the USS Fitzgerald. Ok, there are details that are different, as former Navy official and maritime experts are hastening to state. But they are eerily similar and there have been almost 20 deaths of American sailors in horrifying conditions: trapped in flooded compartments as a result of the collisions, and then drowning to death.

Either the Pacific Fleet has a problem navigating (Yes, they should have been given right of way – get your destroyer out of the way and then you can settle the matter in marine court or wherever) or the navigating systems are unreliable. Or,

The systems could have been intentionally hacked. Or the cargo or container vessels could have even hd their systems hacked. Apparently there was indeed a problem with the USS McCain’s navigation system. And the Navy is not ruling out a possible hack.

Both ships have been invovled in operations close to, or in the South China Sea where America is in a naval stand off with Chinese military forces that are attempting to build a presence and claim this part of the Eastern Pacific as their own. And they seem to be succeeding.

These accidents just may be a tragic coincidence. Until the evidence suggests otherwise, we have to conclude just that. But what if there was a hack? What does the Navy do? Release the fact that it’s systems may have been hacked or that they defintely were? And then what? If it was proved to be China behind the hack, isn’t that an act of war?

And what does President Trump do then?

The problem isn’t really that President Trump has claimed that he dissolved the Manufacturing Council and The Policy and Strategy Forum, rather than the fact that the business leaders that until just a day or two ago made up its members, were resigning and were ready to fold it up. This is just another media gawk at a Trump induced dust-up with reasonably offended (and concerned about their brand in today’s red-hot climate) business executives. Another tiny scandal flowing from a much bigger problem involving Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville.

But the bigger problem in terms of business leaders is that the division, enmity and contempt merely within the conservative movement in America – and therefore the divisions between the White House and Congress, and within Congress and especially within the GOP itself – will make getting any meaningful legislation on tax reform and God forbid, healthcare, almost impossible.

And that sort of division and chaos will chip away at what is in fact a very solid economy, with strong job growth and growing consumer spending. Investment needs stability to be able to discount future profits in a predictable manner. And right now, it’s hard to predict much policy. If Congress had recently enacted a Reagan-style tax cut, and if some manageable reform, if not repeal, of the ACA had been signed into law, the economy could keep chugging along at a good clip despite the violence and division. But the chaos at the White House is starting to take a real toll now.

Is a recession around the corner? Not even close. There may not be a recession for a few years to come. But government spending and tax rates are a burden on America’s innovation and therefore it’s future. What can Congress do to bring some possibility for getting legislation passed when they come back to Washington? And if a debt-ceiling and budget crisis meet up with Federal Reserve rate hikes, then we have reasonable cause for concern. So what con Congress do when it gets back?

Mitch McConnell will still be and will remain Senate leader for some time. Trump’s complaints against him will likely strengthen his standing with his senate colleagues, who are the ones who will or would decide his future. Ryan should likely remain Speaker, but with the Senate unable to move on legislation he’s been handicapped badly.

The Supreme Court is now tipping towards a truly conservative court, but one can imagine Ginsburg or Kennedy delaying retirement given how they likely view this administration. And the Supreme Court is not about immediate policy concerns. It’s time frame is much longer.

Local governments can and are doing more, but in directly opposing ways that further divide America into self-selecting regions.

The roar around Charlottesville will lessen over the coming weeks, and the policies that America and Americans need to prosper will still be waiting to be implemented. But now they will have to fight against a narrative that says that not only are they the wrong policies – from a progressive, liberal economic perspective – but that they are also somehow evil policies. So if the GOP Congress thought it was tough to agree in June, wait till September comes.

Do you know what PMSC’s are? Private Military and Security Companies. Like Blackwater USA, which was sold by founder Erik Prince to an unnamed group of investors and is now called Academi. And while Blackwater was founded in the late 90’s, private armies have been around for ages, literally. But since the end of the Cold War they have played an increasing role in military conflicts around the world, sometimes providing logistics and support, sometimes providing more than just logistics.

In the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there were apparently over a quarter million private contracted security personnel in use by the Bush 43 administration. And now we have Erik Prince himself, talking up on CNN no less, a proposal to privatize much of America’s commitment in Afghanistan. That would include everything from a private air force of dozens of aircraft to logistics to embedded contractors working with local Afghani troops.

