December 31, 2016

The threat to abortion and reproductive rights

The Guttmacher Institute documented 334 new state-level restrictions to abortion from 2011 to July 2016, accounting for 30% of all restrictions enacted since Roe v Wade in 1973.

Under Obama, fewer counties than ever have abortion providers (fewer than 13% in 2012, ~10% in 2014).

He tried, against the findings of the FDA, to block teens from access to the morning-after pill.

He issued such a perfunctory statement after the murder of George Tiller, one of the only physicians in the country who performed 2nd-trimester abortions, that, along with his continued inaction, it could only be interpreted as another kiss-off.

He appears to have issued a statement after three people were killed and several injured at a Planned Parenthood clinic only because a police officer was among those killed.

Although he rescinded application of the Helms Amendment (which prevents "promotion" of abortion by US-funded family planning programs around the world) to USAID funds, he was pressed to clarify that the Helms Amendment (which still applied to all other funds) allows an exception for rape, and he refused.

December 28, 2016

On "building the resistance to Trump"

Here is an exchange from Facebook:

Vote Sawant: Fight Trump & the billionaire class through solidarity. ‘Socialist Students: Local Flint news interviews Socialist Students about why we visited Flint and how we see the crisis there as being connected to an overall crisis in the capitalist system. Check it out!’

Olaf Errwigge: What does this have to do with Trump?

Vote Sawant: Part of this trip was Socialist Students making a connection with the grassroots organization Water You Fighting For?. Building networks that fight on all fronts is a crucial task in the era of attacks we are likely to see under a Trump administration. A great way to build that network is through actions of solidarity like this one.

Olaf Errwigge: I mean the water crisis/crime in Flint (and elsewhere) started long before Trump (who isn't even President yet). I don't remember reading "Fight Obama etc" (who is still President).

Vote Sawant: We certainly organized under Obama's administration that failed to meet the needs of working people as well. ‘’

Olaf Errwigge: That example does not name Obama.

Vote Sawant: As Socialists, we support neither Democrats nor Republicans. However, we also work hard to be in touch with the struggles working people are taking on. It is true that there is a lot more consciousness about the need to "fight Trump" than ever existed in a mass way to "fight Obama".

Olaf Errwigge: But you run the danger of alienating the many workers who voted for Trump by making it about him instead of actual issues. And you run the danger of undercutting your own sincerity by making it seem to be more about Trump than the actual issues. The excuses for making it personal with Trump but not with Obama are lame and opportunistic.

Vote Sawant: They're not excuses, they are the reasoned and tactical decisions that yielded the result you are criticizing. Our analysis is different, and that's fine. Opportunistic is a common epithet, but we hope rather than leveraging insults within the left, we can help build a culture of United Front solidarity.

Olaf Errwigge: United except for those who responded to Trump as a reasoned and tactical alternative to stopping the neolib/neocon juggernaut represented by Clinton and Obama. Cloaking the socialist struggle in "Resistance Against Trump" is demeaning and short-sighted.

One might also ask, had the Presidential election turned out differently, if the "socialist alternative" would have rallied under the banner of "Build the Resistance to Clinton" (Clinton being well to the right of Trump, after all)? Instead, Trump has already, even before becoming President, killed the TPP and TTIP, brought the war in Syria toward an end, and forced Obama to allow a historic vote against Israeli settlements in the UN Security Council. Since, "as socialists, we support neither Democrats nor Republicans", why this obvious partisanship or worse, prejudice? Trump is reviled by establishment Republicans as much as by establishment Democrats, that is, by the establishment. He represents change. And only in change can change happen. "Resistance to Trump" is counterproductive reaction. Not to mention, he will pass but the struggle will remain, that is, as Meneer Errwigge first implied, it has nothing to do with Trump, nor has it anything to do with the liberal demonization of Trump. As he also suggested, to cloak the struggle in the terms of the neolib/neocon reaction is to kill it.

November 10, 2016

‘Not Our President’

A friend wrote to another friend:

These protesters are beyond pathetic. I’d have some respect for them if they’d all been out there at some point during the last eight years of Obama’s tenure, while he steadily expanded Bush’s wars, pondered his Tuesday “kill list”, deliberately droned countless numbers of people to death (and still is), including Americans, one a 16 year old child, looked the other way while Israel stole land and butchered and imprisoned thousands of helpless Palestinians, many of them children, and then he just sent Israel another 38 billion of US taxpayer money as a reward. He rabidly pursued, persecuted and prosecuted more whistleblowers than all previous presidents combined, sits by while Chelsea Manning tries to kill herself and is thrown into solitary confinement, forced Assange to be a prisoner in the Ecuadorean embassy, forced Snowden to take refuge in Russia – these three are all an example of true heroism, yet are treated as dangerous pariahs by Obama. He increased arms sales to the most volatile areas of the world, passed out major weaponry to terrorists, promoted bloody coups leading to horrific death and destruction not to mention the creation of ISIS and terrorist havens in Libya, and Syria, and then there’s the mess in Honduras and Ukraine and the wildly irresponsible threats to Russia.

He never prosecuted the bankers responsible for destroying countless lives and creating misery and mayhem here and over the entire world. His first official visitor to the White House eight years ago was none other than Goldman Sachs itself, Lloyd Blankfein, and we now know, thanks to Wikileaks, that his cabinet was chosen by the banking industry. Then there’s his promoting fracking, oil drilling in pristine areas, pipelines, nuclear, Monsanto, etc etc.

And while he busied himself with this crap, he totally ignored the plight of the people he was elected to serve, many in desperate straits – Americans lost jobs hand over fist, rural areas left to fester and rot, descending into hopelessness, decrepitude and massive drug addiction, while the sneering urban Democrats mocked and blamed them for their own misery. Then there are the forgotten cities, Detroit, Flint, etc ... the rust belt areas still out there dying, the country’s infrastructure falling to bits, the US looks increasingly third world outside of the posher areas. Obama sold us down the river to the health insurance scammers, forcing people to buy that crap or else, now it’s an unaffordable mess for most people, he never even tried for a public option let alone single payer. He formed the infamous Simpson-Bowles “catfood commission” to try to cut Social Security and raise the age of eligibility. Under Obama, there’s been no cost of living increase for those living on SS. He refused to support unions when he had the chance. He never addressed the outrageous costs of college. A record number of abortion clinics closed down while he was president and he never said anything about it, never made a speech when the courageous Dr Tiller was murdered. So much for having a “pro-choice” president. Then there’s his insane promotion of the TPP, which gives corporations total power – fascism in its purest form. if that passes, it will be a disaster for the entire planet. He chose a corporatist as a replacement for Scalia, one who supports Citizens United! While Obama and Michelle hosted endless glamorous soirees with vulgarian rich celebrities, people were going hungry, sleeping on the streets, losing everything they had. Jobs went to H1B1 workers imported from India, etc, and more factories shut down and moved out of the country, leaving millions without any other avenue to employment. Gun violence increased horrifically. He hasn’t stood with the Native American nations who are courageously facing down the militarized police to protect our water. Quite the legacy! He’s a smooth con artist and a coward. Hillary Clinton ran on this record, believes in all of it, and would have continued all of the above, but even more so. But that was good enough for her fan club.

So during Obama’s time, here were no major protests, and no anti-war movement during the last eight years, it disappeared as soon as Bush left office. Invasions of other countries for corporate profits is just fine when a Democrat president is doing it, apparently. Imperialism and fascism is no longer a problem.

Now these dolts who think they’re the center of the universe are out protesting Trump, who hasn’t even done anything yet. They are enraged because Clinton, a criminal and a warmonger far worse than Obama, didn’t win. Clinton is just a dull neocon hack out of her depth, who has been relentlessly over-promoted and given everything on a silver platter due to her being married to Bill Clinton – and yet every task she has been given has been almost unbelievably bungled, resulting in the deaths and displacement of millions of people. Everything Clinton stood for was poison, yet these people are upset that they aren’t going to get Henry Kissinger/Margaret Thatcher/Attila the Hun in an ugly pantsuit? They should be relieved. There were no big protests when Bernie was cheated out of the primaries by the DNC and Hillary Clinton, interestingly. These people represent neoliberalism on steroids, fascism is fine with them as long as they remain the fortunate ones. The Democrat party stands for raw corporate power, nothing more, just as does the Republican party – though the Repubs are more democratic than the democrats.

Bernie would be the president-elect now if not for Clinton’s cheating him out of what was rightfully his. That’s what enraging. It’s just kind of tragic that he capitulated to her and lost his credibility in promoting the vile Clinton, instead of taking the opportunity to help Jill Stein and using all of that anti-establishment energy out there to promote a real third party. So despite all of the establishment’s heavy lifting for Clinton, the MSM debasing itself for her, her Hollywood celebrities, billions spent, cheating and lying, none of it worked. That’s cause for celebration, one would think – the “little” people, whether Trump or third party voters, fought back and won. They made people take notice of them.

Who knows what Trump will do; it could be okay or awful – let’s hope for the best, anyway. The time for protests may well be coming, but doing it now just seems like a spoiled-brat, sore loser temper tantrum. It’s just a dream come true that with Clinton out, we’ve (hopefully) seen the last of that greedy, destructive family and World War 3 was averted.

Delicious to see her smug fans so shocked and in meltdown – how dare anyone defy them?! Amazing the MSM and her supporters are so in a bubble they never saw this coming – Trump always had a good chance of winning, but they never believed it, because they live in an echo chamber, sneering at their less fortunate fellow Americans, who they somehow imagined couldn’t find their way to the polling stations. A much-deserved comeuppance for these people who smeared Bernie supporters, third-party supporters, and now Trump supporters as being somehow less than human. It’s understandable that people are worried about Trump; but the reaction by Clinton cultists is way over the top. They have learned nothing ...

October 8, 2016

Excerpts from Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street firms and other corporatist insiders

The 80-page attachment in the Podesta emails of Clinton's Wall St speech excerpts is at [Note: The page numbers in the Table of Contents of the attachment (a Word file) are not all accurate.] Update: Three complete transcripts are now available as Word file attachments at

‘Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years’ p16

‘capture of oil and gas … from hydraulic fracturing … has created this enormous opportunity for us’ p20

‘with the new discoveries, with the new techniques for extracting oil and gas, the US & Canada are going to be powerhouses …’ p21

‘I am an all-in kind of person, all-of-the-above kind of person when it comes to America's energy and environmental future’ p24

‘I'm all for privacy, believe me.’ p26

‘the collection of the metadata is something that has proven to be very useful’ p28

‘You know, on healthcare we are the prisoner of our past. The way we got to develop any kind of medical insurance program was during World War II when companies facing shortages of workers began to offer healthcare benefits as an inducement for employment. So from the early 1940s healthcare was seen as a privilege connected to employment. And after the war when soldiers came back and went back into the market there was a lot of competition, because the economy was so heated up. So that model continued. And then of course our large labor unions bargained for healthcare with the employers that their members worked for. So from the early 1940s until the early 1960s we did not have any Medicare, or our program for the poor called Medicaid until President Johnson was able to get both passed in 1965. So the employer model continued as the primary means by which working people got health insurance. People over 65 were eligible for Medicare. Medicaid, which was a partnership, a funding partnership between the federal government and state governments, provided some, but by no means all poor people with access to healthcare. So what we've been struggling with certainly Harry Truman, then Johnson was successful on Medicare and Medicaid, but didn't touch the employer based system, then actually Richard Nixon made a proposal that didn't go anywhere, but was quite far reaching. Then with my husband's administration we worked very hard to come up with a system, but we were very much constricted by the political realities that if you had your insurance from your employer you were reluctant to try anything else. And so we were trying to build a universal system around the employer-based system. And indeed now with President Obama's legislative success in getting the Affordable Care Act passed that is what we've done. We still have primarily an employer-based system, but we now have people able to get subsidized insurance. So we have health insurance companies playing a major role in the provision of healthcare, both to the employed whose employers provide health insurance, and to those who are working but on their own are not able to afford it and their employers either don't provide it, or don't provide it at an affordable price. We are still struggling. We've made a lot of progress. Ten million Americans now have insurance who didn't have it before the Affordable Care Act, and that is a great step forward. (Applause.) And what we're going to have to continue to do is monitor what the costs are and watch closely to see whether employers drop more people from insurance so that they go into what we call the health exchange system. So we're really just at the beginning. But we do have Medicare for people over 65. And you couldn't, I don't think, take it away if you tried, because people are very satisfied with it, but we also have a lot of political and financial resistance to expanding that system to more people. So we're in a learning period as we move forward with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. And I'm hoping that whatever the shortfalls or the glitches have been, which in a big piece of legislation you're going to have, those will be remedied and we can really take a hard look at what's succeeding, fix what isn't, and keep moving forward to get to affordable universal healthcare coverage like you have here in Canada.’ [Clinton Speech For tinePublic – Saskatoon, CA, 1/21/15]
[cf Clinton campaign rally at Grand View University – Des Moines, IA, 1/29/16: angrily characterizing Bernie Sanders’ plan to pursue single-payer health insurance as ‘some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.’]

‘we’re still living in too uncertain a world to make radical changes right now’ p40
[translation: this is precisely when radical change is possible and why we must be vigilant to prevent it]

‘So if you look at a recent study that just actually was posted today, if you're in the middle class in Canada, you're better off in general than if you're in the middle class in the United States today. And if you're poorer in the United States, you are worse off than the poor in Canada and Europe. […] So yeah, we've done some very necessary and good things but we've also, in my view, not adequately addressed the challenges that have come in the last 20, 25 years. They've slowly crept up on us like all of us are the frogs in the giant pot and the heat's been slowly turned up and we haven't jumped out, and if we even started to thinking about it, we weren't sure what we'd find if we did. So we're all wondering around saying, what's going on, why is it happening? And it has certainly economic effects because as people's standard of living stalls, if they believe that their children are not going to be better off -- and remember, ever since we have done polling in this country, back to the Great Depression, no matter how poor the vast majority of Americans were, they believed it would be better in the future and they believed it would be better for their children. That no longer is the case. People are quite concerned that their livelihoods, their lives are not going to get any better, and they're even now worried that neither will their children. So this deserves the kind of thoughtful discussion, not the us versus them, finger pointing, blame placing, because that's not going to get us anywhere, but if we do not address and figure out how we're going to revitalize the middle class and begin the process of once again encouraging more people to rise up, then what I fear is that our politics and our social fabric are going to be dramatically altered.’ [Clinton Speech For JP Morgan, 4/22/14]

‘… there are rich people everywhere. And there are poor people everywhere’ p44

Clinton's remarks on Iran are creepy & unhinged. p44-46

‘the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ p47

legalization of pot?
CLINTON: Short [ie, I don’t support] in all senses of the word

Clinton praises Wal-Mart as model for politics p52

‘we are in a worse position than we were in the 90s’ p53

BLANKFEIN: … the financial services industry has been the one unifying theme that binds everybody [R/D] together in common. p54
[cf Huey Long (1932): ‘They've got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side, but no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen.’

Clinton endorsed recommendations of Obama's Simpson-Bowles “cat-food commission”, which included cuts to Social Security. p63-65

‘So we now have what everybody warned we would have, and I am very concerned about the spillover effects. And there is still an argument that goes on inside the administration and inside our friends at NATO and the Europeans. How do intervene—my view was you intervene as covertly as is possible for Americans to intervene. We used to be much better at this than we are now. Now, you know, everybody can’t help themselves. They have to go out and tell their friendly reporters and somebody else: Look what we’re doing and I want credit for it, and all the rest of it’ [Speech to Goldman Sachs, 2013 IBD Ceo Annual Conference, 6/4/13]

‘To have a no fly zone … you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians’ p67

‘And with political people, again, I would say the same thing, you know, there was a lot of complaining about Dodd-Frank, but there was also a need to do something because for political reasons, if you were an elected member of Congress and people in your constituency were losing jobs and shutting businesses and everybody in the press is saying it's all the fault of Wall Street, you can't sit idly by and do nothing, but what you do is really important. And I think the jury is still out on that because it was very difficult to sort of sort through it all.’ [Goldman Sachs AIMS Alternative Investments Symposium, 10/24/13]

‘Sam Walton was a cheerleader for Walmart but also a great patriot, because he knew that he was able to build this company in this country, and it might not, if ever, have been possible anywhere else.’ [Hillary Clinton remarks at Sanford Bernstein, 5/29/13]

October 2, 2016

William Blum on the US election

From The Anti-Empire Report #145:

On more than one occasion during the recent US primary campaign, Senator Bernie Sanders was asked if he would run on a third-party ticket if he failed to win the Democratic nomination. His reply was a form of the following: “If it happens that I do not win that process, would I run outside of the system? No, I made the promise that I would not, and I’ll keep that promise. And let me add to that: And the reason for that is I do not want to be responsible for electing some right-wing Republican to be president of the United States of America.”

So instead he’s going to be responsible for electing some right-wing Democrat to be president of the United States of America. It’s certainly debatable who’s more right wing, Clinton or Trump. Clinton surely earns that honor on foreign policy. Think of Syria, Iraq, Honduras, Yugoslavia, Libya … et al.

The revelation that the Democratic Party was secretly favoring Clinton over Sanders is reason enough for Sanders to have broken his promise and accepted the offer of the Green Party to be their candidate.

September 30, 2016

Social, economic, and environmental justice are not just words.

State Representative Mike Mrowicki writes in The (Brattleboro, Vt.) Commons …

In this coming election, Donald Trump is only the tip of the iceberg.

The bigger problem we face in this election are all the Donald Trumps, who collectively tanked the economy in 2007 by behaviors that (as the presidential candidate Trump said) represented a good way to make money. In his words, it was “good business.”

It sure says something when trashing the world economy is thought of selfishly as “good business.”

[But who is the candidate of Wall Street, as reflected in her close – and personally very lucrative – relationship with Goldman Sachs and others?]

Similarly, it is all the Donald Trumps who use war and the military-industrial complex as the biggest drain on our economy and sense of safety.

[But who is the candidate of Endless War, as reflected by her overwhelming support by imperialist neocons? Which candidate is demonizing Russia in a throwback to McCarthyist jingoism?]

It is all the Donald Trumps of this country (and world) who are the real welfare cheats. If you look at tax breaks or tax expenditures for the wealthy, what just one of them withholds from tax and hides offshore would probably cover any aid to needy families for this whole state.

[But what candidate’s campaign does not depend on the riches available from those (legal) arrangements? And which candidate runs a “charity” (with its tax benefits) as a bribe-laundering service?]

It is all the Donald Trumps of the world who maintain the current medical system that profits on those who can afford it least and, in essence, creates rationing of health care and a two-tiered system of care: one for the wealthy and the other for those who can’t quite afford insurance, co-pays, deductibles, or medicines.

[But which candidate consistently mocks the idea of single-payer (while Trump has expressed support)?]

And it is all the Donald Trumps of the world who reinforce the current status quo of economic, social, and environmental injustice. In that way, they maintain their oligarchic, neo-Calvinist stranglehold on the inequities that allow them to hold the power of the pocketbook and keep the system as is.

[But which candidate is running precisely on continuing that status quo, on expanding those injustices, who defends NAFTA and praises the TPP and similar trade treaties, who promotes fracking, who (after promoting welfare and crime and bankruptcy “reforms” that particularly harmed minorities and women) exploits identity politics to divide people from each other, whose supporters attack and demean everyone who doesn't fall into step behind her?]

When now-Sen. Bernie Sanders started his Vermont campaign for justice back in the 1980s, he spoke of the same inequities and injustices that he carried forth into his presidential campaign this year.

His influence on changing and growing the Democratic platform has moved the mainstream to recognize those injustices. He is keeping the effort moving toward real progress on these issues that all the Donald Trumps are fighting against.

[Along with his supporters, Sanders was smeared and mocked and derided by the Clinton campaign. Whereas Trump is squarely against NAFTA-like trade deals that harm the middle class, and is squarely against imperialist military escapades that squander our common wealth to benefit only the military industry (and their investors [see Wall Street]). There was more in common between Trump and Sanders than between Sanders and Clinton, but Sanders, too, derided Trump and betrayed a shameful snobbery.]

I will be voting for those issues of social, economic, and environmental justice as I cast a vote for Hillary Clinton and down-ticket Democrats. ...

[With every election cycle since Bill Clinton’s first year as President, the Democrats provide more reason not to vote for them. Any of them. Social, economic, and environmental justice are not just words. And the actions of Democrats betray them. (See Obama and whistleblowers, drones, pipelines, arctic drilling.)]

[How would Mike Mrowicki respond to this Justin Raimondo piece at, “Trump’s Three Points for Peace”?]

[The iceberg of deplorable government includes Democrats as well as Republicans.]

September 25, 2016

The (self-described) educated and artistic class is as deplorable as everyone else. USA.

A couple of of outbursts from the intelligentsia on Facebook, Sept. 25:

From poet Doug Anderson

A standard right wing strategy is to create a false binary, or "straw man", to attempt to discredit the opposition:

If you object to blanket generalizations about Muslims they call you pro-terrorist.

If you object to the way police are treating black people, you must be anti-police.

If you object to the way corporations are crushing whole groups of human beings in favor of profits, you must be a communist.

The use of this logical fallacy is made possible by an education system that repeatedly fails at teaching critical thinking. The right's war on critical thinking is increasing in high school administrations and universities.

[As his replies to the comments also make clear, he objects to these as a straw man version of Trump’s campaign. He does not even hint at the cynical manipulations (let alone the implicit fascism) of the Clinton machine.]

1 hour later, from musician Pamela Allen

Alright then, my little pals, I'm going to hand out a piece of advice in an effort to keep us all alive and not in jail on assault charges before election day. People who are going to vote for Trump are going to vote for him. Their values are different from yours and they will not be convinced by any daring acts of logic or fact. They love his vision and hate yours just as you do theirs. End of story. Those who are going to vote for Gary Johnson are beyond the reach of reason. They erroneously believe that they are making a meaningful gesture of protest. If they've read up on him and still support him, you will not change their minds or influence their thinking. If they have not, they're just being contrarian and the same applies. Those who are voting for Jill Stein are the same nut, different basket. It is completely pointless to argue with or attempt to educate them. They know exactly what they are doing and will joyfully celebrate their moral superiority over you pathetic, brainwashed dupes should the worst happen. Those who are choosing not to vote at all are singled out for a particularly hot circle of hell. Their reasoning is beyond the ken of any thinking adult. What I'm trying to tell you, as I take my morning BP medication, is to spare yourself the aggro. No minds will be changed but you will give yourself an aneurysm and those fools will either head to the polls or they won't. Just a little Handy Hint For Election Survival from Miss Ex.

[Is this not an example of the very antidemocratic—and anti-intellectual—zealotry that she rails against? Sheesh.]

September 6, 2016

Mao Tse-Tung Quotation

Many things may become baggage, may become encumbrances if we cling to them blindly and uncritically. Let us take some illustrations. Having made mistakes, you may feel that, come what may, you are saddled with them and so become dispirited; if you have not made mistakes, you may feel that you are free from error and so become conceited. Lack of achievement in work may breed pessimism and depression, while achievement may breed pride and arrogance. A comrade with a short record of struggle may shirk responsibility on this account, while a veteran may become opinionated because of his long record of struggle. Worker and peasant comrades, because of pride in their class origin, may look down upon intellectuals, while intellectuals, because they have a certain amount of knowledge, may look down upon worker and peasant comrades. Any specialized skill may be capitalized on and so may lead to arrogance and contempt of others. Even one's age may become ground for conceit. The young, because they are bright and capable, may look down upon the old; and the old, because they are rich in experience, may look down upon the young. All such things become encumbrances or baggage if there is no critical awareness.

—"Our Study and the Current Situation" (April 12, 1944), Selected Works, Vol. III, p. 173 (from Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1966)

September 2, 2016

A comment about a comment about Trump supporters

A friend writes:

This vile comment from Nancy in Corinth, Kentucky: a real mental giant and portrait of human compassion: managing in every single sentence to lie, distort, sneer, caricature and demean; she is the very face of the Clintonian Democrats. This irresponsible nonstop hate-fest from the Democrats is a real phenomenon which may be studied in years to come; they are infected by an ugly mass hysteria, a cult, so many comments deeply unhinged and it's the same thing day after day – they have become creepily threatening and have been so since Bernie came on the scene to challenge their gruesome idol. Charles Blow has written his daily "be afraid!" column on how evil Trump is, as if we didn't already get his boring one-note message about 500 columns ago. He goes on about how Trump is a bully, yet it's the Dems who are the raging bullies. It's like the Salem witch trials. The Dems are fatally infected with an illusion of their own superiority ("how DARE they accuse us of elitism; we can't help it if we're just better than they are!"), spitting on anyone who refuses to go along with their stunted neoliberal/neocon visions, and openly reviling those they consider beneath them, namely, white poor rural southern people and, weirdly, those without a college degree, since their so-worshiped college degrees did not impart the ability to think critically; to discern truth from propaganda.

Just as Reagan made unfettered Darwinian greed acceptable, the spineless Dems have made self-serving peace with that, and now tout their own raging classism, racism, McCarthyism, and war-loving jingoism as de rigueur. Will they, when Clinton is "elected" and predictably makes a massive, terrifying mess of everything, look back at their bloody feeding frenzy in shame, or have they always longed to tear off the mask and just come out of the closet as the fascists they really are? Outrageously elitist comments are coming along fast and furious on the pages of The Times, and have been for months on end. These prissy, pushy Dems are unwittingly offering their own smug throats to be slit, with their relentless taunting, stereotyping, and shaming of millions of their fellow Americans. You can only push people so far, and these types like ole Nancy in Kentucky are so delusional, and brainwashed, they can't see what's coming down the road. If Clinton is pushed onto the throne, the peasants they so look down upon aren't just going to disappear; they are going to be very, very angry.

August 26, 2016

Vermont Health Connect: “Current wait times are 90 minutes”

We have had working health insurance coverage for the past couple of years (unlike in 2014), but now we have moved and need to change the billing address.

I go to the Vermont Health Connect web site and click "Report a Life Change" to learn: "These changes should be reported by calling Vermont Health Connect toll-free at 1-855-899-9600 or by logging into your account and reporting your change online." I log in with the result: "An unexpected error occurred. Please contact an administrator." And "Contact Us: Have questions or want to find out more? Tel: (855) 899-9600."

I call. I wait. I give up. I call again a couple days later, wait, give up. I call again and add my number to a queue to be called back "within 3 business days". [Update:  One week later, no callback.]

[Update, Sept. 12:  Two weeks later, no callback. The web site now says that one can report "life changes" on line. So I logged in to my account (trying Opera after receiving the message that "There was some technical error processing your request" in Firefox, and then in Opera being forced to reset the password), got to the irritating terms page, and clicked "Next" — to receive the message that "An unexpected error occurred. Please contact an administrator." Called: "Estimated wait time is greater than 90 minutes." Left another request for callback (an option that is offered only after a couple minutes of waiting).]

[Update, Sept. 23:  They called back! But we were out. That was on Sept. 15. Nothing since. Governor Shumlin defended the whole mess yesterday: "nearly 9 in 10 customers seeking to report a life change 'experience a smooth process,' he said." So I went on line again to report my change of address, and now I couldn't even log in. So I called again (to set up another callback). One of Shumlin's improvements appears to have been to no longer provide an estimated wait time, and after a few minutes there was no longer an option to request a callback. I was planning to wait 5 minutes, and just before that cut-off, someone answered! They have our new address!]

[Update, Oct. 21:  This month's premium notice was sent to our old address. I called VHC (no wait at all!) to confirm that they have the new one, which they do, so maybe it will arrive correctly next month.]

Meanwhile, this month's premium invoice was sent to our old address and instead of being forwarded to us by the Post Office it was returned to Vermont Health Connect who then sent it to our new address with a note about changing the address. We at last received it 1 day before payment was due.

So I called the telephone number provided with the invoice for credit/debit card payment. I should not have been surprised to learn that here, too, "current wait times are 90 minutes".

So I will send the premium payment by mail, trust the assurances from last year that there is a 90-day grace period before coverage is cancelled and current implications that a change of address does not require a complete new application. One also hopes that the address change manages to be made before next month's premium invoice goes out.

Again, before the "Affordable Care Act", so-called Obamacare, Vermont had an excellent functioning state-run health insurance program that through an income-based range of premiums provided near-universal coverage. It wasn't perfect, but it was a system that made living in Vermont very worthwhile. To improve on it, the state had long pursued a true universal single-payer system, electing Peter Shumlin as Governor in 2006 on the promise to implement it. Because of Shumlin's belief, however, that people could not handle the information that they would pay taxes for health insurance instead of paying more in premiums to private insurers whose business is to deny care, the details – and final legislative action – were continually postponed.

Then came Obamacare in 2010, with no provision for states with better systems to keep them. There was no effort by Shumlin or the state's Congressmembers to protect Vermont's system. So money and effort had to be spent to set up the "Obamacare Exchange" (which still doesn't work), and delays and ballooning expenses were justified by the 2-track project of preparing for the coming single-payer system. On May 26, 2011, Shumlin had signed the bill to enact single-payer health insurance.

Finally, Shumlin was re-elected (barely) in 2014 for a third term on the promise that the final plan was to be revealed in December (after the election). Instead, on December 17, he announced that single-payer was dead. It was dead because he was never ready to fight for the payroll taxes to pay for it. He pretended that the need for those taxes was a new discovery, but it was well known from the beginning that such taxes would be the means of funding it. Public advocacy groups had long been explaining to people that the new taxes would be substantially less than current premiums, but the state took no part in that information program. Business owners praised Shumlin, and a few months later he endorsed Hillary Clinton for President and then that he would not seek re-election in 2016.

Shumlin was elected to enact single-payer health insurance in Vermont. Instead, he killed it. Never trust a Democrat.

[Update, Oct. 24: Obama administration announces double-digit premium hikes for Affordable Care Act” (PBS News Hour): ‘Before taxpayer-provided subsidies, premiums for a midlevel benchmark plan will increase an average of 25 percent across the 39 states served by the federally run online market, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. … Moreover, about 1 in 5 consumers will only have plans from a single insurer to pick from, after major national carriers such as UnitedHealth Group, Humana and Aetna scaled back their roles. … While many carriers are offering a choice of plan designs, most use a single prescription formulary and physician network across all their products, explained [Caroline Pearson of the consulting firm Avalere Health]. “So, enrollees may need to change doctors or drugs when they switch insurers,” [s]he said.’ (Our premium is going up 10%. [Update, October 2017: premium for 2018 going up another 10.8%.])]

[Update, Dec. 14:  The first bill for 2017: The amount due has increased by 291%! For no apparent reason, the "advanced premium tax credit" (APTC) was slashed to 38% of what it was throughout 2016, despite the renewal notice dated Dec. 7 stating that it would actually go up. I called and waited 10 minutes and was told that the new amount is what I accepted of the new year's APTC. There was no record of when I did that (because I never did). I arranged to accept quite a bit more of the APTC that we are eligible for, so that the monthly premium will now actually be less that the past year's, but I was also told to go ahead and pay the current bill and hope that the extra will be credited ...]

[Update, Dec. 20:  A second first bill for 2017, dated 8 days after the first one (see previous note) arrived, but now with the amount due increased 18% from last year. It does not reflect the APTC that I arranged to accept (see previous note), so it is only adding to the confusion and one more thing to hope: that ignoring this superfluous bill won't cause trouble.]

[Update, Dec. 21:  A second renewal notice for 2017, dated 12 days after the first one (see two notes above) arrived: nothing different from the first one (though slightly different formatting), just more waste and confusion.]

[Update, Dec. 27:  Notice of partial premium payment. Which in fact was an overpayment (see three notes above). Isn't this fun.]

August 14, 2016

Put on your big fat-pants.

Claims of being "adult" or "grown up" reveal the opposite: a reversion to being told what to do and think, and liking it. And self-righteously forcing it on others.

See: Further Notes on Nature-Guilt” by Eric Rosenbloom (2010)

August 3, 2016

The Dems Are Deluded.

Everything awful that Trump says is already policy. We already have a wall between the United States of Mexico and America. We already have judicial and economic systems that exploit immigrants and disproportionately target blacks, latinos, and muslims. We are already a racist and sexist nation. The Dems give lip service to changing that reality – as do the Republicans – but the fact is it does not change until the people change. Only then do both Republican and Democratic parties also change.

Everything good that Trump says is a threat to both Democratic and Republican policy. Cooperate with rather than antagonize Russia (and others). NATO is a cold-war anachronism. Make deals rather than threats. Protect jobs and personal dignity and security rather than corporate profits. Restore the separation of insured and speculative banking. Provide universal health care and maintain our infrastructure to reflect the success of an advanced democracy.

After Obama perfected the balance that Al Gore sought but couldn’t clinch – an embrace of Clintonism/Reaganism along with a prissy paternalism as the only difference from predecessors and rivals – as well as suave hypocrisy while pursuing both neoliberal and neoconservative agendas, it should not be surprising that people find Trump’s vulgarity to be refreshingly honest.

And after its diminishment for many people under the administration of the man who ran on the word, it should not be surprising that Trump’s populist rhetoric inspires hope.

As Bill Clinton instinctively grasped, people look for both hope and cheap entertainment in their figurehead: H.C.E. (cf. Finnegans Wake).

Trump, too, seems to grasp it intuitively, whereas Hillary Clinton tamps down hope and has but fear to offer. With her, the hope is only that she will dispel the fear that she herself invokes. Entertainment lies only in the cynical prospect of defeating the enemies she herself manufactures. It’s a never-ending spectacle of death and redemption.

But it’s not a game. Those enemies have human identities, and then they are ruined and killed. Between Trump and Clinton, only the latter already has muslim and black and latino blood on her hands and promises to spill ever more.

July 31, 2016

A selection of the DNC e-mails

RE: Donor Vet [former murderer of horses for insurance donating big to attend POTUS event]
email ID: 578

Fwd: State Dinner Countdown [donor whines to get state dinner invitation]
email ID: 2946

RE: Credit for HVF [demand for credit securing $200K to attend private dinner]
email ID: 17287

Re: $50,000 - Lawrence Benenson [desperation for money, contempt for donors]
email ID: 14700

Flag: AP: Eyeing Senate, Clinton directing money to 2016 battlegrounds [concern about story re Clinton campaign funds]
email ID: 7784

RE: Gloria Allred blast language for lawyers approval [thinking of ways to violate Hatch Act]
email ID: 20148

Re: FW: DNC LGBT Event [making fun of black woman’s name]
email ID: 17942

“I love you too. no homo.”
email ID: 425

Re: No shit [raising rumor that Sanders is atheist]
email ID: 11508

Flag: Bernie FR email on Politico / JFA story [DNC/Clinton vs Sanders campaign]
email ID: 6230

Video Request: msnbc right now [concern re MSNBC commentary on DNC-Clinton collusion]
email ID: 6107

“Fucking Joe claiming the system is rigged, party against him, we need to complain to their producer.”
email ID: 8806

Re: Chuck, this must stop [coordinating with Chuck Todd to counter Mika Brzezinski’s call for DNC chair to resign]
email ID: 8379

RE: Getting on same page [releasing story to cooperative reporter]
email ID: 12450

RE: Interview request [controlling Spanish-language news with “Preferred Bilinguals”]
email ID: 7102

“Off the Record Meeting with Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC”
email ID: 13762

Fwd: per agreement ... any thoughts appreciated [Politico writer Ken Vogel runs story by DNC before own editors]
email ID: 10808

Re: BuzzFeed and DNC connection [coordinating convention coverage]
email ID: 10933

Re: WaPo Party [secret (illegal) DNC party hosted by Washington Post]
email ID: 2699

Re: Washington Examiner delegate inquiry [DNC rejects request from “right wing rag”]
email ID: 5304

RE: FNS 4-24-16 [Clinton’s problems due to Sanders liberals, SOS email server, Clinton Foundation]
email ID: 8351

RE: need comms approval - craigslist job post [fake sexist ad for Trump business].
email ID: 12803

RE: For Your Review: Weekly Update [“LOT'S of Trump. For this week I think its ok, I don't want to touch what's happening on our side because its engendering negative feedback from Members …”]
email ID: 7586

RE: Action on DNC tomorrow (Immigration Raids) [conflicted messaging re White House actions]
email ID: 9736

Megyn Kelly is a bimbo [very conflicted DNC consultant]
email ID: 6087

Surrogate TPs from HFA [Clinton campaign providing DNC talking points]
email ID: 5254

Re: Alaska "Counter" Event [DNC spies in Sanders campaign]
email ID: 4776
email ID: 7793

RE: Bernie narrative [effort to blame Bernie for DNC conspiracy against him]
email ID: 14295

June 30, 2016

The complexities of greenhouse gases

A table of global sources of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO₂), methane (CH₄), and nitrous oxide (N₂O, also abbreviated as NOx) – is reportedly no longer readily available from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Here it is as reproduced by the US Energy Information Administration in the December 2004 report, “Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States 2003”.

The table shows that human (anthropogenic) CO₂ emissions in the 1990s were less than 3% of the total, ie, 97% of CO₂ emissions were natural, although more than half of the human emissions exceeded the amount that could be naturally absorbed. For the other greenhouse gases, human CH₄ emissions were 50% greater than natural CH₄, representing 60% of the total, and only 6% of the human emissions exceeded what could be naturally absorbed. Human N₂O emissions represented about 55% of that total, and 55% exceeded what could be absorbed.

One thing that the table does not indicate is the different greenhouse effect levels of the three gases. CH₄ has 20 times the greenhouse effect of CO₂, N₂O 300 times. Therefore, the annual increase in greenhouse gases by effect is about 88% due to CO₂, 3% to CH₄, and 9% to N₂O.

Combining that information with what the table indicates, to halt the annual increases in these greenhouse gases, humans would have to reduce CO₂ emissions to 51% of the level specified here for the 1990s, N₂O to 25%, and CH₄ to 94%.

If the annual increase in greenhouse effect were to be halted by reducing CO₂ alone, humans would have to reduce emissions to less than 43% of their 1990s level. If, however, human CH₄ emissions were halved (relatively easy to achieve by, eg, reducing animal agriculture and capturing leakage at natural gas wells), human CO₂ emissions would have to be reduced to 58% of their 1990s level.

Another important consideration is the very different half-lives of these greenhouse gases. Most strikingly, CO₂ persists for centuries, even millennia, in the atmosphere, whereas CH₄ persists for only about 10 years. In other words, changes to CO₂ emissions would not have an effect for hundreds of years, but the effect of changes to CH₄ emissions would be relatively immediate. (N₂O lasts about 100 years.) (It may well be that the climate change effects we are experiencing today are due to coal burning in the 19th century, which at the time was mitigated by the cooling effect of soot.)

In summary, halting the increase of greenhouse gas emissions remains a formidable challenge, let alone that of reducing their levels in the atmosphere. But N₂O and CH₄ are easy targets for reduction that must not be ignored, particularly because their reduction would have a much more immediate effect than reduction of CO₂.

June 29, 2016

Letter from Bakari Sellers to Democratic National Committee, June 21, 2016

Excerpts (emphases added). Complete PDF available at:

Every four years we come together as a collective and give our most thoughtful consideration to the ideals and values that define what it means to be a Democrat. In 2016, we do so at an especially critical time in our nation. Never before have the differences between the major parties been perceived to be so stark; so clearly a choice between hope and fear. ...

United States foreign policy in the Middle East is a critical issue our Party must address. Instability is mounting in that already volatile region. Repressive ideologies are on the rise. If the tide is to be reversed cooperation with our allies is imperative. We have no better ally than the state of Israel. ...

When it comes to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, our platforms and our candidates have always been clear. The 2012 platform rightly supported “peace between Israelis and Palestinians ... producing two states for two peoples,” while reiterating that there could be “no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met.” ... As the Secretary has said, “... America has an important role to play in supporting peace efforts and as president, ... I would vigorously oppose any attempt by outside parties to impose a solution. including by the U.N. Security Council.” And, as the Party supports a negotiated peace settlement. it has long included, as it did in the 2012 Platform, a long established policy and reality, “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.

On Iran, ... we must do all we can to ensure Iran lives up to its obligations while confronting Iran’s malign activities in the region. As Secretary Clinton recently stated, “Tehran’s fingerprints are on every conflict across the Middle East from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen ...” She has been clear, that the U.S. “must also continue to enforce existing sanctions and impose additional sanctions as needed on Iran ... for their sponsorship of terrorism, illegal arms transfers, human rights violations and other illicit behaviors ...”

[A]nti-Semitism has been on the rise and it has taken a new form — the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement known as BDS. ...

It is for all the aforementioned reasons, best stated by Secretary Clinton herself, that I join the attached signatories [60 as yet unrevealed African-American politicians], all lifelong Democrats, in asking that unwavering support of the state of Israel be clearly articulated in the 2016 Democratic Party platform.

Again, thank you for your service and leadership. It is an inspiration to us all.


Bakari Sellers