Monday, December 17, 2018

Response to Passing Losses On

(See: Just Above Sunset: Passing Losses On)

I confess, Obamacare has always been confusing to me but I suspect it’s even more confusing to Republicans, who don’t seem to understand that when ACA was being devised, the planners came up with pieces that all fit together in such a way that, if you take away any one of the parts, the plan falls apart.

For example, those planners knew they could always insist that insurance companies cover pre-existing conditions, but they also knew they couldn’t do that unless they allowed those companies to make enough money to pay for it. And that’s why they came up with a mandate that said everybody had to have insurance or else pay a penalty (originally a “fine”, but eventually, a “tax”) to cover it.

So the Republicans, who are apparently not as good with money as everyone seems to think they are, ZERO OUT the penalty for the mandate, yet still insist on keeping the pre-existing conditions that the mandates pay for!

And then some conservative judge comes along with his long-awaited ruling on a lawsuit filed by a number of state attorneys general. Here’s the background from the Wall Street Journal’s own reaction to his ruling:
Recall that Chief Justice John Roberts joined four Justices to say ObamaCare’s mandate was illegal as a command to individuals to buy insurance under the Commerce Clause. “The Framers gave Congress the power to regulate commerce, not to compel it,” he wrote.

Yet the Chief famously salvaged ObamaCare by unilaterally rewriting the mandate to be a “tax” that was within Congress’s power. Never mind that Democrats had expressly said the penalty was not a tax. Majority Leader Roberts declared it to be so.

Enter Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who argues in Texas v. U.S. that since Congress has repealed the mandate, the tax is no longer a tax, and ObamaCare is thus illegal. Judge O’Connor agreed with that logic, and he went further in ruling that since Congress said the mandate is crucial to the structure of ObamaCare, then all of ObamaCare must fall along with the mandate.
Okay, but think about this and tell me where I’m wrong:

Since Roberts’ “tax” solution was in response only to whether we can “fine” somebody for not buying insurance, and since the Republicans zeroed out that fine/tax to nothing, then where’s the problem to which the word “tax” is the solution? Because of the fact that there’s no longer teeth in the mandate, there’s no longer any compulsion here, which is what brought up the question of constitutionality.

Or am I missing something?

On the other hand, the actual problem we’re left with seems to be that, without the “stick" with which to hit people who refuse to buy insurance, making sure most every American is in the pool, where will insurance companies find the money to pay for all this stuff?

So no, you blockheads, ending the mandate didn’t make the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, it just made the Affordable Care Act un-fucking-affordable!

Or did it? Maybe not.

According to Andrew Sprung at HealthInsurance.Org, who wrote "The GOP is still coming after your ACA coverage (whether you have a pre-existing condition or not)" back in September before the ruling of this past weekend:
The [State Attorneys General’s] suit ignores the fact that the current Republican Congress deliberately zeroed out the penalty while not repealing the ACA, reflecting learned experience that ACA subsidies are enough to keep the ACA private plan marketplace functioning, albeit in impaired fashion, no matter what measures (other than repeal) Republicans take to sabotage it.
In other words, maybe those subsidies called for by Obamacare will be enough to continue paying for coverage of pre-existing conditions?

I do hope so, but I must admit I’m not greatly encouraged by any argument that rests of the “learned experience” of a gaggle of random Republican Congressmen.

* * * * *

But while I got you, let me change the subject to the upcoming “Trump Shutdown” of the government to pay for his stupid wall.

Will there be a shutdown? I don’t know, but I do predict that he will fail to get his wall, and yet will still claim he succeeded.

So you have Stephen Miller saying that the administration would do “whatever is necessary to build the border wall,” and I’m thinking, "Anything at all that’s necessary?"

How about maybe rallying all those few Americans in favor of your wall, to roll up their sleeves, "put on overalls, bring hammers and saws and spare bricks and lumber and barbed-wire and whatnot, and meet us at the border, ready to put your sweat equity where your mouth is!"

"(Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to bring money!)”

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Response to Idiot’s Delight

(See: Just Above Sunset: Idiot's Delight)

Here’s Colby Itkowitz, in the Washington Post:

Over 10 minutes of a surreal public sparring match in the Oval Office, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tried mightily to rise above the bluster and ego that erupted between the men in the room.
But Pelosi (D-Calif.) instead had to listen as President Trump mansplained to her the legislative process and her role in the debate, while Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer talked over her to trade barbs mano a mano with Trump.
I think playing up this “mansplaining” view — that the men talked over the woman — may have missed the point:

Both Chuck and Nancy conspired to play Trump, tricking him into owning any government shutdown. After all, she knew exactly what she was doing when she tried to move the debate into private session to discuss any upcoming “Trump Shutdown”, goading Trump into talking about it, during which Chuck then forced the overly-cocky Donald to “proudly” take ownership.

And while her “manhood” comment afterward is certainly memorable for whatever belittling effect it might have on Trump when he reads it, I also hope that her mentioning that she felt like she had been in “a tinkle contest with a skunk” gets some future mention, maybe in some debate, just to let a little air out of his balloon.

I’m convinced one reason for Trump’s undeserved reputation for success in battle is that, because he always pretty much controls the setting, and because he usually only engages with news reporters who he knows, for professional reasons, can’t fight back, he's never really seen getting into any face-to-face confrontations with anyone who disagrees with him, and who are more than willing to talk back to him in front of cameras. It was, as CNN's bemused resident Brit Richard Quest noted afterward, the closest thing he'd seen to Wednesday Question Time in Britain's Parliament, during which the Prime Minister is compelled to debate her opposition.

