Category Archives: ‘Murica

This explains a lot

Trump tweeted a pic from his latest physical.  ECHO!! (Echo, echo, echo, echo)

If he dislikes it, don’t know why Trump keeps using this photo

trumpcaturday

Scalia’s son argues for Wall Street; case could end up at Supreme Court

usdepartmentoflabor

The U.S. Labor Dept. proposes a fiduciary rule for those selling retirement products to prevent them from fleecing grandma and grandpa with products not in their best interest — sort of like what all these companies did in the housing industry before the financial crisis of 2008.

The insurance and securities industries file suit saying that the new rule restricts their 1st Amendment rights to be crooks

It doesn’t actually say that, but it might as well:

Regulators and consumer advocates have argued that the rule is important and necessary. Financial firms have countered that it is overly burdensome and expensive.

Other lawsuits have largely relied on the notion that the Labor Department overreached in creating the rule. The Dallas plaintiffs also use those arguments, but are the only ones to mention First Amendment obstacles.

Labor Department lawyers argued the fiduciary rule only governs conduct, not speech. Even if it did regulate speech, they said, it only covers misleading and conflicted statements, which are not protected by the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn pressed the government on its position, saying the fiduciary rule appears to regulate more than just misleading speech.

“They can recommend any products they like, as long as they’re not recommending products that aren’t in the investor’s best interest,” Labor Department defense attorney Emily Newton responded.

The agency estimates bad advice will cost investors $95 billion over the next 10 years if the fiduciary rule is not implemented.

Among the lawyers representing the industry is Eugene Scalia, who has successfully argued for corporations and trade groups in other high-profile cases. Earlier this year he convinced a federal judge to strike down MetLife Inc’s designation as a financial company that is “systemically important,” which would subject it to tougher regulation.

His father was the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative who often sided with big business in landmark cases that protected or created corporate rights.

So the case will likely end up at the Supreme Court, and is being partially argued by the son of the now-dead justice who would have been most likely to support it. Not that the son can’t do that. It’s just what one would expect in this great country of ours where Wall Street is in control.

Truth truly is stranger than fiction.

And with Trump in the Oval Office, we all know how this will end up.

Watch your parents’ (and your own) savings closely. Because these massive industries are coming for it and don’t want any restrictions on the shitty products they can offer to take that life savings.

This case is the perfect representation of how average people screwed themselves by electing Donald Trump. Wall Street wins. We lose. Wall Street is happy.

America!

 

Trump has picked a conspiracy theorist as national security adviser

michael-flynn

This article by the New Yorker, which has done as well or better than any national magazine in bringing us political coverage that matters, fills in some of the blanks on Michael Flynn —  who called “Islamism” a “vicious cancer inside the body of 1.7 billion people” that has to be “excised” during an August speech — who has been tapped by Trump to be his national security adviser.

As Flynn’s public comments became more and more shrill, McChrystal, Mullen, and others called Flynn to urge him to “tone it down,” a person familiar with each attempt told me. But Flynn had found a new boss, Trump, who enlisted him in the fight against the Republican and Democratic Party establishments. Flynn was ready. At the Republican National Convention, Flynn boiled over in front of an audience of millions. He led the crowd in chants of “Lock her up! Lock her up!” His former colleagues say they were shocked by what they saw.

What Flynn saw was corruption: Clinton, the media, the Justice Department, the intelligence community—they are all corrupt. I spoke to Flynn three months ago, while working on a profile of him for the Washington Post. “Is this some kind of hatchet job!” he roared into the phone when I asked why, exactly, he thought Clinton should be in jail.

The lifelong intelligence officer, who once valued tips gleaned from tribal reporters, has become a ready tweeter of hackneyed conspiracy theories. He reposts the vitriol of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim commentators. “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” he tweeted in February, linking to a false claim that Islam wants eighty per cent of humanity enslaved or exterminated. “U decide,” he posted one week before the election, along with the headline from a linked story that appeared on a Web site called True Pundit: “NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w/Children, etc. . . . MUST READ!”

And then there is this;

Flynn also began to seek the Washington spotlight. But, without loyal junior officers at his side to vet his facts, he found even more trouble. His subordinates started a list of what they called “Flynn facts,” things he would say that weren’t true, like when he asserted that three-quarters of all new cell phones were bought by Africans or, later, that Iran had killed more Americans than Al Qaeda. In private, his staff tried to dissuade him from repeating these lines.

Flynn’s temper also flared. He berated people in front of colleagues. Soon, according to former associates, a parallel power structure developed within the D.I.A. to fence him in, and to keep the nearly seventeen-thousand-person agency working. “He created massive antibodies in the building,” the former colleague said.

