Thursday, July 27, 2017

Love Thy Neighbor, Unless...

Let us all take a deep breath while we contemplate the love and understanding of those who work to follow Jesus' teachings. Love thy neighbor. Unless they are Latino or African-American or believe in equality or do not have enough money or want to protect the environment and consumers and workers and students and consumers. Follow the teachings unless that person does not fit your notions of gender or politics or patriotism. Follow unless your insecurities fuel your hatred of anyone different. Follow Jesus unless you believe that some people are taking the money that you need to fit through the eye of the needle.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eliminate Company Health Insurance for Employees

Why It's a Good Idea

Eliminating the requirement for large companies to insure their full-time employees has several benefits. It is a step toward single-payer (gets rid of another middle-man). It lessens the incentive for companies to hire part-time rather than full-time workers (a benefit for job-seekers). It lessens the trend towards companies paying for cheaper health insurance that has higher deductibles and higher employee cost sharing. It reduces the disadvantage of competing against companies in other countries whose workers have universal health care paid by the government.

If we ever do get universal health care paid entirely by our federal government through taxes, we will eliminate medical bankruptcies and have healthier citizens and healthier workers. But it won't be Republicans who get it for us. They think that the profit-driven free market is inherently moral and self-correcting, that government is evil, and that if anyone cannot afford insurance it is because they are moochers who have made bad choices and are somehow less worthy. We need people who don't think greed is a virtue and who understand what being a public servant means.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Crediting/Blaming Presidents for Stock Market Gains/Losses

With the GOP hell-bent on getting rid of the already weakened Dodd-Frank reforms, it is probably only a matter of time before the toxic mix of commercial and investment banking creates another financial crisis. The Glass-Steagall Act was passed in response to the Great Depression to keep them separate. It worked until its repeal in 1999, following which critics predicted a crisis in 10 years. They were wrong. It was 9 years.

Now banks are bigger than ever. Price/earnings ratio for stocks (how much investors are willing to pay for stock earnings) are as high as just before the Great Depression, the internet bubble in the 90's, and the Great Recession. Credit or blame Trump if you want to, but beware that this is (probably) only the start of his presidency, and a lot can happen.

The Stock Market is not the same as the economy, and the markets have risen much higher and faster since the Great Recession than economic growth and the income of consumers. Investor confidence, Treasury policies, wars and natural disasters also affect the economy, as does how much influence a president has in getting a Congress to adapt administration agendas. Blaming or crediting presidents is a risky venture. Will we blame Trump if another financial crisis hits or if Congress shuns his proposals? Should we have blamed Obama for a sluggish recovery with a Just-Say-No Congress? Was Bush at fault for an average annual loss of 4.6% in the Stock Market in the face of 9/11 and the economic meltdown? (You can blame him for starting another Middle East war on a second front and for getting huge tax cuts at the same time, but you can also credit him for the bank bailout at the end of his term.)


Friday, July 21, 2017

A Further Exchange of Comments About the Budget

The president’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, was the one proposing changing Social Security retirement to age 70. You are correct that retirement age adjustments are not specifically mentioned. But read on.

This item is supposedly in the House Budget Committee resolution, but I don't see it there. "The committee's proposals call for higher contributions of federal employees to their pensions and the removal of supplemental Social Security payments to employees who retire before age 62." But you have already found where it is, correct?

Also, from the House Budget committee's "Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for fiscal year 2018" (

From page 103:
(A) in 2028, the Disability Insurance Trust Fund will be exhausted and program revenues will be unable to pay scheduled benefits;
(B) with the exhaustion of both the Disability Insurance Trust Fund and the Old-Age and Survivors and Disability Trust Fund in 2035, benefits will be cut by as much as 25 percent across the board, devastating those currently in or near retirement and those who rely on Social Security the most.
(4) The recession and continued low economic growth have exacerbated the looming fiscal crisis facing Social Security. The most recent Congressional Budget Office (‘‘CBO’’) projections find that Social Security will run cash deficits of more than $1.3 trillion over the next 10 years. [The Trust Fund is $2.8 trillion. Cash deficits sound scarier than Trust Fund drawdowns which were anticipated.]

Pages 104-106 talk about a reform trigger which occurs when the 75-year actuarial balance is not positive [such as now]. The Social Security trustees would be required to send recommendations to the President, and "within 60 days of the President submitting legislation, the committees of jurisdiction should report a bill, which the House or Senate should consider under expedited procedures." [I hate to ask what expedited procedures means. I suspect that the members of the full Senate or House will be barred from offering amendments. This is likely to be where retirement ages are adjusted.]

Page 108 talks about how the House should "reform the Disability Insurance program prior to its insolvency in 2028 and should not raid the Social Security retirement system without reforms to the Disability Insurance system." [Raid the retirement system? Pitting the disabled against the retirees again, are we? Reallocations of revenue between the two systems were routine, bi-partisan, and non-controversial in prior Congresses. Not in this Congress.]

GOP Budget Proposals Do Impact Social Security

A response to a troll on a Facebook post by Social Security Works about an article in New York magazine:

Yes, the House budget does address Social Security. Here are the links you requested:

The GOP preferred method of "reform" for Social Security is to raise the retirement age; the current proposals would raise the retirement age to 70 - a solution that would fall only on the less-wealthy. Simple adjustments to the payroll tax and the salary cap would achieve 75-year solvency without screwing workers. Removing the salary cap altogether and taxing the wealthy on all of their income, the same as people making under $127,200 are taxed, would not only solve any potential shortfalls for the next 75 years but would have the wealthy pay their fair share. Removing the exemption of capital gains (investment income) to Social Security taxes would further the objective of fairness. The GOP also wants to cut benefits to Medicare to "ensure its solvency," rather than a modest Medicare payroll tax increase.

Legislation is also proposed to reform the disability portion of Social Security. Rather than a simple adjustment to the ratio of revenues into the SSDI and SS programs, as past Congresses have done on a bipartisan basis with no controversy, the current GOP wants to change eligibility and benefits for SSDI.

The GOP proposals do not impact the federal deficits or the National Debt by one thin dime. Yet they continually attack Medicare and Social Security in the name of budget reform. Social Security is not the largest federal expense. It is not part of the federal budget. It has its own revenue stream. All the lies by the GOP will not change those simple facts. And screwing workers because of ideological ideas about letting the free market loose on our retirements and reducing government is cruel, immoral, selfish, and endangers our retirements (ever hear of Madoff?). And all of the rhetoric about Individual Responsibility while ignoring or denigrating Social Responsibility points to the GOP's basic motivation - greed.

Crawl back under your rock and take your flawed morality elsewhere. We are sick of your lies and corruption.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Mr. Trump Speaks, Sort Of

7/19/2017 Interview excerpts

On health care:

Obama worked so hard. They had 60 in the Senate. They had big majorities and had the White House. I mean, ended up giving away the state of Nebraska. They owned the state of Nebraska. Right. Gave it away.

So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. [Seems to think health insurance is the same as life insurance.]

I said it from the beginning. No. 1, you know, a lot of the papers were saying — actually, these guys couldn’t believe it, how much I know about it. I know a lot about health care.

It’s a mess. One of the things you get out of this, you get major tax cuts, and reform. And if you add what the people are going to save in the middle income brackets, if you add that to what they’re saving with health care, this is like a windfall for the country, for the people. [Note: Middle-class would get an average tax cut of $280. The top .1% would get a tax cut of $250,000.]

His trip to Poland:

So I go to Poland and make a speech. Enemies of mine in the media, enemies of mine are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president.

On President Emmanuel Macron of France and his Paris trip:

He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand...People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes.

...the Bastille Day parade was — now that was a super-duper — O.K. I mean, that was very much more than normal...You know, it was two hours, and the parade ended. It didn’t go a whole day. They didn’t go crazy. You don’t want to leave, but you have to. Or you want to leave, really.

On Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany:

I have a very good relationship with Merkel....She actually called me, and she said, um, “You know, I think we get along very well.”

On Napoleon:

We toured the museum, we went to Napoleon’s tomb...Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad...He did so many things even beyond [designing Paris]. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death.

