Friday, March 24, 2017

Something to Know - 25 March (from New Zealand)

This is an attempt with my iPad to carry on.  We have been trying to keep up with the news, as we make like tourists visiting the beautiful city of Auckland, New Zealand.  I caught this article, and felt that Brooks hit quite afew nails on the head.   Anyway, we have one more day before we board a boat that will eventually end up in Canada.   Not sure what is going to happen when I hit the SEND key.

President Trump met Thursday with truckers and C.E.O.s about health care. CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times 

Legislation can be crafted bottom up or top down. In bottom up you ask, What problems do voters have and how can they be addressed. In top down, you ask, What problems do elite politicians have and how can they be addressed?

The House Republican health care bill is a pure top-down document. It was not molded to the actual health care needs of regular voters. It does not have support from actual American voters or much interest in those voters. It was written by elites to serve the needs of elites. Donald Trump vowed to drain the swamp, but this bill is pure swamp.

First, the new Republican establishment leaders needed something they could call Obamacare repeal — anything that they could call Obamacare repeal.

It became clear as the legislative process rushed forward that there was no overarching vision in this legislation on how to reform health care or even an organizing thought about how to improve the lives of voters. There was no core health care priority that Republicans identified and were trying to solve.

Continue reading the main story

There were just some politicians who wanted a press release called Repeal.

Second, Donald Trump needed a win. The national effects of that win seemed immaterial to him.

His lobbying efforts for the legislation were substance-free. It was all about Donald Trump — providing Trump with a pelt, polishing a credential for Trump. His lobbying revealed the vapidity of his narcissism. He didn't mind caving to the Freedom Caucus Wednesday night on policy because he doesn't care about policy, just the publicity win.

Third, the bill was crafted by people who were insular and nearsighted, who could see only a Washington logic and couldn't see any national or real-life logic.

They could have drafted a bill that addressed the perverse fee-for-service incentives that drive up health costs, or a bill that began to phase out our silly employment-based system, or one that increased health security for the working and middle class.

But any large vision was beyond the drafters of this legislation. They were more concerned with bending, distorting and folding the bill to meet the Byrd rule, an arbitrary congressional peculiarity of no real purpose to the outside world. They were more concerned with what this internal faction, or that internal faction, might want. The result was a pedantic hodgepodge that made no one happy.

In 24 hours of ugly machinations, the Trump administration was willing to rip out big elements of the bill and insert big new ones, without regard to substance or ramification.

House members were rushed to commit to legislation even while major pieces of it were still in flux, when nobody had time to read it, when the Congressional Budget Office had no time to score it, when the effect on health outcomes of actual Americans was an absolute mystery.

As the negotiating process has gone on you've seen rank-and-file House Republicans caught between the inside game and the outside game. The logic of the inside game says vote for the bill. Support Speaker Ryan. Don't defeat a Republican president. But the outside game screams: Oppose This Bill. It's bad for most voters, especially Republican voters. And nobody likes it.

I opposed Obamacare. I like health savings accounts, tax credits and competitive health care markets to drive down costs. But these free-market reforms have to be funded in a way to serve the least among us, not the most. This House Republican plan would increase suffering, morbidity and death among the middle class and poor in order to provide tax cuts to the rich.

It would cut Medicaid benefits by $880 billion between now and 2026. It would boost the after-tax income for those making more than $1 million a year by 14 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center. This bill takes the most vicious progressive stereotypes about conservatives and validates them.

It's no wonder that according to the latest Quinnipiac poll this bill has just a 17 percent approval rating. It's no wonder that this bill is already massively more unpopular than Hillarycare and Obamacare, two bills that ended up gutting congressional majorities.

If we're going to have the rough edges of a populist revolt, you'd think that at least somebody would be interested in listening to the people. But with this bill the Republican leadership sets an all-time new land speed record for forgetting where you came from.

The core Republican problem is this: The Republicans can't run policy-making from the White House because they have a marketing guy in charge of the factory. But they can't run policy from Capitol Hill because it's visionless and internally divided. So the Republicans have the politics driving the substance, not the other way around. The new elite is worse than the old elite — and certainly more vapid.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Something to Know - 21 March

On the 11th of November, 2016,  our cruise ship docked in Miami.  It was 3 days after the election.  A strange new and surreal world, filled with angst and disgust filled my mind.  My wife and I quickly boarded another boat two days later for a week of Cuban history and muddled about the future of our country, thinking we may just seek asylum some place along the way.   Like millions of others, we groped for answers and explanations.  Time has a way of uprighting upset spirits and minds, and we find ourselves today with hope for the future.  We are now more familiar with those terms that we learned in school.  Things like Fascism, Authoritarianism, Oligarchy, Gilded Age, and Economic Inequality are all real, and all around us.  At the same time, we have new respect for our Democracy and Government, plus we seem to be more engaged in Civil Rights, and Political Will.   My wife and I are departing today on a long plane ride to New Zealand, and meeting up with some great friends from our college days for 35 days of travelling from Down Under up to Canada, and will be back in May.  We will have very little, if any, WiFi or Internet, or phone contact with the world.  Just 6 people bobbing up and down on the high seas, eating too much, but talking day and night about politics, books we read, and playing RumiKub, with a few glasses wine.   The next time I come ashore, and arrive back home, my hope is that the past 5 months were just a bad dream, and that the apathy and acceptance of mediocrity was a learning experience for our country.  After all, you never know how much you had until you struggle through the pains of almost losing it to get it back.

The Opinion Pages | EDITORIAL (New York Times)

Comey's Haunting News on Trump and Russia

The acknowledgment by James Comey, the F.B.I. director, on Monday that the bureau is investigating possible connections between President Trump's campaign and Russia's efforts to sabotage Hillary Clinton's chances is a breathtaking admission. While there has been a growing body of circumstantial evidence of such links, Mr. Comey's public confirmation ought to mark a turning point in how inquiries into Russia's role in the election should be handled.

The top priority now must be to ensure that the F.B.I.'s investigation, which could result in criminal prosecutions, is shielded from meddling by the Trump administration, which has shown a proclivity to lie, mislead and obfuscate with startling audacity. Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Mr. Comey said the bureau is conducting its investigation in an "open-minded, independent way" and vowed to "follow the facts wherever they lead."

There is no reason to doubt Mr. Comey's commitment. But it is far from certain that senior officials at the Department of Justice, who normally decide whether there is enough evidence to file criminal charges in politically sensitive cases, will be able to avoid White House interference. Before Monday's hearing began, Mr. Trump issued a remarkable set of tweets calling the possibility of collusion with Russia "fake news" and urging Congress and the F.B.I. to drop the matter and instead focus on finding who had been leaking information to the press.

These brazen warning shots from the president do enormous damage to public confidence in the F.B.I.'s investigation. The credibility of the Justice Department in handling the Russian matter was already deeply compromised after Attorney General Jeff Sessions arrived in the job refusing to recuse himself from any investigation. He was forced to step aside only after it was revealed that, contrary to what he told senators under oath, he had met with the Russian ambassador to Washington twice during the campaign. Even with his recusal, it would still be his deputies and staff directing and managing any potential prosecution — which raises serious questions of conflict.

Mitigating this credibility crisis requires appointing an independent prosecutor, who would not take orders from the administration. If Mr. Trump's assertion that there was no collusion between his campaign officials and the Russian government is true, he should want this matter to be fully investigated as quickly and as transparently as possible.

Appointing a special prosecutor would show that Mr. Sessions is willing to have an impartial examination of his actions as a surrogate for Mr. Trump last year — which he has assured the public were entirely appropriate.

The decision to bring in a special counsel may fall on Rod Rosenstein, a career federal prosecutor who has been nominated to be deputy attorney general. Lawmakers from both parties should strongly encourage him to make that sensible and necessary decision.

As the F.B.I. investigation continues, a series of overlapping congressional inquiries into Russian activities to influence the election are advancing in a predictably muddled, partisan way. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are working to produce a detailed timeline showing all the reported contacts between people close to the Trump campaign and the Russian government during the campaign. Most Republicans want to keep the focus on leaks of classified information.

This matter requires a broader investigation run by a collaborative, bipartisan team of statesmen. The ideal format would be a select committee that has subpoena power and a mandate to issue a comprehensive report of its findings. The goal must be to make American political parties and democratic institutions less vulnerable to efforts to distort the electoral process as the Russians appear to have carried out. Failing to learn and heed the lessons of last year's campaign would be an abdication of a shared responsibility to safeguard American democracy.

"We're going to have insurance for everybody" — with coverage that would be "much less expensive and much better."
 - TrumpCare as promised  by the so-called 45th President

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Andy Borowitz

By Andy Borowitz   March 19, 2017



WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—An able-bodied senior citizen who refuses to do anything but watch television receives three free government meals every day, according to reports.

The senior, who has three piping-hot meals wheeled up to him each day, reportedly has no intention of working and prefers to fill his hours watching cable news.

Even more outrageous, the recipient of the meals spends most weekends in Florida, where the flow of free government food continues without interruption.