In any event, I’m sure Trump will think twice before he decides to trap these two with a bait-and-switch photo-op. And Pelosi is no dummy! She’s got my vote.

In fact — and this occurred to me just now — Nancy Pelosi is, as of this moment, my top choice of Democrats to face Donald Trump in 2020!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

(See: Just Above Sunset: Imagining The Worst)

Trump is, almost literally, a real world representation of those three monkeys that see no evil, etc. What he is doing is exactly the behavior that the metaphor was invented to mock.

Donald Trump:
"The world is a very dangerous place!”
And thanks to his efforts, it seems to be getting more so every day!

Conservatives tend to be afraid of the world, claiming it’s more dangerous than it really is, and tend to lack the courage to deal with it the way it is. Previous presidents, not nearly as conservative, and therefore less fearful than Trump, would have a better idea of how to deal with this situation. If the world is dangerous, it’s because too many world leaders lack the guts and brains to deal with it.

What is it about Trump that made the Saudis think they could slip this one by America?

For one thing, they probably sense, like MBS has told people, that they got us "in their pocket”. It’s no wonder, since our Artist of the Deal tends to tip his hand in dealing with them. They can easily smell fear when Trump tells everyone, 'Hey, who knows if they did it? The important thing is they’ve promised to buy a gazillion dollars worth of weapons from us!’

True! They’ve already given us fourteen billion, and they promise the check for the rest is in the mail!

I’m old enough to remember when WE held arms sales over THEIR heads, instead of the other way around. But maybe that was back when we had leaders who were better at making deals, and who were also infused with good old American moral values that kept them from baldly looking the other way when an ally murdered someone. That’s why an American leader with the necessary skills could extend the soft power that made America a respected leader in the world.

Donald Trump lacks both the smarts and the courage to be very good at any of this, and he’s apparently not smart enough to see it, and even if he could see it, he’d lie and say it’s not happening. I’m getting to the point of thinking we need, under the threat of impeachment, to make a deal with him to get him out of there, like we did with Nixon and Agnew.

I’d been holding off on that because I was afraid of what might happen to us under “President Pence”, and thinking maybe after 2020 the problem would go away on its own, but things are getting too bad and the harm he’s done to our stature in the world may already be irreparable.

Maybe the time has come to seriously consider that a president taking it upon himself to do harm to his country is grounds for removal. Odd that our founders overlooked that eventuality.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Response to Trump Change

(See: Just Above Sunset: Trump Change)

If the truth be told, it’s was not all that difficult to figure out what to do.

When we — or at least those of us who understand that words do matter — acknowledge out loud that Dr. Christine Ford was a “credible witness”, we need to understand that this means she’s “believable” — which is just another way of saying, “Yes! Yes! We believe her!”

And no, not only was Brett Kavanau’s performance not believable, it was, in itself, disqualifying for the job, at least to most people who watched it, including many who are experts at law and the Constitution. To anyone with good judgement, it was unforgivable and irreversible: You can’t just undo it by admitting the next day that you said some things you probably shouldn’t have said, but you promise to be good from now on.

(Okay, behave yourself from now on, but how about doing it somewhere else than in the Supreme Court of the United States?)

And who knew that Trump would get the FBI to join his cabal! One problem with the investigation is that nobody was sure what the FBI was looking for — evidence that Dr. Ford was telling the truth? Evidence that Kavanaugh was lying? Both? The veracity of the woman he allegedly exposed himself to at Yale? We may never know, but it’s hard not to suspect the whole FBI thing was faked.

And this whole idea of finding anyone who remembers being at that party? Try this yourself: Do you remember ever being at a high school party in which something was going on upstairs that you were not aware of?

Of course not! If you weren’t aware of what was going on at some party, why would you remember the party? And if you do remember, it’s probably because you were the one doing what was going on, in which case you won’t want to admit it. The whole thing was silly.

And because we really don’t want to talk about sex anyway, there may be another reason to be in denial about the event at the party: Even if it did happen, what’s the big deal, you may ask? After all, it’s only sex! Sex happens all the time, people of both genders will admit, and much of it by girls who change their minds later about wanting to do it in the first place. But it's certainly not something that should ruin the life of a good man who we desperately need to get onto the Supreme Court.

And, in fact, in this case, it’s not even sex, it was only attempted sex! And what if it had actually been rape? What’s the big deal! Once again, I’m sure there are still plenty of people who believe, as my neighbor suggested the other day, that “Rape is just having sex with someone you don’t like!"

So the truth be told? But that’s just it: For obvious reasons, the truth is not going to be told, at least not by Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate Republican Booster Club, and what each and every one of them won’t tell you is, they spent all that time and energy looking for a credible “Yes”, and were not going to settle for “No", which is why the Republicans arranged to keep the discussion in the realm of “He said, she said”, which “he” always seems to win by default.

Here’s where Susan Collins’s logic went off the tracks in her Senate speech
"Some argue that because this is a lifetime appointment to our highest court, the public interest requires that doubts be resolved against the nominee. 
Others see the public interest as embodied in our long-established tradition of affording to those accused of misconduct a presumption of innocence. In cases in which the facts are unclear, they would argue that the question should be resolved in favor of the nominee."
A more specific statement of the American version of this “presumption of innocence” is, in this country, people are presumed innocent until proven guilty  in a court of law!

And to integrate that into something that has been mentioned by those on both sides in the last two weeks, what has been going on in the Senate is not a court trial, it’s a job interview, and while there may be a presumption of innocence in a courtroom, there is none when you’re interviewing for a job.

