[NOTE: I suggest reading this previous post for some background information on why the repeal of Obamacare took so long, and why most people don’t even realize that Congress actually did repeal it in January of 2016.]
A few days ago I wrote a post about Paul Ryan and the accomplishments of this GOP Congress under him. Now, a lot of people can’t stand either of those entities—Ryan, or almost all of the Republicans in Congress—and are quite vocal about that. I have my own quarrels and disappointments with them, as I have with pretty much all politicians over time. But in my continuing effort to look at what they’ve actually been doing or not doing rather than focusing on what other people would have you think they’re doing or not doing, I’m calling your attention to the fact that a couple of days ago they presented their plan to replace Obamacare.
Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on the fact that the lack of an alternative plan was a big big criticism of the GOP, from left and some on the right, and certainly from the press. In this post from about a year ago, I discussed the fact that although they lacked a single, agreed-on plan, they actually had a variety of them that had been proposed by different GOP factions over time. Back in January, right after Paul Ryan became Speaker, I wrote a post quoting his promise to release a “long-awaited replacement plan for the health care law” (he’s also promised “a tax reform proposal; welfare reform; and other major policy initiatives”). It could not have been the least bit easy for him to get them to agree on this, and if nothing else it represents a formidable feat of cat-herding.
Ryan knew that Obama will veto any bill based on these measures if it ever passes, but he wanted to “go on offense in 2016 and we have to offer a bold agenda…The people of this country who do not like the direction America is heading, which we don’t … we owe them an alternative.”
And yet I wonder how many people on the right even know of any of this. And I wonder how many people on the right hate Ryan and Congress so much—for whatever reasons—that they’re not interested in anything they say or do at this point, and dismiss it automatically. I also wonder whose interests this serves.
It was easy to miss the news of the rollout of this plan, wasn’t it? You can blame Paul Ryan for that, too, or you can reflect on how very difficult it is to get coverage for your wonky proposals from an MSM that’s largely against you, and to compete with all the sexier and more dramatic news of the Trump statements du jour and the Brexit upheaval.
Oh, and if you’re interested in learning some of the details of Ryan and the GOP’s proposal (which you will no doubt find imperfect, as all such things are), go here and here. IF you’re feeling especially ambitious and thorough (not to say OCD), the entire 37-page document can be found here.
[NOTE II: I have been impressed by how relatively little attention this has gotten. Even I, who follow the news closely, didn’t know this had happened (on June 22) until today, when I noticed an email about it in my Inbox. The fact that the GOP Congress actually did repeal Obamacare—a repeal that Obama then vetoed, of course—has been relatively unknown and unappreciated, as well.]
[ADDENDUM: I just noticed that Megan McArdle has written a piece discussing the plan.
Something I think is especially attractive is this: “Getting rid of…a lot of the regulatory mandates for benefit levels.” Obamacare took away the option of buying catastrophic insurance, for example, something people with good health often have found to be a very good deal and should be allowed to select, IMHO.]
You know that expression “I’d walk over hot coals for you”? Well, these people took it literally—and got burned:
More than 30 people who attended an event with motivational speaker Tony Robbins have been treated for burns after Robbins encouraged them to walk on hot coals as a way of conquering their fears, Dallas fire officials said…
The hot coals were spread outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center as part of a four-day Robbins seminar called “Unleash the Power Within.”…
…”Unleash the Power Within” is described on his website as “designed to help you unlock and unleash the forces inside that can help you break through any limit,”…
It’s possible that the people who prepared the coals did something wrong, perhaps not letting them cool enough at one point. There could have been other reasons some people got burned, too; you’ll learn some of the possibilities if you read the Wiki article on firewalking. There is a physics to the activity having to do with the heat of the coals, the relative coolness of the feet, and the speed at which a person walks.
