The Worst Abrahams

The story of Abraham is probably familiar to most people reading this, but to sum it up quickly, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as a sign of devotion. Only when an angel intervened, because God saw that Abraham feared him, was Isaac spared.  Instead a ram was sacrificed – a victory for child welfare advocates, but a big L for vegans.  I have been reminded of this biblical story as I watch the modern GOP – a party willing to sacrifice everything from the planet’s health to the lives of (other people’s) children. But unlike Abraham, the GOP is not doing any of this to please a deity.

After reading Invisible Child (a 2022 Pulitzer Prize winner and glowingly reviewed in an early episode of my book club series on my Patreon) I read (probably in the afterword) that the author, Andrea Elliot, had focused her reporting on child poverty. She did this because it was less susceptible to  the “personal responsibility” arguments the GOP uses to reject helping the living, while being “pro life” of course.  Now thanks to Joe Manchin and the Republican Party (please do not say “Democrats aren’t getting it done when 98% of Democrats in the Senate vote for something and 0% of Republicans vote for something) we have seen that an enhanced child tax credit that reduced child poverty by 30% was still not a worthy enough endeavor to continue.  The truth is, as cliché as it has now become, the GOP cares about children as fetal burdens on women and no more (sorry – they do “care” about their exposure to books that talk about sexuality and drag shows).

The GOP’s resistance to solving or even mitigating the myriad problems associated with climate change is so well worn I do not think I have to spend a lot of time addressing it.  The bottom line is the world can burn and their grandchildren can drown (of course it won’t happen to their grandchildren) in pursuit of fossil fuel profits.  I believe the Democrats should be investing heavily in nuclear energy, but their resistance to that particular solution pales in comparison to the GOP’s resistance to any solution.

It is the gun issue that really made the Abraham comparison crystal clear to me.  I do not know who said it, but it is clear that after 20 first graders were slaughtered with an AR-15 in Sandy Hook in 2012 and the GOP did absolutely nothing that the 2nd Amendment had become a suicide pact provision of the Constitution (with the filibuster and its defenders as Dr. Kevorkian).  The GOP cannot even be taken seriously when they scream “mental health” as they almost never back up their insincere rhetoric with actual funding.  But I think the problem is now deeper than mere hypocrisy.  I think the GOP, as much as they do not like the idea of children blown apart by weapons of war, find a perverse pride in not budging on gun control after repeated massacres.  In a sort of twisted logic, what shows your principle more than not changing course, even after repeated slaughters of children? And the sunk costs are too high now – how many men, women and children have been gunned down since Sandy Hook?  If you admit a mistake now, then those 11 years of killings might partially be on you.

Now of course, we know that “bad guys will always get guns,” but we have so many guns involved in mass shootings that are obtained legally.  Why not try?  Because owning guns and the futility of gun laws are now articles of faith to the GOP, or at least to their elected representatives.  And who gives a shit if x percentage of Republicans believe in common sense regulations if they don’t back that up with votes?  They are no longer bound by data or facts (or morality) – and that is the problem.

The only way to save the future of the country and the planet (not in some Fox News fever dream sort of way – but to actually save life on the planet and in our schools) is to elect fewer Republicans.  That is it.  If you want to have reasonable policy arguments the place to have them is within the Democratic party. But if you want to reduce gun violence and environmental destruction voting for Democrats is the only way right now.  When Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son he was doing it for God. As frightening or barbaric as some might find that, the GOP is going much further for a lot less. They are willing to sacrifice your sons and daughters, not for God, but to confirm their fallacy of the sanctity of unencumbered gun rights. Whatever you think of religion, it is clear that the GOP is the most dangerous faith in America and their gun loving members are the worst version of Abraham.

Perhaps it is time they admit that guns are their gods: they give them a sense of safety, a sense of power and the ability to take life. Of course that is the Old Testament God. It is in the New Testament when Jesus showed up (before the GOP, he had a big role in Christianity) and replaced that wrath with love. Quite tragic and ironic that so many “Christians” believe that God gave up his only son as a sign of love for humanity, just to have many of those self-identifying followers sacrifice other people’s sons for their guns.


The Case (and possible strategies) for Jay Inslee

In 2000 I cast my first Presidential vote for Al Gore.  I had been a big fan of Gore’s since middle school when I read Earth in the Balance and was happy to vote for someone who had the experience, intellect and foresight to confront the issues critical to the country’s present and future.  Obviously he sighed at a debate, lost the election and seems to have (understandably) lost his passion for politics. I have since voted for John Kerry, President Obama twice and Hillary Clinton.  But the candidate I am supporting for 2020 may be the most enthusiastic vote I’ll cast since popping my presidential voting cherry for Gore (though being the bi-racial son of a black immigrant man and a white American woman I did feel a personal affinity for then-candidate and President Obama). I am supporting Governor Jay Inslee of Washington and am hoping that he can start to gain some real national traction.  Here are some relevant facts about Governor Inslee for those who don’t know much about him:

  • Voted for the assault weapons ban in 1994, which cost him his first Congressional seat after one term
  • Returned to Congress in the late 1990s and voted against the repeal of Glass-Steagall – one of the key factors that precipitated the financial collapse of 2008
  • Has been a consistent voice regarding climate change for decades
  • Voted against the war in Iraq
  • As governor (currently serving his second term in Washington state) – signed first net neutrality law, declared a moratorium on the death penalty, introduced a state public option for health insurance in January 2019, and has pardoned thousands of low level drug offenders.  Washington was also the first state to sue to stop Trump’s original travel ban on Muslims.
  • Personally – has three kids, married his high school sweetheart, drives a Chevy Bolt (green and ‘Murican!), won a state hoops title in high school and is 68 years old

So basically Jay Inslee was a progressive martyr in his first stint as a Congressman, supporting a gun control bill that passed but cost him his job.  He was right on Glass-Steagall, the Iraq War and his commitment to his signature issue, fighting climate change, has shown foresight and leadership.  He has federal legislative experience and strong executive experience.  Plus, his state is home to Starbucks and Amazon, so it would be hard to claim his progressive vision and leadership have been incompatible with capitalistic success.  But right now Inslee is polling in the 1% range.  Among his “problems” – his social media following is weak and he is a “straight, white man” in a party and liberal climate that yearns for a candidate more reflective of the Democratic party’s diversity.  My main issue with this is that the Democrats have last nominated a black man and a woman. John Kerry was the last white man the party nominated (in 2004).  This is not an argument that “it’s time to go back” or anything stupid like that. My point is that, unlike the Party of Trump, the Democrats have not shown themselves averse to voting for people other than straight white men, and yet it seems more than ever the Democrats and liberals seem to be acting like selecting a candidate who happens to be a straight white man would automatically be treated like a step backward.  I think that is counterproductive both in the primary phase and in potentially damping enthusiasm in the general IF the party happens to nominate a straight white man.  I think the roster of candidates is really strong (Pete Buttigieg is running a surprise second in my own personal choices), but I will vote for whomever wins the Democratic nomination.  Worrying about too centrist or too progressive a candidate when Trump is the other choice is like declaring chemo or surgery as terrible choices for dealing with Cancer – you better choose one because the result of not supporting either is Cancer.

So with this heartfelt, but mostly useless endorsement I would like to suggest some advice for Governor Inslee’s campaign (since the campaign is running with fighting climate change as its overarching theme I will not address that, but I wholeheartedly endorse that emphasis):

  1. Make it clear you are not Governor John Hickenlooper – I write this only half in jest.  You announced your candidacy the same week as Governor John Hickenlooper (a more centrist candidate, who is also a white male, but who unlike you, saw Deep Throat in the theater with his Mom).  The media sort of labeled both of you alternatively as “centrist governors” and “here come the straight white guys,” which is sort of a lazy (and false) branding of your track record. You are as progressive as anyone in the race, except that you have the votes and record of actual progressive actions, not just rhetoric.
  2.  Meet with the Parkland kids and other gun control activists – the only thing that young people have been as vocal about as climate change in the last few years has been gun control.  You could really be THE candidate of young people if they learn that not only are you a climate change warrior, but also lost his your first Congressional seat voting for gun control (how many politicians on either side of the aisle these days would you expect to risk career for conscience?). Working with kids like the activists from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas would bridge your 25 year old vote to today’s concerns. This should be your way to approach other large issues where your record is clearly a strength.
  3.  Take on Bernie Sanders – Bernie’s fans are probably as devoted to Bernie as Trump’s supporters are to him. Taking on Bernie (not in a dirty politics or insulting sort of way) would highlight that you are no less progressive than Bernie (and on gun control more so). Your voting record and policy priorities cannot be criticized from the left and your record of accomplishment stands favorably to Bernie’s mostly rhetorical star power.  Also, being almost a decade younger than Bernie cannot hurt.  Now you may be saying, but if Bernie’s fans are ride or die for Bernie why take him on?  Well, there are many voters, whether they be people of color, women, or other demographics who still feel either an affinity for Hillary Clinton or a wariness of Bernie.  Showing that you are able to make a compelling challenge to Bernie’s front runner status might make some people notice and might make others who felt that Bernie was not sufficiently supportive of HRC feel that they have a progressive alternative that doesn’t feel like a betrayal of Hillary.  There are many candidates, but according to polls around 50% of voters favor Bernie or Biden in the primary (at least right now). So you know that these are voters who are not writing off straight white men based solely on their demographic (not that other candidates’ bases of support are based strictly on that, but certainly there is enough talk in progressive circles that it is also not a negligible concern).  Aim for 8th place and you will stay in 11th. Aim for 1st and you might get yourself into the top 6 in time to become a real contender.
  4. Highlight your personal story and your consistency as a progressive champion for 25 years – my 100 blog readers now know your personal and professional details, but most of America does not.  Change that.  Continue to highlight and feature climate change, but letting the American people know your consistent progressive bona fides else won’t detract from it. Your other accomplishments and experiences might just make America feel even more certain that you are the candidate to successfully win the battle against climate change.

Climate, Health and Failing to Act, But I Still…

Yesterday I read an article in the New York Times about frustration coming from the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries that feel they are going to bear the brunt of the increasingly devastating ecological disasters that have been brought on, or at least enhanced, by pollutants produced disproportionately by global powers.  In other words, the countries devastated worst are the most susceptible to even greater ecological damage, but they lack both the industry to be blamed as one of the chief causes as well as the economic power to battle and influence those that are the driving forces.  It’s literally the worst of both worlds.  As I read this article I thought of what a great parallel it made with states like Texas with regards to the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Now I am no wonk like Ezra Klein, but I do my best to keep up with CNN and the New York Times on a daily basis.  If this reveals some horrible bias on my part then so be it, but I cannot spend my whole day reading every conspiracy conservative blog post or every hyperbolic, meant-to-be-thought-provoking-and/or-inspiring post from Upworthy on my Facebook feed, so it is the best I can do.  I also resent the idea that the New York Times, held as the public standard and public record for such a long time, all of a sudden became a bastion of liberal untruth (in their news reporting – yes their editorial page is liberal, but editorials and op-eds are on their face opinion pieces) when a cable station known as Fox News came to power.  The New York Times stood for “2 + 2 = 4” for most of my life. Then Fox News came around and told its minions “2+2 = 9 and anyone who thinks it is less than that is a liberal monster and a liar, but we will ‘compromise’ and say 2+2=7. But if you cannot agree on that then you are uncompromising and wrong.”

But back to the task at hand.  Texas has the most uninsured people of any state in America, by percentage (followed closely by Louisiana, to whom this analysis, if I can call it that, also applies). But their Governor Rick Perry, a staunch opponent of Obamacare, refused to expand Medicaid (once the Supreme Court made that part of Obamacare optional for states, but remember, a court is only activist when a LIBERAL court overturns or changes laws).  The decision to uphold Obamacare by the Supreme Court is really a terrible decision regardless of what your political leanings are.  It achieved the result of upholding the law, but it did so in a way that gutted the Commerce Clause powers of Congress far beyond what the Rehnquist Court ever did and it also made the Medicaid expansion optional, which was just the first way of rendering the decision a Pyrrhic victory for President Obama.

So Texas, with lots of uninsured people, and a federal guarantee to pick up 100% of the Medicaid costs for three years, and 90% of them after that, opted not to expand the rolls to the people who need it most.  Now, governors like Rick Perry like to say they are doing what is best for their state when the federal government comes a knockin’ because that sounds tough and full of leadership.  But in this case, it is not what is best for Texas that is driving Rick Perry, it is the new Republican governor motto – We do whatever is worse for President Obama.


And why did I start with the reference to the tragedy in the Philippines?  Because, just as their voices and wallets are insufficient to change the world community’s direction on climate change, so too are the poor people who would most benefit from an expansion of Medicaid in Texas.  Especially since Texas is one of several states, mostly southern, enacting stringent voter ID laws, since the Supreme Court gutted part of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year.  It has been well documented that the plague of voter fraud is a mirage created by Republicans.  Now one cannot sensibly argue for voter fraud, so that makes it an easy argument to make for anti-voter fraud measures.  As if voting against stringent requirements MAKES you pro-voter fraud.  But these laws are almost entirely a pre-text to limit the voting rights of communities who are more likely to vote Democratic.  So in states like Texas you have created an almost perfect circle.  The poor are denied health benefits out of political spite, but are then more likely to have voting impeded so that men like Governor Rick Perry can claim a mandate for their policies when the poor end up not voting in sufficient numbers to influence political change (several states like these are also ones seeking to limit early voting as well).

Do I think the requirements are too stringent? No. But I also am a very educated person with (diminishing) means.  They do not seem too harsh to someone in my position, but the real issue is why would one party be the overwhelmingly driving force behind a law that purports to solve a problem that does not exist unless it is a pre-text for something else?

Does this have to do with President Obama? Of course.  In 2008 lots of people were inspired and motivated to vote in larger numbers than before.  And a lot of those first time voters may not have looked the same as some of the regulars.  And there is your iron clad case for widespread voter fraud.

Now, as a supporter of President Obama I am both angry and disappointed that the website was and is such a flop.  The way I feel about this website is how I felt about Eliot Spitzer getting caught with hookers.  Spitzer went after Wall St harder than just about anyone and was on the ball well before Wall St imploded. But he was messing with powerful people and by sleeping with high end hookers he gave them an Achilles’ heel to exploit.  Now President Obama clearly has not fu*ked around on Michelle because there is no way Republicans would have taken the high ground while looking for dirt if they learned that he had cheated.  But he challenged a massive industry and a powerful political party and with a faulty website he gave them Achilles’ entire leg to exploit.

Of course in states that cooperated and were efficient enough, the roll out of state run exchanges have been a success with Kentucky, of all places, being a shining example (wacko Senators, but a Democratic governor who believed it would help his state and that once it worked, would give him political cover).  I live in New York. I enrolled in a health plan yesterday in about 60 minutes (the biggest snafu I had was that New York State apparently does not recognize the hyphen in my name, Jean-Louis).  I was able to find plans that offered me better coverage than my current plan (which is pretty solid), is accepted by the doctors I see, and will save me about $160 per month over what I am paying now.  And it was offered by a new provider that emerged in 23 states, specifically because of the market opportunities created by the Affordable Care Act.  To me, the act is a clear cut success.

But I also understand that many (most?) people had their care go up and are also still having problems with the site.  And the President has taken responsibility for both the site and the misrepresentation made to people about keeping their health care.  But the fact is this is a plan on the scale of some of the biggest social programs in America’s history.  Everyone agrees that health care costs are a monstrous problem for the present and future of this country. Everyone sees problems with it.  The President pushed forward a plan, championed by Congressional Republicans in the 1990s and implemented by a Republican governor in Massachusetts in the 200s, but because the main political objective of Republicans in power nationwide has been “What’s Worse for Obama” they never made the best of it or worked with it (though some governors like Kasich in Ohio have).  So a majority of states never set up exchanges, many did not expand Medicaid and just waited for something to fail. And the website gave them that opening, but having over 30 states needing the federal site cannot help its efficacy (even though that is not an excuse).  But when one party stands as a roadblock out of principle than out of practicality and the betterment of their constituents, how is that a recipe for anything to be a full-fledged success?

From all that I have read the stimulus in 2009 staved off a worse recession, but many economists believed a much bigger stimulus was the key to reversing the economy’s woes.  However, Republicans (and their Blue Dog Democrat buddies) tempered it and forced a half measure, just as they have with every initiative Obama has put forth, even when the measures he put forth were Republican idea (cap and trade, health care marketplace, Middle East intervention, etc.)!  So you deliver half a solution and when it delivers half or less of a result the party that caused the failure then gets up and screams “It’s a failure!”  It is the political equivalent of another darling of Republicans – stand your ground laws.  You can pick a fight, begin losing a fight and then kill the person winning the fight and it is all legal, according to the state of Florida.  Republicans have governed with a sort of suicide bomber mentality with regards to President Obama.  “We cannot win because the President is personally popular and we have antiquated ideas and no policies (except for our libertarian brethren who are also assholes, but call themselves libertarians because they want to appear principled instead of selfish), but we can create a losing environment for the President.”

The point of all this is just like the climate change deniers or selfish industrial nations, while the haves argue policy and theory (ether honestly or cynically) there are have-nots being hurt, in reality, with the consequences of actions.  And the ACA is a real effort to help the have-nots.  The website and the President’s false statement are not small problems, but while complaining about those, maybe it is also worth asking what people like Gov. Rick Perry really want with their actions.  Is it what is best for Texans, or is it what’s worse for President Obama?  Best to ask this now while the poor, most likely to be helped or hurt by these actions, still have a voice.

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Terrified of Rain, But Not Climate Change – America…

The insanity over Hurricane Irene (just downgraded to Tropical Storm in NYC moments ago) is another reminder of how selfish and short-sighted we are as a people in America.  Weathermen have been sounding the alarms for the last few days and most people have heeded those warnings without much second-guessing.  Sure there are those old people or angry people who are held up as silly for not heeding the warnings.  While watching Fox News to see if they could find a way to bash Obama based on weather patterns, I observed Shep Smith basically go Drago on residents who would not leave Long Island or Queens; “if they die their funeral will not be free” and “they are stupid” were two of my favorite soundbites.

The basic lesson is that we will respond if we believe there is an immediate threat to our safety and/or material possessions.  We will trust weathermen, who are to science what def poetry slammers are to art, because the risk is scary and immediate.  No one wants to engage in a substantive debate or conduct more study to determine if they should stock up on water (or toilet paper for some reason to the people of midtown) and yet, climate change, which will cause more frequent and more ferocious weather-related catastrophes is something we cannot get people to mobilize behind.

  • 4 out of 5 dentists recommend a gum – good enough
  • weathermen tell you to abandon your home because of a bad storm – absolutely
  • 98% of the scientific community tells us that we are headed towards dire and irreversible environmental consequences – fu*k off

This is a dangerous trend in our society that seems to be experiencing an ever-growing lack of scientific curiosity and attention span.  Our society is too paralyzed to become a leader in green technologies, the sure to be big industry of the 21st century.  The election process in this country discourages long term developments because all elected branches of government are concerned with re-election (even the Senate which was supposed to be the branch with longer vision and fewer concerns with re-election pressures according to the Founding Fathers).  Obama has attempted some ambitious long term developments and we all see how his half-measures approach worked for him.

But weather is the greatest example of what cave men we really are.  Al Roker can get us to respond more definitively and with more urgency than a dozen Harvard PhDs.  Because long term sacrifice, vision and change are not things we want to do in America anymore.  This storm is proof.  If a doctor tells you you need heart surgery you will seek a second or third opinion at most before deciding to have the surgery.  But if an overwhelming consensus of experts in their field of science tell us things must be done 50% of Americans say, “no thanks.”

Oddly enough a lot of the climate change skeptic community appears to coincide with the “Christianity is under attack in America” crowd (the other part being the “don’t tax me for anything and I am willing to believe whatever scientist’s opinion will lead to fewer taxes, regardless of how compromised that particular scientist is” crowd).  Ironic that a people who base their lives on a future promise of a better life to come can be visionaries when it comes to telling people how to act in their homes and schools, but lack vision or passion for the planet when it comes to scientific predictions for what will happen.  Perhaps a nice mix of Christ-like caring and scientific know-how is what we need, but that sounds like two things that are no longer cool in America: compromise and smart.