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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Saturday Soother – August 10, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Milky Way from the summit of Mt. Katahdin, ME – 2019 photo by aryeh95

Wrongo wants to provide some background to how Hong Kong (HK) went from being a UK colony to being a part of China. If you watch the news, you know that Hong Long’s anti-extradition protests are now in their third month. They are ostensibly directed at the HK administration, but they’re also aimed at the Chinese government in Beijing.

And the conflict appears to be escalating.

The Hong Kong — Mainland conflict partly reflects a huge gap in national identity. Frank Chung in a piece in Ejinsight, says it can be explained in part by how the nationality of most people in Hong Kong was changed in 1997 from British to Chinese: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“From China’s standpoint, Hong Kong had always been Chinese soil. Through 150 years of British rule, its people remained Chinese, regardless of British law. This fitted nicely with Britain’s policy, which was to see to it that the millions of Chinese “British citizens” in Hong Kong could not move to the United Kingdom. Nationality and immigration laws were changed.

Britain created a new category of citizens, called British Dependent Territory Citizens, in the 1980s. This transformed United Kingdom citizens into Hong Kong citizens. When Hong Kong was no longer a British dependent territory, yet another new category was created, British National (Overseas). The holder has no right to live in Britain and the citizenship cannot be passed on to the next generation.

China, too, changed its nationality law to deal with Hong Kong. The Standing Committee of its National People’s Congress in 1996 – the year before the handover – issued “Explanations” of how China’s Nationality Law would be applied in Hong Kong. That is to say, the law would mean different things in different parts of the country, a highly unusual legal situation.

The “Explanations” introduce a concept missing in the nationality law itself, that of “Chinese descent.” Thus, any Hong Kong resident of Chinese descent who was born in Hong Kong or China is a Chinese national, regardless of whether he possesses Canadian, Australian, British or other nationality. That means people who were foreign nationals were transformed into Chinese nationals in 1997.”

This was how China and the UK cooperated to facilitate the transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997. Both wanted the people as well as the territory to be transferred wholesale. The millions of people in Hong Kong were considered nothing but chattel in the transfer.

And so it goes today.

China has all the leverage in the current test of wills. Their concern is not to let the HK demonstrations “infect” any cities on the mainland. And with the growth of the Chinese economy, HK’s leverage is steadily decreasing, as other Chinese cities surpass it economically, and trade directly with the rest of the world, a function that HK used to perform.

Two ways of looking at the current situation: One, HK’s not as important, and there’s little it can do to deflect Beijing’s control. Two, if Beijing doesn’t crack down, it will be seen as a weakness, rather than the wisdom of a mature nation.

Either way, the big advantage of authoritarian regimes is that they have fewer constraints. China historically has walked a line between centralized authority and provincial power. Centralized power will always win.

On to the weekend, it’s time for our Saturday Soother! With all the mass shootings news, and Trump trying to keep in the forefront of the same news cycle, our heads are spinning. We need to kick back and forget everything but how to kill crabgrass, and an AR-15 won’t help with that.

Start by brewing up a mug of Kenya Handege coffee ($19/12 oz.) from Austin TX-based Greater Goods Roasters. They say it is very sweet, tart, and rich. Now settle back near a large window and listen to Mary Gauthier perform her 2005 composition “Mercy Now” at the 2010 Americana Music Festival in Nashville, TN:

Given what El Paso and Dayton are going through, Gauthier’s poignant and direct message should resonate with all of us. Wrongo knows that you rarely click through and listen to the music, but today, it is really worth your while to listen.

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Team Mitch and Free Speech

The Daily Escape:

The Long Leg, 1935 – painting by Edward Hopper

(Blogging may be limited for the next week as Wrongo and Ms. Right spend time in Maine.)

Mitch McConnell’s “Team Mitch” thought they were being clever by posting a video of a few extreme comments by an otherwise generally peaceful crowd of protesters outside his home yesterday. Twitter didn’t like it, so @TeamMitch was put into Twitter jail. From the Lexington Courier-Journal:

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign has been thrown in Twitter jail. After sharing a video of a profanity-laced protest outside of the Kentucky Republican’s home in Louisville, the campaign Twitter account, Team Mitch, has been locked out.”

This was the second time in days that TeamMitch overreached. On Monday, they posted a picture of men in TeamMitch tee shirts groping a poster of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Here’s the picture:

The picture was posted on Facebook and then shared on Twitter.

