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Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lt General Flynn is guilty of requesting immunity to tell the truth

Makes no sense for Lt General Mike Flynn to seek immunity to testify and tell the truth to the Senate Intelligence Committee when he swore to be loyal to the United States, as an officer. 

Although Lt. Gen Flynnis is a retired army officer, it's certainly duplicitious for him to collude with foreign nations, like Russia and Turkey, when he had a career of pledging allegience to America, as in this Officer's Pledge:


Oath of Commissioned Officers

I, _(Michael Flynn)____, having been appointed an officer in the Army of the United States, as indicated above in the grade of _(Lt General)____ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter; So help me God." 

Image result for Michael Flynn

Lt. General Flyn was identified as a source for poential Russian blackmail. So, as a result of this potential intelligence coopting by Russia, Donald Trump was forced to fire him, as chair of the National Security Council.  

There is no reason for a senior US Army officer to need immunity from prosecution to testify under oath, if he is, in fact, innocent of duplicitous communication with Russia. Otherwise, by seeking immunity, Lt General Flynn is acting like he's guilty of treason and, quite frankly, his request for immunity is a desperate plea for help.

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Proposed budget cuts harm health research - make no sense

“Nearly 200 startup companies have been launched based on UCSF research,” Hawgood said. 
“Those companies now offer good jobs and generate tax revenues that bolster the American economy.”
1969 NIH logo
National Institute for Health must be supported. Donald Trump proposed budget cuts are harmful to our national identity and international humanitarian endeavors.

In his making America great again publicity campaign, Donald Trump never referred to the most important of all our nation's economic developments in the advancement of health research. Instead of investing in this life saving technology, he recommends cutting funds to support one of America's most valuable assets and humanitarian initiatives. Cutting the National Institute for Health budget does nothing at all to help make America great again. Instead of MAGA, his stupidity in cutting the agency's budget will regress the advances made in health research. Moreover, cuts will allow other nations to pick up where our signature achievements left off and to exploit our progress.

Kaiser Health News reports: 
Researchers Call Trump’s Proposed NIH Cuts ‘Shocking’
By Elaine Korry 

An estimated $5.8 billion in cuts to the National Institutes of Health in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget has California’s top universities and medical institutions sounding the alarm.

Trump’s spending plan — running into opposition from Republicans and Democrats alike — would cut about 20 percent of the roughly $30 billion budget of the nation’s medical research agency that supports research on cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Zika and other conditions.

Research institutions nationwide decried the cuts as potentially devastating to their work.

Among those who stand to lose the most are the University of California, San Francisco, which for the past three years has received more in NIH biomedical grants than any other public university in the country.

Grants to UCSF’s four schools that tailor to health professions reached nearly $634 million in fiscal year 2016, according to the UC Office of the President.

“It’s tremendously shocking,” said Keith Yamamoto, UCSF’s vice chancellor for science policy and strategy.

“The hope was that biomedical research would fare well,” even in the face of the administration’s stated desire to control spending, said Yamamoto, a top researcher in cellular and molecular pharmacology.

Total NIH funding for the University of California system in the 2016 fiscal year reached nearly $2 billion.

At Johns Hopkins University, the institution receiving the most in NIH grants last year, an official described the potential budget cuts as “extraordinarily threatening.” Johns Hopkins received about $651 million in NIH grants.

Officials at Harvard University, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the University of Alabama at Birmingham voiced similar concerns, noting that the cuts could set back basic scientific research that has led to lifesaving medical treatment.

Based in Bethesda, Md., the NIH spends most of its annual budget — about 85 percent — on grants to thousands of researchers and medical institutions across the country.

Traditionally, biomedical research has enjoyed strong bipartisan support, surviving ideologically driven cutbacks from one administration to the next. Grant increases to major NIH recipients had been averaging about 3 percent per year during the Obama administration.

NIH officials declined to comment on Trump’s budget blueprint, but its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, released a statement saying the agency is “dedicated to fulfilling our department’s mission to improve the health and well-being of the American people.”

The officials said the budget supports that mission and will help ensure delivery of critical services “in the most efficient and effective manner possible.”

Congressional Democrats are already pushing back hard against Trump’s fiscal plan, as are some Republicans. Political observers caution that presidents’ budget proposals, while signaling administration priorities, rarely are approved by Congress without major changes.

Still, UCSF’s Yamamoto said, “research laboratories run like small businesses that operate on a very tight margin. There’s no slack in any element of it.”

The results of double-digit funding cuts, he said, “would be dramatic and immediate and disastrous.”
UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood slammed the cuts as “deeply disturbing,” calling the NIH and the research it supports “the envy of the world.” As a public institution, UCSF has honored “a pact with taxpayers by conducting research that has improved the health of all Americans,” Hawgood said.

Federal money for research, in addition to finding cures for disease, also stimulates job creation, with grant dollars being paid back many times over, Hawgood said.

“Nearly 200 startup companies have been launched based on UCSF research,” Hawgood said. “Those companies now offer good jobs and generate tax revenues that bolster the American economy.”

The entire UC system benefits from NIH support, with UC, San Diego, winning more than $414 million in competitive grants last year — placing it squarely among the agency’s top 10 recipients. UC President Janet Napolitano issued a statement decrying the proposed budget cuts, saying they would “stifle crucial advancements toward solving our nation’s most pressing needs and challenges.”

Last year, Stanford University ranked among the top 10 grant recipients, receiving 944 grants for a total of more than $427 million, according to NIH data.

University officials noted that it is still “very early in the budget process,” but said in a statement it was clear that the proposed cuts would harm research in medicine and health, technology, the environment, the humanities, social sciences and many other fields.

In a press briefing Thursday, Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, supported a major reorganization of NIH, calling for a consolidation of the agency’s 27 different institutes and centers with a “focus on efficiencies.” According to Mulvaney, the agency had been subject to “mission creep,” expanding “beyond their core functions.”

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Colleges send letters to President Trump about immigration orders

Bowdoin College President Clayton Rose was among the respected colleges and universities presidents who sent letters to Donald Trump requesting him to rescind his immigration ban imposed on select nations.  

"Throughout its history America has been a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom in the world. It has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe. This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order." Presidents of American Colleges and Universities

It was a pleasure to read this letter in the on line BowdoinSun newsletter.
Image result for Bowdoin Sun logo
February 2, 2017

President Donald J. Trump
The White House
United States of America

Dear President Trump:

We write as presidents of leading American colleges and universities to urge you to rectify or rescind the recent executive order closing our country’s borders to immigrants and others from seven majority-Muslim countries and to refugees from throughout the world. If left in place, the order threatens both American higher education and the defining principles of our country.

