Excellent Read: “On the Subject of Listening to the People of the Land”

I whole-heartedly endorse foundational progressive blogger Driftglass‘s response to the self-styled ‘Jacobins’ and their BothSides media enablers noisily calling for a return to the mythical utopia of the WWC Democrat:

In a former life, my span of responsibility was so weirdly far-flung that when people asked me what I did for a living, I would tell them that I was in charge of saving Illinois manufacturing. And while that’s a wee bit of an exaggeration, it is entirely fair to say that working on every aspect of saving Illinois manufacturing took up most of my time and energy and the time, energy and budget of my tiny staff.

So believe me when I tell that even though I was involuntarily retired from the field of battle, my antennae is still highly attuned to items in the news about the struggles of the Rust Belt economy: outsourcing, manufacturing, skills training, the need to retool high schools and community colleges and the various federal, state and local policies and initiatives designed to get at these large and complex problems.

This is why I can tell you that this idea that “better messaging” to the white working class is somehow the royal road back to political majorities for the Democratic party is nonsense. Sure, Democrats always need to work on speaking like mortal human beings… But messaging itself is not the problem. The media is the problem. And since, as the man said, the medium is the message, until we start taking on the media as Public Enemy #1, we’re going to go right on losing…

1) For a variety if reasons, white working class Americans have been taking a pounding since the late 1970s. And for a different variety of reasons, a disturbingly high number number of white working class Americans keep voting for the people that fuck them over.

2) Judging by policy statements made, resources allocated, attention paid and political capitol spent, it’s quite likely that history will judge the Obama Administration to have been the most consistently pro-manufacturing administration since Eisenhower. In fact, outside of health care (and turkey pardons), I would wager a penny and a fiddle of gold that in the last eight years the Obama administration put more effort into promoting American manufacturing than into any other domestic policy priority.

3) If you are a member of the general public, unless you made an extra special effort to inform yourself, you are blissfully unaware of any of this.

4) If you are blissfully unaware of any of this, it is not because the Obama Administration failed to talk it up at every single opportunity, but because over the last eight years the American political media collectively decided that instead of boring-ass stories about what the Democratic party has been trying to do to improve the lives and futures of the working class Americans, what you needed to hear were lively fairy tales about Birth Certificates and Death Panels. Email servers and Benghaaaazi. A Republican rebranding scam called the “Tea Party”. Instead of stories about the Caucus Room Conspiracy and Republican sabotage and sedition, you needed to hear endlessly, plaintive cries from all the usual Beltway hacks about how Barack Obama was refusing to lead!

…[A]sk an “undecided” or an “independent” or an “I just hadda vote for Trump because…” friend if they remember any of this, and I guarantee you will get a squinty, faraway look as if they’re trying to recollect some obscure fact about the Wendish Crusade of 1147, which had been imparted to them by a forgettable history teacher 40 years ago. Sure, some of this might ring a tiny bell, but inside their heads what will be ringing a much louder bell — an iron bell the size of fucking Ceres which drowns out all your little, Liberal tintinnabulations — are years and year and years of the Very Serious People in Americas finest newspapers and cable teevee shows telling them over and over and over and over again that all of this shit is the fault of Both Sides, so by God why not vote for an “outsider” who will disrupt the Corrupt Duopoly!..

Go read the whole thing, and remember: Sharing is Caring!



Do Not Be Distracted By What The Shitgibbon Says. Pay Attention To What His People Do

One of the signal failures of the media throughout the Trump dumpster fire of a campaign was to focus on his words — parsing, shifts in terminology, trying to distinguish between lies and hyperbole, or simply providing theater criticism on his performances, connections to audience and so on.  All the while, the critical information: what the combination of his ample history, the (few) clear positions he staked, and the people he hired revealed about what Trump would actually do as President.

That basic error is still with us, nicely diagnosed in this post by Robinson Meyer over at The Atlantic:

It works like this: Donald Trump, the president-elect himself, says something that sounds like he might be moderating on the issue. Then, his staff takes a radical action in the other direction.

