Monday, July 31, 2017

Dan Rather: Well that didn't take long. Looks like Anthony (the Mooch) Scaramucci is out


President Trump removed Anthony Scaramucci as communications director, ending a tumultuous tenure in the West Wing that lasted just 10 days.

Scaramucci was an obstacle to making smooth an unruly White House. Its been said that the new Chief of Staff John Kelly’s biggest challenge in imposing order would be finding a way to deal with Scaramucci.

So, “Scaramucci's quick ouster is being seen as a sign that Kelly could have more power in the chief of staff role than his predecessor, Reince Priebus, ever did.

Here’s Dan Rather’s take:

Well that didn't take long. Looks like the Mooch is out. At this rate, senior officials in the Trump Administration are dropping faster than reality show contestants, which in truth is what they appear to be.

With a former Marine Corps general as the new Chief of Staff, this is the last chance to bring any order to the White House. But the real problem has not been the aides or the leaks. It has been a president who can't control his speeches... or tweets, who doesn't understand policy, or care to, and who thinks that senators can be bullied like a subcontractor in one of his hotels. There is so much dysfunctional in the West Wing that soap opera writers would blush at the sheer improbability of the storyline.

John Kelly, the new Chief of Staff, is a complicated figure. He successfully led his troops into battle, but the trenches of Washington are a far different topography. And his political experience is thin. He will not have any honeymoon. The knives are out for an administration that seems deeply flawed, and weak. The health care debacle from last week is evidence that panic is spreading throughout the GOP.

Meanwhile, Russia struts, North Korea provokes, and the rest of the world looks at the great leadership vacuum emanating from Washington. And in an office, Robert Mueller and his handpicked superstar lawyers and investigators are poring over documents and talking to people who could make bad headlines for President Trump a whole lot worse.

There's never been anything like this in American history. No U.S. presidency has ever gotten off to such a chaotic beginning. And that means there is no way of predicting how all of this end.


By Jordan Fabian









The Hill -- Hackers break into voting machines in 90 minutes


Organizers of the Las Vegas hacker convention proved how easy it actually is to hack into voting machines.

Prior to the 2016 presidential election, hackers probed election works in at least 39 states, according to a report by Bloomberg.

However, election officials have said that despite Russia’s hacking attempts, no votes were tampered with.

And the FBI confirms that conclusion. Election officials have cited the decentralized nature of the U.S. election system, which is state, county and sometimes even municipality-based as the reason: use of a one-size-fits-all approach to gain access and control of voting systems makes it difficult.

Finding a solution is important. Election meddling has become a major geopolitical problem both in the United States and worldwide.

To prove voting machine vulnerabilities, “Hackers at a conference in Las Vegas were able to successfully breach the software of U.S. voting machines in just 90 minutes on Friday, revealing major security deficiencies in America's election infrastructure.

Techies at the annual DEF CON were given physical voting machines and remote access. The machines bought on Ebay, were made by major U.S. voting machine companies Diebold Nixdorf, Sequoia Voting Systems, and Winvote.

Within minutes the hackers exposed physical and software vulnerabilities. Some devices had physical ports to which devices could be attached containing malicious software. Wi-Fi connections on others were insecure. Others were running outdated software with security vulnerabilities like Windows XP.

Robert Reich asks,“Why isn’t the Trump administration focusing like a laser on this, instead of the trumped-up claim of voter fraud? Why isn’t Congress? Why aren’t the states?

Folks, this is a big deal. Our foreign adversaries -- including Russia, North Korea, and Iran -- have the capabilities to hack into our voting systems, undermining our democracy and threatening our national security.”


By John Bowden

Sunday, July 30, 2017

National Review -- When a Diminishing President Is a Good Thing


"To see what is in front of one's nose," George Orwell wrote, "needs a constant struggle." An unnoticed reason for cheerfulness is that in one, if only one, particular, Trump is something the nation did not know it needed -- a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation's excessive fixation with the presidency.

George Will writes that people overly concerned and worry that Trump’s outrageous Boy Scout speech, and his law and order speech encouraging police officers to overlook due process and embrace brutality, diminishes the presidency are missing the point, which is: For now, worse is better. To make it worse is better because it robs the presidency of the adulation Trump expects and his self-important behaviors that have encrusted it.

