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Good Friday Morning! Negotiations continue this week for the Obamacare replacement bill, the American Health Care Act. I published a new column, “Republicans at the Rubicon: Is the American Health Care Plan a Free-market solution or Medicare for all?” It covers most of my thoughts on the AHCA. I’ll dig more into the CBO report regarding the AHCA and what journalists missed. I’ll also cover the new lawsuits surrounding Trump’s executive order on the so-called “Muslim ban,” and why the courts continue to get it wrong. But I begin today with an essay on American Exceptionalism. Essential links for your week follow.
American Exceptionalism: The seeds that can “Make America Great Again.”
Should we go to war in Syria? That was the hotly debated question in the fall of 2013. Congress was debating over authorizing military force in Syria to stop Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad. He violated international law by using chemical weapons on his people. In the end, the authorization legislation lost and President Obama backed down from military force. Obama cut a deal with Russia that ended up failing. But during the debate, Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times chastising President Obama for even thinking about military force. Putin wanted everyone to go through the UN, where he and China were blocking any action against Syria or Assad. Putin ended his Op-Ed with a critical shot at American exceptionalism (emphasis mine):
My working and personal relationship with President Obama is marked by growing trust. I appreciate this. I carefully studied his address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is “what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.” It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
In a precursor to this current site, I wrote that Putin was selling snake oil. But he was right to fear American exceptionalism. It was American exceptionalism that won WWII, won the space race and toppled the Soviet Union. It was American exceptionalism that dared bring forth a new form of government after the American Revolution. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution set the bar worldwide in establishing individual rights, freedom, and self-governance for all. Finally, it’s American exceptionalism that sees Vladimir Putin as the con-man; a dictator who represses his people, and fears if his people ever get an ounce of American exceptionalism. Exceptionalism is dangerous to Putin’s reign.
A theme I return to often regarding Putin is the idea that his regime contains the seeds of its destruction. I apply the same logic George Kennan famously articulated in the 1946 “X telegram” on the USSR (emphasis mine):
It is curious to note that the ideological power of Soviet authority is strongest today in areas beyond the frontiers of Russia, beyond the reach of its police power. This phenomenon brings to mind a comparison used by Thomas Mann in his great novel Buddenbrooks. Observing that human institutions often show the greatest outward brilliance at a moment when inner decay is in reality farthest advanced, he compared one of those stars whose light shines most brightly on this world when in reality it has long since ceased to exist. And who can say with assurance that the strong light still cast by the Kremlin on the dissatisfied peoples of the western world is not the powerful afterglow of a constellation which is in actuality on the wane? This cannot be proved. And it cannot be disproved. But the possibility remains (and in the opinion of this writer it is a strong one) that Soviet power, like the capitalist world of its conception, bears within it the seeds of its own decay, and that the sprouting of these seeds is well advanced.
As the world entered the post-WWII world, the Soviets believed that the capitalist world (meaning America and the West) would inevitably collapse from capitalism imploding. Soviet leaders believed in Karl Marx’s stages of history. They believed that capitalism was doomed, ultimately, to ruin and despair. The result of the collapse would be a revolution for workers – who would revolt, overthrow their capitalist masters, and establish a socialist world.
Kennan, as an ambassador to Russia, wisely saw through this worldview. He argued that Soviets had within them the seeds of their decline: communism. Kennan predicted the Soviet communist system was doomed to failure. Communism brought with it an inherent rot, which would weaken the Soviet government until it collapsed. Kennan was ultimately right. Reagan held similar beliefs regarding the USSR. The brilliance of Reagan was forcing a decaying communist government to compete rapidly with a vibrant US economy and defense industry. The Soviet system was strained beyond its capabilities, hastening its collapse.
Putin complained about American exceptionalism in 2013 because he knew, on a deep level, that his rule contained similar seeds to destruction. Putin’s dictatorship cannot stand the test of time. It is an inherently flawed oligarchical police state. It is decaying Russian society from the inside-out. His people will ultimately overthrow him as they have done multiple leaders (2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution). He can only distract them with bread and circuses.
