Tuesday, July 25, 2017

More important than the message

I’ve been thinking for a long time, occasionally mentioning it to other people, that the GOP has very clearly demonstrated they are my enemy. But Democrats haven’t clearly demonstrated they are my friends.

For example, the Dems made a big newsworthy splash announcing the message they intend to use for the 2018 campaign. There were lots of words about economic opportunity for everybody. All very important.

But several people noticed a conspicuous silence – no mention of the social issues that are the backbone of the party, such as immigration, abortion, and LGBT rights. One might think the Dems don’t want to upset the bigoted white voters who now have the undeserved reputation of controlling politics.

I note a silence on the critical issue of voter suppression and other anti-democracy moves by the GOP. Voter suppression will be more important to the outcome of the election than any messaging plan the Dems might put forward.

Chutzpah doesn’t begin to cover it

Some thoughts from Melissa McEwan of Shakesville on today’s Senate vote to begin debate on a healthcare bill (any healthcare bill):
This is a humongous fraud being perpetrated on the American public, and virtually the entire Republican Party is going along with it, all for the vile objective of taking away people's health insurance.

The malice of it is breathtaking.

I watched, with tears streaming down my face, the Republicans cast their votes, eager to make their constituents' lives worse and willing to consign to the dustbin of history even the *illusion* that we will restore anytime soon something proximate to functional democracy.

I watched one of the two major parties in this country — the majority party; the governing party — toss aside democratic processes and *the most basic responsibility of lawmakers* to know what constitutes a law before voting to advance it.

In the meantime, the nasty guy visited the Boy Scout’s National Jamboree. Yeah, presidents have been invited to the Jamboree over the last 80 years and, yeah, the prez. is the honorary head of the BSA. But all the previous presidents have given strictly non-partisan speeches. This time it seemed like the nasty guy was giving a speech to Trump Youth. McEwan says he did it by “attempting to co-opt a boys' youth organization and conflate their values with his own.”

One way to keep ranking alive is to teach the very young it is supposed to be that way.

Fascism? Nah

Sarah Kendzior was a guest on the Rob Burgess Show (with which I’m not familiar). Since she is an expert on terms such as authoritarian she was asked for definitions. I took notes while listening. My summary isn’t as elaborate as what she said.

Authoritarian: Power is concentrated in a dictator. There is a spectrum of how much power the dictator wields.

Kleptocracy: The dictator abuses power to make money.

Fascism: The state holds all power.

Kendzior noted that the nasty guy isn’t moving towards fascism. He doesn’t want the state to be supreme, he wants to destroy the state. That’s because only the state can interfere with his (usually corrupt) plans to make money.

There are many in the GOP, especially ultra religious conservatives (such as vice nasty guy), who do want fascism, they want their apparatus to hold all power.

Kendzior went on to compare the nasty guy and his vice. When the nasty guy lies, it is usually obvious. He is usually loud and obnoxious about it. When the vice lies he usually does it with such sincerity that people want to believe him. He is subtle and charming. After the veep debate the vice nasty guy was declared the winner (by some pundits) because he looked so sincere and “presidential” (a word Kendzior now detests) even though everything he said was a lie.

I can’t recommend listening to the Rob Burgess Show. The sound wasn’t all that good and the program did a lot of meandering over its hour.

More on Clergy Covenant

Earlier this month I had posted a brief teaser and a link to an article on Clergy Covenant in the United Methodist Church that I had written for my brother blog, in which I discuss United Methodist issues. I’m puzzled and amused that the tiny teaser has gotten 274 pageviews (way above average for my posts) yet the post itself has gotten only 19 pageviews.

I now have a second post in my brother blog expanding on Clergy Covenant and how to strengthen it. This might be an integral part of whether the denomination survives beyond the Way Forward Conference in 2019. Go ahead. Follow the links.

Monday, July 24, 2017

It costs how much?

With the repeal of the Affordable Care Act in so much trouble (but don’t consider it dead) in the Senate there is growing discussion of universal or single-payer healthcare, perhaps best described as Medicare for all. The GOP is ready with its talking-points. A big one – Over a 10 year period universal healthcare would cost $32 trillion. Yes, a gigantic amount of money.

But what the GOP doesn’t say is that this is a savings of $17 trillion over that same 10 years compared to what we have now. It also means everyone is covered, not like what we have now and certainly not what the GOP bills propose.

David Akadjian of DailyKos runs through the numbers and adds that there are certain industries with very powerful lobbies trying to make sure that $17 trillion goes to them.

The idea is being attacked from another side – universal care would greatly increase the federal budget. Of course it will, because we would be paying for insurance through (hopefully progressive) taxes rather than directly out of our own pockets. And we’d still save $17 trillion.

Egberto Willies, also of DailyKos, thinks universal care might happen soon. And that it would be championed by the nasty guy, which, as the savior of healthcare, would guarantee him a second term. Willies’ reasoning: Many, including many in the GOP, are concluding that market-based insurance is untenable. If the GOP version fails the nasty guy will weigh his options and this idea would scoop the Democrats. Therefore the Dems should start trumpeting the idea, to make sure they get some credit.

