Thursday, January 05, 2017
  (Revised) Open Letter to President-elect Trump (anyone got an email address for him?)

  Note: Teh Google tells me a number of mostly small news outlets are making the same argument.

  Dear President-elect Trump,

  If you're not careful, repealing Obamacare will be a disaster for you because it will be a disaster for many of the people who voted for you.

  So will messing with Medicare. Everybody knows Medicare works. Maybe there aren't a lot of things the federal government is very good at. But they're good at that.

  Here's a better idea than repeal and stall: Medicare For All.

  Only you can do it, Mr. President. Obama couldn't do it or he would have done it-- instead of creating the Rube Goldberg machine that is Obamacare. Obama had to make a deal that was all about benefiting the insurance companies. You don't.

  I've heard you say it-- it got you criticized from the right at the time: Everyone in the US should have health care. And I say: Amen. Other nations can do it, why can't we? Despite Obamacare, there are still millions of Americans with no health insurance, who can be wiped out financially if a family member gets sick or has an accident. Others can't afford to use the insurance they're forced to buy.

  What would solve that problem? Medicare For All.

  They will scream "Socialism! Communism! Boo! Next thing you know we'll have the government seizing the means of production and instituting five year plans for economic output!"

  No, health care isn't like other commodities and services. Health care is different. Everybody needs it, but only once in a while. And when we do need it, we can't afford it, so we have to have insurance. Well, you can choose not to drive and not buy car insurance. But you can't choose to never get sick or have an accident.

  Health care is different.

  Health care is just not a thing businessmen should do. The incentives are all wrong: profit seeking insurance companies make the most money by charging too much for the insurance and paying out for as little medical care as possible. How can that come to a good end? It doesn't. People pay too much for healthcare in America, and it's not the best in the world. We pay more and we get less because of those perverse incentives.

  There are some things government should do: The army. Police. Fire Departments. Paving roads.

  Yes, and health care.

  Other countries have figured this out. And their businesses have an unfair advantage over ours because they don't have to pay for health care. Medicare For All would fix that. Medicare For All would be a better deal for the American people, American businesses, and the American economy.

  Mr. President, Medicare For All would bring the country together behind you. Medicare For All is government doing what it does right, but now for all of us. Almost nobody would not benefit. And a whole lot of people who forego health care because they simply can't afford it, will now be able to thanks to President Donald Trump.

  Start your Presidency with an achievement of historic proportions. Medicare For All would bring the nation together in a way that only national programs can, make American companies more competitive with foreign companies, save the bacon of millions of Americans, and improve American medical care.

  The time is right for Medicare For All.

  HR 676, introduced by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) may be just the thing. If so, tell Congress to pass it. If not, have them write a better one.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016
  On the Vote

  People write about the results of the election as if we can have any idea of what the real vote totals were, when we simply can't.

  Some people know how to hack some machines. Probably more than one entity, with different interests. Some people know how to cheat in other ways. Probably almost no one votes twice-- the risk is too high and the effect too negligible. But some corrupt people know how to suppress the vote here and over-count it there-- done strategically and right, the risk is low and the gains high.

  We vote, the vote is somewhere around 50/50, and the hackers and vote counters fiddle around the edges. And perhaps there is one group that determines the outcome every time, but perhaps there is competition. Either way, inside players determine the outcome, not voters.

  Without transparent (paper!) balloting, it's a question of who won the count, not who won the vote.

  All explanations of the result that discuss ups or downs in percentages of types of voters is so much fantasy football. Same with discussions of strategy.

  Hillary seemed surprised, so she must have thought the riggers were on her side, like Romney in 2012. The CIA making noise about the Russians probably means that they were surprised, too.

  That in turn probably tells us that the deep state was in the tank for Hillary, and was out-hacked. But by who? The Russians? Anonymous? Rogue operators in the NSA? The RNC? All are legitimate possibilities. Another less well known entity? That's possible, too.

