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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Boom! Rachel Maddow ahead of the news!

Exclusive! Follow the Rachel Maddow show for advanced information on exclusive coverage. She's ahead of the news cycles, like when she opened her Aug. 30 show with news about this horrible chemical plant explosion in Texas, in the wake of hurricane Harvey flooding. 

Rachel Maddow is ahead of the news & reports breaking news

But, Maddow reported the event in the anticipation of it happening, not after the fact.

Harvey-damaged Arkema chemical plant explosion expected

Matt Dempsey, data reporter on the investigative team at the Houston Chronicle, talks with Rachel Maddow about the immediate peril from the damaged Arkema chemical plant.

CROSBY, TexasTwo explosions shook a flooded chemical plant near Houston early Thursday, sending a plume of black smoke into the air and triggering an intense fire that continued to burn.

Authorities warned that further blasts were likely to occur on site since chemicals weren't being stored at the appropriate temperatures after the facility lost power following Hurricane Harvey.


Residents in a 1.5-mile radius of the Arkema Inc. plant were first evacuated Tuesday, and the water levels there remain too dangerous for workers to assess the situation from the ground, officials added.

"That's why we want people to respect [the] radius. It's not over. This is very serious and we know that," Richard Rennard, of Arkema Group, said at a news conference.

He added that the explosions were not massive, and that the pressure building up inside the containers where the chemicals are located eventually produces a "popping sound."

The smoke that was emanating from the facility irritated the eyes and throats of more than a dozen law enforcement officers who were monitoring the scene, said Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez. Some of them went to the hospital out of precaution.

"It's basically like standing over a barbecue pit or something like that, where you get smoke in your eyes," he added.

The plant in Crosby, Texas — about 20 miles northeast of Houston — was inundated by more than 40 inches of rain from Harvey and has been without electricity since Sunday.

The plant manufactures organic peroxides commonly used in everyday products like kitchen countertops, industrial paints, polystyrene cups and plates, and PVC piping. 

The materials must be kept very cool, otherwise there is "the potential for a chemical reaction leading to a fire and/or explosion within the site confines," Arkema said.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott was the state's attorney general when he supported deregulation of the chemical plants, like Arkema, reported by Maddow
MaineWriter opinion- Governor Greg Abbott must resign because it was his attorney general's actions that prevented regulations from monitoring the goings on at Arkema.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Making a health care deal with Democrats!

Republicans must face up to the only health-care options left standing.  

MaineWriter opinion- "Medicare for All" would work. All it takes is a vote by Congress to lift the age requirements to 50 years and older, rather than 65.

But, unfortunately, (cliche here...)
"...those who forget the past (aka Republicans) are likely doomed to repeat it."


Jonathan Chait is an American commentator and writer for New York magazine. 

"Donald Trump promised during the campaign that he would quickly and easily replace Obamacare with an alternative everybody would love. 'You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost,' he said. 'It’s going to be so easy'.”

Trumpcare Collapsed Because the Republican Party Cannot Govern- writes Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com

In 2009, David Frum, the former Bush administration speechwriter whose ideological apostasy was in its formative stages, met with conservative intellectuals to discuss the policy response to the great recession. 

Faced with evidence that only massive government action — a financial rescue coupled with fiscal stimulus — could have prevented a complete economic meltdown, one conservative made a startling confession: “Maybe it was a good thing we weren’t in power then — because our principles don’t allow us to respond to a crisis like this.”

The financial crisis is hardly the only issue for which conservative principles turn out to be incompatible with the practical demands of governance. (Climate change leaps to mind.) The collapse of the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is an especially vivid demonstration of the broader problem. The cohesion Republicans possessed in opposition disintegrated once they had power, because their ideology left them unable to pass legislation that was not cruel, horrific, and repugnant to their own constituents.

Donald Trump promised during the campaign that he would quickly and easily replace Obamacare with an alternative everybody would love. “You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost,” he said. “It’s going to be so easy.”

One might dismiss this kind of rhetoric as a typical Trumpian boast. But the candidate was merely translating into the vernacular the somewhat more carefully hedged promises his party had made for years into terms in which they were meant to be understood. 

Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” road map offered what it called “a step-by-step plan to give every American access to quality, affordable health care. … more choices and lower costs.” 

And why wouldn’t Republicans believe this? 

After all, Obamacare was, supposedly, a train wreck, a complete failure of design. It therefore followed that they could easily replace it without significant harm to anybody.

In truth, it was never possible to reconcile public standards for a humane health-care system with conservative ideology. In a pure market system, access to medical care will be unaffordable for a huge share of the public. Giving them access to quality care means mobilizing government power to redistribute resources, either through direct tax and transfers or through regulations that raise costs for the healthy and lower them for the sick. Obamacare uses both methods, and both are utterly repugnant and unacceptable to movement conservatives. That commitment to abstract anti-government dogma, without any concern for the practical impact, is the quality that makes the Republican Party unlike right-of-center governing parties in any other democracy. In no other country would a conservative party develop a plan for health care that every major industry stakeholder calls completely unworkable.

Every attempt to resolve the contradiction between public demands and conservative ideology has led the party to finesse it instead. That is why Republicans spent years promising their own health-care plan would come out very soon. It is why their first and best option was repeal and delay.  But, 
Republicans knew their health care plan was garbage. Nevertheless, they tried to pass it, anyway.

But, that option has now failed.  "Repeal and reform is dead", wrote Jonathan Chait. Not it's time to negotiate with Democrats to improve Obamacare.

