Monday, July 31, 2017

Yeah, about that....

Because you can't, as President, end the insurance that Congress gets, and because ending subsidies won't hurt insurance companies, it will simply hurt the insured.

Insurance companies deal with being "hurt" this way by simply not selling insurance to people who are too high risk and therefore can't afford the unsubsidized premiums.  They don't sell insurance policies at a loss.  And the ones who get hurt are the people who lose their health insurance.

Wanna explain to me again how you're a businessman, at all?

Mick Mulvaney imagines he's in charge

Because the quickest way to the Senate's heart is through the sandbox ("You guys aren't total quitters, are you?")

“So in the White House’s view, they can’t move on in the Senate,” Mulvaney said. “They need to stay, they need to work, they need to pass something and I think that’s not only the official White House position on this right now, it’s sort of the national attitude towards it.”

Which nation is he talking about?  And in the White House's view, the Senate can't move on raising the debt ceiling, or on any appointments (but I thought the Democrats were causing that?), or anything, until they vote again on what they just voted on?

Yeah, it doesn't work that way.

BTW, Sen. McCain is back in Arizona  for cancer treatment.  How do you get to 50 now?  Is innumeracy contagious in this White House?  Does it trickle-down?

This could be unfortunate

And it will get better and better and better because we’ve been able to start nipping it in the bud. We’ve nipped it in the bud — let’s call it start nipping in the bud.

I guess you have to be old enough to make the connection.  It's not a good one for the Grumpy-Old-Man-in-Chief, but it is a bit like having Barney Fife in the Oval Office.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Forget Healthcare

It's August (practically) and Congress is in recess, so we're going to war with North Korea!

Shit rolls downhill fast:

Real fast:

The United States flew two supersonic bombers over the Korean peninsula and tested out its missile defense system as a warning to North Korea after it conducted another successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that apparently proved its ability to strike the mainland U.S. Just in case the message wasn’t clear, the commander of the U.S. Pacific Air Forces warned that the United States and its allies are ready to “respond with rapid, lethal, and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing.” Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy was sure to point out that while “diplomacy remains the lead” it is important to “showcase our unwavering commitment while planning for the worst-case scenario.”

Ben Rhodes is Obama's foreign policy advisor.  Anyone doubt the former Secretary of State under Obama would be handling this just a bit differently?  But, you know, Wall Street, Goldman Sachs, Bernie wuz robbed!, etc., etc., etc......

"The Pottery Barn Rule"

"You break it, you bought it."  Of course, announcing loudly that you are about to break it isn't usually part of this scenario, but nobody ever said he was very bright.

I mean, seriously:  this is not the way things get done:

“I think his attitude is this, and his attitude is pretty simple,” [Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney said. “What he’s saying is, look, if Obamacare is hurting people — and it is — then why shouldn’t it hurt insurance companies and more importantly perhaps for this discussion, members of Congress?”
Because the only time government should hurt people is when they are our enemies?

And on that note:

He's still on about the filibuster, apparently unaware that the "skinny repeal" failed by 1 vote (it needed at least 50, with Pence the tie-breaker), so "going to 51" has already been tried.

It failed.  So did Trump.

Maybe that's what's bothering him.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Where's my fork?

Yeah, but:

“This journey is not yet done,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced minutes after the vote went down in flames. “I believe Obamacare will be repealed.”

It's Ted Cruz; what do you expect him to say?  He's up for re-election in 2018.  Murkowski is up in 2022, I understand.  Or is that Capito?  Anyway:

“I believe that we can deliver still on health care,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the chair of the influential, hardline Freedom Caucus, insisted to reporters on Friday. “To suggest that everything is over is not understanding the dynamics that are going on right now in the Senate.”

Oh, the Freedom Caucus, the Ted Cruz faction of the House.  IIRC, the House only passed any kind of repeal because the "moderates" were promised the Senate would "fix" it and cure what ailed 'em.  Of course, last night, the Senators were promised the House would "fix" what ailed the Senators.

And the Cruz plan?  Went down to healthy defeat in the Senate, IIRC.  And now John McCain has gone back to Arizona for cancer treatments.

I don't think Ted Cruz and Mark Meadows are going to be running the Congress anytime soon.  And Mitch McConnell is obviously the legislative equivalent of a turtle.  No, a real turtle.  He screwed this pooch so badly even John McCain was finally forced to vote, not just speechify about, his convictions.  That's world-class legislative malfeasance.

And Congressional approval is down to, what, 10%?  19%  And who's in charge of Congress?

The GOP can't go to the left of Obamacare:  that's single-payer.  They can't abandon Obamacare:  that's political and moral suicide (and some of the women of the GOP still have moral convictions, God bless 'em!).  They can't go to the right of what is essentially a Heritage Foundation plan:  that's Trump and Caligula.  They're in the round room and they're still lookin' for the corner to pee in.

Good luck with that.

The Morning After

Everyone will be talking about John McCain, few will notice Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski.

No one will note that the Democrats held together, without one defection, on every vote to repeal anything to do with "Obamacare."  But that's the real political story, and the answer to the question:  "What have you done for me lately?"

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Hollow Man

The Joint Chiefs are saying that a tweet is not an official Presidential action.*  More than that, as Josh Marshall points out, it's not even in the chain of command:

The President is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, with vast powers that position grants him. But the President does not and cannot just dial up the head of Central Command and order a war. There is a specific and statutory chain of command. Under the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, the key players in the process are the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the heads of the Unified Commands – Central Command, European Command, Pacific Command, et al. The key element of Goldwater-Nichols was diminishing the power of the service chiefs in favor of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Combatant Commanders. But the Secretary of Defense remains the key link in the conveyance of commands from the President to the uniformed military.
So this tweet is itself "fake news!"  It is a null set, an empty gesture.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Who knew Eliot was predicting Trump?

*There is a theological angle here, based on speech-act theory.  God speaks, and creation occurs (check Genesis 1).  But the President acts through the system of laws and chains of command established by those laws.  The President tweets, but it doesn't make anything happen.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why didn't this play close out of town?

This is what happens when people who are not lawyers try to play one in the White House.

Josh Marshall notes Trump is exposing the rot in our system; he says this without naming names, and without praising Trump, but blaming him.  Mooch is not exactly an example of rot so much as of the kind of person Trump brings into government.  Pruett, Perry, and DeVos are three other examples.

The worst part is the number of people who will think, because Scaramucci said it, it must be true.  The same people who think, so long as there is no video of Trump handing a bulging bag with a huge dollar sign on it to a person who looks like a Russian (was it a bear?  or a Russian?  Read "The Circus of Dr. Lao" to find out), there is no crime.  We don' need no steenken' evidence!  We need proof!

