Monday, July 31, 2017

So many stories

I didn't publish this when I first started writing, and now there's been a flurry of stories to follow. Someday I may catch up on my writing, but not yet. However, I'm posting this belated piece today. 

Has Obamacare failed? This article shows pretty clearly that the answer depends on where you live. Some places, yes. Some places, the market is still doing well.

What to do in Afghanistan. Trump likes his top national security adviser McMaster, but disagrees with his plan for Afghanistan. So what will happen?

Voter fraud claims turn nasty. Imagine someone claimed you shouldn't be on the voter rolls. Let's say they lied about you, said you didn't live at your address, etc. Unfortunately, this happened statewide. Read about it.

Which states can't meet pension obligations? That's a good question. This article has one of the best graphs I've ever seen to show the answer. My state (Mass) - so-so. Not as bad as I feared.

Conservatives for riots? This article discusses how an associate of video sting con artist James O'Keefe tried to bribe a progressive organizer to arrange riots for Trump's inauguration. Sounds very sinister. Then I realized that she was probably trying to do a video sting, not actually trying to arrange false flag riots.

List of lies. Donald's. I don't want to go through the whole list, but it's good that somebody compiled one. I'm glad it wasn't me.

The 10-Day Diet. How to lose a bad choice for communications chief in 10 days. But before he's completely forgotten, read this hilarious piece about him calling up a reporter and forgetting to say the magic words "off the record" or "background." Some communications chief.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Short: The cynicism of the GOP

This issue is too important not to have its own post. The Washington Post pointedly tells how very cynical the GOP is in its push to do something-anything about ACA. Mitch McConnell wants the Senate to start considering an ACA repeal, and they don't even have the text of the bill. They don't have the text of proposed amendments. He made promises on an earlier bill that certain parts, if enacted, will never be implemented.

On Thursday night, McConnell finally released the text of the bill most likely to pass. He's trying to talk senators into passing it--promising that it will fail in the House, and ultimately a different version will be available. This is amazing, and probably a bait-and-switch, or bait-and-not-switch-as-promised. Four senators, including John McCain, threatened not to vote for the measure "unless there was a guarantee the House wouldn't pass the Senate bill." PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don't give us what we vote for! Please, someone else kill this, but not me!

I can't believe that a senator has to pray that his vote isn't final. He has to hope someone else will block the bill, and he can get away with a yes vote that he despises. I'm not sure how many senators are planning to vote yes and hope no. They are hoping that their bill won't be passed by the House. But will they feel betrayed if the House turns around and passes the bill they just voted for? This is exactly what I expect will happen. What a cynical game they are playing, the culmination of 7 years of cynical bombast.

Image result for mcconnell promises on skinny repeal cartoon

Extra. A good summary.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Do we need a Megan's Law for bathrooms?

I read how Texas is considering a law governing how transgender people can use public bathrooms. It occurred to me that Texas isn't debating this law because there was a horrific case of a transgender person horribly raping and/or killing a girl in a bathroom. This didn't happen to little Rachel or Gloria or Brittany, so there's no Rachel's Law. Nope.

Instead, Texas is considering this law because... um, why? Because they want to show that they hate the idea of transgender people, and they want to poke them in the eye. Or maybe they want to show that they are holier than thou, and that transgender nonsense is not tolerated in Texas.

This is so fake. I can assure you that transgender people are using the appropriate bathrooms in Texas without incident. They aren't raping anyone, they aren't exposing their genitals to the shock and disgust of other patrons. They are just going into the stalls, locking the doors, and answering nature's call. Just like the rest of the human species. Sheesh, give the paranoia a rest. Give the excuses to bash liberals a rest.

Do we need a Megan's Law for bathrooms? No, we don't. We don't need any laws. Just let people pick their bathrooms, and keep out of the way.

Image: twitter/@lmcgaughey

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Another roundup of links

What to do about North Korea. This is very tricky, until you realize that the answer from history is obvious. Sometime last year I spent many hours listening to a podcast detailing the history of nuclear strategy. From that I learned that you don't go crazy and make a pre-emptive strike. You sit down and sanely wait things out. That's how the least number of people will die--hopefully none will die. A friend from South Korea was relieved to find an American who gets it. Here's a great article that explains most of the situation, and it only takes minutes to read. As someone who has spent hours and days reflecting, I endorse the article. As my friend says, a pre-emptive strike would mean the destruction of all of Korea. I vote for a waiting stance, and hoping no one fires the first missile.

Black Lives Matter. A good but painful article by Jamelle Bouie on the acquittal of a police officer who shot a black man. Bouie explains that there is fear, and fear will be considered a valid reason. Makes me wonder if there's any way out.

Meme goes viral and then the shit really hits the fan. Trump tweeted out a tasteless meme of himself beating up a CNN logo. A freelance journalist identified the original creator. The journalist is pelted with violent threats. There's pushback against CNN for threatening to out the creator and extorting an apology from him. (I'm sure about the ethics of CNN threatening to out him, but his apology reads like actual, honest, well-deserved contrition.) Finally, there is the Daily Stormer, laughing at the journalist and all the threats leveled at him. Basically, they act like threats are completely justified. That should be enough of this slimy underbelly of American culture.

Real assessment of fake news - retractions. Finally, a believable story of what CNN and other MSM have gotten wrong in the Russia megastory. It should come with a reminder of what they got right, like Flynn lying, Sessions lying, Russia hacking here, there, there, and there...

Voter fraud that looks for real. Here's a report on voter fraud in Virginia. Unfortunately, it's written for outrage instead of clarity. However, it looks like Virginia has had several thousand illegal votes in the past seven years, perhaps more.

How to punk Trump. This is a guide for Putin on how to fool our foolish president. I'm not overly worried because Donald doesn't stand by his promises, so any promises he foolishly makes to Putin won't matter.

Important ACA factoid. This is an important nugget. The medical risk profile of people in the individual market isn't getting worse. That means healthier people aren't being driven out--if this report is true. No death spiral yet. We will have to see how it pans out.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Short: Blame Obama for Russian interference?

When I first heard this talking point, I thought the Trump camp had gone nuts. Why would anyone blame Obama when Trump was the one complimenting Putin and jokingly asking him to do more hacking please? Trump was the guy who was defending the Russkies, saying that it could have been any hacker, implying it would be presumptuous and wrong to punish the Russians. So it was Trump giving comfort to the Russians, certainly not Obama.

Somehow, though, this idea was a very popular talking point, at least among the right-wing parrots commenting on the political blogs I read. Of course they aren't a good source for information, or true information, at least.

So I found this article on the topic fairly detailed, but perhaps a bit one-sided. Yes, it mentions that the US was trying to work with Russia on some major issues, like the Iran nuclear agreement, but doesn't probe whether a more robust response to Russian behavior would have scuttled those important initiatives. I have to wonder about the choices that were made, but I certainly can't conclude based on the available info that Obama was wrong.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Fraud about voter fraud

From this article, I learned that I need to watch out for the GOP commission that is investigating voter fraud. Why? Because the head of the commission, Kris Kobach of Kansas, has already investigated voter fraud and found very little of it, but he hasn't publicized that finding.

It doesn't make sense to hide the info that voter fraud isn't common... unless you really like the narrative that it is common. Trump likes the narrative. Apparently, Kobach is fine with the narrative too because he's not pushing back against it. Maybe Kobach hopes he can find major fraud elsewhere, even if he didn't find it in Kansas. Personally, I'm not convinced that California, for example, does a good job policing its voter rolls. I tried to sign up to vote in California a few years ago, and probably would have been successful if I didn't bail at the last minute of the online process. No, I'm not going to commit the fraud of registering to vote in California just to find out if it's possible. Maybe California has tightened up, but I haven't seen any evidence of that, or any reports of what they do to investigate ineligible voters. To be clear, I have looked for evidence, but haven't found any published information about California's efforts to prevent voter fraud.

So maybe the commission investigating voter fraud will find a bit of fraud, or a moderate amount, or maybe even a huge amount (doubtful). So far, though, it's barely started, and it's already sputtering. Its first request for cooperation from the states was horribly mismanaged. The commission asked for private info such as birth dates and partial Social Security numbers without ensuring confidentiality. In fact, it was planning to have the information publicly available. They have got to be kidding--putting everyone's name, address, and birth date up in public. That's an immediate FAIL I have to wonder how professional this commission is going to be, and my hopes aren't high.

Image: youtube/Licitus Veritas Invictus

Extra. I didn't know that there has already been a nation-wide effort to investigate and punish illegal voting. The results: about 60 convictions in 4 years. Not millions, not thousands, not even hundreds. Pretty paltry. I hope this commission finds nearly the same number of illegal votes and is honest enough to report it without hyperbole.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Replacing Obamacare is harder than they thought

No surprise about the complexity of the task. The House just barely passed an Obamacare repeal-and-replacement. Now the Senate is trying to do it, and having even more trouble. While the House has some moderate Republicans, every moderate Republican in the Senate has a critical vote. Three defections to 'no' will scuttle the ACA replacement, so the margins in the Senate are even tighter. Also, each senator represents the whole state, not just the more conservative parts of it. It could be that senators need to be more concerned with Medicaid recipients than their colleagues in the House.

It's fascinating to read in this article what different senators want. Rand Paul and Ben Sasse (he of anti-Trump fame) would support a straight repeal. Is that position for real? Don't they worry about the ensuing chaos if there is no replacement plan?

Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, someone I wouldn't expect to be a moderate, is holding off on supporting the bill if it removes too much money from Medicaid. Louisiana isn't one of the richest states, so it probably has a fair number of people who have gotten their healthcare through the Medicaid expansion. Cassidy seems loathe to throw them back into healthcare limbo. Some senators, like Rand Paul, don't have such quibbles.

These negotiations will be interesting to watch. A pro-Trump PAC already targeted a senator leaning toward 'no' and already had to drop their pressure tactics. Whether the senators will be able to come together, compromise, and satisfy enough of them is an open question. A cool graphic in this article shows that more senators are concerned with the bill not covering enough versus those concerned with that it won't repeal enough. It leads me to expect a more moderate bill passing the Senate. But we shall see. Failure is certainly possible: only three senators need to decide to be stubborn to sink this bill.