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Health Care: Seriously, GOP?

Recently, a battle raged in the US House Of Representatives on a bill designed to begin the process of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (known to its detractors as Obamacare). Republicans had been campaigning for this from the moment it was passed in the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama. President Trump had likewise made this a priority in the campaign leading up to his victory in last November’s election.

While President Trump had backed the House bill, its provisions did not exactly meet the standards he had set forth in his campaign rhetoric. Trump was following GOP orthodoxy in saying that Obamacare was going to implode or explode soon, leaving the country bankrupt while failing to provide the health care the American people need and desire. He claimed it would be simple to eliminate the defective law and replace it with one which would save our health care system and provide everyone with adequate coverage without causing the economy to tank.

The problem with the bill offered in the House was that it did none of these things. Analysis by the Congressional Budget Office said the bill would result in over twenty million people losing coverage in the next decade. Tax cuts to the wealthy and elimination of the individual mandate (which requires each individual to either have insurance coverage or pay a substantial tax penalty) would mean that the system established by the Affordable Care Act would no longer work unless insurance companies were allowed to raise rates for high risk groups or increase deductible levels and out-of-pocket expenditures which would mean coverage would drop to levels which were once again unacceptably high, especially for high-risk groups such as elderly people not yet eligible for Medicare.

In all honesty, the bill seemed more the brainchild of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been angling to reduce costs of Medicaid and Medicare ever since his days as House Budget Committee Chair prior to being the VP nominee on the 2012 GOP ticket under Mitt Romney. The way in which it attacked the Medicaid expansion piece of the Affordable Care Act and slashed the subsidies provided to make insurance more affordable for low-income individuals was in keeping with the principles espoused in his various policy proposals in previous budget cycles. In effect, the plan was becoming a huge tax windfall for the wealthy at the expense of insurance affordability for millions of others.

Other aspects of the new plan would serve to make it less likely for people to seek preventive care, resulting in higher levels of emergency room care, as people would be forced to wait until they were in serious difficulty before seeking care to avoid personal bankruptcy. The American Health Care Act would have benefitted very few relatively wealthy people, their families and corporations which would also see their taxes drop as a result. Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical companies (particularly their executives and shareholders) would also make out nicely under the plan.

Health care is a human right, not a privilege to be meted out in some arbitrary fashion based on economic prosperity, wealth or other discriminatory factor. This is obviously not a universally held opinion. If it were, there is no way in hell anyone would have come up with a system as tilted towards the satisfaction of a need for greed and lack of compassion on the part of a privileged minority as the one that would result from this particular law.

Many on the political left saw numerous shortcomings in the Affordable Care Act. The way in which it catered to both the private Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical industries meant expenses were bound to remain excessive when compared to other nations for comparable care. Making Medicaid expansion so pivotal while leaving it up to the political vagaries of each state ensured that people living in some states would receive better treatment than those living in others.

The GOP has a majority of seats in each house of Congress. Many of those who stand to lose the most by passage of a bill like the American Health Care Act are among those who put the politicians in office who are pushing for it the hardest. The sad truth is, millions of Trump voters also put in office some of the people pushing harder to make the bill even more draconian. The House Freedom Caucus was set to vote against the bill because it didn’t go far enough in reversing the Affordable Care Act. Luckily, it was these representatives who forced Trump and Ryan to scrap the bill – for now.

I am fairly certain that there are more people in this country who favor fixing the problems in the Affordable Care Act by moving in the other direction using a single-payer, Medicare For All approach providing affordable, universal coverage for all regardless of the extraneous arbitrary financial considerations espoused by the GOP and the for-profit privatized model which so many other advanced industrialized nations have abandoned. The health of the people as a whole would definitely be better off moving in that direction, rather than taking care away from millions as would happen under the Trump/Ryan or Freedom Caucus visions.

This battle is far from over. The GOP stands ready to continue its fight against human and civil rights for vast segments of our population in the days to come. Voting rights, reproductive rights and all other rights for people which have been fought and died for by many for ages will stand at risk as long as the right wingers maintain and strengthen their hold on political power at the state, local and federal levels in this country as well as abroad. Remember, as our rights become more restricted and our liberties whittled away in the name of some oddly-framed sense of morality or “national security”, who is doing these things and what they are actually achieving.

