Saturday, December 31, 2016

How the Electoral College Failed

For starters, the wrong candidate won.

Our system of the Electoral College - where the Popular Vote doesn't win it, it's where you win enough states with enough Electors - for what I can tell is the only one where the runner-up can secure a victory. Nearly every other elective government out there - from the parliamentary forms to other federal-based setups - seems to go with "whoever gets the most votes wins." Even the parliaments - where multiparty systems mean a plurality-winner can form a coalition government with other minor runner-ups - has it as a given that the largest vote-getting party gets the Prime Minister spot and sets all the rules.

All because our electoral system doesn't go by Popular vote for the Presidency. It goes by a complex system where each state determines their Electors, who then decide who they want for President. Granted, the Electors still go by who won their state, but that could create a situation - like we just had this year 2016 - where states with minimal populations all team up for one candidate who barely wins their states (Trump) while the states with larger populations all went for the other candidate who garners more voters (Hillary) but not enough Electors.

But no. For the office of the Presidency, the guy who gets second place among the actual voters can still end up in the White House. This is like having a seven-game World Series where the Cubs win 4 games but the baseball commissioner gives the trophy to the Indians because they had a better ERA during the series. It defies logic.

The biggest problem is that the Elector count is skewed, distorted in favor of small-population states - where few people live - and against the large-population states where, you know, everybody really lives.

Wyoming is the smallest population state at 585,000 or so. California is the largest at 39,250,000 or so. Simple math has California roughly 67 times the population of Wyoming.

Because the Electoral College is required by the Constitution to equal the number of representatives and senators in Congress, Wyoming gets 3 Electors because of the sole minimum representative plus two senators. Due to a cap of representatives (435 members, set in 1929), the disbursement of representatives makes it 55 Electors for California (53 reps, two senators). Let's divide 55 by 3... it shows California getting 18 times the number of Electors. Even though Wyoming has fewer Electors, those Electors carry more value. If California gets the number of Electors that their population actually warrants - 67 times - we should be giving California nearly 202 Electors.

But we don't.

If the Elector count is still tied to Congressional representation, we'll never see this fixed. There's a reason why the number of representatives in the House is capped: any expansion of more seats would increase the costs of the bureaucracy. The number of representatives - not just for California but all the other states that would see an increase in seats - would likely triple the existing number into the thousands. Organization chaos would kick in: there's not enough committees to seat them all, and the lack of office space for all those new staffs would make things worse.

Granted, there are solid arguments for increasing the number of representatives - our nation's population has tripled since 1929, we do need more effective representation if there were more Congresspeople to serve their districts, and more seats would make it harder for large/midsized states to gerrymander - but the arguments are for moderate increases, not outright doubling/tripling of seats.

If we did something to make the Electoral College equal in value between the states, we'd need to separate the College from the Congress. Make it so that the number of Electors is based on the Voters-to-Elector ratio in the smallest state (Wyoming) and then divide Voters-to-Elector across all the other states.

The argument FOR the Electoral College is "oh, the smaller states need representation." But that flies against the needs - and the rights - of the voters who live in larger population states. Why should voters in California or New York or even Texas suffer all because of where they live? Why does Wyoming or Vermont or Rhode Island get more of a say of who wins the Presidency?

In one of those tone-deaf things, a number of Far Right pundits are crowing that "oh if you don't count California, then Trump won the popular vote." Here's the thing: YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO IGNORE CALIFORNIA. CALIFORNIA COUNTS JUST LIKE ALL THE OTHER STATES. Maybe even more than that, because CALIFORNIA IS WHERE MOST OF THE PEOPLE LIVE.

The President of the United States is the office that represents the entire nation, that should mean every voter in the nation should have a say on who the President should be. Does that include the voters in Wyoming and Vermont and Montana? Sure. But it should also include the voters in Texas and New York and Illinois and Florida and all the other large-population states. And California.

If you're worried about the small states, they still get equal representation in the U.S. Senate - where the rules of Holds and Cloture make it easy for small states to block anything they don't like - and those states still have their own Governors to fight for them at the federal level. Not to mention the fact that the Constitution still has safeguards like the 10th Amendment and the 14th Amendment - silly little thing called DUE PROCESS that makes it so that things have to be equal to all before the law - to keep states reasonably protected and represented.

This is for the President of the United States. This is for everybody. And everybody should get an equal say regardless of which state they're in.

The other big problem with the Electoral College is how it handles the state results as Winner Take All.

California's Electoral count of 55 all went in for Hillary who got 8 million votes, while Trump got zilch even though 4 million voters showed up for him there. Do you think those 4 million enjoy the idea that they live in a "Solid Blue" state when the truth is it's all jumbled? Texas Electoral count of 38 all went to Trump who won 4 million voters over Hillary's 3 million. Do those 3 million Hillary voters enjoy being stuck in a "Solid Red" state that's close to 45 percent Blue?

If we did increase the Electors to reflect actual voter numbers, say California goes up to 202 EV and Texas goes up to 139 EV and so on, we're setting up the viability to have the Electors sorted out by percentage of voters. That way, no one candidate wins all, they win the portion of the voters that sided with them.

The Electors that reflect the Senate seats go to the candidate who gets the majority (or plurality if there's multiple candidates) of the votes in that state. So that's two off the plate. Let's go with California set with 202 Electors. Set aside 2 for Hillary winning the state: out of the 200 left, Hillary got 61.5 percent to Trump's 31.5 percent and Gary Johnson's 3.4 percent as the third-place Libertarian. 200 times .615 = 123 EV and .315 = 63 and .034 = 6.8 okay round up to 7 for Gary Johnson. 123+63+8 = 194, okay so there's 6 Electors to partition out to the other runner-ups, but that's the beauty of this: Now the minor third parties have Electors for them. Granted, they're close to zero compared to the numbers the Big Two get, but it's better than the actual zeroes they were getting... and if they perform better in other states, those Electors add up.

