31 October 2017

Jack o lanterns

Mueller news

I take no pleasure in any of this. I regard Trump as a scourge and a tragedy, but I'd much rather focus on positive things for our country. But anyway, Mueller's job is to investigate crimes in the arena he's investigating, whether or not they are directly connected to Trump's own culpability. Certainly the questions of why Manafort was so anxious to assume the role of campaign manager when he was some $17 million in debt to a Russian oligarch, and then proceeded to commit massive tax evasion and money laundering while concealing the fact that he continued to act as a foreign agent, even while Trump's campaign manager and afterwards, while not directly implicating Trump or his family members, casts his entire campaign in a very dark light. And the Gates indictment is just sort of a "mini me" for Manafort. Both these guys now have a tremendous incentive to cooperate in the investigation from here on out, because without the leniency that cooperation could bring, they are facing many years in prison. 

And if Trump is foolish enough to pardon them, I have to believe that will be a bridge too far for enough Republicans, combined with nearly all Democrats, that he will be impeached. These indictments are airtight document cases. These guys are guilty as hell, and there's no way out for them other than cooperation or pardon. And I suspect both of them know about some skeletons in the closet, because Trump is so stupid he doesn't even understand that it actually is illegal to cooperate with foreign governments to interfere in elections. Remember he said "a lot of people would've taken that meeting" about Don Jr.'s meeting with Russians in June of '16... if it can be proven that that meeting resulted in the transfer of "a thing of value" (such as oppo. research, like the emails themselves), it would be a felony. But Trump pretty obviously doesn't grasp that. He keeps saying "everyone's saying there's no collusion." Which is just plain stupid. What 'everybody says' is totally irrelevant. 

But the real news on Monday no one saw coming. It's the seemingly minor case of George Papadopoulos. A Trump campaign staffer. One of the guys he mentioned (along with Carter Paige) to the Washington Post as "an excellent guy" and a foreign policy advisor. (Actually a 30 year old, rather undistinguished fellow of the Hudson Institute). Anyway, this guy rather clumsily lied to the FBI back in January and February of this year (before the Mueller appointment)(a felony), and then tried to cover it up (ineptly). According to not an indictment but a plea agreement. He told them he hadn't met with Russians, but he had. He talked to Russian "danglers" no doubt working at the behest of Russian intelligence services, back as early as April of '16, about getting "dirt" on Hillary Clinton, and learned, long before this was public knowledge, that the Russians had "thousands of e-mails." Did he report this to the FBI at the time? No, he reported it to his "supervisor," who said, "good work," and discussed sending him to Russia to follow up. Remember, this is an adversary of the United States, attempting to influence the outcome of a US election. Cooperation with that endeavor is a serious crime if committed by a US citizen. Papadopoulos was not charged with that, and did not plead guilty to it, but he did plead guilty to lying about it, and he has been a "proactive cooperator" since his arrest in July. The conclusion that he has been wearing a wire and/or otherwise helping investigators get evidence against higher ups in the Trump campaign, who knows how high up, is inescapable. And this guy pleaded guilty, turned states' evidence. This is very, very bad news, far worse that Manafort and Gates, for Trump, and, like I said, no one saw it coming. 

I think it's now more than likely that Trump will be forced out of office by, say, 2019. And a week ago I did not think that. 


Musica lætitiæ comes medicina dolorum.

27 October 2017

I support OFA/Obama/Holder effort to address gerrymandering

I tend to support more Progressive Democratic organizations like Progressive Change Campaign Committee, over the DSCC, DCCC and DNC itself, because I want to emphasize my belief that the center of gravity of the Democratic party in the Trump era has shifted, and needs to shift, to the left, to present Medicare for All and other Progressive issues front and center as the alternative to the know nothing, mendacious and oligarchic GOP. But OFA, which is spearheading Pres. Obama and former AG Holder's campaign to reverse the horrible gerrymandering in the wake of the 2010 census, which has cost us a huge number of House seats in particular, is very definitely worthy of our support, both in terms of financial support and volunteer effort.

Link here to lend a hand or a few bucks.


Musica lætitiæ comes medicina dolorum.

Donald Trump must be impeached

In signing on to Tom Steyer's needtoimpeach.com campaign to generate a groundswell of support to impeach Trump, I'm not acting symbolically, ironically, or as a joke. I truly believe that Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to the future of our republic, and that his impeachment (or removal via the 25th amendment) is necessary, and the most important political priority facing our country at the present moment.  His corruption and recklessness, and, only slightly less grave, the horrible damage he is doing to the environment and our nation's ability to function as a member of the world community, are intolerable, and if he serves out his term, may cause literally irreparable damage to our country, if not our world. I urge everyone to join Tom Steyer in declaring their demand that Trump be impeached. All Democrats in office anywhere, local, state or federal, should be pressured, yes, pressured to join this movement and to publicly say so. 