America also has seeds in it. But unlike the USSR or Putin, where the seeds lead to demise, America’s seeds provide it with the ability to become an unequivocally exceptional nation. We’ve seen America rely on those seeds when strained beyond its limits. The Founding Generation relied on the Declaration of Independence as evidence of their moral rightness in forming a new nation. They pledged their honor, fortunes, and lives to the cause.
In the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln relied on those same ideas to argue the case against slavery. Modern thinkers often claim the Founders missed an opportunity to end slavery at the Founding. Those same intellectuals use that failure as proof the founding documents and ideas are fundamentally flawed. But they miss how slavery was defeated. The Declaration and Constitution provided the tools for ending slavery and binding the nation together in the post-Civil War era. America did not have to go outside its ideals and institutions to stop the practice of slavery. It only had to look within itself.
We see this again in Women’s suffrage and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. Martin Luther King, Jr. used the ideas that founded America to litigate the evils of segregation and racial discrimination. He guided America back to the standards inherent within it. The seeds of American exceptionalism gave him the tools to deliver fatal blows to injustice. King’s understanding of America allowed him to guide it to greater exceptionalism. He didn’t rebuild the American Foundation. He reminded people of what made America great why we needed to return to that place.
Compare this to the current system in Russia. Nothing in recent Russian history provides them the seeds to counter their current decay. When Russian expat Garry Kasparov speaks of how he wants his Russian homeland to thrive, he relies on American values:
American leadership is required because there is no one else, and because it is good for America. There is no weapon or wall that is more powerful for security than America being envied, imitated, and admired around the world. Admired not for being perfect, but for having the exceptional courage to always try to be better.
Which is the end point here: America is exceptional, not because it is perfect, but because it keeps trying to be better. The seeds inherent in our country allow us to achieve exceptionalism. The assumption at the Founding was not that America was perfect, but that it could become more than the sum of its parts. We are the grand experiment upon which all other modern free countries base themselves. It is present even in the preamble of our Constitution (emphasis mine):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
America is always searching for ways to become a “more perfect Union.” We are a union of diverse peoples and beliefs. Our counties, states, and regions all disagree with one another. But we are united in our exceptional dream to form “a more perfect Union.” The seeds of America do not lead to decay. For America, the decline comes from the outside influences. We should encourage our foundational seeds to grow. That is what Putin fears. Those seeds are what will “Make America Great Again.” And if allowed to take root in Russia, they would make Russia far greater than anything Putin could create or envision.
The Congressional Budget Office scores the American Health Care Act (AHCA)
If you want a case study in media bias, see the CBO scoring of the Obamacare replacement plan, the AHCA. It’s a perfect example of media bias. On Tuesday, you most likely saw a deluge stories saying something like: “the GOP plan will cause 14-26 million people to LOSE their health insurance.” Seems like bad headlines, right? Except those headlines are wrong.
The primary purpose of the CBO scoring process is to give Congress an idea of how a bill will impact the Federal budget and private marketplace. When the CBO “scores” a bill, they’re giving Congress information it can use to debate and amend a bill more efficiently. The CBO is supposed to be a non-partisan way for Congress to have a ballpark idea of how a bill impacts the government and society-at-large. You can read the CBO report here yourself. It’s not an overly technical report. Here is a direct quote of what the CBO said regarding the number uninsured people under the AHCA. While you read it, keep in mind the media reports (emphasis mine):
CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law. Most of that increase would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate. Some of those people would choose not to have insurance because they chose to be covered by insurance under current law only to avoid paying the penalties, and some people would forgo insurance in response to higher premiums.
Later, following additional changes to subsidies for insurance purchased in the nongroup market and to the Medicaid program, the increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number under current law would rise to 21 million in 2020 and then to 24 million in 2026. The reductions in insurance coverage between 2018 and 2026 would stem in large part from changes in Medicaid enrollment—because some states would discontinue their expansion of eligibility, some states that would have expanded eligibility in the future would choose not to do so, and per-enrollee spending in the program would be capped. In 2026, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law.
