A pretty good look at the history of Republican tax cuts, in reference to Trump’s tax cut proposal (if a one-page description can be called such): http://ritholtz.com/2017/04/republican-tax-cut-myth/ by @BruceBartlett.
We would all be better off if everyone had paid more attention to Jimmy Carter when he was president. He’s still worth paying attention to now: http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/losing-my-religion-for-equality-20090714-dk0v.html
Congressman Rodney Davis has a questionnaire asking for constituent input on questions of the day.
I filled it out some weeks ago (in mid-December) and found some of the questions to be . . . . Well, here. This is what I sent to his office after I posted my questionnaire response:
Several of the questions on your recent survey were hard to answer, because an accurate answer might be taken as supporting a position that is the opposite from what I intend. These two in particular:
“Do you believe we need to shore up Medicare so it’s available to future generations?”
Of course I support preserving Medicare. However, I would oppose any changes in the basic design of how Medicare makes healthcare available to seniors. In particular, I would strongly oppose turning it into some kind of voucher program.
My understanding is that, together with the cost savings provided by Obamacare, Medicare is very close to being fully funded. It seems quite possible that no changes are needed going forward. Depending on the details of health care costs and payrolls in the future, it may be that some additional funding will be required, but that is the question for the future.
“Do you believe Congress must provide proper oversight of the VA to ensure our veterans are receiving the care they deserve?”
Again, providing oversight is exactly what Congress should do. However, I would oppose giving the VA additional mandates—either in terms of the care they are to provide, or in terms of the reporting they are required to provide—unless those mandates are fully funded.
I have no sense that the VA is doing anything other than providing the best care they can with the resources provided. Congress’s deeper obligation, beyond oversight, is to provide the resources necessary to care for our veterans.
I expect to go on pestering Congressman Rodney Davis on a near-monthly basis for the next two years.
I just sent the following to my representative in Congress via the web form on his page at the House website:
Based on media reports and what I can find on your website and twitter feed, it appears that you have not yet taken a stand against Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional executive order blocking entry by nationals from certain countries.
Can I count on you to do so in short order?
I didn’t mention in my note, but wanted to mention here, that Davis’s words for his constituents after the recent election invoked Lincoln’s phrase “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” so I’m a little concerned that he may be putting a dangerous strain on our nation’s limited supply of irony.
I also refrained from once again pointing out that the Republicans in Congress are straight-up cowards, afraid of widows and orphans.
What’s up with the very peculiar behavior of our new president and his bizarre insistence on telling lies that are easily detected as lies?
I’ve seen several suggestions about what might be going on. Two worth mentioning are Trump’s Constant Lying Is a Power Game and Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth. Both make the point that the purpose of the lie is not to fool anybody. Rather, it’s an expression of power.
Compelling people who know better to repeat your lies in their own words dramatically displays your complete control over them. Yes, there was a certain schadenfreude to seeing Christie and Rubio parroting Trump’s lies when they were angling for the VP slot or a cabinet post, but there are additional dangers in rendering even powerful people powerless—it means even more power is captured by the person at the top.
All of which is a bit tangential to my point, which is to recognize one good thing about this. Sad and disturbing as the situation is, these lies make it easy to find our allies: The news organizations that identify the lies and present them as such are on the side of right and truth.
Other strategies exist for identifying our allies, but most of them have turned out to be vulnerable to being co-opted by the bad guys.
This one is different.
Yes, an organization under the sway of the bad guys could attempt to do the same thing only backwards—call out the truth as a lie—but that’s pretty easy to spot. No one would be fooled for long.
They could, I suppose, call out actual lies as lies, and then (having built up some credibility) try to slip in an occasional falsehood as the truth, but that’s not going to be a successful strategy for the long term, unless maybe there’s a single issue that you really want to fool people about.
No, the strategy of calling out lies as lies will turn out to be uniquely available to the good guys, which means that we’ll be able to know which news organizations (and other organizations) are on the side of right and truth.
Sure, there’ll be a bit of extra work on our part—identifying the lies and documenting them, taking the time to pick a random few stories and digging into the data to see if the story is true (and the supposed lie an actual lie).
It’s important not to see that as pointless or hopeless work. It’s not like emptying the sea with a teaspoon, even if it may seem like that (because the supply of lies is vast and renewable). Think of it rather as collecting a bit of seawater for the purpose of making some artisan sea salt: The point is not to empty the sea, but to gather a bit of seasoning to use in the service of a larger project.
The larger project is what’s important, not emptying the sea. And there’s the bonus benefit that doing the work marks you as one of the good guys, and that’s something that’s good for all of us to know.
Like most of my friends, I’m distressed and depressed about the prospects for our country.
I’m not going to back away from the fight. I hope and expect we will use the tools and tactics that the Republicans so ably demonstrated to block as much evil as possible. I also hope we’ll be much more strategic than they were. They seemed more interested in making the Obama presidency a failure than in advancing their own agenda. The Democrats may prove more capable at making some progress—letting the Republicans “succeed,” when they’re doing something we’d also like to do.
