This Opera is not Over

Today the U.S. Senate will vote to advance to debate a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act, AKA ObamaCare. There are two bills under consideration by Senate leader McConnell and as of the time of this writing, the freaking morning of the vote, it is not know which bill or bills the Senate will be voting upon.

Consider that for a moment, the forces pushing and pulling at the GOP are so implacable that they are moving forward on legislation that they not only have not read, have not studied, and for which the parameters are unknown but that the exact bill is unknown. Because their margin of votes is tiny, by using reconciliation they avoid the legislative filibuster, they have even brought Senator McCain, still recovering from surgery and fresh off his diagnosis of an aggressive and dangerous cancer, up from Arizona to supply his single vote. (Presumably in favor of stripping healthcare from millions of Americas as he fights for his life with those same resources he is about to strip from thousands that voted for him.)

Whichever bill is advanced, the repeal and replace that will cause about 22 million to lose their healthcare insurance or the repeal and delay that will make that number as high as 32 million, it will be a disaster for individuals, the United States, and the Republican Party. If it’s such a disaster why are they doing it?

Because the GOP politicians, individually, are trapped.

One the House side migration, the rural/urban divide, and gerrymandering, quite a few GOP representatives come from ‘safe’ districts where the Republicans simply cannot lose the general election. However this does not free up the GOP rep to vote as he please, it rather forces him or her further right with each election cycle. Knowing that no one from their ‘left’ can threaten them these representative fear their ‘right.’ To be challenged in their primary is their greatest fear and failing to vote for the end of the hated ‘ObamaCare’ will almost certainly provoke a challenge. That they can lose. It doesn’t matter that this issue is so grave and so damaging that it can flip a safe district. If they do not survive the primary the general is meaningless. So they dig their own graves hoping for a miracle to save them. Moderate Republicans are even more vulnerable to this process as they are already viewed with suspicion by the party members at large.

Senators, facing statewide election and not gerrymandered districts, are less prone to this process but even at the state levels the same forces are at play, some states tilt so far ‘left’ or ‘right’ as to be consider ‘safe.’

I do not know where this will end. Until they are working on and debating the next big bill, likely to be their true love, taxes, the fat lady has not sung.

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The Ultimate Insult

What is the worse political insult you can throw at a person? It’s not fascist. It’s not Nazi. It’s not Communist. I think the worst insult you can hurl a person is either liberal or conservative, and more specifically Democrat or Republican.

Now those sound pretty tame compared to the others mentioned. Surely, it must be far more insulting to be named a Nazi than a Republican. Well that depends on who is doing the naming. Those on the left expect to be called Communist and such from the right and liberals have long named Conservatives Nazi. In a partisan political combat those are practically medals. However if you are a conservative and a fellow traveler on the right calls you a liberal, that burns, that’s a wound. The same is perfectly true from the left. During the last presidential election the insult thrown with the most emotional weight at Hilary from fellow Democrats was that she was really a Republican.

This is the apogee of tribalism. It ceases to be about ideas, solutions, or even principles but everything devolves down being a good member of the team. I certainly know this effect well.

I believe in a second amendment right to bear arms; I believe in capital punishment; I believe a flat tax rate; I believe that capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system, and more than once I have had conservative friends call me a left-wing liberal.

I believe in marriage equality; I believe in a woman’s right to control her body; I believe in social safety nets and universal care; I believe that corporations are not people, and more than one liberal friends have called me a right-wing conservative.

To me being called a liberal or a conservative is hardly noticeable, but to a partisan it is the supreme insult. It is to be called traitor, a turncoat, a quisling for the enemy. People who are partisan will contort and twist to avoid this. If it means taking up the same side or cause as the opposition they will stand silent on events that may otherwise inflame them.

This is opposed to reason and discourse. Free yourself from your tribe; think and speak for yourself.

