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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Conversations- open to being completely "wrong": an economist view

I'm a nurse, not an economist. Therefore, my opinion about Bill Kristol's video discussion about economics was written from my consumer's point of view. Indeed, I learned something.
Okay, I took the advice of respected conservative pundit Bill Kristol. In fact, I listened to the 90 minute video conversation with his expert economics friend Irwin Stelzer, who spoke eloquently about how economic theories impact on modern issues of the day. As a registered nurse, I appreciated their discussion about health care, although it was only a small segment of the conversation. Moreover, I learned about how one academic economist processes information. Here are my take aways from this interesting conversation:


Dr. Irwin Stelzer, an economist, in conversation with conservative pundit Bill Kristol

I was impressed by the concept of "being wrong".  Dr. Stelzer spoke about how the polarizing political arguments - particularly those embroiled with climate change - have the philosophical potential of being completely wrong.  He was not advocating in support of climate change theories or against those who deny the concepts.  In fact, he abhors the use of the word "climate change denial" because it conjures up the horrible images of Holocaust denial, a disgusting relationship albeit unintentional. 

Nevertheless, the presentation about the possibility that climate change denial might be "totally wrong", was an interesting discussion. In his economics argument, he said it's possible that those who fervently believe in climate change as absolutely true, could also be wrong.  In other words, if one side or the other are totally wrong, and in the philosophy of "all things are possible", this is highly probable, then how do these opposing factions reconcile their errors?  If I understood Stelzer, his concept about being totally wrong regarding climate change means that those who deny the theory must accept the fact that they might be wrong. In so doing, they must evaluate to what degree they are willing to accept any possibility that climate change is real? As I understand this argument, Stelzer might advocate for the denial group to at least acknowledge that ice caps are melting at an accelerated rate and this could be the result of human interference in the environment.  This doesn't mean they accept the advocates for climate change theories because, frankly the proponents of climate change don't have very much data to demonstrate their position is totally right, either. What is most probable in this economic conundrum (my word, not his) is that there are risks and opportunities in the acceptance of "climate change theory". For example, people in Canada might embrace the possibility of warmer temperatures while coastal communities must accept the risk of losing their generational ways of living, as sea levels rise.  (Although this seems too simplistic, especially coming from a learned economist, the acceptance of inevitable change and human capacity to adapt  are "evidenced based outcomes", a health care concept.) Stelzer recommended a carbon tax to accommodate the proponents of climate change and thereby relieve the responsibility for deniers about their opposition, in the event the advocates are totally right. (Hmmmm....An interesting theory....) In effect, the carbon tax would be a way to build an economic incentive to buffer the potentiality of climate change being real.

Dr. Stelzer spoke eloquently when he discussed economic inequality. He is worried about how compensation for working is losing it's correlation to the quality or integrity of the job.  He used the example of a T-shirt salesman who works hard, does all the right things, sells T shirts at a competitive price but then his competitor goes to China to buy the same design much cheaper and, thereby, takes all the business. Sadly, the hard working T-shirt salesman is not compensated for doing what was right and fairly competitive, while the person who undersold the costs used unfair trade policies to take his T-shirt rivals livelihood.

Yes, the conversation between Kristol and Stelzer was laced with not too subtle references about their mutual opinion regarding Donald Trump's leadership.

Although this conversation with Bill Kristol and Dr. Stelzer was educational, my summary of the discussion was this:  America will survive climate change theory and, by extension, endure the leadership of Donald Trump.  It's just a shame we must all suffer the philosophical agony of this era, before reaching this conclusion.

Some quotes from this discussion:

Stelzer: "...think about...healthcare...We are going to get it wrong. When you are trying to guess how many millions of people are going to respond to what kind of policy, we’re going to get it wrong. So the question is, which is the least costly error we can make?"


Kristol asks:  "you are a very strong advocate for a carbon tax, which is a favorite of a lot of the environmentalists. People sort of say, 'Well how could he be both? I thought he – he seems like a climate skeptic and then he is for this carbon tax'."

Stelzer responds:  "(If we)..don’t agree with them 100 percent, you are a 'denier'. And I hate that term, because it comes out of the Holocaust. It’s a terrible term. And I have told them that and they keep using it. So, you say, okay, I don’t like these people. But nevertheless, I've got to look at what they say."

"And it doesn’t look to me like what they are saying is plausible – that the world is going to come to an end – especially since that’s an invitation for more government. So the people who are doing it have an incentive. You have always got to look at what the incentive is of the person who is making the position. And so his incentive is to expand government, and naturally...regulation."

"So then you say to yourself, well, but I could be wrong. Now let me see, if I’m wrong and the globe heats up, that’s not a reversible error. That is an error. You can’t buy a fan and cool the globe down – you’re done. So, maybe I am wrong. They think they’re right, they know they’re right. I think I am right, but I am not sure I am right."

So then the question is, what policy is appropriate that will do the least damage if I am wrong? Well, we should do something as costless as we can to reduce emissions, in case they are being generated by human behavior. Well, what is the most efficient way to do that? Now, there, an economist can be helpful..."  