There will be 42 more months of this president's increasingly hilarious-beyond-satire exaltation of himself, heightened by his constant whining about his tribulations. This protracted learning experience, which the public chose to have and which should not be shortened, might whet the public's appetite for an adult president confident enough to wince at, and disdain, the adoration of folks like Anthony Scaramucci.

Robert Reich and I agree, in that he said,”I seldom agree with George Will. But he's exactly right. 


By George Will

WSJ -- Trump Is Woody Allen Without the Humor


Despite Donald Trump’s bluster, he is a weakling. The problem is not that he is “inexperienced, crude, an outsider,writes Peggy Noonan -- a Republican, no less, a former speechwriter and aide to President Ronald Reagan -- in a scathing opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal. She called Trump an "unfunny Woody Allen" for shooting out tweet tirades that are "whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He’s a drama queen."

Noonan criticized Trump's statement that “Political correctness for me is easy. Sometimes they say, ‘He doesn’t act presidential.’ And I say, great schools, smart guy -- it’s so easy to act presidential. But that’s not gonna get it done.”

Moreover, Trump proclaimed, “With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president that’s ever held office.

"The truth, six months in, is that he is not presidential and is not getting it done," Noonan argued. "His mad, blubbery petulance isn’t working for him but against him. If he were presidential he’d be getting it done -- building momentum, gaining support. He’d be over 50 percent, not under 40 percent. He’d have health care, and more. 

Half the president’s tweets show "utter weakness," she added. "They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn."

Peggy Noonan pretty much nailed it.

Read the full article. It’s outstanding.


By Peggy Noonan

The Hill -- Trump threatens to end ObamaCare payments unless repeal passes


President Donald Trump tweeted on Saturday that the plan to repeal and replace Obamacare was not dead -- "unless the Republican Senators are total quitters."

In his ongoing effort to make sure the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is repealed or fails, on Saturday, President Trump also threatened to end key payments to insurance companies made under Obamacare if a repeal and replace bill is not passed. He said, "If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!"

But, for now, those subsidies will be paid. The White House did not make a commitment beyond July.

The Trump administration effort to force ACA failure has already included cancellation of $5 million in HealthCare.gov ads promoting enrollment on the health care exchanges for next year. That happened in January.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said “If the president refuses to make the cost sharing reduction payments, every expert agrees that premiums will go up and health care will be more expensive for millions of Americans. The president ought to stop playing politics with people's lives and health care, start leading and finally begin acting Presidential.” 

The “key payments,” Trump is talking about, are cost sharing reductions. They are discounts that lower deductibles, co payments, and coinsurance for lower income customers. In the Health Insurance Marketplace, cost-sharing reductions are often called “extra savings,according to HealthCare.gov.

If he follows through on his threat to end the employer contribution for members of Congress -- what Trump called "BAILOUTS for Members of Congress "-- that would be a big deal.

Obamacare is not failing. A federal health care law needs to be in place. However, the best outcome for this health care mess would be for the Republicans to deal with Democrats and come up with a bipartisan plan that will not repeal Obamacare but make the existing law better.


By Julia Manchester




Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Koch Machine and America’s Broken Democracy (VIDEO)


US President Donald Trump’s ravings against the 2015 Paris climate agreement are partly a product of his ignorance and narcissism. Yet they represent something more. They are a reflection of the deep corruption of the US political system, which, according to one recent assessment, is no longer a “full democracy.” American politics has become a game of powerful corporate interests: tax cuts for the rich, deregulation for mega-polluters, and war and global warming for the rest of the world.

Moreover, “Trump’s policies embody mean-spirited priorities that are widely backed by the Republican Party in the US Congress: slash taxes for the rich at the expense of programs to help the poor and working class; increase military spending at the expense of diplomacy; and allow for the destruction of the environment in the name of deregulation.

The rest of the world urgently needs to understand America for what it has now become. Behind the formal structures of a once-functioning democracy is a political system run by corporate interests with the cynical aims of cutting taxes on the rich, selling weapons, and polluting with impunity. In Trump, they have found a shameless frontman and TV personality who will do their bidding,” -- Columbia University’s Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs.


Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley places the crux of the problem on the Koch Brothers:

A number of billionaires are flooding our democracy with their money, drowning out the voices of the rest of us. But Charles and David Koch are in a class by themselves. They’re using their fortune – they’re the fifth and sixth richest people in the world – to create their own political machine designed to protect and advance their financial interests.