The order specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefited tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world. Their innovations and scholarship have enhanced American learning, added to our prosperity, and enriched our culture. Many who have returned to their own countries have taken with them the values that are the lifeblood of our democracy. America’s educational, scientific, economic, and artistic leadership depends upon our continued ability to attract the extraordinary people who for many generations have come to this country in search of freedom and a better life.

This action unfairly targets seven predominantly Muslim countries in a manner inconsistent with America’s best principles and greatest traditions. We welcome outstanding Muslim students and scholars from the United States and abroad, including the many who come from the seven affected countries. Their vibrant contributions to our institutions and our country exemplify the value of the religious diversity that has been a hallmark of American freedom since this country’s founding. The American dream depends on continued fidelity to that value.

We recognize and respect the need to protect America’s security. The vetting procedures already in place are rigorous. Improvements to them should be based on evidence, calibrated to real risks, and consistent with constitutional principle.

Throughout its history America has been a land of opportunity and a beacon of freedom in the world. It has attracted talented people to our shores and inspired people around the globe. This executive order is dimming the lamp of liberty and staining the country’s reputation. We respectfully urge you to rectify the damage done by this order.

Sincerely,

Robert L. Barchi
President
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Kimberly W. Benston
President
Haverford College

Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President
Trinity College

George Blumenthal
Chancellor
University of California, Santa Cruz

Lee C. Bollinger
President
Columbia University

Richard H. Brodhead
President
Duke University

Robert A. Brown
President
Boston University

Kimberly Wright Cassidy
President
Bryn Mawr College

Ronald J. Daniels
President
Johns Hopkins University

John J. DeGioia
President
Georgetown University

Nicholas B. Dirks
Chancellor
University of California, Berkeley

Christopher L. Eisgruber
President
Princeton University

Adam F. Falk
President
Williams College

Drew Gilpin Faust
President
Harvard University

Patrick Gallagher
Chancellor
University of Pittsburgh

Howard Gillman
Chancellor
University of California, Irvine

Amy Gutmann
President
University of Pennsylvania

Andrew Hamilton
President
New York University

Philip J. Hanlon
President
Dartmouth College

Sam Hawgood, MBBS
Chancellor
University of California, San Francisco

Ralph J. Hexter
Interim Chancellor
University of California, Davis

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President
University of Notre Dame

Pradeep K. Khosla
Chancellor
University of California, San Diego

Marvin Krislov
President
Oberlin College

David W. Leebron
President
Rice University

Ron Liebowitz
President
Brandeis University

Wallace D. Loh
President
University of Maryland, College Park

Anthony P. Monaco
President
Tufts University

David Oxtoby
President
Pomona College

Christina H. Paxson
President
Brown University

Daniel R. Porterfield, Ph.D.
President
Franklin & Marshall College

Carol Quillen
President
Davidson College

Hunter R. Rawlings III
Interim President
Cornell University

Clayton Rose
President
Bowdoin College

Peter Salovey
President
Yale University

Michael H. Schill
President
University of Oregon

Mark Schlissel M.D., Ph.D.
President
University of Michigan

Valerie Smith
President
Swarthmore College

Barbara R. Snyder
President
Case Western Reserve University

Debora L. Spar
President
Barnard College

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.
President
Stony Brook University

Sonya Stephens
Acting President
Mount Holyoke College

Claire E. Sterk
President
Emory University

Marc Tessier-Lavigne
President
Stanford University

Satish K. Tripathi
President
University at Buffalo

Mark S. Wrighton
Chancellor
Washington University in St. Louis

Henry T. Yang
Chancellor
University of California, Santa Barbara

Nicholas S. Zeppos
Chancellor
Vanderbilt University


(Thank you to all of the signers!)

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Paul Manafort knows the trick of flipping plenty of money

Ex-Trump Aide Paul Manafort Bought New York Homes With (laundered?)  Ca$h- (byKen Dilanian, Tom Winter & Kenzi Abou-Sabe)- NBC.com

In fact, Manafort was entirely too close to Donald Trump while he was taking money from the Ukraine. He certainly was engaged in the habit of flipping millions of dollars. But, where did Manafort get so much "flipping money"? Moreover, how did he leverage so many favorable loans?


Former campaign chairman Paul Managort made millions through his work over the years for Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs.

Image result for follow the money graphic

M
anafort also bought New York City real estate, some of it in what appeared to be all-cash deals. And in a series of complex transactions involving various companies, Manafort took out more than $13 million in loans on several of those properties — including $6.5 million borrowed this year from a bank run by an economic advisor to the Trump campaign.

Now, with Manafort figuring in an FBI investigation into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, his dealings in New York City are coming under renewed scrutiny. They fit a pattern that experts say raises questions about how Manafort was moving money.

"The first thing is, where did the person get the money to pay cash for multi-million-dollar properties?" said Ross Delston, a Washington, D.C.-based independent attorney and anti-money laundering expert. Delston said he was speaking in general, not about Manafort in particular.

"That is something you typically see with ultra-high-net-worth individuals—people worth more than $50 million. And not only that, you have to be liquid."

Manafort, a political consultant and lobbyist, bought four properties in New York City between 2006 and 2013 using LLCs, real estate records show. Details of these transactions were previously reported by the blog Pardonmeforasking, the Intercept, a website named for Manafort's property in Brooklyn, 377 union.com, and WNYC.

The records indicate no initial mortgage, suggesting that the full cash price was paid.

In three of four cases, Manafort transferred the properties into his own name and borrowed about $12 million against them between 2012 and 2017.




Manafort said he was "sorry to disappoint the conspiracy theorists," but the mortgages were ordinary business transactions and using LLCs to buy real estate is "common practice in New York City and elsewhere." (ManeWriter- Dear Mr. Manafort, the question isn't how you purchased the property but where did all that cash originate?)

Manafort said his transactions were "executed in a transparent fashion and my identity was disclosed — in fact my name is right there on the documents in one of today's news reports.

Using LLCs is not unusual or illegal, but hefty loans on properties bought with cash can be a flag, experts say.

In fact, the U.S. Treasury Department said last year that "all-cash luxury purchases of residential property by a legal entity are highly vulnerable to abuse for money laundering."

