Friday, October 13, 2017

Defanging Trump, Why Weinstein and Health Insurance in Rwanda


I will be out of town for a while, but feel it very important that this posting be published without delay.  Hence, its "early" delivery.

Rex Tillerson Had It Right

Before and since the 2016 Presidential election, opponents of Donald Trump have pointed out that he is totally unqualified to be President of the United States.  However great his skills as a pitchman and deal maker, these are not the skills needed to be the nation’s leader, if not the leader of the Western world. 

Some saner Republicans (other than the tea party people, the House’s “freedom caucus” and assorted other right wingers, all of whom I consider to be “crypto-anarchists” because of their opposition to “government” as an imposition on the rights of individuals) are beginning to openly question the President’s qualifications and fitness to hold office.  Many more agree with them but are reluctant to speak out, fearing reaction, including primary challenges, from the far right.  Steve Bannon is engineering this reaction and claims it is the best way of supporting the President.  Bannon is interested in destroying the Republican Party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ike and Ronald Reagan and replacing it with a far right party.

The nation faces many problems which are not being dealt with properly.  Right wing crypto-anarchists (such as Cabinet secretaries DeVos, Pruitt, Perry and the recently defrocked Tom Pryor) may be decimating much of the domestic progress made in this country over the past half century, but the Democratic administration which will eventually succeed the present Republican debacle will surely quickly remedy all of this “deconstruction.”   Fear not.

Corker
Foreign relations, however, carefully cultivated over many years, are another story.  Besides the nation’s credibility world-wide being dissipated (except perhaps among dictators), the looming threat seems to be North Korea’s nuclear aspirations.  Donald Trump lacks the skills to understand, let alone deal with, this problem.  It is clear that Senator Corker’s  public remarks are just the tip of the Republican iceberg which recognizes this.  Secretary Tillerson is balancing himself on a high wire between the truth, what has to be done, and the blustering of his boss, the President.

There are enough smart people in government who know how to prevent the nuclear destruction which a World War III would bring about.  They know when to say to the President, “EnoughLeave it to the diplomats.”  We are approaching that point.  If the President doesn’t listen to these wiser voices, something very un-American might happen: a “coup d’etat” in Washington!
                                                                                                         
              Mattis and Tillerson

If they haven't already done so secretly, I can envision the leaders of both parties in Congress, along with the Justices of the Supreme Court and Administration leaders such as Secretary of Defense Mattis, Generals McMaster and Kelly and a few saner Cabinet members quietly getting together to map out a strategy to follow if the President refuses to listen to their wiser voices.  Certainly, it would be unconstitutional ... but highly preferable to the deaths of millions of innocent people which a nuclear war would cause. 

The President would be put under house arrest in the White House, impeached and convicted in short order.  There are plenty of grounds for doing this. Michael Pence would become President, unless he chose to align himself with the President, in which case Paul Ryan would get the job.  This would mollify Republicans, mitigating any objections they might have to the “coup.”  Of course, Steve Bannon would be very unhappy, and use the episode to promote his new party.

It’s horrible to think of such a “third world” kind of thing happening in the United States of America, but it is a preferable alternative to nuclear war.  

(The President's approach, not letting anyone know what he is going to do, but making it clear that his action just might include using nuclear weaponry, would certainly negate the threats posed by Iran or North Korea, if he chose to destroy one of them, setting an example for the other.  This kind of gamesmanship may produce winners in the real estate business, but doesn't belong in government.  All it can produce is the deaths of millions.  If he truly believes this, Donald Trump is probably insane.)

(Another scenario which I have heard bandied around involves the ultimate Oval Office conflict where the President reaches for the “football” containing the codes which will unleash nuclear warfare, and Mattis, Kelly and McMaster, all career military men probably in far better physical shape than the President, gang-tackle him and remove the “football” from his hands.  A “coup d’etat” would be preferable.)