Those are the people who think financial disclosure forms can be "leaked."  Heaven help us, we've got a lot of them.

Adding:  "Mooch" doesn't seem to understand the fish bowl he now works in:

“What I’m upset about is the process — and the junk pool, the dirty pool — in terms of the way this stuff is being done,” Scaramucci said. “I can’t have a couple of friends up from Fox & Friends, and Sean Hannity, who’s one of my closest friends, to dinner with the president and his first lady without it being leaked in seven minutes.”
How does he not understand that everything the President does is public information, unless it is specifically classified as a matter of law?

And the hits just keep on coming:

The clowns being in charge has stopped being amusing.  ("Woellert" is Lorraine Woellert, who reported the financial information on "Mooch" in Politico.)

No, no! Thank you!

No, I don't know why he wrote it.  But it comes after two tweets blaming Sessions for not firing Acting FBI director McCabe, which is how he followed his Twitter announcement about military personnel policy.  Which, by the way, makes his Twitter account an official government source.

And the proper follow up to this tweet is:  "Or two Corinthians."*

If this is true:

Specifically, Politico writes that “an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops” threatened to blow up a deal in the House of Representatives that would have provided funds for Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

When anti-trans Republicans told Trump that they would hold up funding for the wall unless he barred transgender people from serving in the military, Politico writes that Trump “didn’t hesitate” to announce his opposition to transgender service members.

It tells you all you need to know about how Trump thinks government works.  Did he consult with the Pentagon, discuss the matter with his Secretary of Defense, order a study on the impact of banning transgender persons from military service, even inquire as to how many transgender person now serve, and what effect any policy pronouncement would have on them?

No.  He just went to his phone and told some House Republicans:  okay, I accept your terms.  Now where's my money?

And if it isn't the reason, it's still clear Trump consulted no one in the Pentagon, or in his Cabinet, before making this stupid and egregious decision.  L'etat, c'est moi!  Make it so, Number One!  Engage!

The man thinks he's on a TeeVee show.  The man isn't qualified to oversee a two-car funeral.

*more importantly, why does his tweet link to an Instagram post with this comment?

"John F Kenedy was only the true patriot President of USA sadly he was assassinated by enemy inside Gate for by-passing federal Reserve bank to american bank and preventing Zionist to make nuclear bomb. America know your enemy"

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rest of their bones

So, Charlie Gard.

Let me first say that, despite the existence of the European Court of Human Rights (or whatever it is called; I'm frankly too lazy to do the due diligence this story deserves), legally Charlie Gard's case would be the same in America as in Britain.

That is:  the courts would have been empowered to decide what was in the best interests of the child.  There are some perfectly ignorant comments at this Salon article about "single-payer" systems and even how "Government doesn't get to decide what the child's best interests are, you sick, self-righteous Commie."  But that's precisely what courts (government) do every time there is a family law case in court involving minor children.


The parents of Charlie Gard acted perfectly reasonably:  it is an impossible thing to accept that your child must die, especially within the first year of life.  Ironically, the very argument against abortions, that the fetus can feel pain, were the arguments by the hospital to discontinue Charlie's life support:  it was just prolonging his agony.  He could, the hospital argued, feel pain, even if he couldn't express or communicate his pain.  The humane thing is to let him go.

Which, by the way, is all the Pope and the Church in Rome ever offered:  easing his pain and allowing his passage to occur naturally.

This case was about the hard nature of life and the tough questions our technology raises.  It was not about euthanasia, or saving money, or "death panels."  It also wasn't about over-reaching government trying to deny parents the ability to treat their child as they saw fit.  It was, as it should have been, about the best interests of the child.  Just as we don't allow parents to abuse children, or withhold medical care from them (with rare and often foolish exceptions, like vaccinations), we shouldn't allow parents to refuse to let their children die when the time comes, simply because a machine can keep them breathing, or an experimental treatment can teach us something about experimental treatments (the danger of treating people like experimental subjects rather than like people is real).

The parents have finally accepted that their child will not live long, or be cured.  That is a very hard acceptance, and we should honor it and, if so inclined, pray for them in their suffering.  We should also consider how easily we turn people into objects, and use them for social experiments of our own.

The danger of treating people like experimental subjects rather than like people is real.  I've mentioned before a family member, dying of cancer, who agreed to an experimental treatment rather than disappoint the family and not "try everything."  This was in the days before hospice care, but that is exactly what hospice care is about:  not trying everything.  Later, everyone in the family agreed the experiment never should have been undertaken, that it wasn't worth the pain and suffering added to the loved one's days.  But accepting that even modern medicine is not magic, and that doctors are not priests and supplicants of the God Medicine (truly one of the "American Gods" Neil Gaiman should have put in his modern pantheon; but who would have appreciated it?), whose beneficence can be invoked with the right "treatment," is not something we are willing to do.

Because:  "What if?"  The thing about that "what if?" is that we don't ask it for the patient; we ask it for ourselves, the ones who know we aren't going to die.  It is the primary reason I oppose euthanasia, too.  Far too many people think the "easy death" will make things easier for....someone else.  Pain and suffering is not just something the patient has to live with, and wants relief from.  But on what grounds do we decide we are the god of death as well as life?  I'm reading this article at Slate and remembering when a "cure" for cancer was available in Mexico, from a substance derived from apricot pits (Laetrile; I almost remembered too late).  That was a cruel hoax, but probably no less so than interferon, which was supposed to be cancer's silver bullet.  The cruelty, though, is played on us by us.  As this Slate article notes, many of us think the FDA only approves drugs that are "extremely effective."  There is no such drug, of course.  I am resistant, for one reason and another, to most antihistamines and decongestants.  Some patients go into remission after chemotherapy; others, with the same cancer, die anyway.

But what if?

It is ultimately a spiritual question:  why should we die, and when should we accept it?  "My death; is it possible?"  No; anymore than the death of a child is possible.  I've buried other people's children, and after each funeral I never wanted to go through that again.  I've buried the adult children of friends, I've buried the infants of strangers:  one was no easier than the other.  God willing, that's as close as I'll ever get to burying a child.  It was perhaps easier to "memento mori" when people died so young and easily (John Donne lamented to a friend at one time that he had lost so many children he couldn't afford another coffin, yet if the child ill at the time he wrote died, it would relieve him of further expense.  He told death not to be proud because he saw too much of it.).  Donne is perhaps an example.  He wore his shroud in the pulpit as he preached, to remind himself of his own mortality (because he drew crowds, and needed the humility?  Probably one answer.)  But he wrote the most beautiful and paradoxical of his sonnets:  "Death, be not proud," which ends with the greatest paradox of all:  "One short sleep past, we wake eternally,/And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die."  Perhaps death is easier to countenance when you can put it in the context of something other than the brutality of mortality.  In a different context, but from no less religious a writer, J.K. Rowling's tale within the tale about the three items owned by three brothers (the ring, the wand, the invisible cloak) ends happily for one brother, who uses his cloak to evade death and live a long life (IIRC), but in the end he "greets death like a brother."  I cannot now remember how it gets to that point, but I do remember the beauty of those words.