Will the nasty guy go for it? I don’t know. However, I look at the lobbyists trying to make sure $17 trillion benefits their corporations and I have my doubts.

You’ll like my numbers better

Over the last few months we’ve heard a lot about the Congressional Budget Office and their scores of the GOP replacements (or not) of the Affordable Care Act. The CBO says a particular version will throw 22 million of healthcare and the public notices. Aw, man, this really messes with the GOP’s agenda! Yeah, the CBO is being criticized.

The Heritage Foundation is super conservative. Some of us already heard from them last January. They were the ones who “suggested” Neil Gorsuch for the Supremes. The nasty guy could claim, “We didn’t talk about abortion,” because the Heritage Foundation had already assured the vice nasty guy that Gorsuch’s views were sufficiently anti-abortion.

Now it looks like the Heritage Foundation is introducing an amendment to an upcoming spending (?) bill to cut the CBO budget and lay off 89 people. The scoring (economic analysis of pending bills) would be outsourced to think-tanks – such as the Heritage Foundation. On Twitter Topher Spiro said, “This is a *massive* breach of democratic norms.”

Friday, July 21, 2017

See the world!

If you want to go to North Korea, better hurry. The nasty guy’s team is close to announcing a ban on travel to NK. The NK dictator Kim Jong Un is probably delighted Americans won’t be snooping around anymore.

It is for our safety, right? NK is a dangerous place. An American tourist, Otto Warmbier, was arrested and jailed. He was sent back to America because he was in a coma. He died soon after. Sure. But why not just issue a travel caution? Why invalidate passports of those who go?

That really worries Melissa McEwan of Shakesville. Is this the first instance of disallowing travel for average citizens? Is that Mexican border wall for keeping people out or is it for keeping people in?
This strikes me as the exploitation of a tragic situation in order to have an excuse to set a precedent for banning U.S. citizens' travel to other places.

I have long suspected that the Trump administration would eventually disallow foreign travel for average citizens. That is, that we simply won't be allowed to leave.

This brings to mind such things as the Berlin Wall and Iron Curtain. Why do authoritarian regimes block the exits? First, too many people would just leave. Second, those that came back would know life can be better when not under a dictator.

Commenter rtavi responds to McEwan, wondering if it is only alarmism:
Do you really think that is the end game?
McEwan replies in another comment:
I do. I wouldn't say it if I didn't believe it, and I wouldn't believe it without reason. I've been paying very close attention to Trump and the people with whom he surrounds himself and the precise language that he and they use for two years. Yes, I believe that this is the end game.

I'm not in the habit of alarming my readership, about whom I care very much, unless I genuinely believe there is something to be alarmed about.

I think the difference between what I fear will happen in the U.S. and the Iron Curtain is that travel restrictions in the U.S. may be enforced only on certain parts of the population, with exemptions for the wealthy, without the requirement of clear loyalty to the government/regime, thus offering some illusion of continued normalcy.

You're absolutely right about the United States' fixation on "freedom," and I will note that conservative Americans (and not a few liberals) have been consistently willing to trade their actual freedoms in exchange for promises of protecting their "freedom." See, for example, the PATRIOT Act.

That's why this is so scary: It's being billed as an act of protection of American citizens. Which almost certainly means it is categorically not.

First round of the battle

I’ve been to early meetings of Voters, Not Politicians, a group in Michigan working to put a proposal on the 2018 ballot to put redistricting into the hands of an independent commission. Michigan is one of the more highly gerrymandered states. I plan to be more involved as petitions are circulated (I don’t plan to be a circulator, though I might come for your signature).

Last week the campaign had a big reveal on Facebook (so I didn’t see it) on the birthday of Elbridge Gerry, the guy whose signature as Governor of Massachusetts prompted the creation of the word gerrymander. Gerry then served as Vice President under James Madison. The big reveal was to start their petition circulation efforts.

But they’ve hit a snag. The state Bureau of Elections and its Board of Canvassers needs to approve the wording of the petitions. Most of the time that approval comes in 1-2 days, which is what the campaign was told when they checked with the Bureau of Elections several months ago.

It has now been 23 days.

And the Bureau of Elections is now saying it could be weeks or months.

This is important. The campaign, all volunteer, was counting on summer weekends to collect some 350,000 signatures, which must be done within 180 days. Without these summer weekends the campaign will have to raise money for the much more expensive route of paying for canvassers.

We knew the people who control Lansing would fight against a proposal to lessen their grip. This appears to be the first round in that battle.

Pardon me

A couple tweets from Minnesota Senator Al Franken:
Without Net Neutrality, what will happen to Americans using internet as a place to fight against injustices? We can’t afford to find out.

The internet is a place where ppl can tell their own stories & come together to work toward justice, equality for all bc of Net Neutrality.

The nasty guy and his team are working hard to figure out how to stop the investigation into his affairs with Russia. Special counsel Robert Mueller is apparently getting too close. The nasty guy and his team are also discussing the presidential authority to grant pardons. Does that include his children? Or himself?