Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Great victory for Dems & the American people last night no matter what mainstream media says, but we have to start preparing for 2019

By Marc Jampole
Media pundits are trying to shade the election as a wash, but I see it as a major victory for Democrats, everyone who believes America is a multicultural society, and the 99.5% of us who don’t have a lot of money.
The central outcome of the 2018 midterm election is that the Democrats won back the House. The Dems will now be able to block obnoxious Republican legislation and open a series of investigations into Trump and Trump administration corruption and lawbreaking. For example, it’s a cinch that one or more House committees will now subpoena Trump’s past tax filings. The Democrats will also be able to wrestle concessions from Republicans in some no brainer areas such as criminal justice reform and repairing our frail infrastructure of mass transit, roads, bridges and sewer systems. While it’s doubtful progressives will see progress on the big issues such as healthcare and raising taxes on the wealthy, we also won’t face defunding of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
Perhaps most important, control of the House means that something is now blocking the Trump and GOP’s path towards authoritarian control by a minority party. That the Republicans picked up a couple of Senate seats does not change the balance of power the way the Dem’s House victory does. It was always a pipedream to think that the Senate could change hands with so many Democratic seats open this year. On the bright side, a lot of GOP Senators will be up for reelection in 2020, vulnerable to Trumps’ unpopularity among a large majority of voters. The Trump agenda is now effectively blocked, except when it comes to installing rightwing judges.
One reason why the results look so much more balanced than actuality is that the GOP won many of the races the mainstream media focused on: Florida Governor and Senate, Georgia Governor, Texas Senate. Many of the vilest of Republican candidates won, like Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis and Marsha Blackburn, and at this point Brian Kemp and Rick Scott, too. To the good, Scott Walker and Chris Kobach, two of the most deplorable of the deplorables, did lose. But many of the most attractive Democrats went down, mainly Beto O’Rourke and Andrew Gillum (and maybe Stacey Abrams), all christened by the news media as rising stars. Pundits on multiple cable stations salivated at the thought of Beto running for president in 2020.
Luckily, the Democrats have plenty of attractive possible candidates who could prove formidable in 2020, including Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Elizabeth Warren, Gavin Newsom, Chris Murphy, Corey Booker, Martin O’Malley, Andrew Cuomo and Jay Inslee (not to mention yesterday’s news such as Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine). All, except maybe Bernie, would make competent presidents. All would tack left on healthcare, Social Security, infrastructure development, public education, social inclusiveness, a foreign policy paced on cooperation with other countries and action to address global warming. One will catch fire with Democratic voters. Let’s then hope that before too long the cable analysts stop pushing Beto. Someone who couldn’t even defeat Ted Cruz won’t have a chance against the Donald.
But before 2020 comes the very important off off year of the 2019 local elections that will do much to determine whether we continue to become an autocratic government whose sole objective is to enrich those already wealthy. If Democrats can continue to grab state legislatures, they can be in firm control to implement the results of the 2020 census. Remember that Dems lack of competiveness in 2010, the last election to determine who set the boundaries of Congressional districts, led to the current dire situation. Democratic state legislatures will also be able to end the wave of voter suppression laws that in all likelihood caused the defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, and of the statewide candidates in Georgia and Florida this year. Finally, state legislatures can serve as a bulwark against an increasingly conservative federal court system.
Participation in the electoral process can never be a one-off activity, like a vacation to Machu Picchu. You have to keep voting for Democrats at every level in every election and keep participating to drive the Democratic Party further left. I urge all readers to begin now to investigate the open offices and who is running as a Democrat in their 2019 local races and communicate to everyone you know how important it is to keep coming out to vote for Democrats in 2019.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A lay sermon on voting against Trump and for Democrats on November 6