The laws of physics are not repealed for the firewalkers, and it is not a case of mind over matter, although to step on visibly hot coals certainly requires conquering fear. Here’s a summary of the science by a physics professor:
It would seem then, that a firewalk of short length is something any physically fit person could do and that it does not need a particular state of mind. Rather, it is the short time of contact and the low thermal capacity and conductivity of the coals that is important, and it is not necessary for the feet to be moist nor callused, although either may be of slight benefit. Longer walks appear to be possible if a layer of insulating ash is allowed to build up on a well packed down bed, where the temperature has been allowed to fall significantly from what it was when the coals were at their hottest.
So Robbins should actually be saying something like this: “You can conquer your fear of doing an activity that looks very dangerous but is not, if you trust me to have prepared the bed of coals in the proper manner, and if you follow the instructions.”
Granted, it’s not quite as socko or as empowering. But it’s still something I’m not going to be doing.
Posted by neo-neocon at 1:53 pm. Filed under: Pop culture
(1) In voting to leave the EU, the Brits voted to reclaim their own sovereignty. Now, EU-friendly Scotland may do the same vis a vis the UK and decide to have another go at voting for its own independence from the UK.
(2) For the most part, pollsters got this one wrong, having predicted a win for the pro-EU forces.
(3) Not surprisingly, Donald Trump was one of the few non-UK leaders (if we can call him a leader at this point, which I believe we can since he is the presumptive GOP nominee) who spoke up for the Brexit forces prior to the vote. But in his speech today in Scotland he didn’t play this up quite as much or as dramatically as I would have thought he would. And he talked a fair amount (at least, in the part I watched) about the original reason for his trip there—promoting his golf course.
(4) Obama continued his “kiss of death” track record in promoting foreign causes that end up failing. In April he had traveled to England to lend his assistance to Cameron and promote the UK’s staying in the EU.
(5) Hillary Clinton must be a mite nervous.
Posted by neo-neocon at 1:08 pm. Filed under: Politics
To be quite blunt about it, a great many people in Britain have just given a big middle finger to leaders who have ignored their concerns about national identity and autonomy, and their right to make decisions within their own country about the nature of that country. These principles used to be the bulwarks of a democracy such as Britain, with a long and proud tradition that has not yet died. Although the EU plan was designed to weaken that tradition—and probably has to a certain extent—the tradition is still strong enough, and the provocation great enough, to cause a majority of British voters to give a big resounding “no” to an EU scheme they’ve found to be increasingly intolerable, with diminishing rewards and increasing drawbacks.
Anti-EU feeling among the people of member-states isn’t limited to Britain, although it may be strongest there because Britain was a relative latecomer to the EU and retains some of its non-continental island identity. But nationalist movements are afoot in France, and Donald Trump represents the American version (although of course we’re not in the EU and therefore have no need to vote to get out of it).
Movements often come in waves. For example, I remember the international nature of the 60s’ cultural changes wrought by my generation. Everyone thinks he or she is an individual, and that’s true. But we’re all subject to, and reacting to, universal forces that can at times sweep different countries and even different continents. The UK and the US have a closeness which means they are often in sync: for example with Roosevelt and Churchill, Reagan and Thatcher. Those are especially great examples, but being in sync doesn’t always involve greatness.
In recent years in both countries, it has been said that “elites” have ignored the voters, the common man, the working class, whatever term you prefer—ignored their protests, ignored their concerns, ignored their problems, ignored their opinions and needs about immigration and a host of other things. I’m not completely sure they were “ignored”—not exactly, anyway. Rather, I think it was assumed that enough people could be placated, cajoled, soothed by comforting words, made to agree with what those leaders wanted them to think. The leaders thought they knew better, and who knows? Maybe they did; maybe leaving the EU will be the disaster for Britain that Cameron and many others have predicted, although I doubt it in the long run. At any rate, “the people” didn’t think so, and they voiced their disagreement through the ballot box.
Cameron had suggested the referendum on EU membership several years ago because he wanted to placate potential defectors within his own party who were anti-EU. He was fairly confident that eventually he would win the referendum vote and keep Britain in the EU’s grip. He thought he could persuade enough people that he was correct that remaining in the EU would be best for Britain, but he miscalculated and now he’s on his way out. Cameron had said the vote would be “a great festival of democracy,” and the people have celebrated that festival by telling him—and the EU—to get lost.
