Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Will Toomey vote to cut PA's health care dollars? (hint: of course he will)

One of the features (bugs?) of Cassidy-Graham is it effectively transfers federal health care dollars from blue states to red (while cutting those federal health care dollars overall). So what does that mean for Pennsylvania, the purple-trending-blue-but-then-red-in-2016 state?

I looked up the study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (pdf), the study that the articles noting the blue-to-red money shift all seem to cite. It estimates that PA will lose $525 million in federal funding under the bill. That's a big number, but really blue states like NY and CA lose a lot more ($22 billion and $35 billion, respectively).

I wonder if the fact that he is robbing millions in health care dollars from his fellow Pennsylvanians will get our troglodyte senator Pat Toomey to actually oppose this bill? I'm guessing, no, and I'm guessing he will vote for it under the assumption that the $525 million is all coming from Philadelphia, where people already all hate him.

(No wonder he won't show his face in this town! Or, at least not since he accidentally came to Drinking Liberally years ago. But that was before he was a Senator).


Don't get me wrong, the Graham-Cassidy bill (aka Trumpcare 14.0) is a total disaster. But there is something amusing seeing John McCain, man of principle, the last honest Senator, etc. etc., who killed the last repeal and replace effort because the Senate didn't follow its normal procedures, wrestle with voting for this version of the bill, which also isn't being passed by the normal procedures, just because he happens to be good friends with Lindsay Graham, the main sponsor of the bill.

Friday, September 15, 2017

And yet they are keeping Sean Spicer

You can argue about whether Harvard should have ever offered a fellowship to Chelsea Manning in the first place, but caving into pressure and rescinding the offer is ridiculous.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What McMaster should have done

He should have written several different versions of his anti-leak memo, each with a slight variation (e.g. one slightly different letter here, or different spacing there), so that every recipient gets a memo with a unique minor differcnce from everyone else's, while keeping the substance of the memo the same for everyone. Then when he distributes the memo, he would need to keep track of which version he gave to each person.

So then when the memo leaks, as it just did, he would be able to figure out whose copy of the memo was the one that got out. That person wouldn't necessarily be the leaker, but talking to the person who got the leaked memo would definitely be a strong first step in determining what happened.

Of course, this assumes a level of cleverness and organization that the Trump administration probably doesn't have.

My new trick for reading WaPo articles after I have read too many

Using Chrome: (1) right click on the link, (2) select "Open link in incognito window."

There doesn't seem to be any article limit in Chrome's incognito mode. Presumably this will also work in other browser's "private browsing" mode, whatever that browser calls it.

By the way, I really appreciate the suggestions I got in response to this post., particularly NB's emails.

Let the people decide

Values voters

The study recounted in this op ed piece is really remarkable. The key point:
Barber and Pope found that people who identified themselves as strong Republicans were among the most malleable voters. When told Trump had adopted a liberal stance, these voters moved decisively to the left; when told Trump had taken a conservative position, they moved sharply to the right, as the accompanying chart shows.
It would be interesting to see how far these "strong Republicans" are willing to follow Trump. I mean, if Trump ever did make some policy move to the left (like push for the DREAM Act, a tax reform package that really does raise taxes for the richest Americans or, much less likely than those unlikely possibilities, sign onto a single payer effort), would they follow along even if it meant watching their president stand next to a smiling Nancy Pelosi? Somehow I doubt it. But I would love to find out!

If it happens, I'll take it

I still think it is unlikely, but as I said before, it would be quite strange if Trump's only major legislative accomplishment ends up being a law to protect the rights of "illegal immigrants."

(Don't get me wrong, I would love it if this actually happens. Plus, it would be a blast to watch his alt-right supporters freak out when he signs that legislation.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The road to single payer is easier if Republicans make Obamacare fail

Years ago, I had a conservative commentator who was convinced that Obamacare was a sham to move the American health insurance system to single payer. While I agreed with him that was a possibility when there was a public option in the proposed bill, when that was taken out and the ACA was passed, I didn't see any mechanism for moving towards a Canadian-style system. Still my commentator kept insisting that is what Obamacare was really about, even if he could not explain how exactly that would come about.

But I do buy this. By pushing Obamacare to fail, the Republicans are making an American single payer system more likely. If the hybrid market approach fails, the Democrats (or anyone else who actually cares about getting to universal coverage) have no where to go but to a single payer or socialized medicine. There is no appetite to nationalize all hospitals and medical facilities in this country, so that leaves single payer. It doesn't hurt that Medicare (a single payer system for the elderly) is extremely popular and that the Medicaid expansion (Medicaid being a single payer system for the poor to, in states where the Medicaid expansion occurred, lower middle class) is the most successful part of the ACA.

COMPLEMENTARY Rubber Hose service

The below post inspired me to put "WP" next to the blogs on my blogroll that are subject to the Washington Post paywall, and then to put "NYT" next to the one blog that is subject to the New York Times paywall (although honestly, because I have been a NYT subscriber since they instituted the paywall, I'm not sure if Krugman's blog is protected by the paywall). I doubt if anyone will care but on the off chance that said anyone does use those links and that anyone happens to not be a paid subscriber of either of those news sources, at least that particular anyone is now warned.