On regulations and bills signed:

...for the time in office, five months and couple of weeks, I think I’ve done more than anyone else...I heard that Harry Truman was first, and then we beat him...I’ve given the farmers back their farms. I’ve given the builders back their land to build houses and to build other things.

The energy stuff is going really well.

People can’t get loans to buy a pizza parlor, to buy a — you know, I saw out on the trail — people say, "Mr. Trump, we’ve dealt with banks, my own bank, and they can’t loan me anymore."...[The banks] because of statutory [garbled], they can’t loan to that kind of a business.

Was asked about dinner with Vladimir Putin:

So, that dinner was a very long time planned dinner. And what it was was an evening at the opera. It was a final night goodbye from Germany and from Chancellor Merkel. It was her dinner. It was, you know, everybody knew about it. It was well-known.

...everybody walked in to see the opera. Then the opera ended. Then we walked into a big room where they had dinner...quite a few people. I would say you have 20 times two, so you had 40, and then you probably had another 10 or 15 had some others also.

[Melania] was sitting next to Putin...toward dessert I went down just to say hello to Melania, and while I was there I said hello to Putin...Just talked about — things. Actually, it was very interesting, we talked about adoption...which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr., Mr. Trump’s son] had in that meeting. As I’ve said — most other people, you know, when they call up and say, “By the way, we have information on your opponent,” I think most politicians — I was just with a lot of people [lunch with Senators], they said [inaudible], “Who wouldn’t have taken a meeting like that?”

Asked about the email and the phrase “is part of Russia and its government’s support of Mr. Trump.”:

Well, Hillary did the reset....Hillary Clinton was dying to get back with Russia. She did the uranium deal, which is a horrible thing...and got a lot of money.

[Hillary] was opposed to sanctions, strongly opposed to sanctions on Russia.

Crimea was gone during the Obama administration, and he gave, he allowed it to get away. You know, he can talk tough all he wants, in the meantime he talked tough to North Korea. And he didn’t actually. He didn’t talk tough to North Korea. You know, we have a big problem with North Korea. Big. Big, big. You look at all of the things, you look at the line in the sand. The red line in the sand in Syria. He didn’t do the shot. I did the shot.

All I know is this: When somebody calls up and they say, “We have infor—” Look what they did to me with Russia [the dossier], and it was totally phony stuff...They make up whatever they want. Just not my thing — plus, I have witnesses, because I went there with a group of people...I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time...I think [Comey] shared [the dossier] so that I would — because the other three people left, and he showed it to me...he shared it so that I would think he had it out there.

Asked "was it a political mistake to have fired [Comey], given what’s happened?":

I think I did a great thing for the American people.

I feel like it was very dishonest when he wouldn’t say what he knew he said to the public. I thought that was very honest.

Asked about what Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, can look at:

I don’t know. Nobody has contacted me about anything. Because I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.

On Jeff Sessions:

How do you take a job and then recuse yourself?...It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy...Rod Rosenstein, who is from Baltimore. There are very few Republicans in Baltimore, if any.

On Comey:

He illegally leaks, and everyone thinks it is illegal, and by the way, it looks like it’s classified and all that stuff.

He said I said “hope” — “I hope you can treat Flynn good” or something like that. I didn’t say anything...But even if he did — like I said at the news conference on the, you know, Rose Garden — even if I did, that’s not — other people go a step further. I could have ended that whole thing just by saying — they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say: “It’s ended. It’s over. Period.”

...unemployment is the lowest it’s been in 16 years. The stock market is the highest it’s ever been. It’s up almost 20 percent since I took office. And we’re working hard on health care. Um, the Russian investigation — it’s not an investigation, it’s not on me — you know, they’re looking at a lot of things.

Asked again about the email:

I didn’t look into it very closely, to be honest with you...I just heard there was an email requesting a meeting or something — yeah, requesting a meeting. That they have information on Hillary Clinton, and I said — I mean, this was standard political stuff...I didn’t know anything about the meeting...It must have been a very important — must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it...nobody told me. I didn’t know noth—— It’s a very unimportant — sounded like a very unimportant meeting.

Asked about how three hours after that meeting, he said he was going to give a speech about Hillary Clinton’s corrupt dealings with Russia and other countries:

I made many of those speeches...I’d go after her all the time...But there was something about the book, “Clinton Cash,” came out [The book had come out a year prior.] ...I was talking about, she deleted and bleached, which nobody does because of the cost...33,000 emails...

[U]nless somebody said that she shot somebody in the back, there wasn’t much I could add to my repertoire.

But when you say that — and think about this for a second. I don’t think — you could give me a whole string of new information. I don’t think I could really have — there’s only so much. You know, you can only say many things. After that it gets boring, O.K.?

Asked about Mueller going beyond the Russia investigation, if that would be crossing a line:

I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one [other than the Miss Universe pageant].

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Latest Effort To Screw Social Security Retirees

Public comments by me in response to an article in The Atlantic, "House GOP Budget Plan Cuts Medicare and Social Security".

How dare the GOP change the retirement age and tell us it's part of budget reform. Changing the retirement age will have absolutely no effect on the Federal Budget or the National Debt. To say otherwise is a deliberate lie.

Social Security is not the biggest federal expense. It is not even a federal expense; by law it is not part of the Federal Budget. Social Security has its own revenue stream. Politicians love to include the Social Security annual surpluses in their budget figures to make their deficits appear smaller, but those surpluses go into the Trust Fund, not general revenues. When Social Security starts to run deficits to fund the baby boomer retirements, shortfalls in payroll tax revenues will be paid out of the $2.8 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund. But then those same politicians will have annual deficits in their budget. That is the main reason why they want to raise the retirement age, so that Social Security continues to have annual surpluses and their budget figures look better. But the real Federal Budget and the National Debt will not change by one thin dime, and we will be screwed.

Any adjustment to retirement ages or benefits only affects the date at which time the Trust Fund is depleted (currently around 2033, after which Social Security revenue can pay only 80% of benefits through the year 2092 unless simple adjustments are made to payroll tax rates or salary caps). Social Security benefits are financed by dedicated payroll taxes plus earned interest on U.S. Treasury Bonds (those supposed paper IOUs) in the Trust Fund, not by general revenues. If Social Security redeems Treasury Bonds to pay benefits, the U.S. Treasury department simply sells new bonds to other entities such as China to keep the National Debt funded. They do not pay for the redemption of Treasury Bonds out of general revenues.

Social Security is not broke (would you be broke with trillions in your bank account?).

Conservatives are against Social Security ideologically. They do not want the government involved. They would rather the private sector handle retirements. Of course, private retirement accounts would be subject to administrative fees (think 20% rather than less than 1%). And $2.8 trillion to invest sounds wonderful to the financial sector. But Trump signed an Executive Order revoking the fiduciary responsibility of financial advisors to act in your best interest. And private retirement accounts are subject to loss by fraud (think Bernie Madoff), theft (Leonard Cohen's manager stole all of his money and he had to go back to work in his 70's), bankruptcies, and stock-market crashes. Social Security will always be there. Unless, of course, politicians take it away from us.

A word about Social Security Disability. A certain percentage of Social Security revenue funds the disability portion of the program. Adjustments are made from time to time in percentages to make sure both the disability and retirement accounts are fully funded. One new tactic of the radical conservatives is to divide and conquer by playing the disabled and the retirees against each other. But implying that reducing benefits for the disabled somehow benefits retirees or somehow improves the Federal Budget are flat out lies.

Social Security is separate from the Federal Budget and has its own revenue stream. Surpluses are put into the Trust Fund and deficits are paid from the Trust Fund. Changes to disability benefits have the same effect as changes to the retirement age. It only changes the date that the Social Security Trust Fund is depleted, and that date is 16 years away (2033). There. is. zero. effect. on. the. Federal Budget. Just because politicians conflate Social Security and its surpluses with the Federal Budget to make their claimed figures appear healthier does not change that fact. They are flat out lying to your face (or are profoundly ignorant of the budget they are in charge of) if they claim otherwise. Don't fall for it. Don't allow them to screw with your retirement or your disability. Call those shysters and tell them to keep their greedy hands off of the most successful federal program ever.