Just the kind of guy we want advising the president of the United States on how to respond to national security emergencies.

Oy. It’s going to be a long four years. 

Via:  The Disruptive Career of Michael Flynn, Trump’s National-Security Adviser — The New Yorker

 

 

What Liberal Academics Don’t Get (via The Chronicle of Higher Education)

I don’t care much for the poorly educated — and by “educated” I don’t mean secondary education. I know a lot of ignoramuses with degrees and more than my share of self-taught renaissance people with no degree but all the wisdom one needs to be a caring and well-informed American.

“Poorly educated” in my world means someone with a willful ignorance of facts at hand. It’s partially borne of living in the fact-free bubble of America’s right-wing movement as much as it’s about a lack of formal education.  There are plenty of self-serving right-wingers on the economics faculties at Harvard and the University of Chicago.,

Trump voters — and not a few of us on the other side — seem to be unable to live by this dictum: What’s most important is knowing what you don’t know more than what you do know. 

But there were enough of those people to get Donald Trump elected and give me a few days of deep despondency over the future of this country.

And yet, as more time passes since that election, simply marveling at the stupidity of half the voters has seemed increasingly insufficient and nihilistic. Too simple. Too childish.

Yes, a lot of his voters are racists, sexist and homophobic. But I’ve also wondered how many of them are not any of those things overtly, but rather were just easy marks for a con man real estate developer playing the pied piper of resentment?

Are racism, sexism and homophobia the primary motivators of the vast majority of Trump supporters, or do they go along with that for other reasons — or just plainly choose to ignore those things in favor of a candidate whom they think spoke to their needs on other issues?

I had a middle-aged black woman in my car today, sweet as can be, and she brought up the election. I assumed she was for Hillary and against Trump. And she was, but only so far. “I can’t stand the racists, but I get why Trump people are mad at where this country is going, she said. “I’m mad, too. And I think a lot of them just wanted to overturn the system.”

Teasing all this out would be impossible without putting a great many of those supporters through a battery of well-designed tests.

So we are left to guess. And this piece from the The Chronicle of Higher Education takes a decent stab at it.

It’s hard to talk about this stuff and not feel the pain of bigotry if you’ve experienced it. These debates can never not be filtered through that. Nor should they be.

The first time I read this piece I thought,  “You’re expecting us to meet bigots halfway!”

Then I read it again with a more open mind. I still disagree with some of it, at least how it’s worded. Yet some of what is said here makes sense:

After winning the Nevada Republican caucuses, Trump said, “I love the poorly educated.” We laughed and made fun. But poorly educated whites were listening. And they vote, too.

For decades those people have felt ignored and belittled. During the campaign they heard a great deal about the concerns of African-Americans, gay and transgendered people, immigrants, refugees. For us, those concerns are part and parcel of a necessary compassion; they dovetail with our sense of being American. For many white voters in the other America, though, stuck in dead-end jobs and low-rent neighborhoods, those comments make them want to say, “But what about me?”

The educated elite — professors, artists, journalists, “expert” commentators — can judge the emotions behind that question as stupid and unfair, even brand them as racist or homophobic. But those feelings of exclusion are very real and not unfounded. As the saying goes, and as last week’s depressing election result clearly demonstrates, we have ignored them at our peril.

I don’t want to spend the next four years in an ideological war with half the electorate. That feels like we’re all puppets with Fox News and the radical Right as our puppeteers, keeping the entire country on edge so that none of us can focus on the truly important issues. Surely there is some common ground that we must try for with those people on the other side who are not unreformed bigots.

We should still call out bigotry in all its forms when it rears its ugly head, which it is likely to do many times (even more than usual) over the next four years. We should still work very hard to ameliorate the damage a Trump administration can do, including working our asses off on the mid-term elections. 

However, as much as I laughed along with everyone else at the pitiful spelling and horrific grammar of many Trump supporters, I feel less proud of it in retrospect.

It’s easy to make fun of someone who doesn’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re,” but if you are a coal miner who barely feeds his family and is watching your future die while politicians seems not to care much — and much of the Left seems to care less than the elected officials about income inequality — the niceties of spelling and grammar are not very high on your list of priorities.

Are spelling and grammar yardsticks by which we decide someone is a good person, worthy of respect?

After all, my side –the progressive side — is supposed to be the side with all the education and, for lack of a better term in mind now, the “adulthood” to see our way past raw emotions and ad hominem attacks.

