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Allowing Greed To Trump Need

Welcome to Trumplandia! Where truth is irrelevant and facts matter not. The CBO score on the Senate’s version of the AHCA has been released – showing that 22 million more people would be without health insurance in ten years than would be the case if the ACA remained law of the land. Fifteen million would be tossed leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. What impeccable timing. But one should never underestimate the lengths to which the guardians of the oligarchy will go to enhance the bank accounts and overall wealth of those already so rich they don’t know what to do with it all.

This blatant attempt by the Congressional GOP and their President to feed the greed of the 1% and the corporations which have come to exert ever more political power in this country, especially since the advent of the Citizens United case and the demise of almost any campaign finance law, proposes to come at the expense of the most vulnerable and needy among us. Whereas the Affordable Care Act sought to plug the cracks through which many fell in their search for health coverage by expanding Medicaid, the AHCA seeks to not only do away with the Medicaid expansion, but to fundamentally change the nature of this largest Medical Insurance plan in the nation. The people most detrimentally affected by these massive cuts will be the poor, the elderly, the disabled and their children.

The way in which the Senate Republican leadership is attempting to force this legislation down the throats of the American people (which strongly mimics how the House managed to pass their version) comes as no surprise to those who have been paying attention to the multitude of repeal attempts these folks have been making ever since the ACA was passed. The fact that they have been promising for the past eight years to replace it with a better plan and this is all they could manage to come up with speaks volumes as to both their sincerity and the overall disdain they hold for the well-being of millions of those they have been elected to represent and serve in their capacity as public servants.

Not the least of these purveyors of the means by which millions of our fellow citizens will be thrown under the bus to provide increased creature comforts for Donald Trump’s elite country club set is the President himself. Having campaigned hard with promises to repeal and replace the law he refers to as “Obamacare” without touching Social Security, Medicaid or Medicare in the slightest, Donald Trump has signed on with these monstrous proposals with minimal protest. After having thrown a Rose Garden celebration of the passage of the House version, which he heartily endorsed all along the way, he had the gall to say he wanted the Senate version to have more heart than this mean bill the House had sent to them. That you can spout such utter hypocrisy with a straight face is appalling, Mr. President.  The Senate responded with a bill that lowered the number of those tossed aside in the health care world from 23 million to only 22 million compared to how they would have faired under the ACA. Good news for the million saved, but there is no need in this society for the other 22 million to still suffer.

The size of this windfall for the wealthy is almost as staggering as the numbers of people losing coverage is disheartening. That someone like billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson stands to make over $40 million from a retroactive tax cut that he can then use to buy himself some more politicians for further future gain, while untold numbers of others can no longer receive care for serious chronic or acute medical conditions boggles the mind. How many people need to be denied lifesaving treatment or medications so a Mitt Romney can afford another elevator for his luxury cars? Priorities seem to be seriously misplaced by a staggering percentage of our elected representatives.

To excuse redistributing resources up the economic ladder rather than opting for more economic equality on the basis of the often stated theory that it allows the wealthy to then create more and better jobs for the rest of us is, to quote Sherman Potter of MASH fame, balderdash. How many times have we heard this trickle down nonsense from right wing politicians in this country? The number is far greater than the number of times such tax cuts have actually worked to do anything other than bulk up the bank accounts of the people getting the tax cuts.

Donald Trump made many promises to earn the votes of the millions of people he is currently in the process of abandoning along his path self-glorification and the expanse of his business empire – primarily for the benefit of himself and his immediate family and at the expense of American taxpayers as much as possible. His dependence on the Congressional GOP to maintain his position will in all likelihood mean that whatever legislation they are able to cobble together to send his way will be signed. Most of his grandiose schemes (the Wall, the travel bans, the bringing back of jobs from overseas, the massive infrastructure plan) will see less than spectacular progress. The tax reform, which is evidently the main focus on this enormous effort to dismantle the ACA, will see results – but only the kind he seeks if people aren’t too resistant to the snake oil cure he is trying to sell them.

The Affordable Care Act has had its flaws, but it also has increased the number of people covered. Tweaking it could increase that coverage in the future. Going with a single-payer system that provides universal coverage for health care as a human right, not merely another avenue for exacerbating economic inequality, would make it better still. Maybe enough people will become outraged by the stark inhumanity of the outcome of legislation such as that before the Senate now to speed the arrival of such a system to replace it, but how many people need die or bankrupt themselves to satisfy the greed of capitalist pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, their executives and shareholders in the meantime?

The lid has been lifted from the pretense that the GOP has a plan to improve our health care system. They don’t care about ordinary Americans except as a resource to be exploited economically to their own benefit. For all his bluster to the contrary, Trump is no more looking out for our interests than the establishment politicians he lambasted on the campaign trail. He’s just a heck of a lot more dangerous because he has all those military toys he’s so anxious to use. He is also starting to make noises about letting the bill fail and watching what happens when Obamacare fails. Of course, it can only do that if Congress lets it happen.

