Friday, October 21, 2016

Energizing the opponent

Donald Trump has been blustering about rigged elections and saying he’ll respect the outcome … if he wins. But the effect of Trump’s comments aren’t what the GOP establishment would like. I had commented earlier that party officials want Trump to shut up because talk of rigged elections messes up their narrative of voter fraud requiring voter ID laws. Here are some more consequences of Trump’s flapping lips:

He could be convincing GOP voters to not vote: “If your vote doesn’t matter because the system is rigged against you, why bother turning out?”

Confidence in the accuracy of the election has increased – among Democrats.

And that call to go watch (intimidate) polling places where those people vote? No surge of Trump supporters seeking to be certified poll watchers.

And in North Carolina, where the GOP tried to limit early voting, they have both energized their opponents and demoralized their base. Compared to this time four years ago, Dem ballots are up 3%, unaffiliated up 9% and GOP ballots are down 41%.
Faced with a choice between one candidate they have been taught to despise and another they find appalling it appears that over 40% of Republican voters are just tuning out.

Oh, the grapes!

I didn’t watch the third prez. debate (I’m proudly 0 for 3), though I did get enough (and I don’t need much to have enough) news from various blogs and news headlines.

Donald Trump’s performance in the debate prompted a tweet from Antonio French
Trump’s foreign policy answers sound like a book report from a teenager who hasn’t read the book. “Oh, the grapes! They had so much wrath!”
That prompted the tag #TrumpBookReport with other summaries of books that Trump doesn’t have time to read. A few:

The bridges, nobody builds a bridge like me. I’ll build one and make Madison County pay for it.
– The Real B Ham

It was the best of times. Absolutely phenomenal. It was the worst of times. Total disaster.
– Ben

We’re gonna catch so much rye, you won’t believe it. We’re bringing those rye catching jobs to America.
– Steve McPherson

Monday, October 17, 2016

Obama in February

President Obama has announced at least one thing he will do when he leaves office. He will work with the new National Democratic Redistricting Committee, which is to be chaired by Obama’s previous Attorney General Eric Holder. The committee’s job will be to fight gerrymandering ahead of the 2020 census and following redistricting.

This is fantastic news!

Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos gives an idea of why this group was formed and what they will be doing. Currently about 55% of House seats are drawn to favor the GOP with another 10% drawn to favor Dems. That is why Dems lost the house in 2012 and winning it back this year is a tossup. There is also rampant gerrymandering in many state legislatures, including Michigan. The tasks ahead:

* Target key state legislatures and governors to block bad 2020 maps.

* Win crucial state judicial elections to have the right people overseeing the maps.

* Fund gerrymandering lawsuits to take the case to the Supremes. Hmm… might we see Obama presenting the case before the Justices?

* Support ballot initiatives for 2018 and 2020 to put redistricting in the hands of non-partisan commissions.

The effort could cost over $100 million.

Commenter MissouriDemKC responded:
This. This is why preventing Obama or Clinton from appointing a majority to the Supreme Court is the thing that Republicans are willing to lay down of the railroad tracks for.

Because it is through their use of a Supreme Court majority that the Republicans have been able to control ALL of the government against the will of the majority.

THEIR Supreme Court allows gerrymandering, so that the Republicans have a 30-seat majority in the House even when more people voted for Democrats overall.

THEIR Supreme Court allows unlimited and secret campaign contributions from huge, monied interests.

THEIR Supreme Court allows voter draconian ID laws, to suppress the vote of minorities and the elderly.

THEIR Supreme Court actually selected a President of the United States one year, if I’m not mistaken.
They know that without control of that Court, they’re facing a permanent minority status. That’s why they’ll do anything to prevent a change in the makeup of the Supreme Court.

Which leads me to…

It has been 246 days since Justice Antonin Scalia died and 215 days since Merrick Garland was nominated for that seat. The Senate, under GOP leadership and control, has done nothing in the process to confirm or reject Garland.

