Bill Clinton and the Harsh Difference between Politics and Policy

The Secretary of Explaining Things gave up. Instead of explaining why the policy is good and should stand and why the carping about “if you like your policy you can keep it” is just the usual political bullshit dressed up in the disguise of moral superiority, the former President went all 1990s style politics and triangulation on the ACA.

The GOP has a bone in their maw that is the POTUS’ inexact rhetoric and we know they will not let go. Hell, some of them are still trying to push Benghazi, a tragedy that they tried to turn into a scandal with absolutely no evidence of anything improper to point to. If anybody knows what kind of intellectual dishonesty the Republican party is capable of to attempt to gain political advantage, Bill Clinton should have a belly full of that first hand knowledge. The question for Democrats and the WH is do you stick with the policy, which will work and will work out better in the long run for the individuals who are being used now as pawns in the GOP’s anti-Obamacare game, OR go politics and try to do an end run around their single-minded cynical usage of an opportunity by using patented Clintonian triangulation mind-fu. Clinton chose classic Clinton.

I heard a caller on the radio this morning say to the effect that if anybody suffers from a policy change, then that’s a bad law. The problems with that are pretty obvious, no? There’s never been a policy promulgated by a government or agency that was absolutely a win for everyone, there’s always someone hurt by the policy. The goal isn’t perfection for all it’s THE GREATER GOOD. Helping the most people to the greatest extent possible with the fewest people negatively effected as possible. Nobody, or at least no adult, can possibly reasonably believe that no eggs get cracked in the making of an omelette.

But it seems to me that this is exactly the childish mindset that the GOP is trying to exploit. Never mind those helped, what about those hurt? And, of course, it fits their modus operandi of victimhood and high dudgeon on behalf of the questionably aggrieved. The rhetoric of “if you like your policy you can keep it” is the leverage, with a hint of truth to the accusation that it was a promise not kept, that they’re using as a fulcrum to lift the heavy weight of disingenuously decrying the rollout, the law and the presidency of Barack Obama.

In time the weight of those helped will way overwhelm those who may have to pay some more for similar (or better) coverage whose policies may well have been cancelled by their insurance provider with or without the ACA (are we holding the President to a promise that you could keep your insurance – even if the insurance company cancels it on you?). But right now it’s too easy for the people who have lied through their teeth for 3 years to make Democrats who supported the ACA squirm by the simplistic intonation that the President misled with his statements.

Completely defensible but complex Policy trumped by simple-minded politics once again.

Tuesday Wigouts

Is this my wigout or is it the media’s wigout? So much talk about 2016, Christie, Clinton and bears oh my! IT’S TOO EARLY! I would be in favor of an abridgment of the 1st amendment that made it illegal to talk about 2016 before 2014. In fact, executions would be okay with me. I guess it’s my wigout.

This article by Noam Scheiber speculating that Liz Warren could run in 2016 to push Clinton from the left gave Chris Matthews a tingle up his leg yesterday, but others have covered as well and jump to the wrong conclusions. A run to push Hillary leftward would be fine. If you want to start cat fight stories about Hillary and Liz you can go to hell. Warren signed a letter urging Hillary to run. The odds of Warren running at all, for any reason, are likely tiny. ALL SPEC-U-LATION.

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Richard Cohen is one of those craptacular opinion columnists that exemplify everything that’s wrong with the Beltway. His new name should be WTF, Richard Cohen?

  1. He writes for the Washington Post which elevates his every utterance way higher than it ought to be.
  2. He is considered a liberal voice which is so cringeworthy it’s painful. He’s not liberal, he’s not really even moderate. He’s just stupid and about 20 years past his expiration date.

No. 2 is exemplified by this incredibly sad passage from his column today:

Today’s GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde. People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn’t look like their country at all. (emphasis added)

Firstly, if you say today’s GOP is not racist, we can stop reading there, you’re an idiot. Secondly, a biracial couple makes “conventional people” “repress a gag reflex”? I think that makes them racist Richard.

Cohen’s editor says he should have edited that sentence “more carefully”. The WaPo’s publisher called the column “brilliant”.

