Monday, June 26, 2017

Dead on Arrival

From the Times reportage:

You see that second red step from 2017 to 2018 shooting up from 28 million to about 41?

Does the Republican Party really want to go into the 2018 election with 10 or 11 million people in their 50s and 60s who have just been tossed out of Medicaid or priced out of marketplace policies (older folks getting charged five times what the younger ones pay and the subsidies at the upper end of the scale being reduced) because Donald J. Trump wants to feel like a winner? And stories of people coming into the doctor's office with kidney disease and diabetes and stage IV cancer being told they can get get insurance but it won't kick in for another six months?

As a liberal, I can't of course hope it happens, because we're so wimpy we don't even want to win if it takes tens of thousands of human lives, but I'd certainly enjoy watching that movie.

Anyway I'm more certain than ever it's not going to happen. I don't know what the hell they're going to do, they've put themselves in an awful box with their "repeal and replace" ritual chanting, but this bill is already as dead as Generalísimo Franco.

Eid Mubarak

No pictures to be found of Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, but the Thomas Jefferson Foundation offers these alternative Barbary States officials, in a 19th-century engraving.

Eid Mubarak from President Donald Trump, who has decided to celebrate by not holding the traditional White House iftar celebration, for the first time since 1996. I don't think this necessarily means he's anti-Muslim in particular. After all, he refused to attend the White House Passover seder, a tradition since 2009, though it did take place. His Jewish daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren didn't go either, but apparently had their own private feast.

As Dinesh D'Souza pointed out, moreover,

So perhaps he is hostile to religion in general. He doesn't go to church much either (twice since the inauguration) and he doesn't look hella comfortable when he's there (see below).

A curious thing about the Ramadan iftar, though, is about the first White House iftar, in 1805, when President Jefferson had a dinner during Ramadan for Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, envoy of the Beylik of Tunis, and scheduled it for sunset instead of the normal 3:30 so that the ambassador would be able to eat. The State Department had a posting about this, according to the Houston Chronicle
A state department website posted about the first White House iftar, held by President Thomas Jefferson in 1805
and Wikipedia, but it seems to have been scrubbed, and yesterday the President's friends at Breitbart put up an angry denial that any such thing ever happened—it's FAKE NEWS!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

For the record: Democrats' fault, because they refuse to use magic

Orchestra conductors, of course, use all the Unforgivable curses. Via Emily Asher-Perrin.

For the record: Senator Hatch's abandoned and malignant heart

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Annals of Derp: The Map of Doom

the map

According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 47 counties in 4 states could have no online marketplace insurance provider in 2018—the red ones here. The 47 counties are underpopulated farm country, and currently have a total of 35,000 active Exchange enrollees, out of a nationwide total of some 9.2 million Exchange enrollees, or 0.038%. And 320 million or so total health insurance purchasers in the United States.

According to Republicans, this shows that the Affordable Care Act is "imploding", or in a "death spiral". To save those 35,000 folks from Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Washington from going without health insurance, they tell us, we need to adopt a new law that will take health insurance away from 23 million or so (mostly Medicaid patients, of course, but something close to 9 million from other places, very much including the exchanges) over the next ten years.

Not an expression I often use, but "Let that sink in."

Friday, June 23, 2017

Alien Scorn

"Remember Uncle August, the Unhappy Inventor", by Georg Grosz, 1919. Via this Michael Lewis article.

Bret Stephens betrays an interesting facet of his own urbane fascism ("Democrats and the Losing Politics of Contempt"):

Democrats may think the brand is all about diversity, inclusion and fairness. But for millions of Americans, the brand is also about contempt — intellectual contempt of the kind Nimzowitsch exuded for his opponent (the grandmaster Fritz Sämisch, who, in fairness, was no slouch); moral contempt of the sort Hillary Clinton felt for Trump (never more evident than last year when Hillary Clinton wondered, “Why aren’t I fifty points ahead?”).
I really misread this on first glance as accusing Clinton of contempt for voters, which would of course be dead wrong: a classic liberal, Clinton was assuming ordinary folk are possessed of some common wisdom. The majority may not have time to devote to the arcana of policy, but they surely have enough American goodness and plain sense not to vote for an obviously deeply ignorant and psychopathic clown for the highest office in the land. (I actually continue to believe this, as I imagine she may too, in spite of the November results, in my case because I always count the nonvoters; they were wrong in my view, whether too susceptible to the propaganda or just too cynical, but not contemptible. Those abased enough to vote for Trump, on the other hand, make up just a quarter or so of the electorate, and I do allow myself to feel a certain contempt for them.)

