Thursday, April 13, 2017

Brilliant... Just Watch it.

Rachel Maddow with a brilliant examination of one what is fundamentally wrong with the Trump Administration .


Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Part Three in the LA Times Editorial Series on the Trump Presidency


Trump’s Authoritarian Vision

By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

APRIL 4, 2017


Standing before the cheering throngs at the Republican National Convention last summer, Donald Trump bemoaned how special interests had rigged the country’s politics and its economy, leaving Americans victimized by unfair trade deals, incompetent bureaucrats and spineless leaders.

He swooped into politics, he declared, to subvert the powerful and rescue those who cannot defend themselves. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

To Trump’s faithful, those words were a rallying cry. But his critics heard something far more menacing in them: a dangerously authoritarian vision of the presidency — one that would crop up time and again as he talked about overruling generals, disregarding international law, ordering soldiers to commit war crimes, jailing his opponent.

Trump has no experience in politics; he’s never previously run for office or held a government position. So perhaps he was unaware that one of the hallmarks of the American system of government is that the president’s power to “fix” things unilaterally is constrained by an array of strong institutions — including the courts, the media, the permanent federal bureaucracy and Congress. Combined, they provide an essential defense against an imperial presidency.

Yet in his first weeks at the White House, President Trump has already sought to undermine many of those institutions. Those that have displayed the temerity to throw some hurdle in the way of a Trump objective have quickly felt the heat.

Consider Trump’s feud with the courts.

He has repeatedly questioned the impartiality and the motives of judges. For example, he attacked the jurists who ruled against his order excluding travelers from seven majority Muslim nations, calling one a “so-called judge” and later tweeting:

Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2017

It’s nothing new for presidents to disagree with court decisions. But Trump’s direct, personal attacks on judges’ integrity and on the legitimacy of the judicial system itself — and his irresponsible suggestion that the judiciary should be blamed for future terrorist attacks — go farther. They aim to undermine public faith in the third branch of government.

The courts are the last line of defense for the Constitution and the rule of law; that’s what makes them such a powerful buffer against an authoritarian leader. The president of the United States should understand that and respect it.

Other institutions under attack include:

1 The electoral process. Faced with certified election results showing that Hillary Clinton outpolled him by nearly 3 million votes, Trump repeated the unsubstantiated — and likely crackpot — assertion that Clinton’s supporters had duped local polling places with millions of fraudulent votes. In a democracy, the right to vote is the one check that the people themselves hold against their leaders; sowing distrust in elections is the kind of thing leaders do when they don’t want their power checked.

2 The intelligence community. After reports emerged that the Central Intelligence Agency believed Russia had tried to help Trump win, the president-elect’s transition team responded: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” It was a snarky, dismissive, undermining response — and the administration has continued to belittle the intelligence community and question its motives since then, while also leaking stories about possibly paring and restructuring its ranks.

It is bizarre to watch Trump continue to tussle publicly with this particular part of the government, whose leaders he himself has appointed, as if he were still an outsider candidate raging against the machine. It’s unnerving too, given the intelligence services’ crucial role in protecting the country against hidden risks, assisting the U.S. military and helping inform Trump’s decisions.

3 The media. Trump has blistered the mainstream media for reporting that has cast him in a poor light, saying outlets concocted narratives based on nonexistent anonymous sources. In February he said that the “fake news” media will “never represent the people,” adding ominously: “And we’re going to do something about it.” His goal seems to be to defang the media watchdog by making the public doubt any coverage that accuses Trump of blundering or abusing his power.

4 Federal agencies.
In addition to calling for agency budgets to be chopped by up to 30%, Trump appointed a string of Cabinet secretaries who were hostile to much of their agencies’ missions and the laws they’re responsible for enforcing. He has also proposed deep cuts in federal research programs, particularly in those related to climate change. It’s easier to argue that climate change isn’t real when you’re no longer collecting the data that documents it.

In a way, Trump represents a culmination of trends that have been years in the making.

Conservative talk radio hosts have long blasted federal judges as “activists” and regulators as meddlers in the economy, while advancing the myth of rampant election fraud. And gridlock in Washington has led previous presidents to try new ways to circumvent the checks on their power — witness President George W. Bush’s use of signing statements to invalidate parts of bills Congress passed, and President Obama’s aggressive use of executive orders when lawmakers balked at his proposals.

What’s uniquely threatening about Trump’s approach, though, is how many fronts he’s opened in this struggle for power and the vehemence with which he seeks to undermine the institutions that don’t go along.    It’s one thing to complain about a judicial decision or to argue for less regulation, but to the extent that Trump weakens public trust in essential institutions like the courts and the media, he undermines faith in democracy and in the system and processes that make it work.

“He sees himself as not merely a force for change, but as a wrecking ball.”

