More gruel
Gone for a couple of weeks

Gone for a couple of weeks

It’s time to gather up the family and leave town. We’ll be out of the country for a couple of weeks. There will probably be a few link posts, and maybe a bit of third-rate travel writing, but otherwise it should be quiet.

While I’m out I hope you’ll take advantage of the forum at Off Topic. If you need access to post threads in the forum, drop me an email using the polorphans gmail address or post a comment below.

For folks who have tried to sign up for an account over the past few weeks, you may have experienced issues. I’ve been experimenting with ways to block the mountain of bot signups that slip through the filters. You have probably been approved to post here, but you may not know it. If you’re having trouble, send an email to polorphans and I’ll try to get it sorted out.

Ya’ll keep the country running till I get back.


  1. Question for every single one of my fellow commentators: Do you honestly believe Trump will fire Robert Mueller?

    As for me, yes. If Trump feels Mueller is an honest threat to him, his business and his finances, he will absolutely fire him without a second thought.

    1. He’s stupid, he’s arrogant, he doesn’t listen to good advice, and he has gotten away with all sorts of egregious crap for decades because of all the enablers. So yes, I believe it’s very possible. I’m sure Ryan and McConnell and McCain and Granham will be super-duper extra “concerned”.

    2. I honestly do not wish to risk a prediction. I do think that Trump would like to fire Mueller and would if he thought he could do so successfully. But, even as arrogant and hubristic as he is, I also think he knows that the firing of Mueller would create such an outroar that he would be worse off if he fires Mueller. My feeling is that this might be a trial balloon.

  2. Avik Roy is a health adviser to conservatives. He runs a blog via Forbes “Apothecary Series” on health care. His views definitely hew Republican but I read him to help expand my understanding of how conservatives view the health care issue. Today’s post was interesting for the data analysis he offered. It made sense although I hope to read a counterpoint to his position. In tracking the health care discussion, I always hope to see the focus be accessibility, quality and affordability rather than “how much money can we save”. Cost problems are real and need to be discussed and studied, but not at the exclusion of these other arching elements. Not when getting there leaves 23 million people out from the get-go. Not when people approaching retirement will have sky-high premiums. Not when people with pre-existing conditions have to once again worry about coverage they can afford. Because, that is what is happening. What good is it for younger people to have affordable health insurance when they are the least likely to need it? What is it about getting old do MOC not understand? If people thought the premiums for the ACA were high, just wait.

    If the goal for conservatives was truly to replace the ACA with a better plan, it is highly likely they wouldn’t focus on tax cuts as primary, and they surely wouldn’t siphon off savings to deliver tax cuts. They’d reinvest those savings into preventative health benefits, broader coverage, and make certain that medical costs wasn’t the single largest contributor to personal bankruptcy in the United States. Then there is the political aspect of delivering on the repeal of the reviled ACA. The American public is starting to catch on that the AHCA and its Senate equivalent is more of the “Screw the poor, disabled, and aging one more time” because we need that $886 Billion in cuts to Medicaid to deliver to our constituents.

    I was actually getting interested in his presentation on how inflation could be interpreted in a different manner than that offered by the CBO, UNTIL, I read his closing paragraph. It states: “Unlike the shambolic process in the House, Senate Republicans seem to be approaching reform in the right way: soliciting opinions from all corners, and trying to put the best bill forward. The good news is that they have the tools and the time to get this right.”

    Now I question the sincerity of anything he presented. I’ve already stated what is happening in the Senate process and it’s unconscionable. The only value to their methods is to shut out the noise and control the process without input from the undesirables. I would be curious to see a list of who they have been soliciting opinions from as everything I have read has asserted that hospitals, medical professionals, members of the public, and other providers have been excluded from the process. I assume the Senate Committee must have terrific input from the insurers who will gain mightily in their plan.

    It’s amazing, really, that really smart people can use their intelligence so artfully until they get to the end and then it’s like they just have to spit out what they are really thinking. In this piece, Roy does just that. Shame on you, Avik Roy! You could have advanced understanding and dialogue but you had to go partisan on the issue. Too bad.

