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Day 134. 

The great deal maker failed.  The leader of the Republican controlled House of Representatives failed.  For trump, this is his second strike.  The first was the Muslim Ban that was stopped by the courts.  Yes, there is Muslim Ban 2.0 that is still being held up in the courts with the case to move forward, but the first one made him back down and try again.

Today was strike two since they had to pull the Americans Without Health Care Act.  They had to pull the bill because the “great dealmaker” couldn’t make a deal.  The bill was so bad, conservatives and moderates were both against it.  Conservatives were against it because it wasn’t cruel enough.  Moderates were against it because it was too cruel.

In typical trumpism he went on to blame the Democrats.  You know, the party that was never asked for their input.  The party that was completely locked out of the process.  The party that doesn’t want to see millions of Americans lose their insurance.  The Republicans claimed they would “repeal and replace” the ACA despite the Democrats because they didn’t need them.

So, naturally, it is all their fault trump couldn’t make his great deal and fulfill his promise that “the first thing we are going to do is repeal and replace the terrible Obamacare”.  Republicans thought this would be a slam dunk.  Only it wasn’t.

But, don’t start celebrating just yet.  Don’t even think that trump is telling the truth when he say he is going to now move on to tax reform and “let Obamacare fail”.  The other day I wrote about how Rubio and the Republicans stopped paying back losses to insurance companies as the law said it would do for ten years, and that caused them to pull out of the exchanges.

That is just the beginning.  Remember, Tom Price is still the Secretary of HHS.  That is the department that runs the ACA.  If you think that Price will not do everything he can to undo as much of the ACA as he can you are kidding yourself.  Price is the number one enemy of the ACA.  He hates the ACA more than the thought of dying and going to hell.

He will issue administrative orders wherever he can to undo the ACA.  He will probably start with the mandates and regulations.  He will probably move on to the taxes that actually pay for the ACA so it will be starved of the cash it needs to work.

He will ensure that more companies pull out of the exchanges by promising something stupid in the future that will help them make more money.  And, don’t forget those same for profit insurance companies will be hammering away at him to do everything I just mentioned and probably even more.  The trump administration will do everything they can to make sure the ACA fails.  And, he will get Ryan to help out by repealing the taxes in the bill so it will be starved if Price can’t do it administratively.

You must keep in mind that trump is a very vindictive son of a bitch.  Every time he loses on something, he goes after someone he believes stopped him from getting what he wants.  In this case, he will figure out that he couldn’t get enough votes because House Members were scared to death of losing their seats if they voted for it.  In other words, the real villains in trump’s world right now is the American People and he will go after them with a vengeance.

If that vengeance means that you lose all of your health care, so be it.  If it means that you suffer bankruptcy over health care costs, so be it.  If it means you die because you can’t get coverage after his revenge mission, so be it.  All trump cares about is trump, and you stopped him from looking good to himself, and you must pay the price for that slight.

The ACA can work with some tweaks to the bill.  But, I still say the real answer is a universal health care law like Medicare for all.  The time to end the stupidity of “free market insurance” has come.  This is when the resistance movement that has taken room must demand universal health care, now.

It is the time when the resistance demand from their representatives to put together a bill making universal health care the law.  It is time to only support candidates, from both parties, that will support and make universal health care a reality.

This cannot wait until next year either.  It must begin today.  Letters, email, tweets, and phone calls must be made to demand universal health care.  It is the only way that we will really reduce the cost of health care and make sure that everyone in the country really has health care coverage.

Of the 11 most developed nations in the world, we rank 11th in health care costs.  We rank 11th in life expectancy.  Of fifteen different categories of health care, we rank no higher than 5th in any category.  We rank at the bottom in 10 of those categories.

What is the difference?  The other 10 most developed nations all have universal health care and pay about one half of the costs per person for health care as we do.  If you want to see health care costs go down, if you want to see Medicaid and Medicare not needed as separate costs to the country, then you must demand universal health care.

If you are a conservative, think about it.  With universal health care we don’t need a separate thing called Medicaid.  We don’t need a separate thing called Medicare.  Look at the saving in just those two programs.

If you are a progressive and believe health care is a right and not a privilege, then you must demand universal health care.  And, if you are a progressive and you help get a bipartisan universal health care law to the floor of both Houses, you will help kill the so-called Freedom Caucus.  They only have power because Republicans don’t want to work with Democrats.  If they did, the Freedom Caucus would become the lonely fringe group they should be now.

Yes, trump just got strike two against him.  But, the fight isn’t over, and it won’t ever be over until we get what most Americans want.  Affordable Health Care for all.  Only universal health care coverage is the answer.

Don’t fall asleep.  Keep resisting.  Keep calling your Reps.  Keep writing them.  Keep showing up at town halls and demand universal health care.  Make them toe the line.  If they won’t find a candidate who will and then and vote the bums out!

Now is the time for the people to get what they have been demanding.  Now is the time to rise up and make the politicians do what the American People want.  Right now, Republicans still don’t get that.  All day you kept hearing them say they will vote yes because that is what the American People want.  But, only 17 percent of the people were in favor of the Americans Without Health Care Act.  So, what people were they listening to?  Not the vast majority.