If we don’t try to break the impasse with at least some of these people — the ones who can be reached with good will, compassion and/or some semblance of reason — nobody else will. And they will be ripe for the picking the next time someone even worse than Trump comes along.

I find it hard to believe with all the marketing talent in this country that we can’t do more with that than get people to, as we do now, buy cars based on nothing more than feelings and self-image. Where are the people who will show us how to market a progressive agenda to a population that sorely needs one yet rejects it more than anyone else?

We need to learn how to talk to that part of America. I don’t have the answer on how to do that. But I hope somebody does.

Source: What Liberal Academics Don’t Get – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Yes, it's a funny sign for this issue particularly. But which seems the better course of action? Endless laughter at this person's expense? Or trying to find some agreement somewhere with them and starting from there?
Yes, it’s a funny sign for this issue particularly. But which seems the better course of action? Endless laughter at this person’s expense? Or trying to find some agreement somewhere with them and starting from there?

Life in a state where the GOP has been in charge for a very long time

Nick Fugate (center), pictured here with his parents, Julie and Ron, has been adjusting to life on Kansas' waiting list to get life-assistance services through Medicaid. (Alex Smith/KCUR)
Nick Fugate (center), pictured here with his parents, Julie and Ron, has been adjusting to life on Kansas’ waiting list to get life-assistance services through Medicaid. (Alex Smith/KCUR)

To Get Disability Help In Kansas, Thousands Face A 7-Year Medicaid Waitlist

For 22 years, Nick Fugate washed dishes at a local hotel near his home in Olathe, Kan.

“There was nothing easy,” said the 42-year-old man who has an intellectual disability, chuckling. “I just constantly had to scrape the dishes off to get them clean.”

The work did sometimes get tedious, he said, but he didn’t really mind. “Just as long as I got the job done, it was fine,” he said.

Nick’s father, Ron Fugate, said the job was the key to the self-reliance he’s wanted for his son ever since Nick was born with an intellectual disability 42 years ago.

“From our perspective,” Ron said, “having a job, being independent, participating in the community, paying taxes, being a good citizen — that’s a dream parents have for their children in general.”

But things got tough last year when Nick lost his job and his health insurance. For the first time, he enrolled in Medicaid. He got his basic medical care covered right away, but in Kansas, there’s now a long waitlist — a seven-year wait — for people with intellectual disabilities to get the services they need. Decades ago, Fugate might have been institutionalized, but Medicaid now provides services to help people remain independent — including job coaching, help buying groceries, food preparation and transportation. These are the services Nick is eligible for but must wait to receive through Medicaid.

In the months since losing his employment, Nick has had to pay around $1,000 a month out of pocket for help buying groceries, career coaching and transportation. Those expenses are quickly burning through his life savings.

This year, families like the Fugates have been speaking out about that long waitlist and about other Medicaid problems at public forums like one held at the Jack Reardon Convention Center in Kansas City, Kan., in May.

In a basement meeting room, hundreds of people with disabilities, their families and caseworkers railed against KanCare — the state Medicaid program. Some heckled the moderator. The state has been gathering feedback because it needs the federal government’s permission to continue running KanCare.

In 2013, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback put KanCare under the management of three private companies that promised to improve services, cut waste and save enough money to end the long waits for the kind of services Nick needs.

Two and a half years later, many families say they’ve seen few signs of improvement, especially in terms of shortening the waitlist. In fact, it’s actually grown by a few hundred names to about 3,500. And, except in emergency situations, the wait to get treatment averages seven years.

But an end is in view, insisted Brandt Haehn, commissioner for Home and Community Based Services, part of the agency that oversees KanCare.

“I think everybody in the system is doing the best job they can do to provide the people services,” Haehn said.

In August, the department announced it had eliminated a different waiting list — the one for getting physical disability services. That claim has been challenged by advocates, who say many people were dropped from the list without notice.

But state officials say the progress that’s been made in speeding up the start of services for KanCare applicants who have physical disabilities demonstrates that the agency can get results.

Haehn did acknowledge that cases like Nick Fugate’s, of developmental disability, are more expensive and complicated than physical disability cases. It will take time, he said, to come up with $1.5 billion — the state’s share of a $2.6 billion program — that’s needed to make sure that, at least through 2025, everyone qualified for these important services can get them without having to wait.

“Nothing would make me happier than to write a check and give all these people services, but that’s just not reality,” Haehn said. “So I have to deal with what reality is and try to use the money that I have to effect positive change in the most people.”