There are many legitimate reasons to use partnerships, or "shell companies." to purchase real estate, said Michael Zeldin, a former federal prosecutor and money laundering expert. "What's odd is this notion of buying it through a corporate entity, transferring it to your name, and taking out loans against that property," he said. "What's the underlying business purpose?"

"The more convoluted the transaction, the more remote from a reasonable business purpose, the more suspicious they are," said Stefan Cassella, former deputy chief of the Justice Department's Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.

According to records found in Ukraine, Manafort may have been paid more than $12.7 million for his political work in that country between 2007 and 2012. Additionally, Manafort also did millions of dollars in business with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and teamed with a Ukrainian oligarch named Dmytro Firtash in a plan to redevelop a famous New York hotel.


Firtash, who acknowledged to a U.S. official that he got his start in business with the permission of a Russian crime lord, is a wanted man, indicted by the Justice Department over bribery allegations. Deripaska, who is considered by U.S. officials to be among Putin's inner circle, was once denied entry to the U.S. because of alleged organized crime ties, officials told NBC News.

The hotel deal didn't go through, and Manafort's relationship with Deripaska ended in a dispute. But Manafort's ties to the men, documented in court records, are among several the political operative has maintained with wealthy Russian and Ukrainian businessmen going back over eight years.

Here are the details of some of Manafort's real estate deals, as laid out in public records:

  1. In 2006, the year he reportedly began working for Deripaska, Manafort bought a condo in Trump Tower for $3,675,000 through an LLC called John Hannah. John is Manafort's middle name, and Hannah is the middle name of that of his then-business partner, Rick Davis.
  2. In January 2015, the deed to the Trump Tower condo was transferred from John Hannah LLC to Paul and Kathleen Manafort. Three months later, the Manaforts took out a $3 million mortgage from UBS Bank USA for the condo.
  3. In 2007, Manafort used a holding company called JESAND, LLC—possibly named for his two daughters Jessica and Andrea — to buy a condo on Baxter Street in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan with his daughter, Andrea. The sale price was $2,545,625.
  4. In February 2012, MC Soho Holdings, one of Manafort's holding companies, bought a condo on Howard Street in Soho for $2.85 million. In March 2016, the deed was transferred from MC Soho Holdings to Manafort and his wife, who now took out two loans totaling $3.4 million against it.
  5. In December 2012, another Manafort holding company, MC Brooklyn Holdings, bought a brownstone in Carroll Gardens for $2,995,000. Real estate postings online show the sale was brokered by Yohai, Manafort's son-in-law. 
  6. In February 2016, MC Brooklyn Holdings took out two mortgages on the property, for a total loan of $5.3 million. In June 2016, while Manafort was working as Trump's campaign chairman, MC Brooklyn Holdings missed a mortgage payment, prompting its lender to file a complaint.
  7. In January, Manafort had the deed to the Brooklyn property transferred from the holding company to himself, and then took out a new $5.3 million loan, apparently to pay off the two previous loans, and an additional $1.2 million from the Federal Savings Bank. The CEO of that bank is Steve Calk, a member of Trump's campaign economic advisory council.
Manafort also owns other properties in Florida and Virginia, including a Palm Beach Gardens mansion in Florida he purchased in 2007 for $1.5 million.

"It's an unusual pattern that isn't typical for real estate transactions," Delston told NBC News.
Manafort said that borrowing against the value of a property is common when the properties increase in value. "My loans are all arm's length transactions at or above market rates. The financing I put in place recently on a Brooklyn property is a straight-forward one-year construction loan secured by collateral. As is standard, the loan amount is based on the appraised value of the property after renovation, not the value of the property as-is.

"I have also engaged an architect and contractor to complete the construction within the next year. There is nothing out of the ordinary about them and I am confident anyone who isn't afflicted with scandal-fever will come to the same conclusion." (NOT so, follow the money.....$$ - too much flipping, in my opinion.)



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In Representative Diane Black newspaper- Tennessee speaks

It's difficult for me to find anything nice to say about Congresswoman Diane Black. In my opinion, she is a political opportunist who cast her lot with the failed Donald Trump administration, hoping he will notice her misguided devotion.

Millions of Americans like me wonder how Donald Trump holds such hypnotic attraction to people, like Congresswoman Black, who were elected to represent their constituents in Congress. They were not elected by Donald Trump.  

Representative Diane Black of Tennessee strikes me as the girl who wants to be elected queen of the prom for all ages.  Her "tramp-stamp" support for Donald Trump is un-becoming of a person elected to represent Tennessee, the same state where Vice President Al Gore served from 1977-1985, as 4th Congressional District Representative. 

Although Ms. Black writes a compelling autobiography given her roots living in public housing, she is not a person who has learned very much from her humble origins.  In fact, her ambition is unprofessional, especially for a person who wants to be Tennessee's governor. 

As a matter of fact, in a Letter to the Editor in the newspaper "The Tennessean", the author asks: "How did U.S. Rep. Diane Black, who, Brad Schmitt’s  acknowledges, grew up in poverty and lived in public housing, lose her compassion for the poor?"
Although the Affordable Care Act provides health care to the poor, Black opposed it.

Although charter schools screen out poor minorities and turn public schools into private schools, at taxpayer expense, Ms. Black supports charter schools (!).

Although failure to increase the minimum wage in accordance with the rise in the cost of living leaves the working poor in poverty, Black failed to support increasing the minimum wage. It was government help that enabled Black to overcome poverty and become an extremely wealthy person.

Rep. Diane Black apparently doesn't realize that Tennessee citizens have a lot to lose in the Donald Trump "DOA" budget. In fact, she doesn't "get this"- that not everybody in Tennessee supports her blind zeal for all things Donald Trump. Newspaper reports quote voters about how the proposed Trump budget will obstruct economic development in the poorest Appalachian region of Tennessee. No comment yet from Ms. Black, who serves on the House Budget committee.

Moreover, I still can't get it out of my head how Rep. Diane Black told Judy Woodruff on the PBSNewsHour that only 4.5 percent of Americans aren't covered by employer sponsored health insurance. Her alternative facts were beyond fictional. All she had to do was ask 4.5 percent of Tennessee constituents if their health insurance was being provided by their employers, to quickly learn real math. 

If Rep. Diane Black is serious about being the Tennessee governor, she must reach out to all of the voters and not hide in the shadow of the failed Donald Trump administration.

