Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Let's Cut Food Stamps for the Welfare Queens!

President Trump's budget is out and he's cutting food stamps and disability payments and giving the money to defense contractors.
And as the Republicans in Congress and in his administration see it, it's about time.

All those welfare queens, driving around in their Cadillacs, are using the food stamps to buy orange soda pop, cigarettes and booze and then selling that on the street to make a tidy profit and buy themselves mink stoles and pink Cadillacs.

It's an abuse of the welfare system, all those undeserving poor, living off the teat of the federal government.  Not like the defense contractors who do not live off the teat of the federal government but earn their money, fair and square and then keep it by using the carried interest dodge in their federal income tax so they pay less than their secretaries.

Finally, we got a guy in the White House who, for the first time since Reagan, will root out all those people on welfare disability who are perfectly able bodied but who prefer to go fishing rather than to the factories (which President Trump will be reopening shortly) and take their welfare checks which they spend on drugs, booze and loose women. 
I hear the women in my office talking every day about how it's high time all those shirkers, parasites and underserving poor got what's coming to them. The women in my office who talk this way do this between answering phone calls and telling whoever calls in they better call back later because it's not their job and the person whose job it is is out on break. Then they go down to the kitchen on break.

So, the universe is coming aback to a better place now that President Trump is in office and states like Pennsylvania will realize they voted right. Pennsylvania, you know that state, which is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Alabama in between.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Voting in Iran and Invasive Species

What a wonderful age we live in: Last night I saw Steve Inskeep on The News Hour, and as Judy Woodruff interviewed him you could see people behind him voting in a mosque in Iran.  
It was a gorgeous mosque, with lots of tile and colors but the most amazing thing was the people.
Steve Inskeep

I could hardly focus on what Mr. Inskeep was saying because I was so taken with the images of the Iranian people behind him.  I had heard him say, on NPR radio, earlier in the day, that women lined up to vote in separate lines from men, so I imagined a sort of bleak and dreary event. 

But, NO!  The women behind him on the TV screen were vibrant, smiling, laughing, having a wonderful time. The whole scene was joyous and the vibrancy of the people came through.

It reminded me how very narrow and distorted an image I have of Iran and likely of the entire Middle East. Yes, they have to be careful about what they say and write for fear of a visit from the government goons, but they have lives, joys and the political climate cannot suppress that.

Reminded me of my father, returning from a visit to Spain, years ago, when the dictator Franco was still in power and he was laughing in dismay.  "I was wandering around in Madrid and seeing all these happy people, having a wonderful time, laughing, sitting at sidewalk cafes--didn't they know they lived in an oppressive dictatorship?" He had to laugh at his own ignorance. He expected life in a dictatorship would be all grimaces and sloped shoulders.

Of course, a glimpse over Mr. Inskeep's shoulder should not convince me life is fine in Iran, but when I listen to Mr. Trump and his bombastic band of brothers talking about Iran and the Iranians, I have to think of the possibility these people have their side of the story to tell.

Which brings me to pythons. Another story on NPR about the opening of python hunting season in Florida, where pythons are "destroying" the everglades, eating up raccoons, alligators, deer and Bambi.  They are an "invasive species."
We don't like them.

I really hate that idea of "invasive species."  
In New Hampshire, Norway maple trees are legally an "invasive species" even though they are nearly sterile, are not seen outside of all the house lots, church yards, or planted along median strips as landscaping.  
But somebody at the Horticulture Department of the University of New Hampshire testified before a committee of retirees who comprise the New Hampshire House of Representatives and called these trees an invasive species and poof! No longer can you buy or transport these trees or plant them in New Hampshire, under plenty of law in the Live Free or Die state. 
Unlike the pythons which have spread out and occupied territory, Norway Maples are simply not seen in any of the woods or forest surrounding Hampton or, to my knowledge, anywhere else in New Hampshire.  They are the most rooted invaders one can imagine. They simply do not move. 
Far as I can tell, the prime offense of these invaders is they have offended the aesthetic sense of the UNH faculty of Horticulture. The UNH faculty simply does not like purple leafed trees and took offense at how many people had planted them in their front yards, churches and town spaces and so they called them "invasive."

The fact is, there is nothing scientific about the notion of "invasive" species. A new bug arrives, finds a niche it can exploit and devours the stuff people living in the area like and that becomes an "invasive species."
We don't like them.
But this is a value judgment. We like trout. Trout are pretty and fun to catch. 
We do not like the snake fish, which can walk on land and devour all the trout in the lakes and  streams and so they are new and invaders and should be eliminated. 

