Tuesday, February 28, 2017

FOCUS: William Boardman | Lies the White House Sells Us

 Donald Trump and Steve Bannon in the Oval Office. (photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

'There are at least 100 Trump falsehoods to choose from'
By William Boardman

"Fake news” as a denunciation peddled by Republican and Trump apparatchiks is an old-fashioned, fascist-style Big Lie with a neat capitalist twist. The obvious lie is that most of the media, accused of reporting “fake news,” actually report real news – with real corrections when they get something wrong.

This is the antithesis of the way the “conservative” con machine has operated for decades. Among the world’s shortest books would be “Setting the Record Straight by Republican Senators” or “The Collected Corrections of Donald Trump.” These are people whose common currency is falsehood rooted in deceit for the good of themselves and not much of anyone else, certainly not most of the people that they were elected to represent, wink-wink. Chronic right-wing lying is hardly a new phenomenon. Lies about FDR and the Red Menace live on long after the imaginary threats have passed into history. So, too, with Saddam Hussein’s fictitious weapons of mass destruction, the WMDs that turned out to be, in reality, members of the Bush administration. In recent decades the right-wing lying machine has grown increasingly institutionalized, like a great false culture network producing serial hit jobs based on deliberately fraudulent premises such as Obama’s birth certificate, ISR bias against Tea Party 501(c)(4) applicants, or Hillary Clinton’s bloodbath at Benghazi.

Now the soullessness of unending mendacity has overtaken the White House, and the country is awash in liars claiming lies are truth and calling truth-tellers liars.

Well, why not? It’s a business model that has worked. Since 1996, with Fox News and the Drudge Report, businesses built on peddling lies as commodities have flourished. Their ilk have proliferated beyond enumeration in a still-expanding market. Breitbart News joined that market in 2007 and within a decade seated itself in the White House with an administration equally uninterested in anything like intellectual integrity. The Fake News industry is now in power, with the enviably perverse opportunity of calling its opponents “fake news” purveyors. That this Orwellian inversion of reality is widely believed reflects the success of the Fake News outlets in making alternative facts seem credible. Years of repeated lies, met with weak or no serious challenge, and sometimes with collusion, have encouraged a populaces to believe whatever it wants to believe, regardless of fact-based evidence.

The Fake News industry seems unlikely to go away any time soon, despite increasing popular pushback. The raw material for dishonesty is inexpensive and inexhaustible.

When one lie doesn’t turn a profit, monetarily or politically, that lie is easily abandoned (and denied) in favor of the next lie that may catch on.
“The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.”
A current example of a predatory lie designed to undercut citizen assertiveness, probably still in beta, arrived February 27 from the White House:
There is an incredible spirit of optimism sweeping across the Nation….

The President is checking off the promises he made to the American people, and he won’t stop until the job is done.

The forgotten men and women of this great Nation will be forgotten no longer.

That is the heart of this movement. As President Trump has made clear, this is your country and this is your Government, and now we want to hear from you.
The email conveying this version of reality also invites the reader to take a White House survey. The first section invites the reader to select the “most significant accomplishments” of the Trump administration from a list of ten, NONE of which are actual accomplishments (at best, plans that may lead to accomplishments).

Unsurprisingly, the list omits any reference to special ops in Yemen or any aspect of immigration. The second section includes a list of 12 “issues,” mostly vague and abstract (such as “Budget,” “Taxes,” “Jobs”) but occasionally pointed (such as “National Security and Fighting ISIS” or “Repeal and Replace Obamacare”). Among the issues omitted are ending the war in Afghanistan (or fill-in-the-blank) or replacing Obamacare with single payer healthcare (or any other alternative). The form also offers boxes for “ideas” and “comments.” One respondent’s ideas included “End foreign wars” and “End domestic terror (white nationalists, police violence, clinic bombing, etc).” The same respondent’s comments included “Tell the truth. About everything. Start with the President’s taxes and business ties.”
The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!
A few days ago, I called the fake news “the enemy of the people” -- and they are. They are the enemy of the people.
For the Trump White House, the media include real enemies, naming The New York Times and CNN among them (Unlike Nixon’s enemies list, Trump’s list is at least partly public.). In response to continuing White House hostility, the Times ran a supposedly “hard-hitting” 30-second TV ad during the Oscars, its first TV advertising since 2010. “The Truth is hard,” the $2 million Times ad told viewers. So was watching the ad, which began with a verbal montage, first a couple of apparently true statements (“The trust in our nation is more divided than ever” and “The truth is alternative facts are lies”) before ducking down a rabbit hole of absurdist contradiction. This starts ungrammatically with “The truth is the media is dishonest,” then “The truth is a woman should dress like a woman” then “The Truth is women’s rights are human rights” and then a speeded-up welter of assertions more confusing than compelling. The Times ad ends by slowly making its point: “The truth is hard… to find… to know…. The truth is more important now than ever.”

