March 11, 2019

Crisis: Medicare-for-all, No Renewables, Zero Republican Votes, On The Printed Press, Neoliberals

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 11, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, March 11, 2019.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than three years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from March 11, 2019:
1. The Time for Medicare-for-All Has Arrived
2. Trump To Slash Renewables Funding in New Budget

3. Not Even One Republican Voted for Sweeping House Bill to Improve

4. Fall from Grace

5. Neoliberals Should Pass the Baton and Let the Left Lead 
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Time for Medicare-for-All Has Arrived

This article is by Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Last week, as the media focused on President Donald Trump’s North Korea summit in Vietnam and the congressional testimony of his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, a largely overlooked news conference took place, announcing legislation that could save millions of lives. Seattle Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal introduced the Medicare For All Act of 2019, the latest attempt to pass single-payer health care. Jayapal’s bill has 106 co-sponsors, close to half of the Democrats in the House.

Jayapal is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus in the House. Among the bill’s co-sponsors was Michigan Democrat Debbie Dingell. She replaced her late husband, John Dingell Jr., who was the longest serving member of Congress in history, holding the seat since 1955. John Dingell, who died in February at the age of 92, was a stalwart backer of single-payer health care, introducing legislation yearly during his 60-year tenure. He was inspired by his father, John Dingell Sr., who held that same congressional seat for the 18 years before his son. Dingell Sr. first proposed single-payer health care in 1943.

I say, which I do because I did not know anything about the Dingells, and I also did not know that single-payer health care was first proposed in 1943 (76 years ago) (!!).

Also, while I do not think that Jayapal´s bill will succeed before 2020, I agree with it. Here is some more:

With the new Congress this year, the most diverse in history, the 75-plus-year- long effort to secure universal health care may be at a tipping point. Whether or not it passes—considered unlikely with the Senate and White House under Republican control—single-payer health care will undoubtedly be a central issue in the 2020 presidential race.

“Is this a bold and ambitious plan? Damn straight it is, because it has to be,” Jayapal said as she announced the single-payer bill at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol, standing in the cold, surrounded by colleagues and supporters. “The scale of our health care crisis is enormous, and our plan has to tackle the deep sickness within our for-profit system. … If we can end slavery, if we can give women the right to vote, if we can send a man to the moon, then, God, we can do universal health care for every American.”

Yes, in principle I agree with everything. Here is some more, this time on Medicare:

Medicare, passed in 1965, is a single-payer national insurance program that pays medical costs for people age 65 and older. Poll after poll confirms its popularity. Simply expanding eligibility from age 65 and over to the day we are born would create a single-payer system comparable to those in most other industrialized countries in the world.

Yes indeed. Here is how this article ends:

After 75 years of debate, with health care costs spiraling out of control and the quality of medical care falling short of that in single-payer countries, the time is right for Medicare-for-all. It’s a matter of life and death.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Trump To Slash Renewables Funding in New Budget

This article is by the Common Dreams staff on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

A senior Trump administration official has told Bloomberg News that the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would see its $2.3 billion budget slashed by about 70 percent, to $700 million, under President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2020 budget request, which will be released on Monday.

Trump, who rejects the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding the climate crisis, has repeatedly vowed to zero out federal spending on clean energy research and development (R&D). Trump proposed similarly dramatic cuts to EERE’s budget in both his fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2019 proposals.

“It’s a shutdown budget,” said Mike Carr, who served as the No. 2 official within the division under President Barack Obama. “That’s apparently what they want to signal to their base -- they still want to shut these programs down,” Carr told Bloomberg.

Yes, I agree with Carr, and that also implies that Trump is actively anti-science.

Here is some more:

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year in grants and other financial assistance for clean energy, has financed research into technologies ranging from electric vehicles to energy projects powered by ocean waves. It has been credited with financing research to help make the cost of wind power competitive with coal and cutting the costs of LED lighting.

Conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation have called for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, to be eliminated entirely, saying energy innovation is best left up to the private sector.

I say, and this is a recommended article.

3. Not Even One Republican Voted for Sweeping House Bill to Improve Democracy

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Not a single House Republican voted for sweeping Democratic legislation that would strengthen voting rights and reduce the influence of corporate money on the political process.

The "For the People Act" (H.R. 1) passed on Friday by 234-193 party-line vote. All 193 no votes were by Republicans. Four Republicans did not vote.

"Protecting our democracy shouldn't be a partisan issue, but the Republican Party has decided it is unwilling to even consider reform despite virtually all Americans agreeing that our system is broken," Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement.

"Today's vote on H.R. 1 is a monumental step forward for our country that will hopefully lead to the people retaking control of our government from special interests, lobbyists, and billionaire donors," Pearl added. "It's also a shameful reminder that Republicans are pursuing political power for the few over the fundamental values that this country was founded on."

Yes, and I more or less agree with Pearl. Here is the position of the Republicans:

Even before the legislation passed the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowed that he would not take up the bill in the Senate.

"What it really is is a bill designed to make it more likely Democrats win more often," McConnell claimed during a press conference on Wednesday.

Asked why he will not bring the bill to the floor for a vote, McConnell replied, "Because I get to decide what we vote on."

And this is about the "For the People Act":

"Its enactment would remove the political barriers to the policy agenda favored by the public—slashing medicine prices, providing Medicare for All, preventing climate catastrophe, providing a living wage, holding Wall Street accountable, and more—an agenda currently thwarted by the political power of corporations and the superrich," Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said in a statement.

I agree - and the Republican McConnell ¨will not bring the bill to the floor¨ of the Senate, which means that it will certainly not become law before 2020.

Here is some more on
the "For the People Act":

A centerpiece of the House Democratic majority's agenda in the new Congress, H.R. 1 would—among other ambitious reforms—establish a small-donor matching system, strengthen financial disclosure requirements, institute automatic voter registration and early voting nationwide, make Election Day a federal holiday, and curb partisan gerrymandering.

I agree to all of the above and this is a recommended article.

4. Fall from Grace

This article is by Paul Starr on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows:

Since the early 2000s, journalism has been a precarious and embattled profession. The news industry has suffered staggering losses of revenue and employment, and journalists have become the targets of scorn and even hatred. The entire field has been politically reconfigured, as media outlets identified with different ideological positions provide their audiences with alternative versions of reality.

The profession’s fall from grace and the industry’s transformation have been all the more dramatic because of the advantages the news media enjoyed in the late twentieth century. Newspapers in most cities had consolidated down to one or two dailies, leaving the survivors with a near monopoly on print advertising in metropolitan markets. Although cable was making inroads, the three big broadcast networks still dominated television news. High-quality journalism itself was never very profitable in print or on TV, but it gave media organizations prestige and influence, and with their profits from advertising, they could afford it.

Yes, I take it this is mostly correct, and this is also a quite interesting and quite long article that is nominally a review of two book by journalists about their profession.

It is  certainly too long to be excerpted properly on Nederlog and I will not even try, but instead quote two more bits from the beginning, and the very ending, and will leave all of the rest to interested readers (who can find all here).

Here is the first bit:

The monopoly held by the major news media also had the effect of marginalizing radical views on both ends of the ideological spectrum, creating the appearance and to some extent the reality of a broad bipartisan consensus in public life. Bolstered by healthy profit margins, the press was also able to cast itself as uncompromised by any commercial or partisan interest. Journalists and publishers who lived up to that standard of independence in the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the revelation of the Watergate scandal, and other great exposÚs became heroes.

This was the world that today’s older journalists knew when they were young. It was a world that concentrated power and profits but also enabled the press, insofar as its leaders were willing, to keep watch on government and business.

Yes, I think that is more or less correct, and while I am not an ¨older journalist¨ for the simple reason that I am not and never was a journalist (I am academically a philosopher and a psychologist, and personally ill over 40 years with ME/CFS), I am certainly ¨older¨ at almost 69, and I can recall the days of Watergate etc. quite well.

Here is the second bit that I quote from the beginning of the article:

In the last few years, journalists who adhere to the profession’s norms have also had a revived sense of mission. Amid the torrent of lies from the highest reaches of government and disinformation on social media, journalism’s leaders are making unabashed claims that their business is “truth,” using that word without apology or qualification.

But because journalism has not been a lucrative business for some time, its ideals of truth-telling have become harder to uphold. The majority of digital ad revenue goes to Google, Facebook, and other companies that do not put it back into producing content; most newspapers no longer have the resources even for many of the routine stories they used to cover, much less for costly investigations. News organizations of all kinds are preoccupied with the new metrics of the digital economy and the old imperatives of revenue and profits.

Yes indeed, and I should add that I think that the days of the paper press are very probably past. And my reasons are that while I acknowledge that The New York Times still exists, and probably will continue to exist from another ten or twenty years, my reasons to think that the days of the paper press are very probably past are mainly the disappearance of the vast majority of the smaller papers, which disappeared for a sound economical motive: Lack of advertisements.

I think this will continue, which also is a basic reason that democracy probably will grow less and less (in so far as it still exists).