Trump betrays no sense for the president’s place among the myriad of institutions in the continuum of governance. He seems willing to violate long-established political norms without a second thought, and he cavalierly rejects the civility and deference that allow the system to run smoothly. He sees himself as not merely a force for change, but as a wrecking ball.

Will Congress act as a check on Trump’s worst impulses as he moves forward? One test is the House and Senate intelligence committees’ investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election; lawmakers need to muster the courage to follow the trail wherever it leads. Can the courts stand up to Trump? Already, several federal judges have issued rulings against the president’s travel ban. And although Trump has railed against the decisions, he has obeyed them.

None of these institutions are eager to cede authority to the White House and they won’t do so without a fight. It would be unrealistic to suggest that America’s most basic democratic institutions are in imminent jeopardy.

But we should not view them as invulnerable either. Remember that Trump’s verbal assaults are directed at the public, and are designed to chip away at people’s confidence in these institutions and deprive them of their validity. When a dispute arises, whose actions are you going to consider legitimate? Whom are you going to trust? That’s why the public has to be wary of Trump’s attacks on the courts, the “deep state,” the “swamp.” We can’t afford to be talked into losing our faith in the forces that protect us from an imperial presidency.

This is the third in a series.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Part Two in the LA Times Editorial Series on the Trump Presidency

Why Trump lies

By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

APRIL 3, 2017

Donald Trump did not invent the lie and is not even its master. Lies have oozed out of the White House for more than two centuries and out of politicians’ mouths — out of all people’s mouths — likely as long as there has been human speech.

But amid all those lies, told to ourselves and to one another in order to amass power, woo lovers, hurt enemies and shield ourselves against the often glaring discomfort of reality, humanity has always had an abiding respect for truth.

In the United States, born and periodically reborn out of the repeated recognition and rejection of the age-old lie that some people are meant to take dominion over others, truth is as vital a part of the civic, social and intellectual culture as justice and liberty. Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.

Even American leaders who lie generally know the difference between their statements and the truth. Richard Nixon said “I am not a crook” but by that point must have seen that he was. Bill Clinton said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” but knew that he did.

“He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes."

The insult that Donald Trump brings to the equation is an apparent disregard for fact so profound as to suggest that he may not see much practical distinction between lies, if he believes they serve him, and the truth.

His approach succeeds because of his preternaturally deft grasp of his audience. Though he is neither terribly articulate nor a seasoned politician, he has a remarkable instinct for discerning which conspiracy theories in which quasi-news source, or which of his own inner musings, will turn into ratings gold. He targets the darkness, anger and insecurity that hide in each of us and harnesses them for his own purposes. If one of his lies doesn’t work — well, then he lies about that.

If we harbor latent racism or if we fear terror attacks by Muslim extremists, then he elevates a rumor into a public debate: Was Barack Obama born in Kenya, and is he therefore not really president?


An 'extremely credible source' has called my office and told me that @BarackObama's birth certificate is a fraud.


If his own ego is threatened — if broadcast footage and photos show a smaller-sized crowd at his inauguration than he wanted — then he targets the news media, falsely charging outlets with disseminating “fake news” and insisting, against all evidence, that he has proved his case (“We caught them in a beauty,” he said).

If his attempt to limit the number of Muslim visitors to the U.S. degenerates into an absolute fiasco and a display of his administration’s incompetence, then he falsely asserts that terrorist attacks are underreported. (One case in point offered by the White House was the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, which in fact received intensive worldwide news coverage. The Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the subject).

If he detects that his audience may be wearying of his act, or if he worries about a probe into Russian meddling into the election that put him in office, he tweets in the middle of the night the astonishingly absurd claim that President Obama tapped his phones. And when evidence fails to support him he dispatches his aides to explain that by “phone tapping” he obviously didn’t mean phone tapping. Instead of backing down when confronted with reality, he insists that his rebutted assertions will be vindicated as true at some point in the future.

Trump’s easy embrace of untruth can sometimes be entertaining, in the vein of a Moammar Kadafi speech to the United Nations or the self-serving blathering of a 6-year-old.

“He gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.”

But he is not merely amusing. He is dangerous. His choice of falsehoods and his method of spewing them — often in tweets, as if he spent his days and nights glued to his bedside radio and was periodically set off by some drivel uttered by a talk show host who repeated something he’d read on some fringe blog — are a clue to Trump’s thought processes and perhaps his lack of agency. He gives every indication that he is as much the gullible tool of liars as he is the liar in chief.

He has made himself the stooge, the mark, for every crazy blogger, political quack, racial theorist, foreign leader or nutcase peddling a story that he might repackage to his benefit as a tweet, an appointment, an executive order or a policy. He is a stranger to the concept of verification, the insistence on evidence and the standards of proof that apply in a courtroom or a medical lab — and that ought to prevail in the White House.