All this may be true, but the Times spent $2 million to tell us the obvious, with the apparent subliminal message that we can trust the Times to tell the truth. The problem is: we can’t. This is the same Times that, through the good offices of Judith Miller and her editors, helped the Bush administration take us into a stupid war now well into its second decade with little more to show for it than regional chaos and a distrust in the US government heightened to the point that we’ve elected a president dedicated to taking that government apart, if not destroying it. Instead of self-servingly investing in its own image, the Times could have done more public good by confronting just one Trump lie unambiguously head-on. There are at least 100 Trump falsehoods to choose from, some of them admittedly petty taken alone, but impressive as part of a pattern of prevarication. That might have been too much for a short ad. The repeated Trump lie that he inherited “a mess” from Obama might have been too complicated for a short ad, since the “mess” included a stable economy and no foreign crisis. But the Times might have made a stronger point using this statement from White House press secretary Sean Spicer on February 21, talking about the mass roundup of immigrants and suspected immigrants:
The president needed to give guidance, especially after what they went through in the last administration, where there were so many carve-outs that ICE agents and CBP members didn’t—had to figure out each individual, whether or not they fit in a particular category, and they could adjudicate that case. The president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies and say, "You have a mission. There are laws that need to be followed. You should do your mission and follow the law."
Those “carve-outs,” adjudicating each case on its own merits, that’s fundamental due process of law. And the “guidance” the White House says it gave to ICE agents is, no matter how you read it, violate the Constitution. There’s no lie there. The President tells government officials to violate the Constitution, as confirmed by his press secretary and observed on the streets, and this gets little attention? Isn’t that a form of fake news?

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Former Nixon counsel knows a cover up when he sees one—and says Trump's doing it

Screenshot of Jean Dean, former Nixon White House counsel and author of "Broken Government" on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman.
John Dean, White House counsel for former President Richard Nixon, has a very clear assessment about what’s going on with the Trump-Russia scandals: the White House is orchestrating a coverup. Look at his tweet from this morning:

John Dean — who’s written books like The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It, Conservatives Without Conscience, and Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches — dived a bit deeper into the parallels he sees between Nixon’s Watergate and Trump now in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! (emphasis mine):

Well, what I see and hear, in following it, are echoes of Watergate. If you recall, Watergate ran about 900 days. In other words, it went on for years, starting with a bungled burglary at the Democratic National Committee and right up to Richard Nixon’s resignation, followed by the conviction of his top aides. So it ran a long time. What we’re seeing is very accelerated. It’s partially responsible because of the media and the technology today, but it’s also the behavior of Trump and his aides, as well as the media’s vigilance on this. So we’re seeing things accelerated. And what I see or hear are echoes of Watergate. We don’t have Watergate 2.0 yet, but we have something that is beginning to look like it could go there.
This isn’t the first time he’s spoken publicly about Trump. Dean doesn’t exactly mince words.