Freedom to die sick and miserable decades too soon because a health care system insists on healing only those who can afford to further enrich artificially created and sustained elites is not a freedom many would envy. It’s time for our health care system to move forward into an age where all are treated as equals when it comes to health, education and every other endeavor which our society holds to be important determinants of the future course of our society. We need to stop those currently striving to prevent us from achieving these goals for their own profit, whether it be monetary or other, at each and every opportunity.

Suggested Further Readings:

Chaffetz to low-income Americans: Buy health care, not iPhones

House GOP health bill adds up to big tax cut for the rich

Who wins, who loses with the GOP health care bill’s tax credits

The American Health Care Act Is a Wealth Grab, Not a Health Plan

Republicans Unveil Their Health Care Plan. It’s a Bloodbath.

Republican Congressman Falls Apart And Admits That Sick People Will Be Screwed On Trumpcare

RepubliCare Will Destroy the Individual Health Insurance Market Completely

A Running List of People Who Hate Trumpcare

Palin: Healthcare Repeal Is ‘RINO-Care’

Republican health plan to make millions more uninsured: U.S. congressional report

The Incredible Cruelty of Trumpcare | New Republic

Pressure mounts for changes to ObamaCare bill

Nashville Says “No!” to Trump’s Health Care Con

How Trumpcare Will Crush Millennials and Their Boomer Parents

The Trump-Ryan Healthcare Act: Some Economic Consequences

Trumpcare Saves Social Security By Killing People!

Republicans Want a Rushed Repeal Because They Don’t Have Any Other Plan

For many older Americans, costs rise under GOP health plan

Unfair For Men To Subsidize Maternity Costs?

Just when it seems we may have seen the extremes to which the political right will take its interminable War on Women, some duly elected “representative” chimes in with another attack. Often, as in this most recent case, the issue deals with women’s reproductive health care. These people need to be held accountable for this nonsense early and often – at the ballot box, town halls and any other opportunity that presents itself. – rjc

BroadBlogs

Men help make babies, shouldn’t they contribute to making sure that their babies are healthy?

Some Republicans say it’s unfair for men to subsidize women’s maternity insurance since only women use it.

Really?!

Is it fair that men’s contribution to making babies is a pleasurable orgasm, and that women’s contribution only begins with an orgasm — if she’s lucky (just 30% of US women always climax).

After maybe having an orgasm women end up with all the burden, varying from discomfort to possibly dying in childbirth.

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The Top Way In Which Military Spending Kills Is Not With Any Weapon by David Swanson + 2 Video Reports

Trump’s latest budget proposal, which increases military spending dramatically while cutting most everything else, will not be a wise use of scarce resources. This post explains many of the reasons this is true. The effects such policies have on the world as a whole threaten far more people than the terrorism he proposes to defeat through their use. How much more of these failed antics can we, and the planet, take before clearer heads prevail? – rjc

Source: The Top Way In Which Military Spending Kills Is Not With Any Weapon by David Swanson + 2 Video Reports

Beloved Leader Approves Sessions’ Bigoted View – Supports “States Rights” Lie

An excellent critique of the damage that has been and continues to be perpetrated upon groups of people discriminated against in this country in the name of religion and states rights. Civil liberties and human rights should not be contingent upon which state one lives in – or country for that matter. – rjc

Lean Left

Day 105. 

I think it is time to discuss the Republican lie about “states rights”.  According to Republicans, especially conservatives, that whatever they want as law should be “up to the states to decide”.

This came up again yesterday when trump rolled-back the transgender rule for schools about which bathroom and shower they should be allowed to use.  The order said that children should be allowed to use the bathroom and shower based on their actual gender and not what is necessarily on the birth certificate.

Yesterday, after months of saying he supports LGBT rights, he rescinded this rule.  there is some confusion over the order in that of all people Betsy DeVos was originally against the order.  Sessions reportedly pressured her because he needed the Education Department to back it.  It was also reported that trump pressured her as well, and in the end she caved.

We knew this…

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Unvetted Government Run Amuck

Throughout last year’s Presidential campaign and in the opening weeks of his Administration, Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his opinion that a new form of what he refers to as “extreme vetting” needs to be used to keep America safe from the threat of Islamic Extremist Terrorists immigrating to this country. Apparently, he does not think the same care should be used in filling his own cabinet or other high-ranking positions in his own Administration. Judging from the way in which nominees have been confirmed so far by the Senate, Congress seems to agree with him.

Prior to this year, the sitting Vice President had never cast a tie-breaking vote for confirmation of a cabinet nominee. Mike Pence set a new precedent when he put new Education Secretary Betsey DeVos over the top. Mike Flynn, who did not require consent of the Senate to hold his role of National Security Advisor, was forced to resign less than a month into his tenure – having lost the trust of the President and many others within the Administration and public at large for his role in a still-evolving situation involving Russia that some are comparing to the Nixon era Watergate scandal in severity.

The American voters did not do a particularly good job of vetting Donald Trump prior to his election. We still have no idea what’s in his income tax returns. He has steadfastly refused to make them public, contrary to the fact that such disclosure has been standard procedure for US Presidential candidates for decades. Maintaining this secrecy did not cost him the election, and Congressional leaders who could have legally demanded those records in the meantime have refused to do so. Any potential conflicts of interest which could have been exposed by releasing these tax returns still remain undiscovered as a result. The same may be true of Cabinet nominees (some of whom have already been confirmed by the Senate) who likewise refused to provide standard documentation prior to hearings and Senate confirmation. The recently confirmed EPA head, Scott Pruitt, has been ordered to turn over thousands of emails since his confirmation which could have made a negative impact on his confirmation had they been made available sooner. Perhaps another scandal in the making which could have been averted.

The new Health & Human Services Secretary, Tom Price, has also been accused of using the insider information obtained by being a Member of Congress able to move legislation beneficial to certain companies to make himself additional money trading in their stocks. This became known during the confirmation process but did not prevent his confirmation to the post. On the other hand, Andrew Puzder, CEO of a fast food empire ( a sector of our economy not particularly noted for stellar employee relations), removed his name from consideration when his suitability for the position became widely publicly disputed. The process may have worked in his case, but this has been the exception rather than the rule concerning Trump nominees so far.

Others named to key posts appear to have been named to do some serious face-lifting, if not outright destruction, of the departments they’ve been chosen to lead. For example, Rick Perry, former Texas Governor and two-time failed Presidential candidate, was named Energy Secretary – to oversee one of the departments he vowed to eliminate if elected President. The aforementioned Tom Price, who spent much of his Congressional tenure writing legislation attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has been put in charge of the department which is supposed to assure Americans’ health care. DeVos, with virtually no experience in the realm of public education, seems to be coming with an agenda aiming to privatize as much of it as possible. Scott Pruitt, appointed as the new Environmental Protection Agency Director, after spending much of his time in prior public service suing the EPA in an attempt to remove “burdensome regulations” imposed to protect the environment in order to allow dirty energy producing corporations to maximize profits without the hindrance of having to protect workers or the general public from the harmful effects of the poisons they create and/or dispose of.

President Trump rose to power on a wave of dissatisfaction and disillusionment among many of our citizens when it comes to the establishment politicians who comprise sizable majority of our elected officials. Many of his cabinet picks were chosen precisely with shaking things up in Washington in mind. Unfortunately, it appears that he garnered million of votes from working people who thought he meant it when he said he would make America great again by bringing back good manufacturing jobs for them from abroad and cracking down on undocumented workers here who were taking their jobs and keeping wages low. He played to xenophobic fears of foreign terrorists desiring only to come to this country to kill Americans. Now, apparently, he thinks he has a mandate to do pretty much as he pleases as he pursues an agenda aimed primarily at benefitting oligarchs such as himself and some of the other billionaires and multimillionaires he has surrounded himself with in his cabinet.

Some of the worst appointments our new President has made include those among his inner circle who have been given great power and access to both himself and vital information necessary for conducting foreign and domestic policy implementation, with or without Congressional approval. Steve Bannon was appointed as a key advisor, Reince Priebus as White House Chief of Staff, Kellyanne Conway as Counselor, and others who have been and will continue to perform key roles in the future functioning of the Trump Whitehouse. Bannon, a key element of Breitbart and spokesperson for the alt-right, has been given unprecedented access to state secrets and National Security operations by being added to the National Security Council. Perfectly legal, but totally bypassing Senate confirmation. Same was true of Mike Flynn, short-lived National Security Advisor, and his successor. Members of his family (most notably Jared Kushner, his son-in-law) have also bypassed scrutiny and oversight to potentially wield greater influence over the course of national policy and international relations than ever before.