Check out this entire transcript at the link here.

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Women's political clout

Republicans are obviously incapable of standing truth to power but the women showed their male colleagues how to be courageous.  In fact, two Republcian somen- Senator Susan Collins and Senator Lisa Murkowski, handed the Republican men a lesson in political leadership. In fact, the take away message is this: Senator Mitch McConnell made a stupid and irretreeivable mistake by keeping women out of negotiations on the failed Trumpcare disaster.
Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska

Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, the Health Vote Heroines- By Gail Collins  

Senator Susan Collins of Maine
Were you expecting the Republican health care bill to go down with such a thud this week? Definitely a moment to remember. Unless, of course, you accept Donald Trump’s interesting theory that it all worked out exactly the way he wanted.

“I said from the beginning — let Obamacare implode and then do it,” the president told a group of law enforcement officers on Friday. This was part of the White House celebration of “American Heroes Week,” which was highlighted by Trump’s surprise effort to discriminate against transgender volunteers in the military. 

But of course he really, really wanted a bill to sign. Maybe he was too distracted by the subtle plotting against Reince Priebus to focus. Otherwise, he’s just the worst lobbyist in history. 

And he underestimated two Senate Republicans, Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. John McCain’s “no” vote was the high point of the drama, but Collins and Murkowski were the fierce, consistent forces of resistance that gave McCain his opportunity. 

My favorite moment came when Trump dispatched Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to warn Murkowski that if she continued to vote against the bill, her home state of Alaska would lose stuff it wanted from the federal government.

The Alaska Dispatch News speculated that the projects Zinke threatened to ax included “future opportunities to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.” If so, cynical minds noted, he was basically warning Murkowski that if she didn’t behave, he might attempt to protect the environment.

But Collins and Murkowski care a lot about women’s issues; their joint stand was the logical outcome of a year that’s been marked by an utter Republican indifference to women. Both serve on the Senate committee that handles health care — a fact that did not appear to impress Majority Leader Mitch McConnell when he appointed 13 men to get together behind closed doors and write a health care bill.

The plan the guys came up with made no attempt to control insurance costs for maternal care. It would end the requirement that health care plans cover contraceptives. And it would bar Medicaid reimbursements for any services provided by Planned Parenthood.

“It was a huge mistake for the Republican leadership to put that in there. Lisa and Susan were clear from the start — you hurt Planned Parenthood and we’re not with it,” said Patty Murray, the leading Democrat on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

The week before the health care debacle Representative Blake Farenthold, a very conservative and extremely strange lawmaker from Texas, told a radio interviewer he was irritated with the way the women were holding things up, adding, “If it was a guy from South Texas I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style.”

It was a remarkable comment and only in part because you do not find many politicians who express a desire to be like Aaron Burr. Farenthold was actually talking about shooting the women.

Collins seemed unmoved. She mentioned the incident in a private conversation with a colleague that happened to be picked up by a politician’s greatest enemy, the hot mike. She briefly made fun of Farenthold’s very large physique and asked, ”Did you see the picture of him in his pajamas next to this Playboy bunny?” She later apologized. Nobody should mock people’s physical appearance. However, to be fair, men who are planning a political career should not pose for photographs while wearing blue pajamas covered with yellow ducks.

That conversation — with Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island — was actually more important for the way it captured the growing feeling in the Senate that the president was more than just a little eccentric.

“I think — I think he’s crazy,” said Reed. To which Collins responded, “I’m worried.”

As are we all.

nue reading the main storyPerhaps we will read about this in “The Art of the Deal: Presidential Edition.” (“If you need to win over one special vote, try to do it with threats. This is particularly effective if your target has more power than you do.”) The administration, which so far has barely managed to exercise enough clout to get a building renamed, was trying to strong-arm an influential committee chairwoman whose Senate term does not end until 2023 — a date that, many of her colleagues believe fervently, is a lot longer than they are likely to be dealing with Donald Trump.

Murkowski and Collins continued voting “no” because they believed that Trumpcare would be bad for the people in their states. Other Republican senators felt the same way, but lacked the same nerve.

“They were amazing,” said Chuck Schumer, the extremely happy Senate Democratic leader.

Both women have had memorable Senate careers, but neither has always been what you’d call a profile in courage. Collins’s Maine constituents give her a lot of latitude. Murkowski, who was first appointed to her seat by her father the governor, is known for her intense devotion to all forms of oil drilling.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Donald Trump's failed leadership will never produce results

Peggy Noonan: ‘Donald Trump is Weak and sniveling’

Peggy Noonan tore into Donald Trump in an opinion article, but she didn't resort to profanity to make her obvious points. (Anthony Scaramucci alert!)


(I'm pretty sure journalist Peggy Noonan's Opinion in The Wall Street Journal had a startling impact on Donald Trump. Something must be done to fix his out of control egotistical style, before he destroys our nation. Since Republican's are inept about addressing the leadership problem, perhaps Peggy Noonan's opinion has had an impact. (Evidently, something is going on in the White House this July weekend and it's not playing golf.)

This is a rare July weekend in Donald Trump's short tenure, because he doesn't have any golf outings scheduled. 

In fact, there are no reported appointments or activities on the White House calendar, during this weekend of July 27-10, 2017.
There have been far too many horrific communications and management gaffs to ignore, so something is going on to fix this problem.  

Indeed, something must be done to fix the White House's hierarchical communications issues.  Now that Sean Spicer and Reince Preibus have resigned, there isn't anybody to direct "who does what".  

It's like a classic and organizational "Who's on First?".

In my opinion, the internal White House dynamics are so bad that people are likely spending time hiding in the White House bathrooms, rather than face their peers. 

Indeed, the White House is in an operational crises and, thereby, must be employing experts to fix the horrible internal communications dynamics. (So, "Who is on first?")


American security depends on the White House communications operating smoothly. Obviously, I'm an outsider, but somebody who understands group dynamics. To me, the mismanagement facts are clear. Donald Trump's administrative leadership team (ie, those who appear to work in the "fly infested" West Wing) are meeting to reorganize, while the flies are buzzing over their heads (evidently, the West Wing has a "fly" problem, not associated with men's pants). 

Trump's incompetent team are meeting in a coven to fix what's wrong with themselves. They take solace in that plenty of lawyers are hanging around to help, but I'm sure there are also a gaggle of psychologists who are leading Gum-By-Ya sessions, this weekend.

Donald Trump's house of horror advisers used horrific bully tactics to kick out the people they didn't like, as in the Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus.  Those two gentlemen had at least some sense of propriety about them, even if they looked completely ridiculous while trying to make their boss (Donald Trump) look to be quasi presidential.  

Now, in my opinion, Donald Trump is probably being held like a political prisoner by two military advisers, being General McMaster who is leading the National Security Agency and his colleague Marine General Kelly, who was hired to replace Priebus.

I don't know about anybody else, but I wouldn't want to be living under the scrutiny of two military generals. Especially, because you can bet that those two military leaders are getting along (take that to the proverbial gossip bank). In fact, McMaster and Kelly are talking together like long lost brothers. Betcha', they have a plan for Donald Trump. Their plan is this: You will become presidential or we'll personally report you to our highest authority! 

In other words, Donald Trump will be impeached within weeks for incompetence unless he straightens out and behaves like a world leader, instead of like an immature teenager.  

By now, most US presidents would be anxious to be respected, but Donald Trump's reputation is circling the political drain because of his irresponsible "tweeting".

Good luck to General McMaster and General Kelly. Perhaps you two can do what 70 years of public scrutiny failed to do, in efforts to create a human being out of Donald Trump's out of control ego.

Nevertheless, my fear is that you two military experts and masters of leadership, will fail.  Donald Trump will fire both of you, before he complies with any leadership development plan. Meanwhile, we can only pray for the well being of our nation during this tenuous political time.

Something must be done to fix Donald Trump. (Impeachment would be my recommendation!)

Otherwise, the short Donald Trump administration will be remembered for never producing any progressive policies and only negative political results.

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Thanking the Maine delegation in support of health care

In Lewiston Maine today with OFA (Organizing for Action) where I spoke about the need for access to affordable quality health care, with Maine State Senator Nate Libby of Androscoggin County, July 29 at Dufrense Park, in Lewiston.

With Tammie Fowles LCSW, of Wayne Maine at the Lewiston "thank you" rally!

Health Care rally July 29 at Dufrense Park in Lewiston Maine

 Lewiston, Me- Thank you Marc Malon for invited me to speak.

Thank you to Senator Susan Collins and Senator Angus King and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for supposing Americans right to have access to quality affordable health care via the Affordable Care Act.

I would like to help educate our Congress about how military families benefit from having access to buying health insurance via the Obamacare exchanges. 

I speak as the wife of a retired US Navy veteran. My husband served 23 years in the US Navy and he is a Vietnam veteran two times, once with the US Seabees in Chu Lai and a second deployment on the aircraft carrier USS Intrepid.  We both feel strongly about protecting access to health care for veterans and for their families.
Although active duty military and their families have the benefit of complete family coverage while the sponsor is on active duty, the fact is, this benefit  is lost when the military sponsor leaves active duty without serving 20 years to qualify for retirement.  

In other words, when an active duty military person, many of them who have been deployed multiple times to war zones, their families lose all access to health care on the day of their sponsor’s discharge.

Therefore, military families rely on their opportunity to access the insurance exchanges supported by the AffordableCare Act, especially if family members of discharged 
veterans require coverage for pre-existing conditions.

Congress must realize how the Affordable Care Act benefits all Americans who need helath insurance, but we often overlook how the hyoung families if dischanged active duty veterans need this coverage.

We appreciate the opportunity to educate our lawmakers about the urgency of this coverage.

Marc Malon with Kevin Simpson of Auburn (pic left), in Lewiston for Thank You rally.

