What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 25, 2017

HR 1628 - The CBO Report Is Out

The Congressional Budget Office and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) has issued its report on HR1628, (a.k.a. the "American Health Care Act of 2017").

And this is what the CBO said:
CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under H.R. 1628 than under current law. The increase in the number of uninsured people relative to the number projected under current law would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. In 2026, an estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law. Under the legislation, a few million of those people would use tax credits to purchase policies that would not cover major medical risks.
23 million Americans without health care coverage.  But, Slate adds:
On the bright side, some people would get cheaper coverage with fewer benefits—which is great for young, healthy men in particular—and gutting Medicaid and reducing spending on insurance subsidies would cut the deficit by about $119 billion. So there's that.
But details, details. How would this work?  CNN reports:
The legislation that ultimately passed would allow states to waive two key Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions. Insurers in these states would be allowed to charge higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions if they let their coverage lapse. Carriers would also be allowed to offer skimpier plans that would have lower premiums, but not cover as many benefits. But lawmakers also allocated additional money to a stability fund to help states cover high-cost enrollees.
That last sentence is the measly $8 billion in the Upton Amendment.  About that $8 billion, Slate says:
It makes short work of the Upton Amendment, writing that though it pushes down costs as intended, the effect “would be small because the funding would not be sufficient to substantially reduce the large increases in premiums for high-cost enrollees.” In other words, it's barely worth talking about.
 And on the MacArthur Amendment, Slate says:
The number-crunchers spend much more time on the MacArthur Amendment, since it could fundamentally reshape how insurance is sold in some states. The report estimates that half of the country would live in places where lawmakers would choose to keep all of Obamacare's rules. There, premiums would be a mere 4 percent lower by 2024, largely because the AHCA's basic structure would tend to price older Americans out of the insurance market and draw in younger customers, who pay less for their coverage. Another third live in states that would nix many of the essential health benefits Obamacare now guarantees, such as maternity and mental health care. Those places would see a 20 percent drop in premiums by 2026 compared to current law, “primarily because, on average, insurance policies would provide fewer benefits.” However, not everyone would benefit equally. “The reductions for younger people would be substantially larger and those for older people substantially smaller,” the CBO nots. People who needed more extensive medical care would also have to pay more out of pocket.

Finally, the CBO thinks that about one in six Americans live in states that would drop both the essential health benefit and community rating rules. This would create significantly cheaper insurance for people with few health care needs, while leaving the sick to pay “extremely high premiums” that would “rapidly rise” over time. Technically, insurers would still be required to sell to people with pre-existing conditions, and could only raise prices for those who have gaps in their insurance market. But for reasons previously spelled out well by analysts at Brookings, the CBO still thinks the markets in those states would bifurcate—one with cheap insurance for the healthy, and another with wildly expensive coverage for the ill.
So for those who don't need insurance, it's cheaper and easier.  For those who do, it's more expensive (perhaps too expensive) to keep - and you're on your own.

And this is what all these Pennsylvania Republicans voted for:
I wonder how many of their constituents they're screwing over in order for their wealthier, healthier voters to save a few bucks?

May 23, 2017

My FOURTHEENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

This'll be quick.  I promise.

A few days ago the New York Times reported that Donald Trump, in his meeting in the Oval Office with the Russian Foreign Minister and the Russian Ambassador to the US, called the former head of the FBI James Comey (who he'd just fired) "crazy" and "a real nut job."

Here's my question: Are you OK with any of this?

Are you OK with the president of the United States in effect bragging to the Russian Ambassador that he'd just fired the guy in charge of the investigation into whatever connections there may have existed between his presidential campaign and Russian intelligence?

Are you OK with his characterization of Comey as "crazy" and "a real nutjob" during that brag?

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up: 

May 22, 2017

Good For Them - Notre Dame Students WALK OUT On Mike Pence

Sometimes very powerful protests can happen very very quietly.

Like this one:
Some graduating seniors at the University of Notre Dame walked out of their own graduation ceremony to protest Vice President Pence when he began to deliver the commencement speech on Sunday morning.

Pence was chosen to give the commencement address at the nation’s most prominent Catholic university — even though the school ordinarily invites newly inaugurated presidents to give the address in their first year of office. Thousands of students and faculty members signed a petition asking Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, not to invite President Trump, and the university chose instead to invite Pence, a former Indiana governor.

A coalition of student activist groups at Notre Dame called We StaND For planned a walkout to protest policies Pence pursued as governor that they say targeted the most vulnerable.
The reasons for the protest, organized by a group called WeStandforND, can be found here.

Specifically:
During his time as governor of the state of Indiana and now as a Vice-President, Pence has targeted the civil rights protections of members of LBGT+ community, rejected the Syrian refugee resettlement program, supported an unconstitutional ban of religious minorities, and fought against sanctuary cities. All of these policies have marginalized our vulnerable sisters and brothers for their religion, skin color, or sexual orientation.
And for that, they walked. Take a look:


Good for them.

May 19, 2017

Birthdays - May 19

More proof, as if it's necessary, that astrology is BS.

Born today in 1945, Pete Townshend:


And then, only 6 years later, Joey Ramone:


Also born today:
  • Pol Pot - 1925
  • Andre The Giant - 1946
  • Peter Mayhew - 1944
  • Grace Jones - 1948
  • Malcolm X - 1925
So yea, astrology is BS.

Happy Friday!

