In Case You’re One of Those Citizens Who Want to Keep Track

Amy Siskind, a former Wall Street executive, is documenting the odd and troubling things happening in Washington. She publishes a summary every week. Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post wrote about her efforts:

[In November] Siskind began keeping what she calls the Weekly List, tracking all the ways in which she saw America’s taken-for-granted governmental norms changing in the [DT] era.

The project started small, read by friends and with only a few items a week.

By Week 9, though, the list had gone viral.

“It blew up — I had 2 million views that week,” she said. “People were responding like crazy, saying things like, ‘I’m praying for you.’ ”

As time went on, the list grew much longer and more sophisticated. Here are three of her 85 items from mid-June:

●“Monday, in a bizarre display in front of cameras, Trump’s cabinet members took turns praising him.”

●“AP reported that a company that partners with both Trump and (son-in-law) Jared Kushner is a finalist for a $1.7bn contract to build the new FBI building.

●Vice President Pence hired a big-name “lawyer with Watergate experience to represent him in the Russian probe.”

Now, in Week 32, every item has a source link, and rather than just a few items, there are dozens. (Her weekly audience usually hits hundreds of thousands, she said, on platforms including Medium, Facebook and Twitter.)

The idea, she said, came from her post-election reading about how authoritarian governments take hold — often with incremental changes that seem shocking at first but quickly become normalized. Each post begins with: “Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember”…

“It’s scary to look back on the early weeks and see what we’ve already gotten used to,” she said. Examples: a secretary of state who rarely speaks publicly, the failure to fill important positions in many agencies, a president who often eschews intelligence briefings in favor of “Fox & Friends.”

“We forget all the things we should be outraged about,” Siskind said.

Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor and author of the PressThink blog, called Siskind’s efforts “a service that is thoroughly journalistic and much needed.”

The lists “help people experience the history that is being made and keeps them alive and alert to the dangers of eroding norms,” Rosen said.

In their user-friendly format, he said, they are “one way of dealing with an overload of significant news, a surplus of eventfulness that allows things to hide in plain sight simply because there are too many of them to care about”…

She posts the list on Saturday on Facebook and Twitter, and Sunday on Medium after working on it for 15 or 20 hours a week.

In a similar vein, The New York Times published a piece this weekend called “Trump’s Lies”:

Many Americans have become accustomed to President Trump’s lies. But as regular as they have become, the country should not allow itself to become numb to them. So we have catalogued nearly every outright lie he has told publicly since taking the oath of office….

There is simply no precedent for an American president to spend so much time telling untruths. Every president has shaded the truth or told occasional whoppers. No other president — of either party — has behaved as Trump is behaving….

We have set a conservative standard here, leaving out many dubious statements … [but] we believe his long pattern of using untruths to serve his purposes, as a businessman and politician, means that his statements are not simply careless errors.

We are using the word “lie” deliberately. Not every falsehood is deliberate on Trump’s part. But it would be the height of naïveté to imagine he is merely making honest mistakes. He is lying.

The list begins on January 21st (“I didn’t want to go into Iraq”) and ends on June 21st (“We’re one of the highest taxed nations in the world”). You won’t be surprised to see it’s a long list. If they provide the number of lies, I missed it.

The Times is actually late to this effort. Just as he did during the campaign, Daniel Dale of The Toronto Star is keeping a running list of false things DT says. The list was last updated on June 22nd. It was a big day because DT had a campaign rally in Iowa the night before (isn’t it strange that the President is holding campaign rallies when the next Presidential election is more than three years away? I bet Amy Siskind has mentioned this.)

The Star‘s list has 330 unique entries so far. There’s also a handy search mechanism that allows you to sort his false statements by topic. 

Dale also covered DT’s rally on Wednesday night (“It was just like old times”):

[DT] insulted Hillary Clinton. He insulted Chicago. He attributed a sensational claim to an unnamed buddy of his.

