Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017 Giveaway to the Wealthy in a Must Pass Bill

This bill is needed to avoid a government shutdown. So Republicans have loaded it up with all of their wet dreams.

There will supposedly be a temporary tax cut of 10% for the middle class, much less than taxes are cut for the wealthiest. The 40% corporate tax reduction, which is permanent, will not go into higher wages or more jobs but instead will be distributed as dividends and stock buy-backs; there will not be an increase in demand for additional goods and services which is what drives job creation and wage increases.

The wealthiest 10% own 90% of stocks; so it is the 10% that are already wealthy who will receive 90% of the benefits of cutting corporate taxes. And since the poor usually do not own stocks they will receive no benefits from a slashed corporate tax rate (unless you believe that trickle-down will magically actually start working). The remainder of the 90% will share in only 10% of benefits. Plus, most business tax deductions remain in place and there will be new deductions available; that is not true for the middle class. Add to that the cut in estate taxes benefiting only the wealthy.

Despite this bill raising the National Debt by $1-2 trillion, radical conservatives still insist that they are fiscal conservatives and will need to slash social spending (including on Social Security which does not affect the federal budget at all).

The 10 year rule for bills passed by reconciliation (simple majority) only means that deficits in the 11th year on will not be worsened. But federal budget deficits are yearly figures only. There is no corresponding rule for increases in the National Debt.

What else does this bill do? It declares officially that life begins at conception, allows oil drilling in Alaska, and cuts Medicare and Medicaid. Don't forget that social programs will in the future still be targeted and cut because of "their cost." This bill also eliminates the health insurance mandate and leaves 13 million more people without health insurance while making it much more expensive for others. Also being underfunded and mismanaged are the EPA, OSHA, FDA, SEC, Education, Labor, and the CFPB, and who knows how many other agencies?

A very progressive tax bill, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, November 11, 2017

District of Columbia v. Heller, Quotes From the Majority Opinion

Until 2008 the Supreme Court did not undertake a case deciding what the wording of the Second Amendment meant. In District of Columbia V. Heller, The Supreme Court did address this, with Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion for the 5-4 majority (joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.). The complete text of the majority opinion can be found at  District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008). Here are relevant quotes I took directly from that opinion.

[P.53] We conclude that nothing in our precedents forecloses our adoption of the original understanding of the Second Amendment. It should be unsurprising that such a significant matter has been for so long judicially unresolved.

[P.54] Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose...For example, the majority of the 19th-century courts to consider the question held that prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons were lawful under the Second Amendment or state analogues.

...nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of

[P. 55] arms. 26
[Footnote] 26 We identify these presumptively lawful regulatory measures only as examples; our list does not purport to be exhaustive.

We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time.” 307 U. S., at 179. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.”

[P. 56] As the quotations earlier in this opinion demonstrate, the inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right. The handgun ban amounts to a prohibition of an entire class of “arms” that is overwhelmingly chosen by American society for that lawful purpose. The prohibition extends, moreover, to the home, where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute. Under any of the standards of scrutiny that we have applied to enumerated constitutional rights, banning from

[P. 57] the home “the most preferred firearm in the nation to ‘keep’ and use for protection of one’s home and family...would fail constitutional muster.

[P. 58] We must also address the District’s requirement (as applied to respondent’s handgun) that firearms in the home be rendered and kept inoperable at all times. This makes it impossible for citizens to use them for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional. The District argues that we should interpret this element of the statute to contain an exception for self-defense.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Tale of Mental Illness: IQ45's Puerto Rico Response

Hurricanes hit Puerto Rico, Irma on September 6th, and Maria on September 20th. The destruction was not just a disaster, it was catastrophic, and most of the electric infrastructure was destroyed. One month later, Puerto Rico has 300 outside workers supplementing their 900 local workers trying to restore electricity. Compare that to Texas which had 5,300 outside workers who restored electricity within two weeks of the state being hit by a hurricane. Florida had 18,00 outside workers to restore electricity. And both of those states had much of the nearby infrastructure still standing.

We have IQ45 telling Puerto Rico survivors to "Have a good time," and throwing paper towels at them for the cameras. Instead of talking about how he will help victims of hurricanes Irma and Maria, he complained about Puerto Rico's infrastructure and debt and lamented the cost of rebuilding. At one point Turnip tweeted, "Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!" Our president insulted the mayor of the capital city of San Juan because she pleaded for help and he perceived it as a personal attack on himself. On a low initial body count, he said, "It's incredible, the results that we've had with respect to loss of life. People can't believe how successful that has been, relatively speaking." IQ45 thinks he is doing a wonderful job in the aftermath of Puerto Rico's hurricanes, a disaster response that will be studied for years and will be used as a model for how to handle disasters. He gives his response a 10 out of 10 rating, ignoring that 80% of the island is still without power, and some residents are drinking water from contaminated Superfund sites.

IQ45 is a legend in his own mind. In reality, he is a self-centered, irresponsible, heartless, ignorant, and delusional bastard, blaming and denigrating others while soliciting praise for himself.