Instead of “losing” insurance, the CBO explicitly says “most” of the increase in the uninsured would be from people choosing not to carry health insurance. In other words: if you stop using mandates to force people to purchase health insurance, the number of uninsured goes up. Shocker. Compare that passage with all the breathless media reports about people “losing” health insurance. In fact, do a word search through the CBO report for the word “lose.” See how few times the word “lose” is used. The CBO is not saying everyone loses insurance. The CBO is saying most people will stop buying health insurance because the mandate is gone. That is a monumental difference in reporting.
It’s also important to note that these numbers are estimates. The CBO uses models to prognosticate what would happen under a given law. Like any model, their model is prone to error. And, in fact, their models of Obamacare missed enrollment numbers. It’s simply the nature of the business. Their numbers are ballpark estimates to aid in Congressional deliberation and debate.
The CBO could also be wrong in its estimates. Avik Roy covers these possibilities in a piece in Forbes; he estimates the CBO numbers could be off by as much as 19 million:
You add all that up — 7 million off on future exchange enrollment, around 9 million off on the individual mandate’s power, and 3 million off on future Medicaid expansions—the CBO’s estimate of the impact of the AHCA on coverage is off by around 19 million, and that the real impact of the AHCA on coverage is negative 5 million. (The actual effect could be larger or smaller, based on the interaction of the various factors I describe above.)
In other words, even with better CBO methods, the AHCA would still cover fewer people than Obamacare. Why? Because the bill insists on using a flat tax credit that provides the same assistance to someone just above the poverty line that it gives to a family making six figures.
Whatever weight you give to the CBO’s numbers, know that these are estimates (very likely done on a probabilistic bell curve). The CBO ascribes great power to the individual mandate to affect the uninsured rate. That may or may not be true. There is also a vital difference between losing and canceling an insurance plan. The media is pretending those are one and the same.
Something you may not have heard about the CBO report is how the AHCA impacts the Federal Budget. The AHCA would decrease the deficit:
CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period. That total consists of $323 billion in on-budget savings and $13 billion in off-budget savings. Outlays would be reduced by $1.2 trillion over the period, and revenues would be reduced by $0.9 trillion.
The drop in spending would be over $1.2 trillion. The decline in tax revenues would be nearly another trillion. The combination of the two decreases the deficit by $323 billion. Looking at the AHCA purely from a fiscal responsibility standpoint: the AHCA would mark one of the most significant reductions in government spending in over a decade!
Here are the takeaways from the CBO report: 1) The number of uninsured in America would increase. Depending on the methods and models you use, that number could be between 5 – 14 million initially. Anything beyond 5-10 years is tough to estimate because further reforms will happen. 2) A significant majority of those people would drop coverage because the individual mandate would be gone. 3) The AHCA cuts deeply into the budget deficit over the next decade. 4) Taxes fall across the board in the health insurance market.
I believe Congressional negotiations will continue concerning the AHCA. In my column, I laid out why I think the bill, or a form of it, will pass Congress. Republicans have a vested interest in ensuring something passes for Trump to sign. I also expect some Democratic support in the end. Look for Democratic Senators in states Trump won to flip. The bill is passing some of its first committee hurdles. Don’t be surprised if a significant segment of opposition to the AHCA fades as Republicans and Democrats face the “binary choice.”
Courts continue to make up law on Trump’s immigration EO
On Wednesday, a Hawaiin Federal District Court Judge granted an injunction against Trump’s new travel and immigration executive order. The EO was supposed to go into effect Thursday. The legal reasoning the judge used was similar to previous courts. My analysis from February 9, 2017, of the last round of EO lawsuits, still stands: the law is bad policy, but constitutional. The courts granting injunctions are wrong.