Every now and again, the people get a chance to make their voices heard and make their demands become reality.  Even trump supporters hated this abusive law.  They finally realized that they were the people who would lose their health care coverage.  Don’t leave them on the sidelines in the fight.  Bring them along with us so we have real power that even Republicans won’t dare to fight against.  The Americans Without Care Act has shown everyone that health care includes everyone.

Everyone needs health care coverage.  Democrats, Independents, AND Republicans need to join this fight.  So, with the wackos on the right holding up their own party and the incompetent trump sitting in the White House, now is one of those special times.  Don’t let it go by without acting.

It is the best chance we have to keep the shirts from marching along.

Day 134. 

As you know, one of the main plans in the trump administration and the Republican Party is to pass laws that go uncovered because of all of the distractions going on at the same time.  This week is no different.  While you were all watching the Americans Without Health Care Act fight, and Nunes showing just what a trump shill he is, the Senate was busy passing something that will affect you personally, and you probably didn’t notice.

Naturally, it was an appeal of another of Obama’s rules that were made in order to protect the general population from exploitation.  If this bill gets to trump’s desk, there are a lot of companies who will be able to make money off of you and there will be nothing you will be able to do about it.

There rule involves the internet, something we all use.  The rule, which hasn’t even taken effect yet said that internet providers could not sell your personal information without your permission.  This included things like using precise geolocation, financial information, health information, children’s information and web browsing history for advertising and internal marketing.

In the usual Republican lying mantra, McConnell said that the repeal of this rule was necessary because the rule “makes the internet an uneven playing field, increases complexity, discourages competition, innovation, and infrastructure investment.”  What he really means is that if you use the internet, you are supposed to be a cash cow for internet providers whether or not you want to be.  And, they don’t have to give you anything in return.  Hell, they don’t even have to let you know they are selling your information.

The Internet and Television Association, a trade group, in a statement praised the vote as a “critical step towards re-establishing a balanced framework that is grounded in the long-standing and successful FTC privacy framework that applies equally to all parties operating online.”

There is a law called HIPPA, which makes your health information confidential.  Yet this repeal allows a third-party to sell your health information to anyone they wish in order to make more money.  Isn’t that a violation of HIPPA?  Apparently, McConnell and the Republicans don’t care.  According to them, your health information is open for sale without your permission.

I also find it amazing that this rule change is being made right at the same time that Congress is trying to remove 24 million people from their health care coverage.  More people will be using the internet to find insurance they can afford.  With this rule change, you are going to be bombarded with advertisements because your private information isn’t private anymore.

Part of dismantling democracy is to remove privacy for the citizens.  More than that, it is making each and every citizen a cash cow for people you don’t know, who is selling your personal information to anyone and everyone.

This rule would not have hampered the playing field, complexity, competition, innovation, or infrastructure investment as McConnell said.  It would simply make it possible for you, as a consumer, to tell Internet Providers they could not sell your personal information.

Republicans have actually made it easier for Russia and terrorists and criminals to get your personal information without having to bother to hack into your computer.  They just have to set up a shill company and buy everything they want from Internet Providers.  And, they say they want to keep us safe from these criminals.

All during the Obama Presidency the right-wing was complaining about “losing their rights”.  When asked which rights they lost, they couldn’t name a single one, because they never lost a right.  So, what is one of the first things they do?  They pass a law that takes away your privacy when it comes to your financial and health information.  This is the second right lost under the trump administration and we are only in month three.  The first was your right to clean air and drinking water with his rollback of EPA rules that protected those rights. How many more are on the horizon?

This presidency is all about rights for corporations and screw the “little people”.  The proposed budget, if passed, will screw the “little people” even more.  And, I can’t wait for the so-called tax reform on the horizon that will really screw the “little people”.

Our right to privacy is one of our most fundamental and important rights we have in our government system.  Republicans just told you that your rights are not as important as corporation’s money.

I consider health insurance not only a right, but a necessity.  Republicans have told us we don’t need clean water to drink or clean to breath.  They have now told us we don’t have a right to privacy.  And, if the Americans Without Health Care Act passes we won’t have a right to health insurance.

Yes conservatives, our rights are being stripped away.  Only it wasn’t President Obama that stripped them, it is trump and his Republican gang of thieves that are stripping them away.  Hope you are happy.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

 

Day 133. 

Later today the House is scheduled to hold its vote on the Americans Without Health Care Act.  There are a lot of things to take into consideration as you watch this vote and what appears to be a defeat for trump and Ryan.  The hypocrisy on the right is getting very loud and everyone should pay attention to that.

You have heard that the Republicans are claiming that the ACA is crumbling under its own weight.  You have heard about insurance companies pulling out of the program and that premiums are rising.  What they are not telling you is that all of that is their fault.

In 2015, Marco Rubio got a little measure put into a budget bill which is what is really killing the ACA in some states.  Here is what happened.  The ACA promised insurance companies to help make up for losses in coverage in the first decade of the law.  It was understood that there would be losses because getting some people to purchase insurance would be tough, and it would take some time for those without insurance at the time who were sick to get healthy and let everything balance out.

