Thursday, July 27, 2017

Extra brief briefs


• The bizarre stream of consciousness Our President delivered to the Boy Scouts this week makes the 25th Amendment seem more and more applicable.

Tweeting the purge of transgender personnel from the military was both bizarre and absolutely vile — but maybe it's supposed to make up for the impending martyrdom of Jeff Sessions.

• Tr*mp will never find an AG the equal of Jeff Sessions, given that Adolf Eichmann was executed in 1962.

• If the Democrats' "Better Deal" had included single-payer heath care, somebody might have paid attention.

• Popular protest in Poland prompted a veto of "judiciary reform" by Andrzej Duda, demonstrating that marches still can accomplish something, somewhere.

• Sadly, it seems that "somewhere" does not include Turkey.

• Anthony Scaramucci,  Wow.  Anthony Scaramucci.

• We knew that playing football caused brain damage — now we need data on watching football.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Big Fail


Jerry Moran? Who's Jerry Moran? It wouldn't be very surprising if even Kansans couldn't come up with the name of their Senator — but it was Moran, along with Mike Lee, Susan Collins, and Rand Paul who spared their fellow Republicans the jeopardy of voting on so-called "repeal and replace."  Here's how the New York Times counted the votes:

The "no" group consists of the four named above plus the forty-eight Democrats.  We can be sure that the "no" Republicans were personally selected by Mitch McConnell -- discipline is tight.  Collins is the party's token moderate; Paul and Lee can claim ideological purity and avoid being "primaried" from the right; but what about Jerry Moran?

Moran gained some cover by "teaming up" with Lee in announcing his opposition, and it well could be that fellow Kansans Charles and David Koch (who bankroll primary challenges from the right) preapproved Moran's "defection."  Be that as it may, somebody had to save those thirty-four "unclear" and "concerned" Republicans from the political damage they would have suffered by voting for an extraordinarily unpopular bill.

It's interesting that the three Republicans selected to prevent consideration of a straight repeal, with no replacement, were all women.  As Republicans know, women are allowed to have "soft spots" — they can be forgiven a failure to be unfailingly "tough" on the poor.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Your best argument for Medicaid


The half of all Americans whose employers provide them with health insurance may be far too indifferent to Republican plans to demolish Medicaid. If they have parents, they should be paying more attention.

More than half the residents of nursing homes are supported by Medicaid, which assumes the costs after those residents have spent down their personal wealth. The average annual cost in the US is over $75,000 per year, so personal wealth tends to disappear quite rapidly. Not too far in the future, large numbers of baby boomers will need the level of care nursing homes provide.  What will their children do if Medicaid isn't available?

Essentially, they have three choices:

• Cover the costs themselves.  Ouch!
• Put mom in the spare bedroom, and tend to all her needs.  Eeek!
• Euthanasia.  (Don't get caught!)

When you put it that way, most people will understand why it's a good idea to get on the phone to their representatives in DC and raise a ruckus.  Spread the word, and do it now!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Still No Collusion


Don Jr., along with the other two stooges, Jared and Paul, didn't collude with the Kremlin when they met with with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya — even though that certainly was their intent.  Had it been an FBI sting, they would have ended up guilty of something, but Veselnitskaya was not working for the FBI.  It also is very unlikely she was working for the Kremlin.

Based on her activities in the US over the past several years, it looks like Veselnitskaya is employed by some of the Russian businessmen hurt by sanctions under the Magnitsky Act of 2012, the sanctions that inspired Putin to "retaliate" by stopping adoptions of Russian children by Americans.  Pretty clearly, nobody in the Tr*mp campaign would have been interested in discussing the sanctions, so Veselnitskaya tried a bait-and-switch.  The campaign would be interested in some good dirt on Hillary, even if it came from the Russian government.

Junior and his pals were interested — but they were disappointed.

As I've previously observed, Russia never needed any help from Tr*mp and Co. to interfere in the American election — but certainly had no qualms about compromising individuals who might become part of a future Tr*mp Administration.  Given the high levels of both cupidity and incompetence on the Tr*mp team, the Russians didn't have to try too hard.

Just the same, those investigating Russian interference in the election are not going to get much mileage out of the new Confusions of Young Witless, Tr*mp's "high quality" son.  We've already seen all the "there" that's "there."

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Patriots


Judging by the explosions, there are a lot of patriots in my neighborhood.

Patriotism makes me nervous.  It seems to require a wholesale suspension of judgement, and a memory of history riddled with more holes than a speed limit sign in rural Texas. It is not, as Dr. Johnson said, "the last refuge of a scoundrel." Rather, it is a well-worn tool from the tool kit of every scoundrel engaged in politics.

There are those who maintain that patriotism somehow is different from nationalism, but they fail to explain just how it is different. Interestingly, no matter how different the nation-states or ruling elites that use it, the forms and functions of patriotism remain remarkably consistent.  Its imagery is militaristic, and so is its central demand: unquestioning allegiance to the State.

Patriotism is so closely related to and interwoven with religious fervor that the two often are indistinguishable. Every "just war" is jihad, every "fallen hero" a martyr.  Ideology displaces rationality; symbolism justifies devastation.

(It's gone quiet out there.  Is it still the American Century?  I guess we'll have to wait and see.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Theology of Health Care


Back in the 16th century, when European merchants were energetically inventing capitalism, John Calvin arrived to tell them they could forget all that stuff about camels passing through the eyes of needles. God, he assured them, rewards His favorites in this life as well as the next, so their wealth was a sure sign they were saved. It followed that the poor, being congenital sinners, were not deserving of any consideration at all.

The twenty-first century version of Calvinism is called "Meritocracy." Meritocrats assume that those who prosper have earned their wealth by being better than the rest: their success is the fruit of their personal "genius" and "grit."  They claim to "make their own luck," and discount the importance of institutional barriers faced by others — like inequality of opportunity or discrimination. Hence, to their minds, those who fail to prosper deserve to fail; and certainly don't deserve any share in the wealth of their betters. It follows that taxing the rich in order to provide health care for their inferiors is nothing less than a crime against nature.

There seem to be some Republican Senators who genuinely believe in the New Calvinism (and some who still believe in the older version.) Many more, though, are just the lazy lackeys of their major donors, content in their safe, Red-State seats, mindlessly voting with their leadership.  A few, though, face more complex political situations -- and there even may be one or two who see a moral choice awaiting them after the Fourth of July.  Let's hope they bring their camels along.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Briefs


Jon Ossoff
A vast majority of the people who voted for Tr*mp also voted for Romney, and the same people voted for Karen Handel. The big winners were the consultants and media outlets in what the Times called "the Lululemon-and-loafer subdivisions of Dunwoody and Roswell."

Otto Warmbier
Warmbier was far from the first young man to lose his life for doing something trivial and stupid, albeit most such deaths do not have geopolitical consequences. Tr*mp now admits his China-North Korea policy is dead. For China (and South Korea), keeping the North stable is more important than restraining its military capability.

The American Health Care Act
It's pretty clear that a lot of Congressional Republicans wish the whole "repeal and replace" controversy would just go away. Fingers crossed, maybe it will.