EPA Claims Immunity From Damages In Gold Creek Mine Disaster

The EPA claims it is not responsible under the Federal Tort Claims Act passed in 1946 because in passing the act "Congress wanted to encourage government agencies to take action without the fear of paying damages in the event something went wrong while taking the action."

In actuality, the FTCA was passed not to expand immunity but instead to limit the government's sovereign immunity. Prior to the act's passing, the federal government could not be sued. This claim by the EPA is an obvious lie, an "alternative fact" if you will.

The EPA further claims that the act "does not authorize federal agencies to pay claims resulting from government actions that are discretionary – that is, acts of a governmental nature or function and that involve the exercise of judgment."

Under the EPA's interpretation, most actions by the government and its contractors would again enjoy sovereign immunity, the abandonment of responsibility for damages caused.

"An Environmental Protection Agency crew accidentally triggered the August 2015 spill at the abandoned Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado. The spill released 3 million gallons of water laden with arsenic, cadmium, copper and other heavy metals." The EPA-led contractor crew was doing exploratory excavation work at the Gold King mine entrance in advance of a possible cleanup when workers "accidentally hit a wall in the opening of the mine..."

The action of accidentally hitting a wall does not involve judgment as to how hard to hit the wall or whether or not the wall should be hit. Claiming immunity from damages under the FTCA law because the action was discretionary is ludicrous. Neither was the exploratory excavation discretionary; it was an action undertaken as part of the statutory responsibility of the EPA. To claim otherwise is laughable and an obvious attempt to abdicate responsibility. Under any definition of action, the EPA is liable.


[ - Note: the SCOTUS ruling in this link only had relevance as to the venue for New Mexico's lawsuit against Colorado; it was not a ruling on EPA's liability.]

Related links:

Plus others stories found using the link

More GOP Tax Relief For the Rich

A public comment to the chief architect of the Senate tax giveaway, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

How dare you continue letting corporations and the wealthy pay less than their fair share? We see your colleagues go from regulating industries to high-paying "consulting" jobs in those industries. Payment delayed does not mean it is not a bribe. We see you chasing after corporate donations to keep yourselves in power and are revolted by your greed. You think millionaires and billionaires and corporations are the job providers? Jobs are created and sustained by ordinary people with money in their pockets to spend on your products.

We are sickened at the reality that 1 in 5 corporations pay no Federal Taxes. You think that profits from money sent to work should be taxed less than a working man's sweat. We are tired of the rich man's hand in the poor man's pocket.

Continue increasing the wage disparity in this country. Keep letting so many of your workers have no health care. Pay sub-standard wages forcing workers to get government assistance. A worker on welfare is an employer getting welfare benefits. Keep threatening our retirement benefits and delaying the retirements of those who do manual labor. Ship our better-paying jobs overseas and keep letting in imports that don't have to meet the standards that manufacturers in this country must meet. Continue insulating yourselves from "the little people" whom you consider lazy and less worthy.

You want to slash Social Security in the name of tax and budget reform? Cutting benefits to Social Security will only affect the date at which time the Trust Fund will run out of funds (2033). The Federal Budget and National Debt would not change by even one thin dime. Social Security has its own revenue stream. Raise the payroll tax or adjust salary caps if you think Social Security needs to be "saved". But keep your greedy hands from trashing the most successful federal program ever.

All of your lies will not change the true reason you are opposed to SocSec, that you don't like government involved in anything except individual's moral behaviors. You are not my father. Your idea of morality is a joke. You care nothing for others, for the environment, the well-being of citizens, the fiscal responsibilities of the financial sector, or consumer protections. You are all for Individual Responsibility, but Social Responsibility is a concept you consider anathema. You think that somehow the free market is inherently moral and that regulations on corporations are not needed. We are not all-knowing or all-powerful and we cannot detect and correct evil actions in your free market. That is why we have laws and regulations and government. That is why we elected you.

You denigrate science and deny Climate Change which is right in front of your face. You profess Christian values while mistreating your fellow man. You wear lapel flags and profess patriotism that you cannot even understand. Patriotism is not waving the flag and waving guns and shouting "Love it or leave it!" as if people who want to improve the country are somehow not true Americans. Patriotism is not your unfathomable greed and your lust for war at other's expense, and it is not your xenophobia and racism and religious intolerance and discrimination of people who don't fit your parochial and naive notions of gender. Patriotism is fighting for soldiers' and veterans' rights and working to take care of children, the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged and the working poor, working for better conditions for everyone, and working for clean air and water and soil and for a planet that will be livable for generations to come.

I am a U.S. citizen, and I am opposed to and offended by Donald Trump’s and the GOP’s plan to give huge tax breaks to millionaires and wealthy corporations, which will be paid for by cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, and other critical services. How do you justify half of the Trump tax cuts going to the richest 1%? Do the wealthy need tax relief? Why would you support big corporations holding profits offshore getting a huge tax cut? Why would you not support real tax reform to make sure the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share?

I am a U.S. citizen. You are betraying the meaning of public service and you are betraying us. If you don't understand what public service means, then resign or retire. We don't need representatives who do not represent or even understand us.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Word or Two About Social Security

The Social Security Trust Fund contains U.S. Treasury Bonds (paper IOUs) backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Also, those bonds earn interest. There is currently about $2.8 trillion in the Trust Fund, which was built up in anticipation of baby-boomer retirements. Social Security is self-funded (interest on bonds plus payroll taxes), and by law is not part of the federal budget. It is not the Federal government's biggest expense; it has its own revenue stream.

Any adjustment to retirement ages or benefits only affects the date at which time the Trust Fund is depleted (currently around 2033, after which Social Security revenue can pay only 80% of benefits through the year 2092 unless simple adjustments are made to payroll tax rates or salary caps). The wealthy pay very little into Social Security; payroll taxes for Social Security drop to zero for incomes above $127,200 (this year's salary cap). Someone making $10 million pays the same amount of money that someone making $127,200 does in Social Security taxes. Capital gains (investment income) are not even subject to any Social Security taxes.

Social Security is not broke (would you be broke with trillions in your bank account?).

Conservatives are against Social Security ideologically. They do not want the government involved. They would rather the private sector handle retirements. Of course, private retirement accounts would be subject to administrative fees (think 20% rather than less than 1%). And $2.8 trillion to invest sounds wonderful to the financial sector. Trump signed an Executive Order revoking the fiduciary responsibility of financial advisors to act in your best interest. Private retirement accounts are subject to loss by fraud (think Bernie Madoff), theft (Leonard Cohen's manager stole all of his money and he had to go back to work in his 70's), bankruptcies, and stock-market crashes. Social Security will always be there. Unless, of course, politicians take it away from us.

What Is Single-Payer?

Single-payer is health care paid for by the federal government. Insurance companies take 20% of every health care dollar for overhead (CEO salaries etc.). Most other western industrialized countries have universal healthcare (single-payer covering every citizen). We have a profit-driven system that is much more expensive and that does not cover everyone. Single-payer is Medicare without the 20% co-pay. The cost is covered usually by taxes that everyone pays. If I move to Canada and want to be covered by their healthcare system, I have to pay a 15% tax on income. In this country, medical expenses are the number one cause of personal bankruptcies. I would rather pay 15% than have a medical bill I could never pay off. (My last MRI had a price tag of $8000.) I would like to be able to go to the doctor and not get a bill. Even Cuba and France have universal healthcare. Medicaid (government paying for poor people's health care) is sometimes called single-payer but in actuality, the funding comes from both the individual states and the federal government.

Republican-led states that rejected Medicaid expansion (paid for by the federal government) have people who are uninsured because they make too little to qualify for the ACA (Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare) health insurance exchange (insurance with premium subsidies), but who make too much to qualify for that state's Medicaid program. The Medicaid expansion was supposed to cover every citizen who did not qualify for the ACA, but Republicans sued for the right of individual states to reject the expansion.

Single-payer would be a form of universal healthcare for U.S. citizens.