What does this mean?

Apparently it means big savings: $10 billion a year versus $50 billion a year according to the Pentagon’s annual budget for Afghanistan. But it also means something else: freeing up American forces who may very soon be needed on or near the Korean peninsula should war break out with the DPRK.

If you believe former counsel to the DOD (in the last year of the Obama administration) Laura Dickinson, a surge in private contractor personnel in Afghanistan brings legal risks. The International Criminal Court has a prosecutor looking into America’s role in Afghanistan, but this is more a nuisance than a grave concern given the instability present in various parts of the globe. Dickinson also worries about blowback to American military forces if private contractors get involved in another shootout like in 2007’s Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad. It’s a reasonable possibility given that chains of command in private security forces are not as clearcut as those in the military.

But that brings us to Erik Prince’s point from the CNN interview. There have been yearly rotations of not just troops but top command since 2002 in Afghanistan. As Ben Domenech writing in The Transom puts it:

Afghanistan is not one war over sixteen years for us. It is sixteen one-year wars.


That may be a little over the top, but it hits home with the point that there has not been a consistent or perhaps even continuous strategy for U.S. Forces in that troubled tribal land. And while Erik Prince talking about a viceroy may be a little too Kipling-like, the comment can also be taken as a call for a steady hand over many years in order to bring order to Afghanistan. So he makes his point, when compared to the failed set of scrabbled policies America’s forces have pursued up to now in Afghanistan.

The problem with all this is that American foreign policy is prey to partisan politics. And thus subject to sudden policy twists and turns. How well will this play? How will this poll? Annoying perhaps, but in a democracy civilians run the military. Not vice versa. And beyond that, voters are weary of this long-running seemingly endless war, with no end in sight. Just as another war may be just over the horizon. Can Prince – who has close ties to Trump’s administration – convince enough Americans of his grand scheme for Afghanistan?

Reunification is such a beautiful concept, shimmering like a vision in front of the minds’ eyes of academics and diplomats. No, not reunification of South Asia, where partition in the 40’s led to the terrorist-sponsoring state of Pakistan and the flotsam of Bangladesh, two thorns in the side of the world’s largest – if flawed – democracy, India.

Rather reunification of the Korean peninsula, where a war in the legal sense was never fought. Where a “police” action caused American soldiers to endure some of the most brutal enemy attacks they had seen, as bad as what the Japanese did to Allied prisoners in The Philippines. Where a nearly 70 year stalemate has persisted, with the already brutal North Korean regime (just ask any vets that were captured by the North Koreans – assuming they survived) still in place: a Stalinist terror regime with the characteristics of a Latin American tinpot dictatorship from years gone by.

And this regime is led by a trio of crazed family members: grandpa Kim Il-Sung, daddy Kim Jon-il, and grandson Kim Jong-un. Each one crazier than the last as the decaying corruption of absolute power has turned the third generation leader into a true psychopath unconstrained by any of the tactical or strategic considerations that his father and grandfather apparently displayed at least a little of; this regime is the one that diplomacy will work it’s steady persuasive magic on.

Just ask Robert Gallucci, who is calling President’s Trump’s tough words crazed and irresponsible. Who negotiated the 1994 agreement that apparently froze the DPRK’s nuclear program for up to a decade. Who worked alongside Jimmy Carter on this deal on behalf of the Clinton administration. And who – at the George W. Bush Center’s website – says this:

The result is a call to action for governments, the private sector, and civil society, to work together to improve the human condition in North Korea … We advocate for a new U.S. policy that integrates the call for human freedom with denuclearization in our engagement and diplomacy with North Korea.
__
In other words, diplomats, wonks, trade, and ONG’s are going to solve the North Korean stalemate and standoff. Just like Germany. Like the Berlin Wall crumbling from within East Germany. Freedom rising up in the DPRK.