The apparent lack of any sense of accountability to other government entities or the public at large by this President and his Administration, at least to this point, is deeply disturbing to many of us. His incessant harangues against the media, political opponents or anyone who dares to criticize or question the veracity of his pronouncements or the wisdom of his actions does little to put most of us at ease as to what will come of us as a nation under his rule. Rather than continuing to bully his way forward using the methods he used to get to where his stands today, he would be well-served to listen to some of the criticism that has been forthcoming from those who refuse to be cowed by his bluster.

The American people need and deserve an Administration in Washington that is far more forthcoming than this one has been willing to offer so far. Way too much information that we deserve to have and need access to in order to make informed decisions going forward. This has been true of every Administration I have lived under, but this President is taking it further than ever before. The fact that Trump blames leaks and leakers for merely informing us of what is being done in our names behind our backs (rather than the acts that caused us to be alarmed at what was leaked) for Flynn’s downfall shows a severe lack of moral fortitude pervading this Whitehouse. That starts at the top and works its way down the chain of command. Trump admitted he wanted his National Security Advisor to do the stuff he did that got him fired. The plugs Kellyanne Conway made for Ivanka’s line of products were part and parcel of behavior exhibited by Trump himself on many occasions on Twitter.

We need to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff in the Whitehouse as much as we do among potential immigrants and refugees wishing to come, live and work in this country, if not more so. We also need leadership from a person who can take a joke or constructive criticism, rather than just spouting forth undeserved and destructive criticism to others. This administration is producing far more fake news than the media President Trump regularly rants about. We need an informed citizenry in a truly democratic society to move forward in the future. Time will tell if Donald Trump is willing and able to facilitate that or is hell-bent on destroying any semblance of it while he presides.

Suggested Further Readings:

The dark history of the White House aides who crafted Trump’s "Muslim ban"

Christie: Flynn needs to clear up Russia conversation details with Trump, Pence

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?

Judge’s e-mail order could move Pruitt from frying pan to fire

Sparking ‘The Fight of a Lifetime,’ Senate Puts Fossil Fuel Ally at Helm of EPA

Tom Price is now Health Secretary. Here’s what that means for the future of Obamacare

The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious — and Wholly Justified – Felonies

Steve Bannon Wants To Start World War III

Senate Confirms Trump’s Controversial EPA Pick—Without Reading His Emails

Congressional Cowards Confirm Climate Change Denier While Captain Mar-a-Lago Campaigns

Steve Mnuchin Is No Joe Kennedy and He’s Unfit for His New Gig

New emails shed light on EPA chief’s industry ties

After Mega-Lies by Trump Adviser Stephen Miller, It’s Time to Rev Up the Reality-Based Community

Voter Fraud

President Trump has on several occasions since the November 8, 2016 elections used voter fraud as an explanation for why his main opponent, former Secretary of State/Senator/First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton apparently defeated him by more than 2.5 million votes in the nationwide popular vote. His claim is that he won the election because he won a majority of the Electoral College votes and that the only reasonable explanation for losing the popular vote was that millions of fraudulent votes were cast by ineligible people voting multiple times and/or in multiple locations. Other sorts of voting irregularities cited include votes by deceased individuals who were never dropped from the voter registration checklists, voting under assumed names for people who were registered but didn’t vote and just about every conceivable way to allow his opponent to defeat him. He even called for another investigatory committee to be formed to find out the scope and extent of the actual fraud and make recommendations for preventing such an occurrence in future elections.

The fact of the matter is that such forms of fraud are indeed very plausible in accounting for over one hundred million eligible and registered voters in a national Presidential election in this country. Do voters exist who may be registered in more than community or even more than one state? You betcha! People in this country are not moored in one location throughout their lives. Often, people move from one city or town to another within the same state or even across state lines. Believe it or not, some people do so without informing their local election officials that they are moving (gasp!). They then register at their new home. Does that mean they will then vote twice in the next election? No, and there has been no evidence presented by our beleaguered President and his multitude of fanciful mouthpieces to indicate that such behavior did or even could have resulted in the magnitude of the Clinton popular vote victory.

Likewise, is it possible that deceased voters remain on the voter checklist posthumously? Indubitably, unless local election boards hire people to scan obituaries on a regular basis and ensure proper removal of deceased voters from the rolls. Some even claimed that millions of undocumented immigrants who are not eligible to vote in our elections conspired to cast ballots unanimously for Clinton (this one was directly from Trump’s mouth). While it is conceivable that some undocumented immigrants may have succeeded in registering and voting, no evidence has been forthcoming from the voter fraud lobby proving that this is even a small scale, let alone a large scale issue as put forth by Trump. A nationwide conspiracy as posited by our new President that failed so miserably at capturing the electoral college victory as well truly strains credulity among most of the American public. That’s probably why Trump’s call for an in-depth full-scale investigation has faded into the background in recent weeks. He’s not the first man elected President while losing the popular vote, and likely won’t be the last (as long as the Electoral College remains). He’s President and needs to get over the fact that more people voted against than for him.

