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Sabotaging America For Fun And Profit

The Trump Administration seems to be on its way to becoming one of the more chaotic presidential administrations in modern times – if not in all of our history. The turmoil and rapid turnover in key positions on the President’s staff, as well as his remarkable penchant for making what many see as outrageous statements on Twitter and on camera, have ensured that he remains a topic of hot discussion in the media despite the fact that he is on an alleged 17 day “vacation” and Congress is in the midst of a month long vacation referred to a recess. Heads keep rolling (figuratively speaking), new revelations keep surfacing related to the various investigations being conducted, and international relations seem to be kept in an extremely agitated state – spurred on largely by a back and forth exchange of pleasantries (please give me some license for sarcasm here) between the heads of state of North Korea and the USA.

Some bottled up frustration on the part of President Trump is understandable. His legislative agenda seems to be at a virtual standstill prompted by more than a month of heavy infighting regarding attempts to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act. Heavy lobbying by the White House managed to get a bill passed by the House, but nothing has been passed in the Senate. Every bill that has made it to a floor vote has promised to take coverage away from millions of Americans. Trump’s campaign promises called for repealing the law, but replacing it with a better one which would improve the level of care nationwide. The President seems to have forgotten or given up entirely trying to fulfill that promise, and has at times even supported the notion of letting the system implode, resulting in untold misery for millions of Americans and major damage to the private health insurance industry as a whole.

Another area of the health care debate involved major cuts to the Medicaid budget. Hundreds of billions would be slashed in Medicaid, despite Trump’s campaign promise not to attack Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. The people who would be most negatively affected by either version up for discussion in Congress would have been the poor, elderly, disabled and those with other pre-existing conditions which historically have made it difficult and extremely expensive to cover. To sabotage the current system rather than fixing it is absolutely unconscionable for any person looking out for the welfare of the people supposedly being represented by this government – up to and including our President. No one, including Congressional Democrats and advocates of single-payer, universal coverage, thinks the ACA is flawless, but short-term fixes to stabilize markets is certainly preferable to throwing millions of people to the wolves with no coverage at all.

The beneficiaries of such sabotage would be the nation’s wealthiest taxpayers – who would receive tax cuts paid for by the hundreds of billions of dollars of cuts to Medicaid. Ironically, some of those hardest hit by these cuts would be millions of Trump’s most ardent supporters in last year’s election. No good deed goes unpunished, right, Mr. President?

An argument could be made that most of the composition of Trump’s cabinet has been aimed at a general sabotage of many of the safeguards that have been implemented from the New Deal era right up to the present. Public withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, as well as rollbacks of numerous environmental regulations to appease corporate oligarchs in their insatiable search for ever-higher profits, endanger future habitability of the planet as well as the health and wellbeing of those poor enough not to be able to avoid the more immediate health consequences of living in close proximity to the toxins in the increased pollution. Why is he pushing for more fossil fuel extraction and its inherent ecological dangers rather than jobs dealing with cleaner forms of energy?

Moves afoot regarding labor also involve making union organizing more difficult and giving increased power to corporate management over their workers. As if the race to the bottom in terms of wages and working conditions brought about by state right-to-work (for less) laws and the advent of corporate friendly international “free trade” agreements wasn’t already a bane on the existence of ordinary workers – the powers that be in the Trump Administration are seeking to increase the level of wealth and income inequality between corporate executives, shareholders and workers even more. Make America Great Again for Wall Street, but not Main Street? No, thanks.

In areas under the purview of the Justice Department, Jeff Sessions (allegedly one of the President’s targets for elimination, due to his following the law and recusing himself in areas related to the Russian collaboration investigations) is promising and already delivering on rolling back much of the progress achieved by previous administrations. Civil Rights, Civil Liberties, the War on Drugs and Criminal Justice Reforms are all being systematically attacked – to the detriment of LGBTQ individuals, minority racial, ethnic and religious groups, voters, and others subject to the long arm of the federal judiciary. Selective enforcement and severity of punishment are beginning to harken back to the way things were when conventional wisdom thought refusing civil rights to some groups of people was acceptable and the mass incarceration for long periods of time for non-violent drug offenses was deemed appropriate. That’s backsliding, not progress.

