“This Tar Will Leave a Stain on the Republicans”

January 29, 2017     John Hanno

                      “This Tar Will Leave a Stain on the Republicans”

King Donald’s Court did it again; they showed they really can’t lead in a responsible manner. The Republi-cons don’t know how to govern because they despise government. This is what happens when you hire people to dismantle cabinet level departments instead of ones experienced in making government succeed. They think government and it’s regulators should just butt out of their patrons risky businesses. Their plan has always been to shrink government to the size it can be drowned in a bathtub. For eight years, they berated any attempt by the Obama Administration to bring America back, after Republi-cons steered us into the abyss.

If the President had cured cancer, this crew would have claimed Obama was grandstanding. Someone said that if he walked on water, they would have criticized him for not learning how to swim. They’ve been very adept at throwing sand in the gears of American progress, but now the bomb throwers are having trouble making the rubber from their soaring campaign rhetoric, meet the highly touted road forward. Leaked audio from a Philadelphia retreat this week revealed how flummoxed Republi-con lawmakers appear, attempting to replace the life saving Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act they’ve pledged to repeal for the last 7 years. Donald’s new promise to make that health insurance for 25 or 30 million folks much better and a lot cheaper won’t help their task.

Trying to make good on the promise to build a wall to hold back our southern neighbors, who actually stopped pouring in right after the financial collapse in 2008, was met with the same outrage around the world as was their bungled attempts to keep Muslims from entering the country. There’s been more people in the streets in the first 9 days of the King Donald administration as protested in the entire 8 years of the Obama Administration.

These hypocrites railed against each and every executive order the President signed attempting an end round Republi-con obstruction, calling it flagrant and unconstitutional abuse of power, but now think Trump’s flurry of nonsensical orders are a-okay. The difference here is that President Obama tried to use his executive power to do things for ordinary people, whereas Trump’s team stays up nights figuring out ways to do things to people.

King Donald’s approval numbers are tanking, so the diabolical pretenders are trying to somehow make good on his un-deliverable pledges to take America back to 1929. This latest order, taking shape at the nations airports, is looking more like a holy war than an attempt to make us safe from terrorists.

These folks know so little about what actually goes on in the government, they actually believe that the thousands of folks at homeland security and in our intelligence agencies, our military, our state and local police departments and in state and local governments throughout the nation have been doing very little to keep us safe since 9-11. The Obama Administration in 2011 and before him the Bush Administration have already instituted enhanced vetting of those trying to enter the U.S. They say this vetting takes almost 2 years. Most of America’s terrorist threats have actually come from home grown evildoers.

And even before Barack Obama was elected, the Republi-cons refused to even attempt to craft responsible legislation to raise up America’s sinking middle class. And now all of a sudden, they’ve refashioned themselves as populist proponents of American labor. Any legislation offered by these Republi-cons was hatched and prepared by either the corporate-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), or by the affected corporate or industry lawyers and lobbyists. Some of ALEC’s latest and most popular efforts involve attacking public workers and unions and proposing right-to-work legislation throughout the country.

Republi-con health care reform will be drafted by the insurance industry and big pharma. Comprehensive energy policy or reform will be written by fossil fuel.  Any Republi-con comprehensive tax reform, as in the past, will be bought and paid for by the rich and corporations. Comprehensive immigration reform was passed 70 to 30 in the Senate during the Bush Administration, but never came up for a vote in the Republican controlled House.

Russian American Journalist and author Masha Gessen, believes this administration will cause her and America a “constant low level dread.” I’m beginning to think more like a “permanent state of high anxiety.”

The desperate folks in the upper Midwest rust belt, who grabbed onto the Trump Tarbaby will soon discover the same thing the little boy realized in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. No matter that Donald’s two trusted advisors Reince Priebus and Kelleyanne Conway faithfully tells him he’s doing so good and looking real fine, America will soon realize that King Donald the Emperor Has No Clothes.     John Hanno

 

P.S.    “Former Bush adviser Eliot A. Cohen says the first week of Trump’s presidency has been a “clarifying moment in American history”: “For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time,” he writes in an op-ed for The Atlantic. “Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it. Rifts are opening up among friends that will not be healed. The conservative movement of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp, of William F. Buckley and Irving Kristol, was always heterogeneous, but it more or less hung together. No more. New currents of thought, new alliances, new political configurations will emerge. The biggest split will be between those who draw a line and the power-sick—whose longing to have access to power, or influence it, or indeed to wield it themselves—causes them to fatally compromise their values. For many more it will be a split between those obsessed with anxiety, hatred, and resentment, and those who can hear Lincoln’s call to the better angels of our nature, whose America is not replete with carnage, but a city on a hill.”

King Donald Just Can’t Understand Why Most of America Would Not Vote For Him Under Any Circumstances and Why They Can’t Trust Him”

January 27, 2017    John Hanno  

 

“King Donald Just Can’t Understand Why Most of America Would Not Vote For Him Under Any Circumstances and Why They Can’t Trust Him”

“King Donald” sat down for a January 25th interview with ABC’s David Muir and doubled down on his belief that if he had simply focused on winning the popular vote, he would have easily won that too. He said he lost the popular vote because the Democrats had cheated in California and New York.

KD said, “I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote,” he said. “I would’ve gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all. I would’ve gone to a couple of places that I didn’t go to.”

“And I would’ve won that much easier than winning the electoral college,” he added. “But as you know, the electoral college is all that matters. It doesn’t make any difference. So, I would’ve won very, very easily. But it’s a different form of winning. You would campaign much differently. You would have a totally different campaign.”

Philip Bump’s Washington Post article: “Why did Trump lose the Popular vote? Because he didn’t care about it. And because they cheated,” totally debunks King Donald’s “alternative facts.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/politics/wp/2017/01/26/why-did-trump-lose-the-popular-vote-because-he-didnt-care-about-it-and-because-they-cheated/)

We know that the Un-Democratic Republi-cons have been stealing federal and state elections for too many election cycles, going back even before the 2000 presidential election. Voter “Suppression” has been their modus operandi and number one goal. Frightened by America’s changing demographics, and especially since President Obama sailed into office in 2008 with an almost 10 million vote margin, these un-patriotic Republi-cons in red and purple states, have pushed all sorts of legislation to disenfranchise Democratic leaning voters, people of color, women, seniors, students, millennials, ex-felons, folks with common names that appear to be of black or brown ethnicity, all sorts of immigrants, and actually anyone who isn’t white and identifiably Christian. President Obama received 69.5 million votes in 2008, the highest vote total in American history, and won the electoral college 365 to 173. In 2012, he beat Mitt Romney by 5 million votes and won the electoral college 332 to 206. But in the meantime, the Republi-cons have been busy gerrymandering and plotting suppression.

During the interview, King Donald again pushed debunked lies about millions of fraudulent Hillary voters. “With that being said,” he said, “if you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that are registered to vote who vote, you look at people that are registered in two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening with registration. … They don’t wanna talk about registration. You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion.”

We know, and pray it will eventually be clearly proven, that the Russians had a firm hand in undermining HC and our most visible Democratic process, free and fair elections. Putin has already kidnapped and imprisoned four Russian intelligence operatives who he believes spilled the beans to the ex MI5 spy who prepared the 30 page dossier, developed to compromise Putin’s choice for president. Hopefully truth will out!

But how can we, in good conscience, criticize other countries elections? We have in the past, sent election monitors throughout the third world, hoping to spread free and fair Democratic voting. But these U.S. Constitution thumping Republi-cons, shame and devalue America’s highest values. You can’t help but blame the Democrats also. After the 2000 election debacle, and especially after they had a mandate in 2009 and control of both the house and senate, they failed to once and forever, insure that every vote is counted.

No matter what happens with the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 election, both sides should finally put in place laws that will absolutely guarantee that our elections, beyond all doubt, are beacons for democracies everywhere. I hope the minority Democrats will call King Donald’s bluff of a full investigation, and present such legislation, and thoroughly embarrass the GOP if they oppose it. Please stand up for the American voter!

It’s not surprising that King Donald has the lowest approval rating (between 32 to 34%) in recorded history. When you enact ideas and programs that a majority, and sometimes an overwhelming majority of Americans don’t favor, there will and must be push back. Ten times as many folks here and abroad took to the streets protesting KD’s policies, as attended the inauguration. And on top of that, as many as 40% of those attendees were non-Trump supporters. The list of early wreckage is incredibly long:

Returning 25 or 30 million folks, who finally have life saving health care insurance, another 15 or 20 million additional uninsured, and another 125 plus million health care insurance covered policy holders, back to the mercy of insatiable insurance companies without a credible alternative plan, is not a winning proposition. All particular issues of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, except for the mandate, are favored by a large majority of Americans. And the Kings proclamation that all these folks will have much better coverage at lower cost has kneecapped the Republi-cons plans to repeal but not actually replace.

Hiring a shocking list of fossil fuel panderers to run America’s State Department and foreign service and our Environmental Protection Agencies, giving carte blanche to oil, gas and pipeline companies to cover the earth in risky, potentially leaking pipelines and infrastructure, cutting regulations for all air, water and soil polluters, and muzzling the scientists and regulators who swear an oath to protect its citizens, will only marshal 10’s of million’s of concerned and responsible earth protectors. Fully 60% of Americans in a recent Reuters poll want the EPA to be strengthened or maintained.

Rounding up 11 million immigrants, who took advantage of America’s welcome mat for cheap labor, and building a $20 or $30 billion unnecessary wall that’s a boondoggle for those connected to Trump Inc., will energize immigrants new and old and millions more sympathizers.

Attacking women who wish to preserve their right to chose, Planned Parenthood, the LGBTQ community and other vulnerable citizens, will anger those who believe in Constitutional and civil rights for all Americans. King Donald and his court pandered to pro-life proponents by reinstating and expanding the Mexico City Policy or “Global Gag Rule,” which prevents foreign NGO’s that get U.S. aid from using any of the money to “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning.” They lose all funding if they don’t comply. The rule originally applied only to the $600 million family planning fund but now also applies to all of the $9.5 billion global health funds. Policy experts think this will cause 6.5 million additional unintended pregnancies. 2.2 million more abortions, 2.1 million unsafe abortions and the death of almost 22,000 pregnant women. What pro-life proponents just can’t understand, is that all women hate abortions, but most want to reserve the right to chose. And the incidence of abortion always goes up under Republican administrations and drops under Democratic administrations. The reason abortions dropped under pro-choice President Clinton, was because the economy during his terms greatly improved and women felt secure enough to take on another mouth to feed. And for the same reasons, no matter the Republican protestations, abortions increase under typical Republican recessions and failing economies.

Mr. Trump tried to place a hiring freeze on Veterans Administration employees. Certainly not because of the budget (Hello $30 billion phony Mexico wall). Could it be that King Donald wants to reward his corporate supporters by privatizing the V.A. News flash to the Donald from Sgt Hanno; do not screw over Vets. They love their public, dedicated V.A. services. And by the way, if you attempt to put your favorite pipeline upstream from Standing Rock Sioux Rez, those Vets and I will be back in force.

What scares folks around the world almost as much as the fact King Donald has the nuclear codes, is that the Trump Inc. family business conflicts of interest around the globe clearly compromises his pledge to protect and serve us all fairly and honorably.

Favoring Vladimir Putin and the Russian fossil fuel oligarchs, over longstanding treaties with NATO and Europe and against America’s best interests should jolt all Americans, and especially true conservative constitutionalists in Trumps own party. By Already contemplating ending sanctions against the Russians, who invaded another country and engaged in a cyber act of war against the U.S., in the very first week of the Trump administration, can’t help but confirm that millions of progressives believe Putin is holding compromising information over King Donald’s head.

King Donald stated that Putin was a much more effective leader than President Obama, even though he served two full terms without a hint of scandal. Donald admires despots, dictators and kleptocrats like Putin without reservation. Putin’s list of violations against his fellow countrymen and women is long and frightening. He has a bad habit of disappearing his opposition. Some believe he’s the richest person in the world, having pillaged Russian natural resources to the tune of $85 billion. King Donald believes that if someone was able to accumulate enormous wealth, they- like Trump himself, must be smart and should be admired. That’s apparently why he’s hired only multi-millionaires and billionaires to turn a blind eye to the pillaging of America’s public and private fortunes.

Russian American journalist Masha Gessen, author of “The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.” Penned this post election article in NYR: “Autocracy. Rules For Survival.” She thinks Hillary should have said something like this for her concession speech:

“Thank you, my friends. Thank you. Thank you. We have lost. We have lost, and this is the last day of my political career, so I will say what must be said. We are standing at the edge of the abyss. Our political system, our society, our country itself are in greater danger than at any time in the last century and a half. The president-elect has made his intentions clear, and it would be immoral to pretend otherwise. We must band together right now to defend the laws, the institutions, and the ideals on which our country is based.”

Masha suffers, and believes most Americans do also, from a “constant low level dread.” Truer words were never said. She’s justifiably worried that the comparisons between King Putin and King Donald can’t be underestimated. King Donald’s strategy is no different than Autocrats of yore. Banish the peace makers (fire career foreign service state department employees, even before the new Secretary of State is confirmed; some of whom served American presidents from both parties going back 4 decades) and defang the opposition (place reporting restrictions on the career employees he can’t banish). Muzzle the truth tellers; King Donald’s unrelenting attack on his media demons. Trump said that the “media are the worst people, the most dishonest humans,”  the “opposition party in many ways.” Putin merely throws them in jail or magically makes them disappear. But American and any true Democracy requires an informed citizenry and a healthy, critical and vocal media. That’s the reason it’s ensconced in our constitution. What a stark contrast to President Obama’s respect for journalism and the critical written word and which was on full display during his final news conference, where he thanked and praised the White House press corp.