JL



Harvey Weinstein is a Pig


So what’s new?  Haven’t we all suspected for years that this kind of thing goes on regularly in “show business”?  Ever hear of an audition for a role taking place on a “casting couch?”  Men in positions of power do these kinds of things and they include Senators, Presidents and TV personalities and show biz magnates.  You know about whom I am talking.  Why is everybody so surprised?  

Weinstein - Ultimate Dirty Old Man
From a biologist's standpoint, the purpose of life is to reproduce the species inhabiting the earth, procreating them, hopefully for eternity.  This is true of birds, bees, ants, chickens and human beings as well.  To make sure this happens, the male of our species is given a abundant sexual drive which drives him to reproduce.  In most civilized societies this drive is regulated and controlled by some sort of institution, typically marriage.  That should take care of the reproduction part of the story, but all too often, there is “left-over” male sexual drive.  Sometimes, one’s mate does not serve to fully satisfy this drive, and any perversions of it which manifest themselves. 

The Bible handled this by neatly including adultery as the Seventh of Ten Commandments, tucked in between prohibitions against murder and stealing.  Well, both of those vices still exist and of course, the one based on the male sexual drive “left over” from, and continuing on after its reproductive assignment, does too.  

This was quickly recognized by early civilizations which controlled it by such innovations as prostitution, multiple wives, pornography and homosexuality. In European society, mistresses of both sexes often served this purpose.  But today, these escape hatches often prove inappropriate, illegal or inadequate for some men. In some ancient societies, they might have been acceptable legal outlets for “left-over” male sexual drive, but not in ours.  So we end up with Harvey Weinsteins and Bill Cosbys.

Vice President Michael Pence recognizes this, and I suspect is aware of his “left-over” libido.  He knows that he might not be able, given the right circumstances, to repress this drive.  So he controls it by insisting on his wife’s presence when his duties entail sitting down for a meal with a female.  That’s good thinking!  I wonder what would happen if she were indisposed.

Of course, females have a strong sexual drive too, but it operates differently from that of men and seems to be better managed by women than the male's sexual drive is managed by men, avoiding the excesses mentioned above. One biological aspect of it leads women to try to make themselves attractive and “sexy” to men, making them more desirable and more likely to be selected as a mate. Often this drive continues, even beyond childbearing years.  Women enjoy being "attractive," even though they might not be trying to "attract" anyone any longer.  And if women "lust," they do it quietly.  Female Harvey Weinsteins may exist, but they are rarities.

None of this excuses Harvey Weinstein, who should suffer the penalties for what he has done, and ultimately seek some level of rehabilitation. This posting tries to set the historic and biologic stage upon which his excesses and those of others, occur.  Your comments and criticism are welcome.

JL



Rwanda?

In effort to weaken the effectiveness of the Affordable Care Act, this week the President signed an Executive Order permitting individuals to join associations or groups which would provide them with health insurance at a far better price than the ACA does. Ha!

Such plans sold by Farm Bureau insurance agents, for example, while not complying with ACA rules and meeting ACA standards (and thereby incurring an IRS penalty for the insured) are available, it is reported for as low as $100 a month.  This is really a great deal for those healthy enough to be accepted for a policy by Farm Bureau, particularly if they can live with an up-front deductible of about $5,000 before 80% of their medical bills are covered.  Of course, pre-existing conditions are not covered on such a one-year plan which is renewable annually, just maybe.  And things like maternity, mental health and drugs are of course excluded.  This will serve to drain off healthy people with no pre-existing conditions from the pool of risks using the Affordable Care Act, making its coverages more costly.  That's what this "executive order" is all about.  Another step backward to "Make America Great." This kind of almost worthless health insurance is what created the need for the Affordable Care Act.  

An alternative for those who object to the high standards of coverage required under the Affordable Care Act, but don’t like the Farm Bureau plans which can reject them and won’t cover pre-existing conditions is to move to Rwanda which I understand has a better health care system than do many rural parts of the United States.   Read a fascinating story from the New York Times describing health care in that country by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.  