    1. Mary,

      I believe that you are correct in your assessment of Avik Roy. I still have not gotten through his White Paper, ‘Transcending Obamacare’. It is dense difficult reading. Nevertheless, my impressions are that rather than attempting to solve the healthcare insurance issues, the focus is primarily on how to save money. As we know the primary goal of the AHCA is to extract $800 plus million, so the tax reform effort will give the people a modest tax cut while slashing taxes for the wealthy without boosting the deficit by an astronomical amount, even after allowing for ‘dynamic scoring’. In my experience the tax cuts for the wealthy have never boosted revenue.

      Furthermore, I have serious concerns regarding the senate process. I do not believe they have been soliciting opinions from a broad based sample of medical professionals or the public. I suspect they have only been talking to people who support what the Republican Party wants and that the primary goal is to draft a bill that can be passed through the Senate while marginally improving the CBO score, particularly on the number of uninsured.

      BTW, I did post some links in your thread, ‘ACA – It’s Complicated’ that you might find interesting. These all focus on some of the discussion occurring on the ‘left coast’. If CA can develop a good healthcare plan that provides for single payer, I think a very strong model for healthcare in the US might emerge. I know the conservatives will have a conniption fit, but maybe things will begin to change in the not too distant future.

  3. Rumor has it that Trump is not going to visit Britain, because of the possibility of protestors:

    Don’t know- that seems too easy. I’d gladly protest more here if that made him leave! But seriously, I find credible those reports that many British people were quite angry with May’s tepid (to put it politely) response to Trump’s inexcusable and shameful and embarrassing Twitter taunts at London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and expressed it in their votes. There shouldn’t have been any soul-searching on her part as to how to respond to something like that. To any British readers of this blog, please know that there are many millions of Americans who are absolutely appalled and horrified at the childish behavior of that ignorant fool.

    1. Bit difficult to make any predictions anymore. There has been some suggestions that the state visit will be “extended”, which is code for, on the British side anyway, that the invitation will be held open. That said, there will the the mother of all mass protest should he show his face in London. Probably eclipsing the one million strong one protesting the second Gulf War. I believe that this has been given the support of Mayor Sadiq Khan. Along with protests in every major city in the UK.

      Re: Hung Parliament. This is the second own goal scored by the Tories in as many years. I don’t know what’s going to happen. We may end up with a second General Election before the year is out.

      I hope folks are holding up. The rumour mill from Politico has it that pro-Trump people ( why do these creatures exist ) are pushing for the sacking of Mueller. Do you think he would be arrogant/stupid/desperate enough to do so?

      1. Would Trump sack Mueller? Yes. Members of Congress are already laying the groundwork to allege Comey compromised Mueller. Republicans have so much riding on their ability to get tax cuts and tax reform passed while repealing the ACA, that they will support the devil himself to make this happen.

        Mueller is Trump’s worst nightmare. The other? Preet Bharara who Trump also fired and who walked across the street to work for the NY AG. The Attorney Generals from D.C. and MD filed a federal lawsuit against Trump today alleging emoluments conflicts and challenging the legality of Trump’s contract with the federal government for the old Postal Building in D.C. that he remodeled.

        Meanwhile, 13 male senators have been meeting in total secrecy to hammer out a health care bill that will achieve the cuts in Medicaid etc to fund their tax cuts (which is the ONLY reason they are offering any health care plan), without any expert testimony, no public hearings, and plan to bring it directly to the Senate floor without going through the committee process. The CBO analysis is going on behind the scenes to tweak the cuts to ensure they can meet the Reconciliation requirement and thus only need 51 votes.

        Things in America politically pretty much suck. From my perspective.

      2. “I hope folks are holding up. The rumour mill from Politico has it that pro-Trump people ( why do these creatures exist ) are pushing for the sacking of Mueller. Do you think he would be arrogant/stupid/desperate enough to do so?”

