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