JL







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Monday, October 9, 2017

Defining "Unless," The Second Amendment, Two Gorsuchs and a Facebook Posting




What I Meant by "Unless"

Here is a copy of the article about “secession” which appeared in the posting just before this one.  Note that I concluded it with the word “unless…. “And here is where that “unless” might lead us.  But please read the article from last week’s posting which appears below before you read on further.


“Kurdistan, Catalonia and the Confederacy

The Kurds want to be independent.  Catalonia wants to be independent.  They may have good reasons for wanting to be independent. But unfortunately, Catalonia is part of Spain and Kurdistan is part of Iraq, Turkey and even Iran.  None of these countries are willing to permit secession of those desiring independence, any more than the United States was willing to let the States of the Confederacy secede in 1861.  The Civil War was fought to prevent it from happening.


But if in the extremely unlikely situation whereby the nations from which Catalonia and Kurdistan are trying to separate themselves can be brought around to accepting their secession, there is no reason why the States of the Confederacy should not be able to once again ask for their freedom from our "Union" today as well.  Now that slavery is not an issue tied to secession, it might be a good thing for the United States to be relieved of Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas.


These States contribute far less in taxes to the Federal government than they receive in benefits, so their secession would make the United States far more governable.  And if West Virginia and Oklahoma wish to join with them, that would be fine too.  But of course, this will never happen.  Unless ....” 
JL

And here is that “Unless” contingency further explained: Imagine that the Democrats win control of both Houses of Congress in 2018, strengthen their majorities in 2020 at which time they elect a President as well. This is a distinct possibility because of the ongoing disintegration of the Republican Party into a traditional ‘free enterprise – low tax’ group and an extreme right-wing libertarian, crypto-anarchist group which believes that government involvement in anything other than national defense is a step on “the road to serfdom.” 

The G.O.P. candidates which come from one of these groups will automatically be unacceptable to the other group and this schism will open the door to Democratic victories at all levels.  The fact that the incompetent, unqualified occupant of the White House is a Republican will also help the Democrats.

Once in power, the Democrats will proceed to institute programs which provide Medicare for all, job creation through massive infrastructure rebuilding, environmental regulations, consumer protection, recognition of worldwide climate change and domestic economic growth based on globalization.  Other than fighting with a holdover Supreme Court about some of these things, the Democrats will pretty much have a free hand legislatively.  And the tax burden for all of this will fall upon the hitherto tax-protected wealthy.

Finally, they will, with great caution, introduce laws which will regulate private ownership of guns, making possession of any weapons for uses other than hunting, personal protection or sport shooting illegal, and will ban any military type weapons, automatic or semi-automatic or whatever.  This is the one issue over which the remaining Republicans will unite

Once these gun control laws are passed by the Democrats, the threat of insurrection by those who have cherished their weapons for years, egged on by the NRA, its publications and their advertisers, will rear its ugly head.  It will be time for the payoff from years of training by private militia in the woods and shooting semi-automatic and automatic weaponry on ranges.  It will be time to see if Charlton Heston’s famous slogan about taking away his guns “only from out of my cold dead hands” is anything more than empty rhetoric to those who have sworn by it.

Of course, they would be no match for the Federal government’s armed forces, even if some State National Guard units sided with such an insurrection.  IT IS THEN THAT THE GOVERNMENT, sensing that decades of lax gun laws just cannot be wiped out overnight, and RATHER THAN PROVOKE ANOTHER CIVIL WAR, WILL OFFER THOSE STATES THAT FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT THEIR GUNS "THE RIGHT TO SECEDE."  And that is the big “Unless ….” with which I concluded the prior posting.  

The underlying issue in 1861 was the expansion of slavery.  The underlying issue today is gun control and the Supreme Court’s politically motivated misinterpretation of the Second Amendment.  Ending slavery was worth fighting a civil war over.  Gun control is not.  If they want to, let them secede.  