        Yes to all three of those reasons, plus the fact that GOP members of Congress have an appalling track record of ignoring his transgressions. Firing Mueller would be upping the bar on unseemly behavior considerably, and the pressure to do something would increase more. But given all the lame, intelligence-insulting excuses, if not the outright avoidance of the subject, by so many in the GOP, I can’t predict that action would finally go too far. In a way, I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump dared to do it, because no one who could stop him in Congress has even bothered to try. I can only hope that they pay a terrible political price soon for their moral cowardice, and their agenda remains stalled due to Trump’s incompetence.

      3. IF Trump fires/terminates Mueller as Special Counsel, and IF Congress (GOP) allows it, that pretty much says it all. As I mentioned in an earlier post – 13 men are meeting in secret to draft a tax cut health care bill without public hearings, expert testimony, and plans to take it directly to the Senate floor without committee hearings. Health care represents one-sixth of our nation’s economy. Let that sink in a bit, yet this group of men are working behind closed doors on something that affects every American.

        Why would anyone be surprised if Republicans back Trump in firing Mueller?

      4. Trump firing Mueller (or getting Sessions or Rosenstein to fire him, actually) would be the political equivalent of a nuclear strike. Firing Comey was an idiotic, self-serving move, but it wouldn’t compare to something like this. It would be a direct assault on America’s status as a nation of laws, and people would go apeshit over it. Protests would fill the streets, Trump would be decried as an authoritarian, rightly so, and Republicans, if they tried to defend him, would see their support crater even more and they’d be on a death march heading into the midterms. Democrats would take the House and perhaps even retake the Senate.

  4. EJ

    The British election has returned a hung parliament (that is, no single party has enough seats to form a majority.) The two minor parties who are best poised to act as kingmakers have said that they won’t do so. A German-style grand coalition is as yet unthinkable.

    This is potentially disastrous. A parliamentary system with no leader can’t function.

    1. America has proven that a democratic institution with a leader can’t function responsibly. They can control, but witness the way America’s government is being changed – NO public hearings, no cross-party representation in secret meetings, no expert testimony.

      Frankly, I’d take a little gridlock about now.

    2. EJ

      There may be a coalition between the Conservative party and a little-known minor party called the DUP. This is not good. This is better than the threat of no government, but it’s not good.

      In case you missed it, the DUP’s policies include:
      – The teaching of creationism in schools as a scientific fact;
      – The legalisation of discrimination against gay people, in particular the legalisation of firing people for being gay;
      – Seeking an abortion and performing an abortion to both be made criminal offences.

      Even with this coalition in place (or a looser agreement between the parties) the Conservative majority is razor-thin. Almost every vote may be vulnerable to being held hostage by party rebels and extremists. This is not a good place to be in.

      I like Britain. I have friends and a lover here, and I don’t want to have to move back to Germany. But it’s tempting.

      1. So, Ms. May has sold her soul for political survival? Or, does she share the fundamentalist positions of the DUP? That is a question the Brits should be asking. There will be a price May has to pay for DUP’s support. Do you know what it will be?

        Across the pond, we’re trying to figure out what price Trump is paying for his support from the Kremlin….We are witnessing the destruction of our country’s democratic institutions and respect of world leaders. What are we NOT seeing?

        As I said earlier, gridlock isn’t always a bad thing when the majority power is dangerous.

      2. EJ

        May almost certainly doesn’t share the DUP’s positions. She is, however, one of the best proponents of pure realpolitik: she’ll ally with whomever she needs to and say whatever she needs to in order to get what she needs. May is about as far from an ideologue as one can get.

        Politics makes for strange bedfellows.

        Right now, it looks like she has no objectives beyond simple survival. Her enemies inside her own party have seized the moment to turn on her and are beginning to be open about their mutinous intentions. If you’ve kept up with British news, then the name of Alexander “Boris” Johnson may be familiar to you. If not, a brief primer:

        A clown is battering at the gates of a castle with a rubber chicken. One day, the castle is hit by an earthquake and falls down. “Huzzah!” says the clown, “I must be the mightiest warrior in the land. All will acknowledge me as the new king.”

      3. On “politics makes for strange bedfellows”………such as the alliance between May and Trump…….

        Yes, I’ve followed Boris Johnson’s news stories – very generally…not impressed.