In the percentages matchup, Hillary gets 125 (plus the 2 Senate EV, remember) out of Cali, Trump gets 63 EV he didn't have before, Johnson gets 8 EV, the others get one or two, and then you start spreading that out among the other states. Republicans now have a reason to fight for voters in what were once Solid Blue states: Democrats now have a reason to fight voters in Solid Red states. And the Electoral College will more accurately reflect the Popular Vote.

I've gotten arguments in the social media - Twitter, natch - that we "don't live in a democracy, we live in a republic." That is, we're not a direct vote system like the classic democracies of the Greeks: we're supposed to be modeled after the Roman Republic system. Thing is, even republics are more responsive than the current Electoral system. I don't recall from my studies - in both World History and Latin classes - a single Roman election for Consul where the runner-ups got the victory parade. Psst: what made the Romans a Republic was the system of Checks and Balances within the government itself.

The Electoral College was designed to be a Check, goes the argument: The Founders didn't trust the direct vote of the people and so set up the College to get the states to determine which candidates won. The Founders actually wanted the results to be a mess: They wanted the College to determine the "best qualified" candidate - to filter out the crazy or the ill-suited - regardless of the Popular vote. And if the Electors couldn't decide, the Founders wanted the House to determine who served as President, as another Check to make the President more "accountable" to Congress.

It's a sick joke that in the few times that the Electoral College has been in question - 1800, 1824, 1876, 1884, 2000, 2016 - it's never worked the way the Founders intended. The results of 1800, 1876 and 2000 in particular created constitutional crises. In 1824 the clear popular choice - Jackson - got screwed over by a House of Representatives that preferred Adams, and it created a toxic political environment of the following Jacksonian era - the Spoils system in particular - that tainted politics until the civil service reforms of the Progressive era of the late 19th Century.

And the Electoral College never voted their consciences: The Electors (mostly) voted the way their states went Winner-Take-All. The few Faithless Electors who voted their mind only did so as a protest vote where the result (just one guy for Reagan in 1976, for example) had no impact.

Only one of the Presidents who won the Electoral in spite of the Popular won re-election (Dubya the noted exception), and few of them left behind any notable legacy. So there's that to consider.

At some point, the Presidential elections are going to have to respect the right of the People to vote as a nation for the office that represents the nation. We can keep the Electoral College as a stop-gap or a braking mechanism to ensure the "Mob Rule" that the Founders feared would not rise up to claim a powerful seat in the federal government. But it's got to reflect what the people want a lot better than the mess we've got now.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Drowned In Moonlight: RIP Carrie Fisher

“Anyway, George comes up to me the first day of filming and he takes on look at the dress and says, 'You can't wear a bra under that dress.'
So, I say, 'Okay, I'll bite. Why?'
And he says, 'Because... there's no underwear in space.'
I promise you this is true, and he says it with such conviction too! Like he had been to space and looked around and he didn't see any bras or panties or briefs anywhere.
Now, George came to my show when it was in Berkeley. He came backstage and explained why you can't wear your brassiere in other galaxies, and I have a sense you will be going to outer space very soon, so here's why you cannot wear your brassiere, per George. So, what happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn't- so you get strangled by your own bra. Now I think that this would make a fantastic obit- so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”

- Carrie Fisher

"Somebody has to save our skins!"

I wrote this bit for TV Tropes' Awesome page for A New Hope: "In that one moment, she utterly demolishes the Damsel In Distress image in favor of being an Action Girl equally participating in her own rescue." Someone's added to it since then, but this part is still up and I'm particularly proud of it.

I already wrote about how bad this year's been for celebrity deaths - oh man, I don't even have time or room to cry over the loss of Richard Adams, author of Watership Down - but I swear to the Old Gods and the New that 2016 should crawl off into a dumpster and fucking set itself on fire. If this year were truly anthropomorphized as a human being, I would be repeatedly punching him in the balls without mercy or regret.

My nephews and I got to see Carrie Fisher speak at the Tampa Bay Comic Con in 2015. She was witty, acerbic, doting over her puppy that she took everywhere with her.

I know that we can't associate the character with the actor, that Leia is fictional to where Carrie Fisher was real. But I'm a sci-fi geek. I grew up to Star Wars, associated to that franchise in a way I haven't related to anything else (maybe X-Files, but not with this level of love or sincerity). In a way, this is Leia dying, at a time when the full epic is still under production and we're waiting on Episode VIII (oh GOD is THAT going to create a wave of tears) and we just saw Leia show up in CGI (kinda painfully, because you could tell it was CGI and not Carrie in excellent de-aging makeup) in Rogue One (and I am tempted to write about that given its cultural and political immediacy).

Princess, Senator, General... Leia was the Rebellion against the Empire, against the darkness of the Sith and the galactic fascism it all represented.

And now she's gone. Leia's gone. Carrie Fisher died today.

/stands up

The Fight Continues. This war isn't over until every soul is free.

I Am One With the Force, And the Force Is With Me.

"Hope." - the final line in Rogue One

Addendum: posting again some of the photos I got of Carrie Fisher at the comic con. I apologize but three of them were shaky thus blurry.

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Saturnalian Wish List for the Darkest Year Yet: Damn You 2016

This is indeed a disturbing universe. - Maggie Simpson

Facing once again the nightmare of insufferable Christianist bullies who won't give heathens the right to celebrate Saturnalia as the Romans intended, it's left to me to try and plead to the Powers That Be to grant me these boons and set right what once went wrong...

1) I pray to Saturn, Time Lord with a Blue Box, that the incoming train wreck that is the Trump Administration doesn't f-cking blow up the planet any time soon, or ever for that matter.

2) I pray to the Old Gods and the New, that the incoming train wreck that is the Trump Administration only causes damage to their own, to the 62 million morons to willingly voted for a goddamn racist sexist con artist of a candidate all because he stirred up their unjustified fears and unwarranted outrage. If there is ANY moral justice in this universe - sadly, there isn't - the ones who voted for this shitgibbon should be the only ones who pay the price.

