The Swamp

I decided to put all of my “controversial” writings (ie. politics) on this blog from now on. I’ve been fairly idle with political commentary for years but I was inspired to start up again, as you might guess, by the election of Donald Trump. There was such an incredible explosion of fear, outrage, and yes, gloating, that I just had to start writing again. My feelings about politics in a nutshell is that everyone is wrong about everything.

Virginia Primaries

Time for an incredibly late recap of the Virginia primaries! This didn’t get nearly as much national attention as the Georgia 6th District Special Election, but Virginia held their primaries for governor and lieutenant governor on Tuesday, June 13th.

The winners were:

Governor:<br/>Ed Gillespie (R)<br/>Ralph Northram (D)

Lt. Governor:<br/>Jill Vogel (R)<br/>Justin Fairfax (D)

At this moment I don’t know if there are any third party candidates and I don’t know who is running for Attorney General.

The "story" of the primary is that Gillespie only beat Corey Stewart–the unabashedly Trumpist, Confederate statue-loving Republican candidate–by less than 5,000 votes or just over 1%, despite raising 1/5th of the amount of money and trailing significantly in the polls.

Stewart took his loss gracefully, vowing to support Gilespie for governor and bring unity to Virginia Republicans. Just kidding! Of *course* Stewart whined like a little school boy about his loss and threw "Establishment Ed" under the bus as much as he could legally get away with.

Stewart was such an offensive brat of a candidate that I went out of my way to vote for Gillespie, even though I don’t particularly care for him either. So yes, you have people like me to thank for Stewart being out of the race. You’re welcome.

Then I heard Stewart was considering running against Tim Kaine for Senate in 2018. \*headdesk\* https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/republican-corey-stewart-is-eyeing-senate-run-against-tim-kaine-in-2018/2017/06/14/dc361992-5143-11e7-91eb-9611861a988f_story.html

I didn’t follow the Democratic side of the primary very closely, between Northram and Periello, so I don’t have anything to say about that. I have heard it said that Northram was the more Clinton-like candidate and Periello was the more Sanders-like candidate, which, if true, would make me happy to see that the more centrist candidate won. But I’m sure it’s not as simple as that.

It’s interesting (and a little scary) that *both* parties are split right down the middle these days. Democrats and Republicans both have an establishment (moderate) wing and a more radical, "insurgent" wing fighting each other for control of their respective party. If only we lived in a country where two new major parties could form.

At this moment I don’t know who I might vote for. With Stewart out, it doesn’t matter that much to me.

Defining Single-Payer

I finally looked up what "single-payer healthcare" means. I’ve seen this term "single-payer" bandied around in the healthcare debate for years but I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around what it meant in the context of these debates.

I’ve always assumed that it was a debate over how to implement health insurance. Thus I’ve never really cared that much about it, because it felt like an "inside baseball" topic.

But in fact "single-payer healthcare" is a system that *doesn’t use insurance at all.* According to Wikipedia, it’s a system where someone else (ie. the government) pays for all of your healthcare costs.

This is in contrast with a "multi-payer" system, where you buy healthcare insurance and the insurance companies pay for your healthcare costs.

Lightbulb!

Finally this explains to me why it has been such a bitter partisan issue whenever this "single-payer" term comes up.

Obviously, Republicans are going to oppose a single-payer system, because it sounds suspiciously like the dreaded -isms of socialism and communism.

Now that I have a new understanding of this concept, what do I think? I’m fairly ambivalent about it. It boils down to what I want my tax dollars to buy, and I rarely even think about my tax dollars. My tax dollars aren’t in my bank account so they are dead to me.

I guess it would be nice if the government would cover basic healthcare costs, but I’d also like to have the option to pay more for better service, because you *know* government services will be terrible.

Behind The Tweet: Twitter Suspends RC Cola

I saw a retweet complaining: “Twitter suspended the RC Cola twitter account over this tweet yet racists and other Rubes can post anything!” It got my attention because, like the retweeter, I too thought that sounded awfully hypocritical.

But *unlike* the retweeter, I decided to dig a little deeper to find out more, because it didn’t quite sound right. It didn’t pass the “smell test” so to speak. It doesn’t make sense that Twitter would shut down the account of a major brand just for mentioning covfefe.

It turns out that the RC Cola account in question was in fact a fake “parody” account and not in any way affiliated with the real RC Cola, which is owned by Dr. Pepper Snapple.

The account was only suspended because (presumably) the covfefe tweet happened to be the one that got enough publicity to bring the account to the attention of the Dr. Pepper Snapple corporate overlords, which stepped in to put a halt to the rather obvious trademark infringement.

The reason that Twitter doesn’t deactivate racists, etc. has nothing to do with ethics or politics, it’s simply that the racists don’t violate trademarks.

Also, incidentally, Twitter has no obligation to stop racist tweets, and their rules specifically “ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs.” We might not like it, but racism falls under “diverse opinions and beliefs.” Only “violent threats” would prompt Twitter to take action. (So for example Bender could tweet “Humans are dumb meatbags” all day long, but he might get in trouble for saying, “Kill all humans.”)

Behind The Tweet: Constant Diet

Here’s a sequence of tweets that caused me to snort with laughter:

This, of course, is related to the news of Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte “allegedly” assaulting a reporter.

@Stonekettle’s tweet is not wrong, but I’m sure you can guess what made me laugh: Liberals have been glutting themselves on “a constant diet of propaganda and conspiracy theories” for months now!

And before I get stoned to death because the Internet hates people who aren’t 100% on board the anti-Trump train, I need to reiterate that sure, there are things to be concerned about with the Trump administration, as there are with all presidential administrations, but I still don’t see any indication that American democracy is in any danger. There is still going to be an election in 2020. Frankly, in concrete, practical terms, I haven’t seen where Trump has *done* much of anything except stumble from one awkward media circus to another. (With the lone exception of Justice Gorsuch.)

For example, I have yet to see any internment camps. Remember after the election when liberals were afraid of internment camps? Actual, literal internment camps. They weren’t exaggerating about that. They really were afraid of internment camps. Either that, or they were intentionally spreading fear and propaganda. It can only be one or the other.

That’s what really irritates me about having to watch politics today. The sheer number of people who will exploit and prey on those who are genuinely afraid about current events (on either side). And there are so many more of them than folks like me who just want to poke some holes in everyone’s bubbles.

The American Health Care Act, Part Deux

There is a lot of consternation about today’s House vote on H.R. 1628, the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Back in April (I think?), Republicans pulled the bill before voting because they didn’t have enough votes, and the world rejoiced. This time, the rumor mill says that it might pass by as little as 1 vote. Activists have been out in force imploring people to call their Representatives.

Update: H.R. 1628 passed 217-213, with 20 Republicans voting no, and 1 Republican not voting. (All Democrats voted no.) The bill now has to go to the Senate where it will undoubtedly undergo further changes, then it goes back to the House to approve the Senate changes.

Incidentally, in case anyone feels like blaming me in any way, my Representative in VA-04 is a Democrat. I think I was recently “gerrymandered” from a solid-R district (VA-07) to a mostly-D district (VA-04), but I’m not completely sure. All I know is that for most of my adult life I’ve been in VA-07 but this last time I was in VA-04, and while I *did* move in 2016 I didn’t think it was *that* far.

Amazingly enough, VA-07’s Tea Party Conservative Dave Brat actually voted *for* H.R. 1628! His constituents will probably be mad about that.

For those in despair, I would reiterate that this thing still has to pass the Senate, and then it has to go back to the House, a rather bumpy and uncertain road to travel.

I wrote the following when the bill failed last time but never published it. It still captures my generally ambivalent thoughts fairly well.

Last week House Republicans pulled the AHCA bill (“Trumpcare” or “Obamacare Lite” or “AHCA” depending on your flavor of politics) from the floor to avoid watching it publicly go down in flames. Most of the people in my circles celebrated, though they are in the uncomfortable position of having to thank conservative Republicans for saving healthcare.

I don’t know anything about healthcare or insurance, so I literally have no idea what to say about this issue. Most of the terminology used to discuss healthcare and insurance goes right over my head. I don’t even *want* to understand it. I just want to be able to go to a doctor, get whatever appropriate prescription, and hand them my credit card for services rendered. (I know, I know, this is an incredibly naive viewpoint.)

However, despite my ignorance of the details, I’m reasonably convinced that the ACA (“Obamacare”) is, in fact, “collapsing.” I don’t understand exactly what “collapsing” means in real terms but I’ve read plenty of trusted sources that agree it’s getting worse, not better. (Aetna just announced they are leaving Virginia’s market.)

The point is that celebrating over Republicans’ inability to “repeal and replace” (laughable political double-speak for “modify”) Obamacare is a bit premature. I’m not saying I think the Republican plan is good, bad, or indifferent, but there’s a good chance it was better than nothing, and “nothing” is probably where we’re headed if nobody does anything.

Now I’m under no illusions personally that it is entirely the fault of Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans, that Obamacare is failing. They had seven years to compromise and make it more sustainable and chose not to. Now they’ve scuttled *their own party’s* plans to make it more sustainable. Conservatives literally believe “nothing” is better for the country.

Ethics of affordable healthcare aside, the important question now is who will Americans blame when Obamacare dies and everyone loses their healthcare? Clearly it depends on *when* it dies. If it dies while Trump is in office and Republicans control both houses of Congress, it seems likely people will (correctly) blame Republicans. This is why we saw Trump making the amusing statement after the bill had been pulled, “Democrats now fully own Obamacare.” He and every reasonable Republican knows damn well that they will be blamed if it fails during their tenure, so they have a lot of propaganda work to do to shift the blame.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Republicans try to sneak in some little tweaks to Obamacare to prolong it beyond a Trump administration. Which might not be a bad thing. Maybe that’s the only way to compromise in Washington now. Not to make our country better, but to screw over the other party.

Behind The Tweet: Crucify Him

Tonight, on a Very Special Episode of Behind The Tweet, we look into one of *my* tweets.

I’m sure everyone’s heard about the Sean Spicer Incident of 4/11/2017, the one where the press secretary mistakenly tried to compare Syrian dictator Assad to Hitler. I listened to snippets of it, and it’s very clear to me what he was *trying* to say, it’s just that he got tongue-tied, because he was aware that he had suddenly stumbled onto dangerous ground, and his attempts to extricate himself came out really badly. (Seriously, who *wouldn’t* be alarmed if they accidentally started talking about Hitler?) He apologized and corrected his remarks immediately after the press conference, from what I understand.

Of course, the left saw an opportunity and pounced, because in the modern political world, the best way to win a debate is to get your opponent fired. Wait. I’m getting sarcastic already. Let’s reign it in.

I completely agree that Spicer’s remarks were awkward, inappropriate, and factually incorrect.

That’s the end of what I’ll agree with.

I’m not Jewish, nor do I know anyone who is Jewish (at least nobody who has admitted it–but it’s not like people walk up to you and say, “Hi! I’m Jewish! How are you?”), but I certainly didn’t think his remarks were *offensive.*

Before we go any farther, let’s make sure we don’t forget that Syrian dictator Assad is a monster who is directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of quite a few people in Syria (I don’t know the exact figures and don’t even want to speculate, but I’m sure you can find out if you want). That should not be forgotten.

Over the course of Tuesday afternoon, I saw more and more people on Twitter responding to the Spicer remarks. I have three different Twitter accounts which I use to follow news and politics, authors, and gamers, respectively. Authors and gamers I follow tend to have a leftward political leaning, to put it mildly. Actually the majority of people I follow across all my accounts tend to lean leftward. I think the general population on the Internet trends toward the left (but that’s changing). I’ve had to work to find opposing viewpoints on Twitter.

My politics is closer to the center. Socially I go a bit center-left, and with fiscal stuff and foreign policy I go a bit center-right. So you can probably guess where this is going.

