Paul Ryan and John Shimkus don’t understand the concept of insurance

It has become inherently clear that the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress have zero concept of how insurance is supposed to work. Broadly speaking, insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss, and insurance can be an individual policy (such as a car insurance policy through a private-sector entity like State Farm, GEICO, or one of their competitors), a group policy (such as group health insurance plans provided by employers through a private-sector health insurance firm to the employers’ employees), or a government policy (such as the federal Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance program commonly called Social Security). Likewise, health insurance is a method of protecting one’s self from financial loss associated with medical expenses, and can be an individual policy, a group policy, or a government policy. In order for insurance policies to be financially sustainable, those who do not need the benefits of the insurance policy in question must, by buying into the policy (which can be by paying premiums, taxes, and/or other means), effectively subsidize those who do need the benefits of the insurance policy in question.

The problem is, Republicans, who want to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), don’t understand how a financially-sustainable health insurance policy works.

At a recent press conference, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin bizarrely claimed that health insurance doesn’t work if healthy people have to effectively subsidize people people who are ill and/or injured:

…He even lost the suit coat and broke out the PowerPoint on Thursday. It was like watching something on cable access late at night, or a flop-sweaty rookie substitute teacher, and it was hilarious—except for the parts where people will lose their health insurance and die, of course. And this is what he said and, peace be unto Dave Barry, I am not making it up, either:

Paul Ryan said that insurance cannot work if healthy people have to pay more to subsidize the sick.

As if Ryan wasn’t far enough out of touch with reality, the person who legally represents me and several hundred thousand other people in downstate Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives, John Shimkus, made the sexist motivation behind repealing the ACA publicly known in committee:

But Republican Rep. John Shimkus of Illinois took the cake on Thursday night when he questioned why men aren’t exempt from paying into insurance plans that cover prenatal care. “What about men having to purchase prenatal care?” the congressman said. “Is that not correct? And should they?”

Let me ask a similar question: Why should women have to purchase health insurance for prostrate cancer treatments? Clearly, men never need prenatal care, and women never need prostate cancer treatments. However, if only women had to pay for health insurance covering prenatal care, such a system, regardless of whether the public sector or the private sector were to administer it, would be financially unsustainable. The same problem would be the result if only men had to pay for health insurance covering prostate cancer treatments. This is because a large percentage of women will need prenatal care for at least several months of their lives, so it would be only women who never get pregnant effectively subsidizing those who get pregnant any number of times in their lives. Health insurance covering gender-specific health illnesses/procedures can only be financially sustainable if both men and women pay into a health plan covering prenatal care, prostate cancer treatments, etc..

While I’d never run for public office myself, John Shimkus may legally represent all people in the 15th Congressional District of Illinois, but a significant minority of voters in the 15th district, including me, understand that Shimkus doesn’t understand how health insurance works.

Do Wisconsin Democrats have a potential savior from a gubernatorial campaign trainwreck?

Yesterday, it was reported that former Wisconsin State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville is going to seek the Democratic nomination for Governor of Wisconsin, with Cullen set to launch his gubernatorial bid sometime next month. If Cullen does enter the race, he will likely be the second candidate to run for governor as a Democrat; a former state legislative aide by the name of Bob Harlow is currently running for governor as a Democrat.

However, I strongly believe that neither Cullen nor Harlow can defeat one of the worst of the worst in the Republican Party, incumbent Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is likely to run for a third four-year term.

Regarding Cullen, he is probably best known for briefly leaving the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Caucus in 2012 for not getting a committee assignment that he wanted. That sounds like something that Donald Trump would do, and it tells me that Cullen has very poor leadership skills and is very self-centered. There’s also that part of the now-infamous “David Koch” prank call where Walker bragged to a guy who he incorrectly believed to be right-wing billionaire David Koch that Cullen was a “pragmatist” and praised Cullen. Any Democratic primary television advertisement attacking Cullen from the left practically writes itself.

Regarding Harlow, I have been notified by a California-based political source that Harlow ran for a U.S. House seat in California in 2016, and, during that campaign (which he failed to advance to the general election), Harlow and canvassers working for Harlow’s campaign openly hurled insults at voters by calling them “corporatists” because they told the Harlow campaign that they were going to vote for the incumbent, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo. While Harlow was once an intern for former Republican Wisconsin State Senator Dale Schultz, Harlow is a lot more progressive than Schultz. The only Wisconsin-based political figure that I’m aware of who has praised Harlow since the launch of his gubernatorial campaign is Monona Grove School Board member and political blogger Jeff Simpson, who is known for saying what he thinks about the Democratic establishment in Wisconsin and telling it like it is (example here). However, Harlow has a proven track record of being incompetent at political campaigning, and it’s not like Wisconsin has any affinity for people from California moving to their state to run for public office. I fear and suspect that the Trump White House and/or foreign influencers (such as the Russian government, Wikileaks, and/or other foreign-based entities) may try to aid Harlow in his gubernatorial bid.

