Люстра

Jul. 28th, 2017 03:33 pm
ratomira: (Default)
[personal profile] ratomira
Купила новую люстру.
Сначала хотела ее в "Эпицентре" купить, но "Эпицентр" потом решила бойкотировать из-за очередей на кассе. В "Новой Линии" и "Олди" такой люстры не оказалось, но я ее нашла по такой же цене в магазинчике возле центрального рынка "Озерки". Там мне еще и скидку сделали в 300 грн. Еще дешевле и вышло. Я страшно довольная.

Теперь осталось дело за малым: повесить ее.

Unfogged

Jul. 28th, 2017 07:37 am
[syndicated profile] delong_feed

Posted by J. Bradford DeLong

Live from the Orange-Haired Baboon Cage: Ogged: Unfogged: "What drugs isn't the Mooch using?... http://www.unfogged.com/archives/week_2017_07_23.html#016119

...I looked at old photos of him, and he doesn't have the same jutting jaw, which is a sign of HGH use. And he's surely using cocaine, right? And there was the moment around the time of the debates when Trump started accusing Clinton of using drugs, and someone who had known him said something like, "I didn't think he was using drugs until he accused her of doing it, because that's how he is." No wonder they want to get rid of Sessions.

(no subject)

Jul. 28th, 2017 07:27 am
[syndicated profile] delong_feed

Posted by J. Bradford DeLong

Should-Read: Martin Longman: A Glimpse Back at the Old Senate: "two stories I found last night while researching my Murkowski-Collins defection piece... http://washingtonmonthly.com/2017/07/27/a-glimpse-back-at-the-old-senate/

...from the Senate floor on January 5th, 2001 as the agreement on how to organize the 50-50 Senate was being announced and debated. The first story comes from Republican Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico and talks about his experiences dealing with the legendary Democratic senator, Russell Long of Louisiana:

Did I have any real friends in the Democratic Party who went to exceptional ends to be helpful to me?

Let me tell you a brief story.

I was a pipsqueak in the Senate, and Senator Long was a very big Senator. I was just starting my first term. I passed only one bill. It was a big bill. It imposed a 10-cent gasoline tax–Senator Byrd, you remember that–on the users of the inland waterways. Do you remember that fight?

It went on forever, but I won fair and square, and I went home to campaign. And, believe it or not, a Senator from that side of the aisle, in my absence–I was in New Mexico–was going to undo my victory because they had the votes and he had the floor. A staffer called me and said: You better come back, get off the campaign trail and come over here and defend the only legislative victory you have, of any significance, in the first 6 years. I was prepared to do it.

Guess what the next call was, in about a half hour–Russell Long. I had defeated him on the floor in that debate.

And he said: Pete, they won’t do that.

I said: What? They will not upset your victory. You won. You stay home and campaign.

Think of that, telling a Republican to stay home.

You stay home and campaign and I will take the floor in your place and object to what is contemplated. And the victory that you got will not be undone here on the floor by a Democrat.

That is friendship, right? But, listen, I didn’t agree with Russell Long on a lot of things–and he knew that–here on the floor of the Senate.

I say to my Democrat friends on the other side of the aisle, all kinds of expressions have been used talking about what is going on: “We extend a hand to you,” and all those other wonderful words. All I can say is, I am going to do my best to work with you, and I hope you will do the best you can to work with me on the Budget Committee and get something done.

The second story comes from Republican Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and likewise involves his early experiences in the Senate:

When I was a very new and appointed Senator, I asked a Senator here who was managing the bill on the other side of the aisle to call me when it came time to offer an amendment. I was tied up in a committee. I was surprised that the bell rang in the committee and the vote was going on. I came to the floor. I am not one to be shy in expressing my opinions, and I went to the then manager of the bill and started to berate him. Senator Mike Mansfield came to me and said: Senator, you should not use language like that on the floor of the Senate. I told Senator Mansfield what had happened. He, as the majority leader, looked at that Senator and said: Is that true? The manager of the bill said: “That’s true, but that amendment would not have passed.” Senator Mansfield said: “Have you got your amendment, Senator?”

He took the amendment from me, he stopped the vote that was going on, he returned the bill to second reading, and he offered my amendment. That amendment passed, and it has benefited my State for a long time.

I merely state it here today to say every Senator on this floor has equal rights. The 50/50 that we have is the result of the voters of the country, but there need not be a division between this body in terms of the 50. We work on the basis of a majority. We can have a tie at almost any time, or a majority with a quorum.

We are looking at a process where every Senator has the right now to understand the responsibility that comes from this agreement that has been reached. I congratulate the Democratic majority leader; I congratulate our future Republican majority leader for reaching this conclusion. I share the feelings of my friend from West Virginia [Sen. Robert Byrd] that this is an act, really, of true statesmanship. I believe those who have not agreed should help us make it work because it will take the relationships that exist between myself and my great friend from West Virginia to make this work. I not only trust the Senator from West Virginia, I trust him with my life, and he knows that. We have never had an argument. I have served with him as chairman; he has served with me as chairman. We have resolved every difference we ever had before we came to the floor. That is what is going to happen now.

Most of the work we do will be in committee. This resolution gives us the ability to work in committee on the basis of trust. I honor the two leaders for what they have done. I am proud of the Senate today.

I can get impatient with pundits and commentators who wax poetic about the good old days in the Senate when everyone went to each other’s homes for dinner and drinks and bipartisanship was in vogue. But there really has been something lost in the last two or three decades, and it has to do with honor and decency.

In my opinion, while it’s true that there is some measure of “both sides” being responsible for the breakdown, by far the most damaging development has been the emergence of Senator Mitch McConnell as the leader of the Republicans. I can get into all the reasons why I believe this some other time, but here I just wanted to give you a little peek at how things used to be different, and better.

taki_net: (svoboda)
[personal profile] taki_net
Заглянул в комьюнити русскоязычных немецких коммунистов (партии Линке) ru_die_linken (там Синяя Ворона модератором). Прочитал:

Вернуть Украину в русское пространство - наш крест

Там всё такое.

ЗЫ. К нормальным левым - соцдемам, зеленым - как раз в Германии никаких претензий, это вам не Берни Сандерс с Меляншоном.

Transgendered Soldiers of the Past

Jul. 28th, 2017 02:32 pm
[syndicated profile] lawyersgunsmoneyblog_feed

Posted by Erik Loomis

With Trump trying to erase transgendered people from any public function in the United States, it’s worth remembering that among the many, many, many, many people in American history braver and greater than the Cheeto Mussolini were the transgendered soldiers of the Civil War.

Cross-dressing has roiled the ranks of armies at least as far back as Joan of Arc, the 15th century military genius who was burned at the stake for heresies that included wearing a man’s uniforms. Leonard’s own expertise is the Civil War, a time when the ranks were filled with hundreds of women who cut their hair, put on pants and took up arms on both sides of the War Between the States.

Researchers at the National Archives have found evidence that at least 250 women dressed as men to fight in the 1860s, some motivated by ideology, some by a taste for adventure and some by the need for a job. Most of those who survived presumably returned to their lives as women. But others continued to live as men after the war.

Albert Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers in Ireland, immigrated to the United States as a stowaway and, at 18, enlisted in the Illinois Infantry Regiment as a man. After the war, in which he fought in some 40 actions, Cashier continued to dress in trousers and, in the modern parlance, identify as a man. He worked as a farmer and handyman for decades and missed out an army pension after refusing to take a required physical exam, according to scholar Jason Cromwell, the author of “Transmen and FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders and Sexualities.”

Cashier’s anatomical secret only came out after he was injured in a 1911 car wreck and treated by doctors. He was committed to an insane asylum but when his story was reported in newspapers, his former army comrades rallied to ensure he was buried as a soldier and recognized on a monument at Vicksburg as one of the Illinois soldiers who fought there.

Sarah Rosetta Wakeman was driven by poverty to work as a male canal boatman and then sign up with a New York unit to fight for the Union Army. The teenage girl passed as a 21-year-old man named Lyon Wakeman and bagged a $154 signing bounty. Recruits were not always closely examined, Leonard said, particularly toward the end of the war when armies on both sides were desperate for “men” of any kind. Among boys barely past puberty, the smooth face of a female impostor could easily have passed without remark.

But hey, these soldiers totally destroyed the Union effort during the Civil War, right?

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Posted by Erik Loomis

This is the grave of Adolph Strasser.

