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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Immigration- as we give thanks- it's time to pass the DREAM Act

Americans are preparing to celebrate our family Thanksgiving Holiday. At this time of giving thanks for our freedoms from want, hunger and fear, we must also call on our political leaders to extend help to immigrants who live under the threat of unjust deportation.

This echo- a re-blogged letter to the editor, from Carbondale, Illinois, was published in the newspaper The Southern Illinoisan on November 16

To the Editor:- a letter to  Dear Rep. Mike Bost — 

 The Dream Act

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) introduced the Dream Act of 2017, S. 1615, in the Senate on July 20, 2017.

Thank you for meeting recently with Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project (SIIRP) and for your sympathy toward Dreamers.

Protecting undocumented youth who were brought as children is widely popular, compassionate, and a great investment. Any attempt to make support of Dreamers conditional on increases in enforcement violates our values and undermines our interests.

The families of Dreamers came to America seeking safety, opportunity, and freedom. They sacrificed everything for the love of their children, much like the ancestors of many present-day Americans. These families and their children do not have any realistic path to legal status under existing laws. Dreamers experience significant barriers to getting a driver’s license, securing gainful employment, and accessing higher education.

Passing the DREAM Act would provide immigrant youth who have grown up here with the opportunity to achieve the American dream and give back to the country they already call home. It will grow Illinois’ GDP an estimated $4 billion a year. As our elected representative, you have both the power and the duty to enact new legislation when current laws do not promote our values and interests. Do not allow families to be torn apart. Do not allow our communities to lose our neighbors, teachers, service members, students, and friends. Protect the lives of young immigrants without criminalizing and endangering the families and communities who have nurtured them.

We call on you to exercise courage and principled leadership to work for an immediate passage of a clean DREAM Act.
Jess Jobe and Diane Speir ~ Carbondale Illinois

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A world in turmoil - seeking an Attitude of Gratitude

Choosing gratitude- an echo opinion from The Daily Iowan newspaper 
Gratitude is good for your health

Giving thanks is important all times of year and can improve your way of life.

By Ella Lee

The Daily Iowan opinion: It seems as though (especially since last fall), the world has hardly gotten a break from strife. Among mass shootings, political unrest, and more, it is easy to become overwhelmed in the face of evils. In a world in which turmoil often feels all-encompassing, it is crucial to take a step back from the chaos and to be thankful for our daily lives and the blessings that accompany them.

Although Thanksgiving was officially made a national holiday in 1864, its story begins much further back. In 1620, 102 pilgrims from Plymouth, England, traveled to America on the Mayflower, hoping that the New World would provide them with the religious freedom and prosperous lands. When the ships landed near Cape Cod and winter arrived, however, survival in the New World began to look bleak; only half of the original colonists survived their first winter in America. In an attempt to help the ill, malnourished colonists, local Native American tribes people — most specifically Squanto of the Pawtuxet tribe — taught the Pilgrims to cultivate and make optimum use of the land. 

By November 1621, the Pilgrims and Squanto had yielded a successful harvest. In thanks for Squanto’s selfless help, the colonists held a feast for themselves and their Native American allies; this was the first Thanksgiving.

Though the holiday has evolved over time, its original intent is still the same — to give thanks to those you love, cherish, and appreciate. It is easy to turn a blind eye to the good things in the world because of how much more negativity there seems to be than positivity. When a mass shooting happens, its easier to be angered by the fact the shooting happened than to be thankful that it wasn’t worse. When someone you are adamantly opposed to becomes president, it is easier to lose hope than to be thankful we do not live in a totalitarian nation in which free speech and protest are unheard of. Gratitude is a powerful force and should be acknowledged more often.

Science has shown that expressing gratitude can improve one’s overall well-being. Many researchers who study positive psychology have found that gratitude can lead to improvement of health, relationship-building, and an influx of positive emotions.

In a study on conducted by psychologists Robert A. Emmons (UC-Davis) and Michael E. McCullough (University of Miami), the effects of gratitude on mood was studied: “They asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”

Perhaps, by focusing on giving thanks for the good things we have in our lives, we will be able to step away from the negativity that so often overshadows the positivity. 

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to do that.

“Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what is truly important in your life,” said UI freshman Kate Bazarek. “It brings to light how lucky I am to have been blessed with all of the people and opportunities given to me.”


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Sexual misconduct as racism

Many right wing and Republican motivated Christians are conflicted about the sin of sexual misconduct. Apparently, in the minds of the self righteous, it isn't necessarily a sin when a white polemicist is engaged in sexual sins, like stalking underage girls in shopping malls. Yet, in recent southern racism history, a Black man risked being lynched by vigilantes or the Ku Klux Klan, for even looking at a Caucasian woman.
Roy Moore is accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women 
Now, Christians are wrongly defending Roy Moore's sexual misconduct because he is "one of them". They've put morality aside and claim that electing him to the US Senate, to represent Alabama, will support the Republican's agenda.  

As a matter of fact, the Republicans' political agenda is "anti-Christian". It's not Christian to do harm to immigrants, to deport children who are protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or block health care for children by refusing to vote to re-authorize the CHIPS. (Medicaid and CHIP offered free or low-cost health insurance for kids and teens. Children could access regular check-ups, immunizations, doctor and dentist visits, hospital care, mental health services, prescriptions and more.)

Nevertheless, right wing Christians and Kay Ivey, the Governor of Alabama, continue to support Roy Moore during his relentless campaign to be a US Senator. 

That Roy S. Moore, the Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama, would cruise to victory seemed almost a foregone conclusion. Now, after a series of women have come forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct, very little is certain in a race that could have major implications for the party’s ability to govern in Washington.

Yet, Senate Republicans have distanced themselves from Mr. Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and they are openly discussing the prospect of expelling him from the chamber if he wins the election. Democrats, for their part, are contemplating the near impossible: flipping a seat in a deeply red state that last elected a Democratic senator in 1990.

As voters prepare for the Dec. 12 Alabama special election — in which Mr. Moore will be on the ballot come what may — here is a breakdown of The Times’s coverage on the race since the accusations emerged.

What are the allegations?

The Washington Post reported that four women said Mr. Moore had pursued them sexually or romantically when they were 18 or younger and he was in his 30s, and one of them said that he touched her sexually when she was 14, below the age of consent.

Mr. Moore, 70, remains defiant, trying to discredit the accusers while denying the most serious charges against him and insisting that the women are part of a conspiracy to stop him from putting God at the center of American politics. Moreover, he refused to answer questions about the allegations.

In my opinion, the root of this Alabama political debate about a man who is clearly unqualified to be a US Senator is the obvious situation of his white race. For some reason, the media won't report about what is obvious. There's no doubt whatsoever in my mind that Roy Moore would already be in jail if he happened to be a Black man.  

Voting against Roy Moore is the best way for Alabamians to oppose the state's racist past and demonstrate a truly Christian response to the December 12 election.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Donald Trump protected from unpopularity

Polls show Trump the least popular president ever, plunging even lower- Newsweek

Donald Trump is cared for by White House baby sitters who protect him from his unpopularity

Trump aides show him only positive polls- The Daily Beast

Donald Trump’s aides and advisers have made a habit of showing him only positive polls to cheer him up, Politico reports. 

Aides and advisers cited in the report said they show him polls “designed to make him feel good,” usually those that focus solely on his base. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump adviser, said the president is still “in campaign mode” and closely tracks his polling numbers. “I think he’s never really kind of gotten out of campaign mode and I thought he might,” Christie was cited as saying. Several senior aides and advisers said the Trump administration only becomes concerned when support slips in his base, while another official said public pollsters are often seen as “not understanding him.” 

Two other White House officials cited in the report said the strategy of focusing exclusively on polling numbers in Trump’s base was “just not accurate” and producing “delusional” ideas about the president's support.

MaineWriter- This un-presidential behavior (only believing positive polls?) puts the White House staff into a baby sitting mode. Rather than working to raise the badly needed integrity of Donald Trump's stupid Tweets and often incoherent communications, they are gate keeping information that might be "upsetting" to him.

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Echoes from Texas- crosses at Sutherland

More memorial crosses, thoughts and prayers but no changes in gun regulations or improvements to mental health care.

Another in my "echoes" series - re-blogs of letters to the editor (LTEs) found while cruising the opinion pages of randomly picked national newspapers. This echo from the Houston Chronicle:
Sutherland Springs church shooting victims of mass murder by gun violence

Fire power

Regarding "Mental health" (Page A14, Thursday), one reader wrote that "improving the nation's mental health care would be more useful than new gun laws." He conveniently ignores the fact that the Republicans killed legislation that would have prevented those with a mental health record from obtaining firearms. They won't even agree to ban firearms purchases by those on the federal air travel watch list!

And while 40 Democrats have co-sponsored legislation to ban the bump stocks that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to turn his semi-automatic weapons into virtual automatics, not one Republican has supported them.
Finally, the Sutherland Springs shooter reportedly left behind 15 empty 30-round magazines. He was able to fire off at least 450 rounds in minutes because Republicans have allowed not only assault-style weapons to be for sale to the general public, but high-capacity magazines as well.

Our family owns multiple firearms and enjoys target shooting and hunting but made the argument with friends and fellow hunters decades ago that there was no reason on earth that kind of firepower should be available to anyone that wants it. 

We're certain the writers of our Constitution in the era of single-shot black-powder firearms never envisioned the proliferation of firearms such as we see today when they added the Second Amendment. And even that amendment includes the phrase "well regulated."

David Kelly, Spring Texas 

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Donald Trump legacy is chaos

Reading Donald Trump's nonsensical Tweets, many written from the top of his head, often without editing and missing real time data, it's easy to see the historical legacy this emotionally labile* leader will leave with history. In other words, it won't be pretty. Although there're calls for an assessment of Trump's mental health by professional psychiatrists and psychologists, the fact of the matter is, we can only observe Donald Trump's behavior. That's the easy part. His behavior is "chaotic" and voters are finally "getting it". Nevertheless, "chaos" isn't a diagnosis, but it is the label that stamp's Donald Trump's legacy. A majority of American voters can't understand how a man like Donald Trump could ever be elected to lead America, but by a process of disinformation and Russian election hacking, his presence desecrates the Oval Office. Apparently, voters are seeing the chaos that most of us knew was forthcoming.
Focus group from Emory University led by Peter Hart

North Carolina voters deliver harsh assessments on Trump’s ‘chaotic’ first year- NBCNews by Andrew Rafferty

WILMINGTON, N.C. — The twelve months since Donald Trump’s election have been “chaotic,” “corrupt,” “dangerous” and “embarrassing,” a group of Republican and Democratic voters said Wednesday night.
A 12-person focus group conducted by veteran pollster Peter Hart on behalf of Emory University delivered blistering reviews of Trump’s performance so far. 

Those voters, seven who supported Clinton and five who voted for Trump, expressed deep frustrations with the president’s conduct in office and what they perceive as a lack of accomplishments since Inauguration Day.

“Nightmare,” “divisive,” “mayhem,” “antagonistic,” “failure,” “reality television,” “rude,” “instigating” and “vacant” were among the words used to describe Trump over the past year.
Some of the most stinging reviews came from those who cast ballots for Trump in the key battleground state he won by four points.

“While I thought his ideas appealed to me, since he’s been in there, he’s embarrassed me by his behavior,” said Annie Anthony, a 56-year-old Trump voter who described herself as a “weak Republican.”