The authors and literary agents I follow tend to be in genre fiction, and to say that they are far left liberals is an understatement. I wasn’t aware of just how far left they were until the election, when they immediately started spreading information about setting up Tor and encrypted communications channels because they were apparently afraid they would all be immediately hunted down and killed. (I am not joking about the Tor thing, but I am speculating about them thinking they’d be hunted down.) I chalked it up to authors having vivid imaginations, and still do. Dystopian futures are big in genre fiction, after all. I don’t even blame them for wanting to have encrypted communications channels–I have enough Libertarian in me to believe it’s a great idea to be able to communicate without the government being able to eavesdrop. (I believe it was a gross overreaction to the real facts of the election, though, and a great example of mass hysteria in action, a phenomenon I have trouble grasping unless I see it.)

I saw more and more tweets coming in responding to the Spicer remarks. A lot of people were upset about his comments. I considered most of those tweets to be the “fake outrage” that we associate with modern political opposition. (Some people no doubt are genuinely outraged by events, but it’s easy to lose sight of them amid the torrents of fake/propaganda outrage.) Many tweets were memes, meant to be funny. All the “hold my beer” tweets, etc. I don’t mind those.

But then, toward late afternoon, I saw a tweet from a literary agent I follow who had come to the conclusion that because of Spicer’s remarks, he had revealed himself to be a Holocaust Denier. This was not a “meme” tweet making a joke. This was a dead serious tweet.

That was the last straw. That’s too far.

I’m a believer in defending the rights of people, even politicians, to make mistakes. By which I mean that I don’t believe someone should be crucified, so to speak, just for making a mistake. Somewhere around 2006 I saw the term “gotcha politics,” which was what it was called to end someone’s political career after catching them saying something inappropriate on tape. (I first witnessed this with George Allen’s famous “macaca” incident here in Virginia.) Basically it’s a shortcut way to win a political argument without having to use facts and logic. It’s abhorrant. It has no place in intelligent discourse. But we live in a media-obsessed society that caters to the lowest-common denominator, and political consultants will do anything to win. The press is also fond of gotcha politics now, particularly since the election. I’m very cynical about the press and politics, by the way.

The point is: Spicer made a mistake, he apologized. That’s what humans are supposed to do. He acknowledged his mistake and tried to atone. He followed all the social contract rules. But it’s not enough, apparently. He. Must. Be. Fired.

But here’s what I just don’t understand. The far left is so consumed with their need to “win” a battle against Trump that they haven’t thought through the long-term implications of replacing Spicer. I’m not a huge fan of Trump. He makes me nervous. The last thing we as a country need right now is a smooth-talking, convincing press secretary. Usually, press secretaries charm the pants off of the White House press corp and print whatever the president wants. This is the first time I can remember seeing a press corp that actually challenges the press secretary, and that’s a great thing. *Especially* with President Trump, the great question mark, in the White House. Why would anyone want to change that?

Now, finally, I want to get to the biting tweet that I wrote yesterday evening with all of those thoughts swirling in my mind. That agent’s tweet about the Holocaust Denial pushed me to the point where I felt compelled to put my 2 cents into the debate. I usually tweet on my @endgameviable account, because it happens to be where I have the most followers, and where I “fit in” the most. Except when it comes to politics. I try not to say too much about politics there, because frankly most of my followers are liberals who probably don’t want to see anything outside their bubble. I put most of my centrist political quips on my real name Twitter feed. But in this case I thought that was the audience that needed to hear some pushback. Groupthink drives me crazy. Political satire is important for society to hear, especially when it goes against conventional wisdom. I want everyone to think about every issue carefully, weigh all the facts from every side, and come to their own conclusion. I know it’s not always possible to do that, but that’s the ideal every citizen of democracy should strive toward.

Here’s what I wrote:

I thought about that wording for a long time. I started out with something much harsher. I kept softening it and softening it. I wanted it to be funny, esoteric, satiric, and biting. The best comedy makes people uncomfortable and makes them think. (I’m a big fan of George Carlin.) I wanted people to stop and think about it, and try to figure out what it meant.

I got zero reaction so I assume nobody did that. 🙂 It probably just came across as, “What the heck is that? Is he actually *defending* a Holocaust Denier??”

No, I’m not defending a Holocaust Denier. I would never do that. (Except that I think people should be free to practice whatever idiocy they want as long as it doesn’t hurt me.) Spicer is not a Holocaust Denier so it’s a moot point.

No, I’m not making fun of Christianity. I grew up Episcopalian, and for most of my life I’ve been involved in church music. (That’s mostly behind me now.) So I know all about Maundy Thursday and the Passion and that dramatic moment when Pilate asks what should they do with Jesus, and the crowd shouts, “Crucify him!” Maundy Thursday is one of the most powerful Episocopal services of the year, if you’ve never been.

It just struck me that, since it’s Holy Week, the left’s insistence that Spicer be fired is a very similar situation to the crowds shouting “Crucify him!” on Maundy Thursday, that’s all.

No, I’m not comparing Sean Spicer to Jesus, the Son of God. The only similarity is that they were both on trial in the court of public opinion.

No, I’m not making any kind of comment on Jews, Jewish Faith, the Holocaust, or anything of that nature. I’m aware that it could be perceived as anti-Semitic to make a disparaging remark about the crowds who called for Jesus’ crucifiction. Frankly that’s the only reason I’m explaining my tweet here. , But obviously that’s not my intent. I happen to be in the camp of people who think that the left has become far, far too sensitive about “political correctness.” To the point that I have to write this disclaimer when it shouldn’t be necessary.

The only thing I was trying to say with my tweet was: Nobody wants to live in a world where saying one dumb thing can ruin your career or your life. He who is without sin etc. etc.

Behind the Tweet: Possibility of New Election

It’s time for another episode of Behind The Tweet. This time, another “rogue” account:

“GOP worried if they press Rus-Pres ties & impeach, possibility of new election could occur; smartest play for dems – promise no redo.” – @RogueSNRadvisor

If you still held any lingering doubts about whether these rogue accounts were fake, this should seal it for you.

Either it’s fake, or senior White House advisers are dumb as rocks, which would be even more alarming.

Hopefully I don’t have to explain why this made me laugh out loud, but in case you aren’t aware of how things work in the U. S., the Constitution, the Presidential Succession Act, and the 25th Amendment spells out quite clearly what happens when a president is impeached. Or more precisely, who takes over after a president stops serving.

There is no possibility of a new election. Until 2020.

Vice President Mike Pence will become president if Donald Trump is impeached. (It’s possible, but I think the chances are still slim at this point.)

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will become president if both Donald Trump and Mike Pence are impeached simultaneously. (A very highly unlikely possibility.)

I’m not entirely sure how a new vice president is selected in either of those cases, but I’m sure it’s spelled out somewhere.

The point is: Whoever wrote that tweet is spreading lies and misinformation, essentially trolling liberals.

On Sally Yates

From old drafts, c. January 31, finally remembering to post:

Regarding the firing of Sally Yates as temporary Attorney General: I don’t like the ugliness of it, but Trump is well within his rights to fire her or anyone else who refuses to carry out his directives.

He could have done it gracefully or like a big old meanie, and of course he chose the latter, sounding very much like a tyrannical dictator in his statement. The clear intention is, “You will be loyal to me or you will be fired.” He’s trying to run the federal government like a private corporation.

Anyway, the real mistake that Yates made was being *publicly* disloyal. No administration would tolerate that.

In the larger picture, I’m a little concerned about whole swaths of people in government suddenly trying to defy the president and getting fired. Most of the government is run by an assortment of bi-partisan folks. If all the leftward-leaning partisan folks get fired, it leaves only rightward-leaning partisan folks, and suddenly the everyday workings of the government take a huge swing over to the right wing. That’ll be great for Trump, but possibly not so great for whoever follows him. (Yes, someone else will follow him.)

Piers Morgan Demonstrates Centrism In America

On Real Time with Bill Maher, Piers Morgan did an excellent job of demonstrating what it’s like to be a centrist white guy in America right now. The above clip is just one example.

Say something completely reasonable and true? Get shouted down, because it doesn’t fit the left’s current narrative that the world is ending. And because it comes from a white guy, the opinion is automatically invalid (because the narrative is that of course white guys don’t get it because Trump’s agenda won’t hurt white guys).

I don’t agree with the travel ban but calling it a “Muslim ban” is 100% propaganda. Even calling it a “travel ban” is a bit broad.