The most troubling aspect is how the courts are handling the Establishment Clause allegations. The injunctions currently in place say the plaintiffs are likely to succeed in court because of media remarks by Trump and others. Thes public comments allegedly discuss a “Muslim ban.” Instead of focusing on the text or implementation of the EO, courts are concentrating solely on extra-judicial media clips. Extra-judicial comments have never been the sole evidence in a case involving the religion clauses. Josh Blackman describes this well in Politico Magazine:
More than a decade ago, Justice David Souter warned courts that when searching for an impermissible religious purpose, they should resist performing a “judicial psychoanalysis of a drafter’s heart of hearts.”
And yet, in Hawaii and Virginia, the courts have done exactly that—halting President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration by trying to read his mind. On Wednesday, a federal court in Hawaii concluded that Trump’s revised order violates the First Amendment’s prohibition that the government “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” This opinion basically cribbed from a February decision by a federal court in Virginia halting the president’s initial executive order for the same reason. In both cases (and despite the fact that the administration made significant changes to the policy between them), the judges gleaned from the orders a malicious intent by parsing punditry from Trump and his surrogates, particularly Rudy Giuliani, on cable news.
The problem with the courts “reading Trump’s mind” is that he has statements all over the map on the “Muslim ban.” The ONLY way to rely on media clips as proof of discrimination is to cherry-pick different interviews. And cherry-picking is what is happening. Courts are focusing on Rudy Guiliani’s interviews and a handful of Trump media remarks. They ignore other interviews saying the exact opposite. Further, courts are ignoring the text and implementation of the EO. Neither of which provides proof of discrimination.
At best, courts have evidence of public statements with a discriminatory intent but with no actions taken with that intent. Courts are trying to read Trump’s mind on the EO and say: this EO, which fails at banning Muslims, is the alleged Muslim ban on media clips. The courts haven’t shown a discriminatory intent attached to an EO. And this is the best case scenario for the courts. If you add in all the media interviews in the Trump universe of media clips, the picture is FAR from clear.
Extra-judicial statements, like media clips, have never been used by courts as the sole evidence of discrimination in establishment clause case law. All previous cases have employed what is called “legislative history” (the minutes and public debate over legislation). In other words, courts have looked at what a legislature has said during debates if the legislative intent was unclear. Courts examine extra-judicial statements carefully because legislative history often proves both sides of an argument. Legislative history rarely shows intent.
The result of these EO court rulings has been a massive power grab by the courts. They are claiming the ability to know the mindset of Trump when writing the EO. They cannot perceive his mindset. And they can’t cherry-pick interviews to prove a point. As Blackman notes, this smacks of political gamesmanship. You could remove several of the media statements, and it seems clear the courts would have ruled the same way:
Courts need not be blind to Trump’s awful past statements (call it Fox News deference). Judges can and should ask if there is a plausible reason why those seeking admission from these six war-torn countries should undergo heightened review. However, courts should not uncharitably read every piece of evidence in the most negative possible light (call it MSNBC deference). It is insane to think that the president’s signature policy so far—on which he campaigned and was elected to the highest office in the land—ostensibly boils down to how Giuliani framed an impromptu answer on cable news. I don’t think it does. Consider a counterfactual where Giuliani skipped Fox that day. Would the policy now be ruled constitutional? I suspect the courts would still have struck down the orders, meaning Giuliani’s statement is “mere surplusage”—an irrelevant distraction that carries no legal weight. What matters to these judges is Trump, and Trump alone.
Rather—and despite his own egregious and inexcusable attacks against the courts—judges should treat the 45th president like any other (call it C-SPAN deference). It is true that Trump consistently disrupts all political norms. The courts should not respond in kind by disrupting judicial norms. Trump’s presidency will come to an end sooner or later. But the precedents set during this period will linger far, far longer.
There will be more litigation and appeals for these EO’s. It’s not the end of the road. And at some point, the courts will have to be checked in their power grabs. These judicial opinions lack serious legal support. That has to be fixed by the appellate courts. Stay tuned.
