Thursday, June 22, 2017

GOP Plans Would Make Lives Worse, Says Obama

Former President Barack Obama issued a statement earlier today, via Facebook, in response to the Senate Republicans’ newly announced scheme to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) and replace it with a regressive, financially unsustainable, and hastily assembled (in secret!) plan that has the potential to steal health care insurance away from more than 20 million Americans, while giving yet another tax break to the wealthy minority among us.

As the ever-astute Steve Benen remarks in The Maddow Blog, “The Democrat’s 1,000-word statement is worth reading in its entirety, and it clearly has more than one audience in mind. Part of Obama’s message clearly intends to encourage health care advocates and their allies to remain engaged and fight to prevent the nation from falling backwards. But the other part of the message appears to be a challenge to Republican policymakers to do the right thing.”

Here is Mr. Obama’s message in its entirety:
Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.

I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain—we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones—a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.

And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition—we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.

At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts—and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.


I hope our Senators ask themselves—what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?

To put the American people through that pain—while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return—that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need.

That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible—if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.

After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country—who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.
(The boldfacing is mine, for emphasis.)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Dead of Summer



Today is the first full day of summer 2017—a perfect occasion to revisit Killer Covers’ extensive selection of vintage crime-fiction fronts linked to this season. Artists represented include Barye Phillips, Robert Bonfils, Robert McGinnis, Paul Rader, Mitchell Hooks, Charles Copeland, J. Oval, George Ziel, Harry Barton, and Charles Binger.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

“The End of a Once-Great Era” of U.S. Leadership

MSNBC political blogger Steve Benen, remarking on Donald
Trump’s decision today
to pull the United States out of the two-year-old Paris Agreement on global climate change:
When the Paris accords were reached, the world looked to the United States to help lead the way, and the Obama administration was eager to carry the mantle. We vowed to work cooperatively with international partners, and in the process, we persuaded developing nations – many of which have economic incentives to pollute more, not less – to do the right thing. So many countries signed on to the agreement precisely because they saw American leadership at work.

Today, Trump told the world that ours is a country that won’t honor its commitments, won’t make decisions based on reason or evidence, and won’t even try to serve as a global leader anymore.

Let’s say Americans tire of Trump’s ridiculousness and elect a new president in 2020. It’s easy to imagine, in early 2021, that new president turning to the global community with fresh and heartfelt assurances. “Don’t worry, Trump is gone,” he or she will say. “You can trust the United States once more.”

But at that point, many around the world will choose not to listen – in part because they’ll have just seen an ignorant American president who thumbed his nose at 195 countries, deliberately abandoning our unique responsibilities, and in part because they’ll have no way of knowing when the American electorate might again elect someone of Trump’s ilk.

We’ve taken great pride in the modern era of our president being the Leader of the Free World, and today effectively marked the end of a once-great era. Donald J. Trump has managed to betray the climate, the world, America’s standing, and his own legacy in one fell swoop.

History will not be kind.
READ MORE:The World Is Better Off If We Leave the Paris
Agreement
,” by Susan Matthews (Slate); “Everything Conservatives Said About the Paris Climate Agreement Is Already Wrong,” by Jonathan Chait (New York).

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

Thank You So Much, Mr. President!



