Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Saturday, January 21, 2017

I Get It, But No

I understand the impulse to want to punch a fascist in the face.  I do not understand the impulses of anarchists who attacked a Starbucks.  I mean, I don't understand attacking private property during a march against a governmental official, and I really don't get why anarchists seem to hate Starbucks so much.  Also, I just hate anarchists.  Freaking dilettantes.

I am sure that during today's marches (our family has 50% representation, as I have to work) there will be another episode of black clad assholes doing stuff they shouldn't.

And that becomes the narrative of the day.

During the Civil Rights movement, the radicalism of SNCC and Stokely Carmichael helped create space for King and others to negotiate the end to Jim Crow.  But that also requires someone of good faith to negotiate with in the government.  Der Gropenfuhrer yearns for these confrontations.  They validate his leadership style.

Now would be a terrible time to burn the Reichstag.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Common Clay Of The New West

Read these "hopes of Trump voters" and tell me if you aren't bumfuzzled.  Basically, most of them want good government health care, economic prosperity and the preservation of Social Security and Medicare.  The only person under 44 wants affordable child care.

From Trump.

And Republicans.


The Crazification Factor

The Crazification Factor is the famous estimation of just how low the floor is for a conservative politician.  The answer is 27% approval.  It's almost physically impossible to get lower than that.  If you want to know who makes up the 27%, here is a good example.  There simply is no amount of evidence that can dissuade these folks.  The "Good Loyal Republican" will eventually turn on some of their politicians as not being "true conservatives" and abandon them, as many did Dubya in his last years.  As Digby once wrote: Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed.  Trump will be a great manifestation of this, as he was once a registered Democrat.  He will govern as a "bog-standard Republican" but when his shitty policies, narcissistic personality disorder and toxic combativeness drives this country into a ditch, we will all be regaled with how many in the GOP never wanted Trump to be President in the first place.

Why do I bring this up?

Because Trump is already circling down to the 27% threshold before he's even taken the oath of office.  He's the singular most unpopular person to ever lay his hand on the Bible and take the oath.

Why is he so low?

Consider what we have seen over the past three months.  Trump has staffed his Cabinet with the Super Rich, after promising his voters to "drain the swamp."  Everyone who wasn't a fucking fool knows he was lying, but his supporters believed him and many are now disappointed.  That goes doubly for those who assumed he was lying about destroying the ACA, or perhaps believed there really was "something better" hidden in his tiny little hands.

Since 1994, the Republican Party has gone dangerously off the rails.  They have rejected - in no particular order - empiricism, diversity, math, physics, compassion, empathy and reason.  They have devoted themselves to an ideology that prizes great wealth over all else, while draping themselves in the flag and thrusting a Bible about.  But George W. Bush was primarily interested in American power.  Even he knew enough to provide seniors with prescription drugs, as long as he could wage his mighty wars.

Since 2008, the GOP quite literally went insane.  They embraced a vision of governance so at odds with American traditions that Norm Ornstein of the rightist American Enterprise Institute called them "ideological insurgents."  The list is too long to catalog, but a sampling would have to include nearly defaulting on the debt, walking away from a 10-1 tax cuts to spending compromise and quashing Merrick Garland's nomination.

Now these nihilists have the reins of power and an idiot, narcissistic manchild at the helm.  The introduction of the Betsy DeVoses of the world has shown the limits of ideology against the real world, yet she will be confirmed and commence to fuck everything up.  Rex Tillerson will lift sanctions - which are working - on Russia.  We have an ongoing investigation of Russia's involvement in the election which will be killed - Saturday Night Massacre style - by Orange Julius Caesar.

That's why he's at 37%.  And if it turns out we can find real evidence of Russia's involvement in his campaign - looking at you Paul Manafort - then he will slip further.

But never below 27%.

Ben Franklin was famously asked about what the Constitutional Convention had created.

"Doctor Franklin, do we have a republic or a monarchy?"

"A republic, if you can keep it."

We have work to do.

Keith Ellison For DNC

I read this (lengthy) sit down with Ellison, and he seems like the right guy to lead the DNC in Trumpistan.  Democrats have been out-organized at the state level for too long.  Sounds like he has a plan to change that.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Would Ayn Rand Do?

Take a read about Tom Price's plan to take away your employer-based health insurance.

This is - to put it mildly - a terrible idea. Perhaps in the long run, it would be a good idea, because it would necessitate a move to single payer.  Single payer - as every other unfucked country in the world knows - works better than the odd patchwork of federal insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP), private plans provided by employers and individual plans covered under ACA.  Single payer produces better results at a lower price.  Yay for single payer.  Following Price's plan would presumably hasten the day when we get there.

But in the real world, that will likely be hard to realize, as long as people are willing to vote the Scary Brown People Are Taking Our Jobs ticket.  In the meantime, we would see a profound economic dislocation that would crush middle and working class people.