But Ron Fugate said KanCare had its chance. “We’re not treading water, we’re drowning,” he said. Families like his are quickly losing lifelong savings, he said, and their life situations are getting worse while they wait for the state to provide services.

“It’s not getting any better,” he said. “We’ve got to start taking some serious action on this and get it addressed. We’ve kicked the can down the road too long.”

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the waiting lists, although it declined to comment for this story.

The ability of the state of Kansas to act may be limited. Gov. Brownback’s tax cuts, which he initiated to boost the economy, have instead blown a hole in the state’s budget, leaving little money to apply to something like reducing the length of the KanCare waitlist.

Meanwhile, Ron Fugate and other advocates have been studying the ways Missouri recently eliminated its waiting list for similar services, in hopes of persuading Kansas legislators to adopt the same strategy.

Ron and his wife are both in their 70s and say they’re now watching their carefully laid plans for their son’s future slip away.

“After 22 years, it looked like he was going to be able to complete a career,” Ron said, “and it didn’t happen that way. All of this comes at a time in our lives where we’re in the waning seasons. We did not anticipate this kind of a challenge at this point.”

Kansas submits its application the federal government to reauthorize KanCare this month.

This story is part of a partnership that includes KCUR, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Damage From Free Trade Helped Elect Donald Trump

    America's industrial heartland has been dying a slow death and Washington seems to have not made it a priority.America’s industrial heartland has been dying a slow death and Washington seems to have not made it a priority.

The morning after Trump won the presidency my first Lyft passenger of the day was a middle-aged woman from a well-to-do northern Chicago suburb going to O’Hare airport. 

She got in and heaved a heavy sigh as she stared off into the distance. 

It was a long ride and we had time to talk. She was upset about Trump’s win. We went back and forth about the possible reasons and then she told me something that stuck with me.

It turns out she volunteers to go to the dying coal mining towns in West Virginia on missions to provide food and whatever comfort her group can provide in an area where people find themselves in increasingly desperate circumstances. Coal is dying, which is as it should be. But they hold onto hope that it could come back, even if only for a while.

She helps people who are 2nd and 3rd generation or more of coal miner families. It’s all they know. It was the thing that once helped them to build lives and have families in what was a rough existence already.

She told me that when Donald Trump promised to deal with jobs leaving America, they were desperate to believe him because he was filling a void that Washington and the two parties have yet to address meaningfully.

Hillary Clinton made more from one Wall Street speech than entire groups of West Virginia coal mining families make in a year.

And when Trump promised to bring back coal?

“They know he might be bullshitting them. But there’s also a chance he is not,” she told me. “And when the life you thought you would have is disintegrating before your eyes, when you cannot feed and clothe your family, when you have no other job skills, that is a chance you are willing to take. It’s not one of the things they have to hold onto. It was the only thing for many of them in this election.”

This is a very well done piece by the Campaign for America’s Future, a progressive group, regarding free trade and how it has decimated an entire swath of the American population while Washington –Democrats and Republicans — pushed it on those same people, many of them Trump voters on the lower rungs of society:

In the late 70s the country was told that “protectionism” is bad for the economy and was sold “free trade” as a way to bring prosperity and jobs. “Trade” in this usage meant one and only thing: close a factory here and lay off the workers. Open a factory “there” to make the same goods, bring those goods back here to sell in the same stores to the same customers. It’s called “trade” because now those goods cross a border. The “sell” was that all those laid-off workers would be “freed up” to get better jobs.

Well, they never got better jobs — those were also outsourced or privatized or relabeled as low-wage “contractors” with no protections or benefits. So instead they had their homes foreclosed, their local stores forced out of business and their downtowns boarded up. Local and state tax bases dwindled so schools became terrible, infrastructure crumbled, public services cut and cut and cut. Meanwhile the investor class that pushed this and executive class that managed it pocket the wages these regions used to generate for themselves. (They also got huge tax cuts.)

Many of the national-level Democrats have been distressingly silent or ineffective on the issue, taking the same campaign cash that Republicans have taken from companies which move jobs overseas in countries where those corporations can often skirt environmental and labor laws.

You need only witness Barack Obama’s full-throated support of the TPP to know how tone deaf the Dems have been on these issues.

Yes, many of Trump supporters are not from the lower classes. But enough of them were so as to have likely put Trump over the top in places like Ohio which have been particularly hard hit by jobs moving to poorer, less regulated countries.

Obama has used the now discredited excuses cited in the passage above. But he has also said, as have many free trade defenders, that it is good for national security in that it stabilizes unstable economies in the so-called Third World.

But what good does it do to stabilize other countries when our own is so unstable that much of our own population withers economically and Donald Trump is now President?