Moreover, before her delusion to become the governor takes off, she better talk to those 96 percent of Tennessee people who, she mistakenly believes, have employer sponsored health insurance. Wow! (We all want to know how they feel about their insurance coverage.) At the same time, she must ask Tennesseans how they feel about buying health insurance coverage that doesn't cover "essential benefits", like in the Republican plan she enthusiastically endorsed, proposed to do. No maternity coverage? Oh paaaleeeze!

So, to end, I'm still processing Rep. Diane Black's "cause for ambition". How does the perennial prom queen blindly support the draconian and failed policies, spewed like toxic coal ash, by Donald Trump, when her Tennessee constituents will suffer from the consequences of her misplaced devotion?

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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Every state should publish a citizenship ceremony: like in Kentucky

"...you are the community that the commonwealth of Kentucky needs now more than ever.”
Image result for Kentucky state flag
Quite frankly, I continue to be surprised by finding gems of progressive thinking published in the Kentucky Herald-Leader newspaper. Yesterday's post was a re-blogged letter to the editor written by the son of Jewish immigrants, who had fled the Holocaust.  Today, I'm proud to reblog the original news story that inspired the letter.
Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood spoke at a naturalization ceremony Friday at Lexington Catholic High School. Hood administered the Oath of Allegiance to 50 new U.S. citizens who immigrated from other countries.
Lexington Kentucky Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood spoke at a naturalization ceremony Friday at Lexington Catholic High School. Hood administered the Oath of Allegiance to 50 new U.S. citizens who immigrated from other countries. Tom Eblen teblen@herald-leader.com

A morning with 50 people who are helping make America great, as always- by Tom Eblan

I wish you had been with me Friday morning. I got to spend an hour in a room filled with people who make America great, have always made America great and will always make America great, again and again.

There were 50 of them sitting in the Lexington Catholic High School auditorium, surrounded by family and friends. They introduced themselves by name, the town where they live and the country where they were born. Then, each of them added: “I am proud to become an American citizen.”

They came from 29 nations, including Russia, Iraq, China, Cuba, India, France, Canada, Germany, Yemen and Colombia. They now live in such places as Lexington, Frankfort, Pikeville, Simpsonville, Waddy and Carlisle.

Each raised his or her right hand and took the Oath of Allegiance, renouncing “all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty” and promising to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph M. Hood then declared them our newest citizens and addressed them as “my fellow Americans. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?”

Hood explained to the audience that each new citizen had demonstrated a functional command of English and had studied U.S. history and civics. Among other things, they had been tested on their ability to name the president, vice president, governor, speaker of the House of Representatives, Supreme Court justices and other officials.



“You know,” Hood mused, “I’ve often wondered just how many of our current citizens could pass that test.”

These new citizens were welcomed by representatives of local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution, whose members trace their ancestry back nearly two and a half centuries to the nation’s first soldiers and patriots.

“This is truly a great nation, and it’s made up of many people just like yourselves,” said Georgia Clemons, who urged them to “join in and be a good neighbor.”

“We are a nation of immigrants and their children,” Mary Ann Hayes reminded them.

“While our history is important to us and we’re proud of our past, we believe that the strength of our nation is not in our lineage but in the freedoms our ancestors fought for,” Carol Behr said. “We welcome you here today as friends, fellow countrymen.”

In an atmosphere where President Donald Trump ran an anti-immigrant campaign and has sought to ban refugees and immigrants from several nations, it was notable how many speakers at this naturalization ceremony described their own immigrant roots.

Hood spoke of his ancestors from Ireland and Italy, adding that every American has a similar story unless they are a full-blooded Native American.

“And just think,” he said, “if they had made us take a citizenship test, we might have had some problems.”

Most of the speakers also emphasized the new citizens’ right and duty to vote.

“It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about things that you don’t like,” said Nita Smith of the League of Women Voters. “But every American citizen has the responsibility to become part of democracy and vote. This is a responsibility that some Americans have become very lax about. I hope that you will take it very seriously.”

Alison Lundergan Grimes, noting that this was the 70th naturalization ceremony she has attended since becoming Kentucky’s secretary of state in 2012, said that when she was re-elected in 2015 only 30 percent of Kentucky voters cast ballots.

“It’s time that we change a minority of people determining what’s happening for the majority of us,” she said.

Grimes urged the new citizens to register to vote, either at tables on their way out with her staff or the League of Women Voters, or online at GoVoteKentucky.com.

“Here in Kentucky, y’all means we welcome all,” Grimes told our newest citizens. “You are the courage, you are the compassion, you are the community that the commonwealth of Kentucky needs now more than ever.”

(MaineWriter- bravo Lexington KY and congratulations to 50 newly sworn in Americans.  Obviously,  keeping America great as always.)



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Monday, March 27, 2017

Citizenship story in Kentucky

It's impossible to believe that all people who live in so called "red" states, like Kentucky, where conservatives rule, are unilaterally right wing or white supremacists (or both!).  

For example, I've been looking at the various Kentucky state newspapers to find glimmers of hope, like finding a rose in a thistle garden, for more progressive points of view.  Indeed, there are incredibly articulate messages published in the independent Kentucky media, written by people who advocate for values with which I agree.  In Kentucky, the letter to the editor re-printed in this blog, was published in the Lexington Herald-Leader.  It's a first person story about "immigration", but the title is a euphemism. Rather than lead with the header "immigration", the title reads "citizenship"; but could also speak to "religious discrimination". You can decide for yourself. 

Senator Mitch McConnell and Rep. Andy Barr alert!
This letter to the editor is in response to an article found at this link:
http://www.kentucky.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/tom-eblen/article137976773.html
Image result for Lexington Herald Leader logo
Dear Editor:
I was touched by columnist Tom Eblen’s account of his recent visit to the citizenship ceremony presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Joe Hood. I am sure Eblen’s account brought back memories to others like me who witnessed their parents or other family members go through this impressive and meaningful ceremony.

For me, it happened on Oct. 1, 1945, in the federal courtroom in Charlotte, N.C. My father had endured 17 days in the Buchenwald concentration camp after Kristallnacht, Nov. 9, 1938
Shattered storefront of a Jewish-owned shop destroyed during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"). Berlin, Germany, November 10, 1938.
Shattered storefront of a Jewish-owned shop destroyed during Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass"). Berlin, Germany, November 10, 1938.
— National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland
Fortunately, we had been able to immigrate to this country on February 22, 1940, on one of the last ships to leave Holland. My father found work in Spartanburg, South Carolina, as a janitor in a textile mill and as a lay rabbi for the Jewish community. 