READ MORE:The Most Successful Democrat Since FDR,” by David Leonhardt (The New York Times); “The ‘Most Successful’ Dem President Since FDR Ends on a High Note,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “The Time Has Come to Say Goodbye to Obama. ‘Godspeed, Brother. You Did Us Proud,’” by Leonard Pitts Jr. (Miami Herald); “Thanks for Everything, President Obama. We’re Going to Miss You,” by Kevin Drum (Mother Jones); “Missing Barack Obama Already,” by Nicholas Kristof (The New York Times); “A Presidential Giant Exits the Stage,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “How the Presidency Changed Obama,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis (The New York Times); “How the Presidency Changed Obama,” by Julie Hirschfeld Davis (The New York Times); “My President Was Black,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (The Atlantic); “To Obama with Love, and Hate, and Desperation,” by Jeanne Marie Laskas (The New York Times Magazine); “Lessons Taught: Obama’s Legacy as a Historian,” by Jennifer Schuessler (The New York Times); “Pete Souza’s Intimate Portraits of the Barack Obama Years,” by William Boot (The Daily Beast); “Goodbye to All That: What We’ve Learned from Obama’s Presidency,” by Julie Azari (Vox); “The Challenge Posed by Obama’s Calm, Dignified Competency,” by Nancy LeTourneau (Washington Monthly); “The Literary Dividing Line Between Trump and Obama,” by Steve Benen (The Maddow Blog); “Every Book Barack Obama Has Recommended During His Presidency,” by Ruth Kinane (Entertainment Weekly); “Obama to the Press: ‘America Needs You,’” by James Warren (Poynter); “Obama Granted Clemency Unlike Any Other President in History,” by Charlie Smart (FiveThirtyEight); “Obama Has Now Granted 212 Pardons, and More Commutations Than Any President in U.S. History,” by Jen Kirby (New York); “Saying Goodbye: President Obama, Michelle Obama Thank America in Farewell Posts,” by Matthew Rozsa (Salon).

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year, Everybody!


The New Yorker, December 31, 1938, with art by Rea Irvin.

Let’s hope 2017 brings better luck to all of us than American and international observers have been predicting. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Too Late Already

I, for one, am tired of hearing people say we should give Trump a chance as president. Sorry, but ... no. I don’t base my opposition to Trump merely on the fact that I believe he will be a lousy, corrupt politician. I base it on the fact that he’s already proven himself to be a poor excuse for a man. He’s bigoted, homophobic, misogynistic, and a serial sex predator; he’s a greedy, bullying would-be autocrat with a narcissist complex; he’s a congenital liar, a con man, and he thinks Americans are too stupid to realize that he’s pulling the wool over their eyes, that he has no intention of doing anything he promises. I wouldn’t want Trump in MY house, much less the White House. So, no, I won’t give him a chance. In my book, he’s already shown himself unworthy of one.

Friday, November 25, 2016

What Every Trump Voter Should Hear

“I tried to be polite, but now I just don’t give a damn. Because let’s be honest, we don’t live in polite America anymore. We live in grab-’em-by-the-pussy America now. So thank you for that.”

video

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Responsibility

I keep hearing that people who voted Trump into office shouldn’t be universally denigrated, because many of them supported him for reasons other than the hatred and arrogant disregard for others that he demonstrated. OK, I can have sympathy for them.

But while all of that may be true, it’s also true that every one of those people who voted for him now OWNS what Trump will do next, whether it’s stealing health care coverage away from 20 million Americans, forcibly deporting millions of undocumented immigrants from our shores, working to undermine and then destroy Medicare and Social Security, banning abortion, undermining efforts necessary to rein in climate change, abrogating international treaties and leaving the United States with fewer and fewer allies it may need in case of attack, or ignoring the Constitution in his efforts to curb press freedoms and limit free speech. Some voters may have somehow succeeded in ignoring or dismissing the clear and present danger bigoted billionaire Trump represented, but that does not absolve them of blame for the damage he and his fellow Republicans intend to do to America’s future.

READ MORE:Screw Your Feelings, Trump Voters,” by Aleksandar Hemon (Slate).

Disaster in the Making

This word will be much in use over the next four years:

kakistocracy

PRONUNCIATION:
(kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, kah-ki-)

MEANING:
noun: Government by the least qualified or worst persons.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Hillary

I’ve dropped two longish personal posts onto my Facebook page since last night, and thought it might be worth sharing them here, too. They clearly define my mood. First, from last night:
It’s 10 p.m. in Seattle, and I need to go to bed. But I do so with fear in my heart. If prognostications are correct, and if all the pollsters were wrong, the United States has just elected a bigoted, incompetent, inexperienced, misogynistic hatemonger, serial liar, and would-be tyrant as its next president. I never thought I would see the country of my birth set out on such a sure course to disaster.

