Monday, November 11, 2019

Chaos and inertia

Today was the first big snowfall of the season, early for these parts. Close to 4 inches came down over the day. I canceled this evenings bell rehearsal. I did my shoveling this evening in the dark – show didn’t stop falling until 8:00 and the sun went down at 5:15. This was wet, heavy snow. It stuck to the shovel and I had to whack it after every scoop to get the snow to fall off.

Sarah Kendzzior, who studies authoritarian regimes tweeted a quote from an interview she did with Boulevard Magazine. She talked to dissidents in places like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Kyrgystan.
They talk about this monotony, this constant combination of chaos and inertia. Things are corrupt, and there’s a mindboggling, horrific acts of corruption and abuse going on, on a daily basis. And at the same time, nothing changes. So you’re in a state of shock, but you’re also in a state of, not quite resignation, but you come to expect it.
Kendzior sees signs of that in America.

Hunter of Daily Kos is concerned about the nasty guy’s Twitter feed. Part one of the problem is he is indifferent to whether whatever he sees is true. Part two is that he consults his Twitter feed rather than actual advisors who know stuff.

Part three – and this is the scary one – is if you want to influence the nasty guy, tweet at him. There are lots of people, especially at Fox News and alarmingly from other countries, who elevate conspiracy theories known to be false to make sure the nasty guy sees them and is influenced by them. These people are engaging in acts of propaganda for their own gain that will harm America. They’re doing it for the same reasons despotic regimes do it.

The nasty guy administration instituted a “conscience rule” that tells health care providers that their conscience is more important than their patient’s health or life. Feel that providing birth control or vaccinations or gender affirming surgery is against your morals or religion, just say your conscience prevents you from doing that medical procedure. The nasty guy administration will hold billions in funding from health care providers if they don’t allow these objections.

Thankfully, Judge Paul Engelmayer, a federal judge in Manhattan has declared the rule to be unconstitutional.

Meteor Blades of Daily Kos shares a little bit of history of racism offered by Joseph Thompson, professor of history at Mississippi State University. President Roosevelt signed the GI bill into law in 1944. In the years after WWII it allowed huge numbers of veterans to take advantage of free college education.

Black veterans saw the race free text spelling out the qualifications and were hopeful. Their hopes went unfulfilled because:

* While white universities had the resources to expand to accommodate the increased numbers of students, the historically black universities did not.

* Black veterans had a much higher rate of not finishing high school.

* The funds to attend college were approved by the local Veterans Administration office – where racist white officials could deny the funds.

Rich people are getting nervous about Elizabeth Warren’s proposals to tax them. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos says they’re not yet to the point of pumping money to a Democratic competitor or the nasty guy. However, wealth managers are doing brisk business holding discussions with those with more than $50 million about steps they might take to avoid paying the tax. Will a person with $60 million really miss $200,000?

I mentioned before that a Democrat won the governorship in Kentucky by less than 5,200 votes. I had also mentioned that Matt Bevin, the Republican who lost, hasn’t conceded, has asked for a recanvass, and talked about using a law (last used in 1899) that allows a candidate to “contest” the results of an election (proof optional) and have the GOP majority legislature choose the next governor.

It is good to hear, as the Daily Kos election team wrote, that Senate President Robert Stivers got such a massive outcry he’s now saying that if the recanvass shows no change in vote totals (and a recanvass has never shown a change before) Bevin lost and should go home.

But now the nasty guy is sticking his nose in. And with that prodding, Bevin might charge ahead to contest the results.

Commenters to this post wonder if this is a dry run for the nasty guy to do the same kind of thing a year from now.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Government run health care

Wendell Potter describes himself as a reformed health insurer exec. He was part of the effort back in 1993 to sink the grand health care plan Hillary Clinton came up with when her husband was president. The effective tool at the time was to brand it “government run health care.” Public opinion dropped. Never mind that the public already had government run health care in Medicare.

Now Potter says there is a better chance to pass Medicare for all. He lists reasons:

* People who get health insurance through their employer want single payer. The number of companies offering health insurance has dropped.