In an interview with Vox, he did not hold back on calling the Trump administration a hot mess — and that’ll be the key to his downfall:

Dean still thinks the Trump presidency will “end in calamity,” though he’s not sure how or when. “His presidency is a massive skyscraper built atop a shifty foundation — it has to come down at some point,” he told me. By “shifty,” he means slippery and haphazard, a makeshift operation without a coherent vision or plan.
Trump can survive four years in office if he manages to keep the Republican-controlled Congress in line. But Trump, being who and what he is, will make it difficult for Republicans. He simply can’t help himself, Dean said. “It’s obvious that his presidency is vulnerable, and yet he keeps creating those vulnerabilities every day. Like Nixon, he’s a slave to his own worst instincts.”
But, Dean added, “Trump is more volatile.”

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Trump Administration’s dubious claims about pot and opioids are dead wrong

Trump Administration’s dubious claims about pot and opioids are dead wrong

The Trump administration hinted yesterday of a forthcoming federal crackdown in the eight states that have elected to regulate their marijuana markets. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer alleges that such federal intrusion is necessary in order to try and stem the rising tide of prescription opioid abuse sweeping across various parts of the nation.

Spicer stated , "I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people (by regulating the adult use of marijuana)."

Yet even a cursory look at the available evidence finds Spicer's concerns to be misplaced and his allegations to be dead wrong.

In reality, permitting legal access to cannabis is consistently associated with reduced rates of opioid use, abuse, and mortality.

For example, a widely publicized study in the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine reported that the enactment of medical marijuana legalization laws is associated with year-over-year reductions in opioid analgesic overdose mortality. Overall, researchers determined, "States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower mean annual opioid overdose mortality rate compared with states without medical cannabis laws."

The JAMA study is hardly unique.  A 2015 examination by investigators at the RAND Corporation similarly determined, "[S]tates permitting medical marijuana dispensaries experience a relative decrease in both opioid addictions and opioid overdose deaths compared to states that do not."

A 2016 assessment by Castlight Health, an employee health benefits platform provider, reported that adults are more than twice as likely to engage in doctor shopping for opioids in states without cannabis access as compared to states that permit it.

Allowing adults legal access to marijuana is also associated with the reduced use of other, potentially more dangerous prescription drugs. For example, investigators at the University of Georgia assessed the relationship between medical marijuana legalization laws and physicians' prescribing patterns in 17 states over a three-year period. Specifically, researchers assessed patients' consumption of and spending on prescription drugs approved under Medicare Part D in nine domains: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders, and spasticity.

Authors reported that prescription drug use fell significantly in seven of the nine domains assessed. "Ultimately, we estimated that nationally the Medicare program and its enrollees spent around $165.2 million less in 2013 as a result of changed prescribing behaviors induced by ... jurisdictions that had legalized medical marijuana," they concluded.

Similar results appeared earlier this month in a new study published in The International Journal of Drug Policy. Investigators reported that patients' prescription use of opioids, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants fell significantly when they had legal access to marijuana.

Studies of chronic pain patients similarly find that cannabis' analgesic properties are sufficiently effective to motivate patients to reduce their opioid intake or to give the drugs up all together. For instance, a recent assessment of chronic pain patients by University of Michigan researchers reports "a 64 percent decrease in opioid use, decreased number and side effects of medications, and an improved quality of life" following cannabis intervention. Another trial, conducted last year in conjunction with the Israeli government, similarly reported a 44 percent reduction in opioid use among pain patients who had access to legal pot.

Separate clinical trials also indicate that marijuana may play a role in assisting some subjects kick their opioid dependence. In fact, several studies now show that the moderate use of cannabis is associated with greater treatment attention among this struggling population.

Proponents of marijuana prohibition have long alleged that experimentation with pot acts as a 'gateway' to the use and eventual abuse of other illicit substances. But the evidence does not support this claim.

In reality, permitting marijuana sales to be regulated by licensed, state-authorized distributors rather than by criminal entrepreneurs and pushers of various other illicit drugs results in fewer, not more, Americans abusing other, potentially more dangerous substances. 

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and an adviser for Freedom Leaf. He is the co-author of the book "Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?" (Cheslea Green, 2013) and author of the book "The Citizen's Guide to State-By-State Marijuana Laws" (Whitman Press, 2015). 