We know the Donald hates to read. Believe me, he picked the wrong job for that. He unflinchingly values tweets and retweets, no matter the veracity. He favors fake Fox News over credible print journalists who double and triple check their sources. He hires a top intelligence advisor who promotes conspiracy theories and who’s son does the same and almost got someone killed at a New York pizza restaurant.

KD seriously believes in his banal “alternative facts” theory. He’s lied so much and for so many years, that he believes his own lies are more real than actual facts. He even lies when he doesn’t have to lie. He lies about his own lies. He lies two or three times in the same sentence, on the same subject; which is hard to do. He lies to peoples faces when they call him out on the lie and then makes up a lie to prove his challenged lie. And now he’s almost convinced everyone he’s hired to go all in on this alternative reality. They’ve grabbed onto Tarbaby Lying King Donald and probably won’t let go until and unless he self destructs.

I could go on and on but I have to save some energy for KD’s second week. But while we’re at it, I can’t help but blame the corporate media for this state of affairs. They tried their best to normalize King Donald. They turned a blind eye and ear to his alternative facts. The fact checkers were busy but their efforts somehow escaped accountability through the crazy noise. Cable news presented his Kool-aid gulping apologists alongside credible reporters and journalists and allowed them to somehow balance legitimate credibilities. They allowed billions in free and unfettered airtime because it was highly profitable, and at the same time they put debating and airing scores of vital issues on the back burner. They’re finally shaking off the corporate complaisance and dusting off their integrity. We hope it’s not too late. It’s theirs and our job to push aside all this King Donald nonsense and focus on the important issues the King and his court are trying to obscure. When the social safety net cuts begin and middle America starts to bleed, we must unmask the King.

Washington Post

Why did Trump lose the popular vote? Because he didn’t care about it. And because they cheated.

By Philip Bump

January 26, 2017 at 10:38 AM

When it comes to explaining why he lost the popular vote, President Trump has a simple explanation. He lost the popular vote because he wasn’t interested in winning the popular vote, focusing instead on the electoral college — and if he’d focused on the popular vote, he would have won that even more easily, and also he lost the popular vote because his opponents cheated in some of the deepest-blue states in the country.

Done and done.

In his first major interview since moving into the White House, Trump took ABC’s David Muir on a tour of the gilded, expansive recesses of both his new residence and his mind. Thanks to Trump’s tweets on the subject, Muir quickly turned the questioning to the subject of voter fraud, which Trump insists was a huge factor in November’s election and which reality suggests was not.

In his first interview at the White House on Jan. 25, President Trump discussed his past issues with the media, his executive actions this week and debunked claims of voter fraud and inaugural crowd size with ABC’s David Muir. (The Washington Post)

Trump used the subject to reiterate a defense of his popularity.

“I would’ve won the popular vote if I was campaigning for the popular vote,” he said. “I would’ve gone to California where I didn’t go at all. I would’ve gone to New York where I didn’t campaign at all. I would’ve gone to a couple of places that I didn’t go to.”

“And I would’ve won that much easier than winning the electoral college,” he added. “But as you know, the electoral college is all that matters. It doesn’t make any difference. So, I would’ve won very, very easily. But it’s a different form of winning. You would campaign much differently. You would have a totally different campaign.”

It’s true that the need to win the electoral college meant that Trump’s focus during the campaign was different from what it would have been had the contest come down to vote totals. But that’s not the same thing as saying that Trump would have won the popular vote, much less “much easier” than he won the electoral college. (To be fair, if he had won the popular vote by any margin, it would likely have been an easier victory than his skin-of-his-teeth electoral college win, which came down to about 78,000 votes in three states.)

Trump would have needed to do 10 percentage points better in California to close the 2.9-million vote deficit he faced nationally. His argument that he could have made progress to that end if he’d campaigned in the state has only one critical drawback: Hillary Clinton would have campaigned there, too. (Had Clinton campaigned more in the Midwest, many people have pointed out, Muir would have been sitting down with her.)

Trump says he didn’t go to either California or New York at all, which isn’t entirely true. Trump made four stops in New York after that state’s primary, according to the National Journal’s candidate travel tracker, excluding a debate and the announcement of his vice presidential pick. (He visited California only before that state’s primary.) Clinton had campaign events there even less frequently, though she did run ads in California over the last few weeks of the campaign. Trump’s team did campaign in both states, though not at any real scale.

That said, it’s not surprising that Trump did poorly in the two states (despite his assurances on the campaign trail that they would be in play). California and New York have given the Democrat at least 1 million more votes than the Republican in every election since 1992. In California, that figure has been creeping upward, with Barack Obama winning by a 3 million vote margin in 2008 and 2012, and Clinton by 4.3 million this year. In New York, the Democrat has won by at least 1.5 million votes in five of the past seven contests. Trump might have eaten into those margins had he campaigned harder — but Clinton might also have widened her lead in those friendly territories.

Which brings us to part two of Trump’s excuse-making to Muir.

“With that being said,” he said, “if you look at voter registration, you look at the dead people that are registered to vote who vote, you look at people that are registered in two states, you look at all of these different things that are happening with registration. … They don’t wanna talk about registration. You have people that are registered who are dead, who are illegals, who are in two states. You have people registered in two states. They’re registered in a New York and a New Jersey. They vote twice. There are millions of votes, in my opinion.”

The wonderful part of this exchange is the directness with which Trump tries to have his cake and eat it, too. He defends his claims that millions of people voted illegally by noting that there are problems with the voter registration system at that scale. That’s a fair defense, with some caveats. But then he immediately re-conflates registration with voting (“there are millions of votes”). That’s a neat trick: You criticize me for saying there are millions of illegal votes when I’m just noting that there are millions of questionable registrations. Just registrations! (And also votes.)

The now-infamous report from Pew Trusts in 2012 does point out that there were millions of outdated registrations at that point because our voting systems do a bad job of weeding out people who have died or moved. (Like Trumps daughter.) Pew’s point was that the systems should be improved, not that fraud results from these problems; in fact, Pew’s researchers explicitly pointed out then and now that there was no rampant fraud. (This, Trump told Muir, was because the researchers wanted a positive response from the anti-Trump media — even way back in 2012, apparently.)

At a news conference on Thursday, Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer pointed to  California and New York as potential epicenters of this nonexistent fraud. “I think there’s a lot of states that we didn’t compete in where that’s not necessarily the case,” Spicer said about the campaign’s admitting in a legal filing that there was no rampant fraud in the election. “You look at California and New York, I’m not sure that those statements were — we didn’t look at those two states, in particular.”

Our colleague Dave Weigel noted the sheer ridiculousness of this idea from a political standpoint: If you’re going to orchestrate a massive, illegal effort to cast millions of ballots for Hillary Clinton, why on Earth would you do it in two states you knew she was going to win easily anyway? Whether or not the Clinton team thought they’d win Michigan and Pennsylvania, why not stack the deck in those places regardless, since they were always going to be more competitive than the deepest-blue parts of the country?

For a lot of Trump supporters, this overlaps with perceptions of California as a haven of undocumented immigrants, people encouraged by some all-powerful Democratic machine to commit a federal crime by illegally giving their names and contact information to the state government. We looked at the number of newly registered voters who were born outside the country; only 148,000 people fit that description from Latin American countries. There’s no indication at all that any significant number of them were voting illegally.

This has been another 1,000 words or so on Trump’s ongoing insecurity about having lost the popular vote. His arguments for why the popular vote results don’t suggest that he’s unpopular haven’t gotten any more effective, but they have gotten more numerous. It will be simpler moving forward, I suppose, to simply note that Trump continues to claim that he could have and did win the popular vote even though he didn’t and probably wouldn’t have. And to note that what Trump says on this subject, if not others, should not necessarily be taken at face value.

Philip Bump is a correspondent for The Post based in New York City.

Seattle Committee Proposes Unanimous Bill to Pull $3 billion from Dakota Access Pipeline lender Wells Fargo

Justice

Seattle Committee Responds to Standing Rock

On Wednesday, Seattle’s Affordable Housing, Neighborhoods and Finance Committee voted unanimously to forward a bill to pull $3 billion from DAPL lender Wells Fargo to the full City Council. This follows a Tuesday announcement that the U.S Army Corps of Engineers will issue an easement allowing them to begin the last stages of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The bill would terminate the city’s contract with Wells Fargo and require the city to consider social justice issues when granting city contracts for construction and other projects, the Seattle Times reports.

Demonstrators gathered at City Hall on Wednesday in anticipation of the vote, decrying the pipeline’s construction in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and protestors in North Dakota.

“You faced down attack dogs, blizzards, and rubber bullets,” Councilmember Kshama Sawant told crowds Wednesday. “If we do not fight we will not win.”

“Let’s build on this, make sure other cities move to divest from Wells Fargo,” Sawant continued, as she cast her vote. The proposal will go before the city council next week.

Where activists are trying to get their cities to follow Seattle’s lead.

“For too long, Native American culture and history has been desecrated, dismissed and commoditized,” environmental attorney Robyn Purchia wrote in a Wednesday opinion piece published in the San Francisco Examiner.

“If San Franciscans want to lead the resistance, we must fight backward policies in Washington, D.C., and our own backyard,” she continued. “We must divest from banks and companies that fund pollution and invest in future generations.”

Protestors including a small group of Native youth holding a banner bearing the word “Divest” took the streets of Arcata, California in a Saturday demonstration.

Despite pressure from Boulder, Colorado activists, the city’s Finance Department is urging the City Council not to divest from pipeline funder JP Morgan Chase, Boulder local news site the Daily Camera reports.

The Seattle vote arrives amidst a heated back-and-forth over the fine print of Tuesday’s statement, issued by Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

Acting Secretary of the Army Robert Speer ordered the Army Corps to issue the easement required to complete the oil pipeline, Hoeven asserted.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe responded to Hoeven’s remarks in a Tuesday evening statement. The tribe argued the Corps could not legally proceed to issue the easement without producing an environmental impact statement (EIS) the Corps pledged to issue in December.

“The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the EIS and issue the easement,” the statement reads. “The Corps must review the Presidential Memorandum, notify Congress, and actually grant the easement. We have not received formal notice that the EIS has been suspended or withdrawn.”

The tribe pledged to fight a suspension or withdrawal of the EIS in court.

The Donald J. Trump Alternative Fact, Anti American Progress Administration

January 25, 2017,  John Hanno

 

“The Donald J. Trump Alternative Fact, Anti American Progress, Administration”

This new Trump “Alternative Fact” Administration, coupled with the 115th Republican controlled, “Roll Back,” United States Congress will no doubt go down in history as the most “Anti American Progress” administration in history. Everything the Obama Administration tried to accomplish in the last eight years will be under assault, including its progress on cleaning up the environment and reversing climate change and global warming, improving our health care system, putting folks back to work and finally improving their wages, supporting public education, making higher education more affordable, providing consumer protection, and of crafting dozens of bills and executive actions to help our disappearing middle class reverse income inequality and to curb the banksters who caused the 2008 financial collapse that took our middle class wealth.

Everyone’s trying to guess what Trump’s idea of a “Great America” really is. Some say he’s not an ideologue, and point to his many conflicted statements over the decades.

He was, throughout his adult life, at loggerheads with workers and unions, but now says he’s the only one who can bring back jobs and raise stagnant middle class wages. But where was he when Republican presidents going back to Regan, and most of the Republican party, were creating incentives and clearing the path for their corporate and manufacturing patrons to close down plants and export living wage American jobs? Were any of these Republi-con Johnnie come latelies standing with unions on the picket lines protesting the closing of 50 or 60 thousand manufacturing plants. I endured 4 plant closings and the only support and sympathy we got was from the democrats or from community activist folks like Barack Obama.

The Trumpster was pro-choice before he wasn’t. He apparently wasn’t religious until he decided to run for president. He was logically in favor of single payer health care; but now, who knows?

He repeated consistently during the campaign (the only thing he was steadfast on), that he would not attempt to destroy Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; he said he was the only one of 17 Republicans running for president that firmly stated he would preserve those life saving programs for seniors, the poor and persons with disabilities. But cutting these programs is what they will use to pay for Paul Ryan’s and the Republi-cons tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

He said he would drain the swamp of corporate lobbyists in Washington but then hired 6 ex Goldman Sachs executives and banksters to pull the plug. Good luck with that!

He still claims he’s going to round up 11 million illegal immigrants and build a wall that could cost between, who knows, $15 to $30 billion, to keep them from returning; but there’s been a net loss of immigrants entering from Mexico since the 2008 financial collapse.  Where was Trump and the Republi-cons for the last 60 years, when the American business community (including Trumps construction, real estate and entertainment businesses) held out the welcome mat for the cheap labor that drove down wages and crippled organized labor. The only ones who will benefit from this border wall boondoggle, are the construction companies and suppliers connected at the hip with the Republi-cons and Trump Inc.

Trump said he’s a great environmentalist, as if installing landscaping on golf courses somehow qualifies (watch the movie “You’ve Been Trumped.”) At a breakfast with business executives, he stated: “I’m a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment.”