* Those who have employer plans pay dearly for it and find it too expensive to use – their deductibles and copays are too high. I’m still a couple years from Medicare and the employer I retired from is getting rather stingy. Remind people of out of pocket costs and they’re all for it.

* Small business owners want it and can’t afford to offer it to their employees.

* We have people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with enough political power to get the truth of the current system out there.

Potter reminds us that Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg keep defending the insurance industry.

Egberto Willies of the Daily Kos community reminds us the attacks on Medicare for All, even from “friends,” is well orchestrated – and all lies. Willies reminds us:
To be clear, math is absolute. It is impossible for (Cost of Healthcare) to be more expensive than (Cost of Healthcare + Cost of Multiple Executives + Cost of Shareholder Profits + Cost of Duplicate Services + Doctor Cost to Interface with Multiple Insurance Companies + more). That is an absolute statement. Those who are opposed to Medicare for All would like you to forget that basic mathematical fact.

No fiscally responsible politician who has the interest of their poor- and middle-class constituents at the forefront could continue to support a model designed solely as a method to enrich a few while providing absolutely no service. In fact, private insurance adds inefficiency to delivering health care.

Private insurance’s fiduciary responsibility is to its shareholders, and to its overpaid executives. That dictates that the insurance industry performs two immoral tasks. The first is to market to the healthy, even as obstacles are erected that leave those with pre-existing conditions without insurance. Secondly, private insurance companies make every attempt to deny service. These two acts maximize profits to shareholders and ensure exorbitant salaries for their executives.

Profits are not a bad thing if one is providing a necessary service in an efficient manner, or one needs to be innovative. Private insurance provides neither. The industry’s ‘innovation’ consists of finding ways to maximize wealth extraction.

Americans are starting to get it, even if some Democrats and Republicans make believe they don't (wink-wink). Those ‘skeptics’ are wards of the plutocracy.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg's ‘Medicare for All Who Want It’ plan is not acceptable because it opens the door to dump sick people onto Medicare for All using many legal techniques, even if the law dictates that insurance companies take everyone. In other words, they continue to immorally manage risk for profit maximization that benefits shareholders and executives.

What does one need that $49 billion won't buy?

Brad Lander, an NYC Council member, read through Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to tax the rich. He tweeted this reaction:
OK, lemme get this straight. If @ewarren's wealth tax had been in place from 1982, Bezos would still have $49B, Gates $14B, Bloomberg $12B.

And we'd ALL have child care & health care. Student debt relief. 4X more Fed $ for public schools.

Can we vote now?
Will Bezos really notice the difference between $111 billion and $49 billion?

Erik Lee responded with a quote from John Steinbeck:
Socialism never took root in America because the poor there see themselves not as exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.
I reply: Maybe. It also didn’t take root because so many people wanted to make sure black people did not share in that social assistance.

Politijunkee added:
Isn't $49 billion ENOUGH? I mean, as far as quality of life goes, is there any difference between $49 and $160 billion?? What does one need that $49 billion won't buy?!?!?!

Ian Reifowitz of the Daily Kos community wrote about the latest news out of Boeing. It appears Boeing executives knew about the problems in the 737-Max plane and sold it anyway. A few hundred people died. He reviews how lobbying got Boeing into that situation.

Reifowitz mentions other corporate crimes from just this decade, perpetrated by Wells Fargo, Takata, General Motors, Volkswagen, Massey Energy, Toyota, and others.
But this isn’t about one company: It’s about the need to rein in corporate malfeasance in general. And that’s where it connects to politics. Are Democrats perfect on this? Absolutely not, although some are far better than others (I’ve got a video below of one of the very best on these matters). But the contrast between them and Republicans overall is about as clear as it gets.

Republicans trust corporations. It’s that simple. They don’t trust regular people to be honest when seeking, for example, food stamps or Medicaid benefits. But corporations? They don’t need tough rules, oversight, and regulations to make sure they do the right thing. Republicans think such things just add unnecessary cost and reduce profits to shareholders (i.e., rich people whom the Republicans serve).