[They are] the real forces behind Trump's economic agenda--it's certainly not a concern for working class Americans. The Koch brothers have geared up for a major effort to secure huge corporate tax cuts. Their plan includes lobbying and paid advertising campaigns, as well as grassroots mobilization. The goal is to create the appearance that the American people support their massive tax giveaways.

For example, next month Americans for Prosperity, the Koch network's advocacy arm that kickstarted the Tea Party, plans to organize town halls, phone banks, and door-to-door canvassing to put pressure on lawmakers. On Monday they will also kickoff their national media campaign with an event in Washington featuring Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Big business has been dreaming of this moment for years. Trump has proposed cutting corporate tax cuts in half, eliminating the estate tax, and slashing tax rates for the wealthy. This is their chance and they don't want to let it slip.


Now that Trumpcare has failed, it’s time to drop all the lies


It’s fitting that President Trump reacted to the epic collapse of the GOP repeal-and-replace push by vowing to keep up his campaign to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Let Obamacare implode, then deal, Trump tweeted, meaning the administration should continue undermining the law, to force Democrats to the table to … well, it’s not clear what he wants from them, but it is clear is that he will continue sabotaging the ACA out of sheer rage and spite.

For Trump, this has never been about improving our health-care system. Trump, who visibly had no idea how the ACA works or what was in the various GOP replacements, and who openly said he would sign whatever Republicans put in front of him, just wanted to boast of a “win” while triumphantly using Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement as his own personal toilet paper roll.


“From the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan,” Trump told the Times.

Of course, anyone who has purchased health coverage, let alone studied the health insurance market, knows that a $12 annual premium is nonexistent -- and that premiums are typically paid in months rather than years.

President Donald Trump cites policy he has never taken the time to read. He claims numerical statistics that he doesn’t care whether or not are factual. He doesn’t even try to understand pending legislation and do the homework required to understand.

He has no idea what he's doing or what struggles American families are actually facing.

Trump, in an attempt to damage the health law's marketplaces and damage ACA, has pulled Obamacare signup help in 18 cities.

The ACA federal health-care website, HealthCare.gov, has been edited to remove positive words and replaced them with more neutral explanations of the law. The Trump administration also killed most advertising and outreach efforts to encourage sign-ups on HealthCare.gov in the final days of open enrollment.

Robert Reich tells us of other actions Trump can take to sabotage the Affordable Care Act and force its failure.


By Greg Sargent

SF Chronicle -- What you bought and what you got from Trump


Trump is creating news -- firing his chief of staff, threatening his attorney general, telling trans they can't serve the country in the military, disparaging everyone in sight -- to keep his base's attention away from the fact that he's done almost nothing he promised, while filling his administration with Wall Streeters and CEOs.

You had your reasons for voting for Donald Trump. For some of you, he seemed the lesser of two evils, because you hated Hillary. Some of you just wanted to shake up the Washington establishment and end politics as usual.

But many of you were attracted by what he promised. So after six months, it’s fair to consider whether he’s delivered on those promises.

I’m not talking about the sort of things you knew were not really going to happen, like locking her up or building a wall along the entire U.S.- Mexico border.

I’m talking about policies he told you he’d get done, many of them right away.

In Reich’s column for the San Francisco Chronicle, he lists a dozen big ones, along with the record so far.


By Robert Reich

Friday, July 28, 2017

Trump ignores due process, encourages police brutality


In a speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, NY, about law and order, immigration, and the viciousness of MS-13 -- an LA-based gang with connections to El Salvador and Honduras -- Donald Trump encouraged police brutality and ignored the due process provisions of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

"When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, I said, please don't be too nice. Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you're protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over. Like, don't hit their head and they've just killed somebody. Don't hit their head. I said you can take the hand away, okay?" Trump said.

I doubt if Trump even knows of the Constitution’s due process requirement. That a police officer is not just being “nice” in the process of placing offenders under arrest, but rather it was their constitutional responsibility.

Apparently the president, like the tyrant he is, views the law as an impediment to getting tough on crime.

Dan Rather writes on his popular Facebook page:

On cue, in the wake of the stunning defeat of his health care initiative, President Trump is back sowing the seeds of division to appeal to his rabid base.