3) I pray to the One True Goddess Belldandy that the incoming train wreck that is the Trump Administration is so vile in its treatment of people, so inept in its avoidance of facts, so corrupt in its greed that finally - FINALLY - the Republican Party collapses into its goddamn grave at last, and that EVERYBODY wakes up to the realization that the Randian Utopian Fantasy of the Far Right NEEDS BE avoided for the next ten generations.


Yeah, I know. We're gonna be stuck with 62 million Trumpshirts dragging the United States back to 1850 and wrecking the entire planet while doing so. And that's the OPTIMISTIC view. Given Trump's insane mindset about nuclear weapons, we could be facing WORSE...

So with that all in mind, here's the last known Saturnalia any of us might celebrate before the Dark Times overwhelm us.

Resist. Find Hope.


P.S. It wouldn't hurt, Saturn, if you used your time powers to go back to 1988 and slap some goddamn sense in me about better social skills heading into college...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Dark Truth About American Partisanship

When Election night happened, one of the arguments about how bad everything was going turned on the fact that the voter turnout seemed LOWER than the 2012 Election. Arguments were made about how UNPOPULAR the candidates were and how it doomed voter turnout to give Trump an Electoral College victory by eke-ing out better turnout in the mid-sized battleground states.

Thing was, it was too soon to make that claim. This election cycle had a ton of voters do so by Absentee ballot and mail-ins, which required hand counting and took longer than expected even after you threw in the time for recounts. As a result, the "low" turnout actually kept ticking upward with more ballots confirmed...

So by now, the weekend before the actual Electoral College does their thing, we do have a realistic accounting of the results for 2016.

Clinton: 65,844,594 votes
Trump: 62,979,616 votes
Other: 8,137,687 votes

Here's the thing about the 2012 turnout:

Obama: 65,915,795 votes
Romney: 60,933,504 votes
Other: 2,236,110 votes

Notice anything? The 2016 turnout kinda matched the 2012 voter turnout. Granted, Trump got about 2 million more voters than Romney did, but Romney also got a slightly higher percentage (47) of actual votes than Trump (45). The real difference was the third-party voter turnout, but that was more to the Libertarians with Johnson getting 4.4 million of those votes with a 3 percent share.

We can nitpick at the numbers and the results, but here's what I'm getting from these comparisons:

Our elections are no longer about the issues, the elections are no longer even about the candidates: the elections are about partisan turnout.

Let's face it. Both major parties had up for nomination two of the most unliked candidates in modern times. NOBODY running for the highest office had these kinds of Unfavorable numbers (polling in the mid to upper 60 percent "hate him/her"). And yet... Hillary did just about as well as the popular and charismatic Obama (who suffered the same amount of mudslinging if not more from the GOP) and the blatantly vulgar Trump did slightly better than Romney (whose biggest sin is his personality being more plastic than a Lego toy store). Trump is still polling under 50 percent on the popularity charts, which is rare for a "winner" heading into the inauguration: Even Bush the Lesser had a Favorable bump from Americans in general wishing him "good luck" at the start of his tenure.

The issues can go sit in a corner and sulk, but the polling showed solid majorities of people wanted immigration reform (that didn't involve mass arrests) and wanted Obamacare and wanted their Medicare and Social Security untouched... and they still voted for the Republicans in large enough numbers to guarantee that party held both Congress and the White House, and to assuredly DESTROY each and every one of those items on the checklist.

No, what's happening here is clear evidence of the political divisions that have polarized our nation. The voters - the citizens who are paying attention to who's doing what in government - are now so set in their voting preferences that nothing - not the issues, not hated candidates - can change their views.

Even with the all-too-obvious clues that Trump was IS a tiny-fingered vulgarian of the highest caliber - his caught-on-tape rant of "Grab Em By the Pussy" should have driven his sorry sexist ass into exile on the furthest island in the South Pacific - a solid number of "Christian" holier-than-thou "clean thoughts chum" Republicans still voted for sexual assaulter to represent them. I've noted before there were clear factions among the GOP base - the ones who cheered Trump on vs. the ones who held their noses and closed their eyes and clapped slowly in the background - and yet when the time came those "clean" and clear-headed Republicans still voted for the vulgarian because they honestly cannot cross the aisle to vote for someone else or even leave their choice blank in protest.

Even with Hillary suffering hit after hit from the media over inflated (and FAKE) "scandals" like her emails, even with her coping against a Far Left Progressive group still pining for Bernie Sanders, even with enough voters thinking to themselves "do we WANT another four years of Clinton culture warfare"... she STILL got as many votes as Obama had in 2012. Granted, she didn't get the voter percentage, but the numbers still prove the solid base of Democratic voters sided with her despite the trepidation and worry. Being hated wasn't the reason why she lost (she lost due to voter suppression in key states, and to minor shifts in voter turnout in others).

The Democrats could have run the Second Coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the voter turnout would have stayed roughly the same. The Republicans could have run the Second Coming of Ronald Reagan and the voter turnout would have stayed roughly the same.

Either party could have run a dead dog as their candidate and the voter turnout would have stayed roughly the same.

Because we're locked in now. There are so few voters who have the willpower to shift their opinions and their choices in any way to affect the outcomes. Nearly everybody has made up their mind and are rooting for THEIR team no matter the circumstances.

There may be generational differences - older voters Republican, younger voters Democrats - but that didn't mean much now and it won't until the demographic shift (I *was* hoping it'd have been now, but it's looking like 2020 or 2024) really finally kicks on. There may be voters who actually care about the issues, but they had no impact on this election cycle as they were drowned out by the partisans who place party above the people. And there's no sign of that changing for the next cycle.

Unless there's a massive economic or natural disaster. Unless the voters - especially the White majority voters - are directly impacted by the destruction of the incoming Legion of Doom. And even then I wouldn't doubt that the voters would stick by their party to the bitter end. And by then we're likely seeing a body count of innocent lives ruined by the failure of our voters to actually step back and realize "HOLY SHIT WE JUST LET A CON ARTIST INTO THE WHITE HOUSE."

We as a nation are no longer capable of choosing our candidates with any rational or sensible guidelines. Because of that, we're not going to get any genuine reforms and policy shifts we need to keep ourselves educated, or employed, or healthy, or improved.

It's no longer the elections than decide our nation's fate. It's the disasters we let happen because we've let the parties make the choices for us.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Stuck On Stages Two And Four

"To err is human, to forgive, divine" - Alexander Pope
"Alexander Pope never had to live in a world with Donald Trump" - Paul Wartenberg

Everything Trump represents sickens and horrifies me.

This is the most unqualified, sadistic, uneducated, ill-informed, ill-humored human being to ever reach the office of the Presidency of the United States. That is saying something in a field made up of Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Warren Harding.

At least terrible Presidents like Millard Fillmore, U.S. Grant and Jimmy Carter had their virtues and achieved some things that did not harm the nation. At least dangerous Presidents like Jackson or LBJ or Nixon were crafty or showed some respect towards the Constitution and the office they served.

Trump will do no such thing.

Trump will defy every law, ignore every protocol, insult every citizen that does not serve his wants.

He's already ignoring the conflicts of interests his business dealings have with the integrity of the Office of the President. His claims of putting things into a "blind trust" are turning out to be like all the other lies he's spun his entire life. The possibility Trump will violate the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution itself is bordering on 100 percent happening.

The recent meeting Trump held with the leaders of the Tech Industry - with his own children who are managing his financial "empire" - had the look and feel of him getting an idea which companies and CEOs he could shakedown for bad business deals. Anyone remember the gangster conference in the Godfather? Yeah, like that, with Trump as Barzini.

Harding was never this bad. At least Grant never profited from the graft of his own administration. Nixon for all his sins never crossed so many lines that Trump threatens to cut to shreds.

We're facing not just one Constitutional crisis, but a series of them, one laid atop another like a stack of bent playing cards that will blow itself down the second someone sneezes at it.

We are at the beginning of an age of failure and despair, where the kleptocrats huddle to form a kakistocracy, led by a con artist whose disasters underscore every lie he's ever told, and Trump has told so many.

If I'm in a dour and depressed mood, this is just one of the many reasons why.

To hell with the Five Stages of Grief. I'm stuck on Anger and Depression, to hell with Bargaining and to HELL AND DAMNATION with Acceptance.

What the hell, America. What. The. Hell.

A Healthcare Replace Plan So Easy Even a Republican Can Do It

One of the people you really need to follow is Richard Mayhew over at Balloon Juice. He's an expert on the health care system: an insider with an insurance firm so he knows the rules and the consequences of what reform efforts can do.

He's recently posted stuff about how the Congressional Republicans are tripping over themselves trying to live up to their 6-year promise to REPEAL AND REPLACE Obama's health care reforms AKA ObamaCare, because the Republicans are suddenly realizing that both the Repeal process is messy and the Replace options few and far apart. Today's offering from Mayhew:

The first thing in health policy is to always follow the money.  Covering sick people means spending money.  The question is always how much money and who is spending that money.  We’ll know very quickly if there is an actual replacement plan that is way too heavily focused on HSAs but actually tries to provide some useful coverage to a reasonable number of Americans or if it is a Potemkin plan by looking at the top line CBO scoring of the expense of the coverage provisions.  This runs into a potential Norquist problem but the money is the big thing to review.

What exactly is a Norquist Problem? As Mayhew noted before, the Norquist Problem is "Republican orthodoxy that once a tax cut is passed it can never be re-enacted": A tax cut MUST REMAIN permanent even when it becomes obvious the government has to re-instate that tax to regain revenues to, you know, pay for shit.

So the Republicans are currently kicking themselves to come up with some way to make the Repeal AND Replace some kind of revenue-neutral deal, even though the "Cadillac Tax" that makes up some of the ACA's revenues will likely get cut (because ALL taxes on the rich are EVIL in the eyes of the Far Right).

As I noted in the comments to Mayhew's article today, there is actually a very simple plan that Republicans can enact. It covers a lot of areas, it gives Republicans an out, and it doesn't involve a lot of heavy lifting that these lazy-ass Republicans hate doing when it comes to legislation and governance.

My solution was this:

1) JUST FCKING FIX THE ACA SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO WASTE YOUR TIME DREAMING UP A HALF-ASSED PLAN THAT WON’T WORK. The fix involves granting every state a Public Option to encourage choice and competitive costs, and there should be a way of setting it up without an increase in taxes. The Republicans would have to live with that Cadillac tax, but they can come up with a rebrand on it to shill to the base.

2) Rename the revised ACA AmeriCare or RepubliCare so you can take the credit. This is the easiest part. A lot of Democrats will grumble about it but as long as this health care program exists Obama won't give a rat's ass that his name's no longer on it. JUST DON'T FCKING NAME IT AFTER TRUMP YOU BASTARDS.

3) Go on your fcking golf retreats with your lobbyist buddies for the rest of 2017. No stress, no muss, no heavy lifting. You Republican Congresscritters can go back to your 300-day vacation plans for the year. The wingnuts in the media may throw a hissy fit or two but they'll settle the fck down and resume hating on Democrats for 2018.


I swear we Moderates gotta do all the damn thinking around here. You should listen to us more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Sad And Sardonic Saturnalia Season

I blame 62 million Americans who didn't take their fidelity to the Roman Gods as serious as they should have.

You people do realize we're going from a Marcus Aurelius in Obama to a Commodus in Trump.

Thanks a bunch, 62 million Americans.