It’s important to note that, judging by the Twitter pages of some of the Democratic elected officials in Wisconsin, they do not appear to be circling the wagons around Cullen, in contrast to their reaction to Mary Burke’s entrance to the 2014 gubernatorial race in Wisconsin, where Burke had near-total support from Democratic state legislators from the outset of the campaign. This pretty much guarantees that at least one other candidate with considerable Democratic Party political connections in Wisconsin, political experience, and/or personal wealth is going to enter the gubernatorial race, which would mean a competitive primary between Cullen, Harlow, and at least one other candidate. If Mary Jo Walters could get somewhere around 45% or so of the vote against John Lehman in a primary for lieutenant governor, then it would not be out of the realm of possibility for Harlow to win the gubernatorial primary with a plurality. Harlow is completely unelectable in a general election, because the GOP would paint him as a carpetbagger from California if, by some chance, he won the Democratic nomination.

It has become increasingly clear to me that Wisconsin Democrats need a savior to step up to the plate to save the party from a potential trainwreck in the gubernatorial race next year. We know from past experience that Hillary Clinton/Jim Doyle-style neoliberalism is not going to win elections for Democrats in Wisconsin, and the Democratic primary electorate in Wisconsin is very left wing and absolutely distrusts the current Democratic establishment. Ron Kind is not a progressive by anyone’s imagination, so he’s no savior. Susan Happ is a proven loser, so she’s no savior. Kathleen Vinehout couldn’t win the Democratic nomination in the gubernatorial recall election, so yet another proven loser. I don’t know enough about Dana Wachs or Joe Parisi to tell you anything about either of those two.

The ideal political savior for Democrats in Wisconsin would be someone who is strongly progressive, and, therefore, ideologically similar to Harlow, but is considerably more politically skilled than Harlow. One might point to State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) as a potential savior for Wisconsin Democrats, given her fearless, no-holds-barred style of progressive politics. However, if she runs statewide, it would probably be for attorney general, not for governor, although she’d be an absolutely awesome candidate for either office. Late last year, Wisconsin-based political blogger Chris Walker mentioned State Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) as a potential gubernatorial candidate, and, if she were to run for governor, I would endorse her campaign without hesitation. She is one of the most progressive state legislators in the entire country, and, having read some of her op-eds, she seems like someone who genuinely cares about…no pun intended…making her state great again. However, Sargent could probably get elected to the state assembly for two-year terms for the rest of her life if she wanted to, so I highly doubt that she’d run for statewide office, but she’s never publicly ruled out a gubernatorial bid to my knowledge. If, by some chance, she were to seek the Democratic nomination for Wisconsin’s highest office, Sargent would probably win over nearly all of the voters who would be open to voting for someone like Harlow, and she’d have a good chance of winning the nomination, provided that she were to run a true statewide campaign. I don’t know enough about people like Dave Hansen or JoCasta Zamarripa to tell you about whether or not they’re interested in a gubernatorial bid or give you an opinion about them.

Long story short, Wisconsin Democrats can do a lot better than Tim Cullen or Bob Harlow.

NEW POLL: Bruce Rauner is in deep trouble in re-election bid

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post is completely separate from any election judge duties that the author may have in Illinois during the 2018 midterm elections.


Anzalone Liszt Grove, a Democratic pollster, recently did a pre-election opinion poll for the American Heart Association, and they found Bruce Rauner trailing “Generic Democrat” by a large margin. The poll found that Rauner trails “Generic Democrat” by a 47-32 margin, with that margin being quite a ways outside of the poll’s margin of error.

You may be wondering why a group like the American Heart Association, which is a non-profit group that aims to promote cardiac care, hired a political opinion pollster. However, the reason why the American Heart Association had Anzalone Liszt Grove release the polling data in the first place is because they were primarily interested in opinion polling on a proposed sugary drink tax in Illinois, which is considerably more popular than Rauner is according to the poll.

