Regarding the US Budget

At this stage of the year, the US congress has still not passed a budget, with Rand Paul and the Democratic party being the votes that are currently preventing it from passing. That is not exactly stopping it from passing the senate, but putting it into contention enough that thus far they have not put it to vote. I’ll repeat this, it is now over halfway through October and the US still has not passed a budget. This literally cannot continue, as otherwise the government will shutdown and no one wants that. not even Ted Cruz.

The problem with this budget is that not only is it extremely conservative, which naturally means the Democrats aren’t inclined to vote for it, it cuts large amounts from Medicaid and medicare and provides large dividends of that cut to the defense department. Now I won’t deny that their military does need to rebuild its equipment, arm its soldiers properly and so on, however given the lack of discretion and consideration with the military spending they already have, it’s still somewhat of a contentious position to take.

Additionally of course the republicans need a budget passed to actually make a move on tax reform, another poorly planned bit of (can I even call it this?) legislation that will likely balloon the deficit and the debt. I thought that was bad, but hey, what do I know right?

Anyway this is going to be annoying for a while, and if the republicans and the democrats can’t compromise for a bit it’s likely this will either pass due to Vice President Pence, or the government will shutdown again. Hopefully if that happens it won’t hit the global economy to badly, otherwise I’m gonna get the popcorn ready.


Trump threatens Puerto Rico and targets Obamacare

Busy, busy, busy.

Today Trump has claimed that due to the already perilous situation Puerto Rico was in before Maria hit, FEMA and the military resources provided may move out of Puerto Rico for infrastructure and financial reasoning. Well he claims it’s that, more likely he’s annoyed by the bad press and the San Juan Mayor antagonizing him, so he’s threatening the whole territory. Given the sheer devastation from the Hurricane and yes the previous issues Puerto Rico was dealing with, if Trump pulls out FEMA and the military, people will die. I can’t tell if the region could even be maintained if they leave, as bets I can tell it would depend on whether other states in the area chip in to provide support.

But Trump wasn’t done today, as he signed an executive order requiring agencies to craft new rules, within present laws, to allow insurance agencies to provide cheaper, laxer plans. Basically, lean plans that healthy people will use to be insured, and promptly get kicked off of if they ever get sick. He claims this will give more people coverage, more likely this will hurt the individual market, potentially collapsing it, and harm god knows how many people. This is just petty, he can’t pass the repeal bill so now he’s trying to cripple the ACA by executive order, actions that he and the Republican party exhorted Obama for doing, attempting to craft law from the executive desk!

Some days man, I swear.

The Iran Deal

Trump has been making noise for some time now in regards to Obama’s INARA, colloquially known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, and his intent to de-certify it, pass the buck to congress and let them, in effect, sort it out. This is actually an interesting position to take, unintentionally perhaps as is often the case, but potentially this could actually be of use. To clarify, Iran is one of the biggest destabilizing forces in the Middle-Eastern region, supporting numerous militias and rebel groups, developing their own weapon systems besides their nuclear technology, and causing problems for any nation that doesn’t agree with their agenda and theological position (especially Saudi Arabia).

On the other hand, there really isn’t anything preventing the US from intervening in a number of these areas, bluntly or obliquely. The Iran Nuclear Deal handles, surprise, nuclear technology and armament. Nothing else. While there is an agreement not to place or enforce sanctions on the belligerent state, it’s hardly as if the United States, the United Nations and other states have no options in regards to punishing Iran for its actions.

Potentially, this course of action could give new leverage and control over the situation to the US and its allies, away from Iran and its proxies, and alter the current course for the region. Alternatively there could be war. This isn’t a simple situation, involving a president who doesn’t seem to grasp much of this, Generals who may believe open conflict is a better option than what they have, and a congress who struggles to talk to each other at the best of times, much less cooperate.

Interesting times.

Corruption in the White House

Yes, a corruption article. Except not, because I really don’t have anything to say about this.

Okay, so, today I’ve read articles outlining Vice President Pences’ wasting of taxpayer dollars by going to an NFL game, leaving because god forbid he let other people express their freedom of speech in a way he doesn’t explicitly agree with, and return to Washington, which cost, for the flight to Indiana alone, somewhere around $100,000, including transportation and security*. So yeah, bad but come on we’ve seen this before right (Price comes to mind)? Additionally, The Atlantic’s Norm Ornstein had a whole piece on flagrant corruption, willful tax dollar spending, hypocrisy and the like from Price, Pruitt, Mnunchin, Kushner and so forth. And it was a good read don’t get me wrong, but it just didn’t resonate.

It’s not that this isn’t bad, it’s just that this was completely expected, and the idea that some rich prick would come into the White House and waste money, time and international standing on nonsense and that his administration would follow suit was kinda one of the reasons a lot of people didn’t want Trump as president. From there the question really became, why are you shocked and why didn’t anyone put in some form of restraint on these guys before the came into office? This isn’t the first time this has happened (graft is hardly unique in the White House) so why weren’t their protections and limitations in place?

Well there are. They’re just not very effective when congress doesn’t really care. Which was also completely predictable. Just three more years of this folks.


*I wrote before that the flight cost around 100,000 total, this was just for the Indiana leg of the trip. Sorry

Slow Day(ish) 5 October edition

Given what happened in Vegas, the aftermath of Maria and the Catalan Independence Referendum (which apparently was a massive vote for yes, though I remain uncertain to the turnout), today seems to have slowed down a tad. As it stands, in the wake of each events, in Puerto Rico’s case Trumps visit being the recent event, compounding a severe struggle with rebuilding and surviving in the wake of Maria, it mostly seems to be a dya of reactions.

The Us congress for example is debating whether even to discuss gun regulation in the wake of Vegas, with what may be the only steps being made are a potential ban on Bump Stocks (with some Republican support) and a crack down on the suppressor bill being currently mulled in the house. How the latter will do is anyone’s guess at this point, and even then I doubt it would pass the Senate. Puerto Rico continues to struggle in the wake of Maria, the Mayor of San Juan attacking Trump after his visit to Puerto Rico where he complained about the debt rather than give hope to the people suffering there. I should not be nearly as numb to this stupidity as I am.

And the Catalan referendum happened, and the Spanish police were pretty brutal in it’s aftermath. That whole situation is complicated, while Catalonia in many ways really is a separate state, such as in regional operations, economy, culture and language, there are problems with the situation. Firstly, it was illegal, and while the regional government might have wanted it they didn’t seem to care that there were going to be consequences for this, secondly I question the turnout, according to previous studies its closer to about half, or even less than half, of the people of Catalonia who actually want to be independent. There was much more interest in a referendum being held than actually voting for independence, or even voting, which makes me wonder how committed the people really are to independence.

Still, looks like they’re gonna declare independence on Monday. See how that goes I guess.

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.

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.