The Trump administration might lash out at Obamacare by continuing to sabotage its functioning markets. They will find, however, that sabotaging the insurance exchanges will create millions of victims right away, as opposed to the luxury of delaying the pain until after the elections. 

Indeed, the power to destroy remains within the Republican Party’s capacity. The power to translate its ideological principles into practical government is utterly beyond its reach.

Can we practice?  "Let's talk to Democrats?"  

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No border wall- help Houston!- Echo from Houston Chronicle

An Echo from the Opinion page

MaineWriter: Our prayers, sympathy, and support go out to all of the people who are suffering under the burden of Hurricane Harvey and the floods caused by the torrential rainfall amounts  

This unprecedented weather disaster has underscored the complete futility about following Donald Trump's cult, those who are calling for an expensive border wall to be built on the Mexico international boundary.  

In fact, Houston deserves and needs tax funded support.  

A border wall will only take resources from the money needed in the Gulf Coast, where much of our nation's oil refinery needs are located. Moreover, if Houston is ever to rebuild its infrastructure, the massive labor needs will require Mexican laborers.  

Here's an "Echo" of this opinion, from the Houston Chronicle editorial:

HOUSTON,Tx- Harvey is expected to be the fifth-worst natural disaster in U.S. history - just behind Hurricane Ike, incidentally, the storm that much of the nation never really understood but which was felt deeply in Texas and Louisiana. The damage from Harvey could total $30 billion to $40 billion, and that's before any rebuilding has begun.

The stunning scope of this disaster should force another major change in Washington: Trump must drop his threat to shut down the government in September unless his border wall along Mexico is funded.

This is not a time to disrupt federal services. The energy industry along the Gulf Coast and the communities that keep it running must be brought back to full capacity as soon as possible.

This crisis also highlights the uselessness of the border wall that Trump is so obsessed with. Republican Congressman Will Hurd of Texas has aptly called it the most expensive and least effective way to stop illegal immigration from Mexico - which to Trump's credit, has slowed significantly since he was inaugurated.

Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz have influence with this administration. They must use it on this issue. There's no room for both expenditures in the federal budget, which will still see deficit spending that Republicans keep promising to curtail.

This is a time to determine priorities, to focus on real-world needs and not theoretical options. The choice should be clear.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

FLOTUS (aka Melania) wears flood stilettos: No! Seriously!

As the flooding in Houston, Texas, worsens, many people have escaped to shelters around the greater Houston area. 

Most of the desperate evacuees in Houston look like this picture, while inside the Houston convention center, where Hurricane Harvey evacuees are double the capacity:



But, when Melania Trump showed up with her husband, Donald Trump, to view the devastating damage, her choice for shoes was to wear stilettos.  It's sort of the modern version of the Marie Antoinette quote abut "let them eat cake". In other words, if people can't wear shoes because, of course, most of their apparel is water logged, then let them wear fashion stilettos instead?




Melania Trump, Off to Texas, Finds Herself on Thin Heels

So, those Trumpenistas, the people who defend all that Donald Trump says, does or supports regardless of the circumstances. Here's a fashion dilemma for all of you. While desperate Texans and people in Houston are struggling just to find shelter, not knowing how they will recover from the disaster of Hurricane Harvey's unprecedented flooding, they are certainly not concerned about their current state of fashion. Unfortunately, the wife of Donald Trump, who is known by the acronym FLOTUS, seemed to put fashion above utility, when she (Melania) showed up in Texas, with Donald Trump, wearing fashion runway high stilettos.

No seriously! This is a classic "I can't make this up," cliche.

What was Melania thinking? This is sort of like the 21st century's version of the Marie Antoinette quote about "let them eat cake".

In other words, if evacuees can't fine shoes, then let them wear stilettos instead.

Unfortunately, I expected more from Melania. She did not represent or extend the empathy that I expected to see, from a woman in her position.




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Monday, August 28, 2017

Houston Billions - tax roulette or multiple choice?

Okay, here's the ultimate Republican game of chance.  

Houston Texas is the fourth largest city in the United States and a major seaport on the Gulf Coast. After Hurricane Harvey, the entire region, including Houston and many other low lying communities, have been entirely wiped out because of the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey's category four winds and the subsequent flooding events. 

Obviously, Houston's concrete paved suburb and, particularly, that bad urban planning decision, are now showing the ultimate trade off.  Keeping costs down by paving has prevented the flood waters from finding a place to go, because the concrete is not facilitating soil retention.  

Therefore, here's the Hurricane Harvey deal, the one that all of America is holding in our tax paying hands- what do we do?
  


1.  When Congress re-convenes in September 2017, their major goal is to fund the government.
2.  Nobody expected the US Congress to face the needs of a drowning Houston and Gulf Coast, resulting from Hurricane Harvey. Recover will be very expensive.
3.  What's a Republican tax cutting congress supposed to do?

Place your bets- Faites vos jeux!


I'm putting markers on the numbers 7 and 1:

Number 1 means- Congress must drop the crazy notion of funding a border wall with Mexico.

Here are seven reasons why American simply can't afford such an expensive negative symbol:

1.  Even if such a monstrosity is built, it won't survive. No wall has ever survived.  Therefore, the wall is a waste of money.

2.  Donald Trump wants to shut down the government if the Congress refuses his demand to fund a border wall with Mexico. Oh really? Close down the government after Hurricane Harvey?  Donald Trump is crazy. He can't shut down the government, not now.  But, okay, if he tries, I get double my winnings because I'll have helped bet on how to finish Donald Trump's political career in complete disgrace.