Why I Am a Progressive Democrat

A word about why I am a Progressive Democrat.

I got tired of all of the lies and confusion about Social Security and about health insurance so I did research. I have not received formal training in these subjects. But one day I realized that the Republicans in my state were telling one lie after another. The Democrats were better, but even they had problems with the truth (such as claiming that someone investing $1 in a business was a small business owner).

So I started looking things up and reading a lot, and I used original sources whenever possible (such as the Social Security Annual Trustee's Report). And I saw that the conservatives in Washington D.C. had become radical conservatives, interested only in ideology and money at the expense of practicality and common sense. I saw members of the GOP sign pledges for absolutely no tax increases, and I saw them claim that the government was going broke because of entitlements (such as Social Security, a self-funded program). I saw Bush and the GOP pass tax cuts for the rich while putting the expense of the Afghan and Iraqi wars directly onto the national debt without counting those costs in the yearly budgets (no deficits here, people!). I see politicians count Social Security surpluses in their budgets to make their deficits appear smaller. I see false claims about how the GOP is the party of fiscal conservatism, and Democrats are tax-and-spend.

I used to think I was a Republican. Turns out I am a Progressive Democrat. I don't put God and Greed above country and fellow citizens. I believe government and regulations have a place in our lives. I don't want corporations trashing our planet or dumping toxic wastes into our rivers and oceans or stealing our money or not paying their fair share.

I want to see roads, bridges, libraries, well-funded public schools, worker protections, fiscal protections. I want gender and racial equality, and I want our police trained to use non-lethal force. I don't want schizophrenics to have guns and I don't think people need machine guns. I want the Constitution followed without lies about our founding fathers' real intentions.

I think the government should be blind as far as religion goes. I want the government to stop making laws regarding religion; I want churches to be tax-exempt as non-profit charities rather than because they are religious organizations. I want patriotism to mean taking care of veterans and soldiers, the poor and the elderly, the children and the sick. Patriotism is not about waving guns and flags and wearing lapel pins, proclaiming that people who criticize our government don't love our country and should leave because they are not true Americans. Patriotism is about actions that show you really do love your country, not empty rhetoric.

I don't like the hate shown towards other people and other groups. I don't want people judged by the color of their skin, their country of origin, their age, their gender, their choice of partners, their religion, their political views or lack thereof, their professions, their health, the straightness or number or color of their teeth. I want people to be judged by how they treat others, how they treat their country, how they treat our planet.

I don't believe in American Exceptionalism; I believe that we can learn from other countries. I don't think that Climate Change is just a hoax. I believe in science, in its methods of verification and validation. Newton's Laws of Gravity are just a theory, the same as Climate Change. Ignore either at your peril.

Yeah, I used to be a Republican. I'm better, now.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The GOP Philosophy Explained

Universal Healthcare is part of social responsibility, a concept that the radical conservatives consider anathema. We are the richest country on Earth, and our healthcare is third-world.

The radical conservative ideology is the concept of individual responsibility. You are responsible for your welfare and the welfare of your family. Government, like a good father, should not be enabling dependency by giving anything to people, be it unemployment, healthcare, Social Security, heating assistance, Head Start for preschoolers, community block grants or Medicare. They believe that people are inherently lazy and that adverse financial situations are their own fault. They believe that medical maladies are the result of bad behavior, and people should suffer the consequences of their behavior. They claim that capitalism is the solution. They say that the free market is inherently moral and self-correcting. If companies do bad things, the market will punish them. No regulations needed. If businesses want to pay less than the minimum wage or hire children, they should be allowed to. If workers do not like those wages, they are free to work elsewhere. The free market is their God and Ayn Rand (Paul Ryan's favorite author) is their prophet.

As for morals, government as the good father should regulate people's behavior. No abortions, no same-sex marriages. In the name of religion and the free market, people should be free to discriminate against other people who are seen as less moral.

There is no social responsibility in today's conservative movement. Conservatives don't see why successful "good" people should subsidize less worthy and less responsible people. Nobody is a victim of circumstances, they are just victims of their own behavior.

Radical conservatives disparage Black Lives Matter by saying that All Lives Matter, ignoring the slaughter of innocents that the BLM movement is trying to bring attention to.

Patriotism and love of country in their view means supporting gun rights, flag-waving, admiring traditional values as expressed by some romanticized version of the Confederacy or of some period in the past where people were not coddled by a nanny state. Their view of patriotism ignores fighting for soldiers' and veterans' rights and working to take care of children, the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged and the working poor, working for better conditions for everyone, and working for clean air and water and soil and for a planet that will be livable for generations to come. They do not understand that true patriotism comes not just from saying you love America, but from actions that show you really do love your country.

Finally, American Exceptionalism. We are the innovators. We do not look to other countries for solutions. Radical conservatives disparage and tell lies about the health care in countries with Universal Healthcare. Our solution is market-based insurance, a capitalist's solution. No socialism here.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Another Fight Over Net Neutrality

I have broadband service through my ISP. Very few of my online activities involve information services from that ISP. Similarly, very few of my phone calls are to or from my telephone service provider. In both cases, I am buying access. I want to be able to access my Google e-mail account, Netflix, Amazon Video, Youtube, other smaller video sites, Facebook, multiple news sites big and small, cloud storage, various online game providers, blog posts that I write and that others have written on different web sites. I want to be able to access government sites and other public sites such as libraries. And I don't want my ISP to inhibit any content just because they could legally extort money from larger corporations or larger political parties.

Calling my ISP an information provider is the same as calling my phone company an information provider because they have a time-and-temperature service. They are telecommunication companies. My broadband is a telecommunication service even if I don't specify the exact route my internet traffic should take. I don't care what satellites are used or what cables are used when I make a phone call. I am paying for access. My computer uses a domain name server to look up IP addresses in order for me to access web sites. Similarly, I can select names on my phone to talk to other people without my caring what their actual phone number is. In both cases, I am the originating point and they are the destination point. To say that my internet service or my phone service is not a telecommunication service is juvenile, unjustifiable, and is definitely not in the public interest.

I live in a rural area. My fiber-optic connection goes to exactly one broadband provider. I am not going to call long-distance for a slow telephone connection to a far away ISP. I am not wealthy enough to afford a satellite service for an ISP, especially one which would tie up my one phone line for uploading internet URLs and other information. To call your proposal Restoring Internet Freedom is a joke. Freedom for who and for what? Certainly not for me. The only freedom I would have is freedom from internet access. Just like unaffordable health insurance would give me the freedom to be without health care.

I want the FCC to protect me from fraudulent billing, price gouging, and privacy invasions. If my ISP raises my rates 10-fold, I want the FCC to have the authority to reverse it. My ISP has no competition. If you are not looking out for the public interest, then I have no remedy.

People at the FCC are there as public servants. Their mission is to work for fairness to both consumers and providers, doing so in the public's interest. To reclassify broadband as an information service is an abdication of responsibility and a betrayal of the public trust. If anyone at the FCC thinks that greed is a virtue, I would suggest they find another line of work.

Regarding proceeding 17-108, Restoring Internet Freedom.
Each of the above paragraphs was submitted separately for clarity. These comments were sent to the FCC public comments web site,
Confirmation #:2017071506955133/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:23:25 AM
Confirmation #:2017071587350836/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:26:36 AM
Confirmation #:20170715773316277/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:35:56 AM
Confirmation #:20170715040228766/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:40:55 AM

Confirmation #:2017071541043429/Submitted:Jul 15, 2017 5:43:45 AM

Sunday, July 9, 2017

It's a Two-Party Country

Like it or not, we are effectively a two-party system. We may be able to get some people from other parties elected, but not at the presidential level. And the presidential votes impacts a lot of down-ballot voting. In a presidential election, a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for the opposition. Clinton lost a lot of votes to other parties, and Trump was elected.