The problem is how do you negotiate with a madman and with one of the most brutal, crazed regimes the world has ever seen? And not only that, in an article in The Cipher Brief, Mike Chinoy – of long-lasting Asian correspondent fame – emphasizes how America must be careful not to annoy China and how China has its own set of interests which run against a reunified Korean Peninsula. And in a telling moment, Chinoy lets slip this phrase:

… the logic of boosting deterrence is clear. But that will do little to prevent the North from continuing to develop its nuclear and missle capabilities, which, even if not used in conflict, will give Kim Jong-un new leverage to apply in his ongoing contest with the capitalist South, and his long-standing hostile relationship with Japan.

The capitalist South?? He forgot to add “running dog”. Mike Chinoy has spent a little too much time surfing the bowels of Asian communist regimes it seems. He and Gallucci and the conventional wisdom of the policy wonks on North Korea can be summed up by Chinoy’s quote at the end of his piece in The Cipher:

Contrary to much of the conventional wisdom, Kim Jong-un is not crazy. He is a ruthless, cold-eyed dictator with a clear idea of what he is doing. The danger in the current situation is that he – like the rest of the world – cannot be clear what the Trump administration is aiming to achieve.
__
There you have it. Kim Jong-un is not crazy. President Trump is. This is what much of the foreign policy establishment truly believe. Like Stalin’s admirers who refused to see him for what he was: a psychopath. Maybe it’s time for exactly someone like Trump to shake up the foreign policy establishment’s cherished shibboleths and actually solve the Korean stand off. That doesn’t mean that conflict won’t be bloody. Nor does it mean that conflict is unavoidable. It means that a new approach is clearly needed, if Korea is actually to be solved by defeating the North rather than cozying up to it’s crazed, “cold-eyed” leader. And his soon to be ready nuclear missiles.

One can assume that the National Security Council had so-called kill lists long before the Obama administration formalized the process with the unnervingly named Disposition Matrix. What exact process within this Disposition Matrix gets someone on a kill list is not made public for very understandable security reasons, but apparently John Brennan had a lot to do with it. And yes, it’s supposed to unnerve people. That’s the whole point.

In view of the fairly recently developed Disposition Matrix – it was put together in 2010 – it is more than interesting that the apparent blood letting going on at the NSC has more than a little to do with an enemies list. But in this case the list in question has to do with the Trump administration’s enemies and not America’s most wanted enemies.

The battle is between General McMaster and Steve Bannon and by extension Bannon’s side seems to include General Flynn’s recently removed allies at the NSC as well. And the battle has heated up greatly in the past week with a series of articles out to damage McMaster, with a few asides aimed at General Mattis at DOD thrown in for good measure. And the battle is rumored to have started – if you believe the Daily Beast – over a disagreement over this list of internal enemies or Obama administration holdovers who were or are fundamentally hostile to much of Trump’s policies in places like Iran and Afghanistan and Syria, for example.

Bannon’s side wanted as many of these supposed political enemies fired as possible. McMaster has resisted and prevailed, so the narrative being leaked out by the bucketful at sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart, claims. But wait, it gets much better. Breitbart has now claimed that McMaster was essentially on Soros’ payroll as a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) where he worked as a world leading authority on “global security, political risk, and military conflict.” The Ploughshares Fund seems to be a donor to the IISS, and Ploughshares is funded by Soros’ Open Society.

Hence, according to Breitbart, McMaster shares the views of Plougshares and is therefore anti-Israel and pro-Iran Deal. Maybe. Maybe not. President Trump has pushed back and expressed his support for McMaster, but one has to ask if Trump was truly wedded to his earlier views on the Iran Deal, or if his disinterest in policy detail means he is fine with McMaster’s purges of former Flynn aides at the NSC. And fine with a less disruptive Middle East policy than many of his voters had been expecting of the president’s new administration.

Will Chief of Staff Kelly put the dampers on this simmering feud? And how will he do it? Will Bannon once again be seen as heading for the exits? And if he does actually go, does he take much of Trump’s America First foreign policies with him? And leave it in the hands of the generals?

John Marini is professor of political science at The University of Nevada-Reno. He worries about Hegel and Bismarck, as it applies to America’s administrative state. Tom Nichols is a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. He worries about our current admiration for martial virtue as a bulwark against civilian instability, specifically regarding the cheers – by many of us – at John Kelly’s appointment as White House Chief of Staff. Between the two of them, one can see the outlines of what may be an emerging set of trends in America that may be cause for concern.

