Monday, June 26, 2017

Senate Republicans' health care bill cuts 22 million from health care

Imagine if some kind of economic catastrophe in the United States caused 22 million people to lose their health care.  Imagine the headlines, the photographs, the videos, the stories of untreated illnesses, of the diminished lives, of the diseases and deaths of of millions upon millions of people.

What kind of economic catastrophe could do that?  Stock market crash? Massive unemployment? Depression, deflation, hyper-inflation? Russian cyber-war that destroys the banking system? 

How about a man made catastrophe of the most avoidable kind - ideologically caused economic catastrophe.

That is what the Republican Party is rushing to do to America today.  This isn't Trump's doing.  Trump just barely has an opinion about health care in America.  Trump never thought for more than a few moments about health care in his life, other than to find the hot button phrases that could excite the conservative base into voting for him.

No, this is ideology - a blind ideology that has been entrenched ever since Obamacare was debated and put into law. This is the ideology of the Republican Party, and it is a disastrous lurch into economic calamity.  This is a rush to pass a law without debate, without inputs from the various medical players, without testimony from expert witnesses - oh, I forgot, conservatives don't like experts, they hate experts I guess because experts say different things than talk radio and Fox News folks say, so you can't trust experts because experts don't say simple things that can be put on bumper stickers or baseball caps.

The CBO projection is that 22 million people will lose their health care if the Senate Republican plan becomes law.  The CBO projected that 24 million people would lose their health care if the House of Representative plan would become law. Is this supposed to progress?

My conservative friends justify this stunning cruelty by telling themselves that Obamacare is collapsing of its own fatal flaws.  But it seems to me that those states that cooperated with Obamacare are having a pretty good experience, and those states that refused and obstructed Obamacare are having bad experiences.  It seems pretty clear to me that many Republicans, unfortunately including the president, are doing all they can to sabotage Obamacare, as if Obamacare were just some kind of idea that they didn't like rather than being the thing keeping people in their states alive and healthy.

I don't think the Republicans will overturn Obamacare because they won't be able to get the votes of both the "moderates" (i.e. those who don't want to watch folks die for lack of Medicaid funding in their states) and the "conservatives" (those who think the only thing that counts is cutting spending and shrinking or better yet eliminating the federal government which they see as some kind of evil restraint on freedom).

If a bill gets out of the Senate and goes to committee, it is hard for me to believe that a bill will then be be approved by both the House and the Senate and become law.  The "freedom caucus" (who I think are really pretty much blinded by their own dogmas and fanatical obsessions) will never go along with anything that smacks of compassion for the poor in favor of their most sacred of all desires - tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.

All I can say is that if a terrible health care law gets passed by both houses and is signed by Trump, people will be much better off if they live in California than if they live in Kansas.  I fully expect that those states that have encouraged people to enroll in Obamacare, and who have cooperated with the Federal Government's efforts to make it work will treat their people much better than those states that have done everything they could to sabotage it.   

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Warren Sapp to donate his brain to research when he dies

Multiple Pro Bowl football player Warren Sapp is donating his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation for research upon his death.  He is 44 years old and is losing cognitive function due to the violence to his brain during his football years.  It doesn't matter how strong one's body is, or how much pain one is willing to take, there is no way to toughen up the brain to withstand blows to the head. 

"We're playing in a macho league and we're talking about Hall of Famers now who are immortalized forever, made busts and everything. Legends of the game," he said. "There's no way any of us wanna really admit that we can't remember how to get home or a grocery list that the wife has given us or how to go pick up our kids to the school, or whatever it may be.

"You try to [say], 'All right, I'm gonna get a little more sleep -- maybe it's something I did last night, maybe something I drank,' or whatever it is. You try to find a reason that it's not that it's my brain, that I'm not deteriorating right before my own eyes.
"It's the most frightening feeling, but it's also a very weakening feeling because you feel like a child. I need help. I need somebody to help me find something that I could've found with my eyes closed, in the dead of night, half asleep.""

He hopes the research can make the game safer, but as far as I can tell there is no way to make the game of football safe from brain trauma and damage.

I expect parents to stop letting their children play football. I expect the game to fade away.  All I see when I watch football is blocks, tackles, and brain damage.  

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trump's inability to understand the Russian threat

Trump's hyper-fragile grandiose ego has changed the Russia probe from what it really is - an investigation into Russian interference into the American election - into Trump's egocentric view of it - an investigation to discredit Trump's "fabulous" victory in November. 

This is about Russia's war on the U.S. and all of the West.  Russia tried to elect a Fascist in France, but the French were on to the ruse and defeated Russia's candidate.  Russia had and continues to havre massive control over Ukraine.  Russia continues to interfere in American politics.  It must be uncovered and countered.  They have fractured America's political system and damaged America's relations with our allies.  Russia is winning this war, which our president doesn't even recognize.  Amazing.

Russia has found new weapons in today's electronic world - hacking.  They are being quite successful, unfortunately.  And our current president is missing the entire point.  Not a big surprise, of course. 

It's not about Trump - it's the Russians, stupid...

Of course, if he actually did/does collude with the Russians, it becomes about him too...Could be a motive for him to try to stop the investigation, of course.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Why I think Putin is controlling Trump

I think Russia's Vladimir Putin is controlling America's president, Donald Trump.  Here's why:

  • The Russians hacked into the Hillary campaign and dumped emails into the media to damage her candidacy, while they did nothing of the sort to Trump
  • Trump cared about only one thing at the Republican Convention during the forming of the platform, and that was to delete any mention of condemnation of Russia's take-over of Crimea and Ukaraine
  • After the election and before the inauguration the CIA, FBI, and NSA all concluded that Russia interfered in the election with the goal of electing Trump
  • President Trump pressured FBI director Comey, Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, and Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency to call off investigations into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign
  • Top Trump campaign people are known to have Russian connections - from Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions to Ashton Carter, Roger Stone, and now Jared Kushner
So, what is the entire point of Putin putting Trump into office?  What does Putin want from Trump?  I think he just got it.  Trump refused to affirm America's support of Article 5 of NATO which says an attack on any member of NATO is an attack on all of us.  Germany has said that it is becoming clear that Europe was going to have to stop relying on America.

