Archive for the ‘Connecting the Dots’ Category.

Waking Up

I guess you saw where Senator Corker, R-Tenn, said that Donald Trump was a peril to the country:

“The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful — and our nation and our world needs for him to be successful, whether you are Republican or Democrat.”

“He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today. And he’s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that. Without the things I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril.”

Well Bob, it is never going to happen and maybe it is time to recognize that and do something about it. Then there is Mitt Romney this morning:

Whether he intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn. His apologists strain to explain that he didn’t mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.

 …The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis–who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat–and the counter-protestors who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association.

 This is a defining moment for President Trump. But much more than that, it is a moment that will define America in the hearts of our children. They are watching, our soldiers are watching, the world is watching. Mr. President, act now for the good of the country.

Of course he won’t because on Tuesday he spoke what he really believes. Same as on Thursday when he tweeted that morally repugnant and untrue story of General Pershing in the Philippines. Yes Mitt, this is a defining moment for Republicans, for our moral integrity, and for our democracy. But Trump, the Village Idiot, has already failed that test over and over. Republicans are starting maybe to wake up to this Faustian bargain. But I have my doubts. Here is from a survey yesterday about whether the nation buys the two sides are responsible bull shit (not to mention the statue misdirection):

The majority of the voting rabble in the Republican Party think Trump is right and are oblivious to the reality of what went on there. That maybe why Republican Senators and Congress members will not take action against this demented man. We will soon find out whether they care more about their job than the good of the United States of America.

I experience this moral denial first hand in a Facebook exchange which I described in an earlier post. It went on and on with so many misdirections it was hard to focus on the main issue, if you don’t see the fallacy of the moral equivalency argument, you are the problem. Trump supporters are truly blinded by the light and they try to just tire you out. I was not going to just give up because that is how we got the moron President in the first place. But it backs up what the poll shows, they are blind to the damage this man is doing to the very basis of our democracy. What was sad was all the other readers went silent and did not want the uncomfortable confrontation.  That is how we got where we are today.

When I posted this in the thread, my Facebook protagonist was offended and could not see that this is the argument in it’s simplest terms:

I think we knew who Donald Trump was before he was elected, with the birther lies, then his blatant racism during the campaign, lack of knowledge of history or workings of our government, incitement of violence, attack on our basic institutions (judiciary and free press) and morally depraved (grab her pussy). Yet those GOPers put him in office and hoped for the best.

Well the worst has happened and the damage he is doing to the nation may be irreparable. Maybe they are waking up because Trump is never going to say he is sorry, or learn anything. It will just get worse and worse and Republicans fail to act hoping for their agenda. So here we are, with a real moral test of the nation and Mitt Romney nailed it. The only thing they have wrong is still hoping Trump can somehow change course or get a better or controlled message. What was it Einstein was purported to say, “Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.”

Update:  Trump is purported to be pushing out Bannon.  My thought here is nothing changes.  Maybe the generals will be able to cage him better, but he is who he is and Tuesday was not Bannon, but Trump.  And make no mistake, the Republican Party and their base may just go to war.  We live with an unhinged president, and an unhinged Republican party that controls all levers of power in government.  We truly live in dangerous times.

I ‘m Sorry, But…

We all know the problem here. The “but” says I am not sorry and there is justification for what I did, you are wrong. Either you are sorry or you are not. Okay, then we have,

“There are two sides to a story. I thought what took place was a horrible moment for the country, but there are two sides to a story,” He is really say it was not a horrible moment and both sides are at fault. “You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. No one wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now: You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit and they were very, very violent.”

See they are both morally equivalent. Now let’s look away and move on. That is what he is saying. He is saying racists and neo-Nazis have the same moral equivalency to people who stand for what our Declaration of Independence states in clear language. Donald Trump is telling us that their ideas have the same validity. I thought we fought a war against that. Actually several. Somehow in his warped brain, neo-Nazis and racists have valid arguments too. Not if you are an American who read and understands the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and history. Oh, and don’t fall for the statue argument. Most the statues do not reflect pride in the South. They were erected in the late 19th century to resurrect white supremacy.

Probably what is most amazing about this defining moment is that Republicans have found no way to really censure President Trump. While they condemn racism and white supremacy, which is just hot air, they do not hold the President accountable, and in effect, enable him and his racism. I got into a Facebook discussion yesterday when one person took issue with my calling Donald Trump a white nationalist. Here is the comment:

That must be it. I wonder if Jesse Jackson knew that he was a white nationalist when he introduced him at the Rainbow Push Coalition. Jackson praised him for 30 years of helping the African American Community and for reaching out and being inclusive.

Now I took the approach that I am not sure what Jesse Jackson’s view has to do with current events*. It might have changed. But here is what we should be focusing on, another enabler for Donald Trump. Somehow he is not a fault. He is not a bad person. I did not make a mistake with my vote. Now the comment itself is insupportable. Donald Trump is enabling white racism and neo-nazis. He sent them a message that they have legitimate ideas. The proof is in their response. This person is an apologist for Donald Trump, and make no mistake, if you enable racism and hate, you are part of racism and hate. If Donald Trump can not see that there is no moral equivalency between the two sides, then he is a white racist. He has no moral center.

But the real point I want to make here is that it time to confront enablers of Donald Trump. We have a President who is enabling the rise of ideas that we thought we had we had put behind us. This will tear the nation apart and lead to violence and the acting out against minorities. It is time to stand up to friends, Facebook, whoever, and not let this enabling stand. We have to stand up and call these people out, not hold hands.

But I cannot say this as eloquently as Heather Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, did this morning at her funeral and I will leave you with her words. But I will warn you one thing. If I hear any enabling of the shit that came out of Donald Trump’s mouth, I will challenge you. No more holding hands and getting along when getting along is enabling hate, racism, and violence. This is just wrong. We need to hold Donald Trump accountable.

You need to find in your heart that small spark of accountability. Let’s have the uncomfortable dialogue. It ain’t easy sitting down and say why are you upset. It ain’t easy sitting down and going well I think this way and I don’t agree with you, but I am going to respectfully listen to what you have to say. We are not going to sit around and shake hands and go Kumbuya and I am sorry but it is not all about forgiveness. I know that that is not a popular trend.

But the truth is we are all going to have our differences, we are all going to be angry with each other, but let’s channel that anger not into hate, not into violence, not into fear, but let’s channel that anger into righteous action and that is how you are going to make my child’s death worthwhile. I would rather have my child, but by golly if I have to give her up we are going to make it count.

I will try to do my part.

*”What does Jessie Jackson, an ambulance chaser (black causes) have to do with Donald Trump or with the facts of today that we can see before our very eyes. He made racist attacks on Hispanics, Muslims, and blacks during his campaign. He incited violence. Watch the video, Google it, I am not doing your work for you. His dad was a member of the Klu Klux Klan, and his real-estate dealings were cited over and over for discrimination. So again what hell does Jessie Jackson have to do with anything? Oh, and why is Steve Bannon one of his top advisors?”

We Elected a Racist Moron For President

From the NYT:

President Trump on Tuesday insisted that he did nothing wrong when he initially declined to specifically condemn Nazi and white supremacist groups, asserting that “before I make a statement, I like to know the facts.”

Say what? Here is the man who as far as we can tell lies and gets thing wrong more than any other President, and he likes to know the facts? Really? Did he know the facts when he claimed Mexican undocumented workers were all criminals, that Mexico would pay for the wall, or that illegal immigration was at record lows? Did he know the facts when he decried the rising murder rate when it is decreasing? Did he know the facts before he put in place a Muslim ban that violated the Constitution and did not target countries where previous attacks had come from? Did he know the facts before he declared global warming a hoax? One could go on and on. What a sack of shit he is. But wait, there is more.

In a long, tense exchange with reporters at Trump Tower, the president also criticized “alt-left” groups that he claimed were “very, very violent” when they sought to confront the nationalist and Nazi groups that had gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park. He said there is “blame on both sides.”

Let’s see if I have this right. The alt-left did not show up with guns, right? The alt-left does not want to take rights away from those who are not white, or practices hate speech, right? The alt-left had prayer circles, did the alt-right? Did the alt-left march on Charlottesville or was that the alt-right? Can we really say that the alt-left, willing to confront neo-nazis, are the same as the neo-nazis? Really? We should condemn violence on both sides and respect their right to protest, but one side is selling hate and racism? One group was there to intimidate and deny our basic freedoms and the other group was there to confront them so there was no free ride. They are not the same you moron.

“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Mr. Trump said. “This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”

Now as NY Magazine characterized this: “’You had some very bad people in that group. But you also had some very fine people,’ Trump said of those who came to Charlottesville to defend the honor of men who committed treason in defense of chattel slavery.” I think that about captures the failure of his logic. Robert E. Lee committed treason, led an armed insurrection of our country, and tried to abrogate our Constitution in the defense of slavery. George Washington may have owned slaves, but that was not treason or illegal. It was part of who we were then, sad as that is to say.

“You had some very bad people in that group. You also had some very fine people on both sides,”

Every met a “fine” racist. Ever met a “fine neo-Nazi? I wish I was making this up. I wish this was fake new, but this is who our President is. Did I thank the people of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan enough again? You fucking idiots.

Several pundits have noted that the Donald can’t say anything bad about the white nationalists because he is too dependent on his base. I don’t think that is it at all. He doesn’t want to say anything bad because he believes what he said. He has been and is a racist white nationalist. And for those people who are racist morons, I apologize. Putting you in the same category as Donald Trump really did go too far. I apologize.

Free Speech Versus Hate Speech

Well a sign of our times is the Neo-Nazi/White Nationalist face off in Charlottesville Virginia in a protest to removing a Robert E. Lee Statue. Oh, did I mention the Ku Klux Klan? Wait, there was a militia marching with their weapons. They are all clashing with counter protestors. Welcome to Trump’s America. Also note that as of this morning, Breitbart is not reporting it, I guess because their continuous legitimizing of hate has now broken out. It is the Alt-Right under one banner. And it is the people who elected Donald Trump. And why is a hate monger like Steve Bannon in the White House?

We are going to see a further rise of violence and white nationalism, because that is how Donald Trump won the election, by goading and legitimizing those hates. So in one part of our country we are turning on each other and finding ways to hate each other. That is the America middle America brought us because we did not understand their pain. They wanted change. How’s that change working?

And make no mistake, the Alt-Right is not exercising their free speech rights, they are engaging in hate speech. There are limits. I am appalled that our greatest strength, our diversity and tolerance, is now under attack and that is clearly legitimized by one person, Donald Trump. The man is not just a disgrace to America, but to the human race. And now we see the fruits of stupid people casting stupid votes.

I would like to expand on that, stupid, ignorant votes. The conventional wisdom is that when Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan (roughly just 80,000 votes) went Trump, because he was the only one who spoke to their pain. Horse shit. The word is pander to their pain and they stupidly fell for it. It was ignorance at work. Sure, even I thought Hillary did not bring real understanding of the increasing economic inequality, and was part of a Democratic elite too tied to the status quo and Wall Street. But Donald Trump was a racist liar. That is not an opinion, he displayed it in every campaign rally he spoke at.

So Hillary did not pander to them, and in fact did not even think they were worth listening too, but the Donald did. And what he promised them was a total fantasy, that he would bring back manufacturing and coal. But how? They never asked that. He is a business man and will run government smartly. Really? That is another stupid and uniformed belief that government is anything like business, nor should it be. It is not to maximize profits, it is to protect us and invest in our futures. So without any plans for the future, describing a reality that does not exist, exhibiting misogynistic, racist, white nationalist tendencies, they voted for him. They are fucking idiots. Now we have the rise of white nationalism, and hate everywhere. We may talk ourselves into several wars, and trust me, the economy is going to crash.

