Recent events 4/10/2017 edition

I’m back bitches!

(and yes, I’ve always wanted to say that)

So, I’ve been a bit busy with work, haven’t kept up with my updates so lets do a recap of recent events and then discuss:

  1. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is under significant strain and hardship and predictably Trump, his administration and his Congress are proving woefully unfit for that task
  2. Congress has put forward a tax reform plan, which appears to mostly benefit the wealthy and further cement a lopsided economy that will impede growth. (But nah it’ll totally help the middle class, believe me.)
  3. Tom Price has resigned as head of Health and Human Services, after it came out he wasted $1 million on Military Air flights, because nothing says draining the swamp than hypocritical corruption.
  4. And Las Vegas was attacked by a lone gunman, killing nearly sixty in the initial attack and wounding 500, with further details on both the gunman and any further loss of life currently unknown.

Okay, so firstly, yes Trump and his team need to understand that Puerto Rico (which is, yes, an island surrounded by water Trump) has particular needs related to its location, landscape, recent troubles and the devastation caused by Maria, attacking the people and a mayor, and failing to ask for aid for the territory for 11 days is not acceptable. Still, at this stage progress (slow, painful progress) is being made. Good luck to them all.

The tax reform is very heavily biased towards the rich, precludes an understanding of history both past and recent, in that tax cuts without relevant changes in structure and maintenance of the government can and will result in deficit growth without gain, there has never been a guarantee of growth from tax cuts that is a myth, and no assuming growth does not mean it will actually happen Mulvaney, base your analysis on what you know not on what you hope will happen. Bloody hell, weren’t they watching Kansas?

Price is gone. Yay.

And Las Vegas. There’s little that can be said to understand the mans actions, most of the discussion is on the prevalence of the arms he used, the ease of access, and actions on the republican side to stifle discussion towards such things. As someone from another nation with fairly liberal gun laws (European liberal, which means lax, not left wing) I can say rather confidently if there was ever an incident of such magnitude her in NZ, or even less, it would take very little time for reform and regulation on gun ownership to occur. Why America struggles to implement basic limits on ownership, carrying, and acquiring guns given their particular struggle with such violence is beyond me.

Importantly however, I believe we should respect the wishes of those who were there at the attack, and those who lost loved ones in the incident. If they have something to say, Listen, but we should show respect and solidarity in their time of grief. No one should suffer like this.

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Charlottesville

I don’t know how to respond to this.

The “Unite the Right”rally was held in Charlottesville Virginia, was made up of the Alt-Right, Neo-Confederates, the KKK, literal nazis, and other assorted groups of angry white men. There was a response from a number of left-wing groups, including from what I can tell antifa, who I generally consider to be little different from any other band of thugs, who naturally clashed and fought.

And then a car crashed into the counter-protesters. A woman died, Heather Hayer, 32, and many others were injured when a twenty year old lunatic decided to attack them with a car. Later on two police officers monitoring and trying to contain the violence died when their helicopter malfunctioned and was brought down.

This isn’t right, this isn’t normal, or good, or fair.

This is wrong. And it needs to stop.

Short Update: 27 July edition

So, a couple of things have happened and I’m still sorting through them. For starters, the GOP healthcare bill is officially, kinda sorta alive. Its being debated, and despite McCain’s admonishing of the senate, it doesn’t look like much has changed in terms of process. Secondly, Trump is coming after Sessions, whether that’s to fire him in an attempt to remove Mueller or just general dissatisfaction I can’t really say. Trump isn’t predictable but he’s also spiteful enough to remove someone (read: Comey) if they’re not overtly loyal to him.

Oh, and Trump is trying to ban transgenders from the military. Because reasons. No one is impressed.

So in order:

  1. Healthcare’s annoying but currently it doesn’t look like any of the bills are going to pass. A lot of the Republican senate seems to be eyeing the so called ‘Skinny repeal’ as their out, and whether that will go anywhere is up to debate. Literally, in this case, with the Vote-a-rama coming up, and the open amendment period which everyone is seemingly going to use.
  2. The Sessions issue is just weird. Trumps dissatisfaction with his Attorney General is well known, but attacking one of his cabinet members in an interview, openly discussing removing him, and being publicly rebuffed by the Senate in response, all of this just reminds me that Trump really is a weird and disconcerting President. Which leads to point three:
  3. Trumps trying to ban Transgenders from the military was announced via twitter (because of course it was), and apparently blindsided everyone. It’s not law yet, officially, and apparently some people are going to go to court about it if it does, but honestly? I think he just saw something on Fox and Friends and responded. He does that.

It’s been a weird day.

 

Citations:
Politico: Sessions powerful friends stand up to Trump 
Politico: Skinny Repeal Lacks Votes 
Vox: Trumps Ban on Transgenders is annoying Everybody

Democrats Release New Platform

In preparation for the 2018 electoral races, the Democratic Party has released it’s newest economic platform, campaigning on economic concerns which they believe hold more sway with rural and working voters, and eschewing in large part the social issues which may have alienated them during the 2016 election.

The platform focuses on a $15 dollar minimum wage, job growth and focusing on combating corporate consolidation and using antitrust laws to promote competition and small business growth, via preventing excessive mergers. Given the concerns a number of people have regarding corporate mergers and takeovers, this may not be a bad platform.

