Archive for Political Science Fiction

Now comes the journalistic hardcore

Hilde Lysiak, the ten-year-old publisher of the Orange Street News in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, is requesting some of Donald Trump’s time:

I hope she gets it.

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Silver standard

When you get as old as I am, you start snickering at the phrase “younger woman”: aren’t they all younger women? Of course not. But I’m long past the point where anyone over 29 seems to have gone to seed.

Of course, it helps if you’re in a position to take care of yourself, as is Christine Lagarde, sixty-one, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, now in her second term despite this little contretemps:

From 1993 to 2008 there was a long legal battle between [Bernard] Tapie and the Crédit Lyonnais bank (partly state-owned bank). Crédit Lyonnais had allegedly defrauded Tapie in 1993 and 1994 when it sold Adidas on his behalf to Robert Louis-Dreyfus, apparently by arranging a larger sale with Dreyfus without Tapie’s knowledge.

In 2008 a special judicial panel ruled that Tapie should receive compensation of €404 million from the French Ministry of Finance, headed by Christine Lagarde. She decided not to challenge the ruling. On December 3, 2015, a French court ruled that Tapie should return this compensation with interest. A few days later, the Court of Justice of the Republic ordered that Lagarde should stand trial for negligence. On December 19, 2016, Lagarde was convicted of negligence; however, the conviction was not deemed a criminal record and Lagarde was not sentenced to a punishment.

The US has been supportive of Lagarde, who has been something of a hardliner in office, but only to a point: for example, as Greece circled the drain in 2015, she called for massive debt relief, but when concrete plans for such relief were not forthcoming, she subsequently declined to assist the Eurozone.

Behold the hardliner:

Christine Lagarde on the rise

Christine Lagarde in silver

Christine Lagarde stretches out

Looking for brief samples of her voice, I stumbled across this AP squib from the IMF spring meetings — not quite a minute and a half — in which Trump administration Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin complains about the US tax code.

I think she just might be sympathetic to the cause.

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I can’t believe it’s not butthurt

He’s back, and this time … well, he’s back, anyway.

And what’s more:

But then, he’s always been like that:

Cam Edwards, contemplating the Democratic front-runner: “I look at Howard Dean and see a guy who’s going to invade Mexico because Taco Bell got his order wrong.”

And that was 2003, fercryingoutloud.

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Someone anonymous explains it all

And briefly, yet:

(Via Michelle Catlin.)

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Shutting the Fox up

WFXT in Boston, which was but is no longer owned by Fox Broadcasting, has been downplaying its network affiliation, apparently as a matter of branding:

FOX 25 Boston is dropping the FOX affiliation from its newscast names.

The station is switching to “Boston 25 News” starting April 24.

“The perception of what our TV news station does is not what we do. They perceive us to be part of the Fox News family,” said general manager of the Cox-owned station Tom Raponi.

The Fox 25 branding will remain for non-news shows, which presumably don’t embarrass leftish Bostonians the way Fox News apparently does.

(Via Patrick Phillips.)

Addendum: Then there’s this:

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No roads to Damascus

“What is the story in Syria?” asks Warren Meyer:

We kill a couple hundred folks with cruise missiles to avenge a few dozen folks killed with poison gasses and, what? Do the citizens of Syria really need yet another foreign power lobbing explosives into their country? The only argument I hear is that Assad crossed a line and now we have to show him what for. But this sounds like an 18th century aristocrat vowing to defend his honor after an insult. It’s sort of emotionally satisfying — take that, asshole! — but where does it get us except further mired in yet another foreign conflict we have no hope of making better? We look back and criticize the major powers in 1914 for getting involved in the constant squabbles in the Balkans but do the same thing in the Middle East, the 21st century’s Balkans.

Short answer: Because Russia. And were there any other quasi-superpowers [e.g. China] intruding, because them too; we have to protect our interests, and one of these days when there’s nothing else on the schedule, we’ll figure out just what those interests are.

