Democratic infighting…

Yes, though we are still smarting the close losses (yes, the 4 special elections were from “safe Republican” districts), one thing that we cannot lose sight of is that “the candidate matters”. People might yell that “a Berniebro would have won” or “this policy” or “that policy” might have one. I am NOT saying that “messaging isn’t important”; it is. But the candidate matters, and politics requires skill, just like other professions. Some people are naturally better at it. And the campaign itself matters.

And when the election is in a “safe Republican” district, often a strong, naturally talented candidate is NOT recruited (who wants to do a fool’s errand?) and IF it turns out that it is a competitive race, well, that is an opportunity lost. This may have happened in Georgia-6, which WAS a tough race for a Democrat.

But of course, Democrats are fighting among themselves.

One issue: should we continue to back Nancy Pelosi to be the Democratic House leader? My thoughts: yes, her feat of getting the ACA passed, IMHO, made her an all time great Speaker of the House. That was quite a feat.

But is her time past? Aside from being good at fundraising, she really hasn’t accomplished that much as the Democratic leader. I think we could argue that it is a time for a change.

BUT, this puts back into the “Bernie vs. Hillary” territory.

There is a large contingent of women who see misogyny everywhere; having anything resembling a rational discussion with some of the more strident members is impossible. Any push-back on their ideas or pointing out an (apparent) flaw will be called “mansplaining”.

I found it is just best to avoid them completely.

Anyway, these types see any movement to get Pelosi to step aside as a type of misogyny. That is not where I am coming from; I am fine with the next House leader being female; in fact, when I say “we need new blood”, I fully expect that this new blood will heavily consist of women and men of color.

Example: though she is a Senator, Sen. Harris might be part of the wave of the future.

But as far as leadership of the House Democrats: our own Cheri Bustos might be a candidate. She might lack the national stature AT THIS TIME, but that can change.

But yeah, there we are in our party: white vs. black, women vs. men, the “middle to upper middle class” vs. the poor. And there are the regional issues: what works in San Francisco and in Vermont might not play in Central Illinois. We have to be flexible and understand that whoever emerges as our candidate in 2020 will NOT be everything everyone wants.

Now who? I like Sen. Warren, but she really lacks that “show-biz” part that I think a national candidate needs to excite people. She is tough, smart, and knows the issues inside and out. But I see her as lacking “charisma from the podium”; that is something that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have.

I think that Sen. Booker has it; I wonder if Sen. Harris has it (maybe?). We shall see.

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Democrats, political/social, politics, social/political | Leave a comment

Not understanding the AHCA

I’ve had conversations with many people, who just do not understand what “good” the AHCA does. “How can they be in favor of a bill that would eventually cost many their health insurance and weaken the coverage of many that already have it?”

The Republicans lie, of course. They say Obamacare is in a “death spiral.” No, it isn’t. Yes, premiums have gone up (more sick people in the system) but when haven’t insurance premiums NOT gone up? There were supposed to be subsidies to help offset those but doubt was raised about such subsidies being fully funded. So, one could say that Republicans are trying to sabotage the ACA.

While I acknowledge that some libertarians are hostile to the idea that people have to have health insurance, here is what I see as being the main issue for the elite Republican political leadership:

Eliminate the Medicare surtax on wages: High-income earners currently pay the 1.45% Medicare payroll tax on wages up to $200,000 ($250,000 if married). But then they pay an additional 0.9 percentage points — or 2.35% – on wages above those levels.
Under the House bill, that 0.9 percentage point surcharge goes away in 2023 — a delay from the original legislation, which would have nixed it in 2018. The enactment date was pushed back to free up some money to augment tax credits for Americans in their 50s and early 60s, who would face much higher premium costs under the GOP bill, since it would let insurers charge older consumers more than they can under Obamacare.
Related: How the Republican bill would change Obamacare
Get rid of the Medicare tax on investments: In addition to the surtax on wages, high-income earners making more than $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly) are subject to a 3.8% Medicare tax on a portion of their investment income, which is determined by formula. Investment income includes money from capital gains, dividends, interest, rental income and annuities.

Politifact said that the claim that the wealthiest among us would receive most of the tax cut benefits as being “half true” because:

$122 billion to a variety of individuals through tax changes:

$49 billion: Postponing the so-called Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans actually helps middle-income taxpayers, the Tax Policy Center says.

