30 June 2015

Chinese Amazon anyone?

The Chinese are incredibly astute at commerce, by and large. Already, they're starting to go around the Walmarts of the World. I confess I've actually tried this myself. AliExpress, the Chinese Amazon (except it's much, much bigger than Amazon; there are five Chinese consumers for every American one), will sell you Chinese products directly, (mostly) free shipping to North America, priced in USD and charged to a credit card. They don't deliver in 2 days like Amazon does (if you're Prime, which is $100 a year; the Chinese just do it free but it takes a bit longer). If you can wait 1-2 weeks, China Post Air Express or E-packet are about the lowest cost overseas package shippers in the world. Packages arrive to addresses in major cities in the US in about a week. Generally, small packages are delivered by the post office.

The website is mildly comical in its use of English (occasionally), with things like "Please not to dip too long in water as for damaging the wood", and "due to computer monitor color may be not what you see, thanks for understanding." (Actually, that's perfectly clear and good English, but somehow not quite the way we would say it.) But their customer service/feedback/return system and checkout system are modeled on Amazon and apparently work pretty flawlessly. They have this figured out.

Oh, and of course, I REALIZE this promotes exploitation and the illiberal Chinese state economy, etc. etc. But face it, we ALL buy Chinese products, one way or another. China has probably already become the preeminent industrial power in the world, and their consumer economy will surpass that of the US very soon. No question about it. I submit that it is futile to think that by not buying stuff from them we will be able to resist this trend. The only way for us to remain a strong economy is by publicly investing in our own technology and infrastructure and crafting trade policy to favor living wages. But consumers will not voluntarily buy more expensive products because of bad policies. Just doesn't happen. (Remember the ILGWU "Look for the Union Label" tv commercials in the 70s? Best of intentions, but it just doesn't work. Has to be done by a system of laws).

Nutcase Dodges on Same Sex Marriage

Of the various totally insane ways the Cornered Conservatives in the South are trying to circumvent the Court decision in Obergefell, one is so obviously illegal it makes my head spin. That being the idea that county clerks could just opt out of compliance on the basis of religious objections. Did we not have a Civil Rights Act of 1965, FIFTY years ago? Did we not settle that public officials cannot discriminate on the basis of personal belief? If they can't bring themselves to do their jobs, they will just have to go into some other line of work.

The alternative idea, that the State will just stop issuing marriage licenses, is nutty, but probably legal. Residents of the various Nuttitanias of the region will have to travel to nearby slightly more civilized jurisdictions to get married, regardless of their orientation. Great plan.

28 June 2015

Affordable Care Act FACTS

If you are one of the people who, perhaps from the insidious effects of false propaganda emanating from Right Wing sources, continues to believe any of the following:

•  Obamacare has failed by a wide margin to increase the percentage of insured Americans
•  Obamacare has increased health care cost inflation
•  Obamacare is a job killer
•  Obamacare provides no benefit to people who continue to have employer based health insurance
•  Obamacare is ballooning the deficit

Please Note. All of these are entirely false and you really owe it to yourself to check out the facts.

First, every American with health insurance now is entitled to NO COST preventive care, including an annual physical, some blood tests, contraception, skin cancer screening and many more. No insured American faces lifetime caps. No insured American faces excluded pre-existing conditions. No policies are allowed to exist which fail to provide minimally acceptable standards of health coverage. Millions of EMPLOYED people are nonetheless eligible for subsidies if their income is below 400% of the poverty level.

As for the other factors, please read Krugman's detailed piece in the New York Times Friday, here:
♦ David Studhalter

Ted Cruz and the popularity of the recent SC decisions

​A little noted fact, which proves the idiocy of Ted Cruz's proposal that due to the "worst two days in American history" (hyperbole, much?), we should amend the Constitution to make Supreme Court judges elected.

That fact is that, not only has same-sex marriage reached 60% approval in national polling, but, as well, as of this past month and for the first time since 2010, the NYT CBS News poll shows a plurality favoring the Health Care law.

