The Democrats’ Huge Responsibility

The Democratic Party has a huge responsibility. It is must nominate a person to save the United States from a drift toward autocracy and oligarchy as well as saving the world from disintegration into more aggressive and disputatious tribes. Oh, and by the way, the nominee also has to win, to administer the government of the US and to establish some reasonable policies around oh, so many things.

That the Trump administration thumbs its nose at the rule of law and at congressional oversight is no revelation. Nor is its appointment of incompetent sycophants in key positions (23 year old director of personnel anyone? How about a Director of National Intelligence lacking the intelligence experience mandated by law?) Not even its constant “exaggeration” of the truth and reflexive lying. One area that may not be as obvious is the harm to national security. Many people of both parties have tired of our frequent misguided international adventures. However, the solution is to reduce the need for adventures by helping to manage chaotic and increasingly complex international relationships, not to withdraw and pretend everything is ok as long as we win each individual transaction.

We are almost certainly at higher risk now than three years ago. There is no evidence that North Korea has slowed down its nuclear program. Iran has been given a green light to proceed with theirs, Turkey is becoming a very unreliable member of NATO. NATO has been threatened by Trump if they don’t pay up or pay us for our support. Russia now holds greater power in the middle east. China is not being challenged in the South China Sea. Military experience is ignored in matters of military discipline and law. Military budget is diverted for non-military for pet projects. Ambassadorships are unfilled. The State Department and several others have been trashed. The list goes on and on.

The main concern raised by this list is that collectively it shows a disregard for the value of foreign partnerships and alliances. A bunch of bilateral transactions cannot be as strong as a few multi-lateral, multi-national agreements that serve common interests rather than only our own. The Trump administration cannot see the value in that and assume that if each individual event is in our favor, then the whole game must be a victory. The next president must begin to reestablish the credibility of the US in foreign policy. That, in turn requires rebuilding the State Department and repopulating ambassadorships and many mid- and lower level positions within State.

There is growing division within the country and it is lead by the president. We see the politicization of everything, much of it emanating from the White House. That is not to say that Democrats are above politics, just that they are not as good at it! Which is another reason they have to win! It is essential that we return to fixing problems and establishing policies that work for people rather than policies that just have good, outrage-generating political sound bites.

However, the threat I am most worried about is to American values both in the short and long term. Conservatives complained that Obama’s administration was a threat to American values too. So let me make clear I’m not talking about pro-choice/pro-life, pro or con gun rights, big government vs small government, deficit management – oh, wait, that one is not on anyone’s list any more. The thrust toward autocratic processes, court manipulation and total opaqueness in government dealings sounds and looks remarkably like the move toward a police state. I don’t see this as a short term issue but one that could be firmly entrenched wth another five years of Trumpism.

This is a threat not only to the United States but to the world. And not just the so-called “free world”. The US has had its hands in many sordid international adventures that raise doubt about our values and the president has in fact said we’re no different from anyone else (“We’re no angels”). The saving grace of the Shining City on the Hill or American Exceptionalism has always been the existence and pursuit of values denoted in our “sacred documents” – the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Federalist papers and others over the years that lay out the goals of a government that derives its authority from the people. It allows for mistakes as long as we try to return to the path forward.

This administration is not trying. In fact it seems completely happy to erase the bread crumb trail so we won’t be able to find out way back. This is not only an issue of the Trump administration but seemingly across the globe in countries that once seemed destined for the rule of law by consent of the governed – Turkey, Hungary, the Philippines to name a few. As alliances crumble, there is no longer leadership to help resolve disputes. Trade disagreements and disputes over sovereignty reign. That’s why the UK is leaving the EU.

The next president must take on all of these challenges while working with the Republicans on budgets, health care immigration, housing and more. You – Democratic Party primary voters – must nominate someone who can replace the current president and begin to build new coalitions and ideas that will unite us. Barring that, we may as well begin mandatory Chinese language and culture lessons in Kindergarten because China will soon be in charge of a disintegrated America.

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Supreme Court Decides Justice Not in Their Purview

I wrote down my predictions for some of the court’s upcoming decisions a few days ago. I was, unfortunately, correct on gerrymandering. The issue of whether to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census is not finally resolved – just suspended for the time being.

The Court fooled me just a little on gerrymandering. I thought their reasoning would be that coming up with a test is too complicated. They didn’t. They said, in effect, that a the party in the majority during a census has the right to discriminate against minority parties to any extent they want for the next ten years. While stating that partisan gerrymandering is reprehensible and unjust, they said it is not their job to fix it. It is political, not judicial.  Huh?

