Thursday, October 19, 2017

WP --The Drug Industry’s Triumph Over the DEA

Many of us have pointed out that for Big Pharma to work to make people well and healthy without the need of prescription drugs or to work on their behalf to develop and produce prescription drugs that are affordable is not in their best financial interest.

For-profit companies will never consider the interests of consumers over profit. The drug company’s complicity in the opioid problem is an excellent example of just that.

In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.

A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 60 Minutes. The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.

Here’s the rest of the story:

By Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein

Politico -- George W. slams Trumpism, without mentioning president by name (VIDEO)

'Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication,' Bush declared.

Former President George W. Bush offered an unmistakable denunciation of Trumpism Thursday without mentioning the president by name, urging citizens to oppose threats to American democracy. 

By chance, Bush was standing in the same spot at the Time Warner Center where former President Barack Obama made a similar plea for democracy and American leadership in late September, shortly after President Donald Trump had finished a belligerent, isolationist speech to the United Nations General Assembly, ” according to Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere.

Trump’s presidency has been in chaos since the day he took office. And, not only does his staff not trust him, but a majority of Americans don’t have confidence or trust in his leadership either.

Many Republicans are wising up to the fact that Donald J. Trump is not qualified to be President of the United Sates.

From the recent feud the President had with Senator Bob Corker, which spurred fellow-Republicans to register varying degrees of disgust, dismay, fury, and disappointment about the state of affairs in the White House to Senator John McCain’s condemnation of Trump’s 'half-baked, spurious nationalism,' and now former President George W Bush is speaking out against the policies of this President only adds credence to the blindingly obvious truth that something needs to be done.

 Here’s Politico’s Dovere’s report with full text of Bush’s speech on Trumpism:

By Edward-Isaac Dovere

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Hill -- McCain blasts 'half-baked, spurious nationalism' in emotional speech


John McCain is the only Republican Senator that we all should pay attention to. He is a Republican, yes, but what he says in a broader more general sense of what our country stands for, usually is right on point.

Here’s an example:

“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent, -- Senator John McCain.

Robert Reich says of McCain's acceptance speech: “This is what the nation needs to hear. History will condemn those who remained silent.

When accepting the Liberty Medal Award last night from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, John McCain said this:

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of Earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

John McCain, Robert Corker, Jeff Flake. They’ve had the backbone to tell America what Trump is doing to this country and the world. It is time for other Republicans to stand up and be counted, too.

By Brandon Carter

Vox -- President Trump admits he’s trying to kill Obamacare. That’s illegal.

Here Reich’s enthusiasm for Trump’s impeachment is exaggerated. It’s a bit of a reach to think this may be grounds for impeachment, but collectively with all the other appropriate grounds for impeachment, it could be part of the collection of things that may bolster political action.

It should now be clear that Trump’s only motive is to obliterate anything that has Obama’s stamp of approval. Whether he can do it legally or not, he doesn’t care.  

Robert Reich’s remarks regarding the illegality of Trump’s attempts to dismantle Obamacare.

This is another impeachable offense. Trump's all-out assault on the Affordable Care Act is not only cruel and unnecessary, it's a direct violation of his constitutional duties. Under Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, the president has an obligation to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” But Trump is unfaithfully executing the law by doing everything to ensure its failure.

As Yale law professor Abbe Gluck points out, Trump's efforts are illegal because:

1) The law has twice been upheld by the Supreme Court, so there's no reason to halt implementation on legal grounds.

2) Trump's motivation is clear. He has explicitly stated that his intent is to damage the law.

3) Nor has the Trump administration offered a justification for dismantling the law.

How much more clear does it need to be that Trump has no regard for the Constitution or the obligations he has sworn to uphold. Congress must hold him accountable for unfaithfully discharging his duties as president.

By Abbe Gluck

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

CT -- Trump declines to express confidence in drug czar nominee in wake of Post/‘60 Minutes’ probe

In response to the "60 Minutes" report on the opioid crisis that aired on Sunday night, and the revelation that Representative Tom Marino, Trump’s nominee for drug czar, helped steer legislation that made it harder to take legal action against big pharma, Donald Trump said he will declare a national emergency next week to address the opioid epidemic.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Trump defended Marino as "a very early supporter of mine" and "a great guy." He said he had seen the reporting in question and that the White House would be reviewing the information.