In 2015, it was estimated that this part of the bill would cost $2.9 billion.  However, Rubio and the Republicans decided to cut that amount of money down to about $440 million.  That meant that insurance companies did not get their help to stay in the market.  As a result, most started to pull out, especially in Red States that were fighting the law in the first place.  And, the ones that stayed in the program were forced to raise premiums.

If that little budget line item was not there, we wouldn’t see the problems in some states that we see.  It should also be pointed out that very recently, the courts ruled that the federal government reneged on the law’s deal and now owes these insurance companies $80 billion.  It won’t help in the short-term because you know it will be appealed.  Plus, insurance mergers have been going crazy and many non-profit companies that provided health insurance through the ACA were forced to go bankrupt due to this change in the law.

If the ACA is really failing, it is the fault of the Marco Rubio and his Republican cronies, not the fault of the ACA itself.  They sabotaged the law in order to help kill it.

Then we have the so-called Freedom Caucus in the House.  These wackos claim to be all for freedom.  Yet, their only agenda is to ruin the social safety nets and cut taxes.  Their goal is to get rid of the ACA, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.  They are opposed to the Americans Without Health Care Bill, because they call it “Obamacare light”.  They argue that it won’t cut the deficit enough because of the tax credits to help people get insurance.

What they really want is to repeal the ACA and they don’t care if anything replaces it at all.  In fact, they would prefer that no replacement bill even be introduced.  But, they are negotiating to get some changes they “might be able to accept”.  Only, those changes will make getting real insurance even harder than it already is.

The thing they have latched onto is the requirement that companies cover essential health benefits.  They want to cut that requirement from any health law.  Those essential health benefits number 10 and they are:

  • Ambulatory patient services (outpatient care you get without being admitted to a hospital)
  • Emergency services
  • Hospitalization (like surgery and overnight stays)
  • Pregnancy, maternity, and newborn care (both before and after birth)
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment (this includes counseling and psychotherapy)
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices (services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities, or chronic conditions gain or recover mental and physical skills)
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care (but adult dental and vision coverage aren’t essential health benefits)

These are now all required to be covered in health care coverage.  The Freedom Caucus wants them to go away.  So, for example if you work for someone who believes that they don’t need to cover pregnancy, they can get health coverage that drops that protection.  It currently costs roughly $15,000 just to have a baby.  That doesn’t even touch pre-natal and post-natal care.  The states that have an opioid epidemic right now won’t be too happy about dropping substance use coverage either.

The Freedom Caucus has only been negotiating with trump.  The Republican House leadership wants him to placate this wacko group.  In other words, they are reeling him in to take ownership of the bill, especially if it goes down.

The irony of the so-called Freedom Caucus is that they claim to be “fiscal conservatives” who are only interested in the deficit.  Yet, they are not disappointed with the huge tax cuts in this bill for the rich.  They are not opposed to increasing defense spending or in spending 21 billion dollars to build our Berlin Wall.  And, you can bet you bottom dollar that they will be all for huge tax cuts that trump wants down the line for the rich and companies.  Naturally, according to them, if you reduce revenue and let the rich keep more money, the deficit will magically go down.

Ryan and his group have been negotiating with moderates who also hate the bill.  Their reason is that it will cut off their constituents from health care.  But, in order to placate them, the tax credits will need to be increased, especially for older people.  That won’t go over well with the Freedom Caucus.  As a result, it is difficult to see how this bill can get past the House.  Though anything is possible.

Over in the Senate, the bill will face much tougher opposition.  Especially if the Freedom Caucus gets trump to include the changes to the essential benefits part.  See, they are trying to get the bill passed through reconciliation.  That only works in the Senate if it only affects the budget.  The changes to the essential benefits part will not affect the budget, and it could cause it to go through normal procedures which includes the 60 vote threshold.

The Republican Party has made their living crying about the ACA.  They have undermined the bill wherever they could in order to cause it to fail.  They have promised over and over to “repeal and replace” the ACA.  They have had seven years to come up with a workable, viable plan that the American People could get behind.

In all of those years, they did absolutely nothing to craft a replacement.  They did nothing to make the ACA better.  They passed laws that made the ACA harder to enforce and do what it had promised.

Now, they have control of both the House and Senate, and trump is sitting in the White House.  And, the Americans Without Health Care Act is the best they could come up with?  Oh, Ryan says this is only part one of a three-pronged plan.  First is this horrible bill.  Then, they will let Price make administrative decisions on doing more.  Then, they will pass another law to fully replace the ACA and it will be much better.  Yeah, that sounds like one of the three great lies like the check is in the mail.  Hell, even Ted Cruz says the third part is a “bucket for suckers”.

The simple fact is that once Americans saw this bill, they lost their minds.  They realized that their own health care coverage lies in the balance, and it doesn’t look good for them.  They flooded “town hall meetings” and expressed their dissatisfaction about his horrible bill.

I guess the real problem the Republicans have right now, is that they are having a hard time explaining why they need to repeal the ACA since it was their bill to begin with.  Almost every line in the ACA came from the Heritage Foundation’s plan to help defeat universal health care in the 1990s.

They claim that the ACA was passed too fast.  That the Democrats went with reckless speed to pass it.  It took the Democrats nine months to get the law written and passed.  They tried to include Republicans, but they didn’t want to talk about their own bill.  Democrats also talked to health organizations and insurance companies to get their input.  They at least made an effort to pass a good bill.