There are several reasons to keep these fallacious arguments in mind when dealing with our electoral system. The GOP, in particular, have in recent decades sought to decrease, rather than increase, overall voter numbers. Voter suppression has become more prevalent in states dominated Republican governors and majority Republican legislatures. Recent Supreme Court rulings eviscerating the Voting Rights Act have encouraged more states to take advantage of no longer having to seek Federal approval before passing laws that suppress the votes of minority members of our electorate to strengthen the hold that the GOP has over the political process within those states, and collectively over the composition of Congress. With a new Republican Administration taking over in the White House and Justice Department, even the limited ability to fight against such laws that was exercised under the Obama Administration is likely to lapse. Passing Voter ID laws while simultaneously making obtaining such ID’s increasingly difficult is one way to play to voters’ sense of fairness while simultaneously achieving the unstated goal of reducing the number of people able to vote for one’s opponents.

Another, even more underhanded means by which to suppress opposition in coming elections is to increase penalties for breaking laws meant to stifle dissent – in effect, placing new and more stringent limits on the First Amendment right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest. Most states don’t allow prisoners to vote. Many make it difficult to regain the vote after sentences have been served. Some even make the voting ban for convicted felons permanent. What better way to ensure your political opponents cannot defeat you at the ballot box than denying them access to expressing their political voice at election time?

As stated above, the schemes outlined by our President as making our electoral system vulnerable to intentional abuse can produce fraud committed by voters, but have not been shown to do so in substantial numbers. The bigger threat, as perceived by many others, is in the election fraud committed by those disenfranchising vast numbers of people who are easily discernable by most as being among those who deserve to have a vote that counts. Coming up with new and more ingenious ways of denying them that voice is wrong. We should be doing everything within our power to increase voter turnout, not decrease it.

Furthermore, if we want to make sure every vote is valid and is counted as intended, we should not be eliminating the offices of those who are supposed to be making electronic voting systems as safe from electronic manipulation and fraud as possible. Along those same lines, many votes are cast in each election which are totally electronic. I go to a computer and vote for the various candidates/ballot initiatives on a touch screen. How the vote is ultimately counted is vulnerable to hacking. There is no backup on paper that can be looked at for verification in case of a recount or electronic system failure. Seems like a new electronic version of the “hanging chads” that so famously clouded the 2000 Presidential election in Florida. A different system I used in another state when I lived there used electronic tabulation of paper ballots filled out by the voter that could then be individually counted in case of a recount. That seems to me far less prone to producing inaccurate results than the system I’ve been using more recently.

Don’t let Donald Trump fool you into thinking that he lost the popular vote last November because dead illegal aliens crossed multiple state lines to cast ballots for Hillary Clinton. More likely, he won the Electoral College vote because too many potential Clinton voters were prevented from voting by suppressive election laws in their states, and Congress remained firmly in GOP hands because of nefarious redistricting at the state level after the 2010 census. Individual voter fraud in our elections is so overwhelmed by the broader issues involved in election fraud as practiced on a grand scale by our political and corporate elites as to pale in comparison. Trump’s whining about it from the Oval Office is designed to distract us from the real damage he and the GOP Congress have in store for us if we fall asleep at the wheel and lose sight of the big picture. Watch what he does instead of listening too much to what he says.

Trump: A Blessing in Disguise for Activists? | PROGRESSIVE DEN

Could a Trump presidency actually be a blessing in disguise for activism? In the short span he has been in office, there has been a spike in protests throughout the country with the women’s march the day after Trump’s inauguration being of historical proportions. Hillary in office would have continued the “sleight of hand” approach promising “incremental” change so she could continue using the same warmongering, pay to play policies that have been handed down throughout our government and making them rich for far too long. Our citizens are beginning to realize that both parties have the same central goal: to line their pockets with as much as they can. We now have people from all ideologies coming to the realization that our government no longer represents us, they represent whichever corporation that buys them. Trump and Hillary are actually far more alike than people realize, the big difference between them is that Trump hasn’t been in the political game long and doesn’t know all the

Source: Trump: A Blessing in Disguise for Activists? | PROGRESSIVE DEN

Demand Governmental Transparency

A disturbing trend has quickly evolved in the Trump White House. Not content with repeated bashing the news media and presenting easily debunked falsehoods as “alternate facts”, the President and his staff have begun the task of suppressing dissent within the Administration itself and especially with regard to the agencies falling within the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch of our federal government. The aim here is to provide desired spin on information available to the American public pertaining to controversial issues of national and world importance.