In Real Clear Politics, Marini talks about the emergence of the administrative state in America, as a consequence of Hegel’s belief back in Bismark’s Germany, that progress is rational and the result of the “cultivation of knowledge” as Hegel put it. In other words the state must become a huge corps of unelected bureaucrats and supposed experts that handle the details of much of the regulations that nowadays affect voters’ daily lives. Never mind natural rights on which the framers based the constitution. Never mind human nature as Aristotle and the Greeks did. It’s all about experts in their specific area of knowledge. So, we now have a Congress which has assumed a powerful but strangely unaccountable role as members of the House and Senate distance themselves from the nuts and bolts of policy making and act as “co-administrators in various parts of the apparatus.”

That means that Congress no longer really acts as a deliberative body. You want to know the details on how the ACA actually works and why the GOP Congress has been unable to repeal and replace? Talk to the federal and even state bureaucrats. That’s where the power increasingly is.

But it gets worse if you consider this. In Hegel’s and progressives’ vision, including current day liberals and progressives, the administrative state is politically neutral, managing and accumulating knowledge and guiding us poor uninformed deplorables upwards and onwards towards a socially just society where bathrooms are gender neutral and where identity politics is an ever expanding great blob crushing all who attempt to oppose it’s steady slimy creeping progress.

In other words, what happens when one realizes that this administrative state has never been neutral? When an overwhelming percentage of bureaucrats vote Democrat? You now have something approaching a one party state. Like in Eastern Europe a generation ago. For example. And the fact that cultural neo-marxism underlies much of the tenets of current day progressivism makes this outcome frighteningly inexorable.

Tom Nichols, on the other hand, is worried about a sort of soft praetorians, the preponderance of generals in President Trump’s cabinet, who are admired, even by some progressive commentators, for their martial virtue. And who, it is hoped, will bring some discipline to the White House. This crosses a red line marking the boundary between civilian spheres of action and military ones, according to Nichols. His concern, as he admits, may be exaggerated; from Eisenhower to Haig, to Scowcroft, Powell, Shineski, etc. there have been military men in politics for much of America’s history. But the concern is because of Trump’s indiscipline and Trump’s apparent respect for military men, to the exclusion of everyone else.

Here’s a thought: what if these two trends – a powerful politically partisan progressive administrative state, and a increasingly politicized military whose martial virtue is seen as a saving grace in an age of decaying morals – combine to share much of the power normally vested in Congress, The Executive, and The Judiciary in America? Even though right now, martial virtue – at least in Trump’s White House, leaving aside the intel community – seems to be on opposite sides to the administrative state. But what if they join sides? And what if that inevitably leads to the very corruption of martial virtue by the de facto one party administrative state?

That’s a very grim picture and one that seems a little too dramatic and dystopian to ever really come true. But it sure gives pause for thought, and makes one think of civics – as in family values and local grassroots organizations – as something we can scarcely afford to lose.

You can’t cut spending.

You can’t cut spending. Got that? Now go crazy on tax reform. You can call it tax cuts if you want. And maybe a few targeted taxes will actually get cut. As long as it’s revenue-neutral. Which means as long as it doesn’t add to the deficit. Which means that you have to raise taxes elsewhere to balance the tax cuts that are being promised. And without the Obamacare repeal lowering the revenue baseline, by eliminating some of the tax revenue, you have much less room to play with.

Why?

Because you can’t cut spending. To do that you’d be outside the safe zone of reconciliation, and that means wading into filibuster creek which can get quite deep and filled with … stuff. Which is exactly where the Democrats would love to put the GOP Congress: waist-deep in sludgy accusations of pandering to the wealthy. As that economic genius – Senator Wyden of Oregon – puts it:

We need sustainable, comprehensive, tax reform. Not a massive tax cut for the wealthy.

Well said Ron! Bravo! Because America has ridiculously low tax rates right now, especially for high-income earners. Oops, maybe not. Yes, the total burden of taxes in America, according to the Tax Policy Center, is about 26% of GDP. Which is fairly low relative to other OECD countries. But … that overall tax is mostly made up of taxes on income and profits, which at 48% (of income and profits not total GDP) is really, really high. Only Scandinavian countries and Australia are as high or higher.

