Maine Writer

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My blogs are dedicated to the issues I care about. Thank you to all who take the time to read something I've written.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Medicaid expansion in Virginia ~ thank you Governor Northam

Virginia Senate passes budget with Medicaid expansion

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - by Heather Sullivan

Governor Ralph Northam - Democratic governor of Virginia
After hours of heated debate and weeks of delays, the Virginia Senate has passed a budget that includes Medicaid expansion.

This is expected to conclude a nearly five-year effort by Democrats to widen coverage for 400,000 more Virginians using federal funds from the Affordable Care Act.

The vote comes one day after a heated session that included a committee killing expansion.

Four Republicans broke with the Republican Senate majority and joined Democrats in voting 23-17 for the bills. That includes Senators Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta), Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), Ben Chafin (R-Russell) and Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier).

Chafin said he voted for the expansion because of the core public services the funding would pay for. Vogel said she supported it because of funding for her priorities and other reforms in the bills.

Senator Bill Stanley (R-Franklin) argued against the bills on the floor, saying they were spending money like they're "drunk in New Orleans." (MaineWriter~ that's a terrible statement!)

Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R - James City County) issued a statement, reading in part:

Today, the General Assembly approved a budget that abandons Virginia's long-standing reputation for fiscal responsibility. This budget marks a stark departure, both from the conservative fiscal policies observed by the Commonwealth for generations and in the manner in which it was approved by the General Assembly.

The House of Delegates is expected to take up the bills Wednesday night. If they are able to reconcile them with the budget they passed, it will go to the Governor's desk.

Governor Northam campaigned on a commitment to expand Medicaid and is expected to sign the bill.

The Governor issued a statement saying:

Today a bipartisan group of leaders in the Virginia Senate voted to make history and make people’s lives better. The budget the Senate passed today expands health care to Virginians, invests in core economic priorities and strengthens the cash reserves we need for a rainy day.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Three recent news items under the rubric of "Republican hypocrisy" ~ an echo essay by Michael Gerson, published in the Journal Star, a Peoria Illinois newspaper:

— At the Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “We see moral relativism becoming more and more pervasive in our culture. Identity politics and tribalism have grown on top of this.” Ryan went on to talk about Catholic social doctrine, with its emphasis on “solidarity” with the poor and weak, as “a perfect antidote to what ails our culture.”

— In the Oval Office, according to The Washington Post, Donald Trump boasted about how easy it is to appeal to audiences with an anti-immigrant message: “Acting as if he was at a (cult) rally, he then read aloud a few made up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, like rape and murder. Then, he said, the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country.” In the Post’s account, ”[Stephen] Miller and [Jared] Kushner laughed.”

— At the American border, the brutal separation of confused, weeping children from parents who cross illegally is being implemented. According to The Arizona Republic: “The Office of Refugee Resettlement reported at the end of 2017 that of the 7,000-plus children placed with sponsored individuals, the agency did not know where 1,475 of them were.” Some could be lost to abuse or trafficking.

What do these incidents add up to? A political, moral and religious failure of massive, discrediting proportions.

It is often difficult to apply theological doctrines to public policy. 

But if there is one area where the teaching of the Christian faith is utterly clear, it is in the requirement to care for the vulnerable stranger. According to the Hebrew scriptures: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.” In the New Testament, Jesus employs compassion for an abused traveler as the test and definition of neighborly love.

The dehumanization of migrants and refugees has been one of the most consistent themes of this president — including using the fact that some criminals enter the country illegally to fan a generalized hostility to Hispanic immigration. Can you imagine what would have happened if a White House staffer attending a policy meeting on family separation had said, “This is cruel. This is immoral. This is wrong.” They would have been quickly cleaning out their desk. The rejection of Christian teaching on this issue is pretty much a job requirement in the Trump administration.

And how did Ryan address the issue of Trump’s habit of dehumanization at the Catholic Prayer Breakfast? By avoidance, under a thick layer of hypocrisy. He complained that politicians are too often in “survival mode,” trying to “get through the day” rather than reflecting on and applying Catholic social teaching.

Ryan was effectively criticizing the whole theory of his speakership. 

Indeed, SpeakerRyan is in survival mode. As a matter of fact, he has been in survival modae from the first day of Trump’s presidency, making the case that publicly burning bridges with the president would undermine the ability to pursue his vision of the common good (including tax reform and regulatory relief). 

This, while a weak argument, is at least a consistent one. But by making the Christian commitment to human dignity relative to other political aims, it is no longer an option for Ryan to speak of “moral relativism” as the defining threat of our time.

Ryan was effectively criticizing the whole theory of his speakership. He has been in survival mode from the first day of Trump’s presidency, making the case that publicly burning bridges with the president would undermine the ability to pursue his vision of the common good (including tax reform and regulatory relief). This, while a weak argument, is at least a consistent one. 

But by making the Christian commitment to human dignity relative to other political aims, it is no longer an option for Ryan to speak of “moral relativism” as the defining threat of our time.

In the name of survival, Ryan has ignored and enabled the transformation of the GOP into an anti-immigrant party. This does not reflect his personal views. But it will be remembered as the hallmark of his time in office — the elevation of survival above solidarity.

My tradition of evangelical protestantism is, if anything, even worse. According to a recent Pew poll, white evangelical protestants are the least likely group in America to affirm an American responsibility to accept refugees. 

Moreover, Evangelicals insist on the centrality and inerrancy of scripture and condemn society for refusing to follow biblical norms. And yet, when it comes to verse after verse requiring care for the stranger, they not only ignore this mandate but oppose it.

This represents the failure of Christian political leadership — not only from the speaker, but from most elected religious conservatives. Even more, it indicates the failure of the Christian church in the moral formation of its members, who remain largely untutored in the most important teachings of their own faith.