And if they choose to, it will not just be the opponents of gun control in States that support secession who would be delighted to leaveJoining with them will be those whose agendas oppose the Democratic program of supporting immigration, environmental regulation, consumer protection, unions, health care for all, public education, recognition of climate change, LGBT rights and women’s rights as well. Those “suffering” from the higher taxes on the wealthy instituted by the Democrats would also be glad to leave.  

Many in the remaining United States will believe that the country will be a different and far better place once all these folks leave the Union!  Their departure would be a step forward in “Making America Great!”













John Calhoun ... advocate of "nullification" and "secession" throughout first half of Nineteenth Century.  Enough of the South believed him to result in the Civil War and the resulting bloodshed.  

As for forming a government, until the secessionists hold elections, their new country will be temporarily governed by the governors of the seceding States and the NRA, with its membership automatically becoming registered voters.  One good thing, at least for the secessionists, will be that Wayne LaPierre will turn out to be a far more competent president than Donald Trump. 

Jack Lippman



Second Amendment Commentary

Here's a posting from this blog which appeared late in 2015.  Please read it again, and note my comments at the close.   (This is more realistic than the "unless" scenario outlined above.)
                                                                  *   *   *   *   *
The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution reads: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

In the lobby of the NRA Headquarters Building in Fairfax, VA, the final fourteen words of the Second Amendment are exhibited on the wall.  It’s as if the first thirteen words of the Second Amendment did not exist. (Imagine a group which opposed equality of the sexes misquoting the Bible’s Fifth Commandment as “Honor Thy Father” eliminating any reference to one’s mother.  This is what the NRA has done to the Second Amendment.


Those first thirteen words of the Amendment were pertinent from its inception until the Supreme Court chose to ignore them in D.C. vs. Heller in 2008.  Up to then, the right to bear arms was taken to mean that in the days when the government could call up civilians to serve in militias telling them to bring their own guns, there should be no impediments to gun ownership.  In 1789 those first thirteen words made sense.  But we have a regular army now.  We didn’t then.  So while those first thirteen words are no longer important, it doesn’t mean that the second fourteen words can be taken to stand alone in regard to freedom to bear arms, and that states and municipalities cannot regulate weaponry, if they choose to, without violating the Second Amendment.  But that is what the Supreme Court said in 2008.

The role of the NRA in shaping public opinion and supporting legislators who support this misreading of the Second Amendment will be viewed by history as a dark time in American history.   Its constant opposition to any kind of gun control legislation has contributed to making weapons available to those with mental disorders and with evil intent, including terrorists.  Anyone who really wants to secure a weapon can always do so, but the NRA (and the Supreme Court decision in 2008) makes it much easier.  Opponents of gun control measures  look to the misinterpreted Second Amendment as a protector of “due process” for gun purchasers.

The “Father of our Country,” George Washington, had his own thoughts on gun ownership.  He strongly implied that owning guns was important not only for use if called up to serve in a militia, but to use if our own government became oppressive. 


This kind of thinking is held by many today who oppose certain things our government may do.  That’s why there are extremists training in the woods bent on taking the law into their own hands with the aid of their weapons! In the United States in 2016, however, opposition to the government should be voiced in the voting booth, and not with a gun, regardless of what George Washington may have said.  But don’t tell this to the NRA, nor many of its members who fear that gun control regulation, on a local basis, will be the first step toward trying  “to take their guns away” if the Second Amendment is ever again interpreted the way it was written, and intended, until 2008.  And they feel their opposition to gun control is justified by the words of George Washington.  Well, George was wrong.


This is why it is very important to elect a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate in 2016. 
                                  (end of reprinted posting from 2015)

                                                              *  *  *  *  *

Who's on the NRA's Payroll?

Well, we didn't elect a Democratic President and Senate in 2016 and the country is paying the price.   A big part of that is the number of Senators and Representatives who take large amounts of blood money from the NRA.  