3. If Donald Trump continues the crazy idea to fund an expensive and useless border wall with Mexico - the one Trump promised would be paid for by Mexico (NOT!), that means Republicans will have to raise taxes to pay for it, plus make funds available to the Houston recovery progress.
Haaaaaaa!  Haaaaaa!


4.  Donald Trump owns the Hurricane Harvey weather disaster, because he signed an executive order to reduce environmental regulations that would prevent disastrous floods, like the ones now devastating Houston. In fact, Trump has a leadership opportunity to fix what he broke. Will he rise to the challenge; or will he politically sink in the mud of a water logged Houston debacle?

5. When Donald Trump dares to show his face in Houston to speak to all who are being impacted along the Gulf Coast, he had better be prepared to offer hope to the victims and the rescuers who deserve compensation for their time as well as to recover property losses. Where will the moneies be found?  

6.  Moreover, when it comes right down to it, the post Hurricane Harvey clean up work will be done by Mexicans or other Hispanic minority groups. That's the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Donald Trump must learn to deal with this fact, because nobody else is going to make Houston great again, unless Mexicans  and other laborers provide the work force to do the clean up jobs.

7.  If my bets are right, the Mexican border wall is a lost cause.

Republicans cannot win this game of chance.  They must do what's right for the nation and for Houston. 

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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Simple words Donald Trump can practice about hurricane Harvey


Just doing my patriotic duty to offer compassionate word assistance to Donald Trump.


Flood threat rises as Harvey dumps torrential rains on Texas-Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders alert!  Please feel free to call on me if I can be of further communications assistance. 

 Thank you to NOAA!

Obviously, Donald Trump is word challenged.  He is awkward when tryingto tread fromn teleprompters, but when forced to do so, he looks like a cardboard replica of himself with a ventroloquist speaking on his behalf. (Moreover, Donald Trump's inability to master an adult level vocabulary impedes his reading proficiency.)

Neverhtless, it's very important for Americans to hear form Donald Trump on those occasions when then nation is facing tragedies and disasters. In the Gulf Coast, the entire region is now a ring of disaster due to the heavy rainfall anticipated to flood all the flat and below sea level communities.

Therefore, to help out and do my part as a sympathetic American who cares about supporting the wel being of those in harm's way of Hurricane Harvey, I decided to make this list of simple sentances using as few multi-sylable words as possible, for the purpose of ext4ending concern for all who are involved in this weather disaster. Here are my suggestions for Donald Trump and his advisers who are trying to teach him how to appropriately respond during emergencies.

1. (Simple!)- Thank you to all who are helping people in Texas and the Gulf Coast during hurricane Harvey.

2. (Simple) My thoughts and prayers are with the people who are in the path of hurricaine Harvey.

3 (Medium complex) I am grateful (two sylables here) for the dedicated work of our federal agencies like NOAA and FEMA for their good word during hurricane Harvey.

4. ( Medium complex) Both Melania and I, and our family, extend our heartfelt concern for the well being of the people who have been affected by the dangerous hurricane Harvey.

5. (Complicated) Our dedicated first responders who have been involved in supporting the safetyof all who are affected by hurricane Harvey are in my thoughts as you continue your good work on behalf of others.

6. (Complex) To Texas Governor Greg Abbott, I have offered all the assistance and resources within my executive power to support recovery efforts in Texas during and after hurricane Harvey.

7. (Complex) Congratulations to the scientists at NOAA who accutately predicted the path and trajectory of hurricane Harvey and in so doing likely helped to save untold numbers of lives.

The above list should help Donald Trump to respond appropriately during this challenging weather disaster and to circumvent problems he has with memorization of complex responses.

This challenging time, when people are looking for compassionate leadership, should be an opportunity for Donald Trump to practice his empathy skills and to improve his vocabulary.

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Bereavement for USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain

Where is the bereavement from Donald Trump?

Although he's wasting time posting Tweet memes about the recent solar eclipse, there's been no executive outreach of support to Navy families who are all grieving, regardless of whether or not their families or loved ones were on either of the two recently damaged ships, operating in the Pacific Ocean.

Navy report details harrowing rescues after crash of USS Fitzgerald - 

USS Fitzgerald 
New Dry Dock Photos Show the Scope of Hidden USS Fitzgerald Damage

The USS Fitzgerald was involved in a collision off Japan with a Philippine-flagged merchant vessel on June 17, 2017.  In the collision, the ship suffered damage on her starboard side above and below the waterline. 

The USS Fitzgerald came close to sinking after colliding with the ACX Crystal, a Philippine-flagged tanker that weighed three times more than the U.S. guided missile destroyer, on Saturday.

Seven sailors died in the tragic accident. The Fitzgerald's commander, executive officer and a senior non-commissioned officer were relieved of their duties following the collision.


In a statement, the Navy identified the deceased as follows:
  • Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia;
  • Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego, California;
  • Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut;
  • Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas;
  • Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California;
  • Xavier Alec Martin*, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland;
  • Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
*Xavier Alec Martin was buried in Arlington National Cemetery


USS John S. McCain


USS John S. McCain damage
In the darkness of early morning on August 21, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker in the Strait of Malacca, off Singapore. Ten sailors are believed to have lost their lives in the McCain collision. When added to the seven who died in the June 17 collision of the USS Fitzgerald with the container ship ACX Crystal, this has been the deadliest year at sea for the US Navy's surface fleet since the 1989 turret explosion aboard USS Iowa (in which 47 sailors perished).

  • Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Bushell, 26, of Maryland
  • Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, 26, of Connecticut
  • Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, 22, of New Jersey
  • Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, 28, of New York
  • Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, 20, of Texas
  • Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, 23, of Illinois
  • Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, 21, of Ohio
  • Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, 31, of Missouri
  • Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Eckels Jr., 23, of Maryland
  • Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, 39, from Texas
As a former USNavy wife, the spouse of a Master Chief Petty Officer, Retired, my husband and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families, and colleagues of these young sailors, whose deaths are terrible losses to their families and to our nation.

Moreover, I apologize for Donald Trump's lack of ability to extend appropriate bereavement to those who are suffering, as a result of this tragic loss of American treasure. We all expect more compassionate leadership from our elected officials.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Echo: Trump failed in Phoenix Arizona


By every analysis, the angry Donald Trump failed, again, to communicate to the American people. Nevertheless, he accomplished what he wanted to do, meaning- divide the nation just because he can.

MaineWriter Note- this editorial from The Arizona Republic is another in my "Echo" series of opinions found while randomly cruising the nation's newspapers.  

Editorial: If Donald Trump was trying to atone for the sins of Charlottesville and prove that he could be president of all Americans, he failed.


MaineWriter opinion- Obviously, Donald Trump wasn't trying to atone for anything.  He deliberately wanted to cause trouble in Phoenix. He's not a leader. Rather, he's a chronic bully.

Donald Trump’s trip to Phoenix displayed the deep political divisions in our country and provided a painful demonstration of why he is not the person to heal that divide. (MaineWriter- no leadership ability!)

Donald Trump's rant in Phoenix represented a missed opportunity to rise above pet peeves with the media and Barack Obama and, instead, to speak to all Americans.

It was just another Trump campaign (akin to "beer hall rallies), a rally in Arizona. In fact, he did seven last year. 

But this is no longer the campaign. This rally offered a chance to show something different from Trump, who has struggled to grow into the job of being president of all the people.

The announcement Tuesday afternoon of Trump’s decision not to pardon Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio during this rally suggested the president learned something from the reaction to his equivocation after the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was in line with his more restrained tone Monday when, while delivering a speech on Afghanistan, he said: “We cannot remain a force for peace in the world if we are not at peace with each other.”

That’s the kind of talk a divided America needs from the president.

But, it obviously didn’t last long. He didn't deliver. Trump made it clear that he would eventually deliver an Arpaio pardon, just not on this night.

Donald Trump ran his campaign on anger. He's
 probably incapable of delivering the grace notes necessary to heal America in times of racial division.

A president truly committed to unity would not spend so much time attacking the media as “damned dishonest” and “fake news,” while trying to rewrite his own response to Charlottesville.

It was Trump himself who blamed “both sides”, after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville turned deadly.

It is truly disturbing to see the Donald Trump try to rewrite history and blame the messengers.

As a matter of fact, Donald Trump stooped to petty insults and once again went on about the size of his crowds while diminishing his opponents. In one faux magnanimous moment, he said he won't criticize by name Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, both of whom Trump went on to lambaste nonetheless for not supporting his agenda enough.

Instead, the Phoenix speech was not about unity, despite his insistence that his "movement was built on love."

It was about retrenching. It was about blaming others. It was about feeding the paranoia of his misguided passionate cult followers.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Paying for Mexico's border wall and a pardon for Sheriff Joe

Donald Trump tragically can't save his failed leadership. Frankly, he just can't go any lower in his spiraling character regression than what he displayed during the horrible speech, given on August 22nd, in Phoenix Arizona.  Instead of taking an optimal opportunity to progress beyond racist rhetoric, Donald Trump just continued to pour gasoline on his incendiary cult supporters.  In Phoenix, Donald Trump was delusional during a daunting 77 minute ranting speech where he threatened to shut down the US government so he could fulfill his campaign promise (what kind of "deal" is that for our international relations with Mexico?); and he extended the hope of a pardon for Arizona's tyrannically racist "Sheriff Joe" (Joe Arpaio). Both comments were deliberately incendiary.

Obviously, in my mind, Donald Trump is building an anti-Resistance "resistance" among his cult supporters who he expects will fight like an organized army to protect his evil filled legacy.

Perhaps, Donald Trump is following one of these two personality trajectories- either King George III's descent into madness, or the tragic, albeit fictional, life of King Lear.
Often called the “Mad King,” Britain’s King George III suffered from several bouts of poor health during his 60-year reign. In the last decade of his life, he was considered so deranged that his son (the future King George IV) had to take over as prince regent. But just what caused the king’s symptoms--whether physical disease or mental illness--has long been unknown. Now, by programming a computer to “read” hundreds of his letters, researchers say they have found evidence that King George III was in fact suffering from a mental illness in his later years.
Although history has not been kind to President Richard Nixon, because of his mis-handling of "Watergate", when it came time for him to resign, he recognized the urgency of keeping America safe from divisive politics. Indeed, Nixon did what was right at the time. Richard Nixon resigned. But, moreover, he lived long enough to become a better person for it, or, at least, that's my opinion.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, appears to have passed the point of no return. He's crazy and won't let anybody tell him otherwise.

Republicans must remove Donald Trump from the Oval office, where he continues to abuse Americans. He spews hate filled rhetoric and "Tweet storms", sent out in the middle of the night, when nobody is around to detract him from demonstrating "craziness".  