So do you think the Democratic Party should pander to their stupidity and racism? I don’t think so. Don’t move to the middle if that is what moving to middle means. Certainly they have problems and they should be addressed in a more holistic manner in policies to deal with economic inequality. Hillary would have been so much better for them, even with all her faults. But they were mad as hell and stupid as a block of wood. And now we live with what they delivered to us. I tell you who is mad as hell…

So I am doing my part. This is what stupidity and ignorance bring us. We should not pander to it, but educate it, shun it when it won’t be educated, and be a Party and a people who stands for diversity and equal rights, including fixing our economic system so it works for all of us. Hillary did not get that the system is fatally flawed, but she might have eventually, and certainly steered a course that would not give rise to hate, and further violence. We would not be having a legitimized alt-right today.

We are in such dangerous times, both from the bluster abroad and the rise of armed alt-right here at home. This is squarely on Donald Trump. What we need to do as a People and as a Party is to reject both and show a level of intolerance to the hates and fears that sparks all this violence. Republicans continue to pander and enable what we are seeing. Democrats need to firmly reject all of it. Oh sure, we will get statements of horror from Republicans, but Donald Trump is who they enabled. And now the fate of the nation lies in the hands of Republicans in Congress who could do something about him. So far, we have seen what they are made of.

UPDATE: President Trump on Saturday issued a vague condemnation of violence in Charlottesville in a televised statement from New Jersey.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides,” Trump said.

On both sides? Maybe someone ought to show him video of his own speeches. Or maybe someone ought to explain to him what the alt-Right is all about, hate, fear, and violence, not to mention intolerance. The Kettle calling the Pot black. What would President Obama have said, or for that matter, President Bush? Oh have we have fallen.

Bernie Responded: https://twitter.com/SenSanders/status/896486900416077825

Oh and here is real leadership and pointing the finger at white supremacy and neo-nazis:

 

Surprise!

North Korea is not a surprise, yet it captured the news yesterday, whether true or not. Sooner or later they were going to get there and like Trump the President, who they are is no surprise from who they have been. China and the United States, the two parties that could have solved this together, have failed to, looking to their own selfish needs and kicking the can down the road. The can has now arrived. No more road to kick down. And North Korea is no Soviet Union of old. Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) may not force people to be rational. I have argued for years that North Korea is a living hell on earth and that China and the United States could not or would not force regime change was a political and moral failure. Now we have saber rattling with a moron for President.

Make no mistake, the United States could not solve this without China. And China in its own self-serving needs for trade and a firm border to keep immigrants out and buffer to US backed South Korea, could not bring itself to deal with a painful problem. And too many times we have thrown our hands up and just said well, maybe the government will fall. In North Korea, falling means taking everyone with you. That is the critical understanding we have failed to understand. So now we have entered very dangerous times because we refused to do the hard things when we needed to. Now the hard thing is unimaginable. And we have a moron for President.

Oh, and global warming is happening faster and may be more drastic than anticipated. Surprise! Not. We have known about global warming since the 1980’s. We have seen our impact on the planet, not just its weather, but its species for hundreds of years and we do nothing. Oh there are little movements around the edges, but business must come first. Now we are faced with the reality of once again kicking the can down the road, and the road is coming to an end. No more kicking. But like the North Korea problem, we have a moron for a President (not to mention a whole Party in charge of the country whose litmus test is not believing in science).

There has been some debate about whether the latest government report on the rapid increase in the impacts of global warming might force the moron President to change his stance. Sometimes I wonder what planet these people are on. Donald Trump got here illegally by laundering money for the Russians and he certainly colluded with them in the election. The investigation is tightening and he needs his base to terrify Republicans into not impeaching him when the other shoe drops, as it most certainly will. So he is not going to change on global warming, and we are going to see it it full force, and like the Korean thing, the outcome will be disastrous.

Meanwhile in the world of economic inequality, the inequality grows. And sooner or later the markets will come crashing down because the part of the pie that goes to the majority of consumers will be too small to sustain it. The markets are at record highs this week, believing that our moron President will cut regulations and taxes so they can further increase their profits with no concern for the damage they are doing. We have legitimized economic inequality by believing a high tide lifts all boats, except it hasn’t, and we have also kicked this can down the road, and sooner, rather than later, the market is going to crash.

Are you sensing a trend here? We Americans, who can do anything, have done nothing. When things got hard, we went looking for easy simple answers that ignore reality. Enter the Republican Party, facilitated by the Democrats, who know how to pander to Americans looking for the easy answer. Ronald Reagan, the prince of government is the problem, told us to be selfish and seek out gains for ourselves and everyone would prosper. Kiss “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” goodbye. We got tax cuts pay for themselves and the private sector will solve all problems. Driven our roads lately? We are starting to look third world. But don’t forget their main message, investing in government through taxes is a waste of money. Now look at us.

We are reaching a point where ignorance is considered a virtue (remember the rural wisdom of Sarah Palin?),where the ignorance of the base chose a leader that could finally push us over a cliff. We are approaching a critical turning point in the history of our world, conservatism has run its course and almost destroyed us, and we have a moron for President. I don’t think we can wait four years. If Trump continues his “fire and fury” (remember how well shock and awe worked out?) rhetoric, we may not have to worry about global warming as the aftermath of a nuclear war could be much worse. But if we somehow get through this, will we have learned our lesson? Or will we go looking for the next easy answer and not doing the hard things that make life and our country great? I am not optimistic after watching the last 50 years.

America really does have some amazingly hard working and smart individuals and we could solve these problems if we had a leader that made Americans aware of their failures and showed us a path forward.  Even the mindless base of Donald Trump might be led out of the wilderness of ignorance if they understood the challenges before us and a leader who inspires sacrifice.  But where is he/she?  Right now the one we got thinks the solution to jobs is to bring back coal which is never coming back and backed up by a pack or sience and reality deniers.  Hey! Bring on the fire and fury! All we need is a leader who can one again inspire us with, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” and get on with it.  So far we got the moron President and his scared shitless Party.