The GOP has been very successful at destroying traditional Democrat fundraising (such as union contributions), and now both parties rely on corporate donations. Yes, it has been disastrous. But to counter extremist conservative policies we need the Democrats, and we need to work from the inside to effect change. A failure to understand this and to hide out in an alternate third party (or none at all) is to cede victory to those who would put corporate interests ahead of workers' interests, environmental concerns, consumer protections, judicial reform, diplomatic sanity, financial and economic reforms, health care and health insurance reforms, and racial and gender (including LGBTQIA) protections.

We need to elect people who don't think the market is amoral and self-correcting. We need people who are not proponents of social Darwinism. People who don't think that those on Social Security or SSDI or SSI are moochers. People who have principles and ethics and knowledge and an actual desire to help others.

Most of all we need people who can get elected because second place doesn't get you a seat at the table.

This has been a response to an article in The Liberal Network, What the Democrats Need To Do To Win Back The White House, which was linked to indirectly in a Daily Kos article via

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Don't Make Excuses For These Shysters

A reply to a comment in a Huffpost article, The Fake President.

Nicole Mi - Workers are treated like crap. CEOs think their only obligation is to stockholders and short term profits. How would you suggest minimum wage workers (largely with no benefits, sometimes working 2 or 3 jobs to get to 40 hours, many with families) get retraining? And can they even afford to move to where these miracle jobs are? Who will hire them if they are older?

CEOs salaries are skyrocketing to above 300 times what the people who actually do the work earn, and if they run the company into the ground they have golden parachutes. Trickle down means peeing on the peons. People who send their money to work are taxed at a lower rate than real workers' sweat. People like Romney buy companies, take the cash and maybe sell some assets, and then saddle those companies with the debt incurred in buying those companies.

And since the radical conservatives succeeded in decimating unions, both political parties are chasing after corporate donations. And the removal of limits on those donations means that our politicians are bought and paid for. There are not even restrictions on ex-legislators getting jobs in the industries they passed laws on. Just because payment is delayed does not mean it was not a bribe.

Are you getting the picture yet? Are you going to wait until Social Security is gone, Medicare changed to a voucher system, more rivers catch on fire, more corporate executives go unpunished for fraud, and the sick and elderly are put into resurrected poorhouses? Have you not seen all the bake sales and other events to raise money for people to help with medical expenses so that they might be able to avoid bankruptcy?

Don't make excuses for these shysters; wake up to what is really going on.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

On the Upcoming Senate AHCA Vote

On the upcoming GOP Senate vote to repeal and replace the ACA and take away health insurance from 24 million people to give tax cuts to the wealthy:

They will vote for the bill because it is all about "choice" and "freedom" and "individual responsibility". They will blame poor choices and bad lifestyles for those who cannot afford health care. They will continue to claim that the wealthy and corporations are overtaxed. They will continue to lie about the quality of universal health care that even Portugal and Slovenia have. Social responsibility is anathema to them. Being the richest country means nothing to them. Freedom to be without health care and freedom to die does not register. Diabetes and cancer and congenital conditions cannot be blamed on lifestyle choices. But people will keep voting for them because they believe these lies and all the other lies about Democrats. Republicans are not even fiscal conservatives, yet this is what they get people to believe. Next up, Social Security cuts.

Friday, June 16, 2017

I'm just saying...


I’m just saying …
On a political cartoon site, one otherwise liberal cartoonist made the mistake of expressing doubt about the Russian connection to Donald Trump, to which a poster (handle “Radish”) provided the following amazing response: 
I don’t know – it’s hard for me to see any U.S. ties to Russia…except for the Flynn thing and the Manafort thing  
and the Tillerson thing
and the Sessions thing
and the Kushner thing
and the Carter Page thing
and the Roger Stone thing
and the Felix Sater thing
and the Boris Ephsteyn thing
and the Rosneft thing
and the Gazprom thing
and the Sergey Gorkov banker thing
and the Azerbajain thing
and the “I love Putin” thing
and the Donald Trump, Jr. thing
and the Sergey Kislyak thing
and the Russian Affiliated Interests thing
and the Russian Business Interests thing
and the Emoluments Clause thing
and the Alex Schnaider thing
and the hack of the DNC thing
and the Guccifer 2.0 thing
and the Mike Pence “I don’t know anything” thing
and the Russians mysteriously dying thing
and Trump’s public request to Russia to hack Hillary’s email thing
and the Trump house sale for $100 million at the bottom of the housing bust to the Russian fertilizer king thing
and the Russian fertilizer king’s plane showing up in Concord, NC during Trump rally campaign thing
and the Nunes sudden flight to the White House in the night thing
and the Nunes personal investments in the Russian winery thing
and the Cyprus bank thing
and Trump not releasing his tax returns thing
and the Republican Party’s rejection of an amendment to require Trump to show his taxes thing
and the election hacking thing
and the GOP platform change to the Ukraine thing
and the Steele Dossier thing
and the Leninist Bannon thing
and the Sally Yates can’t testify thing
and the intelligence community’s investigative reports thing
and Trump’s reassurance that the Russian connection is all “fake news” thing
and Spicer’s Russian Dressing “nothing’s wrong” thing
so there’s probably nothing there
since the swamp has been drained, these people would never lie
probably why Nunes cancels the investigation meetings
all of this must be normal
just a bunch of separate dots with no connection.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Liberal Rant Concerning Religion, Youth Discipline and Conservative Lies

Religion was put into schools when Congress added the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950's. And which God would you prefer? The god of the Baptists, Protestants, Catholics, Old Testament, New Testament, Mormons, Sikhs, Hindus, Jews, Sunni Arabs, Shiite Arabs, Buddhists, Taoists, or Wiccans? Or the Church of England, as our founding fathers were supposed to belong to? Do you want kids taught that evolution is just a theory (like gravity and dinosaurs)? Shall we be Climate Change deniers? Do you want respect for others and ethics and morality taught, or do you just want to tell kids to behave because God will punish you if you disobey?

Do you really think the founding fathers wanted this to be a Christian nation? Or that we must have religion in order to have values? Do you want to continue to deny people's rights with Old Testament value judgments? Was the prohibition of the establishment of religion clause in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution put in clandestinely by Revolutionary War atheists?

Discipline problems with today's youth? Don't blame a lack of religion or religious values. The 60's were a rejection of authoritarianism, sexism, racism, greed, ignorance, and hypocrisy, and the effects were long-lasting. Parents since then have had multiple theories of child-rearing thrown at them, and too many abdicate their responsibilities or just don't understand them. Add to that the stresses of decreasing wages and benefits over the last 30+ years. And the problems were not absent before the 60's. What was absent was openness, honesty, and public discourse. Mental illness was a stigma, and so were sexual, physical and mental abuse. Pregnancies were hidden, and too many died from back-alley abortions.

Yes, things need to change. But do you think we should be heading back to a time of poorhouses, no worker's rights, no affordable health care, no minimum standards for health care insurance coverage, no environmental or consumer protections, no protections from Wall Street shenanigans or bank speculations with depositor's money, no protections for people's retirement accounts, no anti-trust regulations or food and drug protections? Are you advocating no heating assistance for the poor, no Head Start for preschoolers, no community block grants, no infrastructure spending bills, Medicare changed to private health plans with ever increasing costs and fewer benefits, the elimination of women's healthcare, the defunding of Medicaid, no ethics oversight for government officials, inadequate pay for our military troops, the militarization of police forces along with inadequate training, no rights against discrimination, the right of states to eliminate provisions regarding pre-existing conditions, privatization of Social Security, a worship of individual responsibility and an abdication of social responsibility? Then congratulations. You fit right in with today's radical conservatives. 

You should have lived in the 1890's or the 1920's. Do you still think being a liberal is about hating our country or wanting pure socialism or communism? Then you have no clue what love of country really means, and you certainly don't understand that we are a representative democracy. We are not supposed to be a corporatocracy (government dominated by corporate business interests) or plutocracy or oligarchy, and the government is supposed to provide for and promote the general welfare (as in health and wellbeing) of its citizens, otherwise known as We The People.