$35 billion: Allowing more tax deductions for medical expenses — starting at 7.5 percent of income, rather than 10 percent. This tends to help middle- and upper-income people, given that the rich are well insured and the poor don’t pay income taxes.

$19 billion: Repealing a cap of $2,500 on the pre-tax dollars workers could put into flexible spending accounts annually. Poorer people can’t afford to put more than $2,500 aside for medical expenses, but this change benefits middle-income folks as well as the wealthiest.

$19 billion: Increasing, to $6,550 for an individual and $13,100 for couples, the amount that could be put annually into a Health Savings Account. Similar impact as the pre-tax change.

Basically, it would help some of the “lower end” 6 figure and up people.

And they conclude this:

Not all of the $600 billion in tax breaks (over 10 years) would go to the wealthiest Americans.

But nearly half — $275 billion — would almost exclusively benefit only people on the highest end of the income scale.

So, that is what they care the most about. We’ll see what tweaks the Senate comes up with.

Bottom line: they want those tax cuts, and they need to cut spending enough for the bill to be able to be passed in the Senate via reconciliation rules. That’s really it. Now, what tweaks to do? They have to balance the Ted Cruz vote with the few moderate vote, and it will probably have to go back to the House again.

June 22, 2017 Posted by | political humor, political/social, politics, social/political | | Leave a comment

Moving forward…

Yes, Democrats lost 4 special elections: in Georgia, South Carolina, Kansas and in Montana. They won one in California.

The Republican special elections came about because a GOP Congressman resigned to take a post in the Trump administration, so these were considered “safe Republican seats”. They proved to be very competitive, and the margin in the Georgia and South Carolina races were less than 4 points.

So, these elections were encouraging but frustrating. Yes, there is some finger pointing going on and some Republican taunting.

So, do these results mean anything? And how do we move forward?

Here is what I take away from it:

1. Trump has weakened the enthusiasm of some Republicans, but not nearly the majority of them. And tribal identity remains strong. Running to the left in such districts isn’t going to work, at least in terms of getting some Republican voters or “Republican leaning” voters to switch.

2. Yes, we need to get more people to the polls, but I doubt that Bernie Sanders types will do it. At the House level, we need “district appropriate” candidates, including those who can distance themselves from, say Nancy Pelosi. And yes, we need new blood at the leadership levels.

3. At the national level, we need candidates that excite people, and people often get excited by the personality of the candidates, not by proposed policies or platforms. Note this 2008 video, where Obama supporters didn’t know the basics of his positions.

Identity has a LOT to do with it, and do not trust the voters to know the basics. In general, they don’t.

And public expressions of anger really do not convince anyone to switch, though they might be effective in a primary election. Liberal hatred of Trump is a DESIGN FEATURE, not a bug. Count on the Republicans to say “see: the liberals LOATHE Trump, so he must be doing something right”, even as Trump pushes for laws and policies that will hurt their constituents!

June 21, 2017 Posted by | Democrats, political/social, politics, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment

How can Democrats do better?

Ok, what do we do in 2018, and in 2020? That is a tough question with no simple answers. These three opinion pieces offer up some ideas, and yes, these pieces offer (sort of) competing ideas, though there is some overlap.

First of all, why did some Obama 2012 voters defect to Trump? One possibility: though they voted Obama in 2012, they still had some resentment toward at least some liberal constituencies (e. g. black people, Muslims, feminists, etc.) But in 2012, the economics won out. In 2016, the “identity” won out. Perhaps that can change in 2020, or even in 2018? Yes, this is a small percentage of voters, but big enough to swing the critical states in 2016.

This makes some sense to me. After all, I don’t like many liberal activists; some of the social justice warriors are, well, loud and clueless. I too get disgusted with the excesses of the political correctness crowd. But, to me, policy wins me over.

Of course, turnout hurt us; many who broadly agree with us don’t show up. The candidates will have to have some show-biz appeal to excite people.

On the other hand, we can’t be too stuck on the current electoral map. After all, I am old enough to remember California and Illinois being Republican states.

Workout notes: 8 mile walk (8.1 Cornstalk course) in 1:58:20 (59:06/59:14) 14:36 pace. It wasn’t much of an effort, though I walked “with purpose”. Cool weather.