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Friday, July 28, 2017

Woodrow Wilson didn't deliver but 21st Century can re-enact- Silent Parade

Centennial Anniversary:

In the year 1917, there were several strange events: (a) Russian Revolution; (b) American entered World War I- The Great War; and (c) for Marian mystics, it was also the year of the Fatima apparitions.

But, Google reminded us, in a Google Doodle, about another event, the Silent Parade of July 28, 1917

It happened a century ago, on this July 28th, 1917, but the event is hardly ever mentioned.

This impressive visual could be re-enacted all across America today. It's certainly visually powerful and, in the 21st century, it could easily be a multi-racial and peaceful parade.  

LOUDER THAN WORDS

What was the Silent Parade of 1917? 

100th anniversary of civil rights march marked by Google Doodle – all you need to know

African Americans marched silently through New York in one of the first mass protests against anti-black violence in the US-
By David Hughes

What was the background to the Silent Parade of 1917?

The Silent Parade reflected the heightened anger of black Americans following a recent outbreak of vicious race-related violence.

Between May and July 1917 brutal riots in East St. Louis, a city in Illinois, between 40 and 250 black people were killed by white mobs.

Authorities were blamed for failing to protect innocent lives, with a chilling contemporary report describing how police were “either indifferent or encouraged the barbarities”.

The bloody scenes in East St. Louis sparked fury among black people across a nation already simmering with racial tension as African Americans migrated from the south to predominantly white industrial centres. (A northern immigration.)

Such violence was by no means uncommon – a lynching of a black farmer the previous year had attracted a gruesome crowd of 10,000 white Texans, according to the academic Chad Williams.
What happened during the Silent Parade?

On July 28, between 8,000 and 10,000 African American men, women and children marched silently down Fifth Avenue, New York City, in condemnation of the riots.

Women and children, all dressed in white, led the group, with the men following behind in dark suits, creating a poignant visual spectacle.


Placards held by the protesters expressed messages of peace and unity, as well as highlighting the contributions of African Americans to the nation and calling for justice over racial violence.

As well as a response to the shocking recent events in Illinois, the marchers demanded that President Woodrow Wilson delivered on campaign promises to protect black Americans.

His promised anti-lynching legislation never materialized – indeed, little was done to improve discrimination against African Americans during Wilson’s presidency.

However, as one of the first mass protests against anti-black violence in the US, the Silent Parade marks a significant landmark in the civil rights movement.

In my opinion, this is one of Google Doodle's best moments and it should be an annual traditional post.

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Republicans are breathing much easier post health vote

Thank you Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator John McCain for standing strong by preventing the "Skinny Repeal" from imploding the American health care system. 
In fact, by removing the individual mandate as the GOP proposed, the Obamacare coverage would be unsustainable leaving 16 million without health insurance.

Regardless of how much drama was involved in the early morning Republiucan health care debacle, the  fact that Obamacare lives today on "GOP  Failure Friday" is a relief to people like Senator Lindsey Graham, who didn't want the cruel repeal to pass, anyway.
Senator John McCain bravely voted "no" on GOP Failure Friday

GOP senators shred 'skinny' Obamacare repeal — then say they'll support it (???).  Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Ron Johnson and Bill Cassidy initially said they wouldn't vote for a "skinny" Obamacare repeal, but later said they received assurances that it will not become law.  (Senator McCain did not support the bill). 

Graham had called it a "disaster" as policy. This made no sense. "Not only do we not replace Obamacare, but we own the disaster." (Senator Graham). Nevertheless, Graham should  have voted "no", along with his colleagues, including his friend Senator McCain.

This "morning after" the dramatic vote, there are 16 million American people who can breath easier about their own health care coverage, because they all risked losing it if the GOP bill passed.  

More important, Senator John McCain saved his Republican party from implosion with his decisive "no" vote. In fact,the Republican party would never recover from a stupid "skinny repeal".  Thank God this debacle is over- temporarily.  It's time to vote for "Medicare for all"

Any vote to move forward with Obamacare repeal would prolong the agony of figuing out how to improve the Affordable Care Act, without any viable plan for such dramatic reform.

Obviously, three brave Republicans, thanks to Senator Susan Collins, Senator Lisa Murkowski and Senator John McCain, may have saved their political colleagues from facing 2018 election disaster. 

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mueller - Multiple Choice outcomes

All of the solutions point to Republicans not doing their Constitutional jobs-and one outlier whereby the probability is a statistical zero.- By Jennifer Rubin

In none of the choices does the Trump administration recover.

In light of news reports that President Trump’s team is scouring the record for conflicts of interest on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team (the essence of chutzpah) and contemplating pardons (of aides and/or himself), it is worth considering how this may all play out. The Washington Post offers several scenarios:

1. Trump orders Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire Mueller. Sessions quits, as does Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. Eventually someone agrees to fire Mueller. Republicans either will not pursue impeachment or are obliged to begin impeachment hearings but refuse to vote out articles of impeachment. In 2018, Democrats sweep to victory in the House and gain a seat or two in the Senate. Trump cannot be removed (two-thirds of the Senate is required for removal), but his presidency is in tatters. Some aides or ex-aides face criminal prosecution. LESSON: Republicans’ failure to stand up to Trump early dooms his presidency and crashes the GOP.

2. Trump orders Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire Mueller. Sessions quits, as does Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand. Eventually someone agrees to fire Mueller. Republicans, together with Democrats, pass by a veto-proof majority an independent prosecutor statute. Before impeachment proceedings can finish, Democrats sweep to victory in 2018 in the House and gain a seat or two in the Senate. Trump cannot be removed, but his presidency is in tatters. Some aides or ex-aides face criminal prosecution. LESSON: Fire Mueller, and Congress will hire him back.

3. Republicans join Democrats in warning Trump not to fire Mueller. Mueller remains and keeps digging. Mueller subpoenas damaging documents; Trump refuses to comply. A court orders him to comply. He doesn’t. We have a full-blown constitutional crisis. LESSON: Congress cannot delegate all responsibility to Mueller. It must conduct a parallel investigation and, if need be, commence impeachment proceedings.

4. Republicans join Democrats in warning Trump not to fire Mueller. Mueller remains and keeps digging. Mueller subpoenas damaging documents; Trump refuses to comply. 
A court orders him to comply. He declares this a witch hunt, an attack on his family (or whatever). Then he resigns, claiming he has already made America great. He tells the country that Vice President Pence will carry on in his place. LESSON: Congress must protect Mueller and preserve the possibility that Trump may be forced to resign.

5. Republicans join Democrats in warning Trump not to fire Mueller. Mueller subpoenas damaging documents. Trump complies. The evidence of collusion and/or obstruction is overwhelming. Mueller recommends prosecution or impeachment. The GOP turns on Trump, who is impeached and removed (with the GOP by that time possibly in the minority in one or both houses). LESSON: Congress must protect Mueller and pay the price for failure to oppose Trump’s nomination and election.

Is there a sixth scenario (?) in which Mueller exonerates Trump? 

That’s the least likely outcome after Trump has fired former FBI director James B. Comey and threatened the special counsel. Why would he do those things unless there was something really, really bad to find? And if there is something bad, Mueller will find it. You can understand then why Trump sounds frantic. 

In no scenario does Trump’s presidency recover.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Waukegan Daily Herald- Echo letter to the editor: GOP doesn't care

And today we hear from Waukegan Illinois- "GOP Doesn't Care", in the "Echo" series of randomly selected letters to the editor.

GOP just doesn't care- Waukegan Daily Herald

Buffalo Grove, Ilinois- Is it possible, that any normal-intelligence person believes that the president of the U.S.A. will get an American congress to appropriate a few hundred billion dollars to build a wall 1,400 or 1,500 miles long, 30 feet high along the U.S.-Mexico border, and will he get Mexico to pay for the wall?

Is it possible that an American congress will vote to knock 15 to 25 million people off health care rolls? That after promising publicly to the entire nation that his unyielding goal will be to protect Medi­caid and Medicare and Social Security, he will move heaven and earth to advance legislation that will cut, reduce or privatize, or elimin­ate those provisions for lower- and medium-income American families?

Is it possible an American president will debase and demean the Ameri­can intelligence agencies (CIA? FBI? NSA? and others) -- our very basic defenders of our freedoms -- and the one, most central freedom in our constitution, the free press, in order to put down any criticism or any difference of opinion on his hysterical, incompetent, juvenile, bullying rants?


(Sadly)- It is possible that some Americans will answer "yes" to these questions. And now, there are some who will agree that the recent request from this least-qualified, authoritarian, so-called president for voters' personal information is for what? To see who he can go over and prevent from voting again? So he can control the vote? So he can prevent those who voted against him from voting again? If this is not the purest form of fascism, government dictatorship, it sure smells like it.

And the story being planted by the Republican pols (like Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana) that "the American people want the freedom to choose their medical insurance plans as they prefer," is the biggest lie of the big-money party to date. The truth is the American people want medical insurance coverage; and if they don't have enough mo­ney to pay for it, they want the same program provided for senior citi­zens (Medicare), as they have the same desperate needs for coverage, whatever their age and circumstance.

But the GOP just doesn't give a hoot.

Frank Sears  Buffalo Grove

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Border Wall is now a volleyball tournament!


Walleyball!

The frontier between the United States and Mexico is the busiest land border in the world. It is also among one of the world’s most heavily regulated and policed border zones—the arid climate of which is responsible for many migrant deaths each year.

But it’s also an area that occasionally lends itself to more cheerful pursuits—something you won’t hear about from a number of far-right US politicians, who prefer to frame the US-Mexico border as something like a war zone.

“Wallyball” is an annual tradition in the sister towns of Naco, Arizona, in the United States and Naco, Sonora, in Mexico. 

Every April, teams from either side of the border face off in this “fast-paced version of volleyball,” reports Rafa Fernandez De Castro for Fusion.

It’s called the “Fiesta Bi-Nacional,” and it’s intended to solidify positive transnational relations between Mexico and the US, despite tensions over migration and other issues. “Wallyball” has been an integral part of Fiesta Bi-Nacional since 1979, and has inspired similar competitions elsewhere along the US-Mexico border. 