Born in 1843 or 1844 in what is today Hungary, Strasser emigrated to the United States in 1871 or 1872. He settled in New York and took up cigar making. He very quickly became involved in the city’s burgeoning trade union movement, meeting another young unionist cigar maker named Samuel Gompers in 1872. He organized the workers in the new tenement system of cigar making, where people were contracted to roll cigars in their homes, into the United Cigarmakers Union and then joined the other union in that industry, the Cigar Makers International Union, where he was editing their journal by 1875. He built a central trade union body in New York in 1876 and 1877 to coordinate strategy between unions, a precursor to what is today a central labor council. He was elected vice-president of the CMIU in 1876 and remained in that position until 1891. He was an effective union leader and helped the CMIU start winning strikes. He and Gompers were very close; both believers in “pure and simple unionism” that avoided politics or demands that transformed society, they worked together to isolate and defeat union factions that wanted to become what today we might call social justice unionists.

In 1886, Strasser helped Gompers found the American Federation of Labor at a conference in Columbus. In 1891, he retired from the CMIU and worked full-time for the AFL until 1914 as a speaker and internal union organizer, including arbitrating disputes between unions. He was a truly foundational figure in the history of the AFL. He left the labor movement in 1914 and decided to spend his old age selling real estate in Buffalo. He retired from that in 1919, lived in Chicago for the next decade, and then moved to Florida. He died in 1939, at the age of 95. By this time, he was a completely forgotten figure. His role in founding the AFL more than half-century ago was barely recognized. The CIO had split from the AFL and the entire world had changed from Strasser’s unionist days. CMIU Local 14 brought his body back from Florida and had it reburied at their memorial in Chicago.

Adolph Strasser is buried at Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.

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[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by German Lopez

That doesn’t necessarily mean legalization is a bad idea.

It’s not uncommon to see marijuana described as harmless — a claim that suggests that legalizing the drug will carry few, if any, major negative consequences.

Not so fast. According to a study recently published in The Review of Economic Studies, access to legal marijuana may significantly reduce academic performance.

The study took advantage of a natural experiment in the Dutch city of Maastricht. In 2011, the city sought to pull back some of the marijuana tourism going to its coffee shops, where marijuana sales are legally tolerated. So through the local association of cannabis shop owners, it banned some foreigners of certain nationalities from buying pot at these venues.

This let researchers Olivier Marie and Ulf Zölitz, in the cleverly titled “‘High’ Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance,” compare the academic outcomes of Maastricht University students with varying levels of access to legal pot.

What they found: The students who weren’t allowed to legally access marijuana saw their grades significantly improve, especially in classes that require numerical and mathematical skills.

That suggests that a significant consequence of marijuana legalization could be worse academic performance — and that could of course trickle out to any other outcomes or work that generally require using your brain. That doesn’t mean that legalizing pot is necessarily a bad idea, but it is something advocates of the policy now have to think about and account for as they move forward.

What the study found

Maastricht is a city in the Netherlands that is fairly close to the border of several countries: Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and France. This has made it into a major hub of pot tourism, which some local policymakers in 2011 moved to restrict. Through the Maastricht association of pot shop owners, a new policy restricted people of some nationalities — not the Dutch, Germans, or Belgians, but the French, Luxembourgers, and people of all other countries — from buying cannabis.

Maastricht businesses communicated the policy with these very odd, discriminatory posters (courtesy of the study):

The poster Dutch coffee shops used to tell people who can buy pot and who can’t.

The policy was in place for seven months. It was very strictly enforced, with statistics showing that only 1.5 percent of customers were a nationality other than Dutch, German, or Belgian in October, down from more than 18 percent in September.

This bizarre situation created a natural experiment for the researchers: They could now see if students at Maastricht University who weren’t allowed to get cannabis would see their grades improve as a result. So they looked at data comparing students’ academic performance at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics, analyzing the change among foreign students before and after they were prohibited from buying cannabis and the differences between students who could get the drug and those who couldn’t.

“On average, students performed 10.9% of a standard deviation better and were 5.4% more likely to pass courses when they were banned from entering cannabis shops,” the researchers concluded, although there were no statistically significant changes in dropout probability. The effect is stronger for women and low-performance students. They also found bigger effects on courses that require numerical and math skills — backing up previous research that has found marijuana consumption most negatively impacts quantitative thinking.

Notably, the study did not find differences in studying time. So it likely wasn’t the case that those with access to pot just spent too much time getting high and not as much time studying, which would obviously lead to worse outcomes.

The researchers provided a chart for some of their findings. Note that Dutch, German, and Belgian (DGB) students and non-DGB students tracked closely until the period (in between the two red lines in the chart) when non-DGB students were banned from legally buying pot:

A chart shows the academic results of students who were allowed to buy pot and those who weren’t in the University of Maastricht. “‘High’ Achievers? Cannabis Access and Academic Performance” / The Review of Economic Studies

This study first got a lot of attention when it was a working paper, including in a recent episode of Vox’s The Weeds. But the newer, final version, which Keith Humphreys also wrote up for the Washington Post, went through a more rigorous peer review process before it was published.

A big caveat to the study: It can’t definitely prove causation. Although several of the findings line up with other studies (particularly the findings on numerical courses) and the researchers ran several checks on their data, it’s impossible to definitively rule out that perhaps some other factor was present and caused non-DGB grades to improve.

Still, the study’s findings are very suggestive: It certainly seems like legal access to pot significantly hurts academic performance.

Marijuana legalization will have some costs. That doesn’t make it bad.

This pushes back on the narrative that some legalization advocates have raised over the past few years. By drawing comparisons to very dangerous — but legal — drugs like tobacco and alcohol, activists have argued that marijuana is relatively harmless.

This study shows, however, that marijuana has some clear harms. It’s not the first to do so, either. A review of the research published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine earlier this year found that marijuana seems to pose a significant risk for respiratory problems if smoked, schizophrenia and psychosis, car crashes, lagging social achievement in life, and perhaps pregnancy-related problems.

But this shouldn’t be taken as definitive proof that legalizing marijuana is a bad idea, because it’s possible that legalization still outweighs the harms of prohibition.

Keeping cannabis illegal, after all, has its own costs. It causes hundreds of thousands of arrests in the US each year, disproportionately hitting minority Americans. It fosters a black market that funds crime and violence across the world. It makes it impossible to regulate the quality of marijuana and whether it’s laced with a dangerous substance. And it makes it much harder to obtain the drug for responsible users who just want to have fun or relax after a tough day at school or work.

Drug policy is about weighing all of these consequences to get a better outcome. So maybe legalizing marijuana is still better, even if it leads to worse academic outcomes, since it will help reduce crime, violence, and the number of arrests.

We make these kinds of policy decisions all the time. For example, we all know that eating junk food is bad for you. But not many people are going around saying that all junk food should be banned. As a society, we’re willing to bear some of the negative health consequences because of the enjoyment we derive from cake, cookies, chips, and all sorts of tasty treats. We may try to discourage people from eating too much junk food through taxes and regulations, but that’s wholly different than banning it altogether.

Perhaps the same applies to marijuana.

As Humphreys, a Stanford University drug policy expert, once told me, “There's always choices. There is no framework available in which there’s not harm somehow. We’ve got freedom, pleasure, health, crime, and public safety. You can push on one and two of those — maybe even three with different drugs — but you can’t get rid of all of them. You have to pay the piper somewhere.”

So it seems likely, based on the Maastricht study, that marijuana legalization really does lead to negative outcomes on academic performance. But maybe that’s okay.

[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Dylan Matthews

On November 9, the morning after Donald Trump was elected president, I was quite confident that Obamacare was done for. Republicans in Congress had passed bill after bill repealing the law, and now they had a president willing and able to sign one of those bills into law. The coverage expansion inaugurated by President Barack Obama had helped millions of people for a few years, and would now come to an end.

Now, the Senate has rejected three separate proposals to repeal the law in full or in part. There’s always a chance they’ll try again, but at the moment, there doesn’t appear to be any plausible way a repeal measure could become law.

If any theory can explain what happened here, it’s that of Paul Pierson, a political scientist at UC Berkeley. In his 1994 book Dismantling the Welfare State? and 1996 paper “The New Politics of the Welfare State,” Pierson sought to explain why even very conservative leaders are unable to roll back big social programs. Ronald Reagan couldn’t get rid of Medicare or Social Security; Margaret Thatcher couldn’t dismantle the National Health Service. Pierson argues that social programs create a new politics, and in particular build a constituency of people benefiting from the programs that is politically powerful and can resist efforts to dismantle them.

Pierson and I spoke in March about his theory and how it applies to the Republican repeal effort; at that point the fight was still going on in the House, but his points remain salient today. A transcript lightly edited for length and clarity follows.

Dylan Matthews

You argue that it’s very hard to unravel social programs once they’re in place. Why is that?

