The Most Corrupt Man In America

Nope. It’s not him. It’s not Tr-mp. It’s this guy:

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Paul Ryan is the most corrupt man in the country. And it’s not even close. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Tr-mp is corrupt, no doubt. Tr-mp is a con man. He is a bullshitter. He is a liar. He is a money-grubbing narcissist. And he is embarrassing the United States and threatening our national security and undermining our democratic institutions. All that is absolutely true. But Tr-mp embarrasses the nation, he threatens our security, he undermines our democracy because Paul Ryan makes it possible. Paul Ryan is normalizing Tr-mpism. And he is doing it all in service to his Ayn Randian vision for the country: the Gospel of Greed.

Controversial: Tuesday's New York Post coverPerhaps you remember a story from 2012 in which a freelance photographer for the New York Post snapped a photo of a subway rider who had been pushed onto the tracks by another man. The photographer, knowing the train was moments away from killing the unfortunate rider, did what he was paid to do. He took a picture. His instincts were not to help the man or even urge others to help him. His instincts, which revealed his character, were to aim and shoot. The man on the tracks was killed by the train. Police said the man was on the tracks for more than a minute before the train passed by. There was plenty of time for someone, anyone, to help him up. But no one did.

In our times, in our dangerous times as a democracy, Paul Ryan is the political equivalent of that photographer and the others there who refused to help save that “doomed” man that day.

Greg Gianforte, a rich Republican Tr-mpthug pretending to be a Good Christian Man, won his election last night in Montana. The money it took to win that House seat was staggering and, as Roll Call pointed out, almost 90% of the outside money spent was spent on behalf of the Tr-mpthug. Roll Call says:

The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC backed by House GOP leadership, has been the biggest spender in this race, dropping about $2.7 million.

Think about that. House GOP leadership dropped almost 3 million bucks on behalf of the thug. And House GOP leadership is led by Paul Ryan. He couldn’t afford to lose even one seat as he searches for a way to bring to reality is Randian vision.

When Ryan was asked yesterday what he thought about Gianforte physically assaulting a journalist for asking a policy question, the Speaker of the House, who always plays the Boy Scout, said it “was wrong and should not have happened.” He then said,

Should the gentleman apologize? Yes. He should apologize.

Whoopee. The “gentleman” should say he’s sorry. Not go to jail. Not step aside. Just say, “Oops!” and all will be forgotten. And Ryan indicated he would have no problem seating the Tr-mpthug if he won the election.

Well, he did win, of course. There was really no doubt about whether he would. The Cult of Tr-mpism is very much alive in some parts of the country. And assaulting a “liberal” journalist only helped Gianforte among the faithful, including the faithful conservative media, which is why he waited to apologize until after he won. Charlie Sykes, once a right-wing radio guy who is anti-Tr-mp now (and an analyst on MSNBC), confessed in The New York Times last December:

The conservative media is broken and the conservative movement deeply compromised.

Sykes talked about how he thought he “had a relatively solid grasp on what conservatism stood for and where it was going.” He mentioned how he “helped advance the careers of conservatives like House Speaker Paul D. Ryan” and Reince Priebus. He said he thought “conservatives actually believed things about free trade, balanced budgets, character and respect for constitutional rights.” Then came Tr-mp. And as Sykes pointed out, “even Mr. Ryan” figured out that “neutrality was not acceptable; if you were not for Mr. Tr-mp, then you were for Mrs. Clinton.”

Read carefully the following passage written by Sykes—again, a conservative Republican and former radio guy who has not been corrupted by Tr-mpism:

How had we gotten here?

One staple of every radio talk show was, of course, the bias of the mainstream media. This was, indeed, a target-rich environment. But as we learned this year, we had succeeded in persuading our audiences to ignore and discount any information from the mainstream media. Over time, we’d succeeded in delegitimizing the media altogether — all the normal guideposts were down, the referees discredited.

That left a void that we conservatives failed to fill. For years, we ignored the birthers, the racists, the truthers and other conspiracy theorists who indulged fantasies of Mr. Obama’s secret Muslim plot to subvert Christendom, or who peddled baseless tales of Mrs. Clinton’s murder victims. Rather than confront the purveyors of such disinformation, we changed the channel because, after all, they were our allies, whose quirks could be allowed or at least ignored.

We destroyed our own immunity to fake news, while empowering the worst and most reckless voices on the right.

This was not mere naïveté. It was also a moral failure, one that now lies at the heart of the conservative movement even in its moment of apparent electoral triumph. Now that the election is over, don’t expect any profiles in courage from the Republican Party pushing back against those trends; the gravitational pull of our binary politics is too strong.

I’m only glad I’m not going to be a part of it anymore.

“A moral failure,” says Sykes. He’s not just talking about Tr-mp and his cultish followers, many of whom have publicly praised what the gazillionaire Gianforte did to that reporter in Montana. Sykes is also talking about conservative “leaders” like Paul Ryan, who, if he wanted to, could today take a stand against Tr-mpism. He could, if he cared to help save us from the damage Tr-mp is doing to our democracy, begin to end the madness that is Tr-mp’s illegitimate presidency. He could lead the move to impeach Agent Orange and pass the job of convicting him over to the Senate, where the second most corrupt man in America, Mitch McConnell, would have to take it up.

But he won’t. What he will do is continue pursuing his policy agenda, a corrupt agenda that will literally kill Americans with its budget- and tax-cutting cruelty. Paul Ryan’s campaign spokesman demonstrated as much early this morning by offering the victorious Tr-mpthug from Montana Ryan’s congratulations:

Elections are about choices and Montanans made their choice—selecting Greg Gianforte to represent them in Congress. Rep.-elect Gianforte is an outsider with real-world experience creating jobs in Montana. He will bring that experience to Congress, where he will be a valuable voice in the House Republican Conference.

That’s the way Ryan sees assholes like Greg Gianforte and Donald Tr-mp. They are “valuable” resources for the reactionary transformation of America into a selfish, Randian Republic, one in which the sick, the poor, the disabled, and the working class will suffer, so that the Gianfortes and Tr-mps can get tax cuts, so that the unprincipled can continue to prosper, so that the rich can continue to rule.

And that is why Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, is the most corrupt man in America.

Puzzle In A Box

Most of us have spent some time putting together jigsaw puzzles. We open the box and scramble the pieces all over the table and then proceed to figure out how they all fit together to make the picture on the box. Investigative reporters also put together puzzles—but without the picture on the box. They start in one place and often end up in a completely different place. They sometimes start with one picture in mind and when they are done a different picture emerges. The best reporters find and follow the facts, often supplied by leakers doing what they think is their patriotic duty.

Since Tr-mp was illegitimately elected in November, a lot of reporters have been busy, day after day, finding and following facts, trying to piece together a puzzle: How did we end up with Tr-mp in the White’s House? How significant was the role the Russians played to help him? How much direct collaboration (we know there was plenty of indirect collaboration) was there between Tr-mp, or people associated with his campaign, and the Russians? How are Tr-mp’s business dealings involved in all of it? Why did FBI Director James Comey very publicly criticize Hillary Clinton last summer and keep silent about an investigation into whether Tr-mp’s campaign colluded with Russia? And on and on. Pieces of that puzzle are being reported day after day. We are learning more and more with every leak, with every distressing and depressing fact being exposed. (The latest report, that James Comey may have been fooled by a phony document produced by the Russians is, well, Image result for trump jigsaw puzzlesickening.)

While it may be somewhat puzzling how Tr-mp ended up where he is, what is not puzzling is what he has done and is doing to the country. Many of us knew what Tr-mp’s America would look like once he got his hands on power. We had the picture on the puzzle box.