But one of the first executive orders he signed will attempt to overturn President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL and rerouting of the Dakota Access pipelines. President Obama said the pipelines would hamper U.S. efforts to close the global climate change deal that Trump now wants to withdraw from. Trump said not a word about the environmental impact of those pipelines and the risks to the drinking water of more than 40 million Americans; 17 million downstream of DAPL and more than 25 million who depend on the Ogallala aquifer for drinking water. Trump signed the order but somehow failed to mention the 2 year long protests by the Standing Rock Sioux Native Tribes courageous stand to protect their cultural sites and the reservations drinking water supplies. And Trump and his fossil fuel cabinet and friends don’t want us to remember the dozens of pipeline spills that contaminated folks drinking water just last year. That’s no doubt the reason the Republi-cons have put a muzzle on employees of the EPA talking to the media or to the Democrats in congress.

The AP Reported on January 25th that:

“The Trump administration has instituted a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency and barred staff from awarding any new contracts or grants. Emails sent to EPA staff since President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday and reviewed by The Associated Press detailed the specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency’s social media accounts. The Trump administration has also ordered a “temporary suspension” of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders are expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide.”

“Orthodoxy means not thinking–not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” George Orwell

 

Trump’s list of executive orders looks like he’s checking off the pay back list of the Republi-con party contributors.

When elected officials ignore and try to circumvent or repeal 8 years of legislative and institutional research, problem solving and progress, just to pay back their political donors, they’re violating their oath of office and are committing treason. These Republi-cons have denigrated each and every department of the federal government and are poised to cripple as many as possible.

President Trump, his cabinet and the Republican controlled congress must serve all Americans, not just rich folks, corporations, wall street banksters, fossil fuel interests, Vladimir Putin and his Russian oligarchs and Trumps family businesses. They must serve and protect people of all races, ethnicity, religions, sexes, sexual preferences or political affiliation. President Obama took his oath of office seriously. He went out of his way to serve all Americans. Trump has already violated his oath in his first week in office.

President Obama and his administration worked and studied hard to dig up the facts to make informed decisions. There were times his own party didn’t agree with him but he still did what he thought was best for all Americans. Trump refuses to read and study facts; he listens to, embraces and retweets fake news and conspiracy theories; and he spews flat out lies at the drop of a Make America Great Again hat. Trump, who distanced himself from traditional Republi-con dogma during the primaries and election has done a 180 on most issues and forsaken all political courage. His handlers and spokespersons embrace the banal theory of “Alternative Facts.”

“For, after all, how do we know that two and two make four? Or that the force of gravity works? Or that the past is unchangeable? If both the past and the external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?” George Orwell, 1984

 

Most Americans don’t have to do the research required for the important deliberations state and federal governments have to undertake. We generally elect and hire experienced and qualified folks to do that for us. Trump has so far hired the most inexperienced and hostile proponents for every one of the cabinet level positions.

But still, we have to make decisions in our own lives. Where we decide to live and in what kind of a home, where and how we chose to earn a living, which schools we or our children attend, how or with whom we invest savings or pensions, what mode of transportation we use and what vehicles to buy. A business owner might decide to expand or hire new employees. There are scores of decisions we have to make every day. If we’re smart and responsible, we make those decisions based on the best facts available at the time; we make decisions based on what’s best for us and our families. Trump makes decisions based on his late night twitter account musings and on theories from the farthest reaches of the newly discovered Ult Right Planet “Your anus”

In a rational manner, when we elect politicians or hire government employees to represent us, we want them to make decisions based on hard proven facts and on what’s best for all citizens, and not what’s best for the folks who provide campaign contributions or favors to these officials. Anything else undermines American Democracy.

An American President and White House that promotes “Alternative facts,” demonizes journalists and media who point out those easily proved lies and also occupies a bizarre alternative universe, can’t help but create bad decisions that undermine our democratic institutions. Trump world is driving people to the libraries and book stores to find a copy of the book “1984.” It was the biggest selling book on Amazon.com last week and the publisher Penguin, placed an order for a 75,000 book reprint. A quote highlighted by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and others is: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command” George Orwell. I would like to offer a few of my own.

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.” George Orwell, 1984

 

Elected officials work for the American public. Is there any responsible American who would seriously hire someone for the most important job in the country, paying them $400,000 a year and outstanding benefits, without checking their tax returns? Folks hired at your local hardware store or retailer for minimum wages must undergo background and credit checks; and a majority of those jobs require physiological testing. I’m not sure Donald J. Trump could pass any one of those tests.

For most of the last century, Democrats have tried to use government leadership to do things for people, whereas the Republi-cons have spent most of their efforts on undermining good governance and doing things to people.

Republi-cons take great enjoyment in demonizing the Democrats and progressives for trying to help folks, especially the working poor. President Obama took a lot of flak for being a community activist helping steel workers on our Chicago South East side when the steel companies shut down. They treated him like a criminal for his conscientious public service.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was derided for his efforts to persuade New Yorker’s to cut back on super sized soft drinks and the high fructose corn sweetener they contain because he tried to do something about our obesity and diabetes problems. And they railed against him for his environmental activism.

Michelle Obama’s campaign to get school children to eat better and exercise more was successful in helping to plateau the incidence of obesity and diabetes problems in children but was roundly criticized by Republi-cons as a socialist food Nazi.

U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders and Debbie Stabenow were criticized as grandstanding, for driving seniors in buses to Canada to get cheaper prescription drugs so they could actually fill prescriptions and also afford to eat.

I believe America and the whole world is in for a long Trumpian campaign of having things done to them instead of for them. Nothing is safe, especially our environment.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow just reported a story about the extreme increase in earthquakes in Oklahoma. (http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/as-ok-frackquakes-spiked-trump-epa-pick-fought-the-epa-862159427646). The number of earthquakes went from 63 in 2011 to 644 in 2016. They had 103 earthquakes in just the last week. They recently suffered a record breaking 5.6 earthquake. Over this 5 year period, Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt didn’t try to prosecute fracking companies who caused these man-made earthquakes, but instead went after the EPA because the EPA tried to help the folks in that state who were suffering. He also eliminated all funding for Oklahoma’s Environmental Law Office. Trump rewarded Pruitt by nominated this fossil fuel panderer who sued the EPA, instead of the fracking companies who terrorized Oklahoman’s, to run the EPA. Again, these Republi-cons do things to people instead of for them.

Americans are hurting; half of us live on about $16,000 per year. That’s an obscenity, in the wealthiest country in the world, one filled with more and more millionaires and billionaires and such a disparity too broad to sustain a viable growing economy. The folks who voted for Trump enjoy a more generous average annual earnings of  $75,000. Those Trump supporters claimed President Obama wasn’t tough enough, didn’t win enough. I believe they will be disappointed when they discover who really wins in a Trump Administration. These Republi-cons are definitely not compassionate conservatives.

This Trump crowd already made it harder for low income Americans to buy a home. They will reverse President Obama and give the student loans back to the banksters they serve. They will favor charter schools and Christian teachings over free public education.

Any federal income tax cuts proposed by the Republicans will undoubtedly favor rich folks and corporations; and those tax cuts will force the resultant tax burden onto the rest of us in higher discretionary taxes, fees and state taxes.

Any reduction in federal subsidies for health care for low income folks will push that burden off onto states, counties, cities, insurance policy holders and health providers; especially hospitals that provide emergency room and trauma services.

In spite of Trump’s promises, the Republi-cons will continue to attack Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and any entitlement programs that doesn’t involve crony capitalists.

 

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.” George Orwell

 

And their bombastic, misguided, go it alone approach to fighting terrorism will, like the catastrophic invasion into Iraq, certainly make things worse. And attempting to, overrule the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress ban on torture, re-institute the foreign black sites and stating that we should have, and might yet in the future, steal oil from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, will also jeopardize our military personal.

 

“Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power” George Orwell

 

This new administration will explore new frontiers of conflicts of interests. The Obama Administration went 8 years without a hint of scandal. Trumps is already embroiled in multiple scandals and conflicts, including their relationship to the kleptocrat Putin and the Russian oligarchs.

 

 “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” George Orwell

 

If there is any slim thread of hope for us in the next couple of years, it’s that the Democrats picked up 7 members of Congress and 2 Senators, and the new Congress that was sworn in on January 3rd, will be the most racially diverse in history.

Yes, the reality is, Trump does not have any mandate whatsoever. He lost by almost 3 million votes. He’s the biggest presidential “loser” in history.  He has the lowest approval rating (32 to 34 %) in American presidential history. And if it wasn’t for the Russians and FBI director Comey, Hillary would already be healing our divided electorate instead of pitting us against each other like Trump. Almost 10 times as many Trump protestors demonstrated throughout the country and the world on January 21st, as attended his inauguration the day before.

Most representatives of this racial, religious and gender diversity will be Democratic lawmakers, even though the Democrats will be minorities in both the House and Senate. Fourteen new women were elected this month, although the total number (104) of women will stay the same in the new Congress. That’s only 19%, much less than the overall 50% American female population. A record number of 21 women will serve in the Senate.

Four women of color will serve in the Senate, Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and just elected Democrats Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.), the first Latina to serve in the U.S. Senate.

A record number of Hispanics will serve in the next Congress, with 38 members in both chambers. Thirty-four Hispanics will serve in the House and four will serve in the Senate.

Seven Hispanic Democrats won election to the House: Nanette Barragán (Calif.), Salud Carbajal (Calif.), Lou Correa (Calif.), Adriano Espaillat (N.Y.), the first Dominican-American elected to Congress, Ruben Kihuen (Nev.), Darren Soto (Fla.) and Vicente Gonzalez (Texas).

There will be a record number of black lawmakers, increasing from 46 to 49. A record number (15) of Asian-Americans will be in the next Congress. Hirono, Harris and Duckworth, an incumbent House member, will make up the ranks of Asian-Americans in the Senate. Harris’ father is from Jamaica and her mother is from India.

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) was the only Indian American serving in Congress. He’s now joined by Harris and three new House members: Ro Khanna (Calif.), Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.). Jayapal will be the first Indian-American woman to serve in the House and Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) will be the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress.

The number of gay and lesbian members in Congress will stay the same. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) is the first openly gay or lesbian person to serve in the Senate. Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Mark Takano (D-Calif.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) will serve in the house.

Two Muslims, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and André Carson (D-Ind.), were reelected. The number of Jewish lawmakers will go up from 28 to 30, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and David Kustoff (R-Tenn.). Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was the only Hindu in Congress but was joined by the three new Indian-American House members, who identify as Hindu. This Congress will have three Buddhists: Hirono in the Senate and Reps. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) and Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) in the House.

The Congress will still be overwhelmingly white and male compared to the overall American population and the overwhelming majority of lawmakers in Congress identify as Christians. It’s slow progress but the Congress is looking more like America.

The job of the progressives is to speed up that transformation. When all of these old, white, biased, knuckle dragging, climate deniers pass on to their here after, this will be a better country and a better world. In the meantime, vote progressive and stay vigilant

“Until they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” George Orwell

 

Washington Post

Trump may be mean, but he’s definitely not green

By Chelsea Henderson April 15, 2016

Chelsea Henderson has worked on environmental policy for conservation organizations and three Republican senators.

Let’s tame at least one legend in Donald Trump’s mind — his self-proclaimed status as an environmental hero.

“I’ve won many environmental awards,” the Republican presidential front-runner said on CNN’s “New Day” on Sept. 24. He made the claim while criticizing Pope Francis’s call for action on climate change in an address to a joint meeting of Congress.

“I’ve gotten so many awards for the environment,” Trump said during a speech in Des Moines on Dec. 11. “I understand the environment; I’ve won many, many awards.”

“I think that climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change,” Trump said on Jan. 18, two days before NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that 2015 was the hottest year on record. “I’ve received many environmental awards.”

In my 18 years working on environmental policy on and off Capitol Hill, I never heard Trump’s green record lauded. So I decided to try to identify the “many, many environmental awards” he says he has won.

I looked first at his record on clean water and air, to which he often points in defending his outdated beliefs on climate change. Trump does not mince words on climate change, which he calls “a big scam for a lot of people to make a lot of money.” However, the candidate, who has called for eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, has promised “we are going to work very, very hard on clean air and clean water.” Just what has he done? What would a Trump administration propose to advance the goals of clean air and clean water, aside from gutting the agency that oversees the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act? His campaign website does not note any accomplishments or policy proposals on the matter. An Internet search also turned up empty.

I looked next at his apparent strength: real estate development. Perhaps Trump builds green buildings? A Google search offered no such evidence. In 2012, Trump called green buildings “green because they don’t give you enough energy” and, in the bombastic style of his campaign speeches, referred to an unnamed friend of his, “a great environmental guy,” who expressed regret for moving into a green building. This is despite that the website for Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago touts the building’s sustainability measures.

I searched the database of the U.S. Green Building Council, standard-bearers in designation of sustainable buildings, to find out whether any buildings bearing the Trump name have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. While certification for one unit of Trump’s Chicago condo-hotel is designated as “in progress,” no building with Trump’s name is identified as having completed LEED certification.

Then I turned to clean energy. I found that in Trump’s words, wind turbines are “ruining” our landscapes and “turning out to be a disaster.” In December, he lost a legal battle to stop an offshore wind farm erected in the panorama of a Trump golf course near Aberdeen, Scotland.

My continued search finally yielded a hit, an environmental protection award the Metropolitan Golf Association Foundation bestowed on Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., in 2007. Four years later, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection cited the course for environmental violations. Not surprising, given that golf courses are not known for being environmentally sound, though builders such as Trump like to site them in locations with sweeping views. The aforementioned golf course in Scotland sits on fragile sand dunes, a site Trump once called “ kind of disgusting.”