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Some Random Thoughts While Recovering

This week has been a rough week. Every single of the week I have suffered a migraine attack. Individually each one has been a mild to mid-grade headache, not enough to keep me home but severe enough to seriously reduced my productivity and enjoyment. This morning I awoke with another migraine and after yesterdays I decided to take the serious step to break the cluster. That means staying home from the day job and taking two does of my medications about four hours apart. This nearly always stops a cycle but leaves me fog-headed and a little unsteady. Right now, for the first time in a week, I do not feel like a headache is about to explode.

 

The Republicans have released the Senate’s bill for repealing and replacing the ACA with their own version. It is cheaper, skimpier, and will result in lots of people losing their coverage. If they pass it and Trump signs it, not a certainty as the man’s alignment is Chaotic Greedy, I think they this victory will serve them as well as Imperial Japan’s victory at Pearl Harbor. They will have won a battle but plunge into a war that looks far worse for them. This will have taught the Democratic party two very valuable lessons. First that it is futile to consider the conservative position on health care. The attempt at a mixed mode or public and private systems produced no benefits at all. Second that reconciliation is the method to achieve their goals; that there is no penalty paid for shutting out the other party. In addition to those lessons further making the ground worse for the conservatives the conversation on health care has changed in a very basic manner; the population in general believes that more people should have access to health care and that it’s a proper role of the Federal Government to make that happen. One of the few consistencies in the Trump campaign was his promise to make healthcare cheaper and covering more people. Trump is salesman and he was telling people what they wanted to hear. It is what they want and the GOP plan does the opposite of that. They might make that sale with a fast talk roll and a quick vote but once implements there’s no three-card monte way to hid the results. Let me close out the political thoughts with one more observations. Conservative positions are a package deal, they are all sailing on the same ship. If the GOP sinks the ship over healthcare it will take down everything else that conservatives might care for, tax cut, ‘pro-life’ policies, gun rights, all of this I think is imperiled in the long term. Is that a trade you really think is worthy? Is this the hill to kill your movement on?

 

I’ll wrap up with an artistic observation. I am quite happy with the releases of Mad Max: Black & Chrome and Logan Noir. After the advent of cheap and easy color film, remember The Wizard of Oz and The Adventures of Robin Hood were 1939 but common color films didn’t come about until the late 1960s, B&W film were for only art house releases and the odd film released wide in B&W generally did not do well. Seeing the special editions in the theaters give me hope that we are seeing a generation of general theatergoers who are more open and interested in artistic expressions that go beyond just the basic entertainment.

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Words Create Reality

I was going to write a post about the long-term costs to the Republican party if they throw millions of people of their healthcare. (Short answer the cost is high and it endangers everything conservatives want to achieve or protect.) However the shooting in Virginia has prompted today’s thoughts.

 

It may be self-serving for a professed writer to proclaim the power f the word but in my opinion the truth remains no matter the source. Words create our reality. Now clearly I do not mean that in a Newton/Einstein/Bohr sense of reality, but human perceptions of about what the universe is and how is works is vitally important that those perceptions are shaped and created by the words we use to describe our shared understanding.

The words we use to describe ourselves and perhaps more importantly those with whom we disagree contain a terrible power. We can all too easily de-humanize those who are not of our in-group. Once people are de-humanized and no longer seen as ‘really people’ then the processed proceeds easily to assault and murder. This is true in war where propaganda creates the illusion that the enemy solider is a monster and not a person. This is true and vile depravity of racism where entire swaths of humanity are expelled from our family. And it is true in politics when we refuse to accept that those who disagree with us can hold a legitimate point of view. This has been on display far too often lately.

Of course there was the attack this week by a lone gunman who attempted to murder Republican politicians as they played a game. That action is the wholly unsurprising resulted of labeling your opponents Nazis. After all Nazis are the unquestioned evil of our modern age. Pundits on the left and on the right argues endlessly that the Nazi actually belong to the other side’s camp because turning your opponents into Nazis is the ultimate de-legitimization of their position and causes.

Recently we’ve had a spate of people urging that it is always right to assault a Nazi, and lucky for them they get to decide who is and who is not a Nazi. This week was not unexpected; it was the next logical step.

