Weekly Newsletter

Vol. 47: Empathy is MIA

Day 349 P.E. – October 22, 2017

The TrumpShaker Top Three
October 22, 2017 – National Mother-in-Law Day– Day 349 P.E 

Health Care Compromise(d)

Just as it looked like bipartisanship was dead, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) took out the paddles and kickstarted its heart. Alexander and Murray have put together a bill to stabilize the Affordable Care Act that, get this, gives Democrats some of the things they want and Republicans some of the things they want. It’s, dare I say, a compromise – details on the bill’s content here.

The bill already has 12 Republican senators willing to vote for it. Add them to the 48 Democrat senators and it’s a filibuster-proof 60 vote total! That is an amazing accomplishment, considering Republicans were never able to get even 50 votes for their own health care bill. We should be celebrating! However, sorry to tell you, Ponyboy, but nothing gold can stay.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not said whether he will even allow the bill to be brought up for consideration. Trump and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) have come out against the bill, claiming, incorrectly, that funding the Cost Sharing Reductions (CSR) is a bailout for insurance companies.  It is not a bailout. Insurance companies are required to offer insurance to low-income people at reduced or “subsidized” rates. Previously the federal government subsidized these low premiums. If the government does not, insurance companies will raise premiums on everyone else to pay for the reduced rates.

Expect this bill to be kicked down the road until December when the Democrats will feature it during the negotiations to avoid a government shutdown.

The repercussions of Trump’s actions are already being felt. Colorado announced premiums will now rise an extra 6% through plans in their marketplace and Oregon announced a 7.1% increase. Nineteen states are suing Trump for ending the payments, arguing his action is  “arbitrary and capricious.” Arbitrary and capricious? Hmmm, I think I just found the title for my novel on life in the Trump years.

With these actions, Trump and the Republicans have taken ownership of health care as a political issue — a development that some Republicans are not happy about. I’ll give Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) the last word tweet on this: “Cutting health care subsidies will mean more uninsured in my district. @potus promised more access, affordable coverage. This does opposite.”

Empathy: MIA

This week, Trump failed both the presidential and functioning human test of being able to offer condolences to a mother whose son was killed in the line of duty. The latest kerfuffle is almost a perfect distillation of the incompetency and sociopathy of the Trump presidency:

  • It began with a failed military operation in Niger, an operation still shrouded in mystery and cloaked in rumors of incompetency.
  • Unable to acknowledge failure, Trump did not acknowledge the failed mission or the four dead Americans for days.
  • When pressed on why he didn’t reach out to the families, he whined like a little kid saying that his brother started – claiming that President Obama didn’t call Gold Star families to express his remorse.
  • After that made-up statement proved false, Trump then used his Chief of Staff John Kelly’s son, who was killed in military service in 2010, as political prop. “You could ask General Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Kelly was not told ahead of time that Trump would say this.
  • Trump finally gave in and called the families of the soldiers killed in Niger, only to botch it horribly. He allegedly told the widowed and pregnant bride of Sergeant La David Johnson that Johnson “knew what he signed up for.” Also, the widow said that Trump didn’t even remember Johnson’s name. Johnson’s mother said that Trump, “did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”
  • Congresswoman Fredrica Wilson (D-FL) was a mentor to Johnson and was with the family when Trump phoned. Afterwards, she publicly called Trump out for his poor handling of the phone call.
  • Rather than apologizing for either misstating or being misunderstood, Trump went full Trump and claimed that Rep. Wilson was lying and that he had proof.
  • She wasn’t. He didn’t have any.
  • Trump then trotted out Chief of Staff Kelly, who was on the call, to defend him. Kelly launched into an attack on a sitting member of Congress. Kelly did not refute Wilson’s recounting of Trump’s conversation with Johnson’s family. Kelly did, however, tell a new story about Wilson and how she once made a dedication of an FBI building all about her and her ability to get funding for the building.
  • Wilson claimed that Kelly was lying and that she had proof.
  • He was. She had a video.
  • Kelly has not yet apologized to Wilson for attacking her and for lying as The Washington Posteditorial board said he should.
  • White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders instead was disgusted that anyone would criticize Kelly. She said that Kelly “absolutely” stands by his comments and, “if you want to go after General Kelly, if you want to go after a four-star Marine General, that’s highly inappropriate.”
  • Just as the uproar started to die down, Trump couldn’t help himself and tweeted on Saturday about “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson.”

Assuming that the Trumpublicans don’t win this war for the future of America, historians may use this incident to explain what every week felt like under Trump.

I’ll Take Budget Busters for $1.5 Trillion

Jeopardy Answer: Tolerating possible nuclear war; holding an accused and admitted sexual predator up as a paragon of virtuel allowing Gold Star families to be attacked; supporting a Muslim-hating, gay bashing, constitution-violating, non-profit fund embezzling zealot for the Alabama senate seat; and increasing the federal budget deficit by $1.5 trillion.