As someone who served as a poll worker during the actual voting during the November 2016 elections in Illinois, I can tell you that “Generic Democrat” or its Republican counterpart, “Generic Republican”, never appear on ballots. That’s because “Generic Democrat” and “Generic Republican” are merely designations for an unnamed major-party nominee that are used by pre-election opinion pollsters, typically with one calendar year or more remaining until the election for the office in question. There are three Democrats currently running in a contested primary for Governor of Illinois with more candidates expected to enter, so that explains why you didn’t see declared candidates being polled against Rauner, such as Chris Kennedy or Ameya Pawar, or potential candidates being polled against Rauner, such as Daniel Biss or Andy Manar.

In Illinois, it is not that difficult for a Democratic nominee to outrun “Generic Democrat” in a statewide race. Although “Generic Democrat” in Illinois is not a real-life person, if it were, it would be someone with a ton of political connections to State House Speaker Mike Madigan and/or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, both of which are thoroughly despised by voters outside of the City of Chicago and are despised by strongly left-wing voters in Chicago.

However, Rauner does have one ace-in-the-hole that unpopular politicians running for governor in other states don’t have, and that is the redistricting process that Illinois uses (outlined by Article IV, Section 3 of the Illinois Constitution). If the General Assembly (Illinois’s bicameral state legislature) cannot pass a congressional and state legislative redistricting plan prior to a certain deadline with either the governor’s support or by overriding a gubernatorial veto before June 30 of a year following a federal Census, an eight-member commission presumably consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans (per the state constitution, the State House Speaker, State House Minority Leader, State Senate President, and State Senate Minority Leader each appoint two members) would draw the maps, unless the commission can’t agree on a map by August 10 of the year in question; in that case, a ninth member, whose name is drawn at random and can be of either of the two major political parties, is added to the commission. The winner of the 2018 gubernatorial election in Illinois will, provided that he or she remains in office in 2021, have the power to approve or veto any maps that the General Assembly passes. If the redistricting process goes to commission, there is likely a 50-50 chance that the commission would approve a Republican gerrymander that Rauner would want.

Bruce Rauner is extremely unpopular in Illinois for a large number of reasons (mainly because his union-busting policies would destroy Illinois’s economy and his unwillingness to negotiate with anybody who doesn’t strongly agree with him), but the general election is a long ways away.

IMPEACH SESSIONS

While under oath during his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, then-U.S. Senator, and now-U.S. Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III claimed, “…I did not have contact with the Russians.”

As multiple media outlets are now reporting, Sessions did, in fact, have contact with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on at least two occassions during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington whose interactions with President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn led to Flynn’s firing, according to the Justice Department.

[…]

Sessions met with (Sergey) Kislyak twice, in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention, and in September in his office when Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services committee. Sessions was an early Trump backer and regular surrogate for him as a candidate.

Regardless of what type of communication took place between Sessions and Kislyak, two indisputable facts are important here. First, Sessions told a U.S. Senate committee that he “…did not have contact with the Russians”. Secondly, and contrary to Sessions’s statement under oath, there are at least two documented instances of Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

The fact that Sessions committed perjury during his confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General is grounds for impeachment. U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for Sessions to resign the office of U.S. Attorney General. I am not an attorney or a Member of Congress, but Sessions should either resign from office or face at least one impeachment charge (for perjury).

Women’s March participant wins Urbana, Illinois mayoral primary

On January 21 of this year, millions of women in the United States and around the world participated in a series of Women’s Marches in protest of the horrendous policies of President Donald Trump.

Last night, the Women’s March scored its first major electoral victory in a Democratic primary for Mayor of Urbana, Illinois:

An eight-year Urbana city councilwoman who campaigned on the promise of improving economic development in Urbana is one step closer to becoming mayor.

Diane Marlin took the Democratic mayoral nomination by a landslide in Tuesday’s primary — piling up 2,427 votes to 12-year incumbent Laurel Prussing’s 1,510 and Evelyn Underwood’s 316.

Next up: An April 4 date with Republican Rex Bradfield in the consolidated general election.

Diane Marlin was a participant in the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois Women’s March, and now she has defeated a longtime incumbent mayor of one of Illinois’s most progressive cities. I live in another municipality in Illinois, but I wish Diane well in the general election in her city!

There is a serious anti-Semitism problem in America

The election of Donald Trump to our nation’s highest office has emboldened anti-Semitic extremists in America. Two recent example of this involves the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in the St. Louis, Missouri and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania areas.

Last week, vandals damaged dozens of headstones in Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University Park, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. More recently, a similar act of mass vandalism occurred in Philadelphia at Mount Carmel Cemetery. While I don’t believe in God or the afterlife, I view grave desecration as blatant disrespect to the deceased and something that I have zero tolerance for. I thank those who have assisted in repairing the damage done to the cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania, especially to the Muslim community in America, which has raised funds for, and assisted in, repairing the damage done to the Jewish cemeteries.

On a related note, after narrowly losing the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair race this weekend, Keith Ellison was picked by new DNC Chairman Tom Perez to be DNC Deputy Chairman. While many on the right, and some on the left, have smeared Ellison by trying to paint him as an anti-Semitic extremist, Ellison’s first act as deputy chair was to condemn the desecration of Jewish graves:

Even before the desecration of Jewish graves in Missouri and Pennsylvania, there have been incidents where American Jews have been threatened since Trump’s election. Prior to Trump’s inauguration, a neo-Nazi website called for an armed march against the Jewish community in Whitefish, Montana. That march was postponed, and a block party in defense of the Jewish community in Whitefish was attended by several hundred people.

I call on Donald Trump to, at his address to Congress tomorrow, strongly condemn threats, intimidation, violence, and vandalism against Jewish people and institutions in America.

The Resistance comes to GOP town halls in Iowa

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The topic of this blog post was chosen in a Twitter poll, although only one person voted in the poll.


Both of Iowa’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst (both Republicans), held town hall events in their home states yesterday. Needless to say, the people of Iowa were not impressed with Grassley and Ernst siding with the Donald Trump agenda to destroy America, and they had serious concerns about a wide range of issues, including immigration and foreign influence in U.S. elections.

During Grassley’s town hall in Iowa Falls, Grassley was asked by Zalmay Niazy, an Afgan man who assisted U.S. forces as a translator and is now in the U.S., about Trump’s Muslim ban:

At a town hall in Iowa Falls, Iowa, Tuesday, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley received a question from an Afghan man who asked him for help to stay in the US in the face of the Trump administration’s immigration executive order.

Multiple federal courts across the country have granted requests to temporarily halt enforcement of the order, which bars foreign nationals from Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days and all refugees from Syria indefinitely.

[…]

“Who is going to save me?” he asked Grassley. “I am a person from a Muslim country and I am a Muslim. Who is going to save me here? Who is going to stand behind me?”

In Maquoketa, Ernst was asked a question by a U.S. Army Reserves veteran about Donald Trump’s ties to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government:

Trinity Ray, a 41-year-old veteran from Iowa City who spent eight years in the Army Reserves, pressed Ernst to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia and alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 American election.

“I appreciate that a lot, because I have said repeatedly that Russia is not our friend,” Ernst said, as Ray yelled that she should “say it louder.” She added that Trump “needs to stand up against Vladimir Putin.”

Ray wasn’t satisfied.

“If you were serious about this situation, you wouldn’t rest until you had an answer,” he said afterward. “We swore to defend against enemies domestic and foreign.”

Ernst refused to support a special congressional committee to investigate Russian influence in the November 2016 U.S. elections.

Rural America is beginning to realize that Trump and his Republican cohorts are not acting in the best interests of Greater America. People who are attending town halls in an attempt to let their voices be heard are not paid protesters. They’re ordinary people.

California secessionist leader lives in Russia

The president of the pro-California secession group Yes California lives in…wait for it, Russia:

Louis J. Marinelli is a man on a quixotic mission: to help California secede from the United States and become an independent country.

Surprisingly, this quest has been going relatively well of late. Marinelli’s group, Yes California, is attempting to collect 585,000 signatures necessary to place a secessionist question on the 2018 ballot. Buoyed by California’s already tense relationship with President Donald Trump, the campaign has received a large amount of press coverage and support over the past few months.

But for the 30-year-old Yes California president, there remains one annoying problem: People keep asking him why he lives in Russia.

There’s a lot more to Marinelli’s ties to Russia than the fact that he lives there. He’s appeared on Russian state media outlets, which are notorious for their pro-Vladimir Putin media bias. Furthermore, he attended a conference, partially funded by the Kremlin (i.e., the Russian government), for leaders of U.S. state secessionist movements:

Marinelli’s ties to Alexander Ionov are perhaps bigger conspiracy fodder. Ionov is the founder of the Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, a group that supports various secessionist movements around the world. Last September, he put on a Kremlin-sponsored event in Moscow for Western secessionists that Martinelli and other representatives of Yes California attended.

Furthermore, there is a political movement within Russia to make California part of Russia:

Mikhail Degtyarev, a (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) Duma deputy, has asked the Russian foreign ministry to clarify the status of land that had belonged to Russia in what is now the US state of California because he believes that Washington did not pay for it as required by a nineteenth century bilateral agreement.

