Monday, June 26, 2017

Whatever Doesn't Kill Obamacare...

There's an expression that "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  

Me, I tend to be a bit more cynical: "Whatever doesn't kill you isn't trying hard enough."  

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare, it's the latter view that seems more applicable. 

The first attempt by the House of Representatives to repeal the ACA failed but it didn't make the ACA unassailable or stronger. The failure of the first effort was attributed to the hard core conservatives who didn't think the repeal effort went far enough. So the repeal and replace bill was stripped down even further, gutting even more benefits and protections. 

Whatever doesn't kill Obamacare isn't trying hard enough. 

So the the measure to kill the ACA was made even more palatable to the hard-line conservatives. then the full bore press was on to pass the damn thing because Donald Trump and the Repuplicans needed a win, even though most of the GOP Congressmen had NO idea what was in it. 

With the win, the repeal and replace effort moved to the Senate where those who supported the ACA hoped the more deliberative body would take a more inclusive approach. Instead Sen. Mitch McConnell doubled down on the House strategy. A group of 13 Senators, all Republican and all men, began working in secret on the Senate's version of repeal and replace. There were no hearings. No input from experts. No debate on the Senate floor. Any and all communications relating to the Senate's health care legislation was done beyond the vision or knowledge of those men on McConnell's committee. 

Until the bill was released last Thursday and it seems that the Senate has created a bill even more draconian in its cuts than the House version. 

But like the House version, there are objections to the Senate bill.  For not being conservative enough.  

Sen. Ron Johnson joined with Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, Johnson are withholding their support because the Senate bill doesn't cut the ACA enough.  

So far, there is only one Republican objection, from Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), that the bill is too conservative, specifically on the point that states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare are not protected.  

The ACA's expansion of Medicaid is a particular bone of contention for conservatives. Despite the relative popularity of this part of Obamacare and the success that participating states have had with it (including states with Republican governors), expanding Medicaid is so anathema to conservative doctrine, cutting this expansion is a priority to the GOP, even if their constituents don't want them to do that.  
On ABC's "This Week", White House counselor and soulless simulacrum Kellyanne Conway observed that taking Medicaid away from able-bodied adults is no big deal, because they can go out and find jobs that provide health insurance.

Apparently nobody has told Conway that the majority of able-bodied adults on Medicaid already have jobs, low-paying jobs that typically don’t offer insurance. Take away their Medicaid and they won’t be covered. 

Conway also complained, “Why can’t we get a single Democrat to come to the table, to come to the White House to speak to the president or anyone else about trying to improve a system that has not worked for everyone?” 

Remember, the drafting of the Senate bill was done in secret by a group of only Republicans. Democrats have been systematically excluded from a process to draft legislation they don't want. Why would the Democrats want to be on board with repeal of an act they supported? 

"We find the defendant guilty and sentenced to be hanged! If you would be so kind as to bring your own rope, we would be most appreciative."  

And there is zero incentive for the Republicans to change that. As long as they subscribe to the complete orthodoxy of right wing conservatism and they have control of both Houses of Congress and the White House, they have no reason to bring their legislation so much as inch towards the Democrats. 

So for now, whatever doesn't kill Obamacare will just have to try harder.  
____________________________

On the subject of health care, I will be undergoing a "Trans-esophageal Echo cardiogram" which means sticking a camera down my throat to take pictures of my heart as my neurologist tries to determine the origins of my stroke from earlier this year. 

I am not in favor of this course of action. 

More about that later this week.

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Some Sunday Stuff

Hello. As I write this, it's 5:40 in the frickin' morning here at the Fortress of Ineptitude. Weekday mornings, it's all I can do to drag my butt out of bed by 7:30. But Saturday or Sunday? Up too early and wide awake. 

Last night's Doctor Who episode was very powerful with a pervasive sense of doom. OK, more about that in Satuday's Doctor Who post. 

But seriously, Steven Moffat: Damn!

Meanwhile, mechanical issues here at the Fortress with a not quite up to speed washing machine. So my daughter accompanied me on her first visit to a laundromat. There is something relaxing about a laundromat, with the low hum of washing machines and dryers in concert. I rather missed the experience. 