Perhaps, even now, the parents of Charlie Gard can take comfort at least in the time they had with their child, and in the time they have left with him, and take comfort too that, in the end, they did the best they could for him, to give him finally ease from his pain, and rest of his bones, and his soul's delivery.  Until all tears are wiped away, and mourning and crying are no more because death is no more, and pain is no more, because former things have passed away.

The wheels on the bus are in the ditch....

The usual response is "To spend more time with his family:"

“He does have the ability to go away on his own, just taking a little time off,” Nauert said. “He’s got a lot of work, he just came back from that mega trip overseas, as you all know … so he’s entitled to take a few days for himself.”

“I don’t think anyone’s arguing against that,” the reporter replied. “But why not just say he’s on vacation then?”

“I don’t know what’s standard for Secretary of State, how they actually list private days,” Nauert said. “I can check to see what the prior arrangements were.”

The spokesperson’s dodge comes just days afte it was reported Tillerson is considering an early exit from the State Department. Nauert on Monday pushed back on those reports.

“Secretary Tillerson is committed to staying at the State Department,” she said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show.”

I'm trying to remember an SOS who disappeared from public view before.  I can't think of one.  And then there's Jeff Sessions:

“When they say he endorsed me, I went to Alabama,” Trump said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I had 40,000 people.”

“But he was a senator, he looks at 40,000 people and he probably says, ’What do I have to lose?’ And he endorsed me,” Trump explained. “So it’s not like a great loyal thing about the endorsement.”

“I’m very disappointed in Jeff Sessions,” Trump added.

President Trump is also now openly talking of firing Attorney General Sessions, but won’t reveal if he plans to oust him.

“I’m just looking at it,” Trump said when asked why he has criticized Sessions without firing him. “I’ll just see. It’s a very important thing.”

Honestly, I think only a damned fool would join Trump's cabinet at this point.  And yet, this morning, I heard speculation that Ted Cruz might replace Sessions.  But Cruz already shot that down.

So who will be fool enough?

The Tale of the Tweets

I guess Mooch is gonna have to fire Donald....

Why Must Everyone Laugh At HIs Mighty Sword?

Kushner's excuses:

All of these were tasks that I had never performed on a campaign previously. When I was faced with a new challenge, I would reach out to contacts, ask advice, find the right person to manage the specific challenge, and work with that person to develop and execute a plan of action. I was lucky to work with some incredibly talented people along the way, all of whom made significant contributions toward the campaign's ultimate success. Our nimble culture allowed us to adjust to the ever-changing circumstances and make changes on the fly as the situation warranted. I share this information because these actions should be viewed through the lens of a fast-paced campaign with thousands of meetings and interactions, some of which were impactful and memorable and many of which were not.

In addition, it was typical for me to receive 200 or more emails a day during the campaign. I did not have the time to read every one, especially long emails from unknown senders or email chains to which I was added at some later point in the exchange.

The only other Russian contact during the campaign is one I did not recall at all until I was reviewing documents and emails in response to congressional requests for information.

I had no idea why that topic was being raised and quickly determined that my time was not well-spent at this meeting. Reviewing emails recently confirmed my memory that the meeting was a waste of our time and that, in looking for a polite way to leave and get back to my work, I actually emailed an assistant from the meeting after I had been there for ten or so minutes and wrote "Can u pls call me on my cell? Need excuse to get out of meeting." I had not met the attorney before the meeting nor spoken with her since. I thought nothing more of this short meeting until it came to my attention recently.

There was one more possible contact that I will note. On October 30, 2016, I received a random email from the screenname "Guccifer400." This email, which I interpreted as a hoax, was an extortion attempt and threatened to reveal candidate Trump's tax returns and demanded that we send him 52 bitcoins in exchange for not publishing that information. I brought the email to the attention of a U.S. Secret Service agent on the plane we were all travelling on and asked what he thought. He advised me to ignore it and not to reply -- which is what I did. The sender never contacted me again.

To the best of my recollection, these were the full extent of contacts I had during the campaign with persons who were or appeared to potentially be representatives of the Russian government.

Are not going over so well:

Speaking with host Ari Melber, Elizabeth Spiers said she found Kushner’s written statement and brief comments to the press “implausible.”

“Elizabeth, he [Kushner] casts himself as overworked, and not necessarily detail oriented,” Melber asked. “Does that match with the person you worked for, the one you knew?”

“No,” she bluntly replied. “He has a — you know, he has a good work ethic. It’s possible he was working harder than he’s accustomed to. However, in terms of the detail orientation, I find it implausible he would show up to a meeting without knowing what it was about.”

“He’s a busy guy,” she continued. “In my experience, every meeting we had was planned and scheduled, and he always had an agenda for it.”

“When he showed up at a meeting with you, he knew what they were about?” Melber pressed.

“Yeah,” Spiers stated. “I don’t find it credible that he had no idea these meetings were about.”

Later in the interview, Spiers offered, “At the very least you have to consider that his best defense is that I was completely ignorant on process and that I am incompetent.”

Maybe it's because they sounded better when Randy Newman set them to music:

There she is sitting there
Out behind the smoke-house in her rocking chair
She don't say nothin'
She don't do nothin'
She don't feel nothin'
She don't know nothin'
Maybe she's crazy, I don't know
Maybe that's why I love her so

Monday, July 24, 2017


It's a series of tubes....

I originally started this rant this way:

Elon Musk is a snake oil salesman.

Just sayin'.....

As we learned in Contracts in first year law school, a verbal agreement is worth the paper it's printed on.  So this isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Then there's the cost:

Funding — likely public — and permitting for an underground evacuated tube system would presumably be the biggest barrier to constructing such a system, which has never been produced on such a scale. The least expensive underground transit systems average $100 million per kilometer. The New York City subway, for example, runs between $1 billion and $4 billion per kilometer to build. Even at that lower estimate of $100 million per kilometer, the 226 mile trip from New York to D.C. would cost around $36 billion. For context, the 2015 expenditures for the entire Federal Transit Agency were $11.54 billion.
Part of what fueled it were the comments at Salon (4, at the time), all in defense of Musk, He Who Cannot Do Wrong.  Then I found this Wired article:

Bad news, Elon, my friend: The White House doesn’t have much power when it comes to rubber stamping gigantic, multi-state infrastructure projects.