Same thing for some insect or virus or fungus that kills the chestnut trees or the elms we love or the birch trees we love or the corn we plant or the apples.

We value certain things we like to look at or eat and these are good. These are not invasive. Cornfields in Iowa which replaced the grassy plains are not invasive. They are good.

We draw borders around what we like and what we want to defend: Our green sunlit lawns, and anything in nature which crosses that line is an "invader."
Fair enough. But remember, this is not nature or evolution. This is our imposition of our values within a territory of our own choosing.

When England voted for Brexit, Mr. Trump summarized it succinctly: "People want borders."

And he was right--the Brits were aggravated about their white, rosy cheeked children, now being displaced by immigrants from the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe, all those "invasive species."
Globalization means that rats carrying plague from Singapore can jump ship in London or New York. 

But it also means we might meet new people with new virtues we had never really thought about. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

New Blood

Let me first say I have never met Ray Buckley or heard him speak. I have only heard of his positions and exhortations second hand from my fellow Hampton Democrats, who, for the most part really like him.

But what I have heard lately is, in the wake of our crushing defeat by Donald Trump, Buckley has been insisting is what we need in the upcoming elections is more of the same, more local, grassroots efforts on the part of neighbors talking to neighbors, the old back yard, across the fence New Hampshire thing.

Let me also say, having read his Wikipedia profile, the guy strikes me as a man who has suffered for his party, has worked longer and harder, first as a state Representative and later as a party chairman than I have, by a country mile. And he had a tougher upbringing than I did. All the cards were stacked against him, while I had a lot of support from my family and friends. He had to work for everything he got.

But then again, Hillary worked longer and harder than anyone else and that did not make her a winner.

Here is what I would like to say to Ray when he comes to Hampton to speak to our town Dems, who are still licking there wounds.

"Mr. Buckley, I don't know who first said it, but it's attributed to Einstein: The essence of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again and to expect a different result.  
What I have heard you say is we need to get back to the knocking on doors, telephone calls and all the in town techniques--cookouts, clambakes, cake sales, yard sales. 
You say you have studies which prove this works, and you say that politicians in the know say you don't know which of these work but some part of them work so you have to do them all.
Well, let me tell you, when studies don't match what you see in the field, they are likely not true.

For one thing, neighbors don't talk over fences about politics  in towns like Hampton any more, if they ever did. My neighbors will raise a hand and say, "Hold on. Let's not talk politics or religion. We can talk lawns and kids but not politics. It'll only sow bad blood on the street and it won't change anyone's mind." 
The fact is, people who love Trump will  not have their minds changed by their neighbors. They got that love from somewhere and it's in their brains and you have no chance of dislodging it by knocking on their doors, if they would answer them, or by calling them on the phone, even if they see you on their caller ID's and answer. 

The fact is none of those techniques worked last time. 

Even when people answered their doors last time, they didn't  know you, even if you are both from Hampton. Hampton's too big for that. You had to explain you lived in the town. And you didn't change anyone's mind. And people were determined to get to the polls so you didn't really increase turnout.

And phone calls--forget that. You just got people angry bothering them at home. 
And the stark fact is, in 2016 from summer until November, we did phone calls and we walked the neighborhoods and never saw a single Trump person canvassing, never saw Trump literature on the door knobs, but we saw overwhelming Trump lawn signs. 
Trump found a better and more effective way without using any of those grassroots techniques.
He was said to have no real political organization, as Mr. Buckley would recognize a political organization. But he won without one. He was outspent in every county, and sometimes by 9:1 and still won.

The fact is Trump crushed us, beat Hillary and from what I can see, nobody from the top (Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Kane, DNC chairmen) on down has any idea how he managed to unleash a tsunami of resentment which washed away all our efforts.

You can deny it. You can say, we won New Hampshire for Hillary using canvassers, but that was 1000 vote margin in a state of 1.3 million and if we rely on that again, it will likely not even be  close.

The fact is, if you have nothing new to offer. If nobody at the DNC has anything different, any better analysis, we need to clean house, starting with you.

It was clearly the judgment of the folks in power at the DNC from Debbie Wasserman Schultz on down that Hillary was the safe choice, the intelligent choice. It is understandable they cleaved to this idea--the polls supported that idea.
But the fact is, they were dead wrong.
Trump counties in red.

I don't know if Bernie could have beaten Trump, but it seems pretty clear in all those counties that went from Obama to Trump, Bernie would have stood a much better chance than Hillary and our leaders, based on all their studies missed that.

You say the Dems spent a million dollars on focus groups and market research to come up with a new and better message and failed. 
Trump spent no money on any of that and he came up with a winning message, if we could just figure out what the hell that message was.