Harland Dorrinson, the executive director of the Center for Benefit Reduction, a think tank that focuses on reducing federal benefits, called the individual's consumption of free government meals "the worst abuse of the system I've ever seen."

"I might be accused of being heartless for saying this, but this person should be thrown out on the street," he said.

But, according to a source familiar with the senior, those calling for him to work for his meals are, at best, ill-informed. "You can't expect someone to do a job when he's completely unqualified," the source said.

"We're going to have insurance for everybody" — with coverage that would be "much less expensive and much better."
 - TrumpCare as promised  by the so-called 45th President

Friday, March 17, 2017

Something to Know - 17 March

Image result for horsey cartoons 2017

Read the proposed budget by the Orange Tormentor.  Pay attention to what is happening to our world and engage yourself in the Resistance.
"We're going to have insurance for everybody" — with coverage that would be "much less expensive and much better."
 - TrumpCare as promised  by the so-called 45th President

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trump's Tax Returns

Apparently Rachel Maddow has access to something that is related to the 45th IRS returns.   One should watch MSNBC at 6PM PST or 9PM EST in 55 minutes:

BREAKING: We've got Trump tax returns. Tonight, 9pm ET. MSNBC. (Seriously).

  Either that or someone is doing a marvelous job of identity theft with a prescient prank in mind.
"We're going to have insurance for everybody" — with coverage that would be "much less expensive and much better."
 - TrumpCare as promised  by the so-called 45th President

Monday, March 13, 2017

Something that We All Know - 13 March



  • Promises on  TrumpCare
  • Claims that Obama Wiretapped him
  • Denials that he had no deals with Russia
  • Anything else that comes to mind

Something to Know - 13 March

What a difference a week without a Friday night/Saturday morning Trumpedo Tweet Storm makes.   Some force took him out, hopefully for good, but that is highly unlikely, since his road ahead is nothing but pot holes that are sure to screw up his ego.  Kelly Ann Gonaway, in explaining the 45th's problem with proof of his predecessor's wire tapping, says that she is not "in the business of providing evidence", which is another way of covering up that her boss is lying.   Anyway, with nothing of a bombastic and sensational stink, one of the things left to talk about is just the nature of politics as usual in White House politics.  Trump Care is the big issue today, and the GeeOpie is in a dither of both supporting the new program or adamantly opposing it.   Trump has Dumped his promises and has joined the swamp dwellers.  The big losers of the proposed Trump Care are his best base supporters, and predictions are that they will turn on him when the reality is revealed.  The House is full-speed ahead to get all of the administrative deconstruction done before the thin margin of political support for Trump vanishes.  Trump's imagined mandate erodes with each unearthed and slowly developing unethical and illegal revelation.   Some on the GeeOpie side are worried that their political fortunes in 2018 are not good.  It is becoming apparent that the populism that Trump grabbed on to, and stoked with his lies, are now suffering from the accountability investigated by the "lying press".  Keep it up.  Here is a great reality presentation by The New Yorker magazine:

By John Cassidy   March 10, 2017

By backing Paul Ryan's health-care bill, Donald Trump has staked his Presidency on a proposal that would hurt many of his own supporters.
By backing Paul Ryan's health-care bill, Donald Trump has staked his Presidency on a proposal that would hurt many of his own supporters.

Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House Majority Leader, went on Sean Hannity's show on Thursday night and tried to talk up the awful health-care bill that his party had just rushed through two committees. His message was aimed at the ultra-conservative groups, such as the Freedom Caucus and Heritage Action for America, that have come out strongly against the proposed legislation. McCarthy didn't try to claim that the bill would make health care more affordable or widely available. Instead, he defended its conservative bona fides, twice pointing out that it would repeal all the taxes that were introduced under the Affordable Care Act—taxes that mainly hit the one per cent.

Hannity, who is one of President Trump's biggest boosters, didn't hide his loyalties or his concern about the political firestorm that the bill has set off. "This has to work: there is no option here," he said at one point. Later, he warned, "As soon as it passes, you own it."

Intentionally or not, Hannity summed up the political dilemma facing Trump and his Administration. The White House has embraced Paul Ryan's handiwork—the House Speaker is the bill's top backer—and they are now trying together to persuade the full House and the Senate to vote for at least some version of it. But if the bill does pass and Trump signs it into law, what happens then? The health-care industry will be thrown into turmoil; many millions of Americans will lose their coverage; many others, including a lot of Trump voters (particularly elderly ones), will see their premiums rise sharply; and Trump will risk being just as closely associated with "Trumpcare" as Barack Obama was with Obamacare.