May 18, 2017

ANOTHER Response From Senator Pat Toomey!

Like this one, it's email.

NOW, unfortunately, I have to make sure I scan my spam folder more.  The reason being that's where I found this most recent response from Senator Pat Toomey.  Had I not checked, it would have been lost to the ages.

So let's dive straight in.  What's this one about?

Senator Toomey's first sentence:
Thank you for contacting me about the situation in Syria. I appreciate hearing from you.
Ah, Syria.  If it's Syria, it has to be the ninth letter.  In it, I am asking about the Tomahawk missile attack on the Shayrat Airbase in Syria.  Specifically, this:
The Pentagon announced that, "Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield." Reportedly, the Russians were then able to inform the Syrians of the attack. The runways themselves were not damaged and within a day or so, the base was operational again.We're talking limited damage here.

All this was done before the American people were informed. Let me simplify: Syria's ally Russia (and supposedly, Syria) knew of the attack before the American people knew.

Doesn't this bother you at all?
That's what I asked.

And this is how Senator Toomey answered:
As you know, Syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war. The Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has massacred large numbers of Syrian people since the war began, including through the use of chemical weapons. During the fighting, over 400,000 Syrian citizens have died. The entire civilized world has denounced Assad's brutality. Since the civil war began, the U.S. has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in lethal and nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.

In early April, the Assad regime conducted another chemical weapons attack. This sarin gas attack in Idlib, Syria killed over 80 civilians, including children, and wounded over 500 more. In response to this atrocity, the Administration launched a cruise missile strike against the Assad regime on April 6, targeting the Shayrat air base. This action sends a message to the world that barbaric, nerve gas attacks on innocent Syrians will not go unpunished.

The current conflict in Syria is a complex challenge requiring American leadership and significant global engagement. I look forward to the President working with Congress on next steps, including development of a comprehensive plan that details for the American people our long-term strategic objectives, the possible risks for military personnel, and national security implications.

I understand your concerns regarding the situation in Syria and will keep them in mind as I continue to monitor the situation in Syria. Thank you again for your correspondence. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
You'll notice that he didn't answer my question.  Not at all.  In fact, his first two paragraphs are simply throat-clearing filler.

It's apt that it all starts with "As you know..."

Yes, Senator I do know all that stuff.  That's why I asked you my question.  So I'll ask it again, doesn't it bother you that Trump told the Russians about the attack BEFORE he told us, The American People?

And considering the events of the last week or so, if it didn't bother you then, doesn't it bother you now?

May 17, 2017

More Trump Obstruction. Contact Your Member Of Congress.

A few hours ago, former NSA Analyst John Schindler tweeted:
The "this" is this from NBC:
Fired FBI Director James Comey wrote an internal memo saying President Donald Trump asked him to shut down an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, multiple sources with firsthand knowledge of the memo told NBC News on Tuesday.

The memo was part of a paper trail Comey built documenting what he believed to be Trump's campaign to derail the FBI's investigation of alleged Russian ties to his presidential campaign, according to a source close to Comey and a former federal law enforcement official.

The source close to Comey said the memo included a line in which Comey quoted Trump as having said, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go."
The White House denies the story but as Jennifer Rubin wrote in the Washington Post "the administration’s credibility is nil right now" so I'm thinking Comey's probably gonna be closer to the truth than the gang that tried to influence Trump with a fake Time magazine cover.

But Schindler is right.  Every GOP member of Congress needs to be asked directly if s/he is ok with what happened.

Let's start in SW PA:
And of course:
So if you live in one of those congressional districts, call or drop your member of Congress a line (or better yet, some snail mail).  And by all means, contact Pat Toomey and ask him if he's OK with Trump asking the head of the FBI to "letting Flynn go" when Flynn was under investigation for dancing too closely with Russian Intelligence.

May 16, 2017

My THIRTEENTH Open Letter To Senator Pat Toomey

I'll be dropping this letter to Senator Pat Toomey in the mail today:
Dear Senator Toomey:

It's me, again. Your constituent who also writes for the local Pittsburgh-based political blog, "2 Political Junkies."

Senator Toomey, the events of the last few days demand attention.

As you may already know, yesterday the Washington Post reported that:
President Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said Trump’s disclosures jeopardized a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State.
And:
Trump went on to discuss aspects of the threat that the United States learned only through the espionage capabilities of a key partner. He did not reveal the specific intelligence-gathering method, but he described how the Islamic State was pursuing elements of a specific plot and how much harm such an attack could cause under varying circumstances. Most alarmingly, officials said, Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat.
You'll remember, this was the meeting that US reporters were not allow to attend, though a Russian photographer was allowed to take photographs. This was the meeting also attended by Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the individual that former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn met with and then lied about meeting, later triggering Flynn's firing.

This meeting took place a few days after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, the individual ultimately in charge of the investigation into the Trump Campaign's dealings with Russian Intelligence.

While this is not a question of legalities as Trump has the authority to declassify anything at will, were it anyone else in government, this is a question of fitness - fitness to be President, fitness to lead as commander in chief.

This is my question: Given the events of the last few days (the Comey firing and the disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians) do you a still have confidence in Donald J Trump's ability to be president and commander in chief? If not, what are your plans to deal with him? If you still do have confidence in his leadership abilities, considering the events of the past few days, what would it take for you to lose that confidence?

I await your response.
And I will be posting whatever response I get from him or his office.

Follow-up: