Monday, January 14, 2019

Continental Drift

Republicans have found themselves a new boogieman this winter, in the name of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or “AOC” for short. I’m not sure if it’s because of her politics or that her name is so long (and Latin). They should consider themselves lucky because it could be worse. Both Ocasio and Cortez are relatively short. What if her last name was something like Rodriguez-Dominguez de Jesus?

Sorry, I don’t mean to lead with a tangent…

Ever since she won her House of Representative’s race, the knives have been out for her more than anyone else, even the Muslim woman who called Trump a motherfucker. She won by campaigning on income inequality and representing the needs of the middle and lower classes. For real, not just lip service, and that’s why conservatives are scared.
The last thing they want is for the country to start coalescing around a charismatic populist, then turning out in numbers to vote for their own financial interest. That would spell the end of Republican control of anything.

So naturally, anything she does becomes fodder for attack, from clips of her in high school dancing to what clothes she wears, to where she used to live.

Now, I don’t know that all of her ideas should be adopted right away. She campaigned as a Socialist and has a lot of grand ideas for how to reshape the country.

The country will not move easily or without a fight from those vested in the status quo. But hard-left politicians like AOC (and Bernie Sanders in the Senate) are necessary if we are to move to the left at all. (And by “moving to the left,” I mean focusing the government’s interest finding ways to benefit the many rather than the richest few.)

Like a seasoned negotiator, one doesn’t “open” with their final demand. There will always be push-back, and in this case, by those with the most resources. If progress is to be made, we have to accept that it might be one step at a time. No one is going to be allowed to sweep in and institute single-payer health care, free college, and a ban on coal mining.

For example, we may not be able to create, a single-payer health care system this term, but we can at least start moving incrementally to a more equitable system. The monied few are not going to give up their influence without a bloody fight so they will oppose any efforts to repair the ACA. And the better the ACA works, the less distance there is to jump to single-payer.

I think she’s going to be the more effective force for change in the long run, because she is a candidate of these times. She’s young, proficient with social media, and able to relate to other Millennials and Gen-Xers. She’s been handling the Twitter trolls with class, wit, facts, and a biting edge. If she can draw out more candidates like herself, then we have the basis of a movement.
And we all know how nice it feels after a good movement!

She is the living embodiment of what Trump pretends to be; with apologies to Coke, she’s the Real Thing. He poses as a populist but every significant action he’s taken has been to benefit the rich. (Or racists or religious zealots.) He acts like he’s a “man of the people,” while having his silver spoon gilded in Trumpian gold.

Speaking of the Current Occupant, did you see how he claimed that the Democrats “could solve the shutdown in 15 minutes” if they’d “come back from their vacations and get back to work.”

Yes, HE, of all people, is complaining about other politicians’ vacations. [massive eye roll]

Anyway, do you see how easy he’s making it for the Democrats? All they have to do is give in to his demands and the shutdown is over. What a dealmaker!

As Stephen Colbert once characterized the Republican negotiating philosophy, “You scratch my back… and I get my back scratched.

He doesn’t want a deal, he wants the fight, so he can be seen as a fighter by his base (and Fox “News”). I think having the longest shutdown on record occur on his watch is a goal of his, not a problem… that way he can go on about how his shutdown (that’s totally the Democrats’ fault) is the biggest and longest of all time.

And the Democrats can’t cave; they’ve got significant leverage for the first time in 2 years. They can’t just roll over, even to get everyone paid. Or else this will become the new normal.

That’s why I think we better buckle in because it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Meet the New Year, Same as the Old Year

Nope, not much different yet in 2019, still chaos. Let’s look at a couple of points of agitation.

A Couple of Pitches from the On-Deck Batters
I’m sure everyone knows about Mitt Romney’s op-ed in the Washington Post last week. Romney leveled pointed criticism at the president’s foreign policy and general character. It’s unusual that you’d hear that from an incoming senator; that’s more likely heard from legislators who are heading out the door. Yes, they were hard words, followed by falling in line with Trump’s wall, conservative judges and the rest.