“When he’s away, he’s great being a president, you know he’s a showman. But at home — I can’t imagine how they let him build a country club let alone be in one,” she added.
“He comes out with these grandiose ideas and there is no follow through. It’s a lot of talk,” said Melissa Hight, a 62-year-old Republican who also voted for Trump. “I just had such hopes that maybe some things would be prepared, and the whole country would be better off with him as president. But he hasn’t acted presidential at all.

The president’s social media habits were frequently cited by the group as a top concern. Just one member of the panel said she thought Trump’s use of Twitter was a positive for his presidency.
“President Trump has embarrassed even his own supporters, and his problems start and end with himself. 

All of his problems are self-inflicted,” Hart told NBC News.

Health care was ranked as the most important issue to the group.

* labile- characterized by emotions that are easily aroused or freely expressed, and that tend to alter quickly and spontaneously; emotionally unstable.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Incompetence is the only trickle down proven to work

There's plenty of evidence about how "trickle down" economics, proclaimed by Republicans as good for the economy has failed. Yet, the theory happens to work splendidly when it comes to failed leadership. In fact, incompetent leadership trickles down quickly to the people that are appointed by failed leaders.

An example of how failed trickle down leadership works is the appointment of 36 year old Brett Talley. He's been nominated to be a judge when he's never even tried a case, as described in the Miami Herald.
By Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Bench Brett Talley, don’t put him on the bench — he’s a right-wing partisan who’s never tried a case

(Under the title, "As though there's isn't enough to worry about?")

You are not worried enough.

Granted, that may seem to be a nonsensical claim. Assuming you don’t belong to the tinfoil hat brigades who consider Donald Trump the greatest thing to hit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since Abraham Lincoln left for the theater, you’ve spent the last year worrying as much as you know how.

There’s certainly been no shortage of things to worry about: white supremacy, Russian interference, and nuclear war, to name a few. Not to mention that a credibly accused child molester may soon join the United States Senate as a Republican — the party of “family values.” Of course, the self-confessed sexual predator in the Oval Office thinks the accused child molester should step aside, news that gave irony a stroke and left satire unemployed.

If Trump has his way, though, Talley, 36, will soon be a federal judge. His qualifications for that honorable — and lifetime — position? They’re pretty well nonexistent.

He graduated Harvard Law School in 2007, so there is that. 

But, since then, Talley has worked as a law clerk, a speech writer, and also as a deputy attorney general and solicitor general in his native Alabama. He writes horror novels. And he blogs and tweets.

The one thing the would-be federal judge has never done is, well … judge. Or even try a case. In fact, he’s only been a lawyer for three years. The guy Trump thinks fit to oversee a courtroom has never even been in a courtroom as the attorney of record. What, then, are his qualifications?

The aforementioned blogs and tweets are instructive. In them, Talley emerges as a right-wing culture warrior, loudly decrying “Hillary Rotten Clinton,” condemning the “outrage” of calling for gun control after the Newtown massacre, urging his readers to join the NRA, and otherwise shredding any lingering illusion of judicial impartiality. (MaineWriter- did this man ever pass the Bar Exam? I thought there was a section dedicated to legal ethics?)

Before Donald Trump came to town, the American Bar Association hadn’t rated a judicial candidate “not qualified” since 2006. Counting Talley, it has now given that rating four times since January. Which didn’t stop Talley from sailing through the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee and on to the full Senate, where he’s expected to be approved on a party line vote.

Even if he isn’t — news broke this week that Talley failed to disclose his marriage to a White House lawyer, which has raised conflict-of-interest questions — it would provide little solace. There’s more where he came from, including Jeffrey Mateer, who once called transgender children part of “Satan’s plan” and disavowed the separation of church and state.

He was also given a pass by the Judiciary Committee. He is also awaiting confirmation.

And it bears repeating: these are lifetime appointments. Your children’s children could end up before one of these men, seeking justice.

It’s understandable that we are mesmerized by the frequent, high-profile illustrations of Trump’s unfitness. But arguably more frightening and important are the low-profile ways he is institutionalizing Trumpism, imposing changes whose effects will linger long after the stench of him has left the Oval Office.

And he knows it.

As Trump bragged last month, “The judge story is an untold story” whose consequences will be felt “40 years out.” He’s right about that. So let’s start telling it. Because you’re not worried enough.

You could stand to be angrier, too.

(MaineWriter- Failed leadership "trickle down" will erode confidence in the US Judicial system for many years.)

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Is this the "real news?"- A Pat Buchanan I can agree with

Oh boy- "As the Political World Turns".

Honestly, never thought I'd be able to give arch conservative Pat Buchanan any credibility for his extreme views. In fact, his caustic style of spewing news is nearly as offsetting as the words he uses to support ultra conservative points of view.

But, even a broken clock is correct, twice a day. This commentary was published in New Hampshire's Union Leader, an oracle for conservative viewpoints.

Pat Buchanan: That bloodbath in the Old Dominion: Or, as MaineWriter would say it, "What Happened in Virginia will not stay in Virginia".

The day after his "Silent Majority" speech on Nov. 3, 1969, calling on Americans to stand with him for peace with honor in Vietnam, Richard Nixon's GOP captured the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey.

By December, Nixon had reached 68 percent approval in the Gallup Poll, though, a year earlier, he had won but 43 percent of the vote.

Contrast Nixon's numbers with President Trump's.

Where Trump won 46 percent of the vote against Hillary Clinton, his approval rating is now nearly 10 points below that. He has less support today than on the day he was elected, or inaugurated.

Tens of millions of Americans are passionately for Trump, and tens of millions are passionately against him. The GOP problem: The latter cohort is equal in intensity but larger in number, and this is especially true in purple and blue states like the commonwealth of Virginia.

There is no way to spin Tuesday's (2017 election) as other than a Little Bighorn, and possible harbinger of what is to come.

In George Washington's hometown of Alexandria and Arlington County, Democratic candidate Ralph Northam won 4-1. In Fairfax and Loudoun counties, the most populous D.C. suburbs, Northam won 2-1.

In the rural counties, however, Republican Ed Gillespie rolled up the landslides.

As there are two Americas, there are two Virginias.

Consider. Of all the delegate seats in the Virginia assembly allocated to Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties, the GOP can today claim only one.

Northern Virginia is taking on the political and socioeconomic profile of San Francisco.

Another and perhaps insoluble problem for the GOP, not only in the Old Dominion, is demography.

Democrats rolled up their largest margins among African-Americans, Hispanics, single women, immigrants and the young. And these voting blocs are growing.

Gillespie ran up his largest margins among white males near and past retirement age and married white women. These Middle Americans are in inexorable demographic decline.

The Greatest Generation is passing on, and baby boomers born between 1946 and 1951 are now on Medicare and Social Security.

Yet reports of the GOP's demise are grossly exaggerated.

Though Gillespie lost by nine points, Jill Vogel, who ran for lieutenant governor on Trumpian issues, lost by six.

By 2-1, Virginians do not want their Confederate monuments torn down. Northam, sensing this, moved toward Gillespie's position as the campaign went on. Also, among the 27 percent of Virginians who regarded taxes and immigration as the top issues, Gillespie won by nearly 4-1.

It was health care concerns, the No. 1 issue, that buried the GOP.

As for mainstream media rage and revulsion at the "racism" of Gillespie ads suggesting Northam supported sanctuary cities and was soft on the MS-13 gang, this reflects an abiding establishment fear of the Trumpian issues of illegal immigration and crime.

Then there was the Republican messenger. A former chairman of the RNC, Washington lobbyist and White House aide, Gillespie is an establishment Republican unconvincing in the role of a fighting populist conservative. His speeches recalled not Trump's run, but that of the Republicans Trump trounced.

Ed Gillespie was Virginia's version of Jeb Bush.

Message from the Old Dominion: A purple state, trending blue, with its economy recession-proof as long as Uncle Sam across the river consumes 20 percent of GDP, is a steepening climb for the GOP. You must have a superior candidate, comfortable with cutting issues, to win it now.

Republicans are being admonished to drop the monuments-and-memorials issue and respect why NFL players might want to "take a knee" during the national anthem.

But if to win in Northern Virginia the GOP must move closer to the Democratic Party, why would the rest of the state want to vote for the Republican Party?

During the campaign, both candidates moved rightward.

Northam rejected sanctuary cities and accepted Lee and Jackson on Richmond's Monument Avenue, and Gillespie ran Trumpian ads, even if they seemed to clash with the mild-mannered candidate himself.

The lesson for 2018:

While the solid support of Trumpians is indispensable for GOP victory, it is insufficient for GOP victory. Republican candidates will have to decide how close they wish to get to President Trump, or how far away they can risk going and survive.

Facing this choice, Sens. Jeff Flake and Bob Corker decided to pack it in. Other Republicans may follow. But a house divided will not stand.

Republicans should recall that off-year elections are often problematic for incumbent parties. In 1954, President Eisenhower lost both houses of Congress. After pardoning Nixon in 1974, Gerald Ford lost 49 seats. In 1982, Ronald Reagan sustained a 27-seat loss.

In 1994, Bill Clinton lost 53 seats and control of the House. In 2010, Barack Obama lost 63 seats and control of the House.

If the nation chooses to turn Congress over to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in 2018, will that be all Trump's fault? Or should perhaps some credit go to Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and venerable political tradition?

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of a new book, "Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever."

MaineWriter's assessment- Patrick Buchanan might just be reporting "real news".

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Maine weather disaster calls for longer ACA enrollment

Maine experienced a weather disaster whereby many people throughout the state were without electricity, caused by power lines entangled in severe tree damages. In fact, power outages in Maine reached about 400+ thousand. Many roads were blocked by downed power lines entangled in fallen trees.

This tree fell on Westwind Drive in Topsham Maine, where we live- L'Heureux photograph 

In Bangor, Senator Angus King Announced to CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) a letter sent to the administer requesting an extension of open enrollment for Maine due to power loss following the October storm. King's announcement comes as he continues his Open Enrollment Information Tour at Penobscot Community Health Care.
BANGOR, ME – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced that he sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, to request an extension of the 2018 Affordable Care Act open enrollment period for Maine. 

The request comes following a severe storm caused more than 400,000 people in Maine to lose power as the shortened open enrollment period began.

“As you may know, a severe storm with hurricane-force winds recently hit Maine causing historic, widespread power outages,” Senator King wrote in the letter. “Without access to electricity and or communications it is nearly impossible to effectively shop for health insurance. Clearly, for those trying to enroll in healthcare, the timing of this event is dire. Because of the storm damage many Maine residents will lose nearly 1/3 of the Open Enrollment period… I respectfully ask that you consider extending the Open Enrollment period for the State of Maine to provide those recovering from the storm additional time to shop for health insurance coverage.”

Senator King announced the letter at Penobscot Community Health Care, where he continued his open enrollment information tour to provide information to Maine citizens about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period. Open enrollment began on November 1st and currently stands to end on December 15th. The press conference featured health care professionals and advocates, application assisters, and health care providers.

In recent months, the Donald Trump Administration has launched numerous efforts to undermine open enrollment including reducing the length of open enrollment from 12 weeks to 6 weeks, announcing a 12-hour shutdown of the ACA website over weekends, and drastically cutting funding for advertising and insurance navigator programs. Despite these changes, the Affordable Care Act’s benefits and assistance with enrollment remain available for those who sign up within the shortened time period.