Holiday-makers in the US city of San Diego and the Mexican city of Tijuana have taken up impromptu volleyball matches on the sandy beaches where both countries meet the Pacific Ocean.

“For us, it represents the celebration of the union of two countries,” José Lorenzo Villegas, mayor of Mexican Naco, told Reuters in 2007. “What’s unusual is that both the Mexican and US teams are playing at home, with the fence as the net,” he added.

The border between the US and Mexico is often shadowed by prejudice and morbid media coverage. But “wallyball” is a testament to the great, untapped potential of cooperation on both sides of the fence. 

Both teams may be playing on their respective “home turf,” but the game is clearly less about where you’re from, and more about than the fun to be had when differences are set aside.

P.S. From Maine Writer- so, where and what time are the girls playing?


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Scaramucci White House poster gallery- Morticia and Eddie Munster

Only six months into the failed Donald Trump administration and it's already turning the historic White House into a House of Horrors.

Staffers go to work everyday thinking the proverbial "pink slip" will be in their Inbox, signed by someone in a Munster family re-run.  

If the newly appointed communications director (failure) Scaramucci wants to completely eliminate White House leaking, he should lock the door to the Oval Office and never let Donald Trump get near his Twitter account. Otherwise, Scaramucci is just a stand in for the Godfather III sequel or waiting for a casting call by producers of "Munsters Return".

It appears the White House portrait gallery is turning into a movie poster bill board with the lead characters coming directly out of the Munsters Returns sequels. 

Anthony Scaramucci (scare-muchi) look alike:  Eddie Munster
Which one is the real "Scare-muchi"?


Now look at the "Morticia" look alike?  Guess who?


White House communications portrait gallery looks like a movie billboard, for Munster sequels


The two similarities are beyond coincidental. It's almost like they are intentional, made to undermine the credibility of their importance. In fact, these horror images and the personalities behind them are laughable and their communications are unworthy of the White House.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

History will be the final Trump judge- Echo letter from Westminister Maryland

History won't judge us kindly for the Trump era (tainted by treason)

Westminister, Maryland- When examining the current (tumultuous) Trump era's history, Matthew George fears, (and I believe) the historians will not judge America kindly. (In other words, Trump supporters deny their responsibility for electing a leader who called on Russia to win votes for him.)

A well-informed, educated and engaged electorate is crucial to a functioning democracy. But 25 years of right-wing demagoguery from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Steve Bannon and countless others have turned a significant portion of our electorate into paranoid conspiracy theorists who seem to hate their own government, who no longer believe in the institutions that have protected our nation, and to whom factual provable truths are now matters of opinion.

Donald Trump, both as a candidate and as president, tapped into this perverse world view held by the extreme right and made it his own. He has perfected a shtick that has turned the base of the Republican Party against the very institutions that ensure an informed democracy; namely the courts, a free press, and our nation's intelligence services. The very institutions that discern, albeit imperfectly, justice, truth and reality in the world around us.

The recent revelation by Donald Trump Jr. that he, the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manfort all met privately with Russian nationals for the express purpose of receiving information compiled by Russian intelligence services attempting to compromise Hilary Clinton should enrage every loyal American.


Sadly, it appears it does not and therein lies the danger to our democracy.

Despite at least 20 public denials by either Trump himself or his aides in the past 13 months, that there was no "collusion" between his campaign and the Russian government, that this "Russian thing" was all "fake news," we now know by their own admission this is not the case. If this does not enrage those on the extreme right who claim to be loyal to this country, than what will?

No, history will not judge our nation kindly looking at the Trump era and the corrosive discourse of our politics that brought us to this point. Sadly, enough sane people saw this Trump train wreck coming, but not enough had the sense to get out of the way.

One thing is certain, whether it is expressly illegal or not, collusion or even attempted collusion with a foreign government to undermine the free and fair election of our president equals treason in the hearts of those who still love this country, and the GOP will be held accountable for this.

Matthew George- Westminister Maryland

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Associated Press poll- shift toward political left on health care is trending

Some interesting polling shifts as reported in the Maine Medical Association on line newsletter: 

Poll: Most Americans Believe Federal Government Should Provide Health Coverage

The AP (7/20, Alonso-Zaldivar, Kellman) reports “Americans aren’t enthralled with” the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare"), “and they definitely don’t like” the GOP’s ACA repeal proposals, so what do they want as far as health care is concerned? 

A new Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, reports the US “may be shifting toward the political left on the issue, with 62 percent saying it’s the federal government’s responsibility to make sure that all Americans have health care coverage, while 37 percent say it is not.” 

In March, those figures were 52 percent and 47 percent, respectively.

The Hill (7/20, Savransky) reports about “80 percent of Democrats said the federal government has the responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage, while about 30 percent of Republicans said the same.”

Roll Call (7/20, Breiner) reports that the poll indicates more Americans advocate universal health care. 