By Marc Jampole

In Jewish tradition, the Tree of Life, the name of the synagogue where an anti-Semite with an AR-15 killed 11 worshipers, is the Torah. For example, the final song before closing the synagogue ark after reading from the Torah calls the Torah a “tree of life. The passage goes ”It is a tree of life onto them that lay hold of it, and happy is every one that retaineth it.” (from the 1958 Hebrew Publishing Company edition of the Synagogue Service New Year and Atonement)
The Torah—or the Five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch, as it is also known—records the mythic history of the Jewish people from the birth of the universe through the exodus from Egypt and the wandering in the desert for 40 years before entering the Holy Land. But beyond the narrative, the Tree of Life is a guide for how to live one’s life. Rabbis have identified 613 specific commandments in the five books, most of which have been subject over the centuries to repeated interpretation to bring them up to date to cover situations, technologies and times that have changed dramatically since the original writing of the Torah, about 2,600 years ago. Each time someone follows any one of the 613 commandments, he or she performs a “mitvah,” a good deed. The idea of the Torah as a book of action as much as a book of history is central to all branches of Judaism.
I don’t believe I’m wrong to propose that action in the world—be it prayer, acts of kindness or bravery of making your voice known, dominates the way Jews live in the world, be they Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or atheist. Moses stresses the importance of acting in the world in his very last speech to the Jewish people, at the end of Deuteronomy. I’m going to give two translations, first the standard one you can find on the internet: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, so that we may follow all the words of this law.
Now the slightly more formal translation in the 1962 Jewish Publication Society of America translation: “Concealed acts concern the Lord our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching.”
There’s a double message here. First that our salvation and our objectives on earth can only manifest themselves through action. It doesn’t matter what you say or what you think. You are judged on what you do. It sounds very existential to me, which may explain why so many atheists of Jewish background insist they are good Jews and that there are a number of Synagogues for atheist Jews across the country.
The second message is just as clear: Our actions should depend on the real world—the things that are revealed. This affirmation of science and the application of facts stands in stark opposition to certain other religions that expect us to ignore facts in favor of faith, which, as Emily Dickinson once pointed out, “is a fine invention when gentlemen can see, but microscopes are prudent in an emergency.”
The countdown of the 2018 midterm election has seen so many truly disturbing events that the more religious among us may have come to believe we are living in apocalyptic times. The brutal assassination of Jamal Khashoggi; the wave of pipe bombs sent to public figures whom Donald Trump has constantly demonized in speeches and tweets; the racist murder of two African-Americans outside a supermarket in Kentucky; the dreadful Tree of Life slaughter. Many others probably feel as I do—as if I’m on the ropes of a fight ring and am being hit on the jaw time and again by a heavyweight boxer. That the violent and hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump and the Trumpites running for office has engendered an atmosphere of permission for the crimes and hate speech is hard to dispute. Since the latest mass murder and hate crimes, Trump and his administration have put the pedal to the metal in advocating various forms of racism both directly and using coded language and action. In talking with Pittsburgh Jewish leaders, Trump said that he, like them, likes to negotiate, an anti-Semitic slur. Mike Pence invited a spiritual leader who is a Jew for Jesus to pretend to be a rabbi and give a speech at a memorial ceremony for the Tree of Life dead, a poke in the eye to virtually every Jew. Trump used his authoritarian streak to ratchet up the hate when he asserted that he could overrule the 14th amendment and outlaw birthright citizenship with an executive order. We wake up each morning asking ourselves, what fresh hell will come today?
While the Torah is clear that we shouldn’t wait around for a miracle of faith, but act, its writers could not have anticipated the complex challenges of a post-industrial world in which the ultra-wealthy have made a devil’s pact with racists and the authoritarian right. But I infer a very clear application of the Torah’s message: Vote, and do not vote for liars and those who dispute scientific truth.
Scientific truth, of course includes a belief in global warming and the idea that racial constructs are meaningless. It includes an understanding that immigrants—legal and illegal—raise the wages and employment of everyone and commit fewer crimes than the native born. It recognizes that single-payer universal healthcare leads to lower healthcare costs; that lowering taxes on the wealthy does not create jobs; and that the more guns in a society, the more people are killed and injured by guns. It dismisses outrageous lies like the Saudi arms deal will create a million jobs, the caravan of refugees 900 miles from the border represents a national threat, or the United States is the only country to grant birthright citizenship. It discounts all racial and cultural stereotyping. In other words, to vote for truth requires us to reject Trumpism in its whole and its parts.
For Americans of good faith, be they Jewish or non-Jewish, believers or atheists, that means one thing and one thing only: wherever you are, vote straight line Democratic. I know that no Democrat will align exactly with your positions, but 2018 is one year when must vote by party, not individual, if we are to defeat the evil of Trumpism. Hold your nose and cast your ballot for that imperfect candidate, as long as she/he is a Democrat. The future of our country depends on it.
And you’d be doing a mitzvah.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Editorial: Can Truth Catch the GOP?