June 20, 2017 Posted by | Democrats, political/social, politics, politics/social, walking | | Leave a comment

Oh boy…dark days ahead

Tomorrow, Georgia 6’th Congressional District will vote on a replacement for Tom Price’s old seat. He won 62-38 in 2016, but resigned to take a post in the Trump administration. Though Trump narrowly won the district 48-47, this seat was considered safe..until..recent events.

The Democrat Jon Ossoff got more votes than anyone else in the primary, but narrowly missed the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff. So now he is locked in a tight battle with Karen Handel with the polls being so close. Ossoff did have a 7 point lead in one of them, but most have been 0-2 points with Ossoff leading; the latest had Handel up by 2 (but the day before, Ossoff was up by 1 and 2 points).

In other words: toss up.

And in the Senate, Mitch “the Turtle” McConnell won’t let anyone outside of his narrow circle see the Senate’s bill, and he will force a quick vote on it.

My guess is that he wants to avoid public scrutiny AND to keep Trump out of the loop. And if it fails..well, he wants to move on to tax cuts.

I think that is the way to read this: whatever gets them to tax cuts the quickest…that is, tax cuts for the wealthiest among us.

I am not sure how much he will put into the health care bill itself.

Workout notes Bonus walk with Barbara after weights (2 miles)

rotator cuff, hip hikes, calf raises
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (ok)
bench press: 10 x 135, 4 x 190, 8 x 170
incline: 10 x 135
military: seated, 15 x 55, then 10 x 45, 10 x 40
rows: 2 sets of 10 x 55, 10 x 60
yoga: abs, 1-2 sun salutes, headstand (good?), plank for 2:30

I saw Barbara on the way home and so walked a leisurely 2 miles with her.

Note: I am getting the old “piriformis tingles” again; brought on by the onset of longer, faster walks, I think.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | political/social, politics, politics/social, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, walking, weight training | , | Leave a comment

And dialogue becomes so painful..why I stay in my bubble …

The climate

Yes, people are angry. Why? Well, it depends on who you ask. I saw this featured in today’s Peoria Journal Star:

I think the roots of our frustrations and anger are found in the following:

* Many see their positions declining relative to others. The lives of the rich and famous are paraded before us ad nauseam. Parents and their young adult children fear they won’t do so well as the former did.

* The middle class has clearly shrunk as a percentage of the whole. The Pew Research Center reports that in 1971, 61 percent of us were in the middle class; last year only 49 percent were.

* Many folks in rural America, who either don’t want to or lack the skills to move to the city, are angry about being stuck in a setting where good jobs have dried up. “Deaths of despair” have soared among inadequately educated white males of working age, according to two Princeton economists writing in the March 23 Wall Street Journal.

* The 16 percent of Americans with incomes over $100,000, who pay 80 percent of income taxes, are frustrated with having to pay health care costs for many of the 71 percent who contribute less than 6 percent of income tax revenue.

* The incredible, unprecedented rate of change is scaring many. We don’t know how to keep up in a world being transformed at warp speed from largely human endeavor to largely digital control.

* Social media allow us to vent our anger impersonally to audiences of like-minded people.

* In our often-long retirements, we have more time to ruminate and let perceived wrongs and ills fester. When I was a child, people didn’t retire; they worked until they were no longer able and were probably too tired at end of the day to ruminate.

* “Us vs. them” polarization — white vs. black, rich vs. poor, rural vs. urban, Christian vs. non-Christian — has increased.

Our human nature makes it hard for us to blame ourselves for our plight, so we displace our anger toward others.

This was written by a “former legislator and current “senior fellow” at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs

What do you notice? I noticed that this might be a decent list for lower to middle income white people. Missing were huge issues that concern urban poor and black people (and other racial minorities): racism, inner city poverty with a dearth of means to escape (access to well paying jobs, training for such jobs, educational opportunities), and unfair profiling by law enforcement.

One might also notice that issues of sexism, very important to millions, were left unaddressed; it just isn’t on this person’s radar screen.

Even worse, when a leader brings up some issues (e. g., “yes, black people have a right to be angry about that”), many dismiss it as being divisive.

And so the anger festers. And irresponsible politicians talk about “Second Amendment remedies” only to point the finger at the other party when some nut acts on such a remedy.