Senator King has been outspoken in his desire to improve the Affordable Care Act to protect coverage for the millions who rely on it for affordable healthcare, and is a cosponsor of the bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to stabilize the individual health insurance marketplace.

Today’s event marks the latest iteration of Senator King’s Open Enrollment information tour. In October, Senator King joined health care professionals and advocates at the Opportunity Alliance in South Portland to encourage Maine people to learn more about their health care options and get coverage, and in earlier this week he spoke about the importance of insurance at Central Maine Medical Center, in Lewiston. 

Senator King also hosted a Facebook live on the topic where he shared a personal story about how insurance saved his life more than 40 years ago, when he was diagnosed with skin cancer (Melanoma).

This is a compassionate and reasonable request from Senator King, made on behalf of all Maine people who were unable to access the Internet during the weather related computer interruptions and loss of electricity.  Thank you Senator King.

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Bringing health care to rural areas - Home Health

Aging Gracefully: The Importance of Home Care and Hospice

Small hospitals were once superb resources for providing local access to health care, but they are now becoming urgent care clinics or critical access hospitals. This change in mission prevents access for thousands of elderly who can't qualify for care in these facilities. Instead, they need access to primary care, rather than urgent or critical care. 

Senator Angus King is correct in calling for an expansion of home care and hospice care: 

MAINE- It’s no secret that Maine is one of the oldest states in the nation. Obviously this age has many benefits – say, wisdom – but it’s also true that an aging population brings medical and logistical challenges. Fortunately, Maine is home to an incredible community of home care providers who help patients recover, and hospice workers who provide comfort at the end of life’s journey. This November marks National Home Care and Hospice Month and gives our state the opportunity to recognize the incredible contributions of those who work in these fields.

Home care is exactly what it sounds like – providing medical (and nursing) care to patients in their homes – and yet it’s so much more! The opportunity to recover at home, whether it be in the heart of a city or the end of a country road, allows individuals to heal in the place most familiar and comfortable to them. By making sure patients can get the care they need while remaining in their home, home care workers enable seniors to live longer, happier lives surrounded by family, friends and neighbors. That is an incredible service, one that brings immense joy and vitality to our communities.

To expand the reach of home care, it’s vital that we pursue opportunities to increase the prevalence of home care across our state, and support policies that increase its accessibility. One such opportunity is the rise of telehealth, which allows medical practitioners to advise patients over video chat. This prevents a patient from needing to travel to medical appointments, and allows the doctor to efficiently deliver in-home care to folks who may live far away from the medical provider – a true win-win.

However, this program’s unique ability to help those who live in our state’s rural areas is hindered by the insufficient broadband access available in those same communities. That’s why I’m a cofounder of the Senate Broadband Caucus, working with my colleagues to find legislative solutions to bridge this digital divide. By increasing connectivity across our state, we’ll be able to ensure our rural regions have the ability to fully take advantage of the options provided by 21st century healthcare.

In order to truly maximize the long-term effectiveness of home care, we also have to ensure that those who grow older in their own homes will be able to safely navigate their home when providers are not present. That is why, along with Senator Susan Collins, I have introduced the “Senior Home Modification Assistance Initiative Act.” This bill would simplify the process to secure federal funding for important home modifications, like grab bars in showers or wheelchair accessible doors. 

By making this process easier to navigate, more seniors will be able to utilize the program and install features allowing them to live longer, healthier lives in their homes.

But as we all know, there’s no amount of medicine or legislation that can prevent the inevitable. In a patient’s final moments, the work of hospice workers provides an immense service. The job that these men and women take on is simply incredible. During moments of grief, they provide comfort. During moments of fear, they provide support. During moments of acute stress and turmoil, they balance the wishes and opinions of the patient, family, friends and other medical professionals, each of whom has his or her own thoughts on how best to handle an incredibly challenging situation. The task is all-encompassing, and requires a special strength – one that has been present in every hospice caregiver I’ve ever met. In fact, these men and women often tell me how fulfilling the job is, and how they feel they get as much as they give. These are truly special people who make immense contributions to our state, and it’s crucial that they be recognized and supported.

Maine’s elderly populations aren’t just abundant – they are vital to our state, and have built the communities that make Maine so special today. They deserve to age gracefully and, when the time comes, die peacefully. That is exactly what is provided by home care and hospice professionals. Their extraordinary care provides a gift to our seniors and to our state that must be celebrated. To all those who dedicate their time and efforts to providing this care, I say: Thank you.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Believing Vladimir Putin might as well say the earth is flat

It's worth the subscription of The New Yorker to read Andy Borowitz.  During this media era of manufactured fake news, making it up just because you can, the humerus "close to the issues" Borowitz Report provides a safe place where real news readers can enjoy facts that are tied to creative satire.  

It's like putting real news inside an effervescent bubble where the reader can watch the humor just pop right out, as soon as the puns are absorbed.  What's even more entertaining is how Borowitz writes these satirical gems nearly spontaneously with the real news (or fake news made real and visa versa).. Like an M & M's candy machine, the readers never know exactly what flavors will be dispensed when the tasty treats roll out of the trough.

This particularly hilarous treat appeared in my inbox on Sunday, about a day after Donald Trump told the international media about how he believed Vladimir Putin, who claimed innocence in the Russia meddling of the 2016 election.  This exchange happened in Vietnam, but nobody recorded the dialogue.  Nevertheless, Donald Trump said he has confidence that Vladimir Putin told him the truth, regardless of what the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Great Britian's intelligence services had as overwhelming evidence to prove otherwise. Obviously, Donald Trump is telling more lies about the exchange with Vladimir Putin. Yet, what's even more certain than the fabricated "innocence" is that the Kremlin is rolling in laughter about how easy it is to trick Donald Trump.
Kremlin folks are laughing and Andy Borowitz knows it! So we can all laugh together about Donald Trump.
Andy Borowitz immediately responded to this breaking news:

Mueller Immediately Closes Investigation After Hearing Putin Proclaim His Innocence

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The special counsel Robert Mueller announced on Saturday that he was closing the Justice Department’s Russia investigation, “effective immediately,” after hearing that President Vladimir Putin, of Russia, said he was innocent of any election meddling.