This particular laundromat is attached to a bar. We found a comfy sofa to sit on while we read. Randie's embarking on her first Stephen King novel, The Shining. Me, I got back to a book I received for Christmas, an oral history of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I had gotten about halfway through it but after I had my stroke and broke my arm in January; I had not gotten back to it. I think I may have forgotten I had it even though it is a very enjoyable book that is by turns insightful and funny. 

Speaking of the stroke, my neurologist wants to take a peek at my heart by threading a tiny camera down my throat. he wants to see if there are clues as to what instigated my stroke and I guess try to keep whatever it was from happening again. This is scheduled to done on Tuesday, I can't say I'm looking forward to it. 

Now it's 5:58 AM and NOW I'm feeling sleepy again. So back to bed.  

Until next time, remember to be good to one another.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Doctor Who Is NEW!: The Eaters Of Light


Tick tock, goes the clock! The Doctor's running out of time.


Tonight is the first of the last two episodes of Doctor Who Series 10. Steven Moffat's last two parter, his last episodes as head writer, his last season finale.

And likewise for Peter Capaldi who really came into his own this year as the Doctor. I mean, he was good before but this year, he was something special.

After the finale for Series 10, we're still not done with Steve and Peter yet. We'll have the Christmas special where we will truly say good-bye. Oh, that's gonna hurt. 

But before move forward towards the future, we need to sort out the past. What about episode from last Saturday? We'll, I'll get to that right after the break. 



The Eaters Of Light
by Rona Munro

The Doctor and Bill have a difference of opinion regarding the fate of the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman army. Bill says they survived; the Doctor says they all died. Well, that’s the beauty of having a time machine as they travel in the TARDIS to the 2nd century in Scotland to sort this out themselves.


Bill goes her own way, looking for live Romans while the Doctor and Nardole go in a different direction looking for dead ones. 


After falling down a hole (for the 2nd week in a row!), Bill finds Roman Legions soldiers hiding from a creature drawn to any light source, killing those in its path. 

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Nardole discover the corpses of the remaining Legion. So Bill found live Romans AND the Doctor found dead ones. I guess you could call that a “win-win”.  

But then, there's... the monster.

The Doctor and Nardole also meet a Pict tribe guarding a cairn. The Doctor enters the cairn, passing into an interdimensional portal. The Pict explains that a warrior goes through the cairn to defeat an "Eater of Light", but with the invading Roman army, she allowed one to escape to fight them. 

Bill leads the surviving legion away from the creature and end up reuniting with the Doctor and Nardole. The Doctor works out a plan to lure the Eater back to the portal during daylight, but it requires someone inside preventing the creature's escape. Which the Doctor figures will be him. But once the creature is trapped, former adversaries the Pict and the Ninth Legion come together to sacrifice themselves to stop the creatures. 

Back in the TARDIS, Missy awaits their return, to the surprise of Bill and Nardole.

“The Eaters of Light” marks the first script for the revived series written by a writer for the classic series. Rona Munro wrote Survival which was a pretty good script for the 7th Doctor but also has the unfortunate distinction of being the last ever episode of the original Doctor Who series. Munro is in fine form here with a cleverly conceived scary monster tied to a piece of arcane history of Scotland and the Roman  Empire. Some good character work; I like that Nardole goes native to bond with the Scottish tribe. And Bill’s sexual orientation comes up in a clever bit; one of the Legion soldiers is super flirting with Bill. She tells him she likes women… and he’s OK with it. This is the 2nd century. But the Legion has a guy who likes men and Bill’s would be suitor has an even more expansive view of human sexuality. (Capt. Jack Harkness should meet this guy.) 

I noted that that the monster was “cleverly conceived” but I’m not sure it was clearly explained. Mostly, I just accepted that the creature was a tentacled alien thing from another dimension that kills people and left it that. The whole “light eating” aspect was not clearly invoked. 

One thing working against the episode is it's placement in the season. Two weeks in a row, we’ve had stories of an invading army and a native population at odds with each other but they need each other to survive.  And two weeks in a row, Bill Potts falls down a hole. 

I have a feeling this episode or Empress of Mars was originally conceived to appear earlier in the season. It seems unlikely that the producers would’ve deliberately put these similarly themed episodes back to back. Also, the level of surprise Bill and Nardole express in finding Missy in the TARDIS seems a bit much as she was just there last week. There’s a quick line from the Doctor reminding them how they got home from Mars but still, Bill and Nardole over react to Missy’s presence.