This bill was kept secret until about a week ago.  The Republicans held no hearings on the bill.  They called no witnesses to testify about the bill.  They never spoke to Democrats to get their input.  They never talked to health organizations or to health insurance companies to get their input.   And now, they are trying to ram this bill through both Houses of Congress in less than 10 weeks!  If nine months of work is reckless speed, what do you call 10 weeks?

The Americans Without Health Care Act is nothing more than a tax cut bill for the rich.  It has nothing to do with your health care simply because Republicans don’t give a damn about hour health care.  It has brought to light the terrible “management” skills of Ryan and Republican leadership.  And, it has brought to light the terrible “deal making skills” of our beloved leader.

If this bill fails to even pass the House, both Ryan and trump will have a huge black eye.  It will call into question everything that they want to pass, even their tax reform bill.  It will especially call into question their ability to actually govern.

In the two plus months of the trump administration nothing has been done that will help bring down premiums for health care.  Nothing had been done to increase jobs.  Nothing has been done except help trump’s own companies and pollute our water and air.

This bill was supposed to show us how “great trump really is”.  It doesn’t look like very promising on that front.  If this bill passes we know that up to 24 million people will lose their health coverage.  Medicaid will be cut so badly that old people will be thrown out of nursing homes.  Premiums will go up even more.  And, deductibles will go up as well.  The Kaiser Foundation said yesterday that deductibles will increase an average of about $1400.

The good news of this bill is that the upper 2 percent of income earners will gain about $250 million in tax cuts over the next 10 years.  If you are not one of them, you lose.

If this bill does not pass, and it is looking like it won’t.  The health care industry will be thrown into a tizzy.  It is even doubtful if it will survive.  Since Republicans have done everything they could to kill the ACA over the last six years, and with no replacement, uncertainty will rule the health care industry.  Uncertainty is never good for any business.

If I were in the Democrat caucus right now, I would be writing a Universal Health Care bill to walk down to the White House after this disaster plays out.  I would put it on the desk of trump and say:  “You promised health coverage for all.  Here is the bill that will make your promise come true.  Support it and force your party to pass it with us and you will look good”.

You may be thinking that is crazy.  Why would I want trump to look good.  I don’t.  But, I would rather take care of the American People as I was sworn to do and worry about things later.  If you think about it, it could be a win-win for Democrats.  At least they would have a real plan to run against the Republican do-nothings.

Especially when you consider that the majority of the public favors keeping the ACA.  Just think of the political capital you could earn by doing even better.  As it is, all we can do is watch, wait, and hold our breath.  That is no way to run a government.

 

 

 

Day 132. 

There is a lot of talk about Neil Gorsuch’s performance at the hearing about is nomination.  A few of the Democrats have tried to hold his feet to the fire over some of his rulings, but the rest seem to be rolling over.  Even those who try to hold him accountable, don’t always ask the correct questions.

For me, there is one huge red flag flying over the Gorsuch camp.  This red flag is typical retorts from conservatives, especially when it comes to the Supreme Court.  That one retort is simply that judges, even Supreme Court Justices, are merely rubber stamps for whatever a law says.

As an example, Sen. Durbin brought up a case about a truck driver whose case came before Gorsuch.  Here is a brief explanation of the case.  This truck driver was forced to pull his truck over because his breaks froze.  As a result, he could not drive the truck because it was considered an unsafe vehicle.

The driver’s dispatcher told him to move the truck, but he said he couldn’t because the brakes would not work properly because the brakes were frozen and couldn’t stop the tuck with the trailer properly.  The dispatcher told him to stay put until help arrived.  The truck, for reasons I don’t know, did not have any heat in the cab.  The temperature was about minus 14 degrees.

After waiting for sever hours without help arriving, the driver was near freezing to death.  He then got out, unhitched his trailer and drove the truck to a place to get it fixed and warm up.  The company fired the truck driver for “operating an unsafe vehicle”.

Seven different courts sided with the truck driver citing his safety and desire to stay alive.  Then the case got to Judge Gorsuch’s court.  He ruled in favor of the truck company and the driver lost his job.  According to Durbin, he is still without a job and seems to be blackballed from driving again.

During the hearing, Gorsuch said he “felt for the driver” but the law was the law.  The driver drove what was considered “an unsafe vehicle” and therefore he should have lost his job.  He even went so far as to tell Congress that if they don’t like the results they should change the law.  “I was merely adjudicating the law as it was written”.  However, judges do have the right, and the responsibility to say when a law is unjust and not adjudicate is as it is written.

In this case, the driver had two choices.  Take a chance and get the cab somewhere he could get it fixed and save his life, or simply sit still and freeze to death.  Gorsuch says that he should have sat still and froze to death.  This a very real case that proves that extenuating circumstances should have ruled the day and not just the letter of the law.  Gorsuch, once again placed the company’s interests in front of the person involved.

Gorsuch also said that the same-sex marriage situation is “settled law”.  But, he would not say the same thing about Roe v. Wade.  If you are wondering why, just look at his stance on the so-called “Freedom of Religion” laws he favors.  The ones that allow companies to discriminate against LGBTQ people based on “religious beliefs”.