An example:

Suppose you’re a middle manager, looking to hire a specific person for your company, and you hear several rumors he was let go from his previous job after being under suspicion of molesting some of the children in the company-run daycare center.

So you call his previous employer and ask someone in the HR department about the rumors, and are told they’ve been advised by the legal department to not discuss this person at all, and you ask why, and you’re told “We just don’t want to get involved in any legal disputes.”

So you ask the applicant about the rumors, and this is his angry reply:

“First of all, I was in the top of my class in school! I was also captain of the football team and basketball team! Let me tell you, I worked my friggin’ ass off!”

Okay, you say, but what I’m asking is, what can you tell me about the rumors? And his answer is, “Okay, they have absolutely no evidence I did any of that! Zero! None!"

So what do you do? You have no evidence that the applicant did anything wrong, and so you ask yourself, shouldn’t I give this guy the benefit of the doubt?

Answer: Maybe, but not necessarily. If you think he’s most likely not guilty, you might decide to take a chance on him. On the other hand, if you get the feeling he’s probably guilty, feel free to cut him loose. So you do.

And that’s that? Not so fast.

Because then, after you tell the guy no, you get a call from your upper management, maybe your boss’s boss, who informs you the applicant is the son of a good friend, and so he tells you to call the guy back in and hire him. So then you tell the high-up mucky-muck about the daycare rumors, and that you can’t, in good conscience, hire some child molester.

Then he says, hmm, oh yeah, that would look pretty bad, but then he orders you to find a way to hire the guy anyway. In other words, make the problem go away, and then hire the guy.

So you do. After all, you tell yourself — and anybody else that asks — that, here in America, you’re presumed innocent until proven guilty, and since we have no actual evidence of any wrongdoing…

You then call the guy back and give him the good news!

“That’s great!”, the guy says.

But just before you both hang up, the guy says, “Oh, by the way, one more question?”

“Sure. What?”

“Does the company have onsite daycare?"

Now for the big question: Did you do the right thing?

Maybe, maybe not. But whichever, just remember to make sure you send your daughter elsewhere for daycare.

Will there be an upside to all that Kavanaugh crap we just went through?

Yes, I do believe that it only helps Democrats to realize that, no matter what they lead you believe time and time again, Republicans like Jeff Flake and Susan Collins will always be like Lucy with the football, and that when it comes to doing the right thing, we Democrats will need to find some way to do that ourselves.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Response to And They Laughed

(See: Just Above Sunset: And They Laughed)

As for that U.N. "laughing fit" at Trump, his surprise at hearing it reminds us that President Trump is — except when giving his State of the Union address — virtually never faced with a crowd that would even consider laughing at him, because he spends his life walking around inside a little climate-controlled bubble of his own making!

It’s mostly only inside the United Nations General Assembly hall, in which neither he nor his friends are allowed to determine who is allowed into the room, where we find anyone free to giggle or guffaw at the naked emperor to their heart’s content.

And this highlights a big problem we have with our political system, being that a president the likes of Donald Trump is able to manipulate it in such a way that he’s never subject to cross-examination from his opponents, and so is never held accountable to anyone but his somewhat, shall we say, "off-the-beaten-path" minority base. I think Congress needs something like the Wednesday noon “Prime Minister’s Questions" in the British House of Commons, where the president would be required to answer questions from real-world elected officials who disagree either with him or his knuckle-headed policies.

But an even more dangerous shortcoming of our system is that our president — even one who might, such as Donald Trump did, get elected by accident — is granted extraordinary unilateral powers to change the official opinions of the whole country, even if most citizens of the country disagree with him. If, for some reason, the United States decides it wants to change course and go it alone, leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself, it should only happen with the specific consent of the governed.

And if we citizens never get the power to make that happen, we at least need some constitutional way to stop him in his tracks, short of having to wait for elections every four years or initiating impeachment proceedings, especially if a minority opposition stands in our way, as is the case right now. I’m thinking of something along the lines of recalling him, and simultaneously putting someone else in there, sort of like how Californians back in 2003 were able to replace Governor Gray Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In other words, forget about "Making America Great Again", what we need is to find a way to make America work again.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Response to The Return of the Fabians

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Return of the Fabians)

As for this Ford-Kavanaugh discussion, what we all need to decide is, which side is just playing “politics”, and which side has “truth” on its side?

In fact, there are indeed two separate and distinct parts of this fight; there’s “politics” and there's “truth”. And, the truth be known, it must first be admitted that both sides are playing politics:
(a) The Republicans — who don’t really mind everyone hearing what Dr. Ford has to say, but just as long as it remains a question of "he-said, she-said", and doesn’t seriously jeopardize the confirmation of their Supreme Court candidate, Bret Kavanaugh — obviously would like to get their guy onto the court before the midterms, since there is just that chance they will lose their Senate majority during the elections, and along with it, their ability to confirm Kavanaugh;
(b) Likewise, the Democrats — who also don’t really mind everyone hearing what Dr. Ford has to say, just as long as everyone also hears the results of an independent investigation into her allegations, keeping the hearing from becoming a question of “he-said, she-said”, in which the accused would, by default, be presumed innocent — would, in addition, not mind terribly if the whole process got delayed, hopefully long enough to keep the Republicans from getting their guy on the court, since there’s just that chance they can do to the Republicans what the Republicans did to them with Merrick Garland, which, they think, would be both political and poetic justice.
But as for the “truth” part?