“It means effectively nothing,” says Adie Tomer, who studies metropolitan infrastructure at the Brookings Institution. “The federal government owns some land, but they don’t own the Northeast corridor land, and they don’t own the right-of-way.” Sure, having presidential backing isn’t bad—but it is far, far from the ballgame.

Even Musk's four- to six-month timeline seriously stretches it. Because here's what it actually takes to get approval to build gigantic, multi-billion dollar, multi-state infrastructure projects in the United States of America:

(Spoiler: Something nearing an act of God.)
Aside from getting all parties concerned on-board (a task which can take decades.  Let me put it this way:  Interestate 69 has been announced to run through Texas and Houston for about as long as I've been living in Houston, and that's going on it's 3rd decade.  The highway is still in the "announcement" phase.), getting through the regulations and impact statements, and gathering up all the money, there's still the issue of the technology.  This is where the snake oil comes in:

Then there’s the little trouble of perfecting a technology that doesn’t exist yet. Hyperloop One, one of the many companies competing to build the first hyperloop, ran a successful test out in the Nevada desert last week. Just a few small problems: The track was 315 feet, the "train" a sled, and that sled reached just 70 miles per hour. (A completed hyperloop should hit 700.)

"The hyperloop is something absolutely novel—it’s worth being excited about," says Tomer. "But that excitement should be tempered with the realities that this is not tangible technology at this point." Perhaps the country should see one of these things at work before someone starts writing checks—or breaks out a shovel.

There was some speculation Musk was making this announcement to entice investors.  Well, there's one born every minute, isn't there?

NPR reported the Hyperloop company that tested on said it hit 70 mph at 2 Gs acceleration.  Increase that by a factor of 10 (no telling how much the Gs go up, I'm sure it's not linear), and then sustain it for 30 minutes.  Yeah, that'll be fun.

And the latest example of Musk standing on the shoulders of giants and proclaiming himself tall is his failure (what else do you call it?) of Falcon Heavy:

When the 230-foot-tall (70 meters) Falcon Heavy is up and running, it will be capable of lofting up to 60 tons (54 metric tons) to low-Earth orbit and 24 tons (22 metric tons) to geostationary transfer orbit, making it the most powerful rocket since NASA's famous Apollo-era Saturn V launcher, SpaceX representatives have said.
"When" is the crucial word, there:
SpaceX has been developing the Falcon Heavy for years. The work has proven to be "way, way more difficult" than SpaceX originally expected, Musk said.

"At first, it sounds really easy: Just stick two first stages on as strap-on boosters. How hard can that be?" he said. "But then everything changes. All the loads change, aerodynamics totally change, you've tripled the vibration and acoustics."

The loads imparted on the center core during Falcon Heavy launches will be "crazy," Musk said, "so we had to redesign the whole center-core airframe. It's not like the Falcon 9, because it's got to take so much load."

In addition, it's impossible to fully test many aspects of the vehicle on the ground, he said. 
Really?  And how you doin' on that?
"I hope it makes it far enough away from the pad that it does not cause pad damage. I would consider even that a win, to be honest," Musk told NASA ISS program manager Kirk Shireman, who interviewed the SpaceX CEO onstage at the meeting. "Major pucker factor, really; that's, like, the only way to describe it." 
 And that mission to Mars?  Oh, sorry:

Seems SpaceX is skipping the Red Dragon capsule that was supposed to land on Mars on legs, in favor of a "vastly bigger ship."  Which I guess they'll launch with the Falcon Heavy?  Or maybe from the Moon, because building a colony there will be so much more reasonable.  Except, clearly, not by 2020.

I grew up on '60's science fiction about rugged and daring individuals "conquering" space the way the rugged and daring pioneers supposedly did (except space would be full of Donner parties freezing to death on moments, not weeks).  There's a reason NASA did it instead.  That reason still exists.

And by the way, the "hyper loop" is neither.  The tubes have to be ruler straight.  Passengers wouldn't be able to stand the forces on them if they hit a curve at 700 mph.  So the system has to overcome every physical object in its path.  "City center to city center"?  Yeah, sure.

Sealed in a tube like a piece of paper shot through a pneumatic system for 30 minutes?  I'm not sure that's visionary; seems more hallucinatory, to me.

Just so we're clear who's in charge

And who, exactly, is Sessions "beleaguered" by? 
Somebody said to me the other day — I don’t want to say who — if the Russian actually hacked this situation and spilled out those emails, you would have never seen it. You would have never had any evidence of them. Meaning that they’re super confident in their deception skills and hacking,” Scaramucci said, adding, “How about it’s the president? He called me from Air Force One and basically said to me, ‘This is — maybe they did it, maybe they didn’t do it.'”

In a report later on Sunday, The New York Times explained the origin of the Russian hacker theory.

"But when Mr. Trump met Mr. Putin in Hamburg, Germany, two weeks ago, he did not utter similar suspicions, at least in public. In fact, he emerged to tell his aides that the Russian president had offered a compelling rejoinder: Moscow’s cyberoperators are so good at covert computer-network operations that if they had dipped into the Democratic National Committee’s systems, they would not have been caught."
A report from an intelligence analyst over the weekend averred that we are much better than the Russians and, besides, computers are designed to leave a record of what's done on them.  You are more likely to track down cyber-crimes than to track down a nurse who kills her patients and leaves no obvious clues.   All that stuff you see on TV about "bouncing" the "signal" around the internet so you can't find who is hacking you, is bafflegab, about as realistic as discussing the "angular confinement beam" on a "Star Trek" transporter.  Besides, who doubts we are as good as the Russians at this?

Donald Trump, for one; and he gets his information from an unimpeachable source; which just happens not to be a U.S. government source, but a Russian government one.  Yeah; somehow my suspicions about Putin's motives don't sound so much like a "Red Scare" to me (a child of the Cold War, I remember "Red Scares" back when it meant even wanting to read Das Kapital made you suspect).  Remember when Trump said it could have been some guy in Jersey in his pajamas?  Our Fearless Leader has that level of sophisticated understanding of this subject.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Can we please stop worshipping the "Founding Fathers"?

I don't give a shit what the Founding Fathers would think about anything in our politics or our legal system today.  Because, for one thing, the Founding Fathers didn't think people like this would be voting for our President:

But there does seem to remain a portion of Americans whose support for the president is unwavering despite the near-constant chaos from the White House. A poll this week found a plurality of both Trump voters and Republicans overall would approve if the president walked onto Fifth Avenue in New York City and shot a person.

There are documents left by Hamilton which clearly indicate even the sweeping pardon power of the President is restrained by "corrupt" usage; but we'd have to depend on the courts to decide what that was, because a plurality of Trump voters and Republicans don't think the President shooting someone on Fifth Avenue is a sign of corruption.  The Founding Fathers would respond: well, we didn't tell you to give the franchise to just anybody, or to make the Electoral College a rubber stamp for the popular vote.

But we did, so fuck the Founding Fathers.   We already have, actually, but we still venerate them and use them to excuse whatever we want to do now.  No matter, because they're dead and their ideas are dead and we have the Constitution we have today, and by the way, fuck Antonin Scalia.  He's dead, too, and his "originalism" should have died with him.  We shouldn't still be asking what the Founding Fathers meant by some choice of words in the Constitution.  I studied Constitutional Law in law school, and what the "Founding Fathers meant" is not a principle of Constitutional analysis. Scalia tried to make it one, and the idea only took hold in the popular discourse where people have no idea what "Constitutional analysis" means anyway!   Screw that!  Get rid of it!  Banish it from your thinking and from public discourse!  I don't care what the "Founding Fathers" thought.  They weren't a many-headed beast with one body, they weren't gods, and they didn't leave us a system of government that had to constantly reflect on what they wanted.  They lived in the 18th century, we live in the 21st.  They approved of slavery and the denial of the vote to women and non-white non-property owning males, and wouldn't recognize the world we live in any more than we would theirs (as I tell my students, why do you see women in floor-length dresses in "Colonial times," and mean in knee breeches and silk stockings?  Because men are showing off their legs, not the women.  Start with that and the acceptance of slavery, and consider how different we are from them.).

I have nothing against them, but this constant "what did the Founding Fathers mean by the pardon clause" is bullshit.  It's not a recognized method of analysis in legal or textual circles, and yet it seems to be the only one we are allowed in popular discourse.  Enough!  The pardon power is broad, but it's not broad enough for a President to pardon himself.  That way lies anarchy and monarchy and the destruction of the rule of law.  As the Supreme Court has recognized, the Constitution is not a suicide pact.  No provision of it is so absolute as to require it be followed to the destruction of the whole.  If Trump is stupid enough to pardon himself, the courts are not required to recognize it because he's got the Presidential seal and the Presidential podium and his momma loves him like a rock!  If he tries to get Mueller removed on flimsy and laughable (or even semi-serious) grounds of conflict of interest, that's obstruction of justice!  If he pardons himself and everyone else, a la George H. W. Bush (who at least did it on his way out the door), that's obstruction of justice, too! The Presidential Pardon power cannot be used to thwart the rule of law, or else we have abandoned the rule of law and elected a monarch.

Could that be any clearer?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sadly, yes

Thursday, July 20, 2017

25th Amendment remedies

Mostly because I couldn't jam this bit from the Trump interview into the previous post on that interview:

TRUMP: And nothing was changed other than Richard Nixon came along. And when Nixon came along [inaudible] was pretty brutal, and out of courtesy, the F.B.I. started reporting to the Department of Justice. But there was nothing official, there was nothing from Congress. There was nothing — anything. But the F.B.I. person really reports directly to the president of the United States, which is interesting. You know, which is interesting. And I think we’re going to have a great new F.B.I. director.

HABERMAN: Chris Wray.

TRUMP: He’s highly thought of by everybody. I think I did the country a great service with respect to Comey.

The "F.B.I. person" doesn't report directly to the President; not according to the F.B.I.

The FBI Director has answered directly to the attorney general since the 1920s.‬ ‪Under the Omnibus Crime Control Act and Safe Streets Act of 1968, Public Law 90-3351, the Director is appointed by the U.S. President and confirmed by the Senate. On October 15, 1976, in reaction to the extraordinary 48-year term of J. Edgar Hoover, Congress passed Public Law 94-503, limiting the FBI Director to a single term of no longer than 10 years. ‪ 

The man really is just a black hole of knowledge.

"Who's been repeating all that hard stuff to you?"

I actually want to use that tweet as a link.  Click on it, and then read the tweets responding to it.  It soon becomes a hall of mirrors, through no fault of those tweeting, as they try to explain what Trump is saying here.  It really doesn't make sense on any level, and the more you try to figure it out, the less sense it makes.  I mean, Humpty Dumpty's explanation of "Jabberwocky" sounds reasonable alongside those tweets, and there's no doubt in my mind most of the people responding to Ms. Cox mean, like Humpty Dumpty to Alice, to be helpful.

Even Vox wants to focus on Trump's cost estimates for insurance (which it gets wrong; Vox translates his comment into a premium of $12 a month; Trump clearly says he thinks it starts at $12 a year).  His ignorance of cost is not the issue; his ignorance about insurance, which is as complete as that of a 7 year old, is the issue.

The people responding to Ms. Cox tweet aren't Humpty Dumpty, and they are dealing with nonsense.  And there's no way to make nonsense make sense; that's the whole point of nonsense.  But the source of this nonsense is not an eccentric 19th century English poet and mathematician.

Which is kind of the point of the concern.....

The Thin Red Line

What's your point? (asking for a Trump supporter)

“In my opinion, he shared [the British spy dossier] so that I would think he had it out there,” Mr. Trump told The Times.

“As leverage?” reporters Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” Mr. Trump said. “In retrospect.”

The extended excerpts of the interview contain more allegations against Comey.

Trump also denied Comey’s sworn testimony about the one-on-one meeting when Comey claimed the President cleared the room.

“Look, you look at his testimony,” Trump suggested. “His testimony is loaded up with lies, O.K.?”

Who you gonna believe?  The fired head of the FBI, or the guy who lies about the size of his inaugural crowds?

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else,” Trump said, the New York Times reports.

Sessions elected to remove himself from all things Russia after it was revealed he failed to disclose multiple meetings with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself, which frankly I think is very unfair to the president,” Trump said, according to the Times. “How do you take a job and then recuse yourself?”

“If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, ‘Thanks Jeff, but I’m not going to take you.’ It’s extremely unfair—and that’s a mild word—to the president,” he added.
Fuckin' ethics rules!  Ethics are so unfair to the President!

Asked if Mr. Mueller’s investigation would cross a red line if it expanded to look at his family’s finances beyond any relationship to Russia,” the report reads, “Mr. Trump said, ‘I would say yes.’ He would not say what he would do about it. ‘I think that’s a violation. Look, this is about Russia.'”