New York Times article, Puerto Ricans Ask: When Will the Lights Come Back On?
The Atlantic article, What's Happening With the Relief Effort in Puerto Rico?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trump Cannot Recant an Oath He Never Understood

Trump did not understand his oath of office and he does not understand the Constitution. Republican Senator Ben Sasse is just the latest one to question Trump's actions without questioning Trump's competence or sanity. Trump does not live in the real world, and he proves it daily.

In Trump's mind if a news organization is not praising him then it must be fake news. If people are not telling him what a wonderful job he is doing, then they must be morons who don't understand him or they must only be against him because of politics. He is a delusional, immature idiot who is unaware of his lack of understanding. He really believes he is smarter than everyone else and will discredit anything that challenges that view of himself.

He tosses off phrases he thinks prove that he's smart. "The calm before the storm." What storm? "You'll see." He is "putting the finishing touches" on a health care bill that will cover everybody and be cheaper. He is for the Israeli/Palestinian plan that both sides like.

Trump imagines praise and accomplishments that don't exist. Enemies of his "are saying it was the greatest speech ever made on foreign soil by a president." The head of the Boy Scouts says that "it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them." He thinks he is doing a wonderful job in the aftermath of the hurricanes, a disaster response that will be studied for years and will be used as a model for how to handle disasters.

Sure, Senator. Trump is recanting his oath. That explains everything.

Republican Senator Asks If Trump Is Recanting His Oath Of Office

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Purpose of the Second Amendment

When people say gun ownership is their second amendment right, they mean the truncated version that the NRA has as its motto. Are they a member of their state's well-regulated militia? Do they keep and bear arms belonging to that militia? There is nothing about ownership in the second amendment. They can take their 50-bullet magazines and their machine guns and AK-47s and their no-background-checks and their no-training-required bull and get the hell out of this country. We are f*cking fed up.

The Second Amendment was about State militias in the 1790s, and the fear of the anti-federalists of a federal army. Even Scalia said that the Second Amendment only protects arms that would be used in a militia. The Second Amendment has no relevance today, and those who think otherwise have managed to turn this country into a slaughterhouse.

Tell me, were the victims in Las Vegas supposed to be armed so they could return fire to where ever they thought the bullets were coming from? Were the 6- and 7-year olds in Sandy Hook supposed to be armed? Is somebody in a movie theater supposed to let the bullets fly when the moron behind them shoots them in the back? Should parents be armed for when their kids find their guns and accidentally kill friends? Why do Second Amendment people think that schizophrenics should be allowed to have arms?

Open your eyes. Learn history. Don't try to justify mass shootings as the price of "freedom." Freedom to die? The new definition of freedom as defined by radical conservatives? Freedom from responsibility, accountability, oversight, ethics, regulations that are supposed to protect us, and even freedom from healthcare for us idiots who don't think greed is a virtue.

You want to be patriotic? It ain't flying a flag and yelling "Love it or leave it!" Patriotism is making your country better. It's helping the poor, the sick, children, the elderly, veterans and your neighbors whatever color or gender they are. It's protecting our soil, our water, and our air from pollution. It's not waving guns and saying you love your country. It's showing you love your country. It sure ain't wearing a flag pin and telling the latest shooting victims "Our thoughts are with you" while collecting money from the NRA and voting down any reasonable gun safety laws.

Overcoming Delusions About the Second Amendment

Move-On facebook post, "Republican lawmakers only offer ‘thoughts and prayers’" video

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Corporate Personhood and Corpeople

If a corporation is considered a person with rights and privileges, then that corporation must also be subject to the laws and responsibilities of a person. Specifically, a false statement denying Climate Change would be covered by the federal lying statute contained in Title 18 of the U.S. Code Section 1001.

Under this statute, it is a crime to knowingly and willfully make any materially false statement concerning any judicial matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the government if that statement has the "natural tendency to influence or [is] capable of influencing the decision of the decision making body" which receives the false statement. An oral or written false statement to any federal agent does not have to be given under oath and does not need to be made in a formal setting, and the government does not have to actually be deceived or misled. There is no requirement of awareness of a government or judicial proceeding, and in fact, there need not be a proceeding.

Can a corporate person, hereafter referred to as a "corperson" or in the plural as "corpeople", give sworn testimony? Can they be subpoenaed? Can a corperson be charged with obstruction of justice or murder or bribery or incitement to rioting, and can they be imprisoned? Can an ankle monitor be put on a corperson? Does a corperson have the right to an attorney?

Does a corperson have to pay IRS the Alternative Minimum Tax? Do they have to register for the draft? Can they enter into binding contracts before the age of 18? What sex is a corperson on a birth certificate? In places where homosexuality is a crime, is it illegal for two corpeople to merge?

How does a corperson vote in an election? How are they counted in the U.S. Census? Does a foreign corperson go through customs when entering the United States? If slavery is illegal, how is a corperson owned? If a corperson has offspring, are they subject to an estate tax upon their demise? Is the transfer of assets by a corperson subject to a gift tax?

Free speech for corpeople? Sure. Just don't forget all of the other things that go along with being a person.

Businesspersons Beware: Lying is a Crime
ExxonMobil Claims Constitutional Rights to Avoid Revealing Climate Science Cover-up

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Miss the America You Grew Up In?