As a result, Degtaryev is quoted by (the Russian newspaper) Izvestiya September 26 as saying, “Russia as before has the basis to consider the territory of Fort Ross its own” and to seek either compensation via international courts or the return of that land to Russian control. In that event, he says, Moscow should install Russian missiles there.

(context added by me)

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia is a far-right Russian political party that supports an ultra-imperialist Russian policy.

It isn’t a stretch for one to observe the California secessionist movement as an apparent Russian plot to take California from the United States and put it under the control of Russia, and a shocking number of left-wing voters are being duped into supporting the secessionist movement, largely because Donald Trump, a Putin ally, is in the White House.

 

Illinois Democrats should hold an annual state Democratic convention

Unusually for a state-level Democratic Party organization, The Illinois Democratic Party does not hold an annual state Democratic convention. With Republicans controlling both the White House and the Illinois Governor’s Mansion, it’s clear that Illinois Democratic leaders should seriously consider holding state conventions on an annual basis.

Unlike many states, major political parties in Illinois are run by directly-elected state central committees, with elections for state central committee slots held during the spring primary elections in even-numbered years. For Democrats in Illinois, two state central committee members are elected from each congressional district.

While most or, if required by law, all party business can be conducted by the state central committee, an annual state Democratic convention would allow Democrats an opportunity to give prominent Democratic elected officials and activists an opportunity to get publicity that the local media, particularly the media in downstate Illinois, often will not give Democrats, as well as an event to rally the party faithful and encourage rank-and-file Democrats to organize political strategies to win over Illinois voters and advance progressive political ideas.

Illinois Democrats are in a great position to capitalize on the unpopularity of Donald Trump and Bruce Rauner. However, a state Democratic convention is needed to effectively rally the resistance to Trump, Rauner, and their Republican allies.

One of the most right-wing newspapers in the entire country couldn’t find a single Betsy DeVos supporter in the education community

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post was originally written on Medium by the administrator of this blog and has been republished in full.


Above the fold on the front page of today’s issue of The News-Gazette, a Champaign, Illinois-based newspaper that covers the east-central part of Illinois and has a very right-wing reputation, was this story about how many in the public education community are opposed to the nomination of Betsy DeVos to the office of U.S. Secretary of Education.

In The News-Gazette’s attempt to find a DeVos supporter, they couldn’t find a single one in the educational community in East Central Illinois.

The strongest opposition to DeVos came obviously from teachers’ union leaders, although many in management (i.e., public school administrators) strongly opposed DeVos as well. Sheila Greenwood, the superintendent of schools in the Bement, Illinois public school system (covering southern portions of Piatt County, Illinois), said this about DeVos:

Bement Superintendent Sheila Greenwood was so appalled by how DeVos answered senators’ questions last month that she contacted her legislators, “begging them to put a stop to this insanity.”

“She couldn’t answer basic questions about schools, funding or assessment. She is uber-wealthy and has no experiences with public education because she lives like the 1 percent and knows nothing,” Greenwood said. “I think Trump will have his puppet and others will run the department.

Jeremy Darnell, the superintendent of the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley public school system in Illinois (map of district here), said this about DeVos:

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Superintendent Jeremy Darnell was unimpressed with her hearing, as well, saying it was “very evident” she lacks understanding of current education issues.

[…]

“Votes should be cast on merit, preparation and the ability to effectively fill an essential role in our national government, not party line politics,” Darnell said. “All appointments should be considered for their ability to effectively advise our elected leadership. No leader can be a master at all so the essential need to surround yourself with experts in their field is more important today than ever.

The Bement and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school districts are located in some of the most Republican areas in all of Illinois, and voters in both school districts voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

The closest person that The News-Gazette could find to a DeVos supporter was Mr. Seth Miller, the superintendent of the public school system that I attended, the Westville Community Unit School District in Illinois. I’m paraphrasing, but Mr. Miller’s thoughts about DeVos were basically of the “give DeVos a chance if she’s confirmed” mentality without offering any explicit support of DeVos:

“We have the best educational system in the world. A leader who is committed to children, who need access to public education, would receive my support,” Miller said. “… Spirited debate with informed constituents helps make us a strong country — big enough and brave enough for diverse opinions. It is my hope that whoever is confirmed as the next secretary of education will help perpetuate this democratic ideal in our public school system.”

Having seen video clips of the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, it is clear to me that, if confirmed, DeVos would be a downright horrible Education Secretary.