Moments after learning about Putin’s assertion, Mueller hastily assembled his staff of investigators to inform them that, now that Putin had fully exonerated himself, there was no point in continuing the probe.

“Vladimir Putin says he did nothing,” Mueller told his staff. “That’s good enough for me.”

Speaking later to reporters, Mueller said that, by disbanding his investigation, he was following the time-honored law-enforcement tradition of taking a suspect’s word for it.

“For the past several months, we’ve assembled tax records, cell-phone recordings, bank transfers, and e-mail communications that indicated Russia was involved in the election,” a visibly shaken Mueller said. “Somehow, we got it wrong—very, very wrong.”

As for his future plans, Mueller said that his first order of business was to write a hearfelt letter of apology to Putin.

“I feel terrible knowing that I’ve spent all this time investigating a person who did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said. “Hindsight is 20/20, but I really should have called him first and asked him what really happened.”

(After reading the Borowitz satire, at least I can laugh along with Vladimir Putin over this exchange. Oddly enough, Putin, along with his Kremlin colleagues and I are all laughing about the same person - Donald Trump is the butt of our shared humor.)

On the other hand, those who chose to believe Vladimir Putin and trust Donald Trump to proclaim the innocence of the Russian government meddling during the 2016 election, might as well believe the earth is flat. Ant, surely, that is not funny.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Democrats united against Donald Trump

Although getting a group of Democrats to support a single candidate is like the cliche about herding cats, the fact is, Donald Trump has done for the party what no other candidate in recent memory has been able to accomplish. Yup! Democrats are united against Donald Trump. We're called "The Resistance".

By Paul Waldman in The Week
One great election can't revive a political party, but Democrats are finally feeling pretty darn good right now. 

Although it's difficult for the Democratic party to unite around one political candidate, we are coalesced against Donald Trump.

And there's one man they (we!) have to thank for the reversal of the Democratic party's fortunes after "What Happened" to Hillary Clinton in the illegitimate 2016, presidential election: Donald J. Trump.

Imagine if Hillary Clinton had managed to secure an Electoral College victory to go along with her popular vote win a year ago. Had that happened, Ed Gillespie would probably be picking out furniture for the Virginia governor's mansion, and the state's Republicans would have reinforced their hold on the legislature. 

All over the country, conservatives consumed with rage at a Clinton presidency would be creating the second coming of the Tea Party, organizing protests, signing up volunteers, registering voters, and preparing for what would likely be a Republican wave election in 2018.

In a related development, you can't help but notice a new eagerness among elected Democrats to stop splitting the difference on issues and forthrightly advocate for policies that reflect liberal values, whether it's a living wage or protecting women's right to choose or universal health coverage — which is more likely to give their partisans something to vote for, even as they want to vote against Trump.

That's not to say there aren't still plenty of internal disagreements among Democrats over both strategy and substance, because there are. But years from now, we may say that 2017 was the year when dispirited Democrats came back to life and began renewing their party, enabling it emerge stronger than it had been in years

We may even say that President Trump was the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party. (MaineWriter- I disagree with this particular point of view but, nevertheless, I reluctantly accept the author's premise. In my opinion, Donald Trump is the worst executive leader imaginable for the USA, he's not even patriotic.)

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Niger- four Americans dead but what happened?

Niger Africa - the mystery of four American deaths

"...if Obama or Hillary Clinton were in office, Republicans would be blaming them personally..." ~ TheWeek (Nov. 3, 2017)

The Region Where ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram Converge

The deaths of three Green Berets near the Mali-Niger border show just how entrenched American security forces in Africa have become since 9/11.

The 12-man group of Green Berets had just finished a meeting in the Niger village of Tongo Tongo, when "suddenly, on the scrubby desert horizon, men on motorbikes appeared," said Dionne Searcey in The New York Times. For two hours, these 50 ISIS-aligned militants engaged U.S. soldiers in a "chaotic firefight," firing on them with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns. Four Americans were killed- included Sgt. La David Johnson*, who was separated from his companions; his body wasn't recovered until 48 hours later. Three weeks after, the Niger tragedy hasn't just led to an "unsavory" fight between President Trump and Gold Star families, said Benjamin Hart in It as also "prompted many to wonder what U.S. troops were doing in the African country, in the first place."

This much is clear: "Niger has been a toe in the expanding American footprint in Africa," said Jason Ditz in President Obam escalated U.S. presence there from 100 military "advisers" in 2013, to about 575 , as part of his stealthy and expansive global war on terror Today, there are about 800. These soldiers are tasked under the 9/11-era Authorization for the Use of Military Force with providing intelligence support to French troops in their fight against Islamist militants connected to ISIS, al Qaida, and Boko Haram. 

The Pentagon says that the U.S. soldiers were pursuing an important ISIS recruiter, but so deep is the secrecy around these operations that we don't know if our troops have been engaging in covert combat missions in Niger. Indeed, several U.S. senators said they had no idea that so many U.S. soldiers were there. 
"Indeed, several U.S. senators said they had no idea that so many U.S. soldiers were there (in Niger)".
When wars are secret, "mission creep" is inevitable, said James Barnett in There may indeed be a case for the U.S to support the counter terrorism operations of French and African forces in the region, but our intervention has been based on "the assumption that American soldiers would almost never be in harm's way."