As you all know by now, a Republican candidate— a rich guy running to represent Montana in the United States House of Representatives for God’s sake grabbed a British journalist by the neck and body-slammed him on the eve of a special election. He then punched him while he was on the ground. The assault occurred after the reporter persisted in asking a question about the GOP millionaire’s position on the party’s “health care” bill that the CBO scored again yesterday. The candidate, Greg Gianforte, did not want to answer the question on the night before the election, and the reporter, doing his job, thought voters should know the candidate’s position before they voted, not after. Violence was Gianforte’s response and then his campaign lied about the incident, blaming it, predictably, on the “liberal” reporter being too aggressive by “asking badgering questions.”

The Tr-mp supporting millionaire, a phony Focus on the Family-type Christian warrior who thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old, has a history of threatening reporters. In April, the Billings Gazette reported what Gianforte said “at a meeting hosted by a constitutional Christian group”:

…during questions at the end of his talk, Gianforte took one from a man who said: “Our biggest enemy is the news media. How can we rein in the news media?”

The man then looked at the Ravalli Republic reporter sitting next to him and raised his hands as if he would like to wring his neck.

Gianforte smiled and pointed at the reporter.

“We have someone right here,” the candidate said. “It seems like there is more of us than there is of him…

This stuff isn’t happening in a vacuum. Conservatives have attacked the “liberal media” as long as I can remember. I used to be one of those conservatives. I listened for years as Rush Limbaugh called the press the “drive-by media.” Right-wing talkers on the radio and television and on the Internet make a lucrative living demonizing legitimate journalism and replacing it with false or misleading stories. That’s part of the reason why we have Tr-mp. And we all know how Tr-mp, a rabid consumer of Fox “News,” has treated the press both during the campaign and after assuming office. In February he said: 

The FAKE NEWS media…is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People! SICK!

Now you understand why that questioner in Montana, standing in front of Greg Gianforte in April, prefaced his question with, “Our biggest enemy is the news media.” This stuff is cultivated. It is done for a purpose. People like Rush Limbaugh do it for money. People like Tr-mp and Gianforte do it for power. Whatever the reason, it is dangerous. Because of it, America, values and all, is disintegrating before our eyes.

One final example of how Tr-mpism—which, oddly, pre-dates Tr-mp’s rise to power—is damaging our democracy, perhaps beyond repair:

A 27-year-old employee of the Democratic National Committee, Seth Rich, was shot and killed last July in Washington, D.C. The police are still trying to solve the crime. But many in the right-wing media, including Fox “News,” thought they had it figured out. Their various conspiracy theories involved the idea that Rich was the one who leaked to Wikileaks the infamous DNC emails that helped pollute the political campaign of Hillary Clinton and elect Tr-mp. The conspiracists posited that Rich was leaking in order to expose the corruption at the DNC and was murdered for doing so. And, of course, the conspiracists alleged that the D.C. police and the FBI acted to hide the fact that Rich was killed because he was the leaker and not the Russians, thus dissociating Tr-mp and his campaign from Putin’s efforts to muck up our democracy and saddle us with a big-mouthed buffoon who can’t keep quiet about the nation’s top secrets.

Of course, as Snopes points out in detail, the right-wing attempt to un-smear Tr-mp by smearing Seth Rich, the D.C. police, the FBI, and the entire Intelligence Community who asserted that the Russians did the dirty deed, is all fiction. Even Fox “News” had to retract the story, although its fading star, Sean Hannity, still promotes it, despite pleas from Rich’s family to stop. Hannity tweeted on Tuesday in true Tr-mp-speak:

Ok TO BE CLEAR, I am closer to the TRUTH than ever. Not only am I not stopping, I am working harder. Updates when available. Stay tuned!

Despite the fact that numerous fact-checkers and news outlets have debunked this nonsense, Hannity continues. But that’s what he does. That’s how he got wealthy and he isn’t going to stop until Fox executives stop him, after advertisers start abandoning him like they did Bill O’Reilly. But elected officials ought to know better. Elected officials ought to be better than a liar like Hannity. But many of them are not. Many right-wing Republicans in Congress repeat this type of trash in one way or another. That’s what happened yesterday morning on CNN, when a Texas congressman named Blake Farenthold alluded to the Rich conspiracy theory during an interview with Poppy Harlow and John Berman. Here’s CNN’s transcript of the exchange:

FARENTHOLD: “My fear is our constant focusing on the Russians is deflecting away for some other things that we need to be investigating. There’s still some question as farenthold on cnnto whether the intrusion of the DNC server was an insider job or whether or not it was the Russians.”

BERMAN: “What evidence — I’m sorry. I’m sorry. The insider job, what are you referring to here? Because I hope it’s not this information that Fox News just refused to be reporting.”

FAHRENTHOLD: “Again, there’s stuff circulating on the internet.”

BERMAN: “What’s circulating on the internet that you think is worthy of a congressional investigation? Because the DC police are investigating this, and so far they haven’t said there’s any there there.”

FARENTHOLD: “Yet the DC police nor no federal investigator has ever had a look at the DNC computer. We’re relying only on the report that someone that the DNC contracted to examine their computer rather than having federal officials. To me, we need to let the feds look at it.”

I want to quote at length CNN’s Chris Cillizza on Farenthold’s appearance and what it means:

To believe what Farenthold is saying, you have to believe that Rich’s family is in on the “inside job” DNC hack. Which, on its face, is ridiculous.

As an aside, Farenthold also appears to equate his conspiracy theory spinning with the news media’s use of anonymous sources, despite the fact former CIA Director John Brennan said Tuesday at a public congressional hearing that he’d seen evidence of contact between Russians and President Donald Trump’s campaign.

“I think the same is true with what the media is doing with Trump,” Farenthold told CNN. “We’re basing allegations on anonymous sources.”

The problem with what Farenthold — and Hannity — are doing is that by acting as though this is some sort of grand conspiracy theory with real evidence supporting it gives cover and fodder to the Internet kook crowd who believe that the DNC is evil and of course they would murder a leaker in their ranks.

What that forgets is this: Two parents lost a son. Someone lost their brother. That’s hard enough. To watch his death transformed into a political football must be excruciating.

Yes. And it is excruciating to watch, day after day, American democracy, and the values once embedded in it, die a slow death at the hands of people who can’t find it within themselves to condemn crazy conspiracy theories or, when it matters, condemn what a Montana millionaire running for Congress did yesterday to a journalist merely doing his job. As I write this, not one Republican in Congress has bothered to say the obvious: that a candidate who beats up a reporter for asking him a question is unworthy to hold any office, much less sit in the People’s House. But in the age of Tr-mpism, the People’s House isn’t what it used to be. Some of what has happened to our country is puzzling, that’s for sure. But some of it is as predictable as a puzzle in a box.

Remarks And Asides, 5/18/2017

I just heard Tr-mp say, during a tiny press conference, that “We don’t have healthcare in this country.” Damn. We’re going down faster than even I thought we would. All the doctors and nurses have fled the country!

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Trump also said there was no collusion with the Russians, but that he could only speak for himself. Since he has a spotless record of speaking for himself so truthfully, why don’t we just drop the whole thing and move on? Tax cuts for the rich, anyone?

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Roger Ailes is dead. May he rest in fair and balanced peace, much like the fair and balanced journalism and sexual assault he oversaw at Fox. In other words, he’d better hope there is no hell.

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Now we finally have a special counsel appointed who will, hopefully, figure out how many Tr-mpers were involved, besides Tr-mp himself, with the Russians during last year’s election. Tr-mp, on cue, tweeted: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” During his short press conference today, he reiterated that claim. I never really thought about it in those terms, but it could be Tr-mp is a witch, since he cast a strange spell over 46% of the electorate and has given Republican Party leadership magical herbs and potions such that they don’t care how his dark arts are darkening our democracy. In any case, here’s to Robert Mueller exposing the Russian-friendly coven and the big, bad Orange Witch that leads it!