The pagan god Saturn will doom us all with Saturn-themed punishments, to be signified by giant rings circling your belly until the final fate.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Which Side Are You On

Now at midnight all the agents
And the superhuman crew
Come out and round up everyone
That knows more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across their shoulders
And then the kerosene
Is brought down from the castles
By insurance men who go
Check to see that nobody is escaping
To Desolation Row

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row
-- Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan

Reporters often asked Dylan - or the other performers of the song (AKA the Band) - where Desolation Row is. It's a foolish question, if you consider the lyrics. It's not a slum, it's not a red light district. It's not a whorehouse or a prison. You're taking these things too literal.

Pay attention to the lyrics. You'll realize Desolation Row is the United States.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

So, No Surprise Anymore About The Republican War On Everybody

Gee, remember how that whole Tea Party thing started in 2009, when the Republicans and their Far Right media buddies all yelled and screamed that OBAMA WAS TAKING YOUR MEDICARE and OBAMA WAS TAKING YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY and giving it to illegals? Getting all the elderly voters and hard-working "Real (White) Americans" about their God-given social benefits?

Well, as Newell at Slate points out, guess who's taking away your Medicare? Republicans.

One cannot think of a more tone-deaf political response to the 2016 election than an effort to privatize Medicare. There aren’t that many lessons Republicans need to draw from 2016—they control everything!—but one is that so long as you pledge not to touch Medicare, even a goon like Donald Trump can win the presidency. Yet since the election there has been much chatter that conservatives in Congress, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan, might consider moving forward with his treasured voucherization of Medicare. I had thought that this might be a product of Democratic wish-casting, because there was no way that Ryan would be so stupid.

It's not that Ryan is stupid, it's that he's so beholden to the Republican Talking Point that ALL THINGS MUST BE PRIVATIZED and that ALL GOVERNMENT SPENDING SAVE DEFENSE MUST BE SLASHED that he'll push a program that would change the well-funded healthcare program for the elderly into a voucher-based system that will not be adequately funded nor capable of keeping costs under control.

As Chait notes over at New York:

Ryan tells Baier, “Because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.” This is false. In fact, it’s the complete opposite of the truth. The Medicare trust fund has been extended 11 years as a result of the passage of Obamacare, whose cost reforms have helped bring health care inflation to historic lows. It is also untrue that repealing Obamacare requires changing traditional Medicare. But Ryan clearly believes he needs to make this claim in order to sell his plan, or probably even to convince fellow Republicans to support it.

This shouldn't surprise you, America. Democrats have been screaming for DECADES that the Republicans want to slash the social safety net for purely ideological reasons. The Republicans never did when they got the chance - early 1980s and early 2000s - because back then there were still a few party leaders left who weren't that suicidal.

But now we're in the Era of the Wingnut. The Tea Party hordes have voted into office Republicans at all levels who will want to watch the world burn. There's almost no safety checks left other than a minority Democratic presence in the Senate, and that might not be enough to stop any legal maneuvers that Congress can pull off.

And here's Newell at Slate again to ask: Guess who's taking away your Social Security? Republicans.

The plan offers a model for what the GOP would do in a Social Security reform effort. The bill includes 15 specific changes, some of them more complex than others, and this letter from the chief auditor of Social Security analyzes each of them. Broadly: It would cut benefits without raising taxes. Some of the more recognizable changes include a gradual increase in the normal retirement age from 67 to 69 for those born in 1968 or later (personal note: this affects me as I was born in 1970, meaning I have to work MORE years for FEWER returns), and it would peg cost-of-living adjustments to chained CPI, a slower-growing inflation index (this means less money to adjust to rising costs of living)... Since implementing these cuts alone would make the law politically unpalatable, it would increase benefits for some of the lowest-income, longest-working earners, while the highest future earners would see the largest benefit cuts. But let’s be clear: most people would see cuts. Look for yourself, on Table B2!

For all the talk about fixing Social Security, the thing that won't fix it is cutting benefits. What needs to happen is an increase in funding to get over the massive bump that is the incoming Baby Boomer wave. That may mean an increase in the SSI tax on payrolls or removing the earnings cap, but at least it won't slash benefits that our elderly and disabled need to, you know, SURVIVE.

I know I'm repeating myself here, but this is where the Republicans are more beholden to their ideology than to practicalities. The Republicans can NEVER raise taxes - at least not do it in public - they can only slash them, and for their obsessions over "balancing budgets" - which they themselves CAN NEVER ACCOMPLISH, wonder why - that means they have to slash benefits to justify those slashed taxes. And slashing benefits - especially to a demographic of older voters that they rely on to win their rigged/gerrymandered elections - would normally be political suicide.

But now we're in the Era of the Wingnut. The Tea Party hordes have voted into office Republicans at all levels who will want to watch the world burn. There's almost no safety checks left other than a minority Democratic presence in the Senate, and that might not be enough to stop any legal maneuvers that Congress can pull off. Oh, wow, now I AM repeating myself...

And guess who's going to get blamed when your Medicare and Social Security are either gone or so drastically reduced that you'll go bankrupt in your retirement years? Obama.

Because it's never the Republicans' fault when their Utopian dreams of tax cuts and deregulation turns around and crashes everything from our economy to our bridges to our entire way of life.


Merry Christmas you Rapture-wanting Apocalyptic A-holes.

Friday, December 09, 2016

The Anti-Cabinet

If you're paying attention to how Trump is shaping his Cabinet - the subordinates who will manage the various Executive departments that manage this nation - you'll notice a disturbing trend.

Well, not that 9/10ths of them are a bunch of incompetent rubes with almost NO experience in administrative office or that they're racist fearmongers incapable of the empathy needed to oversee their duties. Gotta admit, like Gary Legum at it's hard to ignore what is really happening:

...Trump has surrounded himself with people who are happy to do the work of having an ideology for him: people like former Breitbart News impresario Steve Bannon, his chief adviser, or his theocratic Vice President-elect Mike Pence, or his designated chief of staff, Reince Priebus, a bowl of vanilla pudding who would probably drop dead of an aneurysm if he had to consider whether a political move or legislative policy is good for anyone outside the GOP’s millionaire donor class.
These advisers have happily stepped into this ideological vacuum. Which, combined with Trump’s natural laziness, is why we are now seeing the appointments of officials who will likely push exactly the opposite of policy goals that Trump talked about during the campaign...

It's worse than that: So far when it comes to every Cabinet and high-level pick, Trump is selecting pretty much the one single person on the planet who opposes each philosophical and practical reasons why those Cabinet positions exist in the first place.

Legum's biggest example from his article is the most recent pick of the Trump transition: Selecting CEO Andrew Puzder to serve as Secretary of Labor. Puzder's public record has him outspoken against minimum wage laws, he's argued for cheap foreign immigrant labor, and he's considered automating his own restaurant chains to reduce employment costs. Puzder is not only mocking Trump's own claims of "bringing jobs back to America" and "saving our jobs," Puzder is mocking the very concept of supporting our labor force, period.

As Legum notes:

In a happy coincidence, Puzder’s far-right ideology lines up with that of some of Trump’s advisers, who can steer Trump into appointing a business-friendly leader likely to leave the Department of Labor a smoking ruin. Or into appointing an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who would just as soon dismantle the EPA as lead it. Or an Education secretary, also a big Trump donor, who hates the public schools that have been a bedrock of the nation’s educational system for 200 years.

Let's take a person-and-position review of what we see will be Trump's administration:

Attorney General: Jeff Sessions, a Far Right conservative so opposed to civil rights he lost out on a judicial post during the Reagan years. Elected by Alabama residents as Senator only because there's no disqualification for elective office for raging segregationists, this SOB is likely going to preside over an FBI and internal law enforcement campaign of shredding every progressive or civil rights-minded group across the nation, not to mention escalating a War on Drugs against marijuana at a time more states are legalizing that drug.

Secretary of Education: Betty DeVos, whose only claim to fame is her public opposition to public education. She's been a vocal proponent for school vouchers - a potentially corrupt method of defunding schools - and for charter schools - a method of privatizing education with little oversight or permanence of institutions (charter schools have closed the second they're not profitable). She'd likely preside over the end of our public-funding K-12 system - something we've had in place for centuries - and replace it with an unregulated nightmare of religious-backed and expensive private schools that would only ensure education for those who can afford it.

Secretary of Defense: James Mattis, a retired Marine general and one of the few who has a legitimate justification to serve his position. Even then, he'd have to receive a Congressional waiver to serve (ironically to avoid conflicts of interest, a DefSec can't be coming from a high-ranking position in the military within a set time period, which explains why Colin Powell was chosen for State and not Defense under the Bush the Lesser term, now I know).

Secretary of Interior: Mary McMorris Rodgers. A prominent Congresswoman with a history of "Drill Baby Drill" who'll likely allow fracking in every national park - if any remain existing after 2017 - first chance she gets. Think James Watt was bad...?

Secretary of Labor: Pudzer. Already described above as someone who'll likely push for an end to minimum wage guarantees that can pretty much give business CEOs the ability to reduce salaries across the board (except their own), as well as likely pushing to eliminate this Department altogether.

Secretary of Treasury: Steven Mnuchin. Formerly with Goldman Sachs and a banking CEO with a track record of questionable business practices and property foreclosures that ruined a lot of lives during the Great Recession. He's here because he helped finance Trump's campaign. Essentially a slap in the face of every middle-class American out there - including the ones who voted for Trump - and likely someone who'll happily raid the vault until there's nothing left, not even wooden nickels.

Secretary of Energy: No one named yet, but the odds are good we're going to see a CEO with ties to Oil/Gas eager to dump the green energy programs that Obama pushed. There's already an attempt by Trump's people to quiz the staffers at Energy about anybody who attended climate change meetings in a way to suggest a purge of pro-climate staffers is going to happen.

Secretary of Agriculture: No one named yet (and there's a lot of guessing here) but it's bound to be someone who will preside over massive deregulation of food safety and a shutdown of public support programs like SNAP / Food Stamps.

Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur Ross, a CEO and banker of various companies across a number of industries. Like most of the other nominees with no previous elective or public service experience, he's only here because he and Trump have done business. Ross's greatest claim to shame is that he's tied into the Coal industry and that one of his holdings was in control of the Sago Mine in 2006 when lax observation of safety laws led to an explosion and tunnel collapse that killed twelve workers.

Secretary of Health Human Services: Tom Price, Congressman from Georgia. Best known as a vocal opponent of Obamacare and someone who would eagerly dismantle it even if Congress doesn't vote to repeal it (because then Congress would have to replace it, and they honestly don't know what with).

Secretary of Housing Urban Development: Ben Carson, someone with NO administrative or organizational experience who won't know or understand the first thing about the housing issues of major cities or any other issues that will affect a majority of Americans who, believe it or not, LIVE AND WORK IN LARGE CITIES RATHER THAN THE BOONDOCKS OF FLYOVER COUNTRY. That Carson is likely going to preside over another Department under threat of Republican dismantling, expect the worst.

Secretary of Homeland Security: John Kelly, a retired Marine general with combat experience during the Second Persian Gulf War, and alongside Mattis probably the most qualified guy to the position being picked. He's also most likely to be asked to push Trump's aggressive anti-immigrant plans, which suggests a more militarized approach to the issue than ever before (not a good sign).

Secretary of Transportation: Elaine Chao. Granted, she's served before as a Cabinet Secretary - Labor for Bush the Lesser - but she's likely to push the standard Republican ideology of deregulation weakening the guidelines of worker safety and transit safety. There's no guarantee she'll push for bridge repairs and replacements that are in dire need of both.