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

President Spent Saturday Lying to Our Faces

Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)
Donald Trump. (photo: Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

23 February 17

Tactic breaks down idea of an educated, informed citizenry assumed by the Founders to be the basis of American self-government 

'm here because I want to be among my friends and among the people. This was a great movement, a movement like has never been seen before in our country our probably anywhere else." 

Christianity. Islam. The Protestant Reformation. Abolitionism. Daniel O'Connell, Women's suffrage, the labor movement, Gandhi. The Civil Rights Movement. The movement against the war in Vietnam. Punk rock. 

"Within a few days of taking the oath of office, I've taken steps to begin the construction of the Keystone and the Dakota Access Pipelines. Anywhere from 30-40,000 jobs. And very importantly, as I was about to sign it, I said who makes the pipe? Who makes the pipe? Something this audience understands very well, right? Simple question. The lawyers put this very complex document in front. I said, who makes the pipe? They said, sir, it can be made anywhere. I said not anymore. I put a little clause in the bottom. The pipe has to be made in the United States of America if we're going to have pine line." 

The 30,000 jobs figure was debunked years ago. The pipes for it have been sitting in North Dakota for years. Many of them were not made in America. 

"In fact, when the Prime Minister of Japan, Prime Minister Abe, was great. Great guy. When he came over, he said, thank you. I said for what. You saved us many, many millions of dollars on the F-35 fighter jet. Because when I negotiated, I took our allies into the same negotiation. So the first thing he did was thanked me for saving them money and that's good. Okay. That's good. I know the media will never thank me so at least Japan is thanking me, right?" 

There is absolutely no evidence this ever happened. 

"But we believe in two simple rules. Buy American and hire American. We believe it."

"Here's the bottom line. We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening. We've got to keep our country safe. You look at what's happening in Germany, you look at what's happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this. Sweden." 

Nothing happened the night before in Sweden. 

"The nation state remains the best model for human happiness and the American nation remains the greatest symbol of liberty, of freedom and justice on the face of god's earth. And now we have spirit like we've never had before. It's now that we have our sacred duty and we have no choice and we want this choice to defend our country, to protect its values and to serve its great, great citizens. Erasing national borders does not make people safer. It undermines democracy and trade prosperity. We're giving it away." 

Steve Bannon's lips didn't even move. I think he was drinking a glass of water.

How many more of these whackadoo performance pieces does he have to present before somebody throws sand in the gears? If four Republican senators—say, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse, and Susan Collins—would agree to caucus with the Democrats under Chuck Schumer, the whole thing would grind to a halt until we could catch our breath and see if we really want to live in the madhouse of this president*'s mind for the next four years. Bold speeches in Munich and chest-thumping on Twitter won't cut it. It's put up or shut up time.

And, please, for the love of god, ye editors and news directors throughout the land, enough with the expeditions into the heartland to talk to people who helped bring this down upon themselves and on us. These folks have nothing new to say. They voted their id and their spleen and they're still on a high from that. Some guy in a café in Dubuque wants to say that he voted for this president* because he "tells it like it is," or because he thinks the steel mills are coming back? Can you watch that rally in Florida and believe that these opinions have any real merit?

"You gotta keep his con even after you take him," Henry Gondorff warned. "He can't know that you took him." Until they realize how badly they've been taken, what's the point in all these stories? You're listening to people in love with their own delusions. It's not even magical realism because there's no magic and nothing's real.

The press-bashing bothers me less than it bothers a lot of people, and certainly less than it should bother the likes of David Frum and other career conservatives. Press-bashing has been in the conservative playbook for as long as the power sweep has been in Green Bay's. In 1964, Goldwater delegates tried to climb up into the broadcast positions and throttle anchormen. Nixon and Agnew, of course, were sui generis, but history tells us that President* Trump is little more than a crude evolutionary fluke in this long progress.