Paul Pierson

The basic argument is that with these social programs — I was starting by thinking about things like Social Security but I think it applies with variation across programs — it’s a lot harder to get the toothpaste back in the tube once it’s out. People who are receiving benefits, they’re going to react pretty strongly to that being taken away from them. A taxpayer is paying for a lot of stuff and cares a little bit about each thing, but the person who’s receiving the benefits is going to care enormously about that.

There is a lot of psychological research that suggests that people react more strongly to things being taken away from them. There’s a kind of negativity bias in the way we respond to changes in our circumstances. So there’s that electoral mechanism that has to do with outraged voters.

But often with programs, there are also big networks of interest groups that can grow up around a program. Those are often very well-organized to protect programs and they’re also going to react strongly to things being taken away. The basic idea is that once these programs are put in place, and of course the longer they’re in place, the stronger those networks are likely to get, the more difficult it’s going to be to roll things back.

Dylan Matthews

The day after the election, on November 9, my assumption, and the assumption of a lot of people, was Obamacare is done for now. They have both the House and the Senate. They have a president who can sign a repeal bill. What are they waiting for? It seems in the past few months like it could still happen, but it’s become much less obvious it will happen. What are the main institutional factors that are driving that shift?

Paul Pierson

It’s not at all clear what’s going to happen, and one big reason is all the dynamics we were talking about at the beginning of this conversation. You’re talking about taking really important benefits away from tens of millions of people. Basically politicians don’t want to do that. There is an important dynamic where for years and years and years, Republicans could vote against the Affordable Care Act and loudly declare they were voting against the Affordable Care Act, knowing that this was all theater, that it wasn’t a real vote.

It was an easy win for them given the districts they represented and the way in which the Affordable Care Act had been portrayed to their most important political audiences.

Now the day after the election, you’ve got to think about actually doing it. The more time that goes by, Obama’s not there anymore, the more this other kind of logic — which is, yes, you’re taking away valuable benefits from very large numbers of people, including large numbers of people in your district. So that’s the first factor that I think has made things more difficult.

The second thing is that, while it’s true that on paper they have unified control of the government, they don’t have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. And there’s a lot of diversity in opinion — it’s all conservative opinion, but it’s quite a range of views — within the Republican Congress.

So there are people who are worried about rolling things back too far, and there are people who are worried they aren’t going to roll things back enough. They don’t have a lot of margin for error. They’ve got some margin for error in the House but they’ve got almost no margin for error in the Senate.

There are a bunch of institutional hurdles that remain quite important given the narrow majority they have in the Senate in particular.

But I think bigger dynamic is the first, which is that now you are talking about taking away benefits from probably tens of millions of people over time. Politically, that’s a very, very difficult thing to do.

Activists Erect Faux Shantytown To Draw Attention To Federal Budget Cuts Scott Olson/Getty Images
Medicare is very, very popular.

Dylan Matthews

This theory seems to imply that universal programs like Medicare are more politically durable than ones like the Obamacare subsidies and Medicaid expansion, which are means-tested. This is the old, controversial “programs for the poor are poor programs” argument.

Paul Pierson

I think basically that argument is right and maybe has become truer over time because the amount of clout that low-income voters have in our politics has declined. The idea for the poor is going to be a poor program — I think that’s not a bad basic rule of thumb.

The argument I made in the book was that doesn’t necessarily mean that if you start with two social programs, it’s the means-tested program that will get cut disproportionately, because presumably some of that political weakness is already built into the program. It’s already going to be smaller.

There was a time when conservatives said, “It’s the middle-class welfare state that we don’t like, those are things that should be done privately. The public sector should be diminished so all it’s doing is stuff for people who we couldn’t meet their needs through the private sector.” Though actually I think Republicans are changing on this, and the changes they’re talking about to the Affordable Care Act reveal this.

So I think the argument about means-testing and its effect on retrenchment is complicated. I don’t think it’s straightforward that these programs are always going to be the ones where you see the biggest cuts. But at the moment, it’s pretty clear that that’s where the energies of those pushing for retrenchment are focused.

Dylan Matthews

It strikes me that one thing that might have changed in recent decades, that makes rolling back social programs more possible than it once was, is that the parties are a lot better sorted by ideology. There would have been a lot of Republicans who voted for Obamacare and wanted to preserve it in the late 1970s.

Paul Pierson

I think it’s a huge deal that that has changed. It has a whole series of effects. One is that it means for most of the people who are going to be voting on this, who you need to vote for repeal or whatever they put in, overwhelmingly these are people who come from heavily Republican districts or heavily Republican states. They all opposed the ACA if they were in Congress at the time.

So even if they have constituents who benefited from the ACA, they might favor something different. A lot of their voters do not fall in that camp; probably the majority of their voters do not fall in that camp. They are also going to have to run for reelection in primaries dominated by activists and people who are sufficiently engaged that they turn out in low-turnout elections. A lot of those people will be very, very angry if they don’t take action on the Affordable Care Act. That’s a really new development that I think has a big effect.

For most members of Congress, unless you’re in a closely held seat, and most of them are not, that’s probably not something that’s going to keep you up at night. Whereas bucking the party on repealing the Affordable Care Act sets you up for a lot of trouble, potentially. It sets you up for a primary challenge, it sets you up for a lot of recrimination and payback from party leadership and the Trump administration. I think the political calculations look pretty different in a hyperpartisan era.

Dylan Matthews

You used a lot of international examples in your book and paper. You have the example of Margaret Thatcher privatizing public housing as rare politically popular retrenchment. Are there any parallels from other industrialized democracies that are useful here? I can’t think of a country, other than maybe Australia in the ’70s, that did a big rollback on health care.

Paul Pierson

I think in general, there’s a strong consensus that this remains very, very difficult to do in most democracies. It doesn’t mean you can’t make changes in social programs, but when do you, you usually have to find a way to do it over an extended period of time.

I can’t think of any comparative precedent for coming in and taking health insurance away from tens of millions of people. That’s just a really big number.

Obama Continues Talks With Congressional Leaders On Deficit At White House Alex Wong/Getty Images
Obama, Reid, and Pelosi made a lot of compromises with industry to get Obamacare through.

Dylan Matthews

Obama made a super-concerted effort to get Big Pharma and America's Health Insurance Plans (the lobbying arm of the insurance industry) and a lot of other stakeholders on board, who had killed a lot of previous attempts at health care reform.

I’m wondering whether the things that were necessary to get Obamacare through in the first place also weaken it when Republicans try to roll it back. Something that had done less to appease those interest groups — maybe by doing more to expand public insurance programs like Medicaid and Medicare — might have been harder to pass initially, but once passed might have been better at creating its own constituencies.

Paul Pierson

That’s an interesting idea. I think you’re right in describing what the politics were. They cut a bunch of deals with powerful interest groups in order to either get them to support the legislation, or at least get them to be close to neutral. Anything that made it harder to pass the bill probably means you get no bill. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which you come closer to not getting a bill and yet you got one.

I would imagine if you asked people who had been part of that effort about the political calculations they made, they would probably say, and quite credibly, “Had we not made the concessions we made, you would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act.”

There are a lot of things about the design of the Affordable Care Act that I think made it hard to sell to people. But it sure seems like people are appreciating the ACA more now than they did over the last past seven years.

There’s probably a lot to learn about American politics from that. Maybe it just has to do with the messiness and ugliness of compromise — it’s not inspirational when you compromise, even if you compromise to do something that I think has done an enormous amount for millions of Americans.

[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Dylan Matthews

President Trump has a surprisingly sensible idea: get rid of the legislative filibuster.

This isn’t the first time Trump has made this argument; he tweeted against the filibuster in repeatedly in May too. "The filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with," Trump told Fox News in an interview on April 28th. "You're really forced into doing things that you would normally not do except for these archaic rules."

During that news cycle, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed back, saying that filibuster abolition would “fundamentally change the way the Senate has worked for a very long time. We're not going to do that.” But Trump is right. These are archaic rules, they add an unnecessary additional veto point to the lawmaking process (which is already way more difficult in the US than it is in most other developed countries), and they are a major reason why Trump’s presidency has so few legislative accomplishments.

It’s time for Trump and McConnell to end the silliness, and kill the legislative filibuster once and for all.

The filibuster is frustrating Trump’s governing agenda

House Speaker Paul Ryan Speaks To Media After House GOP Conference Meeting Win McNamee/Getty Images
The filibuster is the reason Paul Ryan looks this defeated all the time.

It might seem dubious to blame the filibuster for Trump’s rough start. Health care and tax reform, the two legislative priorities he named in his tweet, are going through budget reconciliation, which only requires 51 votes in the Senate. That would seem to imply that the filibuster isn’t keeping things back, and that the real culprits are the Senate’s slow pace on health care. Tax reform, meanwhile, is starting at the House level, with Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady taking lead, and also hasn’t progressed far. How could the slow movement of these bills be the filibuster’s fault?