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San Antonio Express News- opinion echo: Vote no to GOP repeal

San Antonio newspaper is calling on the two Texas senators to oppose the Republican health insurance initiative.  Please!
Republicans are abusing the promise made by Donald Trump to provide better health insurance coverage for Americans by creating a conduit to tax cuts for the rich while cutting benefits for poor and middle class.  Senator Angus King labeled this strategy "shift and shaft". 
Shaft the poor to shift money to the rich.  

Donald Trump promised to provide a better health insurance coverage policy than what Republicans are offering.  Instead, the Republicans are shifting a tax cut to the rich by shafting health care for the poor and middle class.

Senate health care bill fails the country

We urge Texas senators to unite — in opposition.

This bill is bad for Texas and bad for the country.

With the Senate poised to vote on the repeal bill.

To pass, the bill will require at least 50 senators with a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence.

There are myriad of flaws in the GOP bill.

Texas Senator John Cornyn, of course, is, as majority whip, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. So, his support for the measure comes as no surprise, as it is essentially Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s baby. 

Nonetheless, there are compelling reasons Cornyn should break with McConnell and the majority of Senate Republicans on this bill.

On the whole, it is similar enough to the House measure to render it awful. But that’s actually the wrong comparison. The Senate measure should be compared to Obamacare, which, by helping insure some 20 million Americans, reduced the number of uninsured people in this country generally.

The positives: Parents will still be able to keep their children as old as 26 on their policies.

And then it gets very bad after that.

Thirty-one states expanded Medicaid under the ACA to help low-income people get coverage. The federal government paid 100 percent of that expansion cost for the first three years, capped at 90 percent afterward. Texas was foolish to forgo this.

But the Senate bill would, quite aside from the expansion, cut the traditional program more severely than the $800 billion over the next 10 years the House planned, experts say. It would just do it more slowly.

More than half of Texas children are covered under either Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, said Ann Dunkelberg, associate director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin. Medicaid, she said, pays for a substantial number of Texas babies born every year as well. 

And not as well known, seniors also benefit from Medicaid.

Obamacare provided subsidies for lower-income people to pay for out-of-pocket expenses, such as deductibles and co-pays. The Senate preserves these for two years and then ends them altogether. Higher deductibles will result, as will, consequently, fewer people covered. Also ensuring this: the Senate version eliminates the penalties for adults who don’t purchase health coverage, the so-called individual mandate. More than 900,000 Texans were getting subsidies through the Obamacare exchanges.

It also eliminates penalties for larger companies if they don’t provide affordable insurance to their employees.

Obamacare banned insurers from charging their oldest customers more than three times what they charge their youngest. The Senate raises that to five times as much.

As with the House measure, the Senate defunds Planned Parenthood for one year. This, no doubt, is just another chapter in the nation’s abortion saga, but the organization does not use government funds for abortions and provides a bevy of other health services that keep low-income women, in particular, healthy — and helps prevent the pregnancies that can lead to abortions. This cut is simply foolish.

The Senate bill changes the tax credit formulas that help people afford their premiums through the exchanges to make them less generous. This is puzzling. One of the biggest complaints about Obamacare was that, even with the subsidies and tax credits, costs were still painful for many. A tweaking of Obamacare could fix that. But the Senate would make coverage even more expensive in the long run.

This bill masquerades as a health care measure, but is actually a massive tax cut for the wealthy. It eliminates most of the taxes imposed on the well-to-do to pay for Obamacare.

McConnell is pledging an expedited vote before opposition can mount a public campaign aimed at senators. Our prediction, however, is that even after a vote, senators who favored this bill will face constituents’ wrath when they go home. And if this measure is reconciled with the House bill to effectively repeal and replace Obamacare, there will surely be a price paid at the polls for many of these senators.

But the biggest reason to oppose this bill has nothing to do with re-electability. It’s about ethical responsibility. These changes do nothing to fulfill President Trump’s promise of better coverage for more people. If such a monstrosity gets to his desk and there is no veto, this will just be another empty promise.

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Cincinnati echo - Impeach Trump now!

Republicans created a brouhaha about the tragic raid in Benghazi, Libya when nothing came of any evidence towards Secretary Clinton, who had nothing to do with the outcome.  Yet, when confronted with treasonous behavior among the incompetent Donald Trump, the GOP are oblivious to a preponderance of evidence pointing to his incompetence.

In the Cincinnati Enquirer- another call for Donald Trump to be impeached.
Mark P. Painter, is a contributor to the Cincinnati Enquirer. This is an amazingly frank commentary.

There is no doubt now about the need to impeach Trump

Mark P. Painter, a lifelong Cincinnatian, served as a judge for 30 years and is a member of The Enquirer Board of Contributors.

He wrote, "In February, I said here that Donald Trump must be impeached. Some people said I was premature, in that he had only begun violating the Constitution."

If there were any doubt then, there is surely none now.

The president continues to violate the Emoluments Clause every day, by taking profits from his companies paid in by foreigners. The Trump Hotel in Washington has become the place for diplomats to stay, enriching the Trump clan, and Trump himself. He has refused to divest his business dealings. The Palm Beach Club has raised initiation fees to $200,000. And sold how many new memberships?

