Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

More House Speaker Details on Who Will Lead

A Rehash

Paul Krugman noted on twitter, this is a group that is “still in the old cringe position, buying into GOP demonization (which happens to any strong Democrat) despite a huge midterm victory.” Cringing at the GOP’s demonization is a tactic that too many Democrats embraced in the past and is what sent so many of them on a journey rightward in search of validation. In other words, it is a losing strategy undermining liberal values. The really superb Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms completely rejected the approach and it is clear that Nancy Pelosi joins them.

Nancy LeToureau at Washington Monthly detailed a Pelosi experience giving her remarks on Twitter. “On Wednesday some young climate activists joined by newly elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez held a demonstration at Nancy Pelosi’s office. While we can debate whether it is a smart move to hold such an event at the office of a leader who is on your side as opposed to the myriad of Republican leaders who are climate deniers, Pelosi welcomed them with open arms.

Nancy Pelosi, Nov 13, 2018 on Twitter:

Deeply inspired by the young activists & advocates leading the way on confronting climate change. The climate crisis threatens the futures of communities nationwide, and I strongly support reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.

We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.

Nancy LeToureau: These types of actions are what makes Pelosi a great leader and is a wonderful example of how Democrats embrace grassroots activism and organizing.

The Letter’s 17

On the same day, some House Democrats were organizing against the election of Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House. There are those who mistakenly conflate the two developments; however, the group challenging Pelosi’s leadership has different motives.

About a dozen incumbent Democrats and a half-dozen incoming Democrats are preparing a letter pledging to not support Pelosi on the House floor for speaker. The members also intend to note another contingent of Democrats who privately say they won’t support the longtime California Democrat but won’t sign the letter, according to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), one of the ringleaders of the effort to block Pelosi.

Sources (HuffPost) familiar with the letter say there are currently 17 names on it, but the group is trying to get more than 20 members before releasing it. Currently on the letter, though not certain to stay on it, are:

– Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
– Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)
– Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.)
– Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.)
– Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)
– Filemon Vela Jr. (D-Texas)
– Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio)
– Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.)
– Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)
– Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.)
– Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.)
– Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.)
– Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.)
– Max Rose (D-N.Y.)
– Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.)
– Ben McAdams (D-Utah)

There is another contingent of Democrats ― including Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Dan Lipinksi (D-Ill.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) ― who are seen as likely to vote against Pelosi, but who appear to be hesitant to sign the letter.

In comparison, just “How progressive Is Nancy Pelosi” when compared to the 17?

Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) writes; “not only has Pelosi consistently been in the top third of the most liberal Democrats in the House, Pelosi is a lot more liberal than Republican Paul Ryan is conservative.” The insurgency against Pelosi amongst House Democrats consists of people who are to Pelosi’s right on the ideological scale. The 17 Democratic signatories on the anti-Pelosi letter when compared to FiveThirtyEight’s DW NOMINATE ranking / Trump scorecard shows that only two of those people have voted against Donald Trump’s policy preferences more than Pelosi has.

The person from that group who’s being floated as a potential replacement for Pelosi, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, is accused of being openly hostile to LGBTQ rights. Osita Nwanevu of the New Yorker: “The anti-Pelosi stuff in Congress is mostly backed by centrist & conservative Dems who want to cave to the right’s sexist & latently anti-LGBT messaging (‘San Francisco values’) against her.”

Do We Want to Be a Part of the 17?

One sure way of dampening the forward progressive movement of the Democrats in the House is to have open warfare amongst ourselves on leadership when the leader is already more progressive than the upper third of Democrats in the House and much of the 17. Such fighting will give rise to questioning of the ability of new and incumbent representatives to gain bi-partisan agreement in the House for passage of Democratic bills. If they can not agree amongst themselves without open warfare, then we have already lost even before the new session has started.

This is not the time to kick the most experienced Progressive House leader out the door. It is time to start grooming new and younger leadership who have returned to the House over the last decade. First term representatives should spend time learning the politics of the House, the Democrats and Republicans, and avoid the conflict being led by those to the right of Pelosi. Only two of the 17 have voted against Donald Trump’s policy preferences more than Nancy Pelosi.

Tags: , Comments (34) | |

MbS Guilty!

