Reality – Where Art Thou?

March 14, 2017

No information from any government agency, or Branch of Government has emerged supporting Mr. Trump’s historic accusation against President Obama (I am talking about Obama wire-tapping Trump Tower, not the birther thing). Unless Mr. Trump offers some evidence to support his Tweeted claim to the world, then he will lose even more credibility with the world, well, the vast majority of the world anyway. It seems that for approximately 30% to 40% of Americans, nothing could ever shake their support. To paraphrase Mr. Trump “the facts are the enemy of the American people”.

Consider the growing list of broken promises and lies in the last 50 days. Full and affordable insurance premiums for every American, ISIL will be destroyed “immediately” via his “secret plan”, Muslims will be banned, the wall will be built and paid for by Mexico, he would not take a salary as President, he will release his tax returns… The list goes on and on, dwarfed only by the lies he unabashedly Tweets nearly every day: largest crowd ever at an inaugural, and they saw the rain stopped and sun came out when he spoke, 3 million illegal votes cast in the election, no one from his campaign had any contact at any time with Russians, the transition was running like a well-tuned machine – and (one of my personal favorites from the vagina grabber in chief) “I have the greatest respect for women.”

Consider the reverses in policy in the same time. “I will drain the swamp and run the most ethical administration ever” to “me and my staff are not bound by ethical rules” and appointing a foreign agent as the National Security Chief; Wall St. has been “robbing the Country” to reversing protections from Wall St. such as forcing financial advisers to disclose that they are getting bonuses to recommend certain investments; repealing and replacing Obamacare simultaneously, protecting clean water supplies to suspending the Clean Water Act…

He has delivered on a Supreme Court nominee, and I guess that was important enough for some voters to risk a national catastrophe, but the thing that bothers many of us is the utter contempt of Trump supporters to facts. Nothing Trump does or says matters to their support of him. It’s a predictable pattern of responses from them, no matter what the issues or facts are:

  • “He never said that” or his “his words were taken out of context” until after seeing the video or reading a transcript, then,
  • “He’s not a politician and you can’t take everything he says literally” becomes “he was just joking around” until he says he was not joking around and was serious, then,
  • “The mainstream media” or “the Deep Government’ or “Illuminati” or “CIA” are trying to sabotage him, until his nominees admit they are a foreign agent, lied under oath, have obvious conflicts of interest or broke laws, then
  • So what? Hillary did….

Far more disturbing than anything Trump says or does (up to this point), is the lack of consideration, let alone respect for facts about what he does or says to his supporters.

 


Litmus Test for a Nation’s Soul

March 13, 2017

Decades ago Dr. Martin Luther King delivered a speech (“Beyond Viet Nam”) that questioned the spiritual costs of investing more in developing weapons and conducting the war in Viet Nam than we did in the poor and the sick. Militarism, he warned, was poisoning the soul of the Nation. It was an important moment in the anti-war and in the civil rights movement. It was a moment when the most important prophet of our lifetime delivered what was clearly a message about a choice we had to make and the consequences if we failed to make the moral choice.

Today we face a similar moral choice and it is just as profound as any we have faced in our past. The choice has been put at our feet by Sen. Paul Ryan and the Republicans of the House: The American Health Care Act. We have a fundamental choice on the moral and spiritual future of the Country, and the consequences to American citizens and to the existential definition of our Country.

The American Health Care Act as presently constructed essentially boils down to this: a tax break for the wealthy at the cost of human lives – millions of human lives, mostly among the poorest, the sickest and the elderly. The terms of the Act are straight forward and we really didn’t need a CBO analysis to define those terms.

The youngest, healthiest and wealthiest Americans are given a choice between lower premiums for themselves, or to continue to contribute to the collective care of children, the sickest, poorest and oldest Americans (and ultimately to their own care someday). The moral and spiritual choices are clear: less than 30 pieces of silver in savings on healthcare premiums or saving human lives and suffering. Christ gave some clear instructions in this regard, and no Christian or moral person could deny the choices to be made. Neither could a “Christian” or moral nation.

Paul Ryan and his Congressional co-authors have offered you a choice – and you must choose. To remain silent on this law is to allow the weight of special interests to cause suffering to millions of people and the burden of conscience. I understand that Mr. Ryan portrays himself as a faithful Roman Catholic, but his bill runs as contrary to Catholic teachings.  Christ Himself declared “whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me.”

If Dr. King were alive today, I suspect it would not be a surprise to see him leading a march, and hear him declare a law that will literally cause suffering and death among so many people and is “evil”. This American Health Care Act is an act of evil and therefore an opportunity – a litmus test – of what kind of Country we remain or will become.


Dems Get It Wrong (Again)

March 9, 2017

Donald Trump woke up the other day and decided that President Obama authorized wiretaps of Trump Tower during the election and therefore, was guilty of a felony. He had no evidence to make the libelous claim and still refuses to provide any evidence.