Here’s hoping your July 4th sees no new Congressional disaster legislation passing – and the ominous warlike pronouncement from Sean Spicer’s office about impending Syrian chemical attacks does not mean we’ll be setting off the more harmful kinds of fireworks again in the Middle East. We all know Congress does an even worse job of constraining belligerent Presidents in their exercise of their Commander-in-Chief powers than it does in passing good legislation for the rest of us.

Further Suggested Readings:

The GOP healthcare bill could slash megadonor Sheldon Adelson’s tax bill by more than $40 million

McConnell tries to split the difference on protections for sickest Americans

GOP Medicaid Cuts Would Hit Rural Hospitals And Patients Hard

Big Pharma Gets $28 Billion Tax Break in GOP Health Plan

Paying More For Less: American Health Care Act

The Senate GOP health bill in one sentence: poor people pay more for worse insurance

GOP’s Cruel ‘Health Care’ Bill Goes After Children, the Poor and Veterans

Elizabeth Warren Excoriates Senate Republicans for Financing Their Tax Cuts with ‘Blood Money’

"Trump and health care: Promises made, promises broken"

Medical groups diagnose GOP health care bill: It’s not well

The Senate’s Silent and Deadly Health Care Repeal

GOP "Health" Bill: Death, Disaster and Gilded Age Greed

Rachel Maddow Shows How The New GOP Health Plan Will Devastate 75 Million Americans

Obama Blasts Republicans For Stealing People’s Heath Care In Order To Cut Taxes For Rich

A simple and horrifying way to explain Trumpcare’s impact on all Americans

Millions of people have a lot to lose under the AHCA

The Secret Republican Plan to Unravel Medicaid

Read the CBO report on the impact of Senate Republicans’ health care bill

Healthcare? We Do Not Care: Blood from a Turnip

Thoughts to ponder as Trump, McConnell, Ryan and company strive mightily to make an unnecessarily unacceptable health care system even worse. – RJC

radical eyes for equity

Over the past two weeks, my mother had a stroke and resides now in a rehabilitation facility, and my father died sitting beside her over this weekend, after deteriorating for months because of a failing heart.

My family has been experiencing the nightmare that is the consequence of living in a nation that worships money above all else: being sick and dying in the U.S. remains a financial disaster.

We in the U.S. have purposefully and willfully monetized illness and death.

While my mother was in the hospital, she needed her IV changed, but the floor nurse on duty was having trouble with the new placement. She called in the head nurse, who asked me about the care my mother was receiving at the hospital.

I eagerly praised the nurses, doctors, and staff—all of whom had been wonderful, and it is no hyperbole, they literally saved my mother’s life.

I…

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Wasted Campaigns

Several special elections have been held to fill Congressional positions vacated by individuals nominated by President Trump to fill cabinet and other senior positions in his administration. Ultimately, these special elections were all won by Republican candidates – meaning that they remain in the hands of the same party as  held them to begin with. Basically, the same situation occurred when special elections were held to replace individuals who had been nominated by President Obama to help form his new administration in 2009.

The fact that the Democrats lost all of these elections was not totally unexpected, though it was disappointing to the DNC and Democrats in general, who hoped that the perceived blunders made by President Trump and members of his staff leading up to and following his inauguration would translate into election victories and to a new Democratic Party Congressional majority following the 2018 midterm elections. The districts involved were long-time Republican strongholds. This being said, some of the tactics and strategies used by the two sides and the way money was raised and spent campaigning for the seats leaves much to be desired.

The Georgia district that had been represented by Tom Price (currently serving as Secretary of Health and Human Services and devoted to the crusade to eradicate the Affordable Care Act), was won by Republican Karen Handel over Jon Ossoff by 53% to 47%. It was an unusual campaign, to say the least, given national importance by both parties and involving a record spending spree for any House race ever at over $50 million. Other races saw far less spent with more bang for the buck for the Democratic candidates in some of the races, which has drawn some fire from dissenting voices in that party. Be that as it may, it does seem that spending that kind of money in the election for one House seat is overdoing it just a tad.

A couple of thoughts regarding the Ossoff/Handel race come to mind. One is – why couldn’t the Democrats find a candidate who at least lives in the district he’s running to represent? That this is even legal boggles the mind. I had the same opinion of Rahm Emanuel when he first ran for Mayor of Chicago. Granted, on the issues, Ossoff was a far better choice to represent the people of that district. Handel declaring during a debate that she adamantly opposes the concept of a living wage was enough to prove that.

During the campaigns for other open seats, I would receive emails requesting campaign donations. A few for each Democrat. But if I had contributed in response to each email request for money for Ossoff, I would have probably exceeded my maximum individual contribution at least a month before the election – and I live in PA. The fundraising and star power brought out to endorse and campaign for Jon Ossoff made the Democrats seem almost desperate. Did the Democratic Party forget its abhorrence for big campaign spending, Citizens United, et.al.? The Republicans and various rightwing PACs spent a lot of cash as well, but that’s to be expected of them.