In the weeks since his inauguration, and to some extent even in the period leading up to the election last November, President Trump, in areas such as climate change and energy policy, has repeatedly expressed views that run contrary to those resulting from mainstream scientific study and international agreements designed to deal with the implications of that research. The EPA, USDA and other agencies have been instructed to refrain from public disclosure of much information pertinent to our daily lives and potential dangers the future might hold depending on policies being pursued by our government now.

With regard to climate policy, the GOP’s dogged denial of science in this arena precedes the Trump Administration and has not appreciably changed with his ascension to power. His cabinet selections for head of the EPA, Department of Energy Secretary and  Secretary of State all point towards pursuing policies in this arena diametrically opposed by the vast majority of scientists closely studying these issues. By restricting the flow of information reaching the public, the Administration can craft policies designed to benefit oil, coal and other non-renewable, environmentally damaging industries at untold future cost in terms of environmental degradation and the deleterious effects of climate change which threaten life as we know it on this planet.

Feeding the greed of these major corporations by allowing them to avoid the true burden they place on society in terms of the poisoning of land, air and water, along with the accompanying health problems they cause, is obviously made easier with a populace subjected to misinformation combined with general ignorance of the issues involved. In other words, they are to all intents and purposes treating us like mushrooms – keeping us in the dark and feeding us the organic fertilizer produced by male bovines. This method of keeping secrets from the public – supposedly for our protection, but really to benefit others at our expense – is not new to the Trump White House. He and his staff just seem to be trying to perfect it to a degree that some of his predecessors only dreamed of.

By stifling public discussion at the same time as it takes action to revive plans for pipelines such as Keystone-XL and DAPL, the Administration is demonstrating the sort of moral compass that led to the secret bombing of Cambodia by Nixon, the Iran-Contra shenanigans under Reagan and the invasion and occupation of Iraq by George W. Bush. Plenty of examples exist of Democratic Administrations guilty of similar deceptions, but the Trump team seems to almost brag about what it’s getting away with (so far, at least). The American people deserve better from our government.

Agencies such as the EPA, DOE and USDA, as well as the other regulatory agencies of the federal government, were created to enable much needed regulation to prevent excesses committed by private capitalist corporations from doing serious, often irreparable, harm to many people living here, paying taxes and providing a society in which it is relatively safe for them to conduct business. If such abuses weren’t constantly occurring, these agencies would not have been created to begin with. Weakening the agencies and removing the regulations will not be met with beneficial results for most of us. To the contrary, deregulation will lead to even more abuses of people and the environment, even greater degrees of economic inequality and an increased sense of powerlessness among the people as a whole. Not exactly what most envision as Making America Great Again.

These regulatory agencies are in place to protect the people from predatory business practices , not to be additional tools for the oligarchs to use to more thoroughly control and exploit us. They need to be allowed, or rather ordered, to keep us well informed of the information they have available in order that we may make educated choices to better our lives and society as a whole. Resources must be made available for these agencies to adequately research and enforce regulation to the same ends, not to make America Great Again to primarily benefit a tiny privileged minority running a few mega-corporations to profit from the fruits of the labor of the rest of us.

So far, actions taken by the Trump Administration, with the tacit approval of the GOP-controlled Congress, appear to be meeting the specific campaign promises used to gain votes and “win” the election. The GOP agenda is gradually beginning to take shape, though it has not gotten very far in terms of actually accomplishing the dismantlement of the ACA, workers’ rights and the social safety net that people like Paul Ryan and others have been seeking for decades. The fact that they think it necessary to hide their true aims at the same time as they hide their individual corruption in trying to accomplish their goals indicates they fear they would be removed from office if not given prison sentences if their actions were widely publicized. In the absence of information from regulatory agencies, the Congressional Budget Office and other mainstream avenues of oversight, we will become more dependent on leakers, whistleblowers and investigative journalists than ever before to give us the information we need but our government chooses to hide from us.

We need to demand much more transparency in the conduct of our business by elected and appointed officials. They demand the ability to use surveillance to restrict our freedom and civil liberties in order to keep us safe from terrorists and such. They need more oversight by the people whose interests they purport to represent than they currently allow. The trend to lessen oversight of our elected officials needs to be reversed quickly – lest what little democracy remains for us is totally removed from our grasp. The President, his cabinet, our legislators at all levels of government and our judicial officials all need to be made accountable to us. Tax returns and other such indicators of the way in which these people conduct themselves need to be made more accessible for public discussion. These people need to be able to prove they deserve our trust. They are not worthy of such trust without further verification merely because they say so. Refusing to answer questions that may incriminate oneself is not an unlimited right any more than freedom of speech enables one to incite others to riot without criminal repercussions. We need to know who and what we are voting for in advance – not just left to vote with so many unanswered questions and hoping for the best afterward.

Donald Trump is the President of the United States. That is a position with great power as well as great responsibility. The United States is not a reality TV show, nor is it Trump Enterprises. We need to show him the limits to his power and influence. The demonstrations held across the nation since he took office may be starting to get the message across – to him as well as to Congress – but it’s way too early to tell and way too early to let up on the pressure. So far, he has demonstrated a marked desire to rule, but no desire whatsoever to lead – both with regard to people living in this country and those living abroad. We need a leader far more than a we need a ruler.

 

Suggested Further Readings:

Trump Pins Keystone, Dakota Pipeline Fate on Renegotiation

Tip exposes Trump lockdown of EPA, also USDA, other US agencies

The Trump Administration’s Move To Quiet Government Agencies May Violate Federal Laws

After Obamacare report, Republicans want to kill the CBO. Again

Trump gives National Security Council seat to ex-Breitbart chief Steve Bannon

Trump’s Politics of Repression Promise to Exacerbate Domestic and Global Problems

Sign if you’re not a reporter but want @RealDonaldTrump to release his tax returns

The people have spoken! Petition to Trump to release his tax returns breaks the all-time record

The Trump Administration Really Doesn’t Want EPA Employees Talking to the Press

Edward Snowden: ‘Faith in Elected Leaders’ Is a Mistake Americans Keep Making

Trump bans government scientists from sharing their work with the taxpayers who funded it

Trump Issues Media Blackout at Multiple Federal Agencies

Trump’s Bans

Early in the most recent American Presidential race, candidate Donald Trump proposed a ban on Moslems traveling to the United States as a means of protecting the American people from attacks by Islamic Extremist Terrorists. Now, President Trump has issued an Executive Order to fulfill his campaign promise. At the time of his initial proposal, he encountered vocal opposition from across the political spectrum. Influential members of both mainstream parties questioned the Constitutionality of such a move as well as its wisdom as a tactic in dealing with  terrorist threats, real or imagined. Others felt the maneuver entirely ignored the humanitarian suffering being experienced by millions of people in the war torn region by lumping victims of oppression with their oppressors in denying them an important potential means of escaping their dire circumstances. Furthermore, many see this as arbitrary religious prejudice in a country that prides itself on being a bastion of religious freedom.

Many of the arguments being raised now in opposition to the Executive Order were vehemently expressed when Trump first started to discuss it. He seemed to feel that winning the election was enough to warrant that he take this step to satisfy the portion of his base that liked the idea. It seems safe to say he might have either underestimated the numbers and/or the strength of conviction of his opponents on this issue or felt he could withstand the negative publicity it would generate once it was issued and enforcement action was put into motion. Protests have been mounted across the country and numerous lawsuits filed seeking redress through the court system. The whole issue appears destined to be heard by the Supreme Court eventually, but that will take time to resolve. In the meantime, the United States does not seem to have improved its standing as a tourist destination, and many legal immigrants to this country are on edge lest their status become instantly and arbitrarily reversed as has already happened to many who set out with valid visas to travel here only to find that those visas had been summarily revoked overnight.

The seven nations explicitly banned in the edict – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – are problematic from the start. Sure, terrorist groups and individuals have received training and supplies in those countries, but the single greatest supplier of people responsible for the attacks of 9/11/01 came from Saudi Arabia – including Osama bin Laden. Iraq has numerous people who helped out American forces during our invasion and occupation there who have every reason to fear for their lives if they remain in the country. Likewise, a sizable portion of the Syrian refugee problem consists of people armed by us in their civil war against the Assad government. Is it humane or even wise to leave them in the lurch by disowning them in their time of greatest need?

Certainly, Trump’s act has its share of proponents among the American electorate, but as a foreign policy act aimed at fighting terrorists and protecting American citizens, it may well ultimately prove to be counterproductive. It certainly isn’t building friendships with people being directly affected by it, or the countries singled out for the ban. The US seems to be losing support from some of our European allies and Australia, especially when accompanied by Trump’s blunt, ham-fisted style of twitter diplomacy and the uneven nature of how the edict is being applied in practice. Needless to say, little if any attempt at mitigating the negative impacts unfairly visited upon many thousands of people living legally in this country has been made so far – except for through the courts.

The course of this all may ultimately result in the Executive Order being deemed Constitutional by SCOTUS, especially as the legislative and executive branches of our federal government are firmly under GOP control, which makes their takeover of the judicial branch over time almost inevitable. What little ability remains for the minority party in the Senate to obstruct nominations is all but gone. No one doubts that McConnell will end the filibuster if it looks like a key Administration nomination will be halted short of 60 votes. Reid fought the urge to do so when the Democrats held the majority, but McConnell is not nearly so circumspect. Trump  publicly practically begged him to do it.

The bottom line is the executive order is a religiously-based ban on immigration and refugee resettlement from specifically targeted countries. It assails any pretense the United States may have of being a land that celebrates religious freedom and cares about the wellbeing of innocent victims of conflict in foreign lands. Many innocent people have been put in danger as a direct result of American military and/or covert action in or against their homelands. Throwing away our moral principles by arbitrarily withholding our assistance to others requiring it due to no fault of their own in the somewhat futile search for personal safety and national security is a sorry excuse for perpetrating religious and ethnic bigotry. Our system of vetting prospective refugees and immigrants seeking to live and work here is more than adequate to the task of providing us with reasonable safety and security from the vast majority of people willing to go through it to make a life here. We do not require martial law and abandonment of our individual liberties and collective freedoms to remain safe. In fact, acquiring such a system would be abandoning democracy even more than we have in the years since 9/11. We can’t defeat totalitarianism by becoming authoritarian ourselves. Beating terrorists at their own game by becoming terrorists ourselves is ultimately self-defeating.

President Trump’s Muslim ban, extreme vetting, attempt to increase personal safety for Americans – or whatever name he wants to call – it needs to be halted in its tracks. Banning these people does nothing to make America Great and much to diminish our image abroad. Congress and the Judiciary each has the power and ability to reverse this order, and both should act quickly to do so.

Suggested Further Readings.:

Merkel, May Blast Trump’s Refugee Ban

Hillary Clinton Speaks Out Against Trump’s Refugee Ban

The Donald Trump Fan Detained In His Muslim Ban

The Iraqi Heroes Left Behind By Trump’s Immigration Ban

Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy Schools Republicans on Trump Muslim Ban

Iran Responds to Trump’s Muslim Ban by Banning US Citizens

Trump’s immigration ban just happens to miss countries where Trump has businesses

McCain, Graham lead in GOP criticism of Trump ban, many others stay mum

Schumer tears up over ‘un-American’ ban

President Trump’s executive order is an assault on Muslims, refugees

The Kansas City Protest #NoBanNoWall

Excellent firsthand account by Aimee Patton of the protest in Kansas City against Trump’s recent travel ban aimed at prospective visitors and refugees from some predominantly Muslim countries. Hopefully, this and other protests across the nation will help to halt the xenophobic and Islamophobic hatred which helped propel Donald Trump to the Oval Office last fall. – rjc

Aimee Patton

What would have been another lazy Sunday afternoon, was far from it when I gathered with hundreds of others at Kansas City International Airport to protest against President Trump’s Executive Order barring people from seven Muslim countries for the next 90 days.

Our airport is far from a flourishing international airport.  Most of the international flights are headed to Mexico or Canada, but that didn’t stop this crowd from assembling at our small terminal to send a message.  This ban is wrong. Refugees are welcome in our city.  Kansas City is a friendly and welcoming place for all who are peaceful to settle.  My America doesn’t ban groups of people based on religion.  We don’t favor one religion over another.  My America doesn’t turn our backs on refugees in crisis.  We did once and the consequences were disastrous.  We learn from our mistakes.  Regardless of what President Trump says, I…

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