Perhaps I was overlooking something, so I contacted Trump’s campaign for confirmation of his green record. Although I received no response, it seems clear that a commitment to the environment of the scale that Trump wants you to imagine wouldn’t leave so little a trace.

Trump’s environmental heroism appears to be a legend in his own mind, a dangerous prospect given the monumental climate challenges facing our nation.

 

 

Washington Post

Donald Trump says he’s an environmentalist; others beg to differ

By Annie Gowen May 14, 2011

Call them Trump’s stumps.

Last spring and summer, workers at Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun County chopped down more than 400 trees along the Potomac River so their golfers could have a better view of the water.

Eight months later, the fate of the mile-long stretch of shoreline — where migratory birds once nested and bald eagles perched to fish — remains a source of conflict among the Trump Organization, local officials and environmentalists, who are dickering over how to stabilize the riverbank and what to do with the hundreds of stumps left behind.

“It’s kind of unbelievable,” said Mark Haynes, an Arlington energy consultant who sits on the board of the Potomac Conservancy. “They replaced the trees with a huge flagpole with the American flag flying up there. Which struck me as sad. It’s kind of in-your-face now.”

Over the years, Donald Trump — the “Celebrity Apprentice” star, real estate mogul and impossible-to-ignore presidential candidate— has developed 11 luxury golf courses around the world, leaving a trail of happy golfers but angry residents and environmentalists in his wake. He infuriated neighbors in California for trying to plant trees to shield pedestrians from flying golf balls and in Northern Virginia for taking them out.

His fight with five gritty Scots who refused to move from the stone cottages standing in the way of his $1.6 billion golf course in Scotland inspired a film, “You’ve Been Trumped,” that played to sold-out crowds at Toronto’s documentary film festival this month. (Choice scenes: Trump worrying over his hair at a press conference on a windswept bluff and accusing one of the holdouts of living “like a pig.”)

Such dramas will provide plenty of fodder for those seeking to delve into Trump’s past should he decide to run for president in the coming weeks.

“I have a great environmental record,” said Trump, who last month purchased one of Virginia’s best-known wineries at a foreclosure auction for $6.2 million. “I have a record that, in my opinion, everybody would love.”

Well, not everybody. Environmentalists note the tree cutting, the mogul’s affection for flying in private jets and his call for Al Gore to be stripped of his Nobel Peace Prize as evidence to the contrary.

“He likes to pretend he’s an environmentalist because of the landscaping on his golf courses, but at the end of the day, it seems he’s the only one that actually believes that,” said Heather Taylor-Miesle, the director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Action Fund. “His brand of environmentalism is only for the wealthy and elite.”

‘Like eco-Disney’

About a decade ago, Trump bought a bucolic estate about 45 miles from New York City that was once owned by the disgraced automaker John DeLorean. In 2004, he opened Trump National Golf Club at Bedminster, a place he feels is so lovely that he wants to be buried there (though plans to build a mausoleum on the first tee have been shelved.)

As the Trump Organization has expanded the Bedminster Club from 18 holes to 36, they have often touted their bird sanctuary — which won an environmental award — and network of nature trails as proof of their good stewardship of the property.

“It’s like eco-Disney up there,” said Cindy Ehrenclou, the executive director of the Upper Raritan Watershed Association, a watchdog group. But the 69 million gallons of water needed to maintain the course per year has strained the local aquifer, Ehrenclou said.

And, as in Loudoun, mature trees have quietly disappeared.

On May 6, New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection cited Trump National Golf in Bedminster for a string of violations, including cutting trees and brush and disturbing wetlands.

Most of the environmental work on Trump’s golf courses has been overseen by Ed Russo, 65, a Key West retiree who was once the Bedminster planning board chairman.

Russo, whom Trump calls a “highly respected environmentalist,” lived in an old Victorian farmhouse on the 500-acre Bedminster property when DeLorean owned it. During that time, he fell so in love with the land — 500 rolling acres of apple trees, hay fields and paddocks in the middle of New Jersey’s hunt country — that he buried a fire truck and several other used vehicles on it in the admittedly nutty hope it would make the parcel unappetizing to future investors.

“You know you live on a piece of property, you want to protect it,” Russo said. “Golf was something we didn’t want.”

Then, in 2002, Trump came calling, asking Russo to clean up the property he had once helped pollute, and Russo agreed.

Russo, who is every bit as blustery and outspoken as his boss, said that Trump has given him an “open checkbook” and “has supported every crazy environmental initiative I’ve ever advanced. He deserves a big pat on the back.”

Russo’s plans often go against the grain of conventional scientific wisdom and soil conservation practice. In Loudoun, for example, he said that the treeswere actually causing erosion, rather than preventing it.

And on the northeastern coast of Scotland, where Trump is building what he says is going to be “the greatest golf course in the world,” Russo has pushed for stabilizing sand dunes over the objections of Scottish scientists. They’ve called the moving sand dune ecosystem one of the country’s greatest natural treasures, akin to Scotland’s own Amazon rain forest.

Russo calls that “baloney.”

Shoreline dispute

In Loudoun County, officials said they objected to the removal of the American elms, green ashes and black locusts when Trump’s people approached them with their plan last spring, according to Danny Davis, the county administrator’s chief of staff. But there was nothing they could do to prevent it.

Unlike Fairfax County and several other local jurisdictions, Loudoun’s shoreline is not protected by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act. On Tuesday, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors is set to debate whether to create its own 75-foot buffer that would protect the county’s remaining stretches of shoreline.

In a telephone interview, Trump defended the removal of the trees, saying it was legal and that his organization spent “tens of thousands of dollars” cleaning up the trash and debris along the shoreline after he bought the 800-acre course in 2009.

And he doesn’t shy away from saying the motivating factor was the pretty view for his club’s members, who pay $75,000 to join.

“It was done so that people utilizing the services of the club — of which there are 1,000 members, it’s a very successful club — could have unobstructed views of the river, and because it was an environmental enhancement,” Trump said. “The trees that were taken down were in terrible condition.”

The two sides have talked for months and have yet to agree on a formal erosion control plan for the area. The county would like them to replant some of the trees or at least woody shrubs, but Russo has balked at doing so, saying he prefers to create a hardy grassland habitat for birds.

“At this point we would like to see trees, sure,” Davis said. “But we understand we may not get that in the end.”

 

Washington Post

Trump is not just a risk to the country. He is also a risk to the planet.

By Stephen Stromberg March 21, 2016

Republican front-runner Donald Trump spent an hour with The Post’s editorial board on Monday, and he made at least three points that show why he is not just a risk to the country — but also to the planet.

First was Trump’s astonishing position on free speech. He doubled down on the notion that he would “loosen” U.S. libel laws so that it would be easier to go after journalists and other writers. For example, he would weaken the requirement that aggrieved public figures must show “malice” when suing a journalist who “writes incorrectly.” He attacked stories that are “written badly” and argued that a newspaper that “writes something wrong” and fails to run a retraction should “have a form of a trial.”

He was serially unclear on what he meant by “bad,” “incorrect” and “wrong” — factually wrong? Simply unfair? When I asked him to clarify, he gave an example of television news broadcasts failing to give more details about an altercation at one of his rallies, which is not a matter of inaccuracy but of emphasis. He also kept making clear that he was concerned with all sorts of coverage he disliked. He brought up Post opinion writing to which he objected, calling it “so angry,” which suggests that purely factual issues are not motivating his concerns. After more pressure, he seemed to disclaim the notion that he would crack down on angry columnists, but he ended on this scary bottom line: “I want to make it more fair from the side where I am.”

Trump’s loose talk of loosening freedom of speech protections is not just chilling in this country. The United States is such an exemplar of liberal values, Trump would reset the global standard downward. He would enable dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to say, “I told you so.”

Second was Trump’s embarrassing nonsense on climate change, which he has previously called “bull____” On Monday, he said that “perhaps there’s a minor effect.” But, “if you look, they had global cooling in the 1920s, and now they have global warming, although now they don’t know if they have global warming. They call it all sorts of different things. Now they’re using ‘extreme weather’ I guess more than any other phrase.” See, climate scientists — who have consistently raised concerns about global warming, and called it that, for decades — are constantly changing their story.

“Don’t good businessmen hedge against risks, not ignore them?” I asked. In other words, why not pay something now to head off possibly much costlier outcomes later? “I just think we have much bigger risks,” Trump said, warning that the country is in “tremendous peril.”

“Our biggest form of climate change we should worry about is nuclear weapons,” he said. “To me the biggest risk is nuclear weapons. That is climate change. That is a disaster.” There are several ways to interpret some of this language. But what makes it classic Trump is its brazen lack of reason. Forget this issue I do not want to confront. You know what you really need to worry about? The nuclear apocalypse.

Admittedly, Trump’s irresponsibility on climate change is not much different from many other Republicans’. But his justification is nevertheless a masterpiece of Trumpian illogic.

Third was Trump’s approach to foreign affairs and trade. He insisted that, as president, he should be “unpredictable,” arguing that, “sitting at a meeting like this and explaining my views” is unwise because, “if I do become president, I have these views that are down for the other side to look at.” Then he said, “I hate being so open.” This telegraphs insincerity, making it seem as though he just wants to avoid answering the question, which concerned what he would do about China’s moves to take control of the South China Sea. Assuming he means unpredictability to be a real strategy, it is a risky one. It can help in certain negotiations. But, along with Trump’s more isolationist approach to foreign affairs, it can also encourage adversaries to act more aggressively.

Trump was clear about one thing: He might use trade to punish China for its geopolitical advances. “We have power over China and people don’t realize it. We have trade power over China,” he said. “You start making it tougher.” Tempting a trade war with China certainly would make it tougher — on American consumers and the global economy.

Hillary Clinton, the most recent former secretary of state, has said that foreign leaders are telling her that they are worried about Trump. They should be.

 

Washington Post

2015: A year of progress and buffoonery on climate change

 

By Editorial Board January 2, 2016

LAST WINTER, bitter cold on the East Coast prompted Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) to take a snowball onto the Senate floor in mockery of climate scientists. This winter, the weather is so warm that there are not two snowflakes in the Washington area for Mr. Inhofe to scrape together.

Just as last winter’s cold did not disprove global warming, this winter’s warmth does not, in itself, establish that humans are raising Earth’s average temperature. Rather, it is the long-term trend that matters — and that is concerning. The past decade was warmer than the previous one, which was warmer than the one before that, and so on. So far, this decade looks sure to fit into that trend.

We may, too, be getting a taste of what a warming world feels like. According to a 2014 paper, one potential effect is a doubling of the number of strong El Nino years. That’s the phenomenon that has perturbed the jet stream and pushed this winter’s temperatures up. Though the El Niño variation predated human influence, it, among many other natural cycles, probably will not be immune to it. And even if this year’s El Niño cannot be blamed squarely on climate change, it nevertheless feels like a fitting end to a remarkable year in the policy and politics of global warming.

For those following the climate debate, 2015 brought some inspiring highs — and disheartening lows. President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency finalized landmark carbon dioxide regulations that promise to slash greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants. This policy played a crucial role in galvanizing the international climate effort, which culminated last month in a huge international climate deal. The Paris agreement will not cut emissions enough to avoid serious risks. But it will get the world a good chunk of the way there, and it represents the beginning of a process in which all major emitters will be expected to step up.

The very same EPA rules also inspired a race among Republicans to embarrass themselves. A standard critique, such as that of Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), was to argue that climate regulations will uselessly harm the economy; that exaggerates the potential costs without acknowledging the unprecedented global agreement the measure helped to produce. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) went further, holding a hearing on climate science with a witness list that was a funhouse-mirror image of the scientific community: short on those who accept mainstream climate science, packed with climate critics.

Mr. Cruz insisted that there has been a “pause” in global warming since 1998, a date critics choose as their starting point because it was another El Niño year marked by very high temperatures. Like Mr. Inhofe and his snowball, Mr. Cruz’s point ignored the long-term nature of the warming trend. It also might be flatly wrong: A June paper in the top-flight journal Science found that the warming “pause” reflected biases in temperature data rather than a significant plateau in real temperature rise.

Alas, this finding also led to a nasty GOP reaction. House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (Tex.) subpoenaed email relating to the study, which came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Congressional oversight of federal spending is important. That’s no excuse to conduct fishing expeditions designed to personally discredit scientists and undermine peer-reviewed research with lines from informal emails.

With the events of the past year in mind, the presidential candidates — and American voters — must ask themselves: Do they want to build on 2015’s climate progress, or do they want more of last year’s climate buffoonery?

You’re Right America, Get Over It!

January 17, 2017   John Hanno                               

 

                                 You’re Right America; Get Over It!

Ever since the improbable results of this election, Mr. Trump, his transition team and the Republi-cons in congress, have been telling the 65,844,954 American voters, 2.9 million more than voted for Mr. Trump, to get over it. Well, they really should have taken their own advise over the last eight years!

On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Democrats need to “grow up and get past” losing the election.

“You know, what this is about, John (Dickerson), the Democrats are really frustrated that they lost the election. I was in Sen. [Chuck] Schumer’s position eight years ago. I know how it feels when you’re coming into a new situation, that the other guys won the election. What did we do? We confirmed seven Cabinet appointments the day President Obama was sworn in. We didn’t like most of them either. But he won the election. So all of these little procedural complaints are related to their frustration at having not only lost the White House, but having lost the Senate. I understand that. But we need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that.”