Last week, Trump told the staff of The New York Times that he was keeping an open mind about the existence of climate change.

This was, as Meyer notes, treated as a major shift, given Trump’s earlier claim that global warming was a Chinese hoax.  As a result, many slow learners touted this story (Meyer self-indicts here.) But, of course, Trump’s almost certainly intentionally vague statement —

“I think there is some connectivity” between human activity and the warming climate, Trump said. “There is some, something. It depends on how much.”…

both grants him almost unlimited freedom of maneuver and was almost immediately belied by what his transition team is actually doing:

A day after Trump talked to the Times, The Guardian reported that the Trump administration plans could cut all of NASA’s Earth science research….

…which, as many have already noted, is vital for ongoing climate monitoring and ongoing attempts to study the implications of human – driven global warming with the resolution needed to inform action.

hieronymus_bosch_versuchung_des_hl-_antonius

Then there’s this:

Politico reports that the Heritage Foundation senior research fellow, Steven Groves, has been added to Trump’s State Department transition team. Just last week, Groves called for the United States to leave the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the overarching treaty that governs how the world organizes itself to address global warming. Groves also said the U.S. should move to “dismantle” domestic climate regulations.

Thus, a picture of a Trump administration policy on climate change: destroy the research infrastructure needed to study climate, and wreck both national and international prospects for action to address what a true existential crisis.

The moral, to use Meyer’s phrase, is that Trump is a master of the two-step, baffling the unwary (aka, seemingly, the entire New York Times staff) while proceeding behind that verbal smokescreen towards the worst possible choices.  We need a much more vigilant press, and a brave one.

Image: Hieronymous Bosch, The Temptation of Saint Anthony (left panel detail), 1495-1515.  Not an exact match to the post, but I’m kinda just looking for apocalyptic images these days, and this certainly works for that.



If You Don’t Know Who The Patsy At The Table Is, Dear Trumpkins…

...it’s you:

Again and again, President-elect Donald Trump presented himself as the coal miners’ candidate. During the campaign, he promised to bring coal back into the economy, and jobs back into struggling Appalachian towns.

But now some in coal country are worried that instead of helping, Trump’s first actions will deprive miners — and their widows and children — of the compensation they can receive if they are disabled by respiratory problems linked to breathing coal mine dust.

That’s because buried in the Affordable Care Act are three sentences that made it much easier to access these benefits. If Trump repeals Obamacare — as he vowed to do before the election — and does not keep that section on the books, the miners will be back to where they were in 2009, when it was exceedingly difficult to be awarded compensation for “black lung” disease.

coal_mining_18th_c

This is by no means a done deal, given that at least some coal-country legislators (Joe Manchin, for one) have declared their support for retaining this in whatever comes out of the health care catastrophe the GOP is determined to commit.  But McConnell is, as usual, mum on the matter, and if I were a coal mining family depending on the pittance they do get (top payment for a miner with three dependents: $1,289/month), I’d be getting ready not for hard times — they’re already here — but worse.

[update: obligatory post soundtrack]

The key change the ACA implemented in black lung cases was to shift the burden of proof: instead of a miner having to prove that the work caused the disease, under the new rules,

If a miner has spent 15 years or more underground and can prove respiratory disability, then it is presumed to be black lung related to mine work, unless the company can prove otherwise.

This wasn’t a case of free money all around. As reporter Eric Boodman writes,  “In 2009, 19 percent of claims for black lung benefits were successful; in 2015, that percentage had jumped to 28.” That’s a big jump — but hardly evidence that the black lung compensation process is a wild government grab of beleaguered coal company assets.

Those companies hate the rule, with a spokesman telling Boodman that it’s created “a supplemental pension program” rather than the compensation for occupational disease, which is as fine a bit of high priced turd polishing as I’ve seen in a while.

TL:DR?  Think of this as Mencken’s rule in action:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Trump voters in coal country — West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky — were promised their country back.

What will they receive?

The shaft, deeper and darker than any hole miners have dug in the hunt for what will continue to kill them where they stand.