He floated a confusing proposal, promising to change welfare law to something that sounds identical to current welfare law. He executed a dizzying shift in rhetoric, applauding himself for appointing a former Goldman Sachs executive after railing against Goldman Sachs. And he revealed an unbaked plan — to turn his hypothetical giant wall on the Mexican border into a power-generating “solar wall” that would reduce the hypothetical reimbursement bill he still insists he will be sending to Mexico.

More than anything, though, he made things up.

By the way, members of DT’s adminstration and a few Republican politicians are trying to defend the Senate’s healthcare bill. They’re using the only available method: lying about it.

What People Need to Know About Medicaid

Please share this 20-minute video, even with Americans who hate politics. It might reach people in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, Ohio or West Virginia who will call their relatively sane Republican Senators and demand that they vote No on the Better Healthcare Reconciliation Act, also known as the Senate healthcare bill or Trumpcare. We need to stop this abomination now.

Bad News, Good News, No News

I was going to write more about consciousness, in particular about dreaming, but Senate Republicans finally let the rest of us see the healthcare bill they plan to vote on next week. Unless three of them vote No, it will almost certainly be approved by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. It will then be signed into law by the con man in the White House.

The bill would reduce government spending on health insurance by billions of dollars, which would lead to a harder life or a quicker death for millions of Americans. Most importantly its authors, however, the bill would give a big tax cut to the wealthiest 2% of the population and to favored corporations. Basically, the government will make health insurance more expensive or hard to get for lots of us in order for a few of us to be richer than they already are. You really need to be a Republican to appreciate the beauty of it.

Senator Chris Murphy (Democrat of Connecticut), who seems to be a nice, reasonable person, gives a helpful overview of the Senate bill in this brief video.

In other bad news: 

Except it’s not really news at all. It’s a blog post from Heather Digby Parton (“Digby”) entitled “Why Are They Doing This? Because They Can, or: How To Get Away With Murder”. It summarizes the present crisis and begins with a quote from another writer:

Jamelle Bouie answers the question as to why the Republicans are going forward with their Kill People for Tax Cuts bill [the AHCA] despite the fact that it’s the most unpopular piece of legislation in history:

“The 2018 House map still favors Republicans, and the party is defending far fewer Senate seats than Democrats. Aggressively gerrymandered districts provide another layer of defense, as does voter suppression, and the avalanche of spending from outside groups. Americans might be hurt and outraged by the effects of the AHCA, but those barriers blunt the electoral impact.”

“The grounds for political combat seem to have changed as well. If recent special elections are any indication—where GOP candidates refused to comment on signature GOP policies—extreme polarization means Republicans can mobilize supporters without being forced to talk about or account for their actual actions. Identity, for many voters, matters more than their pocketbooks. Republicans simply need to signal their disdain—even hatred—for their opponents, political or otherwise. Why worry about the consequences of your policies when you can preclude defeat by changing the ground rules of elections, spending vast sums, and stoking cultural resentment?”

“It seems, then, that we have an answer for why Republicans insist on moving forward with the American Health Care Act. Because they can. And who is going to stop them?”

[Now back to Digby:]

It appears they also have a foreign country helping them get elected, for which they seem to be very grateful.

They don’t fear the voters because they have managed to create an alternate universe for them in which everything bad that happens to them is the fault of hippies, feminazis, immigrants and people of color and everything good that happens is because of them. When liberals scream they laugh with delight because it means we are seeing justice at their hands.

And they’ve successfully created an electoral system than keeps them in the majority through undemocratic means. It’s a sweet scam. No wonder they are so confident. They have staged a silent coup and we just have to live with it.

Digby was probably having a pessimistic moment there at the end, because we don’t just have to live with it. What we need to do is pay attention, speak up and vote. But that will take time.

Now the good news. Senator Dean Heller (Republican of Nevada) came out pretty strongly against the bill today. He’s very worried about losing his job next year. That partly explains this:

“I cannot support a piece of legislation that takes insurance away from tens of millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Nevadans,” Heller said….[To win his vote] GOP leaders would have to “protect Medicaid expansion states” from the bill’s current cuts.