I'm not saying we can simply ape and imitate Trump and out Trump Trump, but Bernie saw the way last time. He had a few simple messages and pounded them through. 

If that's the formula, when we need a new leadership to embrace it and go with it.
Thanks for your service, Ray. But it's time for a change."

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Will No One Rid Me of this Vexatious President?

How very pathetic to see the effete editors of the New York Times and others agitate themselves over the news du jour, each day bringing fresh hope the Donald will cross some line which will spell his downfall. 

Watch them now, listen to them on NPR,  voices rising through the octaves, as they imagine themselves before the House Committee on Oversight, bringing forth the words which will undo the election of 2016! All is not lost. 

Those in bred ignoramuses of the Rust Belt, those dull eyed, slack jawed dullards will not have the final word.

We will catch the President in some ultimate faux pax and bring him down!

Sadly, no. 
The President is here to stay. 
You cannot undo the will of the voters with clever maneuvering or verbal elegance. 
You reveal yourselves in this frenetic display of wishful thinking cum righteous indignation.  You think you can stir up a groundswell, provoke an earthquake with your adjectives--you are like that king of old who commanded the incoming tide to retreat. 
Recall those crimson fields of Trump signs riffling in the breeze from Pennsylvania to Ohio, to Michigan to Wisconsin.

As Mark Shields noted, you could have driven from Maine to California along interstate highways throughout the Rust Belt Mid West and on to the  Great Plains, over the great Rocky Mountains and never seen a break in Trump signs.

He won. 
We lost.
The banjo boys are now in charge. 

Let us now accept we cannot wish the ogre away--we must plan to deal with him. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Pendulum

Speaking strictly for me, I'm enjoying Mr. Trump's presidency. I heard Mr. Sessions on the radio talking about hunting down illegal aliens who are preying on innocent American citizens, and the virtues of executing people, and I thought, "The worst thing for a bad product is good advertising." A couple more years of Sessions and DeVos and Sean Spicer and Trump Tweets and even the hillbillies in Kentucky will have had more than enough.

My sons got to frothing over my shoulder shrugs regarding Trump's likely "collusion" with the Russians during the election, and all I could say was everybody was colluding with someone during the election--that's what elections are all about. Did they think the Germans had no favorite pick in that election? Did they think the Koch brothers were not trying to influence the opinions of the American electorate. Or Fox News? Or Rush Limbaugh? 

But for Trump to work with the Russians--that's Treason!

Actually, Article Three of the United States Constitution: "Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort."
I suppose one might argue Trump might have given Russia's Putin, "aid and comfort," but unless we were actually at war with Russia, one can hardly call that treason. In fact, many would argue, much as we find Putin distasteful, he cannot be called, officially, an "enemy," insofar as Mr. Trump said, during the election, he hoped for good relations with Russia, and he did not consider Russia an enemy. 
So who is allowed to define Russia as an enemy?

Even if Trump knew the stolen emails from the Democrats were stolen, there is no law against using the text. It's not like receiving stolen goods, if Wikileaks floods the internet with them. You are free to speak your mind about what someone else puts out there. And he made the most of it: Crooked Hillary! Lock her up!
Did Hillary not do the same with the "Grab them by the pussy" tapes?

So, no. Let us simply listen to Mr. Trump and his demented cabinet and enjoy Saturday Night Live and all those who can help us see them for what they are.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Let Them Tweet Fake

Last night I listened to a former New Hampshire Democratic Congressman talk about how Obamacare came into existence.

Today I read Thomas Edsall's analysis in the New York Times of the impact of the new Republican healthcare act, AHCA (Trumpcare)  most of which will not kick in until after the next Congressional and Presidential elections.

The fact is, I have never read the Obamacare law which I gather may be as long as 1,000 pages. Same is true for the new Republican plan.

These plans are very complicated because they are not Medicare nor any sort of government run healthcare, like the systems in England or Canada. They are complex as insurance policies, not simple like Social Security.

The basic flaw in the American system, Obamacare or Trumpcare is that it is not really designed to deliver health care; it is designed to provide profit for health insurance companies. Some healthcare occurs as a result of each law, but that healthcare is not  the basic feature. There is a difference between health insurance and healthcare.  Obamacare was, in many ways, a health insurance industry rescue act. Along the way, it provided health and dental care to a lot of folks who never had much of either.

Republicans have sold enough American voters on the notion that government=bad to make any government administered plan, like Medicare, become an anathema. All Republicans have to say is, "Oh, you don't want some government bureaucrat controlling your health care, do you?" and people groan, "Oh, no!"  Of course, the alternative is you have some health insurance employee, whose motivation is to be sure you are a profit center for her company.
 The truth is, most people complain about Medicare, but like a longtime spouse, for all the complaints, they would be devastated without it.