While some are concerned regarding the lack focus regarding social issues, I do think the party leaders have a point. It’s important that equality for the LGBT community, advances regarding racism inherent in a number of systems, protecting women’s right to choose, all these are important issues that must be pushed for, especially in the current political climate. They also sell much better in cites; rural areas frankly don’t care for them. And this has hurt democrats, as many of these more rural areas and counties believe that Democrats simply on’t share their values and priorities. Focusing on economics could well be the boost the left needs to recapture a significant part of the legislature, and from there move forward with a better agenda.

Having a broad economic message gives red state democrats and rural voters something to agree on; let the cities focus on the social issues.

 

Citation:
Politico: Democrats Move away from Social Issues with New Platform

The BCRA and the Repeal Bill aren’t dead yet, though that might not make a difference

Okay so maybe I spoke too soon. 

Currently the Republican senate (seeing as they still refuse to cooperate with the Democrats, who still refuse to cooperate with the Republicans so long as repeal is on the table) is moving forward with two bills (technically four), the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA 2.0 with the Cruz Amendment) and its subsidiaries (the original, and 2.0 without the Cruz Amendment), and the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA), both (all) of which lack the votes necessary to pass. This is especially true with John McCain’s recent diagnosis of brain cancer, leaving it in doubt whether he will be returning to the Senate for next weeks session or beyond.

As such it must be noted that for each bill Republicans can only afford to lose one senator, and each bill currently has at least three guaranteed no votes – the BCRA has Senators Collin, Lee, Moran and Paul, with the ORRA has Senators Collin (again), Capito, Murkowski and possibly more, given the context of this particular piece.

To explain, the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act was passed and sent to the Oval Office before, this was just in 2015 when Obama was in office. Naturally it was vetoed as everyone expected, Obama was certainly never going to dismantle his signature legislation. The difference now is there’s a Republican President in office, which means now there are actually consequences if this bill passes. So naturally some people are skittish about a bill that would leave 32 Million people without healthcare actually passing.

So Trumpcare ain’t dead yet. Still there’s currently no real option regarding the healthcare situation, certainly none with any real chance of passing right now, so there’s every chance that these bills (one of them anyway) may be sent to the senate floor simply to die.

 

Citation:
Vox: A guide to the Healthcare Bill

Senate bill Struggles

After returning from the July break perhaps Republicans were hoping, in the wake of Trump and his sons latest scandal, for a bit of breathing room in regards to the BCRA. Given the current resistance to the bill by nearly a dozen lawmakers, the sudden redrafting of the bill to produce two versions, one with the Cruz amendment and one without, and sending both to the CBO, and the current resistance to a debate (much less the actual vote) it’s safe to say that hope has been lost.

I would say there are two problems currently plaguing the Senate leadership: first the lack of transparency. Regardless of their reasoning, at no stage were any senators much less the voting public going to accept a bill they had not seen nor thoroughly vetted, not even on a party line basis. Expecting as much, especially in the face of what amounts to the entire history of the senate, was foolish and frankly I expected better from McConnell.

Secondly, the speed of the bills process, which is unprecedented and stupid. This can be traced to two things: firstly the expectation that a republican president would sign a repeal bill (which they already had) and leave any replacement either for later or for the states, allowing them to move swiftly to tax reform. When Trump won and then claimed that his bill would (functionally) be a repeal and replace bill, the party scrambled, knowing they had little time to move forward with their priorities and expecting something different.

Which is in turn the second point: Republicans don’t deal with healthcare. They focus on taxes and deregulation, and suddenly having to develop a replacement bill for a plan they loathed (or positioned themselves politically opposed to) with no knowledge or experienced hands to call on, and the need to work fast to move forward on their preferred legislation limited their options.

With no real experience to draw on, no willingness to lean on any conservative plans that weren’t hard right (as any external conservative healthcare plan is closer to the center than the ideologues are comfortable with) and the need to use the reconciliation rules to pass any bill on party lines,  has basically crippled any attempt to pass a repeal and replace bill.

There’s still a chance the bill could pass of course. But at this stage the options are fast closing, and I very much doubt republicans want their time as the legislative majority dominated by healthcare.

 

Citation:
Politico: Senate Moderates Sidelined in New Repeal Bill

Trump-Putin meeting summary

Well, that happened.

So, Trump and Putin met; it was apparently a quiet, closed meeting between them, Tillerson, his Russian counterpart Lavrov and two interpreters. It was interesting to say the least, from what little I know.

So, firstly the meeting itself lasted two hours, that’s one and a half longer than what was expected and prepared for, so clearly there was a long discussion. Secondly, both presidents came out with an agreement on a ceasefire in Syria, so some progress was actually made. Finally the diverging reports regarding the meeting ere presented by each party, Trumps side claiming they repeatedly pressed Putin on the election manipulations, Putin’s claiming Trump accepted his initial response with little comment. The differences aren’t surprising, the fact that neither side agreed to a script is. Normally both sides agree to a particular interpretation to give to the media, to coordinate on message. That this didn’t happen most likely reflects on the novices lack of awareness to certain facts, and Putin’s willingness to use that. Oh, and both sides agreed to a joint cyber security partnership.

That’ll end well. Or quickly, one or the other.

With regards to Ukraine, apparently (according to Lavrov) there was some common ground to work on, though how that’ll play out is anyone’s guess. Doubt even Tillerson knows at this point.

Wonder how long that Syria ceasefire will last?

 

Citation:
The Atlantic: Trump Putin Meeting