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Daley Weekly: Crises and Confrontation

Apologia pro vita sua

Things began getting away from me about two weeks ago and I now am three weeks in arrears. So, a new beginning, a fresh start, and a promise to be a more faithful correspondent.

Two Senior Politicians Forgo the Presidency

The first of course is Joe Biden, who has tossed in the towel. Would have been fun to watch him run. He always brings a sparkle with him whenever he enters a room.  If the D’s keep the White House maybe Secretary of State, but no Presidency.

The second is Paul Ryan, who now appears to be headed into a cul de sac known as the Speakership. Much of Ryan’s hesitation about taking this office must originate from the almost sure bet that a Speaker is unlikely to be President – too much blame for every crazy idea dreamed up by the caucus.  It’s going to be hard to figure how Ryan can get much of anything out of the House because of the obstructionist promises he apparently made to the Tea Bagger faction.

The Grand Bargain at Last

There is news this week that the White House and the House Republican leadership (John Boehner version) have fashioned a plan to fund the federal government for two years. The agreement apparently uses some $80 billion to give a modest lift to the sequester spending caps for both domestic and defense programs. It also will extend the debt lid to March of 2017. Funding would come through standardizing the eligibility rules for the Social Security Disability Insurance program, but it also rescues the Disability Insurance program from the limbo the House placed it in months ago.

The deal also gets funding through some cuts in provider pay in Medicare, and by selling some oil now held in the U.S. Petroleum Reserve. There also are provisions preventing a sharp spike in Medicare premiums. However, it adds a provision that allows folks with student debt to be chased by debt collectors who use robocalls – something currently prohibited. (How do these things get into a deal like this?)

The agreement will last beyond the 2016 election. So it looks like Boehner is going to take some lumps in order to clear the decks for Paul Ryan to save him from having to wrestle with the alligators as he ascends to the Speakership.

What They Have Not Done

They have not renewed the Child Nutrition Programs.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is still expired.

Infrastructure funding through the Highway Trust Fund is still unresolved.

The “tax extender” package is still pending.

And, God knows, while they are at it, they could enact comprehensive immigration reform, restore the Voting Rights Act, mandate caps on carbon emissions, and pass the Medicare for All single payer plan.

Benghazi

The other big thing in D.C. last week was the prosecution of Hillary Clinton before an investigative committee. After revelations by House Members and committee staff that the whole thing was designed to bring down Hillary, the hearing showed a sense of desperation – at least to get her to look deceitful or confused. After trying everything this side of waterboarding, nada.

Representative Trey Gowdy (R-SC), the Chair of the Committee was especially clear in his assessment of what the hearings had produced:

“I think some of Jimmy Jordan’s questioning — well, when you say new today, we knew some of that already. We knew about the emails. In terms of her testimony? I don’t know that she testified that much differently today than she has the previous times she’s testified.”

This is the product of seventeen months of investigation and the expenditure of nearly $5 million?

Now watch them double down with some kind of report written by a team of science fiction authors coached by the few still living members of Joe McCarthy’s staff.  Doubling down will inevitably raise a question about whether or not they know the correct answer to the question “what’s two times nothing?”

TPP

Apparently the 12-nation negotiation on the big trade pact is finally ready for prime time, but the text is not yet public. For some reason – maybe I am just being stubborn – I have been advising everyone to read it before attacking it. I want the opposition to form around actual provisions in the agreement, not on shifting ideologies and political posturing. Let’s face it – we will have problems with this agreement, given the troubling involvement of corporate interests in the negotiations. But our opposition needs to be factual, on policy grounds, and against the provisions of the pact.  Let’s root our concerns on what actually is there. It won’t be long – D.C. leaks like a sieve.  One leak already out provides new international protections for the patents of pharmaceutical companies. Surely there is more to come.

Once we discover the troubling stuff in this deal, we have to react with force and confidence. The pro-corporation gang has the upper hand given that the anti-Obama Congress gave the President “fast track” authority a couple of months ago. This means that the President submits an unamendable plan that cannot be filibustered.

Social Security

Just to clarify the confusion about inflation in the economy the government has announced that there is so little inflation that Social Security beneficiaries will not receive a cost of living increase in the coming year.

Economics

The Wall Street Journal reports that companies are indicating a serious slowing in the economy. You have to consider the source here a bit, but, if they are correct, consumer spending is falling and the pace of economic activity is going negative for the first time since the recovery began. Time for a little stimulus to get the momentum turning back in the other direction, but don’t expect the Journal to editorialize in favor of higher government spending.

What is wrong here? We built a post-WWII middle class and became the envy of the world. Then we decided to shift the income growth from the middle class to the wealthy. Now we are wondering why the middle class, burdened with student debt, extortionate drug costs, fraudulent foreclosures, stagnant wages, and inexplicable insurance costs, are not buying the latest electronic gadgets built by exploited labor.

The explanation about the economic stagnation is quite simple. Our corporate uber-masters decided that the destruction of the middle class in the U. S. was irrelevant to their wealth accumulation – they could sell their trinkets to the unsuspecting natives in China. Tiny little miscalculation – China decided that they could sell their trinkets to us. Win-Win became loss-loss.

Presidential Campaign  

Both Democrat-for-a-Day Lincoln Chaffee and what’s his name from Virginia have announced that they are suspending their campaigns.  The next Republican Debate is tonight.

Language Access

The Office of Civil rights in the Department of Health and Human Services is working on regulations to implement the civil rights sections of the Affordable Care Act. The Alliance for a Just Society is encouraging everyone to send comments on these rules encouraging HHS to add interpretation in the medical setting for non-English speakers. After all, if you cannot talk to the doctor in a language you both understand, how can you get useful medical care? You can sign a petition here that will be forwarded to HHS.

Muddle East

Here’s some fun news about the land of perpetual conflict. Our FBI has found a group with apparent Russian connections working out of Moldova who have been trying to sell radioactive material to Middle Eastern operatives. Apparently poison gas may not be potent enough.

Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, File Gumbo

Paul Prudhomme died. Loved his cookbook – Cajun, as in real French stuff, with spice and emphasis. Sorry vegans, but one of my favorite recipes is from Prudhomme’s repertoire – a pork roast layered with veggies sautéed with white, black and cayenne pepper, thyme and dried mustard. He also teaches how to make and use roux. Incomparable gumbos. I once tried to eat in K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, his restaurant in New Orleans, but the line was so long I ended up in an inferior imitation where I had to console myself with strong drink.

Polarization

Report in The Washington Post regarding evidence that the U.S. electorate is not becoming increasingly polarized. This, despite a perception that there is an extreme polarity emerging between the various parties, factions and ideologies. So if the electorate is not polarized, what is going on in Congress? Your trusty reporter has a couple of theories.

First one is that the money is driving extremes. The dark money donors are not passing the cash to the folks who say that they can bring everyone together, rather they seem to be sending it to folks who demand ideological purity and exclaim that they are just a little bit more radical than the next person.

Second, there is a little thing called Gerrymandering. While drawing the district election lines is a partisan art, legislatures have locked some solid factions in place that are representing a significant enough minority to command attention in the Congress. This appears particularly true of the Tea Bagger-bunch in the House who have some 40 or 50 votes and have put an ideological lock on the Majority Caucus.

Third, the proliferation of ideological media voices also increases the perception that polarization is both extreme and critical for access to airtime. Do the folks who watch Fox News ever tune in on MSNBC? Probably not much.

Banks

Did you know that the big banks are getting a 6 percent dividend on the money they invest in the Federal Reserve?  What is the return on the cash you have stuck in your savings account? The total amount that banks receive from the Fed will amount to $17 billion over the next decade. Surely the return you get on your money in your bank is proportionately equal to the cash they get for pretty much doing nothing?

Well the fun may be over. One of the plans being considered to pump money into the Highway Trust Fund to pay for infrastructure projects would cut this rate from 6 percent to 1.5 percent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) has already told the banks that this will be a part of the plan. Bank lobbyists are blanketing the Hill trying to kill this thing, but they may be in trouble.

Coral is the New White

When you pick through the list of designer colors for your apartment’s new paint job, coral is one of your options. That honey hued little paint sample soon may be passé.  The corals are turning white. The extreme El Niño in the Pacific is challenging them so much that they are forced to reject their hospitality as symbiotic hosts, slough away the parasites that give them their color, and turn a ghostly white. Then a bunch of them die.

I saw one of the Koch boys on TV the other day. The reporter asked him about the idea that he was just trying to buy power. He answered that he was trying to reduce the power of the government. And he smiled when he said it. This must be an important theme for Koch’s petroleum companies, the fourteenth largest polluter in the country. No government and they can pollute at will.

It is getting pretty difficult to witness this sort of crap. I have children and grandchildren.

But, just to add to the concern, Scientific American is reporting that Exxon Mobile knew about climate change as early as 1977 but persisted in deliberately spreading misinformation about the problem anyway.

I do not know what denial mechanism inside them lets these people ignore the evidence of the fires burning their farms or the seawater lapping at the lawns of their costal mansions, but ignorance is no longer an excuse. We have to begin regarding their assault on the rest of us as premeditated.

Schedule

The Congress will be in session until November 20, that should be plenty of time for a whole bunch of crises and confrontations.

 

Bill Daley, National Legislative Director

Daley Weekly: Power of the Pope and Political Patter

Speaker Boehner

I have only met Speaker John Boehner in a favorite restaurant near the Capitol. Brief encounters over cigarettes. Seemed like a personable fellow, easy to meet and easy to smile. He also did not have the deep mean streak that seems to dominate the approach of the deeply conservative members of the Republican Caucus. He was constantly forced into the corner by the most vocal and vitriolic.

Boehner is a Catholic and it is impossible not to see an influence from the visit of the Pope in the timing of his announcement to resign from the Speakership and the Congress. Boehner wept openly during the Pope’s address on Thursday. He apparently quoted the Pope’s prayer during his resignation announcement.

While almost every political position Boehner took is inimical to my own, I do not find his resignation a good thing. It can only make the mess in D.C. worse. It probably means that there will be no immediate government shutdown. A bigger longshot is the speculation that Boehner could bring forth a vote on immigration reform –but the Pope was pretty clear and it is an emotional moment.

Global Traffic Jam

Something like 150 heads of state rolling around the U.S. snarling traffic and taxing the security resources of a dozen cities. They include a Pope, a Chinese President, the Indian Prime Minister, and Russian President Putin.  The Pope easily cornered the charisma market, not that a guy like Putin has any chance at charisma anyway. But the Pope was really cool and pretty much took over D.C. this week.

Francis Hugs Sophie

After meeting with the President the Pope took a brief tour in the Pope-mobile and greeted the crowds around the nearby Ellipse. Little Sophie Cruz, the five-year-old daughter of undocumented immigrants, slipped through the street barriers and was grabbed by the security detail. The Pope called for her to come to him and the guards lifted her up for an embrace. She gave him a t-shirt and a note with a drawing celebrating the diversity of color among her friends. The message on the shirt, “Papa Rescate DAPA,” asks the Pope to save the deferred prosecution policy of the Administration that could keep her parents from deportation.

If you missed this magical little moment you can google up any number of news stories to see how a loving Francis gives an abrazo to a brave little girl.

Is the Pope Catholic?

Thursday morning the Pope addressed the U.S. Congress to the chagrin of many who see him as at best mistaken or at worst an evil force in the world. The Pope spoke about immigration and climate change in spite of the outpouring of scorn from the right. Rush Limbaugh calls him a Marxist. Right wing radio host Alex Jones claims that Francis is a socialist tool. Columnist George Will panned the Pope’s position on climate change as “reactionary.”

It goes on and on – Communist, hostile to free enterprise, under the influence of global warming extremists. Those who fail to understand that global warming and how we treat our immigrant neighbors are moral issues have not established credentials to preach.

In one of those tiny little ironies that we so enjoy, we note that, when the Pope spoke about how the Golden Rule should lead us to respect human life at all of its stages, the anti-abortion gang rose and cheered, expecting an affirmation of their ideology. When this immediately turned into a plea for the abolition of the death penalty, they all sat down.

Congress

It is becoming apparent that we need a new pill designed to prevent unwanted government shutdowns. After showing initial promise, the abstinence approach seems to have completely broken down and, without an effective form of pharmaceutical intervention, the leadership might have to resort to “troubling” surgical procedures in order to prevent this issue from coming to term.

Neither Speaker Boehner nor Majority Leader Mitch McConnell want another shutdown, but they can’t seem to prevent the adolescents from messing around. No matter what the parents want, the kids are reacting to their primal instincts.  The anti-choice contingent wants the government to be shut down rather than to permit any funds going to Planned Parenthood.

Here’s a little problem for the anti-choice, first stone throwers – Planned Parenthood has not used federal money for abortions for decades due to a little something known as the Hyde Amendment.  So the shutdown crowd actually is after the counseling, pre-natal care and contraception programs provided by the organization, not abortion.

On a procedural vote, the Senate stopped efforts to pass Planned Parenthood de-funding language in a Continuing Resolution intended to give the short term funding needed to avoid a shutdown.  It looks as though Majority Leader McDonnell might be able to get through some bill that keeps the government running for a while and Boehner’s surprise announcement probably means something like it will pass the House.

Highway Funding

The debate over the big shutdown should be over in a week or so and then they will start in on efforts to change the tax code to the advantage of the big multinational corporations. Their excuse for taking this up is the need to do something about the Highway Trust Fund. Back in August they passed a temporary fix that keeps the Trust going until October 29.  It was the 34th extension of this fund dating back to the 2008 recession. None of these fixes really did anything to leap forward and begin modernizing the rail system, no real growth and expansion like they are doing in Europe or China.

Infrastructure planning by chaos. Now the need for money just to keep the Fund afloat for a while is being used as blackmail in order to “reform” the international tax code in order to let the corporations further reduce their tax obligations.

Presidential Stuff

Lots of media fascination with Donald Trump, but the really big story that has lasting implications is the success of Bernie Sanders.

Sanders represents a long standing strain in American political history – Populism.  This political voice often has emerged in times of economic tension, but it has never won a national election. If Sanders wins the nomination it presages a fascinating and critical national debate about our direction as a democracy. No matter who his opponent, the debate will be about the influence of wealth in a democracy.

As is common this early in the season, the polls are jumping around. Some see Hillary in the resurgence. Some put Sanders ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire. Some speculate about the influence of a Biden candidacy as bad for Bernie. But none of them count Sanders out and his ability to raise small donor money suggests that he is in to the end.

A couple of Sanders’ vulnerabilities. First, sometimes Sanders is a Socialist. He seems to being finessing this issue by pointing to Democratic Socialism like the practice in Scandinavia rather than the Soviet Union. Sanders has to develop a rapport with people of color communities. God knows he is trying, but he screwed up at the beginning by framing the whole question in economic terms – everyone gets a job and all is cool.

Black Lives Matter has chased him around making the point that there is a fundamental race issue that needs to be confronted or the economic stuff is irrelevant. People of color seem to resonate with Hillary better than Bernie.

Assuming that Sanders can figure out the Black Lives Matter matter, he will next face another challenge on the foreign policy front. Do you have any idea where Sanders stands on the matter of the balance of power in Eastern Europe, China’s aggression in the South China Sea, the Muddle East? Americans like to think that they are running the place and any sign from the leftish Sanders that we lack total control will be challenged as cowardice, effeminacy, and appeasement.

The wild and crazy guys on the Republican side are suddenly trying to figure out what to do with the wild and crazy gal. The pundits suggest that Carly Fiorina, won the last R Debate. Trump is down Fiorina up.

Carson is backtracking a bit on his contention that a Muslim presidency would be unconstitutional. “If someone has a Muslim background and they’re willing to reject those tenets and to accept the way of life that we have and clearly will swear to place our Constitution above their religion, then, of course. They will be considered infidels and heretics, but at least I would then be quite willing to support them,” Carson told Fox News. There are some who wonder how this might play with the evangelical set – heretics who place the Constitution above their religion may not meet the highest evangelical standards.

Bush looks like a detective who has been asked to solve a locked room mystery in which the victim is inside and all the exits are securely sealed. Jeb is hanging in there though and the bloggers suggest that he continues to build an organizational base in primary states.

Governor Scott Walker, after watching his poll numbers drop down to Lincoln Chaffee’s levels, decided to give it up. He offered what apparently is a Republican Party plan to do in Donald Trump – get all the candidates who are not doing very well to clear out and let the less unsuccessful challenge Trump.  Apparently this idea is designed for the consideration of candidates like Graham, Pataki, Jindal, Gilmore, and Santorum who are barely making a mark on the polls.

If you want to judge how the various candidates are doing based on stuff like money raised, endorsements and polling, the New York Times has prepared a handy guide to power rankings. By this guide Clinton and Bush lead their respective races. Bush is followed by Rubio, Trump, Fiorina and Carson. On the D side, the Biden-the-Undecided is second followed by Sanders, O’Malley and what’s his name from Virginia.

The First Amendment

We have to look out for the wolves in shepherd’s clothing. There is a little something known as the First Amendment Defense Act and is filed as H. R. 2802. The bill purports to be a defense of religious liberty – preventing pastors from having to perform same sex marriages – something that plainly needs no defense.  But its language is so broadly drawn that it would permit discrimination against women who have children out of wedlock and permit religious schools to discriminate against gays and still get federal money. Is this the sort of stuff you want your Congress to be passing?

It is sponsored by Representative Raul Labrador from R-Idaho and has 148 co-sponsors. The only D on the list is Representative Daniel Lipinski from Illinois.

Klepto Corporations

We always knew that this was a possibility, but Volkswagen now has given us a reason to expand the klepto sector to include corporations other than the financial institutions that have led the way in this category. The Volkswagen CEO resigned this week because of the revelation that his company had used a software designed to trick automobile inspections in the U.S. into believing that their diesel engines were meeting emission standards when in fact they were not. Reports in Europe this week suggest that BMW might be caught up in this problem as well.

Is this guy using?

If you needed any proof that the pharmaceutical policies of the country are crazazzie you now have it.  One drug company bought another drug company and acquired the product Daraprim that is used to fight parasitic infections in AIDS and cancer patients. It has been around for decades selling for the hefty price of $13.50 a pill. A fellow called Martin Shkreli, the CEO of the new owner company, announced that they were going to raise the price a mere 4,000 percent plus to $750 a pill. Wow. They can do that? Yep, they can do it and be protected by patent law and prohibitions on the government’s ability to negotiate drug prices.  When questioned about why they were doing this, Shkreli called the asking reporter a “moron.”

The outrage among doctors, patients, press and public was so strong that Shkreli eventuallyannounced that his company would lower the price to a “more affordable” level.  We don’t want to appear moronic, so we quietly ask the question: “What does he regard as more affordable?” Indeed does this fellow have any idea what ”affordable” might mean?

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

Yogi Berra died. But if there ever was a pop culture immortal he is it.  Everyone seems to know him for his quirky sayings, but he was a hell of a catcher. He once went through a record 148 games without an error. As a kid I watched on TV as he called pitches in Don Larsen’s perfect World Series game.

Bill Daley, National Legislative Director

 

Daley Weekly: Crazy Daze of Summer

President Stuff, Democrat

It is beginning to look like Joe Biden may be headed into the fray. The trends have to be tempting.  Many hope that Hillary will be the first woman President – she clearly has the values, experience, and ability to serve with distinction.  But she’s not lighting up the place, she’s dogged by the email glitch, and lacks her husband’s flair for this stuff.  Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren made juicy rumors over the weekend, via a two-hour meeting at the VP’s residence in D.C.

Bernie Sanders is doing really well. He actually has the corner on an understanding of the deepening inequality and corporate corruption that are savaging the national economy. Great crowds and exciting articulation. But there are questions about his ultimate electability when they start painting that name Socialist on him.

Martin O’Malley is not gaining any traction and candidates Chafee and what’s-his-name from Virginia are just hoping for the others to evaporate so that attention might turn to them. Run across any campaign workers for any of these folks lately?

So it’s got to be real tempting for Biden. Bloggers report he is talking with donors and sizing things up. My guess was expressed a couple of issues back when I heard that his dying son Beau had urged him to run. Pretty tough stuff for an emotional guy like Biden to resist.

And the R’s? This is Crazzazie

My friend Margarida has improved my vocabulary by exposing me to the critical literature about the Zombie Apocalypse and by describing the fringes as crazzazie and wackadoodle. I am reaching into this lexicon because I am at a loss for more traditional words to describe the Republican campaigns for the American Presidency.

I look at the R’s and roll my eyes. For their sake and for the sake of the Nation I don’t want them to nominate Trump. Even the R’s deserve better than this racist, sexist gasbag. But their candidates are so weak – none of them seem have an original thought. Their whole approach has been defined by Trump and they are stumped – they are captives of a bankrupt ideology and when Trump out-demagogues them, they are like deer in the headlights.

It is my deeply held predisposition that if the R’s nominate Trump they will prove beyond all possible debate that they haven’t got the guile God gave a Grape-Nut flake. But if the R’s are determined to nominate him, let’s get it on. The last century taught us how to look at racists with funny hair – we will not do it again.

Nice to See Paul

Sitting in my little corner of Serafina, a favorite restaurant in Seattle, I saw a man pass on the way out who I remembered with affection. Paul Kraabel was a Republican legislator when I first got into the political world of Washington state. I was sent to see him for some reason and, though my normal old leftish Democrat self, I was greeted with respect and he listened.

Tonight, his friends were helping him navigate his way out, he used a cane – but I caught him on the sidewalk and he knew who I was we were able to share a couple of recollections.

Back in the ‘60s and ‘70s I knew many Republicans like Paul who were open to talking, and solving problems, and being decent to others.

Oh how I miss them when I watch folks like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee, who act as though they came from the Seraphim, armed with the voice of God and equipped with the instrument of prejudice and the malice of the fanatic.

Oak Flat

Remember our depressing report a few weeks back about how the Senatorial aristocrats slipped a little provision into the Defense Reauthorization that gave over a sacred Apache place to mining? The billion tons of copper that apparently have deposited themselves under Arizona’s Oak Flat proved an irresistible attraction – Arizona Republican Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake slipped a little provision into the Defense Authorization bill and handed it over to foreign mining interests.

Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva (D), has introduced a bill to reverse this and to return the land to public ownership where it can be protected for the Apache. If you want to read more, start with H.R.  2811. You can help reverse this tragedy by writing your Congress people and asking them to help pass this bill.

Drug Costs

I cannot bear to have you miss the news about how your fellow Americans feel about the cost of prescription drugs.  Recent polling shows that this issue just jumped ahead of concerns about the Affordable Care Act.  Eighty-three percent favor allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices and seventy- three percent believe that drug companies make too much profit. 

This news comes as reports filter out of negotiations over the Transpacific Partnership trade pact suggesting that the insistence of U. S. bargaining team on protections for the big drug companies is a main issue stymieing progress in the negotiations. We can only hope that our crack negotiating team loses this one.

El Niño

Looks like a hot, wet wind may be about to blow in from the sea. Meteorologists are predicting that the El Niño effect will be the warmest in decades, maybe a record. The California drought will become the California monsoon.

Marriage

Iowa Representative Steve King (R), the leader of the Congressional Xenophobia Caucus, apparently believes that the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage enables American’s to marry inanimate objects. Some wedded folks long ago realized that a court decision on this was unnecessary – their spouses already are inanimate objects.

ACA and Declines in the Uninsured

According to the latest Gallup Poll on the subject the rates of the uninsured continue to drop post-ACA.  The national uninsured rate fell from 17.3 percent in 2013 to 11.7 percent 2015. A bunch of states did even better than this, particularly those that both expanded Medicaid and instituted exchanges.

Latina Income Inequality

This should come as a surprise to few, but the wage gap for Hispanic women is way wider than it is for all women.  Researchers with the University of Massachusetts Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, have done the math so those like me, who struggle with numbers, just have to glance across a series of simple charts to get the idea.

The gap between all women and men is bad enough – women get 78% of what the men get for the same work. Only in nursing and home health care are Hispanic women equally discriminated against when compared to all women – both get 75 percent of what men get.  But in retail and public service jobs pay for all women runs at 88 percent of the pay for men, while Hispanic women get only 50 percent. Other job categories do not show such extreme differences, but are troubling.

Amigas, something is up here and it is not good. ¿Is anyone else wondering what the figures might be for Somali or Samoan women, por ejemplo?

Sen͂or Presidente, tiar abaje este mura

Oozing xenophobia and narcissism from every pore, Donald Trump has oiled his way into an apparent lead in the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary among Republicans.

Just to seal the deal, details of his plan for immigration reform have been announced. First, every undocumented immigrant gets sent home – deported at a cost of some $400 to $600 billion. A 2,000-mile long fence will be erected along the entire U.S./ Mexico border – built at the expense of the Mexican government. Then there is the proposal to amend the Constitution in order to remove the provision that makes all babies born on U.S. soil citizens automatically.

Anyone else feel a tremor of slavery revulsion when they hear the proposal to change the citizenship of babies born here? Is it possible that the 14th Amendment had to do with making former slaves and their children into citizens? Now the immigration loonies are talking about these children as “anchor babies” – children born here in order to anchor the prospects for future citizenship for their parents.

Not only is there no legal connection to citizenship for their parents, but they also are talking about folks like Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio whose citizenship is established by their birth.  Wow.

While we are in the process of un-anchoring the babies, we are also going to round up and deport all the 11 million-plus undocumented in the country. I don’t know how to be constrained about this stuff. This idea has eerie historical echoes. One has to hear the thud of the jackboots reverberating in the night streets.

And the great fence? Great fence projects have a way of turning into real big failures. I do not know if this edifice to idiocy will be visible from the moon, but one can see the Great Wall of China from there. The Mongols took over China, wall or not. Remember the Berlin Wall? How did that go? There recurs in my sleep a dream (or perhaps a nightmare) in which the ghost of Ronald Regan, a supporter of immigration reform, stands in Nogales or Mexicali, and says: “Mr. President, tear down this wall.”

Medicaid Politics

Asa Hutchinson, Governor of Arkansas, wants to change the wildly successful decision of his state to expand Medicaid. His state has seen the most dramatic decline on rates of the uninsured of any state in the nation. Not satisfied with success, Hutchinson has decided to try to get the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to permit Arkansas to imitate the successful negotiations of other wackadoodle governors and make the program worse by privatizing stuff and making the poor pay more.

Dear Governor Hutchinson:  The thing is working. Just walk away.

Apparently Pennsylvania’s John Kasich has been banned by the Koch boys from their events because of his support for expanding Medicaid.

Scott Walker and the ACA

Whenever I hear the anti-Affordable Care Act crowd explain its alternative, to “Obamacare,” I remember the presentation that my friend David West once made to a legislative committee. He was describing a plan offered by an insurance company that had a surgery benefit – but not anesthesia. David suggested that perhaps they might at least offer a bullet to bite and a bottle of bourbon.

Desperate to put a little passion into his campaign as poll numbers fall, Scott Walker has decided to lay out some specifics about what he would offer for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Turns out to be the usual tax cut gibberish that will force the needy back into the ranks of the uninsured. But there are specifics.

Perhaps the worst of the specifics is the idea that anyone could buy any health insurance product from any state. This passes and the insurance gang will soon be regulated by the domestic equivalent of the Cayman Island—i.e., no standards at all.

Conflict of Interest

So there is a big debate going on in D.C. over whether or not investment counselors should be required to act in the interest of the investors they counsel. Apparently some Republicans in Congress believe that steering you to waste a lot of time in a thinly veiled pyramid scheme is the sort of advice that your investment counselor should be able to give without concern or penalty.

Musical Chairs

Former Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes died last week. Stokes did many really fine things, but what I, the hopeless wonk, remember the most was the Heckler Report. Margaret Heckler was the Secretary of the then Department of Health Education and Welfare in 1984 and she directed an analysis of health disparities based on race. This was the first big national analysis of this important issue and it outlined patterns that persist into today.

Louis Stokes was the behind-the-scenes inspiration that caused this report to be written. Maybe we have not gotten much done as a response?  Maybe, with the news of Stokes’ death, how important it is to keep working on this issue?

Schedule

You are going to have to wait a couple of more weeks for the return of the Congress.  Summers can be so relaxing.

Daley Weekly: Foreign Policy Takes Center Stage in D.C.

Obama Takes Charge

Wow. Quite a week for our President. He gave three separate speeches at the U.N. that can only be seen as forceful displays of U.S. leadership, however one might view some of the actual policies.

The big one was an address on foreign affairs that bluntly confronted Russia and the Islamic State. You could see some of this coming a few weeks ago when Obama reacted with uncontained anger to the beheading of American journalists. Looks like we are into a long term air war in Syria and Iraq. (We have some strategic advice later in this report.)

Obama even presided in person over a session of the Security Council that passed a resolution committing the international community to cutting off access for those who want to join ISIS in the Middle East.

Earlier, Obama gave a presentation on climate change where he specifically called out China as a major polluter and pressed for global change to limit carbon emissions.

He ended his time at the U.N. with a challenge to other countries to get involved in the Ebola crisis in Africa.

It will be interesting to see whether or not this has any political effect here in the U.S. Obama’s foreign policy critics seemed to be throwing the linguini at the wall to see if they can find anything that might stick. The Rs apparently are going to play the racism card – they began running political ads trying to tie the problems in the Middle East to Obama’s immigration policy.

Latte Land

Huge news event. Apparently overshadowing the President’s performance at the U.N., was the video of Obama exiting a helicopter and saluting the guards with a Starbucks cup in his hand. The right wing went crazy – they had finally found grounds for impeachment even though they apparently do not know whether it is a medium or a drip grind. We have other important questions that the press seems to have missed. Was this a venti or a tall? Was the absence of a burn protection sleeve another failure on the part of the Secret Service? Is Obama covertly signaling his support for the terrorists by ordering beans from Yemen? This story is just beginning. The Birthers soon will report that the coffee actually came from Kenya.

If you somehow missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m85jKv8nDQk

Ebola

Folks are finally recognizing just how serious the Ebola epidemic in Africa actually is. The CDC put out an estimate that the disease could strike 1.4 million people in the next four months. The death rate has also been adjusted upward from 55 percent to 70 percent, worse than the bubonic plague.

President Obama included a plea for international assistance in his U.N. speech and is working to send 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia. Lest you worry that this is Obama’s response to the cries for “boots on the ground,” understand that they will be building aid shelters and many of them are medical personnel. The shelters are badly needed – only 18 percent of Ebola victims in Liberia are in treatment centers.

While we have opined for weeks about the Ebola epidemic spreading because of a weak healthcare infrastructure in Africa, we cannot overlook the fact that there is a serious AIDS problem here at home among the poor African American populations in the South. States that have not expanded Medicaid have a health care infrastructure problem of their own.

Anyone wanting to understand how the South has become the “epicenter” of AIDS can read a Washington Post report here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/southern-states-are-now-epicenter-of-hivaids-in-the-us/2014/09/22/9ac1525a-39e6-11e4-9c9f-ebb47272e40e_story.html.

Beneficial Ownership                       

This wonky term refers to the effort by advocates to require states to identify the true owners when they register a corporation – the owners who actually benefit. Because no state gathers this information, owners of corporations headquartered in the U.S. can commit crimes and law enforcement cannot trace the perpetrators.

The consequences of this secrecy have been documented in a study authored by our friends at Global Witness: The Great Rip Off. Among other findings, the analysis shows how it is easier to set-up an anonymous corporation in the United States than in other countries, including such places as the Cayman Islands. The study reports twenty-two cases of anonymous companies in twenty-seven states involving fraud, tax evasion, political corruption, mob crime and money laundering. Access the report and see how your state is doing: www.globalwitness.org/greatripoff.

Efforts to require states to identify beneficial owners during the state run corporate registration process have been successfully opposed by the National Association of Secretaries of State. Once you peek at this report you might want to ask your Secretaries of State why they are helping to harbour these criminals.

Eric Holder and Policing

Last week the Attorney General (more below about his resignation) launched an effort called the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice. This effort will bring a combination of law enforcement experts, social scientists, community leaders and researchers into a three-year effort to work on the problem of the police and their relations with minority communities.

Let’s hope they can make some progress.

Let’s also recognize that they quickly will discover that the problem is much broader and deeper than just the minority communities and the cops. How can the cops solve the problems of poverty, under-funded schools, health disparities, bad housing, and joblessness? How can we get the cops in a better place when we all keep hearing the thinly veiled racism of T Baggers and their political ilk? How can the cops get rid of the vote suppressers, the Medicaid deniers, the immigrant deporters, the food stamp cutters, and all the rest?

One other tiny little matter – how do you explain to a black kid who bought a dime bag of ganja that he has to go to jail when he knows that a rich, white bank executive who ripped us off for billions will never face a jury?

Immigration

The National Immigration Center has developed an analysis of the demographic impact of immigrant women. Great charts and some useful tools for advocates. http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/immigrant-women-united-states-portrait-demographic-diversity.

Poverty

The latest figures, released by the U.S. Census last week, show a modest reduction in the rate of poverty. Before the cheering starts, take note that 45 million of your fellow Americans still live below the poverty line. Note also that poverty among children reaches one in five overall and one in three among black and Latino children.

The Coalition on Human Needs has done an analysis of the figures and reports that many more would still be in poverty were it not for safety net programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance.

 Workforce Development

Concerns persist that there will be a shortage of physicians to fill the needs created by the expanded coverage under the ACA. This issue has been thrown into high relief by efforts to pump money into the VA health system to overcome serious shortcomings in veteran’s health care – they do not know where to get the health providers they need to fill the gaps.

Marching into the breach is the American Association of Nurse Practitioners with the useful suggestion that nurse practitioners be permitted by the VA to practice within the full extent of their training, rather than having them limited by unnecessary scope of practice rules.

The whole health care system should be listening to them. A more widespread use of nurses and physicians assistants would ease shortages everywhere but changes in state scope of practice laws are being opposed by traditional physician lobbies.

Mr. Sensitivity

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) gained and then lost 50 pounds after a pregnancy. She reports that some Members of the Senate made seriously senseless and prejudiced remarks that are too stupid to quote.

One member of the Senate was outraged by Gillibrand’s revelations. Ron Johnson, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, demanded that Gillibrand disclose who made the remarks. Johnson said: “If you’re going to throw out accusations, my guess is you’d probably ought to name names.”

Johnson is Mr. Sensitivity about the treatment of victims. In 2010 he attack a bill in the Wisconsin State Senate aimed at protecting the victims of childhood sex crimes because it would be bad for business if employers who hid such crimes were held accountable. Just to prove his point, Johnson’s office refused to pursue the charge by one of his female aids that she had been assailed by a Wisconsin State Representative who was later convicted of other assaults. Johnson is one of five Senators to vote “No” on the Violence Against Women Act.

ACA

The ACA detractors insisted that folks would enroll but not pay. It looks as though 7.3 million actually paid up, way higher than the right wing ideologues suggested. With subsidies, coverage has cost them an average of less than $100 per month.

Too Big to Jail

Wells Fargo reached an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay a $5 million fine for failing to prevent insider trading. Company executives looked away as one of their brokers used confidential information to make profitable stock investments in Burger King via associates in Brazil. A miracle may be in the works here – there still might be criminal prosecution of the broker, but the executives who looked the other way will be protected by the too big to jail principle.

The Arab Bank has been convicted by a jury in a civil case for knowingly supporting terrorist organizations by laundering funds associated with attacks in the Middle East. This is a civil case, so they will have to pay up, but will anyone enter a prison cell? By the way, this case pales in comparison to the HBSC’s laundering of $200 trillion in money for drug lords and terrorists. The right wingers think we are coddling the poor. Actually, it looks like we coddle the rich.

Foreign Policy

Everyone following the interstices of U.S. policy in the Middle East should be reading Edward Luttwak’s The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire. I carry my copy with me everywhere. Running to a mere 498 pages, this humble tome shows how the Byzantines survived for centuries while constantly being attacked from the outside, even when they had limited military options. They constantly played one invading hoard off against another. While there have been intervening millennia, very similar tribal/religious sects are there now.

The preferred methods for getting the factions fighting among themselves were bribery and dynastic marriage. While intermarriage might be the simplest solution, let’s assume for the sake of argument that Obama will not be willing to marry Sasha or Malia off to one of the Emirs. So he is pretty much left with the cash option, which apparently will be sent in the form of ballistics. But if he can get them fighting with one another, which they seem willing to do, maybe their energy will be wasted away in the deserts and not against us or our allies.

Musical Chairs

Eric Holder has announced his resignation. He is the longest serving of any of Obama’s original cabinet members. The timing has both a good and bad side. Holder just announce a major initiative on policing that needs strong leadership. However, if he is determined to leave, it is good that he go in time for a successor to be confirmed in a Lame Duck Session of Congress rather than risk having to get someone through a changed Senate membership next year.

Schedule

The elections are November 4.