“It’s going to be very difficult to get me to a yes,” he said, noting that conservative [i.e. truly radical] Republican senators would likely be reluctant to add spending back to the measure.

Another Republican Senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, thinks the bill isn’t as cruel or “libertarian” as it could be, so he might vote against it. That would mean we’d only need one more Republican to jump ship in order to sink it.

Which might be what the Senate Majority Leader, odious Senator Mitch McConnell (also of Kentucky), is expecting to happen, according to an interesting column by Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post. It’s called “Cheer Up, Democrats!”. Although McConnell is a terrible person, Rubin points out that he isn’t stupid. He understands that hardly anyone likes his bill. He also probably understands that there is no easy way to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite what the Republicans have been telling their deluded supporters all these years.

So McConnell may be trying to get health care off his plate as quickly as possible, even if the vote doesn’t go his way. That will allow him and his co-conspirators to get back to what they really want to do: cut taxes, kill regulations, put poor people in jail and destroy what’s left of our democracy. (That last part is no news.) 

What Should They Do About Him?

Thirteen Republican Senators, all white men, have been meeting in secret to write a healthcare bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with serious tax cuts for the rich. The thirteen are led by the odious Senate Majority Leader, the conscience-free Senator from Kentucky, who masterminded the successful theft of Merrick Garland’s seat on the Supreme Court. That means they’ll probably produce something 50 Senators will vote for. That’s all they’ll need to pass the bill, because the dimwitted religious fanatic who is Vice President will almost certainly break a 50-50 tie in evil’s favor.

The Senate Majority Leader announced a few minutes ago that a “discussion draft” of the bill will probably be made public this week. He wants to bring the bill to a vote in the full Senate a few days after that, before public outrage scares the pants or dresses off any of his colleagues. There are a few Republican Senators who might vote against the bill once they know what’s in it, but that will only happen if they’re afraid of losing their jobs, which won’t be the case unless voters in their states make a lot of noise. These are the Republican Senators who might be open to influence and weren’t invited to join the Gang of 13:

Shelley Moore Capito (West Virginia)
Susan Collins (Maine)
Jeff Flake (Arizona)
Dean Heller (Nevada)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)

These three might see reason but they were included in the Gang, so it’s unlikely:

Cory Gardner (Colorado)
Rob Portman (Ohio)
Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania)

I’d include the “maverick” Senator John McCain of Arizona in the first list but he only talks a big game and may be too senile to know what he’s voting for.

Now that that’s out of the way, here’s what I really wanted to write about. Michael Gerson is a member of what would ordinarily be called the “Republican “Establishment. He used to work for the second President Bush and now writes for a living. Yesterday in The Washington Post, he wrote about how Republicans might put an end to Trumpism. First, he reviews the situation:

Trump has been ruled by compulsions, obsessions and vindictiveness, expressed nearly daily on Twitter. He has demonstrated an egotism that borders on solipsism. His political skills as president have been close to nonexistent. His White House is divided, incompetent and chaotic, and key administration jobs remain unfilled. His legislative agenda has gone nowhere. He has told constant, childish, refuted, uncorrected lies, and demanded and habituated deception among his underlings. He has humiliated and undercut his staff while requiring and rewarding flattery. He has promoted self-serving conspiracy theories. He has displayed pathetic, even frightening, ignorance on policy matters foreign and domestic. He has inflicted his ethically challenged associates on the nation. He is dead to the poetry of language and to the nobility of the political enterprise, viewing politics as conquest rather than as service.

Trump has made consistent appeals to prejudice based on religion and ethnicity, and associated the Republican Party with bias. He has stoked tribal hostilities. He has carelessly fractured our national unity. He has attempted to undermine respect for any institution that opposes or limits him — be it the responsible press, the courts or the intelligence community. He has invited criminal investigation through his secrecy and carelessness. He has publicly attempted to intimidate law enforcement. He has systematically alarmed our allies and given comfort to authoritarians. He promised to emancipate the world from American moral leadership — and has kept that pledge.

For many Republicans and conservatives, there is apparently no last straw, with offenses mounting bale by bale. The argument goes: Trump is still superior to Democratic rule — which would deliver apocalyptic harm — and thus anything that hurts Trump is bad for the republic. He is the general, so shut up and salute. What, after all, is the conservative endgame other than Trump’s success?

This is the recommendation of sycophancy based on hysteria. At some point, hope for a new and improved Trump deteriorates into unreason. The idea that an alliance with Trump will end anywhere but disaster is a delusion. Both individuals and parties have long-term interests that are served by integrity, honor and sanity. Both individuals and the Republican Party are being corrupted and stained by their embrace of Trump. The endgame of accommodation is to be morally and politically discredited. Those committed to this approach warn of national decline — and are practically assisting it. They warn of decadence — and provide refreshments at the orgy.

So what is the proper objective for Republicans and conservatives? It is the defeat of Trumpism, preferably without the destruction of the GOP itself. And how does that happen?

That was quite a buildup. So what options does Gerson consider? Only to immediately reject each one of them?

  1. Create a conservative third party – a “bad idea”
  2. Challenge DT in the 2020 primary elections – “unlikely”
  3. If Democrats win the House in 2018, join the effort to impeach him – “theoretical”
  4. Help elect a Democrat in 2020 – “heretical”
  5. Wait for 2024 and hope for the best – “complacent”.

Gerson’s conclusion:

Whatever option is chosen, it will not be easy or pretty. And any comfort for Republicans will be cold because they brought this fate on themselves and the country.

That’s not very encouraging. Nevertheless, there are a few options that didn’t make his list:

  • Impeach the dangerous ignoramus right now
  • Invoke the 25th Amendment and put him in a home
  • Admit in public that he’s totally unfit to be President
  • Put country over party and resist him every step of the way.

I offer this list on the assumption that Mr. Gerson and other patriotic Republicans lack imagination and simply didn’t think of them.

Being Conscious, But Not of Consciousness

A reader (!) asks: Does [what you posted about consciousness yesterday three days ago] mean that we are only conscious of what’s going on in our brains?

That’s an excellent question. When I say that consciousness is certain kinds of brain activity or patterns of neural activation, it may sound like I’m saying that we’re only conscious of brain activity. In other words, we’re not conscious of the rest of the world or the rest of our bodies.

Given what I’m saying about consciousness, I might explain that we are “directly” conscious of our brain activity and “indirectly” conscious of the rest of the world. Or I could say that our consciousness of what’s going on in our heads is “immediate”, while our awareness of everything else is “mediated”, i.e. conveyed through intermediaries, such as the air that carries sound waves to our ears and the nerve impulses that travel from all over our body to our brain.

So when I raised this question yesterday (“Does this mean we are only conscious of what’s going on in our brains?”), I began by saying “in one sense, yes, because that’s where the physical phenomenon of consciousness takes place”. I then said, however, that in the most important sense our brain activity enables us to be aware of what’s happening outside our brains.

Actually, I recommend that we reserve phrases like “conscious of”, “aware of” or “what we experience” for the things we are ordinarily and importantly conscious of. That’s the standard way of speaking and the best way to describe what’s happening when we are conscious. For instance, when you’re awake, are you conscious of your surroundings? When you raise your arm, do you experience any discomfort? Now that you’re on Social Security, are you experiencing any memory loss?

Asking whether we are conscious of what’s going on in our brains amounts to asking whether we are conscious of our consciousness. It’s a misleading question. It’s like asking someone at the North Pole which way is north. To be conscious is to have a certain kind of brain activity. To be conscious of whatever is to be conscious of something other than your brain activity. That’s because there is no way to be conscious of your consciousness. There is no mechanism, no mental apparatus, no meta-consciousness that allows being conscious of consciousness. Consciousness just is. The world you see, that rumbling in your stomach, is what it looks like, feels like, to have the right kind of brain activity. 