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Oh, for the record. The theme on cable news yesterday seemed to be that Democrats were “over their skis” on impeachment talk. Even many Democrats said there is not enough evidence yet to speculate about that. I continue to remind you that the Emoluments Clause is being violated every single day and Tr-mp should be impeached for that. I don’t know why Democrats refuse to talk about emoluments anymore, but then they are Democrats. They seem to only be able to juggle one ball at a time. But not me. Emoluments! (There is even a twist to the story; he may be violating “a different emoluments clause, one that specifically bars him from receiving money or gifts above and beyond his mandated salary from governments right here at home.”)

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Speaking of the coven, how ’bout this:

Michael Flynn and other advisers to Donald Trump’s campaign were in contact with Russian officials and others with Kremlin ties in at least 18 calls and emails during the last seven months of the 2016 presidential race, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the exchanges told Reuters.

If you remember, and it is hard to keep track, the folks at the White’s House denied there were any contacts at all with the Ruskies during the campaign, let alone 18 of them from April through November. Now, why would patriotic Americans like those associated with Tr-mp want to spend so much time talking to our nasty adversaries? Stay tuned. When the witches involved get tied to the special counsel’s stake, they may start talking.

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Image result for pillow fightOh, speaking of Michael Flynn, he is so far refusing to comply with a subpoena for documents issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. But don’t worry. Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is all over this. He might seek a contempt of Congress vote against Flynn or he might hit him with a feather pillow. My money is on the pillow-slap.

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In case you missed it, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on tape (those damned tapes!) just a month before Agent Orange cast his final spell on the Republican electorate during the primary last year and clinched the nomination. McCarthy said:

There’s two people I think Putin pays. Rohrabacher and Tr-mp.

Dana Rohrabacher is a congressman from California who thinks his district extends all the way to Moscow. He’s a very Putin and Russia friendly guy. Tr-mp, of course, is the guy whose unseemly-shaped mouth is, according to at least one pundit, a holster for Putin’s pocket rocket. McCarthy didn’t say exactly why Putin would pay Tr-mp for such services, since, obviously, Tr-mp would gladly perform them for free.

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Image result for toby keithSpeaking of performing for free, the godawful Toby Keith will hook up with Tr-mp in Saudi Arabia and perform a men-only concert for those dangerous Muslims who abide by strict Islamic law. Apparently, the Tr-mp team doesn’t think American prestige around the world has suffered enough, so, since Ted Nugent was busy molesting a 13-year-old assault rifle, they got the next best act available that could embarrass the country abroad. No word in yet on whether the godawful Keith will do his great American classic, “I Like Girls That Drink Beer.” One thing we know for sure: there will be no pussy grabbing at that concert. Tr-mp will have to wait for the post-performance party.

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Speaking of people who embarrass the country, there is a report out there that we will see less of Sean Spicer. And just when he was getting the hang of lying and whining in a more friendly manner. Darn.

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Speaking of lying and whining, Tr-mp said yesterday to a group of Coast Guard graduates:

Image result for abraham lincoln shotLook at the way I’ve been treated lately, especially by the media. No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly.

Abraham Lincoln could not be reached for comment.

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In the I’m-just-trying-to-cheer-you-up category, I offer the musings of Tony Schwartz, who actually wrote The Art of the Deal and helped make Tr-mp infamous. Schwartz thinks Tr-mp is “in a pretty significant meltdown” right now and will not go through any impeachment process. “I surely believe that at some point over the next period of time he’s going to have to figure out a way to resign,” he said. Okay. Now back to the bad news.

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Joe Lieberman is, according to CNN, the “front-runner for FBI director.” Oh, my. The former Democratic senator from Connecticut (he had to run as an independent to keep his senate seat in 2006) once was the party’s nominee for Vice President way back in 2000, the year the Supreme Court was handing the presidency to another guy who lost the popular vote. Then Lieberman fell in love with John McCain and backed him against the Scary Negro in 2008. Then he helped ruin the construction of Obamacare. Then he retired to make a lot of money in the private sector. Now, he is back and, apparently, ready to keep the Orange Witch from being burned at the stake.

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Finally, there is “first I heard of it” Mike Pence. You may remember him. He was the white-haired guy running with the broad-shouldered guy for high office last year. Oh, and he lied a lot just like his running mate did. Well, those two “won.” And they hired a guy named Michael Flynn, who had been chanting “lock her up” at Tr-mp campaign rallies, to be our National Security Adviser. A real class act. Anyway, people keep saying Michael Flynn was eventually fired for “lying” to Pence about Flynn’s ties to Turkey and other sins. People keep saying that but those people don’t have any evidence for it other than Pence’s word that he knew nothing and that Flynn lied to him. But as head of Tr-mp’s transition team, Pence had to know something. Why assume Pence wasn’t lying when he vouched for Flynn?

Then there were the multiple lies Pence told about why Tr-mp fired FBI Director Comey. It was because of the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, Pence said over and over and over. Then Tr-mp contradicted him and said he would have fired Comey no matter what anyone, even God, said about it. Uh-oh. I don’t think Pence has Image result for mike pence and trumpbeen seen since.

Now we find out that Michael Flynn told the Tr-mp transition team—more than two weeks before Tr-mp’s tiny inauguration—that he was under federal investigation for his duties as a lobbyist for Turkey, duties that paid him around $500,000 and which caused him to reject an anti-ISIS plan that was opposed by Turkey. The transition team made Flynn our National Security Adviser anyway, and now we are supposed to believe that Pence didn’t know anything about that federal investigation. So, we are forced to believe Pence is the dumbest guy this side of Tr-mp, or he is a liar.

In any case, it doesn’t much matter to me either way. Mike Pence is just as illegitimate as Tr-mp. And should Tr-mp get tossed out of office or quit and open up a “Brazilian wax” shop in Moscow, I will dedicate this blog to unpresidenting Pence. Nothing about this administration is legitimate and I won’t accept any of it as normal.

 

If It Were Only Chaos

Now we know why the Intelligence Community was so afraid of Agent Orange. And now we know why there have been so many leaks. These dedicated patriots, many of them conservatives by nature, are trying to save the country.

I’ve heard a lot of talk since yesterday about how much chaos surrounds the Tr-mp administration. Oh, if it were only that simple. Chaos can be fixed. Order can be restored. But there is nothing that can mend the mind of the man whom a minority of misguided Americans put in charge of the country. He is unfixable. There are no repairs available for what is wrong with Tr-mp. What is wrong with him was sold as a feature of his programming, not a bug.

I said last week that Tr-mp corrupts everything he touches. Up until yesterday, everyone who defended Tr-mp said Lt. General H.R. McMaster, the National Security Adviser, was one man Tr-mp could not corrupt. He would act as a check against the excesses and unstable nature of a seriously flawed chief executive. It didn’t turn out that way.

McMaster came out yesterday, after it was reported by the Washington Post that Tr-mp gave away top secrets to his Russian friends, and essentially covered for Agent Orange by shooting down a straw man, by denying something the Post article had not alleged. But the point of McMaster’s quickly arranged appearance was to get this on the record: “I was in the room,” McMaster said, “It didnt’ happen.” Well, “it” did happen. Just this morning, Tr-mp admitted as much in a tweet that he has “the absolute right” to share with the RImage result for trump meets with russiansussians whatever he wants. Sorry, General McMaster. Tr-mp corrupts everything and everyone. You’re just the latest. And, no, I don’t know where you go to get back your reputation. I guess you should have known better to start with.

The meeting in which Tr-mp gave away this Top Secret information to the Russians was, as Tr-mp tweeted this morning, “an openly scheduled W.H. meeting.” Openly scheduled, yes. But the meeting was supposed to be with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. It turned out Putin had asked Tr-mp to also meet with the controversial Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, the man at the center of the many Russian collusion investigations. And of course Tr-mp met with Kislyak, a fact we would not have known if it were not for a Russian-controlled news agency releasing photographs of the jovial meeting. American journalists were not allowed in. Go figure.

Essentially, as we have all learned, whoever happens to hold the office of the President of the United States is above the law. He can do anything he wants, including risking the lives of intelligence operatives by blabbing secrets to our enemies. The Founders’ assumed, as they put together the Constitution, that the impeachment option, a political remedy not a legal one, would be enough to hold the president, particularly one without integrity, accountable. But the Founders, as brilliant as some of them were, did not and could not imagine the Republican Party as it is now constituted. It is a party whose leadership knows Tr-mp is dangerous but also knows it needs his disturbed cult followers in order to hold on to power and pass an agenda that a majority of Americans do not want. Tr-mp represents their only chance to turn that agenda—an agenda of, by, and for the wealthy—into the law of the land. And they appear more than willing to risk the integrity of the country to get it done.

We have seen Tr-mp’s obscene coddling of despotic thugs, Russian and otherwise. We have heard him beg the Russians to help him get elected. We have heard him threaten to jail his political opponent. We have seen evidence of his campaign’s collusion with the Russian effort to destroy Hillary Clinton. We have seen Tr-mp flirt with obstruction of justice by firing the FBI director, the man who was investigating possible criminal conduct by the Tr-mp campaign, and then threatening him with “tapes” that may or may not exist. Through all that and more we have heard pundits talk about how we are on the “verge” of a constitutional crisis. “We’re not there yet,” some of these pundits say. “But we’re close.”

Hooey.

We are in a constitutional crisis. And we have been since January 20 at 12:01pm. Tr-mp may be above the law when it comes to all the things he has done, including this latest dangerous loose talk to the Russians. But he is not above the political constraints found in the Constitution, if Republicans, who control the Congress, will respect that old, deteriorating document. There is little hope they will use the remedy of the 25th Amendment—the “our president is nuts” remedy—because that would be too much to admit: Republican leadership aided and abetted a sick man. But there is another, simpler way.

Since he took office—forgetting everything else—Tr-mp has violated the Emoluments Clause. There is no question about that. With all the chaos and confusion, it is easy to forget that simple fact. This vulgarian is openly crapping on the Constitution by making money off foreign governments. And now it is time to remember that simple fact. Now it is time for all of us to put pressure on the only entity that can stop Tr-mp and save the integrity of our democracy: the Republican Party. We have to force Republicans to impeach and then convict this man for violating the Emoluments Clause, even if all the other terrible things he has done are perfectly legal.

I know it is a long shot at this point. I know there isn’t much hope in that possibility. But it is all we have.

Again, here you go:

A directory listing all House phone numbers: http://www.house.gov/representatives/

A directory listing all Senate phone numbers:  https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

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Tr-mp Is Dismembering Democracy. What Are You Going To Do About It?

“The Russia-Tr-mp collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

—Donald J. T-mp, May 8, 2017

Most of us wouldn’t have the power to fire the person who is investigating us or our friends for wrongdoing. In fact, there is only one person in our system of justice who has that power. Normally he goes by the name of POTUS. In Tr-mp’s case, he holds that title illegitimately, but the power behind that title remains. Thus, Americans are waking up today to the fact that the checks and balances on executive power they always believed were part of our system are mostly not formal checks and balances. They are discovering that many meaningful restraints on such power are found in the personal intImage result for trump and comeyegrity of the person who holds, legitimately or not, the office of the President of the United States. And that is the problem.

Tr-mp, as has been obvious for years and years, has no personal integrity. He is a fraud. He is a low-class grifter who may have collaborated, either directly or through his aides or advisors, with a foreign adversary to achieve an office for which he is patently and painfully unfit. We know that last summer he begged the Russians for help. He is corrupt, but unfortunately his corruption does not end with himself. He corrupts what he touches. And since he has no regard for the integrity of the presidency or our democratic institutions, he has, to no one’s surprise, corrupted the office and is trying like hell to corrupt our justice system and the democracy dependent on it.

This morning I heard Condoleezza Rice, promoting her new book on democracy, say the following about the Comey firing—which, according to reports, happened just days after he “requested more money and personnel for the bureau’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election”:

I would caution everybody to step back, let our institutions work…I have confidence that we’re going to get to the bottom of whatever happened…

“Let our institutions work,” said the prominent Republican who refuses to admit that Russian interference had an effect on the outcome of the election. Well, okay. Let’s look at some of those institutions. At least one of them is working pretty well through this latest crisis. The press has done a decent job of not just reporting the facts behind the firing, but has featured a lot of outrage over what has happened. Such reporting and commentary, though, is necessary but not sufficient to save ourselves. Thus, let’s look at another one of Rice’s institutions, the Congress, especially the two parties that run it.

Let’s start with her Republican Party. If that institution is the only thing standing between our experiment with self-government and a rather rapid descent into the abyss of crippling cynicism regarding our political system, then we are the most miserable of people. So far, Tr-mp’s unseemly and classless and self-serving firing of FBI Director James Comey has been greeted with mostly mild criticism by mostly a handful of Republicans. GOP leadership seems to be just fine with it, no matter what message it sends to the country and the world. Republicans simply have too much invested in Tr-mp to place the country’s fortunes over their own. So, with all due respect to Ms. Rice, one institution that will not come to our rescue in these perilous times is her Republican Party.

Now on to the Democrats. In the House, they are mostly powerless. The House is not an institution that values the role of the minority, therefore Democrats can make a lot of noise but can’t make much happen. The Senate is different. The minority can play a role there, especially with 48 reliable votes and a handful of courageous Republicans. A good start would be to insist on, as Minority Leader Chuck Schumer diDems threaten to bring Senate to a crawl over FBI firingd today, some kind of special prosecutor to take over the Tr-mp-Russian investigation. But that’s not enough. Democrats should not do any legislative business, on any issue except Russian involvement in our last election, with Republicans until an independent investigator, with full powers to prosecute if necessary, is in place. Period. Nothing. Democrats can vote to keep the government lights on and continue to be part of investigations into Russian interference in our election process, but that’s it. Everyone should stop pretending that there isn’t a very dark cloud, that got darker with the Comey firing, hanging over this administration. The fact that the Russian foreign minister and Henry Kissinger both visited the White’s House today, of all days, is the perfect illustration of how dark the cloud is.

But, let’s be realistic. Democrats aren’t going to stop working with Republicans, at least they won’t stop doing it for long (they are using special Senate rules today to shut down committee meetings, but aren’t saying if they will continue to do so or employ other slow-walking tactics until Republicans relent). They will likely consider that to be too risky politically. But they will continue to try to use social media and television appearances to publicly pressure Republicans and the Deputy Attorney General at the Justice Department to do the right thing. Will that work? If it does, it will take some time. That’s where one other institution comes in. We The People, with the help of the press, will have to save our democracy.

Kellyanne Conway came out of hiding this morning and appeared on CNN. She told Chris Cuomo:

I don’t know why people are so surprised when Donald Tr-mp…who…has been a disruptor all of his life, when he comes to Washington and does the same, people express shock and awe.

A lot of folks voted for Tr-mp because they wanted him to blow up the system. With the Comey firing, no matter what you thought of Comey’s actions over the last year, Tr-mp has now blown a large hole in the confidence most of us had, such as it was, in our justice process. Tr-mp is a political system terrorist and he has a lot of people, jihadist-like cult followers, who are pleased with his work. In fact, some of them want more of it. More IED tweets. More rhetorical pipe bombs. More firings and bad hirings. More creation of destructive distrust of critical institutions. If they succeed, America, as we knew it just a year ago, will be a distant vision. If the people who want Tr-mp’s America are indeed a majority, are really a majority of We The People, then we are doomed and America, as an “idea” that the Condoleezza Rices rightly promote in books about our democracy, is a failed experiment in self-government.