If anyone would ask me, I would have suggested a few questions for Mr. Gorsuch that would not involve any cases of the past giving him an out.  But, they would let everyone know exactly where he would stand if these kinds of cases came before him at any level.

These questions would be something like this:  Do you believe that there are two different types of laws, one type being secular which rules civil society and one type being religious law that rules religious beliefs?  Do you believe that religious law should be considered when making secular law?  If, yes which religion’s or religious sect’s religious laws should be considered?  Do you believe that religious law should take precedence over secular law in civil matters?

Those questions would unmask anyone’s beliefs on issues like Roe v. Wade.  Let me explain.  I believe that civil society is ruled by secular law.  In a country like ours that offers freedom of religion, secular law must be the law of the land.

Religious law should never be considered when making secular law.  If you really believe in freedom of religion, then it would be impossible to say one religion’s laws should be considered and another’s religious laws should not.

Religious laws should never take precedence over secular law in a civil society that claims to be open and free.  If someone believes their religious laws take precedence over secular laws in civil society, you know where they stand on a myriad of issues.

The case of Roe v. Wade is a case of secular law v. religious law.  The entire case hinges on the definition of life and when it begins.  Religious law, especially with Catholics and Evangelicals, says that life begins at conception.  However, there are differences between religious life and secular life.

One could easily argue that life does not begin until the fetus is capable of surviving outside of the womb.  The arguments are purely based on different beliefs of secular law or religious law.  The pro-life group is based on the idea of life begins at conception.  The pro-choice group says otherwise.

If someone asked Gorsuch if religious law takes precedence over secular law, and he said yes, it would be a clear indication that he would override Roe v. Wade if it came before him.  I believe I already know that he does believe that religious law supersedes secular law with his stance in the Hobby Lobby case and his support of these “freedom of religion” laws that allow discrimination against groups based on religious beliefs.

That is not someone I would want on the Supreme Court.  But, since Democrats are not interested in getting to a person’s true feelings and beliefs, these types of questions are never asked.

Additionally, if you simply look at our own history, you will discover that conservatives always believe that religious law supersedes secular law.  You can see that in laws that banned intra-racial marriage, same-sex marriage, separate but equal laws, and many more.  All of those laws were justified by “religious beliefs”.  If a judge cannot interpret the law and declare it unconstitutional, we would still have those laws on the books.

That is why conservatives argument about “minimal justices” is totally wrong.  It is the responsibility of judges, especially on the Supreme Court to interpret laws for their constitutionality.  The Constitution is secular law, and NOT religious law.  The Constitution protects all minorities from bad laws passed by the majority.  If judges are simply rubber stamps for Congress, then we would still have slavery in this country.

I do not believe that Judge Gorsuch belongs on the Supreme Court.  His rubber stamp mentality, his willingness to let someone die just because he is too lazy to include extenuating circumstances in applying a law, and his apparent belief that religious law supersedes secular law, makes him unqualified to sit on the highest court of the land.

However, I don’t think that the Democrats are willing to go full-bore on rejecting him.  I am not convinced that they are willing to dig in too much on this nominee.  There are a lot of old people on the Supreme Court.  And, I don’t think they are willing to fight one nominee that might make it easier to get a more conservative wacko on the court with the next opening, which could be any day.

But, in my mind he doesn’t belong there.  He appears to me to be just another sleazy snake oil salesman in a fancy suite with a fancy haircut masquerading to be “mainstream”.  He isn’t mainstream.  He is a far right social conservative activist and his rulings have proven that to be the case.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

 

Day 131. 

There is an awful lot to watch this week.  There was the open session of the House Intelligence Committee on the Russia Hack and we got some news that everyone kind of knew but didn’t expect to hear.  Neil Gorsuch began his hearing to become part of the Supreme Court.  And, the Republicans are pushing very hard to remove tens of millions of people from their health care coverage.

As I watched the hearing yesterday, I began to wonder if I was watching two different hearings.  The Democrats were hammering away at the real purpose of the hacking by Russia while a lot of Republicans were hammering away at the leaks that basically led to these investigations.  That is somewhat understandable.  Republicans have wanted to deflect away from trump’s administration’s behavior so going after the leakers is their plan.

However, when Comey said that there was an active investigation not only into the Russian hacks, but also about whether or not trump campaign team members actually helped in that hacking scheme, the air seemed to go out of the room.  When he said also there was no information to back-up trump’s claim of wire tapping of his tower, there was a moment of relief in the room.  Everyone in the room had already expressed that was not true for a couple of weeks now.

The one thing I believe this hearing did prove is that we really do need an independent commission, complete with a special prosecutor, to investigate this matter.  I don’t say that easily either.  But, this matter is way too important for any appearance of politics interfering with the investigations.  And, holding the investigation in Congress allows that to take place too easily.

An independent commission, with a special prosecutor, would be able to get to the real truth, regardless of what that truth is.  The circumstantial evidence does not look good for trump, but it is circumstantial and I am not making any decisions on the guilt or innocence of him or his team.  I want the truth.