There have always been those who accept the intellectually bankrupt notion that people are entitled to invent their own facts — consider the “9/11 was an inside job” trope — but Trump’s ascent marks the first time that the culture of alternative reality has made its home at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

If Americans are unsure which Trump they have — the Machiavellian negotiator who lies to manipulate simpler minds, or one of those simpler minds himself — does it really matter? In either case he puts the nation in danger by undermining the role of truth in public discourse and policymaking, as well as the notion of truth being verifiable and mutually intelligible.

In the months ahead, Trump will bring his embrace of alternative facts on the nation’s behalf into talks with China, North Korea or any number of powers with interests counter to ours and that constitute an existential threat. At home, Trump now becomes the embodiment of the populist notion (with roots planted at least as deeply in the Left as the Right) that verifiable truth is merely a concept invented by fusty intellectuals, and that popular leaders can provide some equally valid substitute. We’ve seen people like that before, and we have a name for them: demagogues.

Our civilization is defined in part by the disciplines — science, law, journalism — that have developed systematic methods to arrive at the truth. Citizenship brings with it the obligation to engage in a similar process. Good citizens test assumptions, question leaders, argue details, research claims.

Investigate. Read. Write. Listen. Speak. Think. Be wary of those who disparage the investigators, the readers, the writers, the listeners, the speakers and the thinkers. Be suspicious of those who confuse reality with reality TV, and those who repeat falsehoods while insisting, against all evidence, that they are true. To defend freedom, demand fact.

This is the second in a series.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Los Angeles Times Editorial - Our Dishonest President


By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD

APRIL 2, 2017

It was no secret during the campaign that Donald Trump was a narcissist and a demagogue who used fear and dishonesty to appeal to the worst in American voters. The Times called him unprepared and unsuited for the job he was seeking, and said his election would be a “catastrophe.”

Still, nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck. Like millions of other Americans, we clung to a slim hope that the new president would turn out to be all noise and bluster, or that the people around him in the White House would act as a check on his worst instincts, or that he would be sobered and transformed by the awesome responsibilities of office.

Instead, seventy-some days in — and with about 1,400 to go before his term is completed — it is increasingly clear that those hopes were misplaced.

In a matter of weeks, President Trump has taken dozens of real-life steps that, if they are not reversed, will rip families apart, foul rivers and pollute the air, intensify the calamitous effects of climate change and profoundly weaken the system of American public education for all.

His attempt to de-insure millions of people who had finally received healthcare coverage and, along the way, enact a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich has been put on hold for the moment. But he is proceeding with his efforts to defang the government’s regulatory agencies and bloat the Pentagon’s budget even as he supposedly retreats from the global stage.

“It is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation.”

These are immensely dangerous developments which threaten to weaken this country’s moral standing in the world, imperil the planet and reverse years of slow but steady gains by marginalized or impoverished Americans. But, chilling as they are, these radically wrongheaded policy choices are not, in fact, the most frightening aspect of the Trump presidency.

What is most worrisome about Trump is Trump himself. 

He is a man so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality that it is impossible to know where his presidency will lead or how much damage he will do to our nation. His obsession with his own fame, wealth and success, his determination to vanquish enemies real and imagined, his craving for adulation — these traits were, of course, at the very heart of his scorched-earth outsider campaign; indeed, some of them helped get him elected. But in a real presidency in which he wields unimaginable power, they are nothing short of disastrous.

Although his policies are, for the most part, variations on classic Republican positions (many of which would have been undertaken by a President Ted Cruz or a President Marco Rubio), they become far more dangerous in the hands of this imprudent and erratic man. Many Republicans, for instance, support tighter border security and a tougher response to illegal immigration, but Trump’s cockamamie border wall, his impracticable campaign promise to deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally and his blithe disregard for the effect of such proposals on the U.S. relationship with Mexico turn a very bad policy into an appalling one.

In the days ahead, The Times editorial board will look more closely at the new president, with a special attention to three troubling traits:


1. Trump’s shocking lack of respect for those fundamental rules and institutions on which our government is based. 

Since Jan. 20, he has repeatedly disparaged and challenged those entities that have threatened his agenda, stoking public distrust of essential institutions in a way that undermines faith in American democracy. He has questioned the qualifications of judges and the integrity of their decisions, rather than acknowledging that even the president must submit to the rule of law. He has clashed with his own intelligence agencies, demeaned government workers and questioned the credibility of the electoral system and the Federal Reserve. He has lashed out at journalists, declaring them “enemies of the people,” rather than defending the importance of a critical, independent free press. His contempt for the rule of law and the norms of government are palpable.

2. His utter lack of regard for truth. 

Whether it is the easily disprovable boasts about the size of his inauguration crowd or his unsubstantiated assertion that Barack Obama bugged Trump Tower, the new president regularly muddies the waters of fact and fiction. It’s difficult to know whether he actually can’t distinguish the real from the unreal — or whether he intentionally conflates the two to befuddle voters, deflect criticism and undermine the very idea of objective truth. Whatever the explanation, he is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.