But on second reading I see Stephens isn't talking about that at all; he's on her disrespect for that same ignorant and psychopathic clown.

That's the Bret Stephens who wrote, in 2015,

Vapid but haunting

Gloria Swanson sadly strums the ukulele in Cecil B. De Mille's Don't Change Your Husband (1919). From Fritzi.
Two score and thirteen years ago, the social critic Paul Goodman brought forth a book titled Compulsory Miseducation, in which he argued that school was an overrated way of dealing with childhood and there was too much of it for most kids, especially in the horrible, oppressive and embarrassing, petit-bourgeois moral code within which it was conducted in those days. It was pretty thrilling at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but to be honest the whole treatment seems a little callow nowadays, in its willful ignoring of the economic realities that meant the kind of education he had in mind could be very attractive to some among the very privileged, but look like an insult to everybody else. Indeed, what's developed is a two-tier system where the wealthy have the option of a creative, flexible education and the periodic dropout period, while the non-wealthy must apply themselves to the grimmest old-style grind.

Unless you're former New York Times columnist David Brooks, who offers his own critique of contemporary schooling in a column he calls "Mis-Educating the Young" (first time that hyphen has been used in The Times, as far as I can learn, since 1933, demonstrating once again that David Brooks has no editor). To him it's the very privileged who have gotten the worst deal:

We pump them full of vapid but haunting praise about how talented they are and how their future is limitless. Then we send them (the most privileged of them) to colleges where the professors teach about what interests the professors. Then we preach a gospel of autonomy that says all the answers to the deeper questions in life are found by getting in touch with your “true self,” whatever the heck that is.
"Vapid but haunting" sounds like a self-description. I have no idea what kind of school he's talking about, let alone whether it exists, except it's clear that the future really is limitless for "the most privileged among them" who are being given an opportunity to study with intellectuals who get to do what they love instead of being shoehorned into rote teaching with PowerPoints, the kind of meaningless repetition that everybody else will have to make a career of. So that one day, even when you're a millionaire opinionator for the world's most important newspaper and writing that stupid educate-the-spirit column for the 20th time, you'll probably feel really sad. It's all the fault of your high school.

I think it's telling that he's baffled by the concept of a "true self". Brooks doesn't have one, or the one he has is vapid and ghostly, looming in the peripheral vision but too faint and shuddery to grasp. He wants an education that will give him a soul, and get him at last out of the psychic uncertainties of 8th grade:

I’d say colleges have to do much more to put certain questions on the table, to help students grapple with the coming decade of uncertainty: What does it mean to be an adult today? What are seven or 10 ways people have found purpose in life? How big should I dream or how realistic should I be? What are the criteria we should think about before shacking up? What is the cure for sadness? What do I want and what is truly worth wanting?
Please, teacher, I have a couple of questions! Give me some techniques for finding a purpose in life! Give me a pre–shacking up checklist! (Let's see, "Kids, before shacking up, ask yourself how much do I have culturally in common with my potential partner? Is she 25 years younger than me?") What is the cure for sadness? What do I want?

(The spelled-out vs. numeral "seven or 10" is, in fact, Times house style, suggesting that maybe there is an editor, but one who only enforces the paper's bad decisions.)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How Not To Do It

At center, Lord Tite Barnacle of the Office of Circumlocution, from Little Dorrit, via Better Living Through Beowulf.
Credit where credit is due—this is what the kool kidz refer to as a smart take from Jennifer Steinhauer at The Times, suggesting that Senator McConnell's heart won't be broken if the Senate's version of the tax cut health care bill fails and he could even be planning it that way:
In his 2016 memoir, “The Long Game,” he noted that, as minority leader, he went out of his way to make sure that one party owned the health care issue. “I wanted a clear line of demarcation — they were for this, and we were against it,” he said. Perhaps he is not excited to let that one party now be his own.
Another thing is that everybody knows how cunning and ruthless McConnell is, and they keep talking about how he hates to bring up a bill if he's not sure he's going to win it as if winning a vote were the only thing he could possibly care about, but if you look at his history as leader of the Republican caucus, since 2007 some time, you can see he's really not that anxious to make his case for immortality by passing a load of bills. He doesn't have a lot of surface vanity, and he's a true conservative, and he devoted a lot of energy through the Obama administration to not passing bills, ever, no matter how much Jon Stewart laughed and did his sleepy-turtle voice, because he is radically opposed to any change (other than relaxing life for the very wealthy through the reactionary changes of tax cuts and deregulation, obviously), and he's been following the same pattern through the Trump administration so far.