The Washington Post provides some of the background information:

In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.

By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.

A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and “60 Minutes.” The DEA had opposed the effort for years.

The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.

The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.

By Ed O'Keefe, Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein

SI -- Gregg Popovich Issues Blistering Takedown of ‘Soulless Coward’ Donald Trump (VIDEO)

The Spurs coach speaks about Trump’s latest outrage.

“We’ve all seen the San Antonio Spurs’ future Hall of Fame coach Gregg Popovich in a state of exasperation on the sidelines, or in postgame news conferences. Many of us have also heard him speak with great vexation and clarity about the direction of this country and the actions of Donald Trump, particularly on Trump’s “disgusting tenor and tone and all the comments that have been xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic.” But I have never heard this man more frustrated, more fed up, and more tense with anger than he was today,” -- The Nation.

Trump held a press conference today during which he excused his failure to make phone calls to the families of military members recently killed in action by claiming that many past presidents haven’t made such calls. It was another blatant Trump lie.
San Antonio Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich--an Air Force veteran and arguably the best coach in the NBA, and famous for not liking to talk to reporters -- was so angered by the lie that he made an unsolicited call to “The Nation’s” David Zarin.

This is what Popovich said:

"This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous Presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this President should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all."

Popovich said it all.

Here’s the story:

By Dan Gartland

Monday, October 16, 2017

Why the unknown motive in Las Vegas massacre is so unsettling

Understanding sometimes comes from a deeper level of thinking--it’s not always apparent. The President and Republicans always view mass shootings as done by someone who has mental problems. That becomes their focus. And, sometimes it’s a known person who is mentally ill. But sometimes it’s a person who simply snapped. Like the Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock. And that requires a much different and more complex way of thinking, particularly when considering the appropriateness of gun regulation.

Two weeks after Stephen Paddock rained down bullets on attendees of a country music festival in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring more than 500, investigators are no closer to understanding the gunman's motives.

Following every mass killing, the President of the United States, and all of our country’s leaders issue their ritualized response of “thoughts and prayers” or some version of “the country stands united in our condolences, and in our prayers.” Following the recent Las Vegas mass killing, a tweet from President Trump was a model of the form: My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting. God bless you!

Prayers and appeals to unity can fill the void that uncertainty creates. And sometimes that's enough, experts say.

"We don't feel safe until we know, and explanation abhors a vacuum," said Charles R. Figley, a psychologist who directs Tulane University's Traumatology Institute in New Orleans.

" ‘People make up stuff,Figley said. That's why we pray and ask God to protect us, to make sure that good people don't get hurt. We start constructing explanations that at least make us feel better.

In normal times, Figley said, this process gets an assist from public figures. People who feel threatened naturally gravitate to people they trust, he said — a community of people like us. In such instances, a leader's come together message aims to shape and broaden that community. In the absence of a clear explanation for trauma — after a natural disaster, for instance — a leader's words are meant to inspire confidence that, even in a random world, Americans can rely on one another.

But these are not normal times, Figley said. In a country riven by deep political and social divisions, the absence of an explanation for Paddock's actions leaves many wondering, Who's on my side? And in the absence of effective appeals to unity, he said, he fears that anxious Americans will probably retreat more deeply into their partisan echo chambers.

President Donald Trump has done little to bring Americans together and help them move forward, Figley said. Despite an absence of evidence, Trump pronounced Paddock sick and demented.

Trump's characterization of Paddock as mentally ill may help the president feel better by providing a simplistic motive for the shooting, said Dr. David Spiegel, a Stanford University psychiatrist. But it is a poor response to a phenomenon that is actually quite easy to explain.

The reason Paddock could kill so many people in a 10-minute span is that he had ready access to the means to do so, Spiegel said. The real explanation, he said, lies with guns and a culture that puts ridiculous firepower in virtually anyone's hands.

" ‘There's nothing sick about him, Spiegel said of Paddock. As a psychiatrist, I deeply resent the inference that anybody who does something like this is mentally ill. It's untrue and deeply unfair to people with mental illness."

Finally, Spiegel warns, when people reflexively accept a mental illness explanation for mass shootings, they are playing into the hands of the gun rights advocates who would foil any effort to stem the tide of weapons in America.