3. His scary willingness to repeat alt-right conspiracy theories, racist memes and crackpot, out-of-the-mainstream ideas. 

Again, it is not clear whether he believes them or merely uses them. But to cling to disproven “alternative” facts; to retweet racists; to make unverifiable or false statements about rigged elections and fraudulent voters; to buy into discredited conspiracy theories first floated on fringe websites and in supermarket tabloids — these are all of a piece with the Barack Obama birther claptrap that Trump was peddling years ago and which brought him to political prominence. It is deeply alarming that a president would lend the credibility of his office to ideas that have been rightly rejected by politicians from both major political parties.

Where will this end? 

Will Trump moderate his crazier campaign positions as time passes? Or will he provoke confrontation with Iran, North Korea or China, or disobey a judge’s order or order a soldier to violate the Constitution? Or, alternately, will the system itself — the Constitution, the courts, the permanent bureaucracy, the Congress, the Democrats, the marchers in the streets — protect us from him as he alienates more and more allies at home and abroad, steps on his own message and creates chaos at the expense of his ability to accomplish his goals? Already, Trump’s job approval rating has been hovering in the mid-30s, according to Gallup, a shockingly low level of support for a new president. And that was before his former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, offered to cooperate last week with congressional investigators looking into the connection between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

“Those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard.”

On Inauguration Day, we wrote on this page that it was not yet time to declare a state of “wholesale panic” or to call for blanket “non-cooperation” with the Trump administration. Despite plenty of dispiriting signals, that is still our view. The role of the rational opposition is to stand up for the rule of law, the electoral process, the peaceful transfer of power and the role of institutions; we should not underestimate the resiliency of a system in which laws are greater than individuals and voters are as powerful as presidents. This nation survived Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon. It survived slavery. It survived devastating wars. Most likely, it will survive again.

But if it is to do so, those who oppose the new president’s reckless and heartless agenda must make their voices heard. Protesters must raise their banners. Voters must turn out for elections. Members of Congress — including and especially Republicans — must find the political courage to stand up to Trump. Courts must safeguard the Constitution. State legislators must pass laws to protect their citizens and their policies from federal meddling. All of us who are in the business of holding leaders accountable must redouble our efforts to defend the truth from his cynical assaults.

The United States is not a perfect country, and it has a great distance to go before it fully achieves its goals of liberty and equality. But preserving what works and defending the rules and values on which democracy depends are a shared responsibility. Everybody has a role to play in this drama.

This is the first in a series.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Bill Maher's Brilliant "New Rules"

There is a lot from Bill Maher that  we can, and probably should take with a grain of salt,  but in this case  his is brilliantly, and terrifyingly spot on!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Theresa May Signs the UK's Economic Suicide Note


Earlier today, the UK's diplomatic representative to the European Union, hand delivered a letter signed by British Prime Minister Theresa May formally invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty. Article 50 handles the terms by which a member state of the EU can leave the Union.

The letter is six pages long and is a very diplomatically worded mixture of flattery and threats. Politico has an excellent interactive guide the letter and what the various passages may or may not mean. You can check it out for yourself by clicking here.

The UK media has predictably fallen to three different camps in terms of their coverage of today's events. More right leaning outlets have hailed a return to British Sovereignty, more left leaning media have sounded dire warnings about threats the National Health Service, Social Care programs, Worker and Environmental protections, and the as of yet unresolved issues surrounding the rights and status of EU Citizens currently living in the UK.

The more centrist media have chosen the hedge their bets. Sounding "concerned" about potential impact this will have on the UK economy and Britain's standing the world. While simultaneously making pointed commentary of how the EU and the UK both need each other. so .... somebody better figure out how to make this thing actually work.

The fact that nobody wants to point out is, the current Tory government of Theresa May has no plan   They have never had a plan for making this work.   They are making this up as they go along. The reasons for that are not hard to understand.   The previous government under David Cameron had a master plan.  Call for a referendum,  then back  a Leave campaign that would narrowly lose.  Then call a general election  and win under a platform of  "Healing  the rift" in the country they made.  All while promising that the near miss of almost leaving  would give them leverage to negotiate new and better terms  for the UK with the rest of the EU.

It was going to be great! they could still whine and moan about "the overreach of the EU" but not have to actually leave it.  Thus having their Euro-cake and getting  to  complain while eating it.   It was a cunning plan Black Adder!, The Tories would get to stay in power, steal the thunder and  the key issue of right wing parties like the UK Independence Party, (UKIP)  all while keeping their faux Anti- EU bona fides intact.

 Ah... the best laid plans of Mice and ... well morons. When the dust settled after the vote, it turned out that the same anti-migrant hordes the leave campaign  had spent weeks stirring up into a rabid racist frenzy, went and actually voted, and voted to leave.

