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Archive for the ‘Flaming Bag of Poo’ Category

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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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!

 

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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.

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Day 127. 

All I can say is this has been one week from hell.  First we have the Americans Without Health Insurance Act, then we have the budget for the rich, and then we have trump still claiming “my wires were tapped” by the former President even though everyone including the heads of two congressional committees have said there is no evidence that it happened.  But, don’t worry, the reason is because Obama apparently had the British tap his wires so there won’t be any evidence.  Something the British claim is patently false.

One of the beneficiaries of the massive cuts to federal agencies, Rex Tillerson from the State Department, said that the cuts were okay with him because “we won’t be in as many shooting wars” anymore.  What?  The very next day he told North Korea that “we aren’t taking any options off the table, including military options, if they don’t comply” and denuclearize.

Does this clown have ant idea what his job is supposed to be?  It is the job of the Secretary of State to help keep us out of shooting wars, not get us into them.  He is supposed get our allies to support us and to even get our adversaries to help stop North Korea.  In other words, he should be talking to China to help us get rid of the nuclear weapons in North Korea rather than threatening war that China will not look favorably on since they border North Korea.

China is the only real ally North Korea has.  If we can get them to do something, then we won’t have to go to war.  But, trump administration is more interested in flexing muscle than in keeping the peace.  Remember Seoul, the capital of South Korea is only 30 miles from the border.  And, North Korea has it lined up in their sights of artillery.  There are only 20 million people living in Seoul, but what the hell, they are just “foreigners” and not white ones either.

Then we have trump’s budget director Mick Mulveney trying to justify all of the budget cuts with absolute stupidity.  For instance he claims cutting off all funds to Meals on Wheels is justified because, “it hasn’t shown it has worked”.  In other words, “do those old farts really need to eat?”

He also claimed that the wipe-out of the Public Broadcasting Corporation is “good for the single mom who has two kids.  She shouldn’t pay for that program anymore”.  Only, that is the best place for her children to get educational television that is also entertaining.

On the other hand, it is perfectly fine for that single mom who has two kids to lose her health insurance so Mulveney and his kind can get a huge tax cut.  It is perfectly fine for her to pay more in taxes so the rich get even deeper cuts.

You can see where this is taking us.  The rich matter.  Everyone else does not.  It is okay to take people off their health care if the rich get the benefit.  It is wrong to pay for good educational television since the rich needs to kick in also.  Just so long as you claim that you are being “nice to that single mom”.

There is not a singe item in the budget cuts proposed that will have a negative affect on the rich.  But, every proposed cut will have a negative affect on everyone else.

That single mom must pay for the Berlin Wall on the southern border that won’t do anything to secure our borders.  But she is being saved from paying for something that she actually uses and probably needs.  See how wonderful and nice this administration is to this poor lady?

As far as Meals on Wheels go, it is reported that the programs helps keep people out of nursing homes.  What is the benefit of that?  Only about one-third of the Medicaid budget for each state.  But, we apparently don’t have to worry about that either.  With the proposed Medicaid cuts, there won’t be any money to put these old people into nursing homes either.

This is what the administration wants to do.  Health Care, cut it.  Workplace Safety, cut it.  Diplomacy, cut it.  Meals on Wheels, eliminate it.  Public educational television, eliminate it.  Environmental Protection, cut it.  Climate change research, eliminate it.  Health Science research, cut it.  Weather forecasting, cut it.

You can see the pattern.  When trump said he wanted to “drain the swamp” what he really meant was that he would bring in a bunch of billionaires to pass budgets and laws that make life better for themselves.  Screw the rest of us.  What he has done so far proves that he is keeping his campaign promise.  He is screwing us really good.  Hope you like it.

Maybe he is beginning a new phase of eugenics.  Maybe he is making a mockery of the old adage of “only the strong survive” and making it “only the rich survive”.  Maybe he is just trying to cull the surplus population.

I am sorry, but our beloved leader is on a definite mission.  That mission has nothing with America being exceptional or even normal.  That mission is to make sure the rich get richer, non-whites are kept out, and the rest of us struggle to survive.