This is not to say that we did a Bad Thing: dropping the occasional MOAB appeals to my sense of noblesse oblige. But if we’re going to pretend that there’s a reason we did it other than because we could — “Well, he needed killing,” said the Texas lawman of legend — the least we can do is go through the motions of announcing a plan, so everyone will have a chance to say “I told you so” when that plan, as it must, goes awry.

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Voters, schmoters

The people that matter to your Congressional delegation, says Bill Quick, are the ones who write the big checks:

I’ve been railing against the effective Ruling Class oligarchy of wealthy people who own and operate both houses of Congress and what I call the Ruling Party (and others call the Uniparty). Congressmen spend, at minimum, half their time (and generally considerably more) engaged in fund-raising activities. Just about every dime they raise comes with strings attached. Everybody hates congressmen (check any poll). The only reason to give these smarmy grifters anything at all is that you have solid expectations of getting more back from them than you give to them. In other words, it’s a straight business transaction in which the congressman sells his political power, and the donor buys it for his own use.

That is the state of political play in the most rarefied reaches of the American political system today. I have made the point that, as a professional writer, before the ubiquitous advent of Amazon, my “market” was not really my readers, but the tiny handful of editors in NYC who actually made decisions as to what books to buy, because without them buying what I was trying to sell, the mass market of readers out there would never see my work. In other words, my true readership, the one I responded to most readily (when they said jump, I said “how high?” were not readers, but acquisitions editors. They were my “Ruling Class,” if you will.

The same applies to politics. Clueless voters think their politicians see them as their primary constituency, but any politician will tell you that the only constituency that really matters to him are his donors. And until we find some way to change that, we will continue to have the best politics that the worst money can buy.

Well, he’ll tell you that if he knows it’s “off the record.” Lip service must be paid to constituents, after all.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve suggested somewhere along the line that if you want to get money out of politics, you need to get politics out of money. The smarmy grifters will of course never stand for that.

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Throw a rope toward that ship

It’s long since sailed, but the Tar Heels are digging in just the same:

Republican state lawmakers in North Carolina are proposing a bill that would ban gay marriage in the state, according to a local CBS affiliate report Tuesday.

North Carolina state Reps. Larry Pittman, Michael Speciale, and Carl Ford, all Republicans, are the primary sponsors of the “Uphold Historical Marriage Act.”

Republicans? Really? Who would have known?

The bill says that the U.S. Supreme Court “overstepped its constitutional bounds” in the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. In the decision, the justices struck down “Amendment One” in North Carolina’s state constitution, which prohibited the state from recognizing or performing marriages or civil unions for same-sex couples.

Over 60 percent of voters approved the amendment in the spring of 2012.

Hey, you went three whole sentences without mentioning Republicans.

And how, since there have been at least 20 amendments to the 1971 North Carolina Constitution, did this one get designated Amendment One?

Assuming this passes, we’ll need to calculate the over/under on how many days it takes for it to be thrown out.

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Quote of the week

From Roberta X’s most recent Geopolitical Update:

It is snicker-worthy watching Uncle Vlad get all huffy about the “violation of international law” in the U. S. sending a missile salvo on a badwill tour of a Syrian air force base. Tell it to the Ukrainians, you scheming weasel, and then yank the veto chain from your comfy seat on the UN Security Council just like all the other Great Powers do after they’ve beat up some two-bit country that doesn’t have that option.

Note: There are exactly five permanent members of the Security Council. I suspect that the only advantage of being one of them is that ability to yank the veto chain, because God knows the Security Council isn’t going to do anything actually useful if it can possibly help it.

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Such a card

House Republicans have been passing around this card to represent what they say is their idea of what the Federal tax return should look like:

House GOP tax plan, not in its final form

One thing that’s obvious: no deduction for state and local taxes. You might think that high-tax states might object to this, and in the case of New York, you’d be correct:

Gov. Cuomo said eliminating the deduction would “effectively increase state and local taxes by 20 percent to 44 percent, depending on a person’s tax bracket.”

“This would be a deathblow to New York, putting us at a horrible competitive disadvantage,” Cuomo said.

Like the level of taxation in New York wasn’t a competitive disadvantage all by itself.

