Monday, September 25, 2017

Another strike against rescuing Puerto Ricans

Shakezulu notes that an effective federal response to the disaster in Puerto Rico would, at a minimum, mean "relocating people to someplace they’re not five seconds from a cholera outbreak." It is true, if P.R. were attached to the continental U.S. evacuations from the dangerous places in a disaster area would happy without anyone giving it a second thought.

But there's another strike against the P.R. evacuation scenario other than its island geography: Puerto Ricans don't get a vote for President or for any member of Congress who can vote on legislation (although they do have a non-voting Representative). Because they are U.S. citizens, if they relocate to a state in the union, and establish a domicile there, they can immediately vote. (They don't have to go through any years-long naturalization process).

Which means any place that accepts even a fraction of the 3.5 million who live in Puerto Rico is going to get a significant influx of new Hispanic and almost-certainly Democratic voters. Already the wildly unpopular Trump Administration is facing a possible democratic wave in 2018. Doing the right humanitarian thing for P.R. is sure to make things worse for them. I have no doubt they will not encourage mass evacuation to the mainland, cholera or no cholera.

North Koreans are the beard

The reason they are banned is because they are not Muslim. The Trump administration can now argue in the inevitable legal challenges that the overall ban isn't targeting a specific religion, because "look, we included these godless communist/Buddhists/Cheondoists."

Puerto Rico predictions

1. The situation on PR will grow increasingly dire without sparking widespread outrage on the mainland because most of America either doesn't know that the island is America or just doesn't care because the people are Hispanic and thus seem foreign.

2. The mainland response (or lack thereof) will give a big boost to the PR independence movement. (and who can blame them? In times like these their alleged "best of both worlds" commonwealth status is actually revealed to be the worst of both worlds.)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

There are good arguments to make for an independent Kurdistan, but it just won't work if they try it now

Whatever you think about the merits of Kurdish independence, the hard truth is that a landlocked independent Kurdistan carved out of Northern Iraq has little chance of success if all of its immediate neighbors hate the idea of an independent Kurdish nation. Having the support of Israel, which would be at least a couple of countries away no matter how your draw the borders, is not good enough. Israel couldn't support an entire blockaded Kurdish population. Maybe the Kurds could pull it off if they had American support. But they don't have that either.

That said, I get why the Kurds are pushing ahead anyway. There has never been a good time for Kurdish independence in the past century. The situation is not likely to get better for them if they wait, so why not now?

Friday, September 22, 2017

What is the point?

That Republicans' latest awful push the Graham-Cassidy bill makes no sense. They say its because they need to pass a repeal and replace bill after promising one for the past seven years,  but didn't they already fail at doing that a few months ago? They already took the political hit for the failure, why bring it up again? I guess if they succeed in passing something, they can claw back some of the blow to their reputation. But  there is a bigger chance that they will fail, which will mean reminding everyone once again that they could not pull off their signature campaign promise.

Plus, as we have seen with every other particular repeal and replace bill, this bill is really unpopular. Whatever promises they made before, that was in a different era, when Obama was president and telling voters you will get rid of Obamacare was more of a coded way of saying "Obama sux!" then commenting on actual policy. Circumstances have changed. On plenty of other issues, Republicans have had no problem changing their position when the political climate shifts (e.g. trade agreements). Why are they so hung up on this one?

And the crazy thing is that if this bill does pass, the results will be so dreadful, they will forever be haunted by the consequences of their vote.

How could this effort possibly be worth it? Why didn't they just move on to giving rich people massive tax breaks (i.e. "tax reform") like they said they would just a few weeks ago, instead of going back to rerun their biggest legislative failure?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Maybe states should just give multinational companies a boatload of money for no reason...

...why bother with all the trouble of building a factory and stuff.

Okay, I know why: JAHBZ, so constituents have money and are happy and stuff.

So then why not just give the money to constituents? Is there any point to giving a bunch of foreign executives a ton of money just so your citizens can get a small fraction of it?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Will Toomey vote to cut PA's health care dollars? (hint: of course he will)

One of the features (bugs?) of Cassidy-Graham is it effectively transfers federal health care dollars from blue states to red (while cutting those federal health care dollars overall). So what does that mean for Pennsylvania, the purple-trending-blue-but-then-red-in-2016 state?

I looked up the study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (pdf), the study that the articles noting the blue-to-red money shift all seem to cite. It estimates that PA will lose $525 million in federal funding under the bill. That's a big number, but really blue states like NY and CA lose a lot more ($22 billion and $35 billion, respectively).

I wonder if the fact that he is robbing millions in health care dollars from his fellow Pennsylvanians will get our troglodyte senator Pat Toomey to actually oppose this bill? I'm guessing, no, and I'm guessing he will vote for it under the assumption that the $525 million is all coming from Philadelphia, where people already all hate him.

(No wonder he won't show his face in this town! Or, at least not since he accidentally came to Drinking Liberally years ago. But that was before he was a Senator).


Don't get me wrong, the Graham-Cassidy bill (aka Trumpcare 14.0) is a total disaster. But there is something amusing seeing John McCain, man of principle, the last honest Senator, etc. etc., who killed the last repeal and replace effort because the Senate didn't follow its normal procedures, wrestle with voting for this version of the bill, which also isn't being passed by the normal procedures, just because he happens to be good friends with Lindsay Graham, the main sponsor of the bill.

Friday, September 15, 2017

And yet they are keeping Sean Spicer

You can argue about whether Harvard should have ever offered a fellowship to Chelsea Manning in the first place, but caving into pressure and rescinding the offer is ridiculous.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

What McMaster should have done

He should have written several different versions of his anti-leak memo, each with a slight variation (e.g. one slightly different letter here, or different spacing there), so that every recipient gets a memo with a unique minor differcnce from everyone else's, while keeping the substance of the memo the same for everyone. Then when he distributes the memo, he would need to keep track of which version he gave to each person.

So then when the memo leaks, as it just did, he would be able to figure out whose copy of the memo was the one that got out. That person wouldn't necessarily be the leaker, but talking to the person who got the leaked memo would definitely be a strong first step in determining what happened.

Of course, this assumes a level of cleverness and organization that the Trump administration probably doesn't have.

My new trick for reading WaPo articles after I have read too many

Using Chrome: (1) right click on the link, (2) select "Open link in incognito window."

There doesn't seem to be any article limit in Chrome's incognito mode. Presumably this will also work in other browser's "private browsing" mode, whatever that browser calls it.

By the way, I really appreciate the suggestions I got in response to this post., particularly NB's emails.

Let the people decide

Values voters

The study recounted in this op ed piece is really remarkable. The key point:
Barber and Pope found that people who identified themselves as strong Republicans were among the most malleable voters. When told Trump had adopted a liberal stance, these voters moved decisively to the left; when told Trump had taken a conservative position, they moved sharply to the right, as the accompanying chart shows.
It would be interesting to see how far these "strong Republicans" are willing to follow Trump. I mean, if Trump ever did make some policy move to the left (like push for the DREAM Act, a tax reform package that really does raise taxes for the richest Americans or, much less likely than those unlikely possibilities, sign onto a single payer effort), would they follow along even if it meant watching their president stand next to a smiling Nancy Pelosi? Somehow I doubt it. But I would love to find out!

If it happens, I'll take it

I still think it is unlikely, but as I said before, it would be quite strange if Trump's only major legislative accomplishment ends up being a law to protect the rights of "illegal immigrants."

(Don't get me wrong, I would love it if this actually happens. Plus, it would be a blast to watch his alt-right supporters freak out when he signs that legislation.)