  Being bent out of shape over what the voters did is silly. They didn't do anything unusual. They went about 50/50 like they do every four years, no matter who the candidates are. They don't decide presidential elections, or at least we can't presume they do.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016
  Deregulation and Privatization

  Politicians are fond of saying that the government should not be picking winners and losers. Paul Ryan said it just the other day.

  It is a lie that needs to be put to bed once and for all. The truth is that picking winners and losers is exactly and the only thing government does.

  Politicians choose between legislation and tax codes that favor fossil fuels or renewables. They choose between national health care and insurance companies. They choose between guns and butter. And so on. Every bit of it picks winners and losers.

  Politicians are elected to look after the public good. And this is the point: More and more politicians have shunted the public good aside altogether. They use the hideous hand waving justification that giving more and more deference to the profit motive and the already rich (private good), will magically result in rainbows and ponies for the rest of us (public good): the Myth of the Magical Marketplace.

  The MMM argument boils down to this: uninhibited selfishness leads to the greatest good. The theory is absurd on its face, and no amount of hand waving or magical thinking will make it less vile or more true.

  You don't have to believe in MMM to like free enterprise. Freedom is good, and free people will be enterprising. But we don't need to tilt the board toward the already rich and powerful in order to have free enterprise.

  Deregulation and freer private markets doesn't mean the best product or service wins, as the MMMers would have you believe. It means, instead, that the already powerful can use their size and wealth to crush competitors, and raise prices, and eventually degrade products and services. A free market without regulation is a free-for-all market. The winner is the biggest, strongest, the most brutal or unscrupulous. That's how free-for-alls play out. And that kind of winner does not play nice once they're on top.

  Politicians who want to deregulate and privatize ultimately want to do so because they get contributions or await sinecures from corporations that will benefit from deregulation and privatization. They are choosing private good over public good in order to benefit themselves. They are corrupt.

  Donald Trump is pursuing Trump private good right out in the open. He's not pretending to not pick winners and losers. Sure, it's corrupt. But it's petty.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Too bad the word "class" has been put out of use for anything other than grouping people according to their economic status.


People who are the type who want power (and feel entitled to it) are of a different "class" than others (when using class in it's more useful, broader sense). And they know it, even if most of the rest of us do not, or do not consider the fact of it.

We know who they are, because most of them started showing it all the way back in high school.

Those people who want power or prestige go after positions of power and influence. Other people mostly don't. Other people mostly want work they can feel good about, and freedom from fear of lack (of food, health care, and other necessities of life).

People after power sort themselves out. They maneuver among themselves for positions in the social and economic heierarchy. And the higher you go, the better the players. The better the player, the more divorced from the consciousness, the lives, of ordinary people. By the time you get to the top, they are-- almost to a person-- freaks.

Well, we're all freaks, I suppose. The point is they are a particular kind of freaky. Every move is strategic. Every word serves a purpose. They're thinking three moves ahead. If they look at you, they're probably wondering if they can use you, and how.

They can comfortably speak in front of large groups. A lot of them actually like it. Freaky.

They are goal oriented. They compare their budgets and their number of underlings to those of others, and their goal is always to grow their own, or move to new positions with bigger budgets, more employees, more decision making power. Freaky.

Many are altogether contemptuous of ordinary people, despite outward appearances. Freaky.

These are not ordinary traits-- except among this class.

In elections we choose between members of this class. Some are worse than others in various ways, important ways sometimes. But in this they are the same.

As an aside, it's also worth considering that some people are brought up wealthy, in an environment with servants that they are allowed to boss around-- little kids who can tell an adult what to do, who are comfortable, even as a child, with power over others. This warps a person. Put that together with lust for power and a sense of entitlement and you can create truly horrible people (who have a good chance of success!).

To vote based on who would be the more fun to have a beer with is really dumb. They wouldn't have a beer with us. They'd only let us serve one to them.