The Washington Post is clearly the greatest problem here.

11/12/13

It’s ultimately meaningless, but today is one of those eerie straight flush dates that would be cool to have as a birthday. They’re actually rare as they only come at the beginning of each century like all the three of a kind dates – 12/12/12, etc.

Next year on 12/13/14 will be the last cool date of the century. Think about it. (Unless you consider multiplier dates like 12/24/48 cool, I guess they are.)

Of course in Europe this straight flush stuff falls on different dates because they flip the day and date – 11/12/13 (or Dec. 11th) will be next month there. And they can’t have a 12/13/14 there so the New World wins!

Conservatives Deny Problem with $$ in Politics – Until They’re Outspent

Funny. Ken Cuccinelli and other conservonuts are claiming that his loss was due to being outspent so thoroughly by McAuliffe. These same people consistently pooh pooh campaign finance limits, tout the freedom of “money is speech” and consistently deny that money can buy elections. They still don’t want to do anything about it but they sure like to whine like they were victimized.

While he and his conservative supporters now lament that money cost them the victory they felt they deserved, they have long been the defenders of the system of campaign finance non-regulation in Virginia and nationally. 

McAuliffe, who raised $32 million, has said he’s for limits and the conservatives called him a hypocrite for that.  

They refuse to learn.

Monday Malingering – When Congress Was Effective

Was it that long ago? Back in the ’00s when the Democrats ran Congress and Nancy Pelosi was wielding the gavel, before the do-nothingest Congress of all time, Congress worked. Big meaningful legislation was enacted. Some would say it was often actually engaged in doing the people’s business rather than undoing previously enacted laws 40+ times and making double plus sure that no federal money is spent on abortion, still… since 1976. Hundreds of pieces of legislation were passed during the 2009-2010 session, many to die under filibuster in the Senate, but hundreds actually signed into law and making a positive difference in people’s lives! It’s horrifying to Republicans to think about, but it can be done.

Bloomberg examines one of the 383 bills passed by the 111th Congress (2009-2010) and signed by the President, the CARD Act. which has saved consumers billions in runaway credit card fees.  

Four researchers, including one from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, looked at 150 million credit card accounts. They estimate the CARD Act saved consumers $20.8 billion a year.

Seriously, it cannot be overstated that the Republican hatred for government and belief that it is the problem, leads to GOP representatives spending more time railing against existing laws and programs than creating new or fixing anything. Their answer to everything is to cut the funding or eliminate it entirely, except the military. How this is supposed to benefit Americans that need government to keep the lights on and fight for them is beyond my understanding. One might well ask why anybody who hates government even wants to be elected to run government – seems contradictory. But the simple answer is they want these government jobs (1) to gum up the works, and (2) to cash in on lucrative lobbying jobs in order to influence legislation. 

Make no mistake if we had all Republican government they’d be vastly more active in passing legislation, it would just be legislation to help their causes – more tax cuts for their pet industries and the super wealthy, ending abortion and women’s reproductive healthcare, creating more freedom for their favored churches, enabling gun manufacturers to sell more and more deadly products, etc. etc. etc. 

For the record:

110th Congress passed 460 bills

111th Congress passed 383 bills

112th Congress passed 219 bills (least productive on record)

113th Congress passed 46 bills so far 2013 (on path to being less productive than 112th Cong., not even counting the shut down, they might be the worst Congress of all time)

CBS screwed up letting Lara Logan plant a big wet kiss on the RWNJs’ collective asses

CBS has had to admit massive error behind the bogus Benghazi report that blew false life into the zombie issue, giving it another week to walk the Earth. Their sister company, Simon & Schuster, had to recall every copy of the book authored by the admitted liar that they put on the air to spread falsehoods. Digby has this excellent post citing Lara Logan’s public speeches that make obvious her opinions on foreign policy that clearly led her down the path to sell out any journalistic integrity she, or CBS, had. 