MbS Guilty!

According to the top stories in both the New York Times and Washington Post this morning, somebody in the CIA has leaked that Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  Of course no sensible observer is remotely surprised, but the Trump administration had been working mightily to deny this obvious fact, with reports surfacing that they were plotting to send Turkish cleric Gulen to Turkey as authoritarian President Erdogan has long been demanding (Gulen is Erdogan’s all-purpose scapegoat for everything) in the hopes that Erdogan would stop making it clear that MbS was guilty of ordering the assassination.  But now there is no point in that as the cat is fully out of the bag, no matter how much this leak will anger Trump (Fake CIA leak!).  Indeed, it may well have been reported unhappiness by various government officials in the face of this effort to sacrifice Gulen that triggered the leak.

What is a bit surprising is that the leak involved publicizing that NSA bugs the Saudi embassy, although I would imagine that anybody there who did not know that was stupid.  But crucial to the leak is both that MbS phoned his full brother, Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the US, ordering him to phone Khashoggi and tell him he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to the documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee, and that he would be safe in doing so, and that KbS then followed through and made the phone call. The only thing we do not know is whether KbS was in on what was going to happen to Khashoggi or not when he made the phone call.

Comments (1) | |

Pelosi Challenging Outdated Norms

From Washington Monthly Nancy LeTourneau

On Wednesday some young climate activists joined by newly elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez held a demonstration at Nancy Pelosi’s office. While we can debate whether it is a smart move to hold such an event at the office of a leader who is on your side as opposed to the myriad of Republican leaders who are climate deniers, Pelosi welcomed them with open arms.

Pelosi Nov 13, 2018

Deeply inspired by the young activists & advocates leading the way on confronting climate change. The climate crisis threatens the futures of communities nationwide, and I strongly support reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.

We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.

These types of actions are what makes Pelosi a great leader and is a wonderful example of how Democrats embrace grassroots activism and organizing.

As it happened on the same day some House Democrats were organizing against the election of Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House, there are those who mistakenly conflate the two developments. But the group challenging Pelosi’s leadership is completely different.

As Paul Krugman noted on twitter, this is a group that is “still in the old cringe position, buying into GOP demonization (which happens to any strong Democrat) despite a huge midterm victory.” Cringing at the GOP’s demonization is a tactic that too many Democrats embraced in the past and is what sent so many of them on a journey rightward in search of validation. In other words, it is a losing strategy undermining liberal values. The really superb Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms completely rejected the approach and it is clear that Nancy Pelosi joins them.

The theme demonstrated by Nancy Pelosi and well articulated by Nancy LeToureau at WM? In her leadership role, Pelosi is challenging some of the old vestiges of power and strengthening the small “d” democratic processes in overall party. It should come as no surprise that these changes are being resisted as power shifts from top-down to bottom-up. But it’s important for all of us to be clear about exactly what’s happening and weigh in accordingly.

Tags: , , Comments (21) | |

A Serious Centennial

A Serious Centennial

After failing to show up at a major American cemetery in France at least our president did not add to his shame by failing to show up for the big show with 60 or so other national leaders at the Arc de Triomphe for the official ceremony marking the centennial of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of November, 1918, when the guns fell silent on the western front of World War I, officially ending it in the eyes of most historians, even though fighting would escalate in certain other important zones whose outcomes still shake the world, most notably between Greece and Turkey, with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire coming out of that leading to many wars since, some of them gong on right now.  We get it that Trump was uncomfortable given that President Macron was lecturing against the sort of nationalism that led to WW I, with a three day forum to follow that Trump will run as fast as possible back to the US to avoid. And, hey, Macron did not even have tanks and missiles for the parade this time, which Trump really likes to see.