Perhaps Putin's prime goal is to keep NATO from opposing Putin's takeover of the Baltic states.  Looks like Mr Trump is in agreement with Mr Putin.

And then, of course, there is just the general Putin strategy around the world to discredit and weaken all democracies as his way of lifting Russia back into international power status.  How could he have done that more effectively than by putting an ignorant child into the White House.

Why is Trump letting Putin tell him what to do? Possible reasons - Trump owes Putin and his oligarchs billions of dollars - Putin has humiliating and/or incriminating evidence he can release against Trump - or Trump is just Putin's chump.

Not good for America or the world.  I believe.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Speaking of obstruction of justice...

So, Trump put pressure on the head of the FBI, James Comey, to call off investigations into the Russian interference in the presidential election, and fired Comey when he refused.  And, what else did he do?  Oops - he put pressure on others as well - Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, and Mike Rogers, Director of the National Security Agency.  

All three refused the "inappropriate requests" - otherwise known as obstruction of justice, also thought of as potential grounds for impeachment.  The president put pressure on the leaders of top intelligence agencies to stop investigating his campaign, and by implication to stop investigating him.

His actions scream guilt.  

Let the investigations proceed, with all possible speed.  This man is either dangerous, or dangerously clueless.

Only the Republicans can decide to impeach this anti-democracy president, and they will only do so when they see their own futures being threatened by his presidency.  Wouldn't it be nice if they made their decision based upon this man's threats to democracy rather than just threats to their electoral chances?  

Oh well, hoping for Profiles in Courage from today's Republicans seems to be a Bridge Too Far.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Hats off to Trump

I was knocked out by Trump's speech to Middle Eastern dignitaries in Saudi Arabia this morning.  I was surprised to hear a reasoned, forceful entreaty for all nations to unite against the evil of terrorists.  

I was a little concerned that he called out Iran as the locus of evil in the region, especially after Iran just elected the reformist Rouhani to be their president, but I hope that Rouhani and the Iranian people can take that as an impetus to back off the Iranian Shiite extremist wars against the Sunni extremists in the region and around the world.

Of course, unmentioned by Trump was the fact that Saudi Arabia is the other center of extremist dogma.  Iran fuels the Shia and Saudi Arabia fuel the Sunni extremists.  But I was very encouraged that Saudi Arabia hosted our president whose biggest statement of his speech was that all nations should drive out fundamentalist extremists and stop funding and supporting them.

Obama made special efforts to reach out to Iran, leading to a nuclear agreement and eventually to the election of Rouhani.  Trump has declared Iran the source of Middle Eastern butchery, and although that is true, it is only half of the truth.  Saudi Arabia feeds the Sunni butchers on the other side of this terrible religious and civil war in the Middle East which has spread throughout the region and into the West as well.

I was happy to hear the president say that America will stand with them in the fight against terrorists, but we can't make their decisions for them:

"America is prepared to stand with you in pursuit of shared interests and common security, but the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their country, and frankly for their families, for their children. It's a choice between two futures, and it is a choice America cannot make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and drive out the extremists.
Drive them out. Drive them out of your places of worship. Drive them out of your communities. Drive them out of your holy land. And drive them out of this earth."
I have been appalled by most of what President Trump has said and done, but I have to give him credit when I think he has  done something well, and I was impressed by this speech. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

How authoritarian is Trump?

The president shows alarming tendencies toward  authoritarianism. By firing the FBI Director who was investigating his campaign connections to the hostile foreaign power, Russia, by showing admiration for authoritarian rulers like Putin and Erdogan, by telling the FBI Director that journalists should be imprisoned, he gives me reason to fear him. 

But, I have reason to hope that his desires for authoritarian rule will peter out, for two reasons. 

First, Trump himself doesn't seem to have the gravitas to be a dictator. He has no passionate agenda other than ego gratification in him. Plus, he doesn't have the focus and stamina to follow through to create a totalitarian state. 

Second, and more importantly, the country doesn't want a dictator. 

Without the Nazis, Hitler was just a loud mouthed nut. The Hitler Youth, the Brown Shirts, were authoritarian thugs driven be racist pride and love of cruelty to carry out their leader's quest for racial supremacy.  Hitler had enough of the vicious to support him that he was able to take over the country and slaughter tens of millions. 

It is true that actual white supremacists support Trump, that actual people longing for authoritarian leadership support him, but I believe they are very much just a scary minority. I believe the bulk of Trump support comes from just plain old fashioned conseratives trying to establish the agenda of the Conservative Movement. 

Trump is being, and will be, thwarted by men and women of integrity and honor who see the threat of authoritarianism. America, and the ideals and honor of American democracy, will prevail, I am convinced. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Special Counsel into Russia-Trump investigation named

Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Counsel to investigate possible Russian - Trump Campaign ties and collusion during the presidential campaign.  

Trump has said that the investigation will prove there is nothing there.  That is possible, but given how fiercely the President tried to stop this investigation, it is pretty unlikely, it seems to me.

Had Trump been innocent all along, he would have welcomed and supported such an investigation so as to clear his name, and to clear the reputation of his electoral victory.  But, of course, he did just the opposite.

I have written many times that he is just a child, with a insatiable and very fragile ego.  One thing that I can learn from this man-child is that when we think with our egos we become very stupid.  This is axiomatic on the golf course when the ego says you can hit the ball over the water onto the green and have an eagle putt.  If your not a pro, you can't.  

How smart is it for Mr Trump to attack the CIA, FBI, and all of the intelligence agencies?  Aren't they in the business of finding things out?  

How smart is it for Mr Trump to attack the Media?  Aren't they in the business of finding things out?  

Some politicians wouldn't have to worry about investigations because they have nothing to hide.  That certainly does not describe Mr Trump, who has a very checkered past and a very questionable present.  