“I don’t think we’re under investigation,” Trump told the Times. “I’m not under investigation. For what? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

And I'll fire anybody who says I did!   Meanwhile, in a classic example of "log in your eye/splinter in your brother's":

Mr. Trump said Mr. Mueller was running an office rife with conflicts of interest and warned investigators against delving into matters too far afield from Russia. Mr. Trump never said he would order the Justice Department to fire Mr. Mueller, nor would he outline circumstances under which he might do so. But he left open the possibility as he expressed deep grievance over an investigation that has taken a political toll in the six months since he took office.

And, of course, conflict means people who don't side with Trump:

I said to Jeff Sessions, "Who's your deputy?"  So his deputy he hardly knew, and that's Rosenstein, Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore.  There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.
There is some puzzlement  over that this morning, but Trump's meaning couldn't be more clear:  A) Sessions didn't "know" Rosenstein, so Rosenstein couldn't be loyal to Trump.  B) only Republicans should investigate Trump, because only Republicans would be loyal to Trump and not have a "conflict of interest."  Which is clearly being defined by Trump as a lack of loyalty to him.

Trump may have to make good on that threat he didn't quite make:

According to the New York Times, investigators are looking into President Donald Trump’s relationship to Germany’s Deutsche Bank over huge loans the bank gave to Trump throughout their two decade-long relationship.

The bank has been in contact with both financial industry regulators and federal investigators regarding “hundreds of millions of dollars in loans made to Mr. Trump’s businesses through Deutsche Bank’s private wealth management unit.”

According to the Times, sources close to the bank also say they intend to cooperate with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller in his Russian collusion investigation as well.

I guess he'll have to fire Deutsche Bank, too.

Can we impeach this guy now, before he fires Mueller and pardons himself (I still don't think a self-pardon would stand up in court, but I don't want a Court with Gorsuch on it deciding that issue.)?  Please?  If not for all of the above, then for this?

“Napoleon finished a little bit bad,” the president began. “His one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather?”

Trump then reflected that Hitler made the same mistake in his decision to wage war in Russia during the winter.

“Same thing happened to Hitler,” he said. “Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army.”

“But the Russians have great fighters in the cold,” he said. “They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. It’s pretty amazing. So, we’re having a good time. The economy is doing great.”
It's not the ignorance of history that bothers me, it's the shift from Russia to the economy, as if one logically leads to the other.  Or, rather, as if whatever crosses the empty plain of his mind is deserving of expression.

Can this man even walk and chew gum at the same time?

Erase the "Thin Blue Line" before it kills more of us

"We're looking for the person who called '911'."

It appears the bullshit of the "Thin Blue Line" is what killed Justine Diamond.

I had two uncles who were in law enforcement.  If they ever drew their weapons (both retired long ago; one has since passed on) in the line of duty, I never heard about it.  If they ever considered themselves part of the "thin blue line," or the guards atop the wall keeping the barbarians from us civilized Romans, I never heard about that, either.  Knowing both men as I did, I can't believe they ever thought that way.  Nobody did, back in the day.

Now we all know how "dangerous" a cop's job is, and how much we must excuse them when they shoot someone in the back, or a child with a toy, or a woman who approaches a police car she summoned with a phone call.

No, we haven't reached the point of excusing the officer yet, but why do I feel we will?  I mean, why should it be safe to approach a police car in the dark of night in your pajamas?  Police work is dangerous.  They have to shoot first and take risks later.  Isn't that what everybody says now?  So who are the police on this "thin blue line" protecting, exactly.   Seems to me they are standing on the wall and shooting in, at us.  And all of us are guilty of being scary to the cops.

Somehow, much as I despise what Trump's appointees like Jeff Sessions are doing, I'm a little less worried about that Trump is doing to the country.  He'll be gone in four years.  This bullshit about police shooting first and justifying it later has been with us far too long, and yet I see no sign of it going away anytime soon.  It is a matter of Black Lives Matter; but it's also a matter of letting any damned fool with a gun use it with impunity.

This has got to stop.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Poker, anyone?

According to Corey Lewandowski, this is how you close the "deal" on health care in America:

At Wednesday’s lunch, Trump implored senators to pass a bill, talking for several minutes about the “failing Obamacare.”

He told senators that they should not leave for their August recess until they pass a bill, saying that “we’re close,” even though several iterations of the bill in the last week have essentially been dead on arrival.

“Frankly, I don’t think we should leave town unless we have a health insurance plan, unless we can give our people great health care,” Trump said.

Wasn't his most recent proposal to repeal now, replace later?

But that was before he said:

And now it's:  stay in session through August?

Yup, that's a master dealer at work!  He's real good at keeping the deck shuffled!

Because lack of evidence of a conspiracy

How To Spot an Illegal Voter:  #15 in a series

is probably just evidence there really IS a conspiracy.  See?

While introducing the first public meeting in his “voter fraud” commission on Wednesday, the president said that it was likely that the 44 states were reluctant to hand over all requested information on voters — including the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers — because they were trying to conceal wrongdoing.

“If any state does not want to share this information, one has to wonder what they’re worried about?” the president asked rhetorically. “What are they worried about? There’s something, there always is.”

So is the commission supposed to investigate voter fraud?  Not according to its leader, even though he's quite sure you can never prove voter fraud DIDN'T happen, and at the worst possible time!

“Do you believe Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 to 5 million votes because of voter fraud?” MSNBC’s Katy Tur asked Kobach in an interview after the commission’s first meeting. Clinton won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes.

“We will probably never know the answer to that question, because even if you could prove that a certain number of votes were cast by ineligible voters, for example, you wouldn’t know how they voted,” he said.

Kobach said the commission was not created to substantiate Trump’s claims.

Tur asked again later: “You think that maybe Hillary Clinton did not win the popular vote?”

“We may never know the answer to that question,” Kobach said.

No secretary of state or board of elections in the country has reported massive voter fraud of illegal voting.

Tur tried a different question later: “So are the votes for Donald Trump that lead him to win the election in doubt as well?”

“Absolutely,” Kobach said. “If there are ineligible voters in an election — people who are non-citizens, people who are felons who shouldn’t be voting according to the laws of that state — you don’t know.”

And if you don't know, it's reasonable to presume it's probably so!  Conspiracies are fun that way!

Now I have to go check for Commies under my bed....

At least dying is not something you have to live with....

So, this is interesting.  Texas, the second most populous state in the union, leads the country in construction related deaths.  Austin, probably the most liberal city in Texas (not really, but it likes to think so), has an ordinance that fast-tracks the permitting process in the city for builders who agree to pay workers "at least $13.50 an hour, follow certain safety standards and offer training and worker’s compensation insurance."  No, that's not what is interesting.