There really is a good reason to believe that Judge Kavanaugh was guilty of attempted rape when he was in high school, and apparently got away with it, so does either side really want to see someone like that get a lifetime appointment to the highest court, making decisions about, among other things, women’s sex lives? With just a little investigation by the FBI, we should get a pretty good idea if Dr. Ford’s claims are true, no matter the delay.

So while both sides have strong political reasons to take the stands they do, the Democrats have the advantage of also having truth on their side, despite the politics.

So our big dilemma now is, which will win out — raw politics, or raw truth — in this, the Era of Trump? We shall see.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Response to Nuts

(See: Just Above Sunset: Nuts)

What the hell is Carl Bernstein thinking?

"Congressional hearings"? Really? Maybe he also thinks we should make Devin Nunes the Chairman?

One problem is, everybody seems to think we’re headed for a “constitutional crisis”, rather than our already being in one! A constitutional crisis could be defined as a very serious problem of governing for which our Constitution offers no remedy, which is where we are right now!

They keep suggesting our "constitutional remedy" is impeachment, but if so, why aren’t we trying that? For very practical reasons:
(1) the Republicans running congress really don’t want to get rid of a president who, to their surprise, is pretty much delivering on the Republican agenda, and especially don't want to do it over some wishy-washy claims that he’s “unfit”; and...
(2) because to many of us Democrats, myself included, there are few scarier two words in the English language than “President Pence”.
Same for that 25th Amendment thing, which has the added disadvantage of never having ever been tried, so we have no real clue on how to go about it.

The solution? Not a lot of options right now.

In the meantime, all we can do is leave the “Anonymous” crowd alone and let them try to protect the country in whatever way they can to keep the president from blowing up the world until a better plan comes along, simply because the rest of us can't think of how to do that, and stop talking about how “unconstitutional” that is, since, if the constitution doesn’t like it, the constitution should offer up its own solutions — and real solutions, not just theoretical ones like impeachment or the 25th Amendment.

The gridlock we’re in is exactly why the founders didn’t want us messing around with political parties in the first place. Unfortunately, they couldn’t find any good way to avoid "factions", as they called them, they just took a chance that, when problems like this would pop up, future Americans would muster the intelligence and mutual good will to solve them. In other words, they trusted us.

Silly founders!

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Response to Needless Cruelty as Policy

(See: Just Above Sunset: Needless Cruelty as Policy)

What I find frustrating about all of this kidnapping of children business is that, if you or I did it, there would be legal consequences, as there would, and ought to be, for anyone who does this — unless, apparently, if you work for the government.

But Adam Serwer brings up an interesting point:
People who would do this to children would do anything to anyone.
And not just to any old “anyone”, maybe even to their own children!

This leads us to the question of whether we shouldn’t take the children away from anyone who, for instance, institutes a public policy that kidnaps children away from immigrants as a way of scaring them away from even thinking of coming across our borders.

For example, I wonder if the DC Department of Children and Protective Services, or whatever it’s called there, is exploring the thought that Baron Trump might be in danger, and, given the fact that the father of that family put in force a program to permanently separate children from their parents, whether the boy ought to be removed from the toxic family environment in the White House.

And what happens if the government were to lose track of him? No worries! The president can always call the ACLU for help in finding him.

Who knows? Maybe they’ll find him somewhere in the slums of El Salvador.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Response to The Killer Elite

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Killer Elite)

This all seems so complicated that nobody seems to be able to find a way to explain it. The White House, in many more words, claims they’re only enforcing existing law, and the really stupid thing is, they’re mostly right.

In a nutshell:

If you are arrested anywhere in America, and you have young kids, they take your kids away, and that’s all they’re talking about doing here.

The only difference with Jeff Sessions’ new “Zero Tolerance” policy is, before they enacted it, border officials could use their discretion to not arrest you — after all, the “crime” of illegally crossing the border is only a misdemeanor, not a felony, and doesn’t really require detention anyway. Under the old policy of exercising discretion in making arrests, families didn’t get separated; under the Trump policy of guaranteed arrests, they do.

It’s that simple.

Forget about asking some judge somewhere to grant an exception on how long we can hold some kid — to “keep the family together” — since that just takes us back to square one. Instead of kids locked in a cage, crying for their daddies and mommies, we’ll see kids in cages along with their families, and for how long? Probably until Donald Trump can dream up something else to entertain us with.

One might suspect that Trump benefits from all the confusion he is creating, since if everyone understood how truly simple the whole thing is, he couldn't blame it on the Democrats.

But something else all this Trump-generated confusion achieves is non-stop discussion of it on Cable TV and right-wing radio, which not only reminds his base that he’s at least trying to be the heartless bastard he’d always promised he’d be, but now we're hearing reports today that all that audio of crying children has made it down across the border, and it seems that the northern movement of parents and children has now begun to slow, which is exactly what the Trump crowd has been hoping for all along.

A bunch of us, including me, keep saying this guy is stupid. Can we all be that wrong?

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Response to The Case for Extreme Worry

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Case for Extreme Worry)

Madeleine Albright did a great job of summing up our Trump dilemma, but in my opinion, that Thomas B. Edsall guy? Not so much.

I don’t see all those people who prefer social stability as being Trump voters. In fact, because the “elite” have had their way for so long, with peace and tranquility being the norm, I see the Trumpists as being those who don’t like stability — in fact, Trump supporters are the ones calling for a reshuffle of the deck.