In a speech in front of law enforcement, he condoned police brutality. This is outrageous of course. But expect much more like it. The more isolated Mr. Trump gets, the more he is going to try to hold on to his political power by stirring up the seeds of intolerance. He will blame the "other" - no matter if that is transgender soldiers or past presidents at a Boy Scout rally. Both of those recent events backfired against Mr. Trump. The vast majority of the American public is not as hateful or spiteful as the president. The fissures in the GOP are cracking. They bought into Mr. Trump with the hopes of legislative victories. Now they see a self-described dealmaker dealing only in mounting losses and toxic rhetoric that riles up a few but turns off many more.

Playing up law and order as a culture war is a longtime tactic. But I don't think it will play this time. Most people understand that we need police. Most police are good, decent, brave public servants. And the best police officers will tell you that the kind of policing that Mr. Trump is advocating is not only unconstitutional it is downright counterproductive. Most people are also horrified by police brutality. We need a lot of work on this issue. There is a lot of understandable tension between the police in many places and the people they are supposed to serve. There are longstanding racial histories at play. But I think we can overcome this. If we work together.

The role of a president should be about building unity. Those who are most powerful and most successful are the ones who do this. Only six months into office, Mr. Trump's trajectory seems to be rapidly heading in the opposite direction.


Politico -- Pentagon takes no steps to enforce Trump's transgender ban


Marine General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there will be no changes to the military’s transgender policy as a result of President Donald Trump’s tweet declaring a ban on transgender men and women. He said that the military will continue to “treat all of our personnel with respect.”

The Pentagon is waiting for White House guidance on enforcing President Donald Trump's decision to ban transgender people from the armed forces. Trump’s tweet can’t be enforced on its own merit. The President can’t change policy with a tweet.

If Trump officially orders the ban, as is, and without modification, the military says it would kick out thousands who just a year ago were told they could serve openly.

“The White House will work with the Department of Defense and all of the relevant parties to make sure that we fully implement this policy moving forward and do so in a lawful manner," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters.

However, could Trump’s tweets be feelers, testing the waters, if you will -- his own personal leak on contemplated policy -- just to see what reactions there would be.

On the other hand, Trump’s sudden decision to ban transgender people from military service could be because of Republican threats to tank funding increases in the defense authorization bill, which included Mexican border wall construction. A kerfuffle broke out because of disagreements over finding enough money in the bill by cutting funding for gender reassignment surgeries and treatments for transgender active-duty personnel in order to fund the wall. Hence, Trump’s transgender ban would take care of the problem

Trump’s reasoning could be either one or both. If so, perhaps Trump will “just sit on it” with no official Pentagon directive forthcoming.


By Bryan Bender And Jacqueline Klimas

Dan Rather: This isn't just sausage making. This is a blender of BS.

"This is not normal, and it is not sustainable," Ezra Klein

  

What is happening in the Congress around health care is a break from every norm we have come to expect in how we draft legislation. It is an affront to our democracy. This isn't just sausage making. This is a blender of BS.

Vox's Ezra Klein is one of the most astute political and policy analysts writing today, and his treatment of what is taking place is spot on.

"This has been a policymaking process built, from the beginning, atop lies. Lies about what the bills do and don’t do. Lies about what is wrong with Obamacare and lies about what the GOP’s legislation would do to fix it. Lies about what Republicans are trying to achieve and lies about which problems they seek to solve.

This isn’t just a moral offense, though it is that. It is a profound challenge to the policymaking process."

His whole article is well worth the read.

This matters. It is something that people of all political persuasions should worry about.
  

By Ezra Klein

Senator Murkowski’s health care vote comes with significant repercussions for Alaska


The Senate dealt a devastating setback to Trump and Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, defeating the GOP "skinny repeal" bill early Friday morning.

Prior to the vote, Donald Trump and his administration threatened retaliation against Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski if she voted no on the Republican health care plan.

On Tuesday, Murkowski said she spoke to Trump prior to the vote to proceed with debate on the plan.

On Wednesday, after the vote, Murkowski heard from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who she said "shared with me that the president was not pleased." Zinke made it clear that Trump had asked him to pass along the message, Murkowski said.

Early Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to express displeasure with Murkowski's vote. By that afternoon, each of Alaska's two Republican senators had received a phone call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke letting them know the vote has put Alaska's future with the administration in jeopardy.

And Thursday she received a call from Zinke, at the behest of the president, to pressure her not to vote no on the health care plan.

Murkowski did not want to divulge the exact content of the phone calls, but that it was clear the intent was to pressure her for her vote.

And on the “Skinny Repeal” plan, Murkowski again voted no.