It's the other thing—the "fake news" conjuring words—that is really perilous. That is a tactic that breaks down the idea of an educated, informed citizenry that was assumed by the Founders to be the basis of American self-government. Because of that, there are consequences to believing nonsense in this country that are far more serious than they are anywhere else. Couple the delusions in the Heartland with a president* that is more than willing to populate those delusions with monsters from his own id and you no longer have a functioning democratic republic. You have an incompetent, incoherent East Germany, with golden commodes and a $200,000 annual membership fee.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

'Fake News'? Trump's Media Attacks Have Ominous Precedent in Nazi-Era 'Lying Press' Strategy

Donald Trump rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2017. (photo: Reuters)
Donald Trump rally at Orlando Melbourne International Airport in Melbourne, Florida, U.S., February 18, 2017. (photo: Reuters)

By Alexander Griffing, Haaretz

21 February 17

Used in World War I to attack enemy propaganda, the phrase 'lying press' resurfaced under the Nazis and during the 2014 anti-immigrant movement in Germany is now staple of Trump's rhetoric.

resident Donald Trump’s go-to argument that unwelcome reports are “fake news” spread over the weekend to key figures in the Republican establishment, and as the vitriol ramped up, major media outlets hit back. On Friday, CNN anchor Don Lemon cut off pro-Trump guest Paris Dennard live on air, and not long after Trump tweeted, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!” Come Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus got into a heated debate with Chris Wallace on Fox News, of all venues.

The sense of panic and anger in the mainstream media, the conservative Fox News included, is reasonable. The accusation of “fake news” or “lying press” has an ominous precedent, tracing back to the history of the German phrase “Lügenpresse.”

(At a campaign rally in October 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio, the Atlantic’s Rosie Grey even caught two Trump supporters on tape using the original German word.

“Lügenpresse! That’s what you are,” one white man shouts, coaching another on how to say the term, and elaborates: “You’re all in bed with the Clintons. You’re all bought and paid for, every one of you.”) 

Originally coined by the German author Reinhold Anton in 1914, the term Lügenpresse was used during World War I to refer to “enemy propaganda.” Some 30 years later Hitler and the Nazis appropriated the term to weaken opposition to the regime, primarily “accusing” Jewish, communist, and later the foreign press of disseminating fake news.

The phrase made a comeback in Germany in 2014, when the anti-immigrant PEGIDA movement accused the media of “not telling the truth” about crimes committed by refugees and immigrants, primarily those displaced by ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In January 2015, some 25,000 protesters attended a PEGIDA march in Dresden, chanting “Luegenpresse, halt die Fresse" (“shut up, lying press”).

"Luegenpresse" subsequently earned the notorious "Unwort des Jahres" (Non-Word of the Year) dishonor given out annually by a German linguists' panel of experts. 

According to Reuters, previous non-words of the year include 2011’s "Doener-Morde" (Doener killings), referring to a string of neo-Nazi killings of people of Turkish origin. 

War on the media

Trump had waged war on the press throughout his presidential campaign, featuring multiple high-profile feuds including with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and CNN, which he dubbed the “Clinton News Network.” But critics and many supporters too were dismayed when he didn’t change tune once in office. In fact, the administration doubled down on much of Trump’s anti-media rhetoric.

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile,” Steve Bannon told the New York Times in late January. “The media here is the opposition party.”

Trump’s recent rally in Melbourne, Florida primarily focused on attacking the media, after a particularly tough week which saw the resignation of his national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

“I also want to speak to you without the filter of the fake news,” Trump began. “The dishonest media which has published one false story after another with no sources, even though they pretend they have them, they make them up in many cases.”

Priebus, on ‘Fox News Sunday’ with Chris Wallace, repeated this claim, calling media reports “Total garbage. Unsourced stuff, " and suggesting that the media doesn’t choose the right stories to cover. "I think you should be concerned about mainstream news outlets that are acting like Washington daily gossip magazines," continued Priebus, who had been viewed as the Republican establishment’s representative in the Trump administration, a relative voice of reason. "But you don't get to tell us what to do, Reince," Wallace shot back.

CNN anchor Don Lemon too had enough of it over the weekend, telling his guest Paris Dennard, a former George W. Bush official, “Please stop it with that stupid talking point, that it is a fake news story. If you don’t want to participate in the news stories on this network, then don’t come on and participate. But don’t call them fake because you don’t agree with them. Go on.”

When Dennard doubled down, insisting that "this is a fake news story," Lemon cut him off and abruptly ended the segment.