What reason is most likely that Mr Trump has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns?  Isn't it most likely to be financial ties to Putin and Russian oligarchs?

The latest revelation that the President tried to get the FBI Director to stop investigating the Russia-Trump ties is probably an illegal obstruction of justice, which charge was the leading charge against Nixon and Clinton in their impeachment hearings.

I think Trump supporters have been thinking of him as a Republican or a conservative and see this and all of the fierce opposition to Trump as ideological.  I think it is not.  I think it is a response to a president they see as undermining the rule of law, undermining the institutions of America, undermining the Press, undermining the courts, undermining democracy itself.  If Pence becomes president, I will not be happy because I am likely to oppose his fundamentalist sense of morality, but I will be very relieved that the Trump anti-democratic train was derailed.

Where this will lead we don't know.  But I am pretty sure the President is not feeling real good right now.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Why we shouldn't put children in the White House

When it came time for Donald Trump to be given his first intelligence briefing many of us shuddered at the thought because he was so obviously childish that the chances were good that he would blurt something out that could severely harm the country or the world.  Well, yesterday he did just that - to his best buddies, the hostile foreign power Russia.  Not because he is an evil traitor, but because he is a 9 year old who needs to brag about how important he is.  Here is the quote:

"In his meeting with Lavrov, Trump seemed to be boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat. “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange"

So he gave them a piece of intelligence that can easily be used by the Russians to uncover a very highly guarded source providing intel on Isis - who is likely now in danger for his or her life.  What foreign intelligence will now share highly sensitive intel with the U.S.?  What does our intelligence service share or withhold from him?

God help us all.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Overt Authotitarian move by Trump

Trump just fired FBI dirctor James Comey. We are supposed to believe it was because his Attorney General recommended it. So, he does something while claiming it is someone else's idea. Typical. But, of course, totally unbelievable.

We're supposed to believe it is because of the way Comey dealt with Hillary's emails last July during the presidential race. What nonsense. The last person to be upset by Comey's handling of Hillary emails would be Trump, who benefited greatly by Comey's handling of her emails.  Totally unbelievable.

We're supposed to pretend that we don't remember that Comey and the FBI are investigating links between a hostile foreign power, Russia, and Trump, interfering in our 2016 presidential election with the goal of helping Trump become president. But we don't forget.

We're supposed to believe that Trump will not appoint a lackey who will try to kill the Russia-Trump investigation. I certainly don't.

Trump is making a very overt Authoritarian move - fire someone who is investigating him. This is the kind of thing Putin does.

Nixon tried that. Didn't work out too well for him.

Time to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate Russia-Trump ties, and influence.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Trumpcare will dramatically increase bankruptcies of the Middle Class

One of the good things about Obamacare was the elimination of yearly and lifetime caps on insurance coverage. Middle class families were going bankrupt when confronted with skyrocketing costs to save the lives of family members, or to pay for the effort to save a dying family member. Then Obamacare was instituted and guess what?  Bankruptcies in America have been cut in half, from a high of 1,536,799 in 2010 to 770,846 in 2016.  See chart:

Republican's Trumpcare will bring Middle and Lower Middle Class bankruptcies due to unafordable costs to treat seriously ill and dying family members back.  Isn't that nice of them?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Republicans make Americans less safe with Trumpcare

The House of Representatives passed Trumpcare today by two votes, opposed by all Dems.  I think it is both cruel and foolish.

The cruelty first - it allows states to - waive essential benefits requiring out of pocket, unexpected and perhaps unaffordable expenses for some basic care - impose spending caps and thus reintroducing bankruptcy for the middle class if catastrophic expenses are required for the family - waive pre-existing conditions exemptions thus making health care for so many people so expensive as to be unaffordable. 

So people will die.

Although the Reps forced it through before the CBO could issue an analysis I expect that it will throw about the same number of people off of health care as Trumpcare 1.0 - 14,000,000 initially and 24,000,000 in ten years.  The Rep talking point that more people will be covered depends on none of the states waiving essential parts of it, but since they are allowed to, I expect many will. So people will die.

And it cuts Medicaid by $880 Billion - you know, it's for poor and disabled people so who cares?  People will die.

The foolishness next.  They voted on a bill that was not analysed by the CBO, so nobody knows what it will cost and nobody knows how many will lose their coverage. That's moronic.  Obamacare took two years to grind through Congress with endless expert testimony and analysis; Trumpcare took two weeks with no testimony or analysis. The Reps in the House just passed a bill that will affect 1/6 of the country's economy in two weeks with no analysis.  Astonishingly irresponsible.  What on earth happened to the Republican Party?

Also, the states where Obamacare is not working are the states that are controlled by Reps who have done all that they can to sabotage Obamacare.  These are the same states that will be allowed to slash care in the Trumpcare bill.  Gee, what are the chances?

Who suffers?  The people in those states.  Who are the people in those states? Those who voted for Trump.  

It looks to me like the House Reps just voted to dramatically hurt their own voters, their base.  Are they counting on the idea that they won't notice?  How much do they disrespect their own base?  How little do they care about their own base?

I think the whole idea of the Republican Party in particular, and conservatives in general, is that it is the party of men, hard men, courageous men, responsible men who are dedicated to the protection of the country and its people.  Today, the Reps didn't protect America's people, it threw them to the wolves - good luck on your own, suckers, the Reps got their tax break for the Plutocracy.

A very sad day, it seems to me, for America.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Confused President

President Trump seems to me to be pretty confused about what to do as president.  He seems more symbolic than substantive as a president.  He has issued a flurry of executive orders that attack the safety of Americans – attacking environmental protections, attacking safety and worker regulations, attacking sanctuary cities, harassing and deporting immigrants (which makes the immigrant communities shrink away from law enforcement and not come forward to help fight the crime and even terrorist activities in their beleaguered societies), etc. – but I actually don’t know how effective those are, or if they are mostly photo ops on the Trump as President Reality TV show.

His attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act throws millions off of the insurance rolls – another attack on the safety of Americans, and one that hurts the poor rural Trump voters the hardest.  But, the good news is that since he never had a clue how to replace Obamacare with Trumpcare it will go nowhere.  Turns out the Republican Congress never had a clue how to replace Obamacare either, so they all just bumble around – thank goodness. 

His security team seems to be a good one, and I am grateful for that.

His Attorney General looks to me like a fanatical anti-immigrant Confedreate nut case out to harm as many non-white people as possible, but I guess that is what ultimately got Mr. Trump elected.

He actually said that trying to replace Obamacare was very complicated – “Who knew?”- Only everybody who was paying any attention eight years ago when Obamacare was being painfully cobbled together.

He actually said that being president is a lot harder than he thought it was going to be.  This, of course, confirms many of our thoughts about this shallow man – that he is a dilettante without the focus or stamina to do this job.

He is good at making headlines.  Good at keeping his hard core base in line, but they should start having “aha moments” of realization that he Is NOT one of them, he is not one of anyone, he is only for himself and his pathetically grandiose and needy ego.

I will give him credit for one thing – he allowed himself to be talked out of suspending NAFTA so as not to devastate the parts of the country that voted for him.  Apparently, there are some folks who have access to him who can present reality to him, which is very different than the alt-right grab bag of “alternative facts” that he played to during his campaign.  Makes the Alternative Facts folks pretty unhappy, I would presume.

If he ever becomes a real liability to the Republican politicians in Congress, he is toast.  He is eminently impeachable in a couple of ways – first he is in obvious violation of the Emoluments Clause of the constitution, and second, the investigations into his collusion with the hostile government of Russia in order to get elected grinds on despite his efforts to distract us all with his song and dance show.  Only the Reps can impeach him, but it is not all that unlikely given his unquestioned ability to dramatically screw things up.

Being a real president is hard work – who knew?  It’s probably time for him to pull a Palin and resign to pursue his true passion as a media star.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Is the president showing small signs of humanity?

It's hard for me to give any credit to Trump, but he actually had a pretty good week.  As much as I hate the idea of getting involved in the tar baby of Syria and the religious wars in the Middle East, his swift and punitive missile strike against a Syrian air base last week in response to Assad's horrendous gassing of his own people felt like the right thing to do.  Obama drew a line in the sand about chemical weapons and then analyzed himself out of overt action against Assad when he crossed that fundamental line that the world had decided was beyond the bounds of acceptable human behavior during a war - way back in WWI.  Assad's actions were so inhumane that Trump's daughter was able to persuade her father to do something.

I don't know if it was a smart thing to do, but how do we sit by and watch such human degradation and atrocities at the hands of Assad?  And of Isis? and of so many in the Islamic religious wars?  

I think the missile strike shocked Russia and China as well, and that might be a good thing to have them see America as an active force in the world in the role of moral leadership - moral leadership?  Trump?  A humanitarian hawk after all? This is a hard concept to grasp, but there is at least a glimmer of hope that it is true.

What I am encouraged by, in addition to his being able to have his heart touched by his daughter, is his willingness to turn to what may be the only three competent and able adults in his administration - Secretary of Defense, Mattis - Secretary of State, Tillerson - and National Security Advisor, McMaster.  It is tempting to think Trump acted on a whim, but I hope that his action was at the council and advice of these three in his foreign policy team.

Now if only he would find some humane adults to help shape his domestic policies as well.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A sad day

A sad day today - the Republicans invoked the nuclear option in the Senate in order to confirm Gorsich to the Supreme Court. Senators are falling all over themselves swearing the filibuster will never go away for legislation and that this majority rule will apply only to judges. 

Sadly, that probably will not hold true. Both parties caved to the furor of their bases when the Dems futilely filibustered Gorsich, and the Reps went nuclear. They will do the same too soon when a contentious bill comes up, and kaboom!  No more filibusters, and thus no more Senate - just a smaller version of the House where all that counts is the majority.  And both parties will devolve into being pawns of the most rabid voices of their bases. 

This means the toxic levels of polarization will just spiral down into even more disgusting separation.  Politics is disappearing and is being replaced with two worlds who cannot speak to each other due to their mutual contempt. 

A sad day for America today. 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

If the filibuster is eliminated, the Senate is just another House of Representatives

The Democrats seem to be on a suicide mission - to filibuster Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.  They cannot win.  The Republicans will use the Nuclear Option and eliminate the filibuster, shame on them but they will do it.  Without the filibuster the Senate is nothing more than a smaller version of the House of Representatives - i.e. the majority party rules and the minority party might as well not show up.

It would be just another terrible tumble down the rabbit hole of extremist "politics".  Real politics is dialogue - extremist politics is dogma where there is no negotiating, listening, compromising, innovation, bi-partisanship, courtesy, cooperation, dignity, humanity - only conquest. 

I pray that the Dems pull back from their vengeance over the Reps' abuse of Obama and Garland.  The Reps won, they will fill the Scalia seat, the Dems can't stop that, but they can act like children and pull down the Senate in their pique.

I say don't do it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pence and the Republicans decide to increase the number of abortions in America

Republicans finally got to take a step to defund Planned Parenthood.  VP Mike Pence cast the tie breaker. 

"Republican legislation letting states deny federal family planning money to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers squeezed narrowly through the Senate Thursday..."

"The federal family planning program was created 1970 and in 2015 served 4 million clients at nearly 4,000 clinics. Most of the money is for providing services like contraceptives, family planning counseling, breast and cervical cancer screening and sexually transmitted disease prevention. It has a $286 million federal budget this year.
Most recipients are women, and two-thirds have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, around $12,000 for an individual. Six in 10 say the program's services are their only or most frequent source of health care."
I imagine that Pence and the Reps are proud of themselves for reducing abortions, but of course, exactly the opposite will happen - abortions will rise, as will disease and health issues amongst the women depending on family planning and health services.  