What isn’t acceptable is that her employers present her as a neutral observer, which she clearly is not. In fact, by her own admission, her bosses had to rein her in on that earlier story and remind her that she had an obligation to follow the evidence where it led. And yet they continued to show her as an unbiased journalist following the evidence in this Benghazi story even though she publicly made these very aggressive comments back in October of 2012.

Needless to say, the fact that she fell for such a clearly ridiculous hoax was due to her biases. She shows in that speech that she had already made up her mind about what happened. And 60 Minutes should have been professionally skeptical of her story because of that. Logan’s agenda blinded her to the fact that she was being played. 

The obvious parallel here is with the Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes II report about letters that indicated George W. Bush had gone AWOL from the Alabama Air National Guard – a story that had floated around Bush for years and has never been confirmed either way. Immediately the Bush apologists (many of whom today have no love for Bush, claiming that he failed conservatism) jumped on the report and tried to prove that the letters were forgeries. The really interesting part of this is they never did prove the letters weren’t legitimate. But that story was on page 25 while the accusations of forgery, inaccuracy and bias were leveled on page 1. So most people, if asked, will say they think those letters were proven forgeries (which still wouldn’t have exonerated Bush from the charge). Dan Rather and several producers were fired and their reputations ruined. The conservatives collected a bunch of scalps, and muddied the factual water, even though the report may very well have been accurate.

Dan Rather fell on the sword because the documents in question could not be authenticated.

Lara Logan went with testimony from someone who had been identified by previous investigations as a fabricator. They had to know that his reputation was not stellar, but they went ahead and put him and his fabricated story on air.

Apologies do not suffice given the precedent of what happened to Rather.

MSG is Poison and Umami is Awesome – Except They’re the Same Thing

Smithsonian has the fascinating story about how MSG was discovered and then demonized while the flavor profile it represents is the hottest thing in the culinary world. 

After gaining a foothold in Japanese cooking columns, MSG spread throughout Asia, becoming especially popular in Chinese cooking for enhancing both stocks and vegetarian dishes. Everyone knows this connection, and probably associates MSG use in America most heavily with Chinese restaurants–thanks in large part to the absurdly racist name for MSG sensitivity “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” But MSG’s foray into American cuisine came from more than Chinese dishes; MSG became popular in the United States during World War II thanks in large part to the country’s increasing military-industrial complex. The military thought that they had found in MSG an answer to the flavorless rations allotted to soldiers, and when the war ended, the troops came home and so did the industrialization of food production. From canned vegetables to frozen dinners, industrially created food was met with wonder in the United States.

But MSG is just a form of glutamate which creates the umami flavor. There’s no chemical difference whether you get the glutamate from MSG, seaweed derived dashi, mushrooms, whatever. 

I don’t doubt that people who have adverse symptoms from MSG have a real sensitivity to it, but if you have never had symptoms from consuming it, there’s apparently no reason not to enjoy it.

Gonna order my Chinese food with double MSG next time.

The Constant Conflict Between American Ideals and Reality – Rights

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” – The Declaration of Independence

The poetry of our ideals is always in conflict with the prose of governing.

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” – Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the United States Constitution

What people have admired about the American democratic experiment, since its audacious beginnings, is its empowering ideals of equality and democracy. A nation where all are equal and all have a voice. The people are trusted with freedom and entrusted with self-governing.

It was a fundamental rejection of the commonly accepted form of government, which was monarchy, and the right of a few to rule the many, as ordained by God (the divine right of kings). The American revolution was not a specific rejection of religion. It was a specific rejection of religiously based government tied to a church. 

I’m realistic enough to understand that this experiment will never be perfected. We’ll never be able to declare ourselves the perfect democracy with full equality and respect for human rights. Never. But we could be much further along than we are and, in fact, in some ways we’ve taken frustrating steps backwards over the last 35 years.

Our progress has been arrested by a religious takeover of one of the major political parties and a perversion of our American ideals.