Ryan concluded his remarks by quoting Mother Teresa on God’s call to “be faithful,” not to “be successful.” But what if one is neither? Perhaps silence is the best option.

Michael Gerson writes for the Washington Post. Contact him at

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Fox News ~ young women with too little clothing, too much makeup: Echo

Republicans must stand up to Donald Trump. He is destroying our democracy. In fact, there's a preponderance of evidence to support inappropriate communication with Russia before and during the 2016 political campaign.  This echo opinion letter was published in the Savannah Morning News in Georgia:

"...too much to bear, especially when news comes from eager young women, wearing too little fabric and too much makeup.."
Founding fathers are rolling in graves

President Abraham Lincoln said “we must appeal to the better angels of our nature” in order to bring the country together again after the terrible Civil War. His cabinet was composed of some who had opposed him in the election, so he had experience in using this type of leadership. Historians describe him as a great president.

Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer, was a commentator on Fox News for 10 years. He recently resigned. He was the one Fox person trained in Russian studies and Russian language and reportedly had been face to face with Russian intelligence in the Kremlin.

The Obama administration had ejected some Russian intelligence officers from the United States when it was discovered that they were beginning to meddle in the election technology. With his background and experience, Peters would be an excellent source for Fox to invite to describe how Vladimir Putin and his security services could mettle in our election technology and ensnare a person running for high political office. Consider a man with behavior patterns and evident weaknesses; such as financial entanglements, lack of self control and a sense of sexual entitlement.

For security reasons, all Americans, whatever their politics, should want to know if someone running for president had the personality and entanglements that would subject him or her to being entangled by Russian influence. However, Peters was not called on by Fox News to describe how the Russians worked. He simply was not called on for topics central to his experience.

“I was relegated,” he said, “to listening to political hacks, with no knowledge of things Russian, tell the vast Fox audience that the special counsel’s investigation was a witch hunt, while I could not respond. This became too much to bear, especially when it came from eager young women, wearing too little fabric and too much makeup, immersed in memorizing the indoctrinating talking points.” At least, CNN keeps everyone’s knees under the desk.

Fox News continues to parrot the president’s tweets, bringing down derision on the FBI and his own Justice Department. Immigrants and the other party are demonized in a way that brings out prejudices and sharply divides our country. It is sad and dangerous that we have a president that dwells on the worse. I do believe that if the founding fathers could return and see what happened in 2016, they would recommend changes.

Jimmie Snooks in Springfield Georgia

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Catholic Church and married clergy

Why the Catholic church is ‘hemorrhaging’ priests

Priests are Catholicism’s greatest figures: shepherds who manage believers’ relationship with the divine.

But, as Pope Francis recently acknolwedged, their numbers are dwindling. In fact, the number of priests worldwide has been dropping since the 1930s.

In Argentina, a predominantly Catholic country, the Church lost 23 percent of its priests and nuns from 1960 to 2013. France and Spain have also seen a dramatic reduction in clergy. Across Europe, the number of priests declined almost 4 percent between 2012 and 2015 alone.

Why is the church “hemorrhaging” priests, to use Pope Francis’s words? I study Catholic history, so I have long considered this question.
Why are there fewer priests?

The demands of the job are a killer combination in today’s world.

Between strict restrictions on sexuality and the loss of priests’ social status, there are ever fewer seminary students. Consequently, fewer men become priests, particularly in remote parts of the world. In the Amazon region, there is one priest for every 10,000 Catholics.

Responding to this challenge, Pope Francis in 2017 suggested that the Church might allow married men to be ordained. Many Church officialsbelieve the requirement of celibacy is the main reason fewer men are joining the priesthood.

The pope’s statements are not aimed at undoing an historic pillar of the sacred institution of the priesthood.

Rather, Pope Francis has simply suggested that the Church consider some exceptions. Among other changes, the pontiff has indicated that married Catholic men could assume certain church duties in far-flung regions, invoking the figure of the “viri probati” – or men of unquestionable faith, virtue and obedience.
More men of the cloth

In other words, the pope has suggested filling the gaps in the priesthood with something markedly similar to an existing institution, the diaconate.

Also known as “deacons,” these men complete a two- to four-year course and are ordained to assist priests and bishops. They can baptize, marry, preach and administer the Eucharist, but they cannot take confession.

Though the concept is as old as Christianity itself – the Church traces it to the apostles – the diaconate has garnered renewed interest in recent years as priests have become scarce.
Invite women into the ministry

Deacons don’t have to remain chaste. However, like the priesthood, this ministry does not allow women.

So, in August 2016, at the request of the Synod of Bishops, the highest Catholic decision-making body, Pope Francis established a commission to study female deacons. Ordained female deacons supporting an all-male ministry would not entirely fulfill progressive Catholics’ demands to allow women in the priesthood, but it has calmed some anxiety and indicated a potential path forward.

It might also ease some of the priesthood’s staffing shortages.


Stop the cruel removal of children from immigrant parents ~ Ohio echo

Cincinnati Enquirer echo ~ letter to the editor calls for humanitarian consideration in support of immigrant children.

"I write to oppose this practice of separating children from their parents as they enter the U.S."

Tragic immigration stories made worse by the cruel separation of families
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has adopted a new policy of removing children from parents when they illegally cross the border. Immigration lawyers say the government’s stated number of 700 removed children is growing rapidly and some of these children are reported to have already spent months away from their parents. 

Plans are being considered now to house children on U.S. military bases to handle the increasing number of children who are removed from their parents.

Officials defend the new policy as necessary to deter would-be immigrants from seeking asylum in the U.S. I write to oppose this practice of separating children from their parents as they enter the U.S.