Meanwhile, in that other reputed high-tax state:

Eliminating the state and local tax deduction would hit New York and California especially hard, according to a Tax Policy Center 2016 study. Combined, residents of the two states accounted for 32 percent of the total state and local tax deductions claimed nationwide.

Peter Grant, now a resident of Texas, likes this idea:

This would bring home to all Americans how efficiently their home states are governed. Right now, high-taxing, high-spending states can mask their activities to a certain extent, because their taxpayers are sheltered from the local tax burden by deducting it from their federal taxes. If that were no longer an option, every taxpayer would know precisely how much their state politicians are costing them — because they’d be paying it on top of, over and above, their federal taxes.

I’m not quite so sanguine about this. Few states are governed particularly efficiently; the one in which I live levies taxes at a lower rate than either New York or California, and it’s been in a deep dark budget hole for some time.

Grant continues:

The odds are pretty good that those living in tax-and-spend states such as New York, California, etc. would be very, very unhappy to experience the full magnitude of those states’ punitive taxes. They’d probably launch loud, vociferous campaigns to change their politicians’ habits — or change their politicians altogether.

Complaining about the Oklahoma legislature is de rigueur in these parts, but we don’t seem to be accomplishing a great deal of incumbent disposal, just like those Other States.

That said, I like the basics of this plan, but I question Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who’s a prime mover behind it:

“We are proposing a change,” Brady said in an interview. “Rather than keep Washington taxes high and have just a few get relief from state and local taxes … No longer will Washington punish or reward you based on how much you earn or where you choose to live.”

They’ll find some way to reward their friends and punish their perceived enemies. They always do.

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Complete with plastic insects

Astroturfing, as described by Infogalactic:

Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s). It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection. The term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble natural grass, as a play on the word “grassroots.” The implication behind the use of the term is that there are no “true” or “natural” grassroots, but rather “fake” or “artificial” support, although some astroturfing operatives defend the practice.

One particularly egregious example of this appeared on page 16A of The Oklahoman this morning:

Not even a nickel?

“PAID ADVERTISING” appears in largish print near the top, as would seem appropriate. Where things get artificial is at the bottom:


PAID FOR BY OKLAHOMANS FOR BETTER ROADS AND BRIDGES
BOBBY STEM, TREASURER
636 NE 41ST STREET, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA 73105
405-520-1874 OR BSTEM@WEBUILDOKLAHOMA.COM

It took all of four seconds to trace this back to the Association of General Contractors. Now I don’t have any problem with AOGC trying to wangle funding out of the state, as does seemingly every interest group from Black Mesa to Bokchito. But I object strenuously to this “Oklahomans for Better Roads and Bridges” nonsense, obviously intended to imply that your neighbors and mine contributed to the ideas and the cost of this Paid Advertisement; it’s a PAC, nothing more, with over a million dollars on hand to spend on fund-wangling. If we’re going to have PACs, and by all indications we are, the very least we can do is to require them to identify themselves as such.

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Vote being gotten out

Text message received yesterday:

This is David/Precinct Chair. TY for voting in 2016. Next election Tues. April 4! Text BALLOT to see your ballot. Signup to vote by mail, Text ABSENTEE. Thanks :)

Well, I know what’s on my ballot, since it’s a school-board runoff. I suppose if I were still paying per-text rates I’d be slightly peeved, but in general I approve of GOTV efforts, especially if there’s enough to them to rouse me from my traditional torpor.

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If only it would work

McG once said something to the effect that the next Constitutional amendment should begin “Congress shall make no law,” and end precisely there. I don’t see this being ratified any time soon, but then the problem has apparently existed for millennia:

It is said the ancient Greeks used a simple method to stop the multiplication of “laws.” Perhaps we should try it on our Congress. Anyone wishing to propose a new law had to do so while standing on a platform with a rope around his neck. If the law was passed, the rope was removed. If the law was voted down, the platform was removed. — “John Galt,” Dreams Come Due: Government and Economics As If Freedom Mattered, First Edition.

We don’t do that today for some reason.