[NOTE: Now it promises to get even more “interesting.” There may be a little problem, one which commenter “Caedmon” has pointed out:
Now it is a leap in the dark, because everybody who knew how to run an independent country is long dead.
Or at least very, very old—even older than I am.]
[NOTE II: I’ve used “British” and “Britain” for my Brexit posts because I’ve noticed that many of the British papers use the terms, and of course “Brexit” also implies a reference to Britain (British exit). But “the UK” is probably more technically correct for this vote, and some newspapers have used that instead. I’ll leave it up to you to duke it out in the comments, if you’d like.]
It’s a populist victory by people who are angry because they believe their sovereignty and their right to direct the destiny of their own country has been jeopardized by their membership in the EU.
Predictions are that this will cause economic instability; the Tokyo markets have already dropped 7%. As I write this, it is reported that the pound has plunged to a 30-year low. Uncertainty isn’t good for markets, and they are reflecting that. Cameron might resign. The Guardianis calling it “a plunge into the unknown,” and I suppose at this point it is, although it’s going back to a previous state. But you can never go back, or step into the same river twice.
Here’s a 2007 opinion piece that says that Britain would have been a lot better off economically had it remained outside the EU. No one knows, but read the whole thing to follow the argument. Even though the piece was written long before this vote, it expresses the heart of the reason I believe the people voted to leave [emphasis mine]:
When we look at how much…we have lost, we can see just how different Britain might look today if we had never joined.
The real sacrifice we have made in submitting to the EU’s system of ‘supranational government’ is that of the right to decide so many of our own laws and policies.
If we had never joined we would still have the right to decide our own immigration policy and who should have the right to settle and work in the United Kingdom.
If we had never joined, we might still have the most efficient and prosperous agriculture in Europe, as we did before we had to submit to the cockeyed rules of a Common Agricultural Policy drawn up primarily to serve the interests of France.
If we had never joined we might still have the most successful fishing industry in Europe, as we did before we had to hand over our fishing waters, once the richest and most efficiently managed in the world, to a Common Fisheries Policy which has seen the destruction of our fishing fleet and produced an ecological disaster.
If we had never joined, we would still have retained the right to choose our own weights and measures. It would not have become a criminal offence to sell a pound of bananas…
If we had never joined, we would still be able to decide for ourselves on those huge areas of foreign policy which are now dictated on an EU-wide basis…
But perhaps the greatest prize we might have retained if we had stayed out is that we might have avoided the subtly demoralising effect membership of this vast, ramshackle organisation has had on our democracy and the whole way we are governed.
Not the least reason why our Parliament and politicians are these days held in such unprecedentedly low esteem is that so much of the power they once exercised on our behalf has drained away, to faceless armies of technocrats we cannot any longer call to account.
Whatever the economic consequences, I think it is completely understandable that the vote has gone this way. I would have voted this way myself, had I been a Brit. This seems, however, to have surprised the British press and even the leaders of the Brexit movement:
By 4am, a series of key results signposted a likely leave victory. After a lower-than-expected margin of victory for the remain campaign in Newcastle, where it won the backing of 54% of voters, there was a jolt after midnight when leave captured Sunderland with 61.3% of the vote in a city which has traditionally been a Labour stronghold.
Will this cascade and will the people of other EU countries vote the same for themselves? Will their leaders even let them vote on it?
UPDATE: David Cameron says he will stay on as PM for at least three months in order to provide some stability, but some time not long after that a new Prime Minister will be needed to guide the country properly in the direction the people have chosen.
Today is a big law news day. Not only do we have the Goodson acquittal, but we have two important SCOTUS rulings.