Republicans across the country have followed Donald Trump’s lead in lying their butts off about everything from the threat of immigrant invasion to the Republican role in improving the economy. Trump has been a nonpareil in the field of mendacity, making more than 5,000 false or misleading claims as president, as of mid-September, by the Washington Post’s count. He has told as many as 125 lies in one day. Trump has lived in a “post-truth” world since he got into politics, but he stepped up the pace since Labor Day as he campaigned to support Republicans for the mid-term congressional elections. Among his most outrageous lies were claims that, after 10 years of opposition to the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans will help Americans with pre-existing conditions keep health insurance coverage and they will protect Medicare from Democratic efforts to expand the single-payer health coverage.

Trump wrote a column for USA Today Oct. 10 that claimed “Democrats want to outlaw private health care plans, taking away freedom to choose plans while letting anyone cross our border.”

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post noted that “almost every sentence contained a misleading statement or a falsehood,” including many claims that already had been debunked.

“Medicare-for-All is a complex subject, and serious questions could be raised about the cost and how a transition from today’s health-care system would be financed,” Kessler wrote. “Trump correctly notes that studies have estimated that the program — under the version promoted by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — would cost $32.6 trillion in costs to the federal government over 10 years.”

But if that means Medicare for All Would cost an average of $3.26 trillion per year, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that the US already spends nearly $3.5 trillion on health care annually. And that’s with nearly 10% of the population uninsured, and the uninsured portion expected to increase after Republicans last year upended Obamacare’s “individual mandate” and removed subsidies to health insurance companies that kept premiums down.

Under Medicare-for-All, costs in theory would go down for individuals, state governments and others, so overall national health expenditures may not increase and could even decrease.

On paper at least, Sanders’ plan would improve benefits for seniors, not take them away. He would eliminate deductibles and cover dental and vision care and hearing aids, which are not covered under current law. Then, over the course of four years, the eligibility age would be lowered in stages until every American was covered.

Trump claimed he kept his campaign promise to protect patients with pre-existing conditions. In fact, he lobbied the Republican Congress to repeal the ACA, which would have gutted regulations prohibiting insurers from charging more, withholding benefits or denying coverage to people with serious medical conditions.

The ACA repeal failed by one vote in the Senate, but Trump used his executive authority to undermine pre-existing protections in other ways — by reversing regulations that kept cheap, skimpy plans off the insurance market, for example, and by asking the federal courts to deem the existing regulations unconstitutional.

Trump claimed “Democrats have already harmed seniors by slashing Medicare by more than $800 billion over 10 years to pay for Obamacare.”

In fact, the ACA strengthened the near-term outlook of the Medicare Part A trust fund. The law includes a 0.9% payroll tax increase on wages and self-employment income of wealthier Americans — above $250,000 per couple or $200,000 for a single taxpayer. That was estimated to raise an additional $63 billion for the Part A trust fund between 2010 and 2019. The net result was that the “insolvency” date was extended by 12 years.

Far from protecting Medicare, Trump proposed $350 billion in cuts to the Medicare budget — and about $540 billion in Medicare cuts were assumed in the budget plan the House GOP approved. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently said Congress would need to cut back Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to reduce the federal deficit that has soared since the Republican Congress approved $1.5 trillion in tax breaks for billionaires.

For years, House Republicans, led by Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) have pushed for a significant overhaul of Medicare that would switch the program to “premium support” — or vouchers for retirees to pay for a range of plans offered by insurance companies through a “Medicare exchange.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that, under the House Republican Medicare plan, by 2030 the government would pay just 32% of health care costs, less than half of what Medicare currently pays. The other 68% would have to be shouldered by retirees.