Coming from Senator McConnell, this hyper-hypocrisy demands a new word from Webster’s. On the eve of President Obama’s inauguration, this same Senator led the cabal of congressional Republicans that plotted to do everything they could to make him a one term president; and then engaged in a maniacal campaign over 7 years, to overturn the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Republi-cons believed if they opposed everything the Obama administration tried to achieve, that they could somehow delegitimize the first black president in our history. Compromising with him and the Democrats, to them meant total capitulation. The President was presented with the monumental task of avoiding another depression when he took office, an undertaking made much more difficult by relentless obstruction. But he stood firm and overcame.

In spite of their unpatriotic schemes, history will be much kinder to President Obama’s legacy than Mitch McConnell and the GOP were. The Republi-cons can lie about this administration’s accomplishments, and try to erase all remnants of his and the Democrats work to repair the damage done by yet another Republican attempt at taking America back to the gilded age, but the Presidential performance bar has been permanently raised. Barack Obama is leaving office with a 60% domestic approval rating; and that alone doesn’t show how much he has rebuilt the reputation of American leadership around the world. Mr. Trump will be sworn into office with a 34% approval rating (32% in latest CBS poll), the lowest of any president since polling began and a full 25 points lower than President Obama’s approval now and 45 points lower than when he took office in 2009. Mr. Trumps unfavorable polling is between 54 and 58%, more than 5 time higher than the Presidents in 2009. It’s apparent that if the election were held today, Mr. Trump would lose by a wide margin. Almost 50% disapprove of his cabinet choices. Is it a wonder that more than 70 Democrats in congress will refuse to attend the inauguration.

Republi-cons can try to cancel all the Presidents executive orders and huff and puff and try to blow down Obamacare, or maybe just get around to changing it’s name, but the 25 to 30 million Americans, who finally have credible health insurance and the peace of mind that entails, will be forever grateful, and won’t now be denied. They’re saying very loudly, stay away from my ACA!

A recent American President who served two full terms of scandal less governance can’t be diminished or erased. This perfect example of an utterly American family, with an Un-American name, will have forever changed our consciousness. Democrats, Independents and even many Republicans are sad to see this family leave the White House and are sincerely proud of their service to the country.

LGBTQ rights will never be the same, same sex marriage and serving openly in the military are etched in law; that won’t change. The President nominated and the Senate confirmed Eric K. Fanning as secretary of the Army, making him the highest-ranking openly gay official ever serving at the Pentagon.

While President Obama and the Democrats kept trying to push America forward, the Repub’s were trying to take it back. When President Obama was trying to give 45 million Americans hope, obstructive Republi-cons spent millions trying to repeal that change more than 60 times.

The Republi-cons will scheme with the fossil fuel lobby and fight like hell to reverse the progress made in fighting global warming and climate change, but the wheels of progress are in motion and speeding up. Sustainable energy is our future; fossil fuel is the past. And their attacks on public lands, National Parks and Monuments, and on America’s air, water and soil will be met with 10’s of millions of fierce earth protectors and a united Native American community.

Aside from the long list of accomplishments of the Obama Administration and the 10’s of millions of folks they positively impacted, and which I listed in an earlier post, America twice elected the first black president in our history; and he and Michelle did everything they could to help elect the first woman in our history.

The picture of that little boy touching the head of a bent over African American President to see if he was just like him can’t be erased. All children now know there are no limits to what they can accomplish. Republi-cons cannot erase the idea that a person of color or a woman can undertake the most difficult job in our country.

Thanks to Michelle, child obesity has reached a plateau; millions of American children are eating healthier and becoming more active. She set the bar higher for future first ladies. They both made the White House forever cool and are wonderful examples of leaders that exude grace, humility and integrity under fire.

This president showed that a man can cry when he has to confront the grief and sadness of the families of the 26 six year old students killed at Sandy Hook. He might not end up on Mt. Rushmore but might end up on a coin and certainly will have his funny name inscribed on buildings all over America. And when the history books are written, the first sentences will say, President Obama accomplished all these things in spite of overwhelming opposition from the entire Republican congress and party.

But it was not just President Obama and the Democrats pushing the cart full of boulders up the hill over the Republican tire spike strips; no, there were 10’s of millions of Americans lending a shoulder and pushing behind them. That won’t change. Those real patriots will not allow his legacies to fade. John Hanno

Where Are The Patriots?

 

January 14, 2017, John Hanno                            

                    

                                       Where Are the Patriots?

Where are the Republi-con Patriots who should be stepping forward to protest Russian interference in our Democratic elections, the ones who proudly wear the flag on their suit lapels and who like to stand in front of the American public, with rows of American flags in the background, the more the better; as if the more flags displayed, the more credible and patriotic you become.

One who could step forward is Senator John McCain, who received sensitive information from an unknown source, containing unsubstantiated but potentially compromising research on Donald Trump and his alleged ties to Russia, Putin and their intelligence agencies, and who thought it important enough to give to the FBI. This dossier was allegedly compiled as anti-Trump opposition research for his Republican opponents during the 2016 primaries and then used for Democratic research during the general election.

Another might be Senator Lindsey Graham, who believes Trump should make Vladimir Putin “pay a price” for waging cyber attacks on the DNC during the presidential election campaign. Graham said Putin “tries to destroy democracy around the world, interferes in our elections, kills his opponents and steals his people blind,” and is “not gonna stop this until he pays a price, and no one’s made him pay a price yet.”

Congressional Democrats and both of these Senators, contrary to the incoming Trump transition team and the rest of the cowardly and conflicted Republicans in congress, have asked for an independent investigation of Russian interference in our election. The Republi-cons want America to disregard Trump’s and his proposed cabinet’s close ties to Russia and to just move on. Most of America says not so fast!

The AP’s Richard Lardner reported today that: “The Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate possible contacts between Russia and the people associated with U.S. political campaigns as part of a broader investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.”

“In a statement late Friday, Sens. Richard Burr. R-N.C., the committee’s chairman, who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to take action, and Mark Warner, D-Va., the panel’s top Democrat, said the panel “will follow the intelligence where it leads.”

“Burr and Warner said that as part of the investigation, they will interview senior officials from the Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration. They said subpoenas would be issued “if necessary to compel testimony.”

“We will conduct this inquiry expeditiously, and we will get it right,” the senators said.

“A declassified intelligence report released last week said Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a hidden campaign to influence the election to favor President-elect Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton, revelations that have roiled Washington.”

“According to the committee’s statement, the inquiry will include:”

— “A review of the intelligence that informed the declassified report about Russia’s interference in the election.”

— “Counterintelligence concerns” related to Russia and the election, “including any intelligence regarding links between Russia and individuals associated with political campaigns.”

— “Russian cyber activity and other “active measures” against the United States during the election and more broadly.” Richard Lardner

 

Georgia Representative John Lewis valiantly stepped forward last Friday, saying that he will not view Trump as a legitimate President. He will not attend this inauguration, the first he’s missed in three decades, because he said: “I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” He said they corrupted “our open and democratic election process.” Trump falsely and belligerently insisted for years that President Obama was not a legitimate President because he was born in Kenya but now Congressman Lewis is legitimately giving Trump a taste of his own medicine.

Operatives in the Republican party have systematically disenfranchised democratic voters, minorities, women, students and senior citizens, in every state controlled by Republican Governors and legislatures, by requiring onerous voter IDs, by closing polling places in minority neighborhoods, by restricting early and weekend voting, by kicking democratic leaning voters off the voter roll with the cross-checking scheme, by the elimination of felon’s voting rights, even after they’ve served their time and by possibly even manipulating the voting counts of electronic voting machines. Coupled with gerrymandering, hacking by the Russians, FBI Director Comey’s shenanigans and the latest anti-democratic peril, far right and Russian propagandists spreading fake news stories, this must be considered the most corrupt and illegitimate election in our history.

And Democrats in congress have reached a point where they’ve lost confidence in FBI Director Comey’s ability to transparently explain his conduct leading up to the election, when he intervened, contrary to FBI protocol, days before the election to again question Hillary’s emails, but at the same time sat on for months, the dossier about the shocking and potentially much more serious allegations regarding Trump and the Russians. He clearly impacted Hillary’s campaign momentum and it showed in her poll numbers. He either negligently or purposely caused Hillary to lose the election.

I’m sure there are 10’s of millions of Americans like myself, who believe Donald Trump should not be sworn in until there’s a full independent investigation of (1) members of his campaign’s possible involvement in the Russian cyber hacking and election interference, (2) Putin’s involvement and influence in our election, (3)Trump and his proposed cabinet’s involvement with Russia and Putin, (4) Trumps potential conflicts of interest concerning Russia and Putin and (5) a full review of Trumps and his Secretary of State’s income tax returns. How can we place any credibility in this election? If Trump is sworn in before all these questions are sorted out and these investigations are completed, he will never be viewed by a majority of Americans, as a legitimate president.

After 2 years and 3 or 4 Billion dollars, you would think America could somehow conduct a free and fair national election. Is it a wonder that we have such a low participation rate. And after Hillary Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than Trump but still lost the election because of the archaic Electoral College, those numbers will certainly decline even further. Our whole election process is anything but free, fair or credible. Putin and the Russians are toasting their success in undermining America’s most visible Democratic process, and somehow in dividing it’s political parties even further.

International organizations and many NGOs regularly conduct election monitoring throughout the world. The Carter Center (Democratic President Jimmy Carter) has been involved in election monitoring for decades and has worked with the United Nations and the National Democratic Institute to develop international principles for election observation. They should probably come to America’s rescue, and help us establish truly Democratic elections.

All patriotic Americans should speak up and demand that our intelligence agencies find and interview the former British intelligence operative who investigated the shenanigans involving Trump and his embedded Russian operatives before Trump is sworn in and before Putin and his assassins find him. There’s already rumors that Putin is trying to find out who leaked the dirty laundry in the ex-MI6 spy’s memos.

And to the flag waving hypocritical Congressional Republi-con winuts, who won’t pass up any chance to wave the U.S. Constitution under the noses of Democrats, you’re showing your true allegiance. You turn a blind eye to the insane tweets of DJT and his fealty to a kleptocratic despot, who Republican Senator Marco Rubio describes as a war criminal and mass murderer but then turn around and threaten to investigate the Director of the Office of Government Ethics after Walter M. Shaub Jr. spoke at the Brookings Institute on Trumps plans to avoid conflicts of interest while serving as President.

Mr. Schaub stated: “We can’t risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for profit. That’s why I was glad in November when the President-elect tweeted that he wanted to, as he put it, “in no way have a conflict of interest” with his businesses. Unfortunately, his current plan can’t achieve that goal.” and also said: “It would, however, be cause for alarm if the Senate were to go forward with hearings on nominees whose reports OGE has not certified. For as long as I remain Director, OGE’s staff and agency ethics officials will not succumb to pressure to cut corners and ignore conflicts of interest.”

“According to an article in Politico, Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), head of the House Oversight Committee, has threatened to subpoena Shaub over his refusal to discuss objections to Trump’s proposed business handling with the committee.”

“According to The Hill, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the OGE was “doing the job that Jason Chaffetz himself is refusing to do,” and called Chaffetz’s threat “outrageous.” Earnest also said Chaffetz is “seeking to intimidate a senior executive branch official who is responsible for enforcing federal ethics rules.”

Americans must once and forever demand free and fair Democratic elections, overturning Citizens United, elections no longer than 2 months, public financing of all elections, limited free broadcast media, debate access for all third party candidates, one man one vote and the presidential election, like all state elections, which is won by popular vote. And unless the Republican controlled Congress decides to stand up for this standard of American Democracy, the Republi-con inaction and subterfuge will permanently disgrace the Grand Old Party.  John Hanno

 

From Mother Jones

The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos: It Was “Hair-Raising” Stuff

When I broke the story in October, I spoke with him. Here’s what he said.

David Corn, January 13, 2017

Last fall, a week before the election, I broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump. The memos noted that this spy’s sources had provided him with information indicating that Russian intelligence had mounted a years long operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and had gathered secret compromising material on Trump. They also alleged that Trump and his inner circle had accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin. These memos caused a media and political firestorm this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama and Trump had been told about their existence, as part of briefings on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked political targets during the 2016 campaign to help Trump become president. For my story in October, I spoke with the former spy who wrote these memos, under the condition that I not name him or reveal his nationality or the spy service where he had worked for nearly two decades, mostly on Russian matters.

“Someone like me stays in the shadows,” the former spy said.

The former spy told me that he had been retained in early June by a private research firm in the United States to look into Trump’s activity in Europe and Russia. “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” he recalled. One question for him, he said, was, “Are there business ties in Russia?” The American firm was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one. The former spy said he was never told the identity of the client.

The former intelligence official went to work and contacted his network of sources in Russia and elsewhere. He soon received what he called “hair-raising” information. His sources told him, he said, that Trump had been “sexually compromised” by Russian intelligence in 2013 (when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest) or earlier and that there was an “established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” He noted he was “shocked” by these allegations. By the end of June, he was sending reports of what he was finding to the American firm.

The former spy said he soon decided the information he was receiving was “sufficiently serious” for him to forward it to contacts he had at the FBI. He did this, he said, without permission from the American firm that had hired him. “This was an extraordinary situation,” he remarked.

The response to the information from the FBI, he recalled, was “shock and horror.” After a few weeks, the bureau asked him for information on his sources and their reliability and on how he had obtained his reports. He was also asked to continue to send copies of his subsequent reports to the bureau. These reports were not written, he noted, as finished work products; they were updates on what he was learning from his various sources. But he said, “My track record as a professional is second to no one.”