Which America did you grow up in?

The Jim Crow America? The America that denigrated and underpaid women? The America that taxed wealthy Americans 90%, where rivers regularly caught on fire, where victims of sexual assaults were blamed, where pedophile priests went unpunished and their assaults hidden, child abductions were ignored, or the America that sent 50,000 mostly unwilling draftees overseas to die for a cause that they did not agree with?

Or the America before Corporations were declared people, the Voting Rights Act was not trashed, abortion was a woman's choice, science was not denigrated and denied, school children could recite a Pledge of Allegiance that did not have the words "under God" added, currency had the motto "E Pluribus Unum" ("Out of Many, One") instead of "In God We Trust," colleges were more affordable, CEOs only made 50 times what their workers made instead of 300+ times, Social Security was a worker-funded retirement insurance program and not a welfare entitlement, Earth Day was part of a non-political environmental protection effort and not a job-killing liberal scheme, executives overseeing fraud went to jail, lapel flag pins were not proof of patriotism, and more working class people had well-paying jobs and company pensions that weren't transferred to an under-funded government agency and didn't have benefits slashed?

America has problems now, America had problems in the past, America will have problems in the future. Longing for an idealized, romanticized America that never existed. Be careful what you wish for.

Protests by "sons of bitches"

Sad. They are not boycotting America. They are protesting discrimination and police brutality. Americans have given their lives for the right to free speech, which includes the right to protest, and Trump's incendiary remarks (while mostly ignoring Puerto Rico's devastation) have resulted in many more athletes joining in the protest. No, they are not advocating violence against police; they are protesting violence and the killing of people of color.

The President of the United States publicly calling those athletes "sons of bitches" (later spun as "simply stating that pride in our country is a good thing") is what we should be complaining about. Patriotism and loving America is not waving the flag and yelling "Love it or leave it!" Patriotism is supporting The Constitution and working to better people's lives, supporting each other in times of need, protecting this country, working to protect our air, water, and soil, and protesting injustices where we find them.

Someone kneeling to bring attention to a problem is not disrespecting America. It is fighting for people's rights, the same as when suffragettes marched for the women's vote, the same as when blacks fought for civil rights and equality, the same as when in 1912 women mill workers went on strike to protest slashed wages and horrendous working conditions, the same as when people protested the Vietnam War and the wasting of the lives of tens of thousands of our soldiers, the same as protests for American Independence (remember the Boston Tea Party?). Protests are part of America's history.

A boycott of America? Not supporting America? Sons of bitches? Really? Sounds like you agree with the police who clubbed and arrested those striking women mill workers. Think about what you believe and what you are telling other people.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Regarding the Review of Automobile Emission Standards

Dear Administrator Pruitt,

Maybe you don't believe in Climate Change. But your dismissiveness of science and how science works aren't going to change reality. The EPA is tasked with protecting our environment and our health. Or don't you believe in your mission? You obviously don't care about our health and protecting the planet we all share and you are willing to damn us and future generations in your single-minded pursuit of whatever twisted ideology you believe in. If you don't think you can handle your job requirements then step aside and let someone who is not ignorant and callous and consumed by greed do the job.

You don't believe that just a slight rise in average temperature can cause the extreme weather we are having. You don't think that the rise in temperature means that the atmosphere holds more moisture or that the heated oceans hold more energy. You would ignore the melting of Arctic and Antarctic ice and the creation of the Northwest Passage. You would dismiss the emergence of frequent 100-year and 1000-year weather events.

And now you want to put the prior administration's emission standards for automobiles under "review." How many more protections are you going to trash? Will you keep taking a wrecking ball to our environment until our oceans are dead, our rivers are once again on fire, our soil is polluted, our water unsafe, and our air filled with more toxic chemicals? How many people have to die until you are happy?

Keep the emissions standards. Or kill people. Your choice.

Keith Wilson


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Why Senators Will Vote to Screw Their Own States

Why vote for Trumpcare and deny constituents health care?

Don't worry, people will still have access to health care via the emergency room, and then they will most likely be unable to pay the medical bills that would have been covered (except for deductibles, co-pays, and exclusions to coverage on top of premiums) by the insurance they could no longer afford or that they couldn't get because of pre-existing conditions.

And when those bills are sent to collection agencies, those agencies will take them to civil court. If they fail to show up, or if the judge deems that they are “willfully” not paying the debt, the judge may write a warrant for their arrest. Then they could end up being charged criminally for "failing to appear in court," "disobeying a court order," or for "contempt of court."

Then after they are arrested and are unable to pay the bail or the non-refundable 10% to the bail bond agency, they will sit in jail (losing any employment they may have had) while waiting for their day in court to find out how much longer they will have to stay in jail. They will then be taught the new world of "offender-funded" justice and will be billed for such things as jail book-in fees, bail investigation fees, public defender application fees, court costs and the costs of their imprisonment and any probation they may get. And if they fail to pay any of that debt, the court will outsource the debt to a private collection agency, and the process of being taken to court for unpaid debts will begin all over again.