Yeah, it is quite a supremacist thing for the GOP to say corporations – who have demonstrably killed and harmed people and are asking for looser regulations to be able to kill and harm in more ways – don’t need oversight while poor people, struggling to get by, do.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Blue Virginia

There was an election this past Tuesday. I turned my ballot in the week before. What I had was known as an absentee ballot. That meant the voter would be absent and not able to go to the polls on election day. But now that Michigan voters can get such a ballot for any election without giving a reason is it still appropriate to call it “absentee?”

There are the big election stories. All of the Virginia state government turned blue. That’s especially sweet because the headquarters for the National Rifle Association is in Fairfax and most of the Democrats ran on new rules against gun ownership.

Democrat Andy Beshear beat incumbent Matt Bevin by 5,000 votes to become the next governor of Kentucky. For a while it looked like Bevin was maneuvering to get the state legislature, comfortably Republican, to declare something amiss in the results and claim the right to choose the governor. But, thankfully, Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey said they’re not going to play that game.

In the Republican suburbs around Philadelphia – Delaware and Chester Counties – Democrats took all or a majority of the seats on county councils.

And one that’s rather delicious: The vice nasty guy is from Columbus, Indiana. The city council of that city of 44,000 has been controlled by the GOP for nearly for decades. But not anymore.

The LGBTQ Victory Fund provided fundraising support for 111 queer candidates at all levels of government. 80 of them won, including five transgender women. This includes Danica Roem, who was re-elected (an important point) to the Virginia House.

There are now 765 openly LGBTQ elected officials in America according to Out For America. That’s wonderful progress. Alas, it is still only 0.15% of all elected officials.

Bill in Portland, Maine, part of the Daily Kos community observed:
When Republicans defeat Democrats in an election, the media lectures our side to compromise with Republicans. When Democrats defeat Republicans in an election, the media lectures our side to compromise with Republicans.

An impossible position

Mark Sumner of Daily Kos explains that the situation between the nasty guy and Ukraine that is the subject of the impeachment inquiry.
In other words, after decades of being lectured by the United States to clean up their act on corruption, Trump’s team came to town *insisting on corruption* as the price of doing business with the United States. And Trump’s play to pay scheme put the incoming administration in an almost impossible position. To get U.S. military assistance, packages first had to pass a Congress still insisting that Ukraine play by the rules. But the gatekeeper on that assistance was Donald Trump, who made it clear that breaking the rules was his price for delivery.
Ignore Trump’s demands, and the White House could sit on the current aid package until it expired. Give in, and Congress might be less enthusiastic about directing more funds to Kyiv. And all the while Russian forces were pounding away at Donbass.
After being urged by Rudy Giuliani, Gordon Sondland, and Kurt Volker, Ukrainian President Zelensky was set to make the announcement the nasty guy wanted on September 13.

Then the whistleblower complaint reached Congress and the aid was released on September 12.

I can do better – I’m a billionaire!

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg has entered the race to be the Democratic nominee for President. Walter Einenkel of Daily Kos noted that Bloomberg could look at the billionaires, such as Tom Steyer who entered and exited the campaign, and look at the current (supposed) billionaire in the White House and say, “Yup, I can do better than that – I’m a billionaire!” Einenkel adds:
But let’s be clear about one thing Billionaires are egomaniacs. Their belief that not only are they the best qualified to run the country but that everyone else believes they are, too, will always trump what is best for the collective United States.
Einenkel included several reactions. A sweet one is from candidate Elizabeth Warren. She welcomed him to the race and added:
If you're looking for policy plans that will make a huge difference for working people and which are very popular, start here:
She provides a link to her website and its calculator so a billionaire could compute they would pay under her Ultra-Millionaire Tax.

Fidder tweeted:
Can’t just ONE rich dude try being Batman instead?

Josh Jordan added:
Bloomberg could just give me 5% of the cash he will burn in this embarrassing episode and I'd be set for life.

Clara Jeffrey responded:
Can billionaires stop running for office and trying to go to Mars and do something actually useful with their money until we can get proper tax reform, thanks.