Links for your radar
At 7:36 p.m. Tuesday, Rachel Maddow tweeted, “BREAKING: We’ve got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously),” sending the internet into a frenzy of theorizing. Did Maddow have Donald Trump’s tax returns or just one of the Trumps’ tax returns? Could this be it, the tax return that would bring down the Donald? If this was it, why wasn’t MSNBC cutting into its programming, instead of running a countdown clock to Maddow’s show? By 8:24, Maddow was tweeting that the tax return in question was Donald Trump’s 1040 from 2005. By 8:30, still half an hour before Maddow started airing, the White House had responded to the MSNBC report, saying that Trump had paid $38 million on income of $150 million that year. An hour later, about 20 minutes after The Rachel Maddow Show started, Maddow would confirm these numbers, turning her big scoop about Donald Trump’s long-missing tax returns into a cautionary tale about overhype. Rachel Maddow, you played yourself—and us too.
On her Tuesday show, Rachel Maddow teased a scoop: She had Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns. It was the first time his federal returns would be released. Small digression: MSNBC’s Maddow didn’t have them. Investigative reporter David Cay Johnston got them, and went on her show to talk about it.
Anyway, when she finally revealed what was in the taxes, it was not a huge deal. Trump earned about $150 million in income in 2005, and paid $38 million in taxes, thanks to the alternative minimum tax, which he wants to kill. This gives Trump an effective tax rate of about 24 percent, which Johnston pointed out was roughly equal to what he and his wife, who are an upper middle class couple, pay. And, sure, for a billionaire, you can argue that he should pay more in taxes. But, $38 million is a big number. As is $150 million in income.
Medicaid has been around since 1965; it was a core part of LBJ’s Great Society entitlement expansion. The program’s idiosyncratic design requires states to chip in around 40% of the program’s funding, while only getting to control about 5% of how the program is run. The federal Medicaid law—Title XIX of the Social Security Act—mandates a laundry list of benefits that states must provide through Medicaid, and bars states from charging premiums. Copays and deductibles cannot exceed a token amount.
Medicaid is the largest or second-largest line item in nearly every state budget. But for all practical purposes, the main tool states have to control costs is to pay doctors and hospitals less than private insurers pay for the same care. As a result, fewer doctors accept Medicaid patients, making it very hard for Medicaid enrollees to get access to care when they need it. Poor access, in turn, means that Medicaid enrollees—remarkably—have no better health outcomes than those with no insurance at all.
Why I’m Moving Home – J.D. Vance, author of the runaway bestseller “Hillbilly Elegy: A memoir of a Family and Culture in crisis“
I’ve long worried whether I’ve become a part of this problem. For two years, I’d lived in Silicon Valley, surrounded by other highly educated transplants with seemingly perfect lives. It’s jarring to live in a world where every person feels his life will only get better when you came from a world where many rightfully believe that things have become worse. And I’ve suspected that this optimism blinds many in Silicon Valley to the real struggles in other parts of the country. So I decided to move home, to Ohio.
It wasn’t an easy choice. I scaled back my commitments to a job I love because of the relocation. My wife and I worry about the quality of local public schools, and whether she (a San Diego native) could stand the unpredictable weather. But there were practical reasons to move: I’m founding an organization to combat Ohio’s opioid epidemic. We chose Columbus because I travel a lot, and I need to be centrally located in the state and close to an airport. And the truth is that not every motivation is rational: Part of me loves Ohio simply because it’s home.
The Elephant in the Health Insurance Room – Commentary Magazine
When was the last time you saw an ad for regular health insurance? Exactly never. There is no price competition in the health insurance market, which goes a very long way to explaining why medical costs keep ratcheting up. So the elephant in the room of health insurance reform, the elephant that almost everyone in Washington is studiously ignoring, is the lack of price discovery.
As former senator Tom Coburn (a physician by training) explains, as long as the costs of medical procedures are kept secret, no health insurance reform is really possible. Make health care providers post their prices, and those prices, now wildly disparate, will quickly begin to converge towards the low end once customers can find out where they can get a better deal. The problem, of course, is that insurance companies and hospitals don’t want prices to be public and they are both very powerful lobbies in Washington. Welcome to democracy.