That result torpedoed the Tory master plan. Not wanting to be the one to clean up the mess he and his party made,   David Cameron beat a very hasty resignation retreat.

 His accomplice in this farce,  former London Mayor and now  MP Boris Johnson, also quickly figured out that if he was Prime Minister, he would either have to admit to the grand pandering lie, and stop Brexit , or be the one who gets the blame when it wreaks economic havoc on the UK economy.

Enter,  Theresa May. 

As the UK Home Secretary, May was all for the " Let's pretend we want to leave, but then don't" plan. So much so that she was seen wishy washy and even too pro-remain by many Brexit campaigners.    But when both David Con Man and BoJo the Clown, exited stage far right,  May saw her chance for Thatcher-esque greatness, and well.... here we are.   It is interesting to note, that hard core "Brexiteers" have more in common with hard core Donald Trump voters than just their blatant racism, sexism and xenophobia. They also share a similar level of sheer stupidity.

The Brexit  cheerleaders both in and out of government, love to  claim that  the EU needs the UK much more than vice-versa,  and how  like Thatcher reborn,  Prime Minister May will ride her Brexit tank into the Article 50  negotiations.  There she will dictate to the trebling, feeble EU the terms by which the UK gets to enjoy the trade and economic benefits of the common market, and at the same time  keep all those icky immigrants out. 

Like Trump voters claiming he won the popular vote,  Brexiteers have also decided to blissfully ignore one huge bit of reality.   It is not in the EU's interest to strike a deal with the UK.   Quite the contrary in fact.  It is far more in the interest of the EU to make leaving  the union as painful as possible.   Thus sending a clear message to fledgling right wing anti EU movements in other member states, that leaving would  be hard,  painful and  ultimately economically self destructive.

Would a "Hard Brexit" (one with out an amicable trade deal) hurt the EU? Yes, a bit. German automakers would likely end up facing UK tariffs as would other industries based on the continent. But there is unanimity in the EU Leadership that the costs of lost trade deals with the UK is a small, even an inconsequential price to pay, to keep the rest of the EU intact.

As if to underscore that point, German Chancellor Angela Merkel dealt an instant blow to Theresa May by rejecting the PM's bid for trade talks to take place at the same time as Article 50 secession negotiations. Britain will be put into the slow lane for discussions about any future trade deal with the EU following actions by the German Chancellor, who intervened just hours after the UK invoked Article 50.

One of the lasting legacies of the Thatcher era is transformation  of the UK from a manufacturing economy into a services economy.   The Iron Lady crushed the trade unions by pushing forward the process that eliminated the factories, mines and mills that employed their members, while enacting tax and banking de-regulation that turned London into a global financial services hub, second only to,  (and some would say even surpassing)  New York.

Underneath all the  cautiously optimistic  statements by the likes of  HSBC,  Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, etc.,   are quiet plans behind the scenes to move  operations, and  with it, massive numbers of jobs to places like Frankfurt,  Paris,  Geneva,  Hong Kong, Singapore and the UAE.   All of whom are eager to welcome Canary Wharf's  "Brexit refugees"  with open arms.   The Banking  goose that lays the biggest golden egg keeping the British Pound not only afloat, but relevant,  is  getting ready to the fly to coop.

And yes,  I could be  totally wrong.  Brexit may turn out to be a big nothing burger and the UK after a brief period of adjustment related economic instability  emerges  triumphant and resurgent.    I wonder how many people would truly be willing to bet their jobs, their livelihoods,  their short, mid and long term financial security on that?

Because that is exactly what  Theresa May did today.





Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dear Trump Voters. We hate to tell you this... But,

You are all incredibly  sssstttuu.......   Well okay,  let's  put this way:



After 7 years  and  more than  60 votes to get rid of the Affordable Care Act,  the  GOP finally  had its moment.   They control the White House,  they control the House of Representatives, AND they control the Senate.    They have had SEVEN YEARS  to  carefully and exhaustively  craft the  "tremendous" replacement for the ACA they swore was coming on DAY ONE  when they finally got  into power.

Shockingly enough,  it turns out  the GOP is far better at  bitching about other people governing than actually doing any sort of governing themselves.   So much so,  that they have even caused  FOX News to say  WTF!?



Lets be  clear about what happened  yesterday.    The GOP health care plan had nothing to do with health care.  The Ryan/Trump/whateverthehellyoucallit  plan  was  a Trojan horse to do two things; First,   give massive tax cuts to the top 2% of the US economic ladder, and to pay for it by TAKING AWAY health insurance from 24 MILLION AMERICANS.  

Second,  it was a ticking time bomb set to  DESTROY MEDICARE by turning it into a capped  block grant program that  wouldn't be able to cover the needed numbers of recipients even  in the first year.  Then it would require denying benefits to more and more people every year after. It is a move purposely designed to kill the entire Medicare program.