Before I head off to bed, I want to first apologize to the rest of the world for my country inflicting upon it what will surely be four years of new wars, economic decline, diplomatic tensions, and a wave of hatred and xenophobic violence. If Trump does indeed become the next president, international trust in the United States will inevitably decline, and this country’s stature as a shining beacon of hope will dim severely, if not be extinguished entirely.

This sharp detour toward misfortune was none of my doing; I did not, and would never, vote into the White House somebody as hateful, vengeful, and willfully ignorant as Trump. Whatever motivated others among my countrymen to cast their votes in his favor, I cannot fathom. All I can do is hope that the United States somehow weathers this horror and puts itself to rights once more, even if I don’t live long enough to see how that is accomplished.

I am an American. But tonight I am ashamed of what my country has done.
And then from earlier today:
To any Facebook “friends” who voted for Trump: please unfriend me now.

I don’t care why you voted against Hillary Clinton. It’s what you voted FOR that distresses me. You voted for a more hateful country; a country that thumbs its nose at the rest of the world; a country that is OK with bigotry and racism and sexism; a country that denigrates people because of who they love; a country that doesn't care about affordable health care for all; a country that thinks women are mere objects for male entertainment; a country that accepts vulgar pronouncements from our “leaders,” without regard to how such language divides us and harms our youngest citizens; a country where elected officials encourage violence in order to maintain their fragile hold on power; a country that despises people for being well-educated and well-informed; a country where Big Business is allowed to run rampant, without legislative checks, and the rich are applauded for not paying their share of taxes; a country with a banana republic government and a megalomaniac at the helm; a country that fears international alliances and therefore must spend more and more money in hopes of self-protection; a country where short-term gains trump long-term accomplishments; a country that is not the country in which I was born.

Our views of the world, and of a productive U.S. future and what is right are too different to share the same space. You’ve voted for isolationism—get used to that by unfriending me now.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

It’s Time to Step Up and Vote!

Americans, at least those who have not already participated in early voting drives, have the opportunity today—November 8—to cast their ballots in what more than a few commentators have called one of the most important elections in modern U.S. history. It’s historic not simply because it may well result in this country being led for the first time in more than two centuries by a woman president; but also because her opponent has demonstrated a rank disregard for political norms such as disclosing his tax returns and graciously accepting defeat, and an authoritarian antipathy toward not only a free press and civil political discourse, but also shocking disrespect for entire swaths of the American electorate, including immigrants, racial minorities, and women.

Nobody who knows me personally or who has read Limbo over the years should be in any doubt of who I’m voting for this year. My enthusiastic support goes to Democrat Hillary Clinton, whose qualifications for the Oval Office (former secretary of state, former U.S. senator, former first lady of both Arkansas and the nation) are without dispute, and whose temperament and grasp of the issues and tough decisions facing this country over the next four years is far superior to her adversary’s. I didn’t vote for Hillary back in 2008, when she was running for the Democratic nomination against the more charismatic and inspirational Barack Obama. But I have more closely watched her perform on the international and national stage during the last eight years, and been mightily impressed.

Hillary Clinton may not be a perfect candidate for the U.S. presidency: no human being can be. Yet, in the face of often ugly, destructive propaganda from the Republican Party—born amid fevered partisan delusions and take-no-prisoners hatred in the 1990s, when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, and still infecting politics two decades later—Hillary has maintained a steady and determined demeanor, and been a consistent and assertive voice for such things as human rights, women’s rights, and voting rights. Unlike her bombastic adversary, Hillary believes in the value of science and the dangers inherent in not acting against threats of global warming; believes in the value of maintaining historical alliances with other countries that the United States may need in the event of any emergency; believes that affordable health care should be a right of all Americans, not just those with deep pockets; and believes that the Supreme Court of the United States has an important role in improving our lot as citizens, and should never be held hostage to over-grown schoolyard bullies who contend that only Republican presidents have a right to choose new justices for that high bench.