Monday Morning

I drove my son to the airport at o’dark thirty this morning. It is about a 65 mile drive each way and we left my place at 4:20 am for a 6:30 flight to San Diego. Nothing is ever simple. It turns out that they are doing major work on the bridge that crosses the Sacramento River so we were warned of massive traffic backups. So we were seeing how close you can get to our normal turnoff (I-5) before you get caught in traffic and running alternate routes through our heads. It actually wasn’t that bad and we were able to stay the normal route with little delay, sort of. Then about 2 miles from the Airport, stop and go traffic on a real straight stretch of I-5 and sure enough some kind of spin out and major crash. All I could think of is how do they do it? It is straight, there are no on or off ramps, and they run into each other. Made it to the airport on time so no problem there, but on the return trip I noticed that we got through the construction just in time as there were major backups. Do we drive anywhere anymore that does not have some kind of delay/construction?

Okay on to news of the day. All the talk is about sanctions on North Korea that were worked out in a conference in the Philippines with all the South East Asia nations and us of course. I hope it works because the alternative is very frightening. It really is the only way to go at this time, but I have little optimism. The big assumption here is that North Korea wants more than anything else to stay in power and they will see that to do this they will be willing to give up their nuke program. The thinking is that China wants to maintain North Korea as a southern buffer to USA aligned South Korea, and China has no interest in seeing North Korea fail because there would be a massive refugee problem as North Koreans have a chance to flee their living hell.

I don’t think this logic holds because North Korea is first and foremost an abomination as a country. There is no way for the North Koreans to continue to hold power without the extreme dictatorship and threat from the wicked United States. The assumption that this mentality is rational, I believe, is flawed. Or maybe it is rational. The only way they can stay in power is to hold on to their nukes and continue to stoke the fears of invasion. If things got materially better there, would not the improved economic situation drive change that would be antithetical to the North Koreans holding power? The calculation has to be what can prevent a war until the North Korean regime collapses under its own weight hoping they don’t decide to take Southeast Asia with them. Then there is the dubious calculation that we will empower this brutal dictatorship to remain as long as there is no nuclear threat. I think North Korea sees through this one.

Paul Krugman has an interesting discussion about where Democrats should go on healthcare and I think he is dead on. If you followed my discussions before, to reduce the cost of healthcare for all of us, we have to share the costs with the widest possible pool (universal coverage) and ensure that the plans we have cover most of our needs (regulated market). Now how you get there is the issue (and not counter to what Republicans are pushing which is “choice and deregulated markets” which the CBO scores again and again as a failure). So is single payer the answer? The answer is maybe, but he points out that other countries get there by everything from Obamacare expanded to Government healthcare:

Look at the latest report by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, comparing health care performance among advanced nations. America is at the bottom; the top three performers are Britain, Australia, and the Netherlands. And the thing is, these three leaders have very different systems.

 

Britain has true socialized medicine: The government provides health care directly through the National Health Service. Australia has a single-payer system, basically Medicare for All — it’s even called Medicare. But the Dutch have what we might call Obamacare done right: individuals are required to buy coverage from regulated private insurers, with subsidies to help them afford the premiums.

 

And the Dutch system works, which suggests that a lot could be accomplished via incremental improvements in the A.C.A., rather than radical change. Further evidence for this view is how relatively well Obamacare, imperfect as it is, already works in states that try to make it work — did you know that only 5.4 percent of New Yorkers are now uninsured?

So he then argues that give the systems in place, instead of focusing on single payer, we improve Obamacare with maybe a single payer option as politically and functionally the best way forward. I have to agree. I have argued for single payer forever, but I am not ideologically wedded to it and neither are most Democrats although that is how they are painted. What we want is universal coverage and the best way forward to do that. That is the real debate and I think Krugman nailed it.

Finally, I think what is worth noting this morning is how the Trump administration is trying to open up public lands in the West to coal mining. Now aside from the argument that coal used in anything destroys the planet with its CO2 emissions and the damage done to the environment itself in the mining, the question has to be, who wants the coal when there are cheaper cleaner fuels? Also one might ask, what jobs when coal mining in general is going to more and more mechanization. But the real point here is that there is not a shortage of coal based up demand and so this is an attempt to say, if we supply it they will buy it. I think we have already seen this fail over and over again. There has to be pentup demand. So this, besides destroying the environment and contributing to the overheating of the planet will be another experiment like Kansas (tax cuts will pay for themselves) where we will see the failure of Republican ideas. As Thomas Wolfe famously wrote, You Can’t Go Home Again. Time to move on.

Democratic Strategic Vision – Lack Thereof and the Big Tent

I would write this morning about the Village Idiot in Chief and his trashing of the office of the Presidency, his disregard and lack of respect for the rule of law, his nationalistic racism, his trashing of the media and the free press, calling again for the imprisonment of a political rival (lock her up), his blatant obstruction of justice, his destruction of State, EPA, FDA, Education, and his continuous lying from the podium. His last communication director ought to be a wakeup call for how he is making the United States a mockery. But to tell you the truth, most of the above is being well covered by the media.

Those horrible leaks are what are keeping us informed voters. Of course the Republican Party is still in denial. I heard one respected Republican tell us he could not imagine Trump firing Sessions now. I can. Oh and the same one argued that this bunch is not his Republican Party. Sadly it is everyone else's and if you call yourself a Republican and vote that way, you enabled what we are living through. But I digress.

This morning Fareed Zachary on CNN Global GPS show opined that the Democrats were making the same mistake they made many years ago by not listening to pro-life voices and not being a big enough tent:

In 1992, the Democratic Party faced a challenge on the issue of abortion. Pennsylvania’s governor, Robert Casey, a Democrat dedicated to the working class, asked to speak at the national convention in New York City. He wanted to propose a pro-life plank for the party platform, mostly as a way of affirming his Catholic beliefs.

He fully understood that the motion would be voted down, but the Democratic Party refused to permit him even to air his views, so great was his heresy. “That sent a strong signal to working-class Catholic and evangelical voters that if they did not fall into line on this one issue they were no longer welcome in the party,” writes Mark Lilla in “The Once and Future Liberal,” his brief but brilliant book that comes out later this month.