This followed the leak of information that 15 encrypted cables from trump Tower to a bank owned by Vladimir Putin were sent around the time Wikileaks was releasing the DNC hacks provided by Russian intelligence agencies. President Obama, The former head of the NSA, CIA, Attorney General and the current FBI Director all deny there was any wiretapping. (it might be noted that revelations that various Trump campaign officials had been lying about contacts with Russians has come for foreign intelligence agencies from Great Britain and Netherlands).

I am sure some Trumpanzies will take the accusation seriously, but apart from that alt-reality fringe most Americans believe that Trump was either creating a diversion from his own scandals, or was providing another indication that he is mentally unbalanced. Instead of providing any of the evidence that convinced Trump, his surrogates called for a Congressional investigation on the accusation. The Dems are resisting an investigation. They are wrong.

A Congressional investigation on Trump’s accusation would be in everyone’s interest. They could call witness after witness from every agency involved with the process of wiretapping, or investigating suspected criminal or espionage activities. They could subpoena the staff of President Obama, and even president Obama himself. After every witness testifies that they have no idea what the heck Trump is talking about, Congress should subpoena President Trump, since he is the only person with knowledge of this alleged crime, and a crime of profound significance at that.

Of course, Trump would invoke privilege which would be the closest we would come to an admission he was simply lying again. His credibility would be even further eroded, and hopefully so will his ability to implement policy. The only alternative outcome would be the discovery that a FISA Court found sufficient evidence that people in Trump Tower were engaged in a crime or espionage to authorize a warrant, and wouldn’t we like to learn of that evidence?

The other, more disturbing aspect of this latest Trump scandal is that he either is mentally unbalanced and delusional, or so stupid as to act on a conspiracy that has no basis in reality. For the leading proponent of the Birther movement, the latter theory seems most likely. God help us.


Is This the Deal You Wanted?

March 8, 2017

During the entire seven years and 60+ votes to repeal Obamacare, Congressional Republicans were suspected of simply opposing Obamacare for purely political purposes and they couldn’t care less about healthcare.

After campaigning on the promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Paul Ryan and fellow Republicans have proven that theory right. After years of promising a comprehensive replacement plan to reform healthcare, Ryan released a plan dubbed “Obamacare Light”. It is a plan that takes out the least popular elements of Obamacare, conserves the popular elements and completely ignores the costs and feasibility of their plan. Most of the unpopular elements of Obamacare were there because they were essential to maintain economic feasibility.

The OMB will price the new plan and nearly every serious analyst predicts that the costs of the Republican plan will dwarf Obamacare. Some of the offsets to reduce the explosive impact on the budget include gutting the EPA, HUD, and Energy. Even if these agencies were completely eliminated, the saving would be a fraction of the costs of Trumpcare. However, the budget-busting price tag on the plan is the least serious consequence of Trumpcare. The human costs could be immeasurable.

For all of you who voted for Trump believing his promise of full access to health care, lower premiums, etc., you should look carefully at the plan. Even though the official cost estimate and consequences of Trumpcare are yet to be calculated, some consequences are obvious, and even admitted by Republicans. Trumpcare will result in overall increase in premiums of around 30%, not including huge increases in deductibles. Americans over 60 years old with any history of healthcare will be relegated to insurance company defined “high risk pools” with premiums up to 40% higher, partial coverage and an average deductible of $5000.00.

The subsidies to help Americans afford insurance have been replaced with a tax deduction. For Americans averaging $40,000.00 of income per year, they get a tax deduction of $4000.00, which will be less than the average minimum yearly deductible most will face. For the poorest Americans, the idea of having any access to health insurance is gone. For those Americans who are unable to make a payment or miss a payment of a monthly premium and let their insurance lapse, then insurance companies can charge the same person 30% higher premiums to re-enroll.

Republicans are aware that Trumpcare will cause millions of poor people, elderly and sick people to have much less access to health insurance and health care treatment, and they also realize that as a consequence uninsured people will begin to seek treatment in Emergency Rooms, raising the cost of health care and insurance premiums even more than the projected 30%. Their solution is to raise the minimum age requirement for any Medicare to 65 years old, and to reduce Medicaid funding and turn them to block grants to the States. In other words, let the States deal with the carnage.

The winners in Trumpcare are the youngest and healthiest Americans, who no longer have to purchase insurance; Americans with incomes over $250,000.00 because they get a huge tax break and the Insurance companies who will be unregulated and can dictate costs and coverage as they choose.  So, is this the deal you wanted when you voted for Trump? Is Obamacare looking better?


Know Nothings — Part II

February 13, 2017

There was a time in our nation’s history when some politicians tried to restrict immigration based on the country of origin and religion. In fact, an entire political party was formed with that agenda. They were called the “Know Nothings” and their platform was eerily like that of Trump and his supporters today.

The Know Nothings attempted to restrict Roman Catholics from immigrating to the U.S. and they targeted predominantly Roman Catholic countries, such as Ireland, for immigration bans. Their argument was that “papists” were enemies of our country, seeking to destroy the government and replace it with a papal state. They cited false claims of violence and weapons smuggling (for the purpose of slaughtering innocent women and children) to arouse fear of immigrants. They claimed that Catholics could not be trusted to be loyal to country over their religion (a claim that persisted even to the campaign of President Kennedy). They claimed that Catholicism was incompatible with American ideals, and that people from Catholic countries were inherently violent and criminals.