The former spy told me that he was reluctant to be talking with a reporter. He pointed out this was not his common practice. “Someone like me stays in the shadows,” he said. But he indicated that he believed this material was important, and he was unsure how the FBI was handling it. Certainly, there had been no public signs that the FBI was investigating these allegations. (The FBI at the time refused to tell me if it had received the memos or if it was examining the allegations.)

“This was something of huge significance, way above party politics,” the former spy told me. “I think [Trump’s] own party should be aware of this stuff as well.” He noted that he believed Russian intelligence’s efforts aimed at Trump were part of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to “disrupt and divide and discredit the system in Western democracies.”

After speaking with the former counterintelligence official, I was able to confirm his identity and expertise. A senior US administration official told me that he had worked with the onetime spook and that the former spy had an established and respected track record of providing US government agencies with accurate and valuable information about sensitive national security matters. “He is a credible source who has provided information to the US government for a long time, which senior officials have found to be highly credible,” this US official said.

I also was able to review the memos the former spy had written, and I quoted a few key portions in my article. I did not report the specific allegations—especially the lurid allegations about Trump’s personal behavior—because they could not be confirmed. The newsworthy story at this point was that a credible intelligence official had provided information to the FBI alleging Moscow had tried to cultivate and compromise a presidential candidate. And the issue at hand—at a time when the FBI was publicly disclosing information about its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of her email at the State Department—was whether the FBI had thoroughly investigated these allegations related to Russia and Trump. I also didn’t post the memos, as BuzzFeed did this week, because the documents contained information about the former spy’s sources that could place these people at risk.

When I spoke with the former spy, he appeared confident about his material—acknowledging these memos were works in progress—and genuinely concerned about the implications of the allegations. He came across as a serious and somber professional who was not eager to talk to a journalist or cause a public splash. He realized he was taking a risk, but he seemed duty bound to share information he deemed crucial. He noted that these allegations deserved a “substantial inquiry” within the FBI. Yet so far, the FBI has not yet said whether such an investigation has been conducted. As the former spy said to me, “The story has to come out.”

 

From Raw Story

Israeli spies: Trump ‘golden showers’ dossier only one of many troubling reports being investigated

 

Eric W. Dolan, January 14, 2017

Intelligence agencies from around the world are investigating multiple reports that allege some connection between President-elect Donald Trump and the Russian government, according to Israeli intelligence officers who spoke to BuzzFeed.

Last week, BuzzFeed published an unverified dossier that claimed the Russian government had material that could be used to blackmail Trump. The dossier claimed Russia had recordings of Trump’s “personal obsessions and sexual perversion.” It was later revealed that the dossier had been compiled by Christopher Steele, a former member of the British intelligence agency MI6.

Intelligence agencies have reportedly been circulating several other reports regarding Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

“There have been various reports about Trump’s ties to Russia,” an intelligence officer told BuzzFeed. “The dossier is one of them, but there are others, they make other allegations. Some are more specific, and some are less. You can trust me that many intelligence agencies are trying to evaluate the extent to which Trump might have ties, or a weakness of some type, to Russia.”

Steele, who was hired by Trump’s political foes during last year’s campaign season, had become so worried by the allegations he uncovered that he sent his report to the FBI, according to The Independent. However, Steele “came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry” of Trump, the paper reported.

BuzzFeed said they were trying to verify the allegations contained in Steele’s dossier, but have so far been unsuccessful.

Trump and his transition team have forcefully denied the allegations contained in the report, castigating them as “fake news.”

Israeli intelligence officers were recently warned by U.S. spies not to share intelligence with the Trump administration until they could be sure the former reality TV star hadn’t been compromised by Russia, reported the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

“The Israelis who attended the meeting said that the Americans advised them not to expose any sensitive sources to members of the Trump administration, lest that information reach Iranian hands, until it becomes clear that Trump does not have a compromised relationship with Russia and is not vulnerable to extortion,” the report claimed.

 

From the Pew Research Center, Fact Tank

August 2, 2016

U.S. voter turnout trails most developed countries

By Drew DeSilver

With less than 100 days left till the U.S. presidential election, we thought it was time for a fresh look at how U.S. voter turnout – regularly decried as dismal – compares with other developed democracies. As is so often the case, the answer is a lot more complicated than the question.

Political scientists typically measure turnout by looking at votes cast as a percentage of eligible voters. Since many hard-to-measure factors can affect eligibility (citizenship, imprisonment, residency rules and other legal barriers), in practice turnout calculations usually are based on the estimated voting-age population. By that measure, the U.S. lags most of its peers, landing 31st among the 35 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, most of whose members are highly developed, democratic states.

U.S. turnout in the 2012 presidential election was 53.6%, based on 129.1 million votes cast and an estimated voting-age population of just under 241 million people. Looking at the most recent national elections in OECD countries, the highest turnout rates were in Belgium (87.2%), Turkey (84.3%) and Sweden (82.6%). (Turnout in last month’s Australian parliamentary election almost certainly was in that range too, but we don’t yet have a current estimate for Australia’s voting-age population.) Switzerland consistently has the lowest turnout in the OECD, with less than 39% of the voting-age population casting ballots in the 2015 federal legislative election……

 

From Policy.Mic

7 Other Nations That Prove Just How Absurd U.S. Elections Really Are

By Zeeshan Aleem
May 19, 2015

Is there a greater example of American excess than the presidential campaign process?

From the formation of exploratory committees until the inauguration of the next president, the American election frenzy lasts about two years, a vast majority of which is spent talking about little of substance. Along the way, the U.S. easily outspends every other country in the world, a trend that has only been accelerated by the gutting of restrictions on corporate contributions to campaigns in recent years. Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign could cost up to $2 billion, according to early estimates.

What’s even worse is that the exceptional amount of time and money doesn’t produce an engaging democratic process. The U.S. ranks near the bottom in terms of voter participation when compared with other developed nations. Issues like obstacles to voter registration and the ability to simply get to the polls without missing work contribute to strikingly low turnout in the world’s most powerful democracy.

None of this is inevitable, and some of these problems could be easily fixed. Here’s a brief look at some practices in other democracies that the U.S. could learn from, if not replicate:

1. The longest campaign in Canadian history was 10 weeks.

 

Source: Getty

The election process in other countries is typically far shorter than in the U.S. Even though there isn’t an official limit on maximum campaign length in Canada, the longest election campaign in Canadian history was in 1926 for 74 days — about 10 and a half weeks between when the date of the election was announced and voting day.

They’re usually significantly shorter. Party positioning and discussion of election scenarios precede the official election campaign period, but it’s a matter of months rather than years.

2. In the U.K., political parties can only spend $30 million in the year before an election.

 

Source: Getty

Election spending is strictly limited in the U.K. Each party cannot spend more than $29.5 million in the year before the election. The New York Times reported that the combined spending of both major British political parties in 2010 came out to around the same amount as the American presidential candidates spent on money on expenses related to raising money in 2012.

3. In Germany, political parties release just one 90-second television ad.

 

Berlin, Germany- August 22: Cars drive past election campaign posters hanging from lampposts on August 22, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. Source: Getty

Many democracies around the world place strict regulations or outright bans on how political parties can advertise on television. In Germany, parties are given airtime on two public television networks based on their performance in the past election and the size of their party, according to Politico. Each party usually only makes one minute-and-a half-long ad to convey their message during those slots.

Politico reported that in the 2013 election, this amounted to eight ads on each channel for the major parties — for the entire campaign. Parties can purchase more ads to run on private television channels, but limits on spending budgets and the high cost of television spots place huge constraints on their use. Negative ads are rare.

4. In 2013, over two-thirds of income to Norway’s political parties came from the government.

Many countries successfully use public financing of campaigns as a way of regulating their cost and relieving the need for reliance on wealthy donors. In Norway’s 2013 elections, 67% of political party income was provided by the government.

The U.S. does have a public financing system for presidential campaigns, but in 2008 Barack Obama opted out — the first candidate to do so since its creation in 1976 — citing concerns that it was a “broken” system and that the spending limits it imposed put him at a disadvantage against his opponent’s ability to marshal corporate resources that circumvented its limits. In 2012, both presidential candidates opted out of the system.

5. Voter registration is automatic in Sweden.

Source: Brennan Center for Justice

Voter registration is one of the tedious details of the democratic process that has enormous consequences for election outcomes. In Sweden, the government automatically registers all eligible voters using data from the national population database.

The U.S., on the other hand, is one of few democratic countries in the world that places the onus of voter registration entirely on citizens themselves, leaving about a quarter of eligible Americans unregistered to vote. Most states do not allow same-day registration, which boosts turnout.

6. In Australia, voting is compulsory.

 

Broome, Australia- September 7: Members of the public vote at Cable Beach Primary School on September 7, 2013 in Broome, Australia. Source: Getty

In Australia, citizens are fined a small sum of money if they don’t vote, and if they don’t pay that fine, then the penalty grows more serious. Since making it mandatory in the early 20th century, Australian voter participation has never fallen below 90%.

Compulsory voting diminishes socio-economic bias in voter turnout (typically poorer voters are less likely to vote) and allows campaigns to focus on messaging without nearly as much time and money spent worrying about mobilizing voters. Requiring citizens to visit the polls is certainly not every country’s cup of tea, and is not without its major flaws — the question of forcing ignorant or apathetic citizens to choose candidates is a serious one. But it is effective in getting voters to the polls. Obama has even suggested that it would be an easier fix than reforming campaign finances in the near future.

7. In Brazil, Election Day is on the weekend.

Brazil votes on Sundays. The fact that people don’t have to find a way to skip work or school when voting is likely one of the reasons that Brazil has a significantly higher voter turnout rate than the U.S., which votes on Tuesdays and has limited early voting options.

In the U.S. there have been calls for weekend voting. The current calendar was designed in the 19th century to accommodate voters who relied on horse and buggy to get back from the polls before market day on Wednesday.

These are just a handful of examples of differences in the way elections are conducted around the world that could provide some valuable insights into how to make American democracy saner and more responsive. 

“PPACA, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Tarbaby”

January 9, 2017,  John Hanno

 “PPACA, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Tarbaby”

You would think, after more than a year of congressional hearings, deliberations, debating, speechifying and amendments leading up to the passage of the PPACA, (signed by President Obama on March 23, 2010) and after more than 60 attempts, over more than six years, by Congressional Republicans to overturn the PPACA, and after every single Republican politician grandstanded and ran on repealing and replacing the law during the last 4 national elections, that at least one member of this “ult” right group might have put forth a better, cheaper or creditable alternative. Having described the ACA as the biggest threat to American Democracy in our history, you would think any number of conservative patriots could have devised a plan to save the country from the ominous threat of providing almost 25 million poor folks with affordable, high quality, lifesaving health insurance.

But you would be wrong. Now that these saviors are in charge of the White House and both houses of congress, their plan is simply, to quickly and definitively repeal the Act, but then only think about replacing it two or four years down the road; preferably after the next midterm or presidential election. It’s clear that the entire Republican party has grabbed hold of a particularly sticky Tarbaby. They’ve demonized the PPACA by negatively  attaching the Presidents name, to an overwhelmingly Democratic attempt, to Protect Healthcare Patients from abuse by the insurance industry and to slow down the double-digit increases in premiums for policies that were steadily diminishing in quality and scope.

The Act reduced by half the 45 million uninsured Americans, from 16% in 2010 to 8.9 % in June of 2016. That number has been further reduced by the 5 million or more folks who signed up during the recent enrollment period and since the election of Trump, in anticipation of the Republican’s promise to repeal. Of the 23 to 25 million covered by the Act, 12 to 15 million are covered by the exchanges and more than 11 million are covered by the expansion in Medicaid. 75% of those on the exchanges purchased insurance for $75 a month after federal subsidies, a bargain by anyone’s standards. My Medicare premiums are $104 and my hard earned employer supplemental is $146 a month, for a total of $250 a month.

When the Democrats had control of the White House, the Senate and the House in 2009, President Obama and the Democrats in Congress made the tough decision to spend their 2008 presidential election capital and mandate on doing something that Presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have been trying to accomplish for the last 100 years, finally providing affordable health care to the 45 million uninsured Americans. Almost 25 million of those have taken advantage of that decision.

Now that the Republicans have control of the White House and both houses of Congress, they want to repeal that hard won health care and build a wall between neighbors. This is just more clear examples of the difference of the two parties philosophies. Democrats try to use government to solve problems for America’s middle class workers and the Republi-cons can’t wait to undo those efforts, undermine any government intervention unless it benefits them, and compound problems for the working poor.

To all those poor and middle-class folks in the red states, and for that matter those in the blue states that vote without fail, year after year, election after election for Republi-cons; what in God’s name have these politicians ever done for you instead of to you. We know what the Democrats have done to pull folks out of poverty and desperation and to help families stake their claim in America’s middle class neighborhoods. You can check their voting records over the last 75 years. FDR’s New Deal, LBJ’s Great society, etc, etc, etc.

Yes, our healthcare system has problems. Depending on whose figures you use, we spend about $3.5 trillion, almost 20% of our GDP, $10,345 per person, or two to two and one half times what other developed countries spend on health care. America’s healthcare costs have escalated in relationship to it’s waistlines. More than half of American’s are overfed and under active. Stroke, emphysema, diabetes and heart disease in that order, much of which is preventable, are the four most expensive diseases to treat. Diabetes now afflicts 10% of Americans. The price for insulin has skyrocketed; has at least doubled in the last few years. Drugs costs of all types have escalated far more than the cost of living because most Republi-con’s and pharma state Democrats in congress refused to force drug companies to negotiate fairly with Medicare, Medicaid and other health care providers, just like the Veterans Administration has already done.