I wonder if today the Democrats are making the same mistake on immigration. To be clear, I think the bill that the Republicans rolled out this week is bad public policy and mean-spirited symbolism. But that’s beside the point. Lilla acknowledges that he is a pro-choice absolutist on abortion, but he argues that a national party must build a big tent that accommodates people who dissent from the main party line on a few issues.

I would make two observations here. First the two issues are nowhere near the same, abortion and immigration. Secondly, exactly what is the Democratic position on immigration other than being against Trump, his wall, and the latest abomination Fareed cites above? Let's take them one at a time.

In the pro-life question, note that in the language of the two sides is the real truth of what is really going on. Pro-life is not pro-life. They are anti-abortion. If they were pro-life and just wanted to argue for you to keep an unwanted child however begot, they already have that right. But that is not what they want. They want to use government to outlaw abortions and force government into private discussions with your doctor, your husband, your control of your own body. They want to take away the right to choose.

Pro-choice is pro choice. They are not as the Pro-life side depicts them, pro-abortion. They are not even suggesting that abortion is a good thing. They simply don't want government to decide for you, and force you to have an abortion. In fact all they want is that you can have that choice and that you can control your own body (within already well defined limits).

So what Fareed thinks is a great mistake, not allowing the gentleman to propose a pro-life plank and thus sending "working-class Catholic and evangelical voters" on their way, was really a decision about the very basic beliefs of Democrats, that people should have free choice to decide for themselves that most basic and personal decision. Would you allow a communist to argue for a communistic platform for a bigger tent? This is not some policy that may or may not work, this is about a basic value of who we are as Democrats.

Using government to force people to make decisions because others have religious convictions is not only against the Constitution, but everything Democrats stand for. And Fareed thinks we should open our arms to them? If we do, I don't know who we are anymore, and I strongly believe that people are voting against us just for that reason. Instead of pandering to those who believe things that are antithetical to basic Democratic beliefs, maybe we should focus on getting those who did not vote last time back out to the polls.

Now on immigration, I have no idea what the Democratic position is. That is the major problem with Democrats right now whether it is healthcare, tax reform, or in this case immigration, what is the party platform? So I am waiting to understand what our Immigration absolutism is.  What is the basis from which Democrats could negotiate with Republicans? I have no idea and what we are left with is either "Republican ideas suck", or a piecemeal approach by individuals within the party (herding cats). That is why Republicans win with the weak-minded. They are firm in what they want whether it is good policy or not.

For immigration policy, unlike the abortion issue which is driven by religious belief*, it needs to be driven by science and data. What works best for our country. This is not some he said/she said argument. We have the facts. Republicans are running on emotion. They think we need less because they are blaming everything on immigrants. It is not based on fact, but anecdotes. There is no question that there are strong feelings about this, but the policy has to based not on fear, but on what works.

Economists are telling us that broad immigration really helps our economy. Do we need to be more selective? Maybe, but it needs to be thought out. Some would argue that allowing in more educated and trained immigrants actually allows corporations to drive down wages. Keeping out the lower economic classes and uneducated immigrants could hurt other sectors of our economy like agriculture and cuts off a path to the American dream for those who want to come here and work hard. The Republican's stand on amnesty is cruel and inhuman, based on racism and fear. We should negotiate that? Should we have a big tent for bigots?

My point is simply that Democrats can be a big tent on immigration within limits. Clearly we can argue within the party about how to control immigration to protect jobs, while at the same time providing for a growing economy. That is way different that an argument about using the government to take away a basic human right, the right to chose and I wonder why Fareed used this example.

He is really arguing the FDR liberalism of fairness for everyone against the special interest politics that we see (a black agenda, a white middle class agenda, a well-educated innovator agenda) from Democrats today (identity liberalism). And he is right here and suggests that we as Democrats see the fear that those who went right on immigration feel and welcome them into the tent. And here is where I have a really big problem. What does that mean? That we play Republican fear tactics or does it mean we recognize the problem but use data and science to craft effective policy?

Fareed tells us:

Democrats should find a middle path on immigration. They can battle President Trump’s drastic solutions but still speak in the language of national unity and identity. The country’s motto, after all, is “out of many, one” — not the other way around.

I don't think so. Middle ground can only be found where there is a real and rational difference of opinion. Policy should be based on facts, history, science, and data. If the facts, history, science, and data tell us the other side wants to do something bad for the country based upon ideology and fear, why should we as Democrats find a middle ground to have a bigger tent? We should fight for what we know is right, again not based on ideology, but by that fact and data thing. We should only make compromises when the facts are not clear and we are really arguing ideology instead of efficacy.  Otherwise just who the hell are we?

*Actually our policy on abortion is based upon science, when is life considered viable, does the fetus feel pain, etc. The fact that that has been contested does not mean their are differing opinions based on fact. It means that one side will make up science to agree with their ideological beliefs, but the overwhelming data still supports the laws we have. If and when that changes, we would be happy to discuss.

In the Vein of I Told You So

Special Counselor Robert Mueller had impaneled a Grand Jury. Why would you be presenting evidence to a Grand Jury if you did not have evidence? This is not like St. Louis (Darrin Wilson shooting Michael Brown) where they impaneled a Grand Jury to get the heat off of the prosecutors and control the evidence so they cold drop the charges. This is a tipping point. Who is the target? That is the million dollar question. Could be Flynn, could be Manafort, but I doubt it. It could be Kushner or Donald Jr. Again, maybe, but I doubt it. They are players in a bigger game. No, if I had to place a big wager, it would be on the Village Idiot in Charge. That is where the focus is. Is it collusion? Is it obstruction of justice? Is it both. I think it is both. One begets the other. Is there underling money laundering and illegal financial transactions? That would be the reason for all of it.

Now we will see what the VIC does to change the subject and to fire the special prosecutor. We will also see if Republicans still are part of this country, its laws, and its Constitution. Some opined that Mitch McConnell was hurrying legislation because he knew this would happen. To me it is obvious. Too many lies, too many changing stories, too many Russians. I said September. My guess is we are still on track. No the investigation will not be over, but we are going to see a reaction as the noose tightens that will force action in September.

Normalcy and Compromise

That's what this morning's news is about.  First we go on and on about General Kelly taking over the Chief of Staff position and establishing order and normalcy.  Ha!  Maybe the illusion of normalcy.  Their first action was to get rid of Anthony Scaramucci.  Not that anything changed, just the crude spokesman for telling it as it is, is gone.  But does that change any of the dynamics?  Time will tell, but the pundits are hoping Kelly will put a discipline in policy making.  I don't think you can put anymore lipstick on this pig which is really bad policies and chaos.

That has been really the pundits, mostly hopeful Republicans, who have tried to say things will settle down, Trump will learn, and normal policy will return.  Again, Ha!  Have we learned nothing in the last 6 months?  He is who he is and we will see how Trump destroys Kelly's reputation.  Even the most smooth and coordinated administration, with the policies of Donald Trump, will and does look like chaos.  It is chaos and bad policy based on an alternate reality.

The other talking point today is "compromise".  Maybe now the two sides will sit down and try to fix Obamacare.  We have this foolish idea that in this day and age that compromise is the best of all possible outcomes.  But what if you are compromising with policy based upon alternate facts that set up failure?  What if one side is so tied to ideology, that thinking outside the box is impossible?  Compromise is highly overrated.

Saturday, I tried to give you a blog that looks at proposed solutions to healthcare provided by Republicans and why they make no sense.  If you want to scream, "that's your opinion you liberal pig!" actually no when you get CBO (Congressional Budget Office) scores that tell you it doesn't work.  Republicans then decry the report as false from their own guy because they did not like the answer. And that is critical here.  We need to quit the ideological bullshit and just evaluate an approach and any possible compromise by whether or not it will actually be effective and efficacious.

Somehow we have gotten to think that both sides are as ideologically wedded to a certain solution and that is simply not true.  Republicans are because the market place must solve all problems and big government is bad.  If the market place would have solved all problems, we would not have needed Obamacare.  Obamacare was the Democrats trying to accommodate market place solutions and we have seen where that fell short. Paul Krugman today (Who Ate the Republicans Brains?) tried to explain how Republicans have created an alternate reality to uphold their ideology and they are now locked in a world of  dishonesty:

And that kind of behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere. The Republican health care debacle was the culmination of a process of intellectual and moral deterioration that began four decades ago, at the very dawn of modern movement conservatism — that is, during the very era anti-Trump conservatives now point to as the golden age of conservative thought.

A key moment came in the 1970s, when Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, embraced supply-side economics — the claim, refuted by all available evidence and experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Writing years later, he actually boasted about valuing political expediency over intellectual integrity: “I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities.” In another essay, he cheerfully conceded to having had a “cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit,” because it was all about creating a Republican majority — so “political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”

The problem is that once you accept the principle that it’s O.K. to lie if it helps you win elections, it gets ever harder to limit the extent of the lying — or even to remember what it’s like to seek the truth.

Does that mean healthcare should be single payer only.  Of course not.  Medicare is not single payer only.  It is supplemented by market policies that fill the gaps.  But it does need to be universal care which is what the rest of the world's experience tells us.  The bottom line here is that we need to get to a place where not compromising is okay if the compromise is not the end in itself and will not solve the problem.

We just looked at three plans submitted by the Republicans and we all saw where they would lead, to a failure of healthcare.  So sure, go talk, see if we can get a consensus.  But don't stupidly kick the can down the road to hold hands and say we compromised when the solution is destined for failure.  We have data and metrics.  We know what will and won't work, and we have a Congressional Budget Office that will give us a real score.  Let's use it. Sure some solutions will give us unintended consequences so we need to then fix them.  Ideology is what has prevented us from fixing Obamacare. They hate it on made up facts and ideology so they can't stand to fix it.

One last thing, I and many progressive would like  Medicare for all, but we are open to anything that stands the test of reality.  Republicans, whether it is flow down works (tax cuts pay for themselves), big government is always bad (so how come Medicare works and Social Security saves many people?), or the market place left unfettered by government provides the best solutions (see the Financial Crisis 2007-2008), have had it wrong with a capital WRONG.  They are very good at identifying problems, but then their ideology gets in the way of evaluating solutions.  It is time to end that and not be afraid to not compromise with bad ideas.  Just evaluate the ideas with an open mind in the reality we live in, not the alternate one the Republicans have created.

Why There are No Republican Solutions for “Fixing” Obamacare – Wonkie

I have made the claim that Republicans have nothing to fix Obamacare, assuming fix is to make healthcare more affordable for everyone while maintaining minimum requirements for the things the plan covers to make it meaningful. Remember this is what Donald Trump promised as a candidate (No one will lose coverage. There will be insurance for everybody. Healthcare will be a “lot less expensive” for everyone — the government, consumers, providers.). In other words, strengthen what we have in Obamacare and fix the high co-pays, lower premiums, and make sure there are affordable plans in all exchanges. So why do I say Republicans have nothing to fix these problems? Well you need to first understand, which apparently most Republicans do not, a business plan and how insurance works.

Okay, let’s start with how insurance works. Remember those commercials on TV for term life insurance without a physical? How do they do that (assuming it is not a scam)? Well they play with statistics. At a certain age, say between 50-60 years of age, what are the odds you will keel over within a ten year period (term life insurance)? Say it is 1 in 50 for ten years at that age. If the payout is say $500,000 and you have only 50 plans then each plan is going to cost a minimum of $10,000 plus profit and admin fees so that when the 1 in 50 kicks off, they still made a profit ( 1 payout of $500,000 equals 50 people times $10,000). Okay, now what happens if you expand your pool of subscribers to be say the 40-60 age group? Then the numbers get better because someone 40-60 might have a 1 in 100 chance of keeling over in a ten-year period. So again to make the numbers simple say you have 50 people in that age range (40-60) then the cost to the buyer gets cut in half.