Vox's Andrew Prokop has a great explainer on why it's more complicated than that. Basically, the whole health care clusterfuck is a consequence of a strategy Republicans arrived at months ago, built around the fact that they wanted to use budget reconciliation — the process that evades the filibuster — for both Obamacare repeal and tax reform. You can only pass one reconciliation bill per budget resolution, so the plan was to quickly pass a fiscal year 2017 budget resolution to use for the health bill, and as soon as the health debate was wrapped up pass a fiscal year 2018 budget resolution to use for taxes.

But the plan also meant they had to finish health care before moving on to taxes. "In this scenario, Obamacare repeal would have to move very quickly indeed," Prokop writes. "Republicans wanted to pass the new budget setting up tax reform for reconciliation by this spring — and once they did so, they believed Senate rules required that the health care reconciliation instructions from the previous budget resolution would expire."

That led to a mad rush to pass health care as quickly as possible, so as to move on to tax reform. And the rush made brokering a compromise on health care difficult, both due to increased time pressure and because any health care deal would have to conform to the Byrd rule, which could rule out a lot of policy changes like adding a surcharge for people who don’t stay continuously covered by health insurance.

The Senate rules also affected the process in another way. Republicans wanted to do health care first because it enabled them to repeal all of Obamacare’s taxes, and pay for it by repealing the bill’s spending too. That would be kosher under reconciliation, because it doesn’t increase the deficit in the long run. But it would also result in the US getting less revenue going forward. So they could then do “revenue-neutral” tax reform that, along with the health care bill, amounted to a tax cut relative to the law under President Obama. And because the tax law would be revenue-neutral against the new, lower-tax baseline created by the health bill, it too could be passed through reconciliation.

All of this — all of this — could be avoided if you just eliminated the filibuster. Then Congress could get to work on health care and tax reform simultaneously, at whatever pace made sense. Which bill you took up first wouldn’t matter at all, rules-wise. Neither bill would have to balance in the long run: Republicans could pass an absolute tax cut if they wanted, without bothering to cut the Obamacare spending or find other pay-fors like border adjustment.

The only constraint would be their actual concern over the deficit, not arbitrary Senate rules. House Republicans wouldn’t have to craft a health care deal that would work for Senate reconciliation. They could just craft a health care deal that they thought could get a majority in each house, the way that bicameral systems are supposed to work.

Look at this another way: There have been a number of victories in the Senate for Donald Trump already. He narrowly got Betsy DeVos confirmed as his secretary of education. He appointed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. He overturned a bevy of Obama-era rules on the environment, internet privacy, and reproductive rights.

But every single one of these wins was possible because they weren’t filibusterable. Democrats had eliminated the filibuster for executive branch appointees, Republicans followed suit for the Supreme Court, and the Congressional Review Act allows the Senate and House to repeal recently decided federal rules without facing a filibuster.

If the filibuster were gone, passing any legislation would be as straightforward as passing those rule changes was.

Don’t fear the nuclear option

Repealing the legislative filibuster shouldn’t be a radical measure. Democrats and then Republicans have already totally eliminated filibuster for nominees to judicial or executive positions, including for the Supreme Court. With that precedent, going the final distance and eliminating the filibuster for bills should be a logical culmination.

But Senate Republicans are reticent anyway. After going nuclear to confirm Gorsuch, Mitch McConnell told reporters, "There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster. Not one." Asked if that meant he was committing to not changing the legislative filibuster as long as he's majority leader, McConnell replied, "Correct."

Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch was even more vehement:

This is a common argument, that repealing the filibuster would help liberals more than conservatives. It was the rationale my colleague Matthew Yglesias offered for abolishing the filibuster all the way back in 2005. "The liberal difficulty is what it always has been — getting new stuff passed into law," Yglesias wrote. "It's no coincidence that the United States is also an outlier in terms of having a relatively underdeveloped welfare state. The many sticking points in the legislative process were deliberately designed by the Founders to bias the political system in favor of conservatism."

More recently, New York magazine’s Eric Levitz argued that "the filibuster provides conservatives with a structural advantage" because "any institution that makes it more challenging to enact new welfare programs in the first place is good for the right."

I mostly agree with this, but Trump should think about what the actual mechanism here is. The argument is that the filibuster helps liberals because liberals have traditionally been the political force in US pushing for real change. But Trump’s whole pitch, his entire raison d’être during the Republican primary, was that he’s a different kind of Republican, one who’s willing to drain the swamp, turn Washington on its head, and replace the whole corrupt system. That’s change, all right — and it’s change that will be frustrated if the filibuster is kept in place.

Moreover, Trump has long been animated by his insecurity about losing the popular vote, and as a consequence has often lashed out at the idea that a majority of Americans should decide policy. There’s actually evidence that the filibuster is a rule that can make the Senate more majoritarian in nature, particularly when Republicans are in the majority.

In Yale Law Journal, Benjamin Eidelson compiled empirical evidence showing that when Republicans were in the majority in the Senate from 2003 to 2007, filibustering minority Democrats typically represented a majority of the US population, because they came from populous states like California and New York. If Trump thinks these states have too much power, then he should encourage the Republican majority in the Senate to abolish the filibuster and prevent these “majoritarian filibuster” efforts.

Of course, Trump isn’t the person who gets to decide if the filibuster stays or goes. Mitch McConnell and his caucus do. And they might be preserving it for reasons that contradict Trump’s. Maybe they don’t want to run a midterm campaign in 2018 after having taken away people’s health care, or having passed a massive, unpaid-for tax cut for the rich. If that’s their motivation, then binding their hands by refusing to abolish the filibuster makes a lot of sense.

But if they actually want to get anything done — or want the body in which they serve to be halfway effective at passing legislation in the future — they should join Trump and work to finish off the filibuster entirely. They should liberate themselves from the constraints of the budget reconciliation process, and simply try to craft legislation that can get 50 votes.

[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Alexia Fernández Campbell

In the early-morning hours after Senate Republicans' last-ditch attempt to repeal Obamacare failed, a common narrative began to emerge: that while three “no” votes from Republicans killed the bill, only Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) saved the day by voting no.

CNN called it “John McCain's maverick moment.” The Washington Post described it as "The night John McCain killed the GOP’s health-care fight."

To be sure, McCain's vote against the bill was dramatic and decisive. He flew back to Washington from Arizona less than two weeks after he was diagnosed with brain cancer, after having surgery to remove a blood clot from above his eye. He made a sweeping speech about returning Senate procedure to a time of bipartisan, transparent cooperation. Then he proceeded to briefly horrify ACA proponents by voting yes on a motion to proceed vote, and yes again on the Republican Better Care Reconciliation Act.

So when McCain cast a performative last-minute vote against “skinny repeal,” it immediately overshadowed the two women Republican senators who did far more to halt Republicans' reckless efforts to repeal Obamacare. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) repeatedly stood their ground against the three health bills their colleagues tried to ram through the Senate.

Murkowski and Collins were the only Republicans to vote against a motion to proceed with the health care bill debate. Both women cast votes against the Better Care Reconciliation Act, which could have led to 22 million more uninsured Americans. They both also voted against the Obamacare Reconciliation Act — repeal and delay — which could have led to 32 million more uninsured Americans.

Both senators said they could not support bills that would leave millions of people without health insurance. When skinny repeal — seemingly the last shot for the GOP — came down, they stood their ground and voted no again.

Through all of this, the backlash against these two women senators was severe. Two House Republicans threatened them with violence.

President Trump publicly shamed Murkowski on Twitter:

Murkowski then got a call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who reportedly threatened to punish Alaska’s economy based on her health care vote, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

McCain’s vote was crucial in ending the latest health care repeal effort — but no more so than the votes of Murkowski and Collins, which were consistently courageous in the face of threats and suggestions of retaliation.

[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Garet Williams

Early Friday morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) voted against the so-called “skinny repeal” version of the GOP plan to repeal Obamacare, joining Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) to kill the bill.

McCain, who returned from Arizona for the health care vote after being diagnosed with brain cancer, was a surprise addition to Murkowski and Collins, who had both previously opposed other versions of the Senate plan, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA)— the repeal-and-replace option — and the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA), a straight repeal with a two-year delay to craft a replacement.

On Tuesday, McCain had voted for the motion to proceed after giving a rousing speech in defense of regular order in the Senate and bipartisan development of legislation. He voted in favor of the BCRA and against the other two versions of the bill.

Multiple outlets reported that after his vote, McCain went to the Democratic side of the chamber, where Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) gave him a hug.

Watch McCain vote against the bill in the video above.