McConnell is a black-belt master of what that great political scientist Charles Dickens referred to as the whole science of government, the secrets of HOW NOT TO DO IT. I'm sure he doesn't love the Affordable Care Act at all, but he'll choose a method of killing it that won't get his fingerprints on it, or those of the Republican Senators running for reelection in 2018 and 2020, if he can help it.

Obviously I'm saying this to some extent because I've been saying for a while that the Senate's not going to do it, whatever McConnell says, and I like being right, but it would explain a lot—why the bill is so shoddy, why there are no hearings or normal committee markups, why the scheduling is so squeezed: not because he wants to make it a law while nobody's watching, fat chance, and this is a dreadful bill whose consequences would be remembered for a very long time if it were ever implemented, but because he wants people to forgot how it failed as quickly as possible.

Third person indefinite plural imperative counterfactual

Judith with the head of Holofernes, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1530, via DailyArtDaily.
Classic Friedman open ("Where Did 'We the People' Go?"):

A few days ago I was at a conference in Montreal, and a Canadian gentleman, trying to grasp what’s happening to America, asked me a simple question: “What do you fear most these days?”
I paused for a second, like a spectator waiting to see what would come out of my own mouth.
Like, thanks for asking, Canadian gentleman! Nobody knows what's under the mustache, not even the mustache himself!

Georgia off my mind

Margot and Phoebe Gerster of Chappaqua with Hillary Clinton, via Paris Match, 11/11/16.

No, I don't want to talk about Jon Ossoff and GA-06. You?

I'll say I agree with BooMan, as you knew I would, that as far as Democrats are concerned the news we need to hear is that the vote was close, as it was, could have been closer, but the general difference between that 4- or 5-point margin and the 20-odd points by which evil fascist and hater of sick people Tom Price won a few months ago is what is significant in the larger scheme of things (a commenter at The Times suggested the vote—on touchscreen machines with no paper trail—could be less well counted than we might prefer too). Also I'd be glad if Ossoff had said he'd support higher income and capital gains taxes for bloodsuckers, which would make him a better congressman if he had won and which I imagine would show the Nomenklatura, if there is one, that raising taxes on the rich isn't a controversial issue, because Ossoff would have gotten the same vote either way, and I don't see how the whole exercise was worth $25 million in mostly small donations from anxious Democrats all over the country looking for a sign.

Did Nancy Pelosi tell Ossoff to make the Grover Norquist pledge, by the way? What exactly is she alleged to have done to cause Democrats to lose the race, as if wealthy white Cobb County GA was ours to lose?

This weird singling out of Pelosi—certainly the best Speaker of the House in at least 30 years (since Thomas P. O'Neil bowed out), and I'd say more than that, though Newton Leroy Gingrich was pretty skillful until he flamed out—by the way, reminds me of some kind of pattern, where there's this person the right wing uses to symbolize everything that is evil in progressive thinking, and the self-denominated progressive movement jumps on that same person as the embodiment of wicked compromise, and the person in question happens to be a woman—have I seen that pattern before somewhere, maybe very recently indeed?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Six jungles deep in the weeds: Brooks gets into The Normalizing

Still from Tom Huckabee, Carried Away (2009) via.
Shorter David Brooks, "Let's Not Get Carried Away", New York Times, June 20 2017:
Back in the day when I was editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal for several months in 1994-95 was the height of the Whitewater scandal, and as the Journal ran numerous "investigative pieces" about the awful things Bill and Hillary Clinton were supposed to have done back in Dogpatch, I found that I couldn't understand anything about what was actually being alleged, like what was this story anyway? Fortunately at WSJ the editorial page editor isn't required to understand any of the pieces he signs off on, in fact not understanding them can be an advantage, which is how Paul Gigot has managed to hold on to the job for 16 years. But anyway it turned out in the end that the Clintons hadn't done anything wrong at all, which nobody could have predicted! So since I also can't understand any of the things they're saying about Trump and collusion with Russian attempts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, it's pretty obvious Trump hasn't done anything wrong either. People should focus instead on the perfectly legal ways in which he is unfit for the presidency.
In fact,
at least so far, the Whitewater scandal was far more substantive than the Russia-collusion scandal now gripping Washington.
In what respect, David? What did you find "substantive" about it?

Monday, June 19, 2017

President Trumplin is Watching the Tube

"Old Man Watching TV". Bronze by Richard Matzkin, via Reiné Gadellaa.

Poem below the fold: