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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Germany’s election

Yesterday Angela Merkel secured a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany, winning 33% of the vote and from the looks of it preparing for coalition talks with the Free Democrats (FDP) and the Greens, forming a so called ‘Jamaica Coalition’. In addition, the Social Democrats (SPD), with 21%, have confirmed they will not be looking at another Grand Coalition with Merkels CDU, and the Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) won 13% of the vote, a stunning success for the far right party.

So yeah, Merkel has her fourth term and likely will form it with either the FDP and the Greens or just the FDP, either way it looks like it will be a trying few years for her as any coalition like the former is going to be difficult, while the latter will require some fine maneuvering to be effective. How this impacts the French presidents Macrons struggle for EU reform, and whether Germany will even strive towards any is definitely up in the air now. I do wonder what the conservatives in Germany think will happen if no reforms happen in the EU, I may disagree with the Brexit decision (and certainly with the execution) but Britain left for a reason. They can’t really be blind to that, right?

Also New Zealand had its election on Saturday, with the National party winning 46% of the vote, Labour winning just under under 36%, the NZ First party at 7.5% and the Greens at 5.6%. Likely there will be a coalition between National and NZ First, though knowing the leader of NZ First I would put past him a coalition between Labour, NZ First and the Greens (though how that would work in practice is a very good question).

I feel like I should be more interested in my own country’s election, but honestly, it’s New Zealand. We’re pretty relaxed down here so I wasn’t terribly surprised by the results.

Stalled Day

This might just be me, but today felt…stalled for lack of a better word. Things have happened certainly, but it all seems to me that we’re waiting on something. The three cases I’m looking at are the responses to Trumps UN speech, the latest Obamacare repeal bill, and Trumps opinion on the Iran Deal.

So, first, Trumps speech was met with severe criticism from just about everyone (barring the sycophants). Iran predictably was unimpressed, Frances Macron rebuked Trump in his own speech, not directly but clearly, and so on. Yet it also doesn’t mean much, especially since Trump then used his speech to justify his decision on the Iran deal.

Which is the second point, apparently Trump has made a decision! And he won’t tell us what it is. Which I guess is suspenseful? Or not, because most everyone I’ve read is just confused. As am I – Why is he doing this?

And finally the repeal is moving, kinda. McConnell has endorsed and Paul in the House has denounced bipartisan bills, because god forbid they actually govern or anything. At this stage, I would guess that Collins and Murkowski are unlikely to vote for this bill, be it concerns over the impact or a lack of CBO score, there’s plenty of reasons not to support this process. It’s just not doing much right this second.

So today was a day of talking about things that might happen, but might not, and we just have to wait for something to happen, I guess. See what I mean by stalled?

Obamacare Repeals back. Again.

Oh for the love of…

The Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare, has twelve days to pass before reconciliation ends, and their chance is gone. The bill would in effect transfer all of the funding for the ACA into block grants, parcel them out to states and overhaul Medicaid and repeal some protections, like pre-existing conditions. The only question I have is:

Why. Is this. Still. A thing.

I mean, I know why. It’s Obamacare, and the whole GOP has been basically redefined as the repeal and replace party, and this really is their last chance to do it. On the other hand, they’ve already lost. Four times (they had four bills, and McCains dramatic final No vote on the skinny repeal was the final straw. Or so I thought). And yet this persists.

Likely this will come down to the wire, assuming it can get past the CBO and the parliamentarian in less than two weeks, and then Leadership okays it (likely, again “repeal and replace”), and no more than two senators vote against it (Rand Paul is already opposed, and Murkowski and Collins haven’t yet weighed in), but hey. It could happen.

We’ll see what the CBO has to say about this.

Slow day: 15 September edition

This is one of those weird days where a lot is technically happening, it’s just not very exciting. or rather there’s ┬álot of reporting on stuff, which is new, but it happened yesterday, or is new information or reflections or…

Also I’m feeling lazy today. So there’s that.

Anyway, it’s been confirmed that in the meeting with the Democrats held yesterday, there was a tentative agreement regarding the Dreamers, and an agreement that it will not involve a trade for a border wall. The base is furious, the Republicans feel betrayed, but whether anything will actually happen is anybodies guess.

There’s other details (the left and right are turning on silicon valley, Putin’s opponents won some seats in Moscow) but for the most part things have been…slow. I guess.

See ya next week.

Bernies’ Single Payer Plan

Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont with the improbable presidential run, has released his newest Single-Payer plan. It’s basically a medicare for all package, parceled out over four years, with lowering thresholds from the upper quotient until everyone is officially registered in the program. The program itself is redesigned and massively more expansive, covering basically everything, but there’s a catch: he doesn’t explain how he’s going to pay for it.

Now, look, single-payers a nice idea, the bigger goal is generally considered Universal Coverage, the point being everyone has insurance. We don’t have single-payer in New Zealand, technically, just a very solid medical system, and cheap(ish) insurance which is fairly simple to get. It’s a multi-payer system and everyone’s covered which is another option for the US. This plan is too, but the actual method of paying for it will be key. Sanders does recognize this, and writes that there will need to be ‘vigorous debate’ as is his wont and that all options are available to be discussed until they reach an acceptable option.

So of this two things need to be said:

  1. This ain’t gonna pass. It’s a Republican congress so it is dead on arrival, but debate among the caucus could still be had.
  2. This price of insurance is the big issue in all this. Part of that is insurers who profit from high premiums and so on, part of that is hospitals that hike prices up when there’s little competition and a number of insurers clamoring for them. Finally pharmaceuticals is one of those other sectors which makes a lot of money from the current system, and all three of these will fight any single-payer plan.

Currently it looks like any Democrat looking at a presidential run is lining up behind this bill and this concept, which is good, but also leads to a particular point which they haven’t quite addressed yet: avoiding the Republicans mistake. The GOP made a big deal of repealing Obamacare, but never had a plan to do so. Democrats need to know how this system would work, and how to pay for it, and not just use it as a slogan.

What to do with North Korea

With the vote on Monday for new sanctions on North Korea, the UN has placed another bout of restrictions on North Korea’s trade and imports, which will likely have as much effect on Pyongyang as the last dozen or so. That is, little to none. With the Norths revealing of their nuclear capabilities, their ability to create both long-range missiles and nuclear warheads for them, North Korea has established itself as a nuclear power and accordingly the rules for dealing with them have changed. Sanctions remain one recourse, but are simply too limited, and easily avoided, to have the impact needed to bring Pyongyang to the table or to force the nation to relinquish their nuclear arms.

So, what are the options? As Mattis, Tillerson and Trump have repeatedly pointed out, all options remain on the table which includes a military response. Either an invasion, tactical strike, or nuclear attack remain available for the nations involved. However it is simply undeniable that there is no guarantee that any such strike would remove all of Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities, and this would therefore invoke reprisal on any nation that attacked, certainly including South Korea, Japan, the US if possible, and potentially China. Most everyone knows that so it isn’t really a feasible option. Nevertheless it remains (more due to politics rather than actual likelihood).

The most accepted option now is an opening of negotiations with North Korea in an attempt to forge some peace agreement with the nation and prevent a nuclear attack. Likely this would include recognition of the state, peace between the North and the South, some form of oversight of their nuclear program(though whether Pyongyang would agree with that is questionable at best) and a negation of hostile actions on both sides. That both China and Russia are now pushing for this option points to how expected this end result is; the only nation really pushing for anything else (the US) is simply digging their heels at this stage, likely due to an unwillingness to admit they failed to prevent North Korea’s shift into a nuclear power.

Are talks likely to happen soon? No, Trump and his administration despise ‘losing’, though why they would prefer a possible nuclear attack on their country rather than negotiations is beyond me, but given his mercurial nature it is still a possibility.

Just wait and see I guess.