How is it not the job of the Supreme Court to ensure that basic constitutional rights such as the right to representation are not in their scope? How is one person – one vote no longer important?

How is the right of an individual state to discriminate against a party so that they are intentionally underrepresented in the House of Representatives of the United States not a Supreme Court interest?  The effects of those gerrymanders go well beyond the borders of the offending state. 

The court is supposed to interpret and enforce the constitution. The framers foresaw a representative democracy established as a republic with many interests competing. The competition of interests is an important feature. It is the means of managing power and preventing overwhelming power from accruing to any one group. SCOTUS just said that cheating in the state vote to achieve more power than proper representation should allow is not something they can deal with.  This blatant distortion of representation is “political” and not “judicial”.  

They also said that racial gerrymandering is not acceptable because the constitution outlaws racial discrimination. Then, in the next breath, they say that political gerrymandering is ok. But political gerrymandering has much the same effect as racial gerrymandering. The case being adjudicated works mostly against Democratic minority voters because they have a higher proportion of black and Latino voters. It still has a racial effect then, doesn’t it?

The impact of course is not limited to the people’s selection of their own representatives.  The major effect is on the House of Representatives.  That’s why so much money from outside the state flows in to contested House races.  The same people draw districting maps for state elections and can therefore control which voters have a say in future elections within the state.  Because they concentrate voters of each party  in specific districts, they also create districts in which partisans have more power and can continue to select less moderate people for their primaries. Now Senators are involved as well as Representatives.  You see how that evolves into our current extreme and partisan Congress. 

I am very disappointed in the court. They were the closest thing to a functioning branch of government we had.

 

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The Free Market in Healthcare – Another Fantasy

This is a departure from my normal political topics. In the past few days I have described why the free market does not work with the healthcare system in the United States at least two times. Because both were sort of ad hoc, I decided to write one that is a little more complete. Neither of my readers will mind a change in subject and I get to review interesting stuff.

This article is based on classical economic theory. The Austrian school of economics will argue that some of the assumptions below, notably perfect knowledge, are not valid. The Heritage Foundation has published a refutation of the original argument at http://www.heritage.org/health-care-reform/report/compelling-evidence-makes-the-case-market-driven-health-care-system. I’ll come back to these later. Note that I am not a practicing economist so there will be valid disagreements with some of the items below. However, taken as a whole and observing the healthcare market, I believe the argument to be valid.  Continue reading

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A Theory of Everything Trump

Pundits often attempt to explain the president’s actions and motivations.  I catalogued many Trump actions, tweets and comments in a framework based on my characterization of him.  Almost everything he does can be explained if viewed through this framework.  Simply, the framework describes the president as a

  • thin-skinned,
  • narcissistic,
  • bully,
  • whose only goal is his personal brand management.

Continue reading

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Real News

Let’s be clear. I still think the Donald is a thin-skinned, narcissistic bully whose only goal is self-promotion.

Nonetheless, CNN and other media outlets must de-escalate the Russia story and find more time for other news. There are two reasons for this. First, there is other important news. Second, roughly one-third of the country doesn’t care. If you want to maintain (or reestablish) a reputation for fair coverage, you can’t spend all your on-air time talking about something a third of your potential viewers think is unimportant and won’t be interested in unless something much more definitive comes to light. It looks more like harassment than news coverage to a lot of people and is divisive. Don’t stop reporting on new facts related to Russian election-meddling, possible collusion and hacking. Just don’t spend all day and all night covering the same issues. Continue reading

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Republicans:  Say What You Mean on Health Care

The Republicans should stop messing around with health care bills, state their goal clearly and get on with it.  They could have a vote and be on to the next subject in a week.

The problem they are having is that they keep trying to create a bill that both takes all the money away, strips the government’s involvement (individual mandates, essential benefits, etc.), gives individuals more control and options and simultaneously continues to provide some acceptable level of care to 20 million people more or less.  This is the eat-nothing-and-lose-five-pounds-of-fat-while-gaining-ten-pounds-of-ripped-muscle-without-excercise-in-one-week diet.

What they need to do is state the obvious:   Continue reading

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No Harm, No Foul

Kelly Anne Conway and Donald Trump Jr have both used the “no harm, no foul” excuse in relation to the recently disclosed meeting between Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort with a Russian attorney.  Because the Russian attorney failed to deliver derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, as Trump apparently had expected, they say “nothing to see here, move along”.  No harm, no foul.

I’m not sure that applies to politics.   Continue reading

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