A few years later, we moved to Gastonia, North Carolina.

I can remember my parents studying hard to prepare for the citizenship test described in Eblen’s article, and their being sworn in with others in the courtroom. After the ceremony, we walked across the street to the Piedmont Diner for a celebratory lunch. Having deprived themselves of all but the basic needs, my parents never went out to eat. However, this occasion was so special that it was marked by the first time our family ate out. I will never forget that day.

JOHN ROSENBERG

PRESTONSBURG Kentucky

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Kentucky opinion: Op-Ed from Senator McConnell land

Senator Mitch McConnell is the Republican President of the US Senate, representing people who live in Kentucky. An interesting read, in this well written opinion "letter to the editor", in the Danville, Kentucky, "The Advocate-Messenger", from Rene Payne of Standord, KY.  

This is a strong critical opinion about the Republicans, published in a local Kentucky newspaper that doesn't seem to feature too much national news.
The Advocate-Messenger in Danville KY

Republicans putting party ahead of country on Russia investigation
https://www.amnews.com/2017/03/25/republicans-putting-party-ahead-of-country-on-russia-investigation/


Image result for Senator Mitch McConnell pictures
Senator Mitch McConnell (R) President of the US Senate
Dear Editor,

The complete lack of conviction that the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have displayed in regards to investigating Trump and his staff’s possible involvement with Russia and Trump’s accusation of wiretapping is stunning.

During the open hearing on March 20, the Republicans concentrated on leaks instead of Trump and his staff. Two days later, Rep. Nunes (R-California), majority chairman of the committee, held two press conferences to report he had received and read intercepts (the source of which did not appear to come through the usual channels) that Trump’s transition team had been victims of incidental surveillance collection. Between the two press conferences, Nunes met with Trump to relay this information.

The minority chairman, Rep. Schiff (D-California), was made aware of the intercepts at the same time the press was informed. The significance of this revelation is that the Intelligence Committee is supposed to be investigating Trump and his staff, rather than acting as a surrogate for them.

In addition, Nunes most certainly should have shared the intercepts with the Intelligence Committee instead of Trump and the press. Nunes’ actions shreds the credibility of the committee he is supposed to lead. Oh, and by the way, Nunes was on Trump’s transition team.

During “Watergate” Nixon did “stonewall” the investigation against his administration, but the Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to investigate him. It is disheartening that so many of our elected officials appear to choose loyalty to their political party instead of to their country. This investigation appears to be anything but “Bipartisan.”

Rene Payne, Stanford KY

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Climb Every Mountain - rise up to Medicare for All

It's impossible to understand how Republicans continue to ignore the achievements of civilized nations that provide universal health care for all their citizens - including Russia!, while ignoring their responsibility to provide insurance coverage for our fellow Americans. (Canada provides universal care!)

Nevertheless, in the dismal failure the Republicans experienced in the humiliating defeat of their "replace" bill, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), their stupidity may have finally driven home the concept of "universal health care". Indeed, even conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer "gets" this.

RealClear Politics by Tim Haines:
Krauthammer: Obamacare Succeeded In Creating Expectation Of Universal Health Care

On Friday's edition of  FoxNews 'Special Report', the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer made the case that President Obama's strategy for his signature "Obamacare" was not to create a perfect health care system, but to build the expectation that health care is "a human right", and something the government is responsible for supporting. 

Krauthammer said Obama was successful at "creating the expectation of universal health care". As a result "the zeitgeist (Oh, for heavens sake Krauthammer, use real English!- "dominant set of ideals and beliefs that motivate the actions of the members of a society") in the country has really changed." Put another way, the failed Republican's health care "repeal and replace" changed the dominant point of view about health care.  It's not a back door way to inject tax cuts for the rich, like the failed Republican plan tried and failed to do. Rather, it's a human right for all people.
Image result for Charles Krauthammer
Charles Krauthammer is a pundit

"The Democrats are going in one direction," Krauthammer explained. "When Obamacare explodes or collapses, or dies with a whimper and not a bang... the Democrats are going to head in one direction only: single payer. The British or Canadian system."

"That is the logic of Obamacare. It was a system which would temporarily create (an entitlement?) HELLO? It's not an entitlement when people pay premiums for the coverage!

Krauthammper is wrong to tell Fox News that Obamacare will not work because, in fact, it is financially possible. Beneficiaries who pay for the Affordable Care Act coverage expect to have essential benefits included in their insurance and, moreover, they're willing to pay for this benefit. Obamacare works because it is financially possible... But, said Krauthammer,  the Republcians have succeeded at creating the expectation of universal care, (yes!) and once you have that... What we're going to get is Democrats going to a single payer," he added.
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Krauthammer, says we're experiencing "zeitgeist'? In other words, America has finally reached a "teachable moment" about how to conceptualize health care.  It's a human right.

"The zeitgeist in the country has really changed," he said.

Haha! Yup, I even looked up the word, for the benefit of readers (like me!) who might not entirely "get" what Krauthammer said to right wing FoxNews. In fact, the truth is, the debate over the failed Republican plan called the American Health Care Act has created a teachable moment in our daunting public policy debate about health care.

"Zeitgeist", to you  too, Krauthammer.  Let's expand Medicare to cover all people who qualify!

By the way, for a man who's board certified in psychiatry, you sure can confuse people with you weird words.  

Although Democrats, led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, can justifiably rejoice in well organized opposition to the Republican's "repeal and replace" disaster, the fact is, we must climb even more political mountains to achieve the ultimate goal of passing universal coverage. Let's do it!

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Friday, March 24, 2017

Republicans considered eliminating essential health benefits

"Instead of continuing to make a bad bill worse," Lawrence says Congress should start over again to come up with a bill that improves health and reduces cost. -(Maine Writer- well what about improving what's already in the law?)

Health insurance is really a misnomer. In fact, people buy "sickness insurance", because they only use it for sickness care. 
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Health insurance is used when a beneficiary needs acute care like surgery, mental health, substance abuse, maternity, emergency or pediatric health services. Can this really be true? It makes no sense, in fact, it's positive lunacy! Nevertheless, Republicans considered a replacement for the popular Affodable Care Act or "Obamacare" by taking the essential benefits away from mandrory coverage. Removing the essential benefits as a requirement for insurance benefits will cereate a proverbial Niagra Falls of revenue for insurance comapnies. Beneficiaries would pay huge out of pocket expenses for benefits that wouldn't be covered in their plans. Whaaaaa? How can this be so?  