But as we saw on election night last November, as we see in polling today, Tr-mp’s terrorists are not a majority. They act like it, but they’re not. And, like their leader, they specialize in bullying. They talk tough. They act like they’re in power to stay. And they will be in power to stay if the rest of us throw up our hands and give up. It’s up to us to fight back, and there has been, over the last several months, good signs that we are fighting back. Let’s keep it up. Contact Democrats in Congress, especially in the Senate, even if they don’t represent your district or state, and tell them not to do business with Republicans until a special prosecutor is in place with full decision-making powers. I once argued for a 9/11-like commission to look into all this. Not now. Tr-mp has shown, through his urgent eagerness to fire Comey, that he has something serious, and I mean serious, to hide. We don’t have time for what may be a years-long commission. We need an expedited, yet thorough and fair, investigation by someone Tr-mp can’t touch.

And we need it today.

________________

Here is a directory listing all House phone numbers:http://www.house.gov/representatives/

Here is a directory listing all Senate phone numbers:https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

They Own It Now. The Fight Is On.

As House Republicans crudely celebrated what is right now only a symbolic screwing of the sick, the poor, the middle class, and anyone who doesn’t have great wealth; as they rudely rejoiced in doing what their rich donors wanted them to do; as they bathed Image result for republicans celebrate with trump at white house todayin the orange glory of one of the most shameful votes in modern times, they did so while all of us in the Resistance are watching.

And waiting and working for 2018 and 2020.

The Republican Party, no matter what happens to BillyCare in the Senate, now will be held officially responsible for all of the problems with our health insurance and healthcare system. All of the problems. Every single one. As my hero Nancy Pelosi put it to her GOP colleagues before the vote:

Some of you have said … well, they’ll fix it in the Senate. But you have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark on this one.

As we wait for the calendar to turn, as we save our pennies to donate to Democratic candidates in competitive districts, our job as Resisters is to keep up the pressure, keep up the protests, keep writing our representatives, and keep demanding the press pursue and tell the truth about Tr-mp and what the GOP is doing to the country. Keep tattooing Republicans. Keep them glowing in the dark.

Let’s go over a few numbers. Democrats need to pick up 24 seats between now and 2019 to take back the House. In 2016, Republicans won 23 seats in districts that voted for Hillary Clinton. That is the place to start, of course. Today, only nine of those 23 voted against that legislative monstrosity laughingly called a “health” bill. So, at least 14 of those 23 who voted “yes” are absolutely vulnerable next time (several of them waited until the last minute to see if their vote was needed; turned out it was). The other nine will have to go too, of course. Even though they didn’t support the bill (although some of them undoubtedly were ready to do so if necessary), they should remove the “R” tatoo from their bodies after today. If they don’t, they will glow in the dark right along with their reactionary friends. But we can’t just focus on those 23 House districts. That wouldn’t be enough and we may not win them all. There are a least a couple dozen other seats currently held by Republicans that, given Tr-mp and Tr-mpism, we have to fight for. NBC News’ Bradd Jaffy pointed out that “25 of 35 House GOP in competitive districts voted ‘yes'” today. The Democratic Party has to recruit good candidates in all those districts and fund them to the hilt.

In the 2018 Senate elections, Democrats will have to defend a staggering 23 seats and Republicans only nine (the two “independents” are also up). Those elections will be tough because many of those Democratic seats are in states, like Indiana and here in Missouri, that Tr-mp won last time and won big. But we have a good chance of taking Nevada from the Republicans and, believe it or not, Arizona is in play and, if things get really crazy, so is Texas. Probably the most optimistic view is that Democrats hold all their seats and win two, meaning a 50-50 Senate split and, sadly, Mike Pence would be king. Probably the most realistic view is that Democrats hold most of their seats and pick off a Republican and either end up where they are now or slightly worse or slightly better. And in case you have your hopes up for 2020, where Republicans have many more seats to defend, I suggest you take a look at this sober and sobering analysis of those elections from a Daily Kos contributor. As I said, it’s tough.

But we don’t know what politics will look like in four years, where the defeat of Tr-mp, if he’s still around, is certainly going to be paramount. For now, the focus is 2018. And Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and those on that side of the Democratic Party have to stop attacking it and start talking it up. Centrist and conservative-leaning Democrats will have to do the same, even as we all properly make Tr-mp and the resulting Tr-mpism the focus of this fight. As many have said, it’s “all hands on deck” time.

I mentioned that we need to start saving our pennies to help fund good candidates. They might not be the most liberal or progressive candidates in some cases. They may not share all of your or my ideological preferences. But if they believe in the basics of the Democratic Party—like insuring that the economy and our political system works for all Americans, not just the rich—they deserve our support. I just want to emphasize something important: the protests are great; our letters and emails and calls to Congress are great; expressing opinions in local papers is great; writing blogs is great; engaging others on Facebook and Image result for dollar signTwitter and elsewhere is great. But our political system, as we all know, operates on money. It shouldn’t but it does.

So, when I say save your pennies for the upcoming fight, I mean to say that money is a big part of this, too. Democrats need your determined spirit, your energy, your commitment. But they also need your money. If you don’t have a lot of dough under your mattress or you don’t have a wad of cash buried in a jar in the back yard, start some kind of formal or informal savings plan to make sure you have some financial resources available to share with the only mechanism we have that can stop what we saw today.

Say what you want about Bernie Sanders and the campaign he ran last time, but he managed to rake in a lot of cash from “little guy” donors. Millions of them. And, according to Open Secrets, Hillary Clinton’s campaign (not including the big SuperPAC supporting her) raised over $105 million from “small individual contributions.” So, especially now that the reality of Tr-mp is sinking in across the country, we know plenty of people are willing to part with their hard-earned money to fight the good fight.

Save up. In fact, toss a buck or two in a jar right now and get it started. The 2018 campaign has already begun.

______________________________________________

[photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty]

“The GOP health plan is an act of class warfare by the rich against the poor”

There are a lot of articles out there explaining just how bad the GOP’s American Health Care Act is, many of them focused on the 24 million people the CBO estimates will lose health insurance. But there’s much more to the bill than that. One of the clearest articles I’ve found on other aspects of this lewd legislation is by Dylan Matthews at Vox. I will post here some excerpts from that piece [emphasis mine] that ought to disturb you, but you should read the details for a more comprehensive understanding of how out of touch the Republican Party is on the issues involved with our health insurance system and the healthcare it is supposed to provide, as well as who it is the Republican Party really exists to serve:

♦ “No legislation enacted in recent decades cut low-income programs this much — or even comes close,” Robert Greenstein, the founder and president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told me.

♦ The American Health Care Act is one of the most significant income redistribution programs the US government has ever considered, from the poor to the wealthy rather than the other way around.

♦ The Republican plan kills [Medicaid] expansion.

♦ And then the plan restricts coverage further by slashing Medicaid funding to states, using a tool called a “per capita cap.” […] That means states will have less money for Medicaid, and they will likely respond by kicking people off the rolls or giving them worse coverage.

♦ Then there are the cuts to the insurance subsidies established under Obamacare…In other words, the Republican credits will be smaller, and they will be more targeted toward the rich. The result is a $312 billion net spending cut, and the $361 billion in tax credit spending that remains would be redirected to richer people.

♦ Repealing that tax [the 3.8 percent tax the Affordable Care Act applied to capital gains, dividend, and interest income for families with $250,000] is a change that, by definition, only helps the rich, or at least the affluent…The Tax Policy Center finds that repealing the tax would amount to an average tax cut of $0 for households in the bottom 90 percent — those making $208,500 or below….By contrast, members of the top 0.1 percent, who each on average make more than $3.75 million annually, would get an average tax cut of $165,090.