There is a whole lot more in the article that I skip and leave to my readers´ interests, but it ends as follows:

Yet the truth about our truth-seeking media, as Abramson’s book rightly emphasizes, is that they are also profit-seeking; our merchants of truth operate not only under journalistic norms but also under commercial constraints. When a publisher succeeds financially, as Sulzberger did, by protecting the quality of the news, we ought to celebrate that achievement as a victory for democracy itself. When an organization like BuzzFeed hunts down and exposes fabrications, that is a victory too. But when so much of journalism is at risk of disappearing and so many Americans inhabit a right-wing echo chamber, we ought to recognize that our country is in a crisis that strikes at its foundations.

Well... yes but mostly no: I agree that The New York Times and Buzzfeed score some successes (¨for democracy¨, as Starr says), I think these are small compared with the major disappearance of most of the paper press, which also means that I strongly agree with the very end of this article: ¨we ought to recognize that our country is in a crisis that strikes at its foundations¨. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Neoliberals Should Pass the Baton and Let the Left Lead

This article is by Mark Steiner on Naked Capitalism and originally on The Real News Network. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

MARC STEINER: (..) You know, when a leading neoliberal says it’s time for them to step back and build the lines of the left, because the left among Democrats are in the ascendancy, that past neoliberal, center-right coalitions with Republicans have not worked, and they have to try something different, it stops you in your tracks. Well, that’s exactly what Brad DeLong said, who is a UCal Berkeley economics professor, and was once the deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy under Clinton, and calls himself a Rubin Democrat; a dyed-in-the-wool Wall Street Democrat. During that interview with Vox, he also said: “The baton rightly passes to our colleagues on our left … We are still here, but it’s not our time to lead.”.

Our guest today, Real News contributor Bill Black, who is Associate Professor of Economics and Law at the University of Missouri Kansas City; former financial regulator; and author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One brought this to our attention. So welcome back, Bill, always good to talk with you.

I take it the above is correct, but did not know about DeLong. Also, to provide some background here are Wikipedia links to Brad DeLong and Bill Black. Also, I like Bill Black since quite a few years and did not know about DeLong.

Here is some more:

MARC STEINER: So this is–I tell you, I was really–when you sent this yesterday, and I read it yesterday evening, I was–I did have to stop in my tracks. I mean, the thesis of this idea, that the neoliberal way of kind of resolving the crisis inside of our economy, of trying to control capitalism and its worst tendencies is not working because it was a coalition of Republicans–to have him say that, say you have to move to your left, was pretty stunning.

BILL BLACK: Oh, yeah. And if you know him better, it’s even more stunning. Brad DeLong is a friend. He is one of the most prominent economists in the world, and he is one of the most read economists the world because of his famous blog, and his willingness to have a lively mind. And a lively tongue, as well, which is quite evident in this.

And he actually doesn’t say it’s time for us to form a coalition with the left. He says it’s time for us to step back and let the left lead. That’s what the baton reference is.

Well... I think I can understand why both Steiner and Black are somewhat amazed, but I should add that the Wikipedia article on DeLong says he is ¨the 746th influentual economist¨, which does not much impress me, indeed mostly because I think economics, which has at least three different basic ideas about what economics is and what it is about, all of which come with a considerable amount of economists, is not much of a real science, although it is partially mathematical.

Then again, this is my personal conviction based on reading a fair amount of economy and economists, and you need not agree.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

MARC STEINER: But what does that mean? What do you think that means, really?

BILL BLACK: Well, he actually says what it means. He says we are discredited. Our policies have failed. And they’ve failed because we’ve been conned by the Republicans. Our whole strategy was to form a consensus with some reasonable, moderately conservative Republicans. And there is no such thing. And as a result we kept on pushing farther and farther and farther to the right with our policies, so that we’re actually to the right of the Republican Party’s own representatives in Congress. And again, we’ve just basically been played by these folks. We have to stop doing that. The only legitimate entity in town is the left, the progressives. The progressives, he says, are wonderful people, whereas basically, he says, there isn’t a single elected Republican that has any integrity at the federal level. And we have to start anew.

He also says that the progressive view of the world p[r]oved to be much more true than the neoliberal. He calls himself the neoliberal shill. And in his column, he says the left’s view of the world is much more accurate than our view of the world proved to be.

I like it that Bill Black seems fairly enthusiastic, but I do not understand his ¨we¨s, and besides, my own guess is that DeLong is probably not important enough in economics to have a strong influence, but I may be mistaken. And this is a recommended article.

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 3 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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