At the root of Price's "plan" is the idea that to every problem the solution is more market.  Education not making everyone a theoretical physicist or hedge fund manager?  More market.  Health care not perfect?  More market.  Pensions no longer viable?  More market.

Of course, the broad purpose of social insurance and social programs is to distribute precisely the sort of public goods that can't be accurately priced or delivered via the market.  The market is great for determining which toilet paper to buy at what cost and in what quantities.  The market categorically does not work when one party enjoys a monopoly.  Health care is a monopoly, in the sense that when you get sick, you need the care.  You can't negotiate with the provider, because you are fucking sick.

The GOP position is that people use TOO MUCH HEALTH CARE.  Seriously, that's the position.  People just go to the doctor because they don't feel well.  I mean....the NERVE of some people.  But if we made each visit to the doctor financially painful, we would reduce the demand on medical care, which would control costs.

Seriously, that's their argument. Forget for a minute that the point of health care is to maintain people's, you know, health, what are they saying to the people who are older and sicker and about to get a fiscal prostate exam that they DID NOT ASK FOR?

I'm 50.  I have some nerve issues in my neck that are causing pins and needles in my shoulder when my neck is at certain angles.  I have to go through my school doctor to get an MRI scrip, because I can't find a primary care doctor who won't retire on me.  Once I get the MRI, I can see a neurological orthopedic surgeon to see what the hell is going on.  Maybe it's just a pinched nerve.  Maybe it's spinal stenosis.

But it sure as shit is a pre-existing condition.  And at 50, my insurance will cost a ton of money.  People over 50 are the Republican base.

Are they really that stupid?  Or more accurately, are they really that blinded by the ideological restraints of Randian socio-economic theory that they simply can't accept there might be something as a "public good"?

Kakistocracy, Part 178,936

Seriously.  You've seen it, haven't you?  It showed up somewhere on your Facebook page.  You saw it on late night TV.  A friend mentioned it, and you assumed it couldn't be true so you looked it up.

Betsy DeVos.

The Department of Education is obviously important, but frankly, it's not THAT important since many education decisions are made at the state and local level.  I get to live in a state that actively gives a shit about educating its children, so I'm fine.  My son has benefited from the Individual with Disabilities Education Act in ways that we, as a family, can't begin to express our gratitude for.  And frankly, I imagine Connecticut will abide by this law whether Betsy Fucking DeVos gives a shit or not.

So, I'm not upset personally by Betsy DeVos.  As in so many things, I'm a well-off white guy, so I'm good.

But I AM personally upset by Betsy DeVos.  As Charlie Pierce so ably notes in his piece, she is an insult to the idea of democracy, self-government and meritocracy.  She was nominated, because she inherited money, giving her something in common with Der Gropenfuhrer.  She was nominated, because she wants to gut the fundamental truth of public education: that it be free, accessible and meaningful for EVERYONE.  She was nominated, because she has no freaking idea how to do her job.

That last part seems increasingly clear. Trump has zero idea how to be president.  So he will surround himself with various people who have zero idea who to do their jobs, too.  He will spin blame on them as needed to protect his narcissistic wound, and when it all comes crashing down, he will point at the incompetents and ideologues who he has surrounded himself with as the true engineers of the calamity.

As I mentioned yesterday, the unique hell of being a liberal in Trumpistan is seeing it all coming, warning of it, being ignored and - as time will tell - being proved right.  In the Oresteian trilogy, Cassandra can predict the future, but only the calamities, and the fact that everyone ignores her adds to her woe.  Here, there is nothing to predict BUT calamities.  We are all Cassandra now.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Pain Of Being Right

My Facebook feed was clogged this morning with video snippets of Betsy DeVos showing her ignorance under questioning in the Senate.  She does not know basic tenets of education.  She holds ideas about accountability that are genuinely frightening. She has no experience in managing large organizations.  She's a shitshow.

Of course, most of these nominees are proving to be shitshows.  When Trump began announcing his picks, I thought, "Well, this will be a shitshow."  And now we are having hearings that are pretty much Shitshow 2.0.

But there are voices from the Sensible Center and the Thoughtful Right saying, "Give him a chance.  Let's see what he will do before we condemn the Trump presidency."

No.  We predicted it would be awful.  So far everything we have learned since election day has confirmed that it is awful.  It will continue to be awful after Friday.

Liberals aren't always right.  That would be arrogant in the extreme.  But holy crap are they right a lot more often than the bloviating ideologues of the right.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Final Fantasy

We have reached an interesting crossroads.  Trump has promised "better, more, better" healthcare.  Everyone gets covered, no one ever dies anymore and it will be paid for by China and Mexico.  Or some shit.