" ‘We all want to feel in control of things we can't control," said Spiegel, who directs Stanford's centre on Stress and Health. We want to play this narrative in our heads that we can avoid these people. But what's really chilling is that no matter where you go or what you do, there's a cold-blooded guy with a gun who could take you out.

Here's the full story:

By Melissa Healy

Hustler’s Larry Flynt Offers $10 Million for Information to Impeach Trump

Larry Flynt, the founder, and publisher of Hustler magazine is offering a $10 million reward to anyone who can come forward with dirt that could lead to the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Fox Business anchor Liz Claman tweeted a photo of the full-page ad in Sunday’s Washington Post.

Flynt’s offer, if successful, would be nice but it’s a long shot.

Flynt writes, “Impeachment would be a messy, contentious affair, but the alternative—three more years of destabilizing dysfunction—is worse,” notes the ad. “Both good Democrats and good Republicans who put country over party did it before with Watergate. To succeed, impeachment requires unimpeachable evidence. That’s why I am making this offer.”  

What is Flynt hoping to find? Buried in Trump’s top-secret tax returns or in other records from his far-flung financial investments there may be a smoking gun, reads the ad. Did he make some financial quid pro quo with the Russians? Has the business of the United States been compromised to protect the business of the Trump empire? We need to flush everything out into the open.

“There is a strong case to be made that the last election was illegitimate in many ways--and that after nine tumultuous months in office, Trump has proven he’s dangerously unfit to exercise the extreme power accrued by our new ‘unitary executive.’”

Flynt outlined numerous reasons why President Trump needed to be removed from office: “inciting violent civil strife with racial dog whistling”; “telling hundreds of bald-faced lies”; compromising domestic and foreign policy with his massive conflicts-of-interest global business empire”;“telling hundreds of bald-faced lies”; “gross nepotism and appointment of unqualified persons to high office.”

But the most worrisome of all is that long before the climate-change apocalypse strikes, Trump might trigger a nuclear world war.

By Daniel Politi

Juan Williams: Trump is becoming a failed president

A recent poll found Trump losing Republican support.

Journalist Juan Williams writes, In part, this is due to his attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and threats to incumbent Republicans from Steve Bannon, formerly Trump’s chief strategist.

 ‘Creating a civil war inside the Republican Party may feel good, but I think as a strategy, it is stunningly stupid, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said of Bannon’s plan.

Speaking on Sean Hannity’s radio show, Gingrich stated the obvious: It would be better for the GOP if the president and his allies spent their time trying to beat incumbent Democratic senators.

Instead, Trump has whipped up a very public feud with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). Trump tweeted that Corker lacks the guts to seek reelection. Trump also belittled Corker as having begged for his endorsement.

By Juan Williams,

NYR -- Trump’s War on Knowledge

A very interesting in-depth piece by Ariel Dorfman for The New York Review of books on the presidency of Donald J. Trump.  

Dorfman, in part, writes, General José Millán Astray desecrated Spain’s higher temples of learning with six words: ¡Abajo la inteligencia! ¡Viva la muerte! (“Down with intelligence! Long live death!”)

If I now feel compelled to evoke the words Millán Astray used eighty-one years ago in Salamanca, it is because they have gained a bizarre relevance in today’s America. The resurgence of nationalism in our time has not yet reached the homicidal extremes it did when Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco misruled their lands, but the United States still faces an assault on rational discourse, scientific knowledge, and objective truth. And this war on intelligence, too, despite the edulcorated pieties that come from those who carry it out, will lead to many deaths.  

There has always been a disturbing strand of anti-intellectualism in American life but never has an occupant of the White House exhibited such a toxic mix of ignorance and mendacity, such lack of intellectual curiosity and disregard for rigorous analysis (despite Donald Trump’s untested boast that his IQ is one of the highest, certainly higher than Obama’s and a host of other worthies’).

 ‘The experts are terrible, Donald Trump said during his campaign. Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have. It is hardly surprising, then, that his administration is over-stocked with know-nothing fundamentalists. Across the board, he has appointed amateurs who are hostile to science and sport obscurantism as a badge of honor. Accordingly, the policies they have adopted are as stultifying as they are noxious. The contempt for evidence-based research was immediately apparent in Trump’s original wish list of budget proposals, which would significantly defund the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, NASA, the National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health, and even the Census Bureau. Government websites at the White House, the EPA, and the Departments of State, Agriculture, Interior, Labor, Education, and Energy have been scrubbed of previously posted scientific positions that would contradict the new policy program. Advisory councils have been eviscerated or abolished—the Justice Department’s National Commission on Forensic Science, no less!—and government scientists have been muzzled and forbidden from attending national forums or international conferences. The administration is obstructing the collection of data and the publication and discussion of research, as if in expectation that inconvenient truths will magically melt away.

Ariel Dorfman provides a useful list of ways Trump and his administration are shortening the lives of Americans:

1. An estimated 2.3 million American construction workers, miners, and road-crew laborers face life-threatening injury and illness because The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has delayed the enforcement of rules protecting them from silica dust, which is incontrovertibly linked to increases in cancer and lung disease.

2. Deaths will rise among those who toil in shipyards and on construction sites because a regulation created by the Obama administration to reduce exposure to the carcinogen beryllium has been reversed.

3. Miners are at greater risk because inspections in coal mines to identify hazards have been curtailed.

4. Families in Appalachia will be further endangered because the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have been ordered to stop studying how pollutants produced by mountaintop-removal mining may lead to increased rates of cancer, birth defects and respiratory disease.

5. The lives of millions will be shortened because more than 30 rules safeguarding Americans from pollution have been rolled back: they will slowly die from increased heavy metal effluents in waterways; they will die if emission standards for vehicles are relaxed; they will die because chemical spills will be more frequent and our water, air, and soil less clean.

6. More children will get ill and die if parents opt out of immunization programs encouraged by the president’s reckless promotion of the completely debunked “theory” about a link between vaccination and autism, a belief seconded by Tom Price, until recently the head of Health and Human Services, who once said that “vaccines are the equivalent of human experimentation.”

7. In addition, millions more will die prematurely because Trump by executive order has cut health insurance subsidies by $7 billion – thereby forcing insurers to raise premiums or co-payments, and making insurance unaffordable. And he is allowing insurers to offer fewer benefits, which will harm people with pre-existing health problems.

8. And a large number of children will lack the health coverage they need if the Children's Health Insurance Program runs out of money, which is soon to happen.

We are the richest nation in the world, and richer than we've ever been. This is barbaric.

President Donald Trump looking
at the solar eclipse without protective glasses. 

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

By Ariel Dorfman

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Donald Trump’s Fake Renoir: The Untold Story

Trump biographer Tim O’Brien talks about his years covering the developer turned reality star turned president—including a bizarre incident involving a fake impressionist painting.

Tim O’Brien, author of Trump Nation: The Art of Being The Donald, tells the story of Donald Trump trying to convince him that he owned an original Renoir painting.

Even though O’Brien, who had knowledge of the original painting, emphatically explained that it was not an original, Trump persistently disagreed.

The original painting is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago and appears on its online archive. It was completed by Renoir in 1881.

Years later, when Trump became President of the United States of America, O'Brien says he spotted it hanging in the background during one of his first interviews as president-elect.

In another interview with First Lady Melania Trump, the painting can again be seen in the background.

While this story is comical and sad and utterly bizarre on so many levels, it’s also emblematic of Trump’s very essence. He believes his own lies in a way that lasts for decades. He’ll tell the same stories time and time again, regardless of whether or not facts are right in front of his face. And, as O’Brien points out, that’s what makes Trump so dangerous in his current war with the media around so-called fake news. Its foundation is that he’s the final arbiter of what is true and what isn’t, and it’s one of the reasons that he’s so dangerous.

By Nick Bilton

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Trump appears confused about military tradition during interview with Sean Hannity

According to Business Insider:
The President of the United States on Wednesday remained seated and talked while a bugle played “Retreat.” and “To the Colors” as the American flag was lowered on a Pennsylvania Air National Guard base.

Donald Trump apparently had no knowledge of the significance of the songs, even joking with Hannity that they were being played in his honor.

What a nice sound that is,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity as he watched the crowd stand.

Appearing confused about military tradition, Trump quipped, "They're playing that in honor of his ratings. He's beating everybody." 

By David Choi

Reuters -- Trump strikes blow against Iran nuclear deal in major shift in U.S. policy

Although the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Defense Department say Iran is honoring its agreement, Donald Trump will not certify the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and the international community. He says it doesn’t serve America’s security interests.

Clearly, the Iran Nuclear deal is better than Donald Trump and Republican belligerence. We will never achieve peace through diplomacy if instead we first choose war. Clearly, the deal with Iran does serve US security interests.

Trump’s only reason for this decision is to take one more step in pursuit of his mission to diminish former President Obama’s legacy and to dismantle all of Obama’s efforts to make the United States and the world a better place. Everything Trump has done so far only puts the United States at greater risk. Dropping out of this agreement also puts the United States at greater risk.

Trump’s decision is condemned by critics, who warn he is putting U.S. national security at risk to satisfy his own prejudices toward an Obama led international agreement that he has branded as an "embarrassment" to America.

According to the Washington Post, “The move would mark the first step in a process that could eventually result in the resumption of U.S. sanctions against Iran, which would blow up a deal limiting Iran’s nuclear activities that the country reached in 2015 with the U.S. and five other nations.

“The 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which blocked Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon in exchange for easing sanctions on its economy, was a major foreign policy achievement for the United States. President Trump says Iran is violating the deal, but our partners who signed the deal with us, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, whose job it is to verify that the deal is being implemented, all disagree. Trump has made clear that he wants to rip up the deal, and he’s being egged on by many of the same people who helped get us into the disastrous Iraq war. But we should understand: if the U.S. backs out of the Iran deal, we could end up in a far more destructive war,” -- Senator Bernie Sanders

Reuter’s Holland and Mason write:

U.S. President Donald Trump struck a blow against the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement on Friday in defiance of other world powers, choosing not to certify that Tehran is complying with the deal and warning he might ultimately terminate it.

Trump announced the major shift in U.S. policy in a speech in which he detailed a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its support for extremist groups in the Middle East.

He accused Iran of not living up to the spirit of the nuclear agreement and said his goal is to ensure Tehran never obtains a nuclear weapon, in effect throwing the fate of the deal to Congress.

He singled out Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for sanctions and delivered a blistering critique of Tehran, which he accused of destabilizing actions in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Trump’s hardline remarks drew praise from Israel, Iran’s arch-foe, but was criticized by European allies.

Here’s the rest of Holland and Mason’s story:

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

For Trump, “Consequences Are Piling Up” with Republicans in Washington

Trump’s presidency has been in chaos since the day he took office. And, not only does his staff not trust him, but a majority of Americans don’t have confidence or trust in his leadership either.

The President’s feud with Senator Bob Corker has spurred fellow-Republicans to register varying degrees of disgust, dismay, fury, and disappointment about the state of affairs in the White House.

And a lot of people have been waiting for someone with power, determination, and guts to stand up to the blindingly obvious truth--something needs to be done

The consequences of inaction are “piling up.”

Ed Rogers, a lobbyist and lifelong Republican said concerning Trump’s presidency: “There’s fires all around,”

“For lifers like Rogers, who’ve figured out how to survive and prosper no matter which party is in power, Washington means having a healthy appreciation for the fact that your team doesn’t always win. But now that it’s clearer that getting along in the traditional Washington sense is not part of Trump’s plan, Rogers said he has changed his view of what is possible in this Presidency. ‘Republican loyalists have gone from ‘gigantic things are going to happen; the world really is going to change; there’s going to be a fundamental shift in what the government does,’ . . . to, ‘Can we keep the lights on around here?’ ” He added, “The possibilities are getting narrower. Consequences are piling up,” according to The New Yorkers Susan Glasser.

Given Trump’s continued popularity with the core G.O.P. electorate, congressional Republicans are willing to stand up to Trump depending on where they are in “a hierarchy, in ascending order,” a veteran Republican lobbyist explained to the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser. House “members and senators in cycle next year” are at the bottom, followed by “senators who intend to run for reëlection but are not in cycle next year,” then “senators who will probably retire but have not yet announced,” and finally, at the top, “senators who have announced they will retire.” When Senator Robert Corker decided not to run for reelection, said the lobbyist, Corker didn’t change his opinion of Trump but simply “transitioned from category two to category five.”