Bloomberg could be an international hero by throwing all his money at climate change and/or gun reform. These are good things. More of that, please.

And, of course, the nasty guy base was unimpressed.

Man In The Hoody tweeted:
everyone: if we taxed billionaires just a little bit more everyone could get good healthcare

billionaires: or how about instead u make me president and everything stays the same?
Malkym Lesdrae offers a correction:
Bllnaire: how about instead u make me president and we let everything keep getting worse for you and better for me?

Toro Blanco of the Daily Kos Community wrote about billionaires, though not directly in response to Bloomberg’s announcement. At the top of his post he has a graphic that compares the size of a million dollars with the size of a billion.

I’ve written before about how the rich keep money out of the hands of the poor. In that post from last January Melissa McEwan wrote this as Howard Schulz, another billionaire, contemplated being a candidate for president:
Anyone who is a billionaire is de facto completely out of touch with the lives of the majority of the population. They have no comprehension about what life is really like. One cannot effectively and decently lead people whose lives they fundamentally don't understand.

And, truly, no president of a wildly and wonderfully diverse nation can know and understand the lives, needs, interests, struggles, and successes of everyone in the country. But living in a separate, elite economic stratosphere is insulating, even for the empathic and curious.
… and …
"Billionaire" isn't a qualification. It's the description of a person who is hoarding more resources than they could use in 100 lifetimes while other people are starving. It's the name for a human dragon sleeping on its pile of rubies and gold.

Blanco sidesteps that issue to present another: No one should be a billionaire. Nobody has “earned” a billion dollars. “Nobody, no matter how brilliant, creative, innovative, or essential to life as we know it, DESERVES to be a billionaire.”

Blanco adds a thought experiment. Suppose he created a wonder drug that cures all diseases and extends life. A thankful world gives him a stipend of a million dollars a month, or $12,000,000 a year. If anyone deserves such riches it would be the inventor of the miracle cure.
I’m a humble man, so after about a year I’m completely out of things to buy: my whole family have homes, paid in full; we all have our dream cars, money in the bank, set for life; college funds for children and grandchildren, and so on. After just a couple years the money is piling up, the tiny pittance I spend even on food and clothes a drop in the bucket compared to what floods in every month.
But even with income that large it takes 83 years to get to a billion. And 4370 years to match Bloomberg, another 1513 years to catch up to Mark Zuckerberg, and a total of 9250 years to catch up to Jeff Bezos.

I add that someone would say that billionaires can take on big projects, such as going to Mars, that the government can’t do. But the government *can* do things like that – and has (we went to the moon). The advantage of the government doing it is that it has a much greater chance of benefiting the little guy, rather than other billionaires.

Elizabeth Warren is campaigning for the rich to pay their fair share and is ready for the fight. But several others, particularly establishment Democrats like Biden, are silent on the matter. Adam Jentleson tweets why:
The American people are super pissed at corporations and the rich. They are the cause of many huge problems and people know it. All we have to do is name the bad guys. But Democrats keep denying themselves this extremely compelling political narrative because we want their money.
John Drake tweeted a solution: Federally funded campaigns.

One can tell Warren is hitting her target. Laura Clawson of Daily Kos says Wall Street is terrified of the thought of Warren becoming president. Never mind that her policies would have to go through a Congress that they’ve funded. So the finance industry sees two choices which they’ve been funding: One is the expected nasty guy. The other is Pete Buttigieg. And Wall Street thinking he is an acceptable candidate is enough for me to think he is unacceptable candidate. That only confirms the opinion I already had of him.

Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary, wrote about The Real Divide, an excerpt here:
In the conventional view of American politics, Joe Biden is a moderate while Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are on the left and Donald Trump is on the right.

This conventional view is rubbish. Today’s great divide is not between left and right. It’s between democracy and oligarchy.

There are no longer “moderates.” There’s no longer a “center.” The most powerful force in American politics today is anti-establishment fury at a rigged system.
I’ll rephrase that a bit: Today’s great divide is not between left and right. It’s between the oppressed and supremacists.