Monday Morning Open Thread: Everything Is Political

break thru the glass ceiling cornered

(Mike Baldwin via GoComics.com)
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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.

 



Open Thread: Halloween Night Scares

Scariest of all…

(yes I know it’s snark)



Post-Racial America Update, Tech Edition

Three things really drive technology forward in America: war, porn, and being a racist asshole.

It was nearing closing time in March last year when a manager at Boffi Georgetown dispatched a series of alarmed messages. Observing two men yelling outside the luxury kitchen and bath showroom, Julia Walter reached for her phone and accessed a private messaging application that hundreds of residents, retailers and police in this overwhelmingly white, wealthy neighborhood use to discuss people they deem suspicious.

“2 black males screaming at each other in alley,” Walter wrote. “. . . Help needed.”

One minute later, a District police officer posted he would check it out, and Walter felt relieved. But as weeks gave way to months and the private group spawned hundreds of messages, Walter’s relief turned to unease. The overwhelming majority of the people the app’s users cited were black. Was the chatroom reducing crime along the high-end retail strip? Was it making people feel safer? Or was it racial profiling?

These are questions being asked across the country as people experiment with services that bill themselves as a way to prevent crime, but also expose latent biases. The application “SketchFactor,” which invited users to report “sketchy” people, faced allegations of racism in both the District and New York. Another social network roiled Oakland, Calif., when white residents used Nextdoor.com to cite “suspicious activity” about black neighbors. Taking it even further was GhettoTracker.com, which asked users to rate neighborhoods based on whether they thought they were “safe” or a “ghetto.”

Now “Operation GroupMe” is stirring controversy in Georgetown. In February of last year, the Georgetown Business Improvement District partnered with District police to launch the effort, which they call a “real-time mobile-based group-messaging app that connects Georgetown businesses, police officers and community members.” Since then, the app has attracted nearly 380 users who surreptitiously report on — and photograph — shoppers in an attempt to deter crime.

The correspondence has provided an unvarnished glimpse into Georgetown retailers’ latest effort to stop their oldest scourge: shoplifting. But while the goal is admirable, the result, critics say, has been less so, laying bare the racial fault lines that still define this cobblestoned enclave of tony boutiques and historic rowhouses that is home to many of Washington’s elite.

Since March of last year, Georgetown retailers have dispatched more than 6,000 messages that discuss suspicious people. A review by the Business Improvement District of all the messages since January — more than 3,000 — revealed that nearly 70 percent of those people were black. The employees often allege shoplifting. But other times, retailers don’t accuse these shoppers of anything beyond seeming suspicious.

Anyone actually still surprised that there’s money to be made in “reducing crime” with multiple social networking apps in 2015 for scared white folks to complain about those people being around?  You haven’t been paying attention to the people running Silicon Valley, the people using “All lives matter!” as an actual argument, or, you know, a basic understanding of race in American history.  All three are pretty much filled with examples of assholes, but combining them is turning into a spectacular exercise in everything wrong in social tech and how online harassment translates into real-life consequences.

Social tech has been a real nightmare over the last couple of years as a prime tool for harassment, racism, misogyny, hate speech, you name it, and I see nothing but “you gotta break a few eggs” shrugs coming from the heads of these multi-billion dollar companies that run around “disrupting” things for a living.

It’s getting pretty tiring.