President Donald Trump isn't going to just let go of Senator Murkowski's no votes. It’s not in him to do that. It’s not clear why Trump decided to come down hardest on Senator Murkowski and not others such as Senators McCain and Collins.

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan said the call from Zinke sent a "troubling message."

"I'm not going to go into the details,” Sullivan said. But said he fears it will have significant repercussions for Alaska.

“I tried to push back on behalf of all Alaskans…We’re facing some difficult times and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for the policies that Secretary Zinke and the president have been talking about with regard to our economy. But the message was pretty clear.”

With Alaska being 61.2 percent federally owned, Trump could declare drilling and mining off-limits on federal lands and waters. Oil and gas drilling is a central part of the state’s economy and government, accounting for about one-third of its employment.

Senator Murkowski chairs both the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and related agencies. That means she has significant influence in authorizing and appropriating funding for the Department of the Interior.

Trump versus Lisa Murkowski of Alaska should be interesting  Her no vote is an indication that Murkowski is no pushover.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bloomberg -- Scaramucci Seeks Federal Tax Break on SkyBridge Sale


The new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci earned close to $10 million from ownership stake and salary in SkyBridge -- an investment firm specializing in hedge funds products -- between January 1, 2016, and the end of June, according to his financial disclosure filed with the Office of Government Ethics. He listed assets worth as much as $85 million.

Scaramucci sold SkyBridge to a Chinese conglomerate -- HNA Group -- in preparation for his move to the White House, but it is undergoing regulatory review.

Scaramucci also has several real estate investments, a minority stake in the New York Mets, and is an investor in Juice Press, a chain of snack and smoothie shops in the Northeast.


When Anthony Scaramucci took command, he told reporters he wanted an opportunity to serve the country.

Turns out he also wants a multi-million dollar tax break.

Scaramucci, a Wall Street financier turned Trump loyalist, sold his hedge fund Skybridge Capital in January for a reported $180 million. Confident he would soon have a job in the Trump administration, Scaramucci expected he would be able to avoid taxes on the sale under a loophole for executive-branch appointees.

When that expected job didn't pan out, Scaramucci was on the hook for a multi-million dollar tax bill.

So he was more than happy to take Trump's offer. But he faces two problems:

(1) Some tax experts think it's now too late to claim it.

(2) The sale is also under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment, which vets these kinds of financial transactions for national security risks. Scaramucci's buyers include a Chinese investment conglomerate. Just days before the inauguration, he solicited buyers by touting a future position in the White House.

Say what you will about Sean Spicer. At least he didn't try to profit off his position. Now we have a communications director who could get a giant tax break off his public position.
  

By Bill Allison  and Simone Foxman

Dan Rather: It is a cruel irony that President Truman desegregated the U.S. military 69 years ago


Throughout much of U.S. history, homosexuality was grounds for discharge from the military.

Truman’s desegregation policy addressed race but didn't touch on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The don't ask, don't tell law enacted during the Clinton administration allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve, but only if they didn't disclose their sexual orientation.

In 2010, ‘don't ask, don't tell was repealed, which opened the doors for gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly. However, it didn’t apply to transgender people, who still had to serve in silence or be discharged for medical reasons.

In July 2016, President Barack Obama lifted the transgender ban. Our country was headed in a positive direction.

Now we have President Donald Trump ordering the military to go back to days of segregation. For now, it’s transgender people, but if we don’t bring this president down there is no telling how far back he will go. He certainly has the mindset to do just that. Everything Trump has done so far has been reactionary. Apparently, all he wants to do is destroy the progress our first black president accomplished. He has taken actions that take our nation back in time, actions that have divided America, not progressive, which is the direction our country should be heading.


It is a cruel irony that President Truman desegregated the U.S. military (according to race) 69 years ago today. And now we have a president ordering the military (what he calls "my generals") to sow seeds of deep division.

Meanwhile, another anniversary. In late July 1965, Congress voted overwhelmingly for Medicare. Now we may be on the brink of rolling back health care for millions of Americans.

I am saddened but not surprised by either development. Mr. Trump feels under siege, and a man who is desperate for the adulating huzzahs of his most devoted followers is throwing red meat to his base. The ban on transgender people from serving in our armed forces is getting bipartisan criticism, but this type of bigotry plays well with too many of our fellow citizens. It should be noted that the military was already working this out, and now they have to shift course. Of all the things the armed forces need to worry about, they didn't need this new ill-conceived presidential directive.