This important day, the first Armistice Day, which we renamed Veterans Day in the US after the War to End All Wars’ unfortunate sequel (actually  in 1954 right after the end of the “forgotten” Korean War) and have since turned into one of those Monday holidays, has turned into a curiously sad one personally.  It involves another war, Vietnam.  My cousin, Bill Atwater, died yesterday, the day before this serious centennial and also the 243rd birthday of the U.S. Marines.  Yes, Bill was a Marine and was in Vietnam where he was exposed to Agent Orange that led him to have various cancers that basically led to his death, although it was an opportunistic pneumonia that finally actually did him in.  He will be cremated with his ashes spread over the cemetery at Arlington. I had not communicated with him directly for over 20 years (did through another cousin), but he told me at his mother’s funeral that he had been spat on when he returned to the U.S.  I have more recently seen stories that such reports were exaggerated, if not outright true.  As it is, I have no way of checking on Bill’s story now, but I know  that he was a multiply wounded man.

Comments (14) | |

The Death of Shame

The Death of Shame

In any society not in a state of civil war, shame is a powerful force, perhaps the most powerful.  Individuals or organizations caught cheating, lying or otherwise doing evil, when exposed and called out, are expected to be embarrassed.  They should repent their sins and promise to make amends.  Other than pure coercion, what else can disarm those who violate the norms of society?

Evolutionary biologists tell us shame is hardwired not only in humans but many other social animals.  (They may not experience shame the same way humans do, but the outward markers and consequences are the same.)  We seek group membership in good standing, and while there is an incentive to exploit others for personal gain, or just relax our commitment for a while, the punishment of group rejection is a more powerful force.  That’s what holds us together.

It is natural that shame is invoked as a political weapon.  Corrupt businessmen, politicians and public officials may be flying high, but if we can document the facts they are trying to hide, we can clean them out.  A video documenting otherwise hidden police abuse, an audio recording of the murder of civilians released by Wikileaks, the disclosure of evidence of law-breaking by justices or political leaders should accomplish this.  Also testimony from women abused by powerful men: if they come forward and tell the world what really happened, that should stop abuse in its tracks.

Comments (10) | |

A baseline road map for the 2020 elections

A baseline road map for the 2020 elections

Now that the 2018 midterm elections are behind us, let’s take a preliminary look at 2020.
It occurred to me that a decent baseline for that election is to simply take the total 2018 House votes for each state, assume that the Presidential vote in 2020 in each state will be the same, and apply that to the Electoral College. Alternatively, you could use the results of the 2018 Senate races in those states where there were races in 2018, and apply those results for those states. That’s because the midterm turnout approached Presidential election levels, and Trump is going to engender the same intensity in two years as he did this past week.
So, using the 2018 results as the template for 2020, who wins?
It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who had that thought. Nate Silver already had the same idea and did that for the House vote. Here’s what that hypothetical 2020 Electoral College map looks like:
If you apply the 2018 House votes to the Presidency in 2020, the Democratic candidate wins handily.  As Nate Silver points out, it is a virtual duplicate of the 2012 map.
[Before I go further, let me just note that the above House map has a few glitches. Florida only went Democratic when the votes in House districts where there was no GOP candidate are added. Conversely, in North Carolina, there was a House district without a Democratic candidate. If we were to add just 2/3’s of the typical democratic vote in other GOP-dominated districts in NC to that district, then NC flips to the democratic column.]

Comments (2) | |

Kristallnacht: Lights left on to mark 80th anniversary

Between 9 and 10 November 1938, more than 1,400 synagogues and prayer rooms, thousands of Jewish-owned homes, hospitals, shops and cemeteries were damaged or destroyed across Nazi Germany and Austria.

At least 91 Jewish people were killed and an estimated 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.

It does not look like much has changed in the last 30 years and indeed has worsened for Jews and minorities as the white majority exercises its rule and capability to inflict upon them poverty. Poverty is more than just being poor. It is the loss of freedom to pursue religion, education, safety, etc. Ghandi had it right when he said Poverty is the worst form of violence. It comes is so many different forms.

Tags: , Comments (1) | |

Medicaid Expansion 2018

Four states had the Medicaid Expansion on the ballot this last election and another is still fumbling around with expanding it..

The Good

Idaho: Idahoans approved Idaho Proposition 2, an initiative requiring the state to submit an amendment to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in order to implement the Medicaid expansion no later than 90 days after the approval of the act. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is required and authorized to take all actions necessary to implement the provisions of this section as soon as practicable and outgoing Governor Butch Otter endorsed the ballot initiative less than a week before the election and Republican Governor-elect Brad Little has said he will implement the initiative.