Donald Trump acts like crazy King George III, who would've been a "Tweet Terror", if he'd been given the technology to do so.  

In the Shakespearean world, he is a mirror reflection of the deranged King Lear, who couldn't even be saved by his daughter Cordelia.  She is the youngest of (Shakespeare's) King Lear's three daughters, and his favorite. After her elderly father offers her the opportunity to profess her love to him, in return for one third of the land in his kingdom, she refuses and is banished for the majority of the play.  Meanwhile, King Lear descends into madness.

Regardless of what mentally ill trajectory Donald Trump happens to be on, it's obvious that he's becoming more obsessed with his self esteem, rather than focused on the nation's best interests. 

All the while, the Trump "agenda", whatever it is, will be stalled while the Congress will obviously be presented with the Special Investigator Robert Mueller's report on the Trump campaign's clandestine Russian connections.  

There is a positive correlation between Robert Mueller's investigation into the Trump-Russia connections and Donald Trump's "decompensating" and regressive behaviors.  The closer Mueller gets to finalizing his report, the crazier Trump gets.

Republicans must call for a psychiatric evaluation of Donald Trump because, frankly, he exhibits symptoms of being mentally ill, indicating multiple personality disorders, not the least of which is neurotic narcissism. 

Therefore, a psychiatrist must determine if Donald Trump is a danger to himself and to the world. This alternative must be presented to Donald Trump: either he agrees to a psychiatric evaluation, or face impeachment for incompetent leadership.  

My advice to Donald Trump (and to chief of staff General Kelly) is this: follow the leadership of President Richard Nixon and resign.  

Republicans must prevent Donald Trump from stigmatizing Republicans as "racists". In fact, only they have the ability to prevent Donald Trump from being another King George III, or a modern and tragic King Lear. 

Somebody in the White House must tell Donald Trump that he is in need of mental health care and treatment.  

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Donald Trump's abyss into Afghanistan- Movie alert

A movie - a prepared TelePrompterTrump script- a failed history reenactment:  a Russia trajectory is impending.
(Vodka anyone?)
Pundits have overlooked how Donald Trump is following the lead of the failed Russian invasion of Afghanistan, when he made his #TelePrompTerTrump speech to the nation on August 21st, where he had nothing to say from a prepared script.

What Donald Trump did manage to convey in his "practiced read aloud" was how the United States would not leave Afghanistan until we had somehow won the war. 

HELLO? What war? Congress has never declared war on Afghanistan. What Donald Trump called for in a scripted way was an invasion of the Afghan nation. Because, frankly, to say we're there, with no exit strategy, "means" what he clearly said it means. 

Our American military has invaded Afghanistan and we intend to take over the country.

Nevertheless, the #Trump_no_Afghan_strategy, notwithstanding, the Russians tried this strategy before the US every considered a direct engagement with the Afghanistan nation. Moreover, the Russians were defeated by the Taliban and in 1988, they retreated.
(So, ya'think Vladimir Putin is smiling right now? Vodka toasts pouring throughout the Kremlin?)

In fact, it was the United States that armed the Taliban (in Kandahar) to defeat the Russians. Ironically and sadly, it's now the very group the US military is engaged in opposing.  

Check out the informative "non-fiction" movie with Tom Hanks, Charlie Wilson's War. It's a drama based on the dubious legacy of Texas congressman Charlie Wilson's covert dealings in Afghanistan, where his efforts to assist rebels in their war with the Soviets have some unforeseen and long-reaching effects. Be sure to see the excellent movie as a primer to Donald Trump's #no_stragegy_Afghan_stragegy.  

In other words, Donald Trump has created the classic examples of "What goes around comes around", or "We met the enemy and they are us."

Or, to use the prophetic words quoted from the film, as Charlie Wilson said, "These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world... and then we fucked up the endgame."

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Now that the eclipse is over - Racism is still with us

Certainly, it's a sad commentary on our nation, built on the exhaulted primcipals of "liberty and justice for all", that we simply can't get over the American Civil War (1860-1865). In fact, the war ended on April 8, 1865 with a surrender by Confederate General Robert E. Lee, in Appomattox, Virginia. So, why do we continue debating about the symbolism left by the very statues and symbols that the Union Army led by Ulysses S. Grant, defeated?

Gernall Ulyssis Grant and General Robert E.Lee at Appomattox Virginia, April 9, 1865
Here's an excellent commentary about this horrible and divisive blot on American history, an "echo" opinion, originally published in the Rochester, NewYork, Democrat.


Editorial: The racism we cannot see

Confederate monuments, like the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, are among the most visible reminders of the barbaric and immoral way in which many of our ancestors built this country.

But, the most dangerous remnants of slavery in America – structural and institutional racism -- are much harder to see.

By virtue of their invisibility, they quietly perpetuate the sins of our nation’s past, unnoticed and unchecked, generation after generation.

After several decades, these subtle remnants now pose an imminent threat to our country’s future. These forms of racism thrive everywhere, but we cannot even look them in the eye and fight back. Americans, regardless of the color of our skin, are woefully unprepared for this battle.

We were not given lessons on these complex subjects in school, even those of us who went on to earn advanced degrees. There are no public service campaigns helping raise awareness or break down these concepts so we can talk about them over dinner. While this Editorial Board has routinely written about these topics as part of our Unite Rochester initiative, it is impossible to do them justice in 525 words or less each time.

