Earth Matters

Economists don’t bother to calculate the value of a habitable planet when they model the economy. That’s because an uninhabitable planet makes all production and other economic values drop to zero, and the value of habitability is therefore invaluable, like the laws of physics, or the existence of mathematics.

With every passing year, we see the consequences of climate change. We still have not taken the necessary steps to deal with it. As November’s midterms approach, one wonders how an augmented reality election would work. One could see the future that they are voting for displayed in the voting booth. In places like Miami, Florida, certain candidates’ realities might be a city abandoned to the ocean.

But we don’t have future-vision technology. We have to rely on public reports of the science and the meaning and what candidates say and whom they align with. There is guesswork. But the Republican Party has made it clear that they do not stand for or with the planet. They do not take the question of habitability seriously. They take earth for granted. They believe it will always be habitable and that people will just have to suck it up and die if their area is flooded or poisoned.

They certainly don’t believe that people whose homes are uninhabitable have a right to cross imaginary lines in violation of laws. If your crops wither and your soil turns to dust, that’s your problem (unless you’re their constituent, in which case, welfare).


The risk of all of earth becoming uninhabitable is low. The risk for parts of earth, currently inhabited, becoming lost, is a certainty. The longer that Republican policies remain in effect, that we do not take real action on climate change, the worse the consequences will be.

The Republican Party is free to abandon their broken thinking any time they want. They can choose to support the planet we need to survive. They should take the chance to do it before the public opinion climate changes on them, permanently.

Trends in GOP Policy (or the Lack Thereof)

On healthcare: work against it. Criticize any Democratic efforts to enact sane policy. On the environment: work against it. Criticize any Democratic efforts to enact sane policy. On taxes and IRS funding. On immigration. On trade. On housing. On transportation.

The Party of No is alive and unwell. And in power.

It’s hard to understand how folks support a policy vacuum. It wouldn’t be hard to understand if they simply had an alternative, but they have no policy on areas that matter to everyone.

Healthcare

Their work to-date has been to undermine the ACA (failed repeals ad nauseum, cutting advertising, cutting the enrollment period, cutting navigator funding, zeroing the individual mandate penalty), block Medicaid expansion, add work requirements, and expand scam insurance.

While they have put out policy papers in the past, outlining plans for market-driven healthcare, they’ve never made any real effort to enact them.

Take two doses of stupid policy, then elect Democrats when you realize the Republicans screwed it all up.

Environment

Their work to-date has been rolling back regulations that make the air and water cleaner. They want to undo the already-late update to vehicle fuel efficiency (and one is sure that they’ll not take increased traffic accidents into account when they approve oil leases and seek to keep gas prices low). They have no plans for enacting carbon taxes. They have no plans for what to do when the oceans rise, the aquifers dry up, the storms grow, the crops die.

Best I can tell, they don’t even bother with policy papers here.

Taxes

Cut, cut cut, cut cut cut, cut × 4, × 5, …

Their revenue policy is something out of a drug den. “Just need one more tax cut to clear my head, then I’ll actually accomplish something,” says the drooling, stupified Republican congressional caucus.

Again, no real policy papers. Just enough wishful thinking to fill a thousand fountains with pennies.

Immigration

Get rid of it. Under Trump, this apparently includes trade and tourism, too.

Some Republicans still support some types of immigration, but they don’t agree on which, and the end result is complete paralysis.


Once upon a time, there was a conservative party that shared policy goals with the country. They differed in the way to get there, but that was okay. We can all agree that we want pizza, but disagree on toppings.

Over time, they splintered until some in their caucus outright denied that eating was even necessary. They denied that pizza was a food.

At some point, the people are hungry. They’ll vote for Democrats that will serve them pizza with anchovies and pineapple and gummi bears if it means they get fed. The GOP really needs to stop simply criticizing every Democratic policy goal as impractical and too expensive. They need to get back to arguing about toppings.

If Everyone had to Buy Their Own Roads

The issue of healthcare continues to be politically potent, owing mostly to the fact that Republicans continue to politicize it while Democrats continue to push for universal healthcare.

The current healthcare system has five main insurance components:

  1. Employer-provided insurance (including government employees) ~50%
  2. Private insurance (purchased by the consumer) ~7%
  3. Medicare ~14%
  4. Medicaid ~20%
  5. Uninsured ~9%

One can imagine a society where everybody has to buy their own roads more directly, rather than having the government work it out. Employers, needing to have employees get to work, needing to ship goods, would form group plans where various roads would be available to employees and the company.

One can imagine that older folks, no longer working, would be subsidized in their road access by the government. Some private plans would be available for freelancers. Eventually, the poor might get some access to roads.

And then you would have the roadless. Folks that maybe had a single road to work, but their employer doesn’t need broad transportation, and has few employees, so the road options for those people are limited.


And maybe, if you don’t belong to a road access plan, you could still use a road. But they would charge you more. You’re extra traffic not accounted for in the planning and budgeting. You aren’t one of a hundred cars in a group that uses the road, so you don’t get a bulk-traffic discount.