I find this troubling. Don’t Republican members of Congress have a responsibility to the country that transcends their concern about being reelected? Don’t they have a duty to speak out against a dangerous demagogue even if it costs them their job? Only a handful are in “category five.” Does this mean the rest will remain silent even as the institutions basic to our democracy – the free press, the courts, the rule of law, voting rights – succumb to tyranny, and as our Constitution is eviscerated? What moral compass to these people have?

By Susan B. Glasser

Friday, October 13, 2017

WP -- Throwing a bomb into the insurance markets, Trump now owns the broken health-care system

Trump, as promised, will end Obamacare. If Congress can’t do it he will with executive orders that will over time sabotage it to the extent that it will be nonexistent. In this case, however, and just what the Republicans didn’t want to happen, they will own it lock, stock, and barrel.

According to the Washington Post:

President Trump is throwing a bomb into the insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act, choosing to end critical payments to health insurers that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. The decision coincides with an executive order on Thursday to allow alternative health plans that skirt the law’s requirements.

The White House confirmed late Thursday that it would halt federal payments for cost-sharing reductions, although a statement did not specify when. Another statement a short time later by top officials at the Health and Human Services Department said the cutoff would be immediate. The subsidies total about $7 billion this year.

The Trump administration informed a federal appeals court on Friday that the government would immediately halt the payments. In the filing to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, officials wrote that the Health and Human Services Department has stopped the cost-sharing reduction payments. The payments were stopped, the filing said, because they were not formally appropriated by Congress. The documents include an Oct. 11 legal opinion from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, informing HHS and the Treasury Department that he believes “the best interpretation of the law” indicates that money appropriated to HHS “cannot be used to fund” the subsidies.

Trump has threatened for months to stop the payments, which go to insurers that are required by the law to help eligible consumers afford their deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses. But he held off while other administration officials warned him such a move would cause an implosion of the ACA marketplaces that could be blamed on Republicans, according to two individuals briefed on the decision.

Robert Reich’s opinion as posted on his Facebook page:

Trump has just taken two big steps to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. (1) Immediately halt cost-sharing reductions. These $7 billion in annual subsidies to health insurers allow around 7 million low-income Americans to afford coverage. (2) Make it easier for individuals and small businesses to buy alternative types of health insurance with lower prices, fewer benefits, and weaker government protections – leaving sicker people and those with pre-existing conditions out in the cold.

Trump and his surrogates (I argued with one on CNN this morning) say he had no choice to end the cost-sharing payments because the “courts” have said they’re illegal. Baloney. House Republicans sued HHS over them during Obama’s second term and got a federal court to agree they were illegal. But the decision has been on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Trump had already begun undermining the Affordable Care Act. Premium prices were already higher for 2018 due to uncertainty about what Trump would do. HHS had already slashed grants to groups that help consumers get insurance coverage, cut the enrollment period in half, reduced the advertising budget by 90 percent and made the website less available. It’s told its regional administrators not to even meet with on-the-ground organizations about enrollment. After officials in Republican-controlled Iowa sought federal permission to revitalize their ailing health-insurance marketplace, Trump personally called the federal director weighing the application, and said “Tell Iowa no.”

Now we’re likely to see the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges implode. Next year’s season to buy coverage starts in less than three weeks, but ending the payments will give insurers grounds for backing out of their agreements to sell health plans.

Apparently, Trump thinks his moves will force Congress to take action, using millions of chronically ill and poor people as pawns for his deal-making. This has become Trump's strategy -- like using DACA kids. But it's a cruel and cynical excuse for hurting the most vulnerable among us. Congressional Republicans tried 3 times to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and failed.

Trump now owns the Affordable Care Act. When millions (including huge numbers of Trump supporters) lose the coverage they had, Trump and the Republicans will be blamed. Unless, of course, he can persuade America that it happened because of immigrants, Muslims, African-American football players, or the media.

By James Hohmann

Ted Kennedy: The greatest test for Nations is how it cares for its children (VIDEO)


By Michael Hiltzik
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a state-federal program serving 9 million children, had a September 30 deadline for Congress to reauthorize it. That has put state programs in jeopardy.

Eleven days have passed, yet, so far Congress has not taken any action for its reauthorization.