All in all, a good effort all around. I wouldn’t mind seeing Rona Munro take another turn at a Doctor Who script.  

But next time? The Cybermen from Mondas? Missy on a mission? And the return of John Simm as the Master? Will Bill fall down a hole for the 3rd week in a row?!


“World Enough and Time”, tonight at 9 PM on BBC America.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Time, What Has Become of Me?



Today is Friday.


This post is going up on Friday, June 23, 2017.


It is Friday.


I’m re-emphasizing this information lest I forget and think today is Saturday. Because yesterday, Thursday, I kept thinking it was Friday. It just felt… Friday-ish.


I was working with someone on a project and we needed to stop. I said, “Well, I guess we’ll pick this up on Monday.”


My co-worker looked at me with some confusion. “Do you have the day off tomorrow?”


Now, I was confused. Why would I need to take the day off from work on a Sat—


“Today is… not Friday?”


“It’s Thursday, David.” 


Well, I don’t know about that. It FEELS like FRIDAY.


But alas, he was correct. It was Thursday.


“Well, I guess we’ll pick this up tomorrow morning. Which is Friday. Because today is not Friday. That’s tomorrow.


My co-worker was concerned. “Maybe you should take a day off.”


Nah, that’s just me being me. If you’re thinking it’s a shame getting old and losing one’s mind but no. This has happened before.


I was in college, sophomore year. I had a paper due for my philosophy class. (Yes, I took a philosophy class! Don’t mock me!) It was due on a Wednesday. I was so happy to have this paper done; I felt I had done good work on it and I was turning it in on time. I made my way to the professor’s office where his assistant took my paper. She noted that I was going to get docked 10 points.


“Why,” I asked.


“Because it’s late.”


“No it isn’t; it’s due Wednesday.”


“Yes, it WAS due Wednesday.”


“So how can you say it’s late when I’m here on a…”


I stopped stone cold right there as my stomach sank to my knees.


“It’s… not… Wednesday?”


“Nope! It’s Thursday?” 


“Are you sure?” 


“Yep.”


I slowly began piecing together the clues in my mind. OK, I remembered Monday. Then Tuesday. And then there was that… extra day that got in there somehow. Oh! THAT was Wednesday! Not today.


“DAMMIT!”


My philosophy professor did not deem my paper “A” worthy. More of a “B” which indeed got busted down to a “C”. Okay, I could live with that. But if HAD been a “A” paper marked down to a “B”, I would’ve been wicked pissed off about that.


Day confusion came up a few weeks ago. On Memorial Day, the family had absconded from the Fortress of Ineptitude to spend some time at the pool. While there, Randie noted that she had some homework that was due tomorrow. I was puzzled by this. Why does she have homework due on a Sunday?


For a moment there, I thought it was Saturday. Well, it felt Saturday-ish. Kind of like today.


IT’S FRIDAY, DAMMIT!

And I’m so glad my suffering amuses you.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Dems Went Down To Georgia


OK, so let’s assess the situation in Washington.

 

  1. Donald Trump is an idiot. Li’l Donnie continues to fumble petulantly about the White House, beset by various crises of his own making. Meanwhile, every policy initiative out of Trump’s White House runs counter to his campaign promises and the preferences of most Americans, even the ones who supported Trump in the election.
  2. Republicans in Congress continue to trample on the vestiges of Democratic government with secret meetings and exclusionary tactics in pursuit of their own agenda to hold on to power and appease the most powerful in the Republican fold. Almost everything the Republicans have done has been in service to their “ideology” and not in service to the American people.
  3. Donald Trump is an idiot. I know, I’ve already said that but come on! We can never say this too much: Donald Trump is an idiot.

 

On Tuesday, that was a special election to fill the open seat for the House Representative from Georgia’s 6th District, considered a reliable Republican stronghold. But the Democrats sensed blood in the water and went all in to support Jon Ossof, a 30 year old documentary filmmaker and  former Congressional aide. The Dems were counting on growing dissatisfaction with the Republican led Congress and that Donald Trump is an idiot. So the Democratic National Committee (DNC) began shoveling tons of money and resources into Ossof’s campaign. On the other side, the Republican National Committee (RNC) took notice and began shoveling even more tons of money and a buttload of even more resources into the campaign of Republican Karen Handel.