Without family planning and contraceptive care and assistance there will be more pregnancies and thus more abortions of unwanted pregnancies.

Ideology is a strange thing, blocking out any information that contradicts the dogma. The Reps hurt poor women today. Not happy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A blow against internet privacy

It's hard for me to keep up with all the things Trump and the Republicans are doing which harm us.  But, I just wanted to point out one that just happened.  They are removing internet privacy laws, allowing companies to sell information on us including:

"...browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers..."

This does not make me happy.  They are making us unsafe.  

Friday, March 24, 2017

Don't provoke the "nuclear option" over Gorsuch

I think I have been too didactic, polemic, and left wing since the advent of Trump and Trumpism.  I want to feel more balanced as I think about America and the world.  To that end, I am thinking liberals are sometimes moving unwisely out of their disgust of Trump.

I think liberals make a mistake by going all out to block Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.  I understand that the left think that the Republicans stole the vacated Scalia seat from them by refusing to hold hearings on Obama’s moderate left nominee – Merrick Garland.  And I think it was appalling that they did that.  But, in truth, what chance would he have had to be confirmed by a Republican controlled Senate?  I disagreed with the tactic, but I don’t think Obama would have gotten a nominee confirmed.

And now the Republicans control the White House and the Senate.  They will decide who becomes the next Supreme Court judge.  If the Democrats exact revenge for Garland, don’t they use up all of their weapons on this confirmation – i.e. the filibuster?  Gorsuch will replace Scalia, and the court balance becomes what it had been before Scalia’s passing.  I didn’t like many of the decisions of that court, but it’s not really a change. 

If the Dems block Gorsuch, isn’t there another Gorsuch in the wings for the job?  If they  tempt the Republicans to use the “nuclear option” of bypassing the filibuster and needing only a majority to confirm, they would be much wiser, it seems to me, to wait until, or if, it is time to replace a liberal Justice, not a conservative one.

I think liberals are laboring under a fantasy that hearings into Russian - Trump campaign improprieties will nullify the election.  But isn't that about the same fantasy that conservatives harbored for a long time that it would be proved that Obama was really born in Kenya, and his election would be nullified?  

The Reps were in the cold for eight years, they are in power now, and will be for at least two more years, and maybe up to eight.  Liberals need to do something other than copy the extremism of the Reps during the Obama years.  

I have hope that new leadership can emerge from the Left out of the ashes of the 2016 election to shine a new light.  And, as a matter of fact, as Trump and the Reps continue to destroy themselves now that they are stuck with power and responsibility, I have hope that new leadership can arise from their ashes as well into an inspiring vision of the Right - which is not Libertarian, or Tea Party, or Corporate Plutocracy...

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Targeted cruelty

The Trump budget emphasizes the military and cuts the safety net for America and the world.  This is no surprise, and there is much that is distressing about the Trump budget, but I just wanted to point out one characteristic that pretty well summarizes today’s Republican Party, to me.


Apparently, Trump and the Reps want to cut funding for Health and Human Services Community Development Block Grants by 16% which includes the Administration for Community Living which funds “Meals on Wheels” that feeds impoverished elderly.  I wonder how many of my conservative friends thought they voted for cutting funds to feeding the elderly?

And this thing about “America First”?  20,000,000 people are facing famine in four countries: Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia, and Nigeria – the largest humanitariancrisis in the history of the United Nations.

“We are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations,” warned Stephen O’Brien, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief. “Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death.”

 So, the Trump administration has decided that this is the time to cut humanitarian aid overseas.  “Humanitarian” - “Trump”?  Those two words don’t go together.  Used to be that the United States was the major force of benevolence and hope for a despairing world.  Now, it’s just “America First” – or, tough luck people, you’re on your own – or, America is no better than any other country, we’re only interested in ourselves.

It seems to me that this cutting of humanitarian support in the world is not only contrary to American principles and ideals, but against our interests as well, because America is safer and more prosperous in a stable world rather than one ravaged by poverty and famine. So it seems to me that the whole concept of “American First” is short sighted and harmful to America’s role in the world and to America’s future. But, budget cutters don’t seem to notice, let alone care.

Not to forget, by the way, that the Trumpcare replacement for Obamacare will remove 24 million people from healthcare insurance.  So they can just get sick and, you know … die. But, hey, their poor so who cares?

But, oh yes, they do want to build a completely useless wall between the U.S. and Mexico.  Must have billions for that…don’t want to make the Trumpsters angry…

I remain disgusted by this administration, and it’s not just Trump.  The Republican Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives has their fingerprints all over this budget. 

It is discouraging to watch the goodness of America be abandoned and replaced by cruelty.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Do Republicans really want to start killing people?

The Congressional Budget Office (CB0) has come out with its report on the Republican replacement for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  No surprise – 24,000,000 people will lose health care.  

24,000,000 - people – humans - men and women and children. 

I know Republicans are accused of not caring much about people, but do they really want to start killing them? I guess it reduces taxes on the wealthy?  So that makes it OK?

I sincerely doubt that the Republican House will vote for this bill, and if it does I think it has almost no chance to pass the Senate.  But, still, is this what my conservative friends voted for when they voted for a Republican President, Republican Senate, and Republican House?

This administration is such a mess.   

Friday, March 3, 2017

Trump eliminates gun background checks on the mentally ill

Trump signed has decided that background checks on those deemed to be mentally disabled needs to be stopped.  I don't find this comforting, and I don't think this has anything to do with personal freedom.  I think it has to do with the gun lobby wanting to sell guns, and controlling the Republican Party.

"While the press corps was distracted and the cable channels aired footage of Trump surrounded by a bipartisan group of smiling women, behind closed doors and with no fanfare the president quietly signed a measure that killed a regulation enacted by the Obama administration to tighten gun background checks.

The rule required the Social Security Administration to send over the names of people who receive government checks for being mentally disabled and others who have been deemed unable to handle their own financial affairs to the FBI office that runs the national background check database. This is a universe of about 75,000 people."