So go ahead and continue to believe and regurgitate the lies of the radical conservatives of how they are the ones who want fiscal responsibility, and that they are the party of morality and justice and prosperity for all and the protectors of America's values, that they are the solution to rampant crime, decaying inner cities, radical terrorist infiltrators, godless science. Keep waving those guns and flags and be secure in your ignorance and hate. Keep them foreigners away and those tree-hugging animal-loving whale-protecting hippies in their place and put the God of your choice into your schools. Keep them brown and yellow and black and olive and red and pink and rainbow-colored people away from you and your womenfolk.

But leave me out of your world of fantasy and delusion.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Minnesota's National Popular Vote Bill Stalled?

E-mail sent to Minnesota State Representative Jeff Backer (R-12A):

The National Popular Vote bill seems to have stalled in the Minnesota legislature. Also, lists the "Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote" bill twice, HF44 and HF845. 

The Electoral College dates back to a time when there was no popular vote for President in more than half of the states. Four elections have resulted in the presidential candidate who lost the popular vote becoming President, including the elections of 2000 and 2016. The race for electoral votes means that the majority of campaigning occurs in only a small number of states. And in states that are not competitive, issues of concern to voters are ignored. Voters in non-competitive states that have a winner-take-all system are disinclined to vote since the votes of the minority party in that state literally do not count. That is disenfranchisement on a massive scale, and it also means that those people do not vote on all of the other down-ballot races and issues.

"There is a certain dark irony to the fact that a system designed to prevent the people from choosing an unqualified demagogue has resulted in the election of an unqualified demagogue not chosen by the people." It is long past time for the Electoral College to be relegated to the dustbin of history. Voters today are incensed that their choice was not respected and that the system relegates too many of them to the sidelines. It is time for Minnesota to move beyond the 1700's and into the 21st century.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Letter to the President

Lying about crowd sizes, voter fraud, insurance coverage, transparency, and about your accomplishments? Claiming that you are draining the swamp? Nominating people who lie about their foreign connections and entanglements? Admiring despots and dictators? Cheering your choice for SCOTUS while the Senate changes the rules to be able to confirm him to fill the stolen Supreme Court seat? Pushing lies about your predecessor? Subscribing to discredited conspiracy theories? Nepotism? Unleashing horrors upon people and their families who have lived here for decades and are productive members of society? Proposing massive cuts in spending on social programs because they interfere with the philosophy of greed and irresponsibility? Refusing to put your assets and companies into a blind trust and then refusing to reveal what they are so that we may not see your conflicts of interest? Accepting payments from foreign governments when they patronize the companies you refused to put into a blind trust? Tweeting rumors and opinions about companies even though that affects stock prices and appears to facilitate insider trading? This is wrong. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG.

Cutting Medicaid, gutting health insurance and giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy? Do wealthy people need tax relief? Is universal health care such as that enjoyed by most other western countries somehow communist or socialist and against your philosophy of individual responsibility without social responsibility? Your philosophy of individual responsibility doesn't extend to paying employees enough so that they can be individually responsible. Are you afraid that bankruptcies due to medical bills (including for those who are insured) will diminish? WRONG.

Cheering on and crowing about the potential loss of health insurance for over 20 million people and the potential catastrophic rise in health care costs for countless other people, especially those who are elderly, poor, or already sick? The AHCA should be titled 'The Unaffordable Unhealthy Uncaring Repeal and Erase Act.' WRONG.

Allowing states to ban Medicare for non-working people? Why? Because they have made "bad choices"? Such as illness, unemployment or underemployment, age, gender, race? Or somehow chose to be a victim of crime? Or because they have to stay at home to care for a parent or child? Or because they live in the wrong place and so are not afforded equal protection? Basically telling them to just say no to poverty as if it was that simple? WRONG.

Allowing discrimination? Are you being wronged when you are not allowed to discriminate, and can't see that preventing someone from harming others is not the same as harming others? Are you afraid of Christian morals or do you somehow think it doesn't apply to you? WRONG.

Gutting federal agencies? Are you unhappy with environmental protections, worker protections, fiscal responsibility, food safety, consumer protections, public education, sane energy policies, and equal justice? Or are those concepts against the philosophy of greed and unfettered capitalism? Against your moral code of absolute social irresponsibility? Because doing things in the public interest might mean the wealthy paying their fair share? Because it might impede increasing our military budget which is already larger than the combined military budgets of the next seven countries? WRONG.

Denying climate change? Do you think science is just a theory? Do you disagree with more than 97% of scientists studying climate change and the expressed opinions of 195 other countries? Is the truth inconvenient because it might take money away from the 400 richest families who have more than what 150,000,000 Americans have? WRONG.

You have made your administration into the most corrupt and uncaring one in the history of our country, and you have been in office less than four months. Add that to your list of accomplishments.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Is Rape a Pre-existing Condition Under the AHCA?

For those people who point out that the AHCA does not explicitly make rape and sexual assaults pre-existing conditions, you need to understand that the consequences of those crimes CAN be labeled as pre-existing conditions. And when pre-existing conditions are allowed to be determiners of whether or not you get health insurance, or whether at some point they can cancel your insurance because of "nondisclosure" (usually when they don't want to pay for something expensive), then the AHCA is worthless and immoral, and should be relabeled as the Unaffordable Unhealthy Uncaring Repeal and Erase Act. To essentially make rape and sexual assault grounds for denial of health insurance and possibly medical care is barbaric and inhumane. I say that to willingly exacerbate the effects of those crimes is to be an accessory after the fact. Bring that up at the next town hall!

Friday, May 5, 2017

More GOP Medicaid Shenanigans - A Liberal Rant

In response to an article concerning states disallowing Medicaid coverage for people who are not working.

Republicans assume that people who are unemployed or underemployed or ill or who have any number of other barriers have simply made bad choices. Only the "good" deserve health care insurance. They're all for individual responsibility (though they don't equate low wages with inability to be responsible for one's self), and have no tolerance for social responsibility. Theirs is the party of Greed and flawed morals and no compassion or empathy or sense of religious values. They think that they are being wronged when they are not allowed to discriminate, and can't see that preventing someone from harming others is not the same as harming others. Their God is unfettered capitalism. Capitalism free from regulations protecting workers, the environment, consumers, the old, the sick, the disabled, children, or even the responsibility to pay their fair share in taxes. They value working money more than worker's sweat, and they have no scruples about how they accomplish their goals. They are radical conservatives. They are disgusting, and can't smell their own hypocrisy.

States Are Quietly Pushing To Take Medicaid Away From The Unemployed

ObamaCare Dissatisfaction and the AHCA

Were you dissatisfied with the ACA and are now welcoming the GOP AHCA health care plan? I suppose you think your pre-ACA coverage was great because it was cheap. But that insurance was more like a coupon for anything other than routine doctor visits.

Insurance companies would practice denying coverage for expenses, claiming treatments were experimental, etc. They would also terminate policies of sick people they didn't want to cover because of "pre-existing" conditions which had occurred outside of the history window that they asked for on applications. People were even kicked off of insurance because they had acne treatments as teenagers!

Maybe you actually had insurance that was good, but most people did not. The most common reason for bankruptcies was unaffordable medical expenses, even with insurance. ACA had mandated benefits forcing insurance companies to actually pay for needed health care, and they had to cover you even if you had pre-existing conditions. For those who made enough to qualify, the exchanges along with subsidies finally got them the insurance they needed.

Expanded Medicaid was supposed to take care of people who made too little to qualify for the ACA insurance exchanges, but Republicans sued and got that to be optional for individual states. If you can't afford insurance, I would suspect you live in a red state that opted out of the Medicaid expansion. Go cry to those radical conservatives that have been working so hard to make sure you are not covered. Blame them, not the ACA. And look into Universal Coverage that most other western countries already enjoy, at a much cheaper price than we pay. Don't believe the GOP lies; they are not fiscal conservatives and they do not care anything for working people. Ask them also why wealthy people need "tax relief."

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Common Sense Alaskan Wildlife Regulation Gutted

In response to HJR 69/SJR 18 becoming law, and which nullifies the Department of the Interior rule relating to “Non-Subsistence Take of Wildlife, and Public Participation and Closure Procedures, on National Wildlife Refuges in Alaska” (81 Fed. Reg. 52247 (August 5, 2016)):

I doubt if even one congressman actually read the text of the "rule" they voted to kill. Their bill nullifying the rule is two sentences long. The rule they killed is pages and pages of clarifications of existing regulations, tweaking of existing regulations for compliance with other laws, changes to the proposed regulations in response to thousands of comments and input from the public and from American Indian tribes and other agencies, both federal and state.

But hey, them congresspeople are against anything that sounds like it restricts their freedom to rape and pillage our environment. They must be from a different planet because they sure don't care about ours.

HJR 69/SJR 18 passed both the Senate (52 - 47) and House (225 - 193) by simple majority votes and was signed into law by President Trump on April 3, 2017, becoming Public Law No. 115-20. - 115th Congress House Joint Resolution 69
Federal Register 08/05/2016-18117...

Friday, April 28, 2017

H.R. 1180 Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 (Comp Time Scam)

H.R. 1180 would "allow" employees to bank up to 160 hours of overtime pay (4 weeks at time-and-a-half pay), to be used when taking time off at an approved and non-work-disruptive period as allowed by the employer.

How this is supposed to give working families flexibility is not explained. Although such banking of overtime is supposedly subject to prior approval by both employee and employer, in practice the employee would have no power to refuse to be paid at some future date instead of the next payday.

Such banked hours would be subject to possible employer bankruptcies and fraud, and relies on the fairness and honesty of the employer. Also, no interest would be paid to the employee for funds banked by the employer.

"Under current law, an employer that honestly wants to give an employee time off to compensate for the sacrifice of working extra hours can do so. No legislation is required. The employer simply pays for the overtime when it’s worked and then gives the employee unpaid time off when the employee requests it. The employee gets the money first and the leave later.

"The comp time bill turns this around — to the detriment of the workers. It gives employers the right to hang onto their employees’ overtime pay for months and months without paying interest on it or necessarily ever giving compensatory time off. Calling this a scam is being gentle."

"...Imagine a Wal-Mart sized employer with a comp time bank holding 100 hours of overtime pay for each of 100,000 employees paid $10 an hour. That’s a $100 million loan, interest-free from the employees to Wal-Mart."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Why Oppose Universal Healthcare?

Republicans are opposed to universal healthcare because their philosophy is personal responsibility alone, not social responsibility. Any program or policy which interferes with taking care of one's own is something which must be eliminated. Conservatives want to cut the part of government that helps its citizens, because that violates individual responsibility and therefore is against their "moral" code. The fact that their policies mean that too many people cannot fulfill their own individual responsibilities (such as income, healthcare, protecting their family) doesn't register. It is always the victim's fault, whether it is lack of decent healthcare or being ripped off by predatory companies and individuals.

The Republican philosophy is all about greed and how to justify it. In their minds poor people are lazy and undeserving. The fact that social responsibility might help their bottom line is not part of their reality. And they have crafted so many ways of conning people into believing that their way is best, including messaging, word choices (tax "relief"), lies ("death panels"), and fear-mongering. That plus dirty tricks (gerrymandering, voter restrictions, Citizens United) keep them in power.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz Malfeasance

Concerning Aaron Swartz and Justina Pelletier, a response to mis-characterizations of the people involved.

Aaron Swartz was never convicted. He was, however, hounded to death. Mr. Pelletier was given no alternative but to commit his crime in order to free his daughter from her 13 months of torture. If the actions of the Boston U.S. Attorney's office don't seem egregious to you, perhaps you have not understood the details of these two cases. Their office is hardly alone in their malfeasance and their disregard for judicial standards, common sense, ethics, and legality. I have personally experienced too many examples, including as a victim of crime, of this level of incompetence and indifference from our justice system.

Carmen Ortiz was overseeing prosecution efforts against Aaron Swartz [see note] for a crime which caused no physical harm and no economic harm. Further, the institution involved declined to press charges, and their attorney asked the lead prosecutor to drop the charges. Instead, more charges were added with the potential for 50 years in federal prison and $1 million in fines. Shortly after a counter-offer for a plea deal was rejected, Mr. Swartz committed suicide.

In the case of Justina Pelletier, Boston's Children's Hospital misdiagnosed her as having a psychiatric problem, then essentially kidnapped her and took her off of the medications she needed. Carmen Ortiz was the Boston U.S. Attorney who refused to investigate the hospital, dismissing numerous attempts by other people and organizations to get her to act. Her father's efforts on Justina's behalf were thwarted, and in desperation he knocked out the hospital's internet service. His action was successful in generating media attention and freeing his daughter from her 13 months of torture. In return, the same Boston U.S. Attorney's office is vigorously prosecuting Justina's father after having refused to investigate the hospital.

Huffington Post - "Senator Rubio And Governor Scott – Please Help: He Dead, She’s Paralyzed, And I’m Imprisoned"
The Guardian - "Aaron Swartz stood up for freedom and fairness – and was hounded to his death."
Wikipedia - Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz was a computer genius who crafted software solutions such as RSS which are still widely in use. He was an activist who made it his mission to make public documents available without charge. He was charged for attempting to download academic articles from JSTOR which were behind a pay-wall at Boston's MIT. There was no physical harm and no economic harm done, and JSTOR declined to press charges. JSTOR's own lawyer had asked the lead prosecutor to drop the charges. Instead, even more federal charges were added so that he was looking at 50 years in federal prison along with $1 million in fines. A 6-month plea deal was offered and declined, and a counter-offer was rejected. Carmen Ortiz was the U.S. Attorney overseeing the prosecution efforts.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Rich Freeloaders

People who work hard for a living are tired of freeloaders - the rich who pay less as a percentage of taxes, corporations that pay little or no taxes and companies with record profits that receive subsidies. The wealthy have abandoned the principle of social responsibility and subscribe exclusively to the concept of individual responsibility. That concept is based on the myth that poor people are lazy and have made bad choices, and it is their own fault that they are poor. The wealthy send their money to work and are taxed only on the profits, while taxes are levied on most of the income of people who actually work.

At the same time, the radical conservatives want to eliminate worker protections, discrimination protections, environmental protections, and free K-12 education. They want bigger banks, bigger tax cuts for the rich (including dropping capital gains taxes to zero), no financial or consumer safeguards, privatized Social Security and Medicare, no Pell grants for students, no minimum wage, no heating assistance for the poor, no Head Start for preschoolers, no community block grants, no infrastructure spending bills, no healthcare insurance assistance and insurance protections, and a budget increase for our ridiculously massive military (with little going to soldiers).

Congress decides on the budget; the president only proposes an outline. Trillion-dollar deficits are the GOP's method of choice for an excuse to cut social spending. Conflating the federal budget figures with Social Security (with its own revenue stream) gives them an excuse to raise retirement ages and cut benefits (which has no impact whatsoever on the federal budget and its deficits), and gives them reason to privatize Social Security and gain access to profits from administrative overhead fees.

Want smaller government and lower taxes? Try living in Somalia.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Berkeley Riots - What Really Happened

150 masked agitators? Molotov cocktails? Does that really sound like a liberal protest?

A story on Breitbart BEFORE the event said that Yiannopoulos (formerly a writer and senior editor for Breitbart News) was, at the very institution which would be affected, going to "call for withdrawal of federal grants and the prosecution of university officials who endanger students with their policies”.

The police and Berkeley cancelled the event because of the "riot" and out of concern for public safety. Berkeley was going to let Yiannopoulos have his free speech even in the face of Yiannopoulos' reputation as a white nationalist, defender of pedophilia and "professional outrage generator". The rioters caused an estimated $100,000 damage to the university and additional damage to the downtown area. It now appears that Black Bloc, a mostly anarchist loose group of protesters known for violent tactics and for concealing their identities, along with the violent "extreme-left" group By Any Means Necessary, engineered the riot. It was not a student protest.

Yvette Felarca leads the outside group By Any Means Necessary. In a Breitbart article she was said to have expressed no regrets for her group's use of violence at Berkeley. She said they were setting an example for the left, who have been far too timid for way too long.