But, in fact, it wasn’t until I clicked on that Edsall link and noticed that chart halfway through the article that I realized what he was trying to get at: The Trumpists apparently see the world order that existed before all the elitists smarty-pants' took over as the baseline that we elitists fucked up; they see themselves as trying the restore the world to the way it was before, making America “Great Again!”

So in fact, the rolls have been switched! It is all of us “open-minded” people who are now experiencing fear, anger, and feeling “left behind” and helpless! 

Maybe the true confusion can be seen more clearly in an item listed on the WaPo rundown in my mailbox this morning:
Folks in the Midwest have Trump all figured out
They realize that Trump’s hype and bluster are the tools of a huckster salesman. 
By David Von Drehle  •  Read more »
Okay, but if they see him as a “huckster", as I myself do, then why are they still backing him?

Actually, I think I get it. Not being “elitists”, like me, they don’t see pure salesmanship as suspicious! To them, hucksterism is just a regular part of their daily life, while in the world we live in — the pre-post-truth world of the perpetual "Never-Trumpers" — it’s an insult to call someone a “huckster salesman”.

And ever shall that be! If you’re thinking of taking the respect for truth away from me, you’ll have to have to pry it out of my cold, dead brain!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Response to This Infinitely Improbable Presidency

(See: Just Above Sunset: This Infinitely Improbably Presidency)

l’m now remembering that I was one of those who urged thinking, the best thing to do is just allow Trump to be Trump, sure that the American people wouldn’t allow him to succeed. What was I thinking!
This is dire, and Gabriel Sherman reported that Trump is also considering creating a new West Wing structure without a chief of staff, one that would instead have four co-equal principals reporting directly to him...
And the world will finally realize what’s up, and will know it’s time to worry after he names these four co-equal principals "Death", "Famine", "War", and "Pestilence", after the Four horsemen of the Apocalypse.

It’s amazing how unpredictably tedious it turned out to be to watch Evil triumph on Earth, with nothing for the rest of us to do but sit and watch it happen.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Response to That Conspiracy to Destroy Our Freedom

(See: Just Above Sunset:That Conspiracy to Destroy Our Freedom)

"We should also expect the argument that Thomas Hobbes started long ago to continue. The idea of community, where people take public action for the public good, is a joke. Life’s not like that. We need a massive authoritarian state – a leviathan – with a single authoritarian head who will slap people around to keep them in line, who cannot be questioned.

And of course the whole concept of community is a conspiracy to destroy our freedom, which we really don’t have under a single authoritarian head who cannot be questioned anyway. But everyone has a gun, so that’s fine. A perpetual armed standoff is freedom too.”

Okay, Alan, I think you're misrepresenting Thomas Hobbes’ views on this issue. In truth, he’s actually on our side, not Trump’s.

Leaving the whole question of a "massive authoritarian state" aside for a second, Hobbes is not “anti-community”. In fact, his quote — in its full version — says that, WITHOUT community, it’s a case of every man for himself, where everyone is essentially the enemy of everyone else, a society in which "there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; … no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death”, with the kicker of his argument being, "And the life of man solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

I’m with Hobbes, not Trump. I see no real advantage to living a life of continual fear and danger of violent death.

In the case of guns, this would mean a world of allowing the bad guy who is carrying an instrument of murder the same constitutional right to carry it as the good guy with that same right, so nobody would have the right to take that weapon away from him until AFTER he shoots somebody with it. Meanwhile, until he does, we are all doomed to live in "continuall feare”.

Also, I’m not sure how much emphasis Hobbes places on the “Leviathan” being "a single authoritarian head who will slap people around to keep them in line", like a king. I think he uses the word "Leviathan" to mean a thing of nature, something bigger and more powerful than you and me, but not necessarily an ill-intentioned thing — something like a whale, since one definition of "Leviathan" is "a very large aquatic creature, especially a whale", if you happen to think of whales as not wanting to hurt us.

This is at that same link:
For by Art is created that great Leviathan called a Common-Wealth or State, (in latine Civitas) which is but an Artificiall Man; though of greater stature and strength than the Naturall, for whose protection and defence it was intended
I gather Hobbes would have us think of our government as an invention of nature, the purpose of which is to protect us from harm. I don't think Trump or the NRA would agree, but in their defense, Hobbes was, like, an actual world-famous philosopher who actually thought about stuff, and those other two aren't.

Here he is again:
The office of the sovereign, be it a monarch or an assembly, consisteth in the end for which he was trusted with the sovereign power, namely the procuration of the safety of the people, to which he is obliged by the law of nature.
So Hobbes seems to believe that his great “Leviathan” can be called either a “Common-Wealth”, “State”, “Monarch” or “Assembly”, but whatever, the purpose of it is the “protection and defense” of its constituent people.

The fact that he comes right out and says this seems to indicate he doesn’t believe a civilization is an “every-man-for-himself” community, in which good men (with guns) and bad men (with guns) get to enjoy shooting each other to death, while the rest of us are forced to watch.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Response to Staying In Your Lane

So you say we should outlaw “assault weapons”? Reduce the size of ammo “magazines"? Maybe instead of more gun regulation, we should all be jibber-jabbering about keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally unbalanced!  How about raising the age for buying firearms? Think that’ll work?

Seriously? The answer is no, of course not. It hasn’t worked so far, so what makes us think those measures will work in the future?

So many of us who don’t like guns have compromised over the years, saying, okay, people should be allowed to hunt with guns, so sure, maybe we can just fine-tune the rules of gun ownership, or maybe improve the government record-keeping, so we can keep guns away from dangerous "gunmen".