In reality, we have the CBO coming out with some pretty fucking dire numbers.  ACA was designed to be permanent.  Markets acted on the assumption of that permanence.  Remove that assumption and you destroy more than the exchanges and the various forms of coverage through the exchanges.  You disrupt the entire insurance market.  The Republican replacement ideas are - SHOCKINGLY - pieces of shit that have no basis in reality.

Meanwhile, poorer Republicans are waking up to the fact that they kinda need this ACA thing.

You have an incoming president with approval ratings lower than any incoming president on record.  You have a GOP Congress with approval ratings that head lice would sneer at.

"This will not end well" feels like the new motto of the United States.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Shit This Is Good

Josh Marshall on the Press in Trumpistan.

Here is the important takeaway:

Trump is the most unpopular incoming President in American history. We only have data on this going back a few decades. But there's little reason to think any President in previous decades or centuries has been this unpopular. Indeed, he's getting less popular as he approaches his inauguration. People need to have a bit more confidence in themselves, their values and their country. As soon as you realize that the Trump wants to profit from the presidency and that the Republicans are focused and helping him do so, all the questions become easier to answer and the path forward more clear. His threats against the press are the same. He's threatening to take away things the press doesn't truly need in order to instill a relationship of dominance.

There's nothing more undignified and enervating than fretting about whether the President-Elect will brand real news 'fake news' or worrying whether his more authoritarian supporters can be convinced to believe - pleaded with, instructed to, prevailed upon - actual factual information. The answer to attacks on journalism is always more journalism. And the truth is that Trump's threats are cheap stunts and bluffs, threatening to take away things journalists don't need.

The Salesman Vs. The Engineer

Here we have Donald Trump, Salesman, promising magical unicorn ponies for everyone.

The obvious problem is that he's promising universal health care that is better and cheaper than Obamacare, but he has no freaking idea how to create it.  While ACA represents a series of compromises and kludges, it works, it covers people and it's relatively cheap to what we had before.  Trump is promising is something "better" at a time when the GOP Congress is taking all that away.  He's also said, he won't pursue single payer, which is pretty much the only way to make this work.

He's a compulsive liar, in the way salesmen can be.  What happens when people realize he's sold them a lemon?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Responsible One

I remember thinking that Trump's selection of Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff was one of his few responsible, mature picks.  Priebus was not a barking loon like Bannon or Flynn, so that was a hopeful sign.

Just kidding.  Priebus is a hack with the morals of a sewer rat.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

What Will It Take

In the early days of the Trump Administration, it looks like we will have to rely on foreign press and foreign intelligence agencies to get to the bottom of the Water Sports Memo.  While there are some stirrings of resistance to Trump's Russia ties in the Senate, in the end, we can count on the GOP either rallying behind him or muddying the waters.  This was the strategy with Iran-Contra.

The sad and almost terrifying fact is that Trump supporters simply don't care about this story.  This should come as a surprise to precisely no one.  Willful suspension of belief in evidence is prevalent on any political extreme. And currently the GOP is a party of extremists.

Friday, January 13, 2017

This Is Why I Hate The Left

This is so stupid.  Jon Chait made a point about branding or labeling the protest march next Saturday "The Women's March."  He's right.  Unless you're intimately involved in the march, it would seem to preclude male involvement.  I can't attend, but even if I could, I'm not sure I feel like the march was intended for me. I mean, it's not intended for me.  It's intended for me, only to the degree with which I can express solidarity with the march's goals.  I do, so I would go (if I could).

But most people who will hear about this march don't give a shit that the march is intended to be inclusive.  They don't know that it's for everyone.  All they will hear is the title.  The title suggests that only women oppose Donald Trump.  This is of course absurd.

Chait makes a reasonable point that if you want to make the point that a vast majority of Americans disapprove of the Trump presidency, you want to label it as such.  But he's an easy and frequent punching bag for the Left, so there you have it.

A Hill Worth Dying On

Automation will destroy what is left of the American working class.  It will then spread out and do the same everywhere.

Technology will do whatever it can.  It proceeds from what is possible not what should be done.  Nobel didn't pause to think about what dynamite could do.

It will take public policy to address this issue and one of our parties is hopeless reactive and the other is hopelessly reactionary and more or less insane.

Long Way From The Breaking Point

As Ed points out, the downfall of Nixon enjoyed strong support from the GOP right up until he didn't.  Once the smoking gun tape came out, he was toast and resigned rather than destroy his party.  As it was, 1976 was the only year Democrats won the White House from 1968-1992, and it was exceptionally close.

Republicans in Congress have to understand that their continued support for a Trump administration that looks to be breathtaking in its kleptocratic practices needs to be negotiable.  He's not "one of them" and Pence can sign their shitty bills just as easily as Trump.

Once a GOP Congressman decides that her fortunes are being hurt by Trump, she will abandon him to save her skin.  This, however, presumes two things: that their districts are not so gerrymandered that they have to worry about the electorate and that they aren't fucking kleptocrats themselves.

This is not a promising start.