Thursday, October 13, 2016
  Jumping the shark

So Bob Dylan gets a Nobel. For what? He's a song and dance man, he said it himself.

Well, they gave one to Obama for Peace, too. Having done nothing much at the time, whatever you might think of what he did subsequently. (Cough. Drones. Cough.)

Yeah, and they gave Best New Artist to the Starland Vocal Band in 1977.

I love Bob, as a (sometimes controversial) song and dance man. And as a sometimes philosopher: "He who is not busy being born is busy dying." As prodigious, inventive, peculiarly talented. I am a big fan of his... music. And lyrics. But he doesn't deserve a Nobel in Literature any more than the Beatles.

I read the comments of the Swedish Academy's permanent secretary and find them not only unconvincing, but near meaningless.

What we have here is some old Europeans trying to be (or seem to be) hip. Sad!

Bob really shouldn't indulge them. It isn't seemly.

Or are they just making fun of us?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016
  Clinton v. Trump

Humans are thoroughly irrational creatures. All our supposed rationality is a rickety structure, built as it is on foundations of illogic. (See Sociological Insight by Collins.) Mostly we decide first, and then engage in motivated reasoning to find rationalizations for our decisions. (Not you, of course, or me...)

Humans do hero worship. (That there should even be such a thing as a celebrity-- someone who's famous for being famous-- is telling.) It's natural, even if it's irrational. It is a modern equivalent of "Who's popular at court?"

And we define ourselves by our heroes, we identify with them, they are our avatars. "Leave Brittainy alone" is "Leave me alone, stopping picking on me."

People at political rallies are a lot like people at sporting events, or people at a concert: identification with a hero, solidarity with the crowd based on shared identification with the hero.

A certain type of person is interested in politics and policy. Let's call them Politisports Fans. Politisports Fans like to talk and argue with each other about politisports. There are relatively few of them, but they don't realize how rare they are because they mostly only talk to each other.

The vast majority of people, unlike Politisports Fans, know little and understand less of government and politics, though many of them vote. Let's call this group Regular People. Regular People don't talk to each other about politics much. They talk about sports, the weather, food and celebrities. That kind of stuff.

What's funny is that Politisports Fans try to make sense of regular people through measurements appropriate to measuring Politisports Fans: What policy is important to them? What do they think of tax reform? Pollsters poll them and people answer, but it's so much fluff. They pick their heroes and then learn to repeat some slogans: Taxes are too high! There's too much regulation! Yes, we can!

The election, for Regular People, boils down to: Who is your favorite gladiator, Clinton or Trump?

Thursday, August 04, 2016
  To: Our Governing Elite

To: Our Governing Elite

From: The Unwashed Masses

Re: Boaty McBoatface and Trump

The Boaty vote doesn't prove that we the unwashed masses can't be trusted with democracy, it proves we can't be trusted with mock democracy, like American presidential elections.

Let's get this out in the open: You merely pretend to represent us.

You do not represent the uninsured or even the insured; you represent the insurance companies. That is why we have Obamacare instead of universal health care like they have in civilized countries.

You do not represent workers; you represent the corporations. That's why we have free-for-all trade agreements and the outsourcing and offshoring of jobs.

You do not represent victims of the Great Financial Breakdown of 2008; you represent the bankers who brought it to us. That's why banks were bailed out instead of the people screwed over by them.

You do not represent the rural population; you represent WalMart. That's why so many small towns in America have turned into ghost towns.

In short, you represent the 1%. We know that, you know that.

So once in a while we act up and elect pro wrestlers, movie stars, or nutballs. We're just having fun at your expense and refusing to take the thing seriously.

Granted, sometimes it really does have bad consequences. We know you're wetting your pants at the thought of a Trump presidency.

We're enjoying that.

But don't worry. We'll end up voting for Hilary.


When life gives you dilemmas, make dilemmanade.

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