But you know what? Too many people who own guns don’t believe in compromise, don’t like the idea of the government keeping records of who owns what sort of weapon that can kill our children someday, and because of that, we have several mass shootings every year and, unlike most countries in the world, thousands and thousands of gun deaths, including suicides that could be prevented.

They don’t do any of that crap in Japan! If you want to own a gun in Japan, you can only get a shotgun or air rifle — no pistols, certainly no semi-automatic "assault rifles" like an AR-15 — and you have to take a written and shooting test and score no lower than 95%.

And if they award you a shooting license, it’s only for three years. And when you die, your survivors have to turn the firearms back in.

That’s why there were only six gun deaths in Japan in 2014; that same year, there were 33,599 gun deaths in the U.S.

Yeah, I know. A country in which hardly anybody gets shot to death? That’s un-American! So maybe what we need to do is become an “un-American” country, where people don’t die in all these school-shootings, because there won’t be any!

The only way to keep guns out of the hands of someone who shouldn’t own one is to keep them out of everybody’s hands, like they do in some other countries. So maybe we should try that, since whatever we’re doing obviously isn’t working.

Have you ever noticed that, after every mass shooting, we all discuss solutions that don't pertain to the most recent massacre? After Parkland, there’s talk about not selling guns to someone with mental problems or a criminal background, neither of which would have helped in Florida, since he had no record of either.

But the only real way to keep someone with a criminal record or a mental disorder from buying guns is to prevent everyone, even someone with a clean record, from buying guns.

I think what we really need now is to think the unthinkable:

Repeal the 2nd Amendment!

We really don’t need it anymore anyway, since it was only cooked up by the founders as a way of making up for the fact that we were creating a country that was planning on having no military.

It’s true! You rarely hear it, but one thing American colonists really didn’t like about Britain  a mistake they swore they wouldn’t repeat when they created their own country  was Britain maintained a “standing army”. The thinking was, if you had an army, you'd want to use it, and then you'd find yourself in all sorts of useless mischief.

So we were actually planning to go without! We figured the “Minute Man” concept worked just fine during the Revolution, so we were going to give the “well-regulated militias" idea a shot.

We tried that in the War of 1812. It didn’t work so well, so we changed our minds. Now we have a full-time military and no longer require everyone to bring muskets to the battlefield.

But you say you need a gun to defend yourself from a government invasion of your town? Hey, if you can’t trust America, maybe you should move to a country you trust more.

You say you need a gun for small game hunting? Sorry, you’ll just need to go buy your food at the Piggly-Wiggly like the rest of us.

If we let you own a gun, that means we have to also allow Nikolas Whatsisname to buy one, so he can go kill and wound people in South Florida.

Allowing you your hunting hobby is not worth even one of those lives, much less all 17 of them, nor one of the lives of someone shot in a home invasion, or workplace in which some disgruntled employee comes back to shoot everyone after being fired, or the ex-wife shot by her ex-husband, or even the person who is temporarily depressed and decides to buy a gun to end it all before he can come to his senses.

By the way, it's not just the murders, suicides, and accidents that come from little kids finding where you hide your guns, but guns are also used in so-called "lesser" offenses, such as robberies and rapes. Without the help of a gun, many of these crimes would go away.

You want the constitutional right to own a gun so you can defend yourself and your family? From what? From some “bad guy” who, by the way, has the same constitutional right to own a gun that you do?

If neither of you had a constitutional right to own a gun, then we can take it away from the “bad guy”, and then you won’t need yours! We'll be just like all those other countries that don’t have their citizens shooting each other to death on a daily basis.

Every attempt to get weapons under control, despite the overwhelming support from most  of America, is countered by the NRA, a trade group that protects manufacturers’ rights to sell what, in the old west, were referred to as "widow makers".

So maybe somebody should start a list, like Grover Norquist’s anti-raise-taxes pledge, that says, “I will not vote for any candidate who refuses to sign a pledge not to take any campaign contributions from the NRA.” If you don't promise to not take money from the NRA, voters will either vote for your opponent or vote for nobody at all.

And after that whittles down the number of elected officials beholden to the gun lobby, maybe what we need to do is pass a law that says, “If the government can’t reduce annual gun deaths in this country to near-zero by such-and-such a date, then we automatically begin the process of repealing the Second Amendment.”

At first, for a limited time, we buy guns back. After that expires, we won’t punish you if you voluntarily surrender your weapons (but nor will we pay you.) And if we later catch you with guns you never turned over voluntarily, we punish you.

All confiscated guns should be totally destroyed, so they don’t end up in someone else’s hands.

I give up. No more playing around. We need to start thinking the unthinkable, and doing what we should have done a long time ago:

Repeal the 2nd Amendment.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Response to When Not To Explain Anything

(See: Just Above Sunset: When Not To Explain Anything)

"Trump should give [Sarah Huckabee Sanders] new instructions. Don’t explain. That only makes things worse.

But in fact, one of the faults of Sarah Sanders is she never explains anything.

In fact, think about it: Has she ever really fully answered a question? Responding to every other question with, “I think we’ve been very clear about that…” is just a way of not answering questions, just another way of saying “Go back through your notes; you’ll find that we’ve answered that question already.”

Maybe what we’ve got here in the White House is what someone in some movie once termed “a failure to communicate”. Every day, reporters show up to get information to relay to the public, get some administration abuse instead, giving the networks a few of Sarah Sanders's useless wisecracks to chew on until the next day. She doesn't seem to understand her own job.