Indeed, it almost was so, because the Republicans became dangeorusly close to voting on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), their "replacement" for the ACA, whereby the essential health benefits most people use in their insurance plans would be cut. Make no mistake about it,, the Republicans really-really wanted to to pass the AHCA.  It was their time to repeal Obamacare after working for 7 years to dismantle the bill.  Republicans really-really wanted to pass the AHCA but they failed to even bring the bill to a vote today, March 24th, on the House floor.  It was the result of a complete failure of Republican leadership.  But, the final nail in the proverbial bill's heart was when a list of "essential benefits" was cut from the services required to be covered in a helath insurance plan.

USA Today ReportsJayne O'Donnell , USA TODAY
Eliminating or reducing required health insurance benefits, now part of the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also threatens to kill the ACA's annual and lifetime limits on patients' costs, which was enacted to prevent bankruptcies due to medical costs. (This wrong minded provision would be a foot in the door to dismantling Medicare where there are no lifetime limits to coverage.)

Late Thursday night, House Speaker Paul Ryan released an amendment that would leave it up to states starting in 2018 which, if any, of these benefits have to be included in plans sold to people receiving tax credits to buy their insurance. About 85% of people who buy their insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges get tax credits. This, the Speaker's office said, "will help lower costs and expand choices."
The limits on out of pocket costs only apply to the ACA-required 10 essential health benefits, which include prescription drugs and hospital care. So eliminating the benefit requirement makes the limits "essentially meaningless," says health care legal expert Tim Jost.

Currently, these benefits must be covered in employer-provided insurance and plans sold on the exchanges in states that use Healthcare.gov, while states that operate their own exchanges can have slightly different requirements. Plans for people who gained coverage under the ACA expansion of Medicaid also have to include these benefits.

In addition to prescriptions and hospital care, marketplace plan benefits also include:

• Pregnancy, maternity and newborn care

• Mental health and substance abuse disorder services

• Rehab services and devices for people with disabilities

• Preventive and lab services

• Dental care for kid

The latest amendment to the American Health Care Act (AHCA)would dedicate an additional $15 billion to the Patient and State Stability Fund (PSSF) for services covered in essential health benefits including maternity, mental health, and substance abuse care.

The money would help, says National Council for Behavioral Health CEO Linda Rosenberg, but it doesn't come close to offsetting the $880 billion cuts planned for the Medicaid program. (This provision was a shell game because there's no way the Stability Fund would be protected from being used for purposes it was not intended to pay for.)
"This is a grant and that’s an entitlement," says Rosenberg. "We don't do that with breast cancer - tell people you have to go to a place for treatment that got a grant for five years."

Hal Lawrence, a physician who is CEO of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is also far from satisfied with the late night change.

“We support maternity coverage for all women in all insurance plans, regardless of who a woman works for or where she lives," says Lawrence. "This fund is not a solution and does not, in any way, mitigate the assault on women's health by returning maternity coverage to the vagaries of state politics."

"Instead of continuing to make a bad bill worse," Lawrence says Congress should start over again to come up with a bill that improves health and reduces cost.

The House's Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative Republicans, were pushing for language that would eliminate these required services, but House leaders originally said it couldn't be done under the special procedures through which the legislation is being moved through Congress. These require only 51 votes and don't allow for a Democratic filibuster. Wednesday night, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said the Senate parliamentarian had told him the insurance provisions would not necessarily violate those budget procedures.


Many consumers concerned about their high ACA premiums often complained that their plans included coverage they said they neither needed nor wanted. Women past childbearing years found their maternity and birth control coverage particularly galling or at least laughable, but some experts say such coverage costs need to be spread across all people to keep premiums reasonable.

"This notion that people can buy the plan they want" is flawed, says Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, which represents mental health and addiction treatment centers. Young people would only buy catastrophic coverage and the pool of people with regular insurance would be much sicker and costs would be prohibitively high, she says.

Health care economist John Goodman, however, says "it would be some help if insurers could have more flexibility in what they offer." Goodman, who helped draft one of the Republican ACA alternatives in Congress, says the required health benefits "force everyone to pay more money" for plans that cover services they may not need, such as for a very premature baby.
The opioid epidemic in congressmens' backyards

Along with keeping Medicaid intact, Rosenberg says the requirement that plans cover mental health and addiction treatment needs to stay in any bill that passes Congress. She says reducing the number of people covered by Medicaid and/or the coverage in Medicaid and ACA plans — as the Republicans' American Health Care Act would — threatens the ability of people suffering from mental health or addiction disorder to work and stay out of prison.

That describes the risk Samuel Hedgepeth says he would face if he lost his mental health and addiction coverage. He says he self-medicated for his bipolar disorder beginning at age 13 with alcohol and drugs including cocaine, heroin and other opioids. It wasn't until he got Medicaid in Maryland last year that he got treatment for his mental illness, despite 10 years in prison. He says he suffered from anger, paranoia and suicidal thoughts.

"My alcohol and my drug addiction — that was my way of coping"
says Hedgepeth, who lives in Hyattsville, Md. "Your body starts craving it, and you're willing to do anything to satisfy that obsession."

Eliminating the required health benefits could also jeopardize more moderate Republicans' votes even if it attracts conservatives. Rep. Peter King, a moderate New York Republican, went from a "no" vote to undecided after talking to President Trump, but then said he was closer to "no" after the essential health benefit plan surfaced.

Many moderate members also "ran by saying their top priority was addressing the opioid epidemic, the worst drug crisis in U.S. history," says Meaghan Smith, a spokeswoman for a coalition of ACA supporters known as the Protect Our Care Campaign. Eliminating essential health benefits "will be devastating for people throughout the country trying to fight the opioid epidemic and it will be political disaster for these members of Congress."

As for screening tests, Goodman says "preventive medicine doesn’t pay for itself," adding that many tests are "very controversial."

If cancers aren't caught early because people are either uninsured or their plans don't have to cover preventive health screenings, doctors and other health experts say cancer rates and deaths will increase. The Kaiser Family Foundation has reported 36% fewer uninsured women had a mammogram in the last two years, and uninsured women were 30 to 50% more likely to die from the disease. Women who lacked insurance were also three times less likely to have had a Pap smear in the last three years and had a 60% great risk of late-stage cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer, says Lawrence, "is basically it’s a preventable cancer." The later cancer is diagnosed, however, the greater the risk of death.