CBS News/NY Times  6/10 - 6/14  Approve:  47%       

Disapprove:  44%      
For/Favor +3

​I have long argued that effective Right Wing propaganda is the main reason for poor poll numbers. People when polled on individual aspects of the law that actually affect most people who continue to get insurance through their employers, such as free preventative care, no lifetime caps, no pre-existing conditions, coverage of adult children to age 26, etc. ... people very much like the ACA.
I believe the plurality in favor of universal health care and the strong majority in favor of equal marriage rights will only increase.
The Supreme Court ruled on its interpretation of the law, not their read of popularity. But, contrary to Mr. Cruz's hallucinatory view of the American body politic, the two things appear to be pretty well aligned at the moment.

On the "GREXIT"

David Atkins in Washington Monthly Political Animal blog:

It seems like a presumptuous and arrogant thing to say, but the most respected centrist economic voices both here and abroad simply don't understand how modern economies actually work, and what is wrong with them. Taxation on the wealthy doesn't harm growth. Recession-induced deficits aren't best cured with doses of austerity. The problem, generally, is a lack of adequate consumer demand—not an excess of spending or taxation. It's shocking that these facts aren't more obvious and well-understood. Or maybe they are, and it's simply not in the interest of the financial elite to understand them.

Either way, if the creditors hold firm to their austerity demands and Greek leaders (rightly) remain firm in taking the deal to their own people, we could see Greece exit the Eurozone. And from there, who know what other countries might follow suit in the contagion.

26 June 2015

Equality Day

To add to my trope of making June 26 EQUALITY DAY ...
·      Lawrence v. Texas  June 26, 2003  ...guarantees right to intimate relationships among gay and lesbians
·      Windsor v. U.S. June 26, 2013 ...  overturns as unconstitutional key provisions of Federal anti-marriage act (DOMA)
·      Hollingsworth v. Perry  June 26, 2013  ... lets stand the famous Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial outcome, under which California's anti-gay Prop. 8 was found to be unconstitutional
·      Obergefell v. Hodges ... Marriage is a constitutional right that cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation

Let's carry on the momentum; let's have a new era with a NEW ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), by adding a few words to the original, and let's get it passed this time.

"Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex, gender or sexual orientation."

Amazing Day

From the resounding affirmation of equal rights by the Supreme Court to the Amazing Grace speech, surely one of the most stirring and uniting speeches of President Obama's career, today, June 26, 2015, really was an amazing, amazing day. 

Let's have a new era of equal rights! 
(And what better way than with a NEW ERA, a renewed equal rights amendment to ensure equal protection of laws to everyone!)  

Important Links on Obergefell case.

Time to revive and expand the Equal Rights Amendment

I already proposed a new holiday: EQUALITY DAY (June 26, in commemoration of Supreme Court rulings in Windsor, Hollingsworth, and Obergefell). So, on this first Equality Day, I propose that we revive the Equal Rights Amendment, with a few extra words:

Proposed Amendment to the Constitution.

Section I.
Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex, gender, or sexual orientation.  

(The words in fabulous fuchsia are added to the original version).

25 June 2015

Effects of the King v. Burwell decision

Two predictions. In the wake of the King v. Burwell victory, the bel0w-50% public approval of the Affordable Care Act (which largely results from effective Right Wing Propaganda) will gradually reverse, and the concept of universal health care will become normalized as the policy of our country, over time. Second, more and more, it will be known as the ACA or Affordable Care Act, not Obamacare (since it will come to have positive associations and these people hate Obama like the devil himself).
Now, from a Progressive point of view, this decision is truly historic, for the reason I intimate above: the concept of universal health care is now enshrined in law virtually unassailably. The Progressive agenda now should be to incrementally improve it. Regularize the exchange system. Eliminate all profit from insurance and healthcare delivery systems (the French and German systems). Ensure adequate services in all policies. Introduce a pay-go Medicare ("public option") choice, which will eventually be so much more competitive than private insurance that we will end up with a de facto single payer system, probably with "private patients" among the rich, as in Britain.

24 June 2015

TPP: foregone conclusion, but not necessarily a done deal

Looks like the Trans Pacific Partnership is going to happen. Now we need to look for ways to mitigate its negative effects on ordinary working folks.

And if anyone doubts that showing the powers that be that we're watching and oppose corporate de-regulation (which is what these agreements are REALLY all about; we ALREADY HAVE free trade) was worthwhile... remember that the final form of the treaty (because that's what it is, whatever they call it), has not been arrived at yet. And the trade negotiators are keenly aware that the American public IS WATCHING.