Spending such huge sums to fill a position for less than two years is a big waste of resources – especially if you lose. There is no way the Democrats will give whoever runs for that seat in 2018 anywhere near that much national support in terms of money and/or time for celebrity and heavy-hitter campaigning assistance. Even though the Democrats won all the special elections following the 2008 election of President Obama, they still were swept out of the House majority in the 2010 elections in the Tea Party surge. They should certainly not take these losses as another sign of doom and gloom, but rather as a sign that they need to refine their message and groom candidates to oppose the incumbent Republicans on the 2018 ballot – along with all the baggage they are giving themselves by voting to throw millions off of affordable health care while Making America Great Again for those who are already wealthy enough to buy influence in Washington, DC and state political circles.

The 2012 election helped to show that raising and spending limitless cash doesn’t always translate into winning elections. Buying airtime to broadcast semi-truthful or outright false campaign propaganda does not totally replace the need to have grassroots organizing and door-to-door campaigning. The message needs to be the right one and must be properly conveyed to gain enthusiastic enough support to result in more people actually going out and casting their ballots. Polls show that Trump and Congress are getting more unpopular, especially when it comes to what they are trying to do to us with regard to health care. They aren’t winning much favor with many of their other policy initiatives either. When it comes to campaign promises being fulfilled, the work is becoming a slow slog indeed. Foreign and domestic policies alike are not appearing to make much headway. Even Congressional recesses aren’t fulfilling the purpose they claim, as many Republicans are refusing to even meet with constituents in town hall meetings in order to better represent them in Washington. They know their constituents are getting pissed.

Congress should be doing more than just trying to dismantle as much of Obama’s legacy as it can at breakneck speed. They and the media in general need to focus less on high-visibility investigative hearings and more on fixing the stuff they have systematically broken through their actions and inactions during previous sessions. Taking us back to pre-Obama health care and economic systems didn’t work out well the first time. It won’t work any better now. That just lets the rich get richer and the rest get screwed – or worse. Expect the American Health Care Act to be the talk of the town till the next recess – unless our distraction-loving President decides to start another bombing binge or go on another Twitter tirade about witch hunts. Again, watch what is done, not what is said.

Forget the Russians, We Have Enough Secret Government in the Senate.

As Oversight and Intelligence Committees of the Senate and  House of Representatives hold hearings dealing with possible improprieties perpetrated by the Trump Administration, along with the beginning of investigation by the Office of the Independent Counsel, continue to dominate the national news these days, the Senate Republicans seem to be waiting in the wings to attempt by stealth what few believed could be accomplished through public hearings and normal Senate procedures – passage of a Repeal and Replace Bill for the Affordable Care Act. Mitch McConnell hopes to do his part in reversing still more of Former President Obama’s legacy and he’ll take whatever steps he thinks are necessary to achieve that goal – Senate rules and human decency be damned.

Awhile back, the House of Representatives passed its version of a repeal and replace bill for the ACA. A big congratulatory press briefing was given in the White House Rose Garden, followed by a holiday recess accompanied by numerous contentious town halls in Congressional Districts throughout the land. Many constituents were understandably upset at the thought of their elected representatives voting to take away health coverage for themselves and/or friends and loved ones. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 million people stood to lose their health care coverage as a result of implementation of this legislation in the form passed in the House – with the blessing of President Trump. Of course, the House passed the bill after having failed to do so earlier, and did so WITHOUT benefit of the CBO score. Little to no chance was given for that bill passing the Senate without major revisions.

Whether by design or default, President Trump subsequently stirred up a hornets nest of controversy both domestically and internationally with what many believed to be a disastrous trip abroad to the Middle East and Europe while almost simultaneously setting DC ablaze with the controversial firing of  FBI Director James Comey. Smelling ratings gold, most media coverage swung in the direction of the potential obstruction of justice charges, the appointment of an Independent Counsel and the rest of the chaotic discord which has been attendant upon the President’s many late night/early morning tweets and interviews during which he basically continued to place his foot more firmly inside his mouth by contradicting himself and his staff pertaining to his motivation for his actions. He further added to the confusion by alluding to tapes of meetings he had with Comey (which may or may not exist – he’s still refusing to say).

While all this has been going on, little media attention has been paid to anything else going on in Congress, despite the fact that they have been relatively busy in the background, basking in the inattention being paid to their efforts to roll back Dodd-Frank regulations regarding financial services (setting the stage for perhaps a repeat of the financial meltdown that caused such a disaster at the end of the Bush/beginning of the Obama Administrations). It also helped play into the hands of McConnell and the handpicked group of white male millionaires among his Senate GOP colleagues to secretly work out a plan to deal with the health care situation by stealing from the poor, sick and elderly among us to allow the wealthy to buy more yachts, mansions, or whatever.

The latest plan appears to be to present a bill to the Senate with entirely insufficient opportunity to adequately debate, amend or publicize it in any way before a vote is taken to pass it. A great tactic if you don’t care about at least pretending that you are operating in a democratic society concerned for the welfare of all its citizens and exploring the implications of what you are doing to affect  their future wellbeing BEFORE you pass a bill of such major importance. They figure it’s easier to avoid nasty town halls after the fact than actually discuss the issues with constituents before voting on their future. Congress is becoming increasingly unavailable to the constituents they are ostensibly elected to represent – choosing instead to do the bidding of wealthy donors and corporate lobbyists to help ensure adequate funding for their future election campaigns.