You can think about being conscious. We’re doing that right now. But that’s different from being conscious of consciousness. When you think about consciousness, you’re conscious of your thoughts (about consciousness), just like you can be conscious of thoughts about other things. But consciousness itself just is (I could say it is what it is, but that would be redundant and annoying).

Could an evil demon be tricking you, like Descartes wondered? Could you be a brain in a vat, like later philosophers ask themselves? Sure, it’s possible to be seriously wrong about what you’re conscious of. Maybe what you’re conscious of isn’t ever what you think it is. I’m not worried. You shouldn’t be either. 

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Yes, it makes the air vibrate and if it creates enough vibrations and there’s anyone around who’s conscious and isn’t deaf, they’ll hear (be conscious of) the crashing sound. 

I’m not sure what I’ve been saying makes sense. I’ve thought about this topic for a long time but never expressed my thoughts this way before. Maybe what I’m saying is way off the track, but it’s all I’ve got right now. Maybe I’ll get back to it again. In the meantime, stay conscious.

In my opinion, that implies being conscious of other things, not consciousness.

What’s So Hard About Consciousness? (With More Words Than Usual)

Some philosophers call it “the hard problem”. Here’s how Norwegian philosopher Hedda Hassel Mørch describes it:

The nature of consciousness seems to be unique among scientific puzzles. Not only do neuroscientists have no fundamental explanation for how it arises from physical states of the brain, we are not even sure whether we ever will….

Our brains do not merely seem to gather and process information. They do not merely undergo biochemical processes. Rather, they create a vivid series of feelings and experiences, such as seeing red, feeling hungry, or being baffled about philosophy. There is something that it’s like to be you, and no one else can ever know that as directly as you do.

Consider the colored objects below. Scientists can describe what happens when a person sees them. They can tell you why the color of a tomato is more like the color of an orange than a lemon. They can point out that if you mix red and yellow light, you’ll get orange. They can use words and numbers to say what’s happening as light is reflected into your eyes and impulses are transmitted along your optic nerves. 

But scientists cannot express or capture how any of these colors look when they, or you, or I see them. Words and numbers aren’t up to the task! The best anyone can do is show you examples. See, this is red! 

Consider how the word “red” is defined in dictionaries. Merriam-Webster says “red” means “of the color red”. Not terribly helpful. Consider how Wikipedia introduces its article on “Red”:

Red is the color at the longer-wavelengths end of the spectrum of visible light next to orange, at the opposite end from violet. Red color has a predominant light wavelength of roughly 620–740 nanometers. 

That would be helpful in some circumstances, but the Wikipedia writers added color pictures of strawberries, a cardinal and the Chinese flag to make things perfectly clear. That’s because pointing out examples is the best way, in one sense the only way, to express the meaning of a word like “red”. That, by the way, is called an “ostensive” definition. When language won’t do the trick, show an example. 

The same difficulty applies to the way a violin sounds, the way roses smell and the way tickles tickle. There is something elusive about the way the world appears. There is something incommunicable about experience. Another way of saying this is that the contents of consciousness are a first-person phenomenon. Science as the formal study of the world can describe and explain what’s happening when you hear a violin from a third-person perspective, but the particular sound you hear is beyond words or numbers. There is something about being a person, what it’s like to be a person (or a bat), that has to be experienced firsthand.

Hmm.

Okay, well, that’s interesting. But I’m tempted to say: so what?

That hasn’t been the usual reaction in the history of Western philosophy. Many philosophers have drawn big conclusions from the scientific elusiveness of consciousness. Here, for instance, is Thomas Nagel writing a few months ago (he is the author of the famous philosophy paper “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”):

I do not deny that patterns of neural activation cause experience. What I doubt is that patterns of neural activation alone constitute or are experience—if neural activation is a purely physical process.