You get the drift? The larger the pool of enrollees, especially when you include more healthy people (less risk of a pay out), the less it cost the group. Take car insurance. While insurance is priced based upon your risk pool (teenagers and bad drivers pay more), it is still highly subsidized by the rest of us that have not had an accident in many years. With a larger pool of subscribers (required of everyone who drives a car), especially those that may not incur many costs, but still need the insurance, it drives the costs down for every one and makes it affordable. That is how insurance works

Now let’s look at a business plan for health insurance. First, what do we know about healthcare? Young people are basically healthy and will cost little, old people and poor people (with little care) will cost a ton. That is why we have Medicare/Medicaid. The private market place for insurance back in “the good old days” could not offer affordable plans for older people, so finally the government stepped in to do that.

Next, what is the goal of a private company/corporation? Maximize profits for share holders. Or said another way, maximize share value by maximizing profits. That is where all the incentives are in managing a company. Now it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out how to maximize profits. Insure healthy people and deny claims based upon existing conditions or said another way, maximize premium payments and minimize claim payouts.

That was basically the system we had before Obamacare. People with existing conditions could not get coverage, coverage for older people cost exorbitant amounts (until Medicare kicked in), and many plans, while very cheap, really did not cover much, and of course, many poor had no coverage at all. As noted earlier private insurance is not in this to maximize insuring people, they are in this to maximize profits for their share holders by limiting payouts. They are not a philanthropic organization, but a capitalist venture to make a profit. CEOs are rated by how they maximize share value for their company. Connect the dots yet? Many of us did not see the problem because our employer took care of our insurance*. But as cost grew in healthcare, companies started offloading these costs to employees, and when many more of us found ourselves forced to self insure, these problem became severe.

So along comes Obamacare to solve a giant crisis in healthcare, uninsured people, unaffordable plans, escalating healthcare costs, hollow plans, and out-of-pocket expenses that was the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country. It did it by regulating the insurance companies which is anathema to Republicans (regulations). Let’s take these one at a time (it did a lot more than this, but here is the gist):

  • First it established a baseline of what has to be covered to prevent hollow plans. Now this certainly raises costs since before insurance companies could sell plans that covered the common cold, but drug addiction, mental health, major hospitalization were written out in the small print. Most people thought they had great affordable plans until shit happened and they had to use them
  • Next it said you cannot exempt people for pre-existing conditions. Now this also raises costs because now you are bringing into the risk pool people who are actually going to use the benefits, and soon. It also said people could keep their kids on till age 26 recognizing the horrible job market we were now in adding some more costs
  • Then it capped out-of-pocket expenses. At some level of out-of-pocket expenses ($6000), the insurance companies could no longer charge you a co-pay for your costs. You were not going to go broke when shit happened.
  • Then to fund all this which included subsidies for the poor and high risk individuals to make their premiums affordable, it raised taxes (medical device manufacturers, and on wealthy) and did what every insurance company does, made everyone enroll so you had a much larger risk pool paying in to offset all those costs (see how insurance works above). That was the dreaded insurance mandate. And it started initiatives to try to lower the cost of healthcare live preventative care and end of life counseling that sent the Republicans into the stratosphere on “death panels”
  • It set up exchanges where health insurance companies could compete for your enrollment in each state hopefully reducing costs and giving the consumer some choice in plans
  • Finally it created subsidies for markets in high risk areas to keep the premiums down, and instituted cost control measures (focusing on outcomes, not services) to bend the growing cost curve of healthcare.

Okay now enter the problems, affordability and availability.

  1. Depending on the local markets, some exchanges had a majority of older enrollees in rural areas. Now think about this: Fewer people (smaller risk pool), and sicker people (larger pay outs). So plans offered were expensive and had large copays. They depended on subsidies to be affordable and some enrollees did not qualify for the subsidies based upon income.
  2. Subsidies earmarked to recognize this situation were not large enough to control the cost of plans in some areas
  3. Add to this that many young and healthy people were not fazed by the penalties for not having insurance, so they did not get it, reducing the pool for subsidizing higher risk enrollees.
  4. Throw in the Republicans who have been on a crusade to repeal and replace, a President who threatens to not pay the subsidies or enforce enrollment in the program, and blocking measures that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices or to allow the government to effectively incentivize cost-effective treatments, and what you have is insurance providers either pulling out of these markets because they cannot adequately price the risk with these unknowns or applying rapidly rising premium prices to cover their risk.

So finally, how do we fix it, and why won’t Republican solutions work. To answer that we have to draw from our analysis of what is the basis of a functioning system? they are:

  1. Large (universal?) risk pool (mandates for insurance) to reduce average premium and make them affordable. Everyone contributes and subsidizes the sicker enrollees
  2. Minimum basic insurance coverage (Regulations) and copay limits to prevent catastrophic events that bankrupt enrollees
  3. Stable subsidies for high risk markets to encourage private insurance participation where risk is high or unknown
  4. Tax base to afford these subsidies and expansion of the coverage in Medicaid
  5. Policies that start to curb the cost of healthcare and bring it more in line with the rest of the world

Okay, lets take what the Republicans are offering and show why they don’t address or in fact undermine the basis of a functioning system (which is maybe what they mean by fixing it):