♦ The Republican bill would repeal this surtax [the 0.9 percent Medicare surtax, a hike on wage income in excess of $250,000]…That would give everyone in the bottom 90 percent an average tax cut of $0, per the Tax Policy Center. The richest of the rich, the top 0.1 percent, would get an average cut of $30,520.

♦ The AHCA would reverse one of the greatest actions against inequality ever taken by the federal government, and then increase inequality yet further. It is an act of class warfare against low-income Americans, waged for the benefit of the handful of rich taxpayers affected by Obamacare’s surtaxes.

Inequality effects of Obama’s policies

You Can’t Fool Me, Ozark Billy Long

My congressman, Ozark Billy Long, has pushed himself away from the poker table long enough to become a national figure, in terms of GOP attempts to screw over the poor and the sick. For a while there, it looked like he was going to be something of a hero—if only 20170502_071344 (2).jpgfor those who don’t really know him—for being a critical “no” vote on the latest iteration of the anti-health act that Republicans call the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

If you’ve been with me since at least 2010, you know I was there at the beginning of Billy’s career. In fact, I did a video interview with him that year (his facial expressions in that interview were analyzed by a fellow Republican using the theories of psychologist Paul Ekman; that version of my interview has since been taken down from YouTube). At the time of the 2010 interview, Billy was involved in a controversy in which a local right-winger accused him of bribery. The right-winger, a Tea Party blogger named Clay Bowler, had been very publicly critical of Long. Ozark Billy met with him and, according to Bowler, offered him some kind of job if he’d shut the hell up by shutting down his “Long is Wrong” blog.

That was just one controversy surrounding Long that I covered, and I met him three times, the last time during the aftermath of our killer tornado in 2011. By that time, Ozark Billy recognized me and refused to talk to me about his hypocrisy involving wanting federal money to help Joplin’s post-storm recovery efforts while voting against providing federal money to help other parts of the country recover from their own disasters. In any case, Ozark Billy has now hit the big time. As I write, Sean Spicer is talking about him on national television.

It’s because I have followed Long’s career that I wasn’t fooled by his recent, and completely phony, excuse for not supporting the GOP’s second attempt at pretending to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. The liberal site Daily Kos called Long’s opposition a “big deal,” while reporting his statement of opposition:

I have always stated that one of the few good things about Obamacare is that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered. The MacArthur amendment strips away any guarantee that pre-existing conditions would be covered and affordable.

Yippee! said everyone this side of Rush Limbaugh. Even I thought it was at least a faint sign that Billy wasn’t a completely heartless jerk. But then I got to thinking about something. Long voted a gazillion times, when it didn’t matter, to repeal Obamacare. He didn’t give a damn, when he cast all those votes, about anyone with pre-existing conditions. He didn’t give a damn about anything other than sticking it to President Obama, just like all the Republicans who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act were doing. We can see that now. We can clearly see that now.

Allow me to share with you Long’s press release (titled, “The People Have Spoken”) about the Affordable Care Act from March 23, 2011, three months into his first term. Please read it and tell me if you find any concern for folks with pre-existing health conditions:

Today, Congressman Billy Long issued the following statement on the one-year anniversary of the Obama’s health care law:

“The American people have spoken and they don’t want Washington bureaucrats coming between them and their doctors,” said Long.  “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear but that’s exactly what the majority tried to do last year by using ten years of taxes to pay for six years of expenses.”

The Obama Administration’s health care bill was pushed through the House and the Senate by the Democratic supermajority using parliamentary tactics and big pay-offs like the “Louisiana Purchase.”  The Democratic bill passed without a single Republican vote and increased Federal spending by $2.6 trillion.  The bill gave unprecedented control of the American health care system, approximately 1/6th of the economy, to the Federal government.

Congressman Long believes people, not the government, are the source of prosperity and make the American health care system the envy of the world.

“In this country we have the finest doctors, the finest nurses, the finest protocols, and the finest facilities in the world,” said Long.  “And that is not a government-run system.”

Congressman Long made repealing Obamacare his number one priority when he came to Congress and voted to repeal the intrusive and expensive law shortly after being sworn in.

Repealing the law was Long’s “number one priority.” Not number two. Not three. One. And not a word about pre-existing conditions. Not a single word. But that was early on. Perhaps he grew over the years. After all, Long, 20170501_220540 (2)in his widely published statement yesterday, said “I have always stated that one of the few good things about Obamacare is that people with pre-existing conditions would be covered.” He has “always stated” such, he said. Always.

Nope.

In June of 2012, another press release was partially titled, “Marks 30th Vote to Repeal or Defund Health Care Law.” In it Long said:

My House colleagues and I will continue to work on repealing this awful law and craft better solutions that keep the federal government out of your health care.

Not a word about his concern for pre-existing conditions. The law was, he said, “awful.” But the release did note—ironically, given the situation Republicans find themselves in now—that the ACA “was forced through Congress by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.”

In August of 2013, he bragged about being a co-sponsor of a bill that would be “another important step in the House’s efforts to repeal this law by prohibiting the IRS from enforcing or implementing Obamacare.” In September of 2013, he said, “I continue to believe the best course of action is to repeal this law and start from scratch.” In May of 2016, he hailed as “a great victory” a federal court judge’s ruling that “the Obama administration unlawfully funded parts of Obamacare without congressional approval.” A July 2016 press release noted his participation in “roundtable discussions with local health and business leaders” in Springfield. Long said, in true Tr-mpian style:

Today’s roundtable discussions were a great opportunity to show my record of success in Congress, like how I’ve been fighting against America’s opioid epidemic and harmful rules and regulations that threaten businesses across Southwest Missouri.

What a great opportunity to mention protecting folks with pre-existing medical conditions. What a great missed opportunity. In fact, there are 39 press releases on Long’s congressional website that come up under the category “Health Care.” Go see if you can find a single one in which he said anything good about the Affordable Care Act. Bet you can’t.

As I said, when I heard about Ozark Billy’s opposition to the second iteration of the phony GOP repeal effort, I was tempted to think he wasn’t as bad as I thought. That was until I started remembering things, things like his newfound concern for the “good” parts of Obamacare. And things like the fact he actually supported the first iteration of the Republican’s “health” care plan. You know, the version which the Congressional Budget Office said would increase the number of uninsured people by 24 million in ten years, a majority of that number coming as a result from cuts in Medicaid, the nation’s health insurance for “low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities.” You see, the Billy Long I know is the guy who would do something like cut folks off Medicaid, not champion the popular parts of Obamacare.

In any case, none of the Billy-is-a-hero stuff matters now. As of today, Ozark Billy, after a visit to the White’s House, is back on board. I just saw his mug on TV again, saying he has met with Tr-mp and convinced him that yet a third version of the plan is the way to go and Billy is now a “yes” man. A CNN headline went up:

New momentum for GOP health care bill after key votes flip

And here is a clip of Long bragging about how hard he fought for the original health-hating bill and misleading us about how much he has talked about the good parts of Obamacare:

People with pre-existing conditions “need to be covered, period,” Ozark Billy told us, as he stood in front of the White’s House, now home to the world’s most famous pathological liar. And he added, “I’ve said that in all my literature.” Well, no he hasn’t. He hasn’t said it in any literature I could find, at least in any of the literature he has posted about health care on his website. He just hasn’t. Maybe being around Tr-mp for an hour has side effects or maybe Billy was lying all those years about Obamacare or maybe he’s just lying now. Beats me.

But what about this latest amendment that Billy thinks fixes the problem he said bothered him enough to oppose the second version of the bill? Come on. You know it ain’t good. The great Sarah Kliff, of Vox, explains why in detail:

The Republican solution to sick people who need health insurance in a post-Obamacare world is increasingly coming to center on three words: high-risk pools.