The science is clear that adverse childhood experiences, known as ACEs, profoundly impact brain and child development. Removing a child from a nurturing parent is a strong ACE and this new policy is likely to have both short and long-term harmful consequences for the child. In addition to the immediate cruelty of separation, many children will experience changes in brain neuropathways, epigenetic profiles and immune system dysfunction. 

These changes result in life-long behavioral, mental and physical health disorders.

Our government’s dehumanization of immigrants and the persistent characterization of them as threats to “our” way of life, create fertile ground for treating innocent children with intolerable cruelty and causing them harm. This practice must stop now before we permanently damage the lives of untold numbers of children. Allowing children to remain with loving parents can prevent the toxic stress caused by ACEs they likely experience during the journey from their home country and while they are in detention.

Robert Shapiro, MD

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Michael Cohen ~ the incredulous deal maker

Ongoing scandals are the hallmark of the failed Donald Trump administration.  

Contributing to this growing saga is the dismal performance of Michael Cohen.  Incredulously, Cohen expected people to believe that he paid Stormy Daniels $130,000 out of his own pocket without Donald Trump having any knowledge of the payout!  

This column echo was published in the News Leader newspaper, in Staunton Virginia. 

On reflection, AT&T thinks it made a mistake paying President Trump’s personal lawyer $600,000 to “advise” the company on how to win government approval of its planned merger with Time Warner.

“There is no other way to say it — AT&T hiring Michael Cohen as a political consultant was a big mistake,” AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson wrote in a companywide email last week.

What exactly he considers the mistake isn’t clear.

Was the mistake that the company got caught dumping a $50,000-a-month retainer on the Manhattan doorstep of someone whose finances seem inextricably co-mingled with our president - and to some extent with those of porn star Stormy Daniels. On the campaign trail Trump was clearly opposed to the merger, so AT&T must have had some reason to believe their payments could change that.

Was the mistake that the company paid that money and yet still found itself sued by the Justice Department, which wants to block the merger? Maybe he just regrets the company was duped.

Or does he simply regret getting caught taking part in the pocket-lining exercise by a fledgling Washington swamp creature, like so many that corporations have paid off before and will again? The only thing that’s certain is their chief lobbyist didn’t get his money’s worth and will retire.

Of course, AT&T wasn’t alone, no matter what you define as the mistake.

The Swiss drug giant Novartis, for instance, offered Cohen $1.2 million for his advice on health-care policy. Remember, Cohen is a former personal-injury lawyer who graduated from America's worst law school and ran a taxi business on the side. So of course his health care advice would be worth that. When Cohen couldn’t give any useful advice, the Washington Post reported, Novartis paid him anyway. We’ve all have had bosses that generous, haven’t we?

Government bidder Korea Aerospace Industries says it sought his guidance with reorganizing its internal accounting system, something that was worth $150,000.

And there was the $500,000 Cohen received from Columbus Nova — an investment firm that also manages money for Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg —which wanted his advice on real estate investments.

It’s clear, Cohen is either one talented guy, or was selling something other than expertise.

So, does it all lead back to the president? No way to tell - yet.

Legal experts say Cohen was required to tell the president if he had any allegiances to his consulting customers that conflicted with his role advising Trump. But maybe these little side jobs slipped his mind. Or maybe this was his job, not a conflict.

But with this flow of cash, we can understand why Cohen wasn’t in a hurry to be repaid for his outlay of hush money to Stormy Daniels. The president’s new lawyer allowed that it might have been as late as 2018 when that bill was paid.

But all of this free-flowing cash, some of it scented with rubles, does make one wonder.

What is clear is that you can’t necessarily trust people who say they’re going to drain the swamp, especially if they arrive in Washington in the company of reptiles.

Our View represents the opinion of our Editorial Board: David Fritz, executive editor; and William Ramsey, news director.

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Echo Letter from Roanoke Virginia - another Donald Trump low

Echo from the The Roanoke Times in Virginia:

Letter: A new low, for even the Trump administration

Kelly Sadler's remark that Sen. John McCain was "irrelevant because he would soon die" was an all-time low, even for the Trump administration. 

Drain the Trump Swamp ~ Vote Blue in 2018
But it should hardly come as a surprise, Trump himself said in 2015 that McCain was not a hero because he spent more than five years as a prisoner in North Vietnam. (Yeah, like McCain deliberately walked into captivity.)

But we know, and should be sickened, that this administration exemplifies disrespect and insensitivity

Yet, there is hope. Soon (in 2018!) we'll have an opportunity to drain the swamp of Trump and his minions, while we still have a swamp to drain.

Rodney A. Franklin, Thaxton, Virginia

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Calling on Republicans to challenge failed leadership

This essay is a harbinger of the inevitable scrutiny that Republicans will experience, unless they change the moral choices they've made by supporting Donald Trump.

An echo essay challenging Republicans ~ by Masha Gessen published in The New Yorker:

The Trump Presidency is an age of unanswerable questions and lose-lose propositions. 

How is one to maintain sanity, decency, and a measure of moral courage? 

In a pair of thoughtful essays in Slate, Dahlia Lithwick tackles the problems of dealing with the everyday nature of our current political disaster and of deciding what can be the best way to try to save the country from Donald Trump: By (a) staying close to him or (b) walking away.

The latter option is a question for the members of the Administration and for congressional Republicans. 

“This is the time,” Lithwick writes, to “think about what combination of exit and voice can make a meaningful difference if a real crisis were to happen. Or rather, when the real crisis happens—if we are not there already.”

This is not a new question. Many people will continue posing it to themselves and others with ever more frustrating results, because it cannot be answered. 

Is the possibility of moderating the damage done by this Administration worth sacrificing one’s moral principles? 

Should one protect one’s individual integrity by sacrificing the chance to moderate damage done by this Administration? 

We can’t possibly know. We don’t have the information necessary to evaluate these options in the short term. 