Facts about the Know Nothings are easily accessible to anyone who can read a history book, but they appear to be lost on a large part of the present generation of Americans. I even wonder how many American Catholics realize how similar their own arguments against Muslims were used against their great grandparents?

Fear was exploited by the Know Nothings to generate hatred, just as fear is being used now to justify not only violating our principles and ideals, but also our laws. Will we remember the past mistakes and the suffering of our own relatives and reject the attempts to ban Muslims? Ultimately, it was the courts who rescued our national soul and ruled against laws attempting to ban immigration based on religion and country of origin. Let’s hope the courts will do the same today.

 


Know-Nothings Part I

February 10, 2017

The recent order to ban immigrants from seven Muslim countries has generated a lot of misinformation. With the hearing on the district court order staying the president’s order being argued today in the court of appeals, it would be nice to get a few facts straight on what is being argued by our own federal government.

Three other federal district court judges have concurred that the presidential order appears to be unconstitutional (one district judge disagrees) because it violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and previous case law prohibiting restrictions on immigration based on religion and country of origin. The presidential order identifies seven countries — all majority Muslim countries — for the ban, which plaintiffs argue is a ban based on country of origin. Furthermore, it allows for exceptions based on religion — Christians and other “oppressed” minorities in the banned countries are allowed to immigrate while the majority Muslim population is not. Plaintiffs argue that this is, in effect, a Muslim ban since non-Muslims are excepted and even though minority Sunni Muslims are being slaughtered at a far greater rate than Christians who are permitted as an exception.

So, the facts are that it is a ban based on country of origin and based on religion, and an obvious violation of the constitution. Attorneys for the administration are arguing that there is an exception based on national security concerns, and there is precedent for this exception, except they are not really arguing within the limitations imposed on previous exceptions. Rather, they are arguing that the courts have no jurisdiction at all because the president has declared the basis of the ban as being one of national security. They argue that the judges should not make their determination based on “facts” or a “rational basis” for the ban, but rather on an expansion of presidential power that “trumps” any constitutional concerns.

The argument that facts and any rational basis to the ban should be ignored is a key for the administration to win since both the facts and rational basis for Mr. Trump’s order are lacking. There is no fact that immigrants from these countries have committed any acts of terrorism against the United States or present a danger to national security. Most of the immigrants are young children and their mothers, and they have been vetted and waiting an average of 1 to 2 years for a visa. Many of the immigrants from Iraq actually are targets for terrorism because they, or some other family member, has been assisting the American war effort. Most of the immigrants are relatives of U.S. citizens or sponsored by citizens. With the exception of 9/11 (committed by Saudis and UAE citizens) all terrorists acts since then have been committed by radicalized U.S. citizens.

There is no rational basis for the ban either, since virtually the entire national security establishment, including the departments of defense and homeland security, the FBI, the NSA and the CIA, and the joint chiefs all agree the ban itself compromises national security. So, the administration attorneys are forced to ask the judges to ignore facts and rational arguments related to national security as the basis for the ban and simply rule that if Mr. Trump orders it as a national security measure it should be done. They are essentially arguing that the judges should “know nothing” and rule in their favor. For you students of history the term “Know Nothing” is significant.


Something’s Going On…

February 9, 2017

Trump’s recent interview with the friendly Bill O’Reilly is yet another indication that something is going on with Trump and the Russians.  I am sure O’Reilly thought he was tossing a softball to Trump when he asked Trump to acknowledge that Putin was a killer, but the results were not as intended. Even with repeated attempts from “Papa Bear” to rescue Trump from his own words, Trump said something that may have been disturbing enough to even overcome the denial of some of his supporters. Trump stated that he believed there was moral equivalency between a man who has murdered political opponents and ordered a policy of mass murder in several countries to that of past U.S. presidents and troops. The statement is of course outrageous and no one with any sense of reality or of moral development would say the same. So why is the so-called President of the United States acting as apologist in chief for Putin? Something is going on.

Trump was infamous for casting suspicion on his political opponents with innuendo from unknown people he “knew” or “a lot of people are saying …” with the phrase “Something is going on folks. Something is there — believe me.” Well the continued defense of everything Putin by Trump and his refusal to release his tax returns makes it ever more suspicious that “something is going on.” Hopefully the Senate looking into the Russian espionage during the last election will provide some answers, one way or another. At least we all hope they will do their job. More likely is the possibility that Anonymous will follow up with their threat to release information not publicly available.

If a thorough inquiry reveals that Trump does have significant financial holding with Russians that accounts for his sanctioning Russian threats to our national security, then it would be a serious matter. In the alternative, if the release of his tax returns or investigations reveal no such blackmail material, would it be any less disturbing that Trump sees no difference between the behavior and policies of Russia and our country?