Having said that, I must say that distress and depression are not a good look on me. Nor are anger and bitterness. And those are the things I find when I watch the news, listen to the radio, read articles on politics, and increasingly when I read my Twitter and Facebook feeds.
So, while not backing away from the fight, I do hope to back away from the outrage. That’s going to mean changing the way I interact with both news media and social media.
I’m going to follow fewer links—so often they go to articles calculated to produce outrage, and I don’t need more outrage. It’s a fine line, because there has been and will be much that is deserving of outrage. Yet: I do not worry that I will suffer from outrage deficiency.
My hope from this is that I will gain many things: time, attention, equilibrium, equanimity. These things will be used: For movement, for family, for study, and for my work—writing (both fiction and non-) and joining Jackie in her volunteering at local natural areas.
Yesterday Jackie and I walked at Forest Glen. The leaves are mostly down, covering the ground so thickly that some places it’s hard to find the trail. But with the leaves down, you can see much further into the forest:
I got email today from one of my senators, with the text of a truly appalling letter to president Obama from the senator and eleven of his colleagues.
The letter (here’s his press release on it) calls on the president to ensure that “no refugee related to the Syrian crisis is admitted to the United States unless the U.S. government can guarantee, with 100 percent assurance, that they are not members, supporters, or sympathizers of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).”
It’s obviously intended to be an unattainable threshold, but that’s really beside the point—the whole thing is completely wrong-headed.
I was moved to respond, and sent him this message via the contact form on his website:
I wanted to say that I was appalled by the letter to president Obama that you shared with me.
Since 9/11, the number of refugees who have committed terrorist attacks in the US is exactly zero—which suggests to me that keeping refugees out of the US is a complete waste of time and effort.
Targeting refugees—the most helpless and vulnerable among us—is not only pointless, it is also heartless and cruel. It is a failure to live up to our obligations under international law. It is also, in my opinion, terribly unamerican.
There are far better, far more effective ways to protect US citizens than by heaping yet more misery on those who have already faced the violent extremism of ISIS—those Syrians who have been forced by it to flee their own country.
I urge you to write to the president and let him know that you repudiate your entire letter, and to suggest that existing US policies on refugees, established in accordance with international law, should remain in place.
Another eleven senators signed the letter. If yours was one of them, you might want to contact your senator and say something. Feel free to borrow from my text, if it speaks to you.
For the first time in a long time, I’m a bit hopeful about our country’s political future.
This is the last election where it might be possible to cobble together a majority out of just angry, conservative, white voters. With the non-white fraction of the population growing, and with people in those groups becoming more politically active, by four years from now I don’t think there’s any chance of a candidate winning without a strong showing in at least some minority groups.
But it looks like the tea party doesn’t get this. They really think that getting even more angry, even more conservative, and even more white will seal the deal. And a failure to understand that means that the next election will also go to the Democrats.
In fact, we could even see the Republican party fracture over this, with the sane Republicans splitting off from the crazies.
A sane Republican party—a party that thinks the government ought to keep out of both your bedroom and your wallet—could draw a lot of Democrats into the fold. It also ought to draw a lot of tea partiers, since that’s basically what they’re calling for. But so many of them are so angry and bitter, they just can’t get past their anger and bitterness to compromise. The result has been the “can’t take yes for an answer” that we see in Congress—leading to the debt ceiling showdown, the fiscal cliff, and all the other dysfunctions that we’re suffering under now.
If the Republicans fail to win this year—and especially if they think that the lesson is that they need to be more rigid and ideologically pure, rather than more flexible and inclusive—we may have Democratic administrations as far as they eye can see.
In a world where the Democrats have already moved so far to the right that they’re solidly in the middle of where a sane Republican party would end up, I find that pretty hopeful.
In many places with repressive governments, nascent political parties (unable to achieve political power via the ballot box, because elections are rigged or the group is banned from participating) provide public services as an organizing tactic. They provide food for children, health care, mediation services, neighborhood watch, financial aid to victims of government actions, and so on.
This tactic has proven to be effective, so I’ve always been a little surprised that we don’t see more of it in the US. So, I was interested to see a post about the Black Panther’s free breakfast program, and the FBI’s concerns about it.
Upon reflection, I figure that the main reason we see little of this in the US is that in the US we really do have public services. There are government programs to feed hungry children, provide medical care to the sick and injured, police the streets, adjudicate conflicts, and so on. They’re flawed and limited, but they do exist. They’re good enough, that it would take a lot of money to compete—and if you have that much money, there are better ways to seek power, especially since our political system is reasonably open.
But this is becoming less true. With constant pressure on public services, holes are opening up that can be—and are being—filled by private organizations. So far, those organizations are mostly charitable non-profits, but there’s no reason that a political party couldn’t join in.
I think we’ll see it pretty soon, especially at the local level. People who have felt disenfranchised will be very willing to support political parties that directly provide what the government won’t and ask nothing in return except that you consider voting for their candidates.