Abbott put on the special session agenda the topic of streamlining the building permitting process in cities (hello, Austin!).  One bill being proposed would block cities like Austin form having ordinances that "burden" contractors with these requirements and impose "wage control" by requiring a higher minimum wage for such jobs.

No, that's not interesting, either.  What's interesting is that the special session is still, nationally and in the state, all about the "bathroom bill." (The Washington Post says that's the "highlight" of the session.  Who will it invite to the post-session ball?)  This bill, which would affect only construction workers, is of no interest to anyone.  Because the safety and livelihood of construction workers is boring.  A bathroom bill that will affect a handful of Texas schoolchildren, however (and it is a HEINOUS bill, and idea) is too titillating to ignore.

Because, you know, who cares about the life and death of construction workers, amirite?

"You are the light of the world!

This sounds like an interesting book, but a very limited one.  I'll accept it as a work of sociology; but it needs the context of church history to really be useful:

Yet Jones raises the possibility that Christianity can only function effectively as a religion in the absence of its dominance in culture, which is to say, as the underdog. Just as Southern evangelicals came to dominance as a response to the perceived diminishing of Christianity in the public sphere among the pluralistic tendencies of the 1950s, so too, Jones suggests, must any effective Christianity of today — one capable of firing up its members — respond against the dominant culture.

He cites several recent examples of thinkers who have advocated just that, from Rod Dreher’s “Benedict option” of focused seclusion to Baptist firebrand Russell Moore’s embrace of Christianity as counter-“cultural.” He writes, "As Christianity seems increasingly strange, and even subversive, to our culture, we have the opportunity to reclaim the freakishness of the gospel, which is what gives it its power in the first place.”

It is that paradox that lies at the heart of The End of White Christian America, and in discussions of Christianity and public life more generally. How can a religion often defined as a religion of outsiders — one whose sacred texts embrace the overturning of the money changers in the Jerusalem temple and celebrate those who leave their families behind to follow a wandering preacher — ever function in a dominant paradigm without losing its distinctive character?

It is that question that Jones’s book leaves us wondering: whether the death of White Christian America, as a cultural construct, is a good thing for Christianity, the religion. For a religion that was once subversive, Jones hints, being countercultural may just be the ideal way to be.

Modern-day ecclesiology has been focussed on that "paradox" for decades, now.  The paradox is not at the heart of a sociological study; it's at the heart of church history.  And the analysis discussed in the Vox article is limited to white Protestantism.  If you want a critique of race and the white Protestant American church you can start with Dr. King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail," because that was the thesis of that open letter to white Protestant churches.  That the most segregated hour in America was Sunday morning starting at 11:00 a.m. (the Protestant worship hour) was true long before Tara Isabella Burton noticed white churches didn't really do that much in the civil rights movement of 50 years ago.

Christianity will have to become countercultural, even subversive, in order to remain one of the world's great religions.  I really think that is beyond argument.  The Catholic church was once the church of empire.  In the New World, it was an arm of the Spanish king.  The missions in Texas which are now national parks (and deservedly so) were not missionary efforts by Catholic orders; they were explicitly an effort of Spain to control land and people for the benefit of the crown.  The Church may have been interested in souls, but it was the velvet glove around the iron fist of the King.  And that's just an example from recent history, since all our knowledge of the Roman church and European politics tends to default to medieval times.

Never forget it was Lord Acton in the 19th century who warned the Pope, the leaders of Acton's church, that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.  That the church should be in the world but not of the world, is hardly a new idea.

Nor do Protestants get off lightly in this.  Calvin had his Zurich, and Luther his anti-semitism and his love of beer.  They created churches around the cultures they knew, not from whole cloth and based on radical restructuring of human relationships.  Many of the latter kind of experiments occurred in America after Protestantism had pretty well made America safe for Christianity (but not necessarily Roman Catholicism), but all those experiments soon fizzled.  The Christian church has always been a creature of its culture, not a creator of culture.  It is ideally a light in the world, but more commonly just another way for the world to justify itself.  William Bradford wanted to create a Christian community when Europeans here were still colonists.  When enough people had arrived to make Plymouth an outlier rather than the norm, his dream fell to reality.  He had a chance to create a new culture; it didn't work.  It never has.

Many would say Christianity did lose its "distinctive character," and is only now in a position to regain it.  But that way lies arrogance and boundary drawing, leaving me "in" and you "out."  That is not The Way, either.  The great secret of Protestantism was that difference was allowed, and tolerated.  There is not that much difference, in the end, between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, which is why the ecumenical movement flourished for as long as it did (Burton passes lightly over that, as if ecumenism were a weakness, not a strength.  That may be her own view, or that of the book under review; I can't say.  Whatever the source, it's wrong, if only because it presumes that evangelicals who have, as is noted in the review, seen their day (and a short day it was, too) were somehow more "successful".  We have to wonder at a "success" that comes at the end of 500 years of Protestantism and is still only a minor portion of international Christianity, and already showing the limits of its power and appeal after a mere 30 years or so.).  The way forward is not to start declaring a new "true church."  The way forward is to do what Christians have done for millennia:  Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; fear God and obey God's commandments; do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God; clothe the naked, feed the hungry, comfort the sick; entertain angels unaware.

The world will not count this as success.  But the light will be in the world, even if the world knows it not.

The Wind Cries "Mary"

It's even more fun when you match this up to it:

Appearing on “Fox and Friends” Wednesday, Corey Lewandowski was asked about news that the President will have lunch with Republican Senators Wednesday to get the GOP on board with a health care repeal vote next week. He said Senate Republicans are “very, very close” to getting the support they need and said there are just a few “tweaks” that need to happen in order to bring opposing Senators on board.

“Look, it’s been publicly reported that there are probably two Republican U.S. Senators who are going to support the bill, Rand Paul from Kentucky and Sue Collins from Maine. You don’t necessarily need them if you get everybody else and you put (Vice President) Mike Pence in the chair and he breaks the tie,” he said. “I think this bill is going to get done. The President is probably going to close the deal today.”


“I know he is a great dealmaker, I know he is going to do whatever it takes to get this done. I know Mike Lee is someone who wants to support the President on this piece of legislation. I know that other members of the Republican Senate caucus want to support the President on this,” he said. “Look, this is something that the American people have been fighting for and the U.S. Senate has talked about for seven years. It’s now time for action. The President is going to get this bill done. He has campaigned on it, it’s time to move forward.”
This bill no one has been allowed to discuss in public, the details of which have scared off enough Republicans to kill it, which has never been presented to Democrats for scrutiny (and so Democrats are 'blocking' it), is going to "get even better at lunchtime"?  How?  Aging in an oak cask?  Marinating in a secret sauce?  Buried in a mayonnaise jar until noon?