Did H. R. McMaster, during his tenure as Trump’s national-security adviser, prevent an unknown number of disasters? If he did, was it worth whatever psychic and intellectual price he paid? 

Moreover, it’s likely that he himself doesn’t know. For those who have so far decided to stay, whether in the Administration or in the Republican Party, small daily sacrifices of personal integrity become part of their sunk cost in the project of staying in; these people inevitably grow more committed and less critical. The landscape keeps shifting, the stakes keep changing, and the crises keep mounting.

The overstimulation of the age of Trump, meanwhile, makes us lose track of time and whatever small sense humans normally have of themselves in history. We forget what happened a month ago. If we look away for a day, we miss news that seems momentous to others—only to be forgotten, too, in a week. 

Living in a shared reality with our fellow-citizens is an endless triathlon of reading, talking, and panicking. It creates the worst possible frame of mind for answering vexing moral questions, especially ones that require a choice between two desperately unsatisfying options.

Thinking morally about the Trump era requires a different temporal frame. It requires a look at the present through the prism of the future. There will come a time after Trump, and we need to consider how we will enter it. What are we going to take with us into that time—what kind of politics, language, and culture? How will we recover from years of policy (if you can call it that) being made by tweet? How will we reclaim simple and essential words? Most important, how will we restart a political conversation? Political discourse was in crisis before Trump—no wonder Americans of all stripes have become accustomed to using the words “politics” and “political” to denote substance-free transactions in the electoral arena. But, under Trump, it is nearing complete destruction.

Consider the last month’s worth of conversation about Trump and North Korea. Forgetting the President’s “little rocket man” remarks and building on months of denial that Trump had brought the world as close to the brink of nuclear annihilation as it has ever been, politicians, bureaucrats, policy wonks, and journalists have been speaking as though Trump were engaged in actual negotiations with Kim Jong Un. Some deliriously joined him in contemplating the prospect of a Nobel Peace Prize. The voices of a few experts who dared say that nothing had been accomplished yet and expressed doubt that the summit would actually occur were quickly drowned out. The ritual of analysis and anticipation that normally accrues to diplomacy was accruing instead to Trump’s flailing gestures, in the same way that the normal rituals of punditry have accrued to Trump’s tweets, harangues, and inconsistencies, all of which are the opposite of politics. On Friday, the Times’ morning podcast, “The Daily,” offered up a thoughtful analysis of Trump’s summit-cancelling missive, which was written in the language of a sulking, lovelorn seventh grader. But no sooner was the podcast posted than Trump told the media that he might hold the summit after all.

We are losing the habit, and perhaps the capability, of distinguishing reality from vacuum. This is disorienting in the present and disastrous for the future—it is the one factor that will make post-Trumpian recovery, when it comes, so difficult. We must pose a bigger question than whether Administration members or congressional Republicans should stay or go, for it’s not only Trump’s appointees or fellow party members who are implicated in the daily insults and damage to our perceptions. We should be asking what each one of us can do to assert a fact-based reality at any given time. The great French thinker and activist Simone Weil had a prescription that she wrote down in her journal in 1933: “Never react to an evil in such a way as to augment it.” A few days later, she added, “Refuse to be an accomplice. Don’t lie—don’t keep your eyes shut.”

Throughout the twentieth century, writers and thinkers who faced reality-destroying regimes kept producing similar recipes. “Live not by lies,” the Russian dissident novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote. The Czech dissident playwright and future President Václav Havel pondered the predicament of living, unquestioningly, “inside the lie”—and the uncanny power of stepping outside of it. In our case, stepping outside the lie means refusing—stubbornly, consistently, incrementally—to lend credence to the opposite of politics, the opposite of diplomacy, and the opposite of sanity. That would require thinking, reading, and speaking critically: not treating an outburst as though it were politics, a tantrum as though it were diplomacy, and a delusion as though it were aspiration.

Nevertheless, the good news is that this is not an entirely impossible task.

Masha Gessen, a staff writer, has written several books, including, most recently, “The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia,” which won the National Book Award in 2017.

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Echo opinion letter from Pennsylvania ~ protect children from gun violence

Nothing is being done to protect our school children from gun violence!
Stop gun violence!
A letter to the editor published in the Times Leader Newspaper, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

The truth is, he and the National Rifle Association support one another. According to the NRA and their members, if everyone carried a gun, the good guys would protect everyone. In fact, it would be the wild west all over again. The people who survived back then were the first to aim and shoot, whether they were saints or sinners.

The NRA has big money and power in Washington DC. 

In fact, the NRA throws support behind politicians that don’t support better or improve gun control. It's sickening, but Donald Trump is right up their distorted alley. He and the National Rifle Association care nothing about our kids, but everything about their own wealth.

If you are a member of the NRA, it is your finger  that are on the trigger, every time an innocent American is gunned down. Maybe God can forgive you, but nobody else should.

Mary E. Hawran, Honesdale Pennsylvania

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Eugene Robinson ~ echo on Trump delusional conspiracies

Donald Trump conspiracy theorist and fake news developer in chief
Eugene Robinson echo opinion from Washington — Stop waiting for the constitutional crisis that President Trump is sure to provoke. It’s here.  (Opinion column, an "editor's pick" published in the Albany Herald, in Georgia)

On Sunday, via Twitter (ugh!), Trump demanded that the Justice Department concoct a transparently political investigation, with the aim of smearing veteran professionals at Justice and the FBI and also throwing mud at the previous administration. 

Trump’s only rational goal is casting doubt on the probe by special counsel Robert Mueller, which appears to be closing in.

Trump’s power play is a gross misuse of his presidential authority and a dangerous departure from long-standing norms. Strongmen such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin use their justice systems to punish enemies and deflect attention from their own crimes. Presidents of the United States do not — or did not, until Sunday’s tweet:

“I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes — and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

Rather than push back and defend the rule of law, Justice tried to mollify the president by at least appearing to give him what he wants. The Republican leadership in Congress has been silent as a mouse. This is how uncrossable lines are crossed.

