Friends Don’t Let Friends Read Andrew Sullivan, Part [n]

Further to my disdain below, I can’t say anything to gloss what Andrew writes in tonight’s RNC liveblog.

MSKG - De idioot bij de vijver - Frits Van den Berghe (1926)

Truly, all you need to know about Andrew’s political and intellectual honesty is right there:

8:18 p.m. We have to answer this core question: how is it that liberal democracy in America is now flirting with strongman, ethno-nationalist authoritarianism? What happened to the democratic center?

It seems to me that the right bears the hefty majority of responsibility, moving from principled opposition to outright nullification of a presidency, trashing every important neutral institution, and now bad-mouthing the country they hope to “govern.” But the left’s abandonment of empiricism and liberalism – its rapid descent into neo-Marxist dogma, its portrayal of American history as a long unending story of white supremacy, its coarse impugning of political compromise and incrementalism, its facile equation of disagreement with bigotry – has also played a part. Liberal democracy needs liberal norms and manners to survive. Which is why it is now on life-support.

In between, moderate Christianity, once a unifying cultural fabric creating a fragile civil discourse, has evaporated into disparate spirituality on one side and fundamentalist dogma on the other, leaving us with little in the center to hold us morally together.

Annnnd, Scene!

Have at it, friends.

Image:  Frits Van den Berghe, The Idiot by the Pond1926



Which Of These Is Not Like The Others?

Andrew Sullivan — yes, I know, and I’ll get back to that in a moment — is live blogging the RNC for New York Magazine.  His reaction on Day 2  to the Christie-led witch trial “lock her up” frenzy was as it should have been:  it was vile and the mark of a neo-fascist campaign.  That evoked a response from a reader Sullivan then posted to the blog, which argued, reasonably enough, that errors in office are not criminal offences.  For example, that reader wrote and Sullivan published:

Politicians and presidents make serious ethical mistakes. Reagan/Bush 41 on Iran-Contra, Bush 43 on WMD intelligence/torture, Bill Clinton on perjury.

Let’s review.

Iran -Contra:  trading with a reviled adversary to fund an illegal covert war that killed thousands of the most vulnerable, least powerful people in our hemisphere.

Fra_Angelico_003

WMD intelligence/torture: launch a war on false pretexts that left thousands of Americans, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, many more wounded, millions displaced, an ongoing conflict that has spawned attacks on innocents all over the world, and that has led the United States government at its highest level to countenance war crimes.

Coloured_Figures_of_English_Fungi_or_Mushrooms.djvu

Perjury:  lying about a blow job.

Elephant_and_Whale_Screens_by_Ito_Jakuchu_(Miho_Museum)L

That one could write that sentence without a hint of irony is a measure of the damage done to US politics by the Republican party made as far back as 1968 to put power at all costs before all else.  That Andrew Sullivan could disseminate it without comment reminds us of his own Clinton Derangement Syndrome, and his unreliability as any kind of moral arbiter.

Sullivan is a clever man, a fast and fluid writer, and does get some things right; certainly, for all his CDS, he’s got no illusions about Trump as anything more than a Mussolini wannabe.

But for all that, he’s a terrible thinker.  Through the live blog (I’ve gotten through day 1 and most of day 2 so far) he talks repeatedly about the GOP’s focus on feeling at the expense of facts and reason — and he’s right of course.  But when the issue strikes one or another of his standing emotional chords, he’s no better.  I hope tomorrow to have the time to write up his stuff on Black Lives Matter.  It is everything you’d expect, and the current debacle turns on his unwillingness to do the intellectual work needed to test his own assumptions.

OK — it’s over to you, and back to the problem of figuring out 17th century share prices from one end of a coffee shop to another for me.

Images:  Fra Angelico, The Massacre of the Innocents 1450.

James Sowerby, Coloured Figures of English Fungi or Mushroomsplate 43, 1798.

Ito Jakuchu, Elephant and Whale Screens, 1797.



Monday Morning Open Thread: Everything Is Political

break thru the glass ceiling cornered

(Mike Baldwin via GoComics.com)
.

Because “The history of the world, my sweet… is who gets eaten and who gets to eat”.

Does it still matter that the inventor of Bitcoin may have been discovered?

What else is on the agenda as we start another week?



Point And Laugh

Yes, the Democratic primary has entered its manic and ugly phase.  Yes, I’d dearly love to see Bernie show some sign he truly cares about getting either Democrat into the White House before any other ambition.  And damn-straight I’m ready to just make it all stop.

But it could be worse.  We could have to face this from one of our own candidates:

“It’s a wonderful, wonderful holiday for our friends in the Jewish community – the Passover,” Kasich told reporters after emerging from the matzah bakery, a box of the fresh-baked stuff in hand.

Yes, Jews are known to love The Passover, almost as much they love The Pre-Election Drop-By from vote-seeking politicians.

…Kasich then launched into a brief appraisal of the links between Passover and, um, the blood of Jesus Christ.

“The great link between the blood that was put above the lampposts” – er, you mean doorposts, governor — “the blood of the lamb, because Jesus Christ is known as the lamb of God. It’s his blood, we believe …” [forwarded by a valued BJ reader]

Putz doesn’t even begin to describe the schmendrick who would say such a thing.  Putz is too grand a word, to expansive.  Kasich is a schmeckel, a schtickl, a petseleh, someone of so little use as to be barely worth noticing.

'A_Fool's_Fool'_by_Thomas_Shields_Clarke

But oy gevalt, is this dumb!  I got two words for Kasich’s advance team:  blood libel.  There’s no bottom to the evil that comes from associating Jewish rituals with the blood of Jesus — and no limit to the stupid it takes to wander into such a thicket.  Ignorance is a pathetic excuse — to the point of being disqualifying (at least for any Jewish voter I know) in a would-be president.

It gets better, which is to say not so much worse as more bathetic.  Before hitting the matzoh bakery, Kasich tried to hang with some yeshiva bochers at a bookstore who told him that they were studying Talmud, specifically, the laws of the Sabbath.  Kasich’s comeback?

“You know who I like?” Kasich finally said. “Joseph. You guys like Joseph?”

Yeah, John.  Just like we enjoy the top ten commandments.

It is to laugh.  And to mutter a little blessing:

Thank the FSM this guy is their problem, not ours.

Image:  Thomas Shields, A Fool’s Foolc. 1887.



The inanity, it burns

Two very dumb things are making the rounds today.  The first is from Tad Devine, Sander’s campaign manager:

 

This actually makes some sense if we are to assume that the Sanders campaign is fundamentally a message and viewpoint campaign. Those campaigns are a valued part of the American political process and most cycles will have a couple of single issue candidates run in order to air their ideas to a much wider audience and hopefully get their party’s front-runners to bend their positions more closely to the single issue priority. If we analyze the Sander’s campaign in this fashion, then the statement makes a lot of sense and the Sanders’ campaign has been successful.

Maximizing a message opportunity is a very different objective than maximizing the probability of winning sufficient delegates to be nominated.  Hillary Clinton is running on a delegate optimization mode as she is running to actually be nominated.  That was her theory of her campaign in the spring of 2015 (and spring of 2007).  She needs to campaign everywhere to get delegates, while Sanders needs to stay plausible enough to get a microphone so spending resources and losing minimizes the microphone opportunity.  Two very different beasts being run with very different optimization functions.

But saying this outloud while still proclaiming that Sanders is running an actual campaign to get the nomination is stupid.

And now the other piece of stupid from reactionary anti-health policy “wonk” Michael Cannon:

There is no sense in marking the ACA’s anniversary, however, because the ACA is no longer the law.

Realizing the law he signed was unconstitutional and unworkable, President Obama and the Supreme Court have since made a series of dramatic revisions that effectively replaced the ACA with something we now call “Obamacare.”

Unconstitutional does not mean what Mr. Cannon thinks it means.

Unconstitutional does not mean “I don’t like this” and “the embedding of liberterian doctrine into a document written at least three generations before the first liberterian thinkers has been obstructed”.  Unconstitutional does not mean that something is stupid or venial.

Unconstitutional means what five justices on the Supreme Court thinks that means. So far, there have been at least five justices who have said that PPACA is fundamentally allowed under our governing constraints.   Constitutionality does not in and of itself imply that an act is wise, good, desirable or prudent.  In this case, I think those descriptors are fair descriptors of the ACA, but those can be up for debate.

Constitutionality is not at this point.



If The Phone Don’t Ring…

Hey everyone!

I’ve got a message for you:

Pick up the damn phone.

The backstory:  I heard last night from a valued reader with connections to the Hill reminded me that there is more this crowd can do than point, sigh, and mock the GOP pants-wetters (abetted by an increasing number of feckless Dems) who so fear the widows and orphans from the latest spasm of our long decade of war in the Middle East.*

Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_052

What to do about the attempt to make fear the ground state of American policy?  What to do about the spreading political meme that the proper exercise of US state power is to bar the door to Syrian refugees? How should we stand with President Obama when he says of the fear mongers “that’s not who we are”?

Pick up the damn telephone.

Call your Congressional representatives in the House and the Senate.

You know the drill:  Speak your mind, politely, respectfully, but firmly to whoever you get on the phone.

My reader emphasized, and my own distant memory of an internship on the Hill concurs, that these calls really matter.  House and Senate staffs keep notes and logs.  There are regular reports of how many calls came in, on what side, and with what passion or urgency.  \

Paradoxically, because of the ubiquity of social media, an actual human voice that has taken the trouble to pick up a phone carries a great deal of weight.  So call.

The numbers:

The Senate.

The House.

If you’re feeling extra virtuous — your governor and state legislature representatives would also be worth a call.

We can water the tree of liberty not with blood, but words.

Pick up the damn phone.

*Yes, I do know that the conflict there — and “Great” Power strategerizing through its misery — extends well before 2003.  But the Syrian Civil War of the last few years is (at least to me) both a conflict with deep roots and a proximate consequence of Bush the Lesser’s attempt to remake the Middle East into an model US client region.

Image: attr. to Rembrandt van Rijn, The Flight Into Egypt 1627

 



Kynecting the elections to policy

And now that officially sucks.

Tue Nov 03, 2015 at 5:22 PM PT (David Jarman): To recap, Republican Matt Bevin (whom you might remember from losing his tea-flavored primary challenge to Mitch McConnell in 2014) has won a surprising (to the extent that no poll had given him the lead) victory in Kentucky’s gubernatorial race.

Bevin (R-Sociopath) had run on a promise to repeal as much of PPACA as he could.  That means shutting down Kynect, the Kentucky exchange and turning down the very successful Medicaid expansion.  As Charles Gaba noted, he was promising to take away health insurance from 9% of the state.  And he looks like he won going away and with coattails.

There are two major health policy implications of a Bevins win.  The first is the switch from Kynect to Healthcare.gov.  This is not that big of a deal in and of itself.  It is a different portal and a different set of branding but subsidies flow to people who buy insurance from healthcare.gov after the King case.  The biggest downside is if Kentucky wanted to go the Wyden Waiver route, having their own exchange makes plumbing a Wyden Waiver, even a very conservative Wyden Waiver a whole lot easier.

The big policy change is Medicaid expansion.  Medicaid expansion covered approximately 420,000 Kentuckians as of this morning or 9% of the state. Bevin ran against expansion.  The best case scenario is the hospital groups march into  Bevin’s chief of staff office tomorrow and tell him flat out that their books don’t balance without expansion of some sort and they’ll lay covering fire for an extremely punitive waiver application.  That is the best case scenario and I’ll give it a 10% chance of happening.  The probable case scenario is 420,000 people are fucked as of February 1, 2016 and most of Appalachian Kentucky has medical care and medical financing resembling Third Wold nations again.

Kentucky, a red state, is highly likely to return to being a purple state on the New York TimeUpshot map of uninsurance rates:

NYTIMES Uninsurance Rate

It was a good two years of actually connecting people to health insurance without the death defying worry that a toothache could either be immediately fatal or financially destroying.