They do so out of fear of losing the votes of those who believe that a "gun culture" is a basic part of the American way of life.  That is bullshit.  We regulate drugs, alcohol, tobacco, automobiles (which can be lethal weapons) much more heavily than we do guns in the hands of Americans, who in this country kill far more people with them than ISIS has ever done.  That must be changed.  The only way we can  get real gun control in this country is to elect a Democratic President backed by two Democratic Houses of Congress.  Until that day, nothing meaningful will be done.  The NRA has seen to that.

To learn what Senators and Representatives (all Republicans, of course) received the most blood money from the NRA, read the recent New York Times article on the subject by CLICKING RIGHT HERE!
JL




Facebook Posting

And while on the subject of guns, here is an item I posted on Facebook last Friday.


It’s very clever of the NRA and their “bought” stooges in the House and in the Senate to want to do away with the “bump stock” attachment which can turn a rifle into an automatic weapon, firing off rounds faster than any trigger-finger can.  (Those kinds of automatic weapons, actually machine guns, are already illegal.) It makes the NRA and their stooges appear to be reasonable and willing to compromise, neither of which they are! 

Without a “bump stock” attachment, a legal “semi-automatic” rifle can still fire off rounds as fast as a trigger finger can repeatedly squeeze a trigger stopping only when the magazine is exhausted.  Conservatively, that amounts to about two shots per second, exhausting a 30 round magazine in fifteen seconds, requiring reloading.  Of course, an illegal automatic weapon or a semi-automatic weapon equipped with a “bump stock” can easily shoot off four times as many shots. 


By stressing their “opposition” to “bump stocks” which turn legal semi-automatic weapons into already illegal automatic weapons, they are fortifying their position regarding the legality of semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15.  These too should be illegal.  Until the Las Vegas tragedy, they have been the weapons of choice for mass murderers.  Who, other than the police and the military, needs to shoot off 30 rounds in fifteen seconds?   Target shooters? Hunters? Home defenders?  Let’s see the NRA compromise on these semi-automatic weapons.  Then we will be on the road to real gun control.
JL

Two Gorsuchs

In 1851, under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Law, a Maryland slave owner, accompanied by a U.S. Marshall and some armed men, marched northward into Pennsylvania to recapture several of his slaves who had fled north a few years earlier.  You can learn what happened by CLICKING HERE to learn more about this event, known as the Christiana  Incident.   It served to awaken the country to the evils of the Fugitive Slave Law which the Dred Scott decision by a Southern-dominated Supreme Court had made possible, a year earlier.  There is no disagreement among legal scholars that this was the worst decision ever handed down by the Supreme Court, and was instrumental in causing the Civil War.


The slave owner, who was killed in the incident, was named Edward Gorsuch, and came from the Baltimore County area of Maryland.  The latest addition to the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch, 



      Justice Neil Gorsuch


comes from a long line of Gorsuchs who lived in Baltimore County, Maryland.  A brief investigation into online genealogical records does not specifically connect Justice Neil Gorsuch with Edward Gorsuch, but he did have some ancestors with the Gorsuch name living in that area at that time.  If they were related, it was very remotely.    I hope that Justice Gorsuch’s rulings on the Supreme Court are fair and able to make up for the evil Dred Scott decision in 1850 which led to the death of slave owner Edward Gorsuch in 1851, and eventually, the Civil War.






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JL

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Las Vegas, Lawbreakers and Secession


It Takes Two (or 60) To Tango - Las Vegas

(1) Mentally disturbed individuals as well as truly evil people pose a danger to society when (2) it is possible for them to secure weapons.  

While it is impossible to keep all weapons out of their hands, there is no reason to permit assault rifles and similar weapons, which can kill many quickly, to remain available.  There is no need for such weapons to be available to others than the military and law enforcement agencies. 

In 2013, the Assault Weapons Ban of 2013 (AWB 2013) was a bill introduced in the 113th United States Congress as S.150 by Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, on January 24, 2013, one month after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. It was defeated in the Senate on April 17, 2013 by a vote of 40 to 60. The names of the Senators, most of whom are still in office, who voted for and against it can be found by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.


No matter what their rationalization for their vote, some of the blood spilled in Las Vegas is on the hands of these 44 Republicans, 15 Democrats and one Independent.  Any comments made by them regarding what happened in Las Vegas should be answered with the question, “but where were you on April 17, 2013?”  

The broader question is whether what happened in Las Vegas should spur further efforts to ban assault weapons as well as the inexpensive kits which are available to convert conventional weapons into assault weapons.   I believe doing so would only serve to unify and energize the Republicans' base of right wing conservative voters, and get them to the polls in 2018.  The Newtown school shootings serve to illustrate how tragedy alone is insufficient to gain support for gun control. 

The best way to get intelligent gun control legislation passed is to elect a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate in 2018 and a Democratic President in 2020.  Until then, making an issue of gun control will, in my opinion, prove counter-productive and only increase the number of Republican voters.

I still believe that the best way for the Democrats to win in 2018 and 2020 is by reducing the number of Republican voters.   The way to do that is for Democratic candidates to demand of their opponents whether or not they stand with the most incompetent and ill-prepared President in American history.  

Regardless of their answer, it will keep those Republicans away from the polls who disagree with whatever that answer is.
Jack Lippman


Kurdistan, Catalonia and the Confederacy

The Kurds want to be independent.  Catalonia wants to be independent.  They may have good reasons for wanting to be independent. But unfortunately, Catalonia is part of Spain and Kurdistan is part of Iraq, Turkey and even Iran.  None of these countries are willing to permit secession of those desiring independence, any more than the United States was willing to let the States of the Confederacy secede in 1861.  The Civil War was fought to prevent it from happening.

But if in the extremely unlikely situation whereby the nations from which Catalonia and Kurdistan are trying to separate themselves can be brought around to accepting their secession, there is no reason why the States of the Confederacy should not be able to once again ask for their freedom from our "Union" today as well.  Now that slavery is not an issue tied to secession, it might be a good thing for the United States to be relieved of Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas.



These States contribute far less in taxes to the Federal government than they receive in benefits, so their secession would make the United States far more governable.  And if West Virginia and Oklahoma wish to join with them, that would be fine too.  But of course, this will never happen.  Unless .... 
JL



Lawbreakers Among Us

We wonder why people think so little of breaking the law.  Two examples:  There’s a TV commercial for an SUV featuring a back lid which can pop open and be closed from the driver’s seat.  A nice lady parks illegally to pick up her husband at the airport.  An officer spots the violation and approaches her, but not before she pops open the lid and he runs to the car, throwing his suitcase in the back and jumps into the vehicle. 
She steps on the gas, leaving the officer behind, unable to ticket her.  

Another commercial, this one from a string of car dealerships, features pink license plate frames (Drive Pink) representing their contribution in fighting breast cancer.  A noble gesture for an excellent cause, but it ignores the fact that a license plate frame which obscures any part of the plate (and this one blocks out part of the lettering at the top and at the bottom) is illegal in Florida, subjecting the driver to getting a ticket. 

Now these are both petty things, but they reflect a disregard for the law which is manifested at more significant levels, such as Cabinet officials using expensive private air transportation at government expense in situations where regular commercial flights are readily available.  We have a President who has frequently disparaged our legal system, insulting decisions made by Federal judges.  Lack of respect for our legal system in the White House seems more permissible in a culture where advertising glorifies being able to get away with illegal parking at an airport.

And going a bit further, many businessmen (and our President is a businessman) employ lawyers because they do not want to run afoul of the law, toward which they maintain an oppositional posture.  Lawyers are often employed to answer the question of "how much can I get away with?"  There is nothing wrong with this, unless you are among those Americans who still believe the law and its precedents exist for the benefit of all of us, and not something to be skillfully sidestepped by those who see law as something which limits rather than protects them.

JL



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