The erosion of the rule of law

“Impartiality is anathema to Trumpism. That the Trump administration wants to upend a long-standing system for assuring both the reality and appearance of fairness in agency adjudication may be shocking. But it is not surprising. If you consider yourself on block watch for threats to democracy, take your eyes for a moment off the president’s Twitter feed and turn your attention to administrative law. Danger is lurking amid the complexity.”

The president?s administration is attempting to bring thousands of federal employees under his control, and the public is largely unaware.

We desperately need healthcare reform

Nicholas Kristof in the NYT: “Democrats’ internecine battle over so-called Medicare for all is largely irrelevant, because the plan won’t get through Congress. What’s imperative is simply achieving universal medical and dental coverage, either by a single-payer system (like Britain’s) or a multipayer system (like Germany’s); both work fine. What matters is the universal part.

“In some ways, America’s health care is outstanding. Specialized anti-cancer treatments are saving lives. But over all our system has two fundamental flaws.

“First, outcomes are mediocre and inequitable. Rich Americans live 20 years longer than poor Americans, and low-income American men have approximately the longevity of men living in Sudan. …

“The second fundamental problem with our health care system is that it delivers these second-rate outcomes at enormous cost.”

I would add that the coronavirus is a strong argument in favor of universal health coverage. Sick people with health coverage seek and get the care (and quarantine, if necessary) that they need. Sick people with no or inadequate coverage tend to avoid seeking treatment. That puts us all at risk.

China?s failures on the coronavirus are distracting us from the mess we have at home.

A new, more civilized Reign of Terror

The heads that roll (and will roll) in our Reign of Terror are figurative, not literal. That’s really the basic distinction between our Reigh of Terror and Robespierre’s. Disloyalty to the new order (real or imagined) will not be toleraled.

The suggestion that Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman should now face punishment by the Pentagon was one sign of how determined the president is to even the scales after his impeachment.

Trump’s strategy for a second term

“[T]he campaign’s broad strategy: Keep his conservative base energized and chip away at his problems in the suburbs and communities of color. …

“Most of the president’s aides concede that his base of supporters is not enough to re-elect him, and that he must attract the voters who were repelled by his behavior and voted against Republicans in the 2018 midterms — particularly upscale whites, suburban women and self-described independent voters who polls repeatedly show think the president is racist, or has a troubling temperament, or both.”

With impeachment behind the president, his re-election campaign wants to address political weaknesses exacerbated by his policies and behavior.

It doesn’t matter as long as they win

Paul Krugman in the NYT: “In practice, any Democrat would probably preside over a significant increase in taxes on the wealthy and a significant but not huge expansion of the social safety net. Given a Democratic victory, a much-enhanced version of Obamacare would almost certainly be enacted; Medicare for All, not so much. Given a Democratic victory, Social Security and Medicare would be protected and expanded; Paul Ryan-type cuts wouldn’t be on the table. …

“Now, the Democratic Party is very different from the G.O.P. — it’s a loose coalition of interest groups, not a monolithic entity answering to a handful of billionaires allied with white nationalists. But this if anything makes it even harder for a Democratic president to lead his or her party very far from its political center of gravity, which is currently one of moderate progressivism.”

In terms of actual policy, probably not very much.

Game of the week

Charles “Chip” Pashayan was an undistinguished Republican Congressman from California from 1979 to 1991. I say undistinguished because his Wikipedia page says almost nothing about him and all that the Almanac of American Politics could say was “On most issues Pashayan votes as you would expect a Republican from Ronald Reagan’s home state to vote. But his greatest energy is probably served for local matters.” (1984 and 1986 editions). He was a far-right conservative of the species now extinct in California whose other members included Bob Dornan and William Dannemeyer. It may seem unfair to compare him to loons like Dornan and Dannemeyer but his pet project was trying to the get the US government to recognize Bobby Fischer as the sole legitimate world champion.

I interviewed him in his office in 1987 for Chess Horizons. He told me about his “pet project” (a staff member told me that he did it without staff help). H.J.Res.545 – “A joint resolution recognizing Bobby Fisher as the official World Chess Champion.” It passed the House by voice vote (evidently no one cared or they were confident that it would die in the Senate). Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) blocked the resolution in the Senate Judiciary Committee, ostensibly because the Senate’s rules on commemoratives prohibit commemorating a living person but I suspect that he also had no desire to celebrate an anti-Semitic madman even if he was arguably the world’s greatest chess champion who had been robbed of his title by Soviet apparatchiks. Pashayan also later acted as a pro-bono lawyer for Fischer when he got into trouble for violating US sanctions against Serbia.

Whatever one thinks of Pashayan’s views on Fischer or his politics, he was an avid supporter of chess who was knowledgeable and opinionated about its politics. He railed against FIDE and strongly criticized the USCF for sending a team to the 1986 Olympiad in Dubai, urging a boycott because Israel was barred from participating. He also seems to have been a fairly good player as this week’s game shows. In an offhand game, he puts up a very decent fight against the legendary Viktor Korchnoi. The game contains some nice tactics.

Treasonable noticing of seditious facts

Paul Krugman in NYT: “The first thing you need to know about the very rich is that they are, politically, different from you and me. Don’t be fooled by the handful of prominent liberal or liberal-ish billionaires; systematic studies of the politics of the ultrawealthy show that they are very conservative, obsessed with tax cuts, opposed to environmental and financial regulation, eager to cut social programs.

“The second thing you need to know is that the rich often get what they want, even when most of the public want the opposite. For example, a vast majority of voters — including a majority of self-identified Republicans — believe that corporations pay too little in taxes. Yet the signature domestic policy of the Trump administration was a huge corporate tax cut.”

Yes, the rich have too much political influence.