The response by the Trump regime was swift. By Wednesday, the White House was warning that it is looking at an executive order regulating Twitter’s and the industry’s free speech:

“The White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order that would address allegations of anti-conservative bias by social media companies, according to a White House official and two other people familiar with the matter — a month after President Donald Trump pledged to explore ’all regulatory and legislative solutions’ on the issue.”

Apparently, none of the three WH aides would describe the contents of the order, but its existence and the deliberations surrounding it, show that the administration is taking a serious look at attempting to limit Silicon Valley’s free speech. More from Politico:

“If the internet is going to be presented as this egalitarian platform and most of Twitter is liberal cesspools of venom, then at least the president wants some fairness in the system, the White House official said. But look, we also think that social media plays a vital role. They have a vital role and an increasing responsibility to the culture that has helped make them so profitable and so prominent.”

More:

“The President announced at this month’s social media summit that we were going to address this and the administration is exploring all policy solutions, a second White House official said Wednesday when asked about the draft order.”

The order is not expected to be issued imminently.

On the surface, this may be a bluff. It is difficult to believe that even the Roberts Court would allow the government to limit the free speech rights of a corporation, particularly after the Citizens United decision. But the social media companies can’t be looking forward to an expensive, drawn-out court fight. Then again, if Twitter has the balls to actually apply the rules to Mitch McConnell, it might also apply them to Trump, and he would never allow that to happen.

This brings to mind our political double standard, the things that you just can’t do to Republicans:

– Repeat their own words back to them
– Cite empirical evidence, scientific evidence, or facts
– Point out hypocrisies
– Call them names (you know, like RACIST)
– Compare actual religious teachings to their bad behavior
– Suggest they’re not the fastest tractors on the farm
– Publicly disclose public information about which putrid candidate they publicly donated money to

(This last one was on full display when Joaquin Castro published a list of Trump’s Texas donors that he got from an already public listing.

You’ve got to remember that “Christian” American conservatives are the most persecuted minority in world history and that publishing their names is equivalent to painting targets on their backs for the Deep State and Antifa.

They think that it’s right there in the First Amendment that conservatives should never be criticized for anything that spills out of their stupid pie holes.

So, it’s looking like Trump will try to make Twitter pay for its imagined offenses to Team Mitch.

Trump says that his rhetoric unites people. Let’s hope it unites the rest of us!

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Current and Future Job Growth Will Be In Cities

The Daily Escape:

Breezewood, PA – 2008 photo by Edward Burtynsky. Each year, 3.5 million passenger vehicles and 1.5 million trucks drive the half-mile Breezewood strip on Route 30. That’s because a law in the 1950s prohibited spending federal funds to connect a free road to a toll road. So, highway planners designed an interchange that routes drivers onto Route 30 for a half-mile.

An interesting article from Market Watch shows how nearly all job growth is in big cities, while rural America is being left behind:

“Since the economy began adding jobs after the Great Recession nine years ago, about 21.5 million jobs have been created in the United States, the second-best stretch of hiring in the nation’s history, second only to the 1990s. But….Most of the new jobs have been located in a just a few dozen large and dynamic cities, leaving slower-growing cities, small towns and rural areas — where about half of Americans live — far behind.”

MarketWatch cites a July 2019 study by McKinsey forecasting that 25 cities that are home to about 30% of Americans will capture about 60% of the job growth between 2017 and 2030, just as they did between 2007 and 2017. In typical McKinsey fashion, they break cities and towns into many categories. Please read the report for full details. Here are their top-line findings about where the largest growth is happening:

  • Twelve mega-cities (and their extended suburbs) top the list: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco and Washington.
  • Another 13 are high-growth hubs in or around smaller cities: Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Portland (Ore.), Raleigh, San Antonio, San Jose, Seattle, and Tampa.
  • Smaller, fast-growing cities and a few privileged rural counties will also add jobs, while vast swaths of the South, Midwest and Plains will lose jobs.
  • The New York metro area, home to 20 million people, added more jobs over the past year than did all of America’s small towns and rural areas, with a population of 46 million people, combined.

McKinsey’s forecast reinforces concerns about persistent economic inequality in America. Inclusive growth is a must, or it is likely that our society will fall apart. The problem: No one, and certainly not Republicans, have a magic wand that will bring back jobs to rural and small-town America.

Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that job growth is mostly occurring in places that vote for Democrats, while the stagnation is mostly in places that vote for Republicans. In 2016, Trump was smart to tailor a pitch to those parts of America, but their situations haven’t improved since his election.

And the divide is getting larger. Over the past year, only 12% of 389 metro areas had any significant job growth, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Aaron Sojourner, a former White House economist, now an associate professor at the University of Minnesota:

So, after 17 years of significant and broadly-spread growth, fewer towns and cities are now doing so well. And, of the 47 metros that gained significant numbers of jobs over the past year, 21 were on McKinsey’s top 25 list.

Meanwhile, the regional jobs data from the BLS shows that non-metropolitan areas, which account for 18% of jobs, had just 5% of job growth over the past year.

OTOH, income inequality is greatest in those cities with the highest jobs growth. But, we can’t write off one quarter of the US population simply because they live in low-growth areas. And politically, it’s essential. Rural America is overrepresented politically — we can’t ignore them.

But, what to do? Sanders and Warren have addressed this by trying to raise tax revenues from corporations, and funding free college. They along with others, believe in some form of Medicare-for-all, which could help address the fact that rural America is older, sicker, and poorer than ever before.

Yang proposes a universal basic income of $1,000/month for everyone.

Trump proposes tax cuts for the wealthy, tariffs and weakened environmental regulations, but despite all three, the situation has gotten worse since his election.

McKinsey suggests that communities that are being left behind ought to try almost everything: improved transportation to get residents to jobs, rural broadband, and lifelong job training.

Building consensus about how to address job growth and income inequality is the key to America’s future. This is what the 2020 presidential election should be about.

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Monday Wake Up Call – August 5, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Crater Lake NP viewed from Watchman Lookout Station, Oregon – 2016 photo by atheleticamps

Wake Up America! With El Paso TX, Dayton OH, and Gilroy CA last week, we’re starting to see what Red Hat Hatred means in the US. We’ll soon hear that these are more lone wolves who snapped, and that’s why we need to spend more on mental health, and to keep guns away from those sickies who really just need meds and counseling.

But, “lone wolves” should not be acting in lockstep with the Trump regime. Zealots and militants do that. In real life, wolves hunt in packs, so the term “lone wolf” makes no sense whatsoever.

From sociologist Kieran Healy: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“It’s traditional to say that there are ‘no easy answers’, but this is not really true. Everywhere groups face the problem of holding themselves together. Every society has its enormous complex of institutions and weight of rituals that, through the sheer force of mutual expectation and daily habit, bring that society to life. But not every society has successfully institutionalized the mass shooting. Only one place that has done that, deliberately and effectively. The United States has chosen, and continues to choose, to enact ritual compliance to an ideal of freedom in a way that results in a steady flow of blood sacrifice. This ritual of childhood is not a betrayal of “who we are” as a country. It is what America has made of itself, how it worships itself, and how it makes itself real.”

This is the society we’ve become. Will Republicans do anything? Of course not. Shooting at St. Ronnie didn’t get them to act. Shooting at Steve Scalise and other Congress persons didn’t help. The common factor is no modern-day Republican politician (since Lincoln and Garfield) have actually been killed. So, unless targeting Republicans becomes the norm, they’ll never budge.

OTOH, look at this billboard about the Squad! Have at it, boys! More guns! The fact that American voters countenance this double standard is beyond disgusting. At this point, the right wing’s reaction to this endless carnival of mass murder by angry white dudes comes in a few cascading flavors:

  • The ‘thoughts and prayers reaction, which is the shortest and slipperiest response, but if pressed, they’ll offer up: That’s just the cost of freedom.
  • Or, that mass shooting deaths are less than 1% of gun deaths, let alone actual murders, in the US, so what ya gonna do? They say that the vast majority of people killed by guns in the US are shot one or two at a time, not in large groups.

But, that’s not something any reasonable person should consider a winning argument. And as for Trump, there’s really nothing for him to say. He can’t play the role of healing the nation that we have normally expected from our leaders, because he bears real responsibility for the violence.

The Second Amendment has failed America, says Joel Mathis of The Week:

“The Second Amendment of the US Constitution is a failure because the right to bear arms — the right it so famously defends — is supposed to protect Americans from violence. Instead, it endangers them…. Data shows that people who own guns legally are more likely to kill themselves than they are to kill an intruder. People who own guns legally are more likely to kill a family member — on purpose or accidentally — than they are to kill an assailant. And people who own guns legally don’t actually use those weapons in self-defense all that often.”

Mathis goes on to say that: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“On balance, guns do more harm in America than good. The damages are easily measured, while the benefits are mostly theoretical and rare. This means the Second Amendment, as currently observed, doesn’t actually work under the terms of its own logic.”

Wake up! Americans should be able to gather at places like churches, schools, shopping malls, and concerts without fear that they’ve made themselves easy targets for the latest angry man possessing the tools to kill dozens of people within a few minutes.

To help you reflect on the Second Amendment, here is CPE Bach’s Cello Concerto in A Major, Largo movement, with Tanya Tomkins on a 1798 baroque cello. She’s playing along with San Francisco’s Voices of Music. This is a very somber piece, seemingly perfect for reflecting on mass shootings:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – August 4, 2019

Will Hurd is the third Texas Republican in the past two weeks to decide to spend more time with their families, and is the sixth incumbent GOP member of the House to go. He is the only black Republican member of the House of Representatives. Could this be why?

It’s not that surprising Hurd wants to step down; he barely beat Democrat Gina Ortiz-Jones in the 2018 midterm election, winning by less than 1,000 votes. Ortiz-Jones is running again, and has been out-fundraising Hurd.

Wrongo gave money to Ortiz-Jones last time, and will again. She joined the US Air Force as an intelligence officer and deployed to Iraq in the Bush administration. After three years of active duty, she returned to Texas in 2006, working for a consulting company while caring for her mother, who had colon cancer (from which she later recovered).

Ortiz-Jones then returned to working as an intelligence analyst for the US Africa Command in Germany. In 2008, she joined the Defense Intelligence Agency, where she specialized in Latin America. In November 2016, she moved to the Executive Office of the President (Barack Obama) to serve under the US Trade Representative. Having served under presidents of both parties, Ortiz-Jones continued in her role during the Trump administration until June 2017, when she left.

Until 2016, there were always people like Will Hurd in the GOP. And before Trump came along, it was easy to get way more than four votes from Republicans in the House of Representatives to condemn a politician’s racist comment.

Pulling out for a view from 50,000 feet, there’s now an energized segment of America that are virulently hard core right wing. They are driven by a steady flow of lies and disinformation, and they won’t disappear or even move underground assuming Trump loses in 2020. Democrats will have to win real solid majorities in both Houses if there is to be effective government in DC, And they may be able to turn a few more Texas Congressional seats blue. Ortiz-Jones deserves your attention.

The debates are over until September, but this isn’t what we’ll see when they resume:

One goal among many:

 

This is exactly how the media and the GOP view the Dems:

Why won’t Mitch pursue fixing our election system?

Remember when they said that plastic was far better than paper and would save the environment?

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Saturday Soother – August 3, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Wotans Throne, North Rim, Grand Canyon NP, AZ – photo by phantomcloud.

The WSJ has an important story on how people with what seems like pretty good household incomes, are getting more and more indebted trying to keep up a middle class lifestyle:

“The American middle class is falling deeper into debt to maintain a middle-class lifestyle.

Cars, college, houses and medical care have become steadily more costly, but incomes have been largely stagnant for two decades, despite a recent uptick. Filling the gap between earning and spending is an explosion of finance into nearly every corner of the consumer economy.

Consumer debt, not counting mortgages, has climbed to $4 trillion—higher than it has ever been even after adjusting for inflation. Mortgage debt slid after the financial crisis a decade ago but is rebounding.

Student debt totaled about $1.5 trillion last year, exceeding all other forms of consumer debt except mortgages.

Auto debt is up nearly 40% adjusting for inflation in the last decade to $1.3 trillion. And the average loan for new cars is up an inflation-adjusted 11% in a decade, to $32,187, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from credit-reporting firm Experian.”

The Journal gives a generally sympathetic portrayal, provided you don’t go deeply into their comments section, where readers spout platitudes about Millennial’s lack of fiscal responsibility. Here’s a chart from the WSJ using some recent work by Georgetown bankruptcy law professor Adam Levitin showing how much certain costs have risen relative to wages:

More from the WSJ:

“Median household income in the U.S. was $61,372 at the end of 2017, according to the Census Bureau. When inflation is taken into account that is just above the 1999 level.

Average housing prices, however, swelled 290% over those three decades in inflation-adjusted terms, according to an analysis by Adam Levitin, a Georgetown Law professor who studies bankruptcy, financial regulation and consumer finance.

Average tuition at public four-year colleges went up 311%, adjusted for inflation, by his calculation. And average per capita personal health-care expenditures rose about 51% in real terms over a slightly shorter period, 1990 to 2017.”

Of course, in Wrongo’s youth, few young people were carrying large amounts of student debt. And if they went to coastal cities to build their careers, the cost premium over living in a city in the heartland wasn’t as high as it is now (except for San Francisco and New York, which have always been very expensive). Also, it isn’t just tuition that has gone up. All the other college costs, housing, meals, books, and fees, have also gone up more than 300% in the past 30 years.

It is notable that college costs have far outpaced the ability of those in the middle class to afford them. That is why student loan debt has become so high: working your way through college is no longer as realistic as it once was.

Turning to housing, the WSJ quotes Domonic Purviance of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, who says that people earning the median income can no longer afford the median-priced new home, which cost $323,000 last year, and barely have the means to buy the median existing home, which is now about $278,000.

Failure of wages to keep up with costs is a huge problem, and it has to be emphasized that this is not some inevitable outcome of our so-called “free markets” – it is driven by neo-liberal policy.

A few of the Democratic candidates are addressing the health and education cost burdens now adding to the debt load of all Americans. But we need more discussion that leads us to better policy.

With so much wrong in the world, we surely need to take a step back, and de-stress. To help with that, here’s your Saturday Soother. Let’s start by brewing up a large mug of Finca Las Nieves Green-Tip Geisha coffee ($35.00/8 oz.). This coffee is grown and roasted in Mexico. Located at an elevation of 4,000 feet, Finca Las Nieves is a 1,000-acre coffee farm located in Oaxaca State. It is completely off the grid — both solar- and hydro-powered. In addition to growing, harvesting, processing and roasting coffee, the farm also offers vacation bungalows for rent on the property.

Now, settle into a comfy chair and listen to Bach’s unaccompanied Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, movements 1-3 of 6, by Yo Yo Ma. The video uses a painting by Hudson River School painter, Thomas Cole. It is called “The Oxbow”, located on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts near Northampton, MA. Here is Yo Yo Ma:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view and listen to the video here.

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Detroit Debate Wrap-up

The Daily Escape:

Mt. St. Helens, WA – 2019 photo by 12_woman. The big eruption that devastated 230 sq. miles was in May, 1980. Hard to believe that’s almost 40 years ago.

The two days of Detroit Fight Nights are over, and the bloviating about who won or lost is rocketing around the internet, so Wrongo will add his few cents to the till.

First, CNN worked really, really hard to gin up fights between the candidates. They had some success by giving also-rans (John Delaney and Mike Bennet) a chance to go at the front-runners on both nights. The CNN idea was to make it a contest between progressive Dems and moderate Dems, and the debaters happily complied.

This is being talked about as a fight for the soul of the Party. It isn’t; that will happen at the convention when no candidate wins on the first ballot.

Second, it’s clear that these 20 people include 10-12 who should be on the JV team for some other openings in Democratic politics. The NYT reports that just seven candidates have qualified for the next Democratic debate: Those seven are Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, O’Rourke, Sanders, and Warren, while Castro, Klobuchar, and Yang are close:

“The Democratic National Committee has set stricter criteria for the third set of debates, which will be held on Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 in Houston. If 10 or fewer candidates qualify, the debate will take place on only one night. Candidates will need to have 130,000 unique donors and register at least 2 percent support in four polls. They have until Aug. 28 to reach those benchmarks. These criteria could easily halve the field.”

Castro and Yang each have more than 130,000 donations and each have three of the four qualifying polls they need, while Senator Klobuchar has met the polling threshold, and has about 120,000 donors, so a one-night 10-candidate show is likely in September.

Regarding Detroit’s winners and losers, Wrongo’s view is that Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg won on the first night. On night two, Biden won by not losing. But night two had more interest. Castro did better than expected, as did Booker and Yang. Harris slipped a bit, while Gillibrand, Gabbard and Bennet had moments, all are in Brownian motion. The rest of the less-than-one-percenters should save their pennies.

We’re not going to get a real sense of how this campaign will unfold until Sanders, Warren, Harris and Biden are on the same stage. They will be joined by Buttigieg, Booker and O’Rourke, and possibly three others.