That assumption is no longer valid. The confusion surrounding the four American deaths "is eerily similar to the Benghazi attack," said Zack Beauchamp in, and if Obama or Hillary Clinton were in office, Republicans would be blaming them personally. Instead of "another partisan witch hunt", Congress should investigate what happened- and determine how deeply the Trump administration plans to get involved in Africa. In other word, "provide real oversight."

*Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson. (U.S. Army) were also killed in the Niger attack.

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Thursday, November 09, 2017

Donald Trump- an opinion by Liz Smith

This short article from The New Yorker is worth a couple of "echoes", meaning reblogs of my choice:
Liz Smith is a well known and widely read gossip columnist

Liz Smith’s Trump Memories

The veteran gossip columnist recalls decades of dishing the dirt on “the Donald Trumps.” By Jeffrey Toobin

One day in the mid-nineteen-eighties, Liz Smith was in a car with her friend Arnold Scaasi, the fashion designer. 

“He said, ‘Have you met the Donald Trumps?’ ” 

Smith recalled the conversation the other day, in a Manhattan town house. “And I said, ‘What are the Donald Trumps?’ ” 

At the time, Smith, who worked at the Daily News, was the city’s reigning gossip columnist. Trump and his wife, Ivana, were wealthy arrivistes on the New York social scene. Smith followed up on Scaasi’s tip, and it was in part through her column that Trump became known for something more than the shiny building on Fifth Avenue that bore his name. (In 1986 and 1987, Spy magazine’s Liz Smith Tote Board tallied between four and six Trump mentions a month.)

Smith is now ninety-three years old and a little creaky (she had a minor stroke a few months ago), but she is still churning out copy (for the Web site New York Social Diary) and making wisecracks in a Texas twang undiminished by six decades of living in Manhattan. 

“Donald had a wonderful family in those days, and I started going to their anniversary and birthday dinners,” Smith said. “I liked Ivana, too, even though I could never understand what she was saying in that Czech accent. She would just chatter on like a machine gun.” 

Smith remembered Donald being a vaporous presence at those social occasions. “He would appear with a camel-hair coat over his shoulders, and he’d greet us and then say he had to be off,” she said. “He had no attention span.”

One day, Ivana invited Smith to visit her at the Plaza Hotel, which Donald then owned and Ivana managed. “She threw herself into my arms crying. She said, ‘Donald has a girlfriend,’ ” Smith recalled. Accustomed to helping the city’s rich and powerful spin their complicated personal lives, she offered her assistance. “I asked her if she wanted me to write something, and she said no. She just wanted a sympathetic shoulder,” Smith said. “So I told her she should see a psychiatrist. I said, ‘It’ll take you two years to get over it if you see an analyst and five years if you don’t.’ ” Smith also wrote Trump a letter (“Can you believe people wrote letters in those days? Ha!”) advising him to make an official comment about his rumored marital problems in her column. Eventually, he called Smith from a plane. “And he said, ‘I like Ivana; I might get back with her.’ I couldn’t believe it: ‘I like Ivana,’ ” Smith said. 

“Everyone had misjudged Donald. People thought he would be alarmed if it was revealed that he was having an affair. But it turned out he didn’t give a shit if people knew.”

When the Post published a front-page story quoting Marla Maples calling her affair with Trump “the best sex I ever had,” Smith wrote a column urging Ivana to “stop sobbing over Donald Juan,” and observing that Trump “still relishes his macho-man publicity.” The Trumps’ divorce, followed by Donald’s brief marriage to Maples, gave Smith the story of her career. At the time, she was a regular on WNBC’s “Live at Five,” in addition to writing her column. She parlayed the Trump story into a big contract to move her column to New York Newsday, which is now defunct, like a number of the seven newspapers she’s worked for.

During the eighties, Smith enjoyed a good deal of Trump’s hospitality, including visits to his Mar-a-Lago estate, in Palm Beach. “I was left holding the bag, ethically, because I had foolishly appeared to have accepted a lot of favors from him,” she said. “The truth was I thought I could get him to give me money for my charities. He never gave me a dime. And I got the criticism I deserved.”

As a journalist, Smith never displayed much of a killer instinct; cozy chattiness was her signature. But now that Trump is the Republican nominee for President, her views have taken on a harder edge. “In the old days, Donald reminded me of my brothers in Texas,” she said. “He was attractive and dynamic and took up all the oxygen in the room. When he saw me, he’d give me a big hug and tell me I was the greatest. I never took him seriously. I didn’t even think he would last in New York, because people hated him once they got to know him. He was a horse’s ass. Still is.” 

♦This article appears in the print edition of the September 5, 2016, issue, with the headline “Spin.”

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Maine Governor Paul LePage must accept voters will - Medicaid

Governor LePage is defiantly rejecting the will of the majority of Maine voters by defiling the decisive vote to approve the Medicaid Expansion on the November 7th Question 2 referendum. In his outrage about the democratic process that overruled his legislative vetoes, he is undermining the right of the people to implement an important health care initiative.

Maine Question 2 asked the following, stated on the ballot:

Do you want Maine to expand Medicaid to provide healthcare coverage for qualified adults under age 65 with incomes at or below 138% of the federal poverty level, which in 2017 means $16,643 for a single person and $22,412 for a family of two?

Overwhelmingly, the measure passed with 59.9 % voting "yes" and 41.1 % that voted "no".

Maine Voters Approve Medicaid Expansion, a Rebuke of Gov. LePage~ reported in The New York Times by Abby Goodnough

Maine Governor Paul LePage has no authority to obstruct the will of the people as decided on the Question 2 Medicaid Expansion ballot initiative

Voters in Maine approved a ballot measure on Tuesday, Nov. 7, to allow many more low-income residents to qualify for Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, The Associated Press said. The vote was a rebuke of Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican who has repeatedly vetoed legislation to expand Medicaid.