Congress can’t save Jeff Sessions

Jul. 28th, 2017 10:00 am
[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Phillip Carter

Senators are lining up to defend the attorney general. It doesn’t matter.

Senators from both parties are telling President Donald Trump not to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Lindsay Graham said Sessions’s firing “could be the beginning of the end” for Trump’s presidency. Sessions himself says he won't quit, and will only leave if Trump forces him out. Given the depth of Trump’s rage, that may be only a matter of time.

All of which raises the question: Is there anything the Republican-led Congress can do to protect Sessions — and, by extension, the Justice Department special counsel currently probing Trump’s Russia ties?

The short answer, unfortunately, is no. Sessions’s future, and that of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, will effectively be determined by Trump, and Trump alone.

It may seem ironic and unfortunate that a president at the center of so much controversy has the ultimate say in whether the nation’s chief prosecutor — responsible for investigating the president’s own affairs, and those of his family — gets to stay.

And yet the Constitution creates just such a system, giving nearly all power over prosecutions to the president, largely neutering Congress when it comes to law enforcement and forcing the courts to wait until a case comes to them before they can issue any decisions.

Past efforts to create an independent counsel answerable to Congress or the courts are of dubious constitutionality because our founding document vests executive power — including enforcement of the laws — in the president alone. Congressional investigations like the four current probes into Trump’s Russia ties can also make it harder for federal prosecutors to actually bring criminal cases if the lawmakers strike immunity deals with suspects in exchange for their testimony. (Disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been seeking that type of deal, with no success.)

Congress does have a variety of ways it could strike back at Trump for his handling of the Sessions mess, but those could only be used after Sessions or Mueller were fired — not to prevent Trump from doing so in the first place. That's bad news for both Sessions and Mueller, and it's bad news for American democracy.

The Constitution makes it nearly impossible for Congress to restrain Trump

The Constitution creates an uneven playing field when it comes to law enforcement and the day-to-day operations of the federal government. In broad brush strokes, Article I empowers Congress to legislate, appropriate money, and confirm appointees (that last one is just for the Senate). Article II empowers the president to be chief executive and administrator of the government. This includes, importantly for Jeff Sessions, both the power to enforce the laws (the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed”) and to appoint federal officials.

In theory, the president’s near-complete power is balanced by electoral accountability, as well as congressional power to create the laws he enforces and appropriate funds to support his decisions. In practice, the president dominates the field. He and his Cabinet officials control the vast machinery of American government and are responsible for its day-to-day operation. Congress can rarely act (or react) in time to affect the actual conduct of governance.

And even if Congress could act quickly enough, it lacks access to information held by the executive branch, whether that’s classified information or sensitive law enforcement evidence. Consequently, Congress plays a weak hand in its poker game of power with the president, almost always folding its cards.

To help better police the executive branch In the wake of the Watergate scandal, Congress passed (and President Jimmy Carter signed) the Ethics in Government of 1978, which created a “special prosecutor” that could investigate crimes at the behest of Congress, not a president who may have conflicts of interest. This statute was used many times to appoint special prosecutors or independent counsel; over time the statute was also amended to limit these prosecutor’s powers and bring them increasingly under the auspices of the Department of Justice for supervision.

In 1988, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the statute, in part because the attorney general technically retained the power to actually appoint and supervise these prosecutors. Under the Constitution’s separation of powers, only the executive branch can directly enforce the law. Consequently, any arrangement allowing Congress or the courts to appoint prosecutors, or supervise them, would run afoul of the Constitution’s division of labor.

The law was perhaps most famously used during the Clinton administration, when a narrow probe into suspicious real estate dealings in Arkansas snowballed into a massive inquiry taking six years and more than $50 million, led by a series of independent counsels most notably including Kenneth Starr. The Whitewater investigation eventually led to President Bill Clinton’s impeachment, but ultimately “determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either (the) president or Mrs. Clinton knowingly participated in any criminal conduct.”

The Starr investigation and others conducted during the Clinton administration were so thoroughly unpopular that Congress declined to renew the independent counsel statute when it expired in 1999. (In a historical irony, Starr penned a Washington Post column Thursday pleading with Trump to stop attacking Sessions and respect the rule of law.)

Alongside the now-expired independent counsel statute, the Justice Department created its own internal authority to appoint a “special counsel” in situations where the president or senior Justice Department officials may have a conflict of interest.

These regulations require the special counsel to be appointed from outside the government, and be “a lawyer with a reputation for integrity and impartial decision-making, and with appropriate experience to ensure both that the investigation will be conducted ably, expeditiously and thoroughly.”

Someone, in other words, very much like former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed to investigate Trump’s Russia ties — as well as any crimes against the integrity of the legal system like obstruction of justice that may come to the attention of Mueller’s team.

Firing Sessions would be Trump’s first step towards firing Bob Mueller

As special counsel, Mueller has the “investigative and prosecutorial functions of any United States Attorney.” He can gather evidence from other agencies (including classified information from the National Security Agency, like intercepted phone calls with Russian diplomats), interview witnesses, and subpoena witnesses or documents as necessary. If warranted, Mueller can recommend charges to a grand jury. However, it’s unclear whether Mueller could make an recommend indictment or impeachment for Trump himself.

Given this constitutional playing field, and the brief history to date of the Russia saga and its characters (including Sessions, Rosenstein, and Mueller), the president and Congress have only a few options in front of them.

For his part, Trump can summarily fire Sessions — a power he used to oust acting Attorney General Sally Yates and FBI Director James Comey. Whether Trump bullies Sessions into eventually resigning or actively fires him is immaterial. The president enjoys unquestioned power to fire an “officer of the United States,” and Congress can’t stop the president from doing so.

At best, Congress can engage in legislative brinksmanship, like Sen. Graham’s statement implying that impeachment proceedings would follow Sessions’s firing, or that Congress would take some other legislative action if provoked. But none of these measures would save Sessions or any other senior official from being canned.

It’s much less clear that Trump can summarily fire Mueller, who is protected by Justice Department regulations from being fired without “good cause.” The emerging consensus among legal experts is that Trump could direct Rosenstein or some other senior Justice Department official to create a cause for firing Mueller, or rewrite the special counsel regulations to allow for his firing.

However, it’s also possible (particularly given Trump’s litigation history in the private sector before taking office) that Trump would bluster forward anyway, ordering Mueller’s firing and daring anyone to litigate its propriety after the fact.

Congress can’t save Jeff Sessions — but it can make life miserable for Trump

Congress isn’t totally toothless, though: It can still make new laws, control the purse strings of the federal government, and block Trump’s ability to appoint new federal officials.

In this instance, Congress couldn’t make new laws that would make it a crime to do what Trump and his associates may have done during the campaign; the Constitution forbids such “ex post facto” statutes.

However, Congress could increasingly tighten the screws on Trump and his associates by strengthening federal ethics laws and making them apply, explicitly, to the president and his White House staff. Walter Shaub, the former director of the government’s ethics office, suggests this would help close many of the loopholes Trump is currently exploiting, such as by creating a legal rule on conflicts of interest that would explicitly apply to the president.

Another possibility would be for Congress to bolster the protections for Justice Department employees and their investigations, or amend the criminal statutes regarding obstruction of justice and related matters to more effectively fence off the Justice Department from White House interference going forward. On Thursday, Graham said he would try to do just that by introducing a bill requiring a federal judge to approve the firing of a special counsel like Mueller who was investigating the president.

Beyond that kind of new law, Congress could also mandate detailed reports from executive agencies on their programs and activities, and haul their leaders before oversight hearings, to make governance more difficult for the Trump team.

All of this would slowly frustrate Trump’s presidency, and make it more difficult for him to pursue his agenda while dealing with so many investigations and oversight matters.

Another big area where Congress could act is by leveraging its control over federal spending to directly affect how Trump uses the Justice Department, and also to control the rest of his agenda. Nothing in government happens without money; indeed, it’s a federal offense to do something in government without an appropriation. If Trump fires Sessions, or uses his replacement to improperly fire Mueller, then Congress could respond by zeroing out parts of the Justice Department budget.

Or, Congress could threaten the funding for more specific presidential priorities, like the construction of a border wall or his much-promoted infrastructure project. The problem is that many of these projects are pretty popular with the general public, so lawmakers — especially those up for reelection in 2018 — may not want to rock the boat.

A third kind of leverage exists in the Senate’s confirmation power, which both Republicans and Democrats have successfully used to extract performance from presidents.