Jeopardy Question: What are Republicans willing to do in order to reduce taxes on the very rich, the kids of the very rich, and corporations while at the same time cutting Medicare and Medicaid by $1.5 billion and opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

Senate Republicans passed a budget this week, which is a crucial first step to allow them to cut taxes on the very rich with only 50 (rather than 60) votes. Even after paying for some of the tax cuts by increasing uninsured poor people and allowing polar bears to be covered in oil from a spill, the Senate budget still increases the deficit by almost twice the size of the 2009 stimulus package (hypocrisy note: 38 Senate Republicans opposed that package under the guise of fiscal mismanagement). But wait, there’s more! The Republicans also said they can increase the budget deficit further to increase defense spending at a later date if desired. The Republican party line is that economic growth will fully offset the tax cuts, something that no noted expert believes to be true.

Quick TrumpShakes

ICE Cold – Another week, another horrifying story courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In Colorado, a 21-year-old U.S. citizen (and Yale undergrad) took her father and his lawyer to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for an appointment for his green card. All was going smoothly, until ICE agents showed up, kicked the daughter and the attorney out of the room, and then arrested her father because he had been deported back in 1997.

Papers, Please – When Trump issued his third version of the “I can’t believe it’s not a Muslim Ban!”, one thing that no one could understand is why Chad was added to the list of banned countries. Chad has been an important ally of the U.S. in its fight against Boko Haram in Niger. Well, recent reports reveal that the Trump administration made this tremendously important geopolitical decision because . . . Chad ran out of passport paper. Yep, because their delivery from the N’Djamena branch of Dunder Mifflin was delayed, Chad couldn’t comply with the Department of Homeland Security requirement to provide passport paper for DHS review. So, of course, the natural thing to do is to ban the citizens of an entire country from coming to the U.S.

Pregnant Pause in Rights – Health and Human Services has been preventing refugees under their care from receiving abortions, under any circumstances – including rape and incest. A 17-year-old in the Brownsville, Texas refugee shelter has both a judge’s permission to get an abortion and the money to pay for it. However, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) would not take her to a clinic, instead taking her to an anti-abortion “pregnancy crisis center.” ORR also called her mother in her home country without her permission to tell her about the requested abortion. On Wednesday, a federal judge ordered ORR to take her to get her abortion immediately. However, the Trump administration filed an emergency appeal, which put her medical procedure on hold for the moment. She’s 14 weeks pregnant. If this were happening in any other country, the headline would read, “Theocrats Prevent Foreign National from Receiving Medical Care.”

Pushing a Pusher – Trump’s nominee for drug czar, Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) withdrew from consideration after a Washington Post/“60 Minutes” investigation highlighted Marino’s work to pass a bill that weakened the DEA’s ability to go after drug companies.

Team America. F*@& Yeah! –  Quinnipiac asked in its latest poll, whether you would support a preemptive strike against North Korea. Among all the subgroups – men, women, different age brackets, whites, blacks, Hispanics, college educated, not college educated – Republicans were the only group of which a plurality said, “Let’s do it! What’s the worst that can happen?”

As The Tяump Turns – While the Russian interference investigations continued, Trump took a break in between golf outings to casually accused the FBI of treason. “Workers of firm involved with the discredited and Fake Dossier take the 5th. Who paid for it, Russia, the FBI or the Dems (or all)?

Mainstream Overboard – If you’ve been telling yourself that at some point the “traditional” Republicans are going to have had enough of Trump and fight back, well, you’re half right. They’ve had enough, but are running away. This week, Representative Pat Tiberi (R-OH) announced he will not run for re-election. The mainstream Tiberi joins other veteran non-Trumpublicans, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), and Representatives Charlie Dent (R-PA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), in making early surprise retirement announcements.

With 10 Being the Lowest? – When asked this week how he’d rate his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Trump said, “I give ourselves a 10.” He then left the press conference to get his hair braided like Bo Derek. For those scoring at home, apparently 83% of the population without electricity and 28% without potable water is the absolute best our nation can do.

Interview with a Trumpire – Trump finally found some act of governing worth his time . . . because it may keep him out of jail. Trump personally interviewed candidates for the open U.S. attorney positions in New York. Several months ago, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan), Preet Bharara, was fired by Trump, amid rumors he was investigating The Trump Organization or associates of Trump. Bharara tweeted on Wednesday, “It is neither normal nor advisable for Trump to personally interview candidates for US Attorney positions, especially the one in Manhattan.”

And Now a Word From The Capitol of Panem


Featured Articles of the Week

The top article this week is from a teenage girl who interviewed “The Old Man Who Calls Border Patrol on Immigrants”

Stories of sexual harassment and assault by those in powerful positions continue to emerge. In this powerful piece, “I Didn’t Want to Be One of Those People. I Was. I Am.”, the author finds and interviews a former housemate who assaulted her years ago.Lastly, Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post and Max Boot in Foreign Policy both have their own takes on the continued moral decline of the Republican party under Trump.

Action Center

I had the opportunity this past week to attend a dinner hosted by an amazing organization, Social Justice Collaborative. As immigrants are under attack, SJC is by their side to protect them. Their mission “is protect and advance the rights of immigrants and their families through legal representation in immigration and criminal court as well as community advocacy. We are one of the first non-profits in the nation to protect the rights of non-citizens through immigration and criminal defense representation.” Consider supporting their efforts on the front lines in the Trump administration’s war on immigrants.

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