It occurs to me that the presumably pseudonymous Mr. Galt might have been pulling our chains. Given some of the idiocies traceable to contemporary legislators, however, a mere yank on the chain would probably be welcomed as being preferable to forcible contributions by the overtaxed citizenry.

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No matter whose name is on it

“Reforming health care has become an impossibility,” says the Z Man:

As soon as anyone makes any noises about fixing the system, the army of lobbyists, hired by every vested interest, shows up to bury the reformers. If they are not able to kill the idea of reform entirely, they set about corrupting it into another grift that their clients can use to get a free shot at your wallet. The only people not represented in these efforts are the voters. They get no say.

This is the main reason Trump’s efforts to address the problems of ObamaCare failed last week. What Ryan and the other crooks in the GOP were hoping to do is pass a bill that made it easier for their paymasters to skim money from the rate payers, while providing fewer services. Ryan’s bill was just an attempt to help the people feeding at the trough get a little fatter off the middle-class. Its failure suggests we have reached the end phase.

Talk to anyone responsible for paying health insurance premiums and they will tell you that the rates are reaching the point where they cannot be paid. When premiums are going up by multiples of inflation, there can be only one result. Once rates pass a certain level, people stop paying those premiums. You get black markets, non-compliance and a system that can only persist through brute coercion. Soon after you get collapse.

Even Bernie Sanders has figured this out. You’d think someone in the Republican ranks would have caught on by now.

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Madame President

Roberta Anastase, born on this date in 1976, served as the first female President of Romania’s Chamber of Deputies, from 2008 to 2012. She was a member of the Democratic Liberal Party, which held 115 of the 334 seats in the Chamber. In 2009, the Social Democratic Party, which held 114 seats, withdrew from the governing coalition; the government subsequently fell in a vote of no confidence, though Anastase held on to her seat until 2012.

Roberta Anastase at work

Roberta Anastase waits

Before all this political stuff, Anastase represented Romania in the 1996 Miss Universe competition, though this took some time on the pageant circuit:

Roberta Anastase in the swimsuit competition

Peripheral note: Before you ask: 1996 was the first year that Donald Trump (remember him?) owned the Miss Universe operation; he is no longer connected to Miss Universe.

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Stop — hammer time

The Oklahoma House has passed a bill to make Good Friday a state holiday:

House Bill 1444 passed by a vote of 69-24 and was opposed by 22 Republicans and two Democrats, according to a spokesman for the House. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Good Friday is a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

Um, thank you for the explanation.

What gets me: only two Democrats in opposition? “Yeah, yeah, we know, separation of church and state and all that crap. But it’s a paid holiday, man!”

One of the GOP opposition offered a different pitch:

“I felt it was in bad judgment to add another holiday to the schedule, especially considering the various economic circumstances of the time,” said Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie.

(Via The Lost Ogle.)

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Quote of the week

Andrew Heaton is ready for us to choose a King. Or a Queen, even:

We threw the baby out with the bathwater when we kicked the monarchy out of America, and we ought to bring it back. To be clear, I do not mean the sort of hereditary tyrants who rule North Korea, Saudi Arabia, or the New York Yankees. Rather, I’d like for us to get one of those cute, ornamental throne warmers the Europeans trot around to cut ribbons at events.

In America we’ve combined power and reverence in the office of the presidency, but legal authority and veneration complement each other about as well as Scotch and back-pain medication. It’s safer to ingest them separately.

How we got to this unhappy, um, state:

In America our head of government and head of state both problematically reside in the president. We can see that unholy union in full force during the spasm of pageantry which is the State of the Union address. President Jefferson rightly viewed the whole affair as pompous and monarchical, and sent Congress a letter instead.

Unfortunately the nimbus of deference surrounding the presidency has swelled with time. In 1956 a political scientist named Clinton Rossiter published The American Presidency, a tome sopping wet with sycophantic notions about the Oval Office. He described the commander-in-chief as “a combination of scoutmaster, Delphic oracle, hero of the silver screen, and father of the multitudes.”

Gag me. The president is the top bureaucrat, and there’s nothing more American than despising bureaucrats. The government is basically a giant Human Resources Department with tanks, and the president is in charge of it.

Of course, it would help if once in a great while the Congress would do something according to their job description, which surprisingly is not “trying to get reelected.”

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The miraculous notwithstanding

This event is not currently scheduled, but should it happen, I’d expect it to unfold exactly as Francis W. Porretto describes:

I firmly believe that if the Second Coming were to occur today at high noon, and the Redeemer were to issue an unconditional statement that Donald Trump is innocent of anything criminal (or even unpleasant) anyone has ever implied he might have done, the Left would arrange for its cats’ paws in the media to promote a unified broadside against Trump for “daring to breach the wall of separation between church and state.”

Once a hater, always a hater. Compare to this decade-old screedlet by Steve H. Graham:

If George Bush crapped gold bars and handed one to every single hurricane victim, and then he raised the dead and parted the flood waters and turned the power back on and resurrected the Beatles and got them back together and lowered the price of oil to two cents per barrel and invented a cure for cancer while farting Chopin nocturnes and turning the oceans into chilled Dom Perignon and the beaches into caviar, liberals would still find reason to bitch.

Graham, now a practicing Christian, points out:

Our lives are controlled by the supernatural. We think we accomplish things through willpower and natural ability, but that’s just pride. Sometimes the things that happen in this world are consistent with our natural expectations, but often, events make no sense at all. That shows that the supernatural is involved. Surely no one believes Kim Kardashian is rich because she’s intelligent, talented, or hard-working. No intelligent person thinks Cher or Marisa Tomei deserved Oscars, or that Barack Obama deserved a Nobel.

I take issue only with the last clause. If Yasser Arafat deserved a Nobel, surely Barack Obama did.

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Quote of the week

Calling yourself “The Resistance,” are you? You flatter yourselves:

Resistance is fleeing from North Korea’s monstrous regime (buy this book!); resistance is a Tuareg man in Gao, Mali boldly going on television to demand that his clan, his people put down their guns; resistance is dousing yourself in gasoline as a final desperate act of violence in protest at a seemingly endless dictatorship, not because you want to die but because the police just seized your entire livelihood and you don’t know what else to do; resistance is joining a pro-bono law firm, running around behind the tens, hundreds of people arrested by Venezuela’s totalitarian regime, trying futilely to bend the regime to the law through the force your will and your righteousness alone — and sometimes even paying the ultimate prize.

No, sorry, you aren’t a resistance, because USA is not a dictatorship. Nobody is persecuting you; none of your rights are being violated; no illegal purges enacted; no tortures and disappearances. You didn’t like the results of an election — and want to pretend it is illegitimate, because you don’t want to do the hard work of rebuilding a constituency alienated, “Because you thought correcting people’s attitudes was more important than finding them jobs. Because you turned ‘white man’ from a description into an insult (…) Because you cried when someone mocked the Koran but laughed when they mocked the Bible. (…) Because you kept telling people, ‘You can’t think that, you can’t say that, you can’t do that’,” as Brendan O’Neill has said. Alas, the only people losing their legitimacy are you; who wear little pink hats and take off all your clothes and wander through public spaces offending friend and foe alike; who vandalize coffee shops and write little slogans misspelled on cardboard. No, you aren’t a resistance, and you don’t get to have that word.

On a scale of 1 to the daycare center burning down, how likely is it that, say, a sloppy solipsist like Keith Olbermann would burst into tears if he were ever subjected to any real injustice?

(Via American Digest.)

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The boss wants your DNA

No, not that way. This is an, um, enhancement to the GOP health-care scheme:

A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information.

Giving employers such power is now prohibited by legislation including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a “workplace wellness” program.

Because what could be more important than allowing your employer to complain about the state of your health — and collect from you if they don’t like it?

The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. It has been overshadowed by the debate over the House GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but the genetic testing bill is expected to be folded into a second ACA-related measure containing a grab-bag of provisions that do not affect federal spending, as the main bill does.

This is, you should know, not an exclusively Trumpazoid evil:

Employers got virtually everything they wanted for their workplace wellness programs during the Obama administration. The ACA allowed them to charge employees 30 percent, and possibly 50 percent, more for health insurance if they declined to participate in the “voluntary” programs, which typically include cholesterol and other screenings; health questionnaires that ask about personal habits, including plans to get pregnant; and sometimes weight loss and smoking cessation classes. And in rules that Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued last year, a workplace wellness program counts as “voluntary” even if workers have to pay thousands of dollars more in premiums and deductibles if they don’t participate.

We have one advantage at 42nd and Treadmill: most of the staff is old and beaten down and highly cynical about BS like this.

(Via Fark.)

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It’s only a referendum

“This is the state’s admission that they’re locking up a hell of a lot more people than they probably need to be, and reclassifying some of the druggies, at least, might clear up some of the logjam in the corrections system.”yours truly, giving tepid support, but support nonetheless, to State Question 780 last fall.

SQ 780 passed. What’s in it:

State Question 780, which Oklahoma voters overwhelming[ly] adopted in November, made simple possession of any drug a misdemeanor no matter how many times the person has been convicted of the same crime. The change also repealed enhancements, which prosecutors could use to increase punishments to the felony level. That means anyone caught with drugs on or near a school would face only a misdemeanor charge. The new drug laws go into effect July 1.

Apparently some people are not happy with that, and by “people” I mean “politicians”:

House Bill 1482 allows prosecutors to charge a suspect with a felony if they’re caught with drugs within 1,000 feet of school property. It also allows the enhanced charge for possession in the presence of a child under 12 years old.

“This law exists for children and children only. It’s wrong to say this is what the people of Oklahoma chose when we didn’t allow them to vote on it,” said state Rep. Tim Downing, R-Purcell. “I don’t know what the Senate will do. I don’t know what the governor will do. But I want you to search and say, what should I do for the kids, and what should I do for the schools?”

“This is a War on Drugs, goddamnit. We can’t give up now!”

I hate to break it to you, Timbo, but you lost this one many years ago. And over those years and several more, we’ve been given ample cause to be suspicious of legislation undertaken “for the children.”

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GOPcare

I am having no difficulty curbing my enthusiasm for whatever spaniel’s brunch the Republicans come up with to replace the ACA. Mostly, it seems hurried, as though someone went through an outline, printed up a set of bullet points, and then tried to come up with something for each of them.

That said, Megan McArdle thinks even less of it than I do:

There is no sensible thing that you can do to our health-care system that will not offend huge numbers of voters. Thus we got Obamacare, a program which, to a first approximation, 0 percent of Democratic policy analysts would have put forward if asked to design a rational program to extend coverage and improve health-care delivery. It was a gigantic Rube Goldberg contraption, deliberately complicated and opaque to avoid openly angering any important constituency, and arguably, fatally flawed for that same reason.

Now that Republicans have their turn in the spotlight, they’re resorting to all the same tricks: the secrecy, the opacity, the long implementation delays (the better to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office, and oh, yes, also, get them past the next election before voters meet their program). The inability of either party to make a principled stand for sensible policy is a problem, a very big one. And Republicans sure haven’t fixed it.

The only people who are going to be happy about this situation, I suspect, are those crying in the wilderness for single-payer — because the worse it gets, the more likely they are to have their dream eventually fulfilled.

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Pattern possibly detected

TLO’s Patrick is all over it:

[Friday] HB 1472 passed unanimously out of a House Judiciary committee.

Introduced by piano tuner turned fun-hating, freedom-loving State Rep. Travis Dunlap [R-Bartlesville], it would require digital service providers to block the transmission of “obscene material” a.k.a. porn) by request. Additionally, service providers will have to notify consumers a in a “conspicuous manner” that they can request to have obscene material blocked.

There’s no reason to think that Travis Dunlap’s concept of smut is any more refined than, say, Potter Stewart’s, but there’s something else you should know about this guy:

[T]his would probably be a convenient time to mention that Dunlap is the same guy who introduced HB 1277. Named the “Fairness in Fault Act,” it would make it more difficult for individuals to seek a divorce on grounds of “incompatibility.” Think about that for a second? Dunlap’s introduced laws that could block his ability to watch Internet porn and make it more difficult for his wife to leave him. Yikes. Is he trying to tell us something here?

Nothing you couldn’t figure out on your own, I’m pretty sure.

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Going before the voters

California has a ballot initiative for statewide single-payer health care, and in terms of ballot language, it is admirably clear. Senate Bill 562, if you please:

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1. This act shall be known, and may be cited, as the Californians for a Healthy California Act.

SEC. 2. (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

    (1) All residents of this state have the right to health care. While the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act brought many improvements in health care and health care coverage, it still leaves many Californians without coverage or with inadequate coverage.

    (2) Californians, as individuals, employers, and taxpayers have experienced a rise in the cost of health care and health care coverage in recent years, including rising premiums, deductibles, and copays, as well as restricted provider networks and high out-of-network charges.

    (3) Businesses have also experienced increases in the costs of health care benefits for their employees, and many employers are shifting a larger share of the cost of coverage to their employees or dropping coverage entirely.

    (4) Individuals often find that they are deprived of affordable care and choice because of decisions by health benefit plans guided by the plan’s economic needs rather than consumers’ health care needs.

    (5) To address the fiscal crisis facing the health care system and the state, and to ensure Californians can exercise their right to health care, comprehensive health care coverage needs to be provided.

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would establish a comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage program and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state.

Okay, that name is terrible. And “rights,” at least the way I learned about them in school, simply exist; they can’t be created out of whole cloth by mere humans.

Still, the Trump administration’s executive order calling for killing off Obamacare also calls for the Feds to “provide greater flexibility to states and cooperate with them in implementing health care programs,” and I figure that if Californians really, truly want this, whatever it might cost them in the long run, I can’t think of any good reason why they shouldn’t have it.

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Decentralization already

Smitty observes:

It’s not good when the one you don’t like is in the office with too much power; it’s not good when the one you do like is in the office with too much power: maybe someday we’ll realize that the fundamental problem is that the office has too much power.

What are we to do?

  • Make the House more representative?
  • Nuke the 17th Amendment, so that States matter more?
  • Replace gerrymandering with a modern mapping algorithm, to weaken parties?
  • Apply pliers and a blow torch to the IRS, and craft a 21st-century taxation system?
  • Term-limit pretty much everything, and blow up the petty aristocracy of the Beltway?

All of these ideas have merit. On the “more representative” question, it’s worth remembering that the original deal was 30,000 per House member. We’re now at the point where it’s 80,000 per member of the Oklahoma City Council. (The state of Oklahoma has five Representatives for 3.7 million people.)

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A politics-free zone

In the best of all possible worlds, the entire world would be a politics-free zone. But this isn’t happening:

I started following a few “pretty pictures” accounts on Twitter to try to counteract a lot of the political stuff that’s being discussed on there. And then guess what: yesterday afternoon an account or two of them suddenly decided that it was time to get political.

They chose … poorly.

I think about a lot of this, and I think about something the survivalist types talk about, the whole “head on a swivel” idea — that every public place now is Potentially Dangerous, so you need to be in a state of heightened awareness and that just exhausts me and makes me want to be a hermit. I mean, I have halfway-decent situational awareness just because I’m observant and my history of being teased and made the butt of jokes makes me super sensitive to “hey, this thing isn’t quite right in my environment” but the idea of thinking of five escape routes for every part of the wal-mart I might happen to be in just makes me exhausted, and makes me almost want to say, “Okay, if a crazed shooter wants to take me out while I’m buying frozen cauliflower, then it was my time to go, and hopefully I’ll have that last chance to ask forgiveness for my sins before I die…”

And I think the being hyper-aware of political stuff is similar.

I stick by what I said yesterday to a friend in Canada:

And if anyone should come back with “But … but we’re marginalized!” I’m going to reply “Yet I can still hear you.”