Hopefully, the investigation at the FBI will go along smoothly, but since it is part of the executive branch, there is no guaranty of that either.  Watergate proved that point very well in the past.

Just as importantly, the White House started distancing itself from some of the players in this investigation.  Spicer even went so far as to say the Paul Manafort “played a very minor role for a very short period of time”.  He also said that Mike Flynn “was just a campaign volunteer”.

Does the White House really believe the American People are that stupid?  Paul Manafort ran the campaign from March through August.  He was brought into the campaign to have a professional actually run it for them.  He did not play a “very minor role”.

Mike Flynn was not just “a campaign volunteer”.  He was the security advisor to the campaign.  He even went onto become the National Security Advisor in the administration.  That is quite a leap from just being a “campaign volunteer”.

Sometimes when I watch this administration I am dumbfounded by their ease in lying to the American People.  On the other hand, that has been their way of doing business ever since trump began his campaign.  But, now when it appears they just might have gotten caught with the whopper, they are hunkering down even more.

The problem is that I believe they are actually circling the wagons in a minefield.  How many times have you heard that if the moron would just come out and say he made a mistake, even with a flimsy excuse, about the wiretapping claim he could get around it.  But, trump never admits he is wrong about anything.  And, this is no different.

Then, out of the blue, it was reported last night that our empty suit of a Secretary of State is going to skip the NATO meeting in April.  They claim he is skipping the meeting to stay around for the Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to Washington.  However, later in the month, he is going to visit Moscow.

That is a very bad message to send to our allies.  Instead of trying to change either the NATO meeting date or the Chinese visit date, they are just going to skip NATO but still visit Russia.  If trump had not been hammering away at NATO and trying to make it appear as a protection racket, maybe NATO members wouldn’t get nervous about this situation.  But, since trump cannot stop calling NATO “obsolete”, I am guessing they are very nervous about this situation.  And, I don’t blame them.

The Gorsuch hearings are ongoing and I will have more as this week goes on.  But, this hearing is very important.  I already pointed out one case that I believe should exclude him from serving on the Court.  I want to hear what he says, and I really want to hear what questions the Democrats are going to ask.  I already know the Republicans will just showcase their ideology rather than vet this candidate.

Now we come to the Americans Without Health Care Act.  Republicans are trying very hard to placate other Republicans to get them to vote for this bill.  They announced some changes to the bill and are touting that it will help older Americans better.  That is nice, but it is also gutting more parts that will hurt many more Americans.

Some of the amendments geared towards conservatives include Medicaid and what is being called the Buffalo Bailout.  One thing they want to add is a “work requirement” to receive Medicaid.  That may sound nice, but it will hurt a whole lot of poor people and people with disabilities.  There has been no clear definition of just who must follow this “work requirement”.  They want to take a program that is intended to assist out-of-work people and poor people to have health care and put “requirements” on them.

About one-third of people on Medicaid are in nursing homes.  Are they supposed to follow the “work requirement”?  That may sound like a crazy question, but it is a very real possibility if there aren’t any definitions about who must obey this requirement.

This is just another example of the conservative viewpoint that anyone who needs help only needs help because they are lazy slugs who don’t want to work and support their families.

They are also going to “speed up” the tax cuts from the ACA, the repeal of expanded Medicaid and “block grants” to states for Medicaid.  And, this small government party wants to dictate just how states do their Medicaid.  Hence the Buffalo Bailout.

In New York State, and many others, the state requires counties to contribute to Medicaid costs.  The Upstate counties complain that it means they must charge higher property taxes.  So, conservatives in Congress have decided that they will step into each state’s operation and state that counties no longer need to contribute to Medicaid costs.

To show they mean business, they have even said that this applies to any county that has a population of less that 5 million people.  They are not only interfering with a state’s operations, they are saying which counties are involved.  So much for “small government” actions.

As far as the Americans Without Health Care Act goes, in order to help older Americans purchase insurance they have decided to include 75 billion dollars to increase tax credits for people between 50 and 64.  Only, the cowardly House won’t say how that money should be used, they are leaving it to the Senate.  In other words, they want the House to pass a bill that gives 75 billion dollars to it, but won’t say how it should be spent.

Additionally, they won’t say how they were going to pay for that 75 billion dollars.  This is the party that says everything must be paid for before it is passed.  Yet, here is 75 billion dollars that isn’t being paid for and still is expected to be passed.

None of these changes are going to do anything to lower health care costs.  None of these changes are going to do anything to keep people from losing their health car coverage.  The only thing this bill will do is give the rich massive tax cuts.

We don’t know if it will even get out of the House.  The so-called Freedom Caucus is still against it, but there are serious cracks in their front.  They need 21 votes to kill the bill in the House.  If it gets to the Senate, it only needs 3 votes to kill the bill.  So far, there are a lot more than 3 Republicans who are against it.  So, this may not reach the president’s desk.

But, that is nothing to cheer about.  If this bill does not pass, you can bet the next one, if there is a next one, will be far more conservative than this one is and many more people will lose their health care coverage.  Or, Republicans will do nothing except cut the ACA even more through executive actions, and hurt even more people just for ideology’s sake and tax cuts.