Meanwhile, almost every Republican in the Senate is lining up to deliver a "win" for their president on health care. And by "win" we must clarify that we are only speaking in terms of short term political optics. Not policy. And maybe not even long-term politics considering how unpopular the Republican approach to healthcare seems to be. Tell the cancer patients who lose their coverage that they are winning. But for years Republicans played in a cynical and baseless game of fearmongering over the Affordable Care Act and now that bill is due. Will there be enough who vote no to put the brakes on this runaway train?

I remain an optimist. I believe that the majority of Americans see these shenanigans for what they are. I believe that what unites us is stronger than what tears us apart. I believe that on LGBTQ rights and civil rights more generally we are on a path for greater justice. I believe that most Americans now see health care as a right.

But an isolated and embattled president and his enablers in Congress will continue to push division to rally support. From protests in the streets to messages to Congress, to energy at the ballot box, it will be imperative for those who claim the mantles of reason and resistance to make their voices heard.


By Jeremy Berke

Senator Bernie Sanders’ clear and understandable explanation of health care debate (VIDEO)



Highlights
of Senate Health-Care Debate
In the disorder and confusion that is Washington politics today, it’s very hard to keep up and understand where things stand. Congress’ efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare is a good example of that chaos.


Here is Senator Bernie Sandersclear and understandable explanation of what's happening in the process of repealing Obamacare:


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Politico -- Inside Trump’s snap decision to ban transgender troops

A congressional fight over sex reassignment surgery threatened funding for his border wall.


President Trump on Wednesday announced that the military would no longer allow transgender people to serve, citing both “the tremendous medical costs and disruption” that would be caused by their integration into U.S. forces.

Trump’s sudden decision to ban transgender people from military service apparently was because a Republican brawl threatening to tank a Pentagon funding increase, which included Mexican border wall construction. The kerfuffle was over finding enough money in the amendment to a defense authorization bill by banning funding for gender reassignment surgeries and treatments for transgender active-duty personnel.

Donald Trump's reasoning for barring transgender members from military service was cost. But cost should not be an issue. The Defense Department commissioned a study last year by the RAND Corporation. 

The study estimated that there were between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender active-duty service members -- out of 1.3 million service members in total -- and noted that not all of them would seek treatment related to gender transitioning. The study also estimated that the cost associated with medical care for gender transition would only increase military health care expenditures by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million each year -- an increase of between 0.04 and 0.13 percent. The study found that fewer than 0.1 percent of military members would seek treatments that could delay deployments, according to the Scientific American.

By contrast, total military spending on erectile dysfunction medicines amounts to $84 million annually, according to an analysis by the Military Times -- 10 times the cost of annual transition-related medical care for active duty transgender service members, according to the Washington Post.


By Rachael Bade And Josh Dawsey

Dan Rather on Donald Trump and the Boy Scouts of America


Donald Trump's speech last night in front of the Boy Scouts of America was not only highly inappropriate. It was disgusting.

I would like to hope it is a nadir in our country's political discourse, but it seems like the slide downward only accelerates. So it stands as a sad encapsulation of our current age.

No doubt many in the crowd were riled up by Mr. Trump's stale rhetoric of "fake news" and lies about his "massive" electoral victory. But the Boy Scouts is a diverse organization with chapters in every corner of this nation. And today, many are no doubt wondering whether they belong in a group that is supposed to be built on community and service. Many of these boys may be wondering more broadly whether they belong in a country led by a man like this.

Scouts learn the importance of being “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” How few of those adjectives apply to our current Commander in Chief. A man who can't control himself to act in a manner befitting the setting, is a man without the steadiness of character to run a nation. A grown man who is so insecure as to seek affirmation in a group of teenagers is not a man with the maturity to lead a nation. A man who is so self-absorbed as to make every utterance about himself and his needs is not a man with the vision to elevate a nation.

Part of being president is to be the leader of the entire country. And every president I can remember (and that's a lot of them) revelled in moments when they had a venue to shake off the partisanship of Washington and speak in exalted tones to the people. But whether it's dedicating an aircraft carrier or talking to Boy Scouts, Mr. Trump so far has seemed incapable of performing that simple task.

Bluntly put - and there is no joy in having to say this – he is tearing apart the norms of our nation. So it is incumbent on those who recognize the damage being done to stitch back the bonds that unite us and work hard to muffle the echoes of his divisiveness.