In 1973, Congressional leaders used the confirmation of a new attorney general to extract the appointment of a special prosecutor for Watergate. Similarly, Sen. Charles Grassley on the Senate Judiciary Committee, or other Republican leaders, could threaten to delay or deny confirmation of Trump appointees. Grassley has already taken to Twitter to say his committee would refuse to even hold a confirmation hearing for whoever Trump would nominate if he went ahead and fired Sessions.

Trump might see congressional retaliation as a cost of doing business

The problem here is that Trump has shown little desire to actually fill appointments in the first place, and any more delay could actually affect the performance of government in ways that politically backfire. Nonetheless, the Senate could easily use this power to guide the selection of Sessions’s replacement at the Justice Department, and the choice of any other appointees to law enforcement positions.

No matter what, Congress would surely use its powers here to ensure that future appointees would continue the work of Sessions, Rosenstein, and Mueller. And, if it became clear that Trump really had fired these men in order to quash the inquiries into his administration, then Congress might finally decide to take political action in the form of impeachment.

Finally, Congress could act by creating a new independent counsel statute (cured of its constitutional infirmities) or by super-charging the investigations now being conducted by various congressional committees.

Both Democrats and Republicans still hate the idea of an independent counsel, resenting the ways it operated during the two decades of its life including major investigations like Iran-Contra and Whitewater, and lesser known investigations into myriad government officials for corruption or influence-related allegations. However, Mueller’s termination would likely outweigh this distaste and cause Congress to look for ways it could build new institutions to check and balance the president. Mueller’s termination could push Congress to create a more aggressive and empowered investigation of its own — one that can leverage congressional subpoena power and immunity authority.

To date, congressional inquiries have focused on Russian meddling in the 2016 election or other discrete issues. But if Trump dares Congress to act by firing the attorney general and special counsel, then Congress could (and probably would) respond with a more direct set of inquiries focused on Trump himself.

In concrete terms, Congress could ramp up these inquiries by hiring more professional staff, using subpoena powers to collect more evidence, and scheduling more interviews and public hearings to build a record — and perhaps a public case — against the president.

For now, the status quo persists. Sessions remains, albeit in what Trump himself derisively calls a “beleaguered” state, recused from anything related to the Russia investigation. Rosenstein continues to oversee the Russia and Trump-related inquiries, despite Trump’s animus toward him. Mueller and his dream team continue to make their way through sensitive evidence, piecing together what happened in 2016 and whether the Trump team committed any crimes then or since.

If Trump does nothing but tweet his anger, the prosecutorial triumvirate of Sessions, Rosenstein, and Mueller will continue their work, unaffected by Trump’s rage except to the extent there is more public interest in their efforts. If Trump acts to fire one or all three, their replacements are almost certain to continue their work. The only question will be how heavy a price Congress will force Trump to pay in the aftermath.

Mama I Don't Want To Die

Jul. 28th, 2017 02:00 pm
[syndicated profile] atrios_feed
I was too pessimistic about Obamacare. The Medicaid expansion - despite Roberts and the evil Republican governors - was very good. The insurance regulations that applied across the board (coverage, pre-existing conditions, etc.) were very good. The exchanges still suck - private insurance is very expensive and not so fun to have and the subsidies are not generous enough and the magic competition doesn't exist and poor people really wish they were just a bit more poor so they could get that sweet sweet medicaid - but for many people barely affordable shitty insurance is preferable to no insurance at all.

I was also too pessimistic about the politics. I though it would not be enough of an improvement overall to cover for the fact that "Obama" (Democrats) would basically own our whole health care system which still sucks. I think it is, at least in the Medicaid expansion states. The new regulations are good for everyone with employer-based insurance, good enough that they are worth fighting for.

Though the "exchanges" are still the weak link and the Trumpkins are now going to do everything they can to make that link weaker. Most of them are incompetent at evil, but Price is not.
bytebuster: (CH-biang3biang3mien4)
[personal profile] bytebuster
І не кажіть, що ви бачили відео! :-)

(no subject)

Jul. 28th, 2017 07:00 am
[syndicated profile] delong_feed

Posted by J. Bradford DeLong

Must-Read: A good way forward on health care:

Neera Tanden and Tophir Spiro: The bipartisan way to strengthen health care: "Provide greater certainty for insurers by guaranteeing continued payments of ACA subsidies, a step that could help reduce average premiums by as much as 19 percent... https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-bipartisan-way-to-strengthen-health-care/2017/07/18/b2e2b444-6bef-11e7-b9e2-2056e768a7e5_story.html

...reimburse insurers for covering high-cost patients who need more expensive medical treatments. Such a solution has already proved effective in Alaska, which cut the rate of premium increases by 75 percent, and in Maine, where premiums fell by 20 percent in the first year after it was enacted. We estimate that providing $15 billion to states for this kind of reinsurance would help lower premiums by more than 14 percent. Furthermore, because this funding would lower premiums, it would save money on tax credits—resulting in an overall cost of slightly more than $4 billion per year. Working together, Congress could easily find health-care savings to pay for this reinsurance. There should easily be majority support for both these proposals, as guarantees of ACA subsidies and reimbursements for high-cost patients are already found in the BCRA.

Finally... assist those areas of the country that have one or no insurers. Republican senators such as Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri have previously supported the idea of filling insurance gaps for these underserved counties. There are several gap-filling options.... In counties that were underserved as of July 1, insurers could be exempted from paying the health-insurance tax. The government could offer a public option in the form of a guaranteed choice plan in communities without sufficient competition, particularly rural areas. People in underserved counties could be allowed to buy into the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The three components of this proposed bipartisan solution would quickly earn the overwhelming support of insurance commissioners, actuaries, economists and policy experts from across the political spectrum...

[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Dylan Matthews

The utter failure of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump to pass a bill rolling back the Affordable Care Act makes one thing perfectly clear: love him or hate him, Barack Obama is one of the most consequential presidents in American history — and that he will be a particularly towering figure in the history of American progressivism.

He signed into law a comprehensive national health insurance bill, a goal that had eluded progressive presidents for a century — and built it strong enough to withstand assaults from the Supreme Court and avoid repeal from a Republican administration. He got surprisingly tough reforms to Wall Street passed as well, not to mention a stimulus package that both blunted the recession and transformed education and energy policy.

He's put in place the toughest climate rules in American history and signed a major international climate accord. He opened the US to Cuba for the first time in more than half a century, and reached a peaceful settlement to the nuclear standoff with Iran.

You can celebrate or bemoan these accomplishments. Liberals hail them as moves toward a social democratic welfare state and a foreign policy more skeptical of military intervention; conservatives critique Obama's efforts to expand regulation and the government's reach, and accuse him of abdicating America's role as world hegemon.

But no one can deny that the changes Obama has wrought are enormous in scale.

Obamacare: a big ****** deal

Teddy Roosevelt, one of the first American politicians to call for national health insurance. (Social Security Administration)

National health insurance has been the single defining goal of American progressivism for more than a century. There have been other struggles, of course: for equality for women, African Americans, and LGBTQ people; for environmental protection; and, of course, against militarism. But ever since its inclusion in Teddy Roosevelt's 1912 Bull Moose platform, a federally guaranteed right to health coverage has been the one economic and social policy demand that loomed over all others. It was the big gap between our welfare state and those of our peers in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.

And for more than a century, efforts to achieve national health insurance failed. Roosevelt's third-party run came up short. His Progressive allies, despite support from the American Medical Association, failed to pass a bill in the 1910s. FDR declined to include health insurance in the Social Security Act, fearing it would sink the whole program, and the Wagner Act, his second attempt, ended in failure too. Harry Truman included a single-payer plan open to all Americans in his Fair Deal set of proposals, but it went nowhere. LBJ got Medicare and Medicaid done after JFK utterly failed, but both programs targeted limited groups.

Richard Nixon proposed a universal health care plan remarkably similar to Obamacare that was killed when then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) walked away from a deal to pass it, in what Kennedy would later call his greatest regret as a senator. Jimmy Carter endorsed single-payer on the campaign trail but despite having a Democratic supermajority in Congress did nothing to pass it. And the failure of Bill Clinton's health care plan is the stuff of legend.

Obama signs Obamacare into law. (Pete Souza)

Then on March 23, 2010, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law. It wasn't perfect by any means. Liberals bemoan that it wasn't single-payer; it lacked a public option, or even all-payer rate setting. And it still left many uninsured.

But it established, for the first time in history, that it was the responsibility of the United States government to provide health insurance to nearly all Americans, and it expanded Medicaid and offered hundreds of billions of dollars in insurance subsidies to fulfill that responsibility.

In an email, UC Berkeley's Paul Pierson likened the law to a "starter home" to be expanded later on, much as Social Security — which initially had no disability benefits, left out surviving dependents and widows, and excluded (largely black) agricultural and home workers — was.

