Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Can You Smell The Republican Bullshit NOW???

Let's be clear now. The Republicans have spent the past 8 years attacking a healthcare system substantially comprised of an idea that they originally devised in the 90s and enacted in Massachusetts in the early aughts by the guy they ran for President in 2012. The instant that idea was adopted by a Democratic president, for the sole purpose of getting them to at least pretend to engage in the process, they abjectly refused, failing to contribute a single vote towards the crafting and passage of their own idea. Let me repeat that again: they refused to participate in the passage of THEIR OWN IDEA because a Democrat said "OK, let's go with your plan".

Since then they have railed against it in a manner unprecedented in generations, lying repeatedly about what it was or wasn't doing, who it was or wasn't covering, and refusing to acknowledge that anyone is actually benefiting from its existence. Instead, they claimed, they had better ideas to really improve the delivery of healthcare in the US and preserve the free market system -- which by the way has NEVER been an element of the insurance model of healthcare delivery. Any system that refuses to allow negotiations over drug prices and specifically allows collusion among insurers (and unless you can argue against the existence of the McCarran-Ferguson Act you'd best not take issue with that last one) is most assuredly NOT based on any version of market economics that's ever been posed by any academic, Austrian or otherwise.

But the GOP never had to reveal the secret of their healthcare plans because they were never in a position to actually have to pass it. Unfortunately, the mistake of Donald Trump's victory really screwed up their plans to scuttle everything a president Hillary Clinton would have tried to do to shore up the weaknesses of the actual Republican healthcare plan known colloquially as Obamacare. With the mistake of Trump's ascension to office, the Republicans found themselves in the unexpected position of being able to pass almost anything they wanted. All they needed to do was roll out that amazing new plan they've had in mothballs all this time. All Trump had to do was show us the great, best, beautiful plan he said HE had ready to go on day one when they would go ahead and follow through on their longstanding promise to "REPEAL AND REPLACE" Obamacare.

BUT, my friends, we now see that they were and remain, entirely full of shit. All they had this entire time was a really catchy marketing slogan that was easy to say, easy to remember, easy to use as a battering ram, but in reality, utterly empty of any content AT ALL. I mean, not just a work in progress, not something that needed a little tweaking in the moment, no. The marketing got so far ahead of the product that in the end, when it came time to show what they had, it turned out THEY HAD NOTHING! NADA! ZERO! ZILCH! ZIP!!


They do this all the time. I mean sure to an extent all politicians do a version of it. It's hard to talk detailed policy to a largely bovine electorate. But it's easy to complain about something you don't have to do and will take no part in when someone else decides to do it. It's a great way to generate fundraising and the support of misguidedly angry masses of, let's face it, yokels. It's a great way to win and keep mid-level elected jobs. Just don't win the White House. In the immortal words of Energy genius Rick Perry, "Oops".

The GOP has nothing. They never had anything. They've been completely full of shit for a really long time now. Not partly. Entirely. But it didn't matter when they didn't expect to ever have to DO anything. In that scenario, just keep your job and enjoy a nice living as a do-nothing good living politician. Leave the doing shit to the dedicated public servants now known as the DEEP STATE and then bitch about them too when just doing your job goes against the fake policies represented by the slogans.

The problem here, unfortunately, is that the alternative isn't really much of an improvement. Let's not forget that in order to do anything to attend to the disaster that is US healthcare delivery, the Democrats had to use a shitty Republican idea. The ideas that have a chance of really working: public option, multiple different versions of single-payer, among others -- were dropped almost immediately because moderates like Max Baucus (D-MT) were little more than toadies for the insurers as much as any Republican.

My point here, though, is that though the Democrats are venal, the Republicans are a whole order of magnitude beyond that. They spit from outrage to outrage claiming they have this or that solution but as we can now see on a daily basis, they have NO SOLUTIONS AT ALL. And when they try to come up with something, they're so intellectually bankrupt and bound by the shallowness of their own slogans -- not their principles, their SLOGANS -- they can't come up with anything better than the horror that was (is?) the Trump/Republican Deathcare plan that conservatively would throw upwards of 20 MILLION people out of the pool of insureds altogether.

The craziest consequence of what may be the end of this charade is that it turns out that despite it all, once again the system seems to have worked. The US system demands that compromise by all is necessary to get anything done. Absolutism is doomed to failure. Unwavering single-mindedness assures that nothing gets done. So what happened here?