The pretext Trump seized on is the revelation that a longtime FBI and CIA informant, described as a retired college professor, made contact with three Trump campaign associates before the election as part of the FBI’s initial investigation into Russian meddling.

With the full-throated (wrong minded) backing of right-wing media, Trump has described this person as a “spy” who was “implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president.” This claim is completely unsupported by the facts as we know them. Trump wants you to believe a lie.
The informant was not embedded or implanted or otherwise inserted into the campaign. He was asked to contact several campaign figures whose names had already surfaced in the FBI’s counterintelligence probe. It would have been an appalling dereliction of duty not to take a look at Trump advisers with Russia ties, such as Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, at a time when the outlines of a Russian campaign to influence the election were emerging.

Trump claims this is the nation’s “all time biggest political scandal” because, he alleges, Justice Department officials and the FBI used a “spy” to try to “frame” him and his campaign, in an effort to boost his opponent Hillary Clinton’s chance of winning the election. This conspiracy theory has so many holes that it’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s start with the glaringly obvious: If the aim was to make Trump lose, why wasn’t all the known information about the Trump campaign’s Russia connections leaked before the election, when it might have had some impact?

The truth appears to be precisely the opposite of what Trump says, which is not uncommon. The record suggests that Justice and the FBI were so uncomfortable investigating a presidential campaign in the weeks and months before an election that they tiptoed around promising lines of inquiry rather than appear to be taking a side. The FBI director at the time was James Comey, and while we heard plenty about Clinton’s emails before the vote, we had no idea that such a mature investigation of the Trump campaign was underway.

Now that the Mueller probe has bored into Trump’s inner circle — and federal authorities have raided the homes and office of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen — the president appears to be in a panic. The question is whether he sees this “spy” nonsense as a way to discredit Mueller’s eventual findings, or as a pretext for trying to end the investigation with a bloody purge akin to Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.”

The Justice Department answered Trump’s tweeted demand by announcing that an existing investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general will now “include determining whether there was any impropriety or political motivation” by the FBI. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may hope that is enough to avoid a showdown. I fear he is wrong.

None of this is normal or acceptable. One of the bedrock principles of our system of government is that no one is above the law, not even the president. But a gutless Congress has refused, so far, to protect this sacred inheritance.

Trump is determined to use the Justice Department and the FBI to punish those he sees as political enemies. This is a crisis, and it will get worse.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is

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Friday, May 25, 2018

Maine Equal Justice ~ MEJP ~ in court to support Medicaid Expansion

Dear Juliana,

Yesterday was a great day in court for Medicaid expansion. 

As you may know, the Mainers for Health Care legal team, led by Maine Equal Justice, our allies, and Mainers who are among the 70,000 newly eligible for care filed suit against the LePage administration for its failure to implement the voter-approved Medicaid expansion law. 

(If you missed it, watch our "See you in Court, Governor" video here.)

Yesterday, oral arguments in the case were heard in Cumberland County Superior Court. 

MEJP's Jack Comart and Tina Nadeau were live outside the courtroom yesterday morning--watch the video here.

As Maine Public reported, MEJP lead attorney Jamie Kilbreth argued that the LePage administration has a simple duty to uphold the law voters passed:

Kilbreth told Judge Murphy that the LePage administration was using the legislative stalemate over funding to procedurally veto a voter-approved law. "What this is all about is a backdoor attempt to do what the Constitution prohibits the governor from doing," he said. "The court should not enable that kind of behavior."

Kilbreth added that LePage has been a vociferous opponent of Medicaid expansion, vetoing legislative proposals nearly a half dozen times after pitched battles in the Legislature. Kilbreth says the law voters approved in November is clear: Medicaid expansion is the law and the governor's administration has to implement it.

This case continues to draw national attention because Maine is an example to other states working to pass expansion ballot initiatives. Because of your hard work and perseverance, nothing will stop us from seeing this fight for health care through to its finish when 70,000 Mainers finally get the coverage they need. We’ve taken the fight to the courts, we’ll be back in the legislature when the opportunity arises, and we’ll continue to raise our voices together in this effort and beyond. We’ve waited too long. The time is now!

What's next?

We expect a decision in the case in the next few weeks, though appeals may take longer. 

 MEJP and Mainers for Health Care will continue to work to implement the law and the will of Maine voters, whether in the courts or in the state house! Thousands of Maine people are counting down to health care, which shouldbecome available to them on July 2nd. That's why we are currently building a team of volunteers available to support those eligible for Medicaid Expansion so people know the process and their rights come July 2nd. It's time we assert our right to care.

--> Can you help? Sign up here to volunteer on our Medicaid Expansion outreach team!<-- br="">
We deeply appreciate all of your efforts on behalf of Mainers who need affordable access to care.

Wishing you a restful long weekend,

Kate Brennan, on behalf of Mainers for Health Care

P.S. Please help us support those who do have a right to apply for health care starting July 2nd. It is critical that people assert their rights in this way. Can you help? Sign up here to volunteer on our Medicaid Expansion outreach team!

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Echo from The Atlantic ~ Bolton enabling Trump's diplomatic failures

Trump’s and Bolton’s Instincts Form a Toxic Combination by Peter Beinart

The interplay between the two helps explain the confusion whirling around the North Korea summit.

Why did the Trump administration cancel its much-hyped nuclear summit with North Korea? And why the confusing semi-backtrack the following day, in which Trump embraced North Korea’s “warm and productive statement” regretting the cancellation, and left the door open to a meeting he’d ditched barely 24 hours before? The answer lies in the toxic interplay between Donald Trump’s instincts and John Bolton’s. Each man’s foreign-policy views are dangerous enough in and of themselves. Put them together and you have the perfect cocktail for the decimation of American power.