And if the jurisdiction that they are in considers "contempt of court" a felony, they will lose the right to vote. Then they will not be able to vote against the Republican senator whose district they are in. And so Republican senators can vote to damage their own state because the constituents they have screwed can't vote.

Washington Post - Trump’s repeal push just took a massive new hit

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Modern Debtors' Prisons

Debtors’ prisons were banned under federal law in 1833. A century and a half later, in 1983, the Supreme Court affirmed that incarcerating indigent debtors was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause.

Yes, a person may be jailed while awaiting trial because they could not afford bail and could not afford the non-refundable 10% a bail bondsman charges. But that is not the only way people end up in jail. A creditor, or a debt collector hired by the creditor, may bypass bankruptcy court and take the debtor straight to civil court. If the debtor fails to show up, or if the judge deems that the debtor is “willfully” not paying the debt, the judge may write a warrant for the debtor’s arrest. A person owing money in a civil case may end up being charged criminally for "failing to appear in court," "disobeying a court order," or for "contempt of court." While a criminal defendant is afforded legal counsel, a person owing money may end up in jail without having had a lawyer.

Then there are criminal justice financial obligations, or "offender-funded" justice. These are fines, fees, and restitution. Included are traffic tickets, jail book-in fees, bail investigation fees, public defender application fees, drug testing fees, DNA testing fees, jail per-diems for pretrial detention, court costs, felony surcharges, public defender recoupment fees, and restitution owed to the victim or victims for personal or property damage. An offender may also have to pay the costs of imprisonment, parole, and probation, which may include fees for re-entry (into society), drug rehab, and electronic monitoring.

And if an offender or ex-offender fails to pay any of this debt, the court will outsource the debt to a private debt collector, and the process of taking the debtor to court begins all over again.

These debts affect creditworthiness, eligibility for a driver’s license, and any employment an "offender" may have had. These debts make it harder to get a job, get a home, get a loan, or otherwise find a way to avoid more jail time while trying to repay that existing debt.

Welcome to America.

The US bail system punishes the poor and rewards the rich
Ending Modern-Day Debtors' Prisons
Debtors’ Prisons, Then and Now: FAQ

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Electoral College Plus Notes on the Modern GOP

Originally, more than half the states chose electors in their legislatures rather than by the voting public in the election. The electoral college was intended to give less populous states increased representation, to preserve the presidency as independent of Congress (the House only votes in the event of a deadlock), and to try to insulate the election process from political manipulation. The biggest problem is that people's votes are not given equal weight, some states have a winner take all system (essentially disenfranchises people who didn't vote for that state's winner), it discourages 3rd parties, and swing states are given undue importance. If you believe in "one person one vote," the electoral college is unfair.

On another note, there is absolutely no evidence of voter fraud. In-person voter fraud is very 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. Extreme gerrymandering, voter photo ID requirements, disinformation even when contrary to specific court orders, not enough voting machines in minority districts, restrictions on early voting and absentee ballots, distorted purging of voter rolls, sending registration confirmation requests to deliberately false addresses, and voter intimidation. And don't tell me both sides are equally bad and don't try to dismiss facts with name-calling. If you really believe all the lies that you are told, then you are beyond reasoning with.

The modern GOP. Racist, dishonest, looking out for the interests of large corporations and the wealthy. They are against environmental protections, worker protections, fiscal responsibility, food safety, consumer protections, public education, sane energy policies, equal justice, and Social Security (a self-funded program which is separate by law from the federal budget and has no effect on the National Debt).

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.

Cutting Medicaid, gutting health insurance and giving huge tax breaks to the wealthy? Do wealthy people need tax relief? Universal health care such as that enjoyed by most other western countries is labeled communist or socialist and is against radical conservative's philosophy of individual responsibility without social responsibility (I've got mine, you can go to hell). They must be afraid that bankruptcies due to medical bills (including for those who are insured) will diminish. Their philosophy of individual responsibility doesn't even extend to paying employees enough so that they can be individually responsible.

If you really think Republicans are fiscally conservative, then you have been conned. They have been hard at work for decades to lower federal revenues so that they have an excuse to cut social programs and eventually to drown the federal government in a bathtub.

Draining the Swamp

Sure, Trump is draining the swamp. Right into the White House. Have you bothered to see who he has appointed to head government agencies? People whose mission is to deregulate and to deconstruct the agencies that they head. He surrounds himself with Goldman Sachs' executives, conspiracy theorists, purveyors of fake news, and people who don't like the federal government.

Just last week Trump said, "We're going to be working with Congress on helping out the state of Texas...It's going to be a costly proposition, because, again probably Ted Cruz is here." He refused to put his assets into a blind trust and is raking in money from people who are hoping to buy influence (Mar-A-Lago, Trump Tower, violations of the emoluments clause of The Constitution). He has long been known as Don the Con and regularly screwed employees and stiffed contractors. He has had numerous bankruptcies, including for a casino that he ran into the ground with a billion dollars in debt. Who loses money on a casino??

He lies constantly about easily checked things such as his inaugural crowd. He blamed Democrats for the failure of the ACA repeal even though he never bothered to talk to any of them, and now he is threatening to sabotage it because it's not imploding like he thinks it should. He thinks Climate Change is a hoax and does not understand the difference between climate and weather. He is vindictive, hateful, impetuous, and corrupt. He thinks health insurance works like life insurance, where "by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan." For $12 a year.