But  the good news is,   it is clear Trump, Ryan  and the rest of the Congressional Republicans  were not able to find their own asses with both hands.  The "tremendous negotiator"  had no idea  how a bill becomes law.  let alone how to move a legislative priority through congress.  So he  deferred to  House Speaker Paul Ryan,  a  man who truly hates poor people and  hates any program designed to help poor people,  even more.

The hard  truth about Paul Ryan is this;  He is not a leader.  Not in any way shape or form, he was the default choice for Speaker of the House as he was the only Republican not visibly crazy, who was willing to take the job.

As Speaker of the House,  Paul Ryan was  completely unable to lead  the Republicans in Congress in any cohesive, collective way.   The Ryan Trojan Horse  was  too cruel  for moderate Republicans  and not cruel enough for  the "Freedom Caucus" (aka, the wing nuts formerly known as the Tea Party).

So  at the end of the day when the whole thing blew up in their faces, what did  President Trump do?  He blamed the Democrats, and  told a stream of more easily debunked lies about  the ACA  of course.   To the point where even  Republicans on  cable news panels were embarrassed.

Meanwhile  in addition to yesterday's signature legislative failure, that whole  Russia thing clearly  isn't going away anytime soon, and... and... and....


So Trump Voters,  how is that cheaper, better health insurance and all those new coal mining jobs working out for you ?

If you voted for Donald Trump you either are a White Supremacist, or  just plain stupid.

Take Your Pick.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

London will not be Terrorized....



Video: Jason Hawkes 
Music: Jack Cook
"Composed upon Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth, read by Sir Ian McKellen.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Republican Heathcare Déjà vu….

After 6 years and more than 60 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have FINALLY released their “replacement” for the ACA. We don’t know how many people it will cover, and we have no idea how much it will cost. CNBC did some basic number crunching and the results we not good. To the tune of $600 Billion of not good…
Here is what we DO know about it. (Courtesy of Poltifact):

The requirement to buy insurance goes away. People will no longer be fined on their tax returns if they lack insurance under the plan. Large companies will no longer have to pay penalties for not offering insurance.

There are still tax credits for people to buy insurance. The plan includes an "advance-able" tax credit, based on age and families size, which people can use to buy insurance. Whether it’s as bigger or smaller than Obamacare will depend on specific circumstances. The plan’s advocates say the credit will be between $2,000 and $14,000 a year "for low- and middle-income individuals and families who don’t receive insurance through work or a government program."

Insurers still have to cover pre-existing conditions, but they will be able to charge more for people who are recently uninsured. The plan allows insurance companies to charge higher rates if a person has a significant lapse in coverage. Higher rates will be charged if a person was uninsured for 63 continuous days during the previous 12 months.

Insurance plans don't have to cover all care; catastrophic policies will be allowed again. The Obama administration required insurance companies to cover basic care without exclusions; they called it "essential health benefits." The GOP plan has allows for more limited policies and policies that kick in in cases of major illness or injury.

Adult children and college students can stay on their parents’ plans. As under Obamacare, children will be able to stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26.

Medicaid will eventually be reduced, but it might expand first. The Medicaid expansion remains at first but new enrollment freezes in 2020. Other limitations will also be applied to the program.

The taxes from the 2010 health care law will be repealed. That includes taxes on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, health-insurance premiums and medical devices. As for how the plan will be paid for, an explanation on the House GOP website says, "We are still discussing details, but we are committed to repealing Obamacare and replacing it with fiscally responsible policies that restore the free market and protect taxpayers."

Also there are some amazing tax cuts and tax breaks for very very wealthy people and corporations in this plan. The Washington Post breaks it down:

Republicans' new health-care bill is a mass transfer of income that cuts taxes for the wealthiest Americans while cutting federal benefits for the middle and working class. Just two provisions in the Republican plan would allow the richest households to pay an average of nearly $200,000 less under the GOP plan, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

For the lower-middle class, the plan would replace the current system of benefits based on income with a new system based on age. As a result, a young person making less money would get less help to buy insurance than an older person who is making more.

Republican proponents of the bill argue that by eliminating regulations on health insurance, their legislation will reduce the price of coverage for the middle class, making up for the financial pain of reduced government support. Some experts, however, are skeptical that the plan will work as intended.

Then we have my personal favorite , a designated tax break for health insurance executives who earn more than half a million dollars a year. No, I’m not kidding, and neither is the GOP: (CNN Money Reports)  

The bill would roll back a provision of the 2010 Obamacare law that placed a $500,000 limit on deductions for each executive's compensation, according to a summary from the staff of the House Ways and Means committee.  