The $10,345 average per person spending is wildly different throughout the population. I know 70 year-old folks who have never filed a health insurance claim and some in their 50’s who’ve reached their $250,000 to $500,000 lifetime limits long before Obamacare ended those caps. The reality is that just 5% of the population, the oldest and sickest, account for almost half of that spending. 10% of families account for almost 50% of the spending. American’s 55 years and older account for almost 50% of spending. Half the population has very meager health care expenses, accounting for only about 3% of the total. People 35 and under represent 47% of the population but account for only 25% of the health care spending.

America’s healthcare is complicated. We have a lot of questions to sort out. Are we going to take care of the folks who, through no fault of their own, sometimes contract very expensive childhood or premature diseases? Are we going to care for folks who don’t do everything they can to keep themselves healthy; who smoke, take drugs, eat unhealthy foods, refuse to stay fit or engage in risky and dangerous behavior? Are we going to take care of old folks who end up spending astronomical costs trying to eke out a few more  years at the end of life or are we going to send them off to the “Soylent Green” factory? Obamacare attempted to address many of these questions, including emphasizing common sense preventative care.

White folks 55 and over and especially 65 and over spend more money on health care than black folks and statistically, significantly more than Hispanic and especially Asian Americans. Do we give a break on premiums to Asian and Hispanic policyholders for spending less? Are we going to honor the long held idea that insurance spreads the liabilities over a wide group of consumers? A lot of folks, especially healthy young people, who work hard at staying that way, don’t want to pay for those who don’t. Of the $3.5 trillion dollars we spend on health care, 32% goes to hospitals, 20% goes to doctors and clinics and about 15% goes for prescription drugs.

Where do we make the cuts? Before Obamacare was passed, I read a story that claimed 85% of hospitals, especially those in the rural red states that voted for Trump and the Republi-con’s in Congress who can’t wait to stamp out the ACA once and for all, were under severe financial duress. Because of generous campaign contributions, we know that most Republi-cons and pharma state Democrats will again refuse to force drug companies to negotiate fairly and ethically. And it’s already hard to find primary physicians willing to treat Medicare and Medicaid patients because of low reimbursement rates.

Healthcare is complicated; that’s why it took decades and more than 2,100 pages for the ACT and I think 10,000 additional pages of rules and regulations to finally get the ACA passed by the skin of it’s chiny-chin-chin. Most of those 2,100 pages are based on erstwhile Conservative Republican ideas, just like those that compose Massachusetts successful Romney-care. Many of those ideas were first proposed during the Eisenhower, Nixon and Regan administrations. But because the Republi-cons attached President Obama’s name to them, they all of a sudden became toxic solutions. Republican members of congress and Governors wanted to make Obama a one term President and did everything they could think of to make that happen, including opposing the expansion of Medicaid at every turn, even if it hurt poor folks in their own states.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/10/us/politics/marco-rubio-obamacare-affordable-care-act.html?_r=0

In this Robert Pear December 9, 2015 New York Times Article, “Sen. Marco Rubio Quietly Undermines the Affordable Care Act,” he describes how Rubio, along with other Republican Senators “got a little-noticed health care provision slipped into a giant spending law last year (2015) that tangled up the Obama administration, sent tremors through health insurance markets and rattled confidence in the durability of President Obama’s signature health law.”

This legislation drastically cut the reimbursements for insurance companies in the first three years of the ACA.

The article revealed “Mr. Rubio’s efforts against the so-called risk corridor provision of the health law have hardly risen to the forefront of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but his plan limiting how much the government can spend to protect insurance companies against financial losses has shown the effectiveness of quiet legislative sabotage.”

“The risk corridors were intended to help some insurance companies if they ended up with too many new sick people on their rolls and too little cash from premiums to cover their medical bills in the first three years under the health law. But because of Mr. Rubio’s efforts, the administration says it will pay only 13 percent of what insurance companies were expecting to receive this year. The payments were supposed to help insurers cope with the risks they assumed when they decided to participate in the law’s new insurance marketplaces.”

Republi-cons harangue about the escalating costs of Obamacare, but they are as much to blame because of their relentless obstruction and refusal to join with President Obama and the Democrats to improve the Act. Still, in spite of this opposition, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that: “costs of premiums for employer covered health plans continued to moderate after the ACA was passed. Those plans rose by almost 70% from 2000 to 2005 but only 27% from 2010 to 2015 and slowed to 3% increases from 2015 to 2016.”

And their recent Kaiser Foundation Obamacare poll also found that: “majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents alike say they favor:

  • Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26 (85% of the public, including 82% of Republicans);
  • Eliminating out-of-pocket costs for many preventive services (83% of the public, including 77% of Republicans);
  • Providing financial help to low- and moderate-income Americans who don’t get insurance through their jobs to help them purchase coverage (80% of the public, including 67% of Republicans);
  • Giving states the option of expanding their existing Medicaid programs to cover more uninsured low-income adults (80% of the public, including 67% of Republicans); and
  • Prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person’s medical history (69% of the public, including 63% of Republicans).

“In contrast, a third (35%) of the public says they favor the law’s provision requiring that nearly all Americans have health coverage or pay a fine (63% have an unfavorable view).  A majority of Democrats (57%) favor this provision but far fewer independents (30%) and Republicans (21%) do.”

“Support for the law’s requirement that employers with at least 50 workers offer health insurance or pay a fine is more mixed, with a majority of the public (60%) supporting it, including majorities of Democrats and independents. In contrast, just 45 percent of Republicans favor this provision.

Overall attitudes towards the Affordable Care Act are largely unchanged following the election: 45 percent of the public has an unfavorable view and 43 percent has a favorable view. In addition, the poll finds health care played a limited role in voters’ 2016 election decisions, with 8 percent of voters saying health care was the biggest factor in their vote.

As many say repeal would worsen their family’s health care costs as say it would improve

Americans are divided on how repeal would affect health care costs for them and their family, with nearly equal shares saying repealing the law would make costs worse (30%) as saying it would make costs better (27%). Another four in 10 say their health care costs would be about the same. Most also say that, under repeal, they would expect their quality of care and access to health insurance to remain about the same.

Importantly, Trump voters are much more likely to say repeal would help them personally. Half (52%) of those who supported Trump say the cost of health care for them and their family will get better under repeal, and many say the quality of their health care (39%) and their ability to get and keep health insurance (35%) would get better.

The poll also probes the public’s views of whether President-elect Trump’s health care policies would be bad or good for different groups of Americans. The public is more likely to predict “bad” results for the uninsured (43%), lower-income Americans (43%) and women (36%), and more likely to predict “good” results for wealthy Americans (39%).

Designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the poll was conducted from November 15-21 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,202 adults. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (422) and cell phone (780). The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.”

 

Mr. Trump and the Republic-cons in Congress have painted themselves into a tight, bright corner. After January 20th, all eyes are on them to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. They promised over and over and over that the ACA will destroy America as we know it and cause the loss of millions of jobs. Well, we’re still here and 25 million or more Americans are making appointments with their health care providers instead of showing up at emergency rooms with desperate health calamities. And instead of losing 800,000 jobs a month when Barack Obama took over, America has created more than 16 million jobs, more than all the G7 countries combined.

I know this is a lot of facts and figures to comprehend, but the most important ones for me are these numbers: After 9-11, we turned the whole world up-side down because of that terrorist attack. We invaded 2 countries, lost more than 6,000 young Americans, will have spent about $5 trillion dollars when the final bill comes due and we finally take care of all the 35,000 military folks injured in those campaigns. A couple of hundred thousand Iraq and Afghanistan people perished in those wars and we destabilized the entire Middle East, attempting to get revenge and justice for those 3,000 Americans killed on 9-11.

But before the ACA was passed, we lost between 22,000 and 25,000 Americans every single year just because they didn’t have health insurance. Just in the few years since President Obama signed that law and since almost 25 million American took advantage of the life saving legislation, 55,000 American lives have been saved. The Republi-cons who are jumping up and down waiting to dismantle Obamacare can’t in good conscience, ignore these numbers.

Before Obamacare, 45 million American had too much in common with poor folks in 3rd world countries and 65% of those filing bankruptcy, did so because of unaffordable medical expenses.

Any elected official who analyzes our health care system based on whats best for all Americans and not just for the special interests who contribute to their campaigns, must come to the conclusion that America, like the rest of the developed world, must transition to a single payer system before we bankrupt the treasury. Our government already pays more than 50% of the $3.5 trillion we spend on health care.

Even Mr. Trump realizes it’s the only viable alternative to this basically conservative Republican compromise called Obamacare. He came to that conclusion more than 15 years ago, probably based on the fact that when he signed the checks for his employees healthcare, he asked himself why he was sending almost 30% of those costs to the insurance companies. I’m sure he tried to figure out some way to pay the providers directly.

President Obama and the Democrats believed a public option was the best chance for the ACA to succeed. But the Republicans and some insurance company state Democrats in congress (probable based on a study that found a public option would have to be fazed in over a period of time), would not support that option. Many members of congress believed that pulling the rug out from under those who invested in the insurance industry and the large number of insurance company employees, some in their own states, could not be done overnight. But five or ten years from now, we will no doubt, have a single payer health care system.

Billionaire Trump and all the millionaires and billionaires he’s chosen for his cabinet have enough money to afford the best health care in the world. And every Republican Senator and Republican member of the House have the best taxpayer paid health care insurance America offers. I just can’t understand how these people can look at themselves in the mirror if they repeal life saving health insurance for 25 million poor folks? When all is said and done, does anyone believe that these Republi-cons in congress will try to provide or emphasize “Patient Protection” as their main legislative objective? If they eventually come up with a plan, I think an appropriate name might be the (IDCPUCA) Insurance and Drug Company Protection and Unaffordable Care Act, or Drumpfcare for short. This sticky Tarbaby will be hard to shake off.

For folks who wish to learn more about the complexities of the PPACA, please check out a book written in 2008 by the architect of Obamacare, Ezekiel Emmanuel, “Reinventing American Health Care: How the Affordable Care Act will Improve our Terribly Complex, Blatantly Unjust, Outrageously Expensive, Grossly Inefficient, Error Prone System.”

John Hanno, www.tarbabys.com

 

 

 

LA Times

Repealing Obamacare could be a matter of life or death for many Americans. Here are their voices

 

Michael Hiltzik Column January 9, 2017

 

For Julie Ross, the looming repeal of the Affordable Care Act isn’t an abstract political issue. It’s a life-or-death matter for her 4 1/2-year-old daughter, who was born with Down syndrome and a congenital heart condition and spent her first month in the neonatal intensive care unit.

In the pre-Affordable Care Act era, when insurers could impose lifetime limits on benefits, hers was $500,000. “She would have reached that in her first two weeks,” Ross says.

For Colleen Mondor, whose 15-year-old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 3 and controls it today with four visits a year to a pediatric endocrinologist, repeal would mean shutting down the aircraft leasing company that she and her husband started and finding a job with employer-paid insurance. “So instead of building our own company, we’ll be taking jobs away from people who need them.”

Senators say, without health insurance you can just go to the ER for care. For my daughter, that would be too late. She’ll die without these protections. — Julie Ross of Dallas

Pre-Obamacare, every insurer she applied to for coverage asked about her family’s medical histories. When she told them about her son’s diabetes, as she tweeted earlier this month: “That was the end of the conversation, every. single. time.”

Steve Waxman, 59, an independent filmmaker in Miami, had a heart attack before Obamacare was enacted, but he had insurance. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed and protections for those with preexisting conditions are eroded, he’d be red-tagged as a potentially costly repeat patient. “Life is a preexisting medical condition,” he observes. “Only in America can you go bankrupt because of it.”

On Obamacare repeal, GOP ideology is colliding with reality

David Zasloff, 55, of North Hollywood is still recovering from a stroke he suffered in 2015. Without the Affordable Care Act, treatment “would have cost everything I had, including my niece’s college fund,” he says. Now he has a Blue Shield silver plan via Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, and pays $144 a month to cover most of his treatment and medication.

Ross, Mondor, Waxman and Zasloff, and countless more like them, live in abject fear that Republicans will follow through on their determination to repeal the Affordable Care Act, without passing a replacement that will maintain the crucial protections the law has given them. Obamacare’s critics have painted a picture of the law that is wholly negative: that it’s a “disaster,” that it’s in a “death spiral,” that it’s caused a “struggle” for families that use it. To people not directly affected by the Affordable Care Act — the 85% of Americans who get their coverage from their employers or public programs such as Medicare— these assertions seem plausible enough, especially since they’ve been repeated incessantly for more than six years. Repeat a big lie often and loudly enough, and you don’t need evidence.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) often repeats a mantra that “Obamacare has failed the American people.” But a Ways and Means Committee fact sheet he cites as evidence doesn’t include a single quote from an Obamacare enrollee. Not one.

The people who know the truth — those whose medical histories would make them uninsurable in a non-Obamacare marketplace, who would face bankruptcy if they faced a major medical need, whose condition would go unmanaged, or who would be forced to give up their dream of creating their own business and working for themselves — their voices are seldom heard. So we’re going to present a few.