As The New York Times wrote in its September endorsement of Mrs. Clinton to be the 45th U.S. chief executive:
The next president will take office with bigoted, tribalist movements and their leaders on the march. In the Middle East and across Asia, in Russia and Eastern Europe, even in Britain and the United States, war, terrorism and the pressures of globalization are eroding democratic values, fraying alliances and challenging the ideals of tolerance and charity.

The 2016 campaign has brought to the surface the despair and rage of poor and middle-class Americans who say their government has done little to ease the burdens that recession, technological change, foreign competition and war have heaped on their families.

Over 40 years in public life, Hillary Clinton has studied these forces and weighed responses to these problems. Our endorsement is rooted in respect for her intellect, experience, toughness and courage over a career of almost continuous public service, often as the first or only woman in the arena. …

Through war and recession, Americans born since 9/11 have had to grow up fast, and they deserve a grown-up president. A lifetime’s commitment to solving problems in the real world qualifies Hillary Clinton for this job, and the country should put her to work.
Of Hillary’s Republican rival … well, here’s what The New Yorker said about would-be demagogue and notorious pussy-grabber Trump:
On every issue of consequence, including economic policy, the environment, and foreign affairs, Hillary Clinton is a distinctly capable candidate: experienced, serious, schooled, resilient. When the race began, Clinton, who has always been a better office-holder than a campaigner, might have anticipated a clash of ideas and personalities on the conventional scale, against, say, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio. Instead, the Democratic nominee has ended up playing a sometimes secondary role in a squalid American epic. If she is elected, she will have weathered a prolonged battle against a trash-talking, burn-it-to-the-ground demagogue. Unfortunately, the drama is not likely to end soon. The aftereffects of this campaign may befoul our civic life for some time to come.

If the prospect of a female President represents a departure in the history of American politics, the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, the real-estate mogul and Republican nominee, does, too—a chilling one. He is manifestly unqualified and unfit for office. Trained in the arts of real-estate promotion and reality television, he exhibits scant interest in or familiarity with policy. He favors conspiracy theory and fantasy, deriving his knowledge from the darker recesses of the Internet and “the shows.” He has never held office or otherwise served his country, never acceded to the authority of competing visions and democratic resolutions.

Worse still, he does not accept the authority of constitutional republicanism—its norms, its faiths and practices, its explicit rules and implicit understandings. That much is clear from his statements about targeting press freedoms, infringing on an independent judiciary, banning Muslim immigration, deporting undocumented immigrants without a fair hearing, reviving the practice of torture, and, in the third and final [presidential] debate, his refusal to say that he will accept the outcome of the election. Trump has even threatened to prosecute and imprison his opponent. The American demagogues from the past century who most closely resemble him—Father [Charles] Coughlin and Senator Joseph McCarthy among them—were dangers to the republic, but they never captured the Presidential nomination of a major political party. Father Coughlin commanded a radio show and its audience. President Trump would command the armed forces of the United States, control its nuclear codes, appoint judges, propose legislation, and conduct foreign policy. It is a convention of our quadrennial pieties to insist that this election is singularly important. But Trump really does represent something singular. The prospect of such a President—erratic, empty, cruel, intolerant, and corrupt—represents a form of national emergency.
Sadly, Trump has pulled the entire Republican Party down to his mud-wrestling level, endangering the future stability of our democratic republic and worsening tensions between the two major political parties. The deceptive practices, racism, sexism, petty vengefulness, and general hatreds Trump demonstrates, and which his fellow Republican candidates all across the country have endorsed (either overtly or through their timorous silence), have convinced me that what was once known as the Grand Old Party has fallen on hard times and must be reconceived; in the meantime, it cannot be trusted anymore with the levers of power. Therefore, not only have I voted for Hillary Clinton as president this year, but I’m casting a straight Democratic ticket. I want to be sure that the new President Clinton enters the White House supported by a serious, cooperative Congress that, beginning in 2017, can go back to legislating for the benefit of all Americans, not just Republican scorched-earthers.

Today promises a new era in U.S. history, whether favorable or divisive, depending on the vote outcomes. It’s up to all of us to take part in deciding what sort of country we want: one where voices are raised in optimism and mutual support, or where the angry shouts of right-wing extremists overcome common sense? So cast your ballot thoughtfully, as if your future depended on it … because it does.

READ MORE:The Imperative of Voting for Hillary Clinton,” by Richard North Patterson (The Huffington Post); “Hillary Clinton Has to Be Gracious to Donald Trump. The Rest of Us Don’t,” by Paul Waldman (The Washington Post).

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Five Years, 50 Years—Mission Accomplished



Tonight marks 50 years since the debut of the NBC-TV series Star Trek. Terence Towles Canote has a nice in-depth post up about this anniversary, which notes that
Since September 8, 1966, Star Trek has become the stuff of television legends. It was the low-rated science-fiction show saved by its fans from cancellation that became a phenomenon in syndicated reruns. While there is some truth to the legend (in its initial network run Star Trek’s ratings were always moderate to low), there is much about the legend that simply isn’t true. Indeed, even while in its first run there were signs that Star Trek was on its way to becoming a phenomenon.
Comic-book writer Christopher Mills offers his own thoughts on the show, in Atomic Pulp, explaining that the original, 1966-1969 Trek “inspired and informed the person I became.
I learned the value of reason and logic from an alien with pointed ears and a Satanic visage. I learned the nobility of humanity and compassion toward all life, regardless of shape, color or form, from an anachronistic Southern medic. And, most importantly, I learned about the worth of boldness, courage, and tempered wisdom from a charming leader with a confident swagger sporting a gold tunic. [Captain James T.] Kirk was a fighter, a diplomat, a philosopher—and a libidinous wolf—but in my eyes, he was the best of us as a species. He wasn’t perfect—and to his credit, usually admitted his flaws and acknowledged his mistakes—but he was also a man of intelligence and action, who sought out brave new worlds and always had his eye on the future.
My own experience with Star Trek didn’t begin until the early 1970s, when I was old enough and aware enough to appreciate television. To my mother’s regret and my father’s everlasting bewilderment, I became a Trek fan for life as a result of watching reruns of that series’ original 79 episodes about a multi-cultural crew of explorers who raced across the galaxy in a sleek starship, bringing help to humans and aliens in need, and taking with them a message of hope and love and peace. (It didn’t hurt, either, that there was the occasional Orion dancing girl to catch a young boy’s eye!) I have since seen all of the Star Trek spinoffs and every Trek movie save the most recent one. I even went with my niece one year to a Trek convention, during which I had the pleasure of listening to William Shatner recount his hilarious experience in traveling to Seattle for that event.

I think creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek has been greatly enhanced and deepened by some of the people who took over the franchise after his death in 1991, particularly executive producer Rick Berman. Yet Roddenberry gave television watchers the blueprint, and even half a century later, his “Wagon Train to the stars” is as durable and promising and hopeful as ever.

Live long and prosper, my fellow Star Trek fans!

READ MORE:To Boldly Imagine: Star Trek’s Half Century,” by Andrew Liptak (Kirkus Reviews); “Star Trek’s Still as Relevant on the 50th Anniversary,” by Dave Marinaccio (Bookgasm); “The Mission to Restore the Original Starship Enterprise,” by Jackie Mansky (Smithsonian); “Star Trek at 50: The Theme Song Has Lyrics. No, Really,” by Chris Barton (Los Angeles Times).