Not good.

The world’s most innovate economy has come to the point where it is punishing income and profits, which tend to be the reward for hard work and smart work, and smart investing. And innovation underlies all of that. But any tax cut given current Congressional rules has to be revenue neutral. Which means more money has to be raised elsewhere.

Reagan would never have been able to put in place the tax cuts he did under these sorts of rules. Because Democrats today would never, ever agree to any spending cuts. Um, and a lot of Republicans are in the same boat. The ACA repeal failed in large part because of moderate GOP worries about curtailing the rate of growth of Medicare. Never mind actually cutting back on an entitlement. Because healthcare is being seen as a right, not as insurance for a costly, complex service.

So, if you want to cut spending and increase the deficit, you risk the filibuster. Could you cut spending, and cut taxes? Maybe? Please? No one is talking about cutting spending at this point. So one has to assume it’s off the table. You can’t cut spending.

Of course, one could also raise the goods and services taxes – the hated sales taxes – and cut the income taxes and taxes on profits. Reward innovation. Punish consumption. But careful, when consumer spending is something like 2/3’s of America’s GDP raising sales taxes is something most governors and senators would be dead set against. Ok, maybe not in California.

So as we move from the GOP blaming each other for the collapse – but not quite dead yet apparently – of the Repeal and Replace efforts, and on to tax cuts, one can’t be blamed for feeling cautious and not very optimistic that the GOP will be able to do any sort of meaningful reform of America’s tax code. It’s show me time for the GOP.

Because they’re not talking about tax cuts. What they’re talking about is tax shuffles.

Who is Imran Awan? A former (he was employed up until Tuesday by Wasserman Schultz) IT employee of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and previously several other Democrat members of congress, who is now released under “high-intensity” supervision (involving curfew and a restriction on his ability to travel and including a GPS monitor he has to use). All this after he was detained at Dulles trying to flee the country on Tuesday.

But Awan has been in the FBI’s sights for some time now, for bank fraud. Last January he wired $283,000 to two individuals in Pakistan. These funds were apparently obtained from a fraudulent loan from the Congressional Federal Credit Union meant for a principal residence but used to purchases a rental property. The question is: where else might those $283,000 come from? Awan and other family members worked at inflated salaries for several Democrat members of congress, including Wasserman Schultz, since 2004-2005. Were these funds the result of overbilling? Were they the result of theft of IT equipment that Awan is accused of, involving the offices of members of Congress that he worked for as an IT consultant? Are they the fruits of a series of scams he seems to have been running?

What the heck is going on here?

Consider this: Wasserman Schultz threatened Capitol police in late May for not returning a laptop and perhaps other computer equipment that are clearly part of the investigation. Why? What does she not want investigators to find on that laptop and other devices? Why was Awan, who has been the target of the fraud investigation since at least early this year and whose wife fled with their children to Pakistan back in March, still employed by Wasserman Schultz until just this Tuesday morning when they finally fired him??

It is interesting to note that Awan had access to certain members of Congress’ email lists and even files stored on staffers’ computers. Is there blackmail involved here?

And who the heck in Pakistan received those funds? A quarter million dollars (plus 33 thousand just to top it off) goes a along way in Islamabad, for example. Is this just plain old fraud by a smooth-talking operator? Or is there more involved, given that Wasserman Schultz has kept him on the payroll until just a day or two ago?

Yes, Trump’s announcement of cancelling Ash Carter’s policy of beginning to officially accept transgendered military personnel will suck up a lot of oxygen over the next few days. And the Senate’s attempt at passing a skinny health care bill that will serve as the basis for conference with the House, is also key. But Awan’s and Wasserman Schultz’s story is one that should be receiving more media attention. Who knows where it will lead?

Never mind Anthony Scaramucci’s fairly successful transition to White House Communications Director. Never mind Spicer’s abrupt resignation. Never mind the White House’s communication team, period. They’re not the real players as far as the news cycle – especially the Russia story – goes.

It’s at communications shops like Fusion GPS with it’s co-founder Glenn Simpson, where most of the news nowadays gets manufactured.