Both the DNC and the RNC viewed the fight for Georgia’s 6th district as a proxy war for a larger national political message. The DNC wanted to show that Trump (Remember: Donald Trump is an idiot.) is more hurt than help to Republican candidates and a referendum that Americans do not like what the Republican led Congress is doing.  The RNC needed to show that Trump is not a drag on the party and show there is more support for Republican leadership than Democrats.

 

So going into this elections, consider these three important points:  

  1. Donald Trump is an idiot.
  2. Republicans in Congress suck.
  3. And Donald Trump is an idiot.

And Karen Handel won the election. So much for the 6th District of Georgia being a referendum on Donald Trump and his GOP gang of enablers in Congress.

 

So what gives? It pays to remember the adage that “all politics is local”. Ossof was a bit too new, too much the outsider while Handel was a better known individual in the area. 


There is also the problem that the Democratic Party just doesn't "get it" when it comes to appealing America. They fronted a young intellectual artist in a Republican district and Republicans have had a lot of success railing against out of touch intellectuals and ultra liberal artists. In fact, Handel went old school in the finals days of the campaign, repeatedly linking Ossof to far left liberal policies. It was a message that may have made the difference in her victory. 


The only bright spot for the Democrats is they made the Republicans fight to win a consistently pro-Republican district. A lot of money was poured into a race that is usually a slam dunk for the GOP and managed only a 4 point margin of victory.


But for the Dems, a loss is still a loss. So in a world where the American government is headed up by Donald Trump (Disclaimer: Donald Trump is an idiot.), what do the Democrats have to do to win? There have been 4 special elections since Trump took office and the Dems are 0 and 4. Are Dems overestimating the degree of resistance to the Trump and GOP agenda? Or is the resistance truly a thing but the Dems just don't know how to tap into it? Are potential Democratic voters still not engaged in the process?


The Democrats are already being shut out of the legislative process by Republicans in the House and the Senate. But if they don't get their act together, the Democratic Party will drive itself to irrelevance. 


Oh, and Donald Trump is an idiot. (In case you forgot.) 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

And Lo, There Shall Come a Price Increase


I’ve noticed for the last couple of solicitations for DC Comics, the standard price point has moved from $2.99 an issue to $3.99 an issue. The titles published bi-weekly (Superman, Action, Batman, Detective, etc) are still listed as $2.99 but otherwise, all the monthly titles are $3.99 which at least come with redeemable codes for free digital copies of the same issue. I’m unsure if there is an page count difference for the $3.99 books beyond the 20 page standard. Well, I suppose it was only a matter of time before DC’s line would increase in price. Marvel has long defaulted to the $3.99 price point for its entire line, even for the titles that double ship. 

 

I’ve tolerated the $3.99 as long as I was getting more bang for my buck.  Over at Image, Kill Or Be Killed by Brubaker & Phillips is $3.99 but the stories are longer, a solid reading experience. And there’s a bonus text feature AND Brubaker actually answers reader’s letters.  The idea of spending $3.99 for 20 pages of story & art just strikes me as a bit of a cheat. Hell, I don’t even get a a letter column.  But apparently one such title has snuck past me. The Batman ’66 comics have jumped in price to $3.99 with 20 pages of story and art. The current project, Batman ’66  meets Wonder Woman ’77, I will see to the end. The next series, Mike Allred’s Batman ’66 meets the Legion of Super Heroes, I may feel compelled to skip.

 

Of course, I’m fighting against the tide. $3.99 comic books are not the future; they are now. $2.99 is receding into the past. 

 

This not a new struggle for me. I fought against $2.99 when the prior price point of $2.50 started going away. I resisted $2.50 when $1.99 comics began to go away.  I even railed against $1.00 titles in the twilight of 75 cent comics.

 

I suppose in the future I will lament the passing of $3.99 comics when the price starts jumping to $4.99.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Russian To Judgement


“You may be the first president in history to go down because you can’t stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that, if you just were quiet, would clear you,”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

 

Is Donald Trump now under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller for possible obstruction of justice? Well, Li'l Donnie says he is. But his own attorney says he's not. It is very likely that Trump is merely parroting speculation in the press as a done deal. Which wouldn't be the first time he's done that.


Still this whole... "Russia thing". How did we get to this point?