One involves race-conscious admissions policies in colleges. The case dealt with the University of Texas, and this was how it went down:
Today the Supreme Court issued its much-awaited decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, a challenge to the University of Texas’s use of race-conscious admissions criteria. When the case was first argued, many speculated that the days of relying upon race in university admissions were numbered. Justice Anthony Kennedy was seen as the swing vote, and he had consistently voted to limit (although not always to eliminate) the consideration of race in educational policies. The predictions were wrong, however, and race-conscious admissions policies have survived. Today’s decision reaffirms the ability of universities to rely upon race as one criterion among many when making admissions decisions, albeit within some limits…
In his opinion, Kennedy concluded that the petitioner had failed to demonstrate that the use of race in admissions by the university was so great or disproportionate as to create an equal protection violation. Noting that Texas’s admissions policies were, in some respects, sui generis (because of the automatic admission of students in the top 10 percent of each public high school), Kennedy concluded that reliance upon race as a part of the larger admissions process was constitutional, while also stressing (in ways reminiscent of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s opinion concerning the use of race by the University of Michigan law school in Grutter), that the university has a continuing obligation to periodically reassess the extent to which consideration of race is necessary in order to achieve the school’s pedagogical and other goals.
As some legal wags used to say when the Court had 9 justices and Kennedy was so often the swing vote, why don’t we just ask Kennedy what he thinks rather than bothering with the whole Court?
Then there’s the SCOTUS decision (4-4) on Obama’s immigration policy, in which the the tie had the practical affect of letting the lower court’s injunction against Obama stand. It’s not the same as it would have been had Scalia been alive, but it does represent a sort of conservative victory. As far as the future goes:
In either case, however, whether to continue legal defenses of the Obama policies will ultimately be up to the next administration, which will take office before the end of the next Supreme Court term. This also means a Clinton administration could adopt slightly revised policies (addressing the procedural complaints) to strengthen the substantive defense.
When you ask yourself what the current GOP Congress has accomplished, one thing that should be on the list is to hang tough in not confirming any Scalia successor appointed by President Obama. It was widely predicted by those who on the right who detest this Congress—widely, and with great certainty—that the GOP would cave on this. They have not, but I don’t see a lot of people who predicted it owning up to that fact and giving them credit, even begrudgingly (granted, I haven’t done an exhaustive search on it, but I often came across the criticism and I haven’t come across the retractions). Does anyone believe that this decision would have gone the same way had an Obama-appointed successor been allowed to became the ninth SCOTUS justice?
I’m tired of a lot of things already in this campaign season.
But since Trump’s speech yesterday (the one I wrote approvingly about here), the one in which he gave Hillary a comprehensive what-for, I’ve seen remarks all around the blogosphere to the effect that Trump’s the only one of all the original GOP candidates who would have had the guts to rip Hillary like that.
No. He’s. Not.
Maybe it’s moot, because they’re out of the race now and he’s in. But it galls me to hear the charge, because I remember it a lot differently.
For example, dissing Hillary was Carly Fiorina’s thing. You might say it was her specialty right from the beginning of her campaign when I first saw her speak, back when Trump wasn’t going after Hillary all that much but was concentrating on destroying his opponents in the GOP (something that helped him become the frontrunner for the nomination, of course):
Rubio also wasn’t shy about saying Hillary was a liar:
There are also many clips of Cruz saying highly derogatory things about Clinton. In this one he says she embodies the corruption of Washington:
I am confident that any of them—had that person been nominated—would also have hit Hillary long and hard and repeatedly, as Trump did yesterday. That’s not to take away from what he did in that speech, by the way, which was excellent in that regard.
But again—no one, no one, was more verbally aggressive towards Hillary Clinton early on than Carly Fiorina. During her campaign she frequently made Hillary the focus of her very sharp attacks. To refresh your memory, get a load of this one (from back in January):
Officer Caesar Goodson’s acquittal is the second “not guilty” verdict for the six defendants in the notorious Freddie Gray case. Three defendants haven’t been tried yet, and one was due to be re-tried. Goodson was the van driver, against whom the prosecution had lodged its strongest complaints.
If prosecutor Marilyn Mosby was smart she’d cut her losses now and withdraw the charges against the others, because it’s become even more clear than it already was at the outset that there’s no “there” there, except for the fact that the mob demanded these trials and Mosby quickly acquiesced to provide them.
