Friday, February 24, 2017

Health insurance: return of the bad old days, II

Richard Mayhew, now writing under his wallet name of David Anderson at Balloon Juice, offers two more bad old days stories. My reaction, which I did not post in full:
The question arises as to why such business are allowed to continue operation, and why insurance company executives and employees are not prosecuted. At least the mortgage bankers only (only!) stole people's homes. After reading enough such stories I decided I wouldn't care if the entire industry was nationalized and all the holders of health insurance business stock lost all the value of their stock. Might teach our corporate citizens not to commit mass murder. 
It does, though, explain in part why it is that there is not more horror of fascists. Horrors are built into our society; not only in the health insurance industry, but in policing, and many other places as well. We are, in fact, already desensitized.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Misogynistic Obsession as Mental Disorder

I remember a 1980s comics artist who broke up with his wife and became an obsessive misogynist, anti-feminist, inclined to latch on to any hateful belief about women and feminism. And now we have it all over the place. Some men are just misogynistic jerks — why? — some men are just misogynistic because they live in a misogynistic culture or subculture, and for others it becomes an obsession, sometimes one even carried to the point of violence. Why? I don't see how this can be anything other than a mental disorder.

Trump, public and private

Donald Trump is perfectly capable of expressing himself clearly when he wants to. Compare these quotes from his press conference and talk to his rich friends.

At the press conference:
I think I'll say a few words, and then we'll take some questions. And I had this time. We've been negotiating a lot of different transactions to save money on contracts that were terrible, including airplane contracts that were out of control and late and terrible; just absolutely catastrophic in terms of what was happening. And we've done some really good work. We're very proud of that. And then right after that, you prepare yourselves, we'll do some questions, unless you have enough questions. That's always a possibility. I'm here today to update the American people on the incredible progress that has been made in the last four weeks since my inauguration. We have made incredible progress. I don't think there's ever been a president elected who in this short period of time has done what we've done.

In private at his golf club in New Jersey:
We’re doing a lot of interviews tomorrow — generals, dictators, we have everything,” Trump told the crowd, according to an audio tape of his closed-press remarks obtained by POLITICO from a source in the room. “You may wanna come around. It’ll be fun. We’re really working tomorrow. We have meetings every 15, 20 minutes with different people that will form our government.
 
We’re going to be interviewing everybody — Treasury, we’re going to be interviewing Secretary of State,” he continued. “We have everybody coming in — if you want to come around, it’s going to be unbelievable….so you might want to come along. —Politico via digby.
Not incompetent-crazy, mean-greedy-crazy.

& thanks to Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station, who reads Trump so we don't have to!

Friday, February 17, 2017

"Nach Hitler kommen Wir"

Or, "After Hitler, our turn."

It was a 1930s German Communist Party (KPD) slogan, usually attributed to Ernst Thälmann, chairman of the KPD and 1932 KPD Presidential candidate. He may or may not have originated it, but, as with Hillary Clinton's "Stronger Together," it is identified with him, and has a strong resonance with the opposition to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US Presidential election.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Insufficiently Racist

So, after approving the incredibly racist Sessions as Attorney General and the incredibly greedy Mnuchin as Secretary of the Treasury, pressure on Andrew Pudzer leads him to withdraw from the approval process. Not, apparently, because he beat his wife or hired an undocumented housekeeper, but because he is not down with deporting Latins by the hundreds of thousands. Insufficiently racist. People like Pudzer are like slavemasters, but at least they are willing to pay a wage and hire Latins. This makes them less suited to this fascist administration than the likes of Sessions and Mnuchin.

Anyone who still thinks this is going to be a normal administration ought to shut up and sit down.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Ryan/McConnell Administration?

With the fall of Michael Flynn, apparently resigned for spying on the USA, the Trump administration has become unstable. The likelihood is high that Trump himself is compromised, as is Pence. And, oh, the vultures are circling. There is a chance that people who never would have been elected will become President and Vice President.

Brrr.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Trump Is Not King

A presidential executive order is not a royal edict. Seems that Trump is trying to rule by edict, not by making law. Trump wants to rule as king, without question. This seems to have been passed over in moderate discussion; the radicals anti-authoritarians seem to be thinking it obvious and not mentioning it, and it is too strange a thought for the moderates.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Homeland Security Has Gone Rogue and The Deportations Have Started.

So we have this report, quoting California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León: And this report: And this report:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: James Kwak's *Economism*

(Review also posted at Goodreads. If you want to buy a copy, I recommend powells.com or your local bookstore.)

A well-argued debunking of the ideology of free markets, perfect competition, and rational actors, the book explains how these have become the excuses for cruel policies leading to the impoverishment of the overwhelming majority in the USA. The book is deceptively simple in its organization: the first chapters is an overview of the book's argument, the second explains the economistic (Econ 101) model of markets and the third covers the marketing of the model. Following chapters explode, with data, economism as applied to the minimum wage, taxation, health care, the mortgage market, and international trade. The last is a summary and prospect.

The short-short summary here is that an oversimplified model of economic behavior and outcomes has become the excuse for policies which impoverish the vast majority of Americans and much of the world. When politicians say that raising the minimum wage makes people poorer, that is an economistic argument, and the data does not support it. When they say that taxation invariably decreases overall wealth, that is an economistic argument, and the data does not support it. And so on.

