Friday, January 27, 2017
  DOW 20,000

  So... Stock value has doubled in the last eight years. (But the value of my labor has not.) Rich folks who had 10 million in stocks now have 20 million. I'm so happy for them!

  ETA: I know, I know: lots of people have money in the stock market, not just rich people. (I even do myself, in the sense that my pension plan invests in it. Exciting!) But the vast majority of stocks are owned by the ultra wealthy, even if a lot of people have a teeny tiny bit each.

  Neighborhood Councils in L.A.

  The Neighborhood Council system was set up precisely to diffuse the power that created it. That is why they have no actual authority, that is why the voting rules make it impossible to coordinate NC elections with City elections. The Council had to do something because there was a lot of grumbling, so they came up with a way to tie up activists with meetings and debates and elections of no import.

  The Mayor and Council will no way voluntarily cede any more power or influence to the NCs. It's not in their interest.

  What is needed is a petition drive to increase the number of council districts to 96 or 99, matching the borders of the NCs (or not if they are not of near enough population size). The language would be easy to draft-- just change a couple of lines in the Charter.

  (Does that sound like too many? Not at all. Many smaller cities have much bigger councils than we do. Having "local" districts as large as ours distorts democracy-- money plays too big of a role.)

  The new Council would have to better reflect the wishes of their constituents-- they would be easier to run against, but of course they will have a conflict of interest then, too, and also not want to give more power to the NCs until sufficient force is brought to bear. But it would be easier.

Friday, January 20, 2017
  This will be different, but how?

  Trump plays the bully, the bad boy, and may be personally someone many of us would hate, but he is not a solid ideological Republican. He hijacked the party machinery to get elected. He is an authoritarian, but not a fascist. He is reality teevee star, and a brand promoter.

  The Republican party with all its resources is not behind Trump the way they'd be behind Jeb! or were behind the Georges. And he is similarly not loyal to the party. Thus he cannot simply draw from the deep Republican bench in order to populate his administration.

  So instead of the incoming cabinet and crew being composed of experienced party loyalists...

  (And what a sham the two party system is. Not that there aren't differences, and real consequences of electing one or the other, but neither party can stay out of the war business or give us or even want to give us national health care, the former because of the deep state and war industry influence, the latter because of insurance, pharmaceutical, and medical machinery industry influence. Money rules both parties.)

  ...this time we'll get a cabinet and crew full of those who usually only do the buying, and thus know little about government or governing, along with some Republican lackeys who have signaled or demonstrated loyalty to Trump personally. Oh, and some retired generals. They will probably not be particularly effective.

  That's one difference. Here's another:

  The deep state is not with Trump. Some of them are-- most in the FBI, for instance-- but he isn't a "business as usual" president in the sense of "can be told what to do" by it.

  That is unprecedented in recent history. It's kind of a big deal, and not bad. It might even mean less war. He won't want the complications, the distractions, or the risk of failure. It could also mean they'll continue to maneuver against him, and eventually drive him out of office. We'll see.

  What will Trump do?

  Trump is a promoter, he is concerned first and foremost with optics. He'll want to appear to be delivering on his promises, and making America great again.

  Immigration? All trump has to do is to keep deporting at the current rate. Under the Obama presidency there have been more deportations than ever before. The machinery is in place, and those who do the deporting have years of experience. Trump can say we're deporting faster than ever, and it will be sorta true.

  The wall? Already being built. He'll keep building, and claim credit.

  Repeal Obamacare? He may be forced to embrace Medicare For All. Certainly he won't accept anything that doesn't plausibly look like he's keeping his word on delivering something "better." Even if they did repeal and not replace, it would only make things how they were a few years ago. We'd go from bad back to worse, not from good to bad.

  Tax cuts for the rich? Happens under every Republican president, dialed part way back by every Democratic one. Business as usual.

  Turn fossil fuel extraction on to high? Stupid, but if it gooses the economy, he'll crow about it, and say he's gonna look into AGW or something. We weren't accomplishing much anyway. Hello, fracking? Tar sands?

  Let the vampire squid loose to run up another bubble? We're already doing that. The timing and severity may change, but not the fact of the matter.

  In short, we needn't be driven mad. It's likely to be a bumpy ride, but not utterly unlike anything we've experienced before.

  Oh, and on that Russian silliness. Putin is a bad man. But I take it that an indifference to the suffering of others is requisite to acquiring real power. He is not a super-villain, just a bad man. He wants to export more oil, and Trump wants to help him (and presumably get his beak wet). And maybe they helped him win the election, though no actual evidence is on offer. But it's run of the mill corruption, not treason.


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.


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