Our democracy is under further attack directly by the President in the form of his bogus committee investigating allegedly widespread voter fraud to further disenfranchise eligible voters more likely to vote against the GOP in future elections. Even public education is being attacked by an Education Secretary who favors privatization of public schools in the form of for-profit charter schools – another recipe for increased societal inequality in terms of educational opportunity.

The Trump agenda, as articulated on the campaign trail in the lead-up to last November’s election, appears to have been largely supplanted by the reactionary Ryan budget from his time as House Budget Committee Chair during the Obama Administration. His promises to bring back good jobs that were shipped abroad to take advantage of cheaper labor seem to be coming up short so far. His promise of a greater economy providing wage growth for all, with more and better jobs, also seems to be harder to achieve than he led his supporters to believe.

The devil lies in the details, many of which will come to the fore once Congress returns to sort out the latest debt ceiling crisis, budget for the coming fiscal year and any tax reforms it manages to push through, but I don’t hold out much hope for anyone who isn’t already in the top 1% economically being placed on better footing by this Administration and Congress. If your idea of Making America Great Again is to make the already wealthy wealthier, the already powerful more powerful and inequalities and inequities in most every facet of lives being brought to new extremes, Trump and this Congress may accomplish it. That is not my vision of a greater society. I sincerely doubt it fits that bill for most of those who voted for Trump last fall, either.

What effect our President’s bombastic approach to foreign policy – diplomatic, military or otherwise – will have on future events is difficult to predict. His recent performance in dealing with rightwing extremism and white supremacists here at home has shown more people than ever before his unsuitability for the job he was chosen for. The constant turmoil and sense of desperation he demonstrates on a regular basis in his dealings with political foes and allies alike, as well as the news media, may make for good TV ratings, but it does not bode well for either his public approval polling or the wellbeing of either the country or the people comprising its residents and citizenry. Nobody, except perhaps for his family and closest associates, voted for Donald Trump to become President so he could line his pockets at our expense. Based on his conduct so far in office, it certainly appears that may have been a major motivating factor in getting him to run – that and the fact that he’s getting more media attention than he ever dreamed possible.

We need a President and Congress more responsive to the needs and aspirations of all of this country’s people. I don’t foresee this particular group of individuals making much headway in that direction unless we cause even more of a ruckus than we have so far. At the very least, we need to make sure enough of us can still vote in 2018 to throw a good portion of them out of office and into the unemployment line.

Further Suggested Readings:

Sen. Bernie Sanders: Trump ‘wants to sabotage health care in America’

Senator announces bipartisan health care hearing on Obamacare

6-Month Update for Trump Voters

Red Alert: Team Trump Unveils Anti-Planet, Anti-Worker Corporate Wish List

Health Care in a Time of Sabotage

Trump’s Bid to Pit Black and Brown Workers Against Each Other

Sabotaging Obamacare

Trump’s In-Your-Face Impeachable Offense

Trump’s Justice Department Says Gays Aren’t Eligible for Civil Rights Protections

Trump’s terrorism adviser downplays white supremacist violence

Climate Science Out, Coal In: EPA Exhibit Will Reflect Trump’s Agenda

Former DOJ Civil Rights Head: Jeff Sessions Is Implementing an Anti-Civil Rights Agenda

Donald Trump can’t stop failing tests of moral leadership

GOP senator: racist groups think ‘they have a friend’ in Trump

NYPD slams ‘irresponsible’ Trump comments urging police not to be ‘too nice’ to suspects

White House Doubles Down On Transgender Military Ban

Trump Bulldozes Environmental Laws to Pave Way for ‘Xenophobic’ Border Wall

Trump expected to roll back LGBT protections in ObamaCare

Trump’s EPA May Be Weakening Chemical Safety Law

Uncle Sam’s Grisly Record of Murder and Mayhem Since 1945 by Paul Street

Source: Uncle Sam’s Grisly Record of Murder and Mayhem Since 1945 by Paul Street

The title speaks for itself. – RJC

Trump and “Total Solutions” 

Thoughts to ponder as the state of chaos dominating the Trump Administration seems to be intensifying on an almost daily basis. The most recent shakeup in the cabinet and White House Staff does little to instill confidence in the President’s leadership ability in either domestic or international policy arenas at this point. Is this situation what Trump voters envisioned last November, or even as recently as his inauguration in January? Something makes me doubt that, but the question remains – what next? How will this situation be resolved in a manner that best serves the American people and the world at large? – RJC

