Monday, August 22, 2016

The Affordable Care Act and the Health Insurance Companies

It occurs to me that the current health insurance kerfluffle, with several major companies withdrawing from the Exchanges in several states, is another instance of the dirty-effing-hippies being right again. "The health insurance companies will be good corporate citizens," "this system will work, no problems."

Yeah, right.

Maybe the big insurance companies really do lose money in some of the Exchange markets. Maybe. I'm not convinced (and this would be an excellent moment for a Congressional committee to subpoena some of their records to find out) but maybe. But they practically wrote that part of the law! If letting them write the law wasn't enough, what would be?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

PUMA: to a group of mostly Clinton supporters at Balloon Juice

Please, please, come back from there. I’ve been telling Sanders supporters that it’s important we unify. Now I’m telling Clinton supporters here the same thing. Clinton’s polling looks good now, but margins usually narrow as election day draws near. After 81 days of Bannon’s anti-Clinton propaganda, and Conway’s excuse-making for Trump, who knows where we will be?

Please, everyone, it’s not the time for Democrats to be trolling each other.

(Added) And, my gawrsh, they just go right on doing it. Do these people want to win this election or what?


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In which the Trump Campaign goes full-on fascist

So now Kellyann Conway is Trump's campaign manager and's President Steve Bannon is Trump's campaign chair. Bannon is covered here; he appears to be a smart, narcissistic opportunist, rather like Trump himself. He is one of the people who made the right-wing anti-Hillary Clinton smears mainstream. Bannon, in his tenure at breitbart has embraced white supremacism. Conway is a right-wing lawyer, a pollster, anti-feminist, legal defender of rape apologist Senator Todd Akin. She seems to be an expert in teaching misogynists how to sound less misogynistic; clearly something Trump needs.

Things are going to get uglier.

Towards a theory of leadership on the left

For this bird, one of the most discouraging things about current US Presidential campaign, and indeed about current global politics, is the inability to unify, even against terrible enemies. I am recalled to Germany in 1932, where the Social Democrats and the Communists together had the votes to defeat the Nazis, but could not form a coalition, not even long enough to do that desperately necessary thing. So now we have the Democratic Party in the USA having difficulties coming together to defeat Trump, even though this is desperately necessary. It is a wider issue than that, however: Europe cannot agree how to deal with over a million Syrian refugees, and the whole world cannot agree to act on climate change, though that is a life-or-death crisis for global civilization.

I am left thinking that the conservatives are right in this: to act in politics it is necessary to come together behind some leader or group of leaders, and the left seems to have an exceptionally hard time of this. So we need a theory of leadership on the left, that does not leave us following the likes of Stalin. Marx perhaps swung the focus of philosophical debate on history towards systems rather than individuals: "Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living." This is surely a welcome correction from monarchism. But perhaps it is time to swing back, and ask ourselves what sort of individuals we want to focus power in, how that power is to be granted or taken away, and what sort of relations we may have with them. It takes no subtlety to know that a Hitler, a Stalin, or a Trump (the last, I suppose, repeating history as farce) ought be let nowhere near the levers of power. Yet we seem unable to keep them away from power, or conversely to reliably choose leaders who we might reasonably vest power in.

And, having posed the question, I am left with no obvious answer. There is a lot of political philosophy this bird has not read, so perhaps such work exists and I do not know of it, yet I can think of little leftist literature which addresses this issue. The right talks much about "character," but in practice they seem to focus on military virtues and zealous moral rigidity, neither of which make for good peacetime leaders. So what would be good character for the leaders of a social democratic state? What would their relations be like with other members of their political faction and the working government?

Monday, August 15, 2016

Multiple currencies in an electronic banking world

When so many transactions are electronic, it is no longer difficult to have multiple currencies in a geographic region; there is no longer any practical reason for a single currency in the Eurozone.

Noam Chomsky and the lesser evil

Noam sez:
… their memories extending to the ultra-left faction of the peace movement having minimized the comparative dangers of the Nixon presidency during the 1968 elections. The result was six years of senseless death and destruction in Southeast Asia and also a predictable fracture of the left setting it up for its ultimate collapse during the backlash decades to follow. — An Eight Point Brief for Lesser Evil Voting
He was there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Election 2016: the women men don't see vs. the fascists

It seems to be coming down to The Women Men Don't See (and don't take public positions because men shout them down or threaten them) vs the fascists. The gods help us all.

Monday, August 1, 2016

To Leftists Who Think The Harms of a Trump Presidency Acceptable

(The orignal discussion is here. It is long and horrifying.)

How exactly do you expect Mexico to absorb 7 million refugees? They would end up in camps. Many would die. Many brown-skinned US citizens would be swept up in the wave of deportations and the force which executed those orders would go on to become a brutal internal security agency, putting all US citizens at risk. Likely more and more brutal international wars would follow.

This, about everyone in this discussion willing to use lives as pieces on a Go board: every now and again I learn something new about political thinking. What I learned in this discussion is that some leftist radicals are every bit as willing to sacrifice innocents as any conservative advocate of realpolitik. I had thought that question settled by the horrors of the 20th century, but it seems the lesson is not yet learned; without compassion we are no better than our opponents.

The reality of this election is that if there is a path forward for the left it is through a Clinton victory. There is no reason to believe that a Trump victory is unlikely, or that it would be anything but a global and national disaster, and actions taken that increase the odds of a Trump victory are akin to those of one of those high-flown suicides who want to take others along with them. Survivors of such attempts almost invariably regret them the minute the moment of decision is past. (Which also explains the thinking of many Trump voters who wish to "shake things up.")

No. I reject this.

Voters, Get Out and Do It!

It is a curious fact that, even among the opponents of democracy, the vote is considered important. That is why there is so much effort to persuade people not to do it, to persuade people to vote for candidates who can't possibly win, to prop up splitter candidates, to make it difficult to get permission to vote, to revoke people's permission to vote, to lose people's permission to vote, to falsify the vote, to not count the vote, to claim the vote isn't valid. Your vote counts, and your political opponents know it. That's why they don't want you to do it!