Monday, October 16, 2017

I read an article on the Daily Beast late last night that kept me up practically all night.

The author wrote that two of the people who Trump has been consulting with on the Iran nuclear agreement were John Bolton and Sean Hannity. John Bolton, a.k.a. “The Angry Mustache” is bad enough, but Sean Hannity? Are you KIDDING ME? If brains were dynamite, Sean wouldn’t have the power to blow the wax out of his ears. He’s a propagandist. That’s ALL. And not even a very good one. And by the way, Trump still consults with Steve Bannon as well, he of the Alt-Reich Breitbart “News.”
That article gnawed at me so much, it kept my gears turning all night. Look at what’s become of us just since last year. Our Commander in Chief is clearly not a well man. I too sometimes try to laugh off his stupidity and ignorance, like the drunk at the party who puts the lampshade on his head, except this drunk has 4,480 nukes. And the electoral college has seen fit to entrust him with the football.
Funny/not funny. Downright terrifying.
Everybody in Washington knows Trump’s nuttier than a gunny sack full of pecans. Tillerson certainly knows it. So do Kelly, McMaster and Mattis. Not that I’m a great fan of any of them, but these are military people, men of discipline, and patriots. I believe they’ve made a pact to prevent the unthinkable. While Trump is getting advice from Sean Hannity on how to deal with Iran... Sean fucking Hannity!!... Trump’s Trinity is trying to walk him back. It’s like the old Warner Brothers cartoon with the little devil sitting on Sylvester’s shoulder, whispering advice in his ear, and the little angel whispering advice in the other ear.
Only this is no cartoon. It’s as real as... as thermonuclear war. Presumably, the dynamic duo of Hannity & Bolton are also guiding our deranged leader on how to handle Pugsley in North Korea as well. Yes, very comforting. Why listen to career diplomats and foreign policy experts when you’ve got those two?
We’re living in surreal times. If a cop pulls you over for driving erratically, and you’ve got a blood/alcohol content of .08, you’re going to the hoosegow. Why, because you’re evil? No. Because you’re a threat to the public.
When you apply for a job as a train engineer, a pilot, a Greyhound Bus driver, etc., you have to take a series of tests to make sure you’re mentally up to the task. Why, do they have something against the mentally handicapped? Aren’t they discriminating against the mentally ill? No. Again, because it’s their duty to protect the public.
Yet here we are, October 2017, and we have a mentally unfit sociopath at the helm. His mental health is no longer in question. There are literally thousands of psychologists and psychiatrists all across the country who’ve diagnosed him from afar, just none officially. Which once addressed, would end this bizarre charade via the 25th Amendment.
Get a few martinis in Rex Tillerson, and ask him if Trump is mentally fit. Or Sen. Bob Corker. Or Reince Priebus. Or Jeff Sessions. Or just about any White House staffer who’s seen Trump under pressure, and witnessed his tantrums. The man in the Oval Office playing brinksmanship games with Iran and North Korea IS NOT SANE.
And yet, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, the murderous thug Wayne LaPierre at the NRA, the “Values Voters Council,” they’re all playing along as if this is the game of the century. For them, Trump in the White House is a golden opportunity to get their agendas through. So they pretend to not notice the madness taking place before their eyes. “Sign here Mr. President. Oh, and here too Mr. President.” Never mind the fact that after decades of U.S. presidents and world leaders pulling the doomsday clock back, away from nuclear Armageddon, it’s once again ticking forward due 100% to this chaotic administration.
We can’t predict with any certainty exactly when or how the Trump era will end, but of this much I’m certain: It won’t end well for Trump, nor will it end at a time or in a manner of his choosing. Eventually, once he’s no longer useful to them, McConnell or Ryan will suddenly address the orange elephant in the room and announce; “Oh my goodness, if only we’d known about his mental illness sooner!”
Meanwhile, fear not citizens of the Earth, Hannity, Bannon and Bolton have the president’s ear.
You can’t make it up.
Bruce Lindner


American Kakistocracy

There’s a case to be made that the United States is governed by the least scrupulous of its citizens.