In a fascinating piece in Tablet Magazine, The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith details the fall of mainstream journalism (not mainstream media mind you; business is booming right now) and the rise of opposition research, epitomized by Fusion GPS. Journalism has always depended in part, and sometimes in large part, on access to important government officials. How big is your source? they ask over drinks – assuming they have the time for happy hour – in D.C. And Fusion GPS, founded in 2009 by several ex-WSJ writers with reputations as very competent professionals flipped the equation they’d been laboring under as well-paid reporters at WSJ and elsewhere. As Lee Smith puts it:

Fusion GPS is the story of a few journalists who decided to stop being suckers. They’re not buyers of information, they’re sellers.

That’s because most people get far more of their news from Facebook, and news organizations apparently don’t have the budget to staff the newsrooms with experienced veteran reporters. That has meant that communications shops and opposition research groups are now the newsrooms. And it’s they who manufacture and sell narratives to journalists with little experience, eager to have and to jealously protect a hot source. Those folks of whom Ben Rhodes famously said: they literally know nothing.

And Fusion GPS sits at the intersection of this new news-making network of communications firms and opposition research groups. They have been part of some of the main stories of the last several years:

  • Mitt Romney’s donors and the supposed scandal over them in the 2012 campaign
  • Panned Parenthood’s pushback after the videos were released that showed them in a rather horrifying light.
  • They have been hired to look into the affairs of Carlos Slim – The Mexican billionaire who even owns a piece of the NYT
  • The Russia probe that may bring down a president
  • And they even played the opposite side of this game by working with Natallia Velenitskaya’s project to help repeal the Magnitsky Act.

Which means they helped produce a story that makes Trump look like a Manchurian candidate owned by Putin, and at the same time they helped people with links to Putin to try and overturn a piece of legislation that Putin himself detests. That’s uncomfortably close to being both prosecutor and defense lawyer and getting paid for both roles. Nice work if you can get it. As Lee Smith writes:

The Trump-Russia story has been frequently likened to Watergate, a specious comparison since the latter started with evidence of a crime and the former with publication of an anthology of fables, pornography, and Russian-sourced disinformation put together and distributed by partisan political operatives. The salient comparison is rather in the effect – it has the same feel as Watergate. And it’s taking up the same space as Watergate – and that’s because comms shops-for-hire like Fusion GPS have assumed the role that the American press used to occupy.

It’s Private Label Rights that America’s news organizations happily buy into. Literally.

Jeff Sessions might tough it out as AG, despite receiving fire from all sides:

  • The left, especially the radical Southern Poverty Law Center, decry his supposed racism based on a biased interpretation of a decades-old comment that more than likely was innocent than revealing of any true prejudice. There’s also a rather silly and yes somewhat untactful joke about the KKK and weed, attributed to Sessions as well.
  • Limited government conservatives and libertarians (which should mean the same thing but doesn’t) are up in arms about Sessions apparent move to increase the power of civil forfeiture by local authorities, meaning that search and seizure will become even more unreasonable if Sessions gets his way on this one. The 4th amendment may very well be at stake here.
  • Experts on drug policy disagree strongly with his revoking the easing of minimum sentencing guidelines for first time offenders, and his jail-em-all policy preferences on any drug offenses.
  • And … President Trump is still really mad at Sessions for the AG’s recusal, which gave Deputy AG Rosenstein the reins, which led to Special Counsel Mueller. And Trump, of course, publicly dissed his AG for this in a recent interview with the NYTimes.

Will Sessions finally resign? Will he join Spicer as a former Trump official? An AG is much much more than a spokesman, and it is a key position given the FBI’s investigation and the Russia probes in general. One in which process is godly, and in which the independence of the DOJ is a sacred torch. At least according to anonymous, partisan, leak-prone DOJ officials.

But how much will the drama at DOJ matter? A lot? Yes and if Sessions does quit, it will cause a media storm filled with sturm und Drang. A passionate cry to the heavens about how America is drifting, divided and crumbling!

Maybe. And it will make for lots and lots of hysterical headlines.