Padre Steve's World...Musings of a Progressive Realist in Wonderland


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

On this day in 1941 it appeared to Hitler and his henchmen that the Wehrmacht would soon defeat Stalin’s Red Army and Complete Hitler’s conquest of the European continent. In the cold blooded calculations of the Nazis it was time to begin the planning to settle their accounts with the Jews. On that day, seventy-six years ago Herman Goering, acting on the orders of Adolf Hilter sent the following order to Reinhard Heydrich, the head of Himmler’s Sicherheitsdienst and the Reichssicherheitshauptamt or Reichs Security Main Office:

Berlin, July 31st 1941

To: Gruppenfuhrer Heydrich

Supplementing the task assigned to you by the decree of January 24th 1939, to solve the Jewish problem by means of evacuation and emigration in the best possible way by according to present conditions, I hereby charge you to carry out preparations as regards organizational, financial, and material matters for a total…

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Preventing Trump’s Wars

In recent weeks, we’ve witnessed typical DC turmoil regarding both President Trump’s Administration and the GOP dominated Congress. News seems to center around three main areas – the Russian/election tampering/Trump campaign alleged collusion dealing with last fall’s election, the Senate’s continuing attempts to make a mess  of the American health care system and President Trump’s somewhat contradictory attempts to show international leadership while withdrawing from major international commitments at the same time.

These aforementioned circumstances have served very nicely to give Donald Trump pretty much a blank check to do as he wishes with regard to our military adventures abroad. In the wake of the terrorist attacks on this country on 9/11/01, Congress took action passing legislation giving the George W. Bush Administration great leeway to deal with the aftermath of the death and destruction wreaked on the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania by Al Qaeda on 9//11. Homeland Security was formed. Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded. Trillions have been spent. Thousands of Americans have been killed with many thousands more wounded. Untold numbers of people in Iraq and Afghanistan – many innocent civilian men, women and children – also became casualties.

The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress nearly 16 years ago with nearly unanimous consent, along with the US Patriot Act, have been used right up to the present with little change to justify acts by our government not directly addressed or even foreseen as possibilities at the time of their passage. These include all of the activity conducted during the Arab Spring uprisings (particularly the enormously chaotic regime change that occurred in Libya which to this day remains destabilized beyond recognition) the intervention in the Syrian civil war and the multinational war on ISIS.

Whereas President George W. Bush sought broad multinational support, both in the UN and from our NATO allies in the military actions perpetrated against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the subsequent regime change invasion of Iraq (based to a great degree upon either faulty intelligence reporting or outright fabrication of evidence), he was not as successful as his father had been in achieving a coalition of allies leading up to the first Iraq War in 1991. When the situation in Iraq and Syria deteriorated and ISIS made its prominence felt in its use of graphic acts carried out in the course of forming its announced caliphate, President Obama, recognizing the inadequacy of the earlier AUMF, asked Congress to pass a new one to deal with the changed situation on the ground. Congress, as has been its wont in recent years, declined to do so – refusing, in effect, to perform its Constitutional responsibilities with regard to the conduct of military operations.

There has, in recent years, been increasing support within Congress to more adequately oversee and provide checks and balances on the authority of the Executive branch in time of war. So far, this support has been insufficient to rectify our government’s inability to deal with international conflict. Congress has not officially declared war since World War II. To state that this means that the United States has not been at war since then would be grounds for committal to a mental institution (or at least evidence of a severe lack of education in history). The war in Afghanistan has become the longest war in US history. There is no end in sight. President Trump is proposing to send in more troops once again to (hopefully, finally) stabilize the situation there. The situation regarding ISIS in Iraq and Syria seems to be stabilizing, thanks to enormous military expenditures by the US to arm and train  Iraqi forces, which recently resulted in the retaking of Mosul from ISIS (at great cost to the civilian population).