Today our beloved leader will meet with the Leader of the Free World, Angela Merkel.  Doesn’t is sound weird that we will meet with the leader of the free world instead of the way it used to be?  But, that is what trump has given us.

But don’t worry.  Things will definitely get better.  Congress just passed a law that will allow veterans who suffer mental health problems to buy guns easier.  Since only 20 vets commit suicide per day, so let’s give people who should not have guns because they are a danger to themselves to add to the numbers.  How’s that for culling the surplus population and helping our vets with their health problems?

And, the shirts keep marching along!

 

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Day 126. 

As a nation we need to ask one question.  What type of country are we willing to become?  Ever since trump won the election, that question has been at the top of everything he has proposed.  And, in my opinion, he is looking for something that has not been America.

He has pitted race against race, religion against religion, and rich against poor.  We have always had problems in these areas, but he has ramped them up to a point where your race, your religion, and your wealth is the determining factor of whether you are a winner or a loser in his America.

He has tried to place a limited Muslim Ban on travel to the U.S. twice now, and he was rejected by the courts twice.  He claims that is all in the name of “keeping Americans safe” but he always runs his mouth and shows that it is really based on religion, which is unconstitutional.  His administration doesn’t help either with their rants about how Muslims are the root of all of our problems.

Then we have the so-called “Obamacare Repeal and Replace” legislation trying to get out of the house.  The CBO scored it and there are some good things and some bad thing for both sides.  The good for Republicans is it says that it will reduce the budget by $337 billion over ten years.  The bad for everybody is that 24 million people will lose their health care over the same 10 years.  The White House memo says that 26 million people will lose their health care over that 10 year period.

It is also becoming apparent even to Paul Ryan that the bill as written cannot get out of the House.  His problem is that in order to get out of the house he needs to take it even further right.  But, in order to get it through the Senate it needs to go further left.  It would seem that he has painted himself into a corner, and trump seems willing to let him blow in the wind over it as well.

Now we are seeing trump’s first budget.  This budget shows us just what kind of country trump wants us to have.  A country with no culture, no heritage, no sympathy, no decency, just more military and more bullets.

Naturally, there is the huge increase in defense spending and a huge increase in DHS budget for mass deportations and his Berlin Wall.  But there are still huge cuts for the Coast Guard, the TSA, and FEMA.

The Coast Guard is really our front line defense for our borders in terms of drug trafficking and people trafficking, as well as our port security.  The TSA is supposed to make us safe while flying  FEMA is the agency that responds to natural disasters, and in case you didn’t know, they are responsible to coordinate relief work in case of a wide-scale terrorist attack.  Who needs these agencies?  Apparently not trump.

But it gets even worse.  HUD will lose $3 Billion in its budget.  Number one on the hit parade from HUD will be a small program called “Meals on Wheels”.  All funding will go away to help old and disabled people get food delivered to them.  There will also be the elimination of the heating help funding for poor and older Americans.

The State Department will lose 28 percent of its budget.  The EPA will be hit hardest with a 31.4 percent cut to its budget.  What will be taken away is 3200 jobs and eliminate a new plan for tighter regulations on power plants, and “zero out” programs to clean up the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay.

Health and Human Services is facing a 16.2 percent cut.  These include cuts of $5.8 billion from the nearly $32 billion National Institutes of Health, the nation’s premier medical research agency.  The NIH’s budget has not kept up with inflation as it is, and now trump wants to cut it even more.  This is the agency the does research on diseases to help us defeat things like cancer or stop pandemics before they get going too bad.  But then, since fewer people will have health insurance, who needs research?

The Department of Labor is facing a 20 percent cut.  These cuts include eliminating a federal program designed to help people 55 and older get new jobs.  The Labor Department is also supposed to protect your safety at work.  OSHA will see a huge cut in its budge meaning fewer inspections of workplace safety.