Two questions arise: Why did Ryan and his colleagues propose such a lemon? And why did Trump agree to throw his backing behind it?

The first question is easier to answer. For seven years, promising to get rid of Obamacare has been a rallying cry for Republicans on Capitol Hill—one supported by both Party leaders and activists, as well as by big donors, such as the Koch brothers. It was inevitable that, if the G.O.P. ever took power, it would move to fulfill this pledge, despite the human costs of doing so.

What wasn't anticipated was that the Republican leadership would run into hostility from the right. But that, too, is explainable. After November's election, Ryan and his colleagues were forced to face the reality that fully repealing the A.C.A. would require sixty votes in the Senate, which wasn't achievable. Many of the things that ultra-conservatives see as shortcomings in the bill now being considered—such as the retention of rules dictating what sorts of policies insurers can offer—are in there to make sure that the Senate can pass the bill as part of the budget-reconciliation process, which requires just fifty-one votes. As McCarthy explained to Hannity, "The challenge is the process of how we have to do this."

The more interesting question is why Trump would stake his credibility on such a deeply regressive, and potentially unpopular, proposal. During the campaign, he frequently promised to repeal Obamacare—but it wasn't one of his main issues. Clamping down on immigration, embracing economic protectionism, rebuilding infrastructure, and blowing a raspberry at the Washington establishment were much more central to his platform.

Early in the campaign, in fact, Trump praised socialized medicine, and promised to provide everybody with health care. "As far as single-payer, it works in Canada. It works incredibly well in Scotland," he said in August, 2015, during the first Republican debate. A month later, he told "60 Minutes," "I am going to take care of everybody. I don't care if it costs me votes or not. Everybody's going to be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now."

Part of what is going on is that Trump needs a quick legislative success. He is keenly aware that, by this stage in his Presidency, Obama had signed a number of important bills, including a big stimulus package. Trump also badly needs to change the subject from Russia. It might sound crazy to suggest that a President would embrace a bill that could do him great harm in the long term just for a few days' respite, but these are crazy times. If nothing else, the political furor surrounding the House G.O.P. proposal has eclipsed the headlines about Trump claiming that Obama wiretapped him. For much of this week, Trump has ducked out of sight, letting Ryan and his bill take the spotlight.

That's not the only way the Russian story may have played into this. As the pressure grows for a proper independent probe of Trump's ties to Moscow, he must retain the support of the G.O.P. leadership, which has the power to block such an investigation. It has long been clear that the relationship between the Republican Party and Trump is based on a quid pro quo, at least tacitly: in return for dismissing concerns about his authoritarianism, self-dealing, and Russophilia, the Party gets to enact some of the soak-the-poor policies it has long been promoting. For a time, it seemed like Trump was the senior partner in this arrangement. But now Republicans like Ryan have more leverage, and Trump has more of an incentive to go along with them.

Still, even if he had more leeway to speak out against the House G.O.P. bill, is there any reason to think he would? The thing always to remember about Trump—and this week has merely confirmed it—is that he is a sham populist. A sham authoritarian populist, even.

Going back to late-nineteenth-century Germany, many of the most successful authoritarian populists have expanded the social safety net. Otto von Bismarck, the first Chancellor, introduced health insurance, accident insurance, and old-age pensions. "The actual complaint of the worker is the insecurity of his existence," he said in 1884. "He is unsure if he will always have work, he is unsure if he will always be healthy, and he can predict that he will reach old age and be unable to work."

During the twentieth century, Argentina's Juan Perón, Malaysia's Tunku Abdul Rahman, and Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew were among the authoritarian leaders who followed Bismarck's example. Today, if you look at the election platform of Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, you see something similar. Like Trump, Le Pen is a nativist, a protectionist, and an Islamophobe. But she is not proposing to dismantle any of the many social benefits that the French state provides. Rather, she says she will expand child-support payments and reduce the retirement age to sixty.

Trump, on the other hand, has little to offer ordinary Americans except protectionist rhetoric and anti-immigrant measures. Before moving to gut Obamacare, he at least could have tried to bolster his populist credentials by passing a job-creating infrastructure bill or a middle-class tax cut. Instead, he's staked his Presidency on a proposal that would hurt many of his supporters, slash Medicaid, undermine the finances of Medicare, and benefit the donor class. That's not populism: it's the reverse of it. And it might be a political disaster in the making.

"We're going to have insurance for everybody" — with coverage that would be "much less expensive and much better."
 - TrumpCare as promised  by the so-called 45th President