Syria seems to still be a somewhat intractable situation, largely due to the close proximity of American, Russian and Iranian forces, as well as Kurdish and Turkish intervention, the various factions of other internal opposition forces and the remnants of ISIS there. President Trump has not seemed to help matters. His use of guided missiles in an attack alleged to be a reprisal for a new use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against its own people certainly risked further escalation at the expense of millions of dollars that could obviously have been better spent. An American plane shooting down a Syrian one did nothing to defuse the situation. With American and Russian forces apparently working at cross purposes within the country, the opportunity for serious “accidents” to escalate frictions certainly continues to exist. The fact is, Syria does not now present a danger to the security of United States and never has. We have no business under international law to be shooting their planes down over their own territory when we have no business being there to begin with.

The entire Middle East seems to be a cauldron of conflict with our meddling, either through special forces, air and sea support or huge arms sales to those participating on all sides of the conflict (along with other nations weaponry being supplied to a lesser degree) seems to making the situation deteriorate even further. Witness the Saudi incursion in Yemen and the recent fare-up in tensions regarding Qatar. We cannot afford to allow one man to determine our entire foreign policy throughout the world without significant oversight from Congress.

The North Korean situation is even more troubling, with two seemingly extremely volatile leaders vying to outdo each other with their bravado. Thousands of American troops, along with millions of Korean civilian and military people, stand at risk of life and limb should that situation take a turn for the worst – not to mention potential escalation to Japan, China and even Russia. Trump’s apparent willingness, perhaps even desire, to go it alone in dealing with the rest of the world is troubling, especially when combined with a penchant to spout off in anger inappropriately at the least provocation or perceived personal slight. One need only peruse his Twitter feed or watch and listen to some of his speeches – campaign and otherwise – to come to this conclusion.

Congress needs to get its act together. Eight years of almost total lack of legislative activity and ignoring so many of their Constitutionally mandated duties to the American people need to be reversed. The Executive branch must be held accountable to us through the work of our elected representatives. They need to do more than raise campaign funds, pass what they call budget bills at the last minute and hold interminable investigative hearings on momentous issues that result in absolutely nothing that benefits us as people or as a nation. Pass a new AUMF and hold the President and the Pentagon responsible for how they spend the hundreds of billions of taxpayer money they are given every year to the same extent that they grill the administrators of the programs that benefit real people here and abroad. Start treating our children and aging citizens better and stop devoting such a large share of our resources to benefit the bomb builders and others who manufacture our weapons of mass destruction.

I do not place much faith in Donald Trump’s leadership ability or his commitment to improving the wellbeing of anyone outside of his immediate family or social circles. Continuing to allow him to wield the powers he possesses as President of the United States of America effectively unfettered by the checks and balances put in place in our Constitution is a mistake for which future generations may not be willing or able to forgive us.

Further Suggested Readings:

Tim Kaine: U.S. strikes on Syrian forces ‘completely illegal’

Resist This: The United States Is At War With Syria

Another Step Toward Devastating War

After 16 Years, House Panel Takes Step to Cancel ‘Blank Check for Endless War’

Congress mulls new checks on military power

Washington’s War Crimes in Syria

Fueling ‘Perpetual War,’ Trump to Send 4,000 Troops to Afghanistan

America Illegally At War For a Long Time Now

Lawmakers applaud after panel approves language revoking war authority

Are We Finally Ending The 9/11 Undefined Blank Check For ‘War’?

Our President’s Word Wars

The Trump Administration’s Penchant for Escalation in Syria Must Be Challenged

Make No Mistake, We Are Already at War in Syria

U.S. officials believe North Korea has tested ICBM capable of reaching Alaska

Trump’s Policy Is Clear: Civilian Casualties Don’t Matter in the War on Terror

Wag the Dog? Offering No Proof, Trump Threatens New Attacks Against Syria

Stop the War’s Statement on Trump’s Claims About Syria

Nuclear Weapons: Barbaric Tools of Insecurity by Graham Peebles + 122 Nations Create Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons by David Swanson

Given the current state of affairs in the world today regarding nuclear weapons and the volatility of some of the leaders of the nations that possess them, this is an appropriate time for thoughtful discussion on the topic of nuclear disarmament of nations already in possession of such weapons – not merely preventing new nations from possessing them. No nation – let alone any one political regime or individual – deserves to have the threat posed by the destructive power of these weapons. The hypocrisy being displayed by the current owners of these weapons through their unwillingness to even broach the topic of nuclear disarmament is appalling. – rjc

Source: Nuclear Weapons: Barbaric Tools of Insecurity by Graham Peebles + 122 Nations Create Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons by David Swanson

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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