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    August 2020
    S M T W T F S
  • RSS Paul Krugman: Conscience of a Liberal

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    The Confluence

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    • Cold War 2.0 Incoming
      Right, with the ban on Huawei using chips made with American manufacturing equipment (one of America’s last few places of absolute advantage); the bans of TikTok, Tencent and WeChat; the attempt to convince other countries to not use Huawei 5G; the arrest of the Huawei founder’s daughter for doing business with Iran along with the […]
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I was in a bar a couple of weeks ago with a co-worker who told me she didn’t vote this time around. She drinks considerably more than I do these days and after a few rum and cokes, she said that she couldn’t vote for Hillary because she was pretty sure she was going to drop a nuke on some country.

I was still sober, having only sipped a hot sake and played with some spicy tofu. It was the day after the election. I needed comfort food.

I laughed about the nuke comment. That’s ridiculous, where did you read that? I glanced over to my companion to see her swaying slightly on her stool. She said her husband told her. He was the one who was always searching the news sites. And besides, she believed it.

Damn, I thought, I gotta stop going to the bar with her.

But it wasn’t just there where I heard the most insane stuff about Hillary. I went to a wedding in early October and sat next to a woman who with eyes all wide and fearful told me that Hillary and Bill had killed 80 people. I felt uncomfortable sitting next to her and told my sister what she said. “Don’t be silly”, she said, “Everyone knows it was only 40.” She was kidding but she’s also a staunch Republican and she sat out the election. Couldn’t bring herself to vote for Trump.

So, for what it’s worth, I personally know *one* Republican with a conscience.

During the past year, I talked to many people who seemed to have lost all direction when it came to politics, truth and morality. They didn’t know what to believe. They weren’t getting the truth from their media sources. All cable and newspaper sources let us down this year. They grossly exaggerated the email problem for Clinton and barely touched on Trump’s myriad conflicts of interest.

I suspect that the biggest threat was Facebook. If you’re a social animal and not particularly tech savvy, Facebook is your gateway drug to the internet. It’s also somewhat flattering when people want to be your friend. Back in 2008, I got thousands of friend requests from people on Facebook. I accepted only a handful because A.) I didn’t know most of those people  B.) I don’t like Facebook’s kludgy interface. If feels claustrophobic. C.) I had a suspicion that it was going to be used as a method to spread propaganda. It turns out this was correct.

Bottom line: some of us know what is going on for whatever reason and some of us don’t know what’s going on. At. All. Some of us forgot what we believed in and threw away all semblance of morality and voted for a con man for president because we were discombobulated. We don’t know what the truth is anymore. We don’t know who is good and who is bad. We don’t know what is important and what is trivial. We don’t believe in climate change even when we see satellite images of ice caps melting. We don’t believe that Humans could be responsible for that or making that happen more quickly. We believe that a man who has a history of federal housing discrimination lawsuits, a record of not paying his workers and video tape of him boasting of sexual assaults is more trustworthy than a dedicated, experienced career public server who wants to simplify her email accounts.

At this point, there is almost nothing the two sides can agree on. Ok, maybe gravity. We can agree that gravity holds us to the earth.

And there is maybe one other thing that we can all agree on that everyone playing a long game should be paying attention to. I’m going to call this, the Scorecard. It’s the precise layout of the swamp that Trump claimed he wanted to drain. This is the breakdown of government by the numbers. It’s a short scorecard. We’re only going to be looking at the three branches of the federal government. These are numbers that no statistician can manipulate to make them look like something they are not. They are absolute numbers, prescribed by the Constitution. They represent the checks and balances one branch of government has on another branch of government. Can we all agree that the quantity represented by a number increases as the number gets farther away from zero? In other words 1>0. 45> 3. 238>195, etc. Right? Ok, great. Here’s the scorecard:

2016 2017
R D R D Undetermined
President 0 1 1 0
Vice President* 0 1 1 0
Senate 54 46 51 48 1
House 247 188 239 194 2
Supreme Court 4 4 (1) 4(1) 4

These numbers can be found at the non-partisan site The Green Papers.

The asterisk next to the Vice President means that in the event of a tie in the Senate, the Vice President can cast the tie breaking vote.

More info: There are more Republicans in Congress (House and Senate) than there are Democrats. It has been like this since 2010. If Obama wanted to initiate any changes, they have been able to block him. I am not an Obama fan and have always thought that he was an awful, naive, inexperienced negotiator. But even if he were any good at this, the Republicans would have blocked him and not because he was African American but simply because he was a Democrat. This is why nothing has gotten done since 2010. Since 2010, Congress has had an unsurpassed record of non-accomplishment by design. (You can check the statistics here but only if you feel comfortable with graphs. Otherwise, just stick to the Scorecard which cannot lie according to the Consitution)

The Senate has the power to advise and consent on Supreme Court nominees. Presently, there is a 4-4 tie in the Supreme Court since the very conservative Antonin Scalia died early this year. Scalia is one of the justices who voted for the Citizens United case. In that 5-4 split on the Supreme Court, it was decided that rich people and corporations could dump as much money as they liked into political campaigns. This disadvantages poorer candidates and average citizens. Scalia was also one of the 5 who voted to roll back part of the Voting Rights act. Maybe you don’t think this affects you because you’re white but if you ever decide you need to form a coalition with African Americans to get a candidate elected, you may find there is a structural imbalance due to voting rights restrictions in southern and some northern states that will make this impossible. That is what the current post election audit (aka Recount) is about.