Attempts at dialogue

So, one solution is to talk to others, right? Well, that might work when the others are…well, carefully selected. Sadly, all too many feel free to pontificate on matters that they know nothing about. One tried to “educate me” on taxes (rates for various tax brackets) without understanding how progressive taxation works. Someone told me that scientists present their stuff sans “peer review” (in his mind, he appeared to believe that “peer review” meant listening to, say, those who called in to talk shows…he had no clue to what the phrase means).

Someone else wanted to credit Reagan for the economic growth that we had under Bill Clinton, seeming to forget that Clinton beat Bush I in the 1992 election.

Now I am not saying that I don’t make mistakes; I do (example: I recently confused two Russia related votes in the Senate; one of the Russia sanctions and one on the Russia plus Iran sanctions; both passed easily, and Sen. Paul was a “nay” on both; Sen. Lee was a “nay” on the first one, and Sanders was on the second.

But one of my personal strengths is that I can distinguish what I know well from what I am unsure of.

Sorry; I find such conversations to be dreary and unpleasant; I have no desire to engage in them.

Workout notes
4.2 mile walk outside, 1 mile (lane 2) of the indoor track: 13:10. I just couldn’t make myself go. The good news is that the pace felt easy and my form felt decent..but there was zero in the way of speed. Then easy yoga (15 minutes or so).

June 15, 2017 Posted by | political/social, politics, social/political, walking | Leave a comment


I got a late start (but sleep!) and walked 10K: 19 minutes warm up, 4.2 miles (10 laps of W. Peoria, doing parking lot intervals; about 3 on, 2-2:30 off), a bit less than I mile back.

27:29/26:12; I was 5:3x for the first 4 laps and mostly 5:1x for the next 6; one 5:20 (lap 9) and 5:04 (lap 10). But the heat and humidity was revolting.

Speaking of revolting: Will Bunch as an interesting op-ed. It is worth reading: it is about the marriage of Donald Trumps authoritarianism with general GOP greed (cut taxes on the rich at all costs).

I highly recommend reading the article. It is genius, really.

Trump: needs adoration. He gets it this way: to his lesser educated base, he promised to make “America Great Again” (say, post WW II) by making things “like they were”. His base gets this in return: liberals are infuriated by the things Trump says and what he pushes for. Hey, if the “libtards” are upset, he must be doing something right, correct?

The wealthy base: gets promises of tax cuts. That is what the modern GOP is really about, though the sell hatred of the liberals to their lesser educated base. And it is an easy sell; vocal, unreasonable liberals are easy to find.

So, the poorer Republicans lose Medicaid and the “lower to middle of the middle class” ones are no closer to seeing the return of good paying middle class jobs (think: automation, plus the loss of union power), but the GOP gets away with it by pointing out that we are sticking up for Loretta’s right to use the women’s bathroom.

We suck as politicians and the GOP base gets conned over and over again.

June 13, 2017 Posted by | political/social, politics, politics/social, republicans, walking | | Leave a comment

Comey testimony: where will it lead?

Ok, James Comey testified; you can see the full testimony here:

Meanwhile, the Republicans in the Senate worked to get their version of “repeal Obamacare” ready for “fast tracking” and the House worked on their repeal of Dodd-Frank and passed it.

True: both are a long way from becoming law.

So, what political ramifications will Comey’s testimony have?

IMHO: anyone who thinks that Congress will remove Trump from office is smoking crack, as it needs a House majority (possible after the 2018 midterms…possible) and 2/3 of the Senate. Trump will have to do something drastic, such as start a nuclear war, or raise taxes on the rich.

But there are some good things that can come about:

1. The fallout can gum up the works and keep some very bad legislation from being signed into law.
2. This can help with the 2018 midterms: the GOP members of Congress have to worry about the primary election and those who oppose Trump might get challenged from the right wing. And if they support him too much, it can hurt in the general election. We might gain seats.
3. This can really help in 2020; remember how agonizingly close we were in those key states. It won’t take that much to flip them back.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Democrats, political/social, politics, politics/social, social/political | , | 1 Comment

Defeating Trump: will unions be the answer?

Ok, we have a serious situation. Our push-back against Trump appears to be doomed to fail. Frankly, not a lot of people are up in arms about things like “transgender rights”; climate change is too long term for people to be very passionate about (though it is very important..extremely important..but to many rates below what an NFL player does during the National Anthem).