Nebraska: Nebraskans voted in favor of Initiative 427 requiring the state to submit an amendment/documents seeking waiver approval from CMS on or before April 1, 2019 to expand Medicaid. As directed by the initiative, the state Department of Human Services to “take all actions necessary to maximize federal financial participation in funding medical assistance pursuant to this section”. Although newly reelected Governor Pete Ricketts has been a vocal opponent of expansion, he has stated he would let the voters decide if it made it onto the ballot.

Utah: Voters approved Utah Proposition 3 calling for the state to expand Medicaid coverage beginning April 1, 2019. The initiative also prohibits future changes to Medicaid and CHIP that would reduce coverage, benefits, and payment rates below policies in place on January 1, 2017. The proposition calls for a 0.15% increase to 4.85% from 4.7% the state sales tax (except for groceries) to finance the expansion or Medicaid and CHIP more broadly.

The Bad

Montana: Montanans voted down Montana I-185 after spending on campaigns for and against the initiative made it the most expensive ballot measure race in Montana history. The measure proposed raising taxes on all tobacco products and e-cigarettes and vaping products to dedicate a percentage of increased tax revenues for Montana’s current Medicaid program and veteran’s services; smoking prevention and cessation programs; and long-term care services for seniors and people with disabilities. The initiative also would have eliminated the sunset date for the Medicaid expansion of June 30, 2019. Republican controlled Montana State Legislature could still take action to continue the expansion program beyond June 2019. Tobacco companies had spent more than $17 million on advertising and other efforts to oppose the ballot measure, most of which came from cigarette maker Altria (Philip Morris).

The Ugly

Maine: Maine. Medicaid expansion was adopted in Maine through a ballot initiative in November 2017. Governor Paul LePage resisted the implementation of it and then complied with it after the Maine SC ordered him to submit an expansion state plan amendment (SPA) to CMS. He did submit the plan along with a asking CMS to reject the SPA. The newly elected Democratic governor, Janet Mills, has supported Medicaid expansion and is likely to move quickly to implement. Democrats also control the Maine legislature.

The ACA has shown up more in this last election even though it is pretty much a done deal and near impossible to repeal. Still Republicans repeat the same old “lies” even though they have been shot down repeatedly. One often repeated lie is the Democrats and the ACA stole $800 billion from Medicare to fund it. This lie was used by Mike Bishop in Michigan and our President also. Quite the opposite occurred with the Medicare TF being extended for a few more years and excess payments to Advantage plans reduced to match what Medicare pays out.

More to be read here: What Does the Outcome of the Midterm Elections Mean for Medicaid Expansion?

Tags: , Comments (1) | |

US Policy On Iran After The Midterm Elections

A curious coincidence is that the US midterm elections happened one day after the US reimposed its second round of illegal economic sanctions on Iran, with the focus on oil, shipping, and banking, along with some other sectors. Despite all but a handful of governments around the world supporting Iran in this matter (despite apparently two attempted assassinations of opponents of Iran’s government in European nations recently) against the US out of a hope to keep Iran following the JCPOA nuclear agreement as it has by all reports been doing, the impact of the midterm elections is probably to reinforce support for Trump’s policy, even as mostly he lost support in the election. The reason is that the most important location for serious critics of a president’s foreign policy usually come out of the Senate, not the House of Representatives or governors. So, even though the Dems have taken the House and gained governorships, the GOP gained in the Senate, and some of the GOPs leaving included the few Trump critics, notably departing Foreign Relations committee Chair, Robert Corker of TN. This is the case, even as those GOP gains may only amount to a net two (Dem Sinema now ahead in AZ) or even only one (Nelson in FL may yet pull it out too).

Yet another reason the gains by Dems will probably not lead to much more pressure on Trump on this is that many Dems at least somewhat support his policy, especially those strongly influenced by the Israeli government. Thus in today’s Washington Post, a lead editorial (presumably by neoconnish Fred Hiatt) said there may be reasons for imposing some sanctions because of “malignant” policies by Iran, notably supposedly supplying missiles to the Houthis in Yemen, plus the Syrian government, and Hezbollah in Lebanon (there are doubts on the extent of all this), even as WaPo opposes the US withdrawing from the JCPOA and is highly critical of Saudi Arabia due to the murder of their journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, probably on orders of KSA Crown Prince MbS, a main enemy of Iran. Indeed, members of both parties in the Senate have become unhappy with the Saudi war in Yemen and may move to cut US military support of the Saudi war effort there. But this will probably have little to no effect on the reimposed economic sanctions on Iran.