Bolton is a Manichean in the tradition of his hero, Barry Goldwater. He has spent his career depicting America’s adversaries—the Soviet Union, Cuba, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, and these days, Iran and North Korea—as evil. He denies that they have any legitimate security concerns. He abhors compromise. He demands maximum American economic, political and, if necessary, military pressure. He basic negotiating posture is: Once you give in on everything, then we’ll start talking.

But, while Bolton’s Manicheanism is dangerous, it’s also targeted. Bolton wants to turn the screws on Iran and North Korea. He doesn’t want to turn the screws on American allies like Germany, France, South Korea, and Japan—except to the degree that they resist a hardline posture towards North Korea and Iran. 

Bolton has little use for international law but he likes America’s alliances.

Trump, on the other hand, is different. 

For whatever reason, Trump doesn’t divide the world into virtuous, pro-American regimes, which the United States should support, and villainous anti-American ones, which the United States should crush. Trump is less ideological. Instinctively, he believes that almost every regime is ripping America off—the adversaries and the allies too. That inclines him to pick a broader array of fights. But it also makes him more willing to resolve them. Trump is not moralistic and he’s not a stickler for detail. 

Bolton seems to want to be the 21st-century version of Reagan (as he’s imagined in conservative mythology): standing up to the evil enemy and bringing about its downfall. 

But, Trump seems to want to be the political version of Trump the real-estate whiz (as he’s imagined in Trump’s own mythology): cutting great deals that make everyone rich.

The Trump administration’s North Korea policy is what happens when you put these two instincts together. On his own, it’s unlikely Bolton would have agreed to a summit with Kim Jong Un in the first place since it violates one of his core principles: Never concede anything until the other side does first. Bolton’s maximalism would have made any diplomatic deal with Pyongyang unlikely. But Bolton—because he draws a clear distinction between America’s enemies and its allies—would probably not have picked a fight with South Korea over steel tariffs. Nor would he have risked a trade war with China while seeking its help in pressuring North Korea. 

Bolton is a national-security hardliner, not a trade hardliner.

Trump, on the other hand, was elected as much to confront America’s economic partners as to confront its national-security adversaries. So he threatened trade wars with China, South Korea and Japan even as he threatened a real one with Pyongyang.

But Trump’s love of the deal also led him to embrace a summit with North Korea that he believed might bring him the adulation and vindication he craves. Left to his own devices, he might have attended the summit, agreed to some vague, flowery language about denuclearization, demanded the Nobel Prize, and moved on to other subjects even as North Korea didn’t actually eliminate its nuclear program. And indeed, all it took was an expression of North Korean regret to get Trump to start speculating that the June 12 summit could be back on, and that “we’ll see what happens.” Given the importance of avoiding war on the Korean Peninsula, and the benefits of opening up North Korea to South Korean influence, that would constitute progress.

But not for Bolton, who laid down a marker by declaring that his model was Libya, wherein Muammer Qaddafi utterly capitulated. 
(Stupid Bolton!!!)

The North Koreans—who are terrified of the Libya model because they believe Qaddafi’s denuclearization left him vulnerable to Western regime change—responded with fury. 

Moreover, while Trump tried to keep the summit on track by declaring that America wasn’t seeking regime change, he managed to threaten it nonetheless, as did Mike Pence. As North Korea’s rhetoric grew more bellicose (aka ~ aggressive), Trump reportedly began to fear that the summit would bring him, not glory, but embarrassment. As Trump’s biographer, Tony Schwartz, told The New York Times, “Trump has a morbid fear of being humiliated and shamed. This is showing who’s the biggest and the strongest, so he is exquisitely sensitive to the possibility that he would end up looking weak and small.” 

This analysis was corroborated by an NBC report suggesting Trump pulled out of the summit because he feared the North Koreans would first.

In the end, Trumpism and Boltonism have produced an outcome that’s worse than either on its own. The summit is or maybe isn’t off, and the U.S. is back to threatening war but confusingly somehow seeking talks. None of this enhances Trump’s credibility as a negotiating partner. Meanwhile, North Korea still has its nuclear weapons, and could resume testing them. 

By confronting Beijing on trade, the U.S. has squandered some of the leverage it needs to convince China to keep imposing tough sanctions on Pyongyang. 

With his initial letter cancelling the summit, Trump surprised and humiliated South Korean leader Moon Jae In, who may still pursue détente with the North whether or not Trump rescinds his cancellation, thus undermining Trump and Bolton’s maximum-pressure campaign. 

South Korea may also draw closer to China, which would leave the U.S. more isolated in Northeast Asia than it has been in decades.

Something similar has happened in Europe. First, the Trump administration’s threats of steel and aluminum tariffs infuriated European leaders. Then its Boltonesque maximalism led America to withdraw from the Iran deal, aggravating and humiliating the Europeans all over again.

The problem here isn’t merely personal. It’s structural. Trump won the Republican nomination, and the presidency, in part because he realized that, after the Iraq disaster, national-security maximalism was no longer a political winner. John McCain and Mitt Romney had pushed a hard line against Iran’s nuclear weapons and a soft line against China’s widgets and lost. Trump outperformed them in the upper Midwest because he ran as a trade hawk, and he knows that maintaining that image is crucial to his political fortunes.

Yet national-security maximalism still dominates the Republican foreign-policy and media ecosystem. There are no more Brent Scowcrofts, Colin Powells, and Richard Lugars. And so, as his national-security adviser, Trump chose Bolton, who had spent the previous years demanding on Fox News that North Korea and Iran capitulate.