But a more rational event is happening over at Microsoft. In a fascinating piece in The Daily Beast, (yes that hysterically anti-Trump webrag), Kevin Poulsen outlines Microsoft’s strategy against Fancy Bear, the notorious Russian hacking group with probable links to Russian intelligence and the Putin regime. And it’s both targeted, nerdy, and effective. Here’s how the Seattle Behemoth is fighting against Russian hacking:

To do the dirty work of stealing documents and hacking emails, the malware used by Fancy Bear needs command-and-control servers that provide encrypted commands to the malware sitting on your laptop, or wherever. The servers – rented from providers around the world – are the spymasters if you will that give the instructions and receive the stolen documents. So what Microsoft’s teams of lawyers are doing is going to court to gain control of the domain names that route to the command-and-control servers. Domain names like: livemicrosoft[.]net or rsshotmail[.]com. They then divert traffic from the Russian servers to Microsofts own servers, cutting off the chain of communications that provide the backbone for these malware attacks.

Not only that, Microsoft has run algorithms that predict likely new domain names that Fancy Bear operators might try next. And go to court to ensure that they are under Microsoft’s name. Thousands of them.

So who needs the DOJ or the Russia Probes? Just let a team of Microsoft lawyers convince a few judges to let them have control over domain names that are being maliciously used by bad actors to harm America.

Imagine. It’s January, 2025 and the President names his or her Deputy AG for Net Security: a former Microsoft programmer, who picked up a law degree in his spare time while working on the Fancy Bear project. It might not happen in 2024, but the way Washington is sinking into deep, partisan, swampy, quicksand, that moment is indeed coming. Just a matter of when.

What a shock. It looks like the Better Care Reconciliation Act, or BCRA, is about to be buried, along with the AHCA. Senator Mike Lee was signalling skepticism, and he has now come out against it. And so has Senatory Jerry Moran of Kansas. Both GOP of course. What Moran said was interesting:

… if we leave the federal government in control of everyday health care decisions, it is more likely that our health care system will devolve into a single-payer system, which would require a massive federal spending increase.

Interesting because it may be that Senators Moran, Lee, Collins, and Rand and their no votes may help pave the way for that single-payer system to become reality. May, but we can’t really say for sure. That’s because either Obamacare remains in place largely untouched because GOP conservatives and moderates are far too apart on the complex trade-offs.

Or – as Senator Moran seems to be suggesting and which may be the only alternative to Obamacare that is feasible – we will have a significant devolution of power back to the states as far as health care policy goes. Something that will take years of litigation that will end up – on multiple occasions more than likely – in the Supreme Court. And which will mean that health care will be provided in very different ways in Texas, for example, compared to California. For example.

Actually, it’s not really the trade-offs that are that complex. It’s the endless policy iterations that are used to mask subsidies and taxes under complex legal language. Because the trade-offs boil down to that cliched but still-true trinity of what is achievable under America’s (and any) health care system. There are three basic truths:

  • You can lower/raise premiums
  • You can raise/lower deductibles (that is lower/raise the amount you pay out of pocket)
  • You can raise/lower taxes/subsidies

And you get to choose two out of those three. Doing all three is impossible. Yes you could keep taxes constant and increase the deficit with more government subsidized care and lower premiums. But even there you run up against fiscal constraints built into the budget process.

Right now, polling suggests that a clear majority of Americans do not want a market based health care insurance system. The voters themselves basically hate the BCRA. And Senators will now feel even less obliged to risk their re-election prospects by voting yes, now that Collins, Rand, Lee, & Moran have come out against it. Voters are also mad at the higher Obamacare premiums that are the inevitable result of adverse selection: healthy younger voters staying away, and older sicker voters buying in to the ACA. And of course insurance companies are going broke under Obamacare’s rules and mandates.

That’s not sustainable. You either repeal and replace the ACA, or at least dramatically reform it. But reforming Obamacare is running into resistance from hospital groups and insurers – the former because the hospital business is booming thanks to the ACA, the latter because of the subsidies the insurance industry receives under Obamacare. So even a reasonable but modest reform is impossible apparently. Or you increase government involvement: more taxes more regulations, more direct federal involvement in how your health care is provided.