Secretary of Veteran Affairs: No one named yet, but don't be surprised if it's another retired General who's going to argue in favor of slicing and dicing veteran aid in the name of "balanced budgets" and "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" ideology.

Chief of Staff: Reince Priebus, someone who couldn't ever keep Trump in line during the campaigns now asked to keep Trump in line while in the Oval Office. /headdesk

Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt, someone deep in the pocket of the Oil industry and a known climate change denialist. It's been noted that putting Pruitt in charge of the EPA is akin to putting foxes in charge of hen houses. Say goodbye to clean water and air.

There's several more still not filled, but the way things are going those spots will either be a retired General, a CEO buddy, or a raging anti-institutional critic of that office.

It's not just a subversion of the office, it's wholesale destruction.

Welcome to the Republicans' wet dream of Anarchy In the USA.

I'm a comic book geek, so I'm pretty much recognizing Trump's Cabinet as a kind of Legion of Doom, replacing the Superfriends Justice League that served out Superman's Obama's tenure.

I'm not joking. I've never seen a roster of "talent" for an incoming administration so stacked with people who are clear and present dangers to the very departments they are set to take over.

I'm looking at an administration that's set to eclipse every scandal made under the corrupt regimes of Grant and Harding and Reagan and Bush the Lesser. A level of graft and ignorance that will cost lives and billions of dollars.

Congratulations, America. 62 MILLION OF YOU voted for this.

Update 12/12/2016: Jesus effing Christ On a Bike. You should see who Trump is picking to serve as Director of National Intelligence (there's apparently a lot of chiefs in the intelligence community).

Carly Fiorina?!?!?!

Overlooking the simple fact that she's NEVER BEEN INVOLVED IN INTELLIGENCE MATTERS HER ENTIRE LIFE, Fiorina isn't exactly that great managing anything as Hewlett-Packard and her own campaign staffers over the years can attest.

Gods help us.

He's also thinking about Rick "Brain Fart" Perry for Secretary of Energy. I think Trump's just seriously trolling the whole nation - Perry included - because Perry's claim to fame on the national stage was forgetting the debate question in 2012 about which federal agencies he'd like to shut down (Energy was, yup, one of those agencies). Then again, Trump's entire modus operandi with his incoming Anti-Cabinet is to pick those most likely to mismanage these departments into shutting down anyway.

Again. Gods help us.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Three Other Voices From This Thin Raft

I'm still trying to figure out how to continue expressing my rage at a nation where 62 million fellow Americans voted for an openly sexist, racist con artist to represent us to the world, but until then I have to find comfort from the others in the blogosphere who still have their voices and a keen understanding of the hell we're about to enter.

First off, there's Driftglass, who's been railing against an intentionally blind and self-serving media elite for decades now, and who had just written a long and beautiful argument about the media's folly allowing such a crook to dominate them (and us):

But messaging itself is not the problem.  The media is the problem.  And since, as the man said, the medium is the message, until we start taking on the media as Public Enemy #1, we're going to go right on losing...
Judging by policy statements made, resources allocated, attention paid and political capitol spent, it's quite likely that history will judge the Obama Administration to have been the most consistently pro-manufacturing administration since Eisenhower...
If you are a member of the general public, unless you made an extra special effort to inform yourself, you are blissfully unaware of any of this.
If you are blissfully unaware of any of this, it is not because the Obama Administration failed to talk it up at every single opportunity, but because over the last eight years the American political media collectively decided that instead of boring-ass stories about what the Democratic party has been trying to do to improve the lives and futures of the working class Americans, what you needed to hear were lively fairy tales about Birth Certificates and Death Panels.  Email servers and Benghaaaazi.  A Republican rebranding scam called the "Tea Party".  Instead of stories about the Caucus Room Conspiracy and Republican sabotage and sedition, you needed to hear endlessly, plaintive cries from all the usual Beltway hacks about how Barack Obama was refusing to lead!...
Ask a Trumpshirt if they remember any of this at all and they'll give you a dirty look, followed by a dozen "Yeah, but what about..."s, each of which will also be bullshit.  Then they will scamper away, because they have literally been conditioned by years of hate radio and Fox News and the Breitbart Collective not to remember anything from The Big Scary Past that is ideologically inconvenient.
In other words, if a dirty Libtard says it, it ain't true, and anyone who says anything I disagree with is obviously a dirty Libtard.  QED...

Then there's Rude Pundit, who like me was stunned by the result, spent time in the wilderness collecting his thoughts, and coming back today to discuss his insights (some of which, especially about the fucked-up electoral process, I agree with):

But lately, I've come around to another way of thinking. I wasn't wrong. Our election system is so innately fucked that it got it wrong. Right now, Clinton is up by nearly 3 million votes. That's 2 percent more than Donald Trump, with a lead that's growing with every precinct finalized. Yeah, yeah, she didn't win the presidency. But I wasn't wrong about the country. Nearly 54 percent of voters rejected Trump. And a plurality supported Clinton by far. Sure, that's way too many dumb fucks for any nation, but fuck you if you think Donald Trump has a "mandate" or a "historic victory" or some such shit. It's a goddamned embarrassment to say to the world, "Yeah, over here each person's vote is totally not equal..."
Trump won Petroleum County (yes, there is a goddamn Petroleum County) in Montana with a total of 278 votes out of 322 cast. Clinton won Manhattan's county in New York with 515,481 votes out of nearly 600,000 cast. In your precious list of counties won, those are each counted once.
I got nothing against the shit kickers and roughnecks of Petroleum County and I hope they don't have anything against us up here in the Northeast. But double fuck anyone for saying that 1 Montanan who voted for Trump is worth the same as over 1850 people who voted for Clinton in Manhattan. Your history-making is bullshit. Trump is the Loser-in-Chief, and he will always have asterisk after his name that'll drive him insane(r)...
Trump won because the Founders created a fucked-up system to make slave states feel wanted because conservatives have always thrown a fit if you don't just accept their ignorance. We can delude ourselves and say that "in their wisdom" the Founders created the Electoral College as a way to put the brakes on the election of a vile blithering idiot with dictatorial aspirations. But it's that very system that has gotten us to this point...

And then there's John Cole at Balloon Juice, who has a pretty blunt way with words:

If I read one fucking more thinkpiece, blog post, semi-literate tweet, or Facebook forward blaming whatever the fuck “identity politics” is for Democrats losing the election I am going to lose completely and totally lose my shit and climb a fucking bell tower. I don’t even know what people mean when they say identity politics anymore. So let me ask you:
Is it identity politics when you cater to white supremacists, the Klan, and neo-nazis to win an election?
Is it identity politics when you say white lives matter or blue lives matter?
Is it identity politics when you cheer building a wall to keep out rapey Mexicans?
Is it identity politics when you intentionally close voting districts in minority areas to suppress the vote?
Is it identity politics when you pass bills saying you can legally discriminate against the LGBT community?
Is it identity politics when you threaten a cop for wearing a hijab or try to rip the hijab off people in public?
Is it identity politics when you call for a ban on Muslims and claim that a government list of Muslims is a good idea?
Is it identity politics when your healthcare bills do nothing for women’s health but hand out Viagra like skittles?
Is it identity politics when children of color are disciplined more frequently and severely than white schoolchildren?
Is it identity politics when your #1 priority is passing bills telling what women can and can’t do regarding their reproductive health decisions?
Is it identity politics when the justice system systematically incarcerates minorities or when cities set up nuisance policing policies in minority communities?
Is it identity politics to insist that everyone say Merry Christmas?
Is it identity politics when you cheer stop and frisk in minority communities?
Is it identity politics when you claim “coastal elites” aren’t real Americans and that the heartland is where the “real people” live?
Is it identity politics to pay women less than men (and women of color even less)?
Is it identity politics to totally lose your fucking shit over a black Santa Claus or a black Jedi or boycott Rogue One because WHO FUCKING KNOWS THESE PEOPLE ARE FUCKING NUTS?...
I left the GOP because of their identity politics. I couldn’t sleep at night being aligned with warmongerers, homophobes, christianists, climate deniers, flat earthers, racists, xenophobes, and every garden variety bigot under the sun. The Republicans are the real party of identity politics- it’s all about stroking the few, the white, the privileged, and that’s all they have. They don’t actually have policy proposals or ideas, unless “Fuck ’em let them starve,” “Fuck ’em they don’t need health care,” “Fuck it, let’s bomb them,” “Fuck it, let’s put them in jail,” “Fuck it, the bible says so,” or “Fuck it, let’s burn it all down” count as policies and ideas...

I know where Cole's coming from: I'm also a former Republican driven away by the Culture War madness and their obsession with a tax-and-slash agenda that's been proven twice to be bad ideas (as though the third time or the thirtieth would be the charm).

Each one of those three voices are expressing the reality of the horror Trump and his fellow Republicans are going to inflict on the rest of us. All because of a rigged game and a broken electoral system. And none of this is going to get fixed until the entire thing collapses, ironically because these Republican policies are self-destructive and doomed to fail.

We can see this train wreck acomin' and nobody's going to be able to do anything about it until it's too late. And by then the body count of the innocent will be terrible to behold...

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Fox Not-News War On Saturnalia Accelerates

These goddamn buzzards won't be satisfied until they wipe out every Latin Studies program in the United States.

Just see here about Trump acolyte Corey Lewandowski eagerly claiming that "Merry Christmas" is allowable again. It's maddening.

Even when there's solid evidence that millions of Americans have been saying "Merry Christmas" between 2009 to 2016 with no problem at all!

Meanwhile, I can't even get Hallmark Cards to issue a Saturnalia card for the season. THE FOOLS.

This is what I'm up against.


Thursday, December 01, 2016

This Is What Happens When Nobody Is Accountable to Facts Anymore

(Update: Good Lord, someone needs to give me a heads up when Crooks and Liars links me to the Mike's Blog Round-Up! I COULD HAVE BAKED A CAKE, but NOOoooooo, now it's too late. Sigh. Anyways, welcome back everybody, and please for the Love of the Roman God Saturn stay safe in this Season of the Trumpshirt)

There is now convincing evidence that the plurality that voted for Donald Trump are idiots gleefully enjoying the lies they tell themselves.

Or to quote Driftglass:

But the thing is, the meatheads never Google it do they?  They're never more than four or five mouse-clicks away from the facts that would put paid to their paranoid little lies, and instead -- over and over again, year after year after year -- they choose to pay people in suits to fill their empty heads with the lies that make them happy and shriek and bellow whenever anyone tried to pry them out of their toxic stupor.

Mark Twain wrote about lies once, in a perfect gem of an essay/speech he wrote called On the Decay of the Art of Lying. He noted a few things such as the fact that lies are unavoidable, they will always exist and there are few who do not practice its art. What Twain lamented was the loss of distinction between the artful lie - the gentle, convincing lie used to promote a positive gain - and the destructive or harmful lie, and that we ought to be more judicious when we do lie:

Lying is universal - we all do it. Therefore, the wise thing is for us diligently to train ourselves to lie thoughtfully, judiciously; to lie with a good object, and not an evil one; to lie for others' advantage, and not our own; to lie healingly, charitably, humanely, not cruelly, hurtfully, maliciously; to lie gracefully and graciously, not awkwardly and clumsily; to lie firmly, frankly, squarely, with head erect, not haltingly, tortuously, with pusillanimous mien, as being ashamed of our high calling...

What I lament is the overall pass our media elite give themselves and to the Republicans as a whole but to Trump in particular when it comes to lying. I lament the fact that lies dominate our political discourse to where we can't convince each other of the honest-to-God facts anymore.

We now live in the Age of the Injurious Lie, in the era of a fabricated reality where nothing is believable except your own distorted bias.

Welcome to hell.