It is a short simple book, and the text is within the reach of any literate adult. The footnotes carry you into the economic literature, and that is not so accessible, but that is the point of such a book; to make economic conclusions and data available to the literate public without extensive study.

It's a quietly written, rather academic book — the author is a law professor — but that is, in many ways, its strength. Instead of being a loud blatant polemic, it quietly destroys the intellectual underpinnings of US economic policy since Reagan.

Recommended.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Trump is the death of dreams

Finally saw Hidden Figures tonight (and you should, too.) It’s a great and inspirational movie.

But my cynical self was left with great grief. There was a time when dreaming big dreams was part of the USA and that’s gone. I am thinking of a button with Donald Trump’s duck tail and the legend, “For this we gave up the earth and sky?” Because likely we will. This administration wants to shut down NASA’s earth sciences program because it produces evidence of climate change and ecological destruction. What will be left of NASA after all the cuts and most of the research funding is gone will not be much. Those labs and their staffs took generations to build. If they are shut down, it will not be possible to rebuild them without the kind of investment that we do not make any more.

Now, compared to surviving, this is perhaps not a big deal. We are going to have to fight just to prevent World War III and keep health care for our citizens. But the heart dies without dreams.

Trump is the death of dreams.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

They will know, part 4

(in answer to Doug's remarks over at Balloon Juice, on a Democratic mayor's fear of too much protest.)

"They will know, and they will never trust you again."

And so with the centrist Democratic officials; the moderates at Balloon Juice no longer believe them. The Democrats have been losing since they received a crushing defeat from Reagan back in1980. Moderate Democratic elected officials, like Seattle's mayor Murray, just wanted the normal business of politics: policy negotiation and the business of governance. They went along and got along. But it was unequal; the Democrats gave ground and kept giving ground, until they were reduced to a few strongholds, and now they have lost everything. They're still trying, too. We have Democratic Senators voting to approve Trump's awful Cabinet appointees. Not going to work; they will get no concessions.

They will know, and they will never trust you again, part 3

(In answer to the woman who complained that I was racist in pointing out the lying to the people had a lot to do with the failure of the Democratic Party. Slightly edited for reposting.)

The unemployment rates of people of color and women skyrocketed after the crash of 2008. They were also among those hurt worst by mortgage fraud and failed foreclosure policy.

Don’t go sneering at people who want an honest wage for an honest days work. That contempt is part of the problem. The coal miners do not deserve your contempt. More efforts ought to have been made on the miners behalf, both in finding other employment and in safety, and neither party did so.

Since Buckley both major parties have increasingly relied on funding from the very wealthy. Will you deny it? Part of the job of a candidate became fundraising, and this meant that candidates spent a great deal of time listening to the sources of funding. It also enormously cramped the ability of politicians to appeal to voters who were not wealthy. Candidates couldn’t promise people better wages, a pro-employment policy, or better banking regulation without risking their campaign funding and, ultimately, their jobs.

When the crisis came, when we desperately needed to break up the big banks, return the bankruptcy system to something that allowed an honorable fresh start, and resolve the mortgage crisis in favor of the people whose homes were at risk, neither party was willing to do it — all those connections with money paid off for the money. People were put out of their homes and left unemployed for years. Would you trust a ruler who allowed that? Why?

In the end, the Democrats had no credibility left with what you might call the working class. Now, people in New York who knew Trump knew how he treated the “working class.” I am one handshake away from 10 people he stiffed. Everyone in building in New York City knows he is a giant fraud. The reports are legion. But the public is poor at seeing the lesser evil and the Democrats, for whatever reason, didn’t attack him on that. Trump had credibility with the rest of the country and that helped make the difference.

Clinton lost the election to sexism, racism, bad press, and bad luck. But in the longer term the Democratic Party tried to serve both Mammon and the people, and that turned out not to be possible.

And, damn, go reread Clinton’s “Two Baskets” remarks. She had, by that point, got it. But it was too late.

They will know, and they will never trust you again, part 2

(This was written in comments to someone who is determined to believe that the Democrats did nothing wrong in past 30 years as they lost the country outside of major urban areas. She decided I was a racist.)

And so it is. There are too many people who were thrown out of their homes and into long-term unemployment in the last administration, which all the while claimed to be for the “working class” or “people” or whatever. You can’t message these things away; these were concrete things which people will remember for the rest of their lives. It was the same during the William Clinton administration, though the pain was less and mostly on the poor and African-Americans.

In the clinch, when it came time to turn out the voters, slight majorities voted for someone who at least promised to do something for them in concrete terms.

And maybe Sanders could have won. Maybe. Or maybe the two-foot shelf of Republican oppo research would have done him in.

I think most of the argument blames the wrong things for the loss of the last election. The immediate causes were sexism, racism, bad press (Comey!), and bad luck. But in the previous administration the Democrats didn’t deliver on major things and people knew. You complain that the Republicans prevented them? Perhaps. But where were the arrests of bankers? Why did the Democrats not make a big loud show and embarrass the Republicans? But the Democrats couldn’t; they would have had to go against the huge amount of money that puts them in office. Instead, they quietly rolled over, just as they are rolling over now as Trump guts the government. Oh, they’re talking a better game. But why are any of Trump’s cabinet nominees getting through? (The DeVos nomination has just been passed out of the committee. Why couldn’t the Democrats have denied the Republicans a committee quorum on every nominee?) Why aren’t the Democrats fighting tooth and nail every step of the way? If ever there was a time to do it, it is now.