Ultimately, as the Edsall article shows with a stunning map, the people who will suffer most from Trumpcare are the very voters who put him into office. If there is any Schadenfreude connected to this, it is some comfort.

Blue is where premiums will fall; brown is where they rise, the darker the bigger the increase
Those folk who were simply clinging to their guns, religion, hate and fear will never know what hit them or who hit them. They will believe it was all Obama's fault or the Democrats' fault or anyone's fault except their own fault or the fault of their cherished surrogate, Donald the Trump.
They are Trump chumps.
The Orangatan rules.

They will love him forever.
After World War II, magazines were forbidden to run a cover photo of Adolph Hitler because the authorities knew if they allowed that they would see those photos framed and hung all over Germany from bars to home parlors.  Parts of Germany were in ruin, reduced to rubble. Photos from the concentration camps were shown. Sons and husbands had been lost. But Germans who loved Hitler still loved Hitler.
The will of the people.  Democracy in action.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trump Chumps and Trump Champs The Rich Get Richer

James Comey got his just desserts for the wrong reasons yesterday.
That, as Forrest Gump would say, is all I have to say about that.

Well, almost all I have to say:  I have to say firing is more than that pathetic scum bag of an FBI director deserves; President Obama, bless his soul, should have fired Comey the first time Comey injected himself into the Presidential election with his remarks about how incompetent Hillary Clinton was.
Grackle got no boss. Comey, however, did.

But the American Health Care Act.  Really, this time the Republican talent for naming seemed to have failed them. It should have been The Great American Really Terrific Health Care and Tax Relief Act Which Is Way Better than Obamacare Act.

But I quibble.
Yeah, I know. I'm with you.

Warren Buffet noted that he paid--I don't know, 4 million dollars in income tax--and on line 62 of his return--Who knew there was a line 62? Who even reads his own return?--there was a charge of $40,000 for his share to pay for Obamacare. He was happy to pay it, he said.

But what that meant was the new All American Republican Act, which does away with line 62 is simply a tax break voted through by the Republican House of Representatives for themselves. Line 62 tells you the rich really were paying for the health insurance of the poor, just as Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz said and they don't want to pay for the poor, not one bit.

So here's something to consider:  I do not have the official government numbers on this, so I am relying on Professor Google, but far as I can see, there are about 500,000 physicians actually engaged in patient care as the greatest part of their job in this country of 300 million people. (This does not include nurse practitioners, radiology techs, other ancillary personnel engaged in the care of the American public.) But, just for starters, 500,000 doctors caring for patients.

There are somewhere on the order of 10 to 30 times that number (5 to 15 million) people who work in, or are substantially supported by the American health insurance industry. This includes the CEO of Aetna and the CEO of Blue Cross all the way down to the humble billing clerk in a doctor's office who does nothing but submit bills and keep track of payments, to the people you talk to on the phone about why the company refuses to pay for your hip replacement, to the actuaries who deny you coverage because you once visited an emergency room when you had an allergic reaction to penicillin so now you have a "pre-existing condition" which means they don't want to insure you, to the marketers who devise the ad campaigns, to the health insurance lobbyists.

I'm all for free markets, except when I'm not.

See the distinction: Health insurance is not health care.

If we had Medicare for all, all these people would lose their jobs. No longer necessary. Fifteen million people made obsolete.

A friend once rejected my argument we should legalize drugs the way they've done in the Netherlands and Portugal and treat drug addiction as a public health problem. "Oh, you can't do that," she said, "The entire economy of the inner city in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Detroit would collapse overnight. Lot of people make their living on drugs."
This is a variant of the old saw we said at the cancer hospital: More people make their livings off cancer than die from it.
Trouble is, the healthy rich people have to pay for the sick, poor people. Not fair!

And the same is true of our health insurance industry: Apart from the employment it provides, the jobs, the money, the sustenance to the economy, it is a worthless part of our national life. We only tolerate it because we are afraid of what would happen to all those people who pay for their homes and automobiles and restaurant meals with the money that comes in through the companies.
I love my Medicare.

So there you have democracy in action: We pride ourselves here in the USA on our courage to engage in capitalism, where the markets drive decisions ruthlessly and out of that the most efficiency is generated. But, in fact, in the health insurance and health care economies, we cling to a system of dreadful inefficiency which, if markets really prevailed, would collapse just as soon as Medicare for all got put into place and all the customers voted with their feet to flock to it.