"It’s a horrible idea that takes away women’s access to preventive and maternity care," Lawrence says of the AHCA. "What (members of Congress) will do is increase illness, pregnancy complications, cancer and death. Sadly, the AHCA takes us back to well before the ACA."

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Speaker Ryan had 7 years to write a health care bill


House GOP Leaders Pull Trumpcare Vote- Speaker Ryan is proving he's certainly not a Tip O'Neil- who was a giant among political negotiators when he was the Speaker of the House.
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Speaker Paul Ryan wants to blame Republicans for not supporting the American Health Care Act (AHCA) rather than admit the bill is flawed becaue it doesn't meet consumer (aka "voters") expectatons

Makes no sense for Speaker Ryan's to shift the blame about the lack of support for the Republicaan "American Health Care Act" (AHCA), and the ensuing public policy debacle, to blame those who,in the past, voted to repeal Obamacarre or The Affordable Care Act (ACA),. He believes the Republicans have an oblgation to pass any kind of health care coverage law, just because they happen to oppose Obamacare. But, what Speaker Ryan doesn't "get" is thaat quality health care is "compensated health care". To repeal Obamacare without a suitable replacement, inclusive of popular benefits like maternity care, coverage for pre-existing conditijons and keeping children up to ag3 28 on a parents plans, causes a lack of access to compensated care. In other words, in the Re[ublican plan, insurance companies will create healthcare plans whereby beneficiares will pay for no access at all. At the end of this story, the result is hospitals and health  facilities will be forecedto close for lack of patients who can pay for their care.

All of this drama is a back door way of giving those who earn over $250,000 a year a tax break. How stupid is that?

Paul Ryan Sells Health Care Bill As A 'Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity'- in other words, Speaker Ryan wants to say he has power enough to harm poor people. He is staking his entire political reputation on taking an insurance benefit from ACA beneficiaries who pay premiums for their coverage.

Well, at least on the first try, Speaker Ryan received a reality check. His obsession with passing this AHCA thru Congress without public hearings is causing more harm to the "repeal and replace". But, the real issue is, why bother to repeal Obamacare when it's working well? Rather than repeal, just work a bi-partisan deal to improve the current law.

But, instead, Ryan says, "This is the chance. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said, roving the stage with a wireless mic, gesturing at both the audience in front of him and the PowerPoint presentation behind him.

(TED Talk? Late-night infomercial? Nope — it was House Speaker Paul Ryan, making a hard pitch for his health care plan after a week of loud conservative criticism.)

After listening to conservative groups like the Club For Growth blast the bill as a "warmed-over substitute for government-run health care," Ryan went on offense, saying this is just the first step of an ongoing overhaul of the health system. (OMG- what's wrong with Republicans?  They should be taking pride in supporting and improving government's rose in health care rather than cutting the progress made over the past 100 years to improve quality and affordable access.)


But, regardless of the darma.....
Washington DC- The House Republican leadership’s effort this week to (needlessly! and... sloppily) drive home its Obamacare repeal legislation seemingly collapsed on Thursday afternoon, when President Donald Trump was ultimately unable to win the elusive support of the hard-right Freedom Caucus. 

According to GOP sources, the healthcare vote will be postponed. Meetings among Republican members are expected to continue through out the evening. On Wednesday night, the caucus directly circumvented House leadership and Speaker Paul Ryan’s office to negotiate directly with Trump and the White House.

In fact, the caucus has been the single biggest obstacle to passing the American Health Care Act (AHCA) in the House, and was reportedly nearing cutting a deal with the president. 

Members of the Freedom Caucus indicated that the president and House leadership were open to nixing the so-called "essential health benefits" from the House bill—a proposal that would prove anathema to more moderate Republicans in both the House and Senate.

Despite the frantic, high-level negotiations and courtship that lasted well into Wednesday evening, no new deal was struck, and the AHCA was left with an even more uncertain future than it had when the day started.Freedom Caucus aides who spoke to The Daily Beast on Thursday morning said that, despite the “cautious optimism” on bringing Trump more into their corner, nothing had changed. The caucus’s concerns with the bill—which members view as another big-government conservative sell-out—were still far too great to support it, and President Trump and Speaker Ryan still weren’t surrendering to all their demands.

A friendly meeting at the White House with the president and his key advisers on Thursday morning didn’t do much to appease members of the Freedom Caucus or its staunchly anti-AHCA chairman Rep. Mark Meadows. 

A friendly meeting at the White House that happened the day before didn’t make a dent, either. Even Trump’s high-profile visit to Capitol Hill to single out and warn conservative holdouts that “many of you will lose your seats in 2018 if you don’t get this done” didn’t move the needle in his direction.

For weeks, the House Freedom Caucus was publicly and loudly vowing to not blink in its game of chicken against the Trump White House and House GOP leadership. They made it a mission to kill the bill—and the caucus delivered. “We’re taking [Trumpcare] down,” a Freedom Caucus aide assured The Daily Beast on Tuesday morning. —Asawin Suebsaeng

Republicans in Congress have long vowed that they can make health care more affordable and accessible. Americans will now see if they can keep that promise. (But, the Republican Speaker had 7 years, since Obamacare was passed, to come up with a cogent plan.....)

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Feudal mentality - Republicans use the poor to protect the rich

"If a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable and weak, America is a country in decline, a country whose citizens should be ashamed of their leaders — and, in some cases, ashamed of themselves."-Chauncey DeVega is a politics staff writer for Salon.

In a feudal system, the idea was for peasants and surfs to work for the king of the castle in exchange for certain privileges associated with security and (perhaps) food.  On the other hand, the king could tax the minions for the privilege of providing essential services.  This feudal system may have been genetic because many Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan, seem to have inherited the practice of robbing from the poor to give to the rich.
Feudalism  in the Middle Ages worksheet graphic organizer
Feudal system graphic- taking from the poor

Why are Republicans so cruel to the poor? - in Salon.com

Paul Ryan’s profound hypocrisy stands for a deeper problem
Paul Ryan has dreamed of slashing Medicaid since his keg-party days — and that blithe hostility is widespread

Republican Paul Ryan, like most other members of the United States Congress, is a millionaire.