The White House has reportedly secured the support of Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), a longtime legislator, by promising an additional $8 billion to fund these programs. That would mean the Republican plan has nearly $115 billion that states could use, if they wanted to, for high-risk pools.

High-risk pools are a way for the government to offer subsidized health insurance to the most expensive patients — people with illnesses that could range from diabetes to cancer. The idea is to give those people coverage but keep premiums lower for other, healthier patients by pulling these sicker patients out of the insurance pool.

But high-risk pools also have a history of running into a big problem: They cost a ton of money. Pooling together the sickest patients means that a state high-risk pool will have really high medical claims. […]

The Republican bill doesn’t require states to build high-risk pools — it just gives them the option. And it has little to say about how states should build them if they decide to do so. It is possible they would also have lifetime limits and preexisting condition waiting periods. Those details are hugely important, but are unlikely to get sorted out until after the bill passes and the Trump administration begins to write regulations.

It’s hard to estimate how much it would take to fund adequate high-risk pools. Emily Gee, an economist with the left-leaning Center for American Progress, estimates that the Republican bill would need another $200 billion in high-risk pool funding, plus the $115 billion it already appropriates, to cover 1.5 million people (5 percent of current small-group and individual market enrollees).

But whenever there is a funding cap, like there is in the Republican bill, high-risk pools get, well, risky. The program has to live within a budget and serve a group of incredibly sick patients. The way states typically have done that in the past is by serving as few patients as possible, while also asking them to pay a lot for the program.

Kliff says that under the GOP plan the various states will have a choice whether to set up high-risk pools or choose from six other options. She also notes that the CBO has already estimated that states won’t set up those high-risk pools, but instead use the money “to stabilize the individual market and provide payments to insurers there that get stuck with especially high-cost patients.” That means, of course, that the stingy amount of money Republicans have pledged to help subsidize insurance for people with pre-existing medical conditions, even with Ozark Billy’s additional $8 billion over five years, will not be enough.

And, given they all know what the CBO has said, Republicans know it will not be enough. This is all phony. It’s all a sick game of politics, designed to save face for people like Long and for is hero, Tr-mp. As the health advocacy group Families USA put it:

The Upton-Long amendment is not even a fig leaf: It is a laughably inadequate attempt to ameliorate damage done by the provisions of the AHCA that would drastically undermine the ACA’s guarantee of affordable comprehensive coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Billy Long can talk all day about how much he has always publicly valued Obamacare’s protection of folks with unfortunate pre-existing health problems. He can talk all day about how much his new amendment to a very bad idea is a good thing. He can try to fool folks who don’t know any better.

But he ain’t foolin’ me.

Here is a way to tell him he ain’t foolin’ you either:

Washington DC Office
202-225-6536
 
Springfield, MO Office
417-889-1800
 
Joplin, MO Office
417-781-1041

The Man Without A Chest

“The heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it…Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism…In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” 

—C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

I watched Donald Tr-mp’s 100-day speech Saturday night, given in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, among a group of enthusiastic supporters. I, like most non-Tr-mpian Americans who watched it, was appalled. His reprise of “The Snake,” aimed this time at immigrants rather than Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS killers and Putin-supported Bashar al-Assad, was, well, shameful and disgusting. His deliberate narrowcasting to his cultic admirers, as opposed to the rest of America, was sickening. Norman Ornstein tweeted:

Trump’s bombastic, divisive rally shows he is a dangerous narcissistic sociopath.

Yes. He is. No doubt about that. But I found myself experiencing his speech, and thinking about it afterward, in a way that surprised me. I actually felt pity for that poor man on the stage at that rally. I can make fun of his diminutive hands and what that means to him. I can point to his petty insecurities and how they dominate his psychology. I can diagnose his multiple disorders and express fear for the safety of the country. But, really, on Saturday I saw a small man. The smallest man in the world. The smallest man in the world with the biggest job.

I can’t swim. I’ve tried. I just can’t. I can’t even learn to swim. It’s hopeless. And I always had this fear that someone would, trying to earnestly help me overcome this obvious handicap, take me out in the middle of the ocean and drop me in the water, forcing me to swim or die. I can’t tell you, those of you who take swimming for granted, how palpable is that fear, how paralyzing it is.

It dawned on me, while thinking about Tr-mp’s horrific speech on Saturday, that he is a man who has been dropped in the middle of the sea without the ability to swim. And, right before our eyes, he is drowning. He is literally drowning. Oh, he told us he could swim. In fact, he bragged that he was the world’s greatest swimmer, that he could expertly swim, with ease, the raging ocean. And 46% of the electorate, with the help of the Russians, took him out to sea and dropped him there. But, really, he’s scared of the water. He’s afraid. As the waves of the job he is uniquely unqualified to do batter him day after day, he needs something to cling to, some solid thing to grasp, some hope that he will not suffer at the hands of an angry ocean, at the hands of his invincible ignorance, at the hands of his irremediable incompetence, at the hands of his irreversible disabilities. Those people at that rally, at any of his rallies, are his lifeline. When he is sinking, they pull him up again. He calls for help and they come.

But at some point even they won’t be able to save him. At some point he will go down for the last time. And for that he is to be pitied. For that he deserves our sympathy, even those of us who didn’t vote for him and despise what he stands for. But he does not deserve our help. He does not deserve to be saved. He needs to go down. He needs to sink, if America is to stay afloat itself. He has done irreparable damage to the presidency. He has assaulted one national institution after another and made a mockery of our democracy. He has attacked and threatened—and he and his administration continue to threaten—our free and indispensable press. He is each and every day using his office, the office of Lincoln and the Roosevelts, for personal and family profit. He has embraced despots and international thugs. He admires the unadmirable.

Why? Why does he do such things? Why is his moral compass broken?

As C. S. Lewis might say (extrapolating from his book, The Abolition of Man), Tr-mp doesn’t have a “chest,” a solid set of “trained emotions,” or “stable sentiments,” that conform to what Lewis considered to be “objective” values, those values that we all should acknowledge in one way or another, that we all should “see” are not just “mere feelings” on the part of the observer but real things. For instance, you and I may disagree about the splendorous beauty of Chopin’s Étude Op. 10, No. 3, but in order for us to disagree we both have to acknowledge there is such a thing as “beauty.” Otherwise, we have nothing to argue about. Or we may argue about whether cutting off health insurance for millions of poor and working people is good or bad, but we have to acknowledge the objective reality of the concepts of “good” and “bad” in order to have that argument. If you tried to claim that there were no objective values, that what we referenced when we used the words good or bad were only subjective human feelings, you would in fact be contradicting yourself because such a claim is itself an objective one, one that allegedly applies to and is independent of all of us.

David Gergen, who once worked in the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton administrations and who is now an analyst for CNN, has spent most of the last 18 months or so pretending that Tr-mp can’t be as bad as he appears, that there has to be a “good” Tr-mp in there somewhere waiting to “pivot” and embrace the dignity of the American presidency. But Saturday’s 100-day speech was too much even for Gergen. He said after it was over:

This was the most divisive speech I have ever heard from a sitting American president. Others may disagree about that. He played to his base and he treated his other listeners, the rest of the people who have been disturbed about him or opposed him, he treated them basically as, ‘I don’t give a damn what you think because you’re frankly like the enemy.’ I thought it was a deeply disturbing speech.