Women and the LGBT community are not covered by the same constitutional rights that protect white, straight males. (Blacks were brought under the Constitution as full citizens by the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments and those protections are under attack today as well, just under different rationales.) The Equal Rights Amendment and Equal Employment Discrimination Act have been thwarted from adoption or passage, by self-styled conservative patriots who claim a greater understanding of the Constitution, contrary to ours. They deny equal rights based on their Christianist religious values that believe women are inferior to men and homosexuality is an abomination against God. It’s not worth arguing that their understanding of religion is wrong, I couldn’t care less about what they believe in their hearts and in their homes – so long as it stays there.

But it doesn’t. They try to impose their arch religious values on all Americans by electing like-minded ideologues who justify anti-American religious tests, prejudice and bigotry by claiming that religious freedom demands it! They have developed a laughably nonsensical counter narrative in which the Founding Fathers were intensely religious conservatives that denies reality, history and the actual words in the Constitution that they claim to revere. They claim the mantle of traditional American values when what they really do is deny the actual values and vision of the Founding Fathers. They impose an ahistorical belief system on the revolutionaries that signed our founding documents in order to justify the twisting of our real, traditional, American values into unrecognizable anti-American, anti-democratic, anti-Constitutional pretzel logic.

Some will say that this is just politics as usual, that there are two sides to these issues just as there are two sides to EVERY issue. Yes, there are two sides to human rights: right and wrong.

Dad Deemed Unfit Because he Said “No” to Fast Food

A father is suing the court-assigned psychologist who evaluated him as unfit in regards to a messy divorce and care for his five year old son. (Personal note: “messy” divorce seems to be the only kind we ever hear about. why is the media hiding the awesome, empowering divorces from us?) The psychologist found the father unfit because he returned the child home to his ex-wife without feeding the child because the little bastard refused anything other than a McDonalds Fatty Death Shoppes Crappy Meal™ (no judgments).

The father was on his court approved Tuesday night dinner date with his 5 year old son when the boy refused to eat anywhere but MickeyD’s Lipid Emporium.  Dad said “no” because he believed the kid had too much junk food lately because duh, America. His counteroffer in his risky negotiating session with a 5 year old was:  we can eat anywhere BUT McDonald’s Diabetes Kitchens. The 5 year old pitched a fit probably induced by withdrawal from fat, sugar and salt. Dad took the stubborn child back to his ex-wife’s apartment early, without dinner. 

Every parent has had this fight with their kid, sometimes multiple times a day. The only people allowed to judge such a monumental battle are the bystanders walking by you on the street as you become red faced while your kid lays on the ground and kicks his heels while screaming “I hate you I hate you I hate you I HATE YOU YOU’RE KILLING ME DADDY!”

We count on professionals, experts, especially in the fields of law and healthcare, to dispassionately examine situations fairly and make rational determinations. It’s vitally important in contentious divorces to have mediators and analysts be level headed and responsible. I find more and more it’s the fucking “experts” who screw us over and over. In this case the court-assigned psychologist  

told a judge the fast food flap “raises concerns about the viability” of the father’s weekend visits with his son and asked a judge to eliminate or limit them, [the father’s] lawsuit says.

So to this professional, making a decision to deny the child poison for this one meal is enough to end the father’s weekend visits and limit contact with his child. I wonder if anybody’s checked the psychologist’s 401(k) for McDonald’s Double Chin Fun House stock holdings.

I hope there’s more to this than what we’re told in attention grabbing articles like this because I want to believe that people aren’t this stupid and simplistic. But of course they are. Of course they are.

Wendy Davis Superstar

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The Texas state senator is not just a Harvard educated pretty face. Wendy Davis understands the importance of framing and this framing is genius.

“I am pro-life,” Davis said during a campaign stop at the University of Texas at Brownsville, according to the Valley Morning Star.

“I care about the life of every child: every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream, every woman and man who worry about their children’s future and their ability to provide for that future,” Davis said. “I care about life and I have a record of fighting for people above all else.”

This framing reminds me of how Sen. Elizabeth Warren aka The Sexiest Woman in America came up with the framing for increasing taxes on the wealthy and maintaining the social contract. 

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

People respond to these kind of powerful, sensible and simple messages that cut through nonsense.