The mind-body problem that exercises … me is a problem about what experience is, not how it is caused. The difficulty is that conscious experience has an essentially subjective character—what it is like for its subject, from the inside—that purely physical processes do not share. Physical concepts describe the world as it is in itself, and not for any conscious subject…. But if subjective experience is not an illusion, the real world includes more than can be described in this way.

I agree … that “we need to determine what ‘thing,’ what activity of neurons beyond activating other neurons, was amplified to the point that consciousness arose”. But I believe this will require that we attribute to neurons, and perhaps to still more basic physical things and processes, some properties that in the right combination are capable of constituting subjects of experience like ourselves, to whom sunsets and chocolate and violins look and taste and sound as they do. These, if they are ever discovered, will not be physical properties, because physical properties, however sophisticated and complex, characterize only the order of the world extended in space and time, not how things appear from any particular point of view.

Nagel accepts that patterns of neural activation cause consciousness, but he doesn’t think they constitute consciousness. I think he has two reasons for saying this. The first is what we’ve been considering so far: consciousness has properties (“raw feels”) that cannot be captured by science. The second is that neural activation is physical – it occurs in space and time – but, according to Nagel, consciousness doesn’t.

His conclusion is that consciousness is a mental phenomenon that somehow stands apart from the rest of the universe. Our experience is supposedly a special kind of “stuff” that’s somehow separate from the physical world of quantum fields, waves and particles. (How events in space and time can make something happen that isn’t in space or time has always been a problem for positions like Nagel’s. Another philosopher, Daniel Dennett, says it would be a miracle.)

My own view is that patterns of neural activation don’t cause consciousness. Nor are they correlated with consciousness. Instead, certain patterns of neural activity are consciousness. In other words, consciousness is having certain kinds of neural activity.

If consciousness is activity in one’s brain, That’s because a phenomenon cannot cause itself, so saying there is a causal relationship between neural activation and consciousness implies that they are separate phenomena. Nor are such patterns correlated with consciousness, because, again, saying that two series of events are correlated implies that they are separate phenomena. But having various patterns of neural activity occurring in your brain is consciousness.

This isn’t to deny that there are correlations of a sort. When a scientist or technician measures or records someone’s brain activity (or even their own), they are collecting data from an outside, third-person perspective, i.e. the perspective of the equipment that does the measuring or recording. Looking at the data that’s gathered, we can say there is a correlation between the data and the subject’s consciousness.

But we shouldn’t go on to say that the patterns of neural activity detected in the brain are correlated with the subject’s conscious experience. That would imply that the neural activity stands apart from the conscious experience, when they’re really the same phenomenon talked about in two different ways or considered from two different perspectives (i.e. the third person “outside” perspective and the first-person “inside” point of view). 

This view is known as the “identity” theory. To me it seems obvious. Consciousness is brain activity. Certain brain activity is consciousness.

Not so fast, however. How can consciousness and having appropriate brain activity be the same? Don’t “they” have different properties? I don’t think so.

Until there is reason to think otherwise, consciousness should be viewed as a physical process that occurs in the brain. Since the brain is in space and time, so is consciousness. When a person is conscious, they are presented with a phenomenal field, a set of representations, including three-dimensional sights (for most of us) and corresponding sounds (for most of us) and smells, tastes and feelings, as well as thoughts (for most of us). Some of these representations have properties like being red or sweet. These properties belong to the components of the phenomenal field. Another way of saying this is that these properties belong to the experience of having certain brain activity.

Of course, if you were to somehow travel around inside a conscious person’s brain, you wouldn’t see any redness or taste any sweetness. Nor would you find any movie screens or loudspeakers. The most you’d observe would be nerve cells, electrical impulses and chemical reactions with their own distinctive properties. You certainly wouldn’t detect the person’s phenomenal field as the person experiences it.

