I haven’t written in a while, which isn’t because there isn’t much going on, but is mostly because I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to contribute here, and because I’ve had bits to say here and there, but not really complete thoughts on much. Just to keep the juices flowing, and be sure this exercise of mine doesn’t dry up, I figured I’d get some of these partial thoughts written out in this grab bag of topics.
The Mueller investigation continues. There was a whirlwind of activity that was fueled by democrats expressing worry that Trump was on the verge of firing Mueller. This was mostly based on them reporting rumors they had heard (or were making up), but also based on the House Judiciary Committee meeting and the questioning of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the man who appointed Mueller in the first place. At the heart of the questioning was concern because an FBA agent, Peter Strzok, was fired for exchanging anti-Trump texts with a colleague. Strzok was working on Mueller’s team, and was removed when this information was discovered. This dominated the hearing, and prompted calls for Rosenstein to fire Mueller, and appoint a new Special Counsel to investigate the investigation. The theater is interesting, but it’s lunacy. Of course people have opinions for or against Trump or Obama or Clinton, but that does not mean they can’t do their jobs. In this case, Mueller felt that the agent was not doing his job, and removed him, which is what is supposed to happen. The idea that this taints the entire investigation is absurd. It’s actually how practically all criminal investigations operate. These are not scientific endeavors, in which the investigators are trying to prove their case is wrong, and accepting it only when they fail to do so. Criminal investigations are based on the premise of guilt, and attempt to collect evidence to support that guilt. I don’t know why anybody is surprised by this, and it’s a bit crazy to me that anybody wouldn’t want this matter thoroughly investigated (anybody who isn’t the target of the investigation, that is). Of course, I may seem a bit hypocritical here, because I thought the Benghazi investigations were a waste of money, but I didn’t feel that way about the first, maybe even the second, of the Benghazi investigations, but after the investigations were complete, and found no wrongdoing, it seemed silly to conduct more and more and more. Here, we haven’t even finished one investigation, so it seems a bit premature to say it’s anything close to Benghazi.
Things are getting interesting though, and some of the names that came up in an earlier post are getting some attention. It still seems like Felix Sater is one to watch, but we may never know (the page at the link hasn’t been updated, as of today, but I still hope to go through and add/edit stuff in that series of posts as needed).
I have continued to find strength in the body autonomy argument I’ve been calling on when the abortion discussion comes up. I have found myself becoming more and more anti-abortion, but more and more certain that making abortion illegal (even late-stage abortion) is the wrong and inconsistent approach. My opposition to abortion doesn’t come from a place of concern for the unborn. I still do not see the unborn as a person, with the rights of a person, but my opposition comes from the awful anguish that I see in people who do feel it’s a person, an adorable little baby, that is being killed. As I’ve written about before, I can’t even begin to imagine how awful my view of the world would be if I felt that way. My empathy for people in that situation is plenty to make me anti-abortion. But that doesn’t change that our policy has been, for a long time, that people cannot be forced to use their bodies to sustain another’s without consent. The biggest challenge I’ve gotten to this is that abortion isn’t just the withholding of care, but is the active termination of a life (if you see it that way). That is, indeed, quite different from letting somebody die because I won’t give them my kidney. It is the question about which is worse, watching somebody drown and doing nothing, or holding them under water. I’m not totally sure how to respond to that one, or if it weakens my argument, but it is fair to point out that we do punish passive allowance of death in some cases that we call negligent manslaughter/homicide. But we never punish people who could have donated a kidney, or even force donation of organs after death, without consent of the donor. So, if allowing somebody to drown can be punishable, like drowning them, and failing to save somebody by organ donation is not punishable, then it follows that failing to save somebody by actively removing them from the womb should be consistent with failing to save them by donation. Maybe. These are not easy questions, and reducing or even ending abortion, without making it illegal, is a way to solve it, for everybody.
The republicans managed to pass their tax cuts. The House bill was pretty awful (it did some very unpopular things, like removing the deduction teachers can take for school supplies they buy with their own money, and making graduate tuition waivers a taxable benefit). The Senate bill was less awful, but still lowered taxes, especially on corporations, at a time when the corporations are doing very well, and really don’t need any help. The final conference report is much more like the Senate bill, but is likely to pass both the House and Senate later this week. From my perspective, this is not sound fiscal policy, but I’m finding myself a bit relieved because it’s not the cultural shift, and heavy burden on some people, that was prescribed by the House version. Part of this is the success (or failure, depending on perspective) of the inaccurate portrayal of the economy by the republicans. This was mostly politics. They couldn’t admit that the expansion under Obama was strong. Certainly not a boom, but steady and consistent increases year after year. Historical stretch of increased jobs, stock market gains, corporate earnings, etc. Things were pretty good, and you can’t run against an incumbent party on a platform of things are pretty good. So then they’re stuck. Pretend things suck, and you’re left with no choice but to fix things that aren’t broken. And that’s how we get the tax bill. That’s how we get a huge reduction in corporate tax rates, for corporations that have hoarded cash. A reduction in corporate tax rates for corporations with record earnings and record stock prices (I like to separate the stock prices from the health of the corporation, because plenty of companies have high stock prices without actually making any money).
I’m finding it hard to be outraged by the seemingly inevitable tax law, because it feels like run-of-the-mill republicanism. That’s not something that I would choose, but it’s not outrageous like the creeping fascism I see in other aspects of the Trump administration.
There’s one point that bothers me from a procedural point of view: it seems like there should be some limits on what what a conference committee can and cannot do. If, for instance, there’s a provision in a House bill that puts some level of funding at $200 billion, and a Senate bill that puts the level of funding at $300 billion, the conference committee should have to pick a number in that range. The House bill kept the top marginal rate at 39.6%, and the Senate bill reduced it to 38.5%, but the compromise bill drops it to 37%. That’s not a compromise. It’s a whole new number. That seems like an odd thing, but I’m not a congressional parliamentarian, and that stuff may be normal, and just seem strange to me. Either way, it looks like tax changes are on the way, but we’ll know more in the next week.