When the ACA was passed, numerous hearings were held in the various committees responsible for it. Many amendments were offered and discussed and voted on – just as is customary in all major legislation proposed for as long as Congress has existed. This Congress has decided to ram through as much as it can with zero input from Democrats or even the public at large. Town hall meetings have become less frequent and less open than ever before as Senators and Representatives become either unwilling or unable to face the constituents who voted them into office and offer them reasoned explanations for the votes they have made either on their behalf or in blatant opposition to their interests.

We don’t know what the Senate version of the AHCA will contain, exactly. It could be less damaging to our health care system than the House passed version or it could ultimately be worse. Passage in the Senate is likely to require more bending of longtime Senate rules – like eliminating the 60 vote rule that allowed Gorsuch to to win confirmation to the Supreme Court. There is little doubt that it will not be an improvement on the ACA in terms of numbers of people cared for and provided with affordable insurance. What is provided will be more expensive for those most in need of coverage and least able to afford to pay for it. If enough damage is done to Medicaid, the result may be a system even worse than the system we had in place prior to the ACA. This is by design, not by accident. The people who stand to gain the most are the wealthy ( who stand to be the beneficiaries of an enormous tax cut bonanza), and  the executives and shareholders of the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries (who will reap still higher profits while providing less service to the people as a whole)

Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the Congressional GOP as a whole have been itching to better serve the interests of the wealthy for many years. They give lip service to talking points that claim they are doing what is necessary to provide quality health care to everyone, when their goal is the exact opposite. This is a ploy to trick us into robbing ourselves of a basic human right and using the proceeds to further enrich the privileged elites who increasingly not only run our businesses and industries but our government as well. They need to be held accountable for this charade and made to become more transparent in the way in which they serve our collective interests. Trump made many promises which are at odds with the establishment GOP line as has been articulated by their Congressional leadership over the years. His wholehearted endorsement of Ryan’s AHCA is  a sellout of his avowed pledge to give us a better health care system than the ACA – one that better serves all of us. He will sign whatever Congress sends him and call it a win.

Whatever becomes of the Trump Administration in the months ahead must not distract us from what Congress is doing and how all the rest of the government is dealing with and treating us as human beings. There are too many people in positions of power at the Federal level as well as in most states for us to take anything for granted. We need to look out for our own best interests as vocally and demonstrably as possible. The majority of our elected officials are not doing that now. Many are striving to make sure we cannot undo the inhumane way they are treating many of us or the inherent inequalities they are perpetuating in both our economic and political systems. That cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged in the future.

Further Suggested Readings:

Top GOP senator: The secretive process of writing the healthcare bill is ‘like having a baby’

How Medicaid, disability cuts would impact the US

The GOP health bill will hurt Americans. Bad backroom deals won’t cure that.

Republicans don’t know what’s in their own health care bill

Here’s a draft of the Senate’s healthcare bill they so don’t want you to see

Senate Republicans intend to ram through secret health care bill

Health care: Democrats can’t hit what they can’t see

Senate GOP’s health care bill is so secret not even Trump’s health secretary has seen it

Latest on the GOP’s secret Senate health care bill

Democrats Turn The Tables On Mitch McConnell As GOP Health Care Bill Sputters Towards Deadline

While You Focus on Comey, Senate Republicans are Launching an Audacious Plan to Pass Trumpcare

KS Mainstream Coalition’s Walk to Raise Hell in 2018

KS is awakening to the damage their hard right Governor and legislature have wreaked on their state. Here’s hoping similar grassroots activism is taking place in the other 49 states.

Aimee Patton

Dear friends at the Sentinel,

You and I have something in common. I know it’s shocking, but hang on and I’ll get to it. Every time I click on your website to read your latest trashing of the KC Star, KCUR, moderate Republicans, all KS Democrats, any common sense legislation or to read your lovefest for Kobach and Brownback, a link pops up asking me for money.  Turns out I’m ALSO asking people for money.

Can you guess what for? A hint. You wrote about it today.

That’s right! It’s for the KS Mainstream Coalition’s Walk to Raise Hell in 2018.

First, I’m not the official spokesperson for the group, but I do belong and support what they stand for.  I’ve been attending their events for the past few years.

You were clever to point out the irony in how our group is trying to “raise hell” when we…

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Donald Trump: A Fate Worse Than Climate Change

In announcing that he was withdrawing US support for the Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump was simply being consistent with all the other environmental decisions he has made since being sworn in ( even before then, if you include nominating Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency). While giving lip service to ensuring that measures will be taken to safeguard our environment, he has shown more interest in allowing corporations to maximize profits by lifting what he and many others refer to as “unwarranted regulations” which hinder their businesses by imposing costly fines, etc., when they pollute the land, water and air in the course of their endeavors.

While the action Trump set in motion will not actually reach fruition until the day AFTER the 2020 Presidential election, and changes may still be taken at the state and local level (as well as by environmentally conscious business leaders and their corporations) to help achieve the goals set forth in the Paris agreement, our President has chosen to side with Nicaragua and Syria as the only other nations to publicly reject the agreement. Taken in combination with his recent trip abroad and his missteps in dealing with NATO allies, it appears as though he is squandering any pretense of taking a leadership role on the world stage to a degree unprecedented (unpresidented?) since the Second World War.