That means only one thing. Repeal and replace will likely fail. Obamacare will continue it’s zombie existence and it will be saved by the only way that a health care zombie plan can be saved.

A government take over of healthcare in a process that will effectively become a single-payer system over the coming years. The only place left to fight it seems to be at the state level. Would a president Kamala Harris (don’t laugh … don’t laugh!) hesitate to send in troops in 2025 to quell an unruly state who tried to provide health care in a more free market way? Or more likely, cut off all federal funding to said state(s)?

Maybe this theoretical, will remain just that, a silly theoretical. But we are now one step closer to that possibility.

There is a way around so-called whataboutism. The pointing out of similar sins committed by Democrats as a response to charges that Trump’s team may have colluded with Russia. A charge that is far more weighty now than it was a week or two ago.

And that way is to ensure that any and all actors involved on both – or all – sides of the 2016 campaign are compelled to testify before Mueller’s team or either of the two Senate investigations, or the House investigation. That will mean a significant number of key players from Trump’s campaign team. Some are even suggesting that Brad Parscale and even the Mercers should be questioned.

That is ridiculous by any standard. The Mercers did indeed fund – mostly through PAC’s – much of Cambridge Analytica’s data mining work for Ted Cruz and even Ben Carson, before the firm began doing work for the Trump campaign during the summer of 2016. To suggest that the Mercer’s are suddenly persons of interest – as some but only some have suggested – shows how partisan the Russia probes can still be.

Unfortunately if any one of the committees decide to compel the Mercers to testify, then they will have to. That’s what happens when investigations reach a certain mass, and when there appears to be evidence of attempts at some sort of collusion with Russian actors.

So we now have the media looking for and leaking information on who might somehow be involved in any aspect of any relationship that may have taken place between any possible Russian actor and anyone at all related to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Fair enough. Which means Glenn Simpson, Fusion GPS’s co-founder should be compelled to do what he is apparently refusing to volunteer to do. Appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next July 19. Let’s not forget about Fusion GPS and their role in the Trump Dossier, which was another brazen attempt at Russian interference in the election and in the post-election period as well. Let’s hope that the various committees, and especially Mueller’s team are methodical and bi-partisan enough to call Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson and whoever else might be involved with the Trump Dossier.

Which brings up an interesting point. When the Trump Dossier and Fusion GPS were first becoming publicly known news stories, there was a brief news item about how Fusion GPS was initially hired by GOP opponents of Trump. Actually, the news item was more specific than that. They named Senator John McCain as possibly one of the first to hire Fusion GPS, whose shoddy and almost certainly manipulated information – manipulated by Russian intel most likely – was then passed on to Democrats and was perhaps used by the FBI as a reason to open their probe, sometime in 2016, or perhaps earlier.

Or did Senator McCain merely pass the Dossier to the FBI this past January and also perhaps help leak it? The media occasionally mentions that the dossier started out as GOP opposition research, but they don’t get specific on who the GOP opposition was who initially contracted GSP Fusion. Senator McCain would certainly have had a motivation or two to dig up dirt on Trump.

Investigate it all. Methodically and thoroughly.

The hacks on the DNC server – and the server itself should be investigated by Mueller’s team and not remain in the DNC headquarters. The hacks of Podesta’s emails. Hillary’s homebrew server. And absolutely any and everything relevant to anything that Trump’s campaign may have done with regard to Russia. All of it needs to be investigated. Not to excuse anybody, but to bring political, and if necessary legal, judgement to bear on the 2016 campaign.

So get used to learning to pronounce Russian names like Natalia Veselnitskaya (break it up into syllables, that makes it easier to get your tongue around it) the Russian attorney whose main purpose was and maybe even still is to get the Magnitsky Act (sanctions levied against Russia due to a brutal prison killing of a whistleblower in Moscow) repealed. And who was the main bait in the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. Or Rinat Akhmetshin, the former Soviet intel officer/possible spy who was also at that meeting. Or Aleksej Gubarev, an internet entrepreneur who works out of Cyprus, and who was accused of running a spy operation on the DNC by Christopher Steele in the dossier. And who is suing in the U.S. and the U.K. for damages.

Right now, any Russian name remotely related to the investigations will do. Get used to it.