Senator John McCain announced that the GOP in the Senate will be united in refusing to confirm any Supreme Court nominee nominated by Hillary Clinton. Since it is likely there will be three more vacancies by the end of a Clinton first term McCain is promising that by 2020 the Court will have only five Justices, and three of them will be Roberts, Thomas, and Alito.

A McCain spokesperson later said he and other GOP senators will “vote for or against that individual based on their qualifications.” It is easy to see that in the GOP view a nomination by Clinton equals unqualified. They may hold hearings (which they haven’t done for Garland), and still refuse to approve all of Clinton’s nominees.

I’m pleased to see that Dems are outspending the GOP in crucial battleground states and, so far, the Koch brothers aren’t refilling GOP coffers. This helps our chances of getting a Dem majority and Chuck Schumer, likely Dem Majority Leader, can change the rules to prevent filibustering Supreme nominees.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Free speech requires compassion

When Donald Trump started campaigning for prez. The Arizona Republic newspaper began running stories saying Trump was not a true conservative. The editors should know – in the 125 years of the paper they’ve never endorsed a Democrat – until this year.

They got responses that included death threats and threats to burn the building down.

Mi-Ai Parrish, president of the paper, offers a response to those threats. She describes some of the people who work for the paper.

A response to those who threaten death is Kimberly. After answering the phone and hearing those threats she talked to police, then went to her church and prayed for patience and forgiveness. Free speech requires compassion.

A response to those who demanded the paper be shut down is Nicole. She is part of the news staff. She attended a Trump rally and heard him encourage his supporters to boo and bully journalists. Free speech requires an open debate.

A response to those why say the editors are un-American is Dennis. He is a reporter who revealed the deplorable conditions in VA hospitals and thus hailed as a hero by veterans. Free speech holds the powerful accountable.

A response to those who say the endorsement choice is un-Christian is Parrish’s grandfather. He was a pastor who was imprisoned and tortured for being a Christian. Freedom of religion is fragile and precious.

A response to those who say the paper had no right to endorse anyone is Parrish’s mother. She grew up under a dictator with no right to an education, a free press, freedom of religion, freedom of peaceful assembly, nor to vote. Parrish will not take those rights for granted.

Longer life at half the cost

The blog Our World in Data compares life expectancy to health expenditure for about 20 wealthy countries. America has a spot on the chart all by itself. We spend over $9000 per person per year for a life expectancy of 79. The closest to us is Switzerland with a cost of $6800 and life expectancy of 83. The best is Japan with a cost of $4200 and life expectancy of 83.5. Why does Japan get an extra four years at half the cost?


Though the article doesn’t mention it, I’m sure part of the difference is diet – the Japanese diet is much more healthy than the American diet. On to things the article does say: Administrative costs in America are much higher – we have to pay a profit to all those insurance companies. In America there is a large inequality in spending. Some people have a great deal of access to medical services and some have limited access, which affects costs when these people finally seek treatment and affects life expectancy.

The current tax game

Donald Trump’s tax avoidance was big news before the way he treats women was big news. His supporters say something like, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” This is even though Trump’s tax proposals skew the game even more for those already rich.

So let’s take a look at the game as currently played.

I think this chart was created by Daily Kos based on data from the Congressional Budget Office.

The poor get to benefit from employer-based health insurance, Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and a little bit of other tax exclusions. The cost to the government is about $65 billion.

The rich get to benefit from employer-based health insurance, state and local tax deductions, mortgage interest deductions, charitable deductions, reduced rates on capital gains and dividends, and a whole lot of various other exclusions. The cost to the government is about $435 billion.

Yup, the tax law game is skewed towards the rich. And Trump’s proposed changes benefit … himself.

A few of the ideas in Hillary Clinton’s plan:

* Cap itemized deductions.

* Add the Warren Buffet rule: Anyone making more than $1 million a year pays at least 30%.

* Add an additional 4% tax on those with incomes over $5 million.