The Republican Senate refused to carry out this Constitutional duty because they were hoping for a Republican president to make a new appointment. There was nothing in the Constitution to compel them to rule on Obama’s appointment within a specific time period. It’s just the norms that we have run the country with for 240 years. So they sat on it.

In summary, the swamp was not drained. The swamp prevented any meaningful legislation from occurring for 6 years. It lost a little volume but it’s still in charge. In fact, the swamp now has allies in the White House and it will soon have allies in the Supreme Court.

Now, if you are the kind of person who sees no useful reason for government to exist except to go to war with other countries, hates Social Security and thinks Medicare should be privatized, then you should be absolutely delighted by the way things turned out. Republicans have been waiting for this moment since the 1930’s to get rid of all the things you rely on. (Of course they will. They don’t care about you.) Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R- Wisconsin), has plans that will make you very, very happy. He can’t wait to get rid of Obamacare. And while I think Obamacare didn’t go far enough, like many of you have told me (“Why can’t we all have Medicare??”), there are some people who rely on it for pre-existing conditions. They’re about to lose their lifeline- literally.

Forget Medicare for All. Paul Ryan and his Republican House members are sharpening their knives to dismantle it. No, I am not kidding. Who’s going to stop them? Go back and look at the scorecard.

If that’s not what you thought you were going to get when you voted to let Trump “Make America Great Again”, then you are going to be sick about what you have done to your retirement benefits. Your vote will affect your children and grandchildren and your great grandchildren. You, voter, know now that when you look at your grandchildren, you are responsible for making their futures significantly harder. Trump is going to appoint the next Supreme Court justices and you can bet he’s going to nominate more Scalias who love the rich and well connected and not so much you and yours. By the way, the Supreme Court had 5 solid votes to overturn Roe v Wade until Scalia died and it didn’t do it. They were never serious about it. They just wanted to keep us all at each other’s throats.

I think we can all agree that this is the current state of affairs in the US Government, right? We are all talking about the same things now.

Cut out this scorecard and stick it to your refrigerator. The next opportunity you will have to drain the swamp is in 2018.

And for God’s sake, get off of Facebook.

If you are a health care worker, please do take advantage of President Bush’s “conscience protection” rule

(h/t to the discussion on the thread here)

President Bush’s newest regulations “protect[] the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience.”

If your conscience commits you to opposition to birth control, please refuse to discuss vasectomy with men who do not wish to father children, and certainly do not participate in any way with providing vasectomies – if you are a pharmacist who opposes the use of birth control, do not even fulfill prescriptions for post-operative anti-infection medications.

If your conscience commits you to the Freudian view that sexual sublimation and delayed gratification lead people to be productive in areas other than biological reproduction, please refuse to advise about, prescribe, or fulfill prescriptions for Viagra and Cialis.

If your conscience commits you to the view that nature must take its course when it comes matters reproductive please refuse to advise men about infertility treatments, such as these or these.

If your conscience commits you to the view that transracial adoptions are bad for children or bad for a particular racial group, under no circumstances should you counsel a couple of one race to adopt a child of another.

If your conscience commits you to the view that people have an overriding moral obligation to procreate then feel entitled to refuse them chemotherapy or to participate in administering chemotherapy to cancer patients, since one of its common side affects is infertility.

If your conscience commits you to the view that homosexuality is evil, refuse to treat gay people with AIDS. No doctoring or nursing for them from you.

By all means put your conscience ahead of your patient’s needs or desires. After all, the patient is just a therapeutic subject that allows you to make a living. What matters the most is that you never have to disturb your conscience to aid a person who comes to you and pays you for care. What a ridiculous view of medical care THAT would be.

Now health care workers, like Presidents and Presidents-elect can put their “worldviews” ahead of the people they serve, whenever they want. One can only hope that when it comes to Presidents, the Legislature remains independent enough from the Executive branch (regardless of which Party is in control of Congress and which the Executive) to play its Constitutional role: to check and balance what the Executive does.

Thank you to Riverdaughter and the other people who post here for inviting me to join their ranks. It is an honor I will always cherish; an opportunity I will not squander; and another step toward working with others to rebuild a genuinely liberal community, where individual dignity matters more than state power and truth and justice are available to all.

[an earlier version of this piece  was crossposted  at Heidi Li’s Potpourri]