Kakistocracy is a term that was first used in the 17th century; derived from a Greek word, it means, literally, government by the worst and most unscrupulous people among us. More broadly, it can mean the most inept and cringeworthy kind of government. The term fell into disuse over the past century or more, and most highly informed people have never heard it before (but to kids familiar with the word “kaka” it might resonate).

As I wrote my new book with E.J. Dionne and Tom Mann, One Nation Under Trump, I kept returning to the term. Kakistocracy is back, and we are experiencing it firsthand in America. The unscrupulous element has come into sharp focus in recent weeks as a string of Trump Cabinet members and White House staffers have been caught spending staggering sums of taxpayer dollars to charter jets, at times to go small distances where cheap commercial transportation was readily available, at times to conveniently visit home areas or have lunch with family members. While Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign after his serial abuse, others—including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, remain in place.

With Pruitt and Price, the problems were evident before they were confirmed. Pruitt told the Senate he had done no official business on a personal email account while serving as Oklahoma attorney general. When a judge ordered Pruitt’s emails to be made public, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rushed through his confirmation before they appeared—and, too late, they showed he had misled the Senate. Tom Price had engaged in a string of stock transactions while in Congress that led to accusations of manipulation and insider trading; McConnell and his Republican Senate colleagues brushed the evidence aside. Similarly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s misleading claims in his confirmation hearing about his own relationships with Russians during the campaign met with no pushback or interest from Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.

The Constitution prohibits anything of value other than a salary going to a president from the federal government or the states. (Trump had also been pushing the District of Columbia for more favorable property taxes.) The failure of GSA top officials to act on Trump’s apparent violation is under investigation by the agency’s inspector general. Foreign-government entities falling over themselves to stay in the hotel and schedule meetings and events there at premium prices may have violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause, just one of a string of in-your-face elements of a president enriching himself via his office. Doubling the initiation fee at Mar-A-Lago to $250,000, and advertising that those putting on weddings there or at his Bedminster, New Jersey, country club might get a photo-op with the president of the United States, are equally outrageous examples.

Read more

Trump attacks the ACA

Robert Reich

Increasingly frustrated by failed attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Trump has taken another step to sabotage it. Under his new executive order, businesses will be able to purchase health care coverage across state lines. It's an idea Republicans have tried to sell for years as the free-market fix for the health care system. Don't be fooled. The order will:

1) Create loopholes for employers to offer skimpier health coverage. Special exemptions could bypass the Affordable Care Act's essential health benefits requirement and patient protections.
2) Lure healthy people into these lousy health plans, thereby lumping the sick together and driving up costs.
3) Expand short-term insurance plans designed for the unemployed that offer fewer benefits and higher out-of-pocket costs. This too would lure healthy people away and raise premiums for everybody else.

This latest step comes as Trump has threatened to withhold federal dollars to states that have expanded Medicaid and cut funding for marketing campaigns designed to promote enrollment in the Affordable Care Act's health exchanges. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, these sabotage tactics have already destabilized the insurance market.

Trump's scorched-earth attack on the Affordable Care Act threatens the health and well-being of millions of Americans. If he let's the program fail, it's up to us to hold him and the Republicans fully accountable.


Trump signs executive order aiming to hobble the Obamacare marketplace

After repeated failures in Congress, Trump is thwarting Obamacare with the stroke of a pen.

OCT 12, 2017, 11:46 AM

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday that would allow healthy people to buy cheaper health insurance if they are unsatisfied with plans offered on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace. Why? Because the plans under the executive order offer much limited coverage.

Following the Republicans’ failure to pass their latest Obamacare repeal measure last month, Trump is using his executive authority to accomplish what Republicans couldn’t. Under the GOP bill, ACA enrollees would be offered lackluster plans, with cheap premiums — plans that would be unusable for people with a pre-existing condition or people who later develop a medical condition because plans fail to cover what they need. Many senators expressed concern about the impact of the legislation on vulnerable populations.