And maybe, if you don’t belong to a road access plan, you can’t use some roads. They’re built for the members. The members don’t want you slowing them down. You’re excluded entirely. You can use the dirt paths, only. You’ll still get there, covered in dust and smelling like it.


Americans love the open road (it’s even called the open road). They love their cars. They would never stand for limitations on their ability to cruise. We should not stand for it for healthcare.

The friction that would be caused by having to have special maps to figure out which roads you could use, filling out forms at intersections, constantly worrying about making a wrong turn, are mirrored in the healthcare system where Americans are constantly dealing with red tape from provider networks, drug coverage conundrums, and claims processes.

It’s long past time to open American healthcare.

It’s about 14 weeks until the midterm elections.

The Cult Leader went to Helsinki

There was an immediate result of the summit last Monday in Finland: both sides of the aisle, for once, agreed that President Trump’s choice to side with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin was contrary to the interests of the United States of America.

The administration spent the rest of the week shuffling the Three-card Monte, hoping to trick the public into accepting the original statement.

But that was always going to be the result. It was the result the last time they met and on every other occasion that Mister Trump has spoken of the illegal Russian Federation’s interference in America’s elections.

The same week, we learned of the arrest and indictment of Mariia Butina, a Russian Federation national that is charged with using the National Rifle Association as a vehicle to illegally peddle Russian Federation interests and influence.

It was the perfect choice, a perfect vehicle. Take something that conservatives love (guns), add some fur trimmings and some random Cyrillic letters, and Vlad’s your uncle. Suddenly Republicans want to stand in line for bread. It also delineates the NRA as a particular vulnerability for the Republicans. There does not seem to be anything comparable for the Democrats.

But the main question of the day is whether the summit could have gone otherwise. Or could the NRA have decided not to accept infiltration. The question is whether the conservative movement cares so much about victory that they no longer care about anything (including victory).

Earlier examples of this phenomena include McConnell’s refusal to entertain the Garland nomination, the Republican refusal to work with Democrats in creating the Affordable Care Act, and the complete lack of congressional action by Republicans on cyber defenses following the 2016 attacks.

The modern Republican Party does not care about winning. They care about believing they won. The difference is real, and is another brick in the wall of rejecting reality. There are historical records of cult behaviors, and the bulk of Republican voters seem to suffer from the disease of cultism. The politicians, apparently and behind closed doors, acknowledge reality. But they feel powerless over their cultified constituents.

The only real answer to a cult is let the shock of reality wash over the members that don’t drink enough of the Flavor Aid, don’t catch a ride on Hale-Bopp, who are willing to feel the truth of the Great Disappointment. Many who will vote in November hope to deliver a cold splash of water to the cultists. But we must remain aware that we could as easily become enamored with a siren’s song of perpetual correctness and righteous delusions of infallibility. Cultism happened to strike these voters for reasons that psychologists will hopefully tease out before it happens again, but it will strike others from time to time.

Some Supreme Court Term Stats

  1. Gorsuch recently surpassed James F. Byrnes’ tenure of 452 days on the court, but has a ways to go before he catches up with John Rutledge’s 563 days (26 October 2018).
  2. Thomas will become the longest sitting justice after Kennedy retires (effective end of July 2018). To score the all-time sittingest justice (held by William Douglas) he would have to remain for another ~3600 days (20 May 2028).
  3. We can call the court “old” or “young” based on whether a majority of justices have sat longer than the median (5740 days) justice sat. The court is currently “young,” and will become slightly younger with Kennedy being replaced.
  4. Assuming no other changes to the court, it will become “old” on 20 October 2021, when Alito will have sat longer than the median.
  5. The current court has three sets of “twin justices”—justices who joined the court within about a year of one another: Ginsburg and Breyer (1993, 1994); Robert and Alito (2005, 2006); and Sotomayor and Kagan (2009, 2010). (Thomas was a twin with Souter, but the latter has left the court.)
  6. Looking at “twins” from 1950 on, the average difference between their departures is around 20 years. It’s likely either Gorsuch or Kennedy’s replacement will leave the court at least a decade before the other.
  7. Since 1950, the longest stretch without a seating was 4075 days (1994-2005). That drought was the second longest (longest was 1812-1823, 4228 days). To break the record would put the next seating sometime in 2030.

Kennedy’s replacement will likely shift the direction of the court. The new court could imperil long-standing and important matters including voting rights, women’s rights, healthcare, immigration, and even the ability of the government to fight public corruption.

But a shift in power tends to be balanced in other ways. As the court moves right (as seems likely), it will begin to face cases on new laws drafted by an increasingly liberal legislature. It will also face briefs that employ its old rulings in new ways.

In short, the Republican dream of a far-right activist court will cost them seats in Congress and will ultimately cause the people to push for legislative and constitutional remedies to any bad decisions that come forth.