The Salt Lake Tribune thinks it was because according to their poll, 64% of Utah voters and half of Romney voters wanted to see him stand up to the President. Romney is nothing if not a consummate wind direction checker, but I wonder if there’s more.

I think he might be thinking of running for President again. Now that Americans elected a crass silver-spoon baby, maybe he thinks he would do better as a smoother, more genteel silver-spoon baby. (Except where it comes to canine transport. I don’t think he’ll ever live that down.) But maybe he’s thinking, “I’ll give you all the upper-crust aura without the bothersome boastfulness and porn-star shagging.”

It would be a real pisser of a thing to do to his constituency though. Utah just elected him for a 6-year Senate term. He’d have to start running for president almost immediately, thus shortchanging everyone who voted for him. Maybe he’s hoping they’ll forgive if he makes it to the White House.

On the other side of the country, Lindsey Graham is suddenly frothing at the mouth and going all hardcore on the wall issue. He used to be one of the few level heads on the right, but hell, he’s been barking it up ever since the Kavanaugh hearing.

Maybe he’s having presidential aspirations again as well. Sounds to me like he knows Trump may not finish this term and is trying to commandeer his base racists, isolationists, and gun nuts for a run of his own.

I think he should turn his attention to his own state. Doesn’t he know he’s got 187 miles of unfenced coastline right under his nose?

The partial government shutdown really could go on for months, if the Democrats don’t cave. Trump and the Republicans? They live for this shit. A shut down government is a conservative pipe dream. They just needed some people who are impervious to public pressure, like Trump and McConnell.

They probably think that if things get bad enough, the private sector will take over some areas and rid the government of having to maintain national parks and such.

Forget Yellowstone, sell the land rights to the Koch Brothers, let them rebrand the place and turn it into a giant canned-hunt facility… at least in the parts they’re not digging up or using to store toxic waste. Hire one of those Haliburton defense contractors to run the TSA. With fewer active wars going on, they should have some spare mercenary personnel to scan bags. And anyone caught smuggling contraband can be shot on the spot.

The thing is, Republicans have demonstrated over and over that they don’t recognize empathy, especially the president. (Exceptions: Anti-rich sentiment and reverse racism. There’s plenty of empathy for that!)

Trump even thinks federal workers are happy to forego their paychecks in exchange for leverage on a wall. He has no idea about the hardship he’s applying to these Americans. He hasn’t had to want for a single thing during his entire life. He doesn’t understand not getting what he wants immediately.
So Democrats are caught in a bind. They want to end this thing and help federal employees get back in the game. But if they do, they only empower Trump to shut down the government again and again. Plus, we waste $5 billion on a vanity wall that doesn’t solve the problem it’s designed to address.

I’m hoping cooler heads can prevail with some kind of work-around and reopen parts of the government bit by bit via narrow legislation. I’m not optimistic, though. Any such action would have to be blessed by Mitch McConnell, who takes his orders direct from GOP donors. Maybe if the Koch Brothers start missing their social security checks, they’ll prevail upon Mitch to break the logjam.

In addition to empathy, the Kochs also fail to recognize the concept of “enough.”

Strictly Redistricting
The Supreme Court agreed to take on redistricting cases from North Carolina and (right here in) Maryland. I have extremely mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, I would love to see the districting process be taken out of partisan hands, (if that’s even possible.) Just draw the lines straight up, without political factors. And as a resident, I realize that Maryland is heavily gerrymandered in the Democrats’ favor, which is rare. I would be happy to give that up, under one condition…

Which brings us to the other hand… it has to be everyone, not just Maryland. That’s how you’ll know if the fix is in… if the court somehow finds that Maryland has to be ungerrymandered but North Carolina doesn’t. And that could be a likely result if they find narrowly in each case. I think that’s more likely than finding broadly and invalidating district maps all across the country. I don’t think you’ll see this court vote against the benefactors who installed them on the court for this express purpose in the first place.

A couple of years ago, the justices split 4-4 on the legality of North Carolina’s repressive voter ID law, which was found to have been drawn up with surgical precision to suppress minority voting. Now take away Kennedy and add Gorsuch and the frat boy, and what do you think we’ll get?

A Republican death-grip on power-consolidating dirty tricks.