We have seen the results this spring: An administration that, in both Asia and Europe, pursues geopolitical and geoeconomic confrontation at the same time. It demands that America’s economic partners impose sanctions on America’s political adversaries even as America threatens economic sanctions on them. Even George W. Bush, for all his hubris, didn’t try this. He didn’t hand over his military policy to Dick Cheney and his trade policy to Pat Buchanan at the same time.

It hasn’t worked. America doesn’t have the power to force China, Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, Britain, and others to capitulate on trade while it forces North Korea and Iran to capitulate on nukes. 

Instead, the combination of Trump and Bolton’s maximalism is alienating public opinion across the world—which will sooner or later produce populist anti-American leaders. And it’s exposing America as a paper tiger, a country that demands things it can’t compel. Trump may not be able to distinguish bluster from genuine power, but the rest of the world is catching on.

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Louisiana echo ~ tax cuts not helping

This echo letter to the editor was published in The Advocate, a Southern Louisiana newspaper.

The fiscal cliff, before the federal tax cut scam, was about a billion dollars. According to sources at the time, former Gov. Bobby Jindal cut business taxation by about a billion dollars per year. 

Businesses got this corporate welfare because they promised to grow their businesses and create jobs. 

There was a recent report that Louisiana’s economy is shrinking and is the worst in the nation. The corporate welfare queens have broken their promises by not growing sales and employment and don’t deserve the tax breaks they are getting. 

If the Legislature would cancel the undeserved tax breaks, restoring taxation to pre-Jindal level, the fiscal cliff issue would be resolved.

And the lack of growth is not just because oil and gas prices are down. There are lots of states with big oil and gas that are doing better than Louisiana.

The GOP also cut taxes on the wealthy people they call job creators. They also are not creating jobs and should be paying their fair share of taxes.

Ted Hansen, MBA, Zachary

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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Echo opinion from Montana ~ Coal is a dying fossil fuel energy

An opinion letter to the editor published in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, a Montana newspaper, written by Bob Roughton

Montana Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte supports tax credits for coal ~ a dying industry

In the past, coal has been a major benefit to Montanans, for decades. 

In the past, coal created good-paying jobs and paid tens of millions in taxes to state and local government. 

Nevertheless, now coal, nationwide, is a fading industry, not because of regulation but because of market forces.

At the same time, renewable energy has been growing at double-digit rates, now accounting for over ten million jobs, one hundred times the total employment in the coal industry!

The real treasures in our "treasure state" are wind and sun, the two leading drivers of rapid growth in the renewable energy industry. But do Representative Gianforte (Republican), and his mentor Senator Steve Daines (Republican), support renewable energy? No! Why don’t they advocate for the same levels of tax subsidies for renewables that coal and oil enjoy? The answer is found in the lopsided campaign contributions they receive from the mining and energy industries.

Republican Gianforte’s blind eye to what could be a major economic boon to Montana, by investing in renewable energy, comes from either avarice or negligence, and both are politics at it’s worst. It’s one more reason that Gianforte deserves defeat in November. 

We need someone in Congress who will put Montanans energy needs first.

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Peace and Justice Museum echo editorial from Indiana

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened last week in Montgomery, Alabama, is dedicated to preserving a dark period of U.S. history. It's the nation's first memorial to the victims of lynchings.

Echo opinion about lynchings published in the Anderson Indiana newspaper The Herald Bulletin

Lynchings, dark eras must never be forgotten~ editorial

"I know now that all people hunger for a noble, unsullied past. ... I know now that that hunger is a retreat from the knotty present into myth and that what ultimately awaits those who retreat into fairy tales, who seek refuge in the mad pursuit to be made great again, in the image of greatness that never was, is tragedy.

― Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of "We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy" ~ 
Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates is an American author, journalist, comic book writer, and educator. Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic, where he writes about cultural, social and political issues, particularly regarding African Americans.

There are many reasons to be proud of America: the freedom and rights we enjoy, and the way our heroes rise to the challenges of war when there is no other course, just to cite two examples.

But there are reasons, too, that we should hang our heads in shame: Slavery, pollution and poverty, to name a few.

While it feels good to dwell on our American pride, it's just as important to remember the dark eras of American history. If we don't remember, we delude ourselves with a fictional self-image.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened last week in Montgomery, Alabama, is dedicated to preserving a dark period of U.S. history. It's the nation's first memorial to the victims of lynchings.

The Equal Justice Initiative, the driving force behind the memorial and the nearby Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, has recorded more than 4,400 lynchings. It's likely that there were thousands more.

Most lynchings took place in the South, but northern states, including Indiana, were not immune.

A particularly notorious lynching occurred in Marion in 1930, when a mob estimated at 10,000 people took vengeance on two young black men suspected of a murder. The mob dragged the men from jail and strung them up from a tree on the Grant County courthouse grounds.

A third person, 16-year-old James Herbert Cameron Jr., was fitted with a noose, as well. But a couple of people convinced the mob that the black teen was innocent, and he was spared.

Cameron went on to be a local and national leader in the fight against racial injustice. And, while it's hard to imagine anyone forgiving members of a murderous mob who play judge, jury and executioner, Cameron did just that.

Cameron forgave, but he never forgot.

He dreamed of opening what he called "America’s Black Holocaust Museum" to assure that slavery, Jim Crow laws, lynchings and other mistreatment of black Americans would never be whitewashed by revisionist history.

Twelve years after Cameron's death, the new memorial in Montgomery is shining the light of truth on that dark period of American reality.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Stop National Rifle Association money funneled to politicians

Listen to 'the voice of the people,' not to money of the NRA: Sioux City Journal echo letter to the editor.

When will we learn. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was never meant to allow anyone to carry a gun. 

Rather, the Amendment states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." 

When this amendment was adopted on Dec. 15, 1791, the United States did not have a standing army, but relied on a militia. Members of the militia were required to provide their own weapons. The amendment was designed to protect that requirement.