Brian Steensland, a sociologist who studies American social policy at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, agrees. "The main thing it does, I think, is establish the expectation in the public’s mind that access to basic health care is a right," he says. "It’s going to be hard to go back to a time when access to health insurance, and the subsidies to help pay for it, wasn’t near universal."

To pay for it all, the Affordable Care Act cut back on Medicare spending and hiked taxes on rich people's investment income and health plans. It effected a massive downward redistribution of income. It's one of the most startlingly progressive laws this country has ever enacted.

And it was passed with more opposition than the social insurance programs it followed. "FDR and LBJ had lots of fellow Democrats in Congress when they pushed for the New Deal and Great Society," College of William and Mary political scientist Chris Howard says. "Their opponents, in and out of government, were not nearly as ideological or hostile as the ones facing Obama. The fact that the ACA exists at all is pretty remarkable."

A lot of these facts are familiar to people who've been following Obamacare, but it's worth dwelling on them for a second. When you consider the law in the context of 100 years of progressive activism, and in the grand scheme of American history, it starts to look less like a moderate reform and more like an epochal achievement, on the order of FDR's passage of Social Security or LBJ's Great Society programs.

It is, to quote Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol, "a century-defining accomplishment in the last industrial democracy to resist using national government to ensure access to health coverage for most citizens." FDR failed, Truman failed, Nixon failed, Carter failed, Clinton failed — and Obama succeeded. He filled in the one big remaining gap in the American welfare state when all his forerunners couldn't.

And filling it in was most of the battle. As Pierson has written, it's very very difficult to roll back expansions of the social safety net, because it creates beneficiaries who will resist repeal. That's exactly what happened with the Affordable Care Act. Fear over denying people coverage led the Republican "coverage caucus" to go wobbly, eventually dooming the repeal effort.

But Obama's domestic achievements were not just limited to health care.

"On domestic issues Obama is the most consequential and successful Democratic president since LBJ. It isn't close."

Dodd, Frank. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Affordable Care Act was hardly Obama's only accomplishment. He passed a stimulus bill that included major reforms to the nation's education system, big spending on clean energy, and significant expansions of antipoverty programs. He shepherded through the Dodd-Frank Act, the first significant crackdown on Wall Street's power in a generation, which has been far more successful than commonly acknowledged.

He used executive action to enact bold regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and to protect nearly 6 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. He ended the ban on gay and lesbian service in the military, made it easier for women and minorities to fight wage discrimination, cut out wasteful private sector involvement in student loans, and hiked the top income tax rate. He reprofessionalized the Department of Justice and refashioned the National Labor Relations Board and the Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Department into highly effective forces for workers' rights.

His presidency holds massive symbolic value as proof that the reign of white men over American government can be halted and America as a whole can be represented. And while he was too slow in announcing support for same-sex marriage, he appointed two of the justices behind the Supreme Court's historic decision that legalized it nationwide, and enlisted his Justice Department on the side of the plaintiffs.

There are obviously places Obama fell short. I think he didn't take monetary policy nearly seriously enough, that he's fallen short on combating HIV/AIDS and other public health scourges abroad, that his early push to deport millions of unauthorized immigrants was indefensible, and that perpetrators of torture and other war crimes from the Bush administration should have been criminally prosecuted. But while Obama could have accomplished more, it could never be said that he accomplished little.

"When you add the ACA to the reforms in the stimulus package, Dodd-Frank, and his various climate initiatives," Pierson says, "I don't think there is any doubt: On domestic issues Obama is the most consequential and successful Democratic president since LBJ. It isn't close."

Obama's foreign policy was a new direction for the Democratic Party — and the country

And on foreign issues, Obama's record is perhaps the most successful of any Democratic president since Truman. He has reestablished productive diplomacy as the central task of a progressive foreign policy, and as a viable alternative approach to dealing with countries the GOP foreign policy establishment would rather bomb.

He established a viable alternative to the liberal hawks that dominated Democratic thinking during the Bush years, and held positions of influence on Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. And he developed a cadre of aides who can carry on that legacy to future Democratic administrations and keep a tradition of dovishness alive.

To understand how this happened, it's worth going back to 2008, when YouTuber Stephen Sorta asked the most important question of the Democratic primary debates: "Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?"

The safe, reserved thing to do would be to say no: Sure, diplomacy's great, but obviously there will be "preconditions." This was the response of future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called the idea "irresponsible and frankly naive" following the debate. It was also the response of future Vice President Joe Biden, who said, "World leaders should not meet with other world leaders unless they know what the agenda is, so you don’t end up being used."

This was, famously, not the response of future President Barack Obama. "I would," he replied. "And the reason is this: that the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them — which has been the guiding diplomatic principle of this administration — is ridiculous."

At the time, Obama's statement was treated like a gaffe. Today it feels more like a statement of purpose. Obama did correspond with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. His secretary of state met for weeks at a time with Rouhani's foreign minister to hammer out a deal. And the result is a historic accord with Iran that, if successful, will stop Iran from developing a nuclear device for at least 10 years. More important than that, it eliminates the odds of a war between the US and Iran in the near future.

And of course, Iran isn't the only country on Sorta's list with whom Obama has engaged in direct talks. He also did away with America's failed policy of isolating Cuba, ending the embargo and allowing for a rapprochement after more than 50 years. His radical openness to dialogue abroad got results in the form of two of the biggest American diplomatic breakthroughs since the Oslo Accords in 1994, perhaps since Camp David in 1978.

But the Iran and Cuba deals were of a different nature than those accords, or similar breakthroughs by Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush. From Watergate through 2009, America's major diplomatic breakthroughs were generally either arms control deals with the Soviet Union or Russia, or trilateral agreements meant to protect Israel's long-term security, like Camp David and Oslo.

Those are important steps, but they solidified America's existing relationships. Obama, by contrast, achieved two huge openings to countries the US had previously counted as enemies for decades. They are achievements more like Nixon's opening to China than, say, the SALT accords. And, of course, Obama has a major Russian arms control deal under his belt in the form of New START, as well.

In December 2015, Obama added the climate deal in Paris to the list. This wasn't a traditional agreement, as it was not legally binding. But nonetheless, 195 countries agreed to submit plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That's an astonishing degree of global consensus, even without a legally binding treaty.

And with luck, the Paris deal, for which the Obama administration fought hard, will encourage a flurry of bilateral or multilateral binding agreements between its signatories, creating a virtuous cycle in which nations pressure each other to cut emissions further and further. It may not be enough to stop catastrophic warming — but with 195 nations, it's likely the best anyone could've hoped for. Even with the Trump administration backing out of the accord, it remains standing policy in almost the entire rest of the world, in part due to Obama's effort.

Obama's decisions haven't been perfect. He revived Clinton-style militarism in the Middle East, where periodic airstrikes and special ops missions take the place of Bush-style invasion and occupation. The drone war is a moral catastrophe, and the 2009 surge in Afghanistan was a mistake. Syria remains a morass with no good options, though arguably Obama had no better choice than to muddle through. But certainly compared to his predecessors, Obama was a model of restraint, prudence, and openness in foreign policy.

You can generally divide American presidents into two camps: the mildly good or bad but ultimately forgettable (Clinton, Carter, Taft, Harrison), and the hugely consequential for good or ill (FDR, Lincoln, Nixon, Andrew Johnson). Whether you love or hate his record, there's no question Obama's domestic and foreign achievements place him firmly in the latter camp.


Watch: President Obama explains why he is so polarizing

[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Todd VanDerWerff

The cast and producers have shared some intriguing new details.

Few new series arriving this fall are as highly anticipated as Hulu’s Runaways, an adaptation of the 2005 Marvel comic created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphonsa.

The series focuses on six teenagers who learn two very big things: 1) they have superpowers, and 2) their parents are supervillains. They’re forced to decide whether they will take down their parents or give in to what might seem to be their evil legacy.

As Josh Schwartz, executive producer for the Hulu series, puts it, “Every teenager thinks their parents are evil. What if they actually were?”

There are plenty of great reasons to anticipate Runaways, from its impeccable casting of some exciting young actors (including One Day at a Time’s Ariela Barer and Casual’s Rhenzy Feliz) to the fact that Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who’ve worked together on everything from The OC to Gossip Girl to Hart of Dixie, are involved in the show.

It’s still too early for critics to have seen any episodes — the show will debut Tuesday, November 21, shortly before Thanksgiving — but the series’ panel at the 2017 Television Critics Association summer press tour did tease some intriguing nuggets. Here are five things to know.

1) Probably don’t expect a slavishly faithful adaptation of the comics

Hulu’s version of Runaways has kept the basic idea of its source material, but Schwartz said that Vaughan wrote Runaways’ first run — which ended after just 18 issues — in a rush, constantly thinking it would be canceled out from under him. So those first 18 issues are packed with huge twists, and they set up and resolve an entire story arc.