The Commerce Department is facing a 12 percent cut.  One of the biggest will be at NOAA.  These cuts would eliminate more than $250 million in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grants, including a program that helps coastal communities adapt to climate change, deal with invasive species and maintain healthy water and fisheries. Also on the chopping block: the Economic Development Administration, which provides federal dollars to foster job creation and attract private investment; and the Minority Business Development Agency, which is dedicated to helping minority-owned business get off the ground and grow.

Other independent agencies will be cut off completely and be forced to shut down.  These include the Public Broadcasting Corporation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Chemical Safety Board, the United States Institute of Peace, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for National Community Service and the African Development Foundation. That foundation was established by Congress and provides seed money and other support to enterprises in some 20 countries on that continent.

I guess Big Bird is on the chopping block, again.  We really need to do away with things like education for young children and eliminating the arts for everyone else.  What kind of country needs those things?  And, chemical safety is definitely not needed since we can trust the Koch Brothers to protect us from harmful chemicals.

These are just some of the cuts that trump wants to make to the budget.  Of course, Republicans will tell you how much this budget will save money, but they will leave out their upcoming massive cut taxes, especially on the rich.  That means, even with these cuts, the deficit will grow even more than it is.

However, this also brings us back to the question I asked at the beginning.  What type of country are we willing to become?  All of these cuts affect the average person.  All of these cuts will have a negative impact on just about every American who is not in the top 2 percent of income brackets.

The Department of Education is also facing cuts and the biggest target is support for before and after school programs.  How is that helping the middle-class and the working poor?  It doesn’t and it will affect you directly.

There has always been a kind of pride in Americans and their willingness to help those in need.  Are we going to let that one trait of ours go away?  Are we going to stand by and let the unfortunate become poorer while the rich get richer?

Just how are the poor, the working poor, and the middle-class going to get ahead if they need to spend more income on things like expensive child care that will only keep them back?  As silly as some of you think, the Public Broadcasting Corporation helps educate children before they start school.  Are we going to handicap poor people’s children just to save a few dollars?

Before and after school programs allow parents to keep working to support their families and help keep kids off of the streets thus getting into trouble.  Should we really eliminate that funding as well?

The same people who want these cuts to take effect are the same people who claim that America was founded on “Christian Principles”.  Really?  These cuts to the social fabric of our nation are examples of “Christian Principles”?  If it is I am glad I am not Christian.

The health insurance argument really sums it up best.  The real question isn’t about liberalism v. conservatism.  It isn’t about right v. left.  It is about one simple question.  Is health care a right or a privilege?  If you believe it is a right that everyone deserves health care, then you must support universal health care because that is the only way people will actually have affordable health care coverage.

If you believe that it is a privilege then you fully support the Republican plan.  You are saying openly and defiantly that health care only belongs to those who can pay for it out-of-pocket.  If you cannot afford it out-of-pocket, you don’t deserve it.

If you believe that health care is a privilege, then you are surely in favor of all of these social cuts to the budget as well.  If health care is a privilege then so is clean air and water.  So is workplace safety.  So is being warned about weather events that may hurt or kill us.  So is medical research.

Those are some areas where these cuts are most felt.  The disadvantaged are being targeted so trump can have a massive military buildup.  They are being targeted so the rich can get more massive tax cuts.  Trump is telling his supporters who will be hardest hit, “screw you, I won”.

Of course it still needs to get through Congress.  We know that Democrats will be against most of these cuts, if not all of them.  We can only hope they are able to kill this budget before it kills too many of us.

If you believe that the disadvantaged should be abandoned and left to die, then trump is your president and the Republicans are your party.  But, I would suggest you stop your “Christian Principles” argument because you are not only lying to us, you are lying to yourself.  “What you do unto the least of you, you also do unto me”.

So far, I believe that this administration and Republican Controlled Congress want to abandon the disadvantaged.  They are only interested in the wealthy.  To me, that lacks all decency.  This budget is a snap shot of that lack of decency and moral fiber.  It is a perfect example of greed and a “me first” attitude.

So much for Christian Principles.

And, the shirts keep marching along.

 

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