Image: Léonard Defrance, Coal Mining, before 1805.



Everything Still Sucks But I Am Dealing With It

The way I see things, I figure we’ve got a couple more months of Democratic infighting and finger-pointing, and by then Obama will be gone and Trump and the Republicans will be in charge of everything, and then we can start organizing in earnest.

The honest truth of the matter is that nothing is really going to happen until a shitload of white people who didn’t realize how many government benefits they got experience a fuckload of pain. When Medicare is gutted, they fuck with SS, and all the other shit they take for granted, they’ll get furious and… blame Democrats and black people.

And the media will let them.

I’ve been sick since Friday, which is my fault for a.) bragging a week or so ago on twitter that I have not had a serious cold since I quit drinking and b.) for not eating or sleeping since Tuesday. I’m currently roasting a chicken and then going to make chicken and lentil soup with onions, carrots, spinach, and peas.

I kinda just feel rudderless and depressed. Guess I should just focus on the shit I can do.

Also, I know you all have sent me a bunch of emails. I’ll read them tomorrow. I swear.








Horrorshow Open Thread: It Can’t Happen Here — Can It?


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Careful What You Post to Social Media, Volume 1984

This is bad:

For years, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have provided data to a company marketing social media surveillance tools to police, according to a newly published investigation by the ACLU of Northern California. Geofeedia used the company’s APIs to create real-time maps of social media activity in protest areas, maps which were subsequently used to identify, and in some cases arrest, protestors shortly after their posts became public. All three services have terminated Geofeedia’s access to the relevant APIs.

The ACLU’s report includes direct evidence the tool was used to monitor unrest after the Freddie Gray verdict in Baltimore, in the form of a testimonial provided by Geofeedia to an unnamed police department. As protests escalated, police and Geofeedia representatives monitored social media posts in real time, in some cases running photos through a facial recognition systems to locate protestors with outstanding warrants.

The testimonial describes one specific case at a local high school, where students planned to walk out of class to join the crowds. “We were able to turn around and alert local police, who intercepted the kids — some of whom had already hijacked a metro bus — and found their backpacks full of rocks, bottles, and fence posts,” Baltimore police Sergeant Andrew Vaccaro says in the testimonial. “They planned to do a lot of damage.”

Geofeedia demonstrated similar capabilities in a public demo compiled around the Ferguson protests. Notably, the resulting map makes no distinction between posts by protestors and credentialed press, drawing all relevant posts into the same graphic. All the data included in the map is drawn from publicly available metadata — specifically images, geolocation data, and screen names available on Instagram’s public feed. Still, it’s easy to see how such a tool could be used by police to identify and retain data on protestors at an otherwise impossible scale.

Precrime.








A CAP in Illinois

What is the situation and why am I thinking it is an adverse selection event if anyone offers to write credits for the Land of Lincoln members.

Land of Lincoln was a Co-Op. It was placed under state oversight in July. It’s reserves had gotten too low due to a higher than expected risk adjustment bill and no compensating risk corridor asset. Coverage for people on the individual market will terminate on 9/30/16. That means people will be running without coverage from October 1 to December 31.

New York had a similar experience in 2015 when Health Republic was liquidated in the fall of 2015.

Normally regulators would prefer to allow an insurer under oversight to run until the next open enrollment period. That would allow their members to have continuous coverage with the least amount of disruption and added stress. However Land of Lincoln and Health Republic could not make it to the end of the current policy year. Instead, they ended mid-contract. This triggers a Special Enrollment Period as the members lost coverage due to no fault of their own.

In New York, there was an arrangement that people who were on Health Republic who signed up for a month of coverage would have their deductibles and out of pocket expenses credited to their new policies.

That is now not the case in Illinois. Blue Cross and Blue Shield is refusing to enter into a voluntary arrangement to credit deductible and out of pocket spending for any new policies it rights for any qualifying event. That is their right to do so. However, their refusal to do so pretty much forces every other Illinois insurer to also refuse to extend deductible credits.

Adverse selection is the cause of this race to mutually assured ugliness.

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