The tests we should be keeping in the back of our minds are:

First, can I envision this candidate giving a speech to the nation from the Oval Office while demonstrating leadership and being completely credible?

Second, can this candidate stand up to Trump on the trail, and if it should be necessary, beat him in a face-to-face debate?

Even with downsizing the group to 10 candidates, very few can meet both eye tests to Wrongo’s way of thinking.

How do you see the candidates?

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Last Night’s Debate and Medicare For All

The Daily Escape:

Dix Pond from the Dix Mountain trail, Adirondacks, NY – July 2019 photo by Shelley VK

A few thoughts about last night’s Democratic debate. Tom Sullivan captured Wrongo’s thinking:

“Watching Part One of the second Democratic debate was an endurance contest. CNN’s 30-second response format was a disaster, barely giving candidates time to formulate a sentence before being cut off. Questions from CNN moderators seemed designed not to probe policy issues, but to get candidates to snipe at each other.”

And snipe they did. The fringe and vanity candidates tried very hard to tell us which policies wouldn’t work. They were enabled by CNN’s question-askers, who mostly asked gotcha questions designed to provide sound bites for Republican attack ads down the road.

Elizabeth Warren won the night by responding to a poor-mouthed critique from Republican-lite John Delaney about health care:

“I genuinely do not understand why anyone would go to all the trouble of running for president just to get up on this stage and talk about what’s not possible. #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/cOCz5TS3AF”

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 31, 2019

But, let’s take a moment to talk about the topic that took about most of the first hour of the debate: Medicare for All (M4A). Wrongo wants to remind everyone about an Upshot article on Monday in the NYT by Austin Frakt and Elsa Pearson. It asks, “What Would Medicare for All Cover? From the article:

You can divide current Medicare coverage into two layers.

The first is relatively transparent. Traditional Medicare does not cover certain classes of care, including eyeglasses, hearing aids, dental or long-term care. When the classes of things it covers changes, or is under debate, there’s a big, bruising fight with a lot of public comment. The most recent battle added prescription drug coverage through legislation that passed in 2003.

So the authors say that a Medicare for all program that excluded all private insurance coverage, and that resembled today’s traditional Medicare would leave Americans with significant coverage gaps. And therefore, we should have a debate about what M4A would cover.

The writers go on:

…there is a second layer of coverage that receives less attention. Which specific treatments does Medicare pay for within its classes of coverage? For instance, Medicare covers hospital and doctor visits associated with cancer care — but which specific cancer treatments?

The devil is always in the details.

Although Medicare is a national program, most coverage determinations are local. Private contractors that are authorized to process Medicare claims decide what treatments to reimburse in each of 16 regions of the country:

What people are covered for in, say, Miami can be different from what people are covered for in Seattle. Many treatments and services are covered automatically because they already have standard billing codes that Medicare recognizes and accepts. For treatments lacking such codes, Medicare makes coverage determinations in one of two ways: nationally or locally…..There are more than 2,000 local coverage determinations….National coverage decisions, which apply to the entire country, are rarer, with only about 300 on the books.

Wrongo wasn’t aware of these differences in coverage, and that is something to talk about if/when M4A is seriously discussed in Congress.

It seems that what should be covered by any health insurance program is an evolving target, informed by changes in treatments and their reported efficacy.  The issue isn’t unique to Medicare. Wrongo prefers the decision to include or exclude a treatment not be made by an insurance company that can make more profit based on what forms of healthcare are offered.

For example, in many private plans, cataract surgery isn’t covered, while Medicare does provide coverage for a basic lens replacement.

And we shouldn’t allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. In this country, tens of millions of people have no coverage, and tens of millions more are either under-insured, or face very high deductible plans. By contrast, throughout all other developed countries, every person is covered for all medical needs.

A few things to think about between here and the 2020 election.

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Monday Wake Up Call – July 29, 2019

The Daily Escape:

Sunrise, Llyn Padarn, North Wales – photo by risquer

Wrongo wants to take a look back at a revealing moment in the White House last week. Trump hosted survivors of religious persecution, including Nadia Murad, a 26-year-old Iraqi-born human rights activist and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Sadly, the event revealed Trump at his worst.

Roger Cohen, writing about the meeting in the NYT:

…”I cannot forget Trump’s recent treatment of Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her campaign to end mass rape in war. The Islamic State, or ISIS, forced Murad into sexual slavery when it overran Yazidi villages in northern Iraq in 2014. Murad lost her mother and six brothers, slaughtered by ISIS.”

More from Cohen: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“She now lives in Germany, and has been unable to return home, a point she made in her July 17 White House meeting with Trump. ‘We cannot go back if we cannot protect our dignity, our family,’ she said.

Allow me to render the scene in the present tense. Trump sits there at his desk, an uncomprehending, unsympathetic, uninterested cardboard dummy. He looks straight ahead for much of the time, not at her, his chin jutting in his best effort at a Mussolini pose. He cannot heave his bulk from the chair for this brave young woman. He cannot look at her.

Every now and again, in a disdainful manner, he swivels his head toward her and other survivors of religious persecution. When Murad says, ‘They killed my mom, my six brothers,’ Trump responds: ‘Where are they now?

This isn’t fake news, there’s a video of the event. More from Cohen:

“They are in the mass graves in Sinjar,” Murad says. She is poised and courageous throughout in her effort to communicate her story in the face of Trump’s complete, blank indifference.”

When Murad mentions Sinjar, Trump says:

“I know the area very well, you’re talking about. It’s tough.”

Whatever. Toward the end of meeting, Trump asks Murad about her Nobel Prize:

“That’s incredible….They gave it to you for what reason?”

Murad responds:

“For what reason?” Murad asks, suppressing with difficulty her incredulity that nobody has briefed the president….I made it clear to everyone that ISIS raped thousands of Yazidi women,” she says. “Oh really?” says Trump. “Is that right?”

Trump, who can’t stop whining about his victimhood at the hands of the Democrats, the media, and the alleged “deep state”, can’t show a hint of compassion for a woman who was brutalized. Also, he shows a total lack of understanding about anything that Murad said. About being raped, about losing her family, about her work to end mass rape.

We’ve watched how far the presidency has fallen in the past three years. We often talk about “presidential temperament”. The word temperament comes from Latin, meaning “due mixture”. All politicians love attention and approval from the public, but being president should also mean working for the best interests of the nation as a whole.

But we currently have a president who can’t seem to display humanity. With Murad, he demonstrated an inability to understand the moment, or the importance of understanding another person’s pain.

Time to wake up America! We need our next president to display the temperament to lead us back towards unity. Our greatest leaders have always done just that, often in times of division.

We’ve become inured to Trump’s daily lowering of the bar of expectations for both the presidency, and for the possibility of unity as a people.

But it’s now time to turn our backs on this president. We need to move on.

We all have moments when it is difficult to summon the anger that the latest presidential outrage requires, but we need all of our focus between now and November 2020 to bring the country back to something approximating normalcy.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – July 28, 2019

The Senate voted 53-45 on Thursday to block the Trump administration’s sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia. Then, Trump vetoed it. His rationale was “national security”. He looks a bit like the Saudi Prince’s lap dog for going against both Houses of Congress with this veto. Not selling arms to Saudi Arabia for use in the Yemen war is one of the few things that both the House and Senate have agreed on this year. This is Trump using his veto power to keep the Saudi slaughter machine going.

In another use of the “national security” argument by the administration, the Supreme Court, voted 5-4 saying that Trump can use military funds to build his border wall. The issue was whether Trump could take money appropriated by Congress for the military, and instead, use it for something that Congress didn’t authorize.

The administration’s argument to the Supremes was that they should be allowed to use the Pentagon money pending the administration’s appeal of the 9th Circuit’s ruling against Trump. The Supremes decided that Trump can go ahead and use the money while the appeal is pending, and went further, saying that the current challengers (Sierra Club and the Southern Borders Communities Coalition) “may” not be the right plaintiffs to challenge the reallocation of the funds. They seem to think it should be Congress.

Two points: These funds aren’t building a new wall, they’re replacing existing structures. Second, presidents need the power to declare national emergencies, even if they are bombastic, narcissistic muppets with bad hair. Congress may try to take away this power. But more likely, we will soon see some other hokey reason to declare a national emergency by a different president, attempting to appease a different political base. On to cartoons.

Funny how Dems were hungry 20 minutes later:

OTOH, some things may be worth repeating:

Dems are clueless:

Restarting executions is far from kinder and gentler:

Mitch wouldn’t allow several election security bills on the Senate floor:

The Squad opens its gift from the GOP:

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