“OK, Paris, thank you very much everyone,” Lemon said. “Thanks everyone, thanks for watching. Have a great weekend. Goodnight, all.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

GOP suddenly a wee bit nervous about privatizing Medicare?

WASHINGTON, D.C. - NOVEMBER 10: President-elect Donald Trump meets with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting November 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. Earlier in the day president-elect Trump met with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Forget about Trump's pledge to "protect" Medicare, Ryan always knew that
was just crazy campaign talk.
Trump appears to be readying to abandon his Medicare promise 
Donald Trump promised to protect it. Paul Ryan wants to dismantle it as does Rep. Tom Price, Trump's pick to head the Health and Human Services Department. Democrats—Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer included—are daring Republicans to savage a program that provides health care to one of their most loyal voting demographics—seniors.

Medicare is fast becoming a political hot potato for Republicans now that they will control every part of the federal government. GOP senators, in particular, are sounding a little leery of Paul Ryan's "Better Way," which includes replacing Medicare with a voucher system that provides limited subsidies for people to buy private insurance (i.e. privatizing Medicare). Ryan and Price have both linked a Medicare overhaul to their effort to repeal Obamacare. Not so fast, writes Sahil Kapur:
“That falls under the rule of not biting off more than you can chew,” [GOP] Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said in an interview. “The problems about the solvency of Medicare should be left for another debate, another discussion, and not be part of the replace and repeal” effort on Obamacare. [...]
Republican Senators Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Chuck Grassley of Iowa all stopped short of endorsing the idea Tuesday, when asked if they want to turn Medicare into a "premium support" system in 2017.
Meanwhile Democrats are cheering the prospect as they recall battling George W. Bush's privatization effort, which many credit with the Democrats’ successful takeover of the House in the 2006 midterms.
"Just as their efforts failed then, they will fail now. We say to our Republicans who want to privatize Medicare, we say: go try it. Make our day," Schumer said.
Also, Trump appears to be readying to abandon his Medicare promise with language saying he now wants to "modernize" the program.
Since his victory, Trump may be opening the door to the idea, between the Price choice and new language on his transition website that echoes proponents of privatizing Medicare. The website says Trump wants to “modernize” Medicare “so that it will be ready for the challenges with the coming retirement of the Baby Boom generation -- and beyond.”
A Trump transition-team spokesman didn’t return a request for comment.
Pursuing such a Medicare transformation would be “a radical departure” and “a direct violation of what Trump said” in the campaign, said Senator Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. “He’s breaking his promise. He’ll also lose.”
Really, it's gonna be pretty interesting to see all those Fox News watching seniors absorbing the news. Nothing's more user friendly for seniors than more paperwork and haggling with private insurers. Oh, and btw, repealing Obamacare is a recipe for bankrupting Medicare fast.
An added complication would arise if Republicans succeed at repealing Obamacare, which could mean restoring the law’s $700 billion in reimbursement cuts to Medicare providers and thereby shortening its solvency, which currently extends to 2024.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Trump can't come clean on Russia, because the cover-up is all that keeps him in office

The crime is that Trump’s campaign did have contacts with Russia. Frequently. And on several fronts.
It may not have originated with Watergate, but the saying “the cover-up is worse than the crime” certainly got a boost from that affair. Nixon’s convoluted efforts to hide his connection to the break-ins served only to fan the flames and draw attention to the story, and the lesson every politician is supposed to have taken away from the resultant mess is that it’s better to fess up to a problem than to hide it. Otherwise, you end up claiming you’re “not a crook” … or discussing the meaning of “is.”

Under that theory, a guy who claims he can shoot people on Fifth Avenue without losing support seems like he should be confession central; ready to spill his guts on everything he’s done before it can fester. But there are two reasons why Donald Trump has to maintain that his Russia connection is “fake news.” First, it would be admitting a mistake, and chief among Trump’s long list of flaws is his inability to admit that he has any flaws.