        Between Trump and May and all the other political hooligans who have crawled out from under the woodwork, it’s no wonder that the average person is jaded about our political systems. Of course, if people took the time to become better informed, they might focus on the hooligans not the system, and exercise their responsibility as citizens with more diligence and scrutiny.

        When it’s all said and done, “the people” are voting these shallow, calculating politicians into office. That says more to me than the fact that most elected officials are seriously lacking in a conscience. The electorate is flawed just as our politicians are.

  5. Since I regard this as more-or-less an open thread, I’ll take the opportunity to bigly recommend Joe Bageant’s “Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir.” Bageant grew up among what are now Trump’s base in rural West Virginia. He wouldn’t have approved of Trump, and he didn’t much approve of the culture that led these people to support Trump. But he understands the culture, and portrays it sympathetically. In addition, he’s a great storyteller. For those of you that have Kindle readers or a Kindle app, it’s well worth the $1.99 it costs.

      1. Seems like Silver might as well ask people if they’ve changed their tribe. If Trump lasts long enough to run again, it will be interesting to see how his tribe feels, and whether anyone from the Republican side will attack him for what we see as obvious incompetence and corruption.

      2. Mary,

        You used the term “majority power”. The American government is not a majority government. The Presidency was only elected because of a quirk in the Constitution that long ago should have been rectified. In the House the Republicans did get a plurality of the votes for the first time in several elections, but that was largely because of REDMAP. For the Senate the total popular vote is irrelevant, but because the distribution is by state, the states with the largest populations are underrepresented. Of course, for the most part those states are Democratic.

        IMO, the president should be elected by popular vote and an uniform system of redistricting for the House that eliminates Gerrymandering should be used. The CA system is currently the model system. For the Senate, I would propose a system which provides a maximum number of seats equal to two per state, but gives each state a minimum of one senator and the remaining seats to be distributed among the states based on population. But sometimes, I do have a tendency to daydream.

      3. That’s how it should be organized, Tmerritt. No doubt. But in the second SCOTUS ruling on the NC appeal, they demurred on a direct ruling on gerrymandering, kicking the case back to the local/state level without ordering special elections. NC GOP will drag this out as long as possible and the district changes may not happen in time for 2018, per articles I have read on the ruling. You and I and others are willing to risk losing in a fair process – that’s not how the Republican Party plays. They win at any cost.

    1. EJ

      Thanks for the rec, Creigh.

      The internet is full of book recommendations and thinkpieces by lefties and moderates to help each other understand Trump’s voters and theocrats; but there is comparatively little written by those latter groups to help one another understand gay, black or immigrant voters. Empathy only seems to point in one direction.

      1. I hear what you’re saying, ej, but what came to mind reading this was more like Grapes Of Wrath. I’ve decided that my politics boils down to “If you want to live in a decent society leave no one behind.” These people are being left behind.

  6. I have read few articles during this Trump era that had so much to say that made sense to me. I hope you’ll find it as thoughtful as I do and that it will engender discussion about what is really at stake here…..beyond our own personal disappointments and fears, but more broadly in terms of our country’s future. It looks through the lens of one who migrated to CA to seek opportunity but it raises some excellent questions about what each of us should be thinking about in this difficult time. From Ann Friedman, columnist for NY Magazine, free lance author and blogger.

    1. A news blackout is a great idea, which I should try for my upcoming vacation, but could anyone resist tuning into Comey’s testimony this Thursday? I suspect it will be damaging to Trump, the main bit of suspense is how much. I personally don’t think it will be the final straw for the GOP and they’ll dump him, but likely a few more nicks in the death of a thousand ethics cuts.

      1. Agreed. Any new information (that is, the information presented before the cameras) will not be anywhere near the level to merit more talk of obstruction charges. I think the best way to find out what is said is start listening to the analysis about 24 hours after his testimony, since outlets like CNN are hyping it like a Super Bowl.

  7. Enjoy the vacation. Although America’s house is definitely hot, I don’t think it has burst into flames yet! A definite cooling off period is in order.

    BTW, I think your post on Trump and terrorism is excellent. I’ve not had much to say regarding it yet, but needless to say Trump is definitely using the wrong approach. I’ll probably make a more substantive post later.

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