I'm with Wyatt Earp - no guns in Dodge ... or at least there should be a background check.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Authoritarian White House bars selected news organizations

Trump today at the CPAC conference once again attacked the media, calling it fake news.  His spokesman followed up by banning the New York Times, CNN, Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, and Politico from a question and answer session with the press secretary.

Admitted were right wing media - Washington Times, One America News Network, and of course Breitbart, Steve Bannon's news organization.

As I wrote earlier, Authoritarianism 101 is to control the news.  Here is an action demonstrating that. The way democracy is killed is to take away the ability of the people to be informed.  This is absolutely disgusting.

So, where are my conservative friends?  Where is the Republican Congress?  Do they just cheer this move toward authoritarian rule?  Don't they find this appalling?  Isn't a free press one of the guarantees of the first amendment?  Where are the "Constitutional Conservatives"?

At a minimum, this is Trump signalling his base who not to get information from. 
I believe that the banned news organizations are quite experienced in covering authoritarian regimes around the world, and I expect that they are energized by this in a way that they haven't been energized for decades. 

Bannon and Trump have declared war on the news, I believe Mr Nixon did that a while back and it didn't work out too well for him.  

Trump serves at the pleasure of the Republican Congress, who do have the power of impeachment.  The question is how far will they let themselves be pushed? 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trump - alternative reality TV president

Authoritarianism 101 is for the authoritarian leader to control the news.  The Soviets had Pravda, North Korea has total control over the news, and Donald Trump is doing everything he can to discredit actual news, mainstream news from professional journalists, actual facts.

This, of course follows the example of Limbaugh, Fox News, and other right wing media, who are really doing nothing more than a marketing ploy to get to you stop watching other media and tune into them - it is a ratings increasing strategy.  Unfortunately, too many people actually seem to believe that real news is biased, or "fake', and the only way to find out what is really going on is to listen to them - successful marketing strategy, but disastrous effect on America.

So, when a right wing populist president also says that the news is "fake" and you should get all of your news from the right wing echo chamber, that becomes the fundamental strategy of authoritarianism - to control the news.  

What Fox and Limbaugh haven't realized yet is that Trump will have no more respect for them than he does for CNN.  His goal will to have everyone believe only his news.  He already has a news source set up to take over the news - Breitbart.   Indeed, it can be argued that the childish and ignorant Trump is dancing on the strings being pulled by Steve Bannon, former head of Breitbart, and Breitbart has already announced plans for ambitious expansion into Europe and other areas of news coverage.  Breitbart is the self proclaimed mouth of the Alt Right, which is a welcome home to white supremacists, and certainly a deadly foe of liberalism.  

Breitbart may think they are in the catbird seat, but I believe they too should be wary of the authoritarian in the making, Mr. Trump.  As I said, Authoritarianism 101 is to control the news, and Mr. Trump lives only in a world of alternative facts - facts that feed his Grandiose Ego.

What alternative facts does Mr Trump want us all to believe?

The latest example comes from his disturbingly rambling news conference a couple of days ago when he made this ridiculously untrue boast:

“There has never been a presidency that’s done so much in such a short period of time.”

So, is that true or just the ramblings of a man whose ego so isolates him from reality that he just believes things that feed his ego fantasies?  

Here are some comparisons to other recent presidents, as discussed in Fareed Zakaria's latest article.

" this point in his presidency, Barack Obama had signed into law an almost-trillion-dollar stimulus bill to revive the economy, extended health insurance to 4 million children and made it easier to challenge discriminatory labor practices. 

How many bills have presidents passed in the first 100 days?

  • Bill Clinton had passed 24 bills
  • John Kennedy, 26 
  • Harry Truman, 55
  • FDR, 76
Trump?  Probably will be less than 10?

Actually, the best thing about Trump so far is how ineffective he is.  He is good at what he is good at - getting TV ratings, dominating headlines, focusing nationwide and worldwide attention on himself - feeding his insatiable ego.

But he is not good at actually doing things.

The worst thing about Trump, of course, is the same thing - his insatiable and childish ego.  How will he react when there is actually something to do? when there is a crisis to make decisions about and actions to be taken?  That is truly a frightening thought.  He is still a 10 year old boy, as far as emotional and intellectual development goes, and he may very well respond as a 10 year old boy.

Speaking of 10 year old boys in charge of nuclear weapons - Kim Jong-Un of North Korea?  One shudders to think what can happen if these two decide to face off over some international crisis.

I am somewhat encouraged that we seem to have adults as Secretary of Defense - Mattis - and Secretary of State - Tillerson.  I strongly desire that they can guide him toward reality rather than fantasy, and toward maturity rather than childishness.

So, the reality TV show star has become the Alternative Reality TV president.  Which reality will we live in - the real world, or the "alternative facts" world of Mr Trump?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Are you an Authoritarian? Latent authoritarian? Are you sure?

Presidential adviser, young Stephen Miller, went on the Sunday shows and proclaimed that the President’s powers cannot be questioned when it comes to securing the borders.  He is ridiculously wrong.  The way he said it was authoritarian in the extreme – threatening, dogmatic, inflexible, triumphant.  And then Trump tweeted congratulations to Miller for his performance. 

So, OK, Trump is demonstrating his intent to rule as an authoritarian.  It’s pretty clear.

I have been trying to understand Trump and his voters.  And it is clear that Trump’s authoritarian promises and behavior are exactly what got him into office.  There is an excellent article entitled “The Rise of American Authoritarianism” by Amanda Taub on that explains the rise of authoritarianism in America and around the world.  It is a response to fear – fear of attack by the Islamofascist element of Islam, but also fear of social change and diminution of father figure type of authority, hierarchy, and structure.

It’s a long article, worth the read, here are some highlights and thoughts stimulated by the article.

People who score high on in authoritarianism voted for Trump.  The strongest correlation for Trump voters was authoritarianism.  Indeed, much of the polarization in America is due to a rise in authoritarianism in the Republican Party.