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He was the bravest of them all

The Z Man titled a post “We Need a Tom Doniphon,” and I knew at once what he meant. Just to make sure we’re paying attention, though, Z plugged in this last paragraph:

America is headed for a bad end unless things change quickly and radically. The suicide cult that has control of our society is not going to stop until we’re all dead. At some point, you have to use every means necessary to prevent a catastrophe. If that means Lindsay Graham winds up in a pit covered in lime, so be it. If Bill Kristol has to write his tantrums from exile in Israel, I can live with that. In order to have a world run by Senator Ranse Stoddard, you first need a Tom Doniphon to do the dirty work of clearing out Liberty Valance.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David put together a wonderful song called “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” after John Ford’s film; however, the song does not appear in the film. (Ask Eddy Grant what that’s like.) Some latter-day genius came up with the idea of creating a video for the song, based on the original trailer plus a couple of pertinent scenes. (Jimmy Stewart was Ranse Stoddard, and John Wayne was Tom Doniphon.)

Gene Pitney was never better, and today, 55 years after the film, Liberty Valance is as relevant as ever.

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The post-ACA future

Assuming the GOP delivers on a campaign promise, which admittedly is a hell of a lot to assume, Obamacare is good as gone. Then what? Fred speculates:

When national medical care is considered in America, nobody — so far as I am aware, anyway — thinks to look at other countries, see what they are doing, and ask, “Does it work?” To do so would make sense, and so is rejected out of hand, and anyway Americans apparently cannot conceive that other countries might do things well. Instead we hear about this that economic theory, and freedom, and what Adam Smith said about bypass surgery, and tyranny.

Invariably you hear of the pregnant woman in London who couldn’t see a doctor under national health care and had to giver herself a Caesarian with a chainsaw. These nightmares are offered as proof that national care doesn’t work. In fact the medical business lobbies to underfund national care, ensuring that it won’t work well. Then they talk about the evils of socialism.

By comparison:

Military medical care is the obvious, available, and easily studied alternative to Obamacare. So far as I know, nobody thought of this. In the military you go to the hospital or clinic, show your ID card, get done whatever you need, and leave. Thank you, good day. No paperwork. No paperwork. No insurance forms, deductibles, receipts. No insurance companies trying to pay as little as possible, since that’s how they make money. The doctor doesn’t order a PET scan, three MRIs, and a DNA analysis of your grandmother’s dog to run up the bill.

This would never do, and it didn’t. Say hello to Tricare. But don’t look directly at it.

From the taxpayer’s point of view, real national care involves no insurance companies. For this reason Congress, for sale to the highest bidder, will never consider such a system.

Any meaningful improvement would have to get rid of at least one, and preferably two, of the established middlemen: either Big Insurance, or Big Government. Both of them, of course, are dug in for the long haul.

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So! Sad!

I’m almost surprised it took this long:

Opening act: the Stephen Miller Band.

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Quote of the week

Whomever you choose to take the blame for our Parlous Times, you’re sort of missing the point:

You know what the reality is? Every one of those guys — even the sneakiest, cleverest, richest of the lot, pick your choice, is floundering. Oh, they may stumble a little less than we do, and get a little more light shed in one corner or another, but they, like you or me, are doing good to keep up. It’s 2017 and a goatherd barely out of the Stone Age armed with a can of gasoline can, for a short while, speak just as loudly and influentially as the greasiest éminence grise. Those fellows who look so confident, generals and zillionaires, Congressthings and shady wheeler-dealers? It’s a front; they’ve got their refuges and boltholes and they hope their ride will wait, but they have no better handle on the future than you do and their only real plan is to see the next sunrise with their skin intact. They rely on custom and habit and the dull goodwill of their fellow humans every bit as much as you do.

Which explains the current state of things:

In January, we saw one of the great civil miracles of modern civilization: the peaceful transfer of power of a major nation going off without a hitch in a ceremony that’s been performed every four years since the end of April, 1789, and you know what people did? They went after trivia. After speculative nonsense. And it has only become worse every day since.

If you’re heavily emotionally invested in contemporary politics, you’re wasting the best part of your life.

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