General Kelly has the same problem. The effectiveness of his job depends on his looking like the impartial enforcer of order in the West Wing, which was destroyed that day when he appeared in the briefing room and gave his own opinion. The world didn’t need to know that he thinks the whole idea of the Gold Star Family was destroyed by a Pakistani family mourning their soldier son back at the Democratic Convention, or the idea of women no longer deserving of being treated with “honor” simply because his old world is falling apart. He shoulda just stood in bed that morning, to coin an old phrase.

I’m sort of surprised not to hear Trump bragging about him saving the government so much money by not filling all these positions in his administration. Trump's got the average poor-man’s conception that government would work better if it didn’t have all this bureaucracy getting in the way, not realizing that sometimes things work the way they’re supposed to work if you let the bureaucracy automatically do what it’s supposed to.

The problem with using so-called “common sense” is that that means you think you’re smarter than the “institutional memory” of the White House, which only exists if you hire people who know how the system works. Unfortunately, Trump seems to have gone out of his way to not hire people who had experience running a White House, and he is now paying the price.

For instance, this “interim security clearance” stuff.

It sounds an awful lot like the FBI told the White House Security Office at some point that Rob Porter will not qualify for a permanent clearance, and it was then decided Porter would just work indefinitely on the temporary clearance — at least until it became a problem, "at which point we’ll deal with it."

I wonder how many others in his White House are doing that? There seems to be nobody working there who knows what to do about that, which is a problem previous administrations didn’t have, maybe because they were not such know-it-alls who were reluctant to fill job openings.

But it’s no wonder Trump can’t find good help. It’s not hard to imagine someone might be afraid that they’d be looking for a job some time in the future, and would come just this close to getting it, but then, their prospective employer takes a closer look at the resume and would notice the guy had once worked in the Trump White House — and the next thing he’d know, he’d be back out on the street.

I suppose he could always leave the fact that he’d worked for Trump off his resume, but then he runs the risk of the Russians finding out, leaving him open to being blackmailed. It’s probably better to just lay low, at least until the good guys come back in power.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Response to The Faint Scent of Authoritarianism

(See: Just Above Sunset: The Faint Scent of Authoritarianism)

Two things:

First of all, we all need to dissect this Trump tweet put out in response to the release of the Nunes memo:
This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This is an American disgrace!
Okay, that depends on what you call “Collusion” and also on what you call “Obstruction”.

I would contend that, in his case, they are both pretty much the same thing — that Trump's out-and-out obstruction is his way of colluding, by rewarding Putin’s election interference. No need to search very hard for them, since both the “obstruction" and the “collusion" are happening right now — as they say, “hiding in plain sight”.

Firstly, by not stopping the release of the GOP memo, Trump is plainly telegraphing his intention to obstruct the Mueller investigation, evidenced by his crowing, albeit incorrectly, that the memo “vindicates” him in the probe.

(And if that doesn’t do it for you, consider the fact that, while promising to cooperate with the Mueller investigations, Trump has continually tried to undermine them, through his tweets and his actions in firing Comey and McCabe, the officials who oversee them.)

Think about it:

American intelligence services, who have ways of knowing these things that Donald Trump doesn’t, have found proof that Russia has interfered in our elections, possibly changing the result, but every time anyone mentions this to Trump, he downplays it, sometimes by denying the certainty of it by suggesting maybe some other country did it, and usually by changing the subject to Hillary Clinton, for reasons too complicated to explain.

Also, there are widely-held suspicions that Russia is still at it and will likely do the same in 2018 and 2020, yet there seems to be no evidence that the Trump administration is concerned about the possibility enough to start working on preventing it.

In fact, while the American people’s representatives have voted to punish Russia with sanctions, the Trump administration has blocked them, effectively rewarding Putin for his attack on our country.

Secondly, this obstruction can be seen as “colluding” with the Russian interference with the 2016 U.S. elections, which, at the very least, makes Trump an “accessory after the fact”:
Example of a piece of Federal legislation defining the term. 
18 USCS § 3 
§ 3. Accessory after the fact 
Whoever, knowing that an offense against the United States has been committed, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial or punishment, is an accessory after the fact. 
Except as otherwise expressly provided by any Act of Congress, an accessory after the fact shall be imprisoned not more than one-half the maximum term of imprisonment or (notwithstanding section 3571 [18 USCS § 3571]) fined not more than one-half the maximum fine prescribed for the punishment of the principal, or both; or if the principal is punishable by life imprisonment or death, the accessory shall be imprisoned not more than 15 years. 
Morgan v. Lafler, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93580 ( E.D. Mich. Oct. 7, 2009)
Fifteen years? Assuming his sentence begins in June of next year, when he turns 72, he could be kept occupied until 2034, or age 87!

- - - - -

And the second thing has to do with Leon Panetta’s appearance on Fox this past weekend, in which he complains that, if Trump keeps even appearing to obstruct the investigation, "he’s going to hurt himself, he’s going to hurt the presidency, but more importantly, he’s going to hurt the country” — which is hard to deny.

But Panetta also said this:
“The president frankly needs to focus on the economy, on infrastructure, on improving the ability of all Americans in order to succeed in our country,” Panetta said. “That's what presidents need to focus on."
In other words, do “presidential policy” stuff? (In his case, do “Republican agenda” stuff, which I’d actually prefer he didn’t do anyway?) Okay, maybe or maybe not, but that’s beside the real point, since that won’t solve our Russia problem.

What Trump really needs to focus on is letting the American people know he sees Russian interference in our democracy as a serious matter, one that he will not tolerate, and one that we need to counter with everything in our power.