How Donald Trump’s Enemies fell for a $1.6 billion hoax – Buzzfeed News
In the slightly more than four months since the presidential election, a burgeoning market for potentially damaging information about President Trump and his associates has emerged. Opportunists have begun dangling such would-be smoking guns — sometimes for a price — in front of journalists, amateur sleuths, and deep-pocketed political activists so eager to damage the Trump presidency that they can be blind to potential red flags.
Such forgeries escalate the phenomenon of “fake news,” the Facebook- and Twitter-friendly lies that tell readers what they want to believe and that are packaged to look like authentic journalism. In this case, evidence was deliberately fabricated that could make fictional allegations seem authentic. Such forged documents also feed the hunger of a growing audience on the left that seems willing to believe virtually any claim about Trump’s supposed bad deeds.
How the Conservative Media Became Trump’s Lapdogs – Politico Magazine
The Trump administration, with all its ethical mishaps and conflicts, presents conservatives the perfect opportunity to establish themselves as a tough, new vanguard of right-of-center journalism. Unfortunately, right-wing trolls and fanboys with press passes seem more interested in racking up brownie points with POTUS and nursing grudges against liberal media competitors.
Sadly these media personalities—easily found in places such as Breitbart and Fox News—have become exactly what they hated their mainstream media foes for being: biased cheerleaders all too willing to ignore any misdeeds by the president in the name of helping him enact his agenda. Some of those who used to be the conservative movement’s most loyal government watchdogs are nothing but lapdogs now for Trump.
Liberals Would Be Foolish To Primary Joe Manchin – FiveThirtyEight
Eight years ago, Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware was headed to the U.S. Senate. Joe Biden had left his seat open upon ascending to the vice presidency, and Castle, a Republican, appeared to be in the perfect position to take it. Delaware is a solidly blue state, but Castle had built a moderate record, was well-liked and held an early lead over his three potential Democratic opponents. His only problem: That moderate record cut both ways. By September 2010, the tea party wave was cresting and Castle got swallowed up. He lost the Republican primary to tea partier Christine O’Donnell. Two months later, O’Donnell lost the general election by 17 points, and Republicans failed to win a majority in the Senate.
The Castle-O’Donnell primary should be a cautionary tale for Democrats now. Some liberal activists want to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia’s 2018 Democratic primary. They complain that he’s too conservative and that he voted to confirm most of President Trump’s Cabinet officials. Manchin is probably safe — Democratic voters in West Virginia are pretty conservative.1 But the impulse to challenge Manchin from the left could be dangerous for Democrats. Manchin, even though he often votes with the GOP, is incredibly valuable to the Democratic Party compared to any plausible alternative.
A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded — or totally necessary — Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks. What ensued in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down on Monday, was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million.
In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, seeking more than four years’ worth of overtime pay that they had been denied. Maine law requires workers to be paid 1.5 times their normal rate for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carves out some exemptions. A quick punctuation lesson before we proceed: In a list of three or more items — like “beans, potatoes and rice” — some people would put a comma after potatoes, and some would leave it out. A lot of people feel very, very strongly about it.
Satire piece of the week
Nation Shocked To Learn Top Spy Agency Spies On People – Duffel Blog
WASHINGTON — The nation is in a panic after discovering that the Central Intelligence Agency — also known as the “CIA” according to recently-declassified documents — may be spying on people around the world. The revelation comes alongside a stunning collection of leaked documents by WikiLeaks, Russia’s top news agency, which released a staggering 8,761 classified documents last week in a collection mysteriously known as “Vault 7.”
Among other shocking discoveries from Vault 7 include ideas that smartphones, which govern and take input from nearly every facet of American’s lives, could potentially be used by either the CIA or 13-year-olds to gather information about users in ways other than clicking “I agree” when an app asks for permissions over the users’ entire life.
“This should scare anyone and everyone who uses electricity,” said Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor-turned American mail-order bride now living in Moscow. “I recommend not having any conversations near light bulbs or even motorized toothbrushes.”
Thanks for reading!