While Trump has promised to work together with the rest of the world to renegotiate a pact that places less of an economic burden on this country, it is seen as a mere continuation of the foot-dragging delays which had been placed on these negotiations for years – often with US corporate business interests in mind. He has failed to adequately explain his lack of concern over the urgency of the situation as articulated by an overwhelming majority of the scientists who have studied the situation. While he is not alone in his scepticism (assuming that it is, in fact, genuine), the truth is that he is not merely resolving to do nothing, he is actively taking steps to make the situation worse.

Since its creation in 1970, during the Nixon Administration, the EPA has been charged with protecting human safety and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.  Scott Pruitt gained recognition as Oklahoma’s Attorney General by filing lawsuits against the EPA on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, which donated heavily to his campaigns. Since his appointment and confirmation, he appears to see himself as overseeing the agency’s demise. A major step in this direction has been a budget proposal for enormous cuts which would reduce the number of employees  significantly starting with the new budget cycle on October 1st.

For his part, the President has promised to back fossil fuel producers, including a promise to revive the flagging coal industry. Promising to increase the number of jobs in coal mining would be a mixed blessing at best. The jobs traditionally paid fairly decent wages. However, the work tended to be dangerous and highly damaging to the health of many long-term miners. Returning jobs to the coal mines is probably not the best way in which to give these people living wage employment. Nor is it in the best interest of people in general to be subjected to increased pollution from burning coal for energy. Likewise, reversing decisions halting the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) aim to increase the amount of Canadian Tar Sands oil and fracked oil and natural gas primarily in the Dakotas, increases the potential for damaging spills and pollution caused by burning those fossil fuels.

Clearly, a need was perceived in this country for an agency to oversee regulation of chemical pollution of the air, water and land in this country long before Climate Change became a public issue. Toxic waste sites were identified decades ago as causes of illnesses and deaths of many of those exposed to these poisons. Acid rain was found to be created by the burning of fossil fuels and caused harm to the forests of the Eastern US. Phosphate runoff was causing serious problems for water systems. Lead in paint and automobile fuel, as well as water pipelines, remains another health risk for millions to this day (Anyone planning to move to Flint anytime soon?). Mercury and pesticides have long-term effects on fish, other wildlife and, ultimately the entire food chain – including humans.

The decision of our President to ignore warnings of impending problems to our way of life if we refuse to alter the direction of our exploitation and abuse of our natural environment for the further enrichment of the minority of oligarchs, hereditary wealthy, corporate executive class is indeed shortsighted. While the wealth and political power of people like Trump can somewhat leave then immune to the ill-effects of their policies and shift the burden more to those who cannot afford to move away from the areas they have befouled with their poisons or the areas which begin to suffer from the devastation of climate change. Toxic waste dumps don’t exist on their resort properties, golf courses or estates. They can afford to have them cleaned up or moved elsewhere – at least for awhile.

In the nonsensical speech announcing his decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement, President Trump said he was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris. He is doing neither, but rather continuing to support the interests of his fellow wealthy elites and contributing to the growing economic and social inequality fostered by the system which made him what he is today. Climate change, like the exposure to pollution that he and Scott Pruitt seem hell-bent on foisting on people in Paris, Pittsburgh and everywhere else on earth for the purpose of increasing profits for the already wealthy on a temporary basis, needs to be dealt with to ensure future livability on this planet. Donald Trump does not see his job as being to “Make America Great Again”, but rather to line the pockets of himself, his family and their cronies.

Listening to Donald Trump blatantly disregard the importance of addressing environmental deterioration at the hands of humans by not only openly breaking with an almost-global climate accord but also rolling back environmental safeguards developed over decades of scientific research overseen by politicians of both major political parties is enough to make one nauseous. Pretending that he is taking these actions to improve our lives is just one more example of Donald Trump doublespeak. While he continues to pull his shenanigans, the media is enabling him to distract us from what is – or is not – being done in Congress. None of his proposals so far, in terms of what he has presented in the form of Executive Orders or proposals concerning health care, taxes or budgets, does anything to improve the lives of more people than it makes worse off. Turning the clock back to the days before the creation of the EPA certainly does not do that. It’s merely another example of a President ruling over us instead of a leader trying to help us move in a direction that improves the lives of all within this society and, by extension, the world at large.

Expect more of this in the days ahead. I’ve seen nothing to encourage optimism that Congress will improve its performance anytime soon. While the cameras are turned onto the current round of hearings, they still need to pass a budget and do the rest of the stuff we pay them to do. McConnell and Ryan will no doubt continue to conspire to get as much of their rightwing agenda passed as possible, rewriting legislative rules to suit their need as they go along. We need the EPA now more than ever. We also need an Executive Branch, Congress and Court system that seeks to alleviate inequalities that exist, not exacerbate them as has been going on more openly than ever before since the GOP took control of Congress and Trump became our Emperor, oops, I mean President. We need a government for us, not the Trumps, the Waltons, the Kochs and their peers.

Suggested Further Readings:

Picking apart Trump’s climate lies is unsurprisingly easy. Here are 9 examples.