Therefore, the United States should join other nations that have reasonable gun control laws. This would not only reduce school shootings, but other violence committed with guns. Our elected officials should listen to the voice of the people and not to the money distributed by the NRA. - Ira Delk, Sioux City

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Echo letters from Missouri ~ guns and truth

Missourians are speaking in writings to The Kansas City Star

Read the whole thing

Why do goofy right-wingers think we liberals are against guns? 
We believe in the Second Amendment, but we read the whole amendment — not just the first half.

Guyen Morrison ~ North Kansas City, Missouri

Top of mind ~ Top of fold?

So it has come to this: The mass murders of innocents have become so commonplace in our country that The Star doesn’t place the story at the very top of the front page. (May 19, 1A, “10 killed, 10 hurt as gunman opens fire in Texas high school”)

Cynthia Kunz ~ Overland Park, Missouri

No fair play allowed by Republicans

In yet another brazen attempt at voter suppression, Missouri Republicans have jumped on the GOP bandwagon to rig the census, thus maintaining political control, by counting only citizens and leaving everyone else living in the U.S. out of the process. (May 17, 4A, “Bill: Only citizens could be counted to draw districts”)

Our nation’s democracy is being threatened like never before by those on the far right who show a total disregard for fair play. This has resulted in the election of Donald Trump who, by most counts, has lied more than 3,000 times while in office and continues to force his extreme views on a nation in dire need of honesty and civility.

At my age, I’m no longer concerned about my future in this quickly dissolving democracy, but I do worry about my children’s and grandchildren’s futures.

They (We!) deserve much more than being led by bigots, liars and thieves.

Eddie L. Clay ~ Grandview, Missouri

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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

News! Rep. Raúl Labrador: Tell him that people die without health care!

NBCNews reports ~ Idaho Republican Raul Labrador was booed Friday after telling a town hall that “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

Republican Rep. Raúl Labrador of Idaho
Tells Idaho voters that hospitals are required to accept all patients. He's wrong! They must treat all patients for emergency care, but not required to admit all patients. When patients need admitting, the social workers evaluate them for Medicaid eligibility.

Obviously, Republicans like Labrador are advocating for hospitals to provide *free health care* for all.....this is outrageous! Hospitals can't pay their employees when reimbursement collapses.  

The remark, in front of an audience at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, was captured on a video recording of the event.
A member of the audience is heard interrupting his speech, saying: “You are mandating people on Medicaid to accept dying."

“No one wants anyone to die," Labrador responded. "That line is so indefensible ... nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

The audience shouted with outrage, drowning out the congressman.

Responding to a deluge of angry comments on social media, Labrador admitted his comment wasn't "very elegant."

In a Facebook message he said: "I was responding to a false notion that the Republican health care plan will cause people to die in the streets, which I completely reject."

"In the five-second clip that the media is focusing on, I was trying to explain that all hospitals are required by law to treat patients in need of emergency care regardless of their ability to pay and that the Republican plan does not change that."

(OMG ~ Rep. Labrador doesn't "get" that hospitals must generate revenue, or else, the consequence is that they must close!)
Labrador was addressing the crowd in Lewiston the day after the House of Representatives passed the Republican plan to replace Obamacare, by a vote of 217 to 213, just one vote over the 216 needed.

The American Health Care Act will now be sent to a skeptical Senate where it is almost certain to change shape.

The House measure came to the floor Thursday without an updated accounting of how much the bill will cost or its impact. The last assessment, which was done before the bill was altered, said that 24 million people would lose insurance, it would save $300 million and premiums would go down ten percent after ten years.

Consumer advocacy groups have expressed concern over the bill saying it won’t adequately protect patients.

Labrador, who voted for the bill "to lower costs and protect the vulnerable," has previously declined to guarantee that no one will lose coverage under the GOP plan.

"What I can guarantee is that more Americans will be helped by this plan than Obamacare has helped," he said. "More people will have their premiums lowered, more people will have lower out of pocket costs more people will have access to these high risk pools."

The legislation was made more conservative throughout the legislative process to appeal to members like Labrador who wanted nothing short of a complete repeal of Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Fact checking Donald Trump's windmills and dragons

This particular Andy Borowitz satire report only required a small updating, because the premise becomes more evident every day. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is now the leader of lies.

Donald Trump began his henious misinformation delusions with the wrong minded obsession about President Barack Obama's birth certificate.  In fact, Donald Trump is fixated on destroying the legitimate leadership of President Barack Obama and he'll invent any facts he conjures up in his nightmarish dreams and fantasies to make American lives miserable, while trying to prove that windmills are dragons. 
Donald Trump is obsessed with creating false news, like he's inventing "windmills and dragons"; but he'll never prove, not  even one, of his conjured up lies, because they're all delusions.

Satire from The Borowitz Report

Trump Creates Ten Million Jobs for Fact Checkers

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In less than a week as President, Donald J. Trump has created ten million jobs for fact checkers, the Department of Labor has confirmed.

Harland Dorrinson, the executive director of HonestyWatch, a Minnesota-based fact-checking organization, called the pace of hiring in the fact-checking industry since Trump’s Inauguration “blistering.”

“The nation’s supply of fact checkers is being stretched to the breaking point,” he said. “There are not enough fact checkers to keep up with the exponential growth in alternative facts.”

Dorrinson said that he expects hiring in the fact-checking sector to remain robust for the next four years, outpacing employment in manufacturing, agriculture, and technology.

“With Trump in the White House, recent college graduates are flocking to careers in fact checking,” he said. “There’s guaranteed job security, and you basically just have to Google stuff.”

In her daily press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press spokesman, touted the surging employment for fact checkers but said that the actual number of jobs created was closer to ten billion.

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