And the wind cries "Mary."  Which is how Trump will close the deal?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Who's up for a land war in Asia?

I mean, why shouldn't the Democrats bail out the GOP?  It only stands to reason!  Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

“Sometime in the near future we will have a vote on repealing Obamacare essentially the same vote we had in 2015,” McConnell told reporters after a private lunch with the Senate GOP caucus.
And after that, the ground war.....

Oh, you know I have to add this:

What a difference 5 years makes....

And there's three....

Well, that didn't take long:

“To repeal there has to be a replacement. There’s enough chaos already, and this would just contribute to it,” Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska told reporters, saying she would vote no on any effort to take up legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010 under former President Barack Obama.
Over to you, Mitch!  Meanwhile, Trump has a plan!

“It will be a lot easier and I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you Republicans are not going to own it,” Trump said. “We’ll let Obamacare fail and then Democrats will come to us and say ‘How do we fix it?’”


“The way I look at it is, in ’18 we’re going to have to get more people elected. We have to go out and we have to get more people elected that are Republican. And we have to probably pull in those people, those few people that voted against it. I don’t know. They’re going to have to explain why they did and I’m sure they have very fine reasons, but we have to get more Republicans elected because we have to get it done,” he said.
And the way to get more Republicans elected is to screw 1/6th of the economy right into the ground and then disavow any responsibility for controlling all three branches of government!  Because they only did it because they don't have enough control!  It's genius, I tells ya!  And obviously, as all the pundits will no doubt say, Mitch McConnell has a cunning plan to make this all happen!

It's the end of the world as we know it, and Trump feels fine!  No, really, he does!

“We had no Democrat support,” he said. “[T]he vote would have been, if you look at it, 48-4. That’s a pretty impressive vote by any standard.”

I'm guessing that's the New Math I learned in elementary school.  Never did understand it, really.....(and, because I'm all about the schadenfreude, more responses to Trump here.)

And they're back!

You are going to be treated to articles like this about the upcoming Texas special session.  Here's the problem with those articles:  they don't understand the Texas Constitution at all.

Everyone remembers 4 years ago, when Wendy Davis tied up the Texas Senate with a filibuster that ran out the clock on the legislative session.  Well, that was a "special session," one that can only last 30 days (the regular session is only 180 days, every two years).  Ms. Davis literally ran out the clock, so the Senate vote she blocked occurred after midnight on the final day, and was null and void.

In the next special session, they got right on that bill and it was passed in plenty of time.  If I recall correctly, that special session ended quickly.  It was a very public defeat for the GOP, and the Governor at the time (Rick Perry) was having none of that.  But it was possible because special sessions take time to gin up and time to get around to things, and Wendy Davis made use of that feature and the GOP's confidence they could do whatever they wanted, to gum up the works.

In the last regular session this year Joe Strauss, the Speaker of the Texas House, played the Wendy Davis role by simply never letting Dan Patrick's "Bathroom bill" get to the floor of the House for a vote.  Now a Texas Senator has already filed that bill for consideration in the special session which begin tomorrow (and two bills have been filed in the House).  Problem is, the Lege can only consider what's on the agenda set by the Governor, and first on his list is a provision under Texas law that requires all Texas agencies to be re-approved periodically, or automatically go out of business.  It's called a "sunset provision," and in the last session it shut down the Texas Board of Medical Examiners (I think they have to close in September, but no matter).

Abbott called the session first and foremost to keep the TBME in business.  Rather embarrassing to lose an agency like that, even in Texas.  Getting that done is a no-brainer; but getting it done won't occur on the first day of the session.  The Lege has to start over in a special session, and that means bills have to be filed anew, and business conducted as if it hadn't been finished just 6 weeks ago.  This is why, even in the second special session after Wendy Davis' victory, the abortion bill she opposed was passed in the middle of that session, not on the first day.

Abbott has put 19 items on the agenda, with the bill authorizing the TBME as #1.  His second priority (he doesn't really get a choice, but he's made impotent threatening noises about it) is property tax reform.  You'll notice we aren't getting close to the "bathroom bill."  And Democrats are making noises about what they want the session to handle (and may yet leave Austin to deny a quorum if they have to, to block the bathroom bill).  Oh, and Joe Strauss is still against it, and has no reason to let it get to the House floor in July, any more than he did in the regular session.

Would Abbott call another session just to get Patrick's baby passed?  Very unlikely.  He stuck it in a laundry list of things to appease Patrick's supporters, but Abbott doesn't really seem interested in getting it on his desk.  (The governor sets the agenda for special sessions; nothing not on the agenda can be considered by either chamber.)

So, sure, it could happen; but it isn't really likely to.  Once the first item on the agenda is done, there won't be a lot of time left to do too many other items, and there will be a scramble in the last weeks (as there is during the regular session) to get a lot of bills passed.  Both sides want to play the "tweak the agenda" game, for one thing, but if they can't get the governor to smile on their preferred bill, they may not be in a mood to compromise on another bill.

I expect acrimony, not cooperation.   I base that on news reports like this:

Lawmakers are back in Austin in large part because of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who forced the special session by holding hostage the continuation of a handful of state agencies after legislation he deemed a priority — including bathroom restrictions based on "biological sex" — failed to pass during the regular session that wrapped up in May. Those proposals all died in the Texas House where Speaker Joe Straus was steadfast in his opposition to such legislation.

It was clear ahead of Tuesday that the fault lines between legislative leaders were not only still in place but had become more prominent.

Straus has, in fact, upped the ante in the debate, adding to his economic concerns (and IBM has weighed in against the bill now) worries that it could lead even one transgender child (because the only bathrooms the State can really control this way are in public schools) to commit suicide.  This is Straus drawing a line in the sand:

“The House takes every issue on the governor's agenda seriously and will focus on doing what's best for the people of Texas,” he said in the statement. “We will look at each issue closely and carefully consider how these ideas would affect our economy and the lives of the people we represent.”
That's Straus' way of telling Patrick to get stuffed.

And, looking in "live" as I write, there are already concerns the Dems could screw this session:

The "sunset legislation" is saving the TBME, the first item on the agenda.  But already the GOP is afraid the Dems might kill a quorum and end the session prematurely, forcing Abbott to call another one, or just back down and give up  The GOP, in other words, is worried.

I expect the TBME will be saved, and after that not much else will get done.  If it does, the bathroom bill will not be at the top of the list, not ahead of something like property tax reform.  Besides, the Democrats could still decamp, recalling the halcyon days of the "killer bees."

And this time there's no one in the U.S. House to get federal law enforcement to hunt 'em down.....