On the other hand, Christa Patton is 68 years old. She is frail and no longer able to leave her home. She lives on a fixed income. Patton told Van Jones on a recent episode of his CNN show “The Messy Truth” that she would not be able to eat without the Meals on Wheels program.

Paul Ryan is the speaker of the United States House of Representatives. By his own account, in college he used to hang out with his friends and drink beer while sharing his dreams of cutting Medicaid. When Ryan was 15 years old, his father died from a heart attack caused by alcoholism. Ryan and his family then received his father’s Social Security survivor’s benefits. Ryan used that money to attend college. This was not the only money that Paul Ryan received from federal government. 

His family built its wealth from receiving government contracts.

Like his idol Ayn Rand (who argued against the very idea of government and the commons yet received social security and Medicare). Paul Ryan has combined meanness, cruelty and callousness towards the weak and the vulnerable with gross and unapologetic hypocrisy.
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Ayn Rand (1905-1982) is the inspiration for Speaker Ryan's ideology about cutting what he believes are "entitlements", but Ms. Rand her self was a beneficiary of Social Security and Medicare. 
Bu the way, Ms. Rand was a Russian immigrant - (ahhh, the #Russia_connection again!)

Republicans like Ryan — along with the millionaires and billionaires who comprise Donald Trump’s Cabinet and inner circle — literally want to take food, shelter and health care away from poor people like Christa Patton.

Today’s Republicans view these Americans as useless eaters to be disposed of by means both passive and active.

It is normal to feel aghast at and disgusted by the Republican Party’s war on the poor. The more challenging and perhaps even more disturbing task is to ask why today’s conservatives feel such antipathy, disregard and hostility towards poor and other vulnerable Americans. Certainly greed and a slavish devotion to a revanchist right-wing ideology are part of the answer. But they may not be sufficient

Conservatives are more likely to exhibit social dominance and bullying behavior. This is a function of their authoritarian tendencies. The election of Donald Trump exemplifies this phenomenon.

American political elites often use language that robs poor and other marginalized people of their individuality, humanity and dignity. This language also creates a type of social distance between “middle class” or “normal” Americans and the economically disadvantaged.

Conservatism is a type of motivated social cognition that by its very nature is hostile to those groups located on the lower rungs of the social hierarchy.

Conservatives are more likely than liberals or progressives to believe in what is known as the “just world fallacy,” where people who suffer misfortune are viewed as somehow deserving their fates. Conservatives are also more likely than liberals or progressives not to use systems-level thinking as a means of understanding that individuals do not exist separate and apart from society. Conservatives are also more likely to defend social inequality as “fair and legitimate.”

Social psychologists have shown that, in effect, poor people are invisible to the rich and upper classes.

The psychological dynamic known as the “diffusion of responsibility,” in which individuals tend to ignore people who are in crisis — especially if they are perceived to be a member of a different social group, race, ethnicity or class — also encourages a lack of empathy and concern. It undercuts policies meant to offer direct assistance to vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities. A perverse corollary to the “diffusion of responsibility” can also be used to legitimate punitive policies that target specific individuals and groups.

The myth of meritocracy and its cousin the myth of individualism exert a powerful hold over many Americans. This is especially true among conservatives. Social scientists and others have repeatedly demonstrated that American society is not a true meritocracy. Other research has shown that intergenerational income and class mobility are also relatively uncommon in the United States.

Likewise, the concept of the self-made person whose success is a function of “rugged individualism” is also a fantasy better suited to its dime-store origins than as a serious way of understanding American society. 

Nevertheless, these cultural mythologies do the practical political and social work of legitimizing the Republican war on the poor.

Race and class are intimately linked together in American (and Western) society. As such, poor people are incorrectly stereotyped as being overwhelmingly black and brown. 

In the United States, the intersections of race and class also impact the media narratives and cultural scripts that dictate who and what groups have historically been considered “deserving” (widows of war veterans, the disabled, single white mothers, children, the elderly) and “undeserving” (adult men and people of color).

Conservative media — and sometimes mainstream media as well — routinely uses false and misleading information to discuss the social safety net. For example, President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society as well as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives were extremely successful in terms of alleviating poverty and improving the general welfare of the American people. Yet right-wing media consistently tells its public that such programs were failures, a narrative that intentionally ignores the Republican Party’s efforts to undermine the effectiveness of those programs.

Among evangelical Christians, what is called the “prosperity gospel” has become increasingly influential. This grotesque interpretation of Christian doctrine assures its adherents that poor people deserve their circumstances because God has chosen not to bless them with money. Conversely, rich people have more money because God has deemed them worthy. 

Christian evangelicals — especially those who believe in the prosperity gospel — were a key constituency in Donald Trump’s winning coalition.

The brain structures of conservatives and liberals are quite different. Conservatives are capable of being empathetic. However, conservatives focus those feelings on their in-group such as immediate family and community. Liberals have a different biological inclination: They are able to feel empathy for those people and groups who are not part of their close social circle and community.




What can be done?

The bad news is that there is no evidence to suggest that the brains of conservatives can be modified to make them more empathetic and sympathetic towards their fellow human beings. Nor is the harmful messaging and narratives from the right-wing media about poor folks — and the Other more generally — likely to change in the foreseeable future.

On the level of practical politics, there have been no substantial negative electoral consequences to Republicans’ decades-long war on the social safety net and the common good. Thus, there is no reason in terms of electoral calculus for the Republican Party to stop pursuing such policies. Moreover, it is unlikely that conservative red-state voters will “wake up” and stop supporting a political party that actually leaves them less economically prosperous and financially secure. Here, poor and working-class Republican voters are like Pavlov’s dogs, seeking out abuse from their masters in the hope that the latter will hurt other Americans even more so.

But maybe there is hope. Americans must reinvigorate their social and political institutions across divides of race and class. This is the social glue that can be used to transcend the culture of cruelty that the Republican Party and the regime of neoliberal economics has imposed in the United States. Political messaging is critical: America should be a true “we the people” democracy that meets the needs of all people and not just those of the rich and the powerful. The Democratic Party must improve the way it communicates that vision to the American people.

Unfortunately, the Republican war on the poor is but one sign of the deep moral rot at the heart of American society. This crisis extends well beyond the election of Donald Trump and the cruelty both promised and so far enacted by his cadre and the Republican Party. If a society is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable and weak, America is a country in decline, a country whose citizens should be ashamed of their leaders — and, in some cases, ashamed of themselves.

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