Then there is the budget that trump wants to pass that will hurt the poor even more.  It will gut the EPA and destroy our State Department.  We have heard some really stupid things to justify this draconian budget like Meals On Wheels isn’t effective.  Then over the weekend, one GOP congressman in Pennsylvania said that “god was guilty in helping pollute the Chesapeake Bay”.  He came up with this brilliant answer when it was demanded in his town hall that he vote against gutting the EPA.

There are a lot of things to watch this week in Washington.  But, with an FBI investigation hanging over the White House, things could get very interesting in the coming months.  What was it that trump said during the campaign?  Oh yeah, “you cannot elect someone who is being investigated by the FBI”.

I wonder if that means you cannot pass an agenda by an administration that is “being investigated by the FBI”?  I guess you have to answer that question for yourself.

We keep hearing from Republicans to look at “what the president has done in such a short time”.  Only, when you look at what he has done you discover he really hasn’t done a damn thing.  Except for business owners.  He has done nothing for the people who voted for him.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

Day 130. 

Today should be a day when the real fights begin.  The hearings to fill the supreme court opening begins, and the House Intelligence Committee holds its first hearing about the Russian hacking of our elections.  There is also some haggling going on over the Americans Without Health Insurance Act.  Conservatives want more cuts, and moderates want better protection for older people.

You would think these three things would consume our president.  He did show some interest in the House Committee by tweeting that the Russian Hacking hearing was “fake news”.  Even before it starts.  Maybe that is because he wants to deflect away from his own bogus claim about his “wires being taped”.

But, to show just how stupid our current president is and to make us really wonder what the hell is going on, he went full trump on Germany.  And, as usual, he showed he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

The day after he met with Angela Merkel, he tweeted this nonsense:

Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

Well, despite his usual bad spelling and poor grammar, he is also wrong in is biggest complaint.  Germany does not owe vast sums of money to NATO and the United States.  NATO does not have any “accounts” that each member of the alliance pays into.

There are two major parts to the NATO agreement.  The first is that “an armed attack against one or more of them… shall be considered an attack against them all” and that following such an attack, each member would take “such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.”

The second is that each country agreed to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on their own defense spending.  Let me spell that out again, each country agreed to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on their own defense spending.

That spending includes a whole lot of things.  Like maintaining their own defense and military.  Assistance in NATO peace keeping operations.  And any assistance they give in fighting ISIS.

After the 9/11 attack in 2001 NATO enacted the clause that they considered the terrorist attack that day as an attack against all of NATO.  That was the first and only time that article was enacted.  And, it was to support the U.S. not the other way around.

It is true that some NATO countries, including Germany, have spent less than 2 percent of their GDP on defense, but that does not mean they owe the U.S. “vast sums of money” as our stupid leader claims.

If trump would stop treating the NATO alliance like some kind of “protection racket” and start treating it like the most vital alliance we have, maybe he might actually learn something.  Maybe that learned knowledge might go beyond just the defense alliance and he will start treating our allies like allies and not like the enemy.

He needs to understand that NATO is not a protection racket.  The U.S. is not in the alliance to “make money” protecting other nations.  The other NATO countries have agreed to increase defense spending over the next few years.  They actually see Russia as a real and growing threat unlike our beloved leader who seems to think Russia is the perfect model of how to run a country.

In just sixty days, our beloved leader has pissed off Australia, and that really takes some effort, Germany, France, all of the Baltic States, and even England.  Europe is sitting across the pond wondering if our leader is really that stupid or if he can be trusted in protecting them if Russia should attack one of them.

The NATO alliance is not just for the protection of Europe.  It is for our protection as well.  This administration seems to want to build a wall around our country and withdraw from the world scene.  That may sound like it will save money, but it will also destroy our alliances and make us less safe and more open to attack.

NATO has helped keep the peace in the western world since 1949 when it was first established.  Our leader now seems to think we don’t need it, when in fact we need it more than ever.  Russia is trying to flex its muscle and retake most of if not all of Eastern Europe into a new Russia Empire.  China is flexing its muscle and spending more on their own military.  North Korea is probably our biggest threat to breaking the peace.

Add to that the fight against international terrorism, and you can see that we need friends.  NATO is our best friend.  They should be embraced and not pushed away in some financial ploy.  They don’t owe us “vast sums of money”.  They were there when we needed them after 9/11.  The question is will we be there for them if needed?

This is just another example of the total ignorance our beloved leader has in international matters.  One of his campaign promises was that he would surround himself with very qualified and “great people” to help run the country.  To show he meant it, he picked an oil executive to run the State Department and then decided to cut its budget by 30 percent.  Right when we need a stable State Department to help keep our alliances together.

So, today the House Intelligence Committee will hold open hearings on the Russia hacking of our election, and trump is calling it “fake news” before it even begins.  The Senate Judicial Committee will begin hearings on Neil Gorsuch to become our next Justice on the Supreme Court.

The Republican Party and trump are planning to cut 24 million people off of their health insurance.  The administration’s proposed budget will basically leave our country sick, stupid, and starving.

Yet, trump thinks he can show how good he is by tweeting something that only proves just how stupid he really is.  But there is good news for trump in his tiny isolated world.  He holds the record.