Cutting Superfund’s budget will slow toxic waste cleanups, threatening public health and property values

‘Destructive Fossil Fuel Puppet’ Trump Ditches Climate Deal with Fact-Free Speech

If Trump Dumps Paris, Says Naomi Klein: "Time for Some People’s Sanctions"

How an Energized People’s Movement Can Counter Trump and Save the Planet

EPA head Scott Pruitt didn’t show up for a speech in Kentucky, but 175 protesters did

Trump’s Superfund Cuts: Doing Less With Less

Demoralized EPA employees brace for “wholesale war on the environment”

Pruitt Offers ‘Incoherent Distortions of Reality’ in Defense of Paris Exit

The 5 Biggest Deceptions in Trump’s Paris Climate Speech

As far as these states are concerned, the Paris climate agreement is still on

Geraldo To Fox And Friends: ‘You Want Your Kid To Live In A Gas Mask?’

Replacing Trump With Pence Would Be Pointless

Once last November’s American Presidential election results became official, many people began searching for ways to remove Donald Trump from office (some started doing so before he was even sworn in). The most commonly mentioned method for accomplishing this is via impeachment by the House of Representatives and subsequent conviction in the Senate. The House has twice impeached Presidents – Andrew Johnson in the wake of the Civil War and Bill Clinton as a result of the Monica Lewinski scandal. Neither was convicted by the Senate and served out their terms. The House was actively pursuing Articles of Impeachment concerning Richard Nixon as a result of the Watergate scandal in 1974 when he chose to resign rather than face a public trial in the Senate which was likely to remove him from office in any event.

President Trump has been besieged since the early days of his administration by allegations of collaborating (either personally or through his campaign staff) with Russian efforts to ensure his victory in the November, 2016 Presidential contest, or at least the political weakening of his main opponent, former Secretary of State, NY Senator and First Lady Hillary Clinton. In addition, some highly controversial Executive Orders he signed, along with controversial cabinet appointments, ill-advised tweets and an all-out blitz to get the House to pass a bill aimed at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act did nothing to improve his popularity, which was setting record lows for so early in an administration.

The circumstances surrounding the firing of Michael Flynn, his National Security Advisor, as well as his subsequent firing of FBI Director James Comey, have led to investigations in both houses of Congress and an independent counsel. The President’s performance during a recent international tour, topped off by his announcement that he was withdrawing US participation in the Paris Climate change initiatives have not helped his stature among many either here or abroad. Coming weeks promise to bring increased scrutiny to key White House advisors and cabinet members – including his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Attorney General Sessions. The fits and starts that have plagued the investigations and machinations leading to this point have resulted in broadening suspicions of a cover-up similar to the Watergate affair which brought down Nixon.

It’s still too early to speculate on the outcome of any of the ongoing investigations. Whether impeachment will take place or the 25th Amendment clause pertaining to the determination of whether the President can continue to perform his duties or needs to be forced out on those grounds begs the question – what will be left if and when the President is forced from office or resigns on his own accord? How will all this affect the American people and the nation itself on the world stage?

I was convinced prior to his nomination at the GOP National Convention last year that, if elected, Donald Trump would be the worst President of the United States of America in my lifetime, if not ever. He has done nothing since then to disabuse me of this opinion. The key promises he made to convince millions of Americans to vote for him appear to be empty ones. “Make America Great Again” seems to mean, for him, reversing any gains made in areas like health care, workers’ rights, education and the eradication of poverty. The list goes on and on. The health care plan makes life better for the 1% of Americans who receive a huge tax cut as a result. His budget bulks up an already outrageously large defense establishment at the expense of virtually every social program designed to help out ordinary Americans and alleviate the inequalities of an already unjust economic system.

The campaign rhetoric that gained him significant support at the polls in November has thus far seen Executive Orders banning travel to this country by people  from targeted predominantly Muslim countries in order to fight terrorism. The courts have so far stopped orders on the basis of Constitutionality, but the issue remains pending for the foreseeable future. The AHCA, the bill designed to fulfill his campaign promise to repeal and replace the ACA, promises to leave somewhere in the neighborhood of 23 million people without health coverage who are receiving it now, while leaving others among the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions facing enormous premium increases. That’s if the Senate has enough members willing to commit career suicide to pass it there.

Tax and budget proposals, where they have been fleshed out all, appear to basically follow the age-old GOP budget principles backed for years by the tax-cuts-for-the-rich-budget-cuts-for-all-but-defense crowd, led by such people as Speaker Ryan, Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Former Congressman, ex-Governor of Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence. Pence, you may recall, just ended a fairly lackluster tenure as Governor of Indiana, a right-to-work state that did nothing to improve the rights of its workers. He was also at the forefront of a movement to pass laws at the state level known as “Religious Freedom Restoration Acts” designed to again legalize discrimination against LGBT individuals for whom the courts had granted rights in the form of marriage equality, the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military, etc.

Pence has been regarded as a strong fiscal and social conservative throughout his career in public office. His years of political activity and elective office experience would undoubtedly make it easier for him to expedite a legislative agenda through the GOP dominated Congress than it has so far proven to be for President Trump. That would not be a good thing for most Americans – especially those in the states that elected Trump last November who are not members of the top 1% of Americans financially speaking.