He pardoned Arpaio, who was labeled the worst sheriff in the U.S., and who treated presumed innocent people awaiting trial as if they were the scum of the earth. Arpaio's thugs even turned a paraplegic into a quadriplegic in the "punishment chair" because he had the temerity to request a medically necessary catheter. A paraplegic turned quadriplegic who was a guest of Arpaio for one day while he awaited trial for possession of pot. Arpaio, a man who was found guilty and then refused to follow the judge's orders and was thus found in contempt and was awaiting sentencing. A man who apparently shared Trump's disdain for the rule of law and for judges.

Trump is the guy who claimed Hillary didn't have the stamina to be president and then excused his atrocious behavior towards a foreign leader by saying that it was after 5 and he was tired. This is your hero and savior. An ignorant, narcissistic, praise-seeking, delusional, corrupt, threatening, insulting, angry, hateful idiot.

Yeah, go ahead and dismiss criticism of Trump by other world leaders as a deflection. Don't believe the confessions of collusion with Russia by Trump's people. Ignore all of the fact-checking as fake news. Just don't expect us to join you in your delusions. We have seen the truth.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

You Call Yourself a Conservative

You don't like government regulations or taxes? Do you call yourself a conservative? So that means you want to eliminate worker protections, discrimination protections, environmental protections, and unemployment benefits. You want bigger banks, bigger tax cuts for the rich (including dropping capital gains taxes to zero), no financial or consumer safeguards, no Pell grants for students, and no minimum wage. You are okay with 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, no Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid. But you are okay with a budget increase for our ridiculously massive military.

You do not want public libraries or public roads or bridges or dams or well-funded public schools or police or fire departments or national parks. You want a return to child labor, six-and-a-half day work weeks, senior poverty and poorhouses, sawdust in hot dogs, rivers catching fire, workers being fired for not being able to perform their jobs after being injured on those jobs, and wages that are little more than indentured servitude. You want to starve the government of funds so you can have an excuse for eliminating social programs, which means that you are not a fiscal conservative. You want freedom from ethics, oversight, responsibility, justice, fairness, and equality.

All of the above so that you can have your pure capitalist society where the free market is inherently moral and self-correcting and where discrimination is a sacred right. Where being poor is due to laziness and being sick is the result of bad choices and government should not encourage dependency nor deprive people of the self-esteem that comes from earning a living and being individually responsible. Where the wealthy do not give their hard-earned money to the sick and the poor and the lazy, to people who are moochers and less worthy and less moral. Where money making money is valued more than a worker's sweat. Where tax giveaways to the wealthy are called tax relief. Where one in five corporations pay no taxes.

So you can have your utopia where the federal government is kept out of boardrooms and put into bedrooms to enforce your notions of morality. Where you can be kicked off health insurance just when you need it because you didn't disclose that you had acne even though you were asked about your medical history for only the last 10 years. Where treatment for brain cancer is called experimental and treatment is not covered. Where the leading cause of personal bankruptcies is medical bills. Where financial advisors are not required to act in your best interests. Where the Bernie Madoffs of the world are free to steal retirement savings. Where Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco are free to fleece investors and cost consumers billions of dollars. Where commodities brokers can manipulate oil prices and drive up the costs of gasoline. Where laws and regulations and oversight are called job-killing and are eliminated.

So you can have a utopia where poisoning aquifers, clearcutting forests, filling the atmosphere and people's drinking water with lead are all just the price of living in modern times. Where pensions can be sold off and too bad if grandpa's or grandma's retirement income is cut in half. Where vulture capitalists can buy a company, take the cash, sell some assets and then saddle the company with the debt from the purchase of itself. Where billionaires are the job creators, not people who have money in their pockets to buy the things or services that a company sells. Where "Protect and Serve" means shooting people who make you afraid. Where someone carrying Skittles and walking home can legally be shot dead in the name of "stand your ground." Where the mentally ill can purchase machine guns and background checks are violations of constitutional rights, well-regulated militias be damned.

So you can have your country protected from illegal drugs by a border wall that any drone can fly over. A country where a child of two years old can grow up into an adult and be deported to a country they don't remember and where they don't speak the language. A country where a paraplegic awaiting trial for possession of pot can become a quadriplegic by having his neck broken in a "punishment chair" because he insisted on having a catheter so he could urinate and prevent his bladder from rupturing. And where a sheriff awaiting sentencing for proudly violating a court order can be pardoned because he was just "doing his job," as if racism was a legitimate job. A country where parents of a fallen soldier can be publicly and nationally shamed, where protesters against hatred are equated morally with advocates of hatred and perpetrators of deadly violence.

Congratulations. You are a conservative.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Another Attack on Social Security

To Rep. Collin C. Peterson (D-MN7)

Several of your colleagues are attaching a so-called Social Security commission to the routine debt ceiling increase in a blatant attempt to cut our earned benefits.