A few of us have never heard these phrases, and most of us are unable to provide good definitions or concrete examples. We can’t point them out, so it becomes easy to believe they do not exist. We cannot explain the grave toll they are taking on our economy, our health and safety, and our quality of life. We become defensive, rather than admit our inability to fully comprehend the harm they have wrought on a nation that is supposed to be so much more than it is.

This must change, or these forms of racism will continue to pull us all down!All of us need to be open to learning about structural and institutional racism. Our government and business leaders should be talking about it. Our mass media should be exposing it. Our researchers should be documenting it. Beginning at an early age, our children should be taking lessons on it. We should Google it, read books about it, share articles about it and talk about it.

The YWCA of Greater Rochester sponsors public workshops and other programs that delve into these topics. The Rochester Museum and Science Center often schedules activities designed to help broaden our perspective and understanding on these issues. Several of our community members have a great deal of expertise on the matter, and frequently take part in panel discussions and other public dialogue.


Here are some helpful links to get you started:

A glossary of terms

Rochester Museum and Science Center programming

YWCA of Greater Rochester racial equity programs

Surely, the above links are helpful to those who seek out advice, but it's a shame we still need this level of counseling.

In fact, the Civil War ended April 9, 1865 in Appomattox, Virginia.

Unfortunately, the Civil War ended, the August 22, 2017 solar eclipse came and went, but racism is still with us. 

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Monday, August 21, 2017

FBI memo supports Director James Comey

"...data stands in stark contrast to Donald Trump's claim.."

Although Donald Trump denegrates all people who disagree or contradict him, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is rooting their messaging in truth. Donald Trump fired Director James Comey under the guise of lies about his performance and "loyalty". Nevertheless, the FBI's support for fired director James Comey is now public. Obviously, the FBI does not agree with Donald Trump's assessment about former Director Comey.
James Comey, former FBI director received high marks from his colleagues in a survey released by Bureau employees

FBI employee survey contradicts Trump's claim that the agency had lost trust in James Comey


By Sonam Sheth published in Politics: Business Insider
Aug. 19, 2017

The FBI released employee survey data, after employees were questioned about how they felt about former FBI director James Comey's leadership, when he was at the bureau.

Comey earned high scores across the board and in key areas such as trustworthiness, integrity, leadership, and judgment, according to the results.

The data stands in stark contrast to President Donald Trump's claim in May, that Comey had lost the confidence of his subordinates at the FBI.

After firing Comey, Trump repeatedly painted him as incompetent, calling him a "showboat," a "grandstander," and "a real nut job." 

Donald Trump also liked when he said the FBI was "in turmoil" under Comey's leadership.

Then White House deputy press secretary Sarah (Huckabee) Sanders similarly offered a bleak assessment of the FBI under Comey's leadership. During his tenure at the helm of the agency, Sanders said, Comey had committed "atrocities." She also told reporters the day after Comey was fired that she had heard from "countless" FBI agents who had expressed misgivings about the FBI director. She did not elaborate on the statement when reporters pressed her on it.

Comey was spearheading the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow in 2016, and many speculated that Trump had fired Comey to shut down the investigation.
The FBI's survey asked employees to grade Comey on a scale of 1 to 5 in various areas, and any score above 3.81 was considered a success.

Respondents gave him an average of 4.47 when asked if they had "trust and confidence in this person as a leader," a 4.60 when asked whether Comey "provides the reasoning and rationale behind decisions and actions," and a 4.79 for his "calm demeanor in stressful situations."

The survey results represent a clear departure from Trump's characterization of Comey's leadership and the FBI's confidence in him. Comey pushed back on Trump's assessment as well during his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June, one month after he was fired.

He accused the president of lying, telling the committee the administration chose to "defame me and more importantly the FBI by saying that the organization was in disarray, that it was poorly led, that the workforce had lost confidence in its leader."

"Those were lies, plain and simple," Comey said. The FBI is now under the leadership of Christopher Wray, whom Trump nominated shortly after he fired Comey.

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Echo about Obamacare- Another Voice from The Buffalo (New York) News

Another Voice: 

Obamacare has cut bankruptcies by 50 percent- by Jeffrey Freedman

The Buffalo News is the primary newspaper of the Buffalo-Niagara region of New York.  

My Echo blog, from the editorial page of The Buffalo News published August 16, 2107:

What does a young woman who has just landed her first job teaching with AmeriCorps do when she is diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor? While facing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, Katie Weber worried: Would her health insurance cover the expenses, or would she be forced into bankruptcy by the time she was 23?

Because the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was signed into law in 2010, Weber and millions of other Americans did not have to face bankruptcy due to an unexpected, involuntary and expensive illness.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, historically, medical debt has been the No. 1 source of personal bankruptcy filings in the United States. But after the Affordable Care Act was signed, helping about 23 million people get health care insurance, bankruptcy filings dropped roughly 50 percent: from 1,536,799 in 2010 to 770,846 in 2016.


It’s not easy to say how many bankruptcies are caused by medical debt, however, it has only been since the law was signed in 2010, that numbers dropped significantly.

Experts agree the Affordable Care Act played a major role, much bigger than the improved economy and changes to bankruptcy laws in 2005. Provisions of the law mandating coverage for pre-existing conditions, the end to annual and lifetime caps, and allowing young people to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 were major contributing factors.

In our offices, it is now rare to see debtors with huge medical bills, chronic illnesses or people denied coverage because they hit a lifetime cap or had a pre-existing condition.

Young people like Weber can focus on getting healthy instead of stressing over their mounting debts.