They note that once the GOP positioned itself as the party of law and order and traditional values it became a magnet for the authoritarian voters. This happened with Nixon in his infamous "Southern Strategy" where he switched the South from Democrat to Republican.  

This can end up hurting the Republicans because the authoritarian wing is at odds with traditional Republicans – e.g. authoritarians could give two hoots about tax breaks for the rich.

Authoritarians express much deeper fears than the rest of us and want order and strong leaders when they feel threatened.  The Islamofascist element of Islam is such a threat.

But there is another threat, just as terrifying to the authoritarians – social change.  And guess what’s been going on for the last few decades?  Lots and lots of social change.  With the Boomers has come social change, and with the Boomers has come other Boomers frightened of and fiercely opposed to social change – empowered minorities? gays? women? diplomacy rather than war? Understanding rather than punishment?  Way too scary for the authoritarians

There are overt authoritarians and latent authoritarians.  Threats from outside forces, and from the social changes from the inside activate overt authoritarians, but they also trigger an authoritarian response from those with latent authoritarian tendencies.  The terrorist attacks combined with the rise of minority, gay, and women’s rights and power have created a perfect storm of threat to the old structures that the authoritarian mind so needs - the strict father hierarchical, orderly, rigid, punishing structure where they are on top and feel safe in a chaotic and changing world.

“As the NYU professor Jonathan Haidt has written, a button is pushed that says, "In case of moral threat, lock down the borders, kick out those who are different, and punish those who are morally deviant."”
So, how to tell if you’re an authoritarian?  Scientists took quite some time to find a way to test it, but they succeeded.

“Feldman developed what has since become widely accepted as the definitive measurement of authoritarianism: four simple questions that appear to ask about parenting but are in fact designed to reveal how highly the respondent values hierarchy, order, and conformity over other values.
1.       Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: independence or respect for elders?
2.       Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: obedience or self-reliance?
3.       Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: to be considerate or to be well-behaved?
4.       Please tell me which one you think is more important for a child to have: curiosity or good manners?
Feldman's test proved to be very reliable. There was now a way to identify people who fit the authoritarian profile, by prizing order and conformity, for example, and desiring the imposition of those values.”
I have to admit that I was raised by an authoritarian father, and I think his greatest disappointment in me was that I never became like him, but I have to be aware that I am very likely to have latent authoritarian instincts, which I will be guarding against, because I think  they are essentially hurtful, fearful, and weak.

Authoritarianism isn’t active in most people, but it can be triggered by perceived threat.  As I said above, terrorism from outsiders and social change from insiders that the authoritarians see as different from themselves are the triggers that drive them into the arms of authoritarian rulers, like Donald Trump. (Not sure yet if Trump really is authoritarian or just playing one on TV, but he is as close to one as I ever want to see in America)

So the Republican Party became the party of law and order, the controller of minorities and women, the chooser of the military over diplomacy, the crusher of social change – and became the home of the authoritarians - both candidates and voters.

The Democratic Party became the party of civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights, criminals’ rights, social progress, equality – and drove the authoritarians screaming in fear and righteous threats into the arms of the Republicans.  Liberals see this fear response as bigotry – racism, misogyny, homophobia, etc.  But underneath it all is fear of change, specifically fear of change being forced upon them by the Other, those unlike them, the strong white man model of how the world is supposed to be.  That world is fading away, and all the authoritarian bullying and cruelty that authoritarians can muster is not going to stop it.

What do authoritarians want in an authoritarian leader? government action to crush the threats – external attacks from the Other, and internal change from those mistakenly perceived to be the Other.

We end up with Trump today, but whom tomorrow? maybe a smarter crueler authoritarian?  Let’s keep that from happening, please.

The first thing that I wrote about Trump was that he was temporary but his voters were not.  That is still true.  Trump will eventually go away, maybe he’ll last a full term, maybe less, maybe he’ll manage two full terms.  But he will go away.  

It it is up to the rest of us to make sure the authoritarians do not run this country, not now, not in the future.  Maybe we can try to persuade them that their fears are overblown, paranoid, divorced from reality.  Sure, we need to protect ourselves from terrorists, but we are actually doing a good job of that, long before Trump arrived on scene.  Sure there is crime and corruptions, but in the real world rather than the Right Wing Alternative Facts World crime and corruption have been dropping steadily for some time, again long before Trump arrived.

Oppose the bullying.  Allay the fears.  Renew the True American Spirit, which has both individualism, freedom, and opportunity, and also has caring, compassion, equality, and social justice as well.  America needs two healthy parties – parties of both will and love.  

The authoritarians have stolen the party of individualism, freedom, and opportunity and turned it into the party of oppression, fear, and cruelty.  I trust my conservative friends will take the party back to its real values and reject this terrible flirtation with authoritarian rule.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

How to tell if Trump is creating an authoritarian tyranny

I believe the Trump administration has the potential to be a real threat to freedom in America.  This is ironic, because Trump has come to power under the banner of conservatives and the Republican Party whose ideology has freedom and independence at its core. As a friend pointed out to me, this is not about the old right vs. left ideological divide, it is about populist based authoritarianism.  This is happening not just in America.  

The problem is the very real potential that Trump is instituting an authoritarian regime.  How can we tell?  It turns out that many people who have suffered under authoritarian rule are trying to tell us what to beware of.  I reproduce some main points here so as to have them as a reference for myself going forward.  

This is a longer than normal post because there is a lot to be aware of.

First up is from Europe, actually from Poland which is dealing with this problem now -  They list strategies of authoritarian rule in Poland. I quote and condense below. Does any of this remind you of Trump and some of his team?