If you’ve followed the excellent trial coverage by Andrew Branca at Legal Insurrection (the linked post above is one of his analyses), you would have found this verdict no surprise. As Branca puts it:
Goodson had been charged with second-degree depraved heart murder, manslaughter, two counts of vehicular manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. He faced up to 30 years in prison…
The state has argued a revolving array of three different theories of the case for criminal liability of the officers: (1) “Murder by failure to seatbelt”; (2) “Murder by failure to provide timely medical care”; and (3) “Murder by rough ride.”
In order to obtain a conviction on any of the criminal charges the prosecution must, of course, prove each and every element of that charge beyond a reasonable doubt. Over the course of the last three “Freddie Gray” trials, however, it has become increasingly apparent that the prosecution not only lacks sufficient evidence to meet that high burden, it may lack any direct evidence for any of its theories of the case.
In addition, prosecutors have been repeatedly found to have concealed exculpatory evidence from the defense, that the state’s medical examiner originally believed Gray’s death to have been an accident after testifying that she had always believed the death to be a homicide, and just yesterday it was revealed by the Baltimore Sheriffs Office that the “parallel” investigation purported conducted by that office on behalf of prosecutors never actually took place.
According to Baltimore defense attorney Warren Brown (who was not an attorney in the case):
[In this case you have] an African-American judge who was in the Justice Department prosecuting police misconduct. So this is not someone that is going to be sympathetic on the face [of it] to the defendant who happens to be a police officer, on the contrary. His opinion was well-reasoned. He juxtaposed the law to the facts, and made it very clear that what you are asking me to do, States Attorney, I cannot do because you haven’t presented the evidence necessary for me to do that. And that’s justice, that’s what we expect from a judge or jury – to render the decision based on the evidence juxtaposed to the standard that the state is held to – which is proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt. To say that Goodson murdered Freddie Gray was absurd right from the start, but as I indicated before, they made their decision, the State’s Attorney office, to prosecute and then work backwards as opposed to getting all of the evidence, looking it over, and deciding where to go. And we know that because the police turned their investigation over to Marilyn Mosby’s office on a Thursday and on Friday morning she’s coming down the steps of War Memorial indicating what she’s going to do, and it left us all wondering, “How could you have decided that quickly?” So they made the decision to prosecute and work backwards and now they are having to pay the price for that because the evidence is just not there to support it.
Let’s hope they pay the price of at least losing their jobs. Because there are civil suits by the defendants, they may lose even more than that as well, although to successfully sue a prosecutor in the line of duty requires clearing the high hurdle of “malicious intent.”
In this situation, it just might be possible to do so.
[NOTE: By the way, since race was a huge issue in the furor surrounding Freddie Gray’s death, it is relevant to note that, as far as I can tell, just about everyone mentioned by name in this post on both sides was/is black: Freddie Gray, Mosby, Officer Goodson, Judge Williams, and defense attorney Brown.]
I’ve never been one of those folks who seek out and soak up obsessive details about rock musicians—the minutiae of their lives and loves and drug habits and the like, although I realize it’s somewhat of a cottage industry. But I was doing some research the other day on the Beatles (probably just procrastinating, one of my favorite activities) and I found myself impressed by what a hard life Beatle drummer Ringo Starr (Starkey then) had at the outset.
You’d never have pegged him to succeed at anything. Abject poverty. Absent drunken father (he later acquired a good stepfather, though). Starr was grievously ill twice in childhood—the first time with post-appendectomy peritonitis that put him in a coma, the second with tuberculosis which he contracted at 13, a scourge one would have thought had practically disappeared from the developed world at that time. But I guess Starkey’s world as a youngster wasn’t all that developed.
As a result, he missed a lot of school, and ended up an early school dropout. He was placed in a TB sanitorium at the age of 13 and stayed for two years, and after he had emerged he never attended school again. But a turning point had already occurred while in the facility, although it may not have been recognized as such at the time:
During his stay the medical staff made an effort to stimulate motor activity and relieve boredom by encouraging their patients to join the hospital band, leading to his first exposure to a percussion instrument: a makeshift mallet made from a cotton bobbin that he used to strike the cabinets next to his bed. Soon afterwards, he grew increasingly interested in drumming, receiving a copy of the Alyn Ainsworth song “Bedtime for Drums” as a convalescence gift…Starkey commented: “I was in the hospital band … That’s where I really started playing. I never wanted anything else from there on … My grandparents gave me a mandolin and a banjo, but I didn’t want them. My grandfather gave me a harmonica … we had a piano – nothing. Only the drums.”