ABC News-- Trump Administration Pulls Obamacare Signup Help in 18 Cities


On January 20, 2017, following his inauguration, Donald Trump signed an Executive Order allowing government agencies, ". . . to waive, defer, grant exemption from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act [Affordable Care Act] that would impose a fiscal burden on any State . . .” 

Presumably, one of the actions taken under that Executive Order, Trump’s administration has ended Affordable Care Act contracts that brought assistance into libraries, businesses and urban neighborhoods in 18 cities, meaning shoppers on the insurance exchanges will have fewer places to turn for help signing up for coverage.

It’s an attempt to damage the health law's marketplaces by Trump who has made clear his intention, if repeal by Congress fails, is to let "Obamacare" fail.

In the cities affected, people will have 45 days to shop for 2018 coverage, starting Nov. 1 and ending Dec. 15. In previous years, they had twice that much time.  The shorter enrollment period makes it more difficult to enroll the uninsured and those who are already covered to re-enroll or shop for new policies.

The administration, earlier this year, pulled advertising for the sign-up website HealthCare.gov.

If the current congressional attempts to repeal health care fails, Donald Trump could further destabilize the marketplaces where people shop for coverage by not promoting them or not enforcing the mandate compelling people to get coverage. The administration has already threatened to withhold payments to insurers to help people afford care, which would prompt insurers to sharply increase prices. And there are a number of other acts Trump could take to sabotage the Affordable Care Act, and let it fail.


By Carla K. Johnson

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New Yorker -- Donald Trump, John McCain, and the Politics of Decency



The dignity of our country, our place as a leader among nations, respect, honesty, integrity, health care for all Americans, environmental protections, public education, regulations, a free press, preserving our democracy are a just a few things that are at stake under the leadership of President Donald Trump and the Republican Party. We are a government and a nation in crisis right now.

“Donald Trump, John McCain, and the Politics of Decency” by the New Yorker’s Jeffery Frank tells of one more thing that is at stake. Although all over America there is a desperate need for decency and a need to respect others. We sorely need leadership that sets examples of best behavior and practice.

This is how Frank ends his piece, but it in its entirety is a worthwhile read:

“We’ve often heard statesmanlike views from John McCain, the Arizona senator. He’s been capable of hawkish overreach, and political missteps, but he has risen to a level of decency -- of generosity and courage -- when it was called for. One celebrated moment came in the midst of the 2008 Presidential campaign, when people in a crowd questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy and McCain set them straight. Five years ago, after Michele Bachmann, then a congresswoman, made the baseless, and scurrilous, charge that Huma Abedin, the longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, had “ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, McCain, on the Senate floor, said, ‘Huma Abedin represents what is best about America: the daughter of immigrants, who has risen to the highest levels of our government on the basis of her substantial personal merit and her abiding commitment to the American ideals that she embodies.’ He added, ‘I am proud to know her, and I am proud, even maybe with some presumption, to call her my friend’ -- another win for decency.

“In his autobiography, ‘Faith of My Fathers,’ published in 1999, McCain wrote that ‘nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone’—a theme that became part of his brief, joyful Presidential campaign, in 2000, and is bound to be recalled as people root for him in the wake of a brain-cancer diagnosis. The thing is, McCain really meant it. Could anyone imagine Donald Trump, or anyone in his orbit, fighting for, speaking up for, or defending any cause larger than himself? The question, alas, for all of us, answers itself.”


By Jeffrey Frank

NY Mag -- The 14 Most Inappropriate Moments From Trump’s Speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree



By Margaret Hartmann

Like usual, the President’s speech to an audience of mostly pre teen boys at the National Boy Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia on Monday was disturbing, inappropriate and an embarrassment. It was shocking, even by the Trump standards we all know and have come to expect.

Trump even told the crowd of youngsters a story about real estate developer William Levitt who he saw at a cocktail party, old and sitting by himself, saying, “it was very sad because the hottest people in New York were at this party.

He reiterated his stance regarding the “War on Christmas,” telling them that when they go shopping, they’ll “be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.

Trump encouraged the crowd to boo for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He spoke about polling, bragged about his 2016 election, and spoke in incoherent tangents about his rich friends.

And the “Boy Scouts of America faces backlash from leaders and parents after President Trump turns their Jamboree into a political rally that may even have broken the group's rules.”