Robert Reich said that he "wouldn't bet against" the possibility "that Yiannopoulos and Breitbart were in cahoots with the agitators." This was followed immediately by a story on Breitbart that "Robert Reich Lies, Claims Breitbart News Organized Berkeley Riots." Speculation versus claim.

Within hours, Trump accused the university of not allowing free speech and promoting violence, and threatened to withhold federal funds (which was what Yiannopoulos was supposedly going to call for).

Yiannopoulos on Fox News the next day said the incident proves that Berkeley doesn't deserve federal grants.

The FBI has joined campus police and the local police department to identify the rioters who "assaulted innocent people and destroyed private and public property in order to suppress the free speech of someone they didn’t agree with."

And you think the big story is Robert Reich lies?? Grow up.

Originally posted as a comment to a YouTube video, Robert Reich : The resistance report, February 24, 2017.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Who are you, really?

Just saying, “I’m not an islamophobic, xenophobic, homo/transphobic, racist” isn’t convincing to anyone but those who already agree with you. If this isn’t who you are in your heart, you’re going to have to be the ones to show the rest of us who you really are. Your actions are the best argument for who you really are, what you really believe. We cannot see into your hearts. Your condescension, hostility and political support, your treatment of LGBTQ as malformed deviants, are what we see. You talk about how you’re not racist, but then we see you fall in behind a president who surrounds himself with white supremacists. How would Christ treat Muslims? Does not the Bible enjoin God’s people to welcome the foreigner? We hear you talk about family values, then see you support a politics that tears children from the arms of their parents.

You support people who are opposed to Social Security, minimum wages, affordable health care, Medicare and Medicaid, fiscal responsibility, sane gun laws, food safety laws, worker protections, environmental protections, financial and consumer protections, and protections against discrimination. You call people who support those things bleeding heart liberals, socialists, not real Americans, moochers, and unpatriotic. You support people who practice voter suppression, who oppose ethics oversight, who oppose immigration reform, who vote consistently to benefit the already wealthy, who pass laws that benefit large corporations and don't do anything for or even hurt small business, who lower taxes on the rich and then blame assistance programs for deficits, who call Social Security the biggest federal expense and ignore that it has its own revenue stream, and who support an administration that wants to deconstruct federal agencies and flat out lies over and over to our faces.

Is this really who you are? If not, then you have a funny way of showing it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Stop Voting Against Your Self-interest

Do you think that the Republican Party best represents the interests of  the working class?

It is primarily Republicans who call Americans lazy. They think people would rather live off of the government tit than have a job. That's Ayn Rand's premise, and House Majority Leader Paul Ryan named Rand his favorite author. That is the conservative's main excuse for eliminating government assistance programs. As for Democrats, they understand that Americans don't want jobs that don't even pay minimum wage. Ask yourselves why Republicans won't simply issue work visas to Mexicans so they don't have to stay here to make money. Hint: Then they would be legal and would have to be paid more.

Republicans call 47% of the populace "moochers," including people on Social Security who paid into it their whole working lives. (And don't believe the lie about Social Security being the biggest federal expense; it has its own revenue stream, has a $2.8 trillion Trust Fund and its accounting is separate by law from the federal budget. It is not an "entitlement" as conservatives use the term.) The real moochers are companies that pay so little that they force workers to get assistance from the government to make ends meet. When their workers get food stamps, companies are the beneficiaries.

Ask yourself who better represents the working class.

Democrats want higher minimum wages and worker protections. Republicans want to eliminate minimum wages, safety rules (OSHA), job age requirements, and regulations concerning hours worked and overtime. Democrats want the rich to pay their fair share; the tax burden in this country has been shifted to the middle class. Those at the top send their money to work at making more money, and the profits are taxed at a lower rate than the incomes (not profit) of people who work. Money is valued more than sweat.

Democrats are pro union; Republicans eliminated most unions because that is how their opponents were funding campaigns. Now both parties are dependent primarily on the wealthy and on corporate donations.

Democrats want universal health care as most other western countries have. Medical debts are the primary reason for personal bankruptcies today. Instead, we have a Republican plan (a modification of RomneyCare) which was created by the conservative Heritage Foundation. So we have for-profit insurance companies with 20% administrative overhead issuing plans with ridiculous deductibles and high co-pays (an insurance company between you and your doctor). And we are still forcing companies to pay for health insurance for their workers which is an expense not burdening their foreign competitors.

We have free trade instead of fair trade, so American companies are forced to compete with companies who do not have to follow the same standards of product safety, worker wages and worker safety, environmental protections, and fiscal responsibility.

Finally, Republicans are no longer fiscal conservatives. Their philosophy is to drown the Federal government in a bathtub (remember Grover Norquist and his pledge that Republicans signed?), with the main tool being to force elimination of programs and agencies by starving the government of funds. Of course, they are better at reducing revenues than expenses.

Stop voting against your self-interest. Start voting smarter.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Why Us Liberals Have a Problem with Trump

Want to know just a few of the reasons why "liberals" have a problem with Trump? Trump signs executive orders without reading them, except perhaps the title (that's how Bannon got a seat on the National Security Council). He turns any occasion into a speech about himself or his enemies. He nominates unqualified people for cabinet posts. Steve Mnuchin, Trump's Treasury nominee, took over a bank and went into a foreclosure frenzy using unethical practices at the height of the financial crisis. In addition to practicing robo-signing, he foreclosed on a 90-year-old homeowner over a 27-cent payment error with her insurance. Betsy DeVoss, Department of Education nominee, knows nothing about public schools. Trump claims to be smarter than anyone, yet some of his spoken sentences make no sense, and on numerous occasions he displays his ignorance. He contradicts himself constantly, sometimes within the same sentence. Some of his reactions display emotional immaturity ("No, you're the puppet."). He regularly attacks and belittles people instead of saying why they are wrong. He promises whatever he thinks people want to hear. He promised less expensive healthcare that will cover everyone, "just putting the finishing touches on it," then says maybe we'll get a replacement for the ACA in 2018 (presumably after the elections). He promises to drain the swamp, then loads his staff and nominee choices with Wall Street insiders, predators, industry insiders, and white supremacists. He insults foreign leaders and does not prepare for conversations with them. The excuse for the Australian debacle was that it was five pm and he had a long day. Isn't Trump the one who said Hillary didn't have the stamina to be president? His secret plan for getting rid of ISIS turned out to be getting 100 generals together and giving them 30 days to come up with a plan to get rid of ISIS. He signed an executive order overriding a regulation which stated that financial advisors must act in your best interest, avoid conflicts of interest when possible, and must be transparent with you about his or her compensation and fees. In other words, he gave the go-ahead for people handling your retirement account to cheat you. He obsesses about the popular vote, claiming that millions voted illegally for Hillary. In person voter fraud is rare. From 2000 to 2014 there were only 31 confirmed cases of voter impersonation fraud out of more than a billion votes cast. Voter suppression, however, is alive and well. We are told to treat the president and the office with respect, that Trump supporters had to put up with eight years of Obama with nary a complaint. How long did Trump claim that Obama was an illegitimate president? How long did the Republicans practice "Just Say No" to anything Obama wanted, even if it was in our best interests? For almost a year Obama's Supreme Court nominee never got a hearing, and McConnell vowed to block any nominee for four more years if Hillary won. And now McConnell wants a hearing on Trump's pick for SCOTUS, saying to treat him fairly like the Republicans did for Obama's nominees. You wanted facts? Those are just a few of them. Read the Republican party platform, read the Republican bills which have misleading titles, listen to what Trump and the Republicans say and do, and decide for yourselves if the Republican party is acting in your best interests and is truly the party of fiscal conservatism. Fact check the lies, such as lies about Social Security with its 2.8 Trillion Trust Fund (Treasury Bonds) and separate revenue stream and separate accounting (by law), with claims that it is broke and is the biggest federal expense.

Are you really against minimum wage laws? When people don't make a living wage, they need government assistance. When taxpayers have to fork out money to help a business's workers, that is corporate welfare. Look it up and get educated. Or call us snowflakes and stay ignorant. Your choice.