The process plays out exactly the same when you decry they your opponents have a culture of death, that they do not value human life, that their system of belief is wholly evil and violent. When you beat that drum you cannot then be shocked that houses of worship are burned, people are assaulted and people are murdered. If civilization itself is at stake, the reality too often painted with words from that side of things, then how can we exert anything less that total commitment including violence?

I recall sitting on a panel at a science-fiction convention and a fellow panelist called for greater civility in our political discourse while using pejoratives to describe his political opponents and that is the heart of the problem. Those on the right can easily see how the inflamed rhetoric from the left caused this week’s shooting, and those on the left can clearly understand how the right’s rhetoric caused the recent murder on public transit and yet from your own side the perpetrators are always unbalanced people never actually representative.

Yes, these people are imbalanced but it is the inflammatory words that helped prompt them into think that there actions are not only acceptable but praiseworthy.

Choose your words carefully.

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Unimportant Political Posting

For Saturday here is an utterly unimportant political post about something that ticks me off.

Both Kerry and Obama were mocked by conservative media for ‘elite’ food tastes, Kerry while campaigning for asking about different cheeses on a philly cheese/steak and Obama for asking about deli/spicy mustard for a sandwich. (Not to mention the arugula comment.) these choices were presented as evidence that the respective pols were out of the mainstream culture and elitists.

Recently I have seen liberal media mocking Trump for his food selections, that he loves fast food such as McDonald’s, like catsup on his steaks, insulting him for having ‘common’ tastes.

Fuck off to all of you.

Trump is a terrible terrible president and may well be an inflection point indicating the beginning of the end for American dominance of the globe, but that’s not the point here. The point is that people are allowed to like what they like. They are allowed to take pleasures in the little things in life that help make life bearable.

I will not take part in elitist snobbery from the left or from the right. (And yes, mocking people for not following your tastes is elitist ) frankly food snobs in general piss me off. I see the memes passing around about how you should cook this or how you should consume that and the people who don’t should be asked to leave.

Yeah it’s joking but the heart of the joke is that others are expected to live their lives to an standard that is not their own.

You don’t like the way I order my steaks? You don’t like my choice of sauces.

Screw you. Your opinion on such things does not matter.

The same goes for music, television, books, films, and the like.

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7% of the way there

Well we have just passed the 100 day mark for the Trump administration. (Though I hate using the word ‘mark’ as that reminds me of the ultimate designation of the American Public under this President – marks.) Out of the 1461 days for the 4 years expected from a presidential term we have endured seven percent, only 93 more to go.

I have seen people giving the administration its 100 day grade, the most ridiculous being an A+ because Trump is not Hillary Clinton. (Nice to know that Conservative would grade Stalin an A+ because he also was not Hillary Clinton.)

My own take is that the administration is a hot radioactive dumpster fire of incompetence and corruption but there have been and continue to be bright spots.

Our institutions are strong and fulfilling their constitutional duties. Trump has discovered that being a petulant man-baby with delusions of strength carries no weight in a court of law. Repeatedly his most egregious actions have been slapped down by the judiciary.

The Body Politic appears to be awakening from its slumber. More and more people are paying attention to the business of politics and that bodes well for reforms and participation.

The GOP is being forced to confront the contradictions of their heated, angry rhetoric with the reality of governing. The incendiary fire that has boiled the GOP down to a concentrated base of its most reactionary components is utterly incapable of the necessary compromises of governance. The first 100 days of a presidential term is the period when the public still has good feeling towards the newly hatched executive and with a united control of the government, the passing into law of major policy goals should have been a given, but that has proven to be beyond the reach of the GOP. Sure they have managed to undue some of hated Obama’s regulatory actions, but no major legislation has passed and it is not because of the opposition party.

The GOP has majorities in both house, what the GOP does not have is rationality. IN part due to the drumbeat of purity that drove out the ‘RINOs’, in part due to the shrill voices of the GOP news/entertainment arms, and also in part due to ‘safe districts’ the Republicans have engineered a majority that cannot agree with itself.