Who can explain such an obsession in a youngster previously unfocused, who remained unfocused in all but that one area?:
After the extended hospital stay following Starkey’s recovery from tuberculosis, he did not return to school, preferring instead to stay at home and listen to music while playing along by beating biscuit tins with sticks…
After his return home from the sanatorium in late 1955, Starkey entered the workforce but was lacking in motivation and discipline; his initial attempts at gainful employment proved unsuccessful…
Fortunately for Starkey/Starr, the Beatles, and rock, he was successful at something—the drumming, and not just with biscuit tins and sticks. He not only acquired the skills (George Martin said, “He always helped us to hit the right tempo for a song, and gave it that support – that rock-solid back-beat – that made the recording of all the Beatles’ songs that much easier”), but he had the personality and the casually witty outlook shared by the rest of the Beatles and so apparent in their first film “A Hard Day’s Night.” The movie was a revelation to us fans who had liked their music but had no idea how funny they were. As Starr himself said, “Our appeal … is that we’re ordinary lads.” I’d say they come across as ordinary lads—even nice lads, which is not always true of rock stars—with extraordinary gifts and overwhelming charm.
“Marco Rubio [is] a friend and has been an ally in many battles we have fought together in the Senate. I’m glad to support him in his bid for re-election,” Cruz said in a Facebook post. “Marco is a tremendous communicator and a powerful voice for the American Dream.”
You may recall that Rubio had said for a long time that he was leaving public life and going into private life. But post-Orlando, he suggested that he had changed his mind, so this announcement should come as no surprise. The reason he gave, however, was this:
“In politics, admitting you’ve changed your mind is not something most people like to do. But here it goes,” he wrote. “I have decided to seek reelection to the United States Senate.”
Rubio’s announcement marks a 180-degree turn from where he was even just a month ago, when he insisted he would give up his Senate seat at the end of this term.
Rubio also told Fox News’ Chris Wallace, “I changed my mind.”
The Florida freshmen said he had reversed course because “the Senate’s role of being able to act as a check and balance on bad ideas from the president I think are going to matter more in 2017.”
In his email, Rubio said he’s aware his opponents will use his decision “to score political points against me.”
“Have at it,” Rubio wrote. “Because I have never claimed to be perfect, or to have all the answers.”
There are a lot of people on the right who detest Rubio for his Gang of 8 activities. I believe that his sponsorship of the bill was a huge mistake, not just because the bill itself was misguided and naive but also because it burned his bridges with many previous supporters, who felt (and rightly so) betrayed. I don’t want to fight the whole Gang of 8 controversy again, so I’ll just refer you to this comprehensive article, which explains some of the reasoning behind Rubio’s support of the measure. You either buy the explanation or you don’t; I do, with reservations.
And if you want to refresh you memory on my reaction to the Rubio/Christie battle in the debates, see this and this.
The bottom line for me, though, is this: if Rubio really does have a better chance of winning the Senate seat in Florida than the other GOP candidate would, I’m all for his entry into the race. It’s hugely important for the GOP to retain that seat whoever becomes president, Hillary or Trump. Rubio is otherwise quite conservative, and I think he’s learned his Gang of 8 lesson. I also happen to think that if he had steered clear of that bill, we’d be looking right now at GOP presumptive-nominee Rubio and probable next-president Rubio.
But back to the present. Indications are that Rubio is considerably more popular than the other GOP candidates for the position of Florida senator. Even Donald Trump—of all people—has said so:
“Poll data shows that @marcorubio does by far the best in holding onto his Senate seat in Florida. Important to keep the MAJORITY. Run Marco!” Trump said.
Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon. Read More >>