When Nixon went through Watergate, which took over two years to conclude, he was preceded in resigning from office by his Vice President, Spiro Agnew. Mike Pence is surely no Gerald Ford. As Trump’s handpicked VP and the person he placed in charge of the transition after the election, it stretches credulity to imagine that he was totally clueless as to the vetting which did or did not take place with regard to the appointments of Mike Flynn, Jeff Sessions, Jared Kushner or others who may end up embroiled in the controversy that has resulted in our current predicament.

Congress has proven itself capable of accomplishing as little as possible without  bringing the government to a total standstill for more than a week or two. This media circus has given them a vacation of sorts from the kind of scrutiny they should be facing for the crap the House pulled passing the AHCA or the total lack of any other sort of serious legislating since they allegedly started this session back in January. The Senate has done little better, managing to confirm the motley cabinet of department destroyers that Trump nominated for Attorney General and most of the other cabinet positions. That’s not to mention nuking the filibuster rule to get Gorsuch confirmed to the Supreme Court – and the ever-present threat to use it again if needed to force through something else in the future.

The major problem I have with the leading Republicans in charge of our government in Washington these days is not that they are not Democrats, but that they are not democrats. We need to stop this creeping regression from democracy into oligarchy and authoritarianism. Simply removing Trump from office is not enough to accomplish that. The increase in activism that has been spawned by some of what has been transpiring since the election may, over time, but it must be sustained. We must not forget to pay less attention to what is being said and more attention what is actually being done. The media seems to focus on shiny things and ignore some of the more subtle backroom goings on that come back to haunt us later. Is Congress going to do anything except hold hearings this year?

Further Suggested Readings:

Notre Dame Graduates Walk Out On Vice President Mike Pence At Commencement Address

The Donald Trump Impeachment Clock Is Ticking

Democrats Come After Mike Pence As Mike Flynn Is Accused Of Lying To The FBI

In Russiagate, Keep Your Eye on Pence

Heilemann: Pence Is Either Lying Or ‘Wildly’ Incompetent

The Post-Trump Era?

Conning the Con Man

Joe Scarborough: Mike Pence Is A Dupe Or A Liar

The Impeachment Trap: Be Careful What You Wish For

Notre Dame Grads Walk Out On VP Pence

Defending students’ Mike Pence walkout using the words of … Mike Pence.

The Case for President Pence

Mike Pence Is Toast: Anonymous Letter To WaPo Shows The Role Of Eric Prince In Trump-Russia

Does It Matter How Trump Goes Or Even That He Does?

War Is A Racket By Major General Smedley Butler

Great speech on war from a general who got it. – RJC

Source: War Is A Racket By Major General Smedley Butler

Doing What We Must: Surviving If You Can’t Pay For Drugs

An area where our health care system falls far short of ideal. The Affordable Care Act hasn’t solved it. The GOP’s American Health Care Act, as passed in the House of Representatives, would only exacerbate it further. Single-payer, anyone? – RJC

SERENDIPITY

Case Management

When you are diagnosed with an illness for which there is no cure, but long time survival is possible, you quickly learn that the most important case manager you will ever have is yourself.  You need to learn everything you can to survive — legally and, if necessary, illegally.  You tend to drop your concern for law when your life is at stake, especially when you will “First, do no harm” (Primum non nocere), the oath of doctors and others helping people survive.

Support group members will urge you to not merely educate yourself about the disease, but to get a good case manager. After you understand all your treatment options and the decisions you will have to make, your case manager can help you navigate the maze of health care bureaucracy. This is important for everyone, whether or not they have a job or insurance. Anyone can be…

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Mission Accomplished?

Remember when, shortly after the American military invasion of Iraq had succeeded in using “Shock and Awe” to depose Saddam Hussein and his government, then-President George W. Bush had made a dramatic landing in a combat aircraft on an aircraft carrier which had participated in the operation? He spoke eloquently of the heroic exploits of the American forces which had freed the Iraqi people from the clutches of the evil tyrant beneath a huge banner which proclaimed “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED”. That was over a decade ago and battles are still raging in that nation, leading many both here and there wondering what that mission was, exactly, and how such a premature victory celebration ever came about at that time.

Now, early in the administration of another Republican President, signs are emerging that newer “victories” are being celebrated by many of our elected officials – accomplishments of dubious distinction and certainly unworthy of the praises put forth by the President and House leaders who worked so hard to achieve them.  Acts which will undoubtedly, if allowed to come to fruition in future months, cost many millions of the American people dearly when it comes to their access to the affordable health care they deserve as their right as human beings.

Immediately upon passage of the highly-touted bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the US House of Representatives, a celebratory press conference was held at the White House Rose Garden, including the participation of high ranking House Republicans and President Trump. After weeks of haggling among themselves on the wording of a bill deciding how to take health care away from millions of Americans in order to cut taxes on the wealthiest among us (including an abortive attempt at passage mere weeks before), a bill finally passed by two votes. All their hard work (which miraculously managed not to interfere with two previously scheduled recesses) came to fruition just in time to wrap up a short session during which they also managed to pass a spending package averting a potential government shutdown for the remainder of this fiscal year.