Now if only I can get around to figuring out my half-broken comment system. If anyone wants to magically fix that for me, feel free to contact me.

How I deal with the WaPo paywall

I noticed shortly after the Washington Post put up its paywall that allowed visitors to read 20 articles per month for free before it blocked access, that I could get another 20 articles if I just switched browsers. The number of free articles is down to 7/month last time I saw anyone give an actual number. But lately it feels like it might only be 2 or 3. I run through my freebies really fast.

Should I just break down and pay for a digital subscription? I haven't yet. Instead I cycle through all the browsers I have to read the article, sometimes saving the url so I can read it later when I get to another machine. Each of my home computers have 4 browsers installed, and my work computer has 2. My iPhone and iPad each have three (Safari, Chrome, and Opera), plus effectively two more for if I click to a WaPo link through the Facebook or Twitter app. That's a lot of possible articles. But I must read a lot of WaPo pieces (it doesn't help that the posts in the Plum Line, Wonkblog, and Weigel, each of which is on my blogroll, count against the paywall totals) because I still run out of browsers all the time (luckily, the month is a rolling month not a calendar month. So each browser comes back online at different times as its specific month rolls by). Most of the time, I can manage to read whatever I want to read, but it is a lot of work and I'm getting tired of it.

I like the WaPo, don't get me wrong. But I like a lot of news sources and I already pay for a NYT subscription. I am also dealing with the paywall rules for Foreign Affairs(FA has a stingy 1 free/month rule!), Foreign Policy, the New Yorker, and several others, and I just don't want to pay hundreds of extra dollars per month to subscribe to everything. I'm just not sure if I should break down and pay for one more subscription or if that is the slippery slope to something more expensive.

Plus, let's face it, I often read these articles to procrastinate. Do I really want to pay money to encourage procrastination? Or will paying shorten my procrastination time because I will waste less time working my way around the paywall?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The cost of having a shithead as president

The faceless walls of the federal government

I realize this is just another sign of the Trump Administration's incompetence, but I for one am glad that we are (at least temporarily) ending the tradition of hanging the photo of the President and Vice President at every federal office. And I am not just saying that because the missing photos are Trump and Pence. Those smiling faces always creeped me out a little. It reminded me of the dictator's photo that adorns the walls of more oppressive countries I have visited. There is no reason to have our dear leader's visage surveying every office under his domain. We already know he is in charge. What point is there with having the President and Vice stare at us whenever we interact with the federal government?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Why is Aung San Suu Kyi silent?

The current violence in Western Myanmar is just the latest (and it seems, worst) flare up, but Suu Kyi has been avoiding making any negative statement about her country's treatment of the Rohingya for more than a year. I keep wondering why not. This is my list of possibilities:

(1) She really doesn't believe that atrocities are being committed against the Rohingya because she is deep in the propaganda bubble of the Burmese military.

(2) She knows about the atrocities but thinks they are a necessary response to the threat posed by Rohingya rebels.

(3) She knows about the atrocities and wants the Rohingya to be cleansed from Myanmar.

(4) She is privately bothered by the atrocities but feels that she needs to tow the military's line because otherwise they will threaten her political power in Myanmar.

#1 and #2 are possibly the same thing because part of the military's propaganda is that the operation is a justified response to armed Rohingya rebel groups.

In any case, I usually ping-pong between believing it is #1 or #4. I guess I don't want it to be #3 because I admired her for years when she was under house arrest. But that very experience makes me wonder about #4. If she was so courageous and steadfast in resisting the Burmese generals for two decades, why would she suddenly be so cowed by the military establishment now? Now that she is in power, I guess she has more to lose. It just seems out of character. But do I really know her character?

That's the disturbing thing about all of this. Aung San Suu Kyi built such an admirable persona around herself. I find myself reluctant to give it up and it feels like a betrayal to see her acting as a passive apologist to genocide.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

The cost of appropriating religion

This controversy over the leaflet designed to insult the Taliban but ended up being viewed as insulting to Islam reminds me of this post. A flag is, by design, a representation of the entity (whether a nation or an insurgent group) who flies the flag. By incorporating a verse from the Quran into its flag, the Taliban was trying to lend religious legitimacy on itself. But the flip side of that coin is that when the group does something bad under that banner its opponents will use the image of the flag and its symbols  to criticize the group.

So when the U.S. military made the leaflet showing a dog wrapped in a Taliban flag they certainly intended that dog to represent the Taliban and not Muslims in general. I think a lot of Americans see the controversy in that light. The blame, if any, for the incident is on the Taliban for appropriating the Islamic symbol for itself, not the U.S. military's mistake in printing the leaflet with a different implication than it intended.

But by the same logic, any time someone draws a political cartoon criticizing Israeli policy using a Star of David, or the official seal of Israel (which features a menorah) is not necessarily being antisemitic. The cartoon could be motivated by bigotry or it could be the result of Israel's own decision to use religious symbols as its national symbols.

(Note: I am not claiming that Israel is the moral equivalent to the Taliban. Pointing out one specific parallel does not mean that I am claiming they are the same or similar in any broad fashion.)