The series will follow the books — but not to the point of utter faithfulness. In particular, said Marvel Television’s Jeph Loeb, he liked that slowing down some of the storytelling would allow many players who were backgrounded in the comics to benefit from stronger character development.

The goal, said Schwartz, was to find a way to make the show “sustainable” across multiple seasons. And considering that Schwartz and Savage have had their own shows that blew through lots of story very quickly, then flailed in later seasons (most notably The OC), they’ll have learned from experience.

2) The Runaways’ parents will be important characters

Schwartz said the first episode of Runaways will focus on the events that reveal the true allegiances of the Runaways’ parents, but the second episode will tell that story from the parents’ point of view, with the two storylines colliding after that.

Savage said Schwartz was one of the main voices in the writers’ room asking for more time spent with the parents. When he first read the comics, Savage said, he wasn’t yet a parent, but now that he is, he was interested in why the parents in the comic act as they do.

Just how much the show will focus on the parents in addition to the kids remains to be seen. But all involved seemed to talk as if the show is hoping to set up the kids’ parents as villains for seasons to come — as opposed to resolving the kids-versus-parents conflict in season one, as might be suggested by those first 18 issues of the comics.

3) Schwartz and Savage were Marvel’s dream choices to adapt the comics for TV

2017 Summer TCA Tour - Day 3 Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
The cast and producers of Runaways.

Loeb said that when Marvel first started thinking seriously about which of its properties would work best on television, Runaways was near the top of the list. But the company wanted to make sure it could get the right people on board to bring a teen drama to the air. At the top of its wish list were Schwartz and Savage. So when the two came in for a general meeting at Marvel TV and said the Marvel title they were most interested in working on was Runaways, everyone immediately hit the ground running.

4) Runaways is connected to the larger Marvel universe — but only in the same sense that every Marvel project is

One of the running jokes in the comic series is that the Runaways can’t get the Avengers to come help them because the kids are based in Los Angeles, while the bigger, more famous superheroes are all based in New York. (Only in the Marvel universe would Los Angeles be a provincial backwater!)

Loeb didn’t directly say that the TV series will use that exact reason to explain why the Runaways don’t ever hang out with the Avengers (and by extension, why the larger, more famous Marvel movie universe doesn’t cross over with its TV universe — aside from corporate schisms), but he did say that the show is nevertheless part of the Marvel universe as a whole. He declined to say any more, because he didn’t want to directly define the relationship between the two.

Still, he said, would a bunch of teenagers really care about what Captain America or Iron Man had to say? “Would you be following Iron Man [on social media], or would you be following someone that was more your age?” he asked. “The fact that they’ve found each other and they’re going through this mystery together at the moment is what they’re concerned about.”

5) The show addresses our current political situation, but only if you squint

To be fair, journalists — forever trying to get entertainers to talk about what their art has to say about Donald Trump — pushed this angle on the panel before it came up organically. But the folks behind Runaways admitted that a program that’s all about questioning authority might have certain resonances in this era, especially for those who lean left.

“Just because somebody’s in charge doesn’t mean they’re here to do good,” Schwartz said. Actress Ariela Barer, who plays the social justice–driven Gert, looped that idea into the show’s larger themes. “No matter how evil you could decide your parents are, you learn your ideals from them, and you become the person you are from them,” she said. And if that’s the case, what does that make you?

If Runaways can thread that needle between the heavily personal story of teenagers questioning everything their parents stand for and the more ambiguously sociopolitical story of what it means for any of us to question the ideals of the world we grew up in, it could be something special.

[syndicated profile] vox_feed

Posted by Sean Illing

"We have contributed to this military and this nation as much as anyone else."

On Wednesday, in the span of a few tweets, President Donald Trump declared that he would ban trans military service.

There has been plenty of coverage and commentary about the tweets and what they actually mean in terms of policy (it turns out not much). But I wanted to talk with a trans soldier, someone who is serving right now and who understands this at the ground level.

Jacob Eleazer is a captain in the Kentucky Army National Guard. He has served for more than 11 years, beginning as an enlisted soldier and later earning his commission as an officer. He is currently a member of the 198th Military Police Battalion, where he serves as a senior human resources officer.

He agreed to be interviewed, but made it clear his remarks are his opinions as a private citizen and that he is not speaking for or on behalf of the United States Army or the Army National Guard.

I asked Eleazer, among other things, to tell me what he would say to the president or to the people making policy if he could sit down with them tomorrow.

“I'd say that we are your soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines,” he told me. “We are not a special interest. We have been serving you and this country for decades. We have contributed to this military and this nation as much as anyone else. We're here to do our job — so let us.”

You can read our full conversation below.


Sean Illing

What was your reaction when you heard the news [of Trump’s proposed ban]?

Jacob Eleazer

My initial reaction was that this has got be a hoax. Someone must have hacked the president's Twitter account or someone must have photoshopped the tweets. When I realized it was serious, I was floored.

There was no indication at all that this was coming. We thought this was settled. We gained a huge victory last year when the ban was dropped. All indications were that we were moving forward on this policy and that things were moving in the right direction. And there seemed to be plenty of support from the Pentagon as well. So this came way out of left field.

Sean Illing

I don’t know if you saw this, but the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that there will be “no modifications” to the current policy until or unless the DOD issues a formal policy. So it appears this is a long way from policy.

Jacob Eleazer

Well, I have drill this weekend and I'm showing up. Nobody's told me not to come to work, so I'll be there on Saturday!

Sean Illing

The president’s rationale — again, formulated on Twitter — is that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Thoughts?

Jacob Eleazer

I won't presume to know the president's rationale for anything, but what I will say is that the DOD commissioned a study on this when they originally lifted the ban, spending over a full year looking closely at the implications, and concluded that the impact of allowing trans people to serve was minimal in terms of impacting readiness and medical costs.

As for the “tremendous medical costs,” well, I just read yesterday in the Washington Post that the military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops' medical care. So I think the assertion that the costs for allowing trans people to serve will be astronomical just doesn’t square with the facts.

Sean Illing

If this policy were implemented and you were told you had to leave the service, what would you do?

Jacob Eleazer

I'm a commissioned officer, so I'd follow lawful orders. But for me in terms of my own life and my own career, I'm incredibly privileged. I'm a part-time solider, so I'd still have my job and I could still pay my bills and feed myself if I lost my commission. But a lot of active-duty folks, particularly junior enlisted folks, live paycheck to paycheck, and so this would have an enormous impact on their lives.

But it's more than that. You've been in the military, you know how it is; for a lot of these people, the military is their family. Abruptly tossing someone out of the service would have a devastating impact on them personally and on our readiness as an institution. We have trans people working in countless corners of the military, and they do their jobs well. If you purge them overnight, that hurts the entire organization.

Sean Illing

Has your gender status had any impact at all on your day-to-day life in the Army?

Jacob Eleazer

The thing that's had the biggest impact on my military career is the policies. I wasn't fooling anyone before I came out. I never looked feminine; I never showed up with makeup on my face. Everyone knew who I was. Hell, I always looked like a man. Young soldiers would call me sir and then get chewed out by my colleagues who’d yell, "Does she look like a man to you?!" But the truth is that I did, and you know what? It didn't matter. No one cared. I came out and I continued to do my job, and almost all of the people I worked with treated me the same.

Sean Illing

I served before the Obama administration, during the “don’t ask, don’t tell” days, and what I remember is that no one gave a shit about someone’s gender status or sexuality. I had active-duty friends who were gay, we all knew they were gay, and not one person cared. The idea that they had to officially pretend they weren’t gay struck all of us as absurd.

Jacob Eleazer

All we've ever asked for is the opportunity to serve our country and to earn the respect of the men and women with whom we serve. That's it. The people on the ground understand this, and they have no problem with it. This is about policy, not the average soldier. Almost every person I’ve ever served with cared about one thing: Can you do your job? If you can, you’re needed and welcomed.

Sean Illing

So when you were finally able to come out, nothing changed? No one treated you differently?

Jacob Eleazer

The only thing that changed was that I could finally go to work and not hide who I was, who I really was. I didn’t have to live a lie. I was able to be honest with folks about who I was, and that allowed me to bring my whole self into work. So when that ban was lifted, it was a huge weight off my chest. I felt like I could be a real person.

Sean Illing

If you could sit down with the president or with the people making policy, what would you say to them?

Jacob Eleazer

I'd say that we are your soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines. We are not a special interest. We have been serving you and this country for decades. We have contributed to this military and this nation as much as anyone else. We're here to do our job — so let us.

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