CHIP was enacted in 1997 with bipartisan support, which it has continued to enjoy more or less since. So nothing should have interfered with its reauthorization. What did, as we reported, was the Senate’s preoccupation in the last week of September with one more fruitless attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. By the time that measure was dead and buried, there was no room left to enact a CHIP measure that already had been agreed on by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of the CHIP’s original sponsors, and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).”

The House was poised to vote on a CHIP reauthorization this week but put it off because Democrats complained about terms inserted by the GOP, which included taking money from a public health fund under the Affordable Care Act,” according to the LA Times.
Senator Elizabeth Warren posts on her Facebook page:

Back in 1997, Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy – a Republican and a Democrat – created the Children’s Health Insurance Program to address a devastating lack of health care coverage for our nation’s kids. Now, the program is at risk. Republicans in Congress were so busy trying to repeal health insurance that they haven’t authorized funding that helps make sure 9 million children across the country have health coverage. Congress must act quickly to make sure kids can get the care they need to stay healthy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

For Trump, The Reality Show Has Never Ended

It’s obvious that the Trump White House is seriously lacking management and leadership. Nothing will change that since Trump lacks the management and leadership skills necessary to make it happen.

According to the NY Times:

Over the weekend, President Trump was accused by a Republican senator of running the White House like a reality show. In the 48 hours that followed, this is how the president rebutted the characterization.

He called out the offending senator for being short and sounding like a fool. He challenged his secretary of state to an I.Q. contest and insisted he would win. He celebrated the downfall of a critic who was suspended from her job. And his first wife and third wife waged a public war of words over who was really his first lady.

Mr. Trump’s West Wing has always seemed to be the crossroads between cutthroat politics and television drama, presided over by a seasoned showman who has made a career of keeping the audience engaged and coming back for more. Obsessed by ratings and always on the hunt for new storylines, Mr. Trump leaves the characters on edge, none of them ever really certain whether they might soon be voted off the island.

 ‘Absolutely, I see those techniques playing out, said Laurie Ouellette, a communications professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied reality television extensively. Reality TV is known for its humiliation tactics and its aggressive showmanship and also the idea that either you’re in or you’re out, with momentum building to the final decision on who stays and who goes.

Among those on the in-or-out bubble in this week’s episode was Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the frustrated Republican who described -- and derided -- the conversion of the White House into a virtual set for The Apprentice and, for good measure, expressed concern in a weekend interview with The New York Times that the president could stumble the country into a nuclear war.

Mr. Trump, who hosted The Apprentice on NBC for 14 seasons, dismissed Mr. Corker on Tuesday by mocking his height and suggesting he had somehow been conned. The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation, Mr. Trump wrote. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!

In labeling Mr. Corker liddle” the president was evidently returning to a theme. He considered Mr. Corker for secretary of state during the transition after last year’s election but was reported to have told associates that Mr. Corker, at 5-foot-7, was too short to be the nation’s top diplomat. Instead, Mr. Trump picked Rex W. Tillerson, who is several inches taller but whose own relationship with the president has deteriorated to the point that he was said to have called Mr. Trump a moron.

There is only one way to deal with the reality show called President Donald Trump. Turn it off.

Trump craves attention the way most of us need air. He has to be at the center of chaos and controversy. He covets high ratings. He needs an audience that’s mesmerized by his outrageous tweets, his incendiary insults, his keep-them-guessing asides, his over-the-top story lines, his petty vindictiveness.

He’s a showman and salesman, a conman and a charlatan, a circus barker who would be nothing without the roar of the crowds.

So suppose the crowds stopped roaring? Suppose we all stopped reacting to his every taunt and jeer? What would happen if we no longer paid attention to his tweetstorms and tantrums? What if the media and the rest of us focused only on the real news – decisions actually made by Congress, the courts, and the Trump administration? Policies actually put forward? Official acts that have a practical bearing on our lives?

After all, Trump doesn’t really govern America; he just stirs America up. If we ignored him and got back to the basics of governance, Trump would nothing -- isolated, alone, dismissed. He would be a showman without a show, a barker without a crowd, a provocateur without anyone provoked. Like the Wicked Witch of the West he’d melt away, shouting at all of us as he disappeared: Look what you've done!! Ohhhhh, what a world, what a world. Who would have thought that you could destroy my beautiful wickedness!

Here’s the story:

By Peter Bakeroct