But if enough of those nerve cells, electrical impulses and chemical reactions are functional, a phenomenal field is present. There is consciousness occurring in there with its various properties, by virtue of the fact that having certain patterns of neural activation is enough for consciousness to occur. (As far as we know, it’s also necessary for consciousness to occur.)

Does this mean that we are only conscious of what’s going on in our brains? In one sense, yes, because that’s where the physical phenomenon of consciousness takes place. In another sense, however, and the most important sense, no, not at all. It’s reasonable to believe that consciousness evolved to help us make our way in the world, partly by representing the world to us. Our conscious experience of the world is damned good, in fact phenomenally good, when you think about it.

In fact, it’s so good that we don’t ordinarily have to think about it at all. We just use it to get around, rather like we use maps, photographs, recordings and other representations. Someone shows you a picture of Miami and asks if you’ve ever been there. Do you say “Yes” or “No” or “What do you mean? Have I ever been in that photograph in your hand?” If you’re not being a smart ass, you’ll answer “Yes” or “No”, because that’s how representations work.

In similar fashion, if someone asks you if you want the banana lying on the table, do you say “Yes” or “No” or “What do you mean? Do I want the portion of my visual field that is mostly yellow with a little bit of brown and green?” Saying “Yes” or “No” is the natural way to respond. It’s true that you can’t keep your consciousness in your glove compartment or put it on Facebook. Plus, your consciousness is what makes it possible to use those other kinds of representations. Consciousness doesn’t represent the world in the same way that maps and photographs do. But in addition to helping us think about the world, remember the past and imagine the future, consciousness also helps us observe and navigate the world, like less simple representations do. 

So that’s what I think about consciousness. Understanding how or why consciousness happens in human and animal brains is a major challenge for scientists who study brains, but it isn’t “the hard problem” most philosophers make it out to be.o-142765670-facebook

If Only His Words Meant a Damn Thing

I wrote about the Republican healthcare bill earlier today:

Assuming logic and morality don’t win the day, and simple majorities pass the bill in both houses, it will go to the President. If that sleazeball cares what’s in the bill, he’ll veto it, since it won’t be anything like the health care bill he promised. But we know how much we can count on him.

What he’s promised:

No one will lose coverage. There will be insurance for everybody. Healthcare will be a “lot less expensive” for everyone — the government, consumers, providers….

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said in an interview with The Washington Post. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.”…

As his run for president took shape, candidate Trump boasted via Twitter, “I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid”

Of course, a few weeks ago he celebrated the passage in the House of the AHCA (or Trumpcare), the legislation that would break all those promises!

So it was interesting to see this report later in the afternoon:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump told Republican senators Tuesday that the House-passed health care bill is “mean” and urged them to craft a version that is “more generous,” congressional sources said.

The president’s comments, at a White House lunch with 15 GOP senators, came as Senate Republican leaders’ attempts to write their own health care package have been slowed by disagreements between their party’s conservatives and moderates [i.e. the radicals and conservatives].

Trump’s remarks were a surprising critique of a Republican-written House measure whose passage he lobbied for and praised. At a Rose Garden ceremony minutes after the bill’s narrow House passage, Trump called it “a great plan.”

His comments also seemed to undercut efforts by Senate conservatives radicals to include restrictions in their chamber’s bill, such as cutting the Medicaid health care program for the poor and limiting the services insurers must cover. Moderate Conservative GOP senators have been pushing to ease those efforts.

The sources say the president did not specify what aspects of the bill he was characterizing….

One source said Trump called the House bill “mean, mean, mean” and said, “We need to be more generous, more kind”. The other source said Trump used a vulgar phrase to describe the House bill and told the senators, “We need to be more generous.”

It’s extremely unlikely that DT will know or care what’s in the bill he’s given to sign, and even less likely that he would veto it.

If we’ve learned nothing else since the election, it’s that his words don’t mean a damn thing. The Executive Branch of our government is being run by someone you wouldn’t trust to feed your cat or water your lawn.