Some are insurance customers who struggled with coverage — not from Obamacare, but in a pre-Affordable Care Act market in which carriers looked for any reason to reject applicants, limit their benefits or impose costly surcharges. They struggled with high deductibles, with high-risk pools such as those that Ryan says could easily accommodate Americans with chronic conditions. They know he’s wrong. Some took advantage of the freedom the Affordable Care Act brought them to start their own businesses, because now they could give up their employer-paid insurance without fear of going without coverage. And they know the frustration that comes from going unheard on Capitol Hill.

Julie Ross, 41, runs a home business in the Dallas area with her husband Mark, a commercial artist. She home-schools her daughters, 4 1/2-year-old Niko and her 7-year-old sister. Julie suffers from asthma, a condition that relegated her to a high-risk pool before the Affordable Care Act. Before Niko was born, she told me, she and her husband kept separate health plans, so that her own condition wouldn’t affect the cost of his coverage.

Niko’s conditions require constant pro-active management. “I hear senators say, without health insurance you can just go to the ER and get care,” she says. “For my daughter, that would be too late. She’ll die without these protections.”

Ross has reached out to Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Republicans, and her congressman, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Dallas). The offices of Sessions and Cruz won’t return her calls. Cornyn’s staff met with her, but parroted his idea of giving families such as hers a tax credit to buy insurance, but it wouldn’t be enough.

“When I talk to Republicans, I tell them we’re everything you want us to be,” she says. “We’re self-employed, we’re pro-life.” But if she lost the access to coverage she gets from the Affordable Care Act, to replace it for her daughter, “I would have to get a divorce from my husband and move into Section 8 housing and go onto Medicaid and welfare. We are living in total fear.”

Colleen Mondor, a pilot and writer, is 48 and runs an aircraft leasing firm in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest with her husband, Ward Rosadiuk, 53. The family’s healthcare nightmare started 12 years ago when their toddler came down with a cold and didn’t get better. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

“That changed everything,” Mondor recalls. The family got shunted into a high-risk pool, where the deductible was $10,000 per person and the coverage was sharply constrained. “The high-risk pool is a party no one wants to attend,” she says. “It was absolute misery. We had no control over which doctors we could see, and the deductible was ridiculous.”

Frustrated about a debate about Obamacare that seemed utterly irrelevant to her situation, a few days after New Year’s, Mondor posted a tweet about the difficulties facing small business owners post-repeal. What followed was a torrent of retweets and replies. “I thought I was alone, but I discovered it was not just me,” she says.

Mondor’s teenage son has received first-rate care for his incurable disease thanks to the family’s Affordable Care Act-protected health plan. But pondering the GOP proposals to repeal the law has become a dominating distraction. “I’m not thinking about how to grow my business or get new clients,” she told me, “but about what [Vice President-elect] Mike Pence or Paul Ryan are up to.”

Affordable Care Act plans aren’t perfect. They’re often more expensive and less generous than the health plans offered by big employers. But for people without access to such plans, they’re a lifeline. People such as Donald Goudie of Irvine, 68, who was forced into retirement ahead of schedule when his department at IBM was downsized in 2014. IBM gave him six more months of company insurance, but after that, his wife, Sandra, needed coverage for her chronic rheumatoid arthritis.

The Goudies knew from having tested the pre-Obamacare individual market a few years ago that Sandra, now 63, would be uninsurable without the law’s protection for preexisting conditions. So would Donald, who has a cardiac condition. Because of the combination of a premium increase and a reduction of their eligibility for Affordable Care Act subsides, Sandra’s premium will rise to more than $500 a month this year from about $150 last year. “That’s a big jump, but still affordable,” he says. But that’s only if Congressional Republicans don’t tamper with Social Security and Medicare, on which the couple depends and which also are in the GOP’s crosshairs.

“We’ve gone from our retirement with enough money saved and supplemented with Social Security,” he says, “to wondering if we have enough money to pay for the basics.”

Do the Republicans who talk so blithely about how Obamacare has “failed the American people” and how they will provide “relief” — despite not having any “relief” plan in place despite six years of promising one — have any idea what their plans mean to millions of Americans facing the challenge of health coverage in their daily lives? The evidence is that they don’t, because they don’t talk to the targets of their plans.

Those whose lives hang in the balance of the debate over the Affordable Care Act are beginning to speak up. They’re independent business owners. Parents with desperately ill children. Adults with chronic diseases. Workers who have been laid off. Families for whom an uninsured injury or diagnosis would mean bankruptcy. The Affordable Care Act helps them, and could help even more if Republicans in Congress cared enough about them to make it better.

But to know that, they’d have to listen. Michael Hiltzik

 

 

Yahoo Health  January 7, 2016

75% of Americans don’t want Obamacare repealed without an alternative

Melody Hahm

 

President Barack Obama challenged Republicans on Friday to present a feasible alternative to Obamacare instead of blindly adopting the “repeal and delay” strategy.

And it turns out the vast majority of Americans may agree with Obama.

Only one in five Americans supports flat-out repealing Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, according to a new survey conducted by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. Of the 1,204 US adults surveyed, 75% either oppose the repeal entirely or want to keep the law until  the details of a replacement plan emerge.

Americans, however unhappy they may be with Obamacare, would rather know their alternatives before tossing their coverage — however costly — completely out the window.

This isn’t the only poll to suggest Americans aren’t on board with killing Obamacare now. Republican Congresswoman — and a passionate Obamacare foe — Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) took to Twitter (TWTR) on Wednesday to conduct her own poll on Obamacare, asking whether people supported the repeal of Obamacare, likely anticipating that many would vote to repeal the legislation. Nearly 8,000 people voted and the overwhelming majority — 84% — voted no.

President Obama considers the ACA one of his administration’s hallmark achievements, and has been spending his last days in office urging fellow Democrats not to “rescue” Republicans by helping them pass replacement measures.

Though there have been vocal and vehement opponents to the ACA, including Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the law’s opponents have yet to come up with a replacement.

Apart from its impact on consumers, the act of repealing the ACA without a replacement would also have dire business consequences. The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Budget published a report this week warning the full repeal of the ACA would cost up to $350 billion over the next decade and leave 23 million people uninsured.

The report suggests “any changes to the ACA should reduce, not increase, the unsustainable growth in the federal debt. Savings from repealing parts of the ACA must be large enough to not only finance repeal of any of ACA’s offsets, but also to pay for whatever ‘replace’ legislation is put forward.”

Meanwhile, 50 states would suffer job losses and sharp reductions in business output without Obamacare, predicted a separate study conducted by the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund and GWU’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. In total, scrapping Obamacare could cost 3 million people jobs and trigger economic disruption, according to that study.

The report’s lead author, Leighton Ku, explained to NPR why the ACA is so tied up with the larger economy: “The payments you make to health care then become income for workers and income for other businesses. And this spreads out. Health care is almost a fifth of the US economy, so as you begin to change health care, there are repercussions that go across all sectors.”

Even medical professionals, insurers and hospital groups have been coalescing to argue they need to see a replacement for ACA before it’s repealed. The American Medical Association (AMA) wrote a letter to congressional leaders pointing out that though the health care system has ample room for improvement, “policymakers should lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies” so that patients can make informed decisions.

We’ll find out soon enough whether senators are listening to their constituents when the vote hits the floor next week.

Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Read more from Melody here & follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

 

 

Yahoo Health, January 7, 2017

Obamacare repeal costs: 3 million jobs gone, $1.5 trillion in lost gross state product

Dan Mangan

Spending less by getting rid of Obamacare could end up costing a whole lot more.

Up to 3 million jobs in the health sector and other areas would be lost if certain key provisions of the Affordable Care Act are repealed by Congress, a new report said Thursday.

At the same time, ending those provisions could lead to a whopping $1.5 trillion reduction in gross state product from 2019 through 2023, according to the study.

“Repealing key parts of the ACA could trigger massive job losses and a slump in consumer and business spending that would affect all sectors of state economies,” said Leighton Ku, director of the Center for Health Policy Research and professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

Ku is the lead author of the report, which was issued by the Milken Institute and the Commonwealth Fund.

The report comes as President-elect Donald Trump and the new Congress are moving toward repealing parts of the ACA through the budget reconciliation process.

“The immediate and most visible effect of ACA repeal would be the loss of coverage and access to care for millions of people who have gained insurance because of the law,” said Sara Collins, vice president for health-care coverage and access at the Commonwealth Fund.

“This study points to even larger potential economic effects that would be detrimental to the health and well-being of millions more,” Collins said.

The estimate of job and state product losses are based on a scenario in which Congress defunds federal subsidies that most Obamacare customers receive to help lower their monthly insurance premium costs, and also gets rid of funding to cover adults who became newly eligible for Medicaid under the ACA.

Repealing both provisions would save the federal government $140 billion in health-care spending, the report found. And as that funding spigot dried up, it would lead to job losses and a drop in gross state product, the report said.

The study notes that most of the federal funding for Obamacare flows to hospitals, health clinics, pharmacies and other medical providers, who in turn hire and pay staff and purchase goods and services.

The biggest job losses would occur in California, with 334,000 lost jobs, Florida, with 181,000 lost jobs, Texas, with 175,000 lost positions, and Pennysylvania, New York and Ohio, each of which would lose more than 125,000 jobs, the report estimates.

One-third of the job losses would be in the health-care sector, according to the report. The remaining two-thirds of job losses are expected to come from construction, real estate, retail, finance and insurance.

As with other reports estimating the effects of Obamacare repeal, the economic downsides could be mitigated, or completely offset by a replacement plan for the ACA.

But so far, Trump and the Republican-led Congress have not committed to such a plan. So researchers have been unable to estimate the ultimate effects of a replacement plan. Dan Mangan

 

 

The Daily Kos

Dear Congressional GOP: Don’t Say You Weren’t Warned. (including your own experts)

By Brainwrap,  Tuesday January 3, 2017

 

definitely-NOT-comprehensive selection of opinions regarding the Republican Party’s imminent “Repeal & Delay” strategy for the Affordable Care Act:

What outside experts are saying about repeal and delay:

American Academy of Actuaries: “Repealing major provisions of the ACA would raise immediate concerns that individual market enrollment would decline, causing the risk pools to deteriorate and premiums to become less affordable. Even if the effective date of a repeal is delayed, the threat of a deterioration of the risk pool could lead additional insurers to reconsider their participation in the individual market.” (Letter to Congress 12/7/16)

Nick Gerhart (Iowa Republican Insurance Commissioner): “If you’re going to repeal this, I hope that there’s a replacement stapled to that bill.” (NPR, 11/21/16)

Governor Jay Inslee and Mike Kreidler (Washington Democratic Governor and Insurance Commissioner): “Decisions to cut funding before developing a replacement puts the health of Washingtonians at great risk through undermining and destabilizing their health care.” (Letter to Congress)

Sabrina Corlette (Georgetown University): “The idea that you can repeal the Affordable Care Act with a two- or three-year transition period and not create market chaos is a total fantasy.” (New York Times, 12/3/16)

Michael Cannon (Cato Institute): “What they are planning to do is absolutely insane.” (TPM, 12/18/16)

(Note: Michael Cannon, one of the architects of the infamous King v. Burwell case, by his own admission, hates the ACA more than anyone else on the planet)

Larry Levitt (Kaiser Family Foundation):

  • “The individual insurance market could collapse in between a repeal vote and a replacement vote” (TPM, 11/29/16).
  • “Any significant delay between repeal of the ACA and clarity over what will replace it would likely lead insurers to exit the marketplaces in droves” (Huffington Post, 12/1/16).
  • “Republicans are in a bit of box here, because the individual mandate is an anathema to them, but repealing the individual mandate immediately while keeping the protections for people with pre-existing conditions would likely lead to immediate chaos in the insurance market” (TPM, 11/29/16).

Stuart Butler (formerly Heritage Foundation), Alice Rivlin (former CBO and OMB Director), Loren Adler (Brookings Institution): “If replacing the ACA is truly the goal, though, repealing it first without a replacement in hand is almost certainly a disastrous way to start. First, a reconciliation bill would likely destabilize the individual market and very possibly cause it to collapse in some regions of the country during the interim period before any replacement is designed…If no replacement plan materializes, the hollowed-out individual market – for people without access to employer-provided or public coverage – could be left in shambles.” (Brookings, 12/13/16).

Topher Spiro (Center for American Progress): “Their strategy of repealing now and replacing later was designed to provide false assurance that everything would be okay. Now there’s a growing awareness that in fact this strategy would cause a lot of chaos and perhaps even collapse the market before a replacement plan can be put into place.” (TPM, 11/29/16).

Robert Laszewski (Health Care Consultant and ACA Critic): “Republicans are being awfully naive. They seem to be ignoring the risks in the transition period.” (Vox, 12/1/16).

Former Senator Tom Daschle: “It sends all the wrong messages to the private sector…You gotta have the replacement before you have the repeal.” Politico Pulsecheck Podcast, 12/1/16).

Joshua Blackman (Professor and former Cato Institute Scholar): “Passing it by itself is politically expedient, but would create a series of headaches very quickly for the Republicans.” (TPM, 12/18/16).

Linda Blumberg, Matthew Buettgens, John Holahan (Urban Institute): “If Congress partially repeals the ACA with a reconciliation bill like that vetoed in January 2016…Significant market disruption would occur…Many, if not most, insurers are unlikely to participate in Marketplaces in 2018.” (Urban, 12/7/16).

Judith Solomon (Center for Budget and Policy Priorities): “Many people likely would lose coverage before any Republican health plan was fully implemented.” (CPBB, 12/5/16).