24 October 2017

A lefty perspective on Democratic politics

A little perspective from the left: I'm reading about the shakeup at the DNC. I have to say that the rather heavy handed "purge" of Sanders and Ellison supporters executed by Perez bodes ill for Democratic unity right when we cannot afford internecine fighting. My guess is that a certain class of donors is demanding a centrist "party line." I am very concerned that the establishment of the Democratic party has failed to recognize that there has been a major leftward shift in the party's rank and file since 2008, and if they attempt to rule the party top down, it could cost Democrats dearly in 2018 and 2020, when we simply cannot lose. 

I hope I'm wrong and that more inclusive attitudes prevail, including a recognition that policy positions need to track the views of the majority of Democrats more closely going forward. But I, like many Sanders supporters, intend to commit my time and money to the progressive organizations within the party umbrella like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, rather than the DNC, DCCC and DSCC, precisely to help ensure that happens. 


05 October 2017

Tried for solar, but....

Well, gave it the old college try, but no dice. I actually signed a contract to install 28 solar panels on the roof of our house, at a cost way north of $35K before rebates and tax credits. The Federal credit of 30% was good, but the Oregon Energy Trust rebate and Oregon State refundable tax credit did not qualify. (That was a contingency in the contract). Partly because, hey, we're at almost 46° N here, far north of New York City (and more than halfway from the Equator to the North Pole). But mainly because although our house is in a "clearing," meaning no overhanging or closeby tall trees, it's still a forest here, and the horizon is limited part of the day. Added to which the house is angled at 45° to the Cardinal Axis, and the roof section that could qualify faces SE instead of SW (which would be much better), and it didn't add up. Submarginal. They wouldn't pay the rebates. Which has to mean that it isn't really worth it to install solar anyway. So, backed out, with regrets and apologies all around for unfortunately wasting time and effort for no result. No hard feelings.

04 October 2017

Brilliant article on universal health care in the New Yorker

There is a longish passage in the brilliant article by Atul Gawande in the current New Yorker, about whether health care should be considered a right that is JUST SO WELL PUT that I take the liberty of transcribing it here in its entirety. IF THIS ISSUE IS IMPORTANT TO YOU, please take a few moments to read this.

The Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild spent five years listening to Tea Party supporters in Louisiana, and in her masterly book "Strangers in Their Own Land" she identifies what she calls the deep story that they lived and felt. Visualize a long line of people snaking up a hill, she says. Just over the hill is the American Dream. You are somewhere in the middle of that line. But instead of moving forward you find that you are falling back. Ahead of you, people are cutting in line. You see immigrants and shirkers among them. It's not hard to imagine how infuriating this could be to some, how it could fuel an America First ideal, aiming to give pride to "real" Americans and demoting those who would undermine that identity -- foreigners, Muslims, Black Lives Matter supporters, feminists, "snowflakes."

Our political debates seem to focus on what the rules should be four our place in line. Should the most highly educated get to move up to the front? The most talented? Does seniority matter? What about people whose ancestors were cheated and mistreated?

The mistake is accepting the line, and its dismal conception of life as a zero-sum proposition. It gives up on the more encompassing possibilities of shared belonging, mutual loyalty, and collective gains. America's founders believed these possibilities to be fundamental. They held life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to be "unalienable rights" possessed equally by all members of their new nation. The terms of membership have had to be rewritten a few times since, sometimes in blood. But the aspiration endured, even as what we need to fulfill it has changed.

When the new country embarked on its experiment in democracy, health care was too primitive to life or liberty. The average citizen was a hardscrabble rural farmer who lived just forty years. People mainly needed government to insure physical security and the rue of law. Knowledge and technology, however, expanded the prospects of life and liberty, and, accordingly, the requirements of government. During the next two centuries, we relied on government to establish a system of compulsory public education, infrastructure for everything from running water to the electric grid, and old-age pensions, along with tax systems to pay for it all. As in other countries, these programs were designed to be universal. For the most part, we didn't divide families between those who qualified and those who didn't, between participants and patrons. This inclusiveness is likely a major reason that these policies have garnered such enduring support.

Health care has been a cavernous exception. Medical discoveries have enabled the average American to live eighty years or longer, and with a higher quality of life than ever before. Achieving this requires access not only to emergency care, but also, crucially, to routine care and medicines, which is how we stave off and manage the series of chronic health issues that accumulate with long life. We get high blood pressure and hepatitis, diabetes and depression, cholesterol problems and colon cancer. Those who can't afford the requisite care get sicker and die sooner. Yet in a country where pretty much everyone has trash pick up and K-12 schooling for the kids, we've been reluctant to address our Second World War mistake and establish a basic system of health-care coverage that's open to all. Some even argue that such a system is un-American, stepping beyond the powers the Founders envisioned for our government. 
The article goes on to recount how that is a total misconception, and how Madison and Jefferson, who disagreed on many things, both concurred in the near unanimous 1813 Vaccination Act, wherein the US government PROVIDED FREE SMALLPOX VACCINES to all citizens. Few realize that the idea of universal health care actually goes all the way back to the very early day of our republic. But even then, when a batch of vaccine was accidentally infected with smallpox and several died, there was great controversy and the law ended up being repealed. So both the idea of universal health care, and the tragedy of unrealistic realization of the ideal, have a long history in our country.