It was one of the things on which Bernie Sanders was way ahead of everyone else.  Let us hope the Dems (and now the GOP) start to pay attention, as well.

Read the entire piece at the link below. It’s very good.

Source: The Damage From Free Trade Helped Elect Trump

I’m pissed. And sad. And confused. But ready to do something with all of that.

Dont Quit - Do It

Trump won.

I just woke up at 4 a.m., thinking the early returns were a fluke and I would wake up to Madam President.

That did not happen.

I remember feeling this hopeless once before.

It was 1983 and the AIDS crisis was just beginning. People were dying all around us.

The government was against us. There was open talk, not seen as terribly crazy at the time, that we all needed to be quarantined. Shipped off to camps.

Doctors didn’t want to see us. Our friends were being disowned by their families. Many of us were dying alone in hospitals. From top to bottom our political apparatus was indifferent to the death all around us.

It seemed hopeless. So hopeless. Just like I feel right now as I type this.

So we did the only thing we could do. We picked ourselves up and started fighting back, looking out for our own interests against enormous odds and opposition.

This is what we have to do now, starting today. Or at least soon after you are able to stop grieving.

I was one of the ones who openly scoffed at Donald Trump and his followers who said they would not accept the results of the election if Hillary won. This was undemocratic. It was un-American.

That was easy to do when I thought Clinton would win. But she didn’t.

Now our own side is full of talk about not accepting the results. But we have to do just that.

Pick ourselves up and realize that, in the ‘80s we had nobody on our side except for ourselves. A very small number in a big country. But it was enough to hold on, fight back, and will ourselves to keep going, to keep watch, until the horror was either over or it got better.

That is what we have to do now, with numbers far greater than what we had back then.

Half of the country is with us. That is more than enough.

Wallowing in anger and self-pity will not work. We have to put that anger to work. I don’t want to move to Canada, as nice as it seems. I don’t want to show our young people that we gave up. Our side, our values, our beliefs, are worth fighting for, within the means at our disposal.

And that starts today. With the next elections; the mid-term elections. We have to organize as never before so that in two years, our voices will be heard and the power of Donald Trump and the forces responsible for bringing him to the public eye and electing him do not win.

I refuse to roll over and let them win.

Let’s not fight each other. What’s done is done. It cannot be undone and we will never know if Bernie would have been a better candidate. Perhaps he could have beaten Trump. Most likely the right-wing would have savaged him the same way they savaged Clinton. And Trump would still be president.

People voted for third-party candidates, and that is their right as Americans.

The mid-term elections two years after Obama was elected were a disaster for us. Nobody did it to us. We did it to ourselves. Obama had great plans. And he could have done far more than he was able to do had we organized for those elections. But too many of us sat that election out, and many of the crazy Republicans in power now – including those who enabled Trump – won their first elections that year. Too many of us let that happen through our own inaction. That cannot happen again.

Blaming the Democrats for not doing enough is crazy if we created the circumstances which hobbled them.

Now we need to channel our despair and anger. The people we love, your children, your nieces and nephews, our friends, need those of us who can organize to do so.

We need goals. And those start with trying to lessen the damage Trump can do, and working on the mid-term Congressional elections and every local seat we can win next time. Too many of us sat this one out, again.

Fight back and organize.

If we could do it in the ‘80s when most of the country was against us, we can do it now when half of the country is with us.

This is not the end. It can be a beginning if we choose to make it one. Let’s get on with it.

 

Fran Lebowitz nails it

fran-leibowitz-donald-trump-quote

A Trump-related clip so scary it’s almost not funny at all

These are not actors. These are real Trump supporters. Now watch it and be horrified.

First of all, the producers of this clip had to get these people to sign releases in order to appear in this bit. And they all signed it. Which means:

  1. They don’t care if they look completely stupid and they signed it anyway.
  2. They don’t think they look stupid, which I guess makes more sense than the first answer.

It could still be answer #1 because so much of extreme right-wing America thinks being intelligent means either thinking you’re better than other people (chiefly them) or that education is evil because it makes you less likely to believe in Jesus and join the KKK.

Racist and dumb-as-a-rock stupid: welcome to the 30-odd percent of the country that is impervious to reason and has been fucking up society ever since the Republicans decided to give them a seat at the table in order to keep winning the Deep South.

It should also be pointed out that not all of Trump’s supporters are this clueless. Some of this support has dropped off already. That alone proves that some of them are open to reason. But the people in this video? I don’t get how people reach adulthood and remain this thick. There is an education problem in this country.

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