The executive order will not take immediate effect, as key details are being left for federal agencies to work out through rule-making. The order should be open to the public for comment when the rule is posted. A White House official said Thursday that the order is just the “beginning” of the administration’s actions pertaining to the ACA.

The move could break Trump and the GOP’s promise to protect sicker people’s access to affordable insurance. (Talking Points Memo has a good timeline of all the moments the GOP promised to cover people with pre-existing conditions.) Trump vowed to safeguard these consumers as a candidate, and later as the president. Now, with a stroke of a pen, he has gone back on his word, again.

This is how, as the order is threefold: it would allow small businesses (like a group of freelancers), and possibly individuals, to band together and buy insurance like a large employer would; these are called association health plans. These plans could be exempt from some Obama-era rules like the requirement that insurers cover essential health benefits, such as maternity care or mental health.

The order says “associated health plans cannot develop premiums based on health conditions.” Health policy expert Timothy Jost told ThinkProgress “they [insurers] could not discriminate against employees individually but may be able to against small groups of employees and would certainty be able to eliminate essential health benefits and take other steps to make coverage very unattractive to individuals with health care problems.”

The order also calls for expanded access to short-term health plans, which are bare-bones plans that are exempt from the health law’s regulations. Short-term health plans use “medical underwriting” that allow insurers to use health information to evaluate applicants; this practice commonly excludes people with pre-existing conditions from coverage. Under current health law, people can only have these plans for three months, but Trump’s executive order would extend their lifespan to a year, per the request of some Senate Republicans.

Insurers and health policy experts worry healthier enrollees will buy these cheap, skimpy plans instead of purchasing private plans on the ACA marketplaces, leaving mostly sick patients to purchase ACA plans.

10 Oct
Larry Levitt @larry_levitt
Replying to @larry_levitt
If healthy people can enroll in short-term plans and avoid the individual mandate penalty, the ACA marketplaces could collapse.
Larry Levitt @larry_levitt
Anything that creates a parallel insurance market for healthy people will lead to unaffordable coverage for sick people.
10:40 AM - Oct 10, 2017
When unhealthier people, who require high-cost care, are the only ones left in the marketplace, insurance companies will need to raise premiums exponentially or leave. Under this scenario, the ACA marketplace, which serves 21 million people, will inevitably implode.

Finally, the order not only encourages healthy people to leave the ACA marketplace, but steers sicker people to purchase plans there. Trump’s order would make it easier for employers to set aside money, tax-free, to help employees purchase health plans. A concern from insurers, first reported by Axios, is “employers might be able to offer coverage to their younger employees, while using these new funds to shift older workers, who tend to have higher health care costs, into the individual market.”

The executive order comes at a time when the ACA marketplace has been fairly stable, despite politicized rhetoric to the contrary. A mid-2017 market performance review from the Kaiser Family Foundation reported “data from the first six months of 2017 offer further evidence that the individual market has been stabilizing and insurers are regaining profitability, even as political and policy uncertainty clouds expectations for 2018.”

During the order ceremony, Trump said “many” people enrolled in the ACA marketplace will have no insurance options. This is not true. As of September 27, the last day insurers could have pulled out, there were no bare counties.

There’s a pretty good sense that provisions of the executive order could destabilize the marketplace. Georgetown University Health Police Institute first pointed out an instance where one provision of Trump’s executive order is already in effect: in Tennessee.

Through a state law loophole, people are still able to buy association health plans sold through the Tennessee Farm Bureau. These plans are able to sell non-ACA compliant plans. As many as 73,000 people are enrolled in these plans. It’s hard to definitively say that these plans made the ACA marketplace in Tennessee “ground zero” for insurers pulling out. But it doesn’t help. A Society of Actuaries report found that, in 2015, the population enrolled in ACA-compliant plans in the state had the worst overall health risk score in the country. An insurance marketplace needs healthy and sick people to round out. This is insurance 101.


Religiously speaking

People getting shot, shooting victims dying every day - American GunFail

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