Obamacare may not have had any GOP support but keep in mind that it was always the GOP plan in the first place. So whether they like it or not, their hands were and are involved in what we have now. It was a non-negotiated compromise. The effort to repeal and replace, became an absolutist nightmare. And it has failed as a result of lack of compromise.

SONOFABITCH!!!!!!!! Madison wins again.

But until the Republican party, and its millions of semi-mindless supporters realize this most basic of American principles, we are doomed to failure.

And in American government, that's how it's supposed to turn out.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Problem of Trump

The problem of Trump isn't Trump. It's the people in charge of stopping Trump. It should not have come as a shock the the head of the Office of Government Ethics resigned this week suggesting that it is nearly pointless to continue in a job whose directives are entirely ignored by the Trump administration.

As a free and independent billionaire, a guy like Trump is very hard to stop if he doesn't want to be stopped. He has lived his life in a manner that is recognizable from people of his sort. He just happens to be the most extreme and visible example. What I mean is that he is not interested in following any rules, he doesn't care what they are, and for the most part, doesn't even know what they are. He does what he wants, the way he wants, when he wants to. He is nearly unaffected by any attempts to box, control, or reign him in. Additionally, he can afford a battalion of attorneys who are on-call 24/7 to beat back with interminable and expensive litigation, anyone who would be so bold as to try it. It costs Trump no more and no less to have these attorneys on-call for him. He only settles when it leads to bad publicity. See the Trump University settlement for an example.

In the private world, there really isn't any entity that can do much to slow down, much less stop any of Trump's abusively piggish behavior.

In the political world though, it's an entirely different story. It's not money that's at stake here, it's power and authority. The US government is designed precisely to contend with an imbecilic and gold-plated power turd like Trump. Checks and balances is a phrase that has real force under the Constitution. Its purpose is to assure that anyone who holds office in government has to work within the bounds of law, tradition, and propriety in order to accomplish anything and retain their position. Their responsibility is not first to themselves or even their constituents. It is to the Constitution. In order to serve and protect the Constitution, all must place a check upon those who refuse to serve and protect it. And the presumption is that all elected officials are jealous enough of their little piece of the power they wield within this system to assure that they aren't taken advantage of by other elected officials.

Here is where we have the problem. And it's a very specifically located problem. It's simply and entirely a problem of the Republican party. The GOP has control of the Legislative and Executive branches of government and are perilously close to having control over the heart of the judicial branch. But relative to the proper behavior in office of the Executive, the Legislative branch - Congress - is doing nothing. The Republican majority in Congress has boxed themselves in so tightly with their extreme right-wing, that they can't restrain or influence a dangerously incompetent administration because to do so MIGHT mean they would have to work in a bipartisan manner and make compromises with the opposition Democrats.

We have a billionaire in office who says and does and exhibits every wrong aspect of the American character, and does so in full view of the world, while clearly violating any number of laws and requirements of the Constitution at a minimum, through the use of family members to engage in policy without supervision or office, but more importantly, by receiving financial benefit from the office from foreign agents in flagrant violation of the spirit AND letter of the Emoluments Clause. Yet the Republicans in Congress, who are the only ones who can do anything, do nothing. The Constitution that they are obligated to protect and defend goes unprotected and undefended because elected Republicans fail to take any enforcement action.

Laws on the books are meaningless if no action to enforce them occurs when they are violated. They become literally worth less than the paper or parchment on which they are printed. We have seen too often in our history, and much too much in our recent history, the abject failure of those in positions of enforcement of the Constitution to actually do so when necessary. The result has been recognition among the wealthiest and most privileged sectors of our nation to behave in the most abusive and profligate manner that we've seen since the days when humans were bought and sold as property on the open market.

Donald Trump has lived his life daring anyone to stop him from doing what he felt like doing. He hasn't changed a bit since being placed into the highest elective office in the land. No one should have been surprised at that and no one should expect anything less - or more - of him. He's been an actor on the public stage his entire adult life; a known quantity. Those who have the ability to check his excess and abuse should have been ready to do so from day one. We're just about 6 months into this 14 karat gold-plated turd of a man and administration, yet still, nothing is being done to correct his behavior.

The only other chance to right the circumstance we find ourselves in is to finally recognize and admit that we are because WE THE PEOPLE both through acts of commission AND omission put all of those failed elected where they are. And ultimately, it's the only way to fix the problem of Trump. When all else fails, it falls to WE THE PEOPLE, under the Constitution to behave responsibly as citizens at every opportunity, to assure that the United States continues to do better than it has in all the time before.

Right now, it's appearing that many in the rest of the world are starting to move on from an era dominated by American influence and ideals. That will be a world that most Americans have no concept of and probably less ability to contend with personally.

The office of President of the United States is supposed to be bigger than the man who occupies it. It's time for those with the power to do so stop respecting the office so much that they let a small man disrespect it so egregiously. And it's up to WE THE PEOPLE to demand it for the sake of ourselves, our country, our children, and the world.

If we continue to fail in our obligations as citizens we should then admit that we are not worthy of those obligations.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Make Them Blow It Up

If the Republican Party and their leader Donald Trump wants to take over the country entirely, as it appears they've wanted to do for the better part of a decade of utter failure to participate in governing, let them have it. And let the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch be the point at which they do so. And let them, and by them I include all of us, suffer the consequences of ending the American Experiment.

Judge Gorsuch is an  eminently qualified judge and has the credentials and temperament to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. No argument there. But so does Merrick Garland. The argument that a qualified nominee doesn't even deserve the courtesy of a hearing, simply because the presidential primary season is upon us is about the shallowest and arbitrary standards that could be applied to such an important appointment. There is no official start to the primaries and as a practical matter the race for president never ends anymore. Donald Trump has already filed his papers for 2020. Does that mean the race is already officially on? If so, then by the McConnell rule, no hearings should be given to any SCOTUS nominee. The people should be left to decide in 2020.

Well, isn't THAT absurd? Welcome to American politics in 2017.

It's true that the Democrats started all this foolishness with Supreme Court nominees going back to 1987 when they rejected Judge Robert Bork on ideological grounds even though by any measure he was a thoroughly qualified nominee. And then the dems did it again on a cabinet appointment by defeating the nomination of  John Tower as Secretary of Defense because of allegations of drunkenness; an allegation which would have disqualified as much as 75% of all politicians at any given moment.

Since then these nomination fights have been escalated in a tit for tat manner for a payback that seems to have no end. It has escalated on both sides, finally culminating with the humiliation of Judge Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The problem now is that there is no standard by which to determine when or even whether to consider important appointees and under what circumstances should that appointee be approved.

My opinion has always been that unless a nominee simply isn't qualified for the position (Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education for example, Harriet Miers for Supreme Court) or has egregious character flaws (white supremacist G. Harrold Carswell for SCOTUS by Nixon in 1970), they should be confirmed. Elections have consequences and the Senate has a duty to see that all positions that the President must fill are indeed filled in as expeditious a manner as possible.

But that is no longer the case. Although both sides have plenty of blame for getting us here, it's the GOP that took it to the limit with their shabby treatment of Judge Garland. Accordingly, the Democrats in the Senate must stage a final stand via filibuster thereby refusing to allow a final hearing on Judge Gorsuch.

Gorsuch may very well be the least offensive choice that Trump could have made from the list of judges he put out during the campaign. But it's not relevant. The seat in question was formerly occupied by Antonin Scalia, a Justice who's extreme and questionable jurisprudence has been white-washed because he was such a delightful guy to be around. Whomever Trump would nominate next - since he's a spiteful shit he'd surely follow up with the most odious choice he can find - would really only be replacing like with like. It's just a matter of the nominee's personal conviviality.

The only option the Republicans would have would be to invoke the so-called "nuclear option". Currently, 60 votes are required in the Senate to cut off debate on Supreme Court nominees. It used to be the case with all nominees until several years ago when the Republicans in the minority had so bottled up the process of filling the federal bench, that Harry Reid was left with little option but to change the rule for all except the Supreme Court. The Republicans effectively shut down the process for the Supreme Court while in the majority last year, and now the Democrats should force them to decide if they really want full responsibility for everything that happens in American government or if it's finally time for a return to the usual give and take which has been the hallmark of our politics for over two centuries.

It's a risky move of course, but no more risky than those taken by the GOP for the better part of a decade with great success. Should any Justice from Kennedy and left (Ginsburg and Breyer most significantly) die or retire before the Dems have a chance to retake the Senate in 2018 or the White House in 2020, the court will either dwindle in numbers (if the nuclear option is not invoked) or be heavily populated with the most outrageous possible nominees.

Of course, if McConnell DOES invoke the nuclear option, should the Dems retake the Senate and the White House by 2020, AND the Justices on the left hold on, a liberal era of jurisprudence will rise and fly for generations to come. I say take that chance because the alternative is darkness no matter what.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lying About Danger From Refugees

"Extreme vetting" is utter horseshit. It's merely a method of executing a Muslim ban by degrees when none is warranted or useful. This is especially true as it applies to refugees from Syria seeking to escape from the kinds of people we are supposedly protecting ourselves from. The refugees want the same thing we do. Safety and freedom. The US used to be the shining light of such things. But the Trumpisti are determined to violate everything good about the United States as understood across the world for centuries.
To those who disagree, your fears are unfounded. Your "belief" has no basis in measurable reality. And this reality CAN and HAS been measured. Call it what you want, but the process of vetting which has been in place for over 30 years is pretty damn extreme. Much moreso than anything in Europe. Follow the explanation and links in this article which is from June 2016.
Educate yourself on what it is you're actually ranting about when it means that genuinely endangered people will be consigned to death because you wouldn't extend your hand as an American when they reached out to you for help.

Wrong: Donald Trump says there's 'no system to vet' refugees


Friday, January 20, 2017

As Darkness Descends, Get Ready For The Dawn

As you'd expect, I watched and commented on the inauguration today with my colleagues from Progressive Blend Radio for our new show Trumpled Underfoot. Trump's speech was a reworked version of his stump program made all the more dark by his false dystopian view of a United States suffering from the ravages of a "carnage" that few would see if they weren't hearing it from their fearful leader. In short, it was a grotesquerie that will eventually receive recognition as among the worst and most negative speeches ever given by anyone to ascend to the highest office in the land.
Here's my takeaway from the day.
My friend, the writer and activist, William Rivers Pitt of truthout.org, was once press secretary for Dennis Kucinich wen he ran for president in 2004. Pitt quoted Kucinich talking to a crowd while campaigning in Iowa, "You are the one you've been waiting for. You've been here all along." He continued to say for himself, "I pity the dawn, for it shall find me pissed. Onward."
I've always thought I was involved and doing what I could to help nudge things in the right direction. I'm now certain that I've been kidding myself all this time.
I am upping my game and contributing more time and action than simply what I do in front of this cybermachine.
I suspect this may be true for a lot of you who are reading this. And if nothing else comes out of what we're about to experience, the notion that we will ALL be upping our game together, no longer waiting for ourselves, to instead BE what we've been waiting for, that dawn better make way. Because we WILL win the day.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Congress, ALL of Congress Better Sack Up Fast

It's 2:25PM EST, January 12, 2017. 8 days before the official start of the Trump administration. I'm watching C-SPAN3 for what was supposed to be a hearing featuring Gen. James "Mad Dog" Mattis (ret). The purpose is a pre-hearing in the House in advance of Senate confirmation hearings for his nomination to be Secretary of Defense. The United States military must be managed by a civilian. Civilian management of the military is a bedrock principle of the US and is a substantial reason the US has never seriously worried of military takeovers. Often though, retired military officers have been appointed to the office and for most of the past century a law has been in place that required any former members of the military be retired for a number of years before being eligible for the position. Currently, the retirement period is 7 years. General Mattis has been retired for less than 7 years. Accordingly, Congress has decided to consider a narrowly written law which would carve out a niche for General Mattis to serve now.

Since this is an unprecedented situation, Congress decided they wanted to have a hearing with the General to discuss his civilian experience and how he distinguishes the difference between civilian life and military service. Most importantly House committee wanted to hear General Mattis discuss his understanding and appreciation for why the Constitution mandates civilian management of the military.

For his part, General Mattis, who has testified before Congress in numerous capacities throughout his years of public service, was prepared and looking ahead to testifying. It seems though at the last moment, the Trump transition team and probably Trump himself, had the General stand down and not appear for the hearing. At this writing, there is no explanation for the sudden change.

What we are witnessing is a power play by the Trump admin's to be executive branch. Trump is declaring clearly that he will not be questioned or vetted at all much less in passing by anyone even by right. He is engaging in imperial behavior before taking the oath.

The Congressional committee is in near unanimity in their anger over Trump's meddling. What needs to happen and fast, is that Congress, ALL of it, House and Senate, Republican and Democratic, needs to recognize the threat posed to their constitutional authority by Trump and his handlers. Now, regardless of individual merits, they should reject the bill to waive the 7 year requirement for General James Mattis unless and until he is allowed to testify as requested.

The Congress must follow by rejecting each and every matter in which Trump interferes with their authority and make it clear that Congress is, as always, first among co-equal branches. It's unfortunate that this is where events are going already, and it's of grave concern that Congress has been so absent from engaging its responsibilities for so many years. My confidence that the people sitting in Congress now even KNOW what it means to do their jobs in a serious way is in severe question but if ever they were ready assert their primacy n American government, that time is NOW.