To understand that, let’s look at some key questions that have driven this mess and Trump’s repeated efforts to undermine his own position.

 

Did the Russians try to interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election?

The consensus from all of America’s intelligence agencies was yes, they did. Nothing overt like hacking voting machines but playing a long game of hacking other resources like the computers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the active planting and distribution of fake news items to influence public opinion.

 

Trump immediately refuted these findings, casting doubt on the capabilities of America’s intelligence agencies. Why? Mostly ego. He wanted nothing to taint his victory. He even took issue with Hillary Clinton’s popular vote count as a result of fraudulent voting (of which there was zero evidence). Trump saw the Russian interference story as a made up effort to undermine his victory. Which brings us to the next question…

 

Did the Russians interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election to benefit a particular candidate?

Here the evidence is circumstantial but it does begin to pile up. Information being hacked then released was always to the detriment of Clinton and the Democratic Party. The ‘fake new’ stories planted in social media were emphatically anti-Clinton. There was Vladimir Putin’s known dislike for Hillary Clinton while Donald Trump kept talking up what a great guy Putin is. Again, circumstantial but it keeps pointing in the same direction.

 

And again, Trump is in complete denial for pretty much the same reason: he had zero patience for anything that would undermine the validity of his electoral victory.  Which brings us to the next question…

 

If the Russians did interfere in the 2016 Presidential Election to benefit Donald Trump, was there any “inside help” from the Trump campaign?

This is the “collusion” part you keep hearing in the news. Once more, evidence is circumstantial and perhaps on shakier ground. Yes, there were several contacts of  Trump campaign staff and surrogates with the Russians. Russia’s ambassador to the United states pops up a lot in these contacts. And the CIA regard him warily as a security risk who’s in deep with Russia’s spy operations. And we know Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was caught interacting with Russians after saying he didn’t. We know this because he was talking to a Russian the US was spying on. (Remember Flynn’s name; it’s important to the next question.)  And Flynn is not the only one on Trump’s team to have Russian contacts that were not disclosed. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was busted for talking to a Russian after he had told the Senate he did not do that. Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. 

 

Trump is in “oh hell no” mode,  not just protecting the validity of his electoral victory but now it’s getting personal. NOTE, at this point, Trump himself is not being investigated but he’s still taking it personally. Then he fires FBI director James Comey and admits on national television that he did it because of the Russia thing.  And he tells 2 Russian visitors to the White House he fired Comey to take the pressure off from the investigation. Which leads us to the next question…

 

Is Donald Trump guilty of obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation?
Two things point to an answer of "yes". One is Comey's testimony that Trump asked him if he could cut Michael Flynn some slack and hoped Comey could let this go.


The other is Trump's own admission to NBC News and to his Russian visitors regarding his motives for firing Comey, specifically citing the Russia investigation. 


"Obstruction of justice" is not an easy thing to prove. Trump's comments to Comey were sufficiently vague; he didn't order Comey to let the investigation go, Trump just expressed a "hope" he could let it go. And firing Comey would not end the investigation.


That being said, there is sufficient reason to be concerned about Trump's flagrant abuse of power to further a personal goal in opposition to the investigation of Russian influence. 


If the story is as non-existent as Trump says, why would he impede the investigation? Let it run it's course, get vindication neither he nor his team did anything wrong and move the hell on. Instead, the more Li'l Donnie snarls and barks at what he calls a "witch hunt", the more he stokes fires of suspicion. It is not in his best interest if he's innocent to do what he's been doing. Hell, if he's guilty, his behavior is still not in his best interest.


And it all goes back to before the inauguration when Trump disputed the findings of America's intelligence agencies that Russia had interfered in the election, a consensus accepted by almost everybody else. Which just led to more questions and more suspicions.


So Trump or his team is guilty of some form of collusion with the Russians. Or maybe not. And if he's not, then he's just plain stupid and exposing himself once more as being completely unfit for office. Because if he or his team is not guilty, then the only answer remaining is that Trump is a petulant man-baby with no patience for anything that might take his grand accomplishment, winning the 2016 election, away from him in even the smallest way.


Sneaky or stupid. One or the other. Neither is a good answer.  

Whatever Doesn't Kill Obamacare...

There's an expression that "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."   Me, I tend to be a bit more cynical: "...