And I think that minority voter turnout during 2008-2012 and President Obama’s skill papered over some serious issues with the Democratic Party.

And please, forget about Sanders. Those who switched from Obama to Trump aren’t that big on, say, the “minimum wage” as many earn well above that; the goal is a great job with benefits.

But employers aren’t going to just provide those out of the goodness of their hearts. Right now, things are very tilted toward the employers. Workers should organize to counter that. It is all about leverage.

June 3, 2017 Posted by | political/social, social/political | | Leave a comment

Is the United States on the decline…or is it something else?

Yes, yes, I’ve hard about “The United States being on the decline” for all of my life. The reasons given are manifold (e. g., people not being religious enough, or worshiping the wrong way, or women’s rights, gay rights, not bombing another country enough..)

Personally, I am not that concerned with the relative decline of the United States vs. the rest of the world. WW 2 was a long time ago and it was unrealistic for us to remain the world’s sole Leviathan in most areas forever.

I am concerned that our own standard has dropped a bit; our infrastructure is headed downhill and we have growing social and economic inequality.

And there is our current President. It is bad enough that his deportment and behavior is rotten; it sucks that our current President sets such a bad example when it comes to being civil and polite. In this regard, he is the worst that I’ve ever seen. But even worse: he really does not appear to know what he is doing.

Yes, the same nation (under the same rules) elected Barack Obama twice, and he is pretty smart and aware. But, he (along with Bill Clinton) were what I call “purple unicorns”; they possessed the “showbiz” talent necessary to get elected while having a strong intellect and thirst for understanding what was going on. Trump has only the “showbiz” side of it.

So, in my opinion, what is going on? What the hell happened?

In my opinion, one huge problem is the information age that we live in. We can get quick access to “facts” right at our fingertips. We really don’t have to know how to use google; we can just ask our phones via a voice command. (not what I do).

This opens up a huge can of worms, as there are now experts who specialize in directing this information search and driving us to, well, fake information. That was a massive problem in this last election.

But I believe that something else is going on.

First: there is the fact that, in the United States, news is a for profit enterprise and the truth does not sell well. And the different sides handle the media differently.

Also, news from, say, Breitbart looks exactly as, say a report from the National Academy of Sciences to the undereducated reader. How does one distinguish junk that fits one’s narrative from the truth (yes, liberals sometimes fall for this too)

Even worse is the behavior of some very smart people. A dumb person cannot run a successful business, become a successful literature professor, get a Ph. D in mechanical engineering, pass a tough state bar exam, etc.

But sometimes achievement in one field leaves to overconfidence in other fields and sometimes such people speak out of turn in fields that they really don’t know that much about. But their own accomplishments makes them think that they know more than they actually do, and they speak in public…and people pay attention to them instead of the genuine experts. For example, you often see successful engineers make fools of themselves when they try to discuss evolution in public:

Re. April 1 story, “Study: Nose shape related to ancestral climate”:

To observe that the width of the human nose would change with time based on climate is an amazing discovery. As a professor of thermodynamics, I have learned it is important to be precise in the use of language in order to accurately communicate scientific discoveries.

It would have been more precise if the article would have attributed this discovery to adaptation rather than evolution. Evolution implies that one species evolves into another. Since the changes in noses did not produce a new species, then adaptation would explain the observation more precisely.

Here, the author confuses speciation (one outcome of evolution) with evolution (which can lead to adaptation).

And such people, smart people, mind you, spread such nonsense to the public (e. g., some deity will rescue us if we trash the planet) And people end up cherry picking what they want to hear (liberals and conservatives alike, I am afraid).

And this leads us to where we are now: an unstable man with the nuclear codes.

Yes, a more stable, more politically savvy Republican would have a better chance of getting damaging legislation passed. But I’d trade that to get him away from the nuclear codes.

So, now, how exactly did we get here?

For one, the Constitution provides for the Electoral College, and none of these tiny states are going to give up their disproportionate power. And no, we aren’t going to move there to flip the politics. Then there is the make up of the Senate, where Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have the same representation as New York, California and Illinois. We’ve given away power to a small number of angry rural people.

I see now way out. After all, the split is really rural vs. urban; for example, I’d be a better fit for Austin or Dallas than I would for rural Illinois.

June 2, 2017 Posted by | political/social, politics/social, social/political | , | Leave a comment