He’s right. Tr-mp doesn’t “give a damn” what “his other listeners”— “the enemy”— think about him at this point. He is a drowning man and he knows it. And he knows that his only hope of surviving, of treading the water of the presidency, is in the people he dreadfully charmed with “The Snake” on Saturday and eerily entertained with more talk of “fake news,” while cynically and embarrassingly creating an impromptu prop out of a pitiable man holding a “Blacks for Trump” sign. As the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner was going on in Washington—the first time a sitting president hadn’t participated in 36 years—Tr-mp told his human life preservers that,

A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom in our nation’s capital right now. They are gathered together for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner—without the President. And I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington’s swamp, spending my evening with all of you and with a much, much larger crowd and much better people.

Everyone who has carefully witnessed Tr-mp’s tragic trajectory to the White’s House knows this is another one of his lies, another tale he told himself and his followers. In fact, there is no plImage result for drowningace he would rather have been than at that dinner with Hollywood actors and media stars. But he can’t swim in that sea. The water there was simply too deep without something to cling to, something he could use to keep his head above the waterline.

So, as a man without natural political buoyancy or the learned skills to avoid the hazards of the political depths—as well as a man without a chest, those trained emotions or stable sentiments—he was reduced to crudely entertaining his adoring fans, while insulting the rest of us and depreciating what once was the highest office in the world. This sad, sad man with the big job is indeed the smallest man alive. And as strange and painful as it might be to watch, we have to let the unforgiving and tumultuous sea have him.

What Chelsea Clinton Teaches Us About Persistent Sexism

A local columnist for the Joplin Globe once wrote this stunning paragraph, which I have posted before:

On the investigative side, it has been learned by this reporter that quality of education, safety, or class arrogance had nothing to do with Mr. and Mrs. Clinton’s decision to enroll their daughter Chelsea in a private school. An informed source has confirmed that the real reason, was the school’s policy of allowing no mirrors on campus. Apparently, Hillary felt it would be too traumatic at such a tender age to allow her little bundle of joy to see just how ugly she really is. In a private statement Mrs. Clinton was heard to vow that she would keep Chelsea away from all mirrors until such time as she could handle the emotional stress of facing the fact she was her mother’s daughter.

Image result for chelsea clintonAt that time, 1994, Chelsea Clinton was fourteen years old. And the classlessness of that writer has only grown over the years, which, I suppose, is what makes him a perfect columnist for a newspaper in this Clinton-hating geographical area.

Just recently, another right-wing writer, writing for the once renowned National Review, published a post about a grown-up Chelsea Clinton, in a piece thoughtfully titled “Little Creep,” a piece that began with this line: “Hasn’t Bill Clinton been fellated thoroughly enough?” More classlessness, obviously. The piece was, like that of our local columnist, not just a shot at Chelsea Clinton, but a shot at her mother, “the Big Creep.” There’s something about the Clintons, especially the Clinton women, that drive conservatives to write things like our local columnist wrote and things like that nationally-known columnist wrote:

Chelsea Clinton, most recently lionized on the cover of Variety, is a 37-year-old multi-millionaire who has never uttered an interesting word about any subject at any time during the course of her life. Judging from the evidence of her public statements, she has never had an original thought — it isn’t clear that she has had a thought at all. In tribute to her parents, she was given a series of lucrative sinecures, producing a smattering of sophomoric videos for NBC at a salary of $600,000 a year. She later went more formally into the family business, leaving her fake job at NBC for a fake job in her parents’ fake charity. She gave interviews about how she just couldn’t get interested in money and bought a $10 million Manhattan apartment that stretches for the better part of a city block.

That’s just another way, a snootier way using a phrase like “lucrative sinecures,” of calling Chelsea “ugly.” The writer ends his tasteless piece with this:

Have a little self-respect, Democrats. Build Bill Clinton a statue or . . . whatever. Send him your daughters like a bunch of bone-in-the-nose primitives paying tribute to the tribal chieftain. But stop trying to inflict this empty-headed, grasping, sanctimonious, risible, simpering, saccharine little twerp on American public life.

It’s stupid enough out there.

A few days ago, Jill Filipovic, writing for Cosmopolitan, published a piece (“How Dare Chelsea Clinton, a Well-Educated, Accomplished Woman, Share Her Opinions”) that essentially is a response to this hate-filled fascination with the Clinton women, even if the critiques are sometimes hidden behind hatred for Bill. She wrote:

The Chelsea hate-fest isn’t new, but like a disturbing proportion of the critiques of her mother, Hillary Clinton, the case against Chelsea is conspicuously wrapped up in sexism. She was mocked mercilessly as a teenager, savaged for her looks and adolescent awkwardness on comedy shows and in right-wing media. Now, the idea that she tweets regularly, talks in public, and weighs in on political issues, like her recent advocacy for equal pay, is apparently enraging for some men — the fact that she talks about herself is outrageous enough, but what seems to really disturb the pundit class is that she does it in a way that they think signals political ambitions.

Filipovic acknowledges the obvious, that “Chelsea is a child of immense privilege,” that “politics is the family business.” But she offers us a solid reason for the “preemptive smack down” of the Clinton’s daughter:

Perhaps it’s because Chelsea won’t shut up and go away — because she has the gall to believe that she, a bright young woman with a PhD in international relations and a master’s in public health, and who was raised on a steady diet of politics and civic duty, and has had an inside look at campaigning and even the White House, might have something to say.

One has to admit that a great deal of the obnoxious conservative-based criticism of the adult Chelsea has to do with the legacy of her parents. But there is a lot of truth to the claim that many of the harsh barbs thrown Chelsea’s way have to do with visceral sexism. And those sexist barbs don’t just come from the right. Filipovic references lefty writer T. A. Frank, who wrote about Chelsea for Vanity Fair. Filipovic wrote:

What seems to rub mostly male pundits the wrong way is that Chelsea is perceived as bragging when she talks about herself, by saying, for example, that she wrote a letter to President Ronald Reagan when she was 5, or that “They told me that my father had learned to read when he was three. So, of course, I thought I had to too. The first thing I learned to read was the newspaper.” I read this and see a cute story; T. A. Frank, who wrote the Vanity Fair hit piece, sees this as “self-regard of an unusual intensity.”

That quote from the Vanity Fair hit piece (“PLEASE, GOD, STOP CHELSEA CLINTON FROM WHATEVER SHE IS DOING”) goes like this:

What comes across with Chelsea, for lack of a gentler word, is self-regard of an unusual intensity. And the effect is stronger on paper. Unkind as it is to say, reading anything by Chelsea Clinton—tweets, interviews, books—is best compared to taking in spoonfuls of plain oatmeal that, periodically, conceal a toenail clipping. […]

At first glance, of course, Chelsea seems to be boasting that at age five she was interpreting the news with the maturity of an adult. But we should consider whether it’s instead a confession that as an adult she still interprets the news with the maturity of—well, let’s just submit that perhaps she thinks what other people tell her to think.

Jill Filipovic observes:

Women are notoriously hesitant to speak about their accomplishments lest they be perceived as bragging; women who do talk about their accomplishments, then, break gender norms and are perceived poorly for it. It’s the same dynamic that ends up penalizing women who try to negotiate but rewards men for the same: When men act aggressively, ask for more, or toot their own horns, we see them as capable, assertive, professional, and going after what they deserve. When women do it, we’re seen as bitchy, unlikable braggarts. […]

Our leaders are mostly male, and the people who talk, write, and pontificate about our leaders are mostly male. When women do manage to shine in this system — to gain political popularity, to ascend the professional ranks — there are too often many people who take offense at such raw and unfeminine ambition, and want to see them dimmed and quieted.

Just today, Tr-mp, speaking before the testosteronic NRA, once again referred to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.” That’s Tr-mp’s buffoonish way of dimming her, of quieting her, of calling her “ugly.” And, unfortunately, such behavior is not just limited to classless creeps like Tr-mp or nasty local right-wing columnists or venomous big-time writers for well-known conservative websites. We have a long way to go here in 21st-century America, in terms of seeing smart, strong women as simply smart, strong people.

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