Social Security is self-funded and by law is separate from the federal budget. Cutting benefits or raising the retirement age does nothing for the federal budget or National Debt; the only change is the date that the Trust Fund zeroes out (2034). Only income up to the salary cap, currently $127,200, is taxed; the wealthy pay a maximum of $15,773 in Social Security payroll taxes on income which is often more than $1 million. Social Security is funded primarily by middle class and poorer workers; for me and many others, Social Security is the only retirement income we will have.

In 2015 you and a handful of other Democrats voted with Republicans to approve the rules which would govern the new Congressional session. Included in those rules was a provision that would prevent a routine reallocation between Social Security's retirement and disability programs unless the House also passed a Social Security "reform" bill.

I don't know what you have against Social Security and I don't care. The arguments against Social Security display an astonishing ignorance of how the program works and who pays for it. I am asking you to cease your hostility and join with those opposing cuts to Social Security. I am asking you to reject H.R. 3423, the Social Security Commission Act of 2017, a measure whose sole purpose is to justify cuts. Do the right thing this time.

Thank you.

Stop Congress from fast-tracking cuts to Social Security

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Charlottesville Counter-protester DeAndre Harris Also Beaten

In a Huffington Post article regarding additional felony charges against the car attack suspect, there is a police twitter post about it. I added the following comment to that article in hopes that Mr. Harris' Charlottesville story gets heard by more people:

Also mentioned in the police twitter post in this article is an investigation into the beating of DeAndre Shakur Harris. Mr. Harris, who was unarmed, attended the counter-protest and was attacked afterward with poles by "the KKK and white supremacists" in a parking garage right next to the police station (no police showed up to help him; it's not clear if they were called or not).

The photo of him bleeding profusely from his head went viral, and he ended up with a broken wrist, a chipped tooth, and wounds which required eight staples in his head and which caused him to lose consciousness during the beating. He was taken to be treated with other victims at the rally but was transferred to the hospital due to the severity of his injuries. Mr. Harris said if it wasn’t for his friends who helped him, after they noticed him under the pile of white supremacists, he probably wouldn’t be alive to tell his story.

I would think that since the beating of a counter-protester was by white supremacist protesters who were part of the rally, and who apparently objected to the non-whiteness of Mr. Harris's skin, that this mayhem would also be prominently mentioned in stories about Charlottesville. The police twitter post mentioning him is the first I've heard about this.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Protect Medicare and reject the House's FY18 Budget

Cutting Medicare? Cutting Medicaid? Is the Medicare payroll tax not enough? Is the Medicaid Extension too expensive? So you don't want to adjust the payroll tax. And you want to cut Medicare/Medicaid because you are having problems with your budget. And your philosophy is to take more money from people who can't afford it instead of taking it from the profits of companies or the pockets of wealthy people who by definition can afford it.

So the thought of grandma or grandpa having to choose between health care and food or car repairs or house repairs or increased rents or dental work or new glasses or hearing aides makes you smile and dance a little jig in your expensive shoes and expensive ties and expensive shirts and suits and perfect teeth and designer glasses that you can replace any time your prescription changes. Try cutting your bloated military spending. Try paying your fair share and stop screwing the workers in this country.

Vision, dental, hearing - not covered by Medicare. 20% copay. Deductibles. Premiums. I got a Medicare Advantage plan because it took me more than a year to pay for my share of physical therapy. My premium for the Medicare Advantage plan went up by $5 per month this year. That's okay, my Social Security monthly benefit went up by $4. My cable bill and my food bill went up, I need the brakes fixed on my car, and my electric bill went up by $50 a month even though I no longer use air conditioning. That's okay, my benefits went up by $4 and I cut out cable TV. I took out a bank loan to fix a tooth because I cannot afford to lose any more, and am paying it back $100 a month for the next 13 months. That's okay, I got a $4 a month raise. I need new prescription glasses. No problem. I get $4 more a month this year.

Sure, cut Medicare and Medicaid while at the same time you are threatening to decrease Social Security benefits or raise the retirement age, as if cutting a self-funded program that is separate by law would help your budget woes by even one thin dime.

I am your constituent and an AARP member, and I am demanding that you reject the House of Representatives' selfish FY18 budget bill. Your budget that would cut billions from programs that seniors count on to survive -- slashing Medicaid, making it harder to get food assistance, and even opening the door to turning Medicare into a voucher system.

It's simply not right that some in Washington want to put at risk the programs that I and other seniors rely on. I expect my legislators to represent our interests and protect the benefits that we worked hard for our whole lives.

I am counting on you to put aside the corruption and greed and take a moral stance.

Monday, August 7, 2017

VA Hospitals as an Argument Against Universal Coverage?

You cannot equate VA facilities with universal health care. VA facilities are government owned and operated. Universal health care is not nationalization and confiscation of private facilities nor is it forcing hospital providers and workers to become civil servants. Single-payer simply means that the federal government pays for health care.

I would much rather have a public servant between me and my doctor than some insurance agent whose primary motive is not my health, but his wallet. I don't like having a company whose driving motive is getting 20% of every health care dollar with a CEO who makes millions. Would you rather go back to insurance for healthy people only and the routine denial of coverage for bogus reasons when healthy people finally get sick? Long lines for a chance at treatment by doctors in animal stalls by people who could not get coverage? Medical bankruptcies even when covered? Finding out your coverage is more like a coupon? Bake sales to raise money to help someone get treatment?