As it is, the ultimate impact of the new sanctions is quite complicated with various cross-cutting effects that are already damaging the Iranian economy, but may end up having less impact than Trump would like. The most important part of the sanctions involves Iran’s oil exports, which US officials claim they would like to see go to zero. Early forecasts had those falling to about a third of the about 2.8 million bpd of a few months ago, which anticipation helped push oil prices up substantially, with Brent crude topping $80 per barrel while West Texas intermediate crude topped $70 per barrel. But the Trump administration has granted temporary waivers to 8 countries allowing them to continue importing Iranian oil for a while, supposedly to avoid excessive disruption of global markers (while not officially announced, the Japan Times claims the 8 waivered nations are China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Italy [only EU nation on list]. and UAE [yes, that big anti-Iran oil exporter imports oil from Iran]). As it is, with surging oil inventories in the US, prices have fallen sharply in the last two weeks, with Brent down to nearly $70 and WTI to nearly $60 , with some commenters today claiming that oil is turning into a “bear market.” While this clearly allows Iran to export more oil than previously thought for now, the price decline will hurt Iran.

A fundamental clash in this is between governments and the businesses based in their nations. Only a handful of national governments officially support Trump in this policy, basically the odd group of Saudi Arabia, Israel, UAE, Bahrain, and apparently Egypt, with a few others sort of semi-supportive, such as Jordan, if with little enthusiasm. Russia, China, Turkey, and the major EU nations all oppose Trump’s policy. While businesses in Russia in particular go along with their government’s view, nearly all of those that are reasonably large in the EU nations are obeying the demands of the US government to cut back business relations with Iran, with poster boys for this being Total and Peugeot from France out of fear of losing markets in the US or facing sanctions from the US government. All of this has led to efforts in both China and the EU to set up alternative payment systems to avoid using US dollars and going through US-controlled financial intermediaries, a big conflict over this involving the SWIFT payment system, which the US would like to prevent Iran from using while the major European nations oppose this move by the US. As it is, given the ongoing efforts by they EU nations to help Iran out, it seems especially unwise of Iranian intel agencies to be attempting to assassinate people in France and Denmark as they have reportedly done, albeit unsuccessfully so far.

A final point is that it is extremely unlikely that this policy by Trump will lead to Iranian leaders kowtowing to him and entering into any negotiations. If anything, they might get pushed into pulling out of the JCPOA or create trouble for their enemies in various ways. OTOH, it may be that the sanctions will not lead to as harsh impacts on the Iranian economy as forecast, whether this is due to the Europeans and Chinese setting up alternative payments systems, or due to Iran wriggling out of the sanctions whether due to waivers or through such maneuvers as barter transactions involving oil or the use of “ghost ships” that do not use any radio communications, something reportedly already going on. We shall see how this all turns out, but for now Trump probably has gotten a modest boost of support for his policies within the US as a result of the midterm elections, much as I am not pleased to see this.

Barkley Rosser
Econospeak “US Policy On Iran After The Midterm Elections”

Tags: , Comments (1) | |

Why Congressman Mike Bishop Lost in Michigan’s 8th District

Tom MacArthur a multimillionaire former insurance broker who negotiated the House legislation to repeal the ACA taken to the wood shed by a constituent. Tom MacArthur met with his constituents in a Town Hall meeting and he listened to them and took the abuse he rightfully deserved. Mike Bishop consistently refused to meet with his constituents face to face in a high density, Gerrymandered Republican District. People were angry and we needed the right candidate to emerge and lead. Elissa Slotkin won!

It did not have to be this way. It could have been different. MacArthur like Mike Bishop chose his political party over country and constituents. Tom MacArthur and Mike Bishop lost.

The eleven minutes to hear this rebuttal are worth hearing.

Tags: Comments (0) | |