Tax credits and health savings accounts do not “replace” good health care insurance. It is impossible for the average American to set aside the funds to cover a serious or chronic illness.
In just one example, research cites the total cost of early stage breast cancer treatment at about $100,000. Advanced cases run $300,000 or more. Even with health insurance, out-of-pocket costs, including copays and coinsurance of 10 to 50 percent, add up. The majority of American savings accounts fall far short of that minimum 10 percent coinsurance payment for early stage breast cancer treatment, let alone funding the entire amount.

The Affordable Care Act may not be perfect, but it provides 23 million people with basic coverage that helps keep them out of bankruptcy court.

Among the many other drawbacks, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act with something that leaves more Americans uninsured will only serve to make our bankruptcy courts busier.

Jeffrey Freedman has handled bankruptcy cases since 1977. 
He was a founding member and on the board of the National Organization of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Agatha Christie redux in the White House: now there are two

Here's the graffiti version of a "power photo) - Donald Trump pretending to be presidential, to his left, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, Mike Flynn and seated in the middle is Vice President Mike Pence. A photograph depicting failed leadership.

Every White House has it's "power photo". It's typically a particularly well staged portrait, created to depict power in action.
  
This photo was intended to exhibit high level
executive authority- like, "Look at us, we are so important!", A top heaving team, working with their once exulted (now deflated!) leader, Donald Trump.  

Guess what happened? They are now a failed group of miserable people.

Will the National Portrait Gallery put this picture in their White House collections?  (Maybe the gallery can create a dedicated Apprentice room.)

This photograph is surely "Rockwellien"? Certainly, Norman Rockwell would have created a wonderful rendering, were he alive to cover the fall out created by each departing person who was forced to leave the administration.

In my opinion, this photograph has a sense of being a modern Agatha Christie mystery playbill cover. 

Who is the next one to disappear?

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Echo from Alaska- Democrat thanks Senator Murkowski

Fairbanks Daily-News Miner- a Democrat writes this letter to the editor:

Aug.15

To the editor: (from Fairbanks) I’ve lived here more than 40 years and I’m a Democrat. But I am an Alaskan first. I voted for Sen. Ted Stevens every chance I got because I knew he always put Alaska needs above everything else.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has shown she has the courage to do the same. Despite tremendous pressure from her own party, she did what was right for our state.

Unfortunately, our junior senator, Sen. Dan Sullivan, bowed to the pressure. He could not see what we need to send now to the federal government is a unified voice from Alaska. Apparently, he does not realize what he’s done affects a large part of his constituency.

I believe in democracy. If all the people whom he has harmed show up next election, then when he is out of a job, he might get it. 
I have a long memory. I am going to do everything I can to ensure he is not re-elected.
U.S. senators have six-year terms. It will take awhile to get him out. Register to vote. For the system to truly work for the most people, you must become part of the process and make your voice heard. Make the effort. It’s in your best interest.

And again, thank you Sen. Murkowski, for standing up for Alaskans.  ---  
Terry Bradner, Fairbanks 

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Maryland: "It's the right thing to do"- Governor Hogan

Maryland Politics

Governor Hogan calls for removing the statue of Roger B. Taney, saying it’s the ‘right thing to do’

MaineWriter- a Baltimore native (No, seriously!)
Of all the Confederate statuary targeted for possible removal, I absolutely congratulation Maryland Governor Hogan for picking the removal for one particular one, it's very long overdue.

Governor of Maryland, Larry Hogan

 Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday that he wants to remove from the State House grounds a statue of Roger B. Taney, a U.S. Supreme Court justice and slavery defender who penned in the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that black people cannot be U.S. citizens.
“While we cannot hide from our history — nor should we — the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history,” Hogan said in a statement. “I believe removing the Justice Roger B. Taney statue from the State House grounds is the right thing to do.”
Personally, this is a hideous eyesore. I'm glad it's gone, hopefully forever.
There may be a reason for someone to create a Confederacy museum. If so, this man's statue  could be positioned near the bathrooms.
The decision, which comes after the deadly rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville over the weekend, is a reversal for Hogan. Last year, the governor said he had “no interest” in removing Taney’s statue, and he described calls for the removal of statues and other Confederate monuments as “political correctness run amok.”

Hogan said Tuesday that he will ask the State House Trust to take immediate action to remove the statue.

The governor chairs the four-member State House Trust board, which controls the grounds of the capitol complex. House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and Maryland Historical Trust Chair Charles L. Edson make up the rest of the board.

On Monday, Busch said in a Facebook post that “the time has come for Taney to come down.” Miller and Edson have indicated that if Hogan wants to remove the statue, they will agree.

Communities across the region and country are debating whether to remove from other public spaces the names and statues of historical figures who represent a legacy of slavery and racism.

On Monday, Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) announced plans to remove four Confederate statues in that city. And, in the District on Tuesday, D.C. Council member David Grosso (I-At Large) sent a letter to the National Park Service asking that it “do everything in its power to permanently remove the Albert Pike Statue,” which is located in Judiciary Square. Pike, was a lawyer and a poet who was active in the Masonic movement. He was a Confederate brigadier general.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said that the governor was “disgusted” by what happened in Charlottesville and that “he rightly concluded that these memorials have become a rallying point for white supremacists and bigots and he believes that their presence on prominent public land was sending a confusing and ultimately inappropriate message.”

MaineWriter: Thank you Governor Larry Hogan! Indeed, Maryland has seen enough racial riots. Our beautiful state cannot abide the negative impact of its racial history or provide fodder for bigotry.  

