One of the benefits of being sick—oh, bollocks. There are no benefits to being sick. However, with a couple of short interludes, I slept until about 1:30 in the afternoon today, which is 4:30 for you elitist East Coasters. That means I missed the whole day. So when I finally felt well enough to reach over to the table for my tablet, I was able to take in the entire glorious panorama of 2017's first Friday the 13th all at once. I shall now present it to you approximately as I experienced it.
Donald Trump met today with Steve Harvey, Geraldo Rivera, and a physicist who says global warming is going to be good for us.
Rep. Steve King unveiled his scale model of a wall on the Mexican border:
Very nice, don't you think? The wall is made from graham crackers spray painted gray, and the razor wire is made from dental floss rolled around an empty saran wrap tube and stiffened using egg whites. All that's missing is little tiny Mexicans on one side looking frustrated because they can no longer get into the United States.
Big banks continue to show gangbuster results on hopes that Trump and his congressional allies will get rid of all those annoying regulations that Obama passed after they nearly destroyed the world during the Great Crash. On the same day, Moody's reminded us what all those regulations were about when it agreed to pay nearly a billion dollars to settle claims over "certain statements" it made during the runup to the Great Crash.
A few days ago FBI Director James Comey refused to say if the FBI was investigating Donald Trump's ties to Russia. "I would never comment on investigations in an open forum," he said to general snickering. Still, at least this left open the possibility that he'd inform Congress in a closed session.
No such luck—and Democrats are apoplectic. The Huffington Post collected a potpourri of comments: "No credibility...disappointed, outraged...not trust him at all...great sense of disappointment." Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told ABC News: "I think there's been a profound question raised as to whether director Comey is dealing in an evenhanded manner with the investigation of the Clinton emails and any investigation that may or may not be happening with respect to the Trump campaign."
House Republicans decided by fiat that deficit spending caused by repealing Obamacare doesn't count:
However, Newt Gingrich thinks this doesn't go nearly far enough. The CBO is simply out of its depth dealing with the genius who fixed the Wollman Ice Rink thirty years ago. Trump is going to bring that same hard-charging, entrepreneurial spirit to Washington, and the CBO can't deal with it:
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is simply incompatible with the Trump era....It is a left-wing, corrupt, bureaucratic defender of big government and liberalism. Its scoring of ObamaCare was not just wrong, it was clearly corrupt.
....Every reform effort will get a false score from CBO. It is impossible for the current CBO to come anywhere close to an honest, accurate score of a red tape cutting, entrepreneurially hard charging system.
I'm pretty sure the proper translation of this is, "The CBO refuses to score massive tax cuts for the rich as deficit reducing." But maybe I'm just being cynical?
The first leg of California's bullet train will cost 50 percent more than currently budgeted, according to a review by the Federal Railroad Administration.
On the day that President Obama announced sanctions against Russia for its election hacking, the Trump national security team suddenly got as agitated as a teenage girl about to go to her first prom. Jonathan Landay and Arshad Mohammed of Reuters have the story:
Michael Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump's choice for national security adviser, held five phone calls with Russia's ambassador to Washington on the day the United States retaliated for Moscow's interference in the U.S. presidential election, three sources familiar with the matter said.
The calls occurred between the time the Russian embassy was told about U.S. sanctions and the announcement by Russian President Vladimir Putin that he had decided against reprisals, said the sources.
I'm sure there was nothing untoward going on here. They were probably just asking each other what they planned to wear to the inauguration.
Finally, Max Sawicky writes something useful about Russia. Those of us who loathe Putin's Russia are not engaging in latter-day red baiting, he says. Far from it:
Today, kleptocratic, capitalist Russia is among the moneyed interests in the world. It’s tempting but simplistic to see Russian leaders as a fairly narrow species of nationalist interlopers in U.S. domestic politics. More to the point, they are allied with germinating, reactionary forces internationally, if only lately inside the United States.
....These movements, need we be reminded, are viciously, violently racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and homophobic. Similar groups run amok in Russia itself with the apparent indulgence of the authorities. The Trump campaign has brought like-minded creatures out from under the rocks of the U.S. right.
....The U.S. welfare/regulatory state with all its flaws contains many seeds for a better system. Trump, with an assist from a cavalcade of shady backers, including Putin’s Russian oligarchy, threatens to uproot these seeds. It’s possible to exaggerate Putin’s role, but it would be wrong to discount it altogether. Any complete survey of the forces colluding against progressive goals must now include the Russian state.
As they say, read the whole thing.