He has appointed the most incompetent and dangerous cabinet members in history: a climate-change denier as head of the EPA; a foe of public education as education secretary.

At the G20 summit, where the American president was always, until now, considered the leader, Trump was marginalized. (He was a lonely wall flower at the big people's table!)

In fact, the other 19 nations ealized he was totally out of his league. The Putin meeting was good until it wasn’t. We were going to work together on cybersecurity. The president at first either pretended to believe it – or even worse – did believe it. The only thing worse that comes to mind would be enlisting Kim Jong-un to help us contain nuclear weapons. But then the anagram, Reince Priebus, trotted out immediately to say that, of course, Trump did not believe anything Putin said.

On-the-job training isn’t working.

No one can possibly read the Tweetstream daily and not, as I’ve said before, be convinced that our leader is 1.) illiterate, 2.) incompetent, and 3.) insane.

Now we have the Russia Connection becoming more apparent. 

There has never been any doubt that the Russians interfered in our election. But now we know that Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer, soliciting valuable information. Legal experts are now debating whether what Trump Jr. and Kushner have admitted to constitutes treason or just an election-law felony.Richard Painter (no relation), the former George W. Bush ethics lawyer, has opted for the latter. 

From The Hill: “Painter said the Bush administration would not have allowed the meeting, which was attended by Trump Jr., then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, now a White House senior adviser, to happen. ‘If this story is true, we’d have one of them if not both of them in custody by now, and we’d be asking them a lot of questions,’ he said. ‘This is unacceptable. 

This borders on treason, if it is not itself treason.’” Well, we now know it is true.

Charles Pierce, in his not-to-be-missed daily column on Esquire.com: “The government of the United States is a shambles. An incompetent administration headed by an unqualified buffoon is now descending into criminal comedy and maladroit backstabbing. It is an administration that not only self-destructs but glories in the process. There seems to be no end to it, and no desire to end it by the people who actually have the power to do so.”

One problem of the Trump attempted presidency is there is just so much absurdity. One day’s revelation is not yet digested when on the next day, or in the next hour, a further one comes to light. Trump has been surrounded by fraud and criminality his entire life –it’s just the norm for him.

But when Trump Jr. was offered help from the Russian government for his father’s campaign and replied, “I love it,” the beginning of the end came into view. It is criminal for sure, treason perhaps. Not just for the son. What did his father know, and when did he know it? And insanity is no defense to impeachment.

It’s just a matter of time before someone at that meeting decides to tell the whole truth to save their own posterior. That’s when there will be another “Saturday Night Massacre,” because Trump Sr. will feel that he has to fire Mueller. But will the attorney general – the execrable Sessions – have the guts to resign, as Elliott Richardson and Bill Ruckelshaus both did, rather than fire the special prosecutor?

When we last had a criminal president, there were people of honor in the justice department.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Trump’s Russian Troubles Grow Even Worse

Attorney Jay Sekulow is one of a gaggle of attorney's paid by tax money to defend Donald Trump in the growing Russia investigation. (Nice mug shot)

It's impossible to understand- because it's hypocritical- but how is it the paranoid Republicans were ready to indict Secretary Clinton with no evidence about the horrible Benghazi attack (for which she had no direct responsibility), but they refuse to hear FBI, CIA and other intel about Donald Trump and his clandestine relationship with Russia?
Russia is holding something over Donald Trump's head and the Republicans are refusing to ask the salient question about whatever it is.  In other words, "What is Donald Trump protecting with Russia that's more valuable to him than American democracy?'
Another expensive attorney, Ty Cobb, representing Donald Trump (Is he a Gabby Hayes look-a-like?)

Donald Trump is in trouble.

The Russian probe isn’t going away. In fact, the investigation is growing even deeper and broader, and the stories are breaking quicker than most people can even comprehend. As one major, earth-shattering story is splashed across the headline, another tends to follow quickly on its heels.

On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Trump was exploring the possibility of pardoning his aides, his family, and himself. 

As CNN reported, the chilling fact that the president is exploring the possibility of a self-pardon “seems directly linked to the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the foreign power.”

The idea of a president pardoning himself has raised some really tricky legal questions, and even more really tricky legal answers. 
Attorney Marc Kasowitz - looks like a luxury Lexus rental car sales person?  One in the gaggle who are representing Donald Trump.

Can the president pardon himself? (Even the Pope cannot absolve himself of sin!)

Trump could face indictment while in office, if the charge is treason. In fact, Trump is in even bigger trouble than he (and his expensive legal team) previously thought. This following memo was found by investigative reporters from The New York Times, using the Freedom of Information Act (FIA)- data from the special investigation by Ken Starr:

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties. In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”

Gulp! Marc Kasowitz, Jay Sekulow and Ty Cobb, et al.
Your hourly billable time x 3 must be the equivalent of at least $2,000 (two thousand) dollars an hour (minimum before expenses). This trilogy of cash is a terrible waste of tax money, especially because Donald Trump is, already, over his head in trouble. He should resign.

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