The ‘Hassert Rule’ means that every sizable faction within the GOP’s elected member has an effective veto over legislation. No faction can be ignore or eliminated and the hard core purists will not compromise while the moderates have no inclination to commit electoral suicide .

It is so much easier to bitch, complain, and criticize than it is to do anything and that goes even more so for a complex mechanism like government. Except for Guns, Abortion, and Taxes there is precious little that the GOP faction agree with and zealotry has an inverse relationship with competence.

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A Smart Bomb is no Good to a Dead Man

So the Democrats are launching a filibuster in the Senate to try and derail Trump’s Nominee for SCOTUS. Majority Leader McConnell is threatening to invoke the ‘nuclear option’ and finish the job the Democrats started in killing the filibuster. (Though it should be noted that Threat and the Name for the act started with the Republicans but was not invoked at that time due to the action of The Gang of Eight)

Some have said that the Democrats should hold off, that if they invoke a filibuster all they will achieve is forcing the GOP to change the rules and kill it off, winning nothing. The most cogent argument I have read is that they should hold off until there is a nominee or issue that has more than 50 GOP member willing to vote for it, but not willing to change the rules over it and the nominee.

That’ doesn’t seem wise to me.

The unprecedented obstruction shown by the GOP, refusing even a hearing for the last president’s nominee indicates that there is no deal to be made, no compromise that will stand. The GOP will do whatever it takes, break whatever norm stands in their way to achieve their goals and the Democrats should adapt to the new battlefield.

To those who say invoking it only forces the GOP to kill it I answer, it you can’t use it because you will lose it, then what good is it anyway? If you have a resource you can not utilize then it is no resource.

Failing to take that stand will have consequences. The liberal elements of the political body are energized and they are not in a make nice and let’s all get along mood. Any Democratic Senator who acquiesces to trump’s will without a fight will find that they are in a fight anyway but with their own base.

To me the only logical move is to resist, make your stand clearly with your base, and keep your eyes fixed on tomorrow.

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How to make Hillary President

Oh, the bonfire that is the Trump Presidency burns hotter, fiercer, and larger than I had ever imagined during the election. There is ample cause to suspect that corruption, incompetence, and out right collusion with a hostile foreign power go all the way into the Oval Office.

(Suspect! I hear some of you cry, and Renault remains Shocked to find gambling going on at Rick’s. Nothing has yet been proven so I leave it to you to follow your own noses in tracking the stench that is the Trump operation.)

One thing I think is clear is that the modern GOP is quite unlike that one of the 70’s and they will never remove Trump from office no matter the stink, the mud, and the crime, but there is an election next year and that could change everything.

Now what follows is fanciful but within the realm of possibility and law; as a speculative fiction writer it fun for me to dream up implausible for possible futures.

One: The Democratic Party wins the election taking back the House and the Senate next year. The hill remains steep in the House but Trump is proving disastrously bad as a president and he might sink the GOP’s majority.

Two: The House names Hillary Clinton as their New Speaker of the House. (Nothing in the constitution or the House rules require that the Speak be a sitting representative.

Three: Trump has proven himself corrupt enough that the Democrats impeach and remove him from office.

Four: They follow that up with impeachment of President Pence, provided that they can make those charges stick and given the grime that appears to be swirling around this administration it might be possible.

Five: Hillary Clinton as Speaker of the House become the 47th President of the United States.

Wait, I hear you Bernie supporters screaming about Step two, because after all if anyone can be named Speaker of the House and third in line for the Presidency why not your guy, Sanders?

Quite simply, he’s not the popular vote winner of the last contest and to me that carries weight. However if you want someone other than Hillary I would suggest that you go with someone who meets the requirements for the officer but who would be Constitutionally ineligible to seek a term via the 2020 election, (The 22nd Amendment prevents presidents from being elected to more than two terms.), so they just give the job back to Barak Obama.