Save your free market profit-driven corrupt health coverage for elective procedures. Relying on the free market for needed treatments is the freedom to go without health care, the freedom to go bankrupt, the freedom to die. Whenever I hear freedom and flexibility by radical conservatives, I hear the subtext of freedom from accountability, oversight, safety standards, wage minimums, competency, integrity, and legality. Keep your greedy hands out of my pockets and tell your health care lies to your Republican base.

"Some of Us Pay Our Own Way for Health Care."

And I suppose that people who can't get coverage only have themselves to blame? Bad lifestyle, bad choices. Less worthy. Lazy. And all the other excuses put out by people who think that greed is a virtue, that everyone must be individually responsible even if they are paid peanuts. If people are not paid well enough to go without government assistance, it is called corporate welfare. Ever hear of the concept of the wealthy paying their fair share? Ever hear of Social Responsibility? Not everyone wants to be a CEO or manager or owner of a business. Some people just want fair wages. And for you radical conservatives to recognize that your concept of freedom means freedom to do without, as in freedom for us to be without living wages, without health care, without a safe retirement income, without clean air and clean water, without maintenance of infrastructure, and without adequately funded agencies.

Every time I hear freedom and flexibility from you jokers, I hear the subtext of freedom from accountability, oversight, safety standards, wage minimums, competency, integrity, and legality. Spare me your version of morality. It's corrupt and selfish and greedy and heartless. Glad you can afford to pay your own way. So sorry you think the rest of us who can't are just lazy and are not worthy of health care. So sorry the wealthy want the profit on the money they send to work to be taxed at a lower rate than the total income from the sweat of someone who does the actual work.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Police Brutality

Police assault a short 115-pound girl who matched the description of a tall 170-pound male.

Police are on the lookout for a 30-year-old 5' 10" 170-pound bald, black man with a goatee and a pink backpack and a machete. It is broad daylight on a Sunday afternoon. They stop a 19-year-old 5' 2" 115-pound female who is not bald, does not have a goatee, and has a black and red backpack. According to their own statement, one of the officers got his feet tangled in her bike, yet they say she pushed the 200-pound officer and he fell. The officer grabs her wrist and wrestles her, but the claim is that she continued to assault the downed officer. The K-9 officer claims he was afraid that she would grab the mythical machete and continue her attack, so he sics the dog on her. It apparently takes two officers with their knees on her along with a K-9 dog chewing on her to subdue the 115-pound suspect. They also claim that she was the one who grabbed the dog's muzzle, yet the officer stated that he commanded the dog to release her hand. Also note that according to the police statement she attacked instead of fleeing on her bike, as if that were the only two choices.

The whole police statement stinks, yet she is arrested on felony charges for not complying, for resisting arrest, and for attacking officers. And the excuse once again is that a police officer was afraid. If you cannot understand how asinine and racist this is, then substitute white for black and ask yourself if their story makes any sense and is in any way consistent with proper procedure. Ask yourself why a short 115-pound girl would attack officers who had guns drawn as well as a police dog (which they threatened her with prior to the "resistance"), all while facing three police cars with lights flashing. Even if they mistook her for a male, nothing else in the suspect's description came close to matching her except that she was black. She was black.

Go ahead and continue to blame the victim. And keep dismissing Black Lives Matter as another way of saying Blue Lives Don't Matter and ignore and excuse the continued slaughter of blacks in this country.

Email to Al Franken on The Nomination of the Wolf of Wall Street

The nomination of Joseph Otting for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. This was my reply to the news story. "Who are the fools who will confirm his appointment? The GOP - Greed Over People. Aiding and abetting the Conniver in Chief, the Head Thief, the delusional ignorant treasonous idiot who rode into Washington on a Russian Red carpet. Remember this moment in 2018. Remember the values and morals of these criminals, and reward them appropriately. Resist." If you have anything at all to do with the confirmation hearings, remember the anger of your constituents. We are mortified at the continuing nominations of thieves and anarchists and thugs to head the Departments which are supposed to be there to protect America and its citizens. How many decades will it take to repair the damage done? Who is protecting this country and protecting its people and protecting our standing in the world while these carpetbaggers destroy our government?

Huffington Post Article, "Donald Trump’s Pick For Key Bank Regulator Is A Foreclosure Kingpin, Of Course"

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A Response to Someone Who Thinks Trump is Great

If you don't like the ACA, too bad. Millions got insurance that didn't have it before. Insurance before the ACA was primarily for the healthy and when people needed it they found that their insurance was more like a coupon. Ever see bake sales to raise money to help someone with medical expenses? Ever hear of insurance companies denying benefits because the treatment was "experimental"? Or the insured suddenly lost their coverage when they needed it most because they did not disclose treatment for acne which occurred before the time they were asked about on their application? And hello, medical bankruptcies. Ever see hundreds of people lined up for a chance of getting treatment by doctors in animal stalls?