Republicans recognize that the protections for pre-existing conditions are very popular and they are now trying to rewrite history on their opposition to the regulations.

US Rep. Martha McSally, Republican nominee for Arizona’s open Senate seat, last year voted for repeal of the ACA, including regulations that blocked insurers from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. She reportedly stood up in the GOP conference meeting May 4, 2017, and told her colleagues it was time to “get this f***ing thing done!” In an Oct. 16 debate with US Rep. Krysten Sinema, the Democratic nominee, McSally insisted that she voted to protect people with pre-existing conditions, because the GOP replacement bill included some funding for states to help people with pre-existing conditions pay for higher premiums insurance companies would be allowed to charge — and she accused Sinema of lying when she brought up McSally’s ACA repeal vote.

The Republican animosity toward the ACA caused 20 Republican state attorneys general to file a lawsuit trying to eliminate protection for pre-existing conditions. and the Trump administration is declining to oppose the suit — in effect endorsing it. One of the attorneys general suing to dismantle the ACA is Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who is now running for the Senate posing as a defender of Missourians with pre-existing conditions. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, voted for a similar bill that would have destroyed Obamacare but he’s also misrepresenting himself in his re-election campaign.

And the Republican assault on affordable comprehensive health care continued Oct. 22 when the US Department of Health and Human Services announced new rules that will give state governments more leeway to gain waivers from some of the federal health-care law’s core requirements, giving residents access to cheaper, skimpier plans

The mainstream corporate media must step up its efforts to hold Trump and other Republicans to account for their reckless disregard and even contempt for the truth. But even when a Democrat calls Trump on his lies, pundits make excuses for Trump. That happened when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., called Trump’s bluff and published results of a DNA test that showed evidence of her Native-American ancestor. As her mother had told her and her siblings, Warren’s grandparents had to elope to get married, because her grandfather’s family didn’t approve of her grandmother’s Native blood. Trump mocks her as “Pocahontas.”

Vote Democratic Nov. 6; or vote early if you can, and get a couple frienda to vote, too. This is no time to complain about “the lesser of two evils.” A Democratic Congress at least can mitigate the damages Lying Donnie would do during the next two years, and they might just save your health care. — JMC

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2018

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Selections from the November 15, 2018 issue

COVER/Thom Hartmann
Republicans are coming for your Social Security and Medicare

Can truth catch the GOP?


The Kavanaugh ‘Victory’

RURAL ROUTES/Margot McMillen
You want Big Pigs across from your back yard? 

Journalist murder apparently won’t sour Trump relations with Saudis.
GOP seeks to weaponize Central American immigrant threat.
GOP’s desperate strategy: Mimic Trump’s fear of immigrants.
Civil rights organizations ramp up election effort to protect voting rights.
Deficit due to GOP wars and tax cuts, not Social Security and Medicare, Dems say.
Trump pullout from arms treaty rankles Russians.
Two-thirds of Americans support legalizing marijuana.
Justice says Trump claim thast Obama had his 'wires tapped' was unfounded.
Global warming causes climate change ... 

Hear no climate change; speak no climate change; see no climate change

Voting matters, but staying engaged matters more

Dysfunctional display in Farm Bill standoff

Commons vs. Capitalism

Do Republicans hate all protesters?

Americans want a manufacturing overhaul and they want it now

Is the World Trade Organization unfair to the US?

Pressing concerns

Global climate change comes home

HEALTH CARE/Joan Retsinas
Gullible patients, gullible voters: The tale of ketamine

Aging well can be expensive

America’s conservative judiciary

Democratizing the court — and the entire body politic

Growing up with Vietnam

SATIRE/Rosie Sorenson
Bringing back the backlash (as if it ever went away)

‘The Oath’ plays totalitarianism for laughs

BOOK REVIEW/Heather Seggel
Reckless: Kissinger and the Vietnam War

California union nurses help with Hurricane Michael recovery