  • ·         They will come to power with a campaign based on fear, scaremongering and distorting the truth
  • ·         They will divide and rule.  They will call their supporters Patriots, the only “true Americans”
  • ·         Through convoluted laws and threats they will try to control mainstream media and limit press freedom. They will ban critical press from their briefings, calling them “liars”, “fake news”. They will brand those media as “unpatriotic”, acting against the People
  • ·         They will create chaos, maintain a constant sense of conflict and danger. It will be their argument to enact new authoritarian laws, each one further limiting your freedoms and civil liberties
  •            They will distort the truth, deny facts and blatantly lie. They will try to make you forget what facts are
  • ·        They will incite and then leak fake, superficial “scandals
  • ·        They will propose shocking laws to provoke your outrage
  • ·        In the meantime they will push through less “flashy” legislation, slowly dismantling democracy
  • ·         When invading your liberal sensibilities they will focus on what hurts the most – women and minorities. They will act as if democracy was majority rule without respect for the minority
  • ·         They will try to take control of the judiciary. They will assault your highest court
  • ·         They will try to limit freedom of assembly, calling it a necessity for your security
  • ·         They will distort the language, coin new terms and labels “thief”, “liar” or “traitor” will automatically mean the opposition, while a “patriot” or a “true American” will mean their followers
  • ·         They will take over your national symbols, associate them with their regime, remake them into attributes of their power
  • ·         They will try to rewrite history to suit their needs and will smear any historical or living figure who wouldn’t approve of their actions, or distort their image to make you think they would
  • ·         They will alienate foreign allies and partners, convincing you don’t need them. They won’t care for the rest of the world, with their focus on “making your country great again”
  • ·         They will eventually manipulate the electoral system. They might say it’s to correct flaws

What to do?  Counter distortions with truth, educate, illuminate the real facts, refuse to be divided from fellow Americans, stay alert, don't get worn out by the relentless propaganda and distortions and give up.

Next up is David Frum of The Atlantic.  It is a long thoughtful article and worth reading and keeping as a reference. His point is that modern authoritarian rule is unlike the 20th century dictators from Hitler and Mussolini to Mao and Castro.  They dominate in different, harder to see ways. Perhaps the biggest tool of the modern authoritarian like Putin is to create a nation of cynics who cannot distinguish fact from fiction. During the campaign there was actual fake news against Hillary - e.g. that Hillary ran a pedophilia ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor in Washington D.C - patently ridiculous but believed by some!  Trump has taken over the fake news label and now applies it to real news that is critical of him.  This is the most dangerous thing he has done so far, and it has terrible consequences.

Here are some key highlights of that article.

"Opponents of the regime are not murdered or imprisoned, although many are harassed with building inspections and tax audits. If they work for the government, or for a company susceptible to government pressure, they risk their jobs by speaking out...“The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”

What is spreading today is repressive kleptocracy, led by rulers motivated by greed rather than by the deranged idealism of Hitler or Stalin or Mao. Such rulers rely less on terror and more on rule-twisting, the manipulation of information, and the co-optation of elites.
It is essential to recognize that Trump will use his position not only to enrich himself; he will enrich plenty of other people too, both the powerful and—sometimes, for public consumption—the relatively powerless. Venezuela, a stable democracy from the late 1950s through the 1990s, was corrupted by a politics of personal favoritism, as Hugo Chávez used state resources to bestow gifts on supporters.

Polarization, not persecution, enables the modern illiberal regime.

Civil unrest will not be a problem for the Trump presidency. It will be a resource. Trump will likely want not to repress it, but to publicize it— The more offensively the protesters behave, the more pleased Trump will be.

“Get used to being stigmatized as ‘opposition,’ ” ... “The basic idea is simple: to delegitimize accountability journalism by framing it as partisan.”

 Mostly, however, modern strongmen seek merely to discredit journalism as an institution, by denying that such a thing as independent judgment can exist. All reporting serves an agenda. There is no truth, only competing attempts to grab power.

By filling the media space with bizarre inventions and brazen denials, purveyors of fake news hope to mobilize potential supporters with righteous wrath—and to demoralize potential opponents by nurturing the idea that everybody lies and nothing matters.
A would-be kleptocrat is actually better served by spreading cynicism than by deceiving followers with false beliefs: Believers can be disillusioned; people who expect to hear only lies can hardly complain when a lie is exposed. The inculcation of cynicism breaks down the distinction between those forms of media that try their imperfect best to report the truth, and those that purvey falsehoods for reasons of profit or ideology. The New York Times becomes the equivalent of Russia’s RT; The Washington Post of Breitbart; NPR of Infowars.
A survey by YouGov found that by December 1, 43 percent of Republicans accepted the claim that millions of people had voted illegally in 2016.
I’ve talked with well-funded Trump supporters who speak of recruiting a troll army explicitly modeled on those used by Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russia’s Putin to take control of the social-media space, intimidating some critics and overwhelming others through a blizzard of doubt-casting and misinformation

Trump and his team count on one thing above all others: public indifference. “I think people don’t care,” he said in September when asked whether voters wanted him to release his tax returns. “Nobody cares,” he reiterated to 60 Minutes in November. Conflicts of interest with foreign investments? Trump tweeted on November 21 that he didn’t believe voters cared about that either: “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!”
And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered.

Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American."

The above by David Frum is profoundly important to understand, as far as I can tell.  It is not yet the destiny of this administration that it become authoritarian, but Trump and his minions have given us plenty to pay attention to and be wary of."
My conservative friends may angrily say that Obama was an authoritarian tyrant using presidential powers in dictatorial ways.  And I am sure they can cite examples of executive over-reach. Perhaps so, for example when he unilaterally decided to stop the deportation of the children of illegal immigrants, or established stricter environmental protections, etc.  However, Obama's over-reach was for what he considered to be the benefit of the country.  
I think Mr Trump's abuses will start out with policy to please his followers, but end up with the real goal of being much more about establishing himself as an American king, complete with the accumulation of fabulous wealth for himself and his cronies, and with the take over of the United States by his avid supporters in the Confederacy.  The South is trying to rise again, with too much of what that might mean to all but the favored white aristocracy.
I believe America has entered a new era that is creating a clarion call to patriotism - the patriotism of awakening of the fundamental spirit of America - the spirit of freedom, the spirit of refusing to be crushed by authoritarian rule. It is not to be allowed by a free people.