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Donald Trump's apprenticeship: failed on the job empathy training

President's find their leadership stride during times of crises. It's unfortunately a somber right of passage. They are remembered by how they lead during trials and tribulations. 

President Franklin Roosevelt reached out to the hearts of Americans during his fireside chats. President John F. Kennedy showed strength during the Cuban Missile Crises. President William Clinton provided inspirational bereavement to the survivors of Oklahoma City's domestic terrorist bombing. President George Bush '43, spoke to the American people during the September 11, 2001 terrorists attacks. President Obama spoke eloquently and compassionately at more funerals than most people attend in their lifetimes.

In comparisom, it is a tragic lack of leadership in Donald Trump, that prevents him from finding his stride. Consequently, he isn't credible in any leadership capacity.

Moreover, as the cynical writer Andy Borowitz wrote, Donald Trump appeared to read his "post-post Charlottesville Virginia speech", where he was supposed to condemn white the supremacists, like he was a hostage, a person who was being recorded under duress.

CNN reports how Donald Trump is missing a key ingredient to being a successful president

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Tue August 15, 2017


Evidently, Donald Trump has a major empathy problem.

That's not new -- but it is very, very important both to understand his reaction to Charlottesville, as well as his presidency going forward.

Way back in May 2016, Chris Cillizza wrote this:

"As the nation turns its eyes to the general election, I have one question that continues to nag at me as I think about the possibility of Trump in the White House: Can he be empathetic? Like, at all? And does he need to be?"
Watching Trump fumble his initial response to the violence following white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday, I was reminded of that question. 

Trump ran as an unapologetic tough guy. But, what happens when you need a softer touch -- in moments like the one that transpired in Charlottesville over the weekend?

"Ultimately, I think a lack of empathy is just one piece of a portrait of a person who is unbalanced and damaged," Stuart Stevens, a Republican consultant who has long vocally opposed Trump, told me of Trump at the time. "He has spent his life in a bubble, surrounded by hired yes men and women who have never told his inner child to grow up."

Unfortunately, the 2016 voters who supported Donald Trump appeared to want a US  leadership change, more than they wanted a leader who cared about them.

That may be an overly-harsh analysis. But, it's hard to dispute Stevens' assertion that Trump's capacity for empathy is extremely low and, when he is required to reach out to people who he doesn't know or who don't support him, he is extremely uncomfortable and often simply unwilling to do it.

Trump's two Charlottesville speeches are prime evidence. In his Saturday remarks, Trump seemed to be entirely focused on ensuring that people didn't blame him for these violent acts and making clear that protesters "on many sides" were responsible for what happened.

On Monday, Trump, defying all political logic, started by touting his many accomplishments as president before turning to denounce the neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups responsible for the violence -- which left a woman dead and dozens injured -- in Charlottesvile.

Particularly in Monday's speech, it was clear that Trump was checking a box that his advisers insisted he needed to check after swinging and missing so badly Saturday. They told him to read the speech, so he did. But, he quite clearly didn't feel as though it was necessary to do so.

Ask people close to Trump and they will insist he is a kind and understanding person.
"He is a compassionate person," said ousted White House communications director -- and longtime Trump pal -- Anthony Scaramucci in an interview with Stephen Colbert on Monday. (See! Told you!)

And, there is little question that Trump is extremely close and fiercely loyal to his family and a very small inner circle of friends. But that is a very different thing than being empathetic about the struggles of people you've never met or who you know didn't vote for you or don't like you.

For Trump, being president has always been about kicking ass and reasserting America's spot at the front of the line. It's sort of like this moment at a NATO summit at the end of May (where he bullied his way to the front row of dignitaries- such an ugly display of ignorance!)

And, it worked for him during the campaign! People -- especially Republicans -- were sick of politics as usual. The color-within-the-lines politicians hadn't done much of anything they liked so they were willing to take a chance on someone who didn't sound or act like anyone who had ever run for president before.

The 2016 exit poll bears this out. Of the 15% of voters who said knowing the candidate "cares about me" was the most important trait in making up their mind who to vote for, Hillary Clinton beat Trump by 23 points. 

Among the 39% of the electorate who said a candidate who "can bring change" was most important, Trump won by 68(!) points.

People didn't think Trump really cared much about them. 

But they wanted change more than they cared about being cared about.

The problem for Trump -- as so starkly exposed by his response(s) to Charlottesville -- is that being president is a very different thing than running for office. 

Where a lack of empathy doesn't stand out all that much as a candidate -- there is a president in place doing that empathizer-in-chief job -- it stands out hugely when you are actually the President and the country turns to you for unity and inspiration.

And when you deliver a speech in which you cast an incident of white supremacist violence that left a woman dead as a both-sides-do-it situation, you lose credibility even with people who want to believe you have it in you to be more and better than you were as a candidate.

Empathy is not usually the sort of thing you can just start having. 

And it's not something that Trump even seems terribly concerned that he lacks. But, as president, empathy matters. There will be more moments over these next three and a half years where Trump will be called on to recognize and identify with the real grief people are feeling while also reassuring them that better days will come. After what happened over the last 96 hours in Charlottesville, it's not clear Trump has it in him to do that.

MaineWriter addendum: 
Being the leader of all Americans is not "on the job training".  

In fact, the 6 months leadership probationary period is ended. Donald Trump isn't an apprentice anymore. It's time he is removed from his job.

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