President Trump, Speaker Ryan and most of the rest of the House Republicans considered this a major accomplishment, fulfilling a campaign promise the President had used to help him gain his new office and his Congressional counterparts had used to either gain or retain theirs ever since passage of the ACA in the early years of the Obama Administration. At what cost – in terms of people losing the health care coverage gained for the first time under the law they were so eager to repeal and long-term budgetary considerations – they had no clue. Heck, they had just voted to pass a bill that few if any of them even knew the contents of, let alone seen a Congressional Budget Office score for. The previous bill, which had insufficient support to pass due to House Freedom Caucus opposition, was predicted to cause a future coverage shortage of up to 24 million people who currently have insurance under the ACA. Since this bill had to be made worse to suit enough people to pass the House, speculation is that even fewer people would have coverage under this revised version, were it to somehow escape the Senate unscathed. That’s unlikely, as the Senate surely won’t pass it without getting a score from the CBO.

As for the President, while the bill would achieve the stated goal promised by his campaign rhetoric by repealing and replacing the ACA, it will actually accomplish the exact opposite of his promise to make health care more accessible and affordable for all Americans. The extremely transparent underlying goal of the whole process is to cut the taxes used to pay the subsidies and Medicaid expansion included in the ACA that make coverage affordable for millions more of us and returning the money to the wealthiest among us, to use as they see fit. The ultimate outcome will be none other than accelerating the growth of economic inequality by shifting more and more resources from the bottom of the economic ladder to the top – Reverse Robin Hood.

So far, Donald Trump’s promises to poor working people of better economic times, the return of good paying jobs from abroad, curtailing illegal immigration to raise wages, spending on infrastructure to boost jobs and the economy as a whole and Making America Great again has seemed to dissolve into a mad rush to enact ill-conceived executive orders that have often been found unconstitutional and rarely beneficial in any substantive manner to any of not included in the top 1%. His insistence on passing the AHCA despite the fact that a vast majority of the American people oppose its provisions is a big mistake which will ultimately backfire – especially if it succeeds in being enacted. Those who voted for him as a voice for the downtrodden against the establishment politicians running Washington of late will not be hoodwinked when they see the direction unfolding in coming legislation represents the longtime GOP agenda which has sought to roll back any gains made by the working classes of this country in the 20th Century to make life easier still for the oligarchs and plutocrats which have dominated GOP legislation of late.

Repealing and replacing the ACA will not accomplish the benefits for the American people that GOP rhetoric has honed into working campaign slogans for most of the past decade. The people get it – as can be seen by activism at town hall meetings held during the many Congressional recesses which are supposed to allow elected representatives to stay in touch with their constituents (voters, not donors). Of course, we’ve been seeing increasing reluctance among supporters of bills such as the AHCA to even answer mail or phone calls from constituents, let alone face them in person at town hall meetings. It’s amazing the amount of interaction I’m seeing from my Democratic House Rep and Senator, while Pat Toomey seems to have disappeared entirely- both in DC and at home here in PA (though he is part of McConnell’s group of white men formed to decide the fate of health care legislation in the Senate).

We need to continue making our voices heard regarding exactly what is being done by Congress and the White House, rather than what is being said. Distractions abound. That is one area at which Donald Trump is a consummate professional. His autocratic tendencies (regarding  issues dealing with Russia, firing FBI Director Comey, military attacks abroad and the like) keep him the center of attention and allow many of us to totally forget about the rest of the government. What passes for action in DC now is not what was intended in the Constitution. Congress spends most of its time conducting high-profile hearings and investigations. Oversight is important, but there is little evidence that any of it is actually being done, rather than just interminably being discussed. The budget, domestic and foreign policy objectives need to become more open and focused on benefitting the country as a whole, rather than just big business and private wealth.

Tell Trump and his GOP Congress to scrap their abomination of a health care bill and instead pass single-payer Medicare for All. Then they can figure out how many of his shenanigans like firing someone for investigating possible wrong-doing by his associates (i.e.- doing his job), sending missiles into a country which has never attacked us or perpetuating foreign wars which Congress has long since abandoned any desire to limit or end. Trump will not do his job unless Congress and the Courts force him to. It seems obvious that Congress won’t do its job unless we force it to. Enough is enough. We need to accomplish real missions, not proclaim victory when reality says the opposite is true.

Further Suggested Readings:

No, I didn’t choose to have a pre-existing condition.

Another GOP Tax Plan for Captains

Trump says he’s stopping jobs from going abroad. Here’s the truth

USW’s Chuck Jones on Donald Trump’s Jobs Record

Cost of National Security: Counting How Much the U.S. Spends Per Hour

Morning Joe On Obamacare Repeal Party: ‘A Sea Of Political Stupidity’

Look at These Republicans Celebrating a Bill That Will Gut Health Care for Millions

How Many People Will Die For Each Rich American’s Trumpcare Tax Cut?

The #IAmAPreexistingCondition hashtag will make you rage cry.

The “pro-life” party has become the party of death: New research on why Republicans hate poor and sick people

A Shameless GOP and the Moral Travesty of Trumpcare

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