Second … the conventional wisdom is wrong in this case. Because the crime is worse.
The connections between the Trump camp and Moscow during the campaign, when Vladimir Putin was trying to subvert American democracy. …
Whenever queried about this highly sensitive matter, Trump and his minions have said there were no contacts between anyone in his crew and the Putin regime during the 2016 campaign. This is a cover-up.
The crime is that Trump’s campaign did have contacts with Russia. Frequently. And on several fronts.

It was stated openly just days after the election …
Russia said it was in contact with President-elect Donald Trump’s team during the U.S. election campaign, despite repeated denials by the Republican candidate’s advisers that any links existed.
And it’s confirmed in intelligence reports on the same day Flynn resigned.
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
Donald Trump can’t halt the cover up on Russia. Because the cover up is his only hope.
At a minimum, it seems that Trump associates—at least Flynn—were secretly interacting with the Putin regime as it was plotting to subvert American democracy to help Trump win the White House. A key question is obvious: What did they discuss? The darkest possibility is that they talked about the Kremlin assault on the US election. Short of that, might Flynn or others have encouraged Putin's clandestine operation by signaling that Moscow would have an easier time with a Trump administration than with a Clinton administration?
And all of this was at a time when Trump was openly, loudly calling for Russia to hack into Clinton’s emails, while also denying that Russia was behind the hacking of the DNC.

Trump can’t admit that his team was in communication with Russia. Because that communication wasn’t innocent. Look again at the paragraph quoted above with a bit of emphasis added.
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
Not calling Russian friends. Not calling Russian economic experts, or military experts, or even real estate agents. Contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials. 

That’s not something you can explain away. It’s something that has to be covered up.
Trump would lose all legitimacy as president were he to admit that anything of this sort transpired. There are some deeds that cannot be acknowledged. Expecting Trump and his lieutenants to confess that his campaign or business associates were networking with the Kremlin or Russian intelligence is not realistic—especially after their months of denial.
As in last week's ludicrous press conference, Donald Trump will continue to deny that this happened—until he’s dragged from the Oval Office.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trump Family Trips Cost Taxpayers $11.3M in One Month - Almost as Much as Obama's Cost in a Year

Donald Trump and Melania Trump. (photo: WSJ)
Donald Trump and Melania Trump. (photo: WSJ)

By Peter Walker, The Independent

18 February 17
We told you the man is not only a pussygrabber, but also a liar:
Jaunts to estate in Mar-a-Lago, and secret service charges for his son's business trips across the globe, are costing American taxpayers
onald Trump’s family’s trips have cost taxpayers nearly as much in a month as Barack Obama’s cost in an entire year.

The US President’s three visits to his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida since his presidential inauguration, combined with his sons’ business trips, reportedly cost $11.3m (£9.1m).

Conservative watchdog Judicial Watch estimated Mr Obama’s travel expenses totalled an average $12.1m in each of his eight years in the White House.

“This is an expensive way to conduct business, and the President should recognise that,” said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton, speaking to the Washington Post.

“The unique thing about President Trump is that he knows what it costs to run a plane. 

“Going down [to Mar-a-Lago] ain’t free.”

The three Mar-a-Lago trips in Palm Beach cost the federal treasury around $10m, based on figures used in an October government report analysing White House travel.

This includes cash for coast guards to patrol the exposed shoreline.

Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw also says it has cost local taxpayers $360,000 in police overtime for his three weekends in Florida since 20 January.

The Post also revealed it cost $88,320 to put secret service agents up in a hotel while son Eric Trump visited Uruguay to promote a Trump-brand condo tower.

Records show it cost $5,470 to put up secret service officials at the AlSol Del Mar hotel in the Dominican Republic, as they scoped out the area, ahead of a similar visit by Eric Trump.

The same records show more than $16,000 has been spent on secret service hotel bills for his two sons’ visit for a grand opening of a Trump-brand golf resort in Dubai.

The 70-year-old leader of the free world repeatedly criticised Mr Obama for his taxpayer-funded travel during his tenure.

He tweeted in January 2012: “President @BarackObama’s vacation is costing taxpayers millions of dollars----Unbelievable!” 

The Independent has contacted Mr Trump's communications director for comment.