  1. More Choice driving down the cost – That would be the Cruz Amendment to allow the removal of minimum coverage so plans could be tailored to individual needs. Gee, that seems reasonable. I don’t need maternity care, drug counseling, a heart transplant, so why should I pay for it? So yes, the plans for this group would be cheap. The plans for everyone else would get way more expensive because you have done is reduced the amount of enrollees subsidizing those other services (item 1 in a functioning system). Second for some, shit will happen, and when their insurance won’t cover it, you will be dHow removing the individual manadate willestroyed financially. That would be a violation of item 2 in a functioning system above. Some choice. In many ways this idea is logically identical to the idea that after your kids have grown why should you have to pay taxes that pays for schools. So Republican.
  2. Remove Covering Existing Conditions Mandate – Yes this adds cost to the whole risk pool, and removing it will certainly reduce costs for those who don’t have any existing conditions and can get insurance, but do we really want to go back to the days where people could not get insurance for minor ailments in their youth, or denied further coverage as insurance companies argue whatever is wrong with you now is related to something earlier in your life not fully disclosed? Violates item 1 and 2 in a functioning system above and drives the cost for those who do have existing conditions through the roof if they can get coverage at all.
  3. Removing the Individual Mandate – This is universal from Republicans in that from their point of view, the mandate to have insurance is just big government taking over everything. Well, first of all if you own or drive a car, you have to be insured. How is this different? We all breath and will get sick so why should you not contribute to healthcare so when you do need it, you have helped subsidize your costs? But that is the moral argument, lost on I got mine generation (Conservatives). By having everyone pay in, this is how lower premiums are subsidized by item 1 by creating large risk pools. If the healthy can opt out, you have far fewer to pay the bills and when they do get older and have issues, then they can’t buy insurance because they have a pre-existing condition and if they can get in, they have not paid into the system to offset their costs later raising the costs for everyone. Again item 1 in a functioning system above and affects item 3 because it reduces pool of resources (premiums) to subsidize those who can’t afford insurance.
  4. Deregulate Healthcare and let the market place respond to needs – This is the holy grail of Republican ideology where the high priest of competition will solve all problems. It is a combination of Republican solutions 1, 2, and 3 above. Now go back to understanding the business plan of insurance companies to maximize profits/share price. It destroys large multi-varied risk pools because then the market is incentivized to go after low risk enrollees, those enrollees that don’t cost very much, but those elderly or sick get ignored or are offered plans they can’t afford unless they cover nothing. Why would health insurance companies compete by lowering prices in high risk pools where they are going to have a minimal profit margin? The other part of this is let healthcare companies compete nationwide instead of controlled by state markets. Okay, then who regulates them, makes sure they offer real services for premiums, and does not deny claims capriciously? We know this will happen because it did before Obamacare and then is it the Feds Republicans want to step in? This is the just repeal Obamacare option, send the poor back to the emergency rooms, and if they are sick, they must have deserved it. Flown lately? How well did deregulation work out in that market? This violates 1 an 2 in a functioning system above.
  5. Removing the Taxes on the Wealthy and Medical Device Manufacturers – This really has no bearing on healthcare except that it guts the funding available to fund the program including subsidies and allows Republicans to cut taxes, their other Holy Grail (Market Place solves all problems, and Tax cuts raises all boats). This destroys items 3 and 4 above in a functioning system. They are starving the beast.
  6. Block Grants to the States – This an old GOP strategy for managing Medicaid, the federal-state insurance plan that covers low-income people — turning control of the program to the states and capping what the Federal government will pay each year. Again, Republicans make an argument that who better than local control to decide how to spend Medicaid dollars since the states know their own needs best. Now on local control I could make an argument that who needed the Feds to breakup segregation in the South back in the 60s, since the South was doing just fine with local control. More recently, watch local control of school boards and curriculum which allow local jurisdictions to dumb down education and put religion back in the curriculum. Sometimes it works sometimes it does not and becomes the tyranny of the majority. In the present system, federal funding is open-ended, but in return states must cover certain services and people — for instance, children, pregnant women who meet income criteria and parents with dependent children. Under a block grant, states would have more freedom to decide who qualifies, and for what services. And what happens when things get tight in a state, where do they steal money from? A better description of the failure of this idea is here, but you get the drift. It is just away to unload the costs onto the states and eventually put the system in crisis, but it is the state’s problem then.

So are you getting the drift? There are no Republican solutions for fixing Obamacare if you truly want to improve it and make it better. And have you heard anything from the Republicans about ways to set policy to actually reduce the cost of delivering health care services (we have the most expensive system in the world by a factor of 2) like incentivizing outcomes not fee for service or allowing Medicare to negotiate with big Pharma to reduce drug costs? These and many more ideas are out there to reduce the actual cost of care, but that would require someone setting policy and incentivizing it and that again is anathema to Republicans. That would be big government. The market place will solve it, except it won’t, it will go for easy big profits unless government forces it to compete in all markets with defined standards. That is the fatal flaw in everything they are proposing.

So if you want to fix it, and by that I mean improve it, the Republicans got nothing. That is why the plans they presented were so unpopular. The way to fix it is fairly straight forward but anathema to Republicans:

  • We need to increase the risk pool and we do that by enforcing and strengthening the mandate. In the best of possible worlds we expand the risk pools to universal coverage.
  • Where you can’t get the private insurance markets to compete, you bring in Medicare for everyone. In a way this is the real “choice” solution. Let Medicare compete with the private insurance providers.
  • You strengthen the subsidies for the poor (Medicare for everyone will take care of markets where there is too much risk) through fair taxes.
  • You stabilize the markets by making clear you are going to make it work, not make it fail.
  • Finally you start to take initiatives to make healthcare affordable by reducing the cost of services like negotiating with Big Pharma and implementing incentives to utilize more effective and efficient treatments.

None of this is in the Republicans bag of what I call “free-ride” tricks, which is the market place left alone will solve the problem. There are tons of systems out there operating universal health care systems with and without single payer, with or without private insurance companies. They are all highly regulated. Couldn’t we learn something from them? But the one thing we do know is that after 8 years, Republicans got nothing and they won’t let real solutions even get on the table. When you finally recognize how the system works, you know that nothing is going to change because Republicans cannot accept the solutions that will work. We will have a failing system until voters finally throw these people out of office.

*Note: Ever wonder why most of us get insurance from our employer (mostly through health insurance companies) while that is not the model in the rest of the world? Back in the days of WWII, the United States was gearing up a massive industrial military complex to produce ships, planes, tanks, bullets, bombs, etc., etc., etc. So there was high demand for workers. In those days the government had taken over the economy to prevent wages and prices from spiraling out of control (inflation) so wages were fixed. What is a company to do to make working at their bomb making factory more attractive than someone else’s if wages are fixed by the government. Offer them benefits, healthcare in particular. And that is how we got a system of employer based healthcare, and the only one in the modern world. Given that this is a cost that makes our goods and services more expensive to consumers than foreign products, you would think that most corporations would be chomping at the bit to offload health insurance to the government.