Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bernie's Brown Shirts


I've tried hard to like Bernie, and to be open minded about his ideas. Some of them, to put it plainly, are not only unrealistic but so fraught with unintended consequences as to qualify as dangerous if not outright stupid. Listening to Bernie's passionate polemics has even led me to change my position on single payer health insurance, although not in the way that Bernie would have hoped for. An incremental approach, beginning with a public option, would satisfy my goals.

Even as a Hillary supporter, I'd been willing to tolerate his eagerness to dig yet further into my pockets, his outrageous demonization of the nations' entire financial sector, and his dismissal of Democrats of color who just don't seem interested in his agenda.

But he is losing, and losing badly. He's been losing badly since Super Tuesday. Now, the man who so passionately laments the dearth of democracy in our political system employs every specious argument the can find support his continued presence in the race. The fact that Hillary has garnered 3 million more votes from those pesky Black Democrats, doesn't seem to matter. He and his supporters are not going to get their way. Their answer? Online harassment of those who disagree with them, viciousness toward their opponents, gleeful misogyny, and death threats. Sanders response? Lots of excuses but no willingness to accept responsibility. Sounds like the favorite tactics of another presidential candidate we have already heard from way too much.

No doubt most Sanders voters are genuine, passionate, well meaning supporters of the causes he espouses, who understand that democracy only works when the losers accept the will of the majority in exchange for basic protections of their rights. But there is a sinister faction among his supporters who have no interest in such niceties. They want their way. They don't care what anyone else wants, and they don't really care how they get it. Sanders in turn hasn't don't nearly enough to disavow their attitude and tactics. That's an ideology, that has way more too much in common with the wrong kind of  socialism.



If you’ve ever thought about terrorism in your life we can kill you in a drone strike.


More from  Jeremy Scahill’s talk at the Commonwealth Club.

This from around minute 44:30 of the podcast

Obama has before compared the drone program to dealing with the sniper on a roof of the building who was pointing the rifle at children on a  playground. And he says, 'you know, I understand what the ACLU’s objections are, and human rights people and stuff. But do we need to go to a judge to get authorization to take that shooter down before he kills a bunch of kids on a playground. No, we don’t.' And I think, I would imagine that everyone in this room agrees with that. If you have someone who's going to kill a bunch of kids and they’re a sniper, and they are not responding to any kind of attempts to put the rifle down. People probably in this society overwhelmingly would say, Yes, if we need to kill that person, we’ll kill them.
The problem is that it’s a fake analogy. They have never provided a shred of evidence that a single person they have killed with a drone strike represented an imminent threat to US persons or the security of United States. They have never given a shred of evidence to suggest that they killed someone en route to putting a bomb on a plane. Now if, I guarantee you,  because this White House leaks like crazy, if they had that evidence they would put it out there.
And that’s fine. If their standard was just, We’re killing people that we think maybe in the future might in certain circumstances try to encourage others to commit acts of terrorism. If that was the policy, OK that’s what they’re doing. But that’s not what they say the policy is. They say the policy is we are targeting people who represent an imminent, imminent is their word, threat to US interests, US persons, and US facilities around the world.
If that’s the standard you have to ask what’s the definition of the word imminent. There was a white paper that the Justice Department leaked in advance of John Brennan’s nomination, or confirmation hearing to be CIA Director, that had a definition of the word imminent that not even the most barely literate English speaker would  recognize as the definition of imminent. It basically was like if you’ve ever thought about terrorism in your life we can kill you in a drone strike.

Earlier in the talk he discusses the Terror Watch List. It's an opaque process on how someone gets on, or off the Terror Watch List. Scahill says there are a million people on the list and 20,000 are US citizens.

The Dems in CT are up in arms about people on the Terror Watch List buying guns. I think they are focusing on the wrong issue. The real issue is how people get on the Terror Watch List. What judicial process is used to determine someone should be watched as if he were a terrorist?

So now we should worry about the Trump Kill List AND the Trump Terror Watch List. And electing Hilary doesn't change the fear I have about our Government's increasing infringement of our civil liberties.


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ain't No Such Thing as a Democratic Cruise Missile and a Republican Cruise Missile


As you know I strongly oppose this and the previous administration's use of drones in targeted killings, or in plain language, assassinations.

Jeremy Scahill was at The Commonwealth Club talking about his book, “The Assassination Complex.” Scahill talks about the drone program, started under Bush, expanded under Obama. He mentions all of the candidates for President support the program. Including Bernie Sanders, who was asked directly if he supported President’s Obama’s Kill List. Bernie said yes.

The whole podcast is worth a listen, but especially this, starting around minute 38.

He has spent his credibility dollars to normalize assassination as a central component of American foreign-policy and has managed to codify as the law of the land policies that Dick Cheney would've never been able to enact, and anything even vaguely resembling a legal way.  And that’s, that's the raw deal here. That is the unvarnished truth about what happened under Obama. He made it possible for the phrase “President Trump's Kill List” to be uttered in this country. That is a possibility. And I wonder how many liberals who said, “Oh, I trust Obama with the kill list. I’m fine with drone strikes. Oh an American citizen being killed? Yea, you can drop me a percentage point on that support.” That was a real thing that was happening at the height of the drone wars.  Liberals, MSNBC viewers, loved the drone strikes. How many of those people, if polled, on just, “What do you think about the phrase, ‘President Trump's Kill List’” would say,  “Great. Love it.” I don't think a lot of them would. And I don’t think Bernie Sanders would either. But he wasn’t asked about a President Trump Kill List. He was asked about a President Obama Kill List.  As though there's a such thing as a Democratic cruise missile and a Republican cruise missile. There ain’t.

Why Health Care in America Really Costs So Much


It has nothing to do with the system; private, public, Medicare, Obamacare, Aetna, Athem, or cold hard cash, it all comes out the same. That's because of who gets paid and how much they make.

From that august medical journal. the New York Times:

If you look around the world, lots of countries have single-payer systems. And all of them pay substantially less for health care than we do in the United States.... So how could a single-payer system here still be so expensive?“

The big thing is that providers here make quite a bit more money than they do anywhere else, and in order to get in the ballpark of where these other countries are, you’d have to reduce payment rates to physicians to much, much lower levels...” “...That’s just hard to do.”

....the United States pays substantially higher prices for doctors, hospital stays and prescription drugs than the rest of the group. Medicare pays less than the United States average, but not enough less to make up that difference.

The average salary for my specialty? $350,000. The approximate number of cardiologists in the greater metropolitan area in which I live? More than 100. The approximate number for a similar population in the UK, where the average cardiologist makes 280,000? Twenty.

So before the Bernie bros get too excited about a single payer system, they had better reckon with the realities of a profession that;s had it very good for a very long time, and that isn't likely to give up that privilege without a ferocious fight.


Friday, May 13, 2016

A Post-Fact World.


Great article on Venezuela in The Atlantic. This part struck me:
A case in point is the price controls, which have expanded to apply to more and more goods: food and vital medicines, yes, but also car batteries, essential medical services, deodorant, diapers, and, of course, toilet paper. The ostensible goal was to check inflation and keep goods affordable for the poor, but anyone with a basic grasp of economics could have foreseen the consequences: When prices are set below production costs, sellers can’t afford to keep the shelves stocked. Official prices are low, but it’s a mirage: The products have disappeared.

Of course, price controls don't work for others things as well, like the ACA and minimum wage, but whatever, we live in a post fact world.


Cheer Up It Could Worse Part 2


Or Illinois


Cheer Up, It Could Be Worse


We could live in France