Five major insurers paid their CEO's $73 million in 2015, the most recent year for which pay has been reported. Only $2.5 million of that was deductible under Obamacare tax laws. But more than $70 million of that would be deductible under the proposed Republican legislation

To fully understand it you have to decode the GOP’s own talking points on Health Care. The Republicans have consistently said they believe all Americans should have “guaranteed access” to health coverage. It is critical to understand that by guaranteed access, the GOP does NOT, mean equal access. They mean Americans should have access to all the health coverage and care that they can afford, and ONLY to what they can afford.

Lets set aside the fact that this bill is the first salvo the GOP’s cherished long march to finally kill Medicare, by choking it off with capped block grants to states that will never fully cover the costs. We can have that debate another time. This is about the fundamental core philosophy of the Republicans when it comes to Health Care for Americans.

At the very core of the Republican Party’s philosophy and approach is Economic Darwinism – Survival of the Richest. If you are too poor to afford health care, that is entirely YOUR problem NOT the Government’s. Utah Senator Jason Chaffetz truly believes the reason poor people can’t afford health care is they are spending their money on new IPhones instead...   Seriously…


Not only does the Senator show exactly what kind of human being he is, (terrible) he clearly demonstrates how when it comes to basic market capitalism,  he and his fellow Republicans are total morons. Idiots. Dumb as a box of hair.  Stupid to the point of being a threat to themselves and others. Here’s why.

What are core drivers in any capitalist economy? Supply and Demand. When supply of any goods or service is greater than the demand, the price falls. Likewise, when demand exceeds supply the price goes up. Basic High School Economics, right?  Which brings us to the GOP’s second most beloved talking point. “Increased Competition will lower costs for everyone!”

A nifty sound byte, but totally divorced for the reality of Health Care. Competition only lowers cost when it impacts the gap between supply and demand. But in the case of health care, that will never happen. Demand for health care will ALWAYS far outpace the supply, and the differential between supply and demand will never shift towards supply. Why? Because the population grows instead of shrinks.  

Left solely to market forces, prices will never fall but instead, will keep going up forever. This is why most every other industrialized nation has some variation of a public/single payer option.

Republicans  should be honest and call their approach what it really is; Survival of the richest. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and their ilk, screamed of  health care rationing under the ACA, when in fact, that is exactly what the GOP replacement IS. Rationing of care based on income. If you believe that is a good thing, fine. But be honest and answer the core question;  How many people will have to be denied coverage and care for your plan to work?

Because that IS what the GOP has proposed. For a predominantly Market/Competition based plan to work and sustain itself, it must take in more money in premiums than it pays out in benefits. For that to happen in a market where growth of demand exponentially outpaces supply…. You will HAVE TO deny coverage to some people to sustain the system. 

So, Mitch? Paul? Who’s it going be?    Who gets to die for sake of your economic ideology?

The core question that America must answer, the question that most every other western industrialized nation answered for themselves decades ago is this;  Is health care a commodity that people should have access to based on their ability to pay for it? Or, is health care an obligation of a civilized and compassionate society, to ensure people can get,  when and how they need it?

Yesterday the GOP gave us their answer. In their world, death by Poverty is just another “natural cause”.
  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A letter to Senator John McCain



The Hon. Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
218 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

(First of all,  I understand the odds of  the Senator actually reading this letter are absurdly remote.  So let me take just a moment to speak to the member of your staff who is reading this on your behalf.    Hi there,  no I am not  one of the Senator’s  Arizona constituents.   I am an overseas, expat California voter who lives in London. Senator Diane Feinstein is my Senator.   But I  wanted  to write to Senator McCain and ask for his help, not as an Arizonan but as an American.)

Dear Senator McCain,

As preface, and confession.  I am not a Republican, (I used to be, but that is not germane to this discussion.)   But I have always admired your service to our country and have the deepest respect for the sacrifices you have made in the course of that service.  You Sir,  are a true American Hero.  

It is awfully tempting when looking at  the arc of your career in public service to ponder historical “what if’s”  It is hard not to imagine that,  had You  been successful in your campaign for the  Presidency in 2000, instead of then Governor Bush,  the world today (and the New York skyline) might well look very different than they do today.  But  that is neither here or there.  We are where we are.

And that,  is the problem.    

Senator.   The President of the United States has, either willingly or  unwittingly been  compromised by an adversarial foreign power.  His National Security Adviser was clearly a risk  to  our national security by his relationship with, and work on behalf of,  that same adversarial foreign power.   

The mountain of evidence that our very democratic process  was compromised is just the tip of a massive iceberg of concerns about this Administration;  and  its political, financial and potentially  illegal ties to Vladimir Putin’s regime.

All this from an Administration led by man who insulted, degraded and mocked not only your service and heroism,  but that of all POW’s



Senator, when  you ran for President again in 2008, your campaign slogan was “Country First”.  It is time to live up to that slogan.   The leadership of the Republican Party under Senator McConnell  and Speaker Ryan  have made it clear that they  will put partisan gain before country, regardless of the cost to our nation.   You sir are  the last remaining Statesman in your party, and all Americans desperately need you,  to once more put country first.   

You have made service to country the defining theme of your life, Sir.   That country now calls upon you again.  

You must stand up, and stop this insanity. The truth  of the Trump Campaign and now, Trump Administration’s  ties to Russia must be immediately  and thoroughly investigated by an independent counsel.   This  will never happen if left to GOP leadership.  

The very security and integrity of our nation is at stake.

Sincerely,

David Fabie
London, United Kingdom













Thursday, January 26, 2017

The President of the United States is not Mentally Competent.

There are moments when you know a Presidency is over.    That moment when you see the Man, overwhelmed by the office.   The narrative is lost,  the  grand visions and promises abandoned in a fruitless effort to control events;  which at that moment have taken control of him,  and irrevocably derailed a Presidency.

For  President Reagan it was the moment  cameras caught him being coached by the first lady to answer a reporter's question.


For President Carter it was the moment the mission to rescue the American hostages in Iran came to a crashing halt in the middle of the desert.


For President Lyndon Johnson,  it was the moment he realized  the  overwhelming majority of Americans , and the verdict of history would hold him responsible for the war in Vietnam.


For President Nixon,  it was  the, desperate hubris of the  "I'm not a crook", speech.


Yesterday,  January 25th 2017, five days after his inauguration,  the Presidency of Donald John Trump came crashing down around him. Not in the private agony of the Oval Office,  or some back room  high atop Trump Tower,  but live on Television,  in front of the whole world.

From TheWashington Post:

The way President Trump tells it, the meandering, falsehood-filled, self-involved speech that he gave at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters was one of the greatest addresses ever given.
“That speech was a home run,” Trump told ABC News just a few minutes into his first major television interview since moving into the White House. “See what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming. … I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl, and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time.”
The lengthy interview, which aired late Wednesday night, provided a glimpse of the president and his state of mind on his fifth full day in office. It revealed a man who is obsessed with his own popularity and eager to provide evidence of his likability, even if that information doesn't match reality.
I could go on and cite more of the WaPo  article , but honestly  it doesn't even begin to capture the magnitude of the moment.  It is something that must be seen.  Not just to be understood, but to be believed.



If Donald Trump was just a real estate developer,  or a reality show host, or a product pitch man, yesterday's interview would be amusing.  Fodder for the inside pages of a New York tabloid. Just another  celebrity anecdote about a man  desperate to affirm his own grandiose image of himself.  A self-perception that he must defend at all costs.  Defend it against anything that threatens his core belief that he is  the greatest, the smartest, the most "tremendous"  and successful man that ever lived.

But Donald Trump isn't just another insecure celebrity.  He is the 45th President of  the United States.  The Commander-in-Chief of the United States Military, and the man who has the sole power to order the use of America's arsenal of the most destructive weapons mankind has ever constructed

Five days in his Presidency,  Donald Trump is mentally, emotionally  and physically incapable of getting past the fact that fewer people attended his swearing in than that of  Barack Obama.   Five days into his Presidency, Donald Trump is mentally, emotionally  and physically incapable of getting past the fact that Hillary Clinton won more votes than he did.   Five days into his Presidency  Donald Trump is mentally, emotionally  and physically incapable of getting past  even the most routine public criticisms that all Presidents face on a daily basis.

His Presidency has collapsed into an obsession  to convince himself that  his inauguration was the biggest ever,   to convince himself that he really did win the popular vote;  all  at the expense of actual governing.   His administration is currently operating with a skeleton staff at the National Security Agency.  His administration is currently operating with NO sitting ambassadors  at any of our embassies around the world, as he demanded that all serving diplomatic heads from the Obama Administration vacate their posts by the moment he finished taking the oath.

Foreign Policy is reduced to a desperate spewing on Twitter that the refusal of the Mexican President to meet with him was a "mutual decision".

 All the while the President's surrogates are left to try to spin some sort of coherence out of this madness.  Reduced to claiming their provably false statements are not lies,  but rather  "Alternative Facts."

I did not vote for President Trump,  but  like many Americans I did "give him a chance".  I tuned in from halfway around the world to hear  his inaugural address.  Desperate to hear  any evidence that his man understood the office he was elected to,  what I heard instead was political rally  boilerplate, the same divisive rhetoric that defined his campaign.

It was the speech of a sore winner.

In the first television interview as President of the United States,  Donald Trump showed the world that not only is he a sore winner,  but more than that,  he is  a dangerously insecure narcissist who  will at some point,  completely self destruct under the weight of the Presidency.   We all can only hope the expression of that involves the use social media,  and not nuclear weapons.

Keith Olberman gets the last word on this...


Saturday, January 21, 2017