He wants Russia to be our friend? He could, at some point, make that argument. I don’t agree with him on that, but that aside, it doesn’t matter. The UK is our friend, but if we ever caught them doing to us what Russia did in 2016 — for example, targeting the upper-midwest with the kind of propaganda that could actually swing votes during the elections — then we would be sanctioning them, too!

Even putting aside the fact that Russia is attacking America, and also seems to be attacking other democracies, we still would not want to make them as close an ally as Trump seems to think they should be, if for no other reason than that the Russians see us as their adversaries, having just recently humiliated them in the Cold War. They’re pissed off and are seemingly keen to exact revenge on us.

They’re a make-believe democracy, not a real one, and our president needs to stop envying Putin his dictatorial powers.

I know Trump hates to hear this, but more Americans did not vote for him than did, which is to say that maybe he should stop trying to force America in a direction it doesn’t want to go.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Response to Regarding Claims of Genius

(See: Just Above Sunset: Regarding Claims of Genius)

Genius doesn’t really mean what people think it means.

They think it refers to someone who is not only, “like, really smart”, but has a very high IQ score, maybe graduated from some good college, and maybe is a billionaire — although you’d think someone that smart should know that’s not even what “genius” really means.

Check the dictionary:
gen·ius ˈjēnyəs/
 1. exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability. "she was a teacher of genius"
synonyms: brilliance, intelligence,  intellect,  ability,  cleverness,  brains, erudition, wisdom, fine mind
 2. a person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect. "one of the great musical geniuses of the 20th century"
synonyms: brilliant person, gifted person,  mastermind,  Einstein,  intellectual,  great intellect,  brain,  mind
Nothing about IQ scores in any of that. Nothing in there about what college you went to, or starting a company, or progressing from a millionaire to a billionaire. 

But first of all, you don’t have to be a genius to know that Donald Trump has not been gifted, from birth or otherwise, with “exceptional intellect or creativity”. Maybe it just boils down to being naturally talented at something or other.

So maybe Donald Trump is a genius, of sorts, if genius means having a talent for taking his dead dad’s large inheritance of millions of dollars, and growing it into something even larger.

That’s not too unlike what was done by Howard Hughes, another famous germaphobic nut-case playboy from an earlier era, who also didn’t drink or smoke, and who spent his twilight years growing his fingernails long, tended by a small staff of mormons as he feasted on TV Dinners in a darkened penthouse above Acapulco, not touching anything except through Kleenex, and dying a lonely shriveled old coot, with no more pretty Hollywood starlets around him, much less family, to bid him adieu.

If your definition of genius is having some outstanding talent, then maybe you can call Trump a genius, although his talent has mostly been in suckering other not-too-smart people into thinking that, because he’s a billionaire businessman, he must also be, like, really smart.

Even though he’s not.

Charles Blow handles that nicely in the New York Times today:
From everything I have ever read about the man, he is not particularly smart. This is sometimes hard for people to understand. They equate financial gain with intellectual gifts, but the two are hardly synonymous. 
Being gifted at exploitation is not the same as intellectualism. It is a skill, but one separate from scholarship. Being able to see and exploit a need, void or insecurity in people can be an interesting, and even lucrative, endowment, but it is not enlightenment. 
He is also not a reader. That is not to say that he can’t read, but rather that, given his druthers, he won’t.
In fact, he’s probably never had to be smart. Think about it: there’s no reason to believe he’s ever applied for a job, or gotten a promotion that wasn’t because he was the boss's son.

And forget his businesses. Someone once did a study of how rich Trump would be had he never started any business, nor taken any business into bankruptcy, but had he instead sunk his inheritances in stock market index funds, the most risk-averse of funds, and it was discovered he’d have ended up much richer if he’d just invested it all on Wall Street.

In defense of his “mental stability”, Trump, for some reason, cites having gone to a good college. Yes, Trump went to Wharton, but it should be noted that Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, went to Harvard, an arguably even better school.

On the other hand, other than being — as Steve Bannon says of Ivanka — “dumb as a brick”, is Trump even mentally fit to be president?

I don’t know. Who really can say? Like being a “genius”, being a certifiable fruitcake doesn’t mean exactly what folks thinks it means. Even while he was safely ensconced in prison, nobody’s ever been able to nail down a reliable diagnosis of Kaczynski himself
Kaczynski's lawyers, headed by Montana Federal public defenders Michael Donahoe and Judy Clarke, attempted to enter an insanity defense to avoid the death penalty, but he rejected this plea. On January 8, 1998, he requested to dismiss his lawyers and hire Tony Serra as his counsel; Serra had agreed not to use an insanity defense and instead base a defense on Kaczynski's anti-technology views. This request was unsuccessful and Kaczynski subsequently tried to commit suicide by hanging on January 9. 
Several, though not all, forensic psychiatrists and psychologists who examined Kaczynski diagnosed him as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz said Kaczynski was not psychotic but had a schizoid or schizotypal personality disorder. 
In his 2010 book Technological Slavery, Kaczynski said that two prison psychologists that visited him frequently for four years told him they saw no indication that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and the diagnosis was "ridiculous" and a "political diagnosis".
So what chance do we have of any group of competent psychologists agreeing on what’s going on inside Trump’s noggin, given the fact that not even the Unabomber's shrinks can agree on his diagnosis?

For that matter, it’s not entirely out of the question to think that Ted Kaczynski, if reexamined, could be deemed mentally qualified to be president!

And why not? Are you sure the Unabomber would truly be any weirder a Chief Executive than the one we have now?