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Our National Wound

Trump has lost two senior advisers, one who had been placed National Security Advisor, due to improper ties and communication with Russia, a country that many in our intelligence community believes worked to not only disrupt our presidential election but whose preferred outcome was the election of an untested narcissist.

I do find it ironic that many of those who have repeated allegations as fact that Edward Kennedy sought Soviet help in stopping Reagan’s election are suddenly so silent and insistent upon airtight evidence in the Trump allegations. It always depends on whose ox is getting gored.

I have also heard people on the liberal side calling for some sort of special election; in effect a presidential do over. People, that is not going to happen. To the best of my knowledge there is no provision whatsoever in our constitution for a special presidential election. If you truly want to remove all of the Russian tainted personnel from the executive branch there is only one way to get that done before 2020. I am not saying it is something that can be achieved, too many people have tied themselves to the wheel of the Sailing ship Trump and they are hoping that the storm doesn’t sink them.

Step One: VP Pence steps down. No so far nothing his tied him directly to any of the Russian issues but he’s Trump’s pick ad that alone is a taint.

Step Two: The truly impossible step – Trump names someone as the new VP that is a Republican who is acceptable to the Democrats in the Congress. No Tea Party, Freedom Caucus, is going to make it but it would have to be someone most conservative would call a ‘RINO.’ It has to be that way because the fact of the matter is that the GOP controls Congress and no one is going to be approved except a Republican.

Step Three: The new VP leads the Cabinet in removing Trump as president under the 25th amendment and both houses of Congress approve.

Step Three: The newly minted President fires everyone hired by the last one and we reboot the Administration.

All of this is within the constitution but it is not going to happen. Trump would not play ball, Pence may not, and with the current enmity in congress even the possibility of a foreign power holding influence over the white house will not spur the left and right to work together.

No, we are stuck with Trump until Pence and the Cabinet remove him or he is impeached but both options require the GOP to possess a spine.

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A Missed Opportunity

The recent kerfuffle with Senator Mitch McConnell leading the Republicans in censoring Senator Elizabeth Warren over her attempts to read Mrs. King’s letter concerning Jeff Sessions when he was nominated and rejected for a Judgeship represents a blown communications opportunity for the Democratic Party.

Certainly people are making hay of McConnell’s ‘She Persisted’ quote. Turning it into empowering memes and it may even become part of her re-election slogans, but that’s not where the Democrats should have had their eyes. Everything should have been about Sessions and not anyone else.

They had no chance to stop this nomination. If Devos or Carson could be confirmed then barring some truly outrageous scandal everyone that President Trump sends up will be confirmed. There is no filibuster and after eight years of opposing Obama’s administration the GOP have learned to close ranks and hold the line. The nominees will be confirmed, so what the Democrats should do is make sure that ever wart, every bit of bad news gets as much play as can be had for future use. Having the conversation be about Senator Warren and double standards between men and women does not advance their cause and turns the spotlight away from Sessions.

A number of other Senators took the floor of the Senate reading the same letter, but my understanding is that they all altered or omitted the language that McConnell has objected to. Now it is entirely beside the point if that language mattered in its substance, all that really mattered is that McConnell did not want it read it into the record. What each and every Democratic Senator should have done is read exactly the parts that McConnell silenced Warren over. Either McConnell is then forced to move against them in the same manner, and the news of the day becomes ‘Is this language, and by extension its subject, Sessions unfit for the floor of the Senate?’ The coverage would be about those lines, about Sessions, and what was McConnell so fearful of? Or he backs downs, looks weak, and it gets read into the record. Either way the result would be favorable for the Democratic position. What they did only played into McConnell’s hands and now everyone is talking about Warren, and if women are treat harsher than men when they speak out and such. Now those are not bad conversations to have, but they pulled the attention away from Sessions and why the Democrats, rightly or wrongly, opposed his nomination.

McConnell, sharpened by eight years of parliamentary battles against Obama and his people, is a sharp cagy man and the Democrats will need to get better if they intend to win political wars and not just news cycles.

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