Friday, September 22, 2017

Briefs



Graham-Cassidy
Why do some governors favor block grants even though their states will lose billions?  Given enough "flexibility," it lets them divert federal funds to influence peddling, pork barrel spending, and just plain theft.  The further the funds pass down the ladders from state to regional to local government, the greater the opportunities for corruption and abuse.

Tauntology
In the battle of the schoolyard bullies, "Rocket Man" pulled ahead when he called Our President "the mentally deranged US dotard."  To date, neither has referenced the other's mother.  Watch Twitter for further developments.

Kurdistan
When would be "the proper time" for the Iraqi Kurds to hold a referendum that will start them on the path toward statehood?  While the US might prefer to delay Iraqi, Turkish, and Iranian outrage, the Kurds represent the best chance for a secular state in the Middle East; ideologically, their strongest commitment is to capitalism.

What Happened?
I've heard enough interviews with Hillary so that I feel no need to read the book.  Could things have been done differently?  Maybe.  Would it have made a difference?  Probably not.

Puerto Rico
"Recovery" from Marilyn most likely will consist of privatizing anything that might turn a profit for off-island investors — essentially a vast, neoliberal social experiment.  I suggest that all boricuas left on the island move to Alabama, register to vote, and take over the state, thereby finally achieving the full rights of US citizens.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Medicare for All?


It's obvious that Bernie's "Medicare for All" bill is not about to become law, but that doesn't make it an exercise in futility.  It is a means for ambitious Democrats to define themselves as progressive, not slaves to the party establishment.

The single greatest obstacle to national health insurance is not Republican or industry opposition – it is employer provided health coverage.  As long as most Americans have that, they will not be especially concerned for those who do not; so public pressure for national health insurance never will be sufficient to bring about change.

There must be a means to transition from employer provided insurance to public insurance – and the most direct route begins with allowing employers to purchase Medicare for their workers.  This "free-market" approach would put a government-run program in direct competition with private insurance.  Profit-free, Medicare should have a competitive advantage; and by introducing younger, healthier participants into its insurance pool, Medicare should become more economically viable.  The new money in the system also would make the prospect of future cuts in benefits or increased premiums less likely.

The impact on the private insurance industry would be gradual, as employers switched over.  Since Medicare is far from a "Cadillac" plan, many employers also would shop private markets for supplementary, further softening the impact on the industry.  Over time, there would be plenty of public pressure to improve the coverage that Medicare offers, and to offer Medicare as an option in the ACA insurance markets.

Once a majority of Americans already are covered by Medicare, it would be far easier to find support for universal coverage, paid for by a combination of individual and business taxes.  Here in the USofA, "creeping" socialism is the only kind that ever wins the race.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Shariah Law Advances in US


The anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks seemed like a good time for an update on religious extremism.  Even without those emails from your crazy uncle, you should know that fanatics are working tirelessly to warp the American legal system with their primitive beliefs.

Okay, it's not exactly "Shariah" because the religion involved isn't Islam, but the chief objectives of all those Abrahamic preachers are the same: the subjugation of women and the de-eroticization of sex.  Leading the American jihad are Evangelical Christians, aided and abetted by conservative Catholics and orthodox Jews.  With the ascendance of the Tr*mp Administration, they have attained unprecedented prominence and power.

Much like the rulers of Saudi Arabia, they know that women are temptresses who lead men into moral peril, and hence must be denied birth control and abortions as a means to regulate their unbridled lust.  Babies will keep them at home, ready to satisfy the physical needs of their husbands and unable to tempt upstanding men like Mike Pence into the sin of adultery.

Speaking of Mike Pence, homosexuals are even more threatening than women because their only motivations for sexual activity are animal lust and immoral gratification.  Worse yet, the transgendered may be especially adept at enticing Mike Pence good Christians into carnal sin.  The Holy Warriors are determined that vulnerable members of the armed forces and bakers of wedding cakes will be spared temptation.

Health and Human Services and the Justice Department have attracted the most attention so far, but the fanatics are in all departments: the drive for "school choice," for example, is a campaign for publicly funded religious education.  Religious extremists are pervasive in the Republican Party, at all levels of government, working to deprive the rest of us of out civil rights.

No local stonings nor autos-da-fé have been reported from Kansas or Alabama so far, but religious extremists enjoy close cooperation with the NRA.  They are extremely well-armed.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Silver Lining?


Is there an upside to having a President who is impatient, self-indulgent, intellectually lazy, easily frustrated, not terribly competent, and pathetically in need of love?

He sided with the Democrats on limiting the debt ceiling extension to only three months, and tying it to disaster relief.  Will Republicans in Congress go along?

He punted DACA to Congress, giving it six months to do something.  Will Congress do anything?

 Maybe.

For years now, we've watched the expansion of the imperial presidency.  We've watched as signing statements and executive orders have supplanted legislation while Congressional gridlock took root and metastasized.  Well, Congressional gridlock works when Congress can count on a strong Executive to keep the wheels of government turning.

What happens when the Executive Branch is in disarray, and the President is out-to-lunch?  Will Congress get its act together and reassert its Constitutional powers?

The single most important power Congress has abrogated to the Presidency is the power to make war.  Given that Our President's negotiating skills are somewhat less than advertised, do we dare  hope for enough genuine leadership among the time servers, corporate clients, and party hacks in Congress to avert catastrophe in Korea or the Middle East?  (A good start would be to child-proof that red button!)

Members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, have been either too fearful or too lazy to give us genuine representative government for far too long.  If they can't or won't do their jobs, they must be replaced with individuals who will.  Historically, there always is one group willing to take the reins when a government becomes too dysfunctional — and, sad to say, the most trusted leaders in government right now appear to be the generals.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Random grumbling


• The pardon of that terrible old man Joe Arpaio should have been no surprise to anybody: one racist authoritarian narcissist pardoning another.  More upsetting is the fact that the people of Maricopa County, Arizona, kept reelecting him for twenty-four years.

• We can be certain that a great many Texans sincerely believe Hurricane Harvey was Divine Retribution for something or another; and equally certain that they'll find a way to blame it on Obama.

• As one more example of Republican through-the-looking-glass vindictiveness, Ronald Reagan will be joining John L. Lewis, Cesar Chavez, Mother Jones, and Bayard Rustin in the Department of Labor's Hall of Honor.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

About that "base"


Don't bother setting that cross on fire: it will serve well enough as-is.

There is a segment of America that fiercely supports Tr*mp no matter how badly or insanely he behaves.  That "base" is estimated to be about 30% of the population.  Who are they?  Some are Klansmen or Neo-nazis, but those are relatively tiny splinter groups.  The noisily Ayn-Randian "alt-right" internet trolls are even fewer in number.

The bulk of Tr*mp's base consists of white Evangelical Christians — the people who used to be called "fundamentalists."  Best known for their reactionary stance on social issues and disdain for science, their  loyalty to a lying, self-serving, egomaniacal sexual predator certainly seems misplaced — but Tr*mp embodies their desires and ambitions better than any conventional politician ever could.  (If he turns out to be the Antichrist, that's fine too.)

Basic to Tr*mp's appeal is his promise to restore an imagined "golden age" of America — that mythical time before rationality beat so hard at the bulwarks of ideology, before their God-given right to define the parameters of truth was challenged.  Tr*mp is waging a holy war on the political and intellectual "elites" who either belittle or ignore them.  It's all about self-esteem — economics doesn't even come into the picture.

While black Evangelicals and more mainstream Christians reject the President for his moral bankruptcy, white Evangelicals seem to be taken with what theologians call antinomianism — the idea that those who have been "saved" by faith are no longer bound by earthly moral codes.  Tr*mp really could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue, and they would be unfazed.

Democrats can stop worrying about "winning back the white working class" — the Evangelicals won't budge, and the rest of the white working class will come home once the Republicans are finished screwing them.  To win elections, Democrats have to mobilize their own base voters by generating some excitement.  They did that with Obama in 2008.  Can they do it again?

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Monumental Errors


My favorite public monument is on the east side of Columbus Circle, commemorating the sailors lost in the sinking of the battleship Maine.  It is enormous, and enormously busy, jumbled with classical figures in tragic or heroic postures, dripping with gilt and allegory.  It is an extraordinary representation of American grandiosity and self-satisfaction at the end of the nineteenth century.

The sinking of the Maine, you may recall, was America's excuse for making war on Spain and stealing a bunch of its colonies.  Both the monument and the Spanish-American War came about due to the efforts of William Randolph Hearst, the Rupert Murdoch of his day.  Spain's defeat left the US nominally in control of the Philippines, which came with several ongoing anti-colonial revolutions.  One of those was the Moro Rebellion, the setting for Our President's racist lie about General Pershing and bullets dipped in pig's blood.  The Moros have been in rebellion against Spain, the United States, Japan, the Philippine government, and anybody else who tried to control them for about four hundred years now, most recently in a loose partnership with ISIS.  They never quit.

New Yorkers rarely even notice the Maine monument, including the Puerto Ricans, the Filipinos, the Cubans, and the occasional transplant from Guam (yes! Guam!) whose peoples suffered the adverse effects of American imperialism.  On the other hand, a plaque honoring Robert E. Lee on a tree in a Brooklyn churchyard will be coming down.  Some memories from the nineteenth century remain distressingly fresh.

I'd have less problem with Confederate monuments if the likes of Jefferson Davis and Stonewall Jackson were portrayed not as heroes, but as the losers they were.  I also have a problem with the numerous Confederate traitors on display in the US Capitol, sponsored by a gaggle of southern states.  The State of New York could sponsor statues of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the Capitol, but I guess New Yorkers don't have the same sense of "heritage."

As for the monument pictured above, sponsors hope to locate a suitable site in Atlantic City, New Jersey.