At least 80,000 additional Maine residents will become eligible for Medicaid as a result of the referendum. Maine will be the 32nd state to expand the program under the health law, but the first where voters, not governors or legislators, decided the issue. Other states whose leaders have resisted expanding the program were closely watching the campaign, particularly Utah and Idaho, where newly formed committees are working to get Medicaid expansion on next year’s ballots.

Supporters, including advocacy groups that collected enough signatures 
to get the question on the ballot, said the measure would help financially fragile rural hospitals, create jobs and provide care for vulnerable people who have long gone without.

Mr. LePage and other opponents, including several Republicans in the state Legislature, said Medicaid expansion would burden the taxpayers and the state budget, and described it as a form of welfare. (MaineWriter~ but the wrong minded opponents of this initiative neglect to inform voters about the Medicaid Expansion will attract millions of federal dollars to Maine.)

Instead, the erroneous response to this initiative from Mr. LePage was:

“The truth is that Medicaid expansion will just give able-bodied adults free health care,” Mr. LePage said in a recent radio address. “We don’t mind helping people get health care, but it should not be free. ‘Free’ is very expensive to somebody.”

On the other hand, the pro-expansion side may have benefited from energized public support for government health programs in a year when Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress tried repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut spending on Medicaid, which covers one in five Americans. 

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the few Republicans who firmly opposed the repeal efforts, has been an outspoken defender of Medicaid, although she did not take a position on the ballot question.

The health law gives states the option of allowing any citizen with income up to 138 percent of the poverty level — $16,642 for an individual, $24,600 for a family of four — to qualify for Medicaid, which states and the federal government both pitch in to pay for.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government picked up the cost of new enrollees under Medicaid expansion for the first three years and will continue to pay at least 90 percent. 

States cover a significantly larger portion of the expenses for the rest of their Medicaid population.

Maine’s Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats in the House and Republicans, by one vote, in the Senate, could try to block the referendum, but since it voted for Medicaid expansion five times already, supporters and opponents alike believe it is unlikely to meddle. 

And, Mr. LePage has no authority to veto the outcome, although he could try to delay putting it in place during his remaining year in office. Moreover, if Congress eventually succeeds in repealing the Affordable Care Act, states with expanded Medicaid will likely have to scale back their programs.

(MaineWriter- Governor LePage has no authority to veto a people's initiative duly voted on in an election. Even more important, he has no authority whatsoever to go against the repeated will of the people who have supported and passed this important initiative five times!)

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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Three echoes support gun control from North Dakota

Three letters to the editor - from the Bismark Tribune.
It's surprising to find three letters to the editor in an apparently conservative newspaper, where the opinions favor supporting gun regulations, even where the assumption would indicate support for less gun regulations. Interesting points of view about gun regulation. (My echo series):
Letter number 1:

Country needs to enact gun reform ~ Evan Mandigo, Bismarck ND

I have been watching the breaking news about the horrific tragedy unfolding in a small community in Texas. Surprise, surprise, it was committed by someone who is reported to have used an assault weapon.

As I asked earlier, how many lives must be needlessly lost before the U.S. enacts some reasonable gun reform? It was 26 and counting so far in the Texas disaster. One is still too many. Ignoring the issue is a certain way to keep it easy to obtain and use assault rifles to take lives.

I would willingly agree to give up my "right" to own a weapon of mass destruction if it avoids one innocent death.

Letter number 2:

Murders were a gun situation ~ Larry Larsen, Mandan

I am a native North Dakotan who realizes that our state contains a lot of small communities like Wilton, Lincoln, Menoken, St. Anthony and Almont. 

(In fact), I and many other North Dakotans have sat in a church on Sunday morning, singing hymns, standing and speaking the liturgy and listening to the sermon. It is as normal as breathing.

The citizens of Sutherland Springs, Texas, were doing that same thing Sunday morning Nov. 5, 2017, they too were worshiping God in their church, but we all know their service was interrupted by a lone, mentally disturbed gunman, using an AR-15 semi-automatic gun that shot and killed 26 of them, whose ages ranged from 5 to 72 years of age.

Donald Trump traveling in Japan, a country with strict gun laws, declared, as reported by The Washington Post: The shooting was not “a guns situation,” saying instead he believed that it was a “mental health” problem and then added, “this isn’t a guns situation.”

Trump you are wrong; it was a gun situation and what are you and your Republican-controlled congress going to do about it? If your solution is, that I am going to have to carry a gun into the holiness of any house of God, for my protection and that of others, you are mistaken.

Genesis 28:16-17. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it." He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven."

Letter number 3:

The gun lobby has trotted out the same old arguments after the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

“There will always be mental illness and hatred so limiting guns won’t stop the carnage.” 

There will always be mental illness and hatred. No matter how many people you institutionalize, imprison and kill, there will always be more. The only factor we can control is how many victims they can harm.

You can’t kill people from a block and a half away with a knife and you probably can’t kill 50-plus in person without a gun. You could build a bomb, but bomb-making materials are banned or monitored and limited for the same reason some guns should be — to prevent mass murder.

“If you stop the public from having guns; the criminals will still have them illegally.” Also probably true. But illegal activity stimulates search activities by authorities and the public can report criminal activity. Leaving weapons that were designed to kill people to be legal only means that there will be weapons for deranged people, that the gun industry has assured us are there, to use without any legal methods of stopping them.

“Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Should we make all methods of mass murder legal because bombs and chemical and biological weapons don’t kill people? 

Some people use bombs, chemicals and biological weapons to kill other people.

A local doctor echoed the first two of these arguments after the tragedy. Should we not do anything to prevent illness and death because both are inevitable? 

Do you forgo washing your hands before surgery because the public won’t wash theirs during visitations?

“We will only be safe when we are all armed.” Other than corporate profits, does anyone really see a benefit of everyone carrying an automatic weapon? The predators among us will.

MaineWriter- Do Republicans read letters to the editor? 

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