Obamacare was Romneycare, a product of the Heritage Foundation. It was a Republican plan. More than 170 changes were made to the ACA to please Republicans. Even the public option was dropped. In the end, no Republicans voted for their own plan. After passage, Republicans sued to get Expanded Medicaid optional. The expansion was supposed to cover people who did not make enough to qualify for the ACA. So millions in Red states were screwed out of health care coverage.

This is your for-profit health care system. Don't like it? Then do what most other western industrialized nations have done. Single-payer universal health care. Paid for by a flat tax rate. I would rather pay 15% of my income than go bankrupt or go without life-saving treatment. Or are you going to cry American Exceptionalism and tell us all about how those people in other countries have it worse than us and can't get treatment and have long waits and how the lower costs are somehow a bad deal?

Don't like the idea of the wealthy paying their fair share? You think poorer people are moochers, are lazy, are less worthy, and are victims of their own choices? Too bad. We don't think greed is a virtue. We are sick of people at the top sucking up the wealth and forcing workers to get government assistance. A worker on welfare is a company getting welfare. And people who can't get medical treatment are people who can't work.

So don't call the ACA shitty. At least it got millions insured. And if your premiums went up, guess what? That's how insurance is supposed to work. Health insurance is not just for the healthy. And because insurance companies actually had to cover some sick people, their expenses went up. But their administrative expenses also went up, because they wanted their 20% take.

One more thing. 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 banking and investment banking (securities firms) 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. So if you are somehow equating your pension doing great with the rise in the stock market, good luck. And I hope your pension is not being invested by your broker with someone like Madoff.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Radical Conservatives and the new GOP

From Bush II into Trumpolis I have described members of this new GOP as radical conservatives. They profess traditional conservative values while working for an extremist dystopia. Their ideology is characterized by unrepentant and unfettered capitalism with a hatred of government interference and oversight, jingoism, patriarchal and judgmental policing of people's behavior, and an extremist view of individual versus social responsibility.

In pursuit of this vision, they proclaim this country to be a Christian nation. They characterize liberals as godless immoral socialists and tree-hugging save-the-whale pacifist hippies bent on the destruction of wealth and the end of American Exceptionalism. Any threats to this vision or any dissension are met with charges of false news or accusations of being unpatriotic. Protesters are labeled as selfish criminals who want a nanny state and unearned entitlements. To them, we are lazy and unworthy, deserving of our poverty and ill health.

The new GOP is an extremist organization of radical conservatives hell-bent on sucking up as much money and power as they can while trashing government, ethics, oversight, responsibility, justice, fairness, and equality. The ends justify the means, and if Russia provides the means then why not. Theirs is the new morality. Greed is a virtue and they are the anointed ones.

This ain't the grand old party of right-wing conservatives.

Inspired by a Huffington Post article, "The GOP Is No Longer A ‘Conservative’ Party"

Friday, July 28, 2017

Social Security - A Re-cap

Those paper IOU's in the Social Security Trust Fund are U.S. Treasury Bonds earning interest. The radical conservatives have convinced people that the Trust Fund is worthless paper because they want to privatize Social Security. Why? Think 20% commissions and a belief that the free market is better than government. If you want to trust that your retirement won't be stolen or lost (think Madoff and stock market crashes and fund managers who churn accounts for the commissions and financial advisors who don't have to have a fiduciary responsibility), then by all means support privatization.

BTW, the Trust Fund has $2.8 trillion because the retirement of Baby Boomers was anticipated. So when Social Security runs deficits, it only means that Treasury Bonds are being sold to make up for more being paid in benefits than is being collected with payroll taxes. It does not mean Social Security is broke. Would you be broke with $2.8 trillion in the bank?

Also, raising the retirement age or cutting benefits has absolutely no impact on the federal budget or the National Debt. It only affects the date at which time the Trust Fund is drawn down to zero, which is currently the year 2034. A very small increase in payroll taxes or raising or eliminating the salary cap would give Social Security a 75-year solvency. Currently, only the first $127,200 in regular income is subject to Social Security payroll taxes. This means that someone earning $1 million pays the same amount as someone making $127,200. Make less and your whole income is taxed for Social Security, unlike the income of the wealthy.

Stop believing all of the lies by those radical conservatives. Social Security will always be there. Unless politicians take it from us.

One more thing. When a Treasury Bond is redeemed from the Trust Fund, the Treasury simply sells another bond to someone else (like the Chinese). No money is paid from the Treasury. Also (okay, two more things), Social Security is by law separate from the federal budget. It is not the federal government's "biggest expense." It is not even an expense. It has its own revenue stream (payroll taxes plus interest on bonds). Politicians lumped Social Security in with their budgets because the surpluses made their budgets look better. Some even hid the payroll taxes in the figures for general revenues, making Social Security look like an unpaid entitlement. And now with expected Social Security deficits and the drawdown of the Trust fund, they want to reduce benefits or raise the retirement age to keep the surpluses going and their budgets look better. Don't be fooled.

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 7/25 he talked about his 7/24 speech at the Boy Scouts Jamboree. "I got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” The Boy Scouts denied the quote. They did issue a statement in which they apologized for Trump's speech.]

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.