Over the weekend, a new poll showed that only 37 percent of the American People approve of his job so far.   A record!  No other president even came close to those numbers in their first 60 days.  So, trump definitely is number 1!  Only it isn’t a record any normal person would be proud to hold.  But this is trump.  So, if his lackies just tell him he holds the record on job approval without telling him it is on the wrong side, we will probably see a tweet bragging about holding the record.

Wouldn’t it be nice to return to the days when our president actually knew what he was talking about?  I don’t believe trump’s “wires were tapped”.  But he is showing that his “wires have been crossed for years”.

And, the shirts keep marching along!

 

Day 128. 

Republicans claim they want “school choice” which is really a way for the government to subsidize private schools of their choice.  However, there is a case before the Supreme Court that shows just how limited they really want “school choice” to be in the case of disabled children.  And, believe it or not, Gorsuch is at the heart of that case.

The case is Endrew F v. Douglas County School District.  This case will determine the standards under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).  According to what took place during the hearing, Gorsuch’s potential colleagues are mystified about a term that was used in a lower court ruling against the plaintiff.  That term is “minimally more than de minimis”.

Judge Ruth Ginsberg asked “who invented it”?  Well the answer is Neil Gorsuch.  Here s a little breakdown of the case.

The family of an autistic child (Luke) sued the school district about 10 years ago.  The case came about because the school district refused to reimburse the family due to their having to send their child to a specialized residential school for autistic children.  Such private school placements, paid for by the public school district, are allowable under the IDEA in limited circumstances.

It’s not that the school district wasn’t doing what it could to meet Luke’s educational needs. As Gorsuch put it, his “life away from school during the same time paints a much different picture.” Berthoud Elementary, where Luke attended second grade, didn’t seem equipped to prepare him for home life.

“Luke was unevenly tempered, often displaying inappropriate and sometimes violent behavior at home and in public places such as grocery stores and restaurants,” Gorsuch wrote. “He developed various sleep problems ― going to bed at odd hours, waking up frequently at night, and refusing to sleep in a bed. Luke also developed a habit of intentionally spreading his nighttime bowel movements around his bedroom. In addition, although Luke became toilet trained at school by the time he was in first grade, he was not able to transfer this skill to the home and other settings away from school.”

Based on this record, a hearing officer, an administrative judge and a federal district judge agreed in three separate decisions that the school district needed to reimburse Luke’s parents for a private school placement ― which the family’s lawyer Robinson and the family Perkins both said made a world of difference for Luke.

This is all in line with IDEA so disabled children get the specialized education they need.  In most cases, the school district just pays the fees.  But in this case, the school district in Colorado decided it needn’t pay the parents for their expenses.

The case wound up with a three judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and Gorsuch was one of those judges.  Despite the rulings of the three different hearings that said the a school district must pay the parents, Gorsuch didn’t see it that way.

The fact is that in a very short period of time, this specialized residential school made a world of difference to Luke and his life.  Despite this, Gorsuch led the court in overturning the three previous decisions by claiming that the IDEA benefits available to children like Luke were “limited in scope.”

“We sympathize with Luke’s family and do not question the enormous burdens they face,” he wrote in the decision, which effectively forced the Perkins family to pay for their son’s education out-of-pocket. “Our job, however, is to apply the law as Congress has written it and the Supreme Court has interpreted it.”

Gorsuch added that the statute only requires schools to create an individual educational plan that allows a student to achieve “some progress” toward the goals identified in that plan. Or in the judge’s more telling phrase, “merely more than de minimis” progress.

This is an example of just how Gorsuch looks at people with disabilities.  How could any law passed by Congress would have such a trivial standard?  That is the question that faces the Supreme Court.  The case from 1982 Board of Education v. Rowley, there is no mention of the term “merely more than de minimis”.  The word “merely” was pulled out of thin air by Gorsuch in his ruling in this case.

As a matter of fact, it was the same court that embraced the term “more than de minimis in a case in 1996.  It was Gorsuch that added the word “merely” in 2008.

This case goes way beyond just this one case.  We have a Secretary of Education that has no idea what the IDEA law entails.  Now, we have a nominee to the Supreme Court that doesn’t think the school district should help disabled children beyond “merely more than de minimis”.

You can also see that all of the fight over “school choice” does not include children with disabilities.  It only covers those who want to destroy public schools and have the government pay for their tuition at private schools.

Luke is now doing very well.  He is currently 22 and had aged out of the IDEA program.  He still lives in Massachusetts. He participates in a work program, goes shopping, eats at restaurants and engages in other activities that likely wouldn’t have been possible without the special school.  Basically, he has a good life that would not have been available without proper education.

What would have happened to him if his parents did not have the means to send him to this specialized school?  What if he had been born to poor people?  He would not have gotten this education and would not have developed.  Gorsuch thinks that the dollars are more important than this education and wants to deny people like Luke a chance.

Before I say this, I must confess that I am a grandfather of an autistic grandson.  However, this goes beyond just that.  So, to me, it is a great example of why Neil Gorsuch is not qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.  I have very easy standard for the Supreme Court.  The